When I was 18 my boyfriend died, and the place I went for solace was the sea.
Every day after classes ended I drove to my favorite beach, a rocky marine preserve in a small cove that was not well-known and therefore never crowded. I would sit there for hours facing west, watching the waves flow in and recede, listening to the sounds of shells and rocks tumbling onto the shore. It was there I first learned the mysteries of life and death and renewal, in my body and in my soul: there is no death, only change and transformation, the ebb and the flow. Love does not end with death, for he was dead and yet I still loved him.
That was thirty years ago and I am no longer a maiden seeking to discover why people die. I am approaching my crone years, and I have long since made my peace with Lady Death. Yet I still go to the sea for solace, for refreshment and for renewal.
At 18, I didn’t know much about the mythic resonances of the sea. I didn’t know that liminal places, where land meets water, are known as places where one can slip in through the cracks between the worlds. I didn’t know that, for eons, people have thought of the sea as the Great Mother, and that the West was often envisioned as the Otherworld, the place we return to when we die. I didn’t know that, in the myths of many cultures, a sea voyage often enacts the passing into that other world, the testing of the soul, and the passage beyond death. And yet these are the mythic themes that I experienced, sitting there by the sea watching the tide roll in and back out again.
In later years I came to know the many faces of the Goddess, and found myself fascinated by sea goddesses and mermaids, along with many of my sisters.
(Mixed media collage by Joanna, 5.31.10)
What is the key insight you taking away from our study of the Seeker this month?
I pulled the Wheel, and it took me awhile to glean the insight of that card as an answer. I had a lot of help from GTC members. I am standing upon the threshold of transitions into new cycles, new seasons, new spirals of creativity and growth.
That's exactly how I feel right now. I have completed the artwork and book for the Gaian Tarot (a huge epoch in my life is ending — the winter tree). I have started an online community and expect to be doing a lot of teaching in the years to come on the Gaian Tarot, especially after the Llewellyn edition is released (the spring & summer trees). I have reaped a financial harvest from the sales of the limited edition decks (the autumn tree). Meanwhile I long to metaphorically "hit the road" and seek out new adventures (new creative projects), like the Seeker.
I wonder, where will the Fox lead me next?
How appropriate for the Guardian of Water to show up this week, when so much of our attention is focused on the Gulf of Mexico and the devastation there. What can we do to help? Sia Vogel is doing a great job of keeping us up with the latest news from the Gulf on her blog and on Twitter. Blog reader (and Gaian Tarot aficionado) Deborah Sam wrote to tell me about an event happening this Friday called "Unity Wave for Gulf Restoration." I plan to take part. How about you?
The website says:
The oil spill in the Gulf is a disaster for the ecosystem and all its life forms. This is a call to action for people of every faith, creed, tribe, nation and origin to focus the power of group intention to restore this area. You can contribute by actively and consciously holding a focused intention. Together we create a powerful group synergy, the Unity Wave.
The Guardian of Water, to my mind, is an embodiment of Kwan Yin and Tara and Mary, all Mothers of Mercy, Goddesses of Compassion pouring out their waters upon a troubled world. We need Her more than ever.
What does this card say to you, dear Reader, either globally or personally?
“There is a spirituality indigenous to every land. When you move in harmony with that spirit of place, you are practicing native (not Native) spirituality.”
— Loren Cruden, The Spirit of Place 1
“For the non-Native American to become at home on this continent, he or she must be born again in this hemisphere, on this continent, properly called Turtle Island. . . . Europe or Africa or Asia will then be seen as the place our ancestors came from, places we might want to know about and to visit, but not ‘home.’ Home — deeply, spiritually — must be here.” — Gary Snyder, Practice of the Wild 2
“But can non-indigenous people really presume to become native? . . . What kind of nativeness is possible and to what extent can we become native to the land?”
— David Landis Barrett, At Home on the Earth 3
Since enrolling in Jon Young’s Kamana Naturalist Training Course, 4 the word “native” and all that it implies is frequently on my mind. The Kamana course teaches us to “see with native eyes,” as Young puts it, and emphasizes that this ability is not for Native Americans only but is a learned skill. Once introduced to the concept of “becoming native,” I seemed to find it everywhere.
It is our favorite party of the year, when we gather with beloved friends and family to honor St Lucia, the Lightbringer "who heralds the imminent Return of the Sun," as my friend Helen Farias wrote on her party invitations back in the day. Helen, who was the original founder and editor of the Beltane Papers, started the Lucia Party back in the 80's. I read about them in TBP when I lived in California and was utterly charmed. I was honored to be invited to Helen's parties once I moved to the Northwest. Helen died of breast cancer in 1994, and we could not bear to celebrate again for a couple of years. In 1997, St Lucia's Day (December 13th) fell on a Saturday and it was a Full Moon to boot. How could we not celebrate? Craig and I, along with the Circle of Stella Maris (our mermaid sisters and brothers) have been hosting the party each year ever since.
This is the first Lucia Party in Rainbow Cottage, which is about half the size of Heron House on the island. It meant we had to cut the guest list way down, which is very hard to do. There were about 35-40 guests this year, which is a comfortable size. There were a few years on the island when 70 or 80 people came. We just can't manage that many people here.
I started our parties based on the traditions I remembered from Helen's parties, and of course our community added our own touches — lots of live music, since we have so many musicians among us, and ending the evening with a drum circle. We also read the poem "The Shortest Day" when we light the candle of Little Yule. Many of the young women who have "played" St Lucy over the years grew up coming to the parties. My young friend Chloe, who was St Lucy this year, has been to our Lucia Parties almost every year of her life.
I'm thinking about writing an e-book (for next year!) on "How to Host a St Lucia Party." Is that something any of you would be interested in?
Here's some photos from this year's party.
White-clad, with flame-crown’d hair:
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
I hear you singing this refrain as I enter your homes on this dark night, bearing my gifts of light for your souls and bread for your bodies. Oh, Hail! Do you know me? Even my name speaks of the Light. I am Lucia, that One whose visit heralds the Return of the Sun.
In elder times, you called me by other names. In ancient Rome, I was Juno Lucina, midwife to the newborn Sun. In the northlands, I was Freya, she of the golden necklace, Bride of the Vanir. I flew across the night sky in an amber chariot drawn by my beloved cats and entered your homes before dawn. My cats came along, though mysteriously changed into nourishing cakes! You knew me too as Frigga of the hearth and home, when I sat at my spinning wheel and spun threads of sunlight to brighten the morning sky.
They say of me: ‘Honor St. Lucy with great good cheer, and you shall have plenty for all of the year!’ And it’s true! You do me honor when you gather in my name. I bring to you the gift of the gathering of friends and family, and the promise of longer days.
More than anything, I am the Lightbringer, who appears mysteriously out of the darkest night with hope and sustenance for all.”
I discovered that I love being unplugged, both from the internet and the phone. Nine whole days. What happens when you unplug? It’s all about slow time, natural time, as my friend Waverly Fitzgerald so often writes about. The days at Camp Zoe were divided into sections that reminded me of medieval Hours: Waking; Morning Meeting; Noontime Meal; Noontime Concert; Workshop 1, Workshop 2 (or, River Play Time); Evening Meal; Evening Concert; Evening Ritual; Drum/Fire Circle; Bedtime.
This isn’t exactly our familiar cheery RWS 10 of Cups, is it? It’s always so nice to see the happy family standing under a rainbow turn up in a reading. This one is more in line with my concept of the Tens as transitional/transformational cards. Each one, in fact, is a mini Life/Death/Rebirth card. This one in particular reminds me of the traditional shout when the king has died: “The King is dead! Long live the King!” (Or maybe I just have the events of the past few days still on my mind.)
Here in the Northwest, the salmon cycle of descent and return is one of the most inspiring stories we have, whether you approach it as pure science or as a spiritual metaphor.