This weekend, Daniel stayed home with Graeme, allowing me to meet mermaiden
for the Spring Equinox Woman's Weekend at Diana's Grove
in Missouri. It was the most enriching, life-changing, magical sabbat celebration I could have ever hoped for. Thursday
afternoon, I flew up to Chicago. On the plane, I was reading the book Affluenza
about our society's unhealthy addiction to stuff and I've been giving great thought to the impact I have upon Gaia in my own life, so it should have come as no surprise that shortly after arriving at my Chicago condo for the night, my iPhone died a sudden death and couldn't be revived. The message there wasn't lost on me, so I happily did without until my return here yesterday. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that pay phones do still exist.)Friday
morning, I lugged my bags to the bus stop, transferred to the train, and rode to the airport to meet up with Sarah. As luck would have it, I found her in the terminal without the use of a phone. That was pretty awesome. :D We flew together into St. Louis and were picked up there by another woman driving to the Grove. The four hour drive to the Grove passed companionably with a stop at Subway for sandwiches. The weather was gloriously warm and sunny. We felt pretty lucky and intrigued to learn that there were only 15ish women registered for the weekend, compared to the crowds of 40-50 I've encountered in the past. We were assigned our own cabin together, with three bunkbeds, so it felt like outrageous luxury and privacy. There was one woman and her dog in the cabin adjacent to ours, but really we felt like we had the run of the place...acres and acres and acres of solitude. The afternoon gave us a couple hours to walk the land together, wade bravely into (and out of!) the icy spring run-off of the rocky creek, visit some of the Goddess shrines/altars on the land, and otherwise sink our roots into that sacred land. At 5pm, we hiked up the hill to the Mystery School House, pinned on our name badges, and circled in the Great Room with the other participants. It was an intimate, warm group. Just over a dozen of us women, aged 12-70?, mothers with their daughters, maidens, mothers, crones. A few of the women I'd met in visits years past and it was wonderful to see and hug them again. Others, I hadn't met, were so kind and open-hearted, it seemed we'd known each other forever.
There were a couple themes to the weekend: the courage of a seedling dreaming in the dark as it stretches towards the uncertain welcome of the spring world and the sacrifice of Persephone returning out of love and service to the world of her Mother, Demeter. We are the Seeds, we are Persephone, we are Demeter.
After introducing ourselves, talking about the weekend and the science of composting outhouses, we split up into smaller support groups and took some time to talk about where we were at emotionally and what we expected from our time at the Grove. At 6:30pm, a communal dinner was served. We had time to hike back to the cabin under the bow moon before hauling back up for what had been billed as an 8:30pm Candlelit Storytelling in the Great Room. What began as a story morphed into a group ritual. There was drumming and dancing and impromptu elemental invocations. I have no conscious memory of what was said. (I should have journaled.) :)
That night, my sinus infection got worse and I froze about to death. I remember thinking that I needed to get out of my bunk and across the room to turn the gas heater up but I was shaking so badly the thought of throwing off the covers I did have seemed suicidal. ;) I did get up and piled on clothes, cranked up the heat, and slept better after that.
I woke up at dawn and took photos around the barn and meadow.
Around 10am, Sarah and I went up to the main house for a quick breakfast before our morning sessions. We talked a little bit about the astrological wheel and all the pairs of conflicting/related issues that spread across its spokes, the solstices and equinoxes that mark it into quarters. Another staff member, a poet and wordsmith, led us through a really neat writing activity. Here's how it worked: ( Poetry, A Unique Egg Hunt, and other Wordy Bits... )
During the afternoon, the main house was host to some crafting opportunities. The big kitchen table was surrounded by women working on creating collages with their word strips from the earlier session, decorating magical, inspirational eggs, and coaxing the sun onto that sunprint paper. I had no idea what to do with the eggs. On the one hand, I'm vegan and I don't buy or use eggs. On the other hand, it is their big ritual tradition for the sabbat, decorating and exchanging blessing eggs. If I didn't create one, then someone else wouldn't get one. I was totally at a loss for how to proceed gracefully and within my own comfort. The giant bowl of undecorated eggs on the bowl decided me. I did my decorations and when the time came, collected my egg from someone else, absorbed the message of the blessing, and slipped it back into the basket before I left.
At 4:30pm, after a glorious hot shower, we met to plan the evening's ritual. I was randomly sorted into the group to invoke Water, very happily, and we laughed our way through some borderline crazy considerations for how to do that. In the end, we had half a plan and then made it up on the spot later with perfectly acceptable results. ;)
At the last Circles of Support meeting, I cried like a baby. I'd been mentally calculating how many days of my life I could expect to spend on that land at Diana's Grove. When the question came around to me in our small support group of how the day had gone, I surprised myself by completely losing it. I was mourning the loss of it, the loss of my daydreams where I could bring my daughter, my daughters with me to this land. I felt like I'd come to the party about fifteen years too late and I just felt the loss of that passing in one painful rush.
Dinner was at 6pm and then we had a few hours to get dressed for ritual.
And the ritual! It was perfect. The best part was that release of the energy after an increasingly fast, wild, joyous singing She Changes Everything She Touches and Everything She Touches, Changes
. We were in the dark, our breathless faces lit by the candles we each held, as the chant ended and we all took a huge, collective, grinning breath. Looking around at the faces of all those women, beautiful, wild, joyous women of all ages, gave me perfect faith in humanity's goodness, the power of the Craft, and my own divine ability to make a difference. One of the staff members looked over us all and proclaimed us something like "Beautiful, powerful women all. Changers. You have the power to change eternity, to change the world." We are all seeds dreaming ourselves up through the dark, close to making our colorful entrance to the world of light, of spring. :) Sarah and I went back to the cabin and stayed up talking long into the night. The ritual had unlocked something in both of us, the door to the path of our lives. Torrents of words about where we each suddenly knew
we were headed and tarot cards to reinforce that knowing with images. Witchy slumber party par excellence. :DSunday morning
, we woke up to a steady, icy rain and the reminder that it truly takes courage to sprout in spring. The weather isn't always welcoming! My sinus infection shrugged off the 15-whatever-days of antibiotics and I was back to having pockets stuffed with tissues and tins of cough drops and drinking all the water I could stand. The damp wasn't helping me feel like less of a troll, I can tell you that! :) I've been told I'm not contagious at this point, but it was still hard not to feel like a plague. Very shy and sniffly. :)
At 10am, after breakfast, we had a tarot session with the Grove's resident Tarot expert. Really, every tarot session with her brings up new techniques, new insights, new wisdom. What is it I'm planting to bloom in my life? Every woman had her own answer--mine was the 4 of Wands. Funny as that's what I've gotten every time I've been at the Grove. Another portal to cross, another new life born from the work there.
We exchanged eggs, hugs, good wishes and had lunch before packing up and saying our goodbyes to the damp, daffodil brightened spots we'd come to love again. Long drive to the airport in the rain, rain delays, long walks at the airports with leaden, clothes-stuffed bags. In Chicago, I took the train back to the condo for a quick sleep before my morning flight back to Florida. I decided, fortunately, to take a midnight shower before falling into bed where I found, to my horror, a tick dug tenaciously into my shoulderblade.
(It's okay now. Provided I don't get Lyme. But really, I kinda freaked and when the suffocate-them-with-goop-so-they'll-let-
go didn't work, I just used all my strength and ripped the little bugger out of my skin. My immune system will have to dispose of his little mouthparts.)
Ahem. Yes. I've had two ticks in the whole of my life and they've both come from the state of Missouri. Missouri, I'm looking at you! ;D
But hitchhiker notwithstanding, it was an incredible weekend. ( Photos here... )
Lots more photos at my Flickr page