ARCHIVES for the GATHERING SPACE

Gathering Space for August 1, 2017


The early evening is calm, comfortably warm with a whisper of a breeze, as we gather with our companions in the Garden

of the Ruined Nunnery. Conversations among us are as soft as the evening, as we each speak of our plans for the remaining weeks

of summer until we gather here once more in early September.


 

“By the time we see one another again, summer will be over,” Violet says. 

There is a moment of silence as we take this in, and then a soft voice with an unmistakable Irish lilt says,

“In the Celtic Calendar, summer is already at an end. Do you know of Lughnasadh, the festival that welcomes Autumn?

We celebrate it beginning today, August 1st.”

 

The woman who is speaking is Dolores Whelan. Most of what we have learned in our time together about Celtic Festivals comes from

her wonderful book, Ever Ancient, Ever New. Dolores has taught us about Brigid’s Festival, Imbolc, which ushers in Spring,

about the Winter and Summer Solstices, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, and the fiery Festival of Bealtaine…. but Lughnasadh?

The faces that turn towards Dolores express blank incomprehension.  Dolores smiles. “Shall I tell you of Lugh and his festival?”

For answer, we settle ourselves comfortably, awaiting the tale with eagerness.


“The Celtic god Lugh is known as the samildanach, the many-gifted one. Lugh represents the skilled masculine energy, with its ability to

hone, shape, bring to harvest the fruits of the seeds planted at Samhain and nurtured during the dark giamos time by the feminine energy.

"At Lughnasadh, as in many of the other festivals, the important dance of opposite energies and roles is beautifully expressed.  Tailtiu,

the foster mother of Lugh, is the goddess who cleared away the wilderness, making the plains and fields ready for crops

to be grown. She died from her efforts and is also remembered at this time; Lugh is said to have inaugurated this festival in her honour.

“In the wheel of the Celtic Year, Lughnasadh stands directly opposite Imbolc, where Brigid, embodying the primal creative energy,

occupied the central role.


"Bron Trogain, an older name for this festival, may mean the sorrow of Trogain or the sorrow of the fertile earth. This may mean that

the fertility of the harvest is linked with the death that follows its completion, again bringing together the polarities of life and death.

"The successful harvest requires that Lugh appease his adversary, Crom Dubh, who represents the aspect of the land that does not

wish to be harvested or subjected to the rule and energy of Lugh.

“The two-week Lughnasadh festival was a very important meeting time for the tribe, bringing people together to test their skills in

many different disciplines. They challenged each other in a variety of contests and games held during the annual fairs in Lugh’s honour.

"The rituals at this festival included the acknowledgement of the triumph of Lugh, the harvesting and enjoyment of the first fruits,

and the acknowledgement of the end of summer. It was a time of great merriment, especially for young people, who wore garlands

of flowers and went into the hills to pick bilberries or blueberries. Marriages were traditionally held at this time of year.


“High places in the land, where earth and sky met, were considered the appropriate place to honour Lugh. At the ritual site,

many of the characteristics and gifts of Lugh were enacted by mummers. The first sheaf of wheat, barley or corn was ceremonially cut,

milled, and baked into cakes. These were eaten along with the wild blueberries or bilberries. The young folks’ garlands of flowers

were buried to signify the end of summer.” Dolores pauses as we take this in.


Natacha says, “It seems so sad. Burying the garlands, such a sad ending to the beauty of summer.”


Dolores turns to her, and says gently, “In the wheel of the Celtic year there is no ending that is not also a new beginning.

Remember that when the bright days of the masculine summer fade, diminish, we are getting ready to welcome Samhain,

the season of the feminine winter. The days of womb-like preparation, the dark days of incubation that will themselves end

with Brigid’s Festival of Imbolc on February 1st welcoming spring.”


Susan asks, “Is Lughnasadh still celebrated in Ireland?”


“Many of these ritual practices have died out,” Dolores tells her, “but an essential aspect of the Lughnasadh ritual is enacted each year

with the annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo on the last Sunday of July. Puck Fair held in Kilorglin in County Kerry

each August is another remnant of the Lughnasadh festival.”


Suddenly Colette calls out, “Look. Up there on the high ground. It must be the setting sun, but it looks like someone has lit a bonfire!”


We all gaze westward up towards the hill. Something flames there.  

When Dolores speaks, her voice is so soft that we almost miss her words: “That is no fire, nor is it a sunset. That is Lugh, come to

bless you, to promise to bring to fruition and harvest the seeds you yourselves planted in the dark engendering days of the long winter.

Take his blessing with you until we meet here again.”

Lugh, the many-gifted one, Harvest God

 

 

Gathering Space for July 25, 2017


 

The new moon is just two days old, her thin first quarter scarcely discernible in the pale sky,

as we arrive at the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona.


When we gather here next week, we shall celebrate the Celtic Festival of Lughnasadh, ushering in the harvest time of autumn.

Yet this evening still holds the embracing warmth of summer. The garden is bright with flowers.


 

We have not come for endings this evening, but rather for new beginnings. It is time to take a further journey into our shared adventure:

our commitment to be a vessel for the new spirituality so needed in our time,

to be,  as the poet Christina Lore Weber describes it, “a cup to catch the sacred rain”.


 

Jean Houston is with us this evening. We have asked her to lead us in one of the processes from the book, What is Consciousness?

which Jean co-authored with Ervin Laszlo and Larry Dossey (SelectBooks, Inc. New York, 2016).

 

Once the excited greetings, the sharing of news with one another, subside into a quiet expectancy, Jean, who is seated among us

on our quilt of spiritual colours, begins to speak: 

As the colours in this quilt, each unique, blend harmoniously with one another, you are discovering that your unique spiritual journeys

hold gifts that are becoming interwoven through your sharing.


For nearly five years you have been exploring the strands of the new spirituality rising in our time. Tonight I’ll show you a process

you may use to assist you in weaving these into a whole, a tapestry that tells the story of new ways to live

within the unfolding mystery of the universe.

As you do this weaving, know that you are not alone in this intention. Rather, you are co-creating with the universe, drawing into your lives,

into our Communion of Creative Fire, the gifts, understandings, deep knowings already present in the Consciousness which is

the Quantum Field of the Cosmos.

As I have written in the Consciousness book, "you do this by inviting the quantum field of all potentials to join you in the creation of your intention.

Invite it in. Call it in. Reach out, even. And bring its tides and powers into your own local field. Swim in it. Enjoy the paradox of being local

but also nonlocal, human and god-stuff incarnate in space and time.


"You are the local imagination immersed in the great field of imaginal creation. By your invitation, the universe, with its infinite ideas and treasures,

is able to help you now, to fill in the gaps, as well as expand your intention. The quantum field in its dramatizing power arises in you

with special effects and soul-crafting images and ideas.


"Receive these and play them out! Play them out and enact them until you get the feeling tone that it is happening.

Feeling tone is a special kind of click in your consciousness that says, 'OK, it is so. It is happening.'

"Put your hands out and have the sense of calling in, winding it, being entangled with and thus receiving the appropriate people, opportunities,

resources that are coming together now to make your intention a reality in your space - time zone, as it has already been confirmed

in the zone of the quantum holofield. There really is no distinction between the two and once you know that,

your intended reality can move right in.

"Do all this and put it to music and dance if you are so inclined. I have found out that rhythm and dance have a wondrous salutary effect

on the art of manifestation. So, if you wish, imagine this new spirituality, this way of being present and aware in the universe vividly,

feel it, sense its happening, play it out and then, dramatize and dance it, sing it, know it to be and to be happening.

"Movement is really important as movement produces endorphins – those joyous, positive, top-of-the-world hormones that raise your happiness

quotient and let the universe partner you in promising and extraordinary ways.

The point is you have caused your body and mind, your very consciousness, to slip out of the same-old-same-old thoughts and expectations.

You have moved from the imagination to the imaginal, which is part of the universal consciousness field of all potentials."

 

Jean has just finished speaking, and we are still absorbing the wonder of her teaching about co-creating the new spirituality

with the universe when the music begins. It is the "Theme from Spartacus", music by Khachaturian, and within a few bars

of its beginning, we are already standing, beginning to move to the music, lifting our arms to the sliver of moon in the summer sky,

drawing, winding, inviting, calling towards us the newness we have so longed to receive......

 

Gathering Space for July 18, 2017

As we come into the Garden of Iona’s Ruined Nunnery on this comfortably warm evening,

we see that a few of our Communion friends have been making preparations.

A long table leans precariously against the low stone walls of the former Chapter House.

It holds flowers, covered trays, and wine glasses...

Will there be a ritual tonight? a celebration perhaps? It isn't yet time for another Celtic Festival....

We are in the dark time of the moon, so perhaps it is the brilliance of the stars we will celebrate.


Shirley stands to speak to us:


Tonight, as the stars begin to emerge, we shall celebrate Mary Magdalene. Her feast day is July 22nd, and now at last her feast will honour her full status as an apostle, as indeed "apostle to the apostles" and "first witness to the Resurrection of Jesus". 

Rather than bemoaning the 2000 years it took the Church to acknowledge Mary Magdalene as she deserves, let's instead celebrate. We know that when one woman is honoured for her courage, her leadership and faithful love, all women share in being recognized for their gifts.


Mary Ellen speaks:


As we wait for the darkness, and the appearance of the stars, I have a poem from Jan Richardson's book Circle of Grace.

It was written as a blessing for Mary Magdalene, but tonight we also read it in honour of Maureen, who last year at this time

became our first Communion member to enter into the Presence of Love.

We hold in our hearts as well all those whom each of us has loved and released into Love:


Jesus said to her, “Mary!” (John 20:16)


The Magdalene’s Blessing


You hardly imagined
standing here,
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.


And now
you do not know
how to abide this hole
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
slams shut
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.

I tell you,
This is not a banishment
from the garden.

This is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate.

This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed,
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.

So let the tears come
as anointing,
as consecration,
and then
let them go.

Let this blessing
gather itself around you.

Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.

You will not remember
the words –
they do not matter.

All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.


 

After the poem, there is a quiet time. Each of us remembers those we have loved,

imagining their wonder standing in the place of death and hearing Love call them by name....

Softly, like a breath that swells, our mysterious flute player sends a few pure notes into the sky to greet the stars.


The plates of cookies, chocolate squares, lemon pineapple treats are uncovered. The wine is poured.

Let the celebrations begin!

 

 

Gathering Space for July 11, 2017


 

We have planned a later arrival in our Sacred Garden on Iona so that we might enjoy the light of the full moon, just two days old.

 

As each woman comes into the grassy circle that opens among the worn ruined walls, she stops to gaze at the explosion of beauty that has flowered here over the weeks of summer.

 

We see wild roses, canterbury bells, flowering bushes of yellow forsythia. The mingled fragrance hits our senses like rich wine.


 

The path of the labyrinth, created in a past summer from small stones, is still visible through the new grass. The early arrivals have already begun a slow meditative walk towards the centre. In mutual agreement, we join them, until gradually the whole labyrinth is laced with our Communion friends. We carry our questions inwards, spiralling back with fresh insight, some light for our dark searches, heartsease for our burdens….

The Moon in her rising finds each of us seated on our quilt of many colours, gazing back at her with wonder and delight.

It seems that no one is willing to break the spell with words for a long time.

Our mysterious flute player has come prepared: her clear pure notes rise up to touch the Moon’s fair cheek.


After a time someone asks, “Is there a poem for this night?”


Mary Malone’s book , Praying with the Women Mystics  is opened to “Magnificat” a poem inspired by Elsie Gerber, a contemporary Canadian writer, involved in the women’s spirituality movement. The light of the full moon is strong enough to read by so we decide that each of us will read a section, then hand the book on to next reader:

strong woman
woman on the edge
woman of the open spaces
dwelling in the empty places
woman on the edge

she is listening for a distant song
even a single word
she is hoping to hear the very voice
of God

she is digging in her garden
she is looking for roots
her fingers probe the damp cool earth
the place where life begins
she still believes in beauty
and miracles and promises
she has faith in seeds

her heart is open
she longs to sing a song of victory
to dance with light feet
among the flowers crushed and trampled
to heal


she is longing to feel her feet on the ground
her roots sinking deeply
into the dark soft earth
she is looking for a revolution
she is aching for grace
she is seeking the very face
of God


and grace pays an unexpected visit
in woman form, a wise woman
with laughter lines carved ‘round her eyes
and holes in her boots
a touch of silver in her hair
wise woman listens and knows and sees


then she hears once more the old song
familiar chords
which strike deep and true
and echo throughout her body
her heart her womb
the place where life begins
she hears once more the old song
out of the silence
the emptiness


she didn’t know today was the day
to rewrite her story
she is weaving colours and images and memories
into a whole
she too is source and giver of life
capax dei
she is poet and dancer and prophet and mother
embracing joy
dreaming and birthing and sinking into the warm soil


she is rediscovering the colour blue
blue, born of fire
born in the first waters
welling up from the heart of the earth
she is rediscovering blue
in the first morning glory on the vine
she is learning to sing a triumphal song
to dance through the garden with feather-light feet
learning to heal
she is not afraid to become


she is a strong woman
a woman on the edge
singing in the open spaces
dancing in the empty places
strong woman
woman on the edge

 

After the reading, we sit very still, each of us remembering a line or a phrase, an image or a longing that resonates deeply with us….

A few women rise to move into a dance of joy under the moon’s light.

Soon the garden is filled with dance and the sound of voices lifted in song…..

 

 Gathering Space for July 4, 2017

 

It is a mostly clear, though somewhat cool, evening on Iona (55 degrees Fahrenheit, 13 Celsius) as we make our way to our Gathering Space in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. Those of us who have worn sweaters or shawls wrap them more closely around our shoulders. Later, the moon, waxing towards her fulness, will rise to bless us.

 

We find our places to sit on our coloured quilt, some of us chancing a colour we have not chosen, sensing its energies. Our conversations create a low murmur, not unlike the sound of the North Atlantic on a windless night as it brushes the shores of the island.

We remind one another that we are in the midst of the nine day Brigid’s Way Walk in Ireland, and Dolores Whelan has asked us to keep the walkers and their intent in mind. Carol Ohmart Behan has brought along the poster Dolores sent so we can see the route the walkers are following.

  

Tonight we have invited those who wish to bring a poem or a reflection on Radiance, and/or on Hildegard of Bingen who understood this Power so well, almost a millennia before physicists discovered it.

Violet has brought a poem written by Christine Valters Paintner:


This poem is “St. Hildegard Strolls Through the Garden” I wish she truly would stroll through this garden for it would be amazing to meet her:


Luminous morning, Hildegard gazes at
the array of blooms, holding in her heart
the young boy with a mysterious rash, the woman
reaching menopause, the newly minted widower,
and the black Abbey cat with digestive issues who wandered
in one night and stayed. New complaints arrive each day.
She gathers bunches of dandelions, their yellow
profusion a welcome sight in the monastery garden,
red clover, nettle, fennel, sprigs of parsley to boil later in wine.
She glances to make sure none of her sisters are
peering around pillars, slips off her worn leather shoes
to relish the freshness between her toes,
face upturned to the rising sun, she sings lucida materia,
matrix of light, words to the Virgin, makes a mental
note to return to the scriptorium to write that image down.
When the church bells ring for Lauds, she hesitates just a
moment, knowing her morning praise has already begun,
wanting to linger in this space where the dew still clings.
At the end of her life, she met with a terrible obstinacy,
from the hierarchy came a ban on receiving
bread and wine and her cherished singing.
She now clips a single rose, medicine for a broken heart,
which she will sip slowly in tea, along with her favorite spelt
biscuits, and offer some to the widower
grieving for his own lost beloved,
they smile together softly at this act of holy communion
and the music rising among blades of grass.


After the reading, Violet invites us into a moment of quiet to absorb the poem’s lovely images, words, thoughts…


Now Noreen Speaks:


 

During the late eighties I was involved in a training program in Mid-Life and part of the work was for each participant to prepare a presentation on some aspect of Jungian Psychology. Since I had recently read ILLUMINATIONS OF HILDEGARD with Commentary by Matthew Fox, I chose for my topic The Mandala. The mandala represented the “inner self,” “true self,” “wholeness,” or simply “the infinite divine center” within each one. Displaying the Mandela’s illuminations by Hildegard was the perfect way to include the participants in the presentation. The illuminations gave me a sense of the Divine Spark or the Living Light which Hildegard experienced in her life.
Her explanation on ‘Radiance’ has changed my perception of everything that comes before my eyes. She tells us that radiance is the way we participate in feeling the energy of the universe and the way the universe communicates its beauty to us. Radiance makes it possible for us to feel intimacy and communion with the other. The light therefore generated by another’s presence, whether it is a flower, rock, water or another person, is Radiance. At the heart of the Power of Radiance is our acceptance of the authentic beauty we receive by opening to the depth of another’s light. In EnlightenNext Magazine I recently read a beautiful summary of Radiance. I quote: “In my view, the power of Radiance is an expression of the mysterious way in which the universe cannot contain the magnificence it houses. Instead it is compelled to express itself in ten million different ways.” (p. 41)


 

After we take quiet time to receive Noreen words, Clara speaks:


I resonate with Hildegard’s referral to radiant light. I see it mostly in people’s eyes. I have the privilege of offering seated massage to marginalized persons. It’s really stunning to notice the difference in a person’s eyes before and after
the seated massage. I am conscious of the life-giving energy that manifests
this radiant light in myself and each one. I bless each person with the words
“May God’s radiant light shine in you and through you”.

I like the way Hildegard’s Poetry, so full of images of nature and intimacy, touches my soul and my experience.…..the breeze, helping the homeless, marginalized person, the dew comforting the depressed, downtrodden, the cool misty air refreshing the exhausted. God hugs you. And you are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God. These images come alive and speak to what I experience.
There are times when I don’t see the radiant light in the other although I know it is there. I pray through the seated massage that the tenderness, compassion and love of Christ will flow through my hands and trust that is something is happening even if it is not easy to see. How close I come to the suffering God among us and how awed I am that I can offer comfort to an aching body that is filled with stress. It is so rewarding to actually see the hunger in a person’s soul being filled even if it is only momentarily.
I experience being guided by Wisdom in my prayer for each one during this sacred
encounter. I become aware of a deep communion occurring between Christ, Sophia, the person and myself. Without a doubt the positive changes that I see make a difference at a personal level and impact our world with a hope that care and kindness is a reality.

Again we want to pause in the stillness evoked by Clara’s words.

After moments of quiet, someone looks up, draws our attention to the moon now rising above our circle of friends.

 

Yvette speaks:
 

After having lived several years in leadership positions in my Congregation, I took on other ministries: college teaching and then facilitation of meetings for other Congregations of consecrated women.
I sometimes live moments of wondering if my energies are being depleted. I have come to understand that I am psycho-spiritually strong, but need to tend to sufficient physical rest. Quips such as “I’m getting old.” or “I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” fade into the background when I am facilitating groups. I go to bed very tired each night but know incredible energy and aliveness during the day. Yes, I know a passion for life, for compassion, and for liberating words or the Word. Others reflect back to me their sense of the wisdom of my years and of the light in my eyes.
Hildegard says: I will tell you a secret about that divine light, about creative fire. The more you nourish it in your heart, the more it radiates out from you. The more you release it through your words, your deeds, of wisdom, of loving compassion, the brighter the flame burns. You will be a great burning, my beloved people, and in that fiery dance, you will find that you are, as I myself discovered, no longer aware of your years, but rather that you feel once more as young as a spring maiden. Shine on!
I hear her and say: Yes, shine on, Yvette!


 

Next Kate speaks to us:

 

Hildegard has had and continues to have impact on and in my life. She calls me to authenticity and courageous support of and for church reform especially in regard to justice for women in our church - for an acceptance of their gifts, their intelligence and their desire to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit in regard to ministry in our church. Hildegard's fearless outspoken call for the mutuality of masculine and feminine in our personal lives and in that of the institutional governance in our church is mirrored in my own convictions and desire for the same.
I am deeply touched by her description of a universe filled with the melody of God's Love. I find myself listening for that melody in the trees and the breezes, in the rain drops and even in the thunder and lightning of a fierce storm. And sometimes I catch a dissonance, a cacophony of sound when I become more aware of the plight of persons dispersed by the horrors of war, the people starving in refugee camps, the homeless and persons who have lost purpose and meaning for their lives. I pray to bring all into harmonic wholeness and that the
collective fires of our Communion of Creative Fire will contribute to the "Unbearable Wholeness of Being" that Ilia Delio and Hildegard von Bingen have written about.

Silence rises within and around us after Kate’s words. After a time, a few of our companions rise, join hands, gesture to us to join in a circle dance. Someone begins to sing. Those who recognise the song join in as the circle dance goes on:


We will never, ever lose our way to the well of her memory
And the power of her living flame it will rise, it will rise again.

Someone whispers, “I thought that song was about Brigid.”
Another voice whispers, “They are interrelated. All those fiery women.”
And a third voice adds, “So are we. With them. With one another.”


The dance goes on.

 

 

Gathering Place for June 27, 2017

 

Into our Gathering Space comes a woman clad in what appears to be monastic clothing of centuries long past. She smiles, looks at us rather uncertainly, takes a place on the low stone wall beneath a high arch in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery.

 

 

As the women of the communion arrive, each choosing a place to sit on our coloured quilt, many of us pause to look at the stranger. We turn away, not wanting to stare, but low whispers stir around the garden. “Who is she?” “Where is she from?” Why has she come?” “Might she be one of the nuns who lived here?”


 

Jean is the first to approach her, taking a seat beside the stranger on the low wall under the arch. “Welcome to our Gathering Space,” Jean says as though this is an ordinary guest beside her. “What’s your name?”


 

“I am Hrotsvit,” the woman replies. “I come from the Monastic House of Gandersheim.”


 

Jean is clearly delighted. “You come from early Saxony. Let me guess … Tenth century?”

 

The woman pauses, unsure. “I am born in the year of our Lord 930.”


 

By now, everyone else in the garden is as still as a held breath. Jean’s next question is a surprise.

“You have managed to cross more than a thousand years and most of Europe to come to us. You must have felt a compelling need to be here. What brought you?”


 

Hrotsvit draws a breath. “I am alone at prayer, thinking of what my abbess has just asked me to write. That is about women, to tell our true story. So I make this prayer: Where shall I find women to whom I might speak my heart? Then, suddenly, I am here. That is all I know.”


 

Jean’s courtesy and directness having untied our tongues, many of us add our words of welcome, drawing near to Hrotsvit. Somehow we find we have formed a circle with her in the centre.


 

“Go ahead,” Jean encourages her. “You have found the women you seek. Tell us your story.”


And so, Hrotsvit speaks:


The men know and own their voice
and I?
I sought the monastic safety of Gandersheim
and here, oh joy, my abbess, Gerberga,
urges me to speak:
“So much needs to be said about women,” she said.

She told me to read all that had been written about women,
the lies, deceptions, distortions,
all their lives turned to ridicule for men’s pleasure,
and through men’s fear.

Why, why, why, O God,
does the voice of a woman so distress them?
“Change all that,” she said to me. “Tell the story of women.”

My voice is the one You have given me:
Even my name says it, Hrotsvit, clamor validus,
I am the strong voice of Gandersheim.

And so, my God, I use my voice, the clamor validus,
which is Your gift to me to tell the story of woman.
I will write, O God, of women’s true selves,
of women as You see them,
as You created them,
as You speak to them.
….
So, O God, sprinkle my mind with dew,
and moisten gently with Your love the dark recesses of my mind.
Do not let the voice You gave me
Grow rusty from neglect.
….
…I will write of the women I know,
Their strength, holiness, goodness, courage, hospitality,
and above all, their ability to face themselves,
to remake their lives,
to know the truth of themselves
created and ever-loved by You.

I want my pen to praise Your greatness
in the greatness of women.
I want to urge women to move beyond despair,
that sin which is the bane of womankind.
We have been told so often that we are nothing,
that despair seems the easy road.
I want women to know it is not so.
We are made for great things.

I want women to cease the pretence of being voiceless
and to raise their voice in womanly words of praise and hope.
I want, O God, to be the one
who with flinty spark can set the whole sea alight.
I want all women to say without excuse,
Ego clamor validus.

 

After Hrotsvit speaks, a deep and holy silence falls, as her words echo within us.  The woman looks at us, asks:

“Have I spoken to your hearts? Does what I say, what I intend to write, feel true to you? Please tell me your thoughts.”

What response does each of us make to Hrotsvit’s request?*


*Note: these words from the writings of Hrotsvit come from Mary T. Malone in Praying with the Women Mystics Columba Press, Ireland, 2006)

 

 Gathering Space for the Summer Solstice, June 2017


The soft light of evening welcomes us to the Garden on Iona. It is the time of summer solstice, the time when sunlight wakens us early and accompanies our evening activities. These are the days born from our winter dreams when the longest nights of December Solstice were followed by days whose dawns came earlier. This is the time when seeds planted in our hearts in winter’s darkness emerge into new life.

 

We have planned a ritual to celebrate the Solstice. Once all thirty of us have arrived, and found a comfortable place to sit on our quilt of many colours, we invite readings/poems/thoughts about Summer's Light within us, around us.


Ellyn begins with a poem by Emily Dickinson celebrating summer:


A something in a summer's Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.
A something in a summer's noon—
A depth—an Azure—a perfume—
Transcending ecstasy.
And still within a summer's night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see—

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lest such a subtle—shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me—

The wizard fingers never rest—
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes its narrow bed—

Still rears the East her amber Flag—
Guides still the Sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red—

So looking on—the night—the morn
Conclude the wonder gay—
And I meet, coming thro' the dews
Another summer's Day!


 

Carol Ohmart-Behan follows with a reading from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:


The light of the World soul is waiting to be used to connect us with the inner powers that belong to matter and to life itself. The real world is an enchanted place, full of magical powers waiting to be used. And, as the alchemists understood, the anima mundi is a creative force: it is the artist, the craftsperson, the ‘inner Vision’ which shapes and differentiates the prime matter, giving it form.


Colette reads a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:


Oh, not to be separated
shut off from the starry dimensions
by so thin a wall.

What is within us
if not intensified sky
traversed with birds

and deep
with winds of homecoming?

 

************************

After a time of reflection, as each of us stays with the words or images that most resonated within us,

another question is asked, this one from Dolores Whelan’s Celtic Calendar:


What seeds sown in the darkness of winter have now blossomed and opened in my life?

 

Our mysterious flute player (might she be one of the thirteenth century Augustinian nuns?) is somewhere nearby within the crumbled remains of the Chapel. Her notes rise to flow across the air, to clear our thoughts, focus our hearts, allowing memories of winter plantings to rise in us, showing us how those hopes have emerged, what they have become in our lives…..


After each woman speaks of the blossoming of her winter seeds, the group prays together:

May you see and celebrate the triumph of light as it is expressed in all that flowers in you at this time.

 

While each of us remembers, recognizes, shares our blossoming, and receives the group’s blessing, the last light of longest day is slowly ebbing from the sky.

As the sky dims, then darkens the moon is rising, her light illuminating our familiar garden with magic.


When the last person has spoken, it is time to stand, to move about, to begin the ritual we have adapted from Kathleen Glennon’s book: Heartbeat of the Seasons.


Opening: We gather in a circle, standing barefoot on our coloured quilt, around our unlit fire pot.

When the fire has been lighted, we sing, with these gestures:

Fire of the sun
- reach up to draw in the light from the sun
Fire of the stars
-reach up to draw the fire from the stars
Fire of the earth
-reach down to draw the fire from the earth
Burning
- cross your arms at your wrists and make dancing movements with your fingers

Fire of the rocks
-join hands and sway to the music for this verse
Fire of the clay
Fire of the hearth
Burning
Fire in the heart
-extend arms and place hands on your heart
Fire in the head
-extend arms and place hands on your head
Fire in our veins
-with your right hand gently rub the veins on your left arm
Burning
- cross your arms at your wrists and make dancing movements with your fingers.

Blessing of the Fire with Water from a Local Holy Well

We bless this fire with water from our holy well.
May the lighting of this fire inflame the hearts of all with love and passion.
May this fire bring blessings of peace and protection to all.
May this fire remind us of the first spark of light which flared forth
at the beginning of time.


Lighting of Candles

Each woman is given a small unlit tea-light. A large candle is lighted from the fire pot. Light is passed around the circle for each one’s tea-light.

Hymn of Praise

Response after each verse: How beautiful the light!
How glorious its splendour!

Sacred this fire of midsummer’s eve.
Sacred the light of our sun.
Sacred are you, the Most Holy One,
Who kindles light and fire.

Sacred the moment
When you sparkled
Forth a fireball of love and creativity.
Sacred that kindling nearly fourteen billion years ago.

Sacred the birthing of supernova,
The fiery activity of stars,
The formation of galaxies,
The formation of elements.

Sacred the calling forth
Of our Milky Way.
Sacred the seeding of our sun
Aflame with brilliant energy.

Sacred the blaze that whirled
The planets and shaped our earth.
Sacred the formation of earth’s crust
And atmosphere.

Sacred the trees, the plants, the flowers
All kissed into light, into life by sun.
Sacred the fish that swim, and birds that fly,
All creatures that breathe the fire of creativity.

Sacred the creation
Of humankind
With sun’s burning love
And passion.

Sacred the seed of fire in all that is.
Fire that reflects your eternal light.
Each heart aflame with a flame of fire,
Each eye reflecting your burning love.

Sacred this holy night
Aglow with star-light, fullness of moon light,
Love light, fire light,
Candle light, God light.

Dancing around the fire

Finally, we express our joy, our happiness, on this Solstice night in a dance. In Irish style we will dance around the fire three times to the right. In our hearts we bless the numinous presence from an earlier century as she plays a lively dance tune for us on her flute.

 

Gathering Space for June 13, 2017


 

This mid-June evening is cool enough for sweaters and shawls. As we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona, the white-gold light of the moon, only a few days past her full, illumines the familiar shapes of low stone walls, flowering bushes, the rich bloom of Iris, June roses, and clusters of flowers whose names we do not know. 


We approach our quilt, spread out on the grass. Without hesitation, we remove our shoes, find a place to sit among the colours that hold deepening meaning for us. In the centre of the quilt, someone has placed a book. A quick questioning of our companions reveals that no one knows how it came to be there.

 

“I was the first to arrive,” Natacha tells us, “and the quilt was spread out for us with the book already placed there. Maybe there’s a note inside.” Natacha makes her way across the colours, and retrieves the book. “It’s called Upstream: Mary Oliver  Selected Essays. There’s a message inside from Elspeth. Shall I read it?”

 

No need to wait for an answer. We are all consumed with curiosity.


“Dear Ones" ( Natacha reads) "I have been thinking about what each of you said of your choices of colours for this quilt. Your words revealed how intimately you feel connected to the earth, the waters, the day and night skies, the life of our beloved planet. When I read this book of Mary Oliver’s essays, I thought of you. I have marked the pages where her words especially remind me of you, and of the sense you have of the interconnectedness of all of life. I thought you would enjoy reading these parts aloud when you gather here this evening.”

 

Natacha shows us that some of the pages have little purple sticky notes attached. “Let’s pass the book around our circle and listen to Mary Oliver.”

Cynthia begins with the first marker on page 5: Do you think there is anything not attached by its unbreakable cord to everything else? Plant your peas and your corn in the field when the moon is full, or risk failure. This has been understood since planting began. The attention of the seed to the draw of the moon is, I suppose, measurable like the tilt of the planet. Or maybe not – maybe you have to add some immeasurable ingredient made of the hour, the singular field, the hand of the sower.

 

Yvette looks at the next reading on page 30. Before beginning, she says, “This is surprising. It’s about creativity, the reason why I chose orange for my quilt. I’ll read this for all of us who feel drawn to creative work. "

My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.


There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

Violet takes the book, first looking through the marked sections on pages 57 and 58: “In these pages, Mary Oliver is reflecting on inherited responsibility."

...that immeasurable fund of thoughts and ideas, from writers and thinkers long gone into the ground—and, inseparable from those wisdoms because demanded by them, the responsibility to live thoughtfully and intelligently. To enjoy, to question – never to assume or trample. Thus the great ones have taught me – to observe with passion, to think with patience, to live always caringly.

 

Anne Fensom continues reading from there: So here I am, walking on down the sandy path, with my wild body, with the inherited devotions of curiosity and respect….It is a din of voices that I hear, and they do not all say the same thing. But the fit of thoughtfulness unites them….

 

Colette takes over: I go nowhere, I arrive nowhere, without them. With them I live my life, with them I enter the event, I mold the meditation, I keep if I can some essence of the hour, even as it slips away. And I do not accomplish this alert and loving confrontation by myself and alone, but through terrifying and continual effort, and with innumerable, fortifying company, bright as stars in the heaven of my mind….

 

Carol Ohmart-Behan follows: They were dreamers and imaginers, and declarers; they lived looking and looking and looking, seeing the apparent and beyond the apparent, wondering, allowing for uncertainty, also grace, easygoing here, ferociously unmovable there; they were thoughtful.

 

Shirley reads the final section of page 58: A few voices, strict and punctilious, like Shelley’s, like Thoreau’s, cry out: "Change! Change!"But most don’t say that; they simply say: Be what you are, of the earth, but dreamers too. Teilhard de Chardin was not talking about how to escape anguish, but how to live with it.

 

Mary Ellen turns to the marker on page 114: ...we might, in our lives, have many thresholds, many houses to walk out from and view the stars, or to turn and go back to for warmth and company. But the real one – the actual house not of beams and nails but of existence itself – is all of earth, with no door, no address separate from oceans or stars, or from pleasure or wretchedness either, or hope, or weakness, or greed.

 

Brenda continues on page 114: How wonderful that the universe is beautiful in so many places and in so many ways. But also the universe is brisk and business- like, and no doubt does not give us its delicate landscapes or its thunderous displays of power, and perhaps perceptions, too, for our sakes or our improvement. Nevertheless, its intonations are our best tonics, if we would take them.

 

Suzanne reads the next section: For the universe is full of radiant suggestion. For whatever reason, the heart cannot separate the world’s appearance and action from morality and valor, and the power of every idea is intensified, if not actually created, by its expression in substance. Over and over in the butterfly we see the idea of transcendence. In the forest we see not the inert but the aspiring. In water that departs forever and forever returns, we experience eternity.

 

Joy reads the final choice that Elspeth made for us on page 154: I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the …River, and ourselves—we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.

 

We are quiet for a few moments after the readings, each one of us struck by a phrase or an image or an idea that carries fresh energy, life, joy for us. After a while, we begin to tell one another what moves us most….

In the days that follow, these tellings begin to appear magically on our facebook page or in our Communion emails.

 

Gathering Space for June 6, 2017

 

Under the light of the moon, almost at her full, we enter the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. We see at once that some of our companions must have arrived early. Our magnificent quilt of many colours has been spread over its protective tarpaulin.  We join our companions who are standing around the edges of the quilt, gazing at its radiance, its variety of colours.

 

Surely everyone must see, and yet no one dares to say anything… The quilt has expanded since last week so that it now covers the entire open grassy area between the ruined walls of the ancient nunnery. It is large enough that we might all sit down on it………………but no one dares to step on it! 

 

 Instead, we begin pointing out to one another the colours: the dark shades, the bright, the muted, the wild,

remembering who chose which, recalling the reasons for each choice….


 

Suddenly, as though the idea came to several people at once, some of our companions begin to remove their shoes. On stockinged feet, a few at a time, we step onto the quilt.

 

Soon we are comfortably seated in a great circle that reaches to the edges on all sides.


 

“Has anyone brought a poem tonight? or a reading?” Noreen asks.

 

There is no response.

 

Clara speaks into the silence:  “We have spoken many words about the spirituality in our hearts, the way certain colours seem to reflect it. Why don’t we sit in contemplative silence for this evening, and allow awareness of what we have created together to fill our hearts?”

 

A sigh of agreement is heard around the circle.

 

Clara says, “I brought a chime with me, hoping you would agree to this. I’ll let it sound through our circle in a moment, and after ten minutes of silence, I’ll sound the chime to end our contemplative time together.”


 

And so it is….

 

Gathering Space for May 30, 2017

 

Slowly, slowly, Iona’s weather begins to feel more spring-like. On this evening, as May draws to a close, the temperature is 52 degrees Fahrenheit, 11 Celsius, almost warm. A few clouds move uncertainly over the young moon as we arrive at our Gathering Space in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. Though we hoped to see a colourful quilt spread out on the grass, the garden looks as it did the week before.

“Perhaps,” someone suggests, “the Iona quilters have not quite finished?”


“They did promise the quilt would be ready by this evening,” says another.


With that assurance, we settle down to wait, and that is when we notice that two new women have joined us.


“This is Karen Johnson,” Anne Kathleen tells us, “a good friend from my days at Mystery School with Jean Houston. Karen is just preparing to retire from her years of teaching photography in an advanced and creative high school in New York State. When we met at Jean’s birthday celebration, I invited Karen to join us as she explores new spiritual paths.”


Words and gestures of welcome are offered to Karen. Several Communion members from the East Coast Mystery School already know Karen and express their delight that she is joining us.

 

“Brenda Peddigrew, a Mercy Sister from Newfoundland, has been working around the planet as a facilitator, especially with communities of women religious, most recently with my own community of Grey Sisters in Pembroke, " Anne Kathleen says. "Brenda is keenly interested in the evolving spirituality of our time, and has been to Iona before. She brings this interest and her poet’s heart to our gatherings. Perhaps, Brenda,  you would tell us about your first visit here while we wait for our quilters to arrive.”


Brenda speaks: “When on Iona, I was conscious most of all of the Nunnery Ruins. It was in May that I was here, and the light lasted until nearly midnight. After our evening sessions I come here to the ruins and say goodnight to the nuns buried here under those huge flat stones - about 12 of them, I remember. After awhile I began to notice a brindle cat always around. I asked someone about it - who told me that it was believed to be the spirit of one of the nuns guarding the ruins as there is always a cat in the ruins...I was drawn also to the Sheila na Gig over the doorway...I had a few more time-shifting experiences on Iona. It remains alive in my inner awareness in a way that not many places do.”


 

After Brenda shares this memory, we become aware of sounds, approaching steps, and hurried, murmured conversations. Elspeth is the first to arrive, followed by her friends, carrying long wrapped bundles. These they place on the table that last week held the overflowing baskets of quilting pieces.


Bridie begins to speak to us, but in her haste and excitement, her Scots burr is even more difficult to interpret. Elspeth whispers something to her, and gently takes her place at the centre of our ragged circle.


“Bridie thanks you on behalf of her quilting friends for the emails with your colour choices and reflections. They have been working all night and all this day to put the quilt together, and want to tell you how they did it.


“First, they cut strips and squares in each of the colours you chose, and made a large piece with all the colours."

One of the women unwraps the parcel she holds to show us that first square of colours.

 

 “Next they thought about a design that would best reflect who you are as a Communion of Women. That took time, so much time that the night was greying towards dawn when they made their choice.

"By then it looked impossible that the quilt they had dreamed up could be ready by this evening.


“It was Bridie herself who had the idea to phone Jean Houston in Oregon, to ask her to tell them how to bend time, to release the constraints of clock time, to work within sacred time, a power of the universe which allows a project to be completed in the time available.


“Jean understood Bridie’s accent, as well as her question, and Bridie shared the teaching with her quilters. Though no one is quite sure how it happened, the quilt was finished about fifteen minutes ago.

"Here then is your quilt for the Garden.”


 

At that, the women unrolled first a large piece of tarpaulin to cover the grass and keep the quilt dry. Then they slowly unfurled the quilt they had designed as each us watched in wonder, each seeing our own choice of colour and the colours chosen by our companions.


 

 

“And now,” Elspeth says, “we begin the ritual we promised. I invite each one of you to come forward, to place your hand on the quilt where you find your colour, and to tell us why you chose it. We will sing Kathleen Glennon’s chant as we begin, and after each women speaks.”


 From our dreams
We will weave
A quilt of many colours.


Colette speaks: I chose yellow in its many hues. I have been enjoying the burst of colour of the humble dandelions these past few days. It's a cheery colour. It's about light, brings transparency, and warmth. Yellow is related to the sun energy that energizes the whole of creation.


chant

 

Violet speaks: I chose deep greens and blues to signify a healthy healed earth with healthy clean free running waterways! The beauty that arose in me was of a place I recently visited called Dreamer’s Rock in The Cloche mountains near where  I live.

chant

 

Natacha speaks: My choice would be pink for the beautiful garden roses and the color that represents LOVE which weaves its tapestry into our hearts.

chant

 

Colleen speaks: There is a small bird who comes to feed in our backyard. His plumage is a soft grey with a white breast. He often can be seen sitting on the rail waiting his turn at the feeder. I am drawn to his colours as they reflect a calm peace amidst the bevy of the other more colourful birds.
His grey reminds me of a rare soft morning mist before it is banished by the risen sun. That moment between times - no longer night but not yet day.
It is a colour of nature, muted perhaps, but bestowing a calming touch if only for a fleeting moment. But the memory of that moment can often stay with me throughout the day.

chant

 

Yvette speaks: Amidst our colors, I offer strands of orange. Orange gives me feelings of vitality, warmth, energy, and frees me to be myself. Orange is the combination of the vitality, stamina, and passion of red and the light, openness, radiant sunshine, and joy of yellow. Orange stimulates my creativity, enthusiasm, and spontaneity. Combined with its complementary blue, I feel hot, summer sun and cool, refreshing water. Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian abstract painter, says: “Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.”


chant

 

Clara speaks: I chose green because it symbolizes new life and hope which our world needs. Also yellow because the radiant light beams on all humankind, it warms us, brings smiles to our faces, and makes things grow.

chant

 

Shirley speaks: Since I feel an affinity with Teilhard's powerful spirituality I first chose red as the Spirit of fire, love, energy and primal life forces. I also choose blue as God is the atmosphere, the environment and we live immersed in a sea of Divine Grace and charity.Yellow too is significant for me as it represent sunlight, the life giving sun.


Pink too splashed before me as our planet is a large interdependent organism totally connected to atmosphere, water, trees, plants and humans. I also made a connection with green that expresses a love for nature, Divine presence everywhere, hopeful and full of enthusiasm.


Purple splashed before me as a symbol of wisdom, consciousness, enlightenment and transformation. White and blue as convergence. Black as an unknown, an expectation, a longing. 


chant

 

Noreen speaks: I chose for the Quilt the various colours of Red. Late in the evening I sometimes watch THE FIRE PLACE as it burns brightly and calls me to reflection at day’s end. I am then drawn to the words  "kindle within me the fire of Your Love." So the many shades of Red stimulate in me the gifts of the life-giving Spirit.

These gifts include strength, courage, power, passion, prayer, desire and love.

chant


 

Ruth speaks: My choice is heavenly sky blue for the endless horizons and possibilities which await us as we join with like-minded souls in all hues of the rainbow.


chant

 

Brenda speaks: I chose deep purple to carry the strands of elder-woman wisdom, and to invite us into exploring it both within ourselves and the outer world.


chant

 

Mary speaks: I pick the green. Green that captures the hope, joy and newness of spring. May we all be renewed as earth awakens from winter rest.


chant

 

Suzanne speaks: For my colors, I choose ... red harnessing the fires of the earth surrounded by the blue spectrum of water signifying the complexity of creation in which each one of us a microcosm of color.


chant

 

Anne Kathleen speaks: I chose midnight blue for the mystery we are embracing, a shade dark enough to allow the white fire of the stars to illumine our lives.

chant

 

In silent joy, in wonder, in gratitude to these generous gifted quilters and to one another in the Communion,

we stand in a Circle around our quilt, then sing the chant once more.


From our dreams
We will weave
A quilt of many colours.

 

 Gathering Space for May 23, 2017


 

A delicate mist touches our uplifted faces as we make our way into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona, under a moon that is waning, its last quarter nearly spent. On this late May evening, the air is still cool, the temperature hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 11 degrees Celsius.

 

In the open space of grass, we see a surprising sight ... a large canvas sheet, a reclining sail, is spread atop eight sturdy poles implanted in the grass, creating a protective ceiling. As we come closer, we see under this fragile roof, several women who are strangers to us, busily arranging baskets of many-coloured cloths on a long trestle table.


 We pause, suddenly shy, each of us wondering if, by some mix-up, a different group has asked to meet in the Garden this evening. One of the women looks fully at us, and smiles. It takes only a heartbeat until we recognize her.


"Elspeth!" several of us cry out at once. It is the Iona storyteller who has come to us before, bringing magical tales.
Elspeth invites us to come under the canvas roof.

When all thirty of us have gathered, she calls the women away from their work introduce them:


"These women are friends of mine who are part of Iona's Quilting Circle. When I visited with them last week, I spoke of my time with you a few months back. They were very interested in your Communion of Creative Fire and asked many questions. When they learned that you meet outdoors from the Spring Equinox to Samhain, they came up with a splendid idea. They would like to create a quilt for your gatherings here, a softer place to sit than on the bare ground.

 

"They asked me what the theme of your gatherings might be, and I said you were drawing together strands to weave a new spirituality for our time. So this is their idea. I shall invite Bridie to tell you of it."


 

The next moments are a blur, a burr of sound, as Bridie's heavy Scots accent tumbles over us like a river pouring down the mountain. Elspeth listens, looks at us and laughs merrily. "Perhaps I could translate."


"Bridie invites each of you to think about, to allow to rise in your heart, the most powerful and lovely desire you have for this new spirituality, this new way of relating to the love at the heart of the universe. Then she invites you to come to look into the baskets of coloured cloths and choose one or perhaps two to reflect that desire."


 

There is another roll of Scots thunder from Bridie and then Elspeth speaks once more:

"Bridie suggests that the colours relate to your desire. For those of you whose love for Mother Earth is at the heart of your spirituality, blue for her waters or green for her plants and trees might be what you choose, or violet or blush pink or daffodil yellow to honour her flowers. If the universe itself lures you, perhaps silver for the stars in the night sky or colours of dawn or sunset would be your choice. If your lure is towards a sacred presence, you might choose a colour that in your heart honours the Sophia or Brigid or Mary... Maybe you are drawn by Teilhard's vision of the divine flame at the heart of the universe so you would choose a fiery red.


 

"Take a few moments to let your deep gladness rise. Think of a colour that represents your desire, then come to choose your cloth or cloths. Take a piece of blank paper and a pencil from the box on the table, find a place to sit where you might write a few words about why you chose that cloth. Meanwhile, the women will clear the table to make space for the large under-piece for our quilt. When they have it ready, you may come and choose a place for your cloth. The women will assist you to pin it there.


"When you gather here next week, the quilt will be assembled, if not entirely sewn, and we shall have a ritual. For the ritual, bring words about your choice of colour: a sentence, a song, a poem that expresses your deepest desire for an aspect of a new spirituality. Your words and the colour you chose will form the heart of the ritual, along with this chant, adapted from Kathleen Glennon (Heartbeat of the Seasons):


From our dreams
We create
A quilt of many colours.


When each of us has completed the task of choosing, reflecting upon, and pinning our cloths, Bridie speaks once more. This time we understand her words: “Time for treats.”

The pinned fabric carefully rolled up in tissue, the table begins to blossom with plates of scones and cookies, pottery mugs and a great cauldron of hot chocolate, magically steaming hot.

 

 Gathering Space for May 9, 2017

 

We are making our way into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery to greet our companions on the eve of the full moon of May. The few clouds still allow the moon to offer us the gift of her light. A comfort, when the air holds a chill that recalls pre-spring days… just 8 degrees Celsius, 47 degrees Fahrenheit. We take time to settle, greeting one another, gathering rugs and blankets around us as we perch on the low stone walls, or on the soft grass.


 

Tonight we have come ready to honour and reflect upon our relationship with the Earth. Each one of us holds in our heart an image of a beloved place on this, our only home, our mother, our nurture, the source of our life. In our time together this evening we want to offer gratitude for the power and beauty of our earth, for the spirit that pervades her, the same spirit that dwells in all that lives upon her.  Some of us have brought poems and readings to share.


 

We place our fire pot carefully in the centre of the garden, making sure its flame is sheltered from any wind off the sea.


Anne Fensom stands to read: “I have brought a poem from Mary Malone that is based on a Native American prayer from the Ute, and translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887.”


Earth teach me stillness as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me honest suffering as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring as the mother bird nestles her young.
Earth teach me gentleness as the deer walks softly through the forest.
Earth teach me courage as the tree that stands straight alone.
Earth teach me limitation as the ant who crawls along the ground.
Earth teach me freedom as the lark who sings and soars.
Earth teach me joy as the bee delighting in the nectar of life.


 

Earth teach me resignation as the cycle of life turns and turns.
Earth teach me about the regeneration of life as the seed rises after being scattered and buried.
Earth teach me playfulness as the otter rolling with the river currents.
Earth teach me to be generous as the rains and snow water the soil.
Earth teach me to remember kindness as the blossoms turn rejoicing towards the sun.
Earth teach me good suffering as the land struggles with ingenuity to survive our greed.
Earth teach me gratitude as the soil begins a new journey towards the autumnal harvest.
Earth teach me to know the Author of Life as I daily gaze in wonder
at the marvellous mysterious sustenance of all creation.

After the reading we take quiet time to hold the image or words that spoke to us most compellingly.

****************************************

 

Now Colette speaks: “Two years ago, when we gathered here in honour of Earth Day 2015, Maureen Monette read these words by Sister Miriam Therese MacGillis of Genesis Farm. Tonight I would like to read them in memory of Maureen’s passionate love for the Earth:”


 

We now know that we're alive because the earth is alive. Unlike Mars, or the moon, or Venus, or the other planets in our solar system, we're a water planet. Seventy percent of the earth's surface is salt water. That's why the earth is alive. It's a fluid planet. But in our old cosmology, we call these fluids oceans. We name them . . . Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Antarctic. They're places. They're things. They're "its"... You swim in them, you fish in them, you sail in them, you own them. You own home fronts on them. And if your cosmology is such that those are just places, then it's very logical to dump wastes there, including our very lethal wastes.


 

But now we're beginning to understand that the oceans are the actual fluids of the planet. And everything that lives has the ocean in it. The oceans are not oceans. They are one single salt water system which flows through everything on the surface of the earth that has life in it.


 

That's why things are alive–maple trees, bananas, or you. If we took you to the chemistry lab and had you analyzed right now, regardless of your size or weight, you would be seventy percent salt water. And it's the same salt water as is flowing through the oceans. The rest of you would be the minerals that form the crust of the earth.
We're the earth, with consciousness, with soul, with spirit. We're the earth in a new form. But we are the earth!
And now we understand that these fluids within the oceans are in us.


 

Because the oceans become the clouds and the clouds become the rain and the rain becomes the corn. And we eat the corn. And we get our minerals and our salt water replaced. And we cry the ocean. We excrete the ocean. We are just beginning to realize that the oceans are alive because over this long, painstaking process toward life, they became a community of millions of varied species and organisms, all of which are a fabric and a community of life.


 

They are totally interdependent, all essential for each other's existence and for the well- being of the whole earth so that it can function and constantly maintain the oxygen needed by everything that lives.
As we continue to dump our toxins in the oceans, we're beginning to see gaps in the fabric. These marine organisms never evolved with the capacity to endure this sudden onslaught of poisonous new substances. Many can't reproduce. They're becoming extinct.


 

And as one becomes extinct, the food chain gets altered. And as those toxins build up in the food chain, more complex species are becoming extinct, so that the oceans could literally die. Jacques Cousteau says we have very few years left. If we don't change what we're doing, the oceans are going to become toxic; they will have lost their capacity to break down toxins and to keep oxygen flowing. If the oceans do become toxic, then the clouds are going to be toxic, and the rain will be toxic, and the corn will be toxic. And our children will be toxic, and their tears will be toxic.
If the oceans die, that's literally the death of the planet. And if the planet dies, the only cause of it will have been consciousness, because without consciousness, the whole thing was coded toward life. Something's interfering with the process. There are dynamics happening at the most profound level which are altering the capacity of the earth to do what the universe has mandated it to do. That is to continue to live and to continue to heal and nourish and regenerate itself. Consciousness is violating this mandate. And that's us.


 

The silence that follow these words is deep, reflective.


 

Now it is Mary Teske who stands to speak. “I brought an article from last Saturday’s Toronto Star, one that originally appeared in the Washington Post. I will just read sections of it, the parts that caught my attention. The journalist Peter Holley writes: In November, Stephen Hawking and his bulging computer brain gave humanity what we thought was an intimidating deadline for finding a new planet to call home: 1,000 years.…Now Hawking is back with a revised deadline. In Expedition New Earth, a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World science season, Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out – not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so – a single human lifetime.
“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.”
“We must…continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” the 74 year-old Cambridge professor said during a November speech at Oxford University Union, according to the Daily Express…. Hawking told the audience that Earth’s cataclysmic end may be hastened by humankind, which will continue to devour the planet’s resources at unsustainable rates, the Express reported.
Though the challenges ahead are immense, Hawking said, it is a “glorious time to be alive and doing research into theoretical physics.”

 

This time the silence holds shocked disbelief. After a long-held breath, many voices are speaking at once. Mary makes a calming gesture, and when silence returns, suggests, “maybe we should each speak one at a time.”

Here is a selection from the many responses:


“How can anyone, never mind a highly intelligent physicist, calmly suggest humanity should simply pack up and go find another place to live?”


“Yes, for we know that our very bodies are made of the earth. How would a body created from the elements of earth survive on a planet with a different mix of elements?’


“He makes it sound so logical, as though having destroyed our home, we may simply abandon it, and go house-hunting?”


“He says it’s a glorious time to be alive!”

We ponder these words, then another voice speaks more slowly, “Yes, but what if he is right? What if the earth does have only a century or so before she is depleted and destroyed, with our assistance?”

Mary speaks again: “I cannot believe in such a doomsday prediction. So many people around the planet are working for and with the earth for her recovery. The earth is a living being. I have found, in my own work over decades with the clogged lake at our Community Holiday House, that if we offer to assist in healing one part of the planet, the planet herself is ready to help us.”

 

No more words are spoken. A sudden wind off the North Sea rises, blowing clear the clouds that had gathered while we listened and spoke of the earth. Now the moon shines with astonishing brilliance, lighting our faces, lifting our hearts. Within each of us a light rises, a trusting resolve that we shall each do our part for our Mother Earth, that we shall not despair, and that we shall not be alone.

 Gathering Space for Bealtaine, May 2, 2017

 

In the pre-dawn darkness we make our way into the circle of grass embraced by the low stone walls of the ruined nunnery on Iona. We have never before been here before the sun, never seen our companions like this: darker shadows against a grey sky. It is utterly still, without even the movement of light wind that heralds the sun.
Each of us has brought dry sticks, bits of gathered grass and heather and this we pile on the wood that awaits the Bealtaine fire.

 

On the edge of a cliff across the island is a pool that has been known for its spiritual power. Two of our companions, Shirley and Suzanne who have a deep affinity for water, who work for its healing throughout the planet, went there yesterday to collect water for our ritual. The large clay pitcher they carried back sits beside the readied fire.

 

When all of us have gathered, we stand in a circle facing towards the east. We chant: “Look to the East where promise is born; look to the East where the sun brings the morn.” Slowly, slowly, as we repeat the chant, the grey of the sky warms into shades of pale seashell pink, deepening into soft rose, into deep rose madder. Slowly, slowly, the golden orb of the sun appears to be pushing itself up above the horizon. In such a way, we who know it is in fact the earth on which we stand that is rolling towards the sun, we still experience the moment as did our ancient ancestors. We still speak of a rising sun.

 

At the moment when the sun becomes visible, Mary Ellen lights the fire. As the sun’s light ripples on the water in the clay container, we come forward, one by one, to splash the water over our faces. Then with the water still wet upon us, we stand in the rays of the rising sun. The sun blesses us, blesses the water upon us. As we feel the warmth that comes from sun and fire, and the wetness from the water, we ask for a harmony within us of the masculine/sun/fire energies and the feminine/water energies.

 

By the time all twenty-eight women have completed the ritual, the garden is glowing with the full golden light of morning. Now that it is warm enough to sit down, we gather in a circle. There is a lightness in our hearts that bubbles up in spontaneous laughter. Someone begins to sing, “Morning has broken…” and we join in.


 

Kathleen has brought the Celtic Calendar that Dolores Whelan created, as well as Dolores’ book, Ever Ancient, Ever New, and offers Reflection questions based on the rituals we have just done:


 

What negativity left over from winter do I now release into the Bealtaine fires so that my heart is ready for the newness of life and work at this season?


 

What new fertility in my life, in my projects, do I welcome in the form of the young mother of early summer?


 

How shall I honour the harmony of fire and water, the masculine and feminine energies working within the land, within myself, within the work that I am called to birth?

 

Kathleen invites us to take these questions into our hearts.

 

We end our time here with the Bealtaine prayer from the Celtic Calendar:

May I/we embrace the support of the blossoming life force and growing light

as I/we step boldly into the world to express my/our creativity.

 

Gathering Space for April 25, 2017

 

On this evening in late April, we gather in the garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. There is a brisk wind off the sea so we are clutching shawls, sweaters or jackets around us as we settle onto the worn grey stones that once formed the foundation of the Chapter House. There is a murmur like the low hum of bees as we greet one another.


 

A sudden hush, a silence rises like a soft cloud, as one by one our heads turn towards a corner of the garden, where, miraculously it seems, a woman sits on the other side of the window that once opened out from the nunnery.

We know who she is. Though her fourteenth century cloak and headpiece are clues, it is the settled kindly wisdom in her gaze that gives her away. Beyond hope, beyond expectation, yet perhaps allured to us by our unspoken desires, Julian of Norwich has joined us.


 

Those among us who are not dumbstruck begin to murmur greetings, words of welcome.

Julian smiles at our shyness, our wonder, our surprise.


“I am here because you drew me with your longing. You desire to understand so much about God, or... whatever name you use in your time for the Holy Presence of Love. I have no degrees in theology, and certainly never claimed to be a teacher, but I have known that Love in my life. What do you wish to ask me?”


 

Yvette is the first to recover enough from surprise to respond:

“Julian, you said you came here because our desire drew you here. Will you speak more about desire?”


“It is through our desires, Yvette, our deepest longings, that God, the Holy One, draws us. Allurement. Is that not what your physicists now find to be at the heart of the universe? The galaxies are held in place by it, spinning in a dance of desire and longing. The earth is drawn to the sun, held in orbit by its attraction, just as the moon is allured to the earth, the tides of the seas to the moon, even the very blood of our womanly bodies is lured into rhythm by the moon. So with us. Our deepest desires draw us into the Presence of Love.”


 

There is silence as we take this in. Colette looks uncomfortable:

“But our desires sometimes lure us away from God, don’t they?”


“Now you are coming to the heart of the question,” Julian answers her. “It takes a wise heart, Colette, and considerable practice to recognize deep desire. But if you trust in the Love that holds you in tenderness, you will learn to take your desires to their source by asking, What is it that I really want?


“When we are young, life sparkles like a sea of jewels and everything draws us. Slowly, often through painful errors, we learn to recognize the deeper joys and truest gifts.”

 

Julian seems to sense our confusion. She adds, “I didn’t say it was easy, only that it is the way towards Love, for it is Love’s way of drawing us. To close ourselves off from longing, to settle for a life without desire, may appear safer, may help us to avoid some suffering, but it will not lead us into Love.”


 

Ruth has a question: “But Julian, didn’t you yourself choose a way of life as an anchoress in order not to be distracted by other desires? You couldn’t leave your anchorhold, smell a rose, see the stars, walk among people, go to the market?”


At this Julian laughs merrily. “Remember, Ruth, that I didn’t go into the Anchorhold until after I was thirty. In my time that was a goodly age for a woman to reach, her girlhood and youth long past. And truly I was lured into that way of life by a powerful experience of love. One night as I lay near death, I had conversations with the Love of my life: in my mind’s eye I saw the suffering Jesus. He taught me through that night all I ever learned of Love. The desire to become an anchoress followed, for I wished to be only in the Presence of that Love. But I wished also to have the solitude I needed to reflect on what I had learned, and to write it so that you in your time might know that Love is at the heart of our lives, at the heart of the Universe. I spent the next twenty years writing, Revelations of Divine Love. I wrote it, though I did not know it then, for your time, for people like you, Ruth, who seek to live the way of Love.” 

 

There is a silence as we each absorb her words. Then Adriana asks, “But weren’t you lonely?”


Julian looks at her. “Lonely? O my dear Adriana, how could I be lonely when half of Norwich passed by my open window each day. My anchorhold was beside the busiest road in the city. People began coming to my window to speak of their lives, their sorrows, their struggles. Like you, they asked questions.

“There were hours each day when I listened, then told them what they had just told me. I often smiled secretly as they called me wise for simply repeating their own wisdom. For I believe God‘s Spirit is in all of us, giving light, wisdom and understanding, showing us gently what we cannot see, what we are afraid to see, that we may show mercy, wisdom and kindness to ourselves.


“From that same window came the scent of the red roses in the garden below. From that window, on many a night, I looked out at the stars. I was happy there in my anchorhold. Wondrously happy.


“And so shall you be happy, dear friends. For I pray God grant you all your good desires and longings. It is all in the choosing. It is all in the asking.”


Suddenly she is gone, leaving us without words.


Rosemary has brought her harp. Now she lifts it, begins to play some soft notes. The music draws us within ourselves. We remain in silence, allowing the deepest desires and longings of our hearts to rise.

Gathering Space for Easter, 2017
A Celebration of Spring

 

We have been invited to bring spring flowers, essential oils and small clay pots with budding seedlings to our Gathering on this early spring evening in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. The Full Paschal Moon is hidden by clouds, and yet her power is palpable. A light rain, more like mist, touches our faces as we walk towards the garden.

 

But what miracle is this? Not our winter tent, but almost as welcome… a large canvas cover carefully secured to four tall poles, offering shelter above an area large enough for all twenty-eight of us to gather. Relieved laughter erupts as we find ourselves rain-free as though beneath an outstretched wing.

 

Carol of Lightspring Glen has offered to lead us in a Celtic Spring Ritual from Kathleen Glennon’s book Heartbeat of the Seasons. A table covered with a cloth in shades of rose, green and gold stands along one side of the sheltered area, inviting us to place our spring flowers, clay pots with seedlings and our containers of essential oils there.

 

We form one large circle around Carol as she reads the opening prayer:


Turner of the seasons,
Energy of the first flaring forth,
Source of newness and creativity,
Hidden activity in the darkness,
Align us to your budding presence
In this season of the spring.

 

Carol then sings the chant, inviting us to repeat each line, then to sing the entire chant together three times,

dancing to the music as we feel drawn:

 

Listen to the birds
Spring is on the horizon
The sun is rising in the sky
Awaken, Awake, Rise up
From the sleep of winter

 

 Violet reads from the Chinook Psalter:


Everywhere is the green of new growth,
The amazing sight of the renewal of the earth.
We watch the grass once again emerging from the ground.
We notice the bright green atop the dark green on the pine,
the fir, the hemlock, the spruce, the cedar.
The alder is already in leaf.
The old plum trees still blossom, leaf and give forth fruit.
The locust is late as always.


 

Everywhere and always the song of birds…bees raiding the orchard,

raccoon prowling at nightfall, the earthworm tunnelling the garden,

chickens and rabbits pecking and nibbling, the goats tugging to reach new delights…

all are the ubiquitous energies of life.


O God,
May we today be touched by grace, fascinated and moved by this your creation,

energized by the power of new growth at work in your world.
May we move beyond viewing life only through a frame,

but touch it and be touched by it,

know it and be known by it,

love it and be loved by it.


May our bodies, our minds, our spirits, learn a new rhythm

paced by the rhythmic pulse of the whole created order.
May spring come to us, be in us, and re-create life in us.
May we forge a new friendship with the natural world

and discover a new affinity with beauty, with life.

 

In quiet, we allow this reflection to take root in our souls.


Now Carol invites us to get in touch with the energy of spring:


Let us become aware of the energy of the earth at this time.
We, earthlings, are part of the earth and pulsate with its energy.
Our bodies have springtime energy at this time.
Let us be fascinated and moved by the wonder of spring,  

and the power of new growth at work in our world.


Let us touch the earth at this time and be touched by it.
Let us know the earth and be known by it.
Let us love the earth and be loved by it.
Let us discover our affinity with the beauty and mystery of springtime.
May spring come to us, be with us, and re-create life in us.

 

Each of us now takes a clay pot with seedlings from the ritual table. We spread our jackets, shawls, sweaters and blankets on the soft spring grass and sit down as Carol leads a guided reflection:


Imagine that you are a seed that was planted in a pot of clay last winter.
At first you are afraid of the darkness.
But after some time you grow accustomed to the dark and settle into the clay.
All winter you are very quiet and still.
One day you notice that there are roots, long ropey fibres growing from your body down into the clay.
As the days go by, these fibres grow stronger and steadier.
You feel yourself rooted firmly in the clay.
You nestle into the clay.
Then one day you feel an irresistible urge to move upwards.
You try to ignore it but the feeling grows stronger.
Some hidden force seems to be luring you forward.
You push upwards.
A shoot emerges from the top of your body and pushes upwards.
It grows larger and larger until it reaches the top of the clay.
You are being lured forward by some unseen energy.
You know that you must make a final push to break through the clay
but you are afraid.
You have grown used to the darkness. You have grown used to
your home underground.
One part of you longs for the kiss of sunshine on your face.
Another part of you recoils in fear.
One part of you wants to follow the lure in your heart.
Another part of you wants to stay with the familiar, the comfortable.
Will you have the courage to move into the light?

 

All now is silence as we weigh these questions…

Apply this message to yourself, and to your situation.
Will you have the courage to follow this lure, this pull?

Into the silence, clear lovely notes of a flute rise
like the lark at break of day, lifting us into our response.

 

Litany of Thanksgiving


Chant: (response)

Welcome to spring
with her lap full of flowers.

For the sap rising in all green things,
For the life force pulsating newness,
For the earth alive with freshness.
(response)

For the impulse of budding plants,
For the knowing that awakens flowers,
For the energy that dwells in hibernating animals.
(response)

For the yielding of winter to the call of spring,
For the sunshine that caresses the earth awake,
For the power that coaxes deep down things towards light.
(response)

For the lure that calls the catkins forth,
For the instinct that moves the birds to mate and nest,
For the playful energy of frolicking lambs.
(response)

For the creativity stirring in our bodies,
For the dynamism that prompts our growth,
For the allure that seduces us.
(response)


Blessings

Carol speaks: I invite you to think of the blessing you need  to help you to break through, to move forward, to grow.

When you know what that is, choose someone in the circle and ask that person

to anoint you with an oil of your choice, either on your forehead or your hands.

If you seek energy, Jasmine is a good choice; if you need stimulation, choose lemon.

For soothing ask for lavender.

When each woman has been anointed with oil for the blessing she most desires,

Carol offers the final blessing:


May the knowing that opens the snowdrop be ours.
May the energy of the waking squirrel be in our veins.
May the song of the nesting sparrow be in our hearts.
May the dance of the daffodils be in our feet.
May the joy of frolicking lambs be in our bones.
May the glow of celandine surround all.
May the kiss of catkins envelop all. May the morning dew rest lightly on all.
May the creativity of spring touch the hearts of all. Amen.

 

Gathering Space for April 4, 2017

 

 

We come into the garden of the ruined nunnery on Iona on a mild breezy evening. Cloud cover partly veils the waxing Passover moon that will, in its fullness, bless next week’s sacred days. We have wrapped ourselves in warm clothing, and tonight everyone has come with a blanket, rug or throw to spread on the dry grass.


 

We greet our friends who are either standing around talking, or walking through the open spaces of the nunnery, around and within its tumbled stone walls. Everyone is holding something, working it in their hands, rolling it between palms. Jean greets us, inviting us to take a handful of wet clay from a bucket near the fire pot. Soon we are also working the clay in our hands to soften it, make it malleable. No one asks why, as we are still focused on greeting one another and sharing stories of the past week.


 

At a sign from Jean, Noreen lights the fire pot and invites us to gather around it.

 

Once everyone is seated comfortably on blankets, Jean speaks to us:


 

You have been reflecting these past weeks on the story of Inanna, the earliest, and perhaps the greatest of the tales of descent into the underworld that governed the initiatory processes in the ancient near east. These sacred rituals continued even into the early centuries of Christianity before they were suppressed. The stories are meant to teach us that unless we are stripped of the structures of our local ego and the accumulations of our historical selves, and enter that place of utter dissolution of what we thought of as our reality, we cannot be charged and changed – we cannot be made sacred, renewed, reloomed, returned far more authentic, more real than ever before. These ancient rituals were a secret, with the initiates threatened by death should they reveal what took place. Yet we have a few hints that have come down to us from the ancients.


 

In Greece, the mysteries that took place in Eleusis were fashioned around the story of Demeter and Persephone.


 

 

Come with me now in imagination to Greece. It is early May, 2014. We’re standing on stones that predate the Christian era, in an open theatre-like space in Eleusis. Grey rocks around us sprout blood red poppies, fiercely alive, dancing in the cool breeze, nourished by no visible earth.


 

Eleusis, site of the Ancient Mysteries

 

Our Greek guide, Calliope, tells us this is where those who came here to take part in the annual religious rites known as the Eleusinian mysteries would have gathered. They would have undergone a ritual cleansing in Athens before walking the ancient sacred way, some twenty kilometres long, to Eleusis. They would have paused to place offerings in tiny cavern-like openings in the rocky outcrops beside the road, crowds gathering to watch their progress.


 

At Eleusis, there would have been a telling, perhaps even a re-enactment, of the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Persephone has been seized by Hades, god of the underworld. Demeter, overcome with grief for her daughter, causes the earth’s crops to wither until Zeus intervenes, commanding that Hades release Persephone for half of each year. It’s the myth of the seasons, of the maiden who returns after each barren winter bringing spring’s abundance.


 

Calliope points to the earth beneath our feet where the initiates would have descended for the ritual, whose details have never been revealed. We only know it was focused on the ancient Greek wisdom: “die before you die”. As the ritual drew to a close, light would seep upwards from the underground. Soon after that, the initiates would emerge, radiant with their experience, blessed by having experienced death as well as understanding the God-given gift of the beginning of life, set free from fear of death….

 

Tonight, here among the ruins of a Women’s Monastery where the Rites of the Easter Mystery of Christianity would have been celebrated as early as the thirteenth century, I shall lead you in a form of the more ancient mystery of life/death/life:

the Mystery of the Earth.


 

To prepare for this, I invite you now to stand and to chant after me this English translation of an ancient Greek invocation:

Mother Earth, Mother Earth, turn around our fears.


 

Now we shall walk in a labyrinthine pattern around this open grassy area. You may wish to partly close your eyes, keeping them open only enough to see where you are going as you walk. This walk is to imitate the journey of the ancient initiates, a symbolic descent into the underworld. As you walk, continue to knead the clay in your hands to keep it supple.

 

And so we walk this imaginal labyrinth, feeling the soft grass of Iona beneath our feet while Jean chants an ancient Greek invocation. We are losing awareness of time, passing through centuries, even as the sky itself darkens into dusk, moving towards nightfall. We hear Jean’s voice from far away, perhaps all the way from ancient Greece:

 

Move downward, move inward, return to the earth, O initiates. Move downward, move inward, O initiates, and prepare to receive the ancient mystery of earth rebirth. Move downward, move inward, until you find that place where it is fitting that you be given back to Mother Earth, restored to your fetal state in her fruitful womb, there to die and be relieved of the old husks of ego and miscarried life…there to be freed of mistaken identity…there to redeem the time when the One broke from the Many, and the Many shattered the One…there to mend the tapestries of time and history…


 

Lying down now on a blanket or rug or throw near you, spread on your face the clay that you hold in your hands, and form a mask there. This is to be your earth mask, the earth form under which you are buried… and under which you are free and safe to die. Let your body become very still now. Let your mind be stiller yet. Let silence prevail and soon you will die. Soon you will release and let go the callused husks of the little, local self, letting them return to the earth elements, where they need to go in order to be reformed.

Dissolve now. Let go. Let yourself die. I will not speak to you for several minutes.


(time of silence…..)


 

Returning now to life…returning now, life moving in you again, but life that has been transmuted and refined in the womb of earth…feeling the elements of life flowing back into you, warm and vital currents, the earth returning to you a higher clay. You are reborn now, in this ancient mystery of death and of transformation.


 

That which is personal in you knows that you are free to participate in the larger life of the Many and the unique life of the One. They are no longer antagonistic, but complementary. That which is historical in you knows the same thing, and what remains of the great revolts of many millennia past, when you broke from the participation mystique, is healed. You are free to know the empathy of the group, as well as the particularity of your own destiny and becoming.


 

And so arise now, holding the clay mask on your face as the mark of your initiation. Like Persephone in the ancient Eleusinian mystery, ascend out of the earth, cave, womb, tomb, to become in some sense an immortal—one who knows that birth and death are two names for a single process. Arise and ascend now, and – holding your masks to your faces, making sure there are slits for the eyes – journey back and look at the other initiates who are making the same journey.


 

After you have greeted each one, come to the centre and place your mask on the ground near the fire pot, building a tower of earth masks, of faces of rebirth. We will now create a circle around the masks as we chant:


Darkness to light, Night into Day, Earth Mother Wisdom, Show us the Way.


 

I have brought a simple ancient meal for us to share: fresh – baked bread, fruit, cheese and wine…

Let us celebrate life in all its mysteries!

(Note: this ritual is adapted from Jean Houston’s book Life Force pp.69-73, Quest Books, Wheaton, Illinois, USA 1993 )

 

 

Gathering Space for March 28, 2017


 

We approach the Garden of the Nunnery on Iona, relieved that the rain is holding off, that the sky, though rumpled with clouds, allows the evening sun to bathe the grass and early spring flowers in softened light. We’ve wrapped ourselves in shawls or sweaters, knowing the evening will cool quickly once the sun disappears. Some among us have brought large blankets to spread over the grass. We sit down, trying to find a comfortable position, missing our large silk cushions from the Gathering Tent.


 

Earlier today, we each received an email, unsigned, with this intriguing message:


 

Poetry Reading in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery

When we visited Brigid in Ireland last year, she spoke to us of the ancient poets of Ireland whose intuitive knowing called the community to integrity. Tonight in our Gathering Space, I invite you to read a poem, from any poet, of this time or the past, whose words touch your own deep knowing, and call our Communion to integrity. Write your own poem if you feel inspired, as they did, spontaneously, out of your own deep knowing.

Here is mine:


Communion
spun like spider’s web
from inner longings.
It stretches out among us,
criss-crossing in elaborate elegance
creating a fragile place to hold our dreams…
Somewhere a Holy One might rest.

 

In the centre of the grassy space, beside the large stone where the fire pot waits patiently for its lighting, a large open basket holds sheets of vellum, inscribed with what look like poems.  A sign above the basket reads: “Take one if you haven’t brought one.”


The basket is soon empty. While Sandra lights the fire pot, we each silently read what we have randomly chosen.


 

Now the poetry readings are about to start….


Colette begins: This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke is written to a God of  future times.  I find it mysterious, yet strangely comforting.


The God That is Coming


You too will find your strength.
We who must live in this time
cannot imagine how strong you will become –
how strange, how surprising,
yet familiar as yesterday.


We will sense you
like a fragrance from a nearby garden
and watch you move through our days
like a shaft of sunlight in a sickroom.
We are cradled close in your hands –
and lavishly flung forth.

 

Susan speaks: The poem I chose is from the Terma Collective. It presents a challenge to us to choose what matters most:


What in your life is calling to you?
When all the meetings are adjourned
and the lists laid aside
and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest.
What still pulls at your soul?

 

Carol Zickell reads next: In this poem the Sufi Hafiz invites us into wildness:


Leave the familiar for awhile
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

 

Ruth speaks of her choice: Mary Oliver writes that we are part of one another, our lives interwoven with all that exists.


Poem of the One World


This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water
and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to
where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else
which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.


 

Anne Fensom speaks: Denise Levertov speaks about trusting what we hear in the dark so that we might share it in the light.

Writing in the Dark

It’s not difficult.
Anyway, it’s necessary.
Wait till morning, and you’ll forget.
And who knows if morning will come.
Fumble for the light, and you’ll be
stark awake, but the vision
will be fading, slipping
out of reach.


You must have paper at hand,
a felt-tip-pen—ballpoints don’t always flow,
pencil points tend to break. There’s nothing
shameful in that much prudence: those are your tools.
Never mind about crossing your t’s, dotting your i’s—
but take care not to cover
one word with the next. Practice will reveal
how one hand instinctively comes to the aid of the other
to keep each line
clear of the next.


Keep writing in the dark:
a record of the night, or
words that pulled you from the depths of unknowing,
words that flew through your mind, strange birds
crying their urgency with human voices,
or opened
as flowers of a tree that blooms
only once in a lifetime:
words that may have the power
to make the sun rise again.

 

Suzanne holds up her page to us: This poem by John O’Donohue is called “For a New Beginning”. It speaks to me of the newness that we in the Communion seek:


In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

We sense that we are filled to the brim with poetic thoughts.

We will need to spend time with them on our own in our Sacred Hour.

For now, we need to stand, to move, to dance.

Colleen has her ipad and finds us a song from Ireland: “I Hope You Dance”.

Soon our poetry reading has become a celebration of music and movement. Here are the lyrics:


I Hope You Dance
(Mark D. Sanders/Tia Sillers)


I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.


I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

 

Gathering Space for Spring Equinox
March 21, 2017

 

It is twilight when we gather in the garden where Iona’s Augustinian nunnery once stood. The muted light gives the early grass, the delicate snowdrops, the daffodils, the low stones that remain of the walls, a lack of clear definition. There is a sense of presences, moving like soft shadows, perhaps the spirits of the nuns who once dwelt here.

 

The tent of our winter meetings has vanished. We have come prepared for this, wrapped in warm sweaters, or in wool shawls, or hoodies. Some of us carry blankets to spread on the grass or over the low walls where we sit. As we gather in a circle under the early evening sky, we each form and hold our intention.

On this day of the Spring Equinox, we seek to experience the earth’s harmony and balance.

 

The fire pot is placed in the centre of the circle, reminding us of Brigid, reminding us who we are as the Communion of Creative Fire.

 

We begin by facing south, inviting Ellyn, our southernmost member, to call the direction from Louisville, Kentucky:

Spirit of the South, place of the warm sun, of brilliant flowers, exquisitely coloured birds, rainforests, sandy beaches, let us know the joy, the playfulness, the celebration of summer.

 

We look to the west, inviting Susan, our westernmost member, to call the direction from Idaho:

Spirit of the West, spirit of fulfillment and abundance, of harvest, completion, and thanksgiving, bring us close to the fruitfulness of our lives, the autumn days of our wisdom.

 

We look to the north, inviting Shirley, our northernmost member, to call the direction from Sudbury:

Spirit of the North, the place of courage and faithfulness, the place of winter’s rest and inward strength, draw us to the richness of winter’s gift of journeying within.

 

We look to the east, inviting Yvette to call the direction from Worcester, Massachusetts:

Spirit of the East, place of the rising sun, of newness and creativity, of starting fresh, align our hearts with spring’s gift of renewal.

 

Now we seek to get in touch with the energy of the Earth, as we each in turn read a section from the "Ritual for Spring Equinox" from Kathleen Glennon's book, Heartbeat of the Seasons:

At this time the earth in the northern hemisphere experiences a sense of balance.
The pendulum of the seasons rests for a brief moment.
The ebb and flow of life pauses for a moment,
A moment of harmony,
A moment of rest,
A moment when the fulcrum of the seasons is in balance.


Let us get in touch with the earth and feel her pulse at this time.
Let us attune ourselves to the twilight, to the magic of the in-between time.
Let us become aware of the struggle between light and darkness and the subtle
blending of both.


Let us become aware of the shapes of things in the twilight – the mystique that envelops everything.
Let us become aware of the last rays of the dying sun.
Let us be in touch with a sense of loss.


 

Let us also be aware of another emotion – the feeling of anticipation for the first rays of moonlight.
At equinox time, we have equal sunlight and nightlight.
Each of us is influenced by the rhythms of both the sun and the moon.
Sun energy influences our logical thought process, our analytical capacities, our decision-making skills.
Moon energy influences our intuitive capacities, and our aesthetic abilities.
We need both energies to be in balance—to be integrated, whole persons.


Candles are now passed to everyone in the circle.

We each move forward in turn to light our candles from the flame of the fire pot.

When each person’s candle is lighted, we begin walking clockwise around the circle, balancing our lighted candle on our right hand, becoming aware of our body, our sense of balance, as we walk.

Now we move the candle to balance on the palm of our left hand, aware of our body and of our sense of balance as we walk clockwise around the circle.

We next extend our left palm upward and place the right hand, with the candle on it, on top of the left, palm upward. Again, we walk clockwise around the circle and experience our sense of balance as we walk.

We take time to reflect on balance in our life:

Is there balance between
Work and play,
Activity and rest,
Logic and intuition,
Busyness and relationships,
Joy and sorrow?

We pause for a while to think about this.


We call now on the energy of the universe to support us in our efforts at balance and integration.
We call on the energy of the earth at this time – the energy of integration and harmony.
We call on the energy of the moon to re-align us to our intuitive, creative side.
We call on the energy of the sun to align us to our logical, analytical side.
We call on the energy of twilight to attune us to the balance of polarities.

 

Closing Blessing:

May the blessing of twilight integrate the light and darkness of all.
May the blessing of equinox balance and anchor all.
May the angel of balance support and strengthen all.
May all of creation be truly blessed with harmony and stability.
Amen.

 

Gathering Space for March 14, 2017


 

The light breeze, wet with rain, coming from the north east, carries a whiff of sea-air, though the early evening is milder, no longer freezing. We cannot see the moon through the cloud haze as we make our way across the grass to our Gathering Tent.


 

One of our companions speaks with the heavy tones of a tragic poet: “Look thy last on all things lovely.” We turn to her in surprise. With the Spring Equinox less than a week away, surely things are on their way to being more lovely!

But it is our Gathering Tent that holds her gaze.  “It won’t be here much longer. Didn’t it disappear last year on the Equinox?”

 

We go inside, already feeling the coming change. Tonight we will enjoy the silken softness of the cushions, the way the flame in the fire pot dances, the delicious sense of being sheltered from the elements, circling in a warmth that comes from friendship as well as fire.

 

Once we are seated in the circle, we look around at the faces of friends who have been gathering here with us from the beginning four years ago, others who have come more recently, delighting us with their wisdom, their insights, their questions, their questing. Twenty-eight women we now number from Canada, the United States, Ireland and Australia. There are also remembered friends, former members, still somehow part of our circle of love.

 

Jean Houston is with us, the planet her homeplace these days. As we notice her glancing around the circle, waiting for the conversations, greetings and questions to slowly subside, we realize that Jean will be leading the gathering this evening.

 

“As many of you know,” Jean begins, “I have been engaged in the formation of a group called Rising Women, Rising World made up of women who are leaders in many disciplines around the globe. Over the decades, my work has taken me to more than a hundred countries. Everywhere I see the rise of women, moving towards full partnership with men. One of the most exciting features of life today is the proliferation of women’s groups, engaged in so many areas of human development from micro-economics to education to issues of justice to politics.

 

“What I see is that the groups that do best are often the smaller ones with intensive focus and perspective, sharing deeply, with a spiritual focus. You, in the Communion of Creative Fire, a group with depth, engaged in further deepening, have touched into the soul of what is happening, into something that is a necessity for the world. You have touched into a cycle of turning, where women’s spirituality is being activated. You have become a fold within a fold of the human/ spiritual quantum field of wisdom, serving both the local and the larger story.

 

“You are part of a radical new paradigm. You do not know how these ripples you are creating will go out to reach others in a society, in a world, in transition. For right now, we are all in God school, on the outer wings of the galaxy… we are part of an experimental process, 13.8 billion years old, that could end in catharsis. That’s why you see the old stuff rising everywhere…

 

“What is needed now is a new understanding of cosmology which creates a profound opening for a new spirituality. The two together will bring about the emergence of what is needed for our time, just as two parts hydrogen combine with one part oxygen to create wetness.”

The silence that follows Jean’s words is suddenly riven by laughter – Jean’s !


“You are all looking at me like basset hounds,” Jean says through her laughter. “What wrong?”

Suzanne responds, “I think we’re all overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task. Like we’re the ones who have to save the world.”

“Well, you are the ones,” Jean answers. “We all are. What’s more, we have been given everything we need for this time and for our task. We just have to learn how to use the time, the gifts, the potential that we have.”

 

“I’ll give you something now that will be of immense help to you. Wherever you are now within this circle, just stand up. Now hold up your hands patty-cake style. I want you to believe for the next few minutes that right there opposite you is your entelechy, your great friend, your essential self, your guide. It is as if this being is you if you had spent a thousand years developing your full potential. It is the part of yourself that is encoded with your higher destiny, your purpose for being.


 

“This essential self, this entelechy, has a radiance that our local self often does not. The entelechy is in touch with both your life and the life of the universe. It is in touch with the wisdom of the earth and the wisdom of the heart. It can put you in touch with the unexplored continents that lie within your mind and your body, for it knows the maps of the soul and the treasures that can be found there.


 

“So I want you now to receive this friend, this magnificent being who loves you so much – total, complete loving – and as your hands are up you feel this friend’s loving presence just moving through you, in you, above, within, around you. You feel yourself so loved by this great friend, this entelechy; so deeply loved, so empowered, affirmed, accepted, for this great friend is loving you now so much. “You may feel a warmth suffusing your mind, your body, a great sense of affirmation. And, yes, the friend knows your follies but also knows your glories, makes no judgment, is looking upon you with so much love, so much feeling.


 

"And you feel yourself so deeply nourished, nourished by this loving friend, nourished and nurtured. And in this nourishment and in this nurturing, the things–the great things within you that may have been put aside or shadowed– these great things come forward again. They are being loved into being. And with this love, this nurturing, you sense that you are not alone in the tasks, the great call that is coming to you for your life. Whatever is required of you, this great friend is with you to empower, support and cherish you through it all.


 

“And this great friend, the entelechy, is here now with you for the rest of your life if you choose, the great companion of your way, to love you, to be with you, to open you now to the mystery of transformation. As your great friend, the entelechy, supports, guides, sustains you.


 

“As you stand with this great friend, the entelechy, this great, great, loving friend, so many potentials are being grown in you. A sufficiency of intellectual and moral passion to explore new ways of being for your body, your mind, your soul, and with it the ability to present the availability of an unobstructed universe, both within and without. You are so loved, so received, so called forth by this great friend, this one who loves you absolutely.


 

“So many new potentials are being activated–potentials for imagination and for creation, potentials to choose the best paths, potentials to enhance your senses. Your touching hands become more vivid. You may actually begin to feel something of the friend’s hands on yours, a winged gift, perhaps a slight electrical impulse. And now feeling, being utterly with The Friend, utterly with The Friend, so deeply loved, so richly called forth in the presence of the very wonderful friend.

 

“And now taking a very deep breath. As you’re taking your deep breath, thank The Friend. You’re going to find these potentials will be emerging more and more.


“I invite you now to lower your hands, and sit down again.

 

“This practice of communing with the entelechy is one you may do often, even every day. Gradually you will come to trust that you are not alone in the great work life calls you to, in the work you have committed to by joining the Communion of Creative Fire. Joy will grow in you and spill over into other aspects of your life, your work, your relationships.


 

“You have taken on a great task. It will require courage of you, as well as trust. You are called to be a container for the new spirituality that is rising around the planet. A clay container, as you know, is fired in a kiln. Don’t fear the fire, the creative fire that sears you, for it creates a new capacity within you to hold the sacred rain.”

 

Silence fills the inner spaces of the tent.

 

After a time, Jean speaks. “I think we need to move. To dance. I have Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto on my ipad.”

 

And so we dance, and fears fly off into oblivion as power rises within us,

the joy of being invited to co-create something for the universe for our time.

 

Gathering Space for March 7, 2017

 

We feel it in the air. Cold that is no longer the icy grip of winter, while not yet the damp breath of spring. The moon is young, barely past her first quarter, obscured by the grey clouds that nearly fill the sky. We walk slowly, taking it all in, as we cross the grass in the garden of the ruined nunnery on Iona, moving towards our Gathering Tent.


 

Inside, the fire pot is already lighted. It looks as though a small group of our friends have been here early. They are busily setting up a CD player, and passing out papers that appear to hold images and poetry. They also exude a kind of hurried grace, a scarcely concealed delight, hints that they are planning something wonderful.


So we each find one of the large beautifully embroidered cushions and sit down in expectant hope.

 

Anne Fensom stands to introduce our evening’s programme:
Jean Houston tells us that mystics and poets are our best guides in times of transformation. Our small committee from the North Bay /Sudbury area has been gathering words from mystics and poets that speak to us of transformation, and of our place in the universe. Our first gift to you this evening is a copy of an image created by Josephine Wall, brought to us by Natacha. It expresses the exuberant joy of a dancing woman who knows herself to be a being woven out of the universe itself.


 Anne Fensom continues: “What feelings is the woman expressing in her dance?”


In response - an explosion of words - we can make out a few: joy, ecstasy, beauty, belonging, creativity, freedom……


 Shirley speaks next: “Our committee saw much of what you have just voiced and we agreed that the strongest feeling here was freedom. So we selected a poem by Emily Dickinson to express radical freedom: "Love’s Baptism” 


I’m ceded, I’ve stopped being theirs;
The name they dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church,
Is finished using now,
And they can put it with my dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools
I’ve finished threading too.

Baptized before without the choice,
But this time consciously, of grace
Unto supremest name,
Called to my full, the crescent dropped,
Existence’s whole arc filled up
With one small diadem.

My second rank, too small the first,
Crowned, crowing on my father’s breast,
A half unconscious queen;
But this time, adequate, erect,
With will to choose or to reject.
And I choose — just a throne.

Shirley invites to consider the courageous choice made by this quiet 19th century poet of Amherst, New England.


Violet stands now. The other mystic poet is of our own time, still living and writing: Mary Oliver. We chose her poem, "Song of the Builders" because it reminds us that whatever we do with conscious love alters the universe. Here are the words if you wish to follow as we listen to Mary Oliver’s own voice on CD:

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God—

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
A single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

It will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.


 

Noreen stands now. “Julian of Norwich is a mystic who truly understood the love which fills the universe. Yet she agonized for a time believing herself to blame for England’s sufferings. In her book, Revelations of Divine Love ,Julian writes of the transformation that turned her life upside down:


It was an understanding, a deep understanding.
How do I find words to tell of it?
And with the understanding
I could acknowledge
my fear, my terror,
my anger, my helplessness,
my ignorance, my confusion--
it was as if I could
forgive myself
and every other
because I felt in my heart
God had forgiven me.
I could now stop my
self-hating,
my blaming,
and turn my life
to simple tasks
which make for peace –
my own --and others –
and see, for the first time,
the good in all –
and see God in all.
(from Julian by James Janda)

Patty Ann Dennis stands now, holding a book called The Reed of God: Caryll Houselander, a mid-20th century mystic and author of this book, suffered like Julian from feelings of guilt. Here is what she tells us of her experience when she was very young:

 

It was in the evening, I think. The room was dark, and the flames of firelight dancing on the wall seemed almost to cause me pain when I opened my eyes....I no longer attempted to translate my torment as particular sins; I had realized in a dim, intuitive way that it was not something I had done that required forgiveness, but everything I was that required to be miraculously transformed.

 

Patty Ann reflects: Transformation is a gift of love. It is brief: a swift, utter newness, as with Julian and Caryll, that may follow a long time of wandering in darkness. It is the knowing of oneself as whole and beloved, a knowing meant to last a lifetime. And this brings us back to where we started last week: to Hafiz.


Laughter is the polestar
Held in the sky by our Beloved,
Who eternally says,
“Yes, dear ones, come this way,
Come this way toward Me and Love!


(from I Heard God Laughing trans. Daniel Ladinsky)

 

 Gathering Space for February 28, 2017

 

The new moon is a narrow sliver, a shy approaching guest in the night sky. There is space for a celebration of stars above the ruins of the 13th c. Augustinian Nunnery on Iona. The weather is still wintry at 7 degrees celsius, 41 degrees fahrenheit with a brisk wind off the North Atlantic. We walk quickly towards our Gathering Tent.

 

Once inside, we greet our friends, each of us choosing a soft colourful cushion, joining the circle gathered around the fire pot. For a time, there are several different conversations happening at once until, into a brief silence, one voice rises in a distinctly clear four-letter word:

"LENT? Oh no! It starts tomorrow?"

Sighs and groans follow. It seems many of us feel the same way.

"Forty days of giving up!"

"Giving up what?" someone asks , clearly someone who has led a sheltered life...

"Anything that gives you joy,  that's what!" someone else responds.

"But what good does that do for the planet ?"

"No good unless creating misery is considered helpful!"

 

Suzanne speaks: "Hafiz has a poem that responds to our ideas about letting go of comfort and attachments. I brought it tonight. It's called "And Applaud." May I read it now?"

 

Once a young man came to me and said,

“Dear Master,
I am feeling strong and brave today,
And I would like to know the truth
About all of my -- attachments.”

And I replied,

“Attachments?
Attachments!

Sweet Heart,
Do you really want me to speak to you
About all your attachments,

When I can see so clearly
You have built, with so much care,
Such a great brothel
To house all of your pleasures.

You have even surrounded the whole damn place
With armed guards and vicious dogs
To protect your desires

So that you can sneak away
From time to time
And try to squeeze light
Into your parched being
From a source as fruitful
As a dried date pit
That even a bird
Is wise enough to spit out.

You attachments! My dear,
Let’s not speak of those,

For Hafiz understands the sufferings
Of your heart.

Hafiz knows
The torments and the agonies
That every mind on the way to Annihilation in the Sun
Must endure.

So at night in my prayers I often stop
And ask a thousand angels to join in
And Applaud,

And Applaud
Anything,
Anything in this world
That can bring your heart comfort!”

(I Heard God Laughing Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)

 

There is silence after Suzanne's reading, a silence that feels as light as a feather blown on the breath of God.

 

After a few minutes, Natacha speaks: "We came together as a Communion to create something new. Why not make a new thing of Lent? We could follow Etty's way of changing our minds and our hearts as a way of changing what is outside of us. We could find ways to be more loving, more accepting, forgiving and compassionate to others,  and to ourselves as well. Surely that would do good for the planet too."

 

 

How does Natacha's suggestion  appeal to you?

How does Etty's way of creating a flow between inner and outer realities inspire you to act in a new way?

How do Hafiz' words offer you comfort and joy?

 

Gathering Space for February 21 , 2017

Tonight , in the dark phase of the moon, the stars in the bowl of the sky above the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery are so brilliant, so beautiful, so exuberant, they might be posing for a painting. We pause on our way into the Gathering Tent, unable to stop gazing. 

"Van Gogh's Starry Starry Night", someone says. "Jiminy Cricket " another voice responds, "When you wish upon a star..." 

It takes a sudden gust of wind off the North Atlantic to remind us that it is still winter. We go inside.

The warmth of our tent, the brightly embroidered cushions, the walls dazzling us with pictures from the Hubble Telescope, as well as the air of crowded coziness, the memory of so many rituals and readings, sharings and stories, poems and songs, music and dance, and feasts... all of this creates a feeling of nostalgia.

 We are aware that soon, with the coming of spring and the return of warm weather, our gatherings will move outdoors. 

But for now, we are here, seated in our circle, greeting one another, already wondering who may have brought  a process, a poem, a piece of music to initiate our reflection and sharing.  

Cynthia stands to light the fire pot. "I was looking for a piece of poetry on the theme of the unity of life. I found a poem by Thich Nhat Tan that beautifully expresses the Buddha presence through all of life. It reminded me of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin honouring the Christic Presence in all of life. So I brought his "Hymn to the Universe" as well.

I shall read Teilhard's Hymn and then Joy has offered to read the poem by Thich Nhat Tan:   

 

Glorious Lord Christ:

The divine influence secretly diffused and active in the depths of matter,
And the dazzling center where all the innumerable fibres of the manifold meet;
Power as implacable as the world and as warm as life;
You whose forehead is of the whiteness of snow,
Whose eyes are of fire,
And whose feet are brighter than molten gold;
You whose hands imprison the stars;
You who are the first and the last,
The living and the dead and the risen again;
You who gather into your exuberant unity every mode of existence;
It is you to whom my being cries out with a desire as vast as the universe

In truth you are my Lord and my God. 


 

The poem is so rich in images that we ask Cynthia to read it once more.....

 

Then Joy comes forward to read the poem by Thich Nhat Tan. 

 

The Old Mendicant

Being rock, being gas, being mist, being Mind,
being the mesons traveling among the galaxies
at the speed of light,
you have come here, my beloved.


And your blue eyes shine, so beautiful, so deep.
You have taken the path traced for you
from the non-beginning and the never-ending.


You say that on your way here
you have gone through
many millions of births and deaths.
Innumerable times you have been transformed
into firestorms in outer space.


You have used your own body
to measure the age of the mountains and rivers.
You have manifested yourself
as trees, grass, butterflies, single-celled being,
and as chrysanthemums.
But the eyes with which you look at me this morning
tell me that you have never died.


Your smile invites me into the game
whose beginning no one knows,
the game of hide-and-seek.


O green caterpillar, you are solemnly using your body
to measure the length of the rose branch that grew up
last Summer.
Everyone says that you, my beloved, were just born
this Spring.
Tell me, how long have you been around?
Why wait until this moment to reveal yourself to me,
carrying with you that smile which is so silent and so
deep?


O caterpillar, suns, moons, and stars flow out
each time I exhale.
Who knows that the infinitely large must be found
in your tiny body?
Upon each point on your body,
thousands of Buddha fields have been established.
With each stretch of your body, you measure time
from the non-beginning to the never-ending.


The great mendicant of old is still there on Vulture Peak,
contemplating the ever-splendid sunset.
Gautama, how strange!
Who said that the Udumbara flower blooms
only once every 3,000 years?
The sound of the rising tide—you cannot help hearing it
if you have an attentive ear.


After this poem, we move into a silence that is full and rich, an inner Universe  brimming with love. 

 

Gathering Space for Valentine's Day, February 14, 2017

 

This evening Iona is cloud-covered, the air, mild enough for February, eight degrees above freezing.  Still, the shelter of our Gathering Tent is welcome. We enter quickly, greeting our friends, wishing one another  "Happy Valentine's Day", wondering what theme has been chosen for our time together, heartened to see the long table at the back of the tent decorated with valentine hearts, napkins, plates. One very large domed container sits at the center of the table, while a curious mix of utensils, small bowls that hold eggs, whipped cream and melted chocolate are scattered around it.

Our whole communion is here, and it is Jean who invites Corinne to light the fire pot, to open tonight's gathering.

As this is the Feast of Love, Jean begins, I have brought a process to offer you, a way of filling the heart with gratitude. Arrange your cushion so that you are sitting comfortably, with your back straight, and if you can do so with ease, place your feet on the floor. 

 

Close your eyes and take three deep easy breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, focusing on your heart. Feel its rhythmic beat. There is the space within your chest that your physical heart occupies, and there is the space all around you that your spiritual heart occupies. Thank your heart for all of the beautiful work it does every moment to keep you alive.


 

As you continue to breathe in and out, imagine your heart gently expanding just a little bit. Our hearts hold memories and images, big and small. Think of your favorite spot in nature, a place where you feel strongly connected to the elements. What is around you? Is it warm or cool? Are there trees? water? In your mind, look all around you; use all of your senses. Imagine this place in all its expansive grandeur.


 

Shift in your focus now to one specific detail in the scene. It could be a golden honeybee on a blossom or a tiny curved shell on the beach. Fill your heart with other images from nature that you particularly love. Thank these things for blessing you.


 

Think now of any animals or live creatures you love or may have loved in the past… Picture them happy and healthy, romping and purring. You might include wild beings you feel drawn to: wolves, ravens, dolphins, or elephants. Imagine their warm fur, their feathers lit by sunshine, their tails splashing the surface of the sea as they dive. Use all of your senses. What do they sound like? Smell like? Feel like? Fill your heart with images of these beloved creatures and thank them for blessing you.


 

Imagine a Yellow Brick Road that runs from a wonderful place in the distance straight through your heart. All of your favorite people are followed by your ancestors, walking, skipping, and dancing along the road. Gently and easily expand your heart to embrace this parade of friends and family. Expand it enough to embrace the miraculous entirety of each one’s life on this earth, all of the pain, all of the glory.


 

Now expand your heart to include all human beings, those of the past, present and future: fishermen in France, weavers in Guatemala, doctors in South Africa, scientists in Japan, sheep shearers in New Zealand. People of all ages everywhere. Bless and thank each person as he or she passes through your heart. Iimagine this blessing and gratitude lifting them up, filling their hearts.


 

Imagine your heart expanding to encompass the entire earth. Pour your loving energy into the oceans, mountains, forests, cities, villages and deserts. Think of all the wonderful things this earth provides for the creatures who live upon her: air, water, shelter, food and beauty. Bless and thank the earth for all her love, abundance, and life-sustaining generosity.


 

Move your heart’s awareness out into space to encompass the sun that gives us warmth and light, to the moon and all of the planets. Move out through the solar system into the expanding Universe, now blessed and enhanced by your conscious thoughts and blessings.


 

Imagine all of the beings on the other side of the veil who care so much about our welfare – the invisible helpers who assist us the moment we ask. Send them gratitude through your heart.


 

Expand your awareness out to touch upon the very Source of all existence – the life force that keeps it all going. Breathe it in. Pour love and gratitude out as you exhale. Do this several times until your heart feels full.


 

Slowly and easily pull your consciousness back from the Source, back from the solar system, back from the Earth, back from all of the beings, human and otherwise from both sides of the veil, back from your favorite places in the natural world, and finally back into your radiant heart.


 

Feel the beating of your physical heart once more in the center of your chest. Know that these things you have cherished are always with you.

 

If you feel moved to do so, you could write a thank-you note to the world for all it has given you. You can also feed your heart by creating a collage of things you love and placing it in a prominent place where you can see it often.


How else could you feed your heart using each of your senses?


What could you do with joy that you have never done before but always wished you could?


 

After allowing us time to consider these questions, Jean adds:

Once our own hearts have been filled, we have more available to give to others. One gift we can give of ourselves is the gift of radical empathy, affirming the deeper essence of people we meet, strengthening our ability to see some good in everyone – the potential and greater core of each individual. We can choose to love others with the gift of truly seeing them and listening to them, of being fully present with our attention. When we take the time to do this, the “otherness” disappears, and we establish resonance in our relationships.


Everything is connected; our thoughts and actions have consequences. We choose from moment to moment what we allow into our hearts and minds and what we do not. We can see injustice in the world and ignore it with a shrug, or we can expand our compassionate hearts and act.


 

Jean allows us time to return from this journey into Gratitude. When everyone is ready to shift energies, we begin to stand and move about. Several curious glances are directed towards the table at the back. Jean says, " I've brought the ingredients for my favorite dessert: chocolate mousse  angel cake. The cake is baked and under the dome, but I'll need some help with the mousse.... "  

 

 (The Process: "Filling the Heart with Gratitude" is from Jean Houston The Wizard of Us, pp. 125-127, Beyond Words Publishing,  Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc. New York 2012 )

 

Gathering Space for February 7, 2017

The moon is waxing toward fullness, creating diamonds as it reflects the surface ice crystals on the light snow. No Celtic Spring has yet come to the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. Brigid is still holding her breath, the breath meant to bring life to dead winter... we hurry towards the warmth of our Gathering Tent.

 

 Once inside there are friends to greet, and a warm welcome for Jean Houston, newly returned from the Sister Giant Conference in Washington. Carol Zickell lights the fire pot and tells us that Jean has agreed to lead us in a meditation tonight. We will journeywith her to the deep homeplace, exploring the four levels of the psyche.

 

Jean invites us to settle comfortably on our large embroidered cushions, while keeping our spines straight so as to stay alert and present during this imaginal journey. We know the way to begin. We take deep centering breaths until we feel our hearts and souls, our bodies, minds and spirits are calm and ready. 

 

Now Jean speaks:

Imagine that you are standing at the lip of great cliff looking across and down into a deep sea. It is the sea of your own deep self.

You are tired, maybe even a bit bored. Your eyelids are peeling, your skin is rough and dry; your sight has become dim; when you walk you stumble.


Somewhere below the water lies the homeplace, the place where every last part of yourself is held in love. Every part of you longs for the renewal of this deep homeplace. There is nothing for it now but to dive in.


When you are ready, raise yourself up on your kinesthetic toes, lift your kinesthetic arms above your head, brace your kinesthetic muscles and dive.


You are now below the surface of the sea, at the SENSORY LEVEL, beginning your descent into the homeplace.

Look carefully around you. What do you see? A subtle light reaches into the water from the sun above, and all is softly washed in a bluish tinge. A door that gleams with a golden light draws you inwards. You swim inside and find yourself at an elegant banquet in the cove of the seals. Everything you have tasted, touched, smelt, seen or heard is here rapturously, extravagantly, joyously present in a feast of music and food, wine and rich cloth, all seemingly untouched by the salt water.


For three minutes of clock time, you will engage with your senses in this banquet of life. See it, Feel it, Smell it, Hear it, Taste it. Be a child again. Be deliriously happy. Dance. Take careful notice of all that you experience, noticing particularly what gives you most delight.


(... three minutes...)

 

It is time now to move to a deeper level of the world within. Know, however, that you can return to this sensory realm and explore it further whenever you wish. But let us leave now, swimming back through the door of golden light, closing it behind us and continuing our swim deeper down into the sea of the self.

 

Swimming deeper, you feel the water cool as you descend further from the influence of the sun. In the dimness below a sudden light glows. Descend to find yourself before another sea-doorway. Its shiny surface is a mirror. It is the entrance to the PSYCHOLOGICAL/HISTORICAL realm, the world of individual and collective memory and emotion. It is also the realm of your personal, psychological history, your own story, your soul’s story.

 

You move closer. At first the mirror seems ordinary enough, but then the reflection dissolves, and you see images of yourself at different ages – as a baby, a child, a teenager, your present age and even much older than you are now...


The mirror clouds and becomes clear again... now you see yourself in other times in history, perhaps in other body forms. You are an Inuit woman in her house of snow; an African woman carrying a large jug of water on her head; a young princess in the French Court of Louis, the Sun King; an Egyptian priestess in a linen shift, a Bedouin in a hooded cloak, face muffled against the desert sand. Keep looking in the mirror to see what figures emerge for you.

 

Enter through the mirrored door and recognize here all aspects of yourself as energies waiting to be invited into your life, to renew and transform it. See the holy child who will teach you to listen to the voice of the wise one; see the wise one who calls you into the fulness of life, into the deep homeplace; see the ego/unredeemed masculine who would love to see you give up on this journey. He who awaits your power to transform him into support for your soul’s deep work.
Engage in conversation with these aspects of the self, as you feel drawn. Make notes on what you hear and experience.


 

(three to five minutes......)

 

Knowing that there are many more wonders to explore in the psychological realm, you leave it now, closing the mirrored door behind you. Remember that the knowledge and insight available at this realm are available at all the realms.


You push downwards as you swim more deeply into the sea of the self...you are feeling more confident, as your own story unfolds.

 

The next door is surprising at such a depth: you swim closer and see a heavy wooden door, beautifully carved, lusciously treated wood, telling the stories of the entire world encoded in symbols. You have reached the MYTHIC/SYMBOLIC level. Look at the Star of David, the Cross, the Crescent Moon and Star of Islam, the painted totems of the Native Peoples of British Columbia, the ankh of Ancient Egypt.... The symbols represent the myths and stories of many cultures and many times. This realm has a good deal of awe associated with it. Some people think of it as the collective unconscious of the race.

 

Swim into this doorway as it slowly opens to you. Look around you at the great stories and symbols and try to find one whose outline will hold your personal story. Perhaps the Sealwoman’s story is like your own; perhaps you identify closely with the Myth of the Search for the Holy Grail, or the story of the Sleeping Princess awakened to life, or with Cinderella. Perhaps the Christian story most closely holds your own in its embrace. Take time to choose a story that invites you. Then see how your own story is clarified and made whole and complete in the larger story you have chosen.

 

(three to five minutes)

 

Begin to come to a natural ending. Expressing gratitude for this mythic realm and its gifts to us, we make our way out the doorway, close the carved door of symbols behind us and prepare to dive deeply again. This is the longest dive of the journey, a dark and silent entry into the deepest realms of the self, into the sacred Self....

 


Deeply swimming, down, down, down, you come at last to a door that seems to be a sheet of shimmering water standing upright in the sea’s water. It is the entrance to the UNITIVE Realm. You pass through the sheet of water and notice at once a profound difference. Your clothes are clean, and your mind is clear. Though you are drenched, you feel as if you have been washed both inside and out ...

 

Purified and refreshed, you look back at the door of water and see only light. It dazzles your eyes and illumines your entire being. Now the light wells up from you as well, and you know the light that is love. The old locks on your heart dissolve and tenderness spreads out from your centre to enfold all you see in loving communion....

 

You see everything. You hear everything. It seems that you are becoming everything. It is as if you have been retuned and can receive the wonders of Creation in all its forms.

 

You feel an expansion, an amplification, and with it, a dissolving of the boundaries of your local self. And yet, at the same time, you are more who you truly are than ever you were. The things you have known in your life are experienced in the fulness of their perfection. Cheese is perfect cheese. Music is the melody of life. A Friend is the soul’s companion.

 

Think beginnings and you are present at the birth of a child and the birth of our universe. Think middles, and you witness the child’s growth to maturity, the movement of atoms and stars and planets, and the evolution of life in its myriad forms. Think endings and you stand witness to death and our transition into another form and to the passing of old stars into new energies.

 

Think connection and you know how it is all related – the cheese, the melody, the friend, the star, the starfish on the beach, the woman passing you in the street, the glint of dust floating in the sun’s last ray – all part of a symphony of life in which each part is part of each other and a part of the whole.

 

In this unitive realm, look at yourself, at your life, and see what has changed since you dove into the sea.

(three to five minutes)

 

Staying in this place of Spirit, find an archway of coral, and swim through to the other side. Here the sea is lighter, even more radiant. You feel invigorated as you emerge from beneath the archway. You find a second archway and swim beyond it into a sea of midnight blue, flecked with stars that hang as though in a sky of seawater.

 

Coming toward you is a very beneficent figure who greets you with great joy and kindness... This is the one who will give you a very special gift. It is a gift that will enhance, even transform your life if you allow it. Extend your hands now and receive this gift. It may be heavy or light, filled with curious energies or very subtle...You are now receiving the great gift, whether it’s an object, quality, a mood, a promise. Once you know what the gift is, write or draw it.


 (three to five minutes)

 

In your own way thank the giver..

Swim back under the first coral archway into the lighter sea, and under the second archway into the unitive realm. Swim through the door of shining water at its entrance.

 

But then you are called back. Something is waiting for you here in the UNITIVE realm. You are changed, but the change is still at the level of imagination. Here you are being offered a grounding in reality, the grace of integrating this experience into your real life, of having spirit gifts to set on the shore of the planet, the place in which you dwell.

 

For the next five minutes in the unitive realm, in the light of your gift and everything you know of yourself from this journey through the four levels, receive the spiritual foundation of your new life.

 

Let it come in words or images or knowings in this place of the unitive realm.... receive the spiritual foundation for your new way of being on the earth. Once it is clear, write or draw what you have received.


(five minutes)


Come to a natural ending, and swim through the door of shining waters. Swimming upwards from the unitive realm come at last to the door to the Mythic Realm whose symbols represent the myths and stories of many cultures and many times. Look again at the story you chose when you first entered this realm. See how your own story has been amplified by your journey.


 

(three minutes) make notes

Now swim back out through the carved door and upwards to the realm of the historical /psychological. Allow yourself to pause before the mirrored doorway. Does your reflected self look any different to you now? Open the door and swim inside. How are the different parts of yourself, the soul, the child, the wise old one, the strengthening masculine, now ready to support you in your new way of living?


 

(three minutes) make notes

You prepare now to swim away from your own history room, upwards to the top level of sensory images. As you swim back into this room of sensual delights, how do you find it changed from your first visit? With your life energized, focused, ready for a new beginning, what are the sensory images that fill your mind and imagination?


 (three minutes) make notes


Allow your head to break the surface of the sea, and breathe the sweet air freely. Swim towards that rocky outcrop in the moonlight. Place your spirit self on the shore, where it may dwell on the earth and offer it gifts. Will the gift be drumming and dance and stories? A new way of relating? A service you wish to offer? Or will you be there simply as renewed self/ more fully yourself? Now say to this spirit self, as the seal woman said to her son: “ I am always with you. Only touch what I have touched and I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs.”

 

Jean waits in the silence until each one has completed her notes. Like women awaking from a dream, we look around, smile, slowly stretch and stand. 

 

We thank Jean for her guidance, her wisdom. Someone says, "this calls for a celebration." 

And by some magic, the foods and wines, the desserts, even the deep rich chocolate we imagined in the sensory realm, the cove of the seals, are there before us on a long table at the back of the tent. Let the celebration begin!

  

(This meditation has been adapted from Jean Houston: The Social Artists’ Fieldbook: Book One “Developing Your Inner Capacities” pp. 69-77)

 

 Gathering Space for January 31, 2017

 

It is the eve of Brigid’s Day as we cross the frozen grass, passing beyond the snow-covered ruins of the nunnery on Iona. Though we look with longing at our Gathering Tent, already imagining the warmth inside, we have a ritual to perform.  

Each of us has brought a brightly-coloured shawl, a scarf, ribbon or cloth. Each of us is seeking just the right place to leave our treasure so that the dew of Brigid’s dawn may bless it. Some dry rosebushes are a possibility if we take care to avoid the thorns. There are places along the low ruined walls for some of our cloths. Just beyond the ruins, a few small trees hold out their arms invitingly.


Once all of our cloths have been carefully placed, we draw our coats, jackets, cloaks or wool shawls more tightly around our shoulders, aware that the Feast of Imbolc, Brigid's Day, is meant to welcome Spring.


"Spring? On which planet?" someone mutters through chattering teeth...


But once inside our Gathering Tent, its inner walls hung with medieval tapestries that proclaim spring in flowers, birds, trees in full blossom, all woven in exuberantly-coloured threads, once we begin to feel the warmth spreading from a hundred lighted candles, something of spring awakens in our winter hearts.


 

Tonight we have come ready to celebrate a ritual to mark the beginning of a new year for our Communion of Creative Fire.  We gather in the large circle, each settling on one of the silk cushions placed around the fire pot. 


 

Ellyn stands to introduce tonight’s ritual:  “Last year on Brigid’s Eve, here in our Gathering Tent, Maureen Monette led us in the Ritual of the Crios of Brigid. Maureen is the first member of our Communion to move beyond into radiance. We hold her in our hearts as we light our fire to perform our ritual tonight.


-lighting of the fire pot- 

“First, let us speak with one another from our hearts. We have been thinking about the way we in the Communion, like the Sealwoman in the story, hear and respond to the call to the deep homeplace, how we offer gifts to others when we return. For this evening’s reflection on the theme of the homeplace, let’s pause to honour the words of each woman with a moment of silence after she speaks. Who would like to begin?

 

Carol Ohmart-Behan speaks:

For the last four years, I recognize that I have two home places, Glastonbury and Lightspring Glen. While a physical visit to Glastonbury is more rare, I nonetheless can travel imaginally when I need that renewal of energies and guidance of the deep Divine Feminine. At Lightspring Glen, the call of the woods comes daily and I am blessed to step into its portal joyfully and instantly.

The child within calls me out in early morning as the day begins and whenever the sunshine brightens these gray winter days. It is the singing of the streams and the waterfall that most delights this child! When my soul calls out for nurturing, especially when I feel discouraged or disheartened, I need only pull on my coat and go woods-rambling.

The most frequent gifts that I bring back from my deep homeplace in the woods here at Lightspring Glen are energies and inspiration of the Elementals and increasingly deep knowings and messages to share with the world. I am studying these more and more!

********


Now Violet speaks:

The Seal woman story is brilliant. Each time I revisit this teaching story I learn something new. This time I became aware of the need to put the word “go” before the word home. I have invited the Sacred to dwell within so I sometimes forget that I have to “go” anywhere to be united and re-united with the Great Mother. The word “go” unlocked the circle I felt trapped by so I could once again step out into the unknown onto the spiral.

The open road of the spiral of life rises to meet me as I step into no-thing-ness. I am safe. I am on my way home. There is an old Starhawk song that comes to mind:

I am breathing
I am open
I am willing
To step out into the unknown
I am walking though uncertain
I am willing
To listen to the yearning in my soul

*******


After the silence, Natacha speaks:

I have known the call to the home place every time I’m outside in nature. I recognize the child within me when I feel joy and live in the present moment. The deep home place I go to is nature but also music as that always enlightens my soul and reminds me of the light and joy when I feel lost.

The gift my spirit brings to the shore is helping people with innovation for future generations. That vision of a world that functions on love, new ideas and collaboration is the way I hope to serve the world.

The quote from Rumi will be my mantra this year: "Let the beauty you love be what you do."

******

Anne Fensom follows with her words: 

Thank you Natacha for your answers. I too resonate with music and nature. The gift I bring to the shore is to raise my spiritual vibration and that of the universe, in prayer and invoking the healing facilitated by the angels and by each of you, my sisters in communion.

*****

After a moment, Suzanne’s words follow:

The call to return to my home place alerts me in my dreams, sometimes clearly, other times more puzzling. I know it's time to take care of myself. This often seems like a selfish choice. I have had to silence that voice. My sacred place is nature, the stars and always water. Upon return, I hope I can maintain calm and really see the divine in all.

*****

Now Mary Ellen speaks:

This is an instance of when I am called to the home place. In the midst of the experience of the Women Marching with men young and old, one in spirit, I go within to discover that deep place of Wisdom and Love, of Life, a sense of at-Oneness which dances and pulsates. I also go when I feel thrown from centre, off-balance, in turmoil - as I was the day after the March. I know I must re-gain the sense of my connection with Love, my Centre, to experience again my deepest self.


I recognize the child within when I feel lost, abandoned, yearning for a comforting, reassuring Love. In the arms of that Love, I will be able to look more freely at my situation, to discover the truths buried there, and the courage to move forward with greater understanding.


The deep home place is at the centre of my being, my body. It seems to be located in my heart area, solar plexus area, and has strong connection to my womb. As I rest there, Breath nurtures, calms, centres like a tender embrace, and caress. Its waves gently wash over me.


Having been restored, my soul returns to the shore with a greater peace with myself and with life, with a clearer sense of the Great Mystery so entwined in life, carrying it forward with hope, an openness and trust, a capacity to love with compassion, to smile at what I see and to feel gratitude.

*****

Joy’s words rise after a pause:


I have known the call to the homeplace when I walk in Adelaide’s Botanical Gardens and when I reflect on the purpose of my soul’s journey. I recognise the child within when I contemplate the face of a grandchild.


When my soul cries out for nurturing, I go to the deep inner space which I imagine to be between the two halves of my brain – to the void and stillness – to a place of deep listening.


The gifts my spirit brings to shore vary. A gift may be courage, commitment, understanding, forgiveness, a change in attitude, Thy Will not my will! Here I am what do you want me to do? How can we co-create?

I commit to the Divine Feminine Energy which connects us as a group.

*****

Yvette’s is the next voice we hear:

I know the call to the homeplace when life is too hectic or events sadden or overwhelm me. I know I must dive deeply into my heart.


I recognize the child within me, who is often the first to notice my need to return home, through dreams and artwork. These are the revelatory enactment of the child within me, orchestrating images that beckon me to stop, reflect, and pray so as to see the homeplace gifts that will either stabilize me or call me to deeper and new life.


The deep homeplace where I go when my soul cries out for nurturing? I go to the woods ~ there is always a surprising message in flora or fauna. Or, I turn to my body via biofocusing, a daily practice that offers me “transformative, emotional equilibrium” supported by a Scripture passage and/or an image to comfort me or challenge me or delight me.


My spirit can bring to the shore serenity and a deeper longing to know God’s love in all aspects of my daily life. Bathing in the mystical dynamics of soulful experience gifts me with a bit more integration and the wholeness that I seek ~ a wholeness that is foundational to how I live my daily life and how I am with others in ministerial commitments. I love life. It is the “joie de vivre” that energizes me and prompts me to reach out to others, to my local and global world.

******

 

When the silence lengthens, Ellyn asks if anyone would like to offer a response or a closing thought to our reflections:


Ruth speaks: I have just finished reading Carol's amazing new book, and feeling inspired to 'up my game' spiritually in the coming year. Therefore, I am humbled and honored to renew my commitment to our Communion. I expect great things for all of us to become and accomplish in this year of the Fiery Rooster!

 

Shirley follows: I too am delighted to re-sign my commitment. Thank you to all of you for sharing your gifts of strength, courage, wisdom and love. You are all gentle reminders that Love is the energy of the Universe!


 

Ellyn invites us to honour the words our companions have just shared as we sing “Song of Brigid” by Laura Ash from the recording, “Praying with Monks and Mystics”.  

Darkness to Light
Night into day
Wellspring of Wisdom
Show me the way.

You’re the way of compassion
the doorway of welcome
the pathway of mercy and joy.
Though I walk in darkness
may you bring me to daylight.
Show me the way.

You are river of justice
abundance and plenty
a cupful of wisdom and peace.
When my vessel is empty
let your spring rise within me.
Show me the way.

You are garden of virtues
the mansion of gladness
the sun and the moon in the sky.
When I walk away from
The family of heaven
Show me the way.

 

Ellyn invites Anne Fensom to come forward to lead us in our reading together of our Re-Commitment to the Communion of Creative Fire. Each of us has remembered to bring our form, some of us secretly longing to have one of the patterned silk gowns worn by the women in the painting (which would you choose?) 

Anne waits until we have our forms ready, and then speaks to us of a beloved friend: Our beloved Brigid Murphy recently passed at the age of 94. I make this commitment honoring her and all of those she so humbly served in Combermere, Toronto and Ireland. It is the end of an 'era'. Perhaps each of you may wish to also remember Maureen Monette and other loved persons as you renew your commitment. Let us speak the words now together:


I commit to belonging to the Communion of Creative Fire with the intent of growing spiritually while supporting the growth of my sisters in this Communion. I agree to unite with them in our shared call to be a receptive vessel, “a cup to catch the sacred rain” of the new spirituality required for our time.


To do this, I commit to our threefold promise:
Openness to the Sacred: a personal daily contemplative practice of my own choosing, as well as one Sacred Hour each week devoted to reflection and prayer based on the kreativefire.com website Reflections and Gathering Space postings.


Willingness to Share Insights and experiences: When inspirations arise in my Sacred Hour that I believe will be of value to our communion, I agree to share these on our secret facebook page, “Communion of Creative Fire”, or through group emails.


Taking Creative Fire into my daily life: I commit to taking the joy, mutual support and inspiration that I receive through the Communion out into the relationships, ministry and areas of service in my life as a way of spreading our holy fire.


 

Anne concludes our recommitment by saying: Blessings to each of you in this kaleidoscope of love.

 

Ellyn steps into the centre of the circle, holding a braided loop, long enough to serve as a loose belt.


“This is called the Crios of Brigid. At the Brigid workshop that Dolores Whelan led for us at Galilee in February 2014, we each braided one. This evening it will be used in our ritual of Imbolc.  Two of our companions, Natacha and Mary Teske, will hold the braided crios of Brigid. They will hold it high enough for each of us in turn to walk through it.

"The first entry is a time to choose to let go of something in our life that no longer serves us and our commitment to the communion.  A second time we walk through the crios thinking of what we are grateful for. On the third and final entry, we think of what we must now do in our lives: what call do we hear?


“When all but the two holding the Crios have passed through, two more women will hold it for Natacha and Mary to make their three crossings.


“Suzanne and Carol will begin the threefold crossing, as they have another role in the ritual. As each woman completes her third crossing, she is invited to move towards the table at the back where bowls of milk, honey and bread have been placed. There is a soft cushion where she is invited to kneel, then raise her hands to receive the water being poured over them by Suzanne. Carol will offer her a towel. Then the woman will rise, walk to the table where she chooses a piece of bread from the bowl, dips it into a second bowl of honey and into a bowl of milk. Then she consumes it, as a way of communing with her companions on this sacred night when our commitments to the Communion have been received."


As Natacha and Mary stand in place, holding the crios, the ritual begins.  Softly, as each woman makes her threefold crossing, the others sing Starhawk’s song:


We will never, never lose our way
to the well of her memory
and the power of her living flame
it will rise, it will rise again.

 

After we have each completed the ritual, there is a flurry of preparations for the celebratory feast that follows.

 

Gathering Space for January 24, 2017 

 

A narrow remnant, a rind of silver moonlight hangs in the sky above the Ruined Nunnery. The wind off the North Atlantic, a barely perceptible movement, is enough to chill the air, to set our teeth chattering, our exposed skin shivering as we hurry towards the opening of our Gathering Tent.

Once inside, we look towards the circle of large cushions, half-fearing, half-hoping that the strange storyteller who visited us last week might have returned.  However, the faces that turn to us in greeting are those of our beloved companions. We go to join them, each choosing a cushion, settling into the circle, wondering what might be the theme of tonight's gathering, and who may have offered to lead our time together.

It is Adriana who stands, steps forward to light the firepot, turns to speaks to us:

"I have been thinking about the storyteller's words to us, and the questions she left for us. We in the Communion are somehow like the Sealwomen who gather to dance in the moonlight, who know when it is time to dive into the deep homeplace, who know how to re- emerge into the topside world, bringing our gifts to share with those in our lives.

" Next week when we gather here it will be the eve of Brigid's Day, the birth-day of our Communion. What if we plan a ritual for that gathering that would include sharing with one another the answers to some of the storyteller's questions? I have printed them out on a paper for each of you to take home and reflect on them further, then to bring back here for next week's ritual. I have also made copies of our Commitment form, the one we each signed last year for Brigid's Day. Our ritual could include a recommitment that we make here together. Would everyone like that?"

There are murmurs and nods of agreement around the circle. A few suggestions follow:

"How about bringing along some music? Perhaps a few songs, and music we could use afterwards for dancing?"  

 

"Some of us may bring baking,  and hot and cold beverages for a party afterwards."

Adriana says: "Before we create groups to plan the ritual, and to organize the music and refreshments, will someone help me to pass out these pages for everyone?"

  Soon we each have a copy of the Reflection Quetions and the Recommitment Form.

 

Reflection Questions for our Brigid's Day Ritual

 

When have you known the call to the homeplace?

How do you recognise the child within you who is often the first to notice your need to return home?

Where is the deep homeplace where you go when your soul cries out for nurturing?

After you have been restored and nourished there, what is the gift your spirit brings to the shore?

 

My Recommitment to the Communion of Creative Fire

I commit to belonging to the Communion of Creative Fire with the intent of growing spiritually while supporting the growth of my sisters in this Communion. I agree to unite with them in our shared call to be a receptive vessel, “a cup to catch the sacred rain” of the new spirituality required for our time.

 

To do this, I commit to our threefold promise:

Openness to the Sacred: a personal daily contemplative practice of my own choosing, as well as one Sacred Hour each week devoted to reflection and prayer based on the kreativefire.com website Reflections and Gathering Space postings.


Willingness to Share Insights and experiences: When inspirations arise in my Sacred Hour that I believe will be of value to our communion, I agree to share these on our secret facebook page, “Communion of Creative Fire”, or through group emails.


Taking Creative Fire into my daily life: I commit to taking the joy, mutual support and inspiration that I receive through the Communion out into the relationships, ministry and areas of service in my life as a way of spreading our holy fire.


 

Signed __________________________________________ Date ______________


 

Please sign and date this form on or near the Feast of Brigid, February 1, 2017 and keep it for your own records.


 

Gathering Space for January 17, 2017
“The Deep Homeplace”

 

The moon of wintertime on Iona in the North Atlantic is waning, though still bright enough to guide us into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery, and into the warmth of our Gathering Tent. Once inside we sense there is something different.

Our companions who arrived before us are already seated on the large embroidered cushions, but there is a tentativeness about the usually effervescent conversation. The voices are quieter, hesitant, and we soon see why. There is a stranger among us, or at least that must be the explanation for the peculiar bundle of coloured skirts, shawls and headscarves that sits on one of the cushions.

The woman is either asleep or in deep thought, for her eyes are closed and she is very still.


 

Quickly, Natacha comes to where we later arrivals stand staring, just inside the doorway. “We don’t know yet who she is, but Kate seems to know of her. She visited her today on the other side of the island and invited her to join us this evening. Before the woman got here, Kate had time to tell us she is a renowned storyteller, a woman of great wisdom. Some of the islanders even refer to her as a mystic for at times she seems to be speaking in the voice of…” Natacha pauses, uncertain, “of another.”


 

Natacha’s message raises more questions than it answers. We decide we’d best join our companions and find out for ourselves.Two more women arrive after we sit down, their faces mirroring our earlier puzzlement.


 

When everyone is settled, Kate rises to light the fire pot, then speaks to us. “We have a guest this evening.” At these words, the stranger sits up and opens her eyes, nodding towards Kate. “Elspeth is a storyteller,” Kate continues. “She has been away from Iona for several months travelling across Europe, returning here just after Christmas.

"I had heard of her, and read some of her books and articles on ancient Celtic tales. I have been eager to meet her and today, I went to her home. She welcomed me to her fireside, where we spoke for several hours of stories. As we spoke, I told her of our Communion of Creative Fire. When I mentioned that we had begun to reflect upon the story of the Sealwoman, she told me it is a tale she has traced through many cultures in countries that border on the icy sea, from Ireland and Scotland to Iceland and Canada and Siberia. When I asked if she might be willing to come here tonight, to speak with us of the tale, she agreed. Please welcome our guest Elspeth.”


 

After acknowledging our words of welcome, our smiles and nods, Elspeth sits very tall on her cushion, revealing a younger, more vibrant woman than her enveloping clothing had suggested. The gaze she fixes upon us, as she slowly turns her head to look at each of us in turn, might be called fierce. It is certainly intense.


 

“This tale of the Sealwoman and her son, and their journey to the deep homeplace, can be understood on many levels. If you stay on the surface you may see only treachery, broken promises, unfaithfulness, abandonment. Go deeper and you touch the mystery of Call. Deeper still, you touch the Love at the heart of your life, at the heart of the universe itself...

Elspeth pauses, looking at us. But now we glimpse something else in her eyes, a challenge, perhaps even a reading of our hearts to test our readiness. "Are you willing to go deeper?” 

 

No one answers. We are struck dumb, less by her words, than by the intensity of her presence.


 

To our amazement, Elspeth begins to emit a strange sound. After a shocked moment, we realize it is laughter. When she speaks again, Elspeth’s voice is gentle. “Of course. You are wise not to agree at once. I am a stranger to you, and an odd one at that… Oh, don’t try to soften it! I know my appearance hardly inspires confidence. Even Kate has only met me this afternoon. So let’s take it more slowly. Let’s begin by recalling your first feelings and reactions when you read the story. What surprised you? Delighted you? Upset you? Take a few moments to remember that, and then we will go deeper.….. "


 

After a pause, Elspeth says: "Think about the Seal Woman, about her longing for her sealskin. She needed it for her return to the homeplace. She knew that if she did not return there, she would die."  Elspeth pauses for a heartbeat before adding: "It is so with you as well. There is a deep homeplace hidden in the depths of your soul where all that you are is held in love. You need to return there often, but most of all when your sight darkens, when you limp rather than dance. Recognize these signs as calls to home. Then go. At whatever cost, leave, for you must leave, even those who insist that you stay. Find your own true centre and allow yourself to rest in the embrace of love. Know that this is a matter of life or death to you."

 

Her words surprise us. It is Colette who gives voice to our questions: “Since I’ve been a small child, I’ve been taught that I must care for others. When people need me, call out to me, rage at me because of their need, how am I to leave them?”


 

Elspeth looks at her with love before responding: "That is above all when you must leave. Love and need are irreconcilable. The husband raged, broke his promise. He showed himself to be one who did not love. But the boy, who loved his mother truly, returned her sealskin to her, even though he knew what must happen next."


 

More silence follows, and then Suzanne speaks: “The Seal Woman never returned from the deep homeplace. Could I go to the homeplace for rest, for the healing of love, then return to those who need me?”

 

Elspeth speaks to her: "Understand the mystery of story. The child whom the woman returned to the shore was her own spirit. Did you not hear her say, I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs? A woman’s spirit is the part of herself she sends to the outer world as drummer, as dancer, as storyteller, as poet, as singer, as healer, as soul friend. But to do this, she must keep her own soul nourished by love in the inner homeplace. It requires of her a balance, a sacred dance, between the topside and underside worlds of her life.

 

She smiles at us, asks us a strange question…. “Where in the story is the Sacred Presence whom each of you knows in her heart, in her deepest moments of prayer and union?  Not the fisherman who, within a woman’s psyche, always lurks, waiting for a chance to steal her Soulskin, driving her to overwork, demanding that she give until her soul and spirit are raw. But in the Old One who calls her home when it is time. In the Child within her who hears that call and answers, giving her what she needs to return home, if she will listen and receive. In the Woman who cries out inside you, I must have what belongs to me. And the Holy is there in the story in another way also. Can you guess where?"

 

This is difficult, for she has already named each character. Then suddenly Kate responds:  “The homeplace. The Holy One IS the Homeplace who waits to receive us into the heart of love when we feel the call to return home.”

 

Elspeth smiles her agreement, then says, “May I leave you with a few further questions for your Sacred Hour?”

Where is the deep homeplace where you go when your soul cries out for nurturing?


Do you recognise the child within you who is often the first to notice your need to return home? The child within hears the call of the Old Wise One, for a child’s ears are quick to hear the Holy.

Do you follow the child’s promptings or do you tell that child to go away because you are too busy to listen?

When have you known the call to the homeplace?

After you have been restored and nourished there, what is the gift your spirit brings to the shore?


 

"The Seal Woman is instructing her son in wisdom. His work, which is really the work of her deep spirit, will require the firesticks of passionate engagement, the wisdom of knowing when it is time to cut away excess, to cut free of entanglements. The carvings hold the memory of the deep sea, true homeplace of his mother, of his own soul.


"Remember the Seal Mother’s words. Write them on your heart: I am always with you. Only touch what I have touched… and I shall breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs."


 Elspeth’s voice as she speaks these words is altered. As though under a spell, we close our eyes and believe it is the Sacred One who speaks to us. We remain very still for some time. When we open our eyes, the storyteller is gone.

 

Gathering Space for January 10, 2017


 

The moon over Iona is almost at her full, her light muted by cloud cover on this mild winter night. Three weeks beyond Winter Solstice, the longer light of evening is noticeable. We walk under a gauzy sky towards our Gathering Tent in the Garden of the ruined Nunnery.

 

Inside, we find our companions already gathered in a circle around the fire pot. Conversation is as muted as the moonlight, as we sense the fatigue that follows upon weeks of celebration, travels, gathering with friends and family. More recently our own ponderings on guiding stars, pilgrim journeys, desires and longings for this new year opening before us, have emptied our psychic energies.

 

For a time we are content to sit in companionable silence. Then someone asks, without great enthusiasm, “Has anyone brought a poem or a reflection for this evening?”


 

Cynthia speaks: “I found a poem by Pablo Neruda that feels right for our mood tonight. It is really an invitation to continue the quiet that we have already welcomed around us. May I read it?

Afterwards, we might take quiet time together, allowing images, memories, thoughts, emotions and longings that have been awakened over the sacred days to rise within us…..”


KEEPING QUIET

- a poem by Pablo Neruda -

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

 

For a long while we sit in stillness. The quiet rises a like a cloak of soft white downy feathers to wrap each of us in warmth, in love. Through the stillness the liquid notes of a harp begin weaving magic, awakening us to longing, to memory, to hope for the future. The harp is formed from backbone of a great fish, strung with strands of golden hair.

 

 

Gathering Space for Epiphany, 2017


 

This January night on Iona in the North Atlantic is crisply cold, a few degrees above freezing. The moon, in her first quarter, has parted the clouds as she would pull aside curtains, offering us her light as we come to the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. Tonight we will celebrate Epiphany together, so some of us are carrying trays of Christmas baking, thermoses of hot cranberry punch, and small wrapped gifts that are meant to be symbols of light.

 

The tent flap is held wide, making room for us and our many bundles to enter. Once inside, we find places for the food, beverages and gifts on a long covered table on the far side.

 

When we come to take our places in the circle, we see that the planning committee has already placed beautifully illustrated booklets on each cushion. We gaze at the painting that adorns the cover page: “Home Another Way”, and read the artist’s name: Jan Richardson.


Home Another Way by Jan Richardson


 

When we are settled and still, Mary Ellen stands to introduce the prayer:


January 6, Epiphany, the final feast of Christmas, has long been celebrated as the day the Three Wise Ones from the East found their way, through the guidance of a star, to the Holy Child born in Bethlehem’s Stable.

A dark journey into the unknown, lured by promise of new life, guided by a shining star… rich metaphors with mythic power for our 21st century lives.

Beginning in Ireland, and spreading to other countries, Epiphany has become known as Women's Christmas, a day when women took the occasion to enjoy a bit of respite and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

Jan Richardson, poet, artist, spiritual writer, has been offering a yearly “Women’s Christmas Retreat”, a feast in images, poetry and reflections. Tonight we shall hear three of her poems and take quiet time to look at our lives in their light.

  

Colleen stands to read the first poem in our booklet:

 

You have looked
at so many doors
with longing,
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.


 

For today,
choose the door
that opens
to the inside.


 

Travel the most ancient way
of all:
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.


No map
but the one
you make yourself.


 

No provision
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim’s way.


 

Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.


 

Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
Welcome detours
as doors deeper in.


 

Pray for protection.
Ask for guidance.
Offer gladness
for the gifts that come,
and then
let them go.


 

Do not expect
to return
by the same road.
Home is always
by another way,
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you


 

but by the star
that blazes inside you,
telling you
where you are
is holy
and you are welcome
here.


 

Colleen invites us to take five minutes now to ask these questions or others:

What doors have you tried?

Which is the one you seek?

How do you recognize home?

After five minutes, the singing bowl calls us back to awareness of the present moment.

Now it is Shirley who stands to offer the second poem:


The Shimmering Hours
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

There is so much
I want to say,
as if the saying
could prepare you
for this path,
as if there were anything
I could offer
that would make your way
less circuitous,
more smooth.


Once you step out
you will see for yourself
how nothing could have
made you ready for this road
that will take you
from what you know now
to what you cannot perceive
except, perhaps,
in your dreaming
or as it gives a glimpse
in prayer.


But I can tell you
this journey is not
about miles.
It is not about how far
you can walk
or how fast.
It is about what you will do
with this moment, this star
that blazes in your sky
though no one else
might see.


So open your heart
to these shimmering hours
by which your path
is made.


Open your eyes
to the light that shines
on what you will need
to see.


Open your hands
to those who go with you,
those seen
and those known only
by their blessing, their benediction
of the road that is
your own.

 

Shirley invites us into reflection:  Here are a few questions you may wish to wonder about during these five minutes of silence. You may have other questions, or you may simply wish to stay with an image or line in the poem. The time is for you:

What will you do with this moment in your life? this star that blazes in your sky?


What is it that you need to see?


Who are the ones who go with you? Who blesses the road that is your own?


A small ping on a singing bowl tells us that the time is up. Susan steps forward to read the third poem:


FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FAR TO TRAVEL


An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.
_

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:


to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;


to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.
_

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.


Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel


to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.


 

Susan invites us into silence for five minutes to ponder these or other questions the poem awakens in our hearts:


What feelings arise in you as you read this invitation to the journey?


What are the vows, the secret promises that only you know?


What is the gift that only you can give?


 The singing bowl tells us our reflection time is over, and yet for some minutes all is stillness as we breathe in what we have heard, felt, seen and understood.

Now it is time to celebrate with food and drink and gits. Happy Epiphany!

 

Gathering Space for Solstice 2016

 

The moon in her last quarter offers us what light she has as we make our way through the darkness of early night to the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. We move quickly towards the opening of our Gathering Tent, eager for the warmth and companionship that waits within.

Longest Night is here. We have come to celebrate a Solstice Ritual in the deep darkness rather than in tomorrow’s dawn, which will bring the beginning of more sunlight, the first hope of longer days to come.

The interior of the tent is as dark as the night sky. It is difficult to make our way to the circle of large cushions with no light to guide us. There are a few stumbles, a few small collisions, more than a few stifled cries, but slowly our eyes adjust. We each manage to sit down with the minimum of grace.

Ruth will lead tonight's Ritual, adapted from Kathleen Glennon in Heartbeat of the Seasons.

Colette comes forward to light the fire pot. The silence gathers as we experience how wondrous  fire must have seemed to our ancient ancestors.

In the beginning there was fire
And fire was with the divine and the fire was divine.
Fire flared forth its magnificent light
Through fire all things came to be.
The universe began with a spark of fire, an explosion of light.
In one splendid moment light streamed everywhere.
The spark of fire contained the potential for all life.

Now allow the flame of the fire pot to speak to you;
allow it to connect with your inner light.


After a time of silence, Ruth says: In this prayer by Kathleen Glennon, the Holy One speaks to us of light and fire:

I am the light of your eye.
I am the glimmer of dusk.

I am the heat in your oven.
I am the warmth of your friendship.
I am the passion of your heart.
I am the glow of twilight.

I am the glory of the sunset.
I am the lingering light of the dying ember.

I am the reflection in your windowpane.
I am the kindle of brushwood.

I am the raging force of the forest fire.
I am the energy of the sun.

I am the radiance of your aura.
I am the transforming agent in your food.

I am the Light that shines through all that is.
I am who I am in light.


Let us reach out and bless countries and places damaged by the fire of war.
May the fire of love replace the fire of vengeance.
May the passion of compassion replace the fire of hate.
May the warmth of love bring healing into every situation.
May the flame of divinity within us compel humans to work for justice for all. Amen.

 

Ruth now invites anyone who has brought readings and poetry  about Solstice and Christmas to share them with us:


 Natacha speaks: This reading is from Starhawk’s blog written a few years ago:

Winter Solstice—the longest night of the year. Today... the sun is reborn. Each year the Great Mother labours through the long night to give birth again to the new year, to hope and light.
This year the darkness has intensified. But the message of Solstice is this: hope does not come once into the world and fulfill itself.

Hope and light must constantly be reborn, over and over again.

They wax and wane, and must be renewed.

That renewal, that birthing, requires labour. Labour means work, commitment, perseverance through that time when it seems you just can’t push any more. The cervix dilates slowly, pang by pang. The child begins to emerge, is drawn back, pushed forward another increment.


We are the labouring Mother, we are the spark of light. New possibilities kick and squirm within us. No, it’s not easy to bring them forth, but we are strong, and we are made for this work. Bear down…breathe…push. This morning the sun rises; each day a new world is born.

 

Patti Ann speaks: This poem, “How the Light Comes" is written by Jan L. Richardson:

I cannot tell you
how the light comes.
What I know
is that it is more ancient
than imagining.
That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.
That it loves
searching out
what is hidden
what is lost
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.
That it has a fondness
for the body
for finding its way
toward flesh
for tracing the edges
of form
for shining forth
through the eye,
the hand,
the heart.
I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.
And so
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still
to the blessed light
that comes.

 


Jean Houston speaks:

Christmas is about yearning for something to come into the world. It’s the story of the birth of love, of hope, of a Holy Child in huge danger of being destroyed, bringing a new order of possibility into the world, needing to be protected and nurtured so it may grow into a free and luminous, numinous being.

What is new in our time is the birthing of a whole new order of thought through the discoveries of the new cosmology creating a new mind with interconnectedness with so many sources of ancient wisdom.

I invite you to touch into your own yearning. What is the new life you long for in yourself? What is ready to be seeded in the darkness of this longest night so that we each leave here pregnant with a new life?

Solstice evokes YEARNING for the light, for new birth within ourselves, with all whom we love, with life on the planet and the planet herself, with “the love that moves the sun and the other stars” L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stele as Dante writes.

You may wish to write these longings, then later place them in a bowl on your home altar to hold them until next winter solstice.

 

Suzanne speaks: “Born of a Star” by Carolyn McDade is a song to assist us in this reflection:

Return, return to the darkness return,
this longest night of wonder
Return, return to the dream, return,
This holy night to ponder
Deep in the night, listen, 
Turn to the light, waken, waken
Deep in the night, turn to the light
Waken to sun’s ancient summons
We who are born of a star, who then are We?
We who are loved by a star, who then love We?
Deep in the night, listen, 
Turn to the light, waken, waken
Deep in the night, turn to the light
Waken to sun’s ancient summons
We who are born of a star, who then are We?


After the song, the silence returns. For some time, our companions sit, breathing in the silence. Each one, as she feels ready, rises and silently leaves the tent. Each of us will walk home for a night’s sleep, to welcome dreams of new life.

 

 Gathering Space for December 13, 2016


 

The moon is almost at her full, shedding silver-white light on the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. Those among us with small flashlights or light apps on our phones do not need them to find the opening into our Gathering Tent.We step inside the flap, quickly resealing it against the sea wind off the North Atlantic. Then, we look about in dismay. The inside of the tent is darker than the outdoors. Impossible to see the faces of our companions, to see where we might find a place to sit.


 

A match is struck and in its brief flare we see a woman bending over the fire pot. Now its orange flame gives enough light for us to make our way to the circle of cushions, to sit with our companions.


 

“Why aren’t the candles lit?” The whisper seems loud in the stillness. “Why is it so dark?” But neither question is answered. There is mystery here. Silence engulfs us as we focus on the one small flame that holds the darkness at bay.

 

Several minutes pass slowly, gradually transforming questions and uncertainty into a gentle breathing stillness. Into this peace-filled hush, a voice arises. We recognize the lilt of Ireland seconds before we know the voice. For here among us is Dolores Whelan, the teacher of Celtic Spirituality whom some of us met at Galilee at a Brigid Retreat in February of 2014.


 

“It is now six weeks since you gathered here to celebrate Samhain,” Dolores says, “when you welcomed the season of darkness. During that time, the shadows have deepened with the waning of the sun’s light in our Northern Hemisphere. Throughout the planet, there is deepening gloom: acts of terrorism, refugees fleeing for their lives, earthquakes and tsunamis, the growing concern over climate change.

 

“I thought we might sit for a time in the darkness, to hold our inner light and overcome any fear we may have of the night. I invite you to close your eyes, to block out the small flame of the fire pot, to focus on your breath. As you breathe in, draw in courage. As you breathe out, release your fear. Continue this slow rhythmic breathing until your inner light expands, like a waxing silver-white moon that dispels all the darkness within …..

Take five minutes to do this.

 

*****************************

 

“Now, open your eyes.”


 

The flame of the fire pot still offers its solitary light; yet, within us there is now a luminous sea of light.

 

Dolores’ voice continues: “With the festival of Samhain, we were initiated into the mysteries of the dark goddess, the Cailleach aspect of the feminine energies. The journey into this season requires a dying to what has been, a letting go of all that has been harvested up till now and a willingness to embrace the resultant void created by its absence. We are offered an opportunity to return to her transformative cauldron, to allow ourselves to sink into the beingness of that place of our potential rebirth and re-emergence.

“The cauldron is a central metaphor for the void in Celtic Mythology. This is the place where we bring those raw or unpalatable aspects of self, the difficult events of our lives, to be slowly transformed during the winter season by the healing energies of the Divine Feminine in her Cailleach form. In this place deep healing and transformation can take place allowing the emergence of a new possibility at springtime.

 

“This aspect of the Goddess can often seem ugly or harsh to us because it challenges us to relinquish much of what we are attached to but which no longer serves our deepest self. Even as this tough mother love challenges us, it also holds us in a wise, loving and compassionate embrace. This is the opportunity and challenge offered to us by the season and the energy of Samhain. In order to travel successfully and safely into and out of this dark season, we must learn and embrace the qualities that will support us in that journey. So may you embrace this Samhain season in such a way that you become the seed of your rebirth.”

 

We receive these words from Dolores in silence, each of us wondering how this embrace of the dark time might change the way we experience the season.

 

“Dolores, may I ask a question?” We turn towards Shirley’s voice coming out of the blackness, wondering what it is she will ask, wondering if she will ask the question rising in us… she does! “What you describe is so peaceful and deep. Yet I find that this season, these weeks leading to the Winter Solstice and Christmas, are the busiest, the most demanding of the whole year. How can we find time to reflect on the Cailleach and her Cauldron?”


 

Dolores responds: “That is the first question to bring to the Cailleach. Imagine the tasks that arise as you prepare for Christmas, especially those that are most difficult and unpalatable, the most raw, as ingredients that you put into the Cauldron. Do this quickly in your imagination each time you feel pressure or anxiety. Just toss it in. Invite the Cailleach, the sacred energy of the dark feminine, to work with these elements and transform them. Wait and see what happens.”


There is a pause as we take this in.


 

Suddenly light blooms around the inner walls of the tent. Quietly, some of our companions have been lighting tall white candles. Eagerly we look towards the place from where Dolores’ voice had seemed to be coming. There is no one there.

 

An image lights up on the inner wall of the tent. What Celtic magic is this? Beside the fire pot, beside the golden cauldron, the carved image of the Cailleach gazes at us, enigmatically.

 

 

 

Gathering Space for December 6, 2016

The early darkness of December has already risen, wrapping the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery in black velvet.  Only the delicate silver of the young moon guides our steps towards our Gathering Tent.

Inside, some of our companions have placed lighted candles all around the inner walls. The mysterious flautist is playing light notes that sound like an invitation to dance. As we take our places on the large brightly-patterned cushions, we feel our spirits rising.

“Is this a celebration?” Clara asks.

Adriana responds: “Some of us have brought poetry and songs about longing. It’s a way to experience Jean’s teachings on Ecstasy and Rapture in the Mystic Path. Noreen is going to start us off with a reading from John of the Cross.”

 Noreen speaks to us: This is the way Loreena McKennitt translates John’s poetry in her song, “The Dark Night of the Soul”:

 

Upon a darkened night the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright I fled my house while all in quiet rest
Shrouded by the night and by the secret stair I quickly fled.
The veil concealed my eyes while all within lay quiet as the dead.
Oh night thou was my guide, oh night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover to the beloved one,
Transforming each of them into the other.
Upon that misty night in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire ‘twas led me on and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still; it was a place where no one else could come.
Within my pounding heart which kept itself entirely for him,
He fell into his sleep beneath the cedars all my love I gave.
From o’er the fortress walls the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand caressed my every sense it would allow.
I lost myself to him, and laid my face upon my lover’s breast

And care and grief grew dim as in the mornings mist became the light

There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair.

 

After Noreen`s readings, we sit in quiet, taking in the beauty of the images, the tenderness of love expressed by this medieval mystic, poet, and friend of Teresa of Avila.

 

Ellyn speaks now: I have a 17th century Welsh poem about longing:

What is longing made from?
What cloth is put into it
That it does not wear out with use?
Gold wears out, and silver wears out
Yet longing does not wear out.
The moon rises and the sun rises,
The sea rises in vast waves,
But longing never rises from the heart.

 

Colleen speaks next: The Kalahari Bushmen danced their longing. This is a poem by Hafiz about longing and dance:


I saw you dancing last night,
On the roof of your house all alone.
I felt your heart longing for the friend.
I saw you whirling beneath the soft bright rose
that hung from an invisible stem in the sky
So I began to change into my best clothes
in hopes of joining you,
Even though I live a thousand miles away.

And if you had spun like an immaculate sphere
just two more times,
And bowed again so sweetly to the east
You would have found God and me
standing so near and lifting you into our arms.
I saw you dancing last night near the roof of this world
Hafiz feels your soul and mine calling for our Beloved.

 

Yvette speaks now: Hafiz has another poem about dance which I love. It assures us that our dancing is pleasing to the Beloved even when we feel we have not danced as well as we wished.

You have
not danced so badly, my dear,
trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.

You have waltzed with great style, my sweet, crushed angel,
to have ever neared God’s heart at all.

Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow, and even His
best musicians are not always easy to hear.

So what if the music has stopped for a while.
So what if the price of admission to the Divine is out of reach tonight.

So what, my sweetheart, if you lack the ante to gamble for real love.

The mind and the body are famous for holding the heart ransom,
but Hafiz knows the Beloved’s eternal habits. Have patience,
for He will not be able to resist your longings
and charms for long.

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
trying to kiss the Magnificent
One.

You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
my sweet, O my sweet,
crushed
angel.

 

Corinne is holding a CD as she speaks to us: I found a song by Carmel Boyle that is about dance and love and longing. I`m going to play it now as an invitation to each one of us to stand and dance here in the light of all these candles:

I waited in the shadow of the light
Looking down the corridor of life
Afraid to place my feet upon the floor
Yet knowing love was just beyond the door
I closed my eyes
Invited love to touch my very core
I closed my eyes
Invited love to touch my very core
And then a vision came before me

And the angel said “Come”
I lifted my eyes
The angel said “Flow”
I just let my heart go
The angel said, “Dance with me”
My spirit seemed light and free
Lost to music from above
We danced our way to love
Staying with the memory of the dance
Still brings a glimpse, that sacred glance
Knowing now the door is open wide
The gift of love is growing deep inside
I closed my eyes
Inviting love to touch my very core
I closed my eyes
Inviting love to touch my very core
And now a vision comes before me

And the angel said “Come”
I lift up my eyes
The angel said “Flow”
I just let my heart go
The angel said “Dance with me”
My spirit seemed light and free
Lost to music from above
We danced our way to love.

 

Following this dance, the flautist plays a merry tune for all those who want to continue dancing. Meanwhile, a few others in our group begin to lay out platters of fruit and cookies and something chocolatey along with hot lemon tea to refresh us.

We know now that longing is itself a source of joy, a cause for celebration.

 

 

Gathering Space for November 29, 2016

 

As November deepens into darkness, spiralling closer to Longest Night, the garden of the ruined nunnery becomes challenging to cross. Tonight we stumble against stones, withered stalks, low bushes with dried scratching twigs. The new moon has no light to offer us.

Only the sliver of yellow in the doorway of the Gathering Tent guides us forwards.

 

But once we are inside, the light of the fire pot welcomes us, illumining the faces of our companions with vermilion flame. They are already gathered in a circle, seated on the brightly patterned cushions that cheer the night. Many conversations are happening at once, in this eager catch-up on news.

 

Jean Houston has come to lead us in an ancient and mysterious prayer. When the buzz of voices softens to a hum and then to silence, Jean speaks to us:


The practice we are about to perform is what is called a zikr, or spiritual practice of remembrance. This particular zikr is so old that it may go back to ancient Egypt or even to prehistoric times. But it was taken up by the Sufis as central to the practice of the communion of the heart with the Divine Beloved. This is the kind of practice that the young Rumi would have been taught by his dervish teacher, which helped prepare his heart for the passionate search for and profound discovery of the Beloved of his soul. It remains one of the most powerful zikrs of love and communion that exists.

I will lead this practice for you as it is described in my book, The Search for the Beloved.

 

To begin, sit in any position that will keep your spine straight. Close your eyes and breathe very deeply, following your breath all the way in and all the way out.

 

This is a zikr of heartfelt communion with God, with the Beloved. As such it is a practice of the heart. It is a sound that you make deep in your throat and deep down in your heart. It is the sound of communion and it goes: Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm. Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm… There are three hmmms on each exhalation.: Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm. From deep in your heart. Be aware of the vibration in your chest as you make this sound.

 

Keep on doing this, and as you do, be aware of communing with that which you understand as the Beloved – God, the Beloved of your soul, whatever and whomever that may be. Know that this is the ultimate sound. It is the sound of babies at the breast. It is the sound of yum-yum-yum in all kinds of enjoyable situations and circumstances. It is the sound of union. It is a sound that is deep and ancient in the brain. It is the baby cooing, the waves meeting the shore after their long journeys across the ocean. It is the cat purring, the dog humming happily. It is the infinite wag of the tail.

 

And it is the deep connection. For those of you who are deeply Christian, it is union with Christ. For those of you who are Buddhist, it is communion with the Buddhic Nature. For all it is union with the deep Beloved of the soul, with the angel of the Self, with God-Not-in-Hiding.

 

And the communion is done remembering that the Beloved yearns for you, is yearning back toward you as you are yearning for the Beloved. Stay very focused as you make three hums on each breath. We will now start the practice formally with a cycle of thirty-three breaths (ninety-nine hums.)
I have brought you each a sort of rosary of thirty-three beads that will help you keep count of the zikr sounds.

(These are now passed around the circle.)

 

After thirty-three breaths I will sound a bell, and when I do, you will hold your breath—it will be for about twenty seconds – until I sound the bell again. While holding your breath, let yourself be filled with the deep sweetness of communion. You are opening your heart to the fullness of the zikr coming back to you from the Beloved. You will let the sweetness of communion –“like sugar melting” says Rumi --- move through you.


 

Then we will do ten more sets of the zikr, after which I shall sound the bell again. And again you will hold your breath and let the sweetness of the communion fill you.
All right. Preparing for this practice of communion, centering your attention in your heart, begin feeling the connection with the Divine Beloved. And beginning: Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm…Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm…Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm…


 (take time for this practice )

 

When the cycle of thirty-three and the cycle of ten are complete, Jean says:

In the tradition it is appropriate to acknowledge and give reverence.

If you wish, sitting in place you will bow slowly and deeply now to the Beloved who is within you. (we do this)

You now bow to the Beloved in others. (and we do)

And finally you bow to the Beloved that is. (we bow)


 And now sit quietly for a while meditating on your experience.

 

***************************************************************************

 

Gathering Space for November 22, 2016

 

Samhain has come and gone, leaving us in a darkness that will deepen with each passing day until the Winter Solstice. We come to the garden of Iona’s ruined nunnery, noting its ragged, dishevelled appearance in the muted light. The garden awaits the facelift of the first snowfall.

 

Our Gathering Tent is a welcome sight, offering shelter from the stiff winds, the cold damp air. We step inside.  And stop, our breaths caught in wonder.

 

The interior of the tent, from floor to roof, is shimmering with jewelled light. Slowly, slowly, we begin to recognize what it is we see. The canvas walls hold photographs taken by the Hubble Telescope in 2016. Stars, galaxies, huge swathes of our own Milky Way, glimmer in turquoise, rose, gold and vermillion, magically backlit to create a space of indescribable beauty.   

 

Someone has been at work here offering us this shining gift. Whoever has done this must know we have needed some heart-warmth, some assurance that we live in an evolving universe, guided by Love, moving us forward towards an Omega point.

 

 We slowly take our places on the colourful silk cushions, feeling we are within a Radiant Darkness.

 

A solitary sound arises. A flute sends a pure cascade of notes to swirl among the stars which surround us.

In the midst of this beauty, a voice reads a poem by Mary Oliver:

Sleeping in the Forest

 

I thought the earth

remembered me, she

took me back so tenderly, arranging

her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds. I slept

as never before, a stone

on the riverbed, nothing

between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated

light as moths among the branches

of the perfect trees. All night

I heard the small kingdoms breathing

around me, the insects, and the birds

who do their work in the darkness. All night

I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling

with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.

 

We are wrapped in beauty: sight, sound, and inner images awakening within. We each see ourselves at rest with Mary Oliver “on a stone in the river bed” under the “white fire of the stars”.  We take this deeply within for a time of contemplation.

Listen.  What arises from our hearts? 

We listen for a time in the silence, in the silence, in the deep and holy silence……

 

Gathering Space for November 15, 2016

 

The moon is not visible as a few of us later arrivals enter the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery here on Iona. The grass and stalks, the stems of vanished flowers, the low shrubs, still hold their green, their “veriditas” as Hildegard named it. November has been gentle thus far in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Let’s not go into the tent,” someone calls out. “Let’s stay here.”

A sudden gust of wind off the North Atlantic sends shivers up and down our bodies, and we walk with quick steps towards the open flap of the tent.

Inside we find our companions already gathered around the lighted fire pot, gathered in silence… we sit down among them on the few remaining large cushions, wondering if we have missed some beginning, some call to prayer?

 

Anne Kathleen senses our questions and responds:

Tonight as we began to gather, there was so much we were each carrying from this past week’s events that I suggested we might appreciate a quiet evening. We have lighted the fire pot and I have offered to lead us in a quiet contemplative practice that will take us into the darkness with peace.


You may wish to settle yourselves more comfortably on the cushion, and take some deep calming breaths before we begin.


 As you have noticed, the moon is just past her fullness. On Sunday night, she approached us more closely than she has since the 1940's, closer than she will be again in many of our lifetimes. I like to think she came near because we are in need of her light, of her strong radiant presence.

 

I invite you now to imagine the moon hovering just above your crown chakra, your place of connection with the light of the universe. Draw this imagined moon into your head through your crown, then draw it deeper so that it rests just behind your third eye, the chakra of wisdom, of true seeing. Now draw it further within you so that it enters your throat chakra. Draw it deeper still until it comes to your heart. Here let the moon rest, so that you feel your heart warming, expanding to hold the radiance.

We will stay here in silence for ten minutes, allowing light to fill our hearts. No words. When thoughts arise, gently let them go. Turn back to the light.  Let yourself be filled with love. 


 (a timer is set for ten minutes)


In her teachings on the mystic path, Jean Houston has quoted the Sufi poets. This poem by Rumi may speak to what we hold in our hearts tonight, offering us a way forward:


 

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

 

If you put your hands on this oar with me, they would no longer
lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is
your body.


 

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

 

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
Love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.
Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

 

Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

 

If you put your heart against the earth with me, in serving
every creature, our Beloved will enter you from our sacred realm
and we will be, we will be
so happy.


(Love Poems from God translated by Daniel Ladinsky, Penguin Compass, 2002)

 


The singer–poet Leonard Cohen died last Monday, November 7th. By a sweet synchronicity, his song “Hallelujah” has become the soundtrack for these days that have baffled and concerned many people across the planet. Let's listen to is k.d. Lang’s recording.

You may feel like getting up to dance, perhaps outdoors beneath the moon.

 

 

 Gathering Space for November 8, 2016

 


Iona has been graced with unseasonal warmth, creating a late summer from the scraps of these short autumn days... Yet as evening rises, with the sun's disappearance, the air cools down suddenly. We hurry towards our Gathering Tent, eager for its sheltering canvas arms. 

 
Already most of our companions are here. Most have selected their personal favourites from among the brightly patterned silk cushions. The eager exchange of greetings, questions, rises like a sussuration, peaks, then suddenly quiets to stillness.


Eyes turn towards the firepot, expectantly.   Barbara stands, moves to light the flame, then speaks:


I've had a weekend of hearing David Whyte's poetry. One of his poems speaks to me of this Season of Samhain. I've brought it to read to you tonight:

 Sweet Darkness


When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.


Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.


There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
tonight.


The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.


You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.


Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.


(David Whyte from The House of Belonging  ©1996 Many Rivers Press) 

 

There is  silence after Barbara 's reading, and then we ask that she read it again, and once more....

 

After a time of quiet, Colleen speaks:


I too have brought a poem that seems appropriate for the Season of Samhain when we gather again by our firesides. It was written by Anna Hines and it stirred me when I first read it back in the beginning months of our Communion.  

 
Playing With Fire

It's a dangerous game
filled with risks
but what alternative other than
sitting out the dance
sitting immobile in the shadows.


A most dangerous game
that will certainly leave you
changed
singed perhaps
or worse
possibly even consumed with its enticing flames.


but how else can one hope to illuminate the shadows
how else is one tested, strengthened, enlightened
how else can one hope to be fully alive
how else can one create a life worth living
if one does not make that dangerous choice
to dance with the fire. 

 

This poem too we want to hear read over and over, until its wisdom, its questions, singe our very hearts.

 

 Gathering Space for November 1, 2016
Ritual to Welcome Winter/Samhain

 

The fleeting warmth of the day has dissolved. The chill air in the garden of Iona’s ruined nunnery holds a hint of winter. Blowing off the North Atlantic, the wind whispers what must follow…. Yet we do not rush to enter the shelter of the Gathering Tent. The sliver of new moon cannot dim a sky alive with stars. The beauty of this night deserves our attention, our gratitude.


 

When we do finally pull back the tent flap to make our way inside, we find a group of our companions preparing the space for a ritual. Someone carries a broom to the back door of the tent while others arrange symbols of the autumn season at the centre of the circle, beside the fire pot. Two women are handing out colourful booklets to everyone, placing them on the empty cushions for those who have not yet arrived.


 

Once everyone is seated within the circle, Patti Ann comes forward to light the fire pot.

Now Noreen stands to welcome us:  Tonight we have a Ritual to welcome Samhain, adapted from Kathleen Glennon’s book, Heartbeat of the Seasons. In her introduction, Kathleen quotes Thomas Berry’s words: The entire universe is the great religious community. Its seasonal sequence is the primordial liturgy of all creation.

 

At the festival of Samhain, Noreen says, we are initiated into the mysteries of the dark goddess, the Cailleach aspect of the feminine energies. The journey into the season of Samhain requires a dying of what has been, to let go of all that has been harvested up till now and a willingness to embrace the resultant void created by its absence. As Dolores Whelan has taught us, we are offered an opportunity to return to the transformative cauldron of the Cailleach, to allow ourselves to sink into the being-ness of that place of our potential rebirth and re-emergence.

 

The cauldron is a central metaphor for the void in Celtic Mythology. This is the place where we bring those raw or unpalatable aspects of self, the difficult events of our lives, to be slowly transformed during the winter season by the healing energies of the Divine Feminine in her Cailleach form. In this place deep healing and transformation can take place allowing the emergence of a new possibility at springtime.

This aspect of the Goddess can often seem ugly or harsh to us because it challenges us to relinquish much of what we are attached to but which no longer serves our deepest self. Even as this tough mother love challenges us, it also holds us in a wise, loving and compassionate embrace.

This is the opportunity and challenge offered to us by the season and the energy of Samhain. In order to travel successfully and safely into and out of this dark season, we must learn and embrace the qualities that will support us in that journey. So may you embrace this Samhain season in such a way that you become the seed of your rebirth.


In your booklet there are a few questions to think about before the Ritual begins.


What were the blessings of Lughnasa/ Autumn?
What were some of the things that weren’t so good?
What blessings do we wish to welcome into our Gathering Tent our tent and into our lives with Samhain/Winter?

 

After a few minutes of reflection, Noreen invites us to gather at the back door of the tent. As the door is opened, some of us step back from the chill. Noreen reads from Heartbeat of the Seasons:

Spinner of the universe,
Rotator of the planets,
Turner of the seasons,
Align us to the rhythm
Of your heartbeat
At this threshold moment
When Lughnasa bids us farewell.

 

After a brief pause, Noreen continues: Lughnasa/Autumn has been a time of abundance, of colour, of blessing.

Let us recall some of the blessings of Lughnasa.

 We each call out a blessing of this season, and following each, we chant:

We give thanks to you
We give thanks to you

 

Noreen now invites: Let us acknowledge moments of pain, of difficulty, of negativity during the season of autumn.

 

We each call out a remembered challenge or difficulty, sorrow or pain….

 

After each person speaks, she is invited to take the broom to sweep the negativity or difficulty over the threshold out into the night.

 

Noreen speaks:


We rid our Tent
Of negative thoughts and feeling,
Of sickness and ill health,
Of consumer attitudes,
Of behaviours that disrespect humans, other species, or the earth.
We ask the earth to absorb and transform what we send into the night. Amen.

 

Now the back door of the tent is zipped closed. Our Communion is invited to move to the front entrance of the tent where Noreen reads the Welcome to Samhain:


Let us become aware of the energy of the new season of Samhain
standing on our threshold.
Let us hear its heartbeat and bid it welcome with its blessings.

 

We are invited to call out the blessings we associate with Samhain/ Winter.

After each blessing is spoken, we chant:


Fullness of life! Fullness of life! Fullness of life!

 

Noreen reads the Closing Prayer:


O Still One of Samhain.
Come into our home and into our hearts.
May the blessing of inwardness nestle within these walls.
Let our hearts beat in rhythm with the hibernating animals during this season.

May we find time to enjoy one another‘s company, to watch the night sky,
to relax by the fire, to tells stories, to share food and drink.
May the blessings of health and happiness be with all. Amen.

The ritual ends as we move to the chant: "Blessings of the Seasons"


 

Blessings from the Seasons (hands towards heart)
Blessings from the Night (hands to the sky)
Blessings from the Universe (lift arms and turn slowly)
To fill our home with Light (join hands around the circle)

Gathering Space for October 25, 2016

The night is wet with rain as we approach our soggy Gathering Place, the garden of Iona’s Ruined Nunnery.

Something is different today. We sense, then we lift our gaze to see, a canvas tent whose bulk now fills the whole of the grassy area within the low stones of the former Chapter House.

 

Its open doorway is flapping in the light winds, but plastic sheeting keeps the rain from entering. Our Seasonal Gathering Tent has been raised, offering shelter from the autumn rains, from the coming cold and snow of winter. Memories of its sheltering warmth and inner beauty fill us with eager delight as we enter.

 

Many of our companions are already here, have settled on the large cushions patterned in squares of beautifully-toned fabrics. Some of the cushions have been embroidered with scenes inspired by Iona’s history: the arrival of the boat that brought Columba and his companions to this island in the sixth century; designs that recall the Book of Kells which was created here; depictions of the wild goose, a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit.


 

Dimly, we hear the rain as it dances on the top of the tent. The sound only adds to the feeling of being enclosed in warmth, sheltered. Though the air outside is still mild, the chill of the rain invites fire. People begin to look with expectation towards the fire pot which sits at the centre of our circle. Kathleen O’Daniel stands and walks towards it. In a moment the oil receives the lighted match, and a bright orange flame leaps into view. 

 

Kathleen speaks:


As we gather today, we prepare to welcome the Feast of Samhain. For our Celtic ancestors, the three days that we now call Hallowe’en, All Saints’ and All Souls’ were one feast, marking the year’s end with a three-day festival. It was for them the time when the year turned from the bright masculine season with its intense activity of planting, growing, harvesting. They welcomed the quieter days of winter.

 

Samhain opens the time that Celtic teacher Dolores Whelan calls “the time of darkness, the realm of the goddess where the feminine energy principle is experienced and the season of non-doing is initiated.”


 

The early Christian Missionaries to Ireland had the wisdom to incorporate many of the Druidic feasts and rituals into the new religion. Celtic Christianity was closely bound up with the earth, the seasons, the daily swing from darkness to light to darkness, the balance and power of both masculine and feminine energies.

 

The dark time of the year was meant to be a time of renewal when earth and humans rested so that energy was gathered inwards to support what was happening deep within the earth and deep within the human psyche; the energy gathered in this season would be used when the winter had passed and spring brought new life to the land and the people. Samhain invites us to release whatever is not completed at this time; the early light of morning, the lingering light of evening must be released, along with the samos energy of activity and doing.

 

As Dolores teaches, “What is required in this season is for humans to surrender into the giamos mode of being, into darkness, active waiting, and non-doing that characterizes this time”. It is a time that has meant a lot to me, as my birthday falls on November 1st right in the midst of Samhain.


 

The next marker on the Celtic calendar will be the Winter Equinox. As we move towards the rebirth of the sun, we embrace a journey of deep surrender. Dolores describes this time: “The days shorten, the nights get longer, the earth draws its energy deep within, death and darkness are all around us.... we reside in the womb or cauldron of the Goddess where gestation and transformation happen. We are deep within the giamos period, where the experience of linear time is minimized, willpower is muted and contemplation of the ever-present form or ground of being is encouraged. Here the mode of being that is required is rest, passive attentiveness to the unconscious influences of the other world, together with openness to growth that is slow and unforced. This is the dream time where the seeds of new life, new ideas, new projects are nurtured.”

 

John O’Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, speaks of this season of darkness as “the ancient womb”. He reminds us that Night-time is womb time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.”


 

After Kathleen finishes speaking and returns to her place, we sit in stillness for a time, allowing her words to take root within, preparing our heart for this shift from active engagement in masculine activity to passive gestation, the feminine time of waiting.

 

We ask questions in the silence of our hearts:

What do I need to let go of? What unfinished work may I peacefully set aside?

What in my life needs to die so that I may prepare an inner emptiness where the new may find a place to gestate?

What are the longings whose time has come?


 

Kathleen asks: Does someone wish to offer a prayer or a response as we enter the season of the sacred feminine?

 

Natacha responds: What I have is a piece of artwork that expresses this time of Samhain. If you look closely, you will see the bright time gazing towards the dark time, as though ready to welcome her, as we too prepare to welcome her into our lives.

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space on Iona for October 18, 2016


 

The cool air of early evening brushes our skin, ripples our clothing, as we come into the garden of the ruined nunnery on the Sacred Island of Iona. The sun has not yet set, though its patina of gold offers little warmth. October is moving swiftly towards the Celtic Festival of Samhain. The dark quiet of the feminine time of the year will soon be here.


 

Many of us have brought wool shawls, sweaters or cloaks which we spread on the stones of the low walls, or extend across the grass, offering both ourselves and our companions a warm place to sit. With sounds like the low buzz of honeybees we greet one another, take time to catch up on the small and greater news of our lives since we last gathered here last week.

 

Jean Houston is with us this evening. Jean likes to remind us that when we wax poetic about “the earth” we need to recall that our bodies are made from the earth, and deserve our love and respect as truly as does our planet. Jean offers to lead us in a meditation on the Greek deities and their connection with the chakras of our bodies.

Athena's Temple in Delphi, Greece

 

We take deep settling breaths, clearing mind and heart of invasive thoughts or concerns, preparing an inner space to receive her words.


 

Jean begins: Think of a great pole that stretches from the center of the heavens down through to the center of the earth. You are at its center. Now connect with the fiery regions of magma at the center of the earth. Wiggle your feet, feeling them connect with this realm of fire, the realm of Hades, the world beneath the world.


 

Now look within to find what is deeply hidden within you, what truly matters to you. Acknowledge the home of Hades, a vast treasure house of latent potential. The realm of Hades/ Pluto is a place of wealth, the wealth you contain within you, rising from yourself….being human, this magnificent state of being, knowing, this Hades/Plutonic knowing. Persephone is here, ever young, ever beautiful, bringing hope and new light to the deepest realms in times of darkness. Light flashes, comes as gift from Persephone who flashes light and possibility through the darkness. Hades and Persephone together, Lord and Lady of the Underworld.

 

Move up the great pole of life to the great underground course of water: seas, oceans, rivers, springs: the flow of the River of Time. Let your body begin to shift and sway, moving through the water, taking on the power of Poseidon, god of oceans, avenger and protector of those at sea. When you are emotionally at sea, when your instinct is to wander through endless adventures, only to return where you started,”to see it again for the first time”, Poseidon is god of the unconscious, of beauty and terror. You are in the community of the sea, in the roaring, bubbling up of Poseidon, under your feet, pouring new waters on this time. He pricks you with his trident to wake you up. Around you wild creatures splash, invigorate you. Feel that ocean within. Sway, sink into the ocean, knowing you will be guided and protected by all the beings of the waters of the world.

 

Now your feet rest on earth, place of Demeter who embodies alternating cycles of plenty and fallowness, cycles of gain and loss. Demeter is the goddess of change, changes of season, the ebb and flow of life. Her power is inseparable from her daughter Persephone, provider and celebrator of the mysteries of earth, giver of oats, trees, corn, agriculture. Feel her in the plowed earth under your feet, the harvest that is her gift. Pray that others have enough to eat.

 

 

Let the sense of Mother Earth move from your feet up through your body so that your body is earthed in her embrace. You knees are a center. Hermes is in your right knee, the god of motion and becoming, the trickster. Hermes embodies the desire to move with ever extended reality. He is the embodiment of dream, the clever one there in your right knee, Hermes of the winged sandals. Rub your right knee and feel his presence. In what direction are you going? Straight? Right? Left? Backwards? Hermes follows you, your escort beyond doors that close behind you. Let Hermes guard your household and being.

 

 

Your knees are centers of spiritual gifts. The right gives. The left receives.
In your left knee is Artemis, the dancer, the one who loves nature and wildness, the virgin who belongs to no one. She is twin sister to Apollo, born first, then assisting her mother as she gave birth to Apollo, honoured as a support in birthing. Artemis helps with the soul’s solitude. The runner, dancer, keeper of wild things, of the beasts, is there in your left knee. Artemis is obedient to the powers of the moon. Let your left knee reflect when you are out there under the spiritual light of the moon. Feel the power of Artemis as she kneels on the earth, finding the herbs that purify and heal.

 

 

Bring your awareness to the root chakra where you sit. Breathe energy up from this chakra from the center of the earth, the part of yourself blessed by the earth, combining earth and fire. Here is the keeper of the life flame, Hestia, Lady of the Hearth, center of the house and the earth. Hestia holds the fire that lights the energy of our body and soul. Turn to her for energy, the Kundalini Goddess. Without her, we are adrift and lost. Hestia clears the energies of the root chakra, to send them up to spin energy as it rises through the other chakras. Hestia is purity and flame. She lets fires of light move through your body. Hestia will keep you protected and secure.


 

In the root chakra also is Hephaestus, god of fire, who shows you how to make beauty. He is master craftsman, the Olympian who works, forges links between nature and craft. Hephaestus is symbol of resourcefulness and creativity. He is a crippled god, whose feet are backwards, showing the dark side of those who depend upon machinery.


 

As you breathe into the root chakra, remember that you have everything and everyone within you. Think about something that you wish to create from the deepest part of your being. You have this god Hephaestus to take it from the fire of imagination to craft it in your life, to create and recreate your world.

 

Hera is the goddess of the pelvic chakra, of primary relationships, of marriage and all the stages of woman’s life with man. Her emblem is the peacock. Her breast milk created the Milky Way. Hera is the protector of connections, of family and relationships. She is a guide to sacred and beautiful speech with those you love. Hera will help you with relationships with the children of your body and spirit. Breathe out love for the children of the world, and for your own dear friends.

 

In your solar plexus is the god Ares who has the ability to make things happen. He is the doer, the one who never procrastinates, willing to be wounded for those he loves. Enlist him in the fight for what is right in your life story, as an ally. Enlist him to be energized and filled with the need to do and move where we need to serve.
Ares is red hot powerful energy.

 

In the heart chakra is Aphrodite, goddess of connection, of love and beauty, goddess of our more visceral yearnings, of the erotic and evocative in women and men. Aphrodite is a child of foam, of the sea, mother of Eros. She is from the place of endless sea foam, creativity, songs, the whisper of allurement. Feel your heart opening to the force of life, the archetype of love and loving.


 

When have you been in love? Pour this into your heart, being seized by joy. Think of all the friends you love. Pour them into your heart.

 

 

The chakra of the high heart is the thymus, the butterfly-shaped gland, belonging to the immune system. The high heart is the place of Psyche (soul) whose name is Greek for butterfly, and Eros (desire), her lover. Soul and desire. Let your thymus be embraced by soul and desire. Psyche has the capacity to fall so deeply in love with her Beloved that she could endure all manner of trials to be with him. Allow Psyche and Eros to be gods of your immune system for you know the power of desire to fuel your immune system.

 

The throat holds the chakra of communication. Here is the place of the god Dionysius and of Apollo, god of music, archery and healing, the god whose longing is for beauty, order, light and harmony. He is the god of clarity who invites, “know thyself”. God of sun and light and singing and verbal expression, it was Apollo who breathed into the throat of the Pythias when she spoke as Oracle of Delphi. Feel the energy of the god Apollo who told those who came to Delphi the truth of things. Breathe their gifts of expression from Apollo (clarity) and Dionysius (the full rich “go for it” expression).

 

 

In the chakra of the third eye, the place of wisdom, is the goddess Athena, goddess of wisdom, of civilization, weaver of all patterns, goddess of artisans, of trades people. Athena of the “bright eyes, so shrewd”, grey-eyed goddess who is “ever near”, whispering her counsel so that you grow in wisdom. Athena is persuader of peace, reconciler, weaver of body, mind and culture. The third eye sees beyond appearances, sees all problems as challenges in work clothes.

Ask Athena for a path that is true to your spirit in wisdom and clarity.

 

 

Breathe upwards towards the element of ether, the fifth element for the ancient Greeks. Rub your hands together, then bring them together in the shape of a crown. Hold this crown shape above your head. All that is above is pouring down through you: Zeus, the all-seeing high Lord of air and sky, the consciousness that illuminates all, the light that impregnates law, wisdom, beauty. Zeus guards the home, minds the storehouse, is the guardian of the polis, its moral power. The Greek playwrights speak of the “city of Zeus”, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all.

 

This is the transpersonal chakra, the place of your own entelechy, related to the purpose of the cosmos, to the One who enters into your time, to redream, to recreate. The lover of humans, the giver of justice and hope, pours energy into your crown, the place of the universal chakra.

 

Above this chakra is your own personal guiding star through which you are connected to the great pole, guiding star above and fire below to the center of the earth. You ride between those places, your own way of redreaming the gods. Here is the new dream, reality, possibility for your life for the world. Be filled. Accepting. Undoubting. And so it is.

 

 

Jean moves into silence. We sit here with her, bathed in silence. In possibility. In new hope.

The moon rises over the garden on Iona. We are still here, sitting in wonder, in joy.

         

 

Gathering Space for October 11, 2016

 

Though autumn’s golden sunlight warmed our day on Iona, the evening air is less kind. We come into the garden of the ruined nunnery wearing long sweaters, or wrapped in shawls. The sky is a watery blue. Before we leave, it will have darkened to night, embracing the light of the waxing moon.

 

A long table is laid at one end of the garden with plates, forks, napkins, wine glasses and some mysteriously domed large platters. Clara tells us that some of the Canadians in our Communion have brought apple and pumpkin pies from yesterday’s Thanksgiving Feast. After our time of sharing reflections and experiences, there’ll be a celebration.

 

But first, who among us would like to speak about something that is near to your heart ?

 


Natacha speaks: I remember a beautiful Fall evening a few weeks ago in St. Louis when I felt everyone's presence in the communion. I was so grateful for the energy, thoughts and dreams we weave together every week ... Synchronistically on that very evening, before I sat down for my weekly hour, I had a two hour meeting with like-minded innovators in my field where we discussed how we are all trying to implement change and help with innovation and science.

When I came home I spent a long time looking up at the evening sky. It was a special evening in St. Louis with a strong energy. We are going through a big shift. A new paradigm. As in our reflections, we transcend time and space to what Jean refers to as non-local time. I sense the big shift in our world as we become more interconnected. We are awake.


When in the gathering space, we encountered an archetype to bring us to see our reflection, I saw that a veil must be lifted in both myself and the world to let in more love, to have a better balance of giving and receiving. To let go of isolation on a macro level.

 

We sit in silence for a few minutes, taking in the images and insights that Natacha has spoken about, feeling the wonder, the hope, of the new paradigm that is rising.


 

Joy speaks:

I see in the mirror the Community speaking from their hearts and minds as co-creators with the Divine and presenting ancient truths in their own way. I see me being a bridge between today's medical model and mystical truths.

 

I note the way many doctors are worshiped today. Aesclepius, the Greek god of medicine, was also worshiped but he practised holistically using the mind, body and spirit rather than relying on chemistry alone. I see myself encouraging people to take more responsibility for their own health and to find a way to their soul through their bodies. The body is a storehouse of memories that need to be brought to consciousness so that actions such as forgiveness of self and others may take place.

 
After a time of quiet, Violet speaks:

The words of Thomas Merton have stirred creative fire in me: "everything is absurd when seen in isolation from everything else; meaning and value are sought only in wholeness."

 

I was a bee keeper for a few years and I learned that bees don't experience themselves as individuals. As Merton points out, the wholeness of the hive establishes their meaning and value. I saw this for myself when a bear came out of the woods one night and ravaged the hive. The following morning the remaining bees slowly circled the spot their home had been the day before. Over the next few days I found piles of them dead on the spot the hive had sat.


 

Shortly afterwards I was a passenger in a car barreling down the QEW in Toronto at night with a First Nations friend. The moon came up full and enormous and I felt how small I was. At that moment I made the connection that all beings on the planet are "cells" of Gaia's great body just as the bees were cells of the whole body of the hive. This was a paradigm shift for me that I didn't know how to talk about until I read Merton's words.

 

Yvette follows:

Violet’s words about all beings on the planet being cells of Gaia’s body move me to recommend the people of Haiti to your thoughts and prayers. We have Haitian Sisters on the southwest peninsula of Haiti where Hurricane Matthew hit. The little news we have received tells us: the four villages/cities where we live are inundated. Because a major bridge collapsed, Les Cayes and the smaller villages and cities west of Les Cayes are now cut off from the rest of Haiti and no one can reach them. Doors were whipped off their hinges; walls were swept away and many trees are felled, blocking whatever pathways or roads are left...

 

The people are walking in water (where it is not still raging as the ocean is still rolling onto shores) up to their knees and higher. Port-au-Prince has no electricity and as of this afternoon, it was still raining in the northern part of Haiti. The word is: the destruction is worse than the earthquake as water is EVERYWHERE. Our Province Leader there can communicate with only Les Cayes and has not heard from the Sisters in Port a Piment and Chardonnieres... it is a bleak situation ... terrible not to say terrifying for all concerned. Let us send them survival energy, strength, courage and steadfastness ... may our love reach into their hearts.

 

In a time of quiet we send the prayers in our hearts to the people of Haiti.

 

Now Mary Ellen stands to speak: Before our Thanksgiving celebration, I would like to read a Mohawk Prayer of Gratitude that was written by Gary Snyder in the 1930’s:


 

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing though night and day
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet in our minds, so be it…


 

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light – changing leaf and fine root hairs; standing still through winds and rain;
their dance is in the flowing spiral grain
in our minds, so be it…


 

Gratitude to Wild Beings: our brothers, teaching secrets, freedoms and ways,
who share with us their mild, self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds , so be it…


 

Gratitude to the Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers; holding or releasing, streaming through all our bodies salty seas
in our minds, so be it….


 

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding, pulsing light through trunks of trees,
through mists, warming caves where bears and snakes sleep—he who wakes us-
in our minds, so be it…


 

Gratitude to the Great Sky who holds billions of stars and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers and thoughts, and yet is within us—Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his wife. So be it.

 

“Let the celebrations begin!”    And they do!

 

 Gathering Space for October 4, 2016

As we come into the Garden on Iona this evening, we are eager to meet our guest. Because of our growing concern for and love of the planet Earth, we have asked the Keeper of Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations, to offer us an Indigenous perspective on what is happening.

 

 Chief Arvol Looking Horse is already seated on the worn stones that were once the walls of the Chapter House. Rather shyly, the first arrivals from our Communion greet him. As others notice his calm presence, they too approach, offering him words of welcome.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse

 

 

We settle quickly. Somehow we know this is not an evening for light chatter. It is a time to listen with careful attentiveness to a man of great wisdom.

Now he begins to speak:

My words seek to unite the global community through a message from our sacred ceremonies to unite spiritually, each in our own ways of beliefs in the Creator.


We have been warned from ancient prophecies of these times we live in today, but have also been given a very important message about a solution to turn these terrible times.
To understand the depth of this message you must recognize the importance of Sacred Sites and realize the interconnectedness of what is happening today, in reflection of the continued massacres that are occurring on other lands and our own Americas.


I have been learning about these important issues since the age of 12 when I received the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle and its teachings. Our people have strived to protect Sacred Sites from the beginning of time. These places have been violated for centuries and have brought us to the predicament that we are in at the global level.

 

Look around you. Our Mother Earth is very ill from these violations, and we are on the brink of destroying the possibility of a healthy and nurturing survival for generations to come, our children's children.

Our ancestors have been trying to protect our Sacred Site called the Sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, "Heart of Everything That Is," from continued violations. Our ancestors never saw a satellite view of this site, but now that those pictures are available, we see that it is in the shape of a heart and, when fast-forwarded, it looks like a heart pumping.
The Diné have been protecting Big Mountain, calling it the liver of the earth, and we are suffering and going to suffer more from the extraction of the coal there and the poisoning processes used in doing so.


 

The Aborigines have warned of the contaminating effects of global warming on the Coral Reefs, which they see as Mother Earth's blood purifier. The indigenous people of the rainforest say that the rainforests are the lungs of the planet and need protection.
The Gwich'in Nation in Alaska has had to face oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, also known to the Gwich'in as "Where life begins."


 

The coastal plain is the birthplace of many life forms of the animal nations. The death of these animal nations will destroy indigenous nations in this territory.
As these destructive developments continue all over the world, we will witness many more extinct animal, plant, and human nations, because of mankind's misuse of power and their lack of understanding of the "balance of life."


 

The Indigenous people warn that these destructive developments will cause havoc globally. There are many, many more indigenous teachings and knowledge about Mother Earth's Sacred Sites, her chakras, and connections to our spirit that will surely affect our future generations.


 

There needs to be a fast move toward other forms of energy that are safe for all nations upon Mother Earth. We need to understand the types of minds that are continuing to destroy the spirit of our whole global community. Unless we do this, the powers of destruction will overwhelm us.


Our Ancestors foretold that water would someday be for sale. Back then this was hard to believe, since the water was so plentiful, so pure, and so full of energy, nutrition and spirit. Today we have to buy pure water, and even then the nutritional minerals have been taken out; it's just empty liquid. Someday water will be like gold, too expensive to afford.Not everyone will have the right to drink safe water. We fail to appreciate and honor our Sacred Sites, ripping out the minerals and gifts that lay underneath them as if Mother Earth were simply a resource, instead of the source of life itself.


 

Attacking nations and using more resources to carry out destruction in the name of peace is not the answer! We need to understand how all these decisions affect the global nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions. Allowing continual contamination of our food and land is affecting the way we think.


 

A "disease of the mind" has set in world leaders and many members of our global community, with their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring peace.In our prophecies it is told that we are now at the crossroads: Either unite spiritually as a global nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives' eyes.


 

We are the only species that is destroying the source of life, meaning Mother Earth, in the name of power, mineral resources, and ownership of land. Using chemicals and methods of warfare that are doing irreversible damage, as Mother Earth is becoming tired and cannot sustain any more impacts of war.


 

I ask you to join me on this endeavor. Our vision is for the peoples of all continents, regardless of their beliefs in the Creator, to come together as one at their Sacred Sites to pray and meditate and commune with one another, thus promoting an energy shift to heal our Mother Earth and achieve a universal consciousness toward attaining Peace.


 

As each day passes, I ask all nations to begin a global effort, and remember to give thanks for the sacred food that has been gifted to us by our Mother Earth, so the nutritional energy of medicine can be guided to heal our minds and spirits.


 

This new millennium will usher in an age of harmony or it will bring the end of life as we know it. Starvation, war, and toxic waste have been the hallmark of the great myth of progress and development that ruled the last millennium.


 

To us, as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction. You yourself are the one who must decide.
You alone – and only you – can make this crucial choice, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.
Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.


 

Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?Know that you yourself are essential to this world. Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this world. Did you think you were put here for something less?

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending.

 

Deep silence falls among us after Chief Arvol stops speaking. After this silence helps to root his words in our hearts, Chief Arvol smiles gently.

"I shall now offer you a ritual, inviting you to join me in the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. It will be our prayer together for Mother Earth." 

 

The ceremony takes a long while. The sky has changed from twilight to full darkness. Ancient stars dance in the moon's faint light. We too are changed as we leave the Garden.

 

How will our lives be different now?

 

 Gathering Space for September 27, 2016


 

There is a stillness to this early evening, soon after the Autumn Equinox. It wraps itself like a diaphanous cloak around us, as singly or in two’s or in clusters of friends, we come into the Garden of the Ruins of Iona’s 13th century Nunnery. The usual energetic twitter and chatter of greetings is a low murmur, more a quiet stream than a babbling brook… until it quiets further into a sacred expectant hush.


 

It is Noreen who finds words for the moment: “It’s as if something awaits us. Something wonderful.”


 

By now we are all seated on the grass or on the low stone walls. Our recentReflections on Consciousness, on the interconnectedness of all of life in the Universe, have attuned our awareness, as well as our senses, to wonder.


Noreen continues: I have been thinking about Jean’s teachings on the Boundless Self. We have the potential to bring about the changes needed and called for in the Self, the Universe and Consciousness. Jean has told us that we live in a Universe of open-ended potential and we are partners in what is being dreamed up.

This challenge is ours - we are up to the task as we are infinite beings with infinite potential. If a magical being is here with us, let us trust that he or she has come to show us what challenges we are invited to take on. 


 Natacha speaks: “It feels like an imaginal presence, an archetype, someone who might show us the way forward.”


 Joy speaks, “Whoever it is, we need to welcome her. Just ask her name, and why she has come.”


Ellyn speaks now: “Might it be Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings? She came to us in the Garden last year to show us wisdom reflected in her water mirror. Might she have come back to show us further wisdom this evening?"


 Aingeal says now, “Yes. The water mirror. That’s an ancient Celtic practice called scrying.”


 

Anne Kathleen says, “I have my copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I read it every year in September. I'll find the page about Galadriel and read it for us:


They saw, as if she came in answer to their words, the Lady Galadriel approaching. Tall and white and fair she walked beneath the trees. She spoke no word, but beckoned to them.

 

As the words are read aloud, the Lady Galadriel comes, enacting her own movements just as in the story. The Garden of Iona is transformed into the place described. The Communion members, as though under an enchantment, follow Galadriel.

 

Turning aside, she led them toward the southern slopes of the hill… and passing through a high green hedge they came into an enclosed garden. No trees grew there, and it lay open to the sky. The evening star had risen and was shining with white fire above the western woods. Down a long flight of steps the Lady went into a deep green hollow, through which ran murmuring the silver stream that issued from the fountain on the hill. At the bottom, upon a low pedestal carved like a branching tree, stood a basin of silver, wide and shallow, and beside it stood a silver ewer.

 

With water from the stream Galadriel filled the basin to the brim, and breathed on it, and when the water was still again she spoke.

 

“Here is the Mirror of Galadriel,” she said. “I have brought you here so that you may look in it, if you will.”

 

The air was very still, and the dell was dark, and the Elf-lady beside (them) was tall and pale. “What shall we look for and what shall we see?” (they) asked, filled with awe.

 

“Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,” she answered, “and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that may yet be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell.

 

"Do you wish to look?” Now we are the ones wtih Galadriel, and her questions are directed towards us.

 

Each woman in the Communion responds, “Yes.”


 

And so begins the most wondrous of all our rituals on Iona. One by one, each woman steps forward to stand beside Galadriel. In the clarity and strength of her presence, each one looks without fear into the mirror.


 

And now it is your turn. Come forward. Do not fear. Look into the water.

Wait while the clouds on the surface clear.


 

What do you seek for your own life?

for our Communion ? 


 

What do you see?


 

Take the time you need. Afterwards, you may wish to move a little apart to make notes on your experience or to draw or dance what you have seen/felt/ glimpsed/ understood.

 

 

 

Gathering Space for Autumn Equinox
September 20, 2016

 


This summer evening, so near to the autumn equinox, greets us with surprising warmth as we arrive at our gathering space. The garden of the Ruined Nunnery still holds bright flowers: black-eyed susans, tall golden sunflowers, asters, anemone, the purple flowering spikes of vervain, the small blue Michaelmas daisies, and the brilliant, if unkind, goldenrod.


Are they, like us, finding it hard to let go?

 

Yet the mood as we gather this evening is one of joy, a celebration of this lovely weather as long as it wishes to stay, the joy of settling on grass and low stone walls that hold lingering warmth from the day’s sunlight.

 

Once we are each seated, and have greeted one another, we look about

to see who might begin the evening’s sharing.

 

Violet is the first to speak: Last week we were invited to consider what we want from the Universe, what the Universe wants from us and what both we and the Universe want together. I offer you my uncensored answers that arose in my sacred hour.


What does our communion want from the Universe?
Inspiration, support, guidance, love, relationship, contextual meaning.


What does the Universe want from our communion?
Synergistic weaving of our mystical experiences into a fabric

that informs and inspires local consciousness

and gives evidence that inspires all who look

with soft love toward the future.

To write our collective page in the book of tomorrow.

A dissolving of the bitterness of loss.


What do both the Universe and our communion want together?


To be aware of and in direct relationship to each other.

The mutual respect of deep listening.


Interdependent co-arising of synergistic potential.

To walk in beauty.

 

 

We receive Violet's words, allowing them to shape images in our imagination.

 

After a time of quiet,  Colette speaks:

What does our communion want from the Universe?

Guidance to live in the powers of the Universe consciously.

What does the Universe want from our communion?

For its powers to be lived out, manifested in us, through us.

What do both our communion and the Universe want together?

To create a place of well being where all can flourish wherever we are.


 

Aingeal responds:

"To create a place of well-being where all can flourish wherever we are ".

A peace comes over me when I receive these words. Thank you.

Yvette speaks:

A peace comes over me, too, when I hear the desire to create

a place of well-being where all can flourish wherever we are ...

 

Aingeal adds :

I feel I am winging through the trees on a zip line, high up,

feeling the fear and the thrill as I look down on the quantum field of our being.

Passing my sisters whizzing by, each of us calling out and laughing

at the sheer thrill of having let go, flying onward

on the fearless momentum of trust and joy.

I see thousands of zip lines crossing, forming our Indra's Net.


Yet it is only in the letting go that we come together to form our sacred Union.

In the creating and falling away, in the recreating, all in mid-flight.


What a fearless communion we are. In the magnificence of this movement

we know that our lines connect higher up through the trees and into the Unseen.

With All that is, and All that ever has been, and All that ever shall be,

is our sacred earthing, our strength, and our transcendence.

 

 

Anne Kathleen speaks: I brought a poem about the Autumn Equinox:

 

Balance
precise, precarious,
between day and night.

 

Earth readies herself to tip into autumn
leaning into loveliness of rare, golden September light
explosion of vermilion, scarlet sumac, rich madder maple,
orange, sienna, yellow amid everlasting greens...

 

Earth in autumn is at her most alluring,
her womanly last hurrah of intense beauty
before she freezes into Ice Queen.

 

I try to summon up sadness for summer’s passing
for warm nights when I lay on sand under meteor showers
the embrace of lake water cooling sun baked skin
the morning watch for deer, for heron, for wild duck,
the evening wait for wild sweet calls: whippoorwill, loon, wolf.

 

I love these things the way I love exotic places,
thrilling to visit, but leaving me hungry for home.


 

We have been, in recent years, honouring the Seasons in the Celtic Way.

With the Autumn Equinox so close, let us reflect

during our Sacred Hour this week on the question


that Dolores Whelan suggests in her Celtic Calendar:


What is it that is now complete in my life?

 

Dolores offers us  this as well:

Prayer at Autumn Equinox

As this cycle draw to a close,
May I have the discernment to harvest what I need
and release what is no longer useful for me.

 

May it be so!
And so it is!

 

 

Sounds are stirring in the garden just beyond where we are seated.

Is that a tinkling of crystal?

Yes! Some of our companions are arranging bowls of autumn fruit and berries

on a long table, beside plates of chocolate chip cookies

and the last of the summer wine. It is time to celebrate!

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space for September 13, 2016

 

 

 

We come today into the garden of Iona's thirteenth century nunnery. Worn grey stone walls all that remain of its Chapter House, though the silver plaque on the flat stone in the centre holds its name. Here the abbess and her sisters would have gathered to reflect together, to seek solutions to the challenges of their daily lives. They would have prayed, listened to one another, trusted in the guidance of the Spirit to show the way forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We who gather in this virtual space in the twenty-first century come with questions, concerns and challenges from our lives and the lives of those we love. But we are aware also of planet-wide challenges, for we carry in our hearts the entire human family, and all that lives on this earth. We are aware, as the women who lived here eight centuries ago were not, of the sufferings of the earth herself, the choking and poisoning of her waters, the depletion of her soil, the rape of her rain forests.

 

 

 

 

How much greater is our need for guidance, for knowing how each is called to be a presence of love and light in the midst of darkness. We need guidance as well for the future of our communion, knowing that our combined daily contemplative time, our deep listening to the Sacred Presence and to one another, our actions which flow from this, matter deeply to our time.

 

 

 

 

"I have brought Julian's book, Revelations of Divine Love," Colette says.  "May I read something? I think these words from Julian about the presence of Love within all of life will help us to begin."

 

 

I know well that heaven and earth and all creation are great, generous and beautiful and good….he who created it created everything for love, and by the same love it is preserved, and always will be without end.…
God is everything which is good, as I see, and the goodness which everything has is God.

 

 

 

 

Colette continues: "Let's settle now into a time of quiet, feeling our breath slow and deepen until peace fills us. Let us allow these words to strengthen us for Julian knew that Love was the energy of the Universe. If we ask, trusting in that Love to guide us, we will be shown the way to find our call, our place in the Universe as this Communion of Creative Fire that we are  becoming. We are not alone in the challenges we face, nor is the earth alone, for Love is present everywhere, transforming darkness into light, despair into hope, death into life."

 

 

 

 

By unspoken agreement, we begin in silence. We stay in this time of deep listening until our inner joy is stronger than our uncertainty.

 

While we sit in silence, the moon, coming towards her fulness, has slipped from behind a cloud and now sheds her silver blessing over us.

 

 

Natacha speaks now: "I don't know how the nuns who once lived here and gathered in this Chapter House began their time of seeking the way forward, seeking guidance for their lives. But I do know how Jean Houston has taught us to ask for direction.

 

"Do you remember that Jean sometimes invites us to take a blank sheet of paper, draw two lines downwards, creating three columns? Then we were to write at the top of the first column: " What do I want from the Universe?" and at the top of the second, "What does the Universe want from me?" and above the third: "What do the Universe and I want together?" 

 

"What if we each did this exercise now, only change the questions to read:

What does our Communion want from the  Universe?

What dos the Universe want from our Communion?

What do both the Universe and our Communion want together?"

 

There are groans of frustration that no thirteenth century nun would have dared to utter.... Then a chorus of voices: "I didn't bring paper". " Does anyone have an extra pen?" "It will soon be too dark to write!"

 

Natacha is laughing: "I wish I had my 3-D printer here. We could make our own pens and paper. But since we can't, why don't we dance instead? I have my ipad and will choose something with energy, no more gloomy classical pieces! While we dance, we can let the three questions sit inside us, and see what answers rise! Later, after we go home, we can write what we remember, and share it with one another on our facebook page!"

 

So the music begins and soon afterwards we are dancing beneath the surprised moon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space for Lughnasadh


July 26, 2016

 

The early evening is calm, comfortably warm with a whisper of a breeze, as we gather with our companions in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. Conversations among us are as soft as the evening, as we each speak of our plans for the remaining weeks of summer until we gather here once more in early September.


 

“By the time we see one another again, summer will be over,” Violet says.

There is a moment of silence as we take this in, and then a voice with an unmistakable Irish lilt says, “In the Celtic Calendar, summer is almost at an end. Do you know of Lughnasadh, the festival that welcomes Autumn? We celebrate it just a few days from now, on August 1st.”

 

The woman who is speaking is Dolores Whelan. Most of what we have learned in our time together about Celtic Festivals comes from her wonderful book, Ever Ancient, Ever New.

Dolores has taught us about Brigid’s Festival, Imbolc, which ushers in Spring, and about the Winter and Summer Solstices, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, and the fiery Festival of Bealtaine…. but Lughnasadh? The faces that turn towards Dolores express blank incomprehension.


 

Dolores smiles. “Shall I tell you of Lugh and his festival?”

 

For answer, we settle ourselves comfortably, awaiting the tale with eagerness.


“The Celtic god Lugh is known as the samildanach, the many-gifted one. Lugh represents the skilled masculine energy, with its ability to hone, shape, bring to harvest the fruits of the seeds planted at Samhain and nurtured during the dark giamos time by the feminine energy. At Lughnasadh, as in many of the other festivals, the important dance of opposite energies and roles is beautifully expressed.

 

"Tailtiu, the foster mother of Lugh, is the goddess who cleared away the wilderness, making the plains and fields ready for crops to be grown. She died from her efforts and is also remembered at this time; Lugh is said to have inaugurated this festival in her honour.

 

“In the wheel of the Celtic Year, Lughnasadh stands directly opposite Imbolc, where Brigid, embodying the primal creative energy, occupied the central role.


 

"Bron Trogain, an older name for this festival, may mean the sorrow of Trogain or the sorrow of the fertile earth. This may mean that the fertility of the harvest is linked with the death that follows its completion, again bringing together the polarities of life and death. The successful harvest requires that Lugh appease his adversary, Crom Dubh, who represents the aspect of the land that does not wish to be harvested or subjected to the rule and energy of Lugh. 

 

“The two-week Lughnasadh festival was a very important meeting time for the tribe, bringing people together to test their skills in many different disciplines. They challenged each other in a variety of contests and games held during the annual fairs in Lugh’s honour.

 

"The rituals at this festival included the acknowledgement of the triumph of Lugh, the harvesting and enjoyment of the first fruits, and the acknowledgement of the end of summer. It was a time of great merriment, especially for young people, who wore garlands of flowers and went into the hills to pick bilberries or blueberries. Marriages were traditionally held at this time of year.


 

“High places in the land, where earth and sky met, were considered the appropriate place to honour Lugh. At the ritual site, many of the characteristics and gifts of Lugh were enacted by mummers. The first sheaf of wheat, barley or corn was ceremonially cut, milled, and baked into cakes. These were eaten along with the wild blueberries or bilberries. The young folks’ garlands of flowers were buried to signify the end of summer.”


 

Dolores pauses as we take this in.


 

Natacha says, “It seems so sad. Burying the garlands, such a sad ending to the beauty of summer.”


 

Dolores turns to her, and says gently, “In the wheel of the Celtic year there is no ending that is not also a new beginning. Remember that when the bright days of the masculine summer fade, diminish, we are getting ready to welcome Samhain, the season of the feminine winter: days of womb-like preparation, dark days of incubation that will themselves end with Brigid’s Festival of Imbolc on February 1st welcoming Spring.”


 

Susan asks, “Is Lughnasadh still celebrated in Ireland?”


 

“Many of these ritual practices have died out,” Dolores tells her, “but an essential aspect of the Lughnasadh ritual is enacted each year with the annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo on the last Sunday of July. Puck Fair held in Kilorglin in County Kerry each August is another remnant of the Lughnasadh festival.”


 

Suddenly Colette calls out, “Look. Up there on the high ground. It must be the setting sun, but it looks like someone has lit a bonfire!”


We are all gazing westward up towards the hill. Something flames there.

When Dolores speaks, her voice is so soft that we almost miss her words:


“That is no fire, nor is it a sunset. That is Lugh, come to bless you, to promise to bring to fruition and harvest the seeds you yourselves planted in the dark engendering days of the long winter. Take his blessing with you until we meet here again.”

Ancient Celtic God Lugh

Gathering Space for July 19, 2016

 

As we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona this evening, we see that a few of our Communion friends have been here making preparations.  A long table leans  precariously against the low stone walls of the former Chapter House. It holds flowers, covered trays, and wine glasses...  

 

Will there be a ritual tonight? a celebration perhaps? It isn't yet time for another Celtic Festival....Someone remarks that there will be a full moon tonight.

 

Shirley stands to speak to us:

Tonight, once the full moon rises, we shall celebrate Mary Magdalene whose feast day is July 22nd. For the first time, her feast will honour her full status as an apostle, as indeed "apostle to the apostles" and "first witness to the Resurrection of Jesus".

 

Rather than bemoaning the 2000 years it took the Church to to acknowledge Mary Magdalene as she deserves, let's instead celebrate. We know that when one woman is honoured for her courage, her leadership and faithful love, all women share in being recognized for their gifts.

 

Mary Ellen speaks:

As we wait for the full moon to rise, we have a poem from Jan Richardson's book Circle of Grace. It was written as a blessing for Mary Magdalene, but tonight we also read it in honour of Maureen, our first Communion member to find herself now in the presence of the Light and Love in the Universe: 

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
John 20:16

The Magdalene’s Blessing

You hardly imagined
standing here,
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.

 

And now
you do not know
how to abide this hole
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
slams shut
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.

 

I tell you,
This is not a banishment
from the garden.

 

This is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate.

 

This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed,
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.

 

So let the tears come
as anointing,
as consecration,
and then
let them go.

 

Let this blessing
gather itself around you.

 

Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.

 

You will not remember
the words –
they do not matter.

 

All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.

 

After the poem, there is a quiet time of remembering Maureen, imagining her wonder

as she stands in the place of death and hears Love call her name....

 

Then our mysterious flute player sends a few pure notes into the sky to greet the moon.

The plates of cookies, chocolate squares, lemon pineapple treats are uncovered. The wine is poured. 

 

Let the celebrations begin!             

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space for July 12, 2016

It is a clear, somewhat cool, evening on Iona as we make our way to our Gathering Space in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. Those of us who have worn sweaters or shawls wrap them more tightly around our shoulders. Later, perhaps while we are still here, the moon will rise to bless us.

 

We find our favourite spots to sit, either on the grass or atop the low stone remnants of the Chapter House walls. The greetings, the conversations create a low murmur, not unlike the sound of the North Atlantic on a windless night as it brushes the shores of the island.


 

An invitation went forth inviting those who wish to bring a poem or a reflection on Radiance, and/or on Hildegard of Bingen who understood this Power so well, almost a millennia before physicists discovered it.

 

Violet has brought a poem written by Christine Valters Paintner:


The title of this poem is “St. Hildegard Strolls Through the Garden” I wish she truly would stroll through this garden for it would be amazing to meet her:


 

Luminous morning, Hildegard gazes at
the array of blooms, holding in her heart
the young boy with a mysterious rash, the woman
reaching menopause, the newly minted widower,
and the black Abbey cat with digestive issues who wandered
in one night and stayed. New complaints arrive each day.


 

She gathers bunches of dandelions, their yellow
profusion a welcome sight in the monastery garden,
red clover, nettle, fennel, sprigs of parsley to boil later in wine.


 

She glances to make sure none of her sisters are
peering around pillars, slips off her worn leather shoes
to relish the freshness between her toes,
face upturned to the rising sun, she sings lucida materia,
matrix of light, words to the Virgin, makes a mental
note to return to the scriptorium to write that image down.


 

 

When the church bells ring for Lauds, she hesitates just a
moment, knowing her morning praise has already begun,
wanting to linger in this space where the dew still clings.


 

At the end of her life, she met with a terrible obstinacy,
from the hierarchy came a ban on receiving
bread and wine and her cherished singing.


 

She now clips a single rose, medicine for a broken heart,
which she will sip slowly in tea, along with her favorite spelt
biscuits, and offer some to the widower
grieving for his own lost beloved,
they smile together softly at this act of holy communion
and the music rising among blades of grass.


 

After the reading, Violet invites us into a moment of quiet to absorb the poem’s lovely images, words, thoughts…

 

Now Noreen Speaks:


 

During the late eighties I was involved in a training program in Mid-Life and part of the work was for each participant to prepare a presentation on some aspect of Jungian Psychology. Since I had recently read ILLUMINATIONS OF HILDEGARD with Commentary by Matthew Fox, I chose for my topic The Mandala. The mandala represented the “inner self,” “true self,” “wholeness,” or simply “the infinite divine center” within each one. Displaying the Mandela’s illuminations by Hildegard was the perfect way to include the participants in the presentation. The illuminations gave me a sense of the Divine Spark or the Living Light which Hildegard experienced in her life.


 

Her explanation on ‘Radiance’ has changed my perception of everything that comes before my eyes. She tells us that radiance is the way we participate in feeling the energy of the universe and the way the universe communicates its beauty to us. Radiance makes it possible for us to feel intimacy and communion with the other.

 

The light therefore generated by another’s presence, whether it is a flower, rock, water or another person, is Radiance. At the heart of the Power of Radiance is our acceptance of the authentic beauty we receive by opening to the depth of another’s light.

 

In EnlightenNext Magazine I recently read a beautiful summary of Radiance. I quote: “In my view, the power of Radiance is an expression of the mysterious way in which the universe cannot contain the magnificence it houses. Instead it is compelled to express itself in ten million different ways.” (p. 41)


 

After we take quiet time to receive Noreen words, Clara speaks:


 

I resonate with Hildegard’s referral to radiant light. I see it mostly in people’s eyes. I have the privilege of offering seated massage to marginalized persons.
It’s really stunning to notice the difference in a person’s eyes before and after
the seated massage. I am conscious of the life-giving energy that manifests
this radiant light in myself and each one.

 

I bless each person with the words
“May God’s radiant light shine in you and through you”. I like the way Hildegard’s
Poetry, so full of images of nature and intimacy, touches my soul and my experience.

 

…..the breeze, helping the homeless, marginalized person, the dew comforting the depressed, downtrodden, the cool misty air refreshing the exhausted. God hugs you. And you are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God. These images come alive and speak to what I experience.


 

There are times when I don’t see the radiant light in the other although I know it is there. I pray through the seated massage that the tenderness, compassion and love of Christ will flow through my hands and trust that is something is happening even if it is not easy to see.

 

How close I come to the suffering God among us and how awed I am that I can offer comfort to an aching body that is filled with stress. It is so rewarding to actually see the hunger in a person’s soul being filled even if it is only momentarily.


 

I experience being guided by Wisdom in my prayer for each one during this sacred
encounter. I become aware of a deep communion occurring between Christ, Sophia, the person and myself. Without a doubt the positive changes that I see make a difference at a personal level and impact our world with a hope that care and kindness is a reality.

 

Again we want to pause in the stillness evoked by Clara’s words. After moments of quiet, someone looks up, draws our attention to the moon now rising above our circle of friends.

 

 

Yvette speaks:


After having lived several years in leadership positions in my Congregation, I took on other ministries: college teaching and then facilitation of meetings for other Congregations of consecrated women.


 

I sometimes live moments of wondering if my energies are being depleted. I have come to understand that I am psycho-spiritually strong, but need to tend to sufficient physical rest. Quips such as “I’m getting old.” or “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” fade into the background when I am facilitating groups. I go to bed very tired each night but know incredible energy and aliveness during the day. Yes, I know a passion for life, for compassion, and for liberating words or the Word. Others reflect back to me their sense of the wisdom of my years and of the light in my eyes.


 

Hildegard says:

I will tell you a secret about that divine light, about creative fire. The more you nourish it in your heart, the more it radiates out from you. The more you release it through your words, your deeds, of wisdom, of loving compassion, the brighter the flame burns. You will be a great burning, my beloved people, and in that fiery dance, you will find that you are, as I myself discovered, no longer aware of your years, but rather that you feel once more as young as a spring maiden. Shine on!


I hear her and say: Yes, shine on, Yvette!


 

Next Kate speaks to us:

Hildegard has had and continues to have impact on and in my life. She calls me to authenticity and courageous support of and for church reform especially in regard to justice for women in our church - for an acceptance of their gifts, their intelligence and their desire to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit in regard to ministry in our church.

 

Hildegard's fearless outspoken call for the mutuality of masculine and feminine in our personal lives and in that of the institutional governance in our church is mirrored in my own convictions and desire for the same.


 

I am deeply touched by her description of a universe filled with the melody of God's Love. I find myself listening for that melody in the trees and the breezes, in the rain drops and even in the thunder and lightning of a fierce storm. And sometimes I catch a dissonance, a cacophony of sound when I become more aware of the plight of persons dispersed by the horrors of war, the people starving in refugee camps, the homeless and persons who have lost purpose and meaning for their lives. I pray to bring all into harmonic wholeness and that the
collective fires of our Communion of Creative Fire will contribute to the "Unbearable Wholeness of Being" that Ilia Delio and Hildegard von Bingen have written about.

 

 

Silence rises within and around us after Kate’s words. After a time, a few of our companions rise, join hands, gesture to us to join in a circle dance. Someone begins to sing.Those who recognise the song join in as the circle dance goes on:


 

We will never, ever lose our way

to the well of her memory


And the power of her living flame

it will rise, it will rise again.

 

Someone whispers, “I thought that song was about Brigid.”
Another voice whispers, “They are interrelated. All those fiery women.”
And a third voice adds, “So are we. With them. With one another.”


 

The dance goes on.

 

 

 Gathering Space for July 5, 2016


 

It is a warm July evening as we come into the Garden of the former Augustinian Monastery on Iona. The air is fragrant with summer blossoms, alive with birdsong. We take time to greet one another before finding our own place to sit, either on the worn stones of the long-ago Chapter House walls, or on the soft welcoming grasses.


 

We have been reflecting on the presence of Sophia within all that lives, the beating heart of the planet. Mary Malone’s poetry offers us some lines about Sophia. Would someone read them aloud for us?


 

Joy’s voice rises through the evening air:


For Sophia is the splendour of eternal light
And immaculate mirror of God’s majesty,
And image of God’s goodness…


For she is more beautiful than the sun,
And above all the order of the stars.
Compared with the light, she is found before it…


Therefore she reaches from end to end mightily
And orders all things sweetly.


 

There is a time of quiet as these words settle within us creating an inner space of peace and beauty...........

 

We have invited Jean to lead us in a meditation on “A Visit to the Sophia” from her book, Godseed. We settle ourselves comfortably, preparing for this sacred journey.

Jean begins:

After a long spiraling journey upwards, you find yourself at the very top of a high mountain. You go inside the mountain to a path that travels downward in a spiral. Moving along the path down and around within the inner mountain spiral, you pass scenes of your own life, from your earliest infancy.

 

You see or sense yourself being born. Continuing on the path down and around, to your earliest childhood, you see yourself taking your first steps, forming words, reaching out and grasping things, learning to feed yourself. Further down you see yourself learning to tie your own shoes and attending your first days at school. Continuing down, you see yourself learning games and reaching out to other children. As you continue, you see yourself growing up fast and learning many things. You see your adolescence. Further along you observe stages of your life until today………..


 

Suddenly you find yourself at the very bottom of the inside of the mountain. There you discover a door of baked mud. Going through it, you find that it leads to a hallway and to a door of water. You pass through the door of water, and it leads to a door of fire. You pass through the door of fire, and it leads to a door of winds. You lean against the winds and pass through.

 

This door leads to a door of bronze, and you pass through. This door leads to a door of silver. You pass through the door of silver and find a door of gold.


 

At the door of gold there is a shining figure who says to you: “Through this door is the Sophia. Through this door is the Wise One herself, the incarnation of Wisdom. When you pass through this door, you will be in the presence of the Sophia. There you must ask your question. You may see her or you may sense her. But know that she is there. She who is Wisdom itself.”

 

When you are in her ambience, whether you see her or hear her or sense her or feel her, ask your question. Her answers may come in words or in images or even in feelings.


 

You now have four minutes of clock time, equal to all the time you need, to be in the presence of the Sophia and ask your question and receive her answers.


(set a timer for four minutes)

...........

 

Thanking the Sophia for her wisdom and kindness, and knowing that you can always return to visit her again, begin now to go back through the door of gold, the door of silver, the door of bronze, beyond the doors of winds, of fire, of water, of earth, beyond the spiral of the stages of your own life, reaching the top of the mountain. Now take the spiral path back down from the mountain.

 

Find yourself here in this moment, in the Garden of Iona. Open your eyes, sit up and stretch, and if you wish, write your experiences in a journal or make a drawing or sketch of what you found with the Sophia...

 

We thank Jean for leading us in this meditation. We think of how we might share the experience with one another.

 

Gathering Space June 28, 2016


 

This evening, as we come to our familiar gathering space

on the site of the Ruined Nunnery on the North Atlantic Island of Iona,

our thoughts and our hearts are turned towards the wonders of the universe.

Making our way to the garden we are speaking with one another

about the powers we have been reflecting upon

through Brian Swimme’s teachings: allurement and emergence,

cataclysm, synergy, transmutation, transformation…


 

Natacha asks,“Where is the place in the Hebrew Scriptures where Sophia speaks

of being present in the very beginning? That seems now more amazing

than ever it did before we knew what those first moments were…"

 

 

Colleen responds: "I have held the memory of two lines from our earlier

Reflections on Sophia/Wisdom. I believe they come from the Book of Proverbs:"

She is the divine order patterning all creation,

from the ancient oceans to this morning’s dew. 

 

At this point most of us are seated in our favourite places on the low stone walls or on the grass.  

Someone asks Colleen to say those lines again, and she does.

 

Natacha reflects for a moment longer before saying in wonder,

"from the ancient oceans to this morning's dew". 

 

Maureen is smiling. " I followed an intuition to bring words of a song tonight.

I think you'll be surprised at how well it follows this conversation."

Already a group of women from our Communion are moving among us,

handing out music sheets with the song-prayer “Ancient Love”.

This beautiful tribute to the Sacred Feminine Presence

was composed by Carolyn McDade, and many of us know it well.

A single pure note rises into the air. Good!

Our flute player is here this evening. Her notes will guide our voices as we sing:


 

Long before the night was born from darkness
Long before the dawn rolled unsteady from fire
Long before She wrapped her scarlet arm around the hills
There was a love, this ancient love was born.

 

Long before the grass spotted green the bare hillside
Long before a wing unfolded to wind
Long before She wrapped her long blue arm around the sea
There was a love, this ancient love was born.

 

Long before a chain was forged from the hillside
Long before a voice uttered freedom’s cry
Long before She wrapped her bleeding arms around a child
There was a love, this ancient love was born.

 

Long before the name of a God was spoken
Long before a cross was nailed from a tree
Long before She laid her arm of colours ‘cross the sky
There was a love, this ancient love was born.

 

Wakeful our night, slumbers our morning
Stubborn the grass sowing green wounded hills
As we wrap our healing arms to hold what her arms held
This ancient love, this aching love, rolls on.

 

There is a restful silence as the beauty of these images settles within our hearts.


 

Suzanne leads us in a meditation written by Bridget Mary Meehan:


 

The reading is from the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 8:


I therefore determined to take Sophia to share my life,
knowing she would be my counsellor in prosperity,
my comfort in cares and sorrow…
When I go home I shall take my ease with her,
for nothing is bitter in her company,
when life is shared with her, there is no pain,
gladness only, and joy.

 

“Take a deep breath, as if you were breathing through your toes

and let your breath be carried up through your feet, legs,

abdomen, lungs, mouth, nose – your entire body.

 

“As you breathe in, say silently, ‘Sophia’ while taking in

whatever you need from Sophia: wisdom, knowledge,

strength, joy, courage, comfort, peace, love….

 

“Do you remember a time when you felt whole?

... peaceful?...strong? … joyful? ...loving?...

 

“Do you remember a time when you felt alienated? ...

broken?...hurt?...angry?
lonely?... guilty?...

 

“How did you feel? What was it like? Why were these experiences

significant for you? How have these experiences continued to influence you?

 

“Did you experience comfort and counsel in any new way because of these experiences?

 

“Image Sophia, God’s Wisdom, as Counselor, wise guide,

who helps you discover meaning in your experience

and aids you in recognizing these experiences

as important touchstones of your unique spirituality.

 

“Image Sophia as Comforter who assists you to find

your own identity and strength in the midst of disappointments and sorrows of your life.

 

“As you reflect on your experiences what insights, feelings, thoughts,

images, memories, sensations, are you conscious of?

 

Choose a creative way to record your insights, feelings,

thoughts, images, memories, sensations, whether in poetry, art,

song, writing, dance or any way you wish.

You may wish to share what you create with our Communion.

 

 

(Brigid Mary Meehan in Exploring the Feminine Face of God)

 

Gathering Space for the Summer Solstice, June 2016


 

The soft light of evening welcomes us to the Garden on Iona. It is the time of Summer Solstice, the time when sunlight wakens us early and accompanies our evening activities. These are the days born from our winter dreams when the longest nights of December Solstice were followed by days whose dawns came earlier. This is the time when seeds planted in our hearts in winter’s darkness emerge into new life.

 

We have planned a ritual to celebrate the Solstice. Once all thirty of us have arrived, and found a comfortable place to sit either on the low stone wall, or on the grass, we begin with

“A Summer Day”, a poem by Mary Oliver:


 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself
out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar
out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth
instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous
and complicated eyes.

 

Now she lifts her pale forearms and
thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and
floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last,
and too soon ?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Mary Oliver’s question echoes around our circle, finds its way inside us….

*****************************************************************

 

After a time of reflection, another question is asked,

this one from Dolores Whelan’s Celtic Calendar:


What seeds sown in the darkness of winter
have now blossomed and opened in my life?

 

Our mysterious flute player (might she be one of the thirteenth century Augustinian nuns?) is somewhere nearby within the crumbled remains of the Chapel. Her notes rise to flow across the air, to clear our thoughts, focus our hearts, allowing memories of winter plantings to rise in us, showing us how those hopes have emerged, what they have become in our lives…..
After each woman speaks, the group prays together:

May you see and celebrate the triumph of light as it is expressed in all that flowers in you at this time.

While each of us remembers, recognizes, shares our blossoming, and receives the group’s blessing, the last light of longest day is slowly ebbing from the sky.

As the sky dims, then darkens, the full moon is rising.

 

 

 

Her light illumines our familiar garden with magic.


 

When the last person has spoken, it is time to stand, to move about, to begin the ritual we have adapted from Kathleen Glennon’s book: Heartbeat of the Seasons.


 

Opening: We gather in a circle around our unlit fire pot.

When the fire has been lighted, we sing, with these gestures:

Fire of the sun
- reach up to draw in the light from the sun


Fire of the stars
-reach up to draw the fire from the stars


Fire of the earth
-reach down to draw the fire from the earth


Burning
- cross your arms at your wrists and make dancing movements with your fingers

 

Fire of the rocks
-join hands and sway to the music for this verse
Fire of the clay
Fire of the hearth
Burning


 

Fire in the heart
-extend arms and place hands on your heart


Fire in the head
-extend arms and place hands on your head

Fire in our veins
-with your right hand gently rub the veins on your left arm


Burning
- cross your arms at your wrists and make dancing movements with your fingers.

 

Blessing of the Fire with Water from a Local Holy Well

We bless this fire with water from our holy well.
May the lighting of this fire inflame the hearts of all with love and passion.
May this fire bring blessings of peace and protection to all.
May this fire remind us of the first spark of light which flared forth
at the beginning of time.


Lighting of Candles

Each woman is given a small unlit tea-light. A large candle is lighted from the fire pot and light is passed around the circle for each one’s tea-light.

Hymn of Praise

Response after each verse: How beautiful the light!
How glorious its splendour!

Sacred this fire of midsummer’s eve.
Sacred the light of our sun.
Sacred are you, the Most Holy One,
Who kindles light and fire.

Sacred the moment
When you sparkled
Forth a fireball of love and creativity.
Sacred that kindling nearly fourteen billion years ago.

Sacred the birthing of supernova,
The fiery activity of stars,
The formation of galaxies,
The formation of elements.

Sacred the calling forth
Of our Milky Way.
Sacred the seeding of our sun
Aflame with brilliant energy.

Sacred the blaze that whirled
The planets and shaped our earth.
Sacred the formation of earth’s crust
And atmosphere.

Sacred the trees, the plants, the flowers
All kissed into light, into life by sun.
Sacred the fish that swim, and birds that fly,
All creatures that breathe the fire of creativity.

Sacred the creation
Of humankind
With sun’s burning love
And passion.

Sacred the seed of fire in all that is.
Fire that reflects your eternal light.
Each heart aflame with a flame of fire,
Each eye reflecting your burning love.

Sacred this holy night
Aglow with star-light, fullness of moon light,
Love light, fire light,
Candle light, God light.

 

Dancing around the fire


Finally, we express our joy, our happiness, on this Solstice night in a dance. In Irish style we will dance around the fire three times to the right. In our hearts we bless the numinous presence from an earlier century as she plays a lively dance tune for us on her flute.

 

 

Gathering Space for June 14, 2016

The early evening sun pours white-gold light over the grass, the abundant greenery of low bushes, the kaleidoscope of colour created by June roses, lady slippers, iris, foxgloves, primroses. As each of us arrives, the beauty of the garden stops us in our tracks. For a while the only sound is that of caught breath, low murmurs of delight and wonder.

 

Only when eyes and hearts have taken their fill of this loveliness do we turn our awareness to our companions, begin our weekly greetings and exchange of news. 

 

When the conversations die down, there comes that weekly moment of wondering: What will be our theme this evening? Has someone prepared a poem or song? a question for our reflection?

 

It is Noreen who speaks first: 

In these past weeks as we have been reflecting on the Powers of the Universe, I notice that several of us have gained insight into our own lives and relationships, our way of being on this planet.

 

So I wondered if this evening we might look at how our Communion reflects those powers in important ways. The Power of Synergy has me thinking about how we are weaving together a spirituality strong enough, supple enough to offer us guidance for these amazing times in which we have been blessed and called to live.

 

 

I had this idea that could be fun: As so much of what we share here and on our Communion page is in words, why not use gestures, body language, like a game of Charades?

Each of us in turn would stand in the centre of the Garden and show by gestures, by body language, one thread in that weaving.

 

We are all silent, lookiing at Noreen, feeling both shy and uncertain.

Noreen laughs.

All right. I'll go first.

 

Standing in the centre of the circle around which we are seated, Noreen lifts her arms to gesture widely, an embrace that draws in trees, and flowers, the sky, the earth, one fluttering robin. Then her arms are lowered, creating a circle around her heart.

 

Noreen then takes her place among us in the circle and asks, 

What thread in our tapestry was that?

The first responses are single words: earth, sky, grass, trees, flowers....

Noreen gestures that it is something more.

 

Silence. Then Mary speaks:

Our Spirituality rests on knowing that we are part of the earth and all that lives upon, within and around it. 

 

Noreen gestures for Mary to do the next Charade. Mary stands very still for a moment, then creates a circling movement with her hands, as they hover above her solar plexus, then lifts both hands up to the sky and down to the earth in an act of honouring.  

 


After some of us make a few guesses that make Mary smile, Anne Fensom says:

There is a sacred presence within us that honours the sacredness of earth and sky.


 

Now it is Anne’s turn to offer a charade.
After a pause, Anne wraps her arms around herself, then opens her arms to gesture around the circle.


 

This one takes longer, with many more guesses until Clara speaks:

We know we are held in love and that love is what we offer to one another…..


Anne gestures for something more…and Clara adds: and to everyone, to all of life.


 

The light is fading now and soon it will be too dark to continue the charades. Noreen invites each of us to think of the other threads in the spirituality we are creating together, and to write about them on our private Communion page.


 

Suddenly a small bright light from a flashlight pierces the darkness and Carol Zickell speaks:

I’ve brought a poem by W.S. Merwin that weaves us together with the stars. It’s called Nocturne:

The stars emerge one
by one into the names
that were last found for them
far back in other
darkness no one remembers
by watchers whose own
names were forgotten
later in the dark


and as the night deepens
other lumens begin
to appear around them
as though they were shining
through the same instant
from a single depth of age
though the time between
each one of them
and its nearest neighbor
contains in its span


 

the whole moment of the earth
turning in a light
that is not its own
with the complete course
of life upon it
born to brief reflection
recognition and anguish
from one cell evolving
to remember daylight
laughter and distant music

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space for June 7, 2016

 

We are nearing the time of the Summer Solstice. This evening, the Garden of the ruined nunnery on Iona is an earthly paradise. The air is warm, fragrant with late spring blossoms, alive with birdsong. We take time to greet one another before finding our own place to sit, either on the worn stones of the long-ago Chapter House walls, or on the soft welcoming grasses.

 

Jean is with us this evening. We greet her with joy, aware that it was Jean’s inspiration that led us to create our Communion of Creative Fire.

 

Jean Houston

 

Over the three years since, Jean has continued to offer us teachings and guidance. Tonight we have asked her to speak of the ancient times when the goddess was honoured.

 

Jean begins: As the remarkable work of Marija Gimbutas and others has shown, the culture of old Europe from about 7000 to 3500 B.C. was essentially a neolithic agrarian economy centering around the rites and worship of the Mother Goddess.


 

These were basically egalitarian male-female societies, non-patriarchal, with descent and inheritance passed through the mother and with women playing key roles in all aspects of life and work. The art abounds with scenes and symbols from nature, with sun and water, serpents, birds and butterflies, and everywhere, images, figurines, and votive offerings of the Triple Goddess in one or another of her forms as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. All in all, one gains the impression of a gentle, high culture, nurturing, playful and pacific.

 

This evening, I invite you into a guided meditation that will take us through the ancient times of the goddess, ending with a ritual celebration honouring Isis, from two thousand years ago in Egypt:


 

The Egyptian Goddess Isis

 

Select a partner and sit back-to-back, or in a position that keeps your back supported and straight, as we journey to the goddess and give her the crown.


 

Hold your hands in your lap as if you were carrying the crown. Envision the crown being made of the material that is the most sacred or appealing to you so that your gift to Isis will be unique to you. Is it gold, is it silver? Is it jeweled or enameled? Is it made of moonbeams? What does it look like, feel like? Is it heavy? Is it gossamer? Have a sense of the material and beauty of this crown. Now, begin to hum gently. You’re going to hum as you travel the path to the goddess.


 

 

See yourself in the foothills of a mountain. As you climb this mountain, you’ll find yourself passing through the realms of history.
In the foothills you pass early human beings. You see them worshiping a maternal figure of stone. Her body is very full, but her facial features are as yet uncarved. You pass by them, heading up this mountain on a spiral path until you see people of the Neolithic Age, planting seeds along with effigies of the goddess to ensure fertility. These are full-figured goddesses, but now they have faces, some with birds’ heads.


 

And you pass up and you pass through the great high civilizations of Egypt, see temples built to Isis and Hathor and Sekhmet and all the other representatives of the Great Goddess.

 

Passing still upward, you enter the Tigris and Euphrates valley and observe the rites of Inanna, Astarte and Ishtar. Climbing farther, you witness a simple fisherwoman in China praying to Kwan Yin, hoping for the goddess’s infinite compassion to shine upon her.

 

 

Traveling upward now through civilizations of South America, you pass the Aztec temples and see the worship of the goddess Tonantzin. Later, in the same place you see how she has been transformed into the Virgin of Guadalupe.

 

The Virgin of Guadalupe

 

In Africa you find people worshiping the goddess in her manifold guises, especially the thrilling and life-giving Oya. In North America you discover the goddess as she unfolds in the Corn Mother and Spider Woman and White Buffalo Woman.


 

 

Continuing up the mountain, you find yourself in Greece, where you visit the temples of Aphrodite and observe the Panathenaea festival to Athena. You join in the Eleusinian mysteries and participate in the drama of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone. In Rome you partake of the mysteries of Isis. While farther north you reverence the Celtic Bridget.


 

 

You pass onward and upward to Glastonbury and the isle of Iona, (yes this very place where we now are gathered!) where you encounter the rites of Cerridwen and her Holy Grail that contains every good thing. You observe the Druid priestesses who come under the name of Morgana.

 

 

You pass through the Crusades and see the devotion given to the Black Madonna, hearing the sounds of Salve Regina. Going up and up and up. You pass through the Middle Ages and you see and hear the sound of stone being hewn. You are in the midst of the creation of the great cathedral of Notre Dame – Isis raised in a later form.


 

 

And you pass up and up and up. You move through Renaissance Italy, seeing the glory of Leonardo painting Isis in the form of the Mona Lisa. Climbing up and up, you see Queen Elizabeth of England as Isis Astarte.


 

 

As you rise up and up and up, you see all the guises and variations – across time and through many cultures – of the Great One, the Beautiful One, the goddess in history. Finally, you reach our own time at the top of the mountain.


 

 

There you find a shining temple and you go into it, still carrying the crown. You know that you are in the realm of the goddess. The art and architecture here are very strange. They are both very ancient and very new, a blending of the distant past and the distant future. The ceiling contains star maps of other places in the universe where the goddess’s presence is honored and felt.


 

You find yourself approaching a throne, and you sense the presence of the Great Goddess on that throne. You approach her reverently and give her the crown, saying, “Great Isis, here is your crown.”


 

She bows to you with grace and elegance, and she thanks you for acknowledging who she truly is.


 

And then, here in her presence, she gives you a gift. It is a gift that in some way contains the essence of that which you require. It is a great gift and only you will know what it is. It fills an emptiness; it fulfills a need.

 

You have three minutes of clock time, equal subjectively to all the time you need, to receive the gift of Isis, the Great Goddess, the Great Creative Universal Principle. Receive your gift now.


 

(three minutes…..)


 

 

Having received her gift, leave the great hall of the goddess, knowing that she is always with you in whatever form she takes in your life.
Leave the shining temple and begin to go down the mountain, past all the civilizations and all the forms of the goddess. Through the present civilizations… through the Industrial Revolution… then the Renaissance… the Age of Exploration. Down and down, past the Crusades, past the Celtic times.

 

 

Down, down, down, through all the empires and cultures in which the goddess has reigned. South America, North America, Africa, the Far East. Down past Greece, Babylonia, Egypt. Down past the Neolithic era. Past the early cave people. Until you reach the bottom of the mountain of time and stand once again in its foothills.


 

 

Now, open your eyes and sense your gift. Sense its value and importance in your life. Know that part of what happens in the gifting… is that you are given the essence of what you need as well as the courage to accept new challenges and opportunities.

 

But above all, know yourself to have been recognized, honored, and gifted by that principle of creativity, kindness, and renewal that sometimes goes under the name of the Great Goddess.

 

We thank Jean for leading us in this meditation. We think of how our lives will be transformed as we weave this gift, this knowing, this love into our days.

 

 

x

Gathering Space for May 31, 2016

On this evening in late May, we gather in the garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. There is a brisk wind off the sea so we are clutching shawls, sweaters or jackets around us as we settle onto the worn grey stones that once formed the foundation of the Chapter House.

There is a murmur like the low hum of bees as we greet one another.

A sudden hush, a silence rises like a soft cloud, as one by one our heads turn towards a corner of the garden, where, once more, miraculously it seems, a woman sits on the other side of the window that once opened out from the 13th century nunnery. We know who she is. Though her fourteenth century cloak and headpiece are clues, it is the settled kindly wisdom in her gaze that gives her away. Beyond hope, beyond expectation, yet perhaps allured to us by our unspoken desires, Julian of Norwich has joined us once again.

Those among us who are not dumbstruck begin to murmur greetings, words of welcome. Julian smiles at our shyness, our wonder, our surprise.

“I am here because you drew me with your longing. You desire to understand so much about God, or... whatever name you use in your time for the Holy Presence of Love. I have no degrees in theology, and certainly never claimed to be a teacher, but I have known that Love in my life. What do you wish to ask me?”

Yvette is the first to recover enough from surprise to respond: “Julian, you said you came here because our desire drew you here. Will you speak more about desire?”

“It is through our desires, Yvette, our deepest longings, that God, the Holy One, draws us. Allurement. Is that not what your physicists now find to be at the heart of the universe? The galaxies are held in place by it, spinning in a dance of desire and longing. The earth is drawn to the sun, held in orbit by its attraction, just as the moon is allured to the earth, the tides of the seas to the moon, even the very blood of our womanly bodies is lured into rhythm by the moon. So with us. Our deepest desires draw us into the Presence of Love.”

There is silence as we take this in. Cynthia looks uncomfortable: “But our desires sometimes lure us away from God, don’t they?”

“Now you are coming to the heart of the question,” Julian answers her. “It takes a wise heart, Cynthia, and considerable practice to recognize deep desire. But if you trust in the Love that holds you in tenderness, you will learn to take your desires to their source by asking, What is it that I really want?

“When we are young, life sparkles like a sea of jewels and everything draws us. Slowly, often through painful errors, we learn to recognize the deeper joys and truest gifts.”

Julian seems to sense our confusion. She adds, “I didn’t say it was easy, only that it is the way towards Love, for it is Love’s way of drawing us. To close ourselves off from longing, to settle for a life without desire, may appear safer, may help us to avoid some suffering, but it will not lead us into Love.”

Ruth has a question: “But Julian, didn’t you yourself choose a way of life as an anchoress in order not to be distracted by other desires? You couldn’t even leave your anchorhold, smell a rose, see the stars, walk among people, go to the market?”

At this Julian laughs merrily. “Remember, Ruth, that I didn’t go into the Anchorhold until after I was thirty. In my time that was a goodly age for a woman to reach, her girlhood and youth long past. And truly I was lured into that way of life by a powerful experience of love. One night as I lay near death, I had conversations with the Love of my life: in my mind’s eye I saw the suffering Jesus. He taught me through that night all I ever learned of Love. The desire to become an anchoress followed, for I wished to be only in the Presence of that Love. But I wished also to have the solitude I needed to reflect on what I had learned, and to write it so that you in your time might know that Love is at the heart of our lives, at the heart of the Universe. I spent the next twenty years writing, “Revelations of Divine Love”. I wrote it, though I did not know it then, for your time, for people like you, Ruth, who seek to live the way of Love.”

There is a silence as we each absorb her words.

Then Adriana asks, “But weren’t you lonely?”

Julian looks at her. “Lonely? O my dear Adriana, how could I be lonely when half of Norwich passed by my open window each day. My anchorhold was beside the busiest road in the city. People began coming to my window to speak of their lives, their sorrows, their struggles. Like you, they asked questions.

“There were hours each day when I listened, then told them what they had just told me. I often smiled secretly as they called me wise for simply repeating their own wisdom. For I believe God‘s Spirit is in all of us, giving light, wisdom and understanding, showing us gently what we cannot see, what we are afraid to see, that we may show pity, mercy, and forgiveness to ourselves.

“From that same window came the scent of the red roses in the garden below. From that window, on many a night, I looked out at the stars. I was happy there in my anchorhold. Wondrously happy.

“And so shall you be happy, dear friends. For I pray God grant you all your good desires and longings. It is all in the choosing. It is all in the asking.”

Suddenly she is gone, leaving us without words.

Rosemary has brought her harp. Now she lifts it, begins to play some soft notes. The music draws us within ourselves. We remain in silence, allowing the deepest desires and longings of our hearts to rise.

Gathering Space for May 24, 2016

 

We, members of the Communion of Creative Fire, begin arriving in our Gathering Space, some of us on our own, or with a friend, others in small groups. Yet as each arrives, something wonderful happens. Each woman pauses, looks around this small grassy space, encircled by the low stone walls that are the ruins of a 13th Century Nunnery on Iona. For on this May evening the air embraces us with that perfect warmth that must be our body's own temperature. The lowering sun washes grass, low bushes, flowering shrubs and the fragile violets, daffodils, and foxglove flowers of May in liquid gold. In the distance, we hear the soft sounds of the North Atlantic as it sweeps the sand shores with a rhythmic swishing. The beauty is overpowering.

 

The usual chatter of our greetings is stilled. Each of us, as though by prior agreement, silently finds her favourite spot on the low walls or on the grass. The silence is a silk shawl enwrapping us. No one, it seems, wishes to remove it.

Susan whispers into the silence: "This must be what allurement feels like."

 

Shirley agrees: "Think how the sun has been loving the earth, alluring her to itself for these four billion years so that this beautiful flowering might happen."

 

Ruth adds: "The allurement of the sun to the earth and the earth to the sun creates this emergence of loveliness. Think what might be happening within us, inside our souls, our bodies, when we open ourselves to Love in the Universe."

 

Colleen asks: "Why are we so slow to recognize, to accept our own beauty?"

 

Yvette responds: "Maybe we are afraid of it. To accept our own radiance is to acknowledge that we are like the sun and moon, responsible for shedding light and love on all in our path, on those given to us in our lives."

 

Mary Ellen speaks: " If we in the Communion would give one another the courage  to shine, we could become beacons to all in our path."

 

Maureen adds: "More than beacons, what about pillars of fire? creative fire?"

 

Noreen smiles at this: "We would need to be sure this is a metaphor or we might be setting off sprinkler systems everywhere we go!"

 

Colette has been leafing through a small notebook: "Found it! I knew I'd written somewhere Marianne Willamson's words about our light and why we fear it. This is from her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"; Nelson Mandela read these words aloud in his inauguration ceremony:

 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' 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.


 

After Colette finishes the reading, silence once more rises among, around, and within us. So much beauty, so much challenge. We sit still, drawing it all in like sunlight, like music, like fine wine, wondering what will emerge.

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space for May 17, 2016


The wind off the north Atlantic is fierce this evening, despite the mild May temperature.  There is no protection from the buffeting in the open area where the Augustinian Nunnery once stood. We decide to seek partial shelter at the edge of the property where high walls remain.  Soon, we are comfortable enough. Sitting on blankets, our backs resting against the stones, we exchange greetings and questions about the past week.

We are happy to see that Maureen has made the journey to Iona tonight.

“It’s the power of the Spirit,” she tells us. “The Feast of Pentecost last Sunday gave me a boost of energy…. And besides, I’ve been thinking about Julian of Norwich. I’ve had an idea.”

 

We all turn to look at Maureen, wondering what she might have in mind. There is a rather alarming light in her eyes….

 

“I was thinking that Julian was living in Norwich at the same time as this Women’s Monastery was thriving. I wondered if this might be a place where she would feel at home.”

 

“What are you suggesting, Maureen?” Ellyn asks. “Is it what I think you mean?”

 

“Probably it is, Ellyn, ” Maureen says with a grin. “I think if we invited her to come here, Julian would say yes.”

There is complete and utter silence.

 

Undaunted, Maureen continues. “Look, we’ve learned about the way time past and present are one. We’ve learned about the continuation of life beyond death. And we’ve learned that the Power of Allurement draws to us those whom we love. So I thought we should ask her.”

 

More silence.


Then Mary Ellen says, “I think, Maureen, that as you have had the thought, you should be the one to ask.”

 

Maureen smiles. “Well, actually, I already have.”

 

“And what did she say?” Violet asks.

 

“She asked if there was a window she might sit at, to speak with us….

Well, it’s what she’s used to. So I said that there was one left in the ruins.”

 

Like puppets on strings, we all turn to stare at the window that Maureen is showing us.

 

 

 

For a few heartbeats, no one moves or speaks. Behind us a blackbird sings in the garden. Then silence…….

Then a sound so strange we do not at first identify it…… Laughter. From the other side of the window.

 

 

“If you could look upon your faces now, you would laugh more merrily than I do!”

 

We see a figure at the window, cloaked and hooded in grey wool. Though the face is almost hidden by the hood, the eyes are bright and wise and merry! And the woman is laughing at us!

 

“Well, have you nothing to say to me? To ask me?”

 

Ruth is the first to recover: “Julian, will you teach us how to pray?”

 

Julian turns towards Ruth and smiles. “Often our trust is not full. We are not certain that God hears us because we consider ourselves worthless and as nothing. This is ridiculous and the cause of our weakness. I know, because I have felt this way myself! But then Love told me this: I am the source of your prayers. First it is my will that you have what you desire. Later I cause you to want it. Later on, I cause you to pray for it and you do so. How then can you not have what you desire?

 

After a moment, Julian continues:

 

”Some of us believe that God is Almighty and may do all, and that God is All-Wisdom and can do all; but that God is All-Love and will do all, there we stop short. Dear Women of the Communion do not stop short, but trust that God is All-Love and will do all for our joy!”

 

Yvette asks the next question: "Julian why do you call Jesus our Mother?"

 

Julian pauses, then says, “I suppose it is what you now call an image or perhaps a metaphor.

"He who loves us so much, with such great tenderness, is not this the Mother’s part? I call the Christ our Mother because it is the Mother who best shows love, as the sea and the storm show power, as the flower shows colour. It seems to me that Christ gave birth to us through his great love as he died. Then having birthed us into life, he continues to feed us with himself through the Eucharist. That is how it is to my sight.”

 

Suzanne has a question. “Julian what must we do to be worthy of God’s Love?”

 

Julian leans into the window and looks straight at Suzanne. “Nothing.”

 

Suzanne is puzzled. “Julian, I wonder if you heard my question?”

 

Now once again Julian is laughing. “Oh my dear, of course I heard your question. And my answer remains. Nothing. In the one night of my visions, I understood that the love in which we are held is unchanging, and depends not at all on what we do. Jesus is our clothing. He wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us.

 

"It is we ourselves who hold Love away from us, believing we are not deserving. Oh, my dear friends, are you not now aware that you live within a universe that is continually alluring you with love, yearning for you, drawing others to you and you to all of life? Love holds the stars in place, and sets the earth on its spiral dance around the sun? Oh, you are so loved!"

 

 
Shirley is eager to ask her question: “Julian, if we are held in love, then why do we suffer?”

 

Julian looks at her with tenderness: “We suffer because we love. There is no love without suffering. In another sort of universe, where one could exist without caring for another life, whether human or animal or tree or flower or river or sea, there might not be suffering. But once we allow ourselves to give and to receive love, we are saying yes to suffering. That is the price of love. Human love. Divine Love. Agony enters in. But so does ecstasy. Who would wish to live without Love?

 

"You, dear women of Creative Fire are learning this. Be right glad and merry for God loves you. Love will never leave you. God wants you to be happy!”

 

There is something in these words that enters us, bringing warmth and joy so that we turn to look at one another in amazement. It seems only a twinkle of time, or perhaps it is longer, but when Maureen looks back to the window, she cries out: "Julian is gone!"

The window is empty. But faintly as though from somewhere far off, we hear laughter....  

 

 

Gathering Space for May 10, 2016

 

It is cool and rainy on Iona Island this evening.
A brisk wind blows from the sea, seemingly unaware that this is the lovely month of May...

In the open garden amid the ruins, a note, its inked words already smearing on the page,

suggests we gather down the road in St. Michael's Chapel behind the Benedictine Monastery.

 

Even with large umbrellas and rain jackets, we arrive wet and, if not exactly disgruntled,

certainly very far from being gruntled ...

 

 

 

The rebuilt Benedictine Monastery on Iona; the entrance to St. Michael's Chapel is to the left ( hidden from view)

 

Once inside the small stone building, where lighted candles soften the darkness,

where wooden pews are a comfortable change from the stones of the nunnery's ruined walls,

we feel peace envelop us.

By the time all thirty of us have arrived, shed umbrellas and rain-wear,

and found places to sit, a silence descends.


The silence deepens as each of us sheds the anxieties, distractions, concerns,

the everyday delights that usually fill hearts and minds.

it is a fertile silence, creating space within each one of us for the deeper thoughts, desires, hopes to arise.

We sit with this gift for a long time, stirring only when a ripple of awareness brings us back to the presence of our companions.

 

**************************************************

 

An expectancy arises, each of us wondering who may have suggested that we come here, and why...

 

Adriana stands, makes her way to the lectern. She looks at us, smiling like one caught in mischief:

 

"Yes, I am the one who left the note inviting you here. It was so cold and wet that I wanted to have our gathering indoors.

We have just celebrated Mothers' Day and the Feast of Julian of Norwich

which the Anglican/Episcopalian Church celebrates on May 8th.

In the Roman Catholic Church Julian is celebrated this coming week on May 13th.  

I thought we should honour these days with a prayer poem about holy women. 

"I heard recently that the number of people who left the Catholic Church in recent years  is more than 29 million.

Mary Malone has a poem that speaks to that.

I'd like to read it aloud, then invite us to take time to think about what we heard.

Her poem is called, "Jumping Sideways".

 

The numbers of lapsed, I read, are leaping ahead;
Year by year, “those who have fallen away” grow in numbers.
Churchmen – always the men—bewail the faithless ones.
Crisis time has come:
“If only,” they say, “they knew what they are missing.”

 

Perhaps, I think, they didn’t lapse.
Perhaps, like me, they just jumped sideways.
Perhaps the cornered, much-defined God of celibate men
no longer suffices for opening hearts and minds,
for questioning spirits and love-drained souls.

 

Suppose we asked the women:
“What think you of God?
What God breaks and heals your woman’s heart?
What woman-faced God
peers into depths of woman-being
and awakens echoes of integrity,
echoes of prayer that ring with truth?”

 

What if, I wondered,
what if women trod the forgotten paths?
What if the old, old voices
were raised again,
voices raised to a new face of God
by an old race of women?
What if the Woman-God of Woman-Christians mattered?

 

What if we proclaimed again:

The Woman-Spirit God of Hildegarde
and her Lady-Wisdom God,
who breathed God-knowledge into the sisters at Bingen?

 

The Mother God of Julian,
who is courteous and homely and knows no anger?

 

The God who is Lady-Love,
beloved of Marguerite
who led her on beyond the human-divine divide?

 

The laughing God of Hadewijch,
whose laughter makes no appearance
in all the tomes of learned men?

 

The dancing God of Mechtilde,
who laughed and leapt
and invited all to follow?

 

The sweet-smelling God of Gertrude,
whose perfume penetrated every corner of life?

 

The friendly God of Catherine,
who made friendship the core of a well—lived life?

 

The poor God of Clare,
who wished for nothing but to share this poverty?

 

The heartbroken God of Christina,
who healed the scars of cruelty?

 

The strong-voiced woman God of Hrotsvit,
who urged her to move
beyond the ancient silencing of women?

 

And the fierce God of Perpetua,
who looked into the face of violent death
and recognized a life beyond life?

 

And the human-divine face of Catherine’s God,
who mirrored her self to herself
in the mystery of shared human-divine life?

 

This is not falling away.
This is leaping for joy.

*****************************************

 

Adriana waits as silence rises in our hearts, a throbbing joyous silence,

a silence full of "What if's"...

 

Then Adriana invites us to ponder these questions:

 

How does this poem find an echo in our hearts?


How would each of us answer Mary Malone's questions: “What think you

of God? What God breaks and heals your woman’s heart? "

Which of the faces of God described by the mystics most stirs your soul?


Would you like to write a prayer? a poem? to express how Woman-God is for you?

 

 

Gathering Space for May 3, 2016

We have made plans for a late evening arrival at our Gathering Space for it is the dark of the moon. The sky is cloudless, clear, promising a perfect night for the adventure we have planned: star-gazing !

 

 

Past experiences on Iona have taught us to bring layers of clothing, as well as blankets to spread on the young grass. As we settle in, the air is still warm from the day's Spring sunlight.  Unable to predict the time when full darkness would allow us to see the stars clearly, we have come prepared with thermos bottles of hot chocolate and containers of freshly-baked cookies.

 

The waiting time offers a chance for conversation, for inquiring about one another's families, sharing the small surprises, joys, challenges that are woven into our daily lives.

 

As we converse, dusk is deepening. A few of us begin to gaze upwards, where quite suddenly, pin-pricks of light are emerging, needle-points entering the dark fabric of the night sky. The clarity of the patterns is startling. Without  moonlight to gloss over their radiance, ancient shapes are appearing, familiar to us as they were to our ancestors.

 

 

Mary Teske has brought a book, Exploring the Night Sky. Pointing out the Big Dipper, Mary guides us to see the last star on its handle, then to trace it as an arc, a full dipper length away, to locate Arcturus, bright star of the Spring Sky.

"Follow the arc to Arcturus and speed on to Spica." Mary tells us this is a saying among navigators and astronomers. Spica is another dipper length arcing away from Arcturus. The leading star of the constellation Virgo,  Spica is 1,300 times brighter than our sun.

Arcturus and the stars direclty above it form the constellation named for the herdsman, Bootes.

Mary guides our gaze towards a neat semicircle of stars beside Bootes with the name "Corona Borealis", the northern crown.

Now that we have learned some names and patterns, a silence arises among us. Each of us continues to gaze at the night sky, aware that what we are seeing is a sky already much changed in the time since the ight left each star to travel towards us. The light of Arcturus set out in 1980. At 36 light years from Earth, it is our nearest giant star.

 

 

"Isn't it startling to know that the light we see from Spica has travelled for 220 years, starting towards us just five years after Mozart's death?"

 

 

 

Gathering Space for Bealtaine

 

In the pre-dawn darkness we make our way into the circle of grass embraced by the low stone walls of the ruined nunnery on Iona. We have never before been here before the sun, never seen our companions like this: darker shadows against a grey sky. It is utterly still, without even the movement of light wind that heralds the sun.

 

Each of us has brought dry sticks, bits of gathered grass and heather and this we pile on the wood that awaits the Bealtaine fire.

 

On the edge of a cliff across the island is a pool that has been known for its spiritual power. Two of our companions, Shirley and Suzanne who have a deep affinity for water, who work for its healing throughout the planet, went there yesterday to collect water for our ritual.

 

 

this is the way they went

 

The large clay pitcher they carried back sits beside the readied fire.

 

When all of us have gathered, we stand in a circle facing towards the east. We chant: “Look to the East where promise is born; look to the East where the sun brings the morn.” Slowly, slowly, as we repeat the chant, the grey of the sky warms into shades of pale seashell pink, deepening into soft rose then into deep rose madder. Slowly, slowly, the golden orb of the sun appears to be pushing itself up above the horizon. In such a way, we who know it is in fact the earth on which we stand that is rolling towards the sun, we still experience the moment as did our ancient ancestors. We still speak of a rising sun.

 

At the moment when the sun becomes visible, Mary Ellen lights the fire, and as the sun’s light ripples on the water in the clay container, we come forward, one by one, to splash the water over our faces. Then with the water still wet upon us, we stand in the rays of the rising sun. The sun blesses us, blesses the water upon us. As we feel the warmth that come from sun and fire, and the wetness from the water, we ask for a harmony within us of the masculine/sun/fire energies and the feminine/water energies.

 

By the time all thirty women have completed the ritual, the garden is glowing with the full golden light of morning. Now that it is warm enough to sit down, we gather in a circle. There is a lightness in our hearts that bubbles up in spontaneous laughter. Someone begins to sing, “Morning has broken…” and we join in.

 

Kathleen O'Daniel has brought the Celtic Calendar that Dolores Whelan created, as well as Dolores’ book, Ever Ancient, Ever New, and offers Reflection questions based on the rituals we have just done:

 

What negativity left over from winter do I now release into the Bealtaine fires so that my heart is ready for the newness of life and work at this season?


What new fertility in my life, in my projects, do I welcome in the form of the young mother of early summer?


How shall I honour the harmony of fire and water, the masculine and feminine energies working within the land, within myself, within the work that I am called to birth?

 

Kathleen invites us to take these questions into our hearts as we end our time here with the Bealtaine prayer from the Celtic Calendar:

May I/we embrace the support

of the blossoming life force

and growing light as I/we step boldly

into the world to express my/our creativity.

 

Gathering Space for April 12 & 19, 2016

 

We approach the Garden of the Nunnery on Iona, relieved that the rain is holding off, that the sky, though splattered with clouds, allows the evening sun to bathe the grass and early spring flowers in softened light.

We’ve wrapped ourselves in shawls or sweaters, knowing the evening will cool quickly once the sun disappears. Some among us have brought large blankets which they spread over the grass. We sit down, trying to find a comfortable position, missing our large silk cushions from the Tent.

 

Earlier today, we each received an email, unsigned, with this intriguing message:

Poetry Reading Tonight in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery

Brigid spoke to us of the ancient poets of Ireland whose intuitive knowing called the community to integrity. Tonight in our Gathering Space, I invite you to read a poem, from any poet, of this time or the past, whose words touch your own deep knowing, and call our Communion to integrity. Write your own poem if you feel inspired, as they did, spontaneously, out of your own deep knowing.. I offer you mine for a start:

Communion
spun like spider’s web
from inner longings.
It stretches out among us,
criss-crossing in elaborate elegance
creating a fragile place to hold our dreams…
Somewhere a Holy One might rest.

 

In the centre of the grassy space, beside the large stone where the fire pot waits patiently for its lighting, a large open basket holds sheets of vellum, inscribed with what look like poems. A sign above the basket reads:

“Take one if you haven’t brought one.”

 

The basket is soon empty. While Sandra lights the fire pot, we each silently read what we have randomly chosen.

 

Now the poetry readings are about to start….

 

Colette begins: This poem is by Rainer Maria Rilke, written to a God of future times, mysterious, yet strangely comforting.

 

The God That is Coming

You too will find your strength.
We who must live in this time
cannot imagine how strong you will become –
how strange, how surprising,
yet familiar as yesterday.


We will sense you
like a fragrance from a nearby garden
and watch you move through our days
like a shaft of sunlight in a sickroom.


We are cradled close in your hands –
and lavishly flung forth.

 

Susan speaks: The poem I chose is from the Terma Collective. It presents a challenge to us to choose what matters most:

What in your life is calling to you?
When all the meetings are adjourned
and the lists laid aside
and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest.
What still pulls at your soul?

 

Carol Zickell reads next: In this poem the Sufi poet Hafiz invites us into wildness:


Leave the familiar for awhile
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

 

Ruth speaks of her choice: This poem by Mary Oliver reminds us that we are part of one another and our lives are interwoven with all that lives.

 

Poem of the One World


This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water
and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to
where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else
which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.


 

Anne Fensom speaks: This poem by Denise Levertov speaks to me about trusting what we hear in the dark so that we might share it with others in the light.

Writing in the Dark

It’s not difficult.
Anyway, it’s necessary.
Wait till morning, and you’ll forget.
And who knows if morning will come.
Fumble for the light, and you’ll be
stark awake, but the vision
will be fading, slipping
out of reach.


You must have paper at hand,
a felt-tip-pen—ballpoints don’t always flow,
pencil points tend to break. There’s nothing
shameful in that much prudence: those are your tools.


Never mind about crossing your t’s, dotting your i’s—
but take care not to cover
one word with the next. Practice will reveal
how one hand instinctively comes to the aid of the other
to keep each line
clear of the next.


Keep writing in the dark:
a record of the night, or
words that pulled you from the depths of unknowing,
words that flew through your mind, strange birds
crying their urgency with human voices
or opened
as flowers of a tree that blooms
only once in a lifetime:
words that may have the power
to make the sun rise again.

 

Ellyn holds up her page to us: This poem by John O’Donohue is called “For a New Beginning”. It speaks to me of the newness that we in the Communion seek:


 

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

We sense that we are filled to the brim with poetic thoughts. We will need to spend time with them on our own in our Sacred Hour. For now, we need to stand, to move, to dance.

 

Colleen has her ipad and finds us a song from Ireland: “I Hope You Dance”. Soon our poetry reading has become a celebration of music and movement. Here are the lyrics:

 

I Hope You Dance
(Mark D. Sanders/Tia Sillers)

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.


I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance I hope you dance

 

 

 

 

Gathering Space for April 5, 2016 

A Ritual to Celebrate Spring

 

We have been invited to bring spring flowers, essential oils and small clay pots with budding seedlings to our Gathering on this early spring evening. A light rain, more like mist, touches our faces as we walk towards the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona.

 

But what miracle is this? Not our winter tent, but almost as welcome … a large canvas cover carefully secured to four tall poles, offering shelter above an area large enough for all twenty-six of us to gather. Relieved laughter erupts as we find ourselves rain-free. We are as secure as if we were held beneath an outstretched wing.

 

Carol of Lightspring Glen has offered to lead us in a Celtic Spring Ritual from Kathleen Glennon’s book Heartbeat of the Seasons. A table covered with a cloth in shades of rose, green and gold stands along one side of the sheltered area, inviting us to place our spring flowers, clay pots with seedlings and our containers of essential oils there.
 

As we form one large circle, Carol reads the opening prayer:

Turner of the seasons,
Energy of the first flaring forth,
Source of newness and creativity,
Hidden activity in the darkness,
Align us to your budding presence
In this season of the spring.

 

Carol then sings the chant, inviting us to repeat each line, then to sing the entire chant together three times, dancing to the music as we feel drawn:

Listen to the birds
Spring is on the horizon
The sun is rising in the sky
Awaken, Awake, Rise up
From the sleep of winter

 

Violet reads from the Chinook Psalter:

Everywhere is the green of new growth,
The amazing sight of the renewal of the earth.
We watch the grass once again emerging from the ground.


We notice the bright green atop the dark green on the pine,
the fir, the hemlock, the spruce, the cedar.
The alder is already in leaf.
The old plum trees still blossom, leaf and give forth fruit.
The locust is late as always.


Everywhere and always the song of birds…bees raiding the orchard, raccoon prowling at nightfall, the earthworm tunnelling the garden, chickens and rabbits pecking and nibbling, the goats tugging to reach new delights… all are the ubiquitous energies of life.


O God,
May we today be touched by grace, fascinated and moved by this your creation, energized by the power of new growth at work in your world.


May we move beyond viewing life only through a frame, but touch it and be touched by it, know it and be known by it, love it and be loved by it.


May our bodies, our minds, our spirits, learn a new rhythm paced by the rhythmic pulse of the whole created order.


May spring come to us, be in us, and re-create life in us.


May we forge a new friendship with the natural world and discover a new affinity with beauty, with life.

 

In quiet, we allow this reflection to take root in our souls.

 

Carol invites us to get in touch with the energy of spring:

Let us become aware of the energy

of the earth at this time.


We, earthlings, are part of the earth

and pulsate with its energy.


Our bodies have springtime energy at this time.


Let us be fascinated and moved

by the wonder of spring,

and the power of new growth 

at work in our world.

Let us touch the earth at this time

and be touched by it.


Let us know the earth and be known by it.


Let us love the earth and be loved by it.


Let us discover our affinity with the beauty

and mystery of springtime.


May spring come to us, be with us,

and re-create life in us.


Each of us now takes a clay pot with seedlings from the ritual table. We spread our jackets, shawls, sweaters and blankets on the soft spring grass and sit down.

 

Carol leads us in a guided reflection:

Imagine that you are a seed that was planted in a pot of clay last winter.


At first you are afraid of the darkness.


But after some time you grow accustomed to the dark and settle into the clay.


All winter you are very quiet and still.


One day you notice that there are roots, long ropey fibres growing from your body down into the clay.


As the days go by, these fibres grow stronger and steadier.


You feel yourself rooted firmly in the clay.


You nestle into the clay.


Then one day you feel an irresistible urge to move upwards.


You try to ignore it but the feeling grows stronger.


Some hidden force seems to be luring you forward.
You push upwards.


A shoot emerges from the top of your body and pushes upwards.


It grows larger and larger until it reaches the top of the clay.


You are being lured forward by some unseen energy.


You know that you must make a final push to break through the clay but you are afraid.


You have grown used to the darkness. You have grown used to your home underground.


One part of you longs for the kiss of sunshine on your face.


Another part of you recoils in fear.


One part of you wants to follow the lure in your heart.


Another part of you wants to stay with the familiar, the comfortable.


Will you have the courage to move into the light?

 

...All now is silence as we weigh these questions…

Carol invites us:

Apply this message to yourself, and to your situation.
Will you have the courage to follow this lure, this pull?

 

Into the silence, clear lovely notes of a flute rise,a lark at break of day, lifting us into our response.

 

Litany of Thanksgiving


Chant: (response) Welcome to spring
with her lap full of flowers.

For the sap rising in all green things,
For the life force pulsating newness,
For the earth alive with freshness.
(response)

For the impulse of budding plants,
For the knowing that awakens flowers,
For the energy that dwells in hibernating animals.
(response)

For the yielding of winter to the call of spring,
For the sunshine that caresses the earth awake,
For the power that coaxes deep down things towards light.
(response)

For the lure that calls the catkins forth,
For the instinct that moves the birds to mate and nest,
For the playful energy of frolicking lambs.
(response)

For the creativity stirring in our bodies,
For the dynamism that prompts our growth,
For the allure that seduces us.
(response)

 

Blessing One Another

Carol speaks: I invite you to think of the blessing you need
to help you to break through, to move forward, to grow.

When you know what that is, choose someone in the circle and ask that person to anoint you with an oil of your choice, either on your forehead or your hands. If you seek energy, Jasmin is a good choice; if you need stimulation, choose lemon. For soothing ask for lavender.

 

When each woman has been anointed with oil for the blessing she most desires, Carol offers the final blessing:

May the knowing that opens the snowdrop be ours.
May the energy of the waking squirrel be in our veins.
May the song of the nesting sparrow be in our hearts.
May the dance of the daffodils be in our feet.
May the joy of frolicking lambs be in our bones.
May the glow of celandine surround all.
May the kiss of catkins envelop all.

May the morning dew rest lightly on all.
May the creativity of spring touch the hearts of all. Amen.

 

 

Gathering Space for Easter Week 2016

There is no wind from the North Atlantic ruffling the island of Iona. Early evening sunlight bathes the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery in molten gold. We can almost imagine we are warm. Almost.

Someone whispers, "I wish we still had our Gathering Tent".

We notice a group of our Communion women arriving together, nearly hidden beneath the piles of blankets, shawls and throws each is carrying. Our four northernmost members, Shirley, Violet, Anne and Noreen, joyously begin sharing out their treasures among us.

"We know that Easter week can still be very cold. We came prepared," Shirley tells us.

Soon we are sitting on the grass, snug as caterpillars in cocoons, wrapped in warmth, in kindness. Relaxed now, we share with one another the highlights of our recent days, news of our families and friends, concerns about tragedies that have shaken the planet in the week leading to Easter.

As the many conversations are softening into quiet,  Mary Ellen speaks up:

We have spent time together honouring many great women of the past whose lives, whose words, give us courage and hope for this time on the planet: our time. There is one great woman whose story we have not heard. Though this woman is recognized today as the first apostle of the Resurrection, for millennia she was dismissed as merely one of the women who followed, and mourned, Jesus.

The Gospel of John tells us plainly that Mary Magdalene was the first of his followers to whom the Risen Jesus appeared. It was Mary to whom Jesus said, "Go, and find the brothers and, and tell them... "

Outside the Cathedral of Salisbury in England there is a magnificent statue of Mary Magdalene, her strong body purposefully striding forth to bring the Good News that Jesus is Risen. Here is a photo of the statue:

  In her book, a warm moist salty God, Edwina Gateley  imagines in poet's words how Jesus might have given Mary her task as apostle:

Breaking through the power of darkness
bursting from the stifling tomb
he slipped into the graveyard garden
to smell the blossomed air.

Tell them Mary, Jesus said,
that fear will flee my light
that though the ground will tremble
and despair will stalk the earth
I hold them firmly by the hand
through terror to new birth.

Tell them, Mary, Jesus said,
the globe and all that’s made
is clasped to God’s great bosom
they must not be afraid
for though they fall and die, he said,
and the black earth wrap them tight
they will know the warmth
of God’s healing hands
in the early morning light.

Tell them, Mary, Jesus said,
smelling the blossomed air,
tell my people to rise with me
To heal the Earth’s despair.

After Mary Ellen finishes reading the poem, we hold our breath, then release it in wonder, smelling the blossomed air that Jesus smelled, feeling the hope his words hold for us, knowing that we, like Mary, are called to take to the planet the same good news:

though the ground will tremble
and despair will stalk the earth
I hold them firmly by the hand
through terror to new birth

Gathering Space for Spring Equinox

It is twilight when we gather in the garden where Iona’s Augustinian nunnery once stood. The muted light gives the early grass, the delicate snowdrops, the daffodils, the low stones that remain of the walls, a lack of clear definition. There is a sense of presences, moving like soft shadows, perhaps the spirits of the nuns who once dwelt here.

The tent of our winter meetings has vanished.

As we gather in a circle under the early evening sky, we each form and hold our intention.

At this time of the Spring Equinox, we seek to experience the earth’s harmony and balance.

The fire pot is placed in the centre of the circle, reminding us of Brigid, reminding us who we are as the Communion of Creative Fire.

We begin by facing south, inviting Cynthia and Joy, our southernmost members, to call the direction from Australia: Spirit of the South, place of the warm sun, of brilliant flowers, exquisitely coloured birds, rainforests, sandy beaches, let us know the joy, the playfulness, the celebration of summer.

We look to the west, inviting Jean, our westernmost member, to call the direction from Oregon: Spirit of the West, spirit of fulfillment and abundance, of harvest, completion, and thanksgiving, bring us close to the fruitfulness of our lives, the autumn days of our wisdom.

We look to the north, inviting Shirley, Anne and Violet our northernmost members, to call the direction from Sudbury: Spirit of the North, the place of courage and faithfulness, the place of winter’s rest and inward strength, draw us to the richness of winter’s gift of journeying within.

We look to the east, inviting Carol Zickell to call the direction: Spirit of the East, place of the rising sun, of newness and creativity, of starting fresh, align our hearts with spring’s gift of renewal.

Now we seek to get in touch with the energy of the Earth, as we each in turn read a section from the "Ritual for Spring Equinox" from Heartbeat of the Seasons by Kathleen Glennon:

At this time the earth in the northern hemisphere experiences a sense of balance.
The pendulum of the seasons rests for a brief moment.
The ebb and flow of life pauses for a moment,
A moment of harmony,
A moment of rest,
A moment when the fulcrum of the seasons is in balance.

Let us get in touch with the earth and feel her pulse at this time.
Let us attune ourselves to the twilight, to the magic of the in-between time.
Let us become aware of the struggle between light and darkness and the subtle
blending of both.

Let us become aware of the shapes of things in the twilight – the mystique that envelops everything.
Let us become aware of the last rays of the dying sun.
Let us be in touch with a sense of loss.

Let us also be aware of another emotion – the feeling of anticipation for the first rays of moonlight.
At equinox time, we have equal sunlight and nightlight.
Each of us is influenced by the rhythms of both the sun and the moon.

Sun energy influences our logical thought process, our analytical capacities, our decision-making skills.
Moon energy influences our intuitive capacities, and our aesthetic abilities.
We need both energies to be in balance—to be integrated, whole persons.


Candles are now passed to everyone in the circle. We each move forward in turn to light our candles from the flame of the fire pot.

When each person’s candle is lighted, we begin walking clockwise around the circle, balancing our lighted candle on our right hand, becoming aware of our body, our sense of balance, as we walk.

Now we move the candle to balance on the palm of our left hand, aware of our body and of sense of balance as we walk clockwise around the circle.

We next extend our left palm upward and place the right hand, with the candle on it, on top of the left, palm upward. Again, we walk clockwise around the circle and experience our sense of balance as we walk.

We take time to reflect on balance in our life:

Is there balance between
Work and play,
Activity and rest,
Logic and intuition,
Busyness and relationships,
Joy and sorrow?

We pause for a while to think about this.


We call now on the energy of the universe to support us in our efforts at balance and integration.
We call on the energy of the earth at this time – the energy of integration and harmony.
We call on the energy of the moon to re-align us to our intuitive, creative side.
We call on the energy of the sun to align us to our logical, analytical side.
We call on the energy of twilight to attune us to the balance of polarities.

Closing Blessing:

May the blessing of twilight integrate the light and darkness of all.
May the blessing of equinox balance and anchor all.
May the angel of balance support and strengthen all.
May all of creation be truly blessed with harmony and stability.
Amen.

Gathering Space for March 15, 2016

The light breeze coming from the north east carries a whiff of sea-air, though the early evening is mild. From its place low on the western horizon, the sun is still warming the air, lighting the green area between the ruined walls of the 13thc. nunnery here on Iona.

As we make our way across the grass to our Gathering Tent, one of our companions speaks with the heavy tones of a tragic poet: “Look thy last on all things lovely.” We turn to her in surprise. With the Spring Equinox less than a week away, surely things are on their way to being more lovely!

But it is our Gathering Tent that holds her gaze. “It won’t be here much longer. Didn’t it disappear last year on the Equinox?”

We go inside, already feeling the coming change. Tonight we will enjoy the silken softness of the cushions, the way the flame in the fire pot dances, the delicious sense of being sheltered from the elements, circling in a warmth that comes from friendship as well as fire.

Once we are seated in the circle, we look around at the faces of friends who have been gathering here with us from the beginning, others who have come more recently, delighting us with their wisdom, their insights, their questions, their questing. Twenty-six women we now number from Canada, the United States and Australia. There are also remembered friends, former members, still part of our circle of love.

Jean Houston is with us, though the planet is her homeplace these days. As we notice her glancing around the circle, waiting for the conversations, greetings and questions to slowly subside, we realize that Jean will be leading the gathering this evening.

As many of you know, Jean begins, I have been engaged in the formation of a group called "Rising Women, Rising World" made up of women who are leaders in many disciplines around the globe.

Over the decades, my work has taken me to more than a hundred countries. Everywhere I see the rise of women, moving towards full partnership with men. One of the most exciting features of life today is the proliferation of women’s groups, engaged in so many areas of human development from micro-economics to education to issues of justice to politics.

What I notice is that the groups that do best are often the smaller ones with intensive focus and perspective, sharing deeply, with a spiritual focus. You, in the Communion of Creative Fire, a group with depth, engaged in further deepening, have touched into the soul of what is happening, into something that is a necessity for the world. You have touched into a cycle of turning, where women’s spirituality is being activated. You have become a fold within a fold of the human/ spiritual quantum field of wisdom, serving both the local and the larger story.

You are part of a radical new paradigm. You do not know how these ripples you are creating will go out to reach others in a society, in a world, in transition. For right now, we are all in God school, on the outer wings of the galaxy… we are part of an experimental process, 13.8 billion years old, that could end in catharsis. That’s why you see the “old stuff” rising everywhere…


What is needed now is a new understanding of cosmology which creates a profound opening for a new spirituality. The two together will bring about the emergence of what is needed for our time, just as two parts hydrogen combine with one part oxygen to create wetness.

The silence that follows Jean’s words is suddenly riven by laughter – Jean’s ! “You are all looking at me like basset hounds,” Jean says through her laughter. “What's wrong?”

Suzanne responds, “I think we’re overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task. Like we’re the ones who have to save the world.”

“Well, you are the ones,” Jean answers. “We all are. What’s more, we have been given everything we need for this time and for our task. We just have to learn how to use the time, the gifts, the potential that we have.”

"Let me give you something now that will be of immense help to you," Jean says.

Wherever you are now within this circle, just stand up. Now hold up your hands patty-cake style. I want you to believe for the next few minutes that right there opposite you is your entelechy, your great friend, your essential self, your guide. It is as if this being is you if you had spent a thousand years developing your full potential. It is the part of yourself that is encoded with your higher destiny, your purpose for being.

This essential self, this entelechy, has a radiance that our local self often does not. The entelechy is in touch with both your life and the life of the universe. It is in touch with the wisdom of the earth and the wisdom of the heart. It can put you in touch with the unexplored continents that lie within your mind and your body, for it knows the maps of the soul and the treasures that can be found there.

So I want you now to receive this friend, this magnificent being who loves you so much–total, complete loving–and as your hands are up you feel this friend’s loving presence just moving through you, in you, above, within, around you. You feel yourself so loved by this great friend, this entelechy; so deeply loved, so empowered, affirmed, accepted, for this great friend is loving you now so much. You may feel a warmth suffusing your mind, your body, a great sense of affirmation. And, yes, the friend knows your follies but also knows your glories, makes no judgment, is looking upon you with so much love, so much feeling.

And you feel yourself so deeply nourished, nourished by this loving friend, nourished and nurtured. And in this nourishment and in this nurturing, the things–the great things within you that may have been put aside or shadowed– these great things come forward again. They are being loved into being. And with this love, this nurturing, you sense that you are not alone in the tasks, the great call that is coming to you for your life. Whatever is required of you, this great friend is with you to empower, support and cherish you through it all.

And this great friend, the entelechy, is here now with you for the rest of your life if you choose, the great companion of your way, to love you, to be with you, to open you now to the mystery of transformation. As your great friend, the entelechy, supports, guides, sustains you.

As you stand with this great friend, the entelechy, this great, great, loving friend, so many potentials are being grown in you. A sufficiency of intellectual and moral passion to explore new ways of being for your body, your mind, your soul, and with it the ability to present the availability of an unobstructed universe, both within and without. You are so loved, so received, so called forth by this great friend, this one who loves you absolutely.

So many new potentials are being activated–potentials for imagination and for creation, potentials to choose the best paths, potentials to enhance your senses. Your touching hands become more vivid. You may actually begin to feel something of the friend’s hands on yours, a winged gift, perhaps a slight electrical impulse. And now feeling, being utterly with The Friend, utterly with
The Friend, so deeply loved, so richly called forth in the presence of the very wonderful friend.

And now taking a very deep breath. As you’re taking your deep breath, thank The Friend. You’re going to find these potentials will be emerging more and more.

I invite you now to lower your hands, and sit down again.
This practice of communing with the entelechy is one you may do often, even every day. Gradually you will come to trust that you are not alone in the great work life calls you to, in the work you have committed to by joining the Communion of Creative Fire. Joy will grow in you and spill over into other aspects of your life, your work, your relationships.

You have taken on a great task. It will require courage of you, as well as trust. You are called to be a container for the new spirituality that is rising around the planet. A clay container, as you know, is fired in a kiln. Don’t fear the fire, the creative fire that sears you, for it creates a new capacity within you to hold the sacred rain.

Silence fills the inner spaces of the tent.

After a time, Jean speaks. “I think we need to move. To dance. I have Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto on my ipad.”

And so we dance, and fears fly off into oblivion as power rises within us, the joy of being invited to co-create something that is important, necessary, for the universe for our time.

           

Gathering Space for March 8, 2016

International Women’s Day

It is the dark of the moon as we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery. No veiled light reaches us through the clouds of the night sky. Yet a ruffling breeze through air warmer than winter stirs a memory, a hope of spring.

It is still too cold to gather outdoors. We enter the Communion tent.

At once we notice a change. Our circle has been widened, the large embroidered cushions arranged at the room’s outer edges. In the centre of the room sits our fire pot, already lighted. Around it, four of our Communion members have placed themselves in a circle, each facing outward in a different direction. There is a whispered discussion going on among them, a rearranging of positions, some questions about who is to begin…. Ahhhh! A ritual!

Eagerly we take our places on the cushions, wondering aloud what the theme will be. It is not yet Equinox. It isn’t Earth Day or Water Day… Two of our companions get it in the same moment, speaking as one: “Women’s Day!”

Maureen steps into the centre of the circle and speaks:

Those of us who gathered in Guelph for the “Fires of September” in 2015 experienced a ritual created by Rosemary to honour the four godmothers of our Communion. We have adapted this ritual as a way for us to celebrate International Women’s Day.

I invite you to stand and join hands around the outer circle. Let all disturbing thoughts be laid aside.

Let us take three breaths….
Together with Earth beneath us….
Together with Sky above us….
Together with the Sea around us….

With the blessings of Earth, Sea and Sky may our ritual begin!

We now release our hands and face the East: O Beloved, we greet you and honour you, and ask for your blessing!

We look into the faces that surround us in this circle:

O Holy One of this place, O Sacred One of this circle, we ask for your blessings, your guidance, and your inspiration for this evening’s ritual.

May there be Peace in the North.
May there be Peace in the South.
May there be Peace in the West.
May there be Peace in the East.

May there be peace throughout the whole world.

Maureen tells us that MARY ELLEN will hold the energies of the East, JOY the South, SUZANNE the West, and SHIRLEY the North.

MARY ELLEN turns to face the EAST and speaks:

With the blessing of BRIGID, Goddess and Saint, Wise Woman of healing and compassion, who saw no separation between the inner and outer worlds, who became the muse of poets and the patroness of smithcraft, we call upon the powers of the EAST.

JOY turns to face SOUTH and speaks:

With the blessing of JULIAN of NORWICH who intuitively understood that the universe is woven together in love, that the goodness of God is always complete and as close to us as our clothing, wrapping and enfolding us for love, we call upon the powers of the SOUTH.

SUZANNE turns to face WEST and speaks:

With the blessing of HILDEGARD of BINGEN who listened deeply to a voice that came from within, pondered the meaning of mysteries she saw around her, then spoke of what she had come to know, we call upon the powers of the WEST.

SHIRLEY turns to face NORTH and speaks:

With the blessing of RABIA of BASRA, who when God said, “My hands are yours,” saw that she could heal any creature in this world and that divine beauty in each heart is the root of all time and space, we call upon the powers of the NORTH.


(All four women turn to face into the circle.)
ALL: May the harmony of our circle be complete.


Maureen now passes around papers holding the words of women who have been inspirations to us in our Communion:

Ellyn reads from Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th c. Benedictine Abbess, musician, artist, herbalist, and theologian:

From my infancy until now, in the 70th year of my age, my soul has always beheld this Light, and in it my soul soars to the summit of the firmament and into a different air....The brightness which I see is not limited by space and is more brilliant than the radiance around the sun .... I cannot measure its height, length, breadth. Its name, which has been given me, is “Shade of the Living Light”....

 Within that brightness I sometimes see another light, for which the name “Lux Vivens” (Living Light) has been given me. When and how I see this, I cannot tell; but sometimes when I see it, all sadness and pain is lifted from me, and I seem a simple girl again, and an old woman no more!

Clara reads from Angela of Foligno, a third order Franciscan in 13th c. Italy:

There was a time… when my soul was exalted to behold God with so much clearness that never before had I beheld him so distinctly. But love did I not see here so fully; rather did I lose that which before I had and was left without love. Afterwards did I see him darkly, and this darkness was the greatest blessing that could be imagined and no thought could conceive aught that would equal this.

Then was there given unto the soul an assured faith, a firm and certain hope, wherein I felt so sure of God that all fear left me. For by that blessing which came with the darkness I did collect my thoughts and was made so sure of God that I can never again doubt but that I do of a certainty possess him.

Natacha reads from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English writer, teacher and anchoress:

I saw that God is to us everything which is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us. And so in this sight I saw that God is everything which is good....

Ruth reads from Evelyn Underhill, an English mystic who lived from 1875-1941:

Come in! Enter my small life! Lay your sacred hands on all the common things and small interests of that life and bless and change them. Transfigure my small resources, make them sacred. And in them give me your very self. When out of the heart of my own homely circumstances, you feed me --- then my eyes are open to the presence I long for and can never understand.

Anne Fensom reads from Etty Hillesum, a Dutch mystic who died in Auschwitz in 1943:

I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us,that we must help you to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.

As we have been listening to these words, the women who led the ritual have been quietly preparing a table with a brightly woven cloth. They have set out dips, raw vegetables, bowls of chips, plates, glasses, napkins and bottles of white Rhineland wine in honour of Hildegard.

As the readings end, Maureen calls out:

“Come to the Feast! Let us celebrate the great women whose lives were cups that caught the sacred rain...

as well as the holy wine!”

And so with joy we celebrate.

Gathering Space for March 1, 2016

The wind off the North Atlantic is raw tonight. We approach our Gathering Tent in the Garden of Iona’s 13th c. Nunnery, grateful that the tent is still here, knowing that, like the birds, it will soon rise up and fly away, leaving us to gather under the starry starry sky. But not yet.

Inside the tent flap, we pause, breathe in the stillness, gaze at the soft light created around the inside walls by tall candles in silver stands, at the dancing vermilion flame in the fire pot, at the vibrant woven scenes on the large cushions that await us, at the faces of our friends who are already gathered here. We move to join them in the circle.

Following a time of greetings, questions, welcoming one another, a quieter mood takes over. We look around the circle, wondering who may have brought a poem, a prayer, a stirring question to begin our time together…

Colette stands, holding a small book. “I’ve brought a book of poems by Mary Oliver, called "Dream Work". This one really speaks to me and I’d like to read it for us tonight:

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,
shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches
in the morning
in the blue branches
of the world.

It could float, of course,
but would rather
plumb rough matter.

Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body’s world,
instinct
and imagination
and the dark hug of time
sweetness
and tangibility
to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is --

so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.


There is silence after Colette stops reading. We sit with the words we heard, with that one phrase or image that enters within us, startling, delighting, awakening….

Someone asks Colette to read the poem again….

And she does.

“Why not say aloud what most stirred us in this poem?” Colette suggests.

These are the responses that we hear:

I love that the spirit is dressed up as US! I can’t help remembering the years when I truly thought that to live “in the Spirit” meant to ignore my body, to fly away from my own earth into some imagined sky above human desire.

Yes, me too! cries another voice. I liked where the poet says that the Spirit could float but prefers matter, rough matter.

Doesn’t the poem say too that the Spirit needs us, needs our bodies, our imagination, our instinct…?

I heard the part about the Spirit entering us… in the morning and at night. It makes me think of sudden joy noticing a sunrise, and of the way sometimes a dream comes with comfort.

What was that line about the night? someone asks.

Colette reads:

at night (the Spirit)
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.

There is deeper quiet as we draw in these thoughts.

After a time, a clear voice rises, singing a song we know. It is Carolyn McDade's, “Within All Things”.

Soon other voices join, some creating spontaneous harmony. The music reverberates around the tent, dancing in the air, entering our hearts, filling us with joy:

As Earth bows in evening and opens to the night
we wander in the swing of stars beyond the bend of time.

O Ardent One, O Yield of Dreams who call Earth’s people home
to make of love a greater love and pass the living flame.

You are the love within all things, a widening embrace.
A flame that weeps and launches joy to leap through realms of grace.
Are we not born to love this life,
to make the wounded whole,
to plunge the chasms of despair
and lift the singing bird.

O Ardent One, Be with us now
Go with us as we dare,
to make of love a greater love

and pass the living flame.

Gathering Space for February 23, 2016

As we come into the Garden beside the ruins of the 13th c. Augustinian Nunnery on Iona, we stop outside our Gathering Tent to gaze upwards. The full moon looks down upon us with an intensity that makes the breath catch in our throats.

“Mother Moon,” Clara says. “I wonder if she’d like to join us this evening.”

“The moon is an image of the Sacred Feminine,” comments Kate. “She is light in our darkness. Sometimes she is herself wholly dark. The dark feminine.”

The ruffling wind rises, stirring the chill air, barely above freezing. If it were summer, even late spring, we could stay outdoors, hold our gathering here under the Moon’s benevolent gaze. Reluctantly, we go inside.

We join our companions who are already seated around the fire pot. Several of the women have gathered near Violet to hear about her new granddaughter.

When the excited chatter subsides, and silence rises like a healing zephyr, Kate stands to speak.

Just now, outdoors, we were looking at the full moon. Tonight her radiance brings us joy yet we know her light is not always with us. Like the Sacred Feminine, the moon too has her dark side. I have brought some writings to share with you on the Dark Feminine from the Jungian writer Sylvia Senensky. This passage is from her book, “Healing and Empowering the Feminine”:

We have come to a time when we can no longer remain silent. We are being called upon by the sorrowing and powerful Dark Feminine to know our own darkness and the profound richness of all dark places, even when they are laden with pain. Through her we know the mystery of existence and the sacredness of the cycles of life. We learn how important the destruction of the old ways is to the rebirth of the new. When she steps into our lives and awakens us, we can be shattered to our core, and we know, as we see the tears streaming down her face, that she too is holding us in her compassionate and loving embrace.

We need to know her as the source of life in the material realm, and to know her sorrow at how we have so unconsciously set out to destroy her...our Mother Earth. She is calling upon us, each in our way to do our inner work, to become her allies, to become the best human beings we know how to be; to allow our creativity, our compassion and our love to flow to ourselves and to all life forms on this planet. This is the lesson of the Feminine we all need to remember. We need to honour our earth and all creatures, human and other, that she supports. We need to nourish ourselves, each other, all children, and the unbelievable creative potential within each human being....

As we come to a place of love and compassion for ourselves, our struggles, and our own vulnerable humanity, we will at the same time begin to kindle a similar compassion for others. Love attracts love. If we flood our planet with loving and transformative energy, our actions will begin to mirror our feelings. We will come home to ourselves.

There is a time of quiet as we allow these words to resonate within our hearts. After a time, Kate continues:

I invite you now to join with me in a contemplative practice that I engage in each morning. Sitting in quiet stillness,
I invite you to become aware of your breath. Now, gently breathing in the healing sacred Breath of the cosmic Spirit of Love, send it forth as a transformative healing for the whole world.

Let us together hold this intention as we stay focused on the Spirit's Breath -- in and down through the chakras -- and out to wherever the Spirit desires to move with her healing presence and benediction.

In the stillness, we spend time allowing the Breath of the Spirit to move in us, through us and out to the world. We continue this practice for fifteen minutes.
…………

Now Kate speaks once more:

A prayer arose from within me as we engaged in this breathing together. I would like to share it with you:

I sit in this gathering space
in silence and thanksgiving
aware of Wisdom's sacred Presence.

She wraps me gently in her cloak of knowing
assuring me again
that Love holds this pregnant universe
in compassionate, creative embrace,
that Hope awaits with outstretched arms
expectant hands cupped to receive
the promised new birth.

In silence she offers me her cloak of knowing
inviting me to remember
her constant Presence and her gifting
of Creative Love and Expectant Hope.

Who else would like to share with us a prayer, an image, a poem, a thought that arose for you during this time?

Gathering Space for February 16, 2016

Under umbrellas and rain hoods, our bodies bent like trees in the stiff wind, we make our way across the open space of the garden of the ruined 13th c. Women’s Monastery on Iona. Though the temperature has at last climbed above freezing, our Gathering Tent is a welcome promise of warmth and shelter. With a quick shake to remove rain from umbrellas and rain gear, we open the tent flap and go inside.

Blinking to remove drops of moisture from our eyes, we gaze with gratitude upon the tall white candles that stand in silent greeting around the periphery, suggesting a medieval castle, rather than a canvas tent.

Many of our companions are already seated on the large embroidered cushions that surround the flaming firepot. We join them, greeting our friends, exchanging small bits of news, asking about loved ones who are ill, expressing our joy at being here once more.

When the murmur of voices, sounding like the poet Yeats’ “bee-loud glade” finally stills, Joy steps forward.

A few weeks ago, I made the suggestion that we might share with one another our contemplative practices. It would be one way for us to clear space within us so that we might better receive the “sacred rain” or, in Dolores Whelan’s image, enter the cauldron of transformation. So I have asked Jean Houston to lead us this evening in a contemplative practice of finding a lake of light within us.

Joy returns to her place.

Jean rises to stand within our circle and begins to speak:

Please begin by breathing slowly and deeply; slowly and deeply; slowly and deeply. Continue doing so…

In the quiet of the breath, I invite you now to begin to imagine that within the center of your mind there is a quiet, calm lake, and it is a lake of light – serene, peaceful, placid, in the center of your consciousness.

This quiet lake of light ...  


… and as you breathe in, the light grows.

And as you breathe out, it contracts.

But now you find that you’re able to be with the light in a playful way so that as you breathe in, the light expands, it grows brighter. As you breathe out, it moves through your entire mind-brain system and illumines that mind-brain system – that whole beingness.

So, inhale and the light becomes more intense, expands, becomes brighter; exhale, it is dispersed to all parts of you, all parts – atoms, molecules, cells, neurons, the structures of your brain, mind, even now the whole body, the brain that hangs down through every part of the body, receiving that light.

Inhale, the pool becomes intense, expansive. Exhale, the light particles, the photons, move out throughout your brain and body, filling your heart. Inhale, it becomes brighter, more expansive, richer, lovelier. It is a loving light filling your heart. Exhale, these particles, these parts of loving, living light, move through your whole body, your entire being.

You find yourself in a vast sea of light. You are there in the fathomless depths of that oneness which is light. And the light that is embedded in you burns deeper and brighter because you are in that field of light. You are in the field – the quantum field – that banishes all the negative, all the old things that you no longer need. You are also in that quantum field where all new possibilities exist.

And from this moment forth, if you choose, it is never, ever going away. If you choose, you will always have access to your beingness of light. And it may even be that an emotion so sweet, so lovely, so beautiful – pure love and compassion or just sure delight of beingness – fills you now.

You are also the light that moves the sun and all the stars. And, being filled with light, you can say in your heart’s mind, in your mind’s heart, “I am a being of light. I love the light. I serve the light. I am illumined, sustained, supported by the light, and I support and sustain the light. The light, which is also love, and I, are of the same essence.”

And it seems to you that within this great sea of light, which is you, which is the quantum field of all possibilities, which is the light, which is love, this essential nature dwells in you, calm, serene, centered, illumined, sustained and sustaining the universe, always there -- although it may be that before this moment you never knew it was there, sitting perhaps like a Buddha in the center of your very being. Full of light and yet no one thing and now discovering in the light the pattern of your own possibilities emerging from the light.

You may see or feel what is emerging of these possibilities, these new ways of being, but also placing there some intention you have for your life; some dream or desire, placing it in this field in which your dream, your desire, your intention, is taken up in the interdependent co-arising so that your intention is made clearer. It may grow or change as you feel and observe it in this vast sea of creative, fertile light.

Observe it now as it begins to take on the qualities, the very form that you intend. It is partnership in creation – your desire, your intention, and the cosmic response.

Watch now. Feel now as it grows in clarity, in manifestation, as it is remade, improved, deepened in the quantum field of all-becoming. And do that now.

I will be quiet a few moments as you do that now.
……

But always remember that you are made of light. You are of the same essence as the quantum field of light, wherein all thoughts, all dreams, become reality.

On each of the days to come, practice being the light as a joyous experience that you look forward to engaging in. You’ll begin to find yourself filled with luminous joy, and you will also discover how radiant will become your intentions as they move to manifestation.

Following these words, Jean rejoins our seated circle. For a further time of quiet, we continue the meditation.

Softly at first, weaving through the stillness, there is a steadily growing drumbeat, joined by the high songbird-like notes of a flute. One by one, we rise, seek a clear space somewhere in the tent. Joy is rising within and around us. Sitting still is no longer an option! We dance.

Gathering Space for February 9, 2016

Since Brigid’s Day, we feel the breath of life in the mouth of dead winter. The evening sky holds the light longer, the morning dawn comes sooner. Yet it is fully dark as we make our way just before eight o’clock towards the Gathering Tent in the garden of Iona’s Ruined Nunnery.

Inside, tall lighted candles, placed around the outer edges of the room, soften the gloom. At the centre of the open space the firepot burns, within a circle of large soft cushions.

Taking time first to greet our companions, we make our way into the circle, each choosing a cushion whose pattern or colour or fabric draws us. Once everyone is seated, silence rises, bathing each of us in its calm, in quiet. At our own pace, each in our own rhythm, we begin to breathe deeply.

 This evening, we turn our hearts towards longing. Colleen  offers to read aloud a 17th century Welsh poem about that human desire that haunts our lives:

What is longing made from?
What cloth is put into it
That it does not wear out with use?
Gold wears out, and silver wears out
Yet longing does not wear out.
The moon rises and the sun rises,
The sea rises in vast waves,
But longing never rises from the heart.

We take time to let the words and images of the poem echo and re-echo within us. We ask in the silence of our hearts:

What is the deepest longing of my soul?

Those wonderful medieval holy women whom we know as "Beguines" held twin longings: for the Beloved of the Soul and for ways to be a sign of love to the people around them.

We, present-day women of the Communion of Creative Fire, share those longings. 

A famous beguine, Mechtild of Magdeburg, wrote “The Flowing Light of the Godhead”. This is an account of her mystical experiences. Mechtild’s prayer-poems, written in the style of the courtly love poetry of the troubadours are expressions of longing:

Lord, you are my lover,
My longing,
My flowing stream,
My sun,
And I am your reflection.

Mechtild’s writings are in the form of dialogues where the soul (herself) speaks with God and hears a response. In this exchange we hear both the longing and its source:

O Lord,
Love me intensely,
Love me often and long!
For the more often you love me, the purer I become.
The more intensely you love me, the more beautiful I become.
The longer you love me, the holier I become.

And God responds:
It is my nature that makes me love you often,
For I am love itself.
It is my longing that makes me love you intensely,
For I yearn to be loved from the heart.
It is my eternity that makes me love you long,
For I have no end.


 Noreen offers to read an expression of her own deep longing:


Within our darkest night
You kindle a fire
That never dies away…
You kindle the fire…


There is a deep, powerful, and attractive energy that pervades all of life, matter, space and time. There is also a fire that never dies and this fire comes always bearing gifts.

My inner work is to savour and to discern where this fire is leading and what gifts are being offered. This allurement shapes me by the daily beauty which calls and beckons me onward. Frequently, I give abundant thanks to be in the company of other like-minded seekers who recognize the need for support and enlightenment as well as their own inner longing.

I walk in gratitude for the gift of being a member of the Creative Fire Communion. My prayers, reflections and ministry have been enriched and enlightened. I feel deeply the desire to be the cup that holds the rain, or the bowl, which Christine Lore Weber speaks about, in her beautiful poem. I desire to look at the universe with the eyes of a lover, and to be alive with the Holy Presence at the heart of all that is.

Someday I hope to echo Rumi’s wonder-filled exclamation: “Is the one I love everywhere?” I long to put my heart at the service of love, which is the call of the universe and my personal call. Belonging to the Communion has supported and assisted my desires.

May the Holy Fire, creating anew, find me open, present, faithful and engaged in this sacred calling as a member of the Creative Fire Communion. Thank you to each of you who have assisted me to feel my life with wholeness and for deepening my love and reverence for the universe’s story, the planet’s well-being, and my growth in evolutionary consciousness. May we always see anew and with gratitude the landscape of our life.

Stillness, silence follow Noreen's words.

We open our hearts to receive memories of moments when we knew, even briefly, that the Love that fills Universe, that moves the sun and all the other stars, dwells within us.

We will gather and record these knowings in paintings, in drawings, in poetry, in words, in music, in dance. We shall  bring them here to the Gathering Space to share with our companions next week.

x

Gathering Space for Imbolc 2016

It is the eve of Brigid’s Day as we cross the frozen grass, passing beyond the snow covered ruins of the nunnery on Iona. Though we look with longing at our Gathering Tent, already imagining the warmth inside, we have a ritual to perform first. Each of us has brought a brightly-coloured shawl, or scarf or ribbon or cloth. Each of us is seeking just the right place to leave our treasure so that the dew of Brigid’s dawn my bless it. Some dry rosebushes are a possibility if we take to avoid the thorns. There are places along the low ruined walls that will hold some of our cloths. Just beyond the ruins, a few small trees hold out their arms invitingly.

Once all of our cloths have been carefully placed, we draw our coats, jackets, cloaks or wool shawls more tightly around our shoulders, aware that the Feast of Imbolc, Brigid's Day, which we are about to celebrate, is meant to welcome Spring.

"Spring? On which planet?" someone mutters through chattering teeth...

But once inside our great tent, its inner walls hung with medieval tapestries that proclaim spring in flowers, birds, trees in full blossom, all woven in exuberant coloured threads, once we begin to feel the warmth spreading from a hundred lighted candles, something of spring awakens in our winter hearts.

Tonight we have come ready to celebrate a ritual to mark a new beginning for our Communion of Creative Fire. Those who have brought the elements of ritual begin placing white cloths on low tables, then bowls of bread, honey and milk.

Before the Ritual, Ellyn reads for us the poem about Brigid by Anne F. O’Reilly:

These words will never carve
your image out of bog oak
but that is what they want to do
to dig down into the moist wetness
to touch the layers of centuries
that have made you
woman, goddess, saint
to see your shape emerge intact
from the dark earth.

My instruments are crude for such a work
the bog resistant to intruders
as an ancient tribal memory
in its dark and secret places.

But I must search out these roots
this memory as vital as breath.
I must drag this ancient oak
from the centre of the bog.

I will wait as I must
until I can see
the shape of what you were
and what you are.

The fine coat of resin will preserve your beautiful shape intact
and I will call on you great woman
to grace me with a golden branch and tinkling bells.

And I will polish you then with images of
sun and moon, cows, sheep, serpents, vultures,

bags, bells, baths and sacred fires
so that you become a fiery arrow
and breathe life into the mouth of dead winter

O beautiful vessel still intact
where we have unearthed you,
remind us of your many manifestations
and let us smile again in memory
of when doddering Mel pronounced you bishop
or your cloak spread over the green fields of Kildare.
You who turned back the streams of war
whose name invoked stilled monsters in the seas
whose cross remains a resplendent, sparkling flame
come again from the dark bog and forge us anew.

 Maureen steps into the centre of the circle of women who are now seated on their silk embroidered cushions. Holding a braided loop, long enough to serve as a loose belt, Maureen says, “This is called the Crios of Brigid. I made it with some of you at the Brigid workshop that Dolores Whelan led for us at Galilee in February 2014. This evening it will be used in our ritual of Imbolc.

“Two of our companions, Natacha and Corinne, will hold the braided crios of Brigid. They will hold it high enough for each of us in turn to walk through it. The first entry is a time to choose to let go of something in our life that no longer serves us. A second time we walk through the crios thinking of what we are grateful for. On the third and final entry, we think of what we must now do in our lives: what call do we hear?

“When all but the two holding the Crios have passed through, two more women will hold it for Natacha and Corinne to make their three crossings.

“Suzanne and Carol will begin the threefold crossing, as they have another role in the ritual. As each woman completes her third crossing, she is invited to move to kneel on a soft cushion, then raise her hands to receive the water being poured over them by Suzanne. Carol will offer her a towel.

Then the woman will rise and walk to the table where she chooses a piece of bread from the bowl, dips it into a second bowl of honey and into a bowl of milk. Then she consumes it, as a way of communing with her companions on this sacred night when our commitments to the Communion have been received.

There are a few questions for Maureen before we are ready to begin the Ritual. As Natacha and Corinne stand in place, holding the crios, the ritual begins.

Softly, as each woman makes her threefold crossing, the others sing Starhawk’s song:

We will never, never lose our way
to the well of her memory
and the power of her living flame
it will rise, it will rise again.

Gathering Space January 19, 2016

The moon is waxing, almost to her mid-size as we make our way to the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. The sharp cold of this January night speeds our steps as we hurry towards our Gathering Tent.

Inside we pause to breathe in the warmth, to let the peace of this sacred space envelop us. We make our way into the circle, greeting friends as we choose a cushion to settle on.

When the welcoming sounds are stilled, Corinne, our newest member, rises to light the fire pot, then turns to speak to us.

All week, we have been reflecting on what “Home” means to each of us. Tonight I invite you to speak into our sharing circle what arises in you when you hear the word, “home”.

Now, who would like to speak her thoughts about Home?

Clara begins: Home is where the heart is. For me it is a place within where I experience all the feelings of being human.
Throughout life I have grown into home/God, and grown into opening doors within that reveal 'who I am'. Home offers me compassion, tenderness, mercy, nurtures possibilities and gifts me with the vision, dreams and hope to move forward.

Natacha speaks: Clara - that also came to mind that home really is where the heart is … after living in many different countries it's always the connections with love of that particular place that made it a home.

Shirley picks up the theme: One day last week I was sitting for my morning reflection in front of a view of the frozen lake. The sunshine was exceptionally bright and snowflakes danced before me. The snowflakes fell so gently as if they were all participating in a universal dance in perfect movement. Each snowflake sparkled like a diamond. As I enjoyed this gorgeous landscape I honoured the sacredness of all life and felt in every cell that sacred nature is alive and is home.
For me the word Home also resonates with the sense of the enduring presence within the Cosmos and the blue marble in the sky we call home. The beauty before me that day opened me to the wider view of home – divine presence in Earth our home and in the vast cosmic arena.

Maureen offers a memory of Home from childhood:

I'm nine years old, sick with rheumatic fever and confined to bed for several months. I'm sitting up looking through one of the Books of Knowledge that my mom keeps piled up beside my bed to keep me occupied. Inside each volume there's a poetry section. Often I find a little poem that appeals to me and try to memorize it.
It's October. Outside my window my favorite maple tree is swishing her branches softly against the pane. My mother is busy in the kitchen making our lunch which she'll soon bring in to me on a tray. As usual she's singing something from the hit parade. "Harbour Lights" maybe, or "The Tennessee Waltz". I've found a poem I like and start to memorize it. No pain today. I'm loved and cared for. I'm at home!

Noreen follows: I recalled Sallman’s art – the picture of Christ knocking on the door of a home. This door had no latch or knob. “Behold I stand at the door and knock.”(Rev.3:2) “Home is a place in your heart, every journey leads you back to where you start.” My journey, our journey is to follow the star that blazes inside us telling us that we are holy and welcome.

Violet speaks: My notion of home shifted many years ago when an Anishnabe Elder held her eagle feather and told us that no-thing on earth is homeless. Mother Earth is home to all things. Some may be houseless but no one is homeless. This world view fits well for me.

My visceral sense of home happens spontaneously. Sometimes it is expected like when my children were born, when I held my grandchild for the first time, when I stood beside my mother and father’s death beds. However, sometimes it’s unexpected and so moving that I cry or laugh and feel light inside. Often I feel protected or protective.

When we moved from rural Ontario to the inner city in Toronto my mother pulled out the folding couch and made us a bed for the night. She skillfully billowed a clean sheet out over the rough fabric and it moved me so deeply, I cried myself to sleep with gratitude for the feeling of home that Mom created out of thin air.

One routine day when we lived on the farm, both my husband and I went out to run errands. He took the pick up and went to the feed store for chicken scratch and I went to the village for groceries. A half hour later I looked up and there he was at the next check out. I was overcome with the joy of being home right there at the Metro. A routine day that is now etched in my cellular memory.

Putting my hands in hot sudsy dish water with my back to a room full of acquaintances at a community event, I had the visceral feeling of home in an unfamiliar setting. Home was the broader community. What a great feeling!

Holding my husband’s hand in the chemo room, his eyes closed, soft chatter in the background, a snow bank outside the window, I was overcome with peace and a sense of being “home”. I was in “my place” in the world.

Remembering the experience of visceral home is important as I think of the refugees. We need to do our part in providing for them and welcoming them but beyond that I trust that they will have their experiences of home just as I have, in myriad and unexpected ways. The deep longing and reward of home are both graces for which I am deeply and profoundly grateful.


Suzanne asks: How do we know when we are home, how do we feel the star blazing inside? For me, when opening the door on the inside, synchronicity abounds, the right people show up (like all of you) blessings shower, then I know I am on the yellow brick road.

Mary Ellen reflects: I have moved many times in my life, and have lived in many different places for a variety of reasons. It has been a gift to come to feel "at home" in almost every one of these - in the city/town/village, in the residence in which I lived, and in the space where I lived my most private life however small it might be.
It was home because I came to feel so very comfortable in surroundings which over time were familiar and brought a sense of warmth, beauty, life to my soul. Most often, the beauty of creation in its many forms was an essential part of my feeling "at home". The presence of loved ones with whom I felt at ease and could be myself was very significant. In my private space, I created an environment which reflected my spirit.
And then, there is the layer which I discover when I go within and feel the wholeness, the peace that comes with connection with Profound Love in whom I can rest. I meet my True Self in that Loving embrace. Always, Home is pure gift.

Yvette follows: Over the last 4 1/2 years or so, I have roamed in and out of a myriad of places and interacted with hundreds of Catholic sisters. It IS mysterious to me that I feel at home everywhere. I do not feel able to explain how this can be, yet I know this is true: I am at home wherever I am. Is it that I am coming to know that I am connected to all creation, to all on my life's path? Is it that I have turned a corner on my life's journey wherein home is within myself more than outside myself? Or, is it that I have become flexible like the trees swaying in the winds outside my window... Whatever it is, it is good ... and I am sensing deep contentment.

Joy ponders: ‘Home’ is a metaphor I frequently hear from people suffering from dementia. They often wander around a secured space saying that they want to go home. Frequently this is interpreted as their old physical home but on further gentle probing it is evident that many are wanting to return to the Source of all Creation by whatever name God is known… So often this incurable illness is fed with high protein drinks, medications and forced activities such as being weighed, sitting in for Bingo and generally giving others the satisfaction of caring. I feel we have much to learn from those who suffer this cruel existence if the language can be learned. I welcome insights…

Colette responds to Joy: My mother lived with Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years of her life and yes, she would go on escapades in search of “home” and would be returned “home” where she had lived for the past 40 years by caring policemen until she had to be institutionalized for her safety. I always thought she was referring to where she grew up with her parents and siblings but who knows... maybe “home” was even deeper in time than that. The possibility never occurred to me. A very special friend of mine went through the same ordeal. However, in the time of deepest disorientation and memory loss on this plane, she visited me in my apartment (from one city to another, North Bay to Ottawa) on another plane. The story is too long to relate but it occurred to me that there is much we do not know about their hidden or deep life. There was a very meaningful interaction between us that left no doubt in my mind that she had truly visited me and empowered me by her loving and caring presence.

Mary continues with this theme: Truly home is where we feel safe and loved. All these words describing home need to be gathered together so when we meet someone with dementia we will know what they are searching for. This has been my experience working with these people.

We are silent as we reflect upon these many different, inter-related thoughts about Home.

Noreen offers to read us a Blessing poem from Jan Richardson’s “Home by Another Way. A Retreat for Women’s Christmas.”

God of making and unmaking,
Of tearing down and re-creating,
You are my home and habitation
My refuge and place of dwelling.

In your hollows I am re-formed
Given welcome and benediction,
Beckoned to rest and rise again,
Made ready and sent forth.

Gathering Space for January 12, 2016

The new moon is more imagined than real, so dim is her light. Yet from behind her in the cloudless sky, the stars illumine our way, silver bells in the silence.

As we cross the snowy garden towards our Gathering Tent here on Iona, we notice that our companions are carrying bundles, bags and boxes of many shapes and sizes... it seems that they had the same inspiration as we did to bring the remnants of our Christmas baking to share with the Communion this evening.  

The clear night, for all its beauty, is too starkly cold to invite  lingering. We hurry into the Tent, eager for its shelter, for the light of its many tall candles, for the comforting red flame that glows in the fire pot. 

Once we are comfortably seated on our large silk- embroidered cushions, once the bee-loud buzz of greetings has subsided to a murmur, Colette stands to speak:

Last week we celebrated an Epiphany Ritual. Each one of us would have experienced it differently. Each would have had thoughts, memories, gratitude or desires for wisdom arise within us.  Why don't we begin by sharing the gifts of last week's ritual with one another? 

As you feel ready, will you tell us what came to you during the ritual? 

In the silence that follows this invitation, Rosemary quietly moves to her harp. A gentle Irish-sounding melody rises through the space. It seems to have some magic to awaken memory. 

Natacha is the first to speak: The wise women imagery resonated so strongly...empowering us all with the beauty of wisdom and Sophia.

I asked for the wisdom of the mother… as I nurture my daughter Mira, but also as I think of Mother Earth.

Suzanne speaks next:

I love the image of the wise women coming on their own authority also bringing necessary comfort to Mary. I can still hear the voice of the delivery room nurse who brought me through.

The wisdom gift I received is water reflecting all.

Mary Ellen follows: Moving through the ritual … with the exquisite readings from Wisdom, the chants, the Wise Women Also Came, and the Epiphany Blessing from Jan Richardson, my heart and womb were burning.

Taking one step at a time, as I do when I snowshoe, and in all my walks as a pilgrim, I trust in the guidance of the Light of Wisdom.

Noreen speaks : A lovely, warm feeling flowed in me when I saw the picture of the MANY WISE WOMEN… This picture brought to mind the recent women walking together, carrying children, marching across all kinds of lands, in many different countries. The Three Wise Women is a true symbol of endurance, strength and commitment to following the inner fire experienced.

In my prayer I pondered long and prayerfully what Jan says, “the pilgrim is faithful to the next step – to heed the signposts of intuition and dream, to follow the star that we recognize burning within us.”

The Star image is an ancient but alive symbol of the Light of Truth. The Feast of the Epiphany always brings me great strength as it celebrates people together, people facing great difficulties yet pushing towards the light– determined in their search to follow the inner Star – the star light being the hope-filled symbol of their search – our search.

It helped me to remember as I prayed that all of us are pilgrims – searching to know what The Child, The Christ, is speaking to us. I recalled that I am myself as big as the Star of the Epiphany and made of star dust. I am, we all are, a small reflection of our own magnificence.

Let us invite the fullness of our star selves to shine into our lives and into our Communion. No wonder I wanted to kneel and to adore.

Yvette responds: Noreen’s reflection touches me and beckons me to sit still to "heed the signposts of intuition and dream, to follow the star that I recognize burning within me".

I have just returned from Haiti where I facilitated a "Life Directions Workshop" for my Haitian sisters. Every a.m., I saw the Haitian women walking down the mountainside behind the Province House. These courageous women are incredibly steadfast as they saunter down the hill carrying huge baskets of goods on their heads, hoping to bring home a bit of food for their families. These women do hold a star within themselves that illumines their pathway that what they do might let their children grow up and make it to adulthood ...

I, too, pray to be faithful to my next steps on the journey, steps that will facilitate growth in all whom I meet, steps that are carrying out what I hear whispered within myself ...

Shirley follows: During my reflections on The Epiphany – Celebration of Wisdom I was struck by the beautiful photo of the “Wise Women Also Came” charged with Divine Mystery in them.

Then I thought: it still surprises me how male dominated we are and that women have been persons of faith from the beginning of time!

This past week I attended the funeral of Sister Fran McIsaac in North Bay at the Motherhouse. There I witnessed the celebration of the life of Sister Fran and of many wise women. The Women Also Came charged with Divine energy. They shared gifts of hospitality, inclusiveness, music, compassion, joy, grief, gratitude, prayer, reverence and food.

For me it was the symbol of many gifts each connecting to the beauty of the whole. Also, how interrelated and interconnected we are and how present was the wisdom of the universe, Earth and our ancestors.

As I pondered Kate’s question to bring a symbol of Wisdom that I most require I immediately brought the symbol of a star. It speaks to me of the light I require to follow and hope to see clearly with regards to relationships. I share with all of you my longing for wisdom... how to move forward as a peacemaker... and also my longing to share the new spirituality of our time.

May Sophia stay with us as we journey together in 2016.

Violet speaks: The wise women have been coming to me as well. They have been bringing me very useful gifts. They have brought food and flowers, songs, books, poems, stories, ceremony and empathy.

When I have chosen somnambulism too long they show up and speak close to the bone ... disturbing my dreaming until I become conscious once again. I grudge them sometimes but always always benefit from their presence in my life.

One of the songs: "I am breathing. I am open. I am willing. To step out into the unknown. I am walking though uncertain, I am willing. To listen to the yearning in my soul. If my soul says so I’ll do as my soul says."

Hail to all Wise Women.

After these beautiful thoughts have been shared, a silence rises among us with the harp as soundtrack...

After the quiet has given us a chance to absorb what we have heard, Colette stands to speak:

Now that we have nourished one another with words, let us share the nourishment of the food that many of you have brought. 

And so we do!

Gathering Place for Twelfth Night  2016

 Epiphany: Celebration of Wisdom

It is dark under the remnant of moon, barely brushing the snow on the ground with its light, as we make our way across the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. It is Twelfth Night. We are each carrying a casserole, or a salad, or a warm loaf of freshly-baked bread. In a pocket or shoulder bag there is a small symbol of Wisdom that we have been asked to bring. There will be a celebratory meal following tonight's ritual. 

When we enter the Gathering Tent, we see that the inner walls are radiant with the light from tall white candles. At the centre of the circle of large silk cushions, the fire pot is already alight with its vermilion flame dancing. 

We place our food offerings on the already burdened table at the back of the tent. Then we join our companions in the circle. There is a chaos of questions, murmurings, wonderings. Who will lead tonight's ritual? Has someone prepared readings? Is there a CD player? Has anyone brought a drum?  

Kate stands and looks around the circle before speaking:

Our Ritual for tonight has been adapted from Heartbeat of the Seasons by Kathleen Glennon, published in 2005 by the  
Columba Press in Ireland.

We shall begin with Readings from the Book of Wisdom in the Jeusalem Bible. After each woman completes her reading, we shall pause for a short reflection and then sing this Chant:

Sophia, Wisdom of the Ages,

make your home among us.

We repeat the chant three times, to seal it in memory.

A Reading from the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 6:12-16 

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen, and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.

Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

  • pause for reflection 

Sophia, Wisdom of the Ages,

make your home among us.

A Reading from the Book of Wisdom 7: 21- 26

Within her is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.

She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God’s active power,
Image of God’s goodness.

- pause for reflection -

Sophia, Wisdom of the Ages,

make your home among us.


A Reading from the Book of Wisdom 7: 27- 8:

Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
....

She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.


- pause for reflection -

Sophia, Wisdom of the Ages,

make your home among us.

Asking the Universe for Wisdom

Kate invites us to ask the Universe for the Gift of Wisdom

and leads us in another Chant:

Wisdom of the Universe, come to me/us/all.
Wisdom of the Earth, come to me/us/all.
Wisdom of the Ancestors, come to me/us/all.

Each of us has brought a symbol of  Wisdom. We take time to show this to the persons nearest us, saying how the symbol speaks to us of the Wisdom we most desire.

Celebrating Wise Women

Kate invites us to name groups of women whose wisdom we honour: a Twelfth Night candle is lit for each group of women; after each candle is lit the following chant is sung:

Wisdom of the maiden, come to me/us/all.
Wisdom of the mother, come to me/us/all.
Wisdom of the crone, come to me/us/all.

Kate now invites each woman to ask for the aspect of wisdom which she requires/desires; after each woman speaks her longing for wisdom, the others bless her forehead or her hands with frankincense oil

Kate sings the Chant that will follow each woman's request:

The wisdom you desire will be given unto you.

Dance of Wisdom

Wisdom of the Universe, come to me/us/all
(raise hands over your head and bring down to your head)

Wisdom of the Earth, come to me/us/all
(bring hand upwards from the earth and bring to heart)

Wisdom of the Ancestors, come to me/us/all
(bow reverently)

(For the following verse, extend arms upwards,
palms facing upwards and sway to the music)

Wisdom of the maiden, come to me/us/all.
Wisdom of the mother, come to me/us/all.
Wisdom of the crone, come to me/us/all.

Kate offers us the Final Blessing of Wisdom:

May Sophia, the Wisdom of the Ages, the Wisdom of the Universe, continue to journey with us. May she meet us at our gates in the morning. May she lie down with us at night.
May all who seek her find her.
May she bring the spirit of discernment  into the lives of all. May her company bring joy and happiness to all. Amen.

Now we are ready for our celebratory meal.

Gathering Space for December 29, 2015

The full moon of Christmas is already waning as we make our way into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. A feather-light snow has fallen, creating a roughly-woven mirror of reflected moonlight, sweetening the darkness of this long winter night.

We approach the door flap of our Gathering Tent, eager to rejoin our friends in the Communion for the first time since Solstice. The early arrivals have already place lighted candles on tables or stands around the inner walls of the tent. The red-orange flame from the fire pot greets us from the centre of our circle. We choose a bright silk cushion, then sit down among our friends.

Someone has brought a CD player.Loreena McKennitt's voice stirs the air with the haunting melody set to Christina Rossetti's poem, "In the Bleak Mid-Winter". We listen to the words, hearing them as if for the first time:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
A breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

 

In the shimmering silence that follows the final notes of the song, we each take time to remember Christmas.  The burnt pudding, the moments of tension when timing was off, when patience wore thin, when words were spoken that could not be taken back... these memories recede.  

In their place there rises the moment when a loved one from Christmas past is inexplicably near, when the light in a small child's eyes reminds us of wonder, when a loving word or gesture startles us into joy.... these moments we hold now.

We accept the astonishing truth of Love.

Now we take time to speak aloud these Christmas gifts. We hear our own voice affirm that indeed Christmas, despite all that is unfinished in our lives, on our planet, has truly come once more.

Gathering Space for Solstice 2015

The moon in her first quarter offers us what light she has as we make our way through the darkness of early night to the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. We move quickly towards the opening of our Gathering Tent, eager for the warmth and companionship that waits within.

Longest Night is nearly here. We have decided to hold our Solstice Ritual early as many of us will be travelling away from this North Atlantic Island to celebrate the Christmas festivities.

The interior of the tent is as dark as the night sky. It is difficult to make our way to the circle of large cushions with no light to guide us. There are a few stumbles, a few small collisions, more than a few stifled cries, but slowly our eyes adjust. W each manage to sit down with the minimum of grace.

Barbara has offered to lead the ritual. Her voice rises in the darkness: This ritual is taken from “Heartbeat of the Seasons” by Kathleen Glennon

Let us sit in darkness for a few moments as we attune ourselves to a world without fire, without light.

Colette comes forward to light the fire pot.

The silence gathers as we experience how wondrous
fire must have seemed to our ancient ancestors.

Barbara reads from the Ritual:

In the beginning there was fire
And fire was with the divine and the fire was divine.
Fire flared forth its magnificent light
Through fire all things came to be.
The universe began with a spark of fire, an explosion of light.
In one splendid moment light streamed everywhere.
The spark of fire contained the potential for all life.

Barbara invites:

Now allow the flame of the fire pot to speak to you;
allow it to connect with your inner light.


After a time of silence, Barbara continues: 

In this prayer by Kathleen Glennon, the Holy One speaks to us:

I am the light of your eye.
I am the glimmer of dusk.

I am the heat in your oven.
I am the warmth of your friendship.

I am the passion of your heart.
I am the glow of twilight.

I am the glory of the sunset.
I am the lingering light of the dying ember.

I am the reflection in your windowpane.
I am the kindle of brushwood.

I am the raging force of the forest fire.
I am the energy of the sun.

I am the radiance of your aura.
I am the transforming agent in your food.

I am the Light that shines through all that is.
I am who I am in light.

Barbara asks us to stand as we close our ritual

with a chant and movement:

Fire of the sun
(reach up to draw in the light of the sun)

Fire of the stars
(reach up to draw the fire from the stars)

Fire of the earth
(reach down to draw the fire from the earth)

Burning
(cross your arms at your wrists and make dancing movements with your fingers)

Fire of the rocks
( join hands and sway to the music for this verse)

Fire of the clay
Fire of the hearth
Burning

Fire in the heart
(extend arms and place hands on your heart)

Fire in the head
(extend arms and place hands on your head)

Fire in our veins
(with your right hand gently rub the veins on your left arm)
Burning
(cross your arms at your wrists and make dancing movements with your fingers)

Let us remember places where war and conflict make use of fire to cause suffering to people:

May the fire of love replace the fire of vengeance.
May the passion of compassion replace the fire of hate.
May the warmth of love bring healing into every situation.
May the flame of divinity within us compel humans to work for justice for all. Amen.

Barbara now invites anyone who has brought readings and poetry about Solstice and Christmas to share them now with us:

Natacha speaks: This reading is from Starhawk’s blog written a few years ago:

Winter Solstice—the longest night of the year. Today... the sun is reborn. Each year the Great Mother labours through the long night to give birth again to the new year, to hope and light.

This year the darkness has intensified. But the message of Solstice is this: hope does not come once into the world and fulfill itself. Hope and light must constantly be reborn, over and over again. They wax and wane, and must be renewed.

That renewal, that birthing, requires labour. Labour means work, commitment, perseverance through that time when it seems you just can’t push any more. The cervix dilates slowly, pang by pang. The child begins to emerge, is drawn back, pushed forward another increment.

We are the labouring Mother, we are the spark of light. New possibilities kick and squirm within us. No, it’s not easy to bring them forth, but we are strong, and we are made for this work. Bear down…breathe…push. This morning the sun rises; each day a new world is born. 

Rosemary speaks:

Someone asked a Celtic teacher recently how they can spiritually tie together their celebrations of solstice dawn and Christmas day. Her answer was, “The best way I know is this ? Folklore, oral tradition says that the solstice (whether summer or winter solstice) is the day of the turning of the sun, from either its depths or its height.

In the case of both solstices, four days later is said to be the first day when the new position on the horizon of the dawning sun is visible to the naked eye. I think that fits in so well with the ancient Celtic tradition… the light appears secretly… in our hearts first (Solstice)…then just a little later, it is born from out of the womb of our hear into the world for the whole of humankind to see, feel and touch forever (Christmas)."

Noreen speaks: I would like to read this “Blessing for Longest Night” from the poet Jan Richardson:

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough to read it;

it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com



Jean Houston speaks: Christmas is about yearning for something to come into the world. It’s the story of the birth of love, of hope, of a Holy Child in huge danger of being destroyed, bringing a new order of possibility into the world, needing to be protected and nurtured so it may grow into a free and luminous, numinous being.

What is new in our time is the birthing of a whole new order of thought through the discoveries of the new cosmology creating a new mind with interconnectedness with so many sources of ancient wisdom.

I invite you to touch into your own yearning. What is the new life you long for in yourself? What is ready to be seeded in the darkness of this longest night so that we each leave here pregnant with a new life?

Solstice evokes YEARNING for the light, for new birth within ourselves, with all whom we love, with life on the planet and the planet herself, with “the love that moves the sun and the other stars” L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stele as Dante writes.

You may wish to write these longings, then later place them in a bowl on your home altar to hold them until next winter solstice.

Ellyn speaks: “Born of a Star” by Carolyn McDade is a song to assist us in the reflection that Jean invites:

Return, return to the darkness return,
this longest night of wonder
Return, return to the dream, return,
This holy night to ponder
Deep in the night, listen, listen
Turn to the light, waken, waken
Deep in the night, turn to the light
Waken to sun’s ancient summons
We who are born of star, who then are We?
We who are loved by star, who then love We?
Deep in the night, listen, listen
Turn to the light, waken, waken
Deep in the night, turn to the light
Waken to sun’s ancient summons
We who are born of star, who then are We?


After the song, the silence returns.

For some time, our companions sit, breathing in the silence.

Each one, as she feels ready, rises and silently leaves the tent. Each of us will walk home for a night’s sleep,

to welcome dreams of new life.

Gathering Space for December 8, 2015

It is the dark of the moon, three nights before the new moon will appear as a sliver of light. The garden of the medieval nunnery on the Island of Iona is cloaked in utter blackness.

Yet as we make our careful way across the frozen grass towards our Gathering Tent, we notice a gentle radiance.  We look up, tilt our heads back, see the silver points of light coming from uncountable stars across undreamable distances to touch us with hope.

Inside the Gathering Tent, the orange flame of the fire pot offers the only illumination. Yet it is enough to guide us towards the circle of silk cushions where our companions await us.

"Shall I light the candles along the inner walls of the tent?" someone asks.

For answer, there is a chorus of voices, calling "No", "Oh, not yet", "the darkness is so lovely".   

It seems we have each grown in our appreciation of the  darkness through last week's visit from Dolores Whelan.

So for a time, we sit in the stillness, drawing in the peace of no sound, allowing our breath to deepen and quiet our hearts.....

A pinpoint of light appears as a voice says, " I have a poem about Advent darkness and Mary. It was written almost seventy years ago by Jessica Powers."

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.

I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
with hope's expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.

But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.

After the echoes of the poem have subsided, a voice asks if it might be read again.... and yet again...

The silence deepens, and when at last the soft alto notes of a song arise, we are startled for a moment.... just one moment, before we recognize it is Carolyn McDade's song "Within All Things" . We add our voices:  

 As Earth bows in evening and opens to the night
we wander in the swing of stars beyond the bend of time.
O Ardent One, O Yield of Dreams who call Earth’s people home
to make of love a greater love and pass the living flame.

You are the love within all things, a widening embrace.
A flame that weeps and launches joy to leap through realms of grace.
Are we not born to love this life,
to make the wounded whole,
to plunge the chasms of despair
and lift the singing bird.

O Ardent One, Be with us now
Go with us as we dare,
to make of love a greater love

and pass the living flame.

Gathering Space for December 1, 2015

The waning moon is almost at her final quarter, offering us what light she has as we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. Those of us with small flashlights or with light apps on our phones or iPods guide those who are without towards the opening of our Gathering Tent.

We step inside the flap, quickly resealing it against the sea wind off the North Atlantic. Then, we look about in dismay. The inside of the tent is even darker than the outdoors. Impossible to see the faces of our companions, to see where we might find a place to sit.

A match is struck and in its brief flare we see a woman bending over the fire pot. Now its orange flame gives enough light for us to make our way to the circle of cushions, where we sit with our companions.

“Why aren’t the candles lit?” The whisper seems loud in the stillness. “Why is it so dark?”

But neither question is answered. There is mystery here. Silence engulfs us as we focus on the one small flame that holds the darkness at bay.

Several minutes pass slowly, gradually transforming questions and uncertainty into a gentle breathing stillness. Into this peace-filled hush, a voice arises. We recognize the lilt of Ireland seconds before we know the voice. For here among us is Dolores Whelan, the teacher of Celtic Spirituality whom some of us met at Galilee at a Brigid Retreat in February of 2014.

"It is now a full month since you gathered here to celebrate Samhain." Dolores says. "You welcomed the season of darkness. During the past month, the shadows have deepened with the waning of the sun’s light in our Northern Hemisphere. Throughout the planet, there is deepening gloom: acts of terrorism, refugees fleeing for their lives, the growing concern over climate change.

"I thought we might sit for a time in the darkness, to hold our inner light and overcome any fear we may have of the night. I invite you to close your eyes, to block out the small flame of the fire pot, to focus on your breath. As you breathe in, draw in courage. As you breathe out, release your fear. Continue this slow rhythmic breathing until your inner light expands, like a waxing silver-white moon that dispels all the darkness within …..Take five minutes to do this.

"Now, open your eyes."

The flame of the fire pot offers its solitary light; yet, within each of us there is now a luminous sea of light.

Dolores’s voice continues: " With the festival of Samhain, we were initiated into the mysteries of the dark goddess, the Cailleach aspect of the feminine energies."

In the flickering light we see the carved image of an ancient one, the Cailleach.   

'The journey into the season of Samhain requires a dying of what has been," Dolores continues, "to let go of all that has been harvested up till now and a willingness to embrace the resultant void created by its absence. We are offered an opportunity to return to her transformative cauldron and to allow ourselves to sink into the being-ness of that place of our potential rebirth and re-emergence.

"The cauldron is a central metaphor for the void in Celtic Mythology."

The gold of the auldron gleams in the flame.

"This is the place where we bring those raw or unpalatable aspects of self, the difficult events of our lives, to be slowly transformed during the winter season by the healing energies of the Divine Feminine in her Cailleach form. In this place deep healing and transformation can take place allowing the emergence of a new possibility at springtime."

"This aspect of the Goddess can often seem ugly or harsh to us because it challenges us to relinquish much of what we are attached to but which no longer serves our deepest self. Even as this tough mother love challenges us, it also holds us in a wise, loving and compassionate embrace."

"This is the opportunity and challenge offered to us by the season and the energy of Samhain. In order to travel successfully and safely into and out of this dark season, we must learn and embrace the qualities that will support us in that journey. So may you embrace this Samhain season in such a way that you become the seed of your rebirth."

We receive these words from Dolores in silence, each of us wondering how an embrace of the dark time might change the way we experience the season.

“Dolores, may I ask a question?” We turn towards Shirley’s voice coming out of the blackness, wondering what it is she will ask, wondering if she will ask the question rising in us…  And she does!

"What you describe is so peaceful and important. Yet I find that this season, these weeks leading to the Winter Solstice and Christmas, are the busiest, the most demanding of the whole year.

"How can we find time to reflect on the Cailleach and her Cauldron? "

Dolores responds: "That is the first question to bring to the Cailleach. Imagine the tasks that arise as you prepare for Christmas, especially those that are most difficult and unpalatable, the most raw. See these as ingredients that you put into the Cauldron. Do this quickly in your imagination each time you feel pressure or anxiety. Just toss it in. Invite the Cailleach, the sacred energy of the dark feminine, to work with these elements and transform them. Wait and see what happens."

There is a pause as we take this in.

Suddenly light blooms around the inner walls of the tent. Quietly, some of our companions have been lighting tall white candles. Eagerly, we look towards the place from where Dolores’ voice had seemed to be coming.

There is no one there.

An image lights up on the inner wall of the tent.

What Celtic magic is this?

Beside the fire pot, beside the golden cauldron,

the carved image of the Cailleach gazes at us, enigmatically.

Gathering Space for November 24, 2015

Tonight under the full moon, the garden of the ruined nunnery on Iona is radiant. A soft sifting of snow creates white blossoms on the haggard brown stalks of summer's long-vanished flowers. Having prepared ourselves for the darkness of late November, we feel a warmth, a gratitude for this small miracle of light. 

Several of us stand in stillness, bathing in the moon's glow.

A sudden gust of icy wind from the North Atlantic shakes us from reverie, sends us hurrying towards the warmth of our gathering tent.

Once inside, we each choose a favourite from among the large silk cushions, then sit down in the circle of our companions. We greet the others, speak about the small happenings in our lives since we last gathered, wait while others arrive and settle.

Ellyn stands to light the fire pot, then looks around the circle of friends. Has someone brought a poem or a reading for us this evening?   

When no one responds, Ellyn says:

Since we have been thinking about the Wizard of Oz, I was remembering that Advent is a time when we come home to what is truest and deepest in ourselves, as Dorothy did. I found some words in a book called Secrets of the Yellow Brick Road  by Jesse Stewart. He says that at the end of the quest

"we discover the greatest treasure is what we become in the process....What Dorothy sought for is what she has become. What she has become is now her home."

It seems to me that Advent invites us to journey home to the inner place where our true self is held in love, where we are deeply at home within ourselves. That is the manger where we invite the Holy Child to be born anew.

We sit in the silence, the expectant joy, evoked by Ellyn's words.

Then a song begins, lifting lyrics to the roof of the tent. It's the "Already Home " song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production of "The Wizard of Oz". 

You think you're lost but that's not true

You simply lived a dream or two

You've traveled all this way to find

You never left your home behind.

Home is a place in your heart

Ev'ry journey leads you back

To where you start  

Close your eyes it's very easy

You'll find that you're already home

We have to finish to begin

We have to lose before we win

And soon we'll see it isn't far

From where we were to where we are

Home is a place in your heart

Ev'ry journey leads your back

To where you start. 

Gathering Space for November 17, 2015

We have begun to carry our own lights -- small lighted candles or flash lights -- as we make our way to the garden of the Ruined Nunnery. Soft twilight evenings are only a memory on Iona now. November advances towards December, towards Longest Night. The wind off the North Atlantic blows its cold breath at us.

 

Yet we walk with lightened hearts, knowing that when we enter our Gathering Tent, warmth, light, and beloved companions will greet us.

Tonight we are among the last to arrive. Tall candles light the perimeter of the tent, and the fire pot at the centre of the circle holds a bright orange  flame.

The conversation is less lively than usual, more muted, even solemn. We catch a few phrases as we enter, and realize our companions are talking about Paris. About the events of last Saturday. Their faces show shock, sadness, but not despair.

"Light is more powerful than darkness."

"Love must be stronger than death, than hatred..."

The voices are stilled as we enter. Someone new is coming to our Gathering.

"This is Aingeal," I say. "My friend from the Greece Journey. Aingeal spoke with me today about her thoughts on what happened in Paris. Her words were so powerful, so true, that I asked her to come here tonight to speak with us."

"Aingeal, you described to me how our experience in Greece on the night of the blood moon has changed you. Maybe you could begin by sharing that with our Communion?"

We make a space in the circle for Aingeal, offering her one of our embroidered silk cushions. Once she is settled, and has greeted us, Aingeal speaks:

Every day now I shift and change --it is like I was blown apart on Mount Pelion by the force of the blood moon and every day now the pieces are being recrafted and put into this beautiful kaleidoscope of light, a stained glass. When the light hits from a certain direction it is like the hammer of a piano sounding out a note which blends into the song of the universe.

The events in Paris struck me with incredible force. We are doing this to ourselves. We collectively, you and me and all of us, are doing this to ourselves.

There is no other, there is just us, me, we. We are bombing ourselves, killing ourselves, feeding ourselves poison, destroying the magnificent beauty of ourselves, of all that surrounds ourselves, of all that truly is ourselves.

So let's start right now with what truly is ourselves. Love. Beneath it all, love is love. We want to love and be loved and if we are not we feel afraid, threatened, lost.

We see others as we walk past lit windows and they seem happy and warm and loved so why aren't we? The bigger the light in the window as we look in and the more things we see inside, the more love we believe is in there. And here begins the grand illusion. We keep looking in the windows, of TV, and magazines, and movies, and they seem to get bigger and brighter but we are still outside.

And then we think well I will have what is in the lit window, I don't care if it is yours ! I will have it. If you don't want to give it to me I will fight you for it. I will become the biggest baddest fighter in the neighbourhood and my room will be full of all your things. And then I'll sit in my room full of things while you lie dying in the rain and I will say now I am on the inside and I must be loved because look at all these things I have.

But as you sit there you feel a longing in the middle of your chest and you know you are still lost, still alone, because the big aching empty space throbs with the dread tattoo --you are not loved, look what you have done, you have lied, you have stolen, you have cheated, you have killed, you have stolen your neighbours’ livelihood, you have lusted after their bodies, and all the time the hatred grew.

You tried to push it out and make it about them but it could not be about them without being about you because there is no them. There is only you.

You beat your chest until it bleeds and you yell out "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”. You hold your heart and the blood runs down onto your hands and like Lady Macbeth you cannot wash it off. You are undone and you cry out but no words come from the desert that is your soul.

And then mercy comes --she comes unbidden and stands before you with a smile of such tenderness that tears stream from your heart washing the blood and the darkness into the transforming womb of Mother Earth. And from her depths there springs a tree, a tree of life which stands in ancient Glastonbury, and was brought by Joseph of Arimathea. She hands you the white blossom which she places in your heart.

And then comes grace bearing Her Golden Grail aloft and she kneels before you offering you the cup. The sacred cup, the Holy Grail -- you quake and are afraid. And then a man tall and handsome as the sun comes forward and gazes deep into your eyes. His honeyed voice lifts your eyes to meet his gaze. Do not be afraid for it is yours, it has always been yours.

You feel like you are falling as you look within the cup, for pictured in its shining depth is your face. Your own beloved face birthed into the beauty of this being you now behold. And you raise the cup as the priestesses of old, as the grail maiden, and you offer the love therein to All That Is.

No one speaks after Aingeal's words echo around the tent, within all of our hearts.  The stillness deepens.

Then lifting into the air like a lark at dawn come the pure notes of a silver flute. The same melody played by an unknown pianist who sat before a grand piano in the rubble of a Paris concert hall on Sunday morning... it is the John Lennon song, "Imagine"... 

Gathering Space for November 10, 2015

It is the dark of the moon as we make our way towards our Gathering Tent on the island of Iona. In the Phrygian blackness the stars are white fire above the garden of the ruined nunnery. The air still holds a memory of summer nights, a faint suggestion of welcoming warmth, so that we are reluctant to go into the tent. We spend a long time gazing upwards.

In these November days, when the veil between the worlds is thin, we have been remembering our ancestors, those of the mother line, the father line, who lived before us. What were their thoughts as they looked at the night sky flaunting its diamonds with careless grace? Was there more wonder in their hearts than in ours who know what the stars are made of, and how they were forged in the eons of time?

More wonder perhaps, but we are the ones who gaze with the greater gratitude. We know that we are looking at the very components out of which our bodies, our beings have been birthed...

A sudden stiff wind off the North Atlantic awakens us to the reality of November. We go inside, grateful now for the shelter, the gentle light of candles around the circle where our friends are gathering around the fire pot, settling on large cushions, quietly speaking of what is in their hearts.

Rosemary speaks: I welcome the darkness and love to sit by the fire on those dark nights.

I am a member of the Ceile De (www.ceilede.co.uk), an ancient Celtic Christian tradition. I took the long drive upstate to join other members at a friend’s barn for our Samhain Festival, one of the major festivals of the Celtic Year. The Celts believe it is one of the times the veil is the thinnest between this world and the Otherworld, a time when we can more easily connect with those who have passed on. I know this to be true!

Two Samhains ago, after my cousin and best friend, Regina (three months older than me) had passed away on August 15th, I had been grieving the loss of the family I grew up with, the ones I have shared most of my history with.

During the journey we do as part of the Samhain ritual, one by one I sensed the presence of my family and friends who had passed on. They told me I could let go of the grief for the loss of the family I grew up with because they were still here and would always be with me. We would always be connected. I felt just as happy as I did at those times when we were together in the past. They told me all I had to do was come back to this quiet place to know that they were with me. I have never felt that sense of loss of my family since that night.

After leaving the Barn in silence I began the long drive home. It had been dark, rainy, and foggy, as I drove over the mountain coming to the Barn but now the rain had stopped. It seemed brighter and there was only a little fog as I drove down the mountain.

About a half hour from home a deer ran in front of my car. I jammed on my brakes and just barely grazed the back of it. It ran off and seemed OK. I checked my car and there wasn't any damage. Normally, I would feel fear or shock at a close call like that but instead I just felt calm. 

The next morning I checked my Animal Cards and Animal Speak book and found that when a deer comes into your life it means "Be gentle with yourself and others.... there's a gentle luring of new adventure."

I realized the incident the night before wasn’t a “close call” but a “sighting”. I got the message and had a massage the next day to begin being gentle with myself.

Mary Ellen speaks: As the skies darken, this whole reflection becomes real. I could feel a similarity between the preparation to meet Pythia, the goddess who would share her wisdom as I shared my questions, and the giamos time to which we are being invited, the womb time, the place of gestation. 

Since it remains very easy to continue hurried activity even in the time of winter, an intentional oneness with the wisdom of the seasons is needed to bring us into the possibilities of growth in the darkness. I love the idea and experience of the womb, and the resting in quietness there so that gestation can happen in its own way and time. I love the image of the darkness encouraging contemplation of the ground of being.

And I love the thought of the darkness being so safe that our souls can come out to play. Recently, I began to participate in Mindful Movement sessions (Soul Motion) and it always feels like opening my door to let my soul go out to play.

I pray that the feminine energy of the Spirit will move me to intentionally welcome the darkness, enter its womb space, let out my soul, and discover slowly and gently, without forcing, what is longing to be born. I can then be guided in how to nurture it. 

It is not totally easy to surrender the goodness of the light, but I do trust in the rich potential of the night. 

Natacha speaks: What resonates with me is the question Jean asked at the Amphiareion: What part of your life do you need to make holy...
 

and then the words from David Whyte’s poem:

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.


Kathleen speaks: I’m a "Samhain baby”, with ever-so-many of my life-issues linked in with this birthing time… Additionally at this time, there was a deep sadness in my mother’s family just a few days before I was born-- their “baby sister" (age 5 or 6) died just a few days before, which I look at as being “picked up on" by myself in my womb-dwelling. Then, when birthed, I became--upon exiting the womb--an incentive for rejoicing. I also happened to be “breach” at birth… so considerable pain-consequence (for both Mother and myself) connected with getting born… May we ALL be blessed, along with our stories!

Noreen speaks: Praying on Holy Darkness and Expanding Light I came upon a reading by John of the Cross as explained by Judy Cannato. This writing deeply touched my heart and soul and I want to quote: "He trusts in the darkness, trusts in the presence of the Beloved to lead him in sheer grace."

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

In the still of the night, we are united with the Mystery that lies in the cavern of our heart. The darkness is a place of possibility and power.

I want to close with a portion of Judy’s prayer – offering it for each of us who desire to enter into Mystery fully.

Holy Darkness, God of Mystery, help us not to resist the darkness. Help us to trust in you precisely in those moments when we are confused or uncertain or do not understand. Help us to surrender to the work in the inner darkness, in the unseen, secret places that only you know. May your spirit expand our being so that we become more of who you desire us to be—free, capable of loving and being loved. Amen.

Gathering Space for November 3, 2015

Iona has been graced with unseasonal warmth, creating a late summer from the scraps of these short autumn days...
Yet as evening rises, with the sun's disappearance, the air cools down suddenly. We hurry towards our Gathering Tent, eager for its sheltering canvas arms. 
Already most of our companions are here. Most have selected their personal favourites from among the brightly patterned silk cushions.
The eager exchange of greetings, questions, rises like a sussuration, peaks, then suddenly quiets to stillness.
Eyes turn towards the firepot, expectantly.
Barbara stands, moves to light the flame, then speaks:
I've had a weekend of hearing David Whyte's poetry. One of his poems speaks to me of this Season of Samhain. I've brought it to read to you tonight:
Sweet Darkness
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
tonight.
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
(-- David Whyte
from The House of Belonging
©1996 Many Rivers Press) 


There is  silence after Barbara 's
 reading, and then we ask that she read it again,
and once more....
After a time of quiet, Colleen speaks:
I too have brought a poem that seems appropriate for the Season of Samhain when we gather again by our firesides.
It was written by Anna Hines and it stirred me when I first read it back in the beginning months of our Communion.  
Playing With Fire

It's a dangerous game
filled with risks
but what alternative other than
sitting out the dance
sitting immobile in the shadows.
A most dangerous game
that will certainly leave you
changed
singed perhaps
or worse
possibly even consumed with its enticing flames.
but how else can one hope to illuminate the shadows
how else is one tested, strengthened, enlightened
how else can one hope to be fully alive
how else can one create a life worth living
if one does not make that dangerous choice
to dance with the fire. 
This poem too we want to hear read over and over, until its wisdom, its  questions, singe our very hearts.

Gathering Space on Iona for October 20, 2015

Jean leads us in a meditation on the Chakras and Greek Deities

The cool air of early evening brushes our skin, ripples our clothing, as we come into the garden of the ruined nunnery on the Sacred Island of Iona. The sun has not yet set, though its patina of gold offers little warmth. October is moving swiftly towards the Celtic Festival of Samhain. The dark quiet of the feminine time of the year will soon be here.

Many of us have brought wool shawls, sweaters or cloaks which we spread on the stones of the low walls, or extend across the grass, offering both ourselves and our companions a warm place to sit. With sounds like the low buzz of honeybees we greet one another, take time to catch up on the small and greater news of our lives since we last gathered here in early September.

Jean Houston has recently returned from leading a Healing Journey through Greece. Jean offers to lead us in a meditation on the Greek deities and their connection with the chakras of our bodies.

We take deep settling breaths, clearing mind and heart of invasive thoughts or concerns, preparing an inner space to receive her words.

Jean begins:

Think of a great pole that stretches from the center of the heavens down through to the center of the earth. You are at its center. Now connect with the fiery regions of magma at the center of the earth. Wiggle your feet, feeling them connect with this realm of fire, the realm of Hades, the world beneath the world.

Now look within to find what is deeply hidden within you, what truly matters to you. Acknowledge the home of Hades, a vast treasure house of latent potential. The realm of Hades/ Pluto is a place of wealth, the wealth you contain within you, rising from yourself….being human, this magnificent state of being, knowing, this Hades/Plutonic knowing.

Persephone is here, ever young, ever beautiful, bringing hope and new light to the deepest realms in times of darkness. Light flashes, comes as gift from Persephone who flashes light and possibility through the darkness. Hades and Persephone together, Lord and Lady of the Underworld.

Move up the great pole of life to the great underground course of water: seas, oceans, rivers, springs: the flow of the River of Time. Let your body begin to shift and sway, moving through the water, taking on the power of Poseidon, god of oceans, avenger and protector of those at sea. When you are emotionally at sea, when your instinct is to wander through endless adventures, only to return where you started ,”to see it again for the first time”, Poseidon is there, the god of the unconscious, of beauty and terror.

You are in the community of the sea, in the roaring, bubbling up of Poseidon, under your feet, pouring new waters on this time. He pricks you with his trident to wake you up. Around you wild creatures splash, invigorate you. Feel that ocean within. Sway, sink into the ocean, knowing you will be guided and protected by all the beings of the waters of the world.

Now your feet rest on earth, place of Demeter who embodies alternating cycles of plenty and fallowness, cycles of gain and loss. Demeter is the goddess of change, changes of season, the ebb and flow of life. Her power is inseparable from her daughter Persephone, provider and celebrator of the mysteries of earth, giver of oats, trees, corn, agriculture. Feel her in the plowed earth under your feet, the harvest that is her gift. Pray that others have enough to eat.

Let the sense of Mother Earth move from your feet up through your body so that your body is earthed in her embrace. You knees are a center. Hermes is in your right knee, the god of motion and becoming, the trickster. Hermes embodies the desire to move with ever extended reality. He is the embodiment of dream, the clever one there in your right knee, Hermes of the winged sandals. Rub your right knee and feel his presence. In what direction are you going? Straight? Right? Left? Backwards? Hermes follows you, your escort beyond doors that close behind you. Let Hermes guard your household and being.

Your knees are centers of spiritual gifts. The right gives. The left receives.
In your left knee is Artemis, the dancer, the one who loves nature and wildness, the virgin who belongs to no one. She is twin sister to Apollo, born first, then assisting her mother as she gave birth to Apollo, honoured as a support in birthing. Artemis helps with the soul’s solitude. The runner, dancer, keeper of wild things, of the beasts, is there in your left knee. Artemis is obedient to the powers of the moon. Let your left knee reflect when you are out there under the spiritual light of the moon. Feel the power of Artemis as she kneels on the earth, finding the herbs that purify and heal.

Bring your awareness to the root chakra where you sit. Breathe energy up from this chakra from the center of the earth, the part of yourself blessed by the earth, combining earth and fire. Here is the keeper of the life flame, Hestia, Lady of the Hearth, center of the house and the earth. Hestia holds the fire that lights the energy of our body and soul. Turn to her for energy, the Kundalini Goddess. Without her, we are adrift and lost. Hestia clears the energies of the root chakra, to send them up to spin energy as it rises through the other chakras. Hestia is purity and flame. She lets fires of light move through your body. Hestia will keep you protected and secure.

In the root chakra also is Hephaestus, god of fire, who shows you how to make beauty. He is master craftsman, the Olympian who works, forges links between nature and craft. Hephaestus is symbol of resourcefulness and creativity. He is a crippled god, whose feet are backwards, showing the dark side of those who depend upon machinery.

As you breathe into the root chakra, remember that you have everything and everyone within you. Think about something that you wish to create from the deepest part of your being. You have this god Hephaestus to take it from the fire of imagination to craft it in your life, to create and recreate your world.

Hera is the goddess of the pelvic chakra, of primary relationships, of marriage and all the stages of woman’s life with man. Her emblem is the peacock. Her breast milk created the Milky Way. Hera is the protector of connections, of family and relationships. She is a guide to sacred and beautiful speech with those you love. Hera will help you with relationships with the children of your body and spirit. Breathe out love for the children of the world, and for your own dear friends.

In your solar plexus is the god Ares who has the ability to make things happen. He is the doer, the one who never procrastinates, willing to be wounded for those he loves. Enlist him in the fight for what is right in your life story, as an ally. Enlist him to be energized and filled with the need to do and move where we need to serve.
Ares is red hot powerful energy.

In the heart chakra is Aphrodite, goddess of connection, of love and beauty, goddess of our more visceral yearnings, of the erotic and evocative in women and men. Aphrodite is a child of foam, of the sea, mother of Eros. She is from the place of endless sea foam, creativity, songs, the whisper of allurement. Feel your heart opening to the force of life, the archetype of love and loving.
When have you been in love? Pour this into your heart, being seized by joy. Think of all the friends you love. Pour them into your heart.

The chakra of the high heart is the thymus, the butterfly-shaped gland, belonging to the immune system. The high heart is the place of Psyche (soul) whose name is Greek for butterfly, and Eros (desire), her lover. Soul and desire. Let your thymus be embraced by soul and desire. Psyche has the capacity to fall so deeply in love with her Beloved that she could endure all manner of trials to be with him. Allow Psyche and Eros to be gods of your immune system for you know the power of desire to fuel your immune system.

The throat holds the chakra of communication. Here is the place of the god Dionysius and of Apollo, god of music, archery and healing, the god whose longing is for beauty, order, light and harmony. He is the god of clarity who invites, “know thyself”. God of sun and light and singing and verbal expression, it was Apollo who breathed into the throat of the Pythias when she spoke as Oracle of Delphi. Feel the energy of the god Apollo who told those who came to Delphi the truth of things. Breathe their gifts of expression from Apollo (clarity) and Dionysius (the full rich “go for it” expression).

In the chakra of the third eye, the place of wisdom, is the goddess Athena, goddess of wisdom, of civilization, weaver of all patterns, goddess of artisans, of trades people. Athena of the “bright eyes, so shrewd”, grey-eyed goddess who is “ever near”, whispering her counsel so that you grow in wisdom. Athena is persuader of peace, reconciler, weaver of body, mind and culture. The third eye sees beyond appearances, sees all problems as challenges in work clothes. Ask Athena for a path that is true to your spirit in wisdom and clarity.

Breathe upwards towards the element of ether, the fifth element for the ancient Greeks. Rub your hands together, then bring them together in the shape of a crown. Hold this crown shape above your head . All that is above is pouring down through you: Zeus, the all-seeing high Lord of air and sky, the consciousness that illuminates all, the light that impregnates law, wisdom, beauty. Zeus guards the home, minds the storehouse, is the guardian of the polis, its moral power. The Greek playwrights speak of the “city of Zeus”, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all. This is the transpersonal chakra, the place of your own entelechy, related to the purpose of the cosmos, to the One who enters into your time, to redream, to recreate. The lover of humans, the giver of justice and hope, pours energy into your crown, the place of the universal chakra.

Above this chakra is your own personal guiding star through which you are connected to the great pole, guiding star above and fire below to the center of the earth. You ride between those places, your own way of redreaming the gods. Here is the new dream, reality, possibility for your life for the world. Be filled. Accepting. Undoubting. And so it is.

Jean moves into silence. We sit here with her, bathed in silence. In possibility. In new hope. The moon rises over the garden on Iona, and we are still here,  sitting in wonder, in joy.

 

Gathering Space for September 8, 2015

Ritual of Belonging

The September evening sky spills light of molten gold over our garden on Iona. It is pleasantly warm, an invitation to be out of doors.

Each woman who arrives is carrying a gift: flowers, scented oils fragrant with exotic perfumes, lotus, rose and jasmine, musical instruments small enough to carry: fifes, flutes, even an Irish penny whistle. Some bring wine and plates of desserts…. It looks like a birthday party.

In fact, it is! Tonight we celebrate the Birth of Mary.

A large cloth, woven of fine wool the colour of the sea at dawn, is spread out over the grass at the centre of the garden. The food and wine are placed on the low stones of the ruined walls for later. First, we prepare the Ritual.

Tonight we will have music, song and dance to honour Mary, in a Ritual of declaring our Belonging to the Sacred Feminine.

This is a ritual meant for outdoors, close to earth, sky, water, trees… To enhance the nearness to nature, we place in the centre of the cloth symbols of the four elements; air (the feather of a bird), water (in a clear glass bowl), fire (our small fire pot) and earth (loosely placed in a pottery bowl).

Moving away from the cloth, we begin a gentle movement, barefoot on the grass. a dance to Saint Saens, “the Swan” from the Carnival of the Animals.

Now we each in our hearts address the One in whose honour we are creating this ritual: we use the name we each choose for this Holy One, or,  simply address her as “Friend”.

We each speak or create our own prayer of dedication and intent for what we are about to do.

 Here is one you may use with places in brackets where you may insert your own words:
Holy One,

You have….
(… entered into my life, my being
Awakening me to joy, to deep purpose, to love).

Now, today, I am ready to respond by …

(….consecrating to you all that I am)

From this day forward, I pledge to you…

(my life, my love, my body, mind and spirit.)

I promise to cultivate the freedom, joy and gratitude
that honour this way of living
and your acceptance of my gift by a daily practice of…

(written dialogue with you, and a time of deep listening)

And I ask …

(for your companionship that as partners we may reach out together,
as Hafiz suggests, “to comfort this world with your cup of solace”,
and I ask for friends, companions who will walk with me on this journey)

May it be so!


Following the prayer of dedication we take scented oil to anoint heart, hands, forehead, to symbolize our readiness to place our whole being at the service of the Holy One.

If you wish, you may choose instead to anoint your body at the place of the seven chakras or energy centres: the root chakra, the chakra of connection, the solar plexus, the heart, the throat, the third eye, the crown chakra.

We each choose or create a poem or prayer in which we imagine the voice of the Holy One receiving our dedication, welcoming us into a life of sacred partnership with Her.

Perhaps the words of the Seal Woman would be your choice:

I am always with you.
Only touch what I have touched
and I will breathe into your lungs
a wind for the singing of your songs.

Or maybe you are drawn by these words from the twentieth century poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
Go to the limits of your longing.
Embody Me.

Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose Me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

You may also wish to write a prayer or a poem of gratitude for this gift of Love and Partnership that has come into your life.  Here is a sample:

Like Sarah, like Elizabeth
So long barren I thought myself a wasteland…
Like Sarah, like Elizabeth
I laugh.
I feel the leap of joy within me.
For out of all non-expectancy, out of time, out of place
I am suddenly alive
Bursting with sprouts of new life
Burgeoning with plants
Nourished by wells I did not know were there.
My desert blooms, hardly know itself,
Surprised by exultant joy
Singing songs in the wilderness,
Now a garden,
With gratitude that must forswear words
And only, only, only dance.

We close our ritual with a celebratory dance, choosing music that expresses the joy of deep union, celebrating the Partnership newly-formed between you and the Holy One. You may wish to choose “The Flower Duet” from Lakme.

Following the ritual, it is time to pour the wine and uncover the sweet desserts. Enjoy!!!

Celebrate the birth of Love!

Gathering Space for September 1, 2015

The early evening wind blowing towards us from the Atlantic carries wisps of cooler air. There is no evading the truth that summer is ending, even though the hardier flowers still bloom in the garden of Iona’s Ruined Nunnery. We walk more briskly, warming ourselves by the movement, as we each arrive in our Gathering Space.

The westering sun gilds the worn stones, the low bushes, the remains of the higher walls that hover over the garden. 

There is the familiar ripple of sound as we exchange greetings and news with one another. As the volume of our conversation increases, a robin joins in, followed by a meadow lark. This leads to some laughter, which seems to invite a louder response from the birds. Then the sound fades, like an old record player winding down…

Has someone brought a poem, a song, a reflection for this evening?

“I brought something about summer’s end from Joyce Rupp’s book, “Prayers to Sophia”, says Christianne. “It speaks to the way we feel when it is time to let go of such a beautiful season.”

Once everyone is comfortably seated, Christianne reads:

Bestower of Fruitfulness,
little pockets of gold
sing among the green,
humming the melody
of autumn’s arrival.
The calendar speaks
of no such thing,
but trees rarely lie.

Summer‘s vibrant swelling

of sweet fruitfulness
still entices me.
Cool mornings and ripe afternoons
are too delicious for me
to simply say “good-bye”.

I grieve again summer’s going.
I struggle once more to welcome
the dying inherent in autumn.

I turn to my heart,
where you dwell in harmony.
Together we will prepare
for this never-easy-call
to say farewell to fruitfulness.

Wise Lady of the Seasons,
you sing a spiraling melody,
urging me onward with your song,
The only words of which I hear
are “let go, let go, let go.”

After the reading, we sit quietly, allowing the images and words to settle within us. Everything around us: the clear evening sky, soon to be radiant with stars, the softness of the summer grass beneath us, the garden with its late summer blossoms, the birdsong that was stilled during Christianne’s reading, and now rises anew… everything seems more lovely as we consider how soon it will be gone.

The silence deepens.

After a time, Christianne speaks: "Joyce Rupp suggests some

questions we may wish to take into our reflection time:"

Is there a part of your life that is in “summer” now?

Are you being asked to let go of anything that has been fruitful and abundant for you?

What part of your “summer” is most challenging for you to let go?

How does knowing that Sophia will be with you in this time of letting go ease the call to say farewell to summer?

Gathering Space for August 25, 2015

 

Summer has saved us a vibrant evening for our final August gathering. Warmth pervades the air, the light ruffling breeze. Here in the Garden of Iona’s 13th Century Nunnery, it seems that even the grass and worn stones are still hoarding the afternoon’s sunlight within them. 

 

Radiance. It recalls our thoughts on Sophia whose radiance never ceases… Joyce Rupp has written a book of Prayers to Sophia. Tonight Catherine offers to read for us the prayer called, “Light –Bearer”:

 

We take time to greet one another, to speak about our week, our encounters, our experiences of beauty in these last days of summer.

When we are settled and still, Catherine begins to read:

Eternal Lamp of Love,

remind me often of how much radiance comes

from the glow of one small candle flame.

When my spiritual window is heavily clouded,

and your abiding love seems far from me,

restore my belief in your vibrant presence.

When I doubt my ability to be a bearer of your light,

shine your truth and wisdom into my faltering spirit.

 

Radiant Star in my heart,

in every generation you pass into holy souls.

Thank you for the illuminated beings 

who have touched my life with their goodness.

Your light shining through them

has inspired me and filled me with spiritual energy.

 

Assure me that I can also be a Light-bearer for others,

a clear window of your eternal starlight.

Stir and whirl your dynamic presence in my being.

Stream your loving kindness through me.

I will open my mind and heart to your presence 

as you greet me in the unexpected and the challenging.

I, too, can make a difference in my world

because of your radiant light shining through me.

 I am ready to pay the price for transparency.

May my desire for deeper union with you be realized.

 

We take time to be with this prayer, noticing which parts speak most surely and truly to our hearts. 

************************************************

 

Joyce Rupp also offers questions that we may wish to take 

into our Sacred Hour:

 

What part of you easily shines forth?

 

What part of you remains hidden?

 

Who are some of the people in your life

who have been Light-bearers for you?  

 

 

Gathering Space for August 18, 2015

 

The light on this early evening is more subtle, a silvery grey rather than the burnished gold of high summer, late June, early July. As we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona, we feel the difference. Each new arrival glances around this familiar beloved place as though trying to decide what is different. The shadows cast by the remaining walls are heavier… some of us are gazing upwards at the sky, others glancing towards the few flowering bushes that still hold colour.

 

As we each find a place to sit on the grass or on the low worn stones of the walls, our usual animated chatter is subdued.

 

“The summer light is withdrawing,” Colette says. “Already I can sense autumn approaching.”

 

“Before we know it, Samhain will be here, bringing with it the dark feminine time of the year,” says Kathleen.

“I prefer the light,” Clara says. “I wish it were always like this. Even dimmed, the evenings are still lovely.”

“We need to learn to draw the light inside us,” Jean says. ‘I have a process from the Western Kabalistic Tradition that invites light to move into our being. I would lead it for us this evening if you like.”

There is enthusiastic response to Jean’s offer. Rosemary sets up her harp to offer quiet music for the process.

Jean invites us to stand:

Begin by swaying, swaying /just be very swaying/let your eyes and face be soft… be aware of the feelings around the top of your head, the crown where the brain is; with eyes closed, being aware of the crown, where the openness to the limitless is, imagine a great light, limitless, huge; a huge potentiation of light pouring into you. 

You breathe, and as you breathe, you inhale and you have a sense of limitless 

 

“I prefer the light,” Clara says. “I wish it were always like this. Even dimmed, the evenings are still lovely.”

 

“We need to learn to draw the light inside us,” Jean says. ‘I have a process from the Western Kabalistic Tradition that invites light to move into our being. I would lead it for us this evening if you like.”

 

There is enthusiastic response to Jean’s offer. Rosemary sets up her harp to offer quiet music for the process.

 

Jean invites us to stand:

Begin by swaying, swaying /just be very swaying/let your eyes and face be soft… be aware of the feelings around the top of your head, the crown where the brain is; with eyes closed, being aware of the crown, where the openness to the limitless is, imagine a great light, limitless, huge; a huge potentiation of light pouring into you

 

You breathe, and as you breathe, you inhale and you have a sense of limitless light, pure potential, just pouring into you, pouring into the top of your head; breathe it in, breathing it in, bathe in it, like a kind of divine fire, pouring into the top of your head, potentials of every kind, potentials of understanding, intelligence. 

 

Feel the region around your eyes and your senses, your face, the place of sensory knowings, being activated, being stimulated, light pouring in, igniting the eyes, igniting the tongue, the taste, igniting the ears, igniting the hearing, the sense of smell, igniting the skin. The skills are growing, growing, rich skills, rich light... breathing very deeply, breathing, breathing and it’s being pulled into the top of your skull, pulling it in, and the whole area of Wisdom, the Chochma, intelligence, the sensory knowing being activated. Let yourself move with it.

 

The sense here is that there is pouring into you the great blooming branches of a tree coming from the limitless light, the light without end. The light has chosen you as part of its receptacle, its through-which, and it’s willing to pour itself into you. Let yourself feel the life that is light, that is love, as it illumines your crown, it illumines your face and head, those organs of the senses where Wisdom can reside, and let yourself breathe, let your body move as it’s appropriate, as you feel like it needs to.

 

Let the greening power of this light come now to your shoulders, pour down, pour in and through the shoulders. Feel the capacity to do things, to understand things, to make things happen, to express things. Feel a kind of cosmic connection with pure expression, understanding, so that ... you are a vehicle of complete understanding, benacht in the Hebrew, total understanding. You understand and move those shoulders, just move them, feel they’re moving as powers of yes, powers of YES!! Yes, I can do it, I understand it, I can do it, I can do it.

 

Let the light pour all around, all around your whole body, creating its energy field all around you, pure limitless light all around you, your body is held in it, and it is absorbed in your body. Yes. Just feeling that light, feel it moving down the  right arm, feel the right arm now ignited with power, ignited with the power of love, of giving, of luring, with kindness, of loving kindness, and just let it bestow, give to the world genuine compassion, giving. Think even in your mind, the things that you’re giving. What do you wish to give to particular individuals, perhaps to the world, out of your love? What is there that you wish to give from this place of absolute light and love? What do you know that you have to give? Bestow, bestow, bestow and feel yourself that the right arm offers kindness.  

 

And feel in the left arm, a great power, a great strength, the ability to judge, to discern, to make true decisions, power, power, make that kind of movement with that left arm, that right arm giving love, compassion, grace, caring, mercy, bestowing gifts of loving compassion, the left arm empowering, discriminating, using the will to accomplish.

 

Feel the light now pouring down into the center of your body, your high heart, your heart in the solar plexus. Just pour it in, letting the hand of loving kindness, and the hand of power and strength and judgement and discernment mediate between them, bring in the power of light to a beautiful vessel there in the center of your body. Feel your beauty of that, the beauty which is within you, feel beauty and balance and creative expression and from your center feel the light pouring, creating, creating friendship, creating that project, creating whatever is your intention to create, but in beauty, in balance, in sheer wonderful effulgence of possibility made manifest. You are that which eternally creates in beauty: beauty before you, beauty behind you, beauty above you, beauty beneath you, beauty to the right of you, beauty to the left of you.  Beauty within you. You walk in beauty from that center, the way of creation, beauty that art thou....

 

Light all around you, light all within you, let the light now spill down to your root, into the root chakras, into the part of you that is your foundation, letting the light spill there and also work down the right side of the leg, the right leg. There it slips into a sense of eternity, everlasting beauty, everlasting light. Become aware of that right leg taking you forward, yes taking you forward, forward to eternity and victory and consummation, and you can do it, and you will do it, all of it seeding the foundation, all of it feeding the deep center, filled with light, light going down, light coming up, so much limitless light.

 

The left now, filled with splendor, with the beauty and power of expression, with celebration, light going all the way through, deep into the legs and up into the foundation and back up to the legs, light playing in many different patterns through these parts of the body, the great cosmic body, radiance, feel it playing up and down your spine, up and down your spine, up and down your spine, so that at the root of the spine, the lower chakras and the pelvic girdle, you can say “ahhh, it is light; it is the foundation of being. I am it in the world. I am the cosmic principle. This cosmic human in the world. It’s me.  Whether you like it or not, God, here I am. I am the local. Here it is; it’s me.”

 

And then begin to dance. Dance, carrying all these things through the place which is the kingdom. You live the kingdom with your feet, the expression of life, the creation of life in all its forms, you live with your feet and the energy in your body. All of it, all of it: energy, light, beauty, all of it playing up back to the crown and pouring it back out and giving it back up to the body, to the crown and pouring out. Back to the ein sof, back to the life, back to the life and all source. And then you dance.”

 

As Jean  invites us to dance, the flutist among us lifts notes

into the air of such vibrant seduction that our feet are dancing

before we have time to think of it!

 

The dancing goes on in such joy that no one notices when silently,

one by one, the stars appear above us, blessing us with their

ancient far-off light. 

 

Gathering Space for August 11, 2015

Scrying with Galadriel : Part Two

This evening, as the women of our communion are coming into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona, each looks about the grassy enclosure, then beyond to where trees obscure a pathway. Some of the looks are hopeful, expectant; others are cautious, a few even fearful.

No one has yet spoken.

 

Finally, someone asks, “Is she here? Or do you think she is coming?” A chorus of questions follows. Everyone seems to be wondering about Galadriel. Will she return? Will we have another opportunity to gaze into her Mirror? 

 

 

Kate is looking thoughtful. “If I understand Galadriel, her coming will depend on whether or not we want her to return.” Kate pauses while we take this in, then asks, “Well do we want her to come?”

 

 

“I’m not sure I want to know anything more than what I saw last time,” Carol says. “It will take me a while to really understand it.”   

 

Yvette agrees. “Once is enough for me, too.” 

 

“I’m wondering…” Clara begins,and everyone looks her way. “Well, I just wonder how it would be if we asked Galadriel to show us something about our whole communion, since we’ve each had our chance to see a personal vision.”

 

This suggestion is greeted with relief, even enthusiasm. The mood of the group quickly shifts to a subdued excitement.

 

“How shall we invite her to return?” Barbara asks.

 

Yet no answer is needed. Galadriel is already standing among us, gesturing for us to follow her along the path that leads to her mirror. In moments, we are gathered around the tree-shaped pedestal, watching as Galadriel fills her silver ewer with water from the nearby stream, pours it into her shallow silver bowl.

 

“Do not stand too near, and be careful not to touch the water,” Galadriel advises. “Make a circle so that everyone can see the surface of the mirror.”

 

Although we seem to have arrived only minutes before, the sky is now fully dark. 

 

There is no moon. We gaze upwards towards more stars than any of us have seen or even imagined. There are so many that it is impossible to make out the shapes of the familiar constellations, riddled as they are with flickering lights within and around them. 

 

“Now look carefully at the surface of the water, and wait,” Galadriel says.

 

And so we gaze, and wait. And wait. And wait.

 

Someone whispers, “There is nothing to see.”

Another voice says, just as softly, “I don’t think anything is going to happen.”

 

“Quiet,” Galadriel speaks in a voice of command. “You must wait or the vision will not come to you.”

 

We see a bowl. It holds dark water. The surface begins to fold as though someone were blowing a breath of air across it. The folds grow larger until they look like waves. We are gazing into a dark sea whose waves rise and fall and rise again. At the edge of the bowl a tiny radiant star is rising until it stands above the waves. A guiding light. 

 

“Star of the sea”, someone whispers. But no one hears, for now on the surface of the sea, a little boat has appeared. It is enclosed, made of wood, looking like an ark from a child’s picture book. It moves over the waves, rising and falling with them. The tiny star is leading it forward. 

 

Suddenly the vision fades. We are looking at a bowl of water that holds starlight in its clear unruffled surface.

 

“What did you see?” Galadriel asks. 

“A sea.” “A ship”. “A star.”

The responses carry disappointment.

 

Now the white lady smiles, and seems on the edge of laughter. “But what did you desire to see?”

 

It takes us a moment to put the expectation with the result. 

 

Rita speaks: “We hoped to see a vision for our Communion. Who we are. Where we are going…. Might it be that all of us are inside that ark, floating on a sea, not certain where we are going, but guided by the Star of the Sea? ”

 

Galadriel’s smile is warm. “What is the meaning of that title, “Star of the Sea” ?

 

Colette responds: “Isn’t that a title of the Sacred Feminine?”

 

Suzanne is excited. “Yes. It is one of the ancient titles of Isis in Egypt. And it is also a title of Mary. Stella Maris in Latin. Star of the Sea.”

 

The mood is shifting from mild disappointment to wonder.

To awe.

 

Galadriel looks at each one of us. “Do not be afraid. You are on a journey together across the sea of faith to an unknown destination. You are being guided by the presence of love, the ancient feminine form of the Sacred: Wisdom Sophia.

"Be joyful, for you are greatly loved.”

 

Suddenly she is gone. We make our way back to the Garden of the Nunnery, guided by the light of uncountable stars.

Scrying with Galadriel Part One : August 4, 2015

 

There is a stillness to this early evening. It wraps itself like a magic cloak around us, as singly or in two’s or in clusters of friends, we come into the Garden of the Ruins of Iona’s 13th century Nunnery. The usual energetic twitter and chatter of greetings is a low murmur, more quiet stream than babbling brook… until it quiets further into a sacred expectant hush.  

 

It is Noreen who finds words for the moment.  “It’s as if something awaits us. Something wonderful.” 

 

By now we are all seated on the grass or on the low stone walls. Maureen asks, “Might it be the Sophia? We've been reflecting on her presence in our lives. Perhaps she's here with us.”

 

Mary Ellen suggests, “Maybe we should invite her to come to us, as Solomon did? Didn’t he write, I asked and the spirit of Wisdom came to me? 

 

Natacha is looking puzzled. “It doesn’t feel like Sophia, who is always with us and within us. It feels more like an imaginal presence, an archetype, someone who represents Wisdom.”

 

Joy speaks, “Whoever it is, we need to welcome her.  Just ask her name, and why she has come.”

 

Hesitantly, Ellyn speaks now: “This might sound impossible, but what about Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings?  Galadriel shows wisdom reflected in her water mirror, just the way Hafiz invites us to look in a clear mountain mirror.”

 

Rosemary adds, “That’s an ancient Celtic practice called scrying. I wish we had Tolkien’s book to know how to do it.”

 

Anne Kathleen says, “I have my copy. I never go anywhere without it. Let me find the page and I’ll read it aloud:”

 

They saw, as if she came in answer to their words, the Lady Galadriel approaching. Tall and white and fair she walked beneath the trees. She spoke no word, but beckoned to them.

 

Her eyes on the page, Anne Kathleen cannot see what the others do. As the words are read aloud, the Lady Galadriel appears, enacting her own movements just as in the story. Magically, the Garden of Iona is transformed into the place described. The Communion members, as though under an enchantment, follow Galadriel. 

 

Turning aside, she led them toward the southern slopes of the hill… and passing through a high green hedge they came into an enclosed garden. No trees grew there, and it lay open to the sky. The evening star had risen and was shining with white fire above the western woods. Down a long flight of steps the Lady went into a deep green hollow, through which ran murmuring the silver stream that issued from the fountain on the hill. At the bottom, upon a low pedestal carved like a branching tree, stood a basin of silver, wide and shallow, and beside it stood a silver ewer.

 

With water from the stream Galadriel filled the basin to the brim, and breathed on it, and when the water was still again she spoke. “Here is the Mirror of Galadriel,” she said. “I have brought you here so that you may look in it, if you will.”

The air was very still, and the dell was dark, and the Elf-lady beside (them) was tall and pale. “What shall we look for and what shall we see?” (they) asked, filled with awe. 

 

“Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,” she answered, “and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that may yet be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?”  

 

Looking up from the book, seeing the Communion members have disappeared, Anne Kathleen goes in search of them, arriving just in time to hear Galadriel’s question, and the response from each woman: “Yes.”

 

And so begins the most magical of all our rituals on Iona. One by one, each woman steps forward to stand beside Galadriel. In the clarity and strength of her presence, each one looks without fear into the mirror.

 

Now it is your turn. Come forward. Do not fear. Look into the water. Wait while the clouds on the surface clear. 

What do you seek?

What do you see?

 

Take the time you need. Afterwards, you may wish to move a little apart to write about your experience or to draw or dance or sing what you have seen, felt, glimpsed, understood.


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