“Beginnings and endings are so very sacred, to give honor to all that has transpired, every experience, every joy, every pain, is a doorway to the magical. Hold your entire year between your hands, every day, every thought, every breath. Now bless it with gratitude, love and humility. You have done more to transform this new year than a thousand resolutions.”
–K. Allen Kay
Two years ago, at the end of the year, I was supposed to hold a closing ceremony for a year-long Ariadne’s Thread study group I had been guiding throughout the year. Every member of the circle ended up backing out of the closing circle at the last minute, but I held the ceremony in full anyway, alone in my front yard, just for myself, and expanding it to include acknowledging and appreciating all the work I had completed in 2016, including my D.Min degree. People’s reasons for backing out of the ceremony were very valid and while on a cognitive level I understood why they couldn’t come, on an emotional level I still felt let down and disappointed at being “abandoned” by them. Holding the closing ceremony for myself anyway and acknowledging that I kept my own commitment to doing a full year of this work in circle, felt like a powerful declaration and affirmation of my own worth. In fact, it was such a validating and powerful experience that I continued the practice with a personal year-end closing ceremony for 2017 as well and I will do the same for myself this year too.
I find it is easy to rush forward into the new year and skip the opportunity to review, evaluate, and appreciate the year that is coming to a close. I find that I am also very likely to ignore or brush past the things I’ve accomplished in pursuit of the next goal and it felt like an important honoring of myself to look at all this generative work I released into the world in 2016, then again in 2017, and now in 2018 too. It feels important to me to take a conscious pause to connect with, honor, validate, celebrate, and acknowledge the work of the year before I move quickly into the next year.
Sometimes at a late winter or early spring Red Tent, I guide the women through a meditation in which you walk retrospectively through your year, remembering and looking at and honoring those experiences that made up your year. Then, you gather the year up (mentally), thank it, and release it like many sparkles of light.
In the companion book for the Goddess Oracle Deck, Amy Marashinsky, explains the power of ritual:
“Ritual is the form and structure that enables your spirit to fly free. Ritual is the safe space you create that allows you to open to the deepest parts of yourself. Ritual is the magic that you do for yourself, your circle of loved ones, your community. Ritual is play.
Ritual is transformational. You begin the ritual in one state of being and end it in another. Change of consciousness is what happens and it can be major or minor. Group ritual, in order to be transformative, must involve all participants in an active way. An effective ritual will leave you transformed; an ineffective one will bore you.
Ritual contributes to your wholeness by allowing enough safety and freedom for all the parts of yourself to be expressed. Ritual contributes to your wholeness by letting you swim and scamper with the Sacred.”
I begin my honoring ceremony for the end of the year by cleansing the space with spring water that I collected during the full moon, charged with crystals, and blended with sage, lavender, and rose essential oils. I rattle and drum and create a large altar space on the floor with representations of all my creations, offerings, gifts, and teachings of the year, acknowledging each of my creations from the passing year in turn as I lay them out. I sing Circle Casting Song and lift my arms to the sky to recite the Charge of the Goddess. I wear the moon crown I made three years ago for my first year-honoring ritual and I carry a candle as I walk the small stone labyrinth in my front yard.
I call upon the Goddess
She who weaves the whole.
I call upon the elements
Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.
I call upon my ancestors
the legacy of their years.
I call upon creative pulse within
this fire of inspiration
I am privileged to carry and birth.
I call these together now
the completion of this year
and my work therein.
When I entered the labyrinth in 2016, I found a beautiful, delicate bird’s nest in my path, as if it had been placed there specifically for me. In 2017, I dropped my candle and spilled wax across the threshold. In my priestessing work I speak often of what I term “candle-wax priestessing,” so this spilled wax felt like a magical sealing of my work. In the center of the labyrinth, each year, I lift my arms to the sky, close my eyes and feel the sun warming my body through the cold air and blessing my path.
When I exit, I stop to kneel on the earth and place my palms to the ground and speak aloud of the work completed during the year, thanking myself for all that which I have created. The first year I did this ritual, I heard the words: sometimes you will walk alone, a reminder that I must take good care of myself in order to continue my path.
For the past two years, I have written a little “song of the year” for the year to come and then I sing it at the entrance to the labyrinth as I re-emerge:
I am listening
I am opening
I am learning
I am free.
Then, I offer my gratitude to the goddess, the elements, and the earth for my own self and that which I am able to create and I anoint myself with my spring water, offering myself a self-blessing by moving my hands to each of the seven chakra areas of my body in turn.
This personal ceremony in which I make a physical connection with the things I’ve created in the course of a year goes beyond an “annual review” and into something more special. Personal, intentional, dedicated, private, developed ceremonies are powerful–rather than being saved to share only with others, they communicate to you that you are worth it on your own.
Glenys Livingstone in her book PaGaian Cosmology, writes:
“The coming into Being that Winter Solstice and Early Spring celebrates, is an awesome thing. It takes courage and daring. It has taken courage and daring – always. In these times of change, it is perhaps particularly so. Our times require the melting down of so much that no longer works, that will not carry us through. These times require the re-shaping and speaking of new realities – an aboriginal magic of new connections, with what is already present within us, if we can but plumb it, open to it deep within. This is a great seasonal moment to get with the plot of Creativity, to align ourselves with our Native Wisdom …the Wisdom that in fact brings us all into being. We may re-spond to the gift of being by receiving it graciously – and thus become re-sponsible. Though we may feel inadequate, we are not – and we need to begin…”
I invite you now to take a deep breath…
To still your mind.
To tune into your heartbeat.
The pulse of your daily living.
The flow of your days.
The meaning of your life.
in the pause between thoughts
the stillness between breaths
the silence of not knowing
let it bubble up from within you…
What have you created this year? What gratitude do you hold for yourself? What are you honoring?
Happy (nearly) New Year! May you take the time to honor your own accomplishments, celebrate your work, and engage in deep, personal ceremony.
Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, She Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.
Categories: Divine Feminine, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Gratitude, Naming, Priestessing, Ritual, Sacred Space, Seasons, Spiritual Journey, Spirituality, Winter Solstice, Women and Work