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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)




Jane Siberry – Calling All Angels


Kirtana – Pulling in the Oars

In the Dark Space

Wendy Rule – Night Sea Journey

Opening to the new possibility

Kavisha Mazella – Clouds of Glory

Peru the Singing Woman – Ecstacy (or anything else from the cd Love’s Deepest Calling)

Closing Song
Sally Oldfield – This is my song


Just For Fun
Bellamy Brothers – Let your love flow