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A Samhain Teaching: Born Into Life, Born Into Death

Posted on:  Oct 29, 2021 @ 10:31 Posted in:  Featured, Sabbats

Excerpt: Path of She Book of Sabbats

The natural world and our human psyches turn toward the mysteries of death at Samhain. Cold and darkness descend upon the land, and the wild world shifts into decay and a death-like sleep. In many cultures, this time of year is marked by offerings and rituals to honor the dead, our beloved ancestors.

Usually we don’t like to think about death. Most of us run as fast as we can from the frightening specter that decline and death conjure in us. It is the ultimate irony that the moment we are born into life, with our very first breath, we are also born into death. And we must live every moment, every breath, knowing that we will die, and that everything around us, all that we love and cherish, will eventually come to decay, to death, to dust.

Death strips us to the basics: every breath is a miracle not to be wasted; every life is precious, sacred; and love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Samhain teaches us that there is no hiding from death. It comes in the falling of leaves, the lengthening darkness and the cold grip of Winter. It comes in our remembrances of our beloved ancestors that have passed on. It comes in the wrenching of our heart as we witness a dear one slip from this world into the next. It comes with the graying at our temples, the sagging of our flesh and the unstoppable march toward our last breath.

And death comes with gifts in hand if we have the courage to show up raw and naked to our pain, losses and fears.

Death strips us to the basics:
that every breath is a miracle not to be wasted;
that each person, each creature and life form, is worthy, precious, sacred;
that life is oh so hard and oh so exquisite;
that pain and loss help us remember what we cherish most;
and that love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Love is death’s most precious gift to us. Love, not money, possessions, career, social esteem and the many other alluring outer trappings of life, is the balm that soothes us in the face of death. Love is what connects us to those who have passed on. Love calls us to reach out and hold each other in our grief. Love is what joins us heart to heart and soul to soul to another. Love is our best offering from our Deep Self to the world.

Samhain is a time to contemplate the mysteries of death, not from a place of fear and resistance, but from an acceptance of death as a teacher and guide for the living. Yes we are born into life and born into death, and it is this very, inescapable fact that makes every moment so precious, fragile and bittersweet beautiful.

Death isn’t a summons to fear, it is an invitation to love, deeply, wildly, joyfully. And when death seeks us out at the end of our days, let our last breath be a prayer to love.

Honor the Mysteries of Samhain

with the Path of She Book of Sabbats. 

Buy now at the Path Store.

 

Photo Credit: freestocks.org on Unsplash

Podcast Season of the Sacred Feminine: The Wild Winds of Change

Posted on:  Nov 8, 2020 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Featured, Goddess, Podcasts

There are mysteries afoot, strong, beautiful counter-forces that whisper in our ears: the season of humanity is shifting. The Goddess is awakening within and without.

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?

Check out Path of She books and other offerings at the Path Store.

Listen to this Path of She podcast on YouTube.

Artist: Unknown

When Death Arrives On Our Doorstep: A Primer for These Times

Posted on:  Nov 4, 2020 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Sabbats

My friend comes home after an evening of dancing and moving energy with her activist friends.  She’s exhausted from an intense week of community gatherings — first a Samhain ritual in honor of the beloved dead, with so many passing this year and so much collective grief in the air, and now tonight, a passionate, full-embodied group prayer for peace and justice.

All of this was a preparation for what awaits her. Death has arrived on her doorstep.

Be the sacred witness who honors the stuff of life — the angst, longings, beauty, horror, struggle, and triumphs — as the crucible of our greater becoming.
Two four-point bucks, with their antlers impossibly locked, are wound together in a huge piece of seine fishnet. Her car headlights illuminate them in the darkness. She bears sacred witness to these beautiful wild beings, heart wide open and broken, as they thrash violently all over her property for an hour, unable to free themselves.

The bucks are exhausted, terrified. Fortunately she has a friend who is a gentle hunter. When he arrives, he’s able to take clean shots, killing the bucks instantly and saving them from an agonizing death. Strangely, in their dying the second stag lands on the first. In death, the combatants lie serenely on top of each other, like a pair of sleeping cats.

As sacred witness and gentle hunter, these two friends speak to the fallen bucks, pray for them, and mourn their passing.

The image of the bucks and the story I’ve just shared, in the words of my friend, appear in my Facebook feed. I stop what I’m doing, my heart wide open and broken, understanding that these bucks have gifted my friend, our community, this world, with a powerful vision that speaks to the tumultuous change of these times.

I too have been sacred witness this week, at our local Samhain ritual. In this role, I sat veiled and silent, dropped into the deep dream of our magic, watching between the worlds as the names of the dead were spoken, and our community danced a spiral in honor of the blessed newborn.

Here I saw the dead, not just from our community but a thousand souls drawn to our ritual fire, making their crossing in the light of our honoring and love. And as our spiral dance built to a peak of energy, my body became a birthing mama as a thousand newborns passed through me, through our magic, into the world.

Another powerful vision that speaks to these times: a thousand deaths for a thousand births — we are living an epic death-rebirth moment

These two vision brew in me, colliding with the intense drama and building momentum of political, social, economic and environmental crises and unrest, and the mythic forces moving through our world calling us to an evolutionary, change-or-die revelation.

We know, in our flesh and bones, that things have reached a tipping point; we just can’t keep doing what we’re doing to the planet, and to each other, without dire and lasting consequences.

Take a deep breath. Feel your warm heart beating inside your precious body. Don’t despair. We’ve been heading toward this exact moment for years, decades, millennia.

Death has arrived on our doorstep. The end is near, and it looks a whole lot like the two bucks in the vision, battling to the death, with locked horns, inextricably tangled in the net.

This net is our known world, woven of the threads of our inner and outer conceptions of reality, and the infrastructure of culture and society. This net is everywhere, interweaving every aspect of our life in webbing that is strong, resilient and specifically designed to ensure there is no escape. Many of us call this net patriarchy, colonization, white supremacy, global capitalism.

Together in this net, we thrash about, stuck in the stories we tell ourselves about our world, each other, and this mess we’re in. We lock horns with the enemy, be it our politicians, those who hold contrary views, or who live by values and beliefs we find abhorrent. We lock horns with our inner demons and personal wounding that tangle us in our pain and our past.  We lock horns with our judgments, rage, fear and despair.

Many of the stories we tell are true, and the battles are necessary to protect the Earth, the vulnerable and marginalized, and each other. Yet there’s always a combatant, across the battle lines, with a different story and agenda, ready to meet us full on. So we thrash about, terrified, exhausted, and headed for an agonizing future that will take us all down, and our planet home with us.

Take another deep breath. Open your heart, wide and broken, and step away from the battle, step away from the net; enter the deep dream beneath this drama, and become the sacred witness.

The sacred witness knows she can’t stop this battle. She can’t disentangle the combatants from the net. She honors death as a messy, heartbreaking business. She can only witness what is, knowing that this stuff of life — the angst and longings and beauty and horror and struggle and triumphs — is the crucible of our greater becoming and our deepest dreams coming true.

From a thousand deaths come a thousand births. Rebirth is not possible without death.

Her only desire is to ease the suffering for both sides of the struggle, and to bring a quick, clean ending. So she calls the gentle hunter to her side — to speak, to pray, to mourn, to facilitate death. This gentle hunter can be many things —  a loving touch, a listening ear, an open mind, an incisive word, compassion, forgiveness, goodness, gratitude, tolerance, justice — qualities that are deep and ancient, arising from the best of our nature, outside of the net, outside of the battle.

What comes next for our humanity is unknown. We ride the razor-sharp edge of our evolution, still in the midst of the battle and the tangle of the net, and things have definitely taken a turn for the worse.

I won’t pretend that I totally understand these visions that I’ve shared. They’re new, raw, emerging out of the depth of my community’s magic, the power and presence of my friend, and my own deep-dreaming soul.

I only know that the Mysteries have spoken, through the sacrifice of the two magnificent bucks, and the dead and the newborn who graced our Samhain ritual.  We’re not alone in our struggles. So many forces are calling us home to the best of our nature, and a better, kinder, more loving and sustainable future.

We’re combatants, tangled in the net, fighting for our life, our beloveds, the vulnerable and marginalized in our midst, and the Earth. We’re sacred witnesses and gentle hunters, bringing love and presence to the battle and the combatants. We can hold all of this, be all of this —  complex, resilient, bruised, wise, powerful, loving —  knowing that death will come, one way or another, because the world as we know it, the net of patriarchy, colonization, white supremacy, global capitalism, has run its course.

In these visions and realizations, I find my hope, my inspiration, and this prayer, from my open and broken heart to yours: out of our struggles, out of the pain and suffering of so many, out of the great harm we have inflicted on our Mother Earth, out of the thousands and thousands of deaths, rebirth will come; we will live once more from the love, beauty and goodness that are the best of our nature, and the world will be forever changed.

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Photo Credit: Shellyse Szakacs

Season of the Sacred Feminine: The Wild Winds of Change

Posted on:  Oct 4, 2020 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Goddess

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.

There are mysteries afoot, strong, beautiful counter-forces that whisper in our ears: the season of humanity is shifting. The Goddess is awakening within and without.

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.”

This too I feel in my bones and in my soul — the season of the sacred feminine is upon us, bringing with it a return to a simpler, natural, life-centered ethos that puts love, people and the care of our Earth home above the reckless, egocentric pursuit of dominance, money and things.

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?

Check out Path of She books and other offerings at the Path Store.

Artist: Unknown

Our Whole, Holy Womanhood: A Death and Life Story

Posted on:  Oct 1, 2020 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Goddess

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.

Our whole, holy womanhood is powerful, with the ability to hold the light, dark, life, death, beauty and wounding of our personal story and shared humanity.

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.

PHOTO CREDIT: kamakebelieve.deviantart.com