Friday, January 4, 2013

Retreat to the Labyrinth

Author's note: originally, I wrote this a year ago, after the end of our Clergy's spring retreat.  I hadn't intended on publishing it but recent events and epiphanies made publishing this appropriate.

Each year, my coven holds two major retreats for it's clergy.  The first is an ordained clergy-only event and it was held in early March, in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains.  Although it is a 3-day/3-night event, I was only able to attend for the last full day and night of this past year's retreat.  Usually, I'd feel like I had to pack a whole bunch of "doing stuff" into being there only for one full day of the retreat.  However, this time I decided that it was "perfect" that I was only going for the one day/night and I would enjoy my time there in a very relaxed fashion.

These kinds of events strengthen the bonds between each of us as clergy within this coven.  It's also the time of year when each of our clergy examines their own Priest/esshood and their connection to deity. For me, it is a time when I can truly let my hair down, magically speaking as I am amongst chosen family who loves and supports me as I love and support them.  This is the place where I don't have to worry about placing shields upon myself that keep people out or keep me in.  This is the place where I can really let go and not worry that "something bad might happen" whilst in the middle of trance/magical workings. My Sisters and Brothers are there with me and for me.

Where we go on our spring retreat, there is a big labyrinth in the midst of giant redwoods at the top of a hill.  On the last night of the retreat, a group of us decided to make the trek up there together, in the dark, close to the hour of midnight.  Through the darkness we found our way, bells lightly tinkling, feet crunching dried leave and twigs on the path, silent voices as we made our way.  The air was cool and clear, occasionally reminding us of its presence through soft sighs that brushed the network of branches above our heads. We made our way to the clearing and gathered together under a dark sky and luminous full moon.

One by one we stepped into the circle and traveled through the stones.  I wondered if my fear of stumbling in the dark would reign for this walk but that soon disappeared from thought as my feet found their own rhythm to walk by.  It didn't take long for The Dark Goddess to begin her whispers and soon enough I would let Her in.  She would accompany me on this little journey, answering my unspoken questions, soothing my unvoiced fears. 

She sang to me - this is the form of communication that I remember the most.  On the journey into the circle, she sang to me.  She sang to me of previous hurts now healed by Love. She sang to me of closure and freedom.  She sang to me about new life.  She sang to me the words that were already in my heart but I still needed to hear:

My heart is free from burden and my spirit's no longer chained
A new love lives in my life now and I'm forever changed
While I can't forget You for Your choice that changed the game
when I think upon the words the message is the same:

Memory's a lesson that you learn to set you free
My new Love He lifts me up and loves me just for me
I've learned that Love is not like You and so I have to say,
Like memory, Your kiss, Your touch - it fades.

I can tell you, in my heart, there is no going back
I no longer worry about how the deck is stacked
While I can't forget You for Your choice that changed the game
when I think upon the words the message is the same:

Memory's a lesson that you learn to set you free
My new love He fills me up with joy for all to see
I've learned that Love is not like You and so I have to say, 
Like memory Your kiss, Your touch - it fades

I love a man who knows just what it means to be a Man
I feel the heights of love and strength when He takes me by the hand
But unlike memory, this Love I know will never fade
His Love has healed those wounds You gave me, ever deeply made

Memory's a lesson that you learn to set you free
I've put my heart now on display and still Love calls to me
I've learned that Love is life with Him and so I have to say, 
In my heart now, His Love will always stay.

When something dies, something new must eventually take it's place.  Before new growth can occur, the remnants of the previous life must be cleared away. The Dark Goddess destroys, clears, makes way for the new.  The Dark Goddess stokes the fires that can either temper or consume.  The Dark Goddess takes away the mud, dirt, and grime and leaves behind a space of clarity in their place.  Work with the Dark Goddess helps us to clear away our attachments to those things that no longer serve us, those things that weigh us down.  My heart had hurt, for a long time, covered in the muck, burnt by the flames of conflict.  Without the Dark Goddess, my heart may have taken another turn down a path of never recovering from its wounds being too overwhelmed with the weight of things past and gone. 

In my experience though, She does not clear it for you but rather she shows you the way to do it yourself.  The Dark Goddess is that which questions us, to make us truly think about what it means to continue to carry something with us.  She asks us the value of that thing, asks us what the cost of that thing is, asks us to truly think about whether we benefit through the continuous effort of carrying that thing.  If we can face the Dark Goddess' questions with certainty that it is truly worth it to maintain this 'thing' then it is so.  If we face the Dark Goddess' questions with uncertainty, She forces us to look at that uncertainty and shows us the decisions that we can make.  Through my work with Her, this night was like the final "dusting off and polishing" of a new piece of artwork and she showed me, through her questions and messages that, in fact, my heart is truly capable of amazing things - including healing to the point of allowing love in, again and again and again.

In the Center of the labyrinth, I left behind that dirt and grime that had remained on my heart for so long.  Of course I should be free to be in love with my sweetie if that's what my heart felt.  This seems like a simple realization, doesn't it?  Perhaps the concept is simple but the journey towards understanding that concept isn't always quite so easy. 

In the center of the labryinth, my Brothers and Sisters stood with me as I poured this, among with a few other things, into the center and out of me.  I was free to be in love.

Now it was time to leave the circle.  At first, I heard the words of Yeshe Rabbit's song for Hekate:
Mother of Darkness
Won't you guide us
through the labyrinth
to the truth

Mother of Darkness
Won't you carry us
Through the Chaos 
to the truth

 But then, The Dark Goddess began to sing a different song for me:
Mother, Dark Goddess
Carry me, Dark Goddess
Mother you shield me from fire and rain
Mother, Dark Goddess, I call your name!
She's left this for me as a project to work on.  I gave you the framework, She said.  Now I just have to work on it.

The Void

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Polunochnyaya, one of the Zorya, sister goddesses in the Slavic tradition.  Her Sisters are The Morning Star and The Evening Star - Polunochnyaya is the Midnight Star who cradles the dying Sun God at the end of the year.  She straddles the time between light and dark, that moment of reflection between the end of the old year and the begining of the new. To me, she showed herself as moving with a beautiful silence and stoic grace, spreading wisdom where she goes, and being filled with the love of a Mother cradling her child in comfort and security. 

I wanted to share the message of Polunochnaya:
The Void is that which holds up all of creation.  In The Void, there is darkness that surrounds.  In The Void, there is nothing and there is everything.  In The Void, there is no time and there is time without end.  Here, in The Void, what exists is that which we have cultivated within our own souls, within our own personal energies.  It is the womb of The Mother, ready to carry us in the Darkness when our soul's time for reflection has come.   
Here, within this womb, there is the energy of the soul examining itself.  The Void strips us of our masks that we wear in the world of Earth, and we are shown the true nature of our Self.  It is here, in this examination, that the true power of The Void is revealed - for, in The Void, we look at ourselves and we make a decision.  This decision is one that The Void will make manifest for as long as we choose it. 
Do we refuse the power of The Void to birth us into a new existence?  Do we shroud ourselves in the trappings of this mortal coil, the trappings of fear, uncertainty, and pain?  Do we remain clothed in these, bundled so deeply within them that we cannot see the way to move forward?  In The Void, we can certainly do this - we can choose to remain weighed down by grief, anger, and fear and in doing so, remain in The Time Without End.  
In The Void, we can also choose to embrace the power that will birth us into a new existence, into the time of Now.  The power of light, the power of Love, these forces exists in The Void also.  What we bring into The Void, those energies that we chose to weave within our being while on Earth - these are carried into The Void with us.  And I'll let you in on an important secret:  what we welcome into The Void exists there as well.  We have but to decide to embrace the powers of Love and of Light, to welcome them into our Self, to turn away from the blindness of closed minds and eyes, and make the decision to see that these powers are always available to us to call out, draw upon, and be guided by. 
When we make that decision, to embrace Love and to embrace Light, we are renewed - ready to be created again from The Void, from the womb of the Goddess.