REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST WOMAN SOUL GATHERING

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When I first received the email from Bobbie Snyder that there was going to be a women’s gathering outside of Seattle, and that she was bringing the Grandmother Moon Bundle, I knew I had to be there. I had assisted Bobbie with opening the bundle at the Tennessee Naraya, Dance for All People, and I knew the honor of being in its presence.

So that was what drew me to the gathering. But there was more. The idea of igniting the spark of Source within me to follow my purpose was powerful for me. I wanted to hear the teachings being offered by the elders who were to be there. There was a paragraph in the material I received from Chalice Bailey about Listening and Speaking in Circle, that said it all to me. “Collaborative creation. Willingness to lean in and engage. Plunge deep. Step into the fullness of who we are.”

And so, I made arrangements. Coming from Alabama to Tacoma to get on a ferry was like something out of a dream.

I was greeted at Pilgrim Firs Retreat with warm smiles and a “Dark Moon” stone pendant that symbolized our connection.

After taking my bags to my cabin, I went straight to the Lodge. As I approached, I heard singing and the grandmother drum. Uncle Debbie Geurrero and Mary Shackelford and a few other women were welcoming me to join them on the drum. I was home.

As more women gathered, I could feel anticipation rising in my heart. MattieDavis and Chalice called us together and I was stricken by their clarity, wit and desire to make all of us feel safe and welcomed. I was intrigued by Mattie’s talk about gathering power through the phases of a woman’s life. It brought back so many memories and stirred thoughts in me as I stand in my elder years.

Thursday afternoon and evening we introduced ourselves, and opened the Grandmother Moon Bundle, for which I was an honored assistant. Then we went outside and created the beautiful moon circle of our crystals and sacred items we each brought.

Then Lynette Edge introduced us to the sunrise ritual of many of the tribes of the Northwest – Spirit Bathing – where the women of the tribe go into the lake (or river), greet the four directions and cleanse themselves inside and out through a scream. As we stepped out of the chilly lake water, we each were gathered into the arms of an elder, and received a shawl they had for each of us. Mine hangs in a place of honor next to my Sundance shawl.

At Saturday night’s lamenting circle, a ritual to help us understand that our soul’s gifts can be found next to our wounds, I circled the room with cedar to help balance and cleanse us, I felt how deeply we were moved to express our sorrows, anger, and losses. And I was equally moved by the transitions we made to forgiveness and joy.

I didn’t want to leave on Sunday and was glad that I’d made arrangements to stay in the Seattle area of a few days. The mix of women’s spirituality and Native American Spirituality was nurturing and beautiful. I invite you to experience this transformational weekend in October, 2017.

deJoly LaBrier, Mentone, Alabama, USA

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EMBRACING THE CRONE

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Elder and Author, June BlueSpruce, at Sliabh na Cailli, sitting on An Cailleach’s chair.

In the Celtic tradition, October 31-November 1, the days right after the WomanSoul gathering, mark the time of Samhain, the start of the New Year. This is celebrated in the United States as Halloween.

Samhain is the time to call on the Crone, the Hag, the fearsome one who, in the old tale, blocks the way to the life-giving spring and demands a kiss from those who, in desperate thirst, seek access. She rewards those brave enough to fully embrace her with beauty, power, sovereignty. Wild, generous, nurturing, wise, this ancient Earth Goddess belongs to the stone mountains in the west of Ireland. SliabhnaCaillí (Hill of the Hag), a high hill in the east of Ireland, is also dedicated to her. She is called An Cailleach.

I first met her seven years ago during a shamanic journey as I lay near the ancient stone cairn (mound) on top of that hill. She terrified me. Over time, her wise, kind grandmother aspect emerged. She embodies strength and determination. I draw on her for backbone and connection with the Earth.

Last autumn equinox, I again stood on Sliabhna Caillí, this time at dawn, waiting my turn to enter the cairn. The rising sun’s light shot through the passageway and illuminated the beautiful Neolithic carvings in the stone at the back of the cairn. Those of us crouched in the darkness inside gasped in awe.

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Sliabh na Cailli

An Cailleach is strongly connected to the North, direction of overcoming challenges, confronting one’s shadow, undergoing transformation. She whips up gale-force winds, torrential rains, deep snow, bone-chilling cold. Her love is fierce, and she asks us to call forth our own fierceness to meet her in the North, so that we can receive her gift, the gift of sovereignty. In a political sense, sovereignty means the ability of a state to govern itself. It also refers to the ability to stand in our power and use the full range of our gifts in our own lives. It is inextricably linked with the responsibility to recognize and honor the sovereignty of others and to serve the common good.

Our country now faces the extreme consequences that follow centuries of violating the sovereignty of its people, particularly indigenous people, people of color, and women. In the old days in Ireland, to become king a man had to marry the goddess of the land in sacred ceremony and vow to protect and honor her sovereignty. He was required to rule in a way that allowed all to share in the land’s abundance. If he failed to do so, he was ousted as king. How far we have come from those days!

An Cailleach can help us through the challenges we face at this time. Most of our leaders have not served the land and her people well. We suffer from rampant racism, ongoing war against the indigenous peoples from whom the land was stolen, oppression of and violence against women, economic inequality, environmental destruction, and on and on. To access the life-giving spring and regain our sovereignty, to fully embody our wild, lusty, powerful selves, to honor the stones, the Earth’s backbone, we can call on and embrace the old one, the Crone, An Cailleach. Whatever name you have for her in your culture or tradition, it’s her time.

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WISDOM OF MEDICINE WHEEL TEACHINGS: THE 4 ELEMENTS AND THE 4 DIRECTIONS

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By Mary G.L. Shackelford

CAVEAT: The wisdom of the Medicine Wheel is incorporated into the life of many native tribes in this country. I honor and bow to the First People with appreciation for the guidance of their ways. I am not of indigenous blood, though my family has been in this land for more than 13 generations. I am one who since I was a young girl has been blessed with deep, embodied connection to the earth and all my relations. I am one who seeks to nurture and live from the indigenous soul. Following my own cultural heritage, I have visited the stone circles of Scotland and made inquiry into an array of cross-cultural traditions centered on the wheel of life, the four sacred elements and the guidance of four directions teachings. This wisdom tradition speaks to me in the most comprehensive and true way; my daily spiritual practice, my walk in life; truly who I really am in my ignited soul work is grounded and funded by my walk in the Medicine Wheel of Life. I offer the following with great respect and deep gratitude for the gifts and teachings that come to me from the ancestors and all the different wisdom traditions.

The physical manifestation of the Medicine Wheel is a stone circle with four gates: East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water, North/Earth. As we enter this ancient symbol of wholeness gifted to us by our ancestors,we turn towards the wisdom of indigenous peoples all around the world who call on the wheel of life to see the patterns in their lives and guide their inner transformation. When we meet in circle, side-by-side, facing the center, we are turned powerfully towards each other. The simple act of beginning in circle invites us to see, sense, honor and appreciate each other’s different perspectives.

Becoming aware of and exploring each direction in the circle can add rich meaning to the cycles of our day, month, season, year or lifetime. With each complete turn, we journey through a beginning, a passionate growth, a harvest of lessons, and each cycle ends in stillness, peace and transformation. This simple act of beginning in circle invites us to see, sense, honor and appreciate each other’s different perspectives.

The four sacred elements connect us with all life across time. The air of our breath, the fire in the heat of our blood, the water that comprises so much of our bodies, the minerals of our bones is the same air, fire, water and earth that is shared, used and given back by all living things since the beginning of time. We are stardust. The light of stars, moon, sun and that which is at the center of the earth reflects within us. Our breath is the breath of the spirit of life breathing through us.

Four directions practice is a way to renew and deepen our body/mind/spirit connection with the natural cycles of Gaia and the features of the landscape of our home. The actual symbols vary widely throughout indigenous cultures, tho’ worldwide, the basic practice is consistent: using the circle and the four directions orients us in our soul’s journey through time and connects us to the ground of our being. It’s a way of remembering who we really are and finding our way, as human being, to walk in harmony with all our relations. And it can also be a doorway to travel into mystical realms and find your way home again.

Some of us stand in the EAST – in beginner’s mind. Some of us stand in the SOUTH – passionately, playfully willing to take RISKS and grow, holding the fullness of woman’s body wisdom. Some stand in the WEST – going within ourselves to dream, harvest our intuitions and integrate what we are learning. And, some stand in the NORTH where our ancestors await us with blessings – silently tuning into our inner wisdom, reaching deep to do the bone work of transformation, letting go, opening to change, entering into new possibilities.

The Medicine Wheel holds the full journey of being alive – so in the CENTER of this circle, we call in the BEGINNER, the GROWER, the DREAMER, and the WISE ONE within each of us. For GREAT MYSTERY, flowing through the center of all, invites us to become aware that we are all teachers and learners – all at the same time – until we leave this form. Journeying with awareness, we can see the whole and arrive at the center of our being. Welcome home to our true selves.

This is compiled from work I did with Kristina Turner and Kelly Ziniewicz when we shared Medicine Wheel teachings as part of a Leadership Hoop produced by Woman’s Way Red Lodge (http://www.wwrl.org) in 2013. Kristina and I created the chart that follows as a way of bringing together cross-cultural symbols associated with the Medicine Wheel of Life. Please note that the colors and symbols for each direction are different among different tribes and fluid also for individuals using the Wheel. Concluding our Woman Soul sharing about Medicine Wheel teachings is a poem I wrote to open a dance performance created in 2007-08 by Stacey Hinden in completion of her personal transformation journey.

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GRANDMOTHER MOON BUNDLE

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By Barbara James Snyder

 

Summer 2001, I am visiting another bundle carrier and in the presence of a Sun Dance Sub Chief. During the night, I am unable to sleep as Grandmother Moon’s bright light shines in my vision. I seek council with the native elder; it’s clear to him that the subject of women’s moontime had come front and center. As a native woman from the Great Basin, it was my duty to share our ways.

So I brought the teachings of moontime to different communities, and as a bundle carrier, it is very important to uphold the protocols and respect these ways. I found myself in an awkward position as many of the people got impatient with my speaking of women’s ways.

Years later, I am standing with Ella Larkin making offerings to the water of life at Greenkill YMCA in December. Grandmother Moon was full, the night sky clear, the air crisp and chilly. My prayers were to let go of teaching women’s way, especially the way of women’s moontime.

No sooner had I ended my prayer with relief, I heard “I hear your prayers, now receive the gift.” I knew for sure that it was Grandmother Moon speaking. As I looked at her beauty, my eyes followed her bright moonbeam through the leafless trees to the water; there in the water was a Heart Rock. My heart started beating faster as I called Ella to look. We gazed at the stone, and we smiled and hugged each other.

Ella asked me “what do we do?’

I said with excitement and gratitude, “We receive Grandmother Moon’s Gift.” So we made offerings and received the Heart Stone. This is a precious universal gift from Grandmother Moon and the start of the Grandmother Moon Bundle.

                                                          Barbara James Snyder

                                                     Bundle Keeper of the Grandmother Moon Bundle

                                                          Bundle Keeper of the Bow & Arrow Bundle

                                                          Co-Bundle Keeper of DeekWadap’ush Bundle

                                                          Giver to Sacred Sites

                                                          Pipe Holder

 

Our Woman Soul Gathering to ignite and inspire our soul’s wisdom will be opened ceremonially by the Grandmother Moon Bundle and Barbara James Snyder. The Bundle will hold us in blessing and well-being throughout our time together. Each woman is invited to bring a stone to create the Grandmother Moon Stone Circle.

THE WOMAN’S DREAMING SOUL

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By Dawn Dickson

     The ancients said we do not have dreams, but rather, dreams are given to us. They believed that dreams are the original language of the spiritual path, giving us messages for our personal growth and community healing. Whenever we make a commitment to our soul, the dreamtime hears us. When we make an agreement toward growth and awakening, psyche is alerted and we are often given information for our soul’s growth and evolution. Early peoples engaged in dream incubation where a question was posed and they dreamed for an answer. You have heard the call to join the Woman’s Soul gathering, and as such, it is especially important for you to note your dreams and ask questions of the dream spirits as you prepare for our time together.

Author Rosemary Ellen Guiley writes in her book, Dreamwork for the Soul, that “dreams do more than help us understand ourselves better. They help awaken us to our full identity and potential – that we are souls, not egos.” She reminds us that dreams are a pathway to self-love, and in the process, help us to “touch the greatest expression of love” which is so needed in the world today. We do not always immediately understand the symbols that dreams provide because they speak in the language of non-ordinary reality. But if we track our dreams, we are often able to see patterns that later make sense to us as we travel on our path. Your dreams may offer information for personal and emotional healing as psyche (which means soul) always leans toward healing and equilibrium. Or your dreams may offer symbols for community healing and the greater good. We need to dream for each other and the world!

Indigenous people do not always see images as symbols representing something else, but rather consider dreams to be real, happening now, in another realm. They believe we are visited in the dreamtime by spirits and our ancestors. Are you being visited? Listen carefully!

Working with dreams is a process of inquiry. Here are some ways to work with your dreams as you prepare for our gathering:

  • Keep a special journal and pen by your bedside. Record dreams as soon as possible as their memory can fade quickly. Write down everything you remember, even if you think the details are insignificant.
  • Track themes and recurring patterns in your dreams. One way to do this is to use a highlighter to note which themes and patterns show up frequently.
  • Make note of the emotional content of your dreams, especially content that feels charged.
  • Distill the dream down to one sentence. What is the essence?
  • Name the dream.
  • What does the dream want? What does it seem to be asking? Is there an action that needs to be taken?
  • Notice if any archetypal images appear in your dreams, i.e. The Great Mother; The Heroine; The Orphan,
  • Draw, paint, collage, or dance your dream.
  • Try this: Prepare for dream incubation. Take quiet time for meditation on a question. Perhaps light a candle and make entries in your journal. Take a warm bath or enjoy a cup of herbal tea. Ask the dream spirits for guidance with your question. Some people like to use an essential oil diffuser at bedtime. There are lovely blends specifically available for dreaming. You can also write your question out on a piece of paper and place it under your pillow. Have your journal ready for noting the dreams that come your way. Be sure to thank the spirits!

Ask yourself, is the dream a:

  • Map dream? (Telling you about your journey)
  • Mirror dream? (Reflecting on a particular issue)
  • Medicine dream? (Encouraging healing)
  • Mystery dream? (A very powerful image that should perhaps not be dissected)

Our gathering will be held at a powerful dreaming time of the year when the veil between the worlds is thin. We gather at a very powerful time in history when our dreams and visions are so needed. We look forward to dreaming with you at the Woman Soul gathering this autumn!