Amongst Celtic peoples, the capacity to speak poetically was a divine attribute, regarded as a transformative power of the Deity, who was named by those peoples as the Great Goddess Brigid: She was a poet, a Matron of Poetry (along with her capacities of smithcraft and healing). And at Delphi in Greece, the oracular priestesses delivered their prophecies in poetic form: Phemonoe invented the poetic meter, the hexameter. And from Sumeria, humans have the first Western written records of literature, which is poetry written by the High Priestess of Inanna, Enheduanna in approximately 2300 B.C.E.. Poetry has been recognised as a powerful modality: Barbara Mor and Monica Sjoo described “poetic thinking” as an wholistic mode, wherein “paradox and ambiguity … can be felt and synthesized. The most ancient becomes the most modern; for in the holographic universe, each ‘subjective’ part contains the ‘objective’ whole, and chronological time is just one aspect of a simultaneous universe” (The Great Cosmic Mother, 41).
Poetry could be described as an “Earth-centred language”: it has the capacity to hold multivalent aspects of reality, to open to subjective depths, to allow qualitative differences in understanding. Hence it is especially suited to expressing and bringing together a multitude of beings. Cosmologist and evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme and the late cultural historian/geologian Thomas Berry have called for such a language – the kind of language “until now enjoyed only by our poets and mystics” that may express the “highly differentiated unit”, the organic reality such as Earth is (The Universe Story, 258-259), and such as “Gaia” was understood of old, and in recent scientific theory: that is, Earth is understood as a highly differentiated unity, which any expression must aim to emulate.
I have always understood the ceremonial celebrations of Earth’s Seasonal Moments, such as I and my community have created over decades, as Poetry: it is not a ‘discourse’ or a theory, or a ‘study’ of something such as a theology is, or even as a thealogy may be. It is a speaking with our Place, this Habitat, which is understood to be alive and responsive, and deeply complex: how else may we speak with our dynamic Place of Being, who is always much more than we can imagine? The ceremonial celebration of the complete cycle of Seasonal ceremonies, wherever one is on our Planet, and in all the diverse possibilities, may be experienced and recognised as a poiesis: that is, the intention is to make a world, to participate in “an action that transforms and continues the world” … the sacred ceremonies when engaged in fully, are a method of action. They may serve as a catalyst for changing of mind, for personal and cultural change.
The practice is a re-creation of and participation in, what I name as Gaia’s Womb: a name for the whole sacred site in which we live. The sensing, the embodiment of this sacred site in which we are immersed, may be created with the practice of ceremony of Earth-Sun transitions, the Seasonal Moments, however they manifest in your place (see note below). It is the regular conversation throughout the whole annual cycle – the sacred gestalt – that creates the womb, the space of integral relationship with Source of Being … whom one may understand as the Great She birthing all, other and self in every moment.
When embodied through practice, the Poetry of any one of the Seasonal Moments may serve the participant in any moment, as a pathway to the Center, a portal to the Deep in which we are always immersed.
By way of example, I will summarise the poetics of each Seasonal Moment as I have expressed it over decades:
Samhain/Deep Autumn: it is the death and composting of the old, and the dark space for conceiving and dreaming the new. We remember the ancestors and old selves we have been, the many transformations we have come through, as Gaia Herself has done.
Winter Solstice/Yule: in the fullness of the dark, light is born, manifestation breaks forth. We remember our Origins, our Cosmic lineage, and the new beings coming forth in ourselves: our participation in the unfolding Cosmos and regeneration of Earth, as Mother Sun has always done.
Imbolc/Early Spring: it is for the nurturance of and dedication to the unique self, celebrating the promise of life, that each being is. We remember the resistances to coming into being, and vow to nurture and remain true to each particular small self, who is also Larger, who is Gaia.
Spring Equinox/Eostar: it is a stepping into the joy and power of being; and the welcome and embrace of new wisdom emerging from the depths. We remember something of our personal and collective lost places, and celebrate the courageous one who has made it through. It is a Moment of the creative balance that has fostered life’s evolution for billions of years, enabling the return of beauty.
Beltaine/High Spring: it is a celebration of the dance of life, the holy desire that pervades and unites the Cosmos and brings forth all things. We remember how this holy desire is felt in so many ways, including hunger, thirst, the passion for relationship, for creating our lives, for fruiting our dreams.
Summer Solstice/Litha: the fullness and wholeness of being is celebrated with the peaking of Sun’s light. We remember that it is the Sun that ripens in us, that the Creativity that pours forth from us is what the Cosmos is made of, that our passion released may feed the world.
Lammas/Late Summer: it is the harvest of life, the sacred consuming. We remember the dark sentience, the All-Nourishing Abyss, the larger self to whom we belong, in whom we are immersed, and to whom we return. We dedicate ourselves to deep wisdom within and Larger Self.
Autumn Equinox/Mabon: it is a descent to the grief and power of loss; yet also a thanksgiving for receiving the abundant harvest of existence given freely in every moment. It is a Moment of the sacred balance of the Cosmos, the thread of life, that continues beneath the visible, and never fades away.
All may be true simultaneously in any and every moment, and when the deep truth of any one subjective part is contemplated, in the context of the whole, one enters the Deep Whole: and participates in the making of a world, and in an action that transforms and continues the world.
Note: It is my experience that the created ceremonies do not need to be in the same exact location throughout the year, though that is good when possible: the ceremonies themselves are received into the sentient Cosmos and part of one’s own sentience, and if regularly practiced – religiously practiced, the sacred site, Gaia’s Womb, may be virtual (intra/meta-physical?), as much as it is physical.
© Glenys Livingstone 2020
Glenys Livingstone is the author of PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion which is based on her doctoral research (University of Western Sydney, Social Ecology. 2002). She has been on a Goddess path since 1979, and has contributed to several anthologies, including Goddesses in World Culture (ed. Patricia Monaghan, and Goddesses in Myth, History and Culture (ed. Mary Ann Beavis and Helen Hye-Sook Hwang). Glenys lives in Australia, where she has facilitated Seasonal ceremony for over two decades, and mentored students. She continues to write and to teach a year long course on-line.