With the approach of the Winter Solstice coming up this weekend, I’ve been reviewing the last year and envisioning the next… One of the most repetitive questions when it comes to Shamanism or traditional Spirituality is “why do you celebrate the Equinox and Solstice? And what do these celebrations mean to you?” Every year I give similar answers; but since Shamanism relates very much to experience, my perspectives always seem to come from a very particular context.
As most of you know the Winter Solstice relates to the “longest night of the year.” When we celebrate the Winter Solstice we are actually standing in “the darkest moment of the year.” 18 years ago give or take a year Gérard and I spent time with some Huron friends during the Winter Solstice. As with many traditional First Nation people it is custom to have elders tell stories during festivities. At this celebration some of the stories that were shared spoke of famine as a common occurrence for Huron ancestors during the darkest time of the year (winter solstice). What I found most remarkable through these stories was how these people had to find strength and faith to survive their ordeals. Dark moments in our lives often reveal the most surprising light in each of us.
EC a Passamaquoddy friend and teacher of mine once shared that “she adopted the ritual of fasting during the Winter Solstice” because it allowed her to truly understand what it means to “be empty.” For her the Winter Solstice meant, “looking at the emptiness, loneliness, and darkness” within herself. Through the years of celebrating this time of year with my First Nation family and friends, I learnt to respect, and truly value “darkness” in my life. Where most people are eager to rid themselves of darkness or ignore it altogether, I was taught to accept it as a natural occurrence; experience it as I would experience light; and truly give it the “value or worth” it deserves.
In ancient times, many First Nation people did “prayer bundles” especially during the Winter Solstice and hung them in trees. Prayer amongst traditional people has always implied a communication to Spirit; but also translates a profound communion with Creator and Creation. It’s not just about “prayer” as a tool or medicine / power, but also about “prayer” as a deep personal experience. Prayer can represent man’s personal, medicine story if we deliver ourselves to it. Prayer bundles embody this complete significance of “prayer” and so, when they hang from the trees they are like “stars in the heaven” shining a mysterious potential of light through the darkest of times.
After almost a decade of sharing blog entries with you, I’m sure many of you have a strong idea about “me” and my interests. Since January 2015 I’ve been incredibly busy with my dogs (beagles). Murfle my senior dog was diagnosed traditional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer) last year. We committed to oncology visits and chemotherapy for months and celebrated in August a complete remission. Unfortunately, in early September Murfle started bleeding from the vulva and revealed another and more aggressive cancer. She passed away in late September.
I often refer to 2015 as my “prayer bundle” experience because it seems like every event; every lesson we learnt; and every dark moment delivered us to “some kind of light: Unexpected breakthrough and insight / consciousness.”
Believe me when I say – “We were incredibly conscious of the dark this past year and very much involved in the notion of “prayer”. “
From a cosmological perspective it seemed we were destined to experience “the reality of darkness” since we moved through a few dark moons at the start of the year. What was even more impressive was when we took notice that this year’s Winter Solstice falls on the Full Moon of Omnipotence (as per our Moon calendar and tradition). Cosmology in 2015 was telling us to “make peace with the dark and come out of it – BRILLIANT!”
We all have guides, teachers, or guardian angels; who show us the way when there are some hard times. I’ve always been a dog lover; but this last year helped me delete the word “pet” from my vocabulary. Murfle, Bella, Sunny, Freddy, Stella and now Oliver have been the best of teachers, companions, and even god / goddess presence in my life in 2015.
In 2009 when the Dark Moon Journey started I told my students “not to approach this time of darkness with fear and apprehension but to embrace it; surrender to it; and have faith in the final outcome.” I basically invited everyone to believe in the darkness and what it would bring to emergence.
“Discover yourselves as children of the Dark Goddess,” I often affirmed and even lectured. A part of me no doubt had an understanding of this statement but it wasn’t empirical until September of 2015 when Murfle died. Murfle embodied the Dark Goddess in every which way and I didn’t realize until the end – that Murfle claimed me as one of her children. I had to show her that I wasn’t afraid of the dark…
Through the 49 days of passing, many of us had dreams of Murfle. Many of them were quite scary and nightmarish. So much so that some of us were worried. Again I remember encouraging people to “have faith”.
“Trust her: Trust the Goddess of Darkness,” I repeated constantly, sometimes not quite convinced myself.
During these 49 days, Murfle guided us to two other dogs (beagles). Stella and Oliver appeared in our lives and showed us the “outcome at the end of a dark tunnel.” Stella was particularly important for Sunny, a senior dog that we adopted 5 or 6 years ago after he was abandoned in the woods near our house. We fed him and took care of him, to eventually adopt him in our community. IL and her children are his family. Sunny has never felt completely integrated. A part of him stayed “judged as useless; rejected and abandoned.” It’s as if we needed someone or something to reach out to him in the dark and bring him Home.
Honestly I saw the scene as a Dreamer (of course) and envisioned the scene as the “hand of the Dark Goddess delivering a puppy to us.” This female beagle pup appeared with a personality to bring any dog home!! J Sunny who doesn’t do well with new dogs fell in love with Stella. It was amazing to watch this small, Beagle puppy teach a Senior Golden Retriever how to let go of fear and trust…
Oliver appeared in our lives and became Bella’s new companion after Murfle’s passing. I really had the feeling that Bella proved herself to the Dark Goddess like many of us; and in return the Goddess was kind and generous. Oliver appeared with a lot of enthusiasm and affection. He brought livelihood to Bella and triggered in her some of the wisdom and motherly teachings that Murfle had shown her… Bella seemed genuinely happy with the puppy and was able to let go of the loss of Murfle.
There’s nothing more difficult than to loose a loved one. Darkness comes in all kinds of packages: Divorce, illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, fear, etc…. It’s part of life and our incarnation experience to move through darkness and hopefully find some light. For me 2015 has been one experience over another about “darkness.” I truly and literally touched all of the “words / experiences” I’ve mentioned in the second sentence of this paragraph. In the end, I’m left with profound insights and a sense of “prayer” that I never had before. I see more clearly and I stand in gratitude of not only the results or outcomes of darkness; but especially the journey: The details that brought us here – now.
Happy Winter Solstice to everyone.
· To those who stand in the dark – “it’s time to look up at the stars and believe in them.”
· To those who are journeying towards “prayer” – don’t stop exploring, experiencing and trusting. The end is worth the journey.
· And to those who are looking forward to the next frontier – breath in the unknown, and Mystery! A part of you already knows where all of this will take you. Sit in the unknown with a sense of all knowing and you’ll bring your circle home….
HAPPY SOLSTICE to ALL