I have been writing and celebrating ritual for half of my life. The equinoxes and solstices and the cross quarter days (May 1, August 1, All Hallows, and February 2) comprise the eight spokes of the year. What I have learned from my research is that virtually every Indigenous culture follows this calendar in a general way – What I have gleaned from personal experience is that during these ritual periods my body is opened to the Powers of Nature in very specific ways that can be positive or/and negative.
Often I experience uncomfortable physical symptoms – feel an intense buzz, am struck by severe headaches, the feeling that I am walking on air without solid ground; I have unusual experiences with animals or plants; I am blind sided by radical insights in waking life or through dreaming. I have come to expect that usually there will be some kind of sign and if there isn’t one my body/mind isn’t in tune ritually and something is amiss – either my intentions, or the letting go (death) of some aspect of myself. The older I become the more I attempt to move through these periods with increased awareness that I am a receiver and need to be paying even closer attention…
My rituals have become so fluid and usually write themselves through dreaming, my experiences in Nature, my animals and bird, and/or sometimes – less so now – by being triggered in a particular way by some mythological theme. Not this year.
The Spring Equinox is historically a difficult time for me; this year is no exception. I normally suffer from debilitating depression at this turning. But I don’t ever recall “celebrating” a spring equinox that had so much fear attached to it. The C/virus struck this month. I am not only facing the virus with emphysema, but also must travel home to Maine, first for my health, (I literally cannot breathe in New Mexico’s intolerable summer heat) and I must also return to begin the foundation work on my log cabin… I am in my mid-seventies – in the highest risk category.
My dreaming life has been most distressing reflecting day fears in graphic detail. One dream urged me to get going; another suggested reassessing motels in “Everytown.” I am also suffering from difficulty sleeping—a problem that I have every spring which has been exacerbated, and with PTSD and a general anxiety disorder pressing me on, my ritual intentions were reduced to their lowest denominator. How to deal most effectively with fear. Death fears.
This Turning is the second and last of the two Water Festivals, and this year it rained the night before. Unusual, especially in this dry desert year and to me the rain seemed significant. I note that sometimes the element that is honored seems to cooperate in a peculiar way at a Turning that acknowledges its importance. And Water is about purifying, letting go, and flow… I was able to collect precious rain that the trees and cloud people brought to use for our Body Blessings (Lily b, Hope, Lucy and me – only one of us is human). Very special, that.
I lit a Balsam Fir Candle to honor the trees who are helping me to breathe easier.
When I called in the Four Directions I began with East asking my Spirit bird, the Sandhill Crane, to be present… The last of the cranes migrated north almost a month ago. When Lily b, my dove, picked up my words in a song that he repeated over and over, I felt as if I had really been heard (he is normally asleep by dusk) – my beloved Cranes and Dove were with me…Lizard came next… When I got to the West and called in Bear I had a sudden clear image of wearing a warm coat of black bear fur. Since the bear is the most important Spirit Animal for me, this spontaneous image was surprising and very comforting – East and West had both responded in a visceral way and I will be traveling from West to East…(this is the Good Red Road of the Indigenous Way but in reverse). Reverse in this case, is probably benign.
When I finished with the North, whose spirit animal is the deer, I lit one candle to acknowledge my intention to deal with my fear, and a second to turn my face to spring, towards my difficulties, not away from them…
Next I took the bowl of water and blessed my body and those of the two dogs. I sprayed a sleeping Lily b on his roost, briefly awakening him.
Just as I completed our body blessings for health and safety, it began to rain lightly. How strange; no wind. Rain without any wind in the desert is a priceless gift. I immediately opened the door, walked outside, and stood in the rain asking for a second body blessing, breathing in my deepest gratitude.
Once back in the house the rain stopped immediately. Incredible timing. When something happens twice at one time it usually manifests on a physical plane… Certainly our water blessings had been acknowledged.
Finally, I offered up my prayers, thanked my Guardians, the Four Directions, and opened the circle…leaving it unbroken.
That night I dreamed that trees had hearts and the heart of the tree was what mattered. (I had just written an article on the fact that trees had a pulse – I believe trees have a heart that stretches throughout its body). I love all trees in a way that I cannot explain – Kinship.
The following day two doves exactly like mine fluttered together, mating on the garden wall. This coming together of male and female doves seemed hopeful.
There were negative effects too. The day before in the pre-dawn hours I heard the calls of the great horned owl. For me this particular owl’s call was always a warning. Before my mother died the owl called 13 times… before and after I returned to the desert in 2017, owls surrounded my house in Maine and then in New Mexico warning me that all would not be well. In Mexico people believe the g/h owl is an omen of death; I would have to agree. One animal sighting highlighted the Void. Dark dreams returned…
To conclude, I cannot read what’s ahead for me or the rest of the frightened species on this planet at this time, but acknowledging this turning helped me to articulate my fears and to find comfort in the palpable interconnection between Nature and myself and the dark green religion of hope.
Ritual keeps this door between us open and for that I am profoundly grateful.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.