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Reflections on the Winter Solstice Birthing Mystery

The Earth dreams in the dark embrace of the Goddess. Deep in her sacred womb-cave new life –  new possibility – stirs.  The heart-beat of creation sounds loudly in our ears. We pulse to a rhythm resonant with the birthing and dying of stars and galaxies, the rise and fall of species, peoples, empires… We are seeds, fallen into the fertile growing medium of opportunity.  Heart beats measuring out ripeness as the moon swell and shrinks and swells again.  Slowly the possible takes form. 

Winter solstice brings a new appreciation for the generative role of darkness – as we prepare to celebrate the emergence of all that is – the endless process of becoming – which pours forth from the primal darkness of the Great Mother’s womb.  Now is a time for reflecting and giving thanks for the potency that is hidden away within our beings, often well out of sight of our conscious identities, until the time is ripe for its birth (or rebirth) into our lives and our world.  What within you now readies itself to be born? 

Whether we are on the giving or the receiving end of it, birth is always a leap into the great Unknown.  

As pregnancy draws to a close, diurnal creatures will generally feel the instinctive need to find a protected hidden place in which to give birth, and this birthing often takes place during the hours of darkness.  Similarly, in the lead up to the great Birthing Mystery, we are called to consciously ‘feather our nests’ – discovering and gathering in the qualities and circumstances which will support and enable our innate capacity to trust the process and let go.  

As the hour approaches, the rushes of energy begin. From the emerging child’s point of view, what once seemed a most desirable sanctuary away from the bright lights and rough edges of the world now comes to seem like an unbearable constraint upon our capacity to stretch into our manifesting potential.  As the rhythm of labour takes hold, it may feel like life is squeezing us unmercifully.  It is easy to forget that this too is our own co-creation. As some part of our experience contracts, so another expands, making way for that which is brand new to push its way out of confinement, into full expression in the flesh.  

As human beings we have all been witness to at least one birth – our own –  whether we consciously remember it or not.  As a woman, you may not have ever physically given birth. Nonetheless you have in your body the cellular memory of getting born, and also the emotional resonance of your mother’s experience of giving birth to you.  Remembering that the ova which makes up half your genetic inheritance was fully formed within your mother’s body at the time of her own birth, this means that you also have access at a cellular level to your mother’s experience of being born and the emotional resonances of your grandmother’s experience of giving birth to her.  
 
Like Janus, the two-faced god who rules over the threshold of each new year, the passage through the great gate of birth signals a death as well as a new beginning.  For both mother and baby, birth marks out those moments where an old way of being (in utero, pregnant) must inevitably cede to a whole new sensory experience of ourselves.  
Sheila Kitzinger says “Motherhood not only changes what we do, it changes who we understand ourselves to be”.   As mothers, the reality of the baby now emerging marks the demise of our pregnant fantasies – as the imaginings of babies we might have been carrying now give way to the manifest experience of this particular flesh and blood child we behold and gather into our arms for the first time. 

The new child is physically separate from her mother for the first time, yet still helplessly dependant, as she first masters the transition into independent breathing, and then begins to settle into the processes of ingesting nourishment, digesting what she can use and eliminating the rest.  For new mother and baby life becomes a never ending cycle of feeding, cleaning up and sleeping.  Beginning to take each other in – through the eyes and ears as well as through the warm vital contact of body on body. 

What does all of this mean for our spiritual journey with the Ishtar Mysteries?  

The winter solstice mystery point marks the point at which whatever fresh potential has been awakened within us now becomes visible to others for the first time.  Its emergence into our lives may precipitate a whole new way of understanding who we are.  The more deeply we tune in to this mystery, the more we glimpse a reality in which we truly are the newborn offspring of the Great Mother herself.  And at the same time, we may perhaps be gifted with a fresh sense of ourselves as mother to the Divine Child, through this process in which our innate gifts and spiritual inspirations find new expression in the world.

 

Catherine Ishara de Garis

First published online June 2010

Story for a winter solstice

A Creation Birthing Story

Golden hands hold the cup,
offered to one and to all for the fulfillment of dreams:
Drink deeply of the Earth and of embodiment!
Mistakes made willingly honour the ferment.
All the green world dances in my cycles shall you yet
hold back in anger and regret?
Drink deep! You have never once been separate,
child of mine.
Child of time… dream born into water and carbon and the twinkling of an eye.

The Story Begins…

In the beginning there was a space without time. Darkness.
Nothingness you call it, I believe.
And then I woke up and with My eyes still closed I stretched.
There was nothingness and There was Me.
Must have been the dream that woke Me.
I smile, touch My belly with My hand, remembering how it felt to be big with dream: All feet and elbows in my innards,
urgent with desire to be out.
I must be near time. No chance of sleeping further.
A deep breath, and I opened My eyes. And there was light.
I rose, and moved My body in the dance of the Creator,
spilling light in milky splashes across the void as I danced.
And when I had finished dancing I sat down.

The contractions came eventually, and the labour to give birth to My first child began.
It was a difficult labour.
I had no idea what to expect. There were no precedents.
I might have regretted this rash dreaming… so I laboured and danced the dance of the woman giving birth as I yelled.
As I tell this, I am again aware of the intensity of sensation, an opening into greater depths, coming more awake to the power of the child/dream within Me struggling to take on form.
My other Self. Myself. Other.
And so the Earth was born into a puddle of stars. Born clothed in the waters of gestation.
I held the child in My arms: sweet fruit of My labour.
Nothingness. Me. And My child. I was already deeply in love.
And she looked up at me and named me “Sun”. We rested together a while.

Then it came time to deliver the Moon.
It came away easily, parting from Me to cleave to the child.
Corded together to climb the cliffs of existence in greater safety.
Placental moon, Earth’s comforter, playmate, companion, counsellor, lover, Beloved One.
And My heart watched as the Earth danced the Dawn of Time, drunk on the newness of autonomy.

And then she was wanting to go.
So I cloaked My child in clouds of desire and fear, and put her into her own hands.

Deep in her oceans the dream went on. And in time, My daughter brought birth to children of her own.
Life was conceived in the water, and crawled out onto the land. Plant and animal, people and trees, each continuing the dream. The generations dreaming together. The spirit children of My grandchildren leaping towards home, dreaming of the beginning.

And in the beginning, Me.

 

(c) Catherine Ishara de Garis, 1994

 

Quickening – Reflections upon the mystery of pregnancy/incarnation

In the Ishtar Mysteries, ‘Quickening’ is the mystery point half way between Autumn Equinox (conception) and Winter Solstice (birthing).   In the inner and outer cycles of creation/co-creation, this mystery point is about the experience of pregnancy  – from both the point of view of the pregnant mother and that of the forming child.

The term ‘quickening’ is not much used any more in western culture, as pregnancy tests and ultrasound imagery have largely replaced the first flutter in the belly as confirmation of pregnancy.  My understanding is that in traditional cultures, as in the esoteric strands of western culture, the moment when the first physical movements of the unborn baby are perceptible to the mother (generally between 12-14 weeks of pregnancy) is seen as hugely significant.  According to some sources it signifies nothing less that the soul’s full commitment to this physical embodiment, this journey into expression in flesh.  (When I learned this it changed how I felt about the phenomenon of early miscarriages).  Some esoteric sources believe that at around this point in the pregnancy conscious/powerful souls have the potental to shape/adjust the genetic matrix that was formed at conception.

In my own visualisation of this mystery, the quickening represents the coming together of two spirals of energy.  One (visualised as descending from the Great Above, from the star realms) comprises those specific soul resonances which prompted/resulted in this embodiment.  The other, spiraling up from the Ament (the Great Below, place of the Ancestors under/within the Earth), represents the ancestral heritage.   As these twin forces swirl together, we are reminded of the molecular structure of the DNA – the genetic code or matrix which guides and informs our physical expression as living beings of flesh and blood.

As I write this I am aware of at least three dimensions or ‘layers’ to this mystery.

On one level, we are invited to tune in to the process of our embodiment as a human being  –  both as the story of our personal beginnings in this life-time, and as an ongoing process that continues to unfold in the ever-present now.  This is an opportunity to contact and bring new conscious awareness to our personal history of coming into incarnation as we take on physical shape within the womb of our birth-mother.  As fetal beings we are literally bathed in our mother’s bio-chemical and emotional field, with very limited capacity to screen anything out.  As we encounter this mystery, new awarenesses related  to this in utero experience may surface – as we become more keenly aware of the impact of our mother’s emotional and physical journey through pregnancy on our forming being, and decisions that we made in response.  I personally believe that the process of bringing these experiences and decisions fully into consciousness is innately transformational and can liberate more of our own energy and potential in our present lives.

On another level, we are invited to become conscious of ourselves as living in a pregnant universe – a universe which is constantly gestating and birthing new forms, new life..  from stars and galaxies, to single-celled organisms, from mountain ranges, to complex life-forms of all kinds.  Some estimates suggest that around the world 250 new human babies are born every minute of every day… That’s a lot of pregnancies and a massive amount of creative energy!

In these times which many believe are all about a shift in global human consciousness, some speak of a ‘quickening’ in the collective consciousness of humanity.  James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis – that the Earth itself has consciousness  – reminds us of more ancient ways of understanding and relating to the Earth as a living being.   How does it change our sense of ourselves to remember/imagine that we are all living within the belly of a pregnant Mother Earth?

In my (admittedly sketchy) understanding of indigenous Australian spirituality, the Dreamtime is not so much an account of historical events as a process of creation that is unfolding in the ever present now.  The Goddess mysteries invite us to tune in to a similar kind of consciousness.  How does it feel to relate to Goddess as Cosmic Womb of Creation?  And to understand ourselves as existing within the pregnancy of Her consciousness?

Finally, as we celebrate this mystery cycle as a devotional journey of service to the Divine Feminine, we have the opportunity to reflect upon the ways that we ourselves are currently pregnant – pregnant with spirit.  The mystery of quickening brings to life or awakens the potential that has been seeded within us.  A certain kind of faith in the unseen is required as we become a vessel for the sacred mystery which is taking place within our beings. The challenge is to allow this creative/transformational process which began at the conception mystery to continue to unfold in us.  To be receptive and attentive without either wilfully trying to make anything happen, or attempting to shut the process down out of fear.   It is a difficult truth that attempting to push things too soon may just cause the whole process to abort.  It is not possible yet for us to see what the outcome will be. However,  to the extent that we manage (with more or less grace) to hold the space for this subtle yet profound transformation, it will already beginning to make itself felt in our lives – much as the quickening fetus flutters within her mother’s belly.    We begin to get glimpses of our own potential – that we are much more than we thought we were.

In pregnancy, a wise woman lovingly attends to her physical and emotional needs, knowing that to do so not only feeds her own being, but also that of her forming baby.  As we partake in this mystery, we too would do well to pay attention to discern our present needs – physical, emotional and spiritual – and be more conscious of what it is that we are feeding our bodies, hearts and minds with.  Similarly, the ‘nesting’ urge of pregnancy is legendary – as we set about creating or adjusting our home to receive a new baby.   As we celebrate the mystery of pregnancy, this is a lovely time to follow the prompts of our ‘nesting’ instinct and give ourselves full permission to make our home, especially our bedroom and/or meditation corner, as comfy and nurturing as we want it to be.

Reflections by Ishara de Garis, a contemporary priestess of the Great Mother
originally published online May 2010

Personal ritual for Autumn Equinox mystery point

 A ritual to honour Ishtar Transformer & the Mystery of Conception

(Autumn Equinox mystery point)

This ritual marks the beginning of a new cycle of creation in our inner lives as woman and priestesses. In embarking on this year long journey with the Ishtar mysteries, we are opening ourselves to hearing what it is that we are called by Goddess to be, to do, to make manifest in our own lives.

In this ritual we are invited to surrender our fixed certainties about what it means to be a woman and a spiritual being, as the first step in a journey of deepening our intimate personal relationship with Goddess / the Divine Feminine. The intention of this ritual is to clear space within ourselves for something new to happen – we don’t yet know what it will be. The journey begins with a dive into the unknown – a journey fuelled by the transforming power of She who is the Source, Centre and End of our desires. Just as the autumn equinox marks the tipping of the balance from light towards darkness, so our journey with the Goddess mysteries begins with a movement into darkness. In the same way the miracle of conception begins – unseen in the generative dark space of the Mother’s womb.

For this ritual you will need:

· water &/or incense for cleansing your space

· a small table or altar space to work at (working on the floor/ground is fine if you prefer)

· a purple cloth for your altar space

· five candles

· matches or lighter

· a flower

· five slips of paper & a pen

· a burning pot (if possible)

· an egg (you may like to hard boil it and/or decorate it first)

· mood music (see Suggested music for the Autumn Equinox ceremony)

 

Allow yourself an hour of undisturbed private time in the evening (or in a darkened room) to complete this ritual.

 

Ritual process:

NB: Please resist the temptation to read ahead… do each step in order for full effect.

  1. Begin by purifying yourself.

Ways to do this could include:- taking a bath or shower (visualising yourself being washed through with light can enhance this process), doing any form of grounding/centering meditation exercise, putting on robes or other clothing that feels special, lighting incense, smudging/smoking yourself & the space.

  1. Energetically cleanse the space you will be working in.

On this occasion we suggest you do this by using water to which you have added a few crystals of salt. First bless the water, asking Goddess to charge it with cleansing power, then sprinkle it around your space with the intention of dispelling any stuck or negative energies. (You may add any other cleansing rituals that you like to work with here.)

  1. Create your altar space for the conception mystery.

If possible, begin with a purple cloth. Place upon it the five candles (in appropriate holders), your egg and any other symbols which speak to you of Goddess in Her aspect as Lover and Beloved, the One who Changes everything She touches.

  1. Call in any energies or presences you would like to have with you as you explore the mystery of conception.

You may like to use the Waterlily Open Heart meditation at this point – it will help you to ground and to connect to the flow of celestial energies through your body, putting you into a lovely state of consciousness from which to perform the remainder of this ritual. You may call other women into your space to support you (they may be living or in the spirit world/ancestors.)

  1. Invoke (call in) the presence of Goddess

In your own words asking Goddess to be with you and guide you through this ritual. Light the five candles – one for each of the four directions (east, north, west and south) and one representing centre. As you light each of the candles, you may like to contemplate the corresponding aspects of Goddess as we know Her through the Ishtar mysteries (see wiki for more details).

  1. Review what you know to be true.

Use the following process to explore your existing beliefs in relation to womanhood and spirituality – what you feel some certainty about, what you know to be true.

· Write out each of the following five sentence beginnings on a separate slip of paper:

i. Being a nurturing woman means…

ii. Being a powerful woman means…

iii. Being desired as a woman means…

iv. Doing a woman’s work means…

v. My relationship with Goddess is always…

 

· Next spend a few minutes completing each of the sentences in your own words. You may complete each sentence as many times as you wish.

 

· Re-read what you have written. Try to imagine what your life might be like if you didn’t believe any of these things any more.

 

  1. Contact your yearning / hearts desire.

Take up your flower. Seated or lying down in a comfortable supported position, put on some music which helps you get in touch with a feeling of yearning. Begin by hold your flower where you can gaze upon it. This flower represents your love, your passion. It represents your innermost hearts desire. Begin to deepen your breathing. Let the flower speak to you of your hearts desire, what you yearn for. Your yearning may be inchoate, wordless, undefined – or it may be that there is something quite specific that you are yearning for at this time – that is fine. Breathe into the yearning and feel it grow in intensity. Now allow this feeling of yearning to flow into a yearning for Goddess. Let yourself feel how much you want Her full presence in your life – to feel close and held, to feel that love.

  1. Let go & make a space for the Divine to come and live within you.

Take up any one of the five slips of paper on which you have written. Read the words aloud. Then make the choice to surrender these beliefs that you have been holding in order to open a space for something new and beautiful, something you cannot even fully imagine, to come into your life.   Sacrifice your old ideas on the altar of Love by burning them (or if you cannot safely do this then ripping them into little shreds.) Use the formula “I surrender…” (eg. “I surrender my beliefs about what it means to be a powerful woman”). Blow out one of the candles. Repeat this process for each of the remaining four slips of paper.

Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of beliefs that we see as positive ones in our lives. If this is the case, it may be helpful to view this process as being about openining your existing understandings to allow more space for the unknown to come and be made known to you.

 

  1. Open to the dark, to the unknown

Hold your flower and place the egg within easy reach. Return to a resting, supported position. Allow yourself to simply rest in the darkness of not knowing and experience what that feels like.

  1. When you are ready, consciously invite in the mystery of Goddess and open your being to receive/conceive a new possibility.

Affirm your willingness to be or become a vessel or a channel for whatever Mystery of Goddess/The Divine is wishing to become manifest in the world through your being. Place or hold the egg over your womb centre and gently open your awareness to any impressions, any sensations or impulses that may make themselves known to you, without making any effort to grasp or hold them.

  1. If you feel so moved, and without turning on too many lights, draw/write any impressions you may have received about the mystery which is seeking expression in the world through you. We strongly recommend that you do not immediately share these intimations of a new conception with anyone, but instead keep them in a safe and sacred place that is close to your heart for at least 7 days, preferably one full moon cycle.
  1. Give thanks and close the space however feels appropriate to you. Be sure to ground & allow yourself some time to gently return to normal waking consciousness.

 

 

Suggested Playlist for the Autumn Equinox – Conception Mystery ceremony

Openinglf (cover version by Kathy Mattea)

http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/window/media/page/0,,365207-1376653,00.html

 

Yearning

Jane Siberry – Calling All Angels
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/when-i-was-a-boy/id302079419

Surrendering

Kirtana – Pulling in the Oars
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/a-deeper-surrender/id6091830

In the Dark Space

Wendy Rule – Night Sea Journey
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/deity/id210554726

Opening to the new possibility

Kavisha Mazella – Clouds of Glory
http://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/kavisha-mazzella/id285365195

Peru the Singing Woman – Ecstacy (or anything else from the cd Love’s Deepest Calling)
http://www.peruquois.com/cd_page.html


Closing Song
Sally Oldfield – This is my song

(http://itunes.apple.com/at/album/femme/id279224873)

Just For Fun
Bellamy Brothers – Let your love flow

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/let-your-love-flow-the-dance/id199885312

Autumn Equinox

How do things begin?

“May all your choices be / ones that intrinsically / honour your soul”  (Wendy Rule, ‘Deity’)

Radiant Woman with lamp

The great wheel of life rolls on. The cosmic cycles of creation turn, returning us to the point of fresh beginnings.

From a place of stepping more fully into the power of her own truth, a woman becomes more beautiful, more attractive. Drawing to her that which holds the powerful fascination of “not self”. Drawing to herself the blossoming potential of relationship with another human being.  Another opportunity to glimpse her own deep potential in the mirror of another’s love, another’s presence. Finding ourselves lost in the presence of the Beloved Other. Finding our lost selves in the presence of the Beloved One.

Curiousity, chemical attraction, imprints buried deep in our subconscious minds from a time before conscious memory, the promptings of our soul urge to grow, to express and share ourselves, to explore belonging and make a valued contribution… who can say what draws us to the edge of the dark cave?  But here we find ourselves, on the eve of the Autumn Equinox, contemplating, on the threshold of another journey.

At Autumn Equinox we are like the woman standing in the mouth of the dark cave. We are like the girl-woman Kore – daughter of the Great Mother herself – reaching out to touch and the flowering promise of the bulb – herself plucked, ripe in this moment, out of time and space and into the transformative realm below the earth, of ancient darkness and the Power of the Deep.

No hero’s journey this, no sailing in a frail barque at the mercy of the winds across dark oceans to lands unknown there to face down fate and other monsters and bring home a prize of great price.  No.  In our journey it is Ocean herself that calls to us. A vast ocean of darkness teaming with unseen potential, unseen life.  Ocean, her body pulsing in great waves under the ebbing, flowing influence of the dark-bright changeable moon.  Standing on the shoreline we, caught in the enchantment of round, ripely moon. Responding releasing shining blissful touching stroking her undulation, releasing, a stream of moonlight pouring pouring a pathway into… the total transformation of who we know ourselves to be. That begins in a movement deep within. A movement so small we might entirely miss its significance.

Conception. Accepting the seed. Our hunger taking in and swallowing just one – (surely not even half a handful!) – of the tiny seeds.

How things begin in darkness. When we say yes. With or without intent. Mindless, heedless, uncomprehending of the consequences. Or curious, tempted, telling ourselves it is such a small thing, won’t matter, couldn’t make a real difference.  Or joyfully, ecstatically, surrendering our small selves to the great waves of love, knowing, and caring not at all that we may be transformed utterly in ways we cannot even begin to predict or understand.

Tumbling through blissful darkness. Throwing ourselves into the waves on a date with destiny.  Caught up in the cosmic flowering of creation now seeded in our being. Drawn deeper and deeper into ocean, into the dance.  ‘

Into the womb of the ancient and eternal Dark Mother we go!

by C Ishara de Garis
originally published 14 March 2010