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December 2009
Farewell Autumn and Welcome to Winter

Dear Friends,

In three weeks, many of us will be celebrating Winter Solstice. For Earth-based spiritual paths, the Solstices are primary times to align ourselves consciously with nature; to re-new ourselves so that the inner and outer landscapes are in harmony. Winter Solstice beckons us to tend the seed flame within through the ColdMaker months while Summer Solstice urges us to grow ourselves during the WarmMaker months.

In previous newsletters, I have focused on both historical and ceremonial Solstice topics.  The web site includes postings from Circles around the world about their plans for Solstice ceremonies.
 
This year, however, I find myself more intrigued with the transition marking days before and after the Solstices. Some spiritual paths specify a certain number of days preceding and following the Solstice during which we are urged to take up certain topics for reflection or engage in particular activities.

I will be sending this newsletter to our WebWeaver for distribution tomorrow - that is, the day before Thanksgiving. From this perspective, I am reflecting on the seasonal changes and transitions occurring from Thanksgiving through the first of January. I focus on the Winter Solstice because it is almost the exact midpoint in this transitional time, and a day celebrated throughout the Northern Hemisphere. I am hoping that some of these reflections will be of use in these days preceding the Solstice and assist us after that day, to moving towards changes we wish to see.

However, it is important to adapt my comments to what happens on the particular landscape where each of us live. A primary intention of shamanism is to return our selves to our inextricable relationship within the natural world and that means letting our ceremonies arise from place-dependent experiences.  In Earth-based practices, we must do our work in harmony with our own environment, our own ecology. At the same time, we are part of a much larger reality than our specific space and place. The challenge is to use wisely the knowledge we receive from both our bounded and unbounded realities.

Both Winter and Summer Solstice are based on the dance between Sun and Earth. We celebrate the Seasonal transformations that are activated by certain movements in this Dance. Perhaps attending to the landscape surrounding us is one way to recover a renewed appreciation for these transformations. This can lead us to assuring that we embrace powers particular to these Seasons. In so doing, we participate consciously in our own transformations and we become partners of change in the greater world.

Persimmon Tree - the Mentor of Transition

For example, I am enchanted by the changing leaves of the Persimmon Tree that I can see through the large picture window here in my cottage. I first noticed leaves with a blush of orange about two weeks ago. During this time, her orange blush mingled with intense green leaves. In recent days, however, Persimmon began changing her make-up even more dramatically: moving from those slight brush strokes to a candlelabra of golden light.  This morning I could see the orange balls of fruit hidden 'neath the golden leaves. So fiercely intense is her make-up that from a distance she appears to be a tree 'afire.

imageI marvel that in the time when Sun is most hidden in the Sky, this Lady of the Woods speaks of dying with fruit bright and leaves flaming. In the time when less food survives on the land, her leaves give nourishment to Ground while her Golden Balls provide food for us and the many birds around. While walking by Persimmon the other day, I wondered aloud to Her
 
"What does this season signify? What is it about the Winter Solstice that calls us humans to some gathering, some sharing and joyful activities, while some folks peer through a hole in Stone somewhere so they might know just when Sun should begin its long return."

Often when preparing for Solstice Ceremony, we do our searching with the keywords "Winter Solstice Ceremonies" or ask Helping Spirits in our journeys "what is the meaning and how shall we celebrate the Solstice."  I have always enjoyed this searching with others to learn more and to develop ceremonies that honor this Seasonal cycle in our lives.

This morning, however, for the first time I thought to inquire of the Persimmon Tree that lives in my own backyard,  "speak to me of Sun, of this day that we call the Winter Solstice." And as I watched, listened, and wrapped my arms around her, images and reflections wove themselves
through the two of us.

The Call to Attention and Intention

She reminded me that she had been changing her leaves for almost three weeks now but in the last two to three days, these changes were accelerating. All such transformation is based on how much Light - or Sun - the landscape receives. Each Being in nature uses this Light to activate processes of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. In the time of decreasing Light, there is less food (or energy) available so it becomes important to use this limited energy for the most essential life sustaining activities. That also means releasing those things that are now too much to carry.

Persimmon's changing leaves speak to this diminishing of the Light within the Land, within the Body. The approach of deepest dark and profoundest cold is now making steady footsteps to our doors, to our own bodies. She acknowledges this by using the little green left in her leaves and then releasing them. Whatever She keeps now goes into maturing her fruit. And soon, these Golden Balls too shall be released for within them are the Seeds that shall be fed when Sun returns---thus starting the cycle again of Seed to Tree to Leaf to Fruit to Seed.

imageSo devoted is Her relationship with the Whole that every thing she manifests goes into feeding the entire Web: leaves to ground to nourish the soil; fruit for the birds who eat, fly off, and poop those seeds on other fertile ground. In that whole process, She mirrors to me my own future if I follow the equivalent ways of harmony: releasing what I no longer can wear so, without waste, passing such items around. Offering up for others, the fruit from my year of growing because someone, somewhere, can use this fruit; and when others take the fruit, they will  then drop the seeds and someday, somewhere, those seeds might grow a tree or an idea or a dream.

This is not just a romantic notion... or idle play with words... or my imagination. It is all of these to be sure.  But it is also descriptive of the reality of how change happens in the world. How I change - you change - we change: it's just a matter of whether we do so with conscious intention to dropping Seeds that will grow the world more beautiful for us, for others, for our children, and for the Web entire.

This is one reason why our Ancestors so marked the days before and after the Solstices. They knew... and they wanted us to remember... that what we did during these times would determine if humans helped re-member the World or if humans dis-membered the Earth.

During the 12 days before that awesome Solstice Day they marked the wisdom of growth of that year and every day something no longer needed was dropped to ground - and ON that very awesome Solstice Day, they made great Joy with the Return of the Light---for on the followng Day as Sun slowly started home to them, their hearts, minds, and bodies were ready and able to re-member Earth and their Covenant with Her and Winter was such a fine, fine time to begin.

Celebrating Change and Growth

Just as Persimmon stands forth in her leaves 'afire, this time of transformation is replete with glorious colors everywhere with the world of Plants. Consider how beautiful are those plants we now see and those we eat. The pumpkin round, squash, corn, and beans with color abound. Fruit in various sizes, shapes, and juices. A time when grocery shelves are stocked with the harvest with choices enough for any palate. Whether wandering through those aisles, the farmers' markets, or the fields just harvested, it is a most magical time of year. Holding a pumpkin in my hand, it is time to remember what has come to roundness in our own lives. What did we fruit and what seeds shall be dropping from within the Ground of our own Being that will ripen and enrich our inner worlds and those around us?

Again I turn to Persimmon, my teacher for Solstice 2009, to learn the ways of changes in growth She reflects to me.

We planted her in 1982. During the first two to three years, there was no hint of what is now an impressive girth and little reason to think She would bear fruit or leave her seed. Now I can imagine Her, over those years, Her roots delving deep, becoming entangled with the roots of others around as She continued reaching further and further into the ground while making for Her Self a foundation sound. She has survived earthquakes, lashing rains, and roots, down in a hillside, all too vulnerable to mudslide yet she has endured.  I can feel the strength in Her trunk with my arms around Her. From a small sapling She now supports my climbing up her body and into limbs that can  hold me.

After these seasons of growing downward, upward, and outward, She stands this late Autumn like a Lighthouse upon the Land. Praise be for Persimmon Tree. In our Solstice Celebration this year one candle for her shall I light with prayer---joining other Candles with which our Circle arrives.

Yet She reminds me not only of Her changes and growth but invites each of us to acknowledge the changes we have made - and how we have grown. She invites us to consider the arc of our lives, to see in what ground have we planted our roots, to tend to our own fruiting, and to celebrate with song and dance who we have become. I firmly believe that each of us, up to now, have done the best that we could by ourselves---may we honor and celebrate that we have.  With the very next breath, perhaps other changes may be required if we are to continue growing and fruiting and dropping seed.

imageThe Dance of the Solstice - what I call the Dance of the Merciful Spirit - is thus: 

Dance for Who You Are
Celebrate all you have become...
Sing for your Life
And then
Wake up! and Dance for Whom You seek to become...
And know that you have the Wind at your back
and the Sun drawing you forward...

 

Welcoming Winter's Weather Spirits

Last year for the first time in my memory here, we had to water Persimmon Tree... as well as other trees and plants. Again this year the land has been achingly dry... the soil like skin that has lost tone, with texture crumbly, dessicated,  and rough to the touch. We created gardens with California Native plants that are mainly drought and frost tolerant. But even these plants need some water and thrive themselves with periods of cold. Our current drought, however, is combined with the most warm weather days on record in this area. This presents a challenge in deciding which plants to coax along through providing some water but little can be done to create the desired cold.

A week ago the local weather forecaster promised the arrival of water by Thursday evening. Thursday afternoon I went to see a close friend of mine. I arrived joyous with the promise of rain. As she opened her door, I exclaimed:

"We're supposed to get rain tonight. Yea!"
She responded "Oh not tonight. I have plans to go out."

I felt a flush of embarrassment sweep my face... followed quickly by a deep sense of shame. Her response echoed ones I have made at other times. My embarrassment, my shame, was that we humans should have our desires, our plans, to be more important than the arrival of necessary weather. I was not faulting her... it was more that I recognized me in her response.... I recognized us humans in her response. I made some feeble comment like "sorry about your plans but you know we do need some rain" but I sounded like some poor apologist for Rain. Driving home, I wondered what it would be like if I were 'RainMaker' and heard various renditions on the phrase of
"go away, go away Rain...
come again some other day..."

imageWhen morning arrived and there had been no rain... and no rain was foreseeable... I almost felt that RainMaker had turned away - having received no great welcome in our lands. I came to my cottage, picked up Drum, tranced myself, and inquired of a Weather Guardian "Teach me the way of working with WeatherSpirits, esp. with Rain and Cold Maker." The message I received was twofold: 

** to plant seeds of a new relationship with these Beings on the Winter Solstice, and,
** to talk with them each day until the Solstice so I would know more about the Seeds I was planting then.

I was assured that I would know what seeds to sow that would be conduits both for beckoning and honoring these Weather Spirits. Gathering these specific seeds is my first task once I complete this newsletter.

In addition to learning more of RainMaker, I was surprised how much my Weather Guardian emphasized developing a good relationship with Cold. So while writing this newsletter, I have used the moments, away from my computer, to meditate on Cold and ColdMaker. Perhaps the next newsletter will speak of Rain and RainMaker... I never know what will surface from month to month. But I do know ColdMaker wants attention just now and desires to be celebrated during this coming Winter and at the Solstice.

Coming to Honor and Cherish ColdMaker

I know from observation that there is some correlation between the lessening of the Light (Sun), changes in Persimmon's leaves, and the increase of Cold, and the presence of moisture. The simultaneous appearance of these four has occurred year after year.

Now I know as the days grow colder, Persimmon changes more rapidly. And I know with the arrival of the Winter Solstice Sun, the nights and days are increasingly cold. With increasing cold, I bundle up myself while Persimmon stands in her naked self. Both of us are relunctant, it seems, to move about much or to stretch our branches into the cold. Yet in the increasing 'standstill' (of Buffalo to which I referred in my last newsletter), there are these quieter stretches of time when I know more of my belonging to my Self. Some folks speak of this time as being 'in the dead of Winter.'  I tend to think of it as a time when most of the storyline is not apparent and the key events are happening within or underground - out of sight so to speak. It's the season when I imagine I shall get my writing done or flesh out the projects of my imagination. The basis of our behavior - whether it be we humans or the plants or the other animals - is governed by the great WinterSpirit called ColdMaker. ColdMaker is the one whose arrival makes possible the development of the seed: whether below ground or within in my own Ground of Being.

So what happens if I forego any welcome to ColdMaker? What eventuates if all together we push ColdMaker away? Can we do this? Will ColdMaker then not arrive again? 

imageRecently someone sent me a photo in which a Polar Bear was standing on a chunk of ice barely large enough to hold him. Though no words attended the photo, I assumed it was connected with global warming. Seeing this photo, I wondered if some day we would be celebrating the return of Cold during the year just as we celebrate the Return of Sun or Light at Winter Solstice. Might there come the day when Cold Being would withdraw from our presence... or, at the maximum, appear only as occasional chunks of Ice.

I recall the story of the time when only Water covered the World. Grandmother Bear restlessly worried about her children because they had to be always swimming, no place to rest their bodies. As she watched some cubs die from weariness of swimming and others develop gaunt bodies from always moving, She looked to the large Silver Ball in the Sky and decided to travel there, to see if She could find some different home for her cubs --- one that had some resting place. With maternal determination, for years and years she traveled the Aurora Borealis. When reaching the Moon, each time she would grab a chunk from Moon's Body, toss it downward, and then walk back down to her Cubs below.  She did this as long as her body could endure the harsh journey and finally it came to be that She had no strength to return to Earth below.

On a full Moon, the outline of her form can be seen... looking to the right, curled up into the larger body of Moon. From there She can watch her family who now have many large chunks (continents) upon which they can live, thrive, and grow. Over eons, She has seen the appearance of Green Things grow and the birth of animals never known in her lifetime here. We were told that on the full Moon, look upward and thank MoonBear for creating Below what we call Earth.

Bringing Back ColdMaker

Well, when I saw the Polar Bear standing on the chunk of Ice, I could not but help return myself to that old, old story. Rather than expansion of the solid ground She created, from Silver One in the Sky, we are seeing the undoing of  Her lifetime's labor. And if that happens, some day the only Bear we shall see will be the GrandMother in the Moon.

As I wonder what GrandMotherBear might be thinking now, I return again to my Winter mentor, Persimmon.

This time, however, Persimmon used her limbs to branch outward so I could follow the arc she created to the Evergreens and the Oaks on the hill above our house. "All of us suffer when Cold no longer comes" I could hear her whisper. My eyes scanned Others on this Land and I looked toward the North. I've been blessed to walk within many families of Trees, Plants and Animals. As with my human kin, I try to follow news of these families too. I remember reading how Cold helped the Northern Forest withstand parasitic infections and, overall, help keep the Great Woods everywhere from dire shrinking. And we are discovering more ways in which Cold is essential for the human body to recover from certain traumas. From this perspective, Cold is one of the great Healing Powers.

Cold is needed; welcome Cold's arrival; send Cold to places that have become so vulnerable and frail for lack of Her presence.

Let this be a year when we focus on the Return of the Winter Weather Spirits just as we do the Sun or Light. Maybe this year we could undertake shamanic journeys in which we travel to the great Weather Beings and learn from them what we each can do... whether by ourselves or in Circle with others... for example, learn how to merge and become Cold and spread Cold's power.

I am not implying we are supposed to be Cold... Cold is Cold... I am suggesting that we find ways to welcome Cold and keep Cold around for as long as is necessary to reestablish weathery balance... for as long as is necessary for all Beings dependent on Cold, to drape themselves with her Power and thus, trigger the reactions essential to growth and life.

Part of Cold's power is to turn us inward and with this inward turning, may we meditate with Cold. This invitation is not to become frozen selves or forego the necessary sources of warmth we need when Cold hangs around for a while. Yet is is important to let ourselves experience Cold's nature and power, so that as we seek to greet Cold, we know Whom we are welcoming.

I imagine the time of our Ancestors, when someone would carry the burning torch to another village whose fire had died.  Or the image of the Olympic athletes carrying the Flame across the World. So many memories and feelings evoked as Flame moves through the air, empowered by the Soul of the runner's feet. Ridge Runners were famous in California for running the high mountain trails between North and South. Moving food or fire or essential messages from one village to another was so important that some Native Americans might spend half their lifetime developing the bodies and skills that could perform these feats.

imageUsing the analogy of the Torch runners, how would we carry "Cold" from village to village, land to land? I have a momentary image of someone from Santa Cruz running to the far, far North and asking for help from the people there who still have some Cold. The problem with this is that I have heard that Cold has not been seen as much in the far far North. It may be that a better response would be to protect what little Cold remains.

It's analogous to the ongoing struggle over water rights and taking water from some place, diverting it to another, and before too long, neither place has enough to nourish their respective ecologies! I don't know the answer but we need to find our way. Perhaps just surfacing the issues among ourselves, consulting our Helping Allies, is the way to begin. However we have tended this issue heretofore, now is the time for doing the Solstice Dance of the Merciful

Let us welcome Cold, welcome ColdSpirit... we need Cold as does the whole Land. I can imagine a time when ColdMaker withdraws and the experience of Cold becomes a rare event.

I paused earlier today to talk with Bob about Cold... we were sharing how Cold (as well as Heat) is connected with Wind. I spoke about going to the far North in search of Cold but another way to do this quest is to beseech WindWoman to bring more Cold South to us. And, of course, then we must carry this further and learn to welcome Wind to our door!

A delightful aspect of seeking to know one Being or one Element in nature is that you realize Beings are known in relationship to other Beings - we are truly not inseparable; we are interdependent. There can be no full appreciation of Cold without some understanding of Wind. However, this newsletter is intentionally restricted to learning from Tree Spirits (Persimmon) and Welcoming Cold. While doing one or both, we shall discover other relationships, and other Helpers, in our journey to be stewards of the Whole.

As I come to closing this month's newsletter, I feel restless with my writing... as though Wind sneaked in and stirred me up. I want to settle myself down with some specific suggestions for what we might do whether individually or with our Circle:

** in these days before Solstice, find some Being who will speak to you
about the Return of the Light... there is a Persimmon Tree everywhere!
** find ways to Welcome the Winter Weather Spirits-remember that we need them to return just as we need the Light of the Sun
** share seeds, nuts, and fruit with others... having seeds we can touch, see, and eat ignites our most Soul-Full selves... stirs something deep in us..that something deep reminds us of both the strength and the fragility of life. While sharing of these, may we also share what seeds we are planting in Winter and how we plan to nourish them until Spring.

Leaning now into Winter's imminent arrival, I am intrigued to discover what changes will have happened, within the Land, between now and writing January's newsletter. I remember an image from Plutarch's Antisthenes that involves a faraway land where the cold is so intense that words freeze when uttered. After some time, they thaw and become audible. The people there say that is why words spoken in Winter go unheard until the next Summer. I doubt that we will receive that much from ColdMaker... but even so, still let us welcome Cold, Rain, Snow, Wind... as well as the Return of Light and Sun.

Blessings and Thanks Givings,
Carol

More Information

  • Carol's Workshop Calendar for 2010 will be posted Dec. 15, 2009. 
  • For more of Carol's writings, and to view her 2010 Workshop Calendar  you can visit her website www.shamanicvisions.com

 

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