Yesterday morning, I sat in a sunrise fire circle on a ridge above my new Rocky Mountain home. Two years ago on the same day, I stood before a loom in a reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse in Wales. And in both of those places I realize what made those experiences powerful was the space I left for Mystery to stand with and within me.
The late summer sun sleepily climbed over the horizon yesterday, making its appearance only slightly later than the day before. I could feel the barest hint of autumn around the edges of the dawning day. Staring into the heart of the fire at my feet, I awakened to the sheer volume of tension I am carrying around in my body lately– illustrating just how tightly I am holding on to the fabric of my life and of the world around me. These are tense times. In so very many ways.
I inhabited what felt like a perpetually liminal space for the past decade or so, moving from one place to the next. For a long while, I thrived on the go. But callings and desires shifted and now I feel myself slowing down. I crave roots, the kind it takes time to grow. And I am guilty of trying to rush the process, trying to control so many details all at once. But control? Control is a tricky thing.
Meanwhile, the world around me careens towards chaos. The American political situation is untenable. Unemployment seems to be down, but the Labor Force Participation rate and stagnant wages are alarming. Both the terrorism abroad and the gun violence epidemic at home continue to claim lives endlessly. Countless social justice issues are coming to a head. The “culture wars” rage on.
Sitting at the fire, I felt into my body for just a moment and I witnessed the incredible tension, the desperate desire for control.
How much of the tensions of this time was I carrying within my own flesh and bones? How tightly was I holding on? How many calories was that death grip on my life consuming without my conscious permission?
Too much. Very. And too many.
As a modern day priestess who works within a tradition of strong Celtic roots, striving to honor the wisdom of those who came before, I often look to the daily round of my ancestresses for power, poetry, & practicality. In this season of my life, I am deeply drawn to the lessons of the loom.
The Iron Age loom of the British Isles was a warp-weighted loom like the reconstruction shown here in a photograph I took at Castell Henllys during a 2014 pilgrimage to Wales. The warp threads of a weaving are the vertical threads. The weft is the thread woven horizontally through the warp. In a warp-weighted loom, the warp threads are bundled and tied to clay or stone weights which help to hold the twist of their spin and keep them consistently spaced. Each warp thread passes from the crossbar above, through the heddle, to its corresponding weight below. In a warp-weighted loom the warp threads are sometimes also chained, meaning a chain stitch is used to help hold them in place in addition to the heddle. The more tightly one threads, chains, and bundles the warp threads before the weaving even begins, the more snug the weave of the future fabric will be. And perhaps the harder it will be to pass the weft through them. Because control? Control is a tricky thing.
Last month, I helped facilitate two sizable public rituals alongside several of my amazing spiritual sisters at the SOA’s first annual Ninefold Festival. While both were beautiful experiences, the first ritual was more scripted and more structured than the second. One could say that the first had a tightly threaded, chained, and bundled warp, while the second was bound to produce a looser weave. My experience was that the second ritual left more space open for Mystery to make its presence felt, simply because we loosened the weave. The first ritual was beautiful and fulfilled its intention well, but the power of that second ritual blew us all wide open in ways I am still processing.
How much control serves to affect the changes we desire?
And how much leaves no room for Mystery to change us?
In these days of tension and uncertainty, I seek to use these lessons of ancient daily round and modern ritual practice as the weights at the end of my soul’s warp threads. I return again to the magic of a looser weave. How do I embrace a little more space– in my bones, in my heart, in the strife-riddled world around me? How do I loosen the chain stitch, lessen the burden on each loom weight, and create a bit more space for the threads of Mystery to weft their way into being within and around me?
For now, I’ll start with a few Celtic classics– breath and poetry and prayer. If you are struggling with the same sensations of tension, I encourage you to do the same. Breath begins to open any space, spirit and air will continue move more freely through a loosening weave. As for prayer, in my experience, Mystery loves a poetic invitation. Perhaps, a little something like this:
Today, I seek to loosen my grip
on the warp threads of my being’s loom,
for threads of Mystery
spun by unseen hands.
Today, I breathe freely
into my frame of flesh and bones,
so that the patterns of Mystery
may choose to weft
their way through them.
Today, I welcome the loosening.
Mystery, come weave me.
Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is a brand-new resident of Heartwood Cohousing in Bayfield, Colorado & a homeschooling mother to her three children. She holds a BA from Tulane University, where she studied Economics, International Relations, & Religious Traditions. Kate is a presenter for Red Tents & women’s retreats. She also hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, facilitates labyrinth rituals, and leads workshops on an assortment of women’s spirituality topics. During 2016, she will be presenting at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology Conference in Boston, MA, at the SOA’s first open online conference, AvaCon 2016, & at the inaugural Ninefold Festival in Orange, CT.