I was born into a world that didn’t teach me what it means to be a woman in accordance with my true, sacred feminine nature and power. Instead, it made me see my womanhood as weak, small and inferior, meant to serve and please others. It taught me that power was an outside force, defined and imposed by others, that belonged to the realm of men.
Though I started my adult life on the wrong track, seeking my place and power in a masculine-defined world as an educated, career-focused business woman, my deeper Self had another plan that set me on the path of reclaiming the lost fragments of my whole, holy womanhood.
I did feminist graduate studies, ran my own gender-equity consulting business, read countless books on women’s ways and Goddess theology, spent countless hours in therapy and personal development, moved away from the city to a small, rugged island to reconnect with Nature, practiced magic, went to witchcamp, and became a priestess, dreamer and daughter of the Goddess.
Still something essential was missing, connected to the dark, death powers of my sacred feminine nature. This is the story of when this precious fragment returned to me.
It’s the early hours on the day of the Winter Solstice. I jolt awake with the word “miscarriage” screaming in my brain. I dash to the bathroom to find blood coming from me that isn’t supposed to be there at week eleven in my pregnancy. My partner soothes me, and calms me down enough to take me to the hospital. Later that morning, an ultrasound confirms that our baby has died — a child we had consciously conceived and desperately wanted.
Our midwife gives us a choice: to stay in the hospital for a procedure or to let things run their course at home. I’ve been down this road before, having miscarried five years earlier. No one had told me then that thirty percent of first-time pregnancies end in miscarriage, nor prepared and coached me for this eventuality. We had gone the hospital route, and the experience had been disorienting and disempowering. This time would be differently; I would tend my own miscarriage.
In the darkest hours of the night, in the turning before the new dawn, my womb begins to convulse, releasing the dead life within. For hours, with each release, I collect the tissues of our child in a one-quart mason jar, not knowing which would have been his perfect face, his beating heart, his tiny body, his reaching hands, and his sweet toes. There are no eyes for me to close, or lips for me to kiss goodbye. This indistinguishable flesh, mixed with my life-giving blood, is all my partner and I have to mourn and bury.
In the midst of my keening grief, I remember myself — witch, priestess, wise woman — Holy Whore, Holy Reaper — midwife to both life and death moments with the powers of creation and destruction within my living womb.
Like all transformative moments, I have a choice: I can collapse into my grief and loss, bleeding myself into oblivion, and following the wisp of my child’s departed soul, or I can become something new, something that I’ve been traveling toward in my many years of collecting and mourning the death bits of my life, and gathering back the shattered fragments of my womanhood.
Naked and aching raw, I lift my blood-stained hands to the returning light, trusting that to be fully present — to feel all and resist nothing — to claim myself and my life as whole and holy — that a new dawn, a new beginning will come.
And I change. I become big enough, wild enough, wise enough, powerful enough to contain my bottomless grief and my unbounded love, not only for this child I’ll never hold in my arms, but for my own wounding and my own beauty, and all the death bits I’ve suffered to arrive awake and present for this death moment.
This story isn’t just about my whole, holy womanhood, but about yours as well. Our world has deceived us. We aren’t weak or small. We aren’t inferior and beholden to men and their ways of power. Our purpose isn’t to serve and please others, although nurturance, care and compassion are part of our sacred feminine nature. Instead, we’re big and powerful in our own right, with the presence and capacity to encompass the light and shadow, life and death, and beauty and wounding of our personal stories and collective humanity.
These greater capabilities of our womanhood aren’t feminist fantasies. Our ancient feminine ancestors lived in accordance with their whole, holy nature. They were the red-cloaked ones, priestesses, leaders, healers and counselors that guided their communities through the natural cycles of birth, life, decay and death. Our very bodies have the powers to give and to take life. While our culture amplifies women’s ability to give birth, it completely ignores our innate capacity to terminate a pregnancy that isn’t viable. Miscarriage is natural; though it breaks our hearts, the babies our bodies reject were never meant to be.
My story has a happy ending. On this Winter Solstice, despite my heartbreak and the death and despair that threatened to overtake me, I reached for life and my whole, holy womanhood, and life reached back. I changed profoundly, becoming a woman and priestess of the light and the dark, and of life and of death. This deepened my healing journey, physically and spiritually, making me strong and present in new, empowering ways. I consciously prepared my womb and my heart for new life, and a couple of years later, as the seasons turned to Spring, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
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Outside my windows, a wild wind is blowing. The trees bend and swirl in its fierce, unrelenting force. Somewhere on my island home, trees will be falling over with root systems exposed to the bright light of day, power lines shutting down, and homes returning to a simpler, natural ethos of candlelight and going to bed in synch with the descending darkness.
A wild wind is blowing in our world, unleashing a power born of the intensifying weather patterns of climate change along with a growing discontent with unpalatable political choices, increasing social and economic imbalances, and the stresses of our personal lives.
I feel it in my bones, in my soul and everywhere around me — it comes to me in my dreams, waking me at 4 am with visions of what is and what can be — a fierce and unrelenting force, eroding the pillars of our social order and exposing its root systems to the scrutiny of the sunlit world.
There’s rot in the roots of our human society, born of greed, corruption, manipulation, lies, ignorance, apathy and fear. So much of what was hidden in our cultural fabric has come to our collective awareness. We have lost our naivety and trust in our social and political institutions. How we live our lives, individually and collectively, no longer works for most of us or for our planet home.
And there are mysteries afoot, strong, powerful, beautiful counter-forces that whisper in our ears: “the season of your humanity is shifting. The Goddess is awakening within and without. It’s time to live in accordance with the powers of life, and your best, most beautiful instincts. Do not despair. Turn your face back to Her living light and nurturing ways. It’s time; you are ready, you are ripe.”
When a tree falls down, the forest is opened up for the small seedlings to have their time in the sunlight. In death, there is a quickening where new life is called to the empty space left behind. Let us open to this wild wind of change. Let it strip away what no longer serves our lives and the life of our Earth home. Let us trust that a new season of the sacred feminine is upon us, and, though some pillars of our human-made world will fall, others, more caring and life-serving, will rise up in the empty space left behind.
Discover the Path of She for yourself.
Reclaim what you have lost, your true, beautiful Self and the life-giving mysteries of the Goddess.
The Goddess is awakening, and calling you home. Are you ready to heed Her call?
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A fire burns at the center of our large, ritual circle, its saffron flames and feral sparks spiraling into the night sky. One of the teaching priestesses at Reclaiming witchcamp stands in the center, speaking of our ancestor witches, the powerful ones who practiced the Craft in the distant past. She tells us that their magical words and practices were lost from us; our lineages were destroyed through centuries of repression, persecution and the atrocities of the Burning Times. But the world has changed, and we are awakening and once more practicing the Craft of our ancestors, renewing what was lost and creating new traditions that can be passed on to future generations.
Then she spoke the words we use to cast our circle, “By the Earth that is Her body. By the Air that is Her sweet breath. By the Fire of Her bright spirit. By the Waters of Her living womb. By all that is Above, and All that is Below, our circle is cast. We are between the worlds. What changes our world, changes all worlds.”
Her words cut through me, with a mixture of pain and pride, for what has been lost and what we were collective rebirthing. We were now the voices of the ancestors, renewing the Craft and reweaving its mysteries for these times. I felt the power of our casting in the rippling outwards of the resonant power of the spoken words. There was a reverence in the air, as if the Universe itself, and all those that had practiced witchcraft before us, were sacred witnesses to our stepping into the empty space left behind by the ancient ones.
We are the waking witches. The magic of the ancients still sleeps in our cells and in our souls. Mother Earth is hungry for those who know how to dance Her mysteries. Our ancestor witches cannot go to their rest until we, their descendents, return to our sacred heritage. We are saplings once more reaching for the sunlit world, stretching our limbs, anchoring our roots and flexing our powers.
May we trust ourselves to renew and rebirth the Craft for the dire needs of the precarious edge our humanity and Earth home rides. May we hone our mastery in service of our souls and the world soul. May we serve the powers of life with presence, grace and humility. And may we grow strong and cast our circles wide and deep so what was lost can flourish once more in waking world.
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Artist: Melanie Delon (www.melaniedelon.com)
It’s day one of my spiritual retreat, and time for our morning learning circle. I’m part of the Ancestors Path that meets in the shade of a mighty willow tree, with a pristine mountain lake and craggy peaks to one side, and untamed West Coast rainforest to the other.
Our teacher leads us on a guided trance. We’re going to meet our psychopomp: our personal spiritual guide in the land of the dead, and then journey with this ally to connect with the Ancestors.
In the trance, I come to an ancient wooden door. There’s a key in a lock, the key of conscious choice, that I turn and then enter the space beyond. I find myself on silver, shining path suspended in a black void — a vast, fertile emptiness of infinite possibilities.
My psychopomp meets me on this silver path. She takes the form of a sleek black panther who greets me by placing a paw on each shoulder. Even though I’ve never worked with a psychopomp before, my soul immediately recognizes my spiritual guide as an old ally and friend.
The teacher continues the guided trance, and tells us to seek out the land of our Ancestors with our psychopomp.
Although there’s more to this guided-trance experience, this one, crystal-clear insight stayed with me: my body is the body of the Ancestors.My Body is the Body of the Ancestors
On a surface level, this may seem like an obvious statement. My physical form is the result of the coming together of the DNA of my parents, and this DNA holds the material characteristics of the generations that went before me.
In simple terms, this means who I am, how I live, what I give my attention to, how much I let the past and my family patterns determine my now thoughts and actions, and the myriad of other big and small life choices and experiences that make up my everyday existence matter deeply.
Each of us inherits not only the physical DNA of our family lines, but also the energetic DNA of generational stories and experiences, especially those of trauma. For many of us, it’s the unacknowledged trauma, passed on generation after generation, that’s our shadow partner in life. These things live on in our body and life choices. And they can also end, be healed and transformed, through our body and life choices.
Beyond the trauma, how I care for my body speaks to how I treat the body of my Ancestors. Giving my body the food, sleep, relaxation, exercise and pleasure it needs to be happy and healthy are the ways I honor myself and my Ancestors, and how I show respect and gratitude for the precious gift of life and physical form that my Ancestors have given me.
This body of mine, the body of my Ancestors, is a great responsibility. It’s a miracle — a living, unfolding story — an opportunity for healing, growth and transformation — an invitation to joy, pleasure and love. Our Ancestors in the land of the dead no longer have access to this gift and miracle. There are things that they can’t undo, can’t experience, can’t touch and care for. Yet I can do these things on behalf of my Ancestors and family line.My Body Is an Ancestor in the Making
Life is short, and there will come a time when I’ll leave this world and join the ranks of the Ancestors. My physical body will be gone, but what I did with my body in this lifetime will continue on in the energetic DNA I leave behind. I can pass on the energetic lineage I inherited, or I can make this DNA anew, and gift the Descendants in my family line with something more healed and whole.
Perhaps more importantly, my son and the younger generation in my family witness and absorb how I’m living my life now. All the things I do, or don’t do, to respect and honor my body, and the gift of my life are on full display to the Descendants of my family line.
No one can live a perfect life. These insights from the Ancestors aren’t coming to me as a burden, or to increase my self-judgment and guilt. Instead the Ancestors are calling me to claim and rejoice in this precious body and life of mine, and to know that I have a great responsibility to them, to my Descendants, and to myself.
As always, the lessons from the dead remind us how to live.
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Photography by frida-vl
For many years, I’ve been doing ritual work in anticipation of a momentous turning point in our human society — the Great Turning that would decide the fate of our species and our planet home. Life as we know it has been coming apart at the seams, with the turbulence and growing unrest in our political, economic and social systems, and the looming threat of global warming, driving us toward a moment of irrevocable change.
That moment has now arrived. The Great Turning is here, and it’s looking pretty ugly. The world has never been in more of a mess, with the worst of our humanity on full display. At the exact time we need to be getting our act together, we seem to be heading backwards on the crucial social justice, human rights, economic disparity and environmental issues that threaten to take us all down, and Mother Earth with us.
What comes to me as I dig deep into my magic to find my grounding and place in these chaotic, terrifying Great Turning times is a memory of a dark Samhain night, and a small circle of powerful companions gathered around the wild, fierce flames of a ritual bonfire.
In turns, we let the Mysteries speak through us. It’s the Dark Mother who comes to me, and this is what She says:
“This isn’t a time of despair, but of rejoicing. I don’t call for endings, but for new beginnings. And you don’t need to look further than your own self for the change this world desperately needs.
Don’t believe that you are worthless and made of base elements not deserving of redemption. Don’t believe that the hurts you carry are because of some flaw and distortion in your nature. These are lies that have been fed to you, to make you small, to make you weak, to turn you away from the beauty and gifts that shine so bright within the depths of your being.
For you are woven, like all of Creation, from the light and the dust of the stars. In your core rests a unique fragment of the star-bright Universe that is yours and yours alone. You were made to shine your light, brave, bold and brilliant, into the darkness.
No my children, now is not a time of despair, but of courage.
Step out of the shadows into the light of your own profound beauty. Shed the stories that make you so much less than who you truly are. Trust the path that I lay before you to find your way home to yourself, to love, to my life-giving ways.
Know that in healing yourself, you heal the world.
Shine. That is all I ask of you. Shine, as the brilliant, star-made creature that you are. Shine with your beauty, your presence, your love. Shine and the way forward will be made clear to a brighter, more loving and life-affirming future, with me and other waking ones by your side.
This is the moment; you are ripe, you are ready.
I share this memory with you as a gift from the Dark Mother to us, Her waking children, in our time of transition and great need.
I offer these words as a magic medicine and transformative prayer that can wake you up to your true worth, and place your feet firmly on a path of new beginnings.
I reach deep inside and deep outside of myself, from my shining to yours, knowing that together we can shift the tides of this Great Turning, and find a way forward to a better world.
Shine as you step into the star-bright being that you are.
Shine as you embrace and heal the shadowy, painful places inside of you.
Shine as you share your very best gifts with a hungry and waiting world.
Shine into the darkness of fear, greed, injustice and despair that plague our human society.
Shine with your presence, your voice, your actions, your love.
Shine as a beacon of light of what else is true and possible.
Shine, brave, bold and brilliant, and make our world anew.
Shine and we will light the way forward together.Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash