Farewell to Carol Christ at the Kamilari tholos tomb, Crete by Laura Shannon

September 7, 2021

1. Tholos tomb of Kamilari

1. At the gate

On a hilltop between the horned peak of Mount Psiloritis and the wide blue expanse of the Libyan Sea, Ellen Boneparth, Tina Nevans and I prepare to enter the Kamilari tholos tomb. This round vaulted structure served as a communal and egalitarian burial site for thousands of years, from Neolithic through late Minoan times, and Carol brought more than 40 groups of Goddess Pilgrims here to honour those who have gone before. This is where Carol asked the three of us to perform a farewell ritual for her; she wanted no other ceremony. We each don a scarf and necklace which belonged to Carol and enter the sacred space. Kostantis stays behind to guard the gate, in case any other visitors arrive during our ritual.

2. Invocation

On this spot, hundreds of women have honoured thousands of ancestors. We ask for the benevolent presence and the blessing of all those who knew and loved Carol, living and dead. We ask permission of the spirits of the place to enter for this ceremony. We ask Carol’s own ancestors, and the Minoan ancestors of this place, to bless and welcome Carol as a beloved daughter and granddaughter of both lineages.

3: Circumambulation 

Tina leads us clockwise around the outside of the tholos; we pass through the warren of tiny rooms where ritual objects were stored–including a beautiful sculpture of a  circle dance–and through the low entrance into the inner chamber. Ellen leads us around the inside of the tholos, counterclockwise like the Cretan dance. This direction follows the apparent path of stars around the pole star as seen at night in this part of the world, to align with cosmic harmony and order and bring it into the human realm. Our procession ends at the altar in the east.

4: Libations

Laura reads from Homer, as quoted by Carol in A Serpentine Path (p. 2):
‘I poured a libation to all the dead,
first with milk and honey,
and then with sweet wine,
then with water.’

We pour libations of milk and honey; sweet wine, white and red; and pure spring water, and each speaks the words which come to her. We remember Carol’s beloved friends, with us in spirit on this day, and offer fresh and dried fruits to the dead: red and white grapes; almonds, raisins and dates; and two pomegranates Ellen picked by the Kamilari spring. We also offer dried flowers, carefully saved from past rituals here, and a tiny twig from the holy myrtle tree of Paliani. We place Carol’s necklaces on the altar along with other small items of jewelry which had been hers, for the energy of her life to be present in the east, direction of birth and new beginnings.

Altar Offerings


5: Returning Carol to Mother Earth

We process to the western side of the chamber – direction of death and the ancestors – where a natural opening in the earth receives Carol’s ashes. We pour more water and wine, and Tina places another twig from the Paliani myrtle, wrapped in a sprig of fresh ivy to honour the cycle of life, death and rebirth. A hawk soars low overhead and circles above us several times. As it flies off to the southeast, a second hawk joins it.

The womb of Mother Earth

6: Readings

We return to the eastern altar.

Laura reads Carol’s own prayer: 
Our Mother Whose Body Is The Earth, by Carol P. Christ

Our Mother whose body is the Earth,
Blessed are you,
And blessed are all the fruits of your womb.
You give us this day our daily bread,
And we share it with others.
Our Mother whose body is the Earth,
We love you with all our hearts,
And our neighbors as ourselves.

Tina reads two short quotes and a poem:

Love, if it is love, never goes away. It is embedded in us, like seams of gold in the Earth, waiting for light, waiting to be struck.
-Alice Walker, Even So

Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without it, no other virtue can be practiced consistently.
– Maya Angelou

Antidotes to Fear of Death, poem by Rebecca Elson

Ellen reads from Sappho, fragments 42, 7, 8 and 9:
If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared

all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck

myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them

while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring
without song…

At noontime

When the earth is
bright with flaming
heat falling straight down

the cricket sets 
up a high-pitched
singing in his wings

I took my lyre and said:

Come now, my heavenly
tortoise shell: become 
a speaking instrument

Although they are 

only breath, words
which I command
are immortal

Standing in the heat ‘falling straight down’ and with the cricket’s ‘high-pitched singing’ in the background, we each read a verse of Jennifer Berezan’s song ‘She Carries Me’, which Carol’s groups always sang at the tholos tomb:

She Carries Me, by Jennifer Berezan

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.

Laura:
She is a boat, she is a light,
High on a hill, in the dark at night,
She is a wave, she is the deep,
She is the dark, where angels sleep.
High on a hill, where peace abides,
She carries me, to the other side.

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side

Ellen:
And though I walk, through valleys deep,
And shadows chase me in my sleep,
On rocky cliffs, I stand alone.
I have no name, I have no home,
With broken wings, I long to fly.
She carries me, to the other side

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.

Tina:
A thousand arms, a thousand eyes
A thousand ears to hear my cries,
She is the gate, she is the door,
She leads me through and back once more,
When day has dawned and death is night
She carries me to the other side

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side

Karolina, She carries you, she carries you.
She carries you to the other side
She carries you, she carries you.
She carries you to the other side

7. Thanks and celebration

We give thanks to the ancestors and spirits of the place and give our offerings to the earth. We share grapes, nuts, and pomegranates, which we place on an antique kitchen cloth from Lesvos, handspun, hand-dyed and handwoven. We rinse Carol’s necklaces with spring water, and later, we wash them again in the salt waters of the Libyan sea, before sharing a celebratory meal in Carol’s name – not forgetting her favourite wine.

Foods of harvest and celebration

May Carol be blessed and remembered by all who knew her. May she rest in peace and power.

– Laura Shannon, Sep. 7, 2021

Three of Carol’s oldest and closest friends, L to R: Laura, Tina, and Ellen
Ellen and Tina in the tholos tomb

Ellen adds: “Carol believed fervently in the cycle of life and death.  It was especially meaningful to return to the tholos tomb near Faistos where she brought groups to honor our ancestors and where she now joins the sacred circle of ancestors.”

photos by Tina Nevans and Laura Shannon

Bio

Laura Shannon is one of the ‘grandmothers’ of the worldwide Sacred / Circle Dance movement. She trained in Intercultural Studies (1986) and Dance Movement Therapy (1990), and holds the M.A. fin Myth, Cosmology, and the Sacred from Canterbury Christ Church University in England. Her primary research in Balkan and Greek villages seeks out songs, dances, rituals and textile patterns which descend from the Goddess cultures of Neolithic Old Europe, and which embody an ancient worldview of sustainability, community, and reverence for the earth. In 2018 Laura was chosen as an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Sacred Dance Guild. Her articles and essays on women’s ritual dances have appeared in numerous publications. Laura is also Founding Director of the non-profit Athena Institute for Women’s Dance and Culture. She lives in Canterbury, Greece, and the Findhorn community in Scotland.



Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Ecofeminism, Foremothers, General, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Grief, Loss, Ritual, Spiritual Journey, Women's Spirituality

Tags: , ,

29 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

    And rest in peace, beloved Carol.

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  3. Thank you for sharing. What a lovely ritual.

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  4. She would have loved this ritual. She so thoughtfully led us in 2019, in her last group. So grateful for your sharing with all of us.

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  5. How profound yet simple. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to participate vicariously.

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  6. Lovely and touching and so true! Just reading your rituals brought tears to my eyes, too. Brightest blessings to you three friends of Carol’s not only for doing the ritual but also for writing about it and taking the photos to share with the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Barbara. I think in the ritual we all really felt connected to the vast network of Carol’s friends, colleagues, readers, sisters,so it’s natural to want to share it with you all – it felt as if you were there.

      Like

  7. I was blessed to do ceremony in the Tholos Tomb with Carol in 2019, and I wrote this poem: which appears in Poems for Flourishing.

    THOLOS ALTAR ROCK

    Over clay imaginings
    of Divinity beyond our ken.
    we spill our offerings of wind and honey.
    At the Tholos Altar Rock
    we remember all our dead.
    One by one, we pour out our libations
    and declare their names aloud.
    Blessed by the Source of Life, we say,
    and the circle of life and death
    that gives regeneration.

    When the Goddess pitcher
    streams through terra-cotta breasts
    her offering of foamy milk,
    we honor hidden nurture
    ready to flow from our own.
    The altar runs white with love.
    We give to one another
    sustenance of honeyed nuts and grail of wine.
    Communal power surges through
    as we move our bodies in the ritual.

    The Goddess lifts us from our grief.
    Not dead, She whispers.
    Those whose names you called
    are only gone ahead.
    From the tomb of Tholos we emerge
    returned to the spiral of time
    and restored to original grace.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you so much for sharing your exquisite poem, Susa! It is gorgeous!

      I love how you write:
      “When the Goddess pitcher
      streams through terra-cotta breasts
      her offering of foamy milk,
      we honor hidden nurture
      ready to flow from our own.”
      So many women have been touched by that image, that moment, and that realisation of our own inner capacity to nurture, and to nurture beautifully.

      May I ask you about including your poem in rituals at the tholos tomb on future Pilgrimages? Please email me (laura @ laurashannon.net) if that would be all right with you. Thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. And blessings and good wishes to you, Laura. May a portion of Carol’s strength and wisdom remain with you.

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  9. Thanks for showing us how its done. Just beautiful.

    Like

  10. Celebrating&Grieving Carol Christ
    🌀Thank you for posting this eloquent farewell ritual as you placed Carol’s ashes in the Earth where Carol wanted. All the elements resonated quite deeply. Carol’s own chosen aspects for this Farewell Ritual were especially consoling for me personally. Wearing Carol’s necklaces imparted such a material, visceral and lovely touch that brought home fresh grief but simultaneously a feeling of Carol’s continued presence.
    🌀I’m planning a small, simple Ritual Celebrating Carol Christ here in Southern California. I am still in the very beginnings. ❇️As with so many feminist actions, my ritual realization began with a deep compelling feeling: I HAVE TO create a ritual here! ❇️A special garden in Claremont (sometimes used for small gatherings & rituals) immediately occurred to me for sacred space. I have now learned how to reserve this garden. And I hope to secure a Fall date soon. But the ritual date will just unfold when the garden is available. ❇️Then I can announce a date for our little local “Ritual Celebration of Carol Christ”.
    🌀Please contact me if you live near here & want to come.
    🌀Please be in touch with me if you are local & able to help me create this gathering.
    ❇️ I envision a feminist frame to Create/Conjure our Circle as a pot or cauldron for folks to speak and to be Quiet & to Listen. (Definitely not elaborate & not too long.)
    ❇️ A Welcome to All – To Any Religious or Spiritual Orientation, or None or Always Questioning. *My own Path has many Inspirations – a “Nagnostic”(i.e.”a woman always asking the Nagging Questions.”)
    ❇️Goddesses of course, will be invoked to Honor & Celebrate Carol’s Life, her Path, her Writing….
    ❇️ A Farewell.
    Emily Erwin Culpepper
    emily_culpepper@redlands.edu
    —————
    PS 🌀When I first learned Carol/Karolina died, it was quite abrupt because some rough new health challenges had sidelined me from participating here. I had read Carol’s posts– first on moving to Hania on Crete & finding her beautiful apartment home, her Joy in as she settled in, & brought her plants there. Then her Posts on being ill…discovering a Colon Cancer diagnosis … treatments… To every Post, I wrote a comment, but they would not Post! So I became more urgent, and then no more words from Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds like you have found the perfect spot for your ritual for Carol, and I am sure it will be lovely. I’m glad you were able to post your comments now, and I hope you will write about your ritual when it comes into being. I love how you say, “I envision a feminist frame to Create/Conjure our Circle as a pot or cauldron for folks to speak and to be Quiet & to Listen.” This seems to sum up how Carol, too, made space for both speaking and listening in her groups, naturally allowing the process of transformation to ‘cook’ in the cauldron of the circle in an ultimately deeply nourishing way.

      It is a shock and sadness to lose a dear friend like Karolina, but one silver lining may be how we are inspired to strengthen our own self-care in response to such a loss. So I also wish you all the best with your own health.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, what a beautiful and moving ritual for Carol! Thank you so much for sharing it with us, and for the photos.

    Like

  12. How incredibly beautiful! Thank you so very much Ellen, Tina and Laura, for sharing your farewell ritual to Karolina.

    Mourning Karolina, I am comforted to know her mortal remains have been placed in peace, with enormous love and beauty, at the place very most fitting. Knowing you have done this gives me the assurance to deliver into the sea the rose petals I picked for a ritual for Karolina, and kept through her final days and beyond. Now I feel the time can be right.

    It is so touching that Karolina’s ashes and your farewell are in the place many of us have been to and where we honored our ancestors. It helps us all feel closer.

    The thought occurred to me that perhaps that Ellen, Tina and Laura are three spirits with whom Karolina worked most closely during the periods of her life that roughly correspond to maiden, mother, crone. The long beautiful course of her life. How blessed she is to have you!

    I loved all the prayers, songs and poems, the lines from Antidotes to Fear of Death, “And all of us, and everything / Already there / But unconstrained by form” especially. Unconstrained by form – it seems a process thealogy way to think of Karolina in her new state. Present and together and now more free. “On bright wings” – Karolina, always.

    Thank you also to the many who contributed remembrances and photos in the FAR July 15th In Memoriam: A Collective Tribute to Carol P. Christ. I was most touched and am grateful to see more of Karolina, and be able to more fully appreciate her.

    Many thanks, and collective Love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Viriginia, for your beautiful words. I also scattered rose petals for Carol yesterday, at another one of the sacred sites she so loved on Crete – and Ann writes that she too has gathered rose petals for Carol! What a lovely synchronicity.

      I love your observations about process thealogy in relation to the poem Tina chose for Carol. Indeed, “Already there / But unconstrained by form” is a wonderful way to envision death as a natural part of the great dance of life, death, and rebirth. Seeing this helps lessen the pain of grief.

      Your insight that “Ellen, Tina and Laura are three spirits with whom Karolina worked most closely during the periods of her life that roughly correspond to maiden, mother, crone” is also very touching, and I think quite true. And Karolina – first through her writings, then as my friend – has been with me since my maiden years also. How blessed we were to have her!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you for taking us to tools tomb to be with Karolina in spirit. Strange, Victoria, that I too have collected rose petal and will take it out into the sea on my small boat to scatter them as the sun rises. Her love, humble authenticity and ripe wisdom will be tucked in my heart always. We have been blessed to know and love someone so committed to the awakening of the feminine heart of creation. She will be met by Gods and Goddesses, ancestors and angels. Blessed Karolina, thank you for being exactly who you were, are and always will be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What lovely words, Ann, and what a lovely synchronicity about the rose petals! That makes three of us (so far) celebrating Carol in this way. I love to imagine you in your boat at sunrise. The dawn is about to awaken here over the sacred mountains of Crete.

      In another post [https://feminismandreligion.com/2021/08/09/remembering-carol-christ-and-going-forward-in-her-footsteps-by-laura-shannon/] I described how Carol influenced my life through her writings for many years before I met her, and how I had Womanspirit Rising in my backpack as I travelled through Europe as a teenager in the early 1980s. On that same European adventure, Ann, I made several visits to Findhorn, and that is where I heard you in concert in the Universal Hall! You made such an impression with your strong sensitive singing, your clear and focused presence on stage, your touching and truthful songs. Your ‘love, humble authenticity and ripe wisdom’ – the same qualities you saw in Carol, and your fearlessness in sharing your truest self and creative voice with the world – inspired me deeply. Thank you for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I remember visiting the Tholos tomb with you, Laura, and Carol on our pilgrimage in 2012. What a wonderful memorial and tribute to her. She is with the Goddess and ancestors now. She will always be remembered. I will miss her presence on this earth.

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    • Hello dear Stephanie, yes, I remember that 2012 ritual very well! Such a beautiful group, and the ritual to the ancestors was very moving. As you say, Carol is with the Goddess and the ancestors now. She is an ancestor herself, whom we will continue to honour in future visits to the tholos tomb.
      I hope you are well and that the years since the Pilgrimage have been good to you.

      Like

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this ritual with us, Laura. Blessings

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  16. Oh, how did I miss this post – crazy day – but I am savoring these words now so grateful that you shared this most important ceremony with us… so many beautiful words…. Thank you Thank you.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this lovely ritual in Carol’s honor. What is remembered, lives.

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  18. Thank you, Laura, Tina and Ellen. I felt as if I was there. Carol was there as well I am sure. So full if meaning and a fitting tribute.

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  19. Thank you for sharing this with us. It was a beautiful ritual and I very much enjoyed reading about it. May Carol’s memory be a blessing.

    Like

  20. Laura,

    What a lovely farewell.

    Her Spirit lives on in all of us.

    Peace & Love

    Like

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