Walking with Death: A Reflection on death, dying and grief

“Sorrow is part of the earth’s great cycles, flowing into
the night like co0l air sinking down a river course.
To feel sorry is to float on the pulse of the heart, the
surge from living to dying, from coming to being
to ceasing to exist. Maybe this is why the earth has the
power over time to wash sorrow into a deeper pool,
cold and shadowed. And maybe this is why, even
though sorrow never disappears, it can make a deeper
connection to the currents of life and so connect
somehow, to sources of wonder and solace.”
-kathleen Dean Moore

The day my father died, I clearly remember wondering if I truly wanted to be at his bedside when he finally passed on. That evening I had sat on the phone with my partner during a break from the smells and sounds of the hospital and had expressed this confusion in my mind, was it the right thing to do, would it be better if I slept and took care of myself, would I regret it if I wan’t there? I decided to go. After showering and recentering myself with prayers I walked back to the hospital just as the sun was setting. As I entered into the outer room to dress in a gown and gloves my father’s girlfriend called out to me, I arrived just in time. I hurried in forgoing the protective gear and we sat holding each of his hands, wishing him a safe passage as his breathes became more and more spaced. With each one we thought it was his last but it took time and when he finally went I was ever so grateful that I was there. Death is something none of us will get out of, we will see those we love die and eventually it will be our turn. From this experience I have learned that to be fully present and engaged can be the greatest gift we give our loved ones, in their deaths, our deaths and each day of our lives. In this reflection I hope to offer a glimpse of the beauty, grief, love and loss that accompanies death and how vital it is for us as a society to want a good death for those we love and ourselves. A revolution in death is coming as we remember our place in the nature of things and we all need to be apart of it.

It was a Sunday when I received the call at work that my father’s situation had once again changed. He had been refused his transplant and within 24 hours of getting the news his body had begun to internally bleed. My father was always a strong man, full of energy and activity and as I got that call I knew he had made the choice that sitting and waiting to die was not something he desired to do. So I flew to Edmonton the next morning to find him an even weaker and paler version of himself than I had seen two weeks previous, in and out of sleep he knew who I was but no longer had the sparkle of life in his eyes. I knew that part of my purpose in going was to let this decision he had made be honoured and so, my brother, my dad’s girlfriend and I discussed the options with the doctor and after many tears were shed we all agreed it was time to take him off his transfusions and accept that this was his time. The next two days we sat at his bedside holding his hands, telling stories and singing him songs while friends and family came to say farewell. Sometimes it was calm and peaceful, all you could hear was the rattle in his breath as he slept conserving his energy to be able to smile and say hi to the next visitor, but as death came closer and the veil began to open there were moments of fear and confusion. Watching his once strong body and clear mind, fumble over words and thoughts, unable to rise by himself to go to the washroom, his skin sagging, pale and waxy with purple petechiae dappled over it, this was life and it was incredibly hard! There is one moment that remains seared in my mind, we had helped him to the washroom and were trying to see if he wanted to go outside, his favourite place his whole life, but he didn’t understand or just couldn’t express what he wanted and so he stood trembling with our support as he called out for help over and over again until the nurse came and gave him another dose of morphine. My once powerful father had turned into an old man and at that moment it struck me how these liminal spaces at the time of birth and death when the veil between worlds opens are not like any other experience. They are beautiful and raw, hard and scary and oh so magical, if we let them be.

When my father finally did pass the struggle that had followed him in that last day and in the many hard years he had experienced at the end of his life were erased and his body was at peace. After many tears were shed and the nurse and doctor confirmed his death we slowly began to say good bye to his body. I gathered up warm water and clothes and to the water I added aqua de florida, a powerful and beautiful flower mixture that I use in Shamanic healing. Slowly we undressed him, surprised by the shear weight of his uninhabited body and then we took turns washing each part of his body, thanking it for the work it had done throughout his life. For it’s keen intellect and sharp senses, for the strength to build houses and canoe mighty rivers, for the children it had helped to produce, for the smoothness and grace it had exhibited on the dance floor and the sports field. When we finished clearing, thanking and sealing up his body, we dressed him and said our final goodbyes and then we left the room shaken and exhausted, but knowing we had sent him off right.

On reflecting upon this experience there are so many emotions and thoughts that bubble up to the surface, gratitude for being there for all of it, fear when I sat alone with him as his breathing changed and I wondered if this was it, aggravation at my family and how they kept trying to talk to him or feed him despite the obvious shutting down of his systems, anger at how the system had dragged him around for so long and how is doctors were unable of being genuine or candid enough to speak about the realities of his situation, grief as the little girl inside who had lost her father many year before had only just recently finally found him again, beauty in the love all around and ease in the never-ending cycles of life and death. Despite all of this I was most amazed at how I just knew what to do, when I sat present to all of this it came naturally to me, sing this song, hold space, pray, call in the guides and angels. My training as a birth doula and a shamanic practitioner came to the fore and I was able to weave together my own presence with the skills and tools of these trades. There is nothing I regret in my experience or actions in those two days, but there are two things I wish I had done after he passed; the first to have spent more time with my family and the second to have taken more time off work and school to fully reflect and convalesce from this momentous experience. I recognize I lost my presence when fatigue, grief and daily life came back into the fold and the weight of responsibility began to be felt again. I understand I can not always be in complete presence and by doing my work and utilizing my tools I can achieve more and more presence in my own life, ready to face all the beauty, loss, grief and joy it sends my way. This is what my father’s death taught me.

As a practitioner I wish to bring these rich gifts forward to my clients. In reading about death, grief and dying, I have learned several things that help frame my experience and give tools to share with my clients, friends and family. The first tool comes from Joan Halifax (2011) who so beautifully shares ‘Any attachment to outcome destroys our ability to be fully present and compassionate.’ Everyone has a different concept of death and dying and to honour that as practitioners we must learn from our clients what their journey looks like to them and how they wish to proceed, not holding opinions, judgements or attachments to their outcomes. This was one of the hardest parts of watching my fathers journey through diagnosis and treatment. I did not want to see him die and I disagreed with his choices in medical care, especially his out right trust for his doctors. But I quickly learned it just caused conflict to hold these attachments.

The second teaching comes from Sarah Kerr, PhD (2017) from her talk on Death Midwifery, ‘Ritual is energy medicine for the collective body’ and when each of us come to death or witness death we must create, support and maintain the proper rituals in order to heal and set the collective body back into balance. These rituals can be simple and personal, we can help guide people to find these ways of honouring a passage and releasing their grief and love as they send their loved one off. Through listening to my intuition and my training in Shamanic ritual I put together the ritual we used to support my fathers passing, helping his spirit to let go, his body to be cleansed and sealed and our own love and grief to be released meeting the collective body of all those who love and grieve.

For my third lesson I find Frank Ostaseski’s (2017) third lesson on what the dying teach the living to aptly portray my experience, ‘Bring your whole self to the experience- When we bring our whole self we can work with compassion and not judgement.’ This bringing of one’s whole self, a calling to be completely present is what I learned most in my father’s death, the gifts and healing that this suffering brought to me have out weighed all others to date and I would not have so fully experienced them if I didn’t bring my whole self to his death. Choosing to walk this path with him after having reconnected with him in the last few years created a great mending in myself and my feelings of grief of losing my father as a young girl. Though I could not prevent his leaving this time I was able to be fully present during his passage.

The fourth Teaching comes from Stephen Jenkinson (2012) in his talk for The Compassion Choices Conference, He states that ‘Death is not the end of health, but an enhancement of health and your ability to be a deeply present human being.’ I feel this is key to shifting our perspectives on death and dying, framing it currently as a lost battle or not being healthy anymore makes us feel like we have lost, but death is part of the process and if we can embrace it as such we can return to the harmony that it brings to the planet and the enrichment it adds to our lives.

Finally as Francis Weller (2005) so poetically shares ‘In truth, without some familiarity with sorrow, we do not mature as men and women. It is the broken heart, the part that knows sorrow, that is capable of genuine love.’(p.9). One of the greatest gifts I have received from my father’s death is this maturing of a maiden into a woman. I will never be the same again and I am ever so thankful for that.

As far as deaths go I believe my father had a good one. It may have been earlier than expected and his illness may have caused him much pain and worry, but ultimately when he knew there was no more hope and decided it was time he was supported in that. Death played the central role, as Stephen Jenkinson (2012) suggests it should and we his family were at his side. We were given the space to support him as we saw fit and each one of the nurses and doctors kept their distance except to aid in cleaning up or giving him more morphine to ease his pain and confusion. In coming together we knew we could do this, as he knew he could and I can not imagine a better way to go. Many cultures speak of death as crossing a river from the village of the living to the village of the ancestors, the living’s grief and love met with the joy and welcome of the ancestors help get the dead safely across, Sarah Kerr (2017). In my father’s case I know he was held the whole way and when it is my time to go he will be there to welcome me. Until that day I will continue to cultivate presence in the hardest of situations life brings and work on bringing a good death to all I know. May the future hold a good death for us all.

References
Halifax, J. (2011) Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of Empathy. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQijrruP9c4&t=17s

Jenkinson, S. (2012) The Skill of Brokenheartedness: Euthanasia, Palliative Care and Power – Stephen Jenkinson. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dbmXWLCaRg&t=55s

Kerr, S. (2017) An introduction to Death Midwifery with Sarah Kerr, PhD. James Bay United Church. 13/07.

Ostaseski, F. (2017) Frank Ostaseski: What the Dying teach the living. Available from:
http://longnow.org/seminars/02017/apr/10/what-dying-teach-living/

Weller, F. (2015) The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. Berkeley, California. North Atlantic Books. pp.9.

An Ode to the Father of my Dreams and the one of my Flesh

An Ode to the Father of my Dreams and the one of my Flesh

It’s funny how the memories we have of someone don’t aways match up to real life or at least not the way other people see life or themselves or each other. After my father passed, I began looking through old photos of him, to remember and feel I still had a piece of him around, but the man I saw in those photos was not the same as the image I held in my mind and I wondered as time passes and he is gone for longer and longer from my physical world if the image in my mind would mold to that of photographs or continue to be something different. So on this Father’s day I wish to lay down what I remember of him now and the lessons he taught me in life. Perhaps they will stay the same or perhaps they will change as my own life changes.

My father was not a perfect man, as none of us are. Some have called him a golden boy, others a playboy, some saw him as a teacher and others a sportsman, some knew him for his love of drinking and dancing and some for the quiet solitude he found in nature and the peace of his country home. My earliest memories of him are at that country home when I was just a wee child wandering through the magic of the world, embraced by the love of those around me. I remember him in many ways; with his hands deep in the soil of the gardens or behind a chainsaw or hammer, waxing our skis in the early hours of the morning preparing to take us small children out to explore the stillness of the rising sun on prairie snow, dancing in the living room carefree with so much joy and sitting on the couch with him late at night when he had returned from work. These early memories are imprinted upon my memory almost like a dream, a dream of the father I knew I once had. But in any life these things change and the majority of our shared lives together he fell short of this dream. I now know that he did what he knew to do with his own experiences and imprinting. We are all a product of our raising and our cultures and though my dad was a markedly sensitive man there was no platform for him to learn to embrace this, except for time and the many lessons his life presented him with.

His life lessons did lead him to embrace and honour that sensitive man more thoroughly and I am so grateful that the last five years of his life came so much closer to the first five of mine. Despite all the pain and hurt, conditioning and hiding, we were able to connect and find joy in our shared experiences. This was the time that I truly got to know my father and the dream turned into a reality and this is what I wish to carry on in my heart and share with my children when they ask of their grandfather.

  1. Be Gracious, Thoughtful and Kind – while he was in hospital just a few weeks before he passed I asked him what his guiding principle of life was. After shaking his head at another probing question and some quiet reflection this is what he came up with. Though I know this was an ideal and he did not always live up to it, in so many ways he did. Throughout the challenges of losing his job, going to court and then to jail and finally his illness, he managed to be so gracious, thoughtful and kind. He would help others when they needed it and constantly was on the look out for making someone’s work easier or more efficient. Every day that I visited him in hospital he would thank me for being there and helping him. For the first time since I was little I felt validated by my father.

2. Connect with Everyone- my father was a very social man. He loved people and could easily connect with them and learn about their lives in the time they spent together. In the hospital he knew all of this nurses, doctors and aides names and stories. When I was young I remember one day driving down the highway and he stopped to pick up a First Nations man, loaded up with bags and a scruffy appearance my father innately trusted this man and welcomed him into our vehicle. I initially felt uneasy by the appearance of this man, but as my father broke out into conversation with this man, I remembered that we are all humans playing this game of life and we each have so much to offer no matter how we look, what we say or where we come from.

3. To be smooth- Anyone who knew my father would have heard him say “be smooth” and this was something he truly embodied. Sometimes it seemed phoney to me like he wasn’t dealing with his shit and sometimes I am sure it was. But he had this way about him of keeping going with a smile on his face no matter what happened; injuries, job losses, separations or accusations. In the last two days of this life he even managed to conserve his energy and each time a new visitor came by he would muster up some strength and smile at their presence. He remained smooth till the end.

4. To take care of myself- My father like his father was a man who knew how to survive; camping in the backcountry, building houses and furniture, fixing old things. dealing with emergencies, he knew how to be self-reliant and throughout my life he instilled this in me in two ways. The first by teaching me these many skills when I was a child and the second by not being present as a father when I was coming of age and so I learned to find my own way.

5. Enjoy the good things in life- Bobby loved things, beautiful, well made, high class, delicious, food, wine, beer, cars, sports equipment, stereos,…. He loved it all and he definitely left all of his kids with a sweet tooth for nice things, but also an appreciation for caring for your stuff. He instilled in me that if you buy well made goods and took care of them, then they would last you a life time and your mind and body would be happier for the beauty that surrounded you and the nourishment that you provided it.

These are the things that sit with me now in my mind and heart as the memories of my father. They may change and perhaps more will come with time, but they are true now and in moving through my grief, writing this has truly helped me connect, reflect and convolesce. Thank you to those who take the time to read this, may it move you to reflect and perhaps inspire you to heal your own grief. And most of all thank you to my father who helped to bring me into this world and share these many memories and lessons over our lives together.

Imbolc Blessings: When water gives rise to wood

Imbolc Blessings: When water gives rise to wood

Greetings and a Blessed Imbolc to all!

Today more commonly known as Groundhog’s day, is the ancient Celtic Quarter Cross Day, also sometimes referred to as Brigit’s Day. The midway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, this day was and still is celebrated by many as the first inklings of spring begin to pull at our bodies, the songs of the birds fill the air more, the snowdrops and other shoots pop up from the ground, here on the West Coast the Rhododendrons are blooming and the cherry blossoms and magnolias are budding. Our minds and bodies begin to stir and perhaps like me fresh raw greens begin to excite your palate and your skin craves the kiss of the sun.

In Chinese Medicine it is the time when water starts to give rise to wood. In the Winter, Water is the dominant element, it is the deepest parts of ourselves, the collective unconscious, our bones, the wisdom of our ancestors we carry in our DNA or Jing in TCM. Winter is a time to go deep within and revitalize and restore ourselves, listen to the wisdom of our bones and the still waters of nature. From this place of strength, stillness and power we begin to set our true intentions for the coming spring. Just as the melting snow and ice give rise to water to nourish the bulbs and seeds in the ground, so do the waters of our bodies, the deep wisdom of our DNA help to give rise to our own soul intentions, those things that we wish to manifest into form, our own shoots, trees, and flowers. 

So I invite you all to sit with yourself in the next few days (where the water meets the trees if you can) and listen to the rhythm and voice of your bones, your DNA, the water within and see what wishes to be birthed forth in the coming spring. I would suggest you write these down and place them upon your altar or plant them with some seeds to create a living remembrance and ritual of your intentions.

And if you are interested in keeping alive the ancient Celtic ways and honouring the sacred rhythms of nature, you may call upon Brigit, the goddess of healing and poets, midwives and blacksmiths to help you make three wishes: one a universal wish to all beings, one a wish for your family and one a wish for yourself. With each wish light a candle and call upon Brigit, the elements of water and wood and your own helping spirits to support these becoming reality. When you are completed light a fourth candle to welcome back the sun that is growing stronger in the sky each day.  Allow all the candles to burn down while you envision these wishes becoming reality and embody the gratitude you feel for this magic, this life and the support of all our many helpers, seen and unseen. 

And so it is!!

Blessings and Love,

Marika

Sacred Spring: An Equinox/Eclipse Reflection and Ritual

This weekend I spent the day walking through the rainforest filling up on the energies of the spring equinox and the elements of wind and wood. Here on the West Coast of Canada, the feeling of spring is alive and abundant wherever you go. The cherry blossoms and magnolias are blooming, the daffodils and tulips are waving from the ground. The desire to sprout and grow is palpable all around and within myself. It is the time of Ostara (the spring equinox), a time of balance, when the length of light and dark are equal and it calls to us to find our own internal balance, balance between masculine and feminine, inward reflection and outward action, yin and yang…. I personally have a much easier time on the inward planes and often find myself dreaming and wanting to live in my head, but I now one of my greatest lessons is to  move these dreams outward into the world and that is when fear takes hold of me and I begin to question who am I to create this, who will listen, who will come and yet in the wise words of Marianne Williamson:

“…..Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So I am peeling more layers of the onion away and breaking free of these fears and offering my perspective and shining my light, in doing so I hope to share what inspires me and inspire others to do the same, until we have all broken free and are living from a place of heart spirit that allows all beings to flourish.

And with the start of spring I offer to you an Equinox/Eclipse perspective and ritual to help you connect with the seeds within that desire to be planted, find the support that is needed to birth them and let go of what no longer serves, aligning your body and mind to great spirit and the new energies that are here for us to utilize.

Since the dawn of humanity, people have lived in balance with the rhythms of the earth and the planets, using these as markers of time and ritual. Our Ancestors, Shamans, Pagans, Druids, Witches, Indigenous wisdom keepers and all others who honour and have honoured the changing of the seasons and astrological events know the immense power in working with these elements and attuning our bodies and minds to them. This week we have many powerful influences to attune to; the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Eostre, Easter and the full moon lunar eclipse in Libra. The Spring Equinox being a time of even light and dark and the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, means it is a time of balance, as well as, a time to honour the birthing that can be seen outwardly in nature and felt within. Traditionally, this time was celebrated by Agricultural people as a time of fertility, praying to the land to nourish the seeds planted and that the long death of winter has ended and life is resurrected once again. Many of us associate this time with Easter and the resurrection of Christ. This is one of the many stories and celebrations of our ancestors that has been adopted by the church to help ease conversion from the old gods and goddesses and worship of nature. But no matter is you are Pagan, Christian, Jewish or Hindu, these rituals hold immense power and still help us to come to balance with our existence here on mama earth.2016-03-19 13.51.22

In Chinese Medicine, this is the season of the wood element which gives to us the power of blossoming, the courage to make decisions in our lives and go forth into the world to make them a reality. Trees are the perfect example of the spring equinox time, they have gathered up the wisdom of winter (water) that lies deep within the earth and using this wisdom they grow forth towards the heavens, standing firm in their truth and shining their light for all to see while remaining flexible to the ever changing flow of life. The wood element is associated with our liver and gallbladder and the emotion of Anger. When our liver, gallbladder and Anger are in balance they allow us to plan, have courage, make changes and transform our lives. When they are out of balance we may become overly oppressive and while trying to make changes we will try and change others in our path or we may become resigned to our fate and lose the will to make decisions or take action. To help our wood element function better we can spend time with trees, asking for their help and aligning to their energy, eating seasonally available foods like wild spring greens: nettles, dandelion, garlic mustard,  as well as garlic, onion, leeks, mushrooms, kale, lemons, high quality vinegars and brassicas to support our liver and gallbladder, getting acupuncture and honouring the wood element through ritual and ceremony.

The final powerful influence this week is the Full moon lunar eclipse in Libra, I see eclipses as also being a balancing act between light and dark and with Libra being the sign of balance. This whole week is calling us to balance. The full moon is a time of fulfillment, our intentions set at the new moon are being birthed and so we are called to celebrate and honour what has appeared in our lives and begin to shed what is blocking our continued evolution. With Libra being ruled by Venus; love, relationships, balance, diplomacy, the feminine, beauty and appearance may be particular areas that are called to attention or that you may want to reflect on.ostara

Here is the ritual that I have created to work with and balance these energies, I hope you enjoy and please feel free to pass them along to others.

Sacred Spring: An Equinox/Eclipse Ritual

What you will need:

  • an altar cloth, objects or pictures that represent the four directions; East (incense, feather), South (candle, flowers), West (water, ancestors) and North (salt, crystals), The masculine and feminine, the wood element and anything you hold dear or wish to charge up (ie jewellery)
  • Clothes appropriate for the weather
  • a yoga mat, sheep skin or blanket to lie on
  • something to listen to the downloaded drum journey and music for dancing
  • sage, tobacco or palo santo to cleanse with
  • some delicious treats symbolic of the spring
  • something for offering: tobacco, cornmeal, fruit, milk, beer,..

To begin choose where you will do the ceremony, I suggest outside near a tree, but you could do it inside as well. Using your sage, tobacco or palo santo cleanse the area and yourself, remembering to thank and program your cleansing tool with instructions to clear away any low vibrational energies, protecting and filling the space with light.

Now set down your altar cloth and assemble your altar as you feel called to, putting the symbols for each direction facing that direction and lay down your offering to the South and your treats to the North. You want it to be beautiful and filled with light to attract the helping spirits.

In order, to set the container for your ritual, imagine an octahedron around your ceremony space, including the tree and room for yourself to lie down and dance. Program this octahedron to only allow in loving, high vibrational energies and ask your angels and guides to help protect the space. you may also put one around yourself.

Once your altar is laid, call in the spirits to help you. I like to call them in the following way, but you may do it as you feel called to:

“Great Spirit of the East, so bright with the new days light, brimming with new hopes and dreams. I welcome you and ask you to help guide me through the land of all possibility and find the seed that is waiting there for me. Thank you, Aho!

Great Spirit of the South, so full and pregnant with life and beauty. I welcome you and ask you to help me live in full bloom and seek the support I need to live a life of spirit. Thank you, Aho!

Great Spirit of the West, bursting with the harvest, preparing for slumber and moving inwards. I welcome you and ask for your help in letting go of what does not serve me and dreaming a new dream for myself and the world. Thank you, Aho!

Great Spirit of the North, slumbering giant of power and wisdom. I welcome you and ask you to fill me up with power so I may make my dreams a reality and serve my community and spirit. Thank you, Aho!

Father Sky, Sun, Moon, Star and Planets, thank you so for your wisdom, your light and inspiration. I welcome you and ask you to fill me with light and align me with the great wisdom and plan of spirit. Thank you, Aho!

Mother Earth, thank you for nourishing me, supporting me, letting me rest and walk upon you. I welcome you and ask you for your support, love, strength and nourishment, helping me to live in balance with you and bring spirit into living form. Thank you, Aho!

Spirits of the land, thank you for allowing us to live here, nourishing us with your beauty. I welcome you and ask you to help support our ritual with the energies of the spring and changing seasons and offer you any healing you need from this ritual. Thank you, Aho!

Great spirit, thank you for my life, my family, my friends, all the blessings around and within me! I welcome you and ask for your continued guidance and support in living a life in alignment with you. Thank you, Aho!!

Spirit of Wood, so strong and flexible, I welcome you and ask you to help me harness the wisdom for below and make it manifest in my life, to have the courage to move forward and the flexibility to bend when needed. Thank you, Aho!”

Now lay down your mat or blanket to the east and listen to this drum journey I have prepared to visit the spirit of the east.

Return to the altar and thank the spirit of the East and turn to the spirit of the South and welcome it in.

Now that you have your seed of wisdom, you will be asking for support and alignment with the element of wood. Sit or Stand in front of a tree and introduce yourself. Thank it for its beauty, strength, courage, flexibility and ask for its support. Tell it what your seed is, what dreams you have for it and what fears or blocks you may have of making it a reality. Let the tree spirit align with you and ask for courage, strength and any other support you wish from it. Once you feel complete thank the tree for its support and guidance and leave it a small offering.

Return to the altar and thank the spirit of the south and turn to the spirit of the west and welcome it in.

The spirit of the West is all about letting go and dreaming a new dream. In order to work with these energies and let go of what might be blocking us from manifesting our seeds, you will perform a bone dance. You may do this in silence or you may put on some music to dance and shake to. The purpose of this is to shake and dance each layer of our beings off; skin, fat, fascia, muscle, nerves, blood vessels, organs, bones. Imagining each layer is falling to the earth like leaves being composted by the earth. Once there is nothing left of you but spirit enjoy this freedom of spirit for a few minutes and then slowly begin to dance each layer back onto you, imagining that it is in perfect health and has been aligned to your new dream and the highest vibration you can hold at this time.

Once you are completely reassembled, return to the altar, thank the spirit of the West and welcome in the spirit of the North.

Move your mat or blanket to align with the north and the full moon and lay down upon it. The moon is a powerful source of energy and we can ask for it to fill us with power to help us manifest our dreams and have the strength and energy to put our seeds into action. Firstly, Introduce yourself to the moon and thank it for it’s light and beauty and wisdom of balance. Ask it to fill you up with power and begin to breath that power into your body, feel each and every cell being filled with moonlight. Continue this until you feel you are full and then thank the moon.

Return to your altar and sit in front of the north and the treats you have prepared for this time of spring and wood, begin by offering some to the land and all the helping spirits and giving gratitude to all the plants, animals and people that helped bring this beautiful nourishment to you. Then slowly enjoy them feeling the energies of the spring and the wood element enter your body, nourish your liver and gallbladder and making your tastebuds dance. Finally sit in this energy and the gratitude for all that is and the opportunity to practice and honour in this way.

Close your circle by releasing each of the elements in the reverse order that you called them. Thanking them for their gifts, releasing them from the ritual and asking for their continued support.

Wood, great spirit, mother earth, father sky, north, west, south, east.

Here are the recipes for what I am making to invoke the Spring and Wood element:

Nettle Pesto Layered Panigacci

Ponderosa Pine Essence Chocolate

May you be blessed with love, light, laughter, courage and balance and set further into your light and power!

With deep gratitude and love for sharing in this with me,

Marika

New Moon Solar Eclipse in Pisces


march-solar-eclipse-astrologyPisces calls to our highest selves, the part of us that knows we are divine manifestations and from this place asks of us to be of service to the greatest good of all beings in this universe. Being the last sign before the coming spring and rebirth of Aries, Pisces holds in it the wisdom of a full lived life and the intuition and imagination of one who has seen all things come to pass. In conjunction with Chiron (the wounded healer) We are given a chance to look at our woundings with the most compassionate and loving eyes and from this place transform our stories and become empowered by them. Realizing we are the makers of our own fate, we can remember that we chose this path and it has made us who we are today. Through taking back our power and no longer playing the victims in our lives we can heal ourselves and share this wisdom of our empowerment.

I have shared my own story here on my dear friend Jenn’s blog, please give it a read and in honour of this powerful time I wish to offer you a ritual to work with your own empowerment. I will be offering these rituals each month, one for the new moon and one for the full moon, to help us all move into greater connection with spirit.

 

Find a quiet place, cleanse it, light a candle and call in your guides and helpers.

 

Grounding- tree exercise- asking for wisdom from the sun, moon, and chiron

 

write down the story of your wounding or a story that you hold that you are a victim to at the moment.

 

Reread it and focus on the feelings, energies and impressions you get from it.

 

Reflect on how this story has helped to strengthen you and make you who you are today

 

Now take your story and thank spirit for the lessons you have learned and burn it in the flames of your candle feeling the energy of it dissolve.

 

Rewrite the story from a place of gratitude and power, focusing on the strength you have gained and the lessons you have learned

 

Place your new story on your altar or in a special place where you can see it throughout your day until the full moon.

 

Thank your guides, spirit and helpers and blow out your candle, clearing the space again.

The returning of the light- an Imbolc Ritual

2012-09-2207.52.52The darkness is always deepest just before the light returns and though it has been a very mild winter here on the West Coast of Canada I have still felt the darkness. The desire to hide away from all and sit in quiet stillness by the hearth knitting or in the warmth of the kitchen cooking and eating with friends. I find it hard to really move into this space of deep wisdom that resides in my bones and the water of the body while living in the city, studying full time and working. Yet the fatigue I have been experiencing is a message from my ever wise body that I need to slow down, to move in and just be. I have nourished this desire with many evenings alone in the bath or out in the quiet of the forest, letting the stillness take me over. This remembering of the need for quiet and just being has been one of my greatest lessons this winter. Listening to the wisdom of my body and not feeling guilty for not constantly doing has been a daily ritual. We all need times of stillness and reflection, to move into our shadow and become acquainted with it, for by doing this we get in touch with our true selves and can observe where we stop ourselves from living that truth. Ancient traditions have understood that through the mere act of observation our thoughts are transformed, no effort need be applied or anything done. Just take a moment to watch and witness your mind, your body, your emotions. They all have wisdom they are whispering to you and hopefully for the last three months of darkness you have garnered some wisdom from within.

At the threshold of spring the snowdrops and crocuses are popping up and even some of the trees are flowering here on Vancouver Island, the sun is breaking through the clouds and though there is still a chill in the air, the potential for rebirth is palpable. This is the time of Imbolc, Candlemas, Lupercalia, the fire festivals of my ancestors that marked the transition from the Crone to the Maiden and the rising of the sun god full of youth and direction. Festivals honouring the natural rhythms of the earth were once found all over the world and today there are those who still live in connection with these great markers of transformation and utilize them to reflect and grow on a personal and collective level. In classical Chinese medicine this time marks the transition from the water element, ruled by the kidneys which hold our deepest essence and our ancestoral wisdom to the wood element, ruled by the liver which allows us to move forward in our lives, make plans and decisions and have the gall to act up on them. It is a powerful time to take the insights you have garnered from the winter months and make your plan, plant your seeds and stick to your committed choice, utilizing the discipline of the liver to make it happen.

brigitTonight I will gather with friends and we will set about to personally and collectively honour this time with candles, prayers, seeds, offerings and good food to share. We will be modifying the ritual offered by Michelle Skye on Llewellyn worldwide, adding some of my shamanic traditions and the personal flavours of each person present. If you are looking for some inspiration here it is:

You will need:

  • flowers, candles, leaves, crystals, dieties for your altar
  • 4 small candles, one for each direction
  • 1 large candle to represent spirit/the goddess
  • one bowl of dirt and one pot of dirt
  • a vessel for water
  • some seeds
  • tobacco, sage or palo santo for cleansing

Begin by cleansing your space and yourself with the tobacco, sage or palo santo.

Build your altar in the center of the room or outside where you will be, placing the spirit candle in the center and the four direction candles on the outside marking each direction.

Call in the directions as you feel. I like to work from the east-south-west-north-father sky-mother earth-spirits of the land-Great spirit/goddess. Make sure you light each candle as you call the directions

As this festival is associated with Brighid, call her in now and light the final candle.

Now sit comfortably with your bowl of dirt in front of you and reflect upon these months of darkness, what have you learned, what have you transformed, what are you ready to let go of. Sink your hands deep into the bowl and release all that does not serve to mother earth, who will transform this for you and create light from the dark. Once you are fully complete thank mother earth and place the bowl at the foot of the altar.

Gather your seeds and your pot of dirt. Hold the seeds in your hand and call into your mind, body and spirit what it is you wish to birth in this coming season. Fill your pores with it and breath it into the seeds, calling on Brighid, great spirit, the ancestors and any guides to support you in this birthing. plant the seeds into the dirt and water them. Putting all of your intention into them. Thank your helpers and place the pot at the foot of the altar.

Pick up your bowl of dirt and your offerings and go outside to a place where you can offer them to mother earth, Brighid, the ancestors and your guides. Thanking each of them, sprinkle the dirt over the ground and pour or sprinkle your offering on top. Taking a moment to hold gratitude in your heart for all you have learned and all you have birthed so far in your life.

Return to your altar and release the directions in the opposite order. Brighid-Spirit-spirits of the land-mother earth-father sky-north-west-south-east. Blowing out each candle as you go.

Once you are done take a candle to each room of your house and light it, and then sit and share delicious food with your friends and family. Dairy is traditional as the ewe’s will have started nursing their young and there is no greater nourishment for new life than mother’s milk.

Your seeds in the pot can be nurtured daily by you. Each time you see them or water them hold your intention in your heart and watch it grow with your plant.

A very Blessed Imbolc to all. May all your seeds grow and flourish with love, grace and gratitude.

Marika

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