Autumn Equinox with the Ancestors, or after ecstasy indeed the laundry*) Eline Kieft

As I hang the laundry back home, I remember how just 24 hours earlier I arrived back on the beach after an incredible time at the ancestral burial mound where I spend the night in ceremony at the Autumn Equinox.

Ile Carn is a neolithic passage grave on a small tidal island in Finisterre, Brittany. I had visited there the summer before, and found that the other world was strongly accessible. When places become very touristy, like Stonehenge or Mont St. Michel, it sometimes appears as if the spirits retreat and the potency of the place thins. I asked them then if I could come back for ceremony, and when the answer was yes, I promised to return.

So here I was, on the Autumn Equinox, or Mabon. This is a time of balance, when the days and nights are equally long. A time in which the harvest has been gathered and we can start to prepare for a time of gestation and growing in the dark womb of winter, before the light is reborn again next year. My personal aim was three fold: I wanted to celebrate this year, especially to give thanks for my life, which had been on a precarious knife-edge earlier in May. I also wanted to ask for guidance for both my budding business and for my academic work in terms of re-discovering our own indigeneity in the west.

Like any ceremony, my time on the island consisted of three parts: arrival, liminal space, return. I arrived there just after low tide on Saturday. After a while, the lone fisherman and three more people and their dog left. Slowly but surely it was as if, on the rising tide, the place drifted away from shore, disappearing into the Other World. I could still see houses and people on the main land, and hear some passing cars, yet it seemed like I was far away. Perhaps not quite as far as Tir nan Og, the celtic ‘land behind the ninth wave’, but far enough from the human world and all its requirements, that I could be with and immerse myself in the land, the ocean and the presence of spirits and the ancestors.

It is quite magical, when you create time to actually watch the tides come in and go out fully. To question, at first, if you are imagining it – did that rock really disappear just now? And to see how the changes are the fastest in the 3rd and 4th hour when the water comes in (or goes out) with triple the speed as it does close to high or low tide.

I opened the liminal space within the mound, lighting some candles, preparing the sacred dome, calling for guidance and support. Then I did five rounds of prayers. First I prayed towards the mystery, and its manifestation in myriads of gods and goddesses – I imagine it must be tricky, being a god or goddess when people no longer ‘believe’ in you or honour your practice…

Then I reached out to the ancestors. In my experience there are many different types of ancestors including: concrete ancestors from our family line or community of people who have passed away, and similarly the concrete ancestors of people who geographically lived in a specific place (in this case Finisterre). I also think our ancestors include those from cultures we are connected to through our DNA (even if we might not have a concrete connection to them in this life). Really, this connects all of us back to the very first life on earth, so the ancestors can offer us an awareness of truly global community. Perhaps less tangibly, I finally connect to a lineage of spiritual ancestors – what types of ‘soul family’ do we feel related to, inspired by?

Thirdly, I connected to communities of human and other-than-human people in these socially, politically and environmentally challenging times. That they find grace and strength to face any current or future hardship, and that they may always remember they belong. No-one exists in isolation and together we truly are stronger.

Fourthly, I prayed for others. Ten people had shared asked me beforehand to take specific prayers to the ceremony on their behalf. As I sat there, drumming in the dark, it was such a privilege to speak your words of hope, love and longing for strength, healing, and guidance. Thank you for trusting me with them. I imagined they were carried up on the burning incense and reached the place where they were heard. I asked that you may feel the reverberation and manifestation of your prayers in the very essence of your being.

Finally, I prayed for self. To find the strength, despite any fears, worries, physical pain, and the certainty of dying, to receive this great gift of life as an incredible opportunity. To live this particular window of human life experience in the – potentially eternal – growth process of our souls as divinely engineered ‘perfection’ – because I believe that for the soul’s education nothing is ever imperfect. In the simple Spanish one-word prayer by Clarisse Pinkola Estés ‘Enséñame’ or ‘Please show me. Please teach me…’ **)

I went outside again, and danced and sang into the night. The many apparently ‘magical coincidences’ strengthened my belief that when we care to show up, the universe does too. When we care enough to craft time away from the everyday, to return to the wild, to reconnect with spirit, to fast, to rest during the night on an uneven slab of stone, then too the universe meets us. It meets us with beauty, incredible sights for the physical eyes, with poetry for the heart, and with precision in terms of the symbolic ‘answers’ we receive to our questions, our pleas, our prayers.

It was time to return. The tides would only allow me to leave at a specific moment when it was still dark. I made my way over the still-wet slippery seaweeds praying for sureness of foot. I slipped once, when I let my mind wander ahead to breakfast. I paused, came back to this precious moment, and then the clouds parted and my path was lit by the waning moon. I could see Orion, Ursa Major, and I think Venus. The way back was equally part of this deep medicine time as all the rest.

It was early, the world was still asleep. I put my pack down on the beach, and danced in the liminal and tidal zone of night slowly becoming day on the shore… One by one, the lighthouses across the cost flickered out until they are needed again during the next dark. This little whacky wild seed of inspiration is with me as I hang my laundry outside, on a misty September morning… The answers, images and guidance I received during this time are too personal to share here. But I know that you can access the same place of other knowing, whoever and wherever you are.


*) Jack Kornfield (2000) After the ecstasy, the laundry. How the heart grows wise on the spiritual path London: Bantam Books.

**) Pinkola Estés, C. (2011), page 191: Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc.


Eline Kieft has danced from a young age, including rigorous classical and contemporary training to become a professional dancer. She explored indigenous ways of knowing through her studies in Anthropology (BA, MA). During her PhD in Dance at Roehampton University, London, she looked at dance as a modality for healing and spirituality, including embodied epistemologies and shamanic techniques. Eline currently works at the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University. She is a long-term shamanic practitioner and student of Jonathan Horwitz, as well as a Movement Medicine teacher, an approach for contemporary shamanic improvised dance. Finally, Eline is founder of Clover Trail, which offers soulful journeys to integrate the sacred into the everyday, and create your own meaningful and personalised art of living (mostly in France and UK). and | Twitter: @ElineKieft

22 thoughts on “Autumn Equinox with the Ancestors, or after ecstasy indeed the laundry*) Eline Kieft”

    1. Wow, thank you Laurie, really appreciate your comment! Yes it’s sometimes hard to find words for expressing the numinous. Yet I find that when we really bring it home within the body, usually there are ways to language… You too, I hope you move gracefully through your every-day-sacred experiences!


    2. Thank you Laurie, that is very kind! You too, I hope you move gracefully through the sacred-every-day! Warmly, Eline


    1. Yes, isn’t it amazing? I’m still finding ways to articulate that… in my scholarly work it is difficult to express this agency of nature… Animism, Ecofluency, Panpsychim… If you know any authors that write about these and are able to explain nature’s voice… I’m all ears :-)


      1. Unfortunately I cannot be of much help here – I frankly am turned off by the intellectual approach. For one thing it keeps folks in their heads when they need to be outdoors experiencing NOT thinking. All these words mean nothing if we can’t begin to feel…


        1. Thank you for responding. Yes I totally agree! And… I’m making an attempt to bring feeling and soul into academia!


          1. Gosh, I applaud you – until we are able to do this the two worlds remain split. I have two scientists that are good friends and have been powerful mentors who I would consider to be renegades – both have been persecuted by the scientific community for DARING to go outside those rigid scientific method boundaries – because I am a researcher I try to bridge both worlds but struggle against what seems like overwhelming bias. the way academia punishes those that don’t follow the rules is to make them invisible.


          2. hi Sara, here is to you and your renegade friends – and indeed to anyone who is trying to widen the positivist lens!

            Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote a chapter called “Towards Soulful Scholarship.” It appeared in a free online e-book published by the Centre for Dance Research where I work. My chapter (22) is towards the end, but there are many bright gems in there!

            Click to access awofmbando.pdf

            In that chapter I started to ponder – science and religion parted ways a good 300 years ago, might it be time for bringing them together again? And indeed, this long-standing separation is one of the reasons why I find it so hard to be in academia… Yet there are also emerging young scholars who give me hope for the future!!!

            Have a beautiful day!

            Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks, Eline Kieft, for celebrating today, October 1, a perfect day to celebrate autumn. One of the most lovely and passionate paintings ever by Georgia O’Keeffe is titled — AUTUMN LEAVES, LAKE GEORGE— with its lovely, tender colors — & which seems to draw a leaf outlined with a delightful face of a child. Here’s the URL —

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m happy you liked it! I nearly ran out of battery because indeed there were so many sights that were too beautiful not to take a picture :-)


    1. I’m de-Light-ed that you picked up on it! And moved by all the comments on the photos as addition. I hadn’t realised they would play such a strong role in the blog! Inspires me to more consciously include them, thank you!


  2. What an enjoyable read – you really take the reader with you and make it all very vivid. I liked your statement “I also think our ancestors include those from cultures we are connected to through our DNA (even if we might not have a concrete connection to them in this life).” – My grandfather came to the US from Cornwall, and I’ve been finding tremendous nourishment reconnecting to my ancestors from there, especially their Celtic Christianity and Spirituality. I have found Pelagius particularly powerful, and I am translating his work into the Cornish language. Learning the ancient Cornish language is changing me, as a person, especially my spiritual lens. His ideas resonate with yours, and your way of praying. I think learning new ways of praying is so important – realizing that each of us is capable of creating our own manner of prayer, which is perfect for us. Wonderful gift you’ve shared, and what a precious and beautiful place is Brittany.


    1. Hi Trelawney, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad you like the piece and feel resonance with it! I’m so happy you are reconnecting with your roots and learning Cornish – I’m intrigued how you feel the language is changing you. I’ll definitely look into Pelagius, thanks for the reference! I hope you find some time to come to spend on the land (t)here.

      You probably know this, but I wasn’t sure from how you phrased it: the place where I did the ritual was actually in France. There is a province there, which is called Bretagne, indeed Brittany in English. It also has very strong celtic roots. Indeed, in the olden days you had Great Britain and Little Britain as an overseas province. It’s striking to see similarities not only in the neolithic structures (monoliths, stone circles, burial mounds), but also in the land, the stones, the houses/architecture and the language – Breton! Lots of place names that start with Tre – like your name, and like many places in Cornwall… I think at one point in ancient history there wasn’t a sea separating France from Great Britain, but even when there was the cultures that developed were deeply similar.

      Anyway… wishing you a day full of inspiration! And thanks again for being in touch!


      1. Jumping in here – I echo what Trelawney said, and it was beautiful to read, given our Cornish roots, to get a glimpse of a similarly deep and powerful ancestral experience in Brittany, one of the six Celtic nations, and closer to Cornwall – genetically and linguistically – than, for example, Ireland or Scotland. All the Celtic lands have deep roots of nature connected spirituality, dance, drumming, music, singing. There is a St Michael’s Mount in both Brittany and Cornwall – each different and fascinating in its own way.

        Your post made me miss Cornwall with a deep ache. I have a friend from Brittany, actually – her grandparents still live there and speak Breton, in a village by the sea. I hope to visit someday. Thank you for the beautiful post.


        1. Thank you Tallessyn, it’s beautiful to feel the resonance across the lands! Warmest wishes, (and sorry for the late reply – technical glitch!) Eline


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