The path of spiritual growth and evolution first leads us into the dark. The lost parts of our selfhood and humanity — hidden treasures obscured amongst the shattered fragments of our pain and wounding, mysteries long repressed and forgotten in the waking world, secret stories that can set us free, wondrous possibilities not yet imaginable — await us in the sacred dark.
It’s the cusp of the Fall Equinox. I’m at a secluded Buddhist retreat center. The focus of our dharma talk is love. The teacher rings the bell to start our meditation. Within a few breaths, a vision comes to me. The wooden floor gapes open and reveals a stairway. A man is standing on the stairs, his hand extended to me. I can sense him more than see him. He emanates a powerful elixir of animal magnetism and ethereal beauty, as if he is equally woven of flesh and of light.
“Come,” he says, “it’s time for your awakening.”
I take his hand and descend into the waiting darkness.
So began a new cycle on my journey of soul, one that returned a precious missing part of my humanity and womanhood to me — my beloved — God, man, husband, father, brother, son and my own inner masculine. The promised awakening was one that led me over and over again to lost pieces of my Self and life story that held both my beauty and wounding, and the light and dark of my greater maturity and wholeness.
For the next several years, this soul work of reclaiming my beloved became the central theme of my dreaming, magical workings and personal healing, mending a tear in my soul that I’d carried since my early childhood, and lifetimes before. In the end, I came to the infinite grace and communion of love, with myself, with God and with the men and boys who blessed my life.Persephone’s Tale
This vision isn’t unique to me. As the wheel of the year turns to the Fall Equinox — a moment of balance between the light and the dark, before the land retreats from the sunlit world of Summer into the cold sleep of Winter — a portal opens to the Underworld and the Goddess Persephone makes Her mythic descent into the sacred dark.
Persephone is a stunning Goddess maiden, full of the juice and joy of Her worldly powers and nature. But She is incomplete in the sunlit realm of Her Mother Demeter. The Underworld calls Her to seek out the missing parts of Her nature in the sacred dark. Persephone descends and walks among the dead and the rich mysteries of the Underworld, drinking in bitter tears and hidden magic. And She grows and matures through Her trials and sorrows.
In Spring, the powers of life call to Persephone once more. She stirs in Her Underworld travels, turning Her awareness to the rustling of green grass, freshening winds, and the life-inducing heat of sunshine on the waking landscape. She returns to the sunlit realm, no longer a maiden, but a Goddess transformed into Her full maturity and wholeness, Queen of the Underworld and Goddess of Springtime Growth. As Her feet touch the living Earth, flowers bloom in Her path, for Hers are the powers of transformation and rebirth.
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Photo Credit: Photo by Will Fuller on Unsplash
Though the heat of Summer still burns bright and strong, the sunlit hours wane with every passing day. Now is the time of Lammas, the pagan Sabbat of the early harvest. Lugh, the Celtic God of light, waits for you on the summit of a hill, ready to guide you in the mysteries of life and rebirth held within the living land and your living body.
The sun has begun is downward arc toward the horizon, and a panoramic view of golden fields, ripe for the early harvest, spreads out before you.
“Behold the great exchange of life,” Lugh says, “the mysteries of sunlight turned into grain to feed the hungry bellies of this world. But there is a price for this miracle: something must die to nourish the living, and for something new to be born. Everything has its season. One cycle ends so another can begin.”
With a wave of His hand, the scene shifts, revealing the elemental forces that underlie the golden fields. All is not well. The earth is parched and barren. The air is filled with contaminants. The fire heat of the sun is too harsh. The water in the nearby stream is clouded with murky sludge.
“Like the turning of Nature’s cycle of light and life at Lammas, humanity is also coming to the end of a cycle,” Lugh says, “For too long, your kind has forgotten the ways and rhythms of the Mother Earth. You have taken, and taken, and taken, despoiling the air, water and land that sustain you. This imbalance has come to an end point, and a reckoning is upon you.”
Lugh is grave and silent, leaving you to consider the import of His words. The stark evidence of humanity’s environmental excesses and disregard surrounds you. The Mother Earth is weighted down and weary, with Her fragile, precious systems stressed and failing.
“I don’t share these things to burden you with a vision of despair,” Lugh continues, “Look to Nature as your guide, with its Lammas teaching of the miracle of the harvest. Within everything is the seed of a new season, with its promise of a fresh beginning and future harvest.
“You too have come to the end of a cycle,” Lugh says, “and your personal healing and evolution are intimately intertwined with that of humanity and the Earth.
“The imbalance you see before you is also inside of you, side by side with your personal imbalances and discontent, and those of your human society. And the seeds of the new are there as well, within your living body and life story. With these seeds, you can mend and renew your life and this world.
“But there is a price to be paid for this miracle. Something must die, must be sacrificed, for something new to be reborn. You must be willing to change in profound ways.”
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Photo by Emma Van Sant on Unsplash
At Beltane, at the edge of the forest, haloed in the chartreuse brilliance of backlit foliage, the Green Man awaits you. He is a lean, powerfully built man, dressed in Lincoln green, with penetrating chestnut brown eyes and a captivating smile. With a crook of His finger, He beckons for you to join Him.
Without a word, the Green Man leads you deeper into the forest. As He walks, an aura of light and heat radiates outward from His body, firing up everything within His circle of magnetism. Unseen creatures scent the air with the feral musk of mating, trees release yellow dustings of pollen, wildflowers burst into bloom and baby chicks break through their thin-shelled eggs.
Something delicious stirs within you, a mirror heat that fires up your core and loosens the fibers of your being. Your inhibitions melt away, overrun by a primal, steamy desire to take the untamed, fertile life force of this mysterious Green Man inside of you.
The Green Man turns to you, His face suffused with passion and love. He places His hand on your mid-body and an intense, thrumming current runs between you. Within your core, something pushes past the stagnant, blocked places inside of you as tendrils of new growth unfurl and reach hungrily toward the Green Man’s magnetic touch.
“Your hunger and my hunger are one,” He says, His voice rich and husky, “your deepest beauty longs for expression in the outer world, and the outer world longs for your deepest beauty. My quickening magic can ignite your sacred hunger and make fertile your flourishing in the sunlit realm. Is this what you desire?”
With your yes, the Green Man transforms into a being woven of shimmering luminescence. His living-light body pushes up against your outer form, insistent and irresistible, and you open yourself wide to His luscious, energetic embrace. Together you tumble deeper into His wild-world dream of rutting and nesting and the pushing forth of life. One heart, one breath, one ecstatic force unites you, the Green Man, the forest plants and creatures, and every living being of the Earth, in the irrepressible drive of life to create new life.
In this glorious embrace, all traces of the waking dream of the human world melt away: your suppressive, domesticated ways that block your primal, wild instincts; your self-judgments and limitations; the outer voices that tell you who you are and how to live your life; and the destructive, life-fearing ways that plague human society. They are but distant memories, constructed by a shadow dream that has no sway in this other, more compelling and nourishing, wild-world dream.
For what could be just one shining moment or a season of bliss, you revel in your life-making dance with the Green Man and the forest. Then your energies separate; He stands before you, returned to His physical form, and you find yourself, once more, on the edge of the forest.
“This wild-world dream we have shared is real, as is your hunger for your deepest beauty to have form and expression in the outer world. The life you are longing for has taken root in your inner landscape. Even now, its tendrils, infused with my quickening powers, are reaching for their place in the sunlit realm.
“Be warned and be wise. As you step back into the everyday that is your life, this dream will fade and the human dream will impose its order upon you, an order that denies my wild ways and debases the primal, creation impulses that run hot in your human blood. Forces, within and without, will resist this tender new growth within you.
“My magic serves you even in the face of this resistance. Remember your wild encounter with me and my forest realm. Remember the irrepressible drive of life to create new life that infuses every living thing. Be courageous, step away from the old stories that wish to bind these powerful impulses within you. Give yourself over to the hard, dedicated, wondrous work of tending and nurturing the new and beautiful that is yours and yours alone to gift to the outer world. As the new takes root and flourishes, so the old atrophies and dies away.
One last time He kisses you, a soft brush of lips on your brow, and leans close to whisper in your ear, “at the edge of the wild, between the dreaming and the waking, you will find me, always, waiting to love you ever deeper in this dance of life-making.”
Then the Green Man smiles His radiant smile and steps back between the trees as the forest vision dims and disappears. Though He is gone, His igniting touch has done its work, leaving you forever changed. The new, beautiful life you hunger for is budding within you, and it is time to give yourself over to tending its continued growth in your everyday existence. What the Green Man has kissed awake can never go back to sleep. For you, and all your human kin, are beholden to His mysterious dance of light, life and creation.
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Make your own journey with the Green Man into the wild, delicious, life-making powers of Beltane with the Path of She’s Beltane Guided Meditation. Available at the Path Store for $9.99.
Make your own journey with the Green Man
into the wild, delicious, life-making powers of Beltane
with the Path of She’s Beltane Guided Meditation.
Available at the Path Store for $9.99.
Here is my latest SageWoman blog post. The “read more” link below will take you to the SageWoman Blogs page.
Spring is the time of the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone, and their myth of rebirth and return to the Mother-Goddess ways of love and life. Though this ancient Greek tale is typically interpreted as a mythic explanation of the seasons, on a deeper level it speaks to our human spiritual evolution, collectively and individually.
As the tale begins, Persephone, a Maiden Goddess, lives in the sunlit realm within the protective circle of Her Mother Demeter’s love. The Earth is in the full bloom of Summer, overflowing with the love and life-centered powers of the Mother Goddess.
So too, in the long-ago season of the youthful beginnings of our humanity, our ancestors
lived within the protective circle of the Mother Goddess’s love. The Great Mother, as the source of all life, formed the bedrock of our collective consciousness and civilization. Women, as the embodiment of the Goddess, were our leaders and priestesses, and we lived and shared this Earth in alignment with the love and life-centered ways of the sacred feminine.
The myth continues: something shifts in Persephone, and She turns away from Her Mother Demeter’s sunlit realm of light and life. In the Fall, Persephone descends into the Underworld of darkness and death. Demeter, in Her grief over the loss of Persephone, withdraws Her powers and brings Winter to the Earth.
There comes a time when children must leave behind the love and guidance of their mother and find their own way in the world. Persephone left Her Mother Demeter and set off on a journey in search of Her deeper becoming and spiritual evolution. So too our ancestors turned away from the Great Mother, and set off on a path of self-determination.
Though the myth tells us that Demeter withdrew from the world, in truth, it is we who withdrew from the Mother Goddess. Over the passage of thousands of years, we rejected and denigrated the Goddess and Her life-centered ways. The leadership of the Goddess and women was overrun by the rule of men and their patriarchal Gods. The Great Mother’s stories were rewritten, Her powers disassembled, and Her followers persecuted in a relentless battle to purge Her from our human psyche and society.
The seasons of humanity shifted into a long winter of soul, where dominion and death overruled love and life as the bedrock of our shared society, unfolding in a grievous period in our human history. Over the passage of millennia, we, the wayward children of the Great Mother, became lost to the Goddess and Her ways of love and life. In this lostness, we’ve committed great atrocities against each other and the Mother Earth.
In these modern times, our shared society and individual stories, with their shadow and wounding, are rooted in this grievous, collective history, passed down from our ancestors through the generations. We live in a world disconnected from the Goddess, and Her love and life-centered powers.
Yet nothing lasts forever, and the seasons always turn from Winter into Spring. In the myth, the arrival of Spring heralds Persephone’s return from the Underworld into the waiting arms of Her Mother Demeter. Through Her trials and suffering in the land of darkness and death, Persephone is reborn, a maiden no more, but a feminine presence in Her full maturity and powers: the Queen of the Underworld and the Goddess of Spring Growth. Where Persephone walks the land, She leaves a trail of spring flowers in Her wake.
In late December, I decided to do a major house clean to have a fresh start to the new year. When moving a cabinet, I found a tiny fridge magnet amidst the dust and debris, with the single word — “Here”.
I laughed out loud, and immediately pinned this word up on my bulletin board as a reminder for the new year. The Mysteries, with their quirky, in-your-face communication style, were hammering home a message they’d been giving me over and over during the holiday season. In our community Yule and Winter Solstice celebrations, we have a tradition of pulling divination cards for the new year. Every card I pulled was a version of a common theme: surrender to the process; have patience and await the will of the Mysteries; don’t lust after outcomes; something must die for something new to be reborn.
Be here now, the Mysteries are telling me. This “here and now” is about process, not outcomes; it requires surrender and patience, not pushing and striving; it finds its roots in the will of the Mysteries, within and without, not the personal will of ego and mind.
Here and now in the Northern Hemisphere, January is in the throes of the winter season. This is the time of the Dark Goddess and Her rebirth magic, where new beginnings arise from the vast unknown of the sacred dark, and death, endings and wounding are essential for the birth of new possibilities and growth.
Like so many people, I find January a trying month. I’ve already had enough of the dark, cold, dreary days, and crave the return of bright sunshine and warm weather. Though I’ve done my deep magic at the Winter Solstice, come January 1st, my New Year’s resolution mindset kicks in, shifting me into the outcome focus of goal setting and action taking.
Yet something else in me, more primal and wise, resists these outer-directed activities in favor of rest, simplicity and a slower, inside-out focus and pace. Every January, including right now, I struggle with these counter impulses: one arising from my cultural conditioning, and the other from my soul-based knowing. I get the Mysteries’ message, loud and clear: this culture-soul split within me is my transformative edge and pathwork for the coming year (and beyond), as is the imperative to be here now, in presence and surrender to this journey that is my life.
Though this is most certainly a personal directive for me, it’s also a collective message for our spiritual pathwork in these edgy, world-changing times. When I open myself to this collective message from the Mysteries, this is what comes through.