A solitary ritual for the autumn equinox

Harvest time. Warm days, for the last time this year. 

harvest-fruit

Are you prepared? Bring in your final harvests now, for the time has come to face the fact that summer is over. Darkness creeps in, almost unnoticed at first, but bit by bit, the light is disappearing.

This is the tipping point. The point of balance. Now is the time to ask yourself what you have learned and achieved this year. Have your efforts payed of? Or have you used your energy inefficiently? It is too late to change things now, but remember that experience is worth harvesting as well. A lesson well learned has value, as it will no doubt ensure a richer harvest for the year to come.

This is not a time to be harsh on yourself, but a time for celebration. The year draws to a close, and you have seeded and grown. No matter what happened. So, harvest your experiences. For even if it doesn’t always seem like they are bearing fruit,  the only harvest that will serve you in the future is the one that you bothered to engage with, and made sure to preserve.

Here is a ritual to help you look back on the year that has past and to harvest your experiences for later use, and putting out the first tentative seeds for the future.

 

Autumn Equinox ritual

What you will need for this:

  • three stones
  • A candle
  • Something you harvested yourself
  • A glass of wine, beer or mead

Open ritual space in your usual way. Cast a circle, and call to the elements. When doing so, try to pay special attention to what you have learned this year in terms of air, fire, water and earth. As you call in the elements, give thanks for the ways in which they continue to enrich your life.

Then, take up the stones, and place the candle in the center of your circle. Light it, then circle around it. As you do so, think of the sun circling the earth. How has your year been? Which revolutions happened for you? In circling the sun a single time, how much has your life changed? No matter what the answer, focus on where you are NOW.

earth-rotation

Put down a stone on your current location. It is both a fixed point on your journey, and a marker to remind you of the cyclicity of life.

What are the things for which you need another go? Lessons which you haven’t learned fully enough, or challenges you did not dare respond to. Know that it is never too late to start. Make resolutions for the coming year, should you feel called to do so. 

When you are done, walk to the other side of the flame. Now put down the second stone. Look at your year from the perspective of your spring self. Congratulate yourself on successes gained. Note what went different than what you expected. Could you have foreseen that? Remember these lessons. How could you use them to ensure a better harvest next year? Also look at things that are outside your control. What is a way of circumventing such obstacles next time (if at all possible – this is not about casting blame)?

Then, enter the center. Put down the third stone. What are your goals should you have total control of things? Allow yourself a moment to dream. Then touch your heart. These can stay dreams for now, but it is good to have some light to focus on when entering the darkness. Simply acknowledge them, and allow them to incubate during the coming winter. For it is from your dreams that new light will eventually be reborn. Bless the sun, and realize how you have power over its eventual return.

Sunflower inflorescence with ripe seeds

Now step away, and look at your three stones. They represent past, present and future, and the way they are related. Remember that this process is not linear. May that give you hope for the future. Take the three stones and rearrange them in a triangle. This is your harvest. Place the harvested fruit you brought in the center, and ask your gods and spirits to bless it. Eat a bit of it, enjoying the sweet fruits of the year that has passed.

Finally, take your cup and take a sip. Then, pour out the rest in gratitude to the land that has sustained you through another year.

Spend some time in silence, then finish the ritual.

Thoughts on an inclusive Beltane

When asked what Beltane is all about, the answers most people give you will include the word ‘sex’, probably in a rather prominent position. And even though I am asexual myself, I concur. However…

Many interpretations of Beltane tend to revolve around the union of the masculine and the feminine, as God and Goddess. And yes, this is indeed a powerful and important theme, however, we risk missing out on so much if we stop there. Moreover, such a rite can very easily feel more than a bit alienating if you are not in a heterosexual relationship yourself. And so I would like to argue that we may need to rethink things a bit, to create a celebration that is truly inclusive for everyone.

As an asexual, I’ve struggled quite a bit with Beltane over the years. Because for me, it has often felt like ‘everybody else’s party’, and participating in Beltane celebrations to me felt mostly as a stark reminder of how I was different. (And I can imagine that for people who are involuntarily single, or in a same-sex relationship, it can sometimes feel similar.) When speaking about that to people, the answer was often something like ‘but you can make it  be about creativity as well’. That is true, but it feels somewhat like being relegated to the lesser options. Like a buffet which is full of exquisite food, and then having a few dishes for people with diet restrictions as well, added at the last minute as something of an afterthought. (Or think of the vegetarian who is told that ‘they can eat the salad’).

How do you create a Beltane ritual that speaks to everyone, without having to compromise  on content? I am not going to advocate that we need to do a ritual that is only about being creative and the fact that summer is about to begin. That would be like solving the buffet problem by putting everyone on a strict diet. (I’ll admit that up until a few years ago, I would have advocated for precisely that. But then I did some divination on the subject, and  in reply, my oracle deck gave me precisely all the cards that had the most explicitly sexual imagery on them. That was a pretty clear ‘no, you are going the wrong way here’ :-))

So, what is Beltane about then? If I can take the liberty to widen the meaning of the word sex a bit, then the answer would be, that

At Beltane, we celebrate the mystery of how the coming together of two (or more) souls leads to the birth of something greater.

The core of Beltane is the realisation that, in love,

1+1 =3.

So, let us unpack that statement a bit more.

The first, literal interpretation of this is that, everywhere in nature, from the union of the masculine and the feminine, seeds are formed, which will later grow into new living beings. This is and remains an important mystery, and it should be part of our Beltane celebrations.

And yes, this does include the sexual union of a man and a woman. But does that lead to the creation of a child every time? I sure would hope not… Overpopulation is already bad enough right now. Instead, I would argue that the ‘something greater’ is that ‘a new entity’ is indeed being created, but that entity is the soul of ‘the couple’, which is something new and different from the man and woman that created it.

The obvious advantage of this way of defining it is that it already includes all non-heterosexual relationships as part of the mystery. But we should not stop there.

We celebrate Beltane, and in fact all festivals, in an attempt to reconnect with the natural world, to stop seeing ourselves as separate from it. And so let us make Beltane the ultimate celebration of that. Let us, for a moment, look at this from the point of view of a tree or plant. In this case the true sexual dance is not so much between the masculine and the feminine, but between the flower and the bee. Between two creatures who are not even of the same species, yet need each other if they want to bring forth new life.

Bee-flower

So, let us include this dance in our Beltane celebrations. I see at least two ways in which this is relevant:

  • to reconnect humanity to the natural world: in your next Beltane celebration, I invite you to send everyone out into nature for a while, to go and experience that connection. Hug a tree, sing to a flower, listen to the song of rustling leaves. Allow your soul to be touched by something other than yourself, then return that love by giving back a small offering of who you are. (And may this be a falling in love, a relationship that does not end when the ritual is over, but one to be carried away and to fertilize your own life in the future, so that 1+1 can truly equal three).

 

  • in inter-human relationships: Each of us is an individual. How do we create a group, a community from that? By fertilizing each other. By being like the flowers and the bees. By giving everyone an equal chance to express themselves, to contribute ideas to the group mind. By learning to listen to opinions that are not our own, and growing wiser through that. Let this, too, be a part of our celebration.

Now suddenly, we have a lot of things to celebrate within our ritual. How can we include all of that without ending up with a multi-day rite? A simple suggestion could be to give the maypole ritual a wider interpretation.

world tree

This ‘creation myth’ which I wrote a while ago can be a starting point for that.

 

 

 

Interpreted in such a way, the maypole dance can become a truly inclusive version of group sex magic. But if, after that, you feel called to celebrate that union a little bit more intimately with a single specific individual, well I’d say: follow nature’s call, go out and have fun!

Ash – Who are you?

Hear the challenge of the ash tree. It is the tree of the hunter, and therefore the tree that calls us to responsibility: how do you choose to live your live?

I pierce the earth. Newborn. Like a spear, I reach for the sky. I rejoice in existing. I dance with joy at my newfound identity.

Then, as years go by, insight grows. I myself have not chosen the form I have been given. I am ‘ash’ because my ancestors were. In very real ways, I am them. And so I start exploring my world in a different way. I am flow. I am breath. I am the spirit within, expressed through my being.

In the hunt, the hunter becomes one with his prey. Both transcend their individuality. The cycle of life becomes visible on the material plane through them. The hunted accepts that today is his time to die. Accepting this sacrifice in gratitude, the hunter realizes that one day, he will need to match this sacrifice himself.

ash-bud

For millennia, hunters have used my wood to create their spears. In doing so, they have accepted this sacred covenant: we are all part of the cycle of life. There is no ‘I’, there is only ‘we’, temporarily expressed by a body that takes on individual form.

Who are you? This is the question that every tree in the forest will ask you to answer. When you come to me, remember that the right answer must always include the word WE .

What ash asks of us is to become more fully aware of the miraculous fact that we are alive, and of the responsibility that comes with that, requiring us to work with that gift to the fullest of our ability.

Note that this does not mean a call to strive for material success, or that you have failed if you haven’t become an amazing artist or a leader in whatever field you work in. All it asks you is to become more aware of the fact that the web of life saw a need to produce you to live in this particular place and time. You, and not someone else. And that requires you to try and summon the courage to show your true face to the world, laying down any masks you like to hide behind.

That is how you pay back the sacrifice of those who died so you can live. That is how you sacrifice yourself to the hunter when it is your time. By striving to be authentically you.

Ritual: birth- choosing to exist

  • Open the ritual in the usual way. Call on ash to guide you through the ritual.
  • Close your eyes, and enter into meditation.
  • As you open your inner eyes, visualize your soul as being contained within a seed, buried in the earth.
  • Even though you are below ground, somehow you are able to observe everything that happens above ground, in the ‘real’ world. Moreover, you find that you are even able to participate in it, to some extent: you can conjure up a dream image of yourself, and in that ghostly form you can participate in the life above ground.
  • You notice that most people don’t even realize that they are dealing with a projection rather than a real person. (And how sure are you about the person you are talking to?). However, you are also aware, even if maybe only on some subconscious level, that this situation is ultimately unsustainable. When stretched to endurance, the image will crumble. Also, as a ghost, you cannot fully take part in life, as you cannot eat any of the delicacies life has to offer. This type of life literally cannot sustain your soul long-term.

seedling

  • Pause the meditation to reflect on this. Do you recognize yourself in this situation? Why do you do this? What would the real you be like?
  • Make a decision: decide to leave the shadow self behind, and to become real. This is a big and scary journey, and you do not/should not start it without taking the time to properly prepare first. Right now, all you need to do is make a commitment to yourself. Take an oath, and call on Ash as witness and ally.
  • Return to the meditation.
  • You are still standing in the world as your ghost self. Walk away from the city, and enter the forest. Walk until you find yourself in a clearing with a big ash tree at the center.
  • Kneel before it. (You may want to repeat this in front of a real tree.)
  • Explain why you came, and how you came to this conviction. Then, speak the following words aloud, three times:

I choose to exist.

ash-big
I choose to exist.
  • Sit some time in silence to let the significance of this decision sink in. Then go and hug the tree. Feel how it envelops you in a protective embrace. Listen to any advice it may have. 
  • If you are in a real forest, pick up a token (listen to your intuition), and place it on your altar.
  • Give thanks, and finish the ritual.

Now that the decision has been made, it is time to prepare. You will need to prepare both the seed (making sure you fully understand what real means), and the ground. Growing in fertile soil is so much easier, after all… At the very least, you aught to make sure that you do not need to make this journey alone.

Hazel: attuning to our inner wisdom

Some say I am immortal: cut me down as many times as you like, and I will always grow back. I will add this remark to that: it is only when you continue to cut me down, that I will continue to grow. For, what is the value of immortality if we are forced to walk the same road and live the same life forever?

Trees are static beings. Our body is shaped by the growing choices that we made long ago. The impact of a dry summer years ago in our youth, will affect the shape we take in adulthood.

Come visit me in the woods, and notice that I refuse to be pinned down to a single direction of growth. Where I grow, you will find me following many different pathways. I am explorer, and I will follow any path that calls to me.

hazel-tree

And now I have some questions for you to ask yourself:

How have you shaped your life? Realize that you are not that different from a tree, for your soul has the shape of a tree. Your main branches were shaped by your experiences in childhood, and the chances for growth you were given back then. Are you happy with the person you have become?

Now consider what it means to be free. My branches are commonly chewed on by deer, and at first glance you may feel the need to protect me from that destruction. But where one branch is taken away, I am given the freedom to grow a new one, to catch new sunlight and be open to new experiences. And so I remain, ancient yet a child forever.

What would it take for you to cultivate a similar openness? Dare you let go of the path you are currently walking? Do you dare to notice the crossroads, chase a butterfly and change direction?

Ask yourself what is the path that leads towards wisdom. Is it living in the illusion that you can possibly know it all, or does it lie in the acceptance of the fact that you may have been wrong all along, and having the openness of mind to continue seeing and exploring new directions? And at the same time, remember to appreciate the life lessons you learned during you time of folly.

hazel-catkins

Hazel has no fear of beginning its journey towards the sky anew, over and over again if need be. How about us? When did that journey begin, really? Are we just talking about our current lifetime, or did ‘conception’ occur a very long time ago, and is this simply one of our many appearances here on earth? If so, who are we, really? Who is this being that inhabits our body, looks through our eyes? Is is just ‘us’, or is it a much older being that is steering us towards certain experiences?

Even if you do not believe in reincarnation, it is most definitely true that we are more than our current form. We are (and are not) the baby that was born from our mothers womb, the little frightened child at our first day at school, and so on…

The being that is the sum and total of all these experiences, of all our life choices now and in the future, we could refer to as ‘our higher self’. It is ‘us’, and yet not us, for its perspective is not limited by linear time. We are in contact with it continuously, through the voice of our conscience. Yet, all too often we choose to not listen, to allow its voice be drowned out by the noises of the modern world.

Hazel can help us to deepen that connection, to find that inner voice and become more attuned to it. For, like no other tree, hazel understands the challenge of living, of hearing the symphony of the many voices that make us into who we are. The following ritual can help us to tune into that more consciously.

hazel-nuts

 

Ritual – the hazel nut: attuning to our inner wisdom

  • Close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly and deeply a number of times, feeling how gradually the world around you seems to slow down, and fall out of focus.
  • Instead, you sense a glowing point of light in the area of your gut. Concentrating on it, note how it seems to have the shape of a hazelnut. This is the seat of your soul. As you turn your attention towards it, it begins to shine more brightly.
  • Gradually, your perception of yourself begins to change: the nut, your core is who you really are, and everything else: your body, your current life, those hard-to-surpress thoughts about the fact that you still need to urgently do the dishes after finishing this meditation, all of that is but ‘the outgrowth’ of your core self, like the branches of the hazelnut that will shoot back out again every time a deer passes by to snack on them.
  • That includes the thoughts emanating from your brain. They are just what animates this outer form. So, turn your focus away from all that, and towards the hazelnut.
  • Allow it to grow and glow more and more brighter. Listen to the song that seems to emanate from it: Then ‘shift controls’: allow that song to be the animating force within you, rather than the chatter of your brain. Breathe in and out slowly, allowing the light to spread and the song to get louder. Feel how even as you allow the outer world to fade, paradoxically your perspective seems to grow wider rather than more limited.
  • You are you, and not you at the same time. This is your ‘full self’, rather than the ‘moment-by-moment’-version that you usually experience. How do you feel? Are there any thoughts, feelings, messages,… welling up spontaneously? Pay close attention. It is possible that memories of previous lifetimes come back, or that one or your previous incarnations has a message to share with you. (After all, they are part of you: having done their bit of exploration, they now have earned their spot in the cockpit…)
  • Stay immersed in this sense of connection for as long as you like. Note how the small annoyances of daily life suddenly seem unimportant, and your focus tends to be on the bigger picture, making it easier to see through illusions, harder to continue to lie to yourself about the truths you are not willing to face.
  • After a while, the world around you will begin calling for your attention again. Allow the light to fade, as you return to normal consciousness. Give thanks to hazelnut and finish the meditation.

We need our ‘normal consciousness’ to be able to survive the challenges of everyday life. So, appealing as this sense of detachment may be, we cannot live in such a state forever. However, by practicing this meditation regularly, you will find that the connection becomes stronger, and it becomes easier to stay in touch with the guidance and the wider perspective that your higher self is constantly providing you with.

Celtic mythology tends to present the hazelnut as a symbol of wisdom. After doing this meditation, can you understand why that might be? What does it understand to be ‘wise’? Is it to know everything, or is it, rather, to be truly able to speak with the voice of experience?

Ailm – Finding your way home

The following ritual is a follow-up to the ritual from my previous post, finding strength within our tears. It can be useful when finishing a time of retreat, or before going back to work at the end of your holiday. Or, when you need to go and make a difficult announcement, like a sexual coming-out, or the ending of a relationship. Or, simply, when you have finally mustered the courage to do that one thing you really, really want to do but are so very afraid of at the same time. Now is your time, now is your moment. You can do it. For you are worth it.

2017-02-12 20.25.52If you are using this ritual together with the ritual of tears, be sure to leave sufficient time in between. If you felt a call to the mountaintop, probably that means that you need to spend some time up there, taking advantage of the high vantage point to get some new perspective on life. For instance, you may want to consider working with a different tree first, then come back to Ailm when you feel ready to reintegrate your newfound insights into your everyday life.

Part of the ritual is based on the observation how commercially grown pine tree forests tend to be green deserts, where almost nothing grows. This can serve as a powerful warning agains mono-culture, or the tendency we may sometimes have to impose our own ideas on other people. A society where everybody is forced to be exactly similar, and where diversity is discouraged, cannot possibly be a healthy one. Yet that is what so often happens, when those who are a bit different are forced to be quiet and hide their true colours in order to keep the peace and not upset the majority…

Ritual – returning home

  • visualize yourself standing on the mountaintop again.
  • Look out towards the view, and feel how the insight is growing within you that you cannot stay here, that it is time to return home. Take one last look at the vista below, drink in the view, and store it inside your memory, realizing that it will always be here to come back to.
  • Then, turn to Ailm, the pine tree that is growing next to the place where you stand. As you say your goodbyes, you notice a pine cone lying at your feet. As you pick it up, you hear the tree whispering:

These are the seeds of the rest of your life. Sow them wisely.

pine cone

  • Take a moment to ponder these words. Do you realize what they mean? Hug the tree to thank it, then start making your way down the mountain.
  • As you walk down, memories of the world below start flooding in. You may feel resentment, even fear. After all, you came up the mountain because you needed a time-out. Feel the pine-cone you hold in your hand, and remind yourself of what you have learned, about the world you live in, and about truly being the person you are. You are now heading down the mountain, seeking to find a life that will allow you to fully express that person, with all its beauty and imperfections.
  • Stop for a moment, and think about what such a world would look like. What would need to change? How much of that is within your control?
  • As you walk further down, you find yourself in a part of the forest that was commercially planted to harvest wood. It consists entirely of pine. Ailm is the tree we are working with at the moment, yet being here somehow feels completely and entirely wrong. See how you are standing in a kind of desert, where the trees above obstruct most of the light from reaching through to where you stand. As you look down, see how the forest floor is covered in a thick layer of pine needles, where nothing seems to grow.
  • Think back of the lush growth on the mountaintop, where despite the harsher conditions, plant life was abundant.
  • What lesson is there in this? Think back to your list of ‘things to change’. How many of the items of your list were about ‘if only other people were more like me, or had the same opinion about things like me’ ? Look around you, and realize that that is not the solution you are looking for.
  • Walk around the forest, but now pay attention to the individual trees, rather than the forest as a whole. As you take time to feel the spirit of an individual tree, you feel its spirit stir, and you recognize one of the people in your immediate environment. And you realize that they too, feel lost sometimes, and need to make a mountaintop journey like you just did. Touch the tree, and whisper ‘I love you as the person you are’. You see how it transforms, and takes on a different shape (maybe even a different type of tree, or a flower, or..) A shape that better reflects who that person is. Do you recognize them? Does it maybe teach you something about the person that you aren’t aware about?
  • Continue walking through the forest, touching trees, and transforming them. Allow each of them to represent a person, a place, an aspect of your life. Also include people or groups that you have a difficult relationship with. Does this help you to see your life in a different perspective?
  • As you are working, notice how the place becomes gradually more beautiful, more ‘alive’, and starts feeling more welcoming, more like home. Eventually, you pass by a spot where it feels like something is missing. You look at the forest floor, and see how there’s a hole there, waiting for a seed to be planted.
  • You remember the pine-cone you are still holding. As you open your hand, you see how it has transformed. It has become YOUR seed. And this is where it needs to be planted.
  • Carefully put the seed into the waiting hole, cover it with earth, and water it. Look around you to the forest, and to the sun shining above, and ask them for support to allow you to grow, to thrive in this place. Simply asking may be enough, but if you didn’t feel at home before, it might be a good idea to speak to the forest and try to explain them how and why that was. Just this once, allow them to look into your heart, and let them how you really feel about things. Listen to yourself as you are speaking. It might be that some of the things you say come as a surprise, even to yourself.
  • You sense how they are supportive of you, and it may be that some of them have a message to share.
  • When you are ready, see how all this love and warmth is allowing your seed to grow. pine-sapling
  • When the time feels right, step into it, feel yourself transform into the tree, become part of the forest, and enjoy the sunlight on your leaves.
  • You are home. Give thanks for the experience, and finish the ritual.

 

After you have finished, it may be a good idea to take out your journal and write down your experiences. Are there some ideas that have come up that you can implement in real life? What have you learned about the people in your life? And maybe, difficult and scary as that can be, you should have some of the conversations you had with the trees, with the persons who are part of your life?

In this ritual, Ailm reminds us that home is ultimately a place we co-create with the people around us. When we are feeling bad, it can be tempting to get stuck in an attitude of ‘but they don’t understand me’. Remember that they have feelings too. That, although you may have genuine reasons to feel different, or not welcome to show who you really are, that does not give you the automatic right to demand of the people around you that they let go of everything that has meaning to them and switch around to your version of the facts.

What you can, and should, demand, though, is the right to be fully appreciated as yourself. The right for the forest to thrive as the wonderful and diverse community that it is. Allowing you, and everyone around you, to grow up to be beautiful beings, together creating the forest community.

Ailm – Finding strength within our tears

Come closer, and listen to what Ailm has to teach us about life:

I am here. Winter and summer. Always present, always awake.

I do not strive to be the best, or the most magnificent. I strive to be me. I strive to find my own place in the sun.

Look for me near the mountaintop, and you will notice that I am not big. Life circumstances here are not always easy. But that is not what I seek. I seek the sun. I seek light. I seek room to breathe and be what I am. And that is enough for me.

Come close, and you will probably smell my tears. You will smell my efforts at staying alive. Take my sweat, take my tears. They are my pearls. They are a sign that I am alive. That I am here, that I am connected. So let me share my efforts with you, may my striving bring you healing.

pine-tears

When there is snow, and it is cold and wet, I do not fear it. For I know that I can survive. Look for me in the harshest of circumstances, in the darkest hard of winter, and you will find the promise of the coming spring. You will find greenery where all else has given up or has taken shelter.

Let me be your shelter. Let me show you where I find my sun. Pick up one of my tears, and hold it to the light. Do you see how it shines? It is a little flame born of my inner fire. The fire that rushes through my veins. Take it, and let it be my promise of strength, my promise that even in the darkest days, there is light to be found somewhere.

Ailm is a tree that weeps. Go into a pine or fir tree forest, and it will not be long before you spot a tree whose trunk is littered with shiny yellow tears, made of crystallized tree resin. These are the tears of the tree, but also its hidden treasure, for they can be used both as a basis for incense and for coughing syrup, helping us to honor the sacred and to bring us healing.

The following ritual is intended to help you acknowledge your own pain and fears. It is not intended as a depressing ritual, but rather as a form of liberation, helping us to discover who we truly are, to realize that we are beautiful, and to get closer to an honest appreciation of ourselves.

As always, it is highly recommended to spend some time in the forest among the pine/fir trees before engaging in any of these rituals. The ritual itself probably works best when performed in the forest, but it isn’t essential. If you are doing this indoors, try to harvest a bit of resin (remember to thank the tree!!), or something that allows you to smell the tree’s scent.

Ritual of tears – finding your mountaintop

  • Open ritual space in your own way.
  • If you are doing this in the forest, pick a tree to work with (try to find one that has wept tears of resin). Greet it, and introduce yourself to it. Who are you? Do not overthink this. Just allow words to come naturally (or, if they don’t, simply spend some time feeling present in your body). If it feels appropriate, touch or hug the tree. (When doing this indoors, do the same, but instead of working with a real tree, sing its name, call in its presence, and visualize how you are standing before a strong and solid mature pine tree.)
  • Sit down with your back leaning against the tree (real or in visualization). Close your eyes, relax, and enter into meditation.
  • When you open your inner eyes, you find yourself sitting in the same location. Before you, a pathway leads you out of the forest, towards a mountaintop.
  • As you walk the path, you pass by a number of encampments. Each of them represents a part of your life where you sometimes don’t feel entirely at home or at ease, or where you feel less able, or not entirely accepted by other people. Then walk away, allowing yourself to mourn about a kind of life that seemingly cannot be yours. Then remember that this does not represent who you are, but only speaks of who the world forces you to be. Leave it all behind, and walk on.

fir-path

  • As you walk onwards, the scenes change, and you now walk past a series of mirrors. In each of them, you see a part of yourself which you feel is an essential part of your identity. They are the bits that make you ‘you’. Take any of these away, and you wouldn’t be the same person anymore. (Note that these are not necessarily talents, or easy parts of your identity. Some will, but this can also include your sexual identity, or the fact that you secretly hate the taste of chocolate, or the fact that you are still mourning the death of your unborn child, or…) Taking some of these things away might make your life easier, but it would also diminish your unique, quirky you-ness.
  • Embrace each version of you that you encounter, and tell them that you love them.
  • Continue the walk. Soon, you arrive at the mountaintop. Sit down, bask in the sunlight, and enjoy the view. Then, allow yourself to weep. Let them be tears of joy about the wonderful, colorful person you have just discovered. Tears about all the times that you feel limited in expression yourself and showing your true colors, or speaking about your pain. Take as much time as you need, do not rush this.

fir-mountaintop

  • Then, after a while, start visualizing how your tears are flowing into the earth, nourishing and revitalizing it. Feel how you are growing roots, and these tears are what gives you strength. Then, look to into your hand, and see how some of your tears have crystallized into beautiful, shiny pearls: your gift to the world.
  • Now, end the meditation and turn your attention back to the tree. Exchange tears. Give yours as an offering to it, and accept some of the trees tears in return. If you want, you can eat them and feel the tree’s healing powers spread through your body.
  • Give the tree a final hug, then close the ritual.

You can do this before going on a holiday or retreat, or simply because you need a time-out. Of course, you cannot stay on the mountaintop together, but if you felt a call to the mountaintop, probably that means that you need to spend some time up there, taking advantage of the high vantage point to get some new perspective on life…

So, enjoy your stay, and breath some fresh air first. In a later blog post, we will suggest a ritual for reuniting with your everyday world.

Turning to Birch for Inspiration

Following up on that vision of the fairy dance among the birches from my previous post

What birch can help you with, is making new beginnings possible, by filling you with that yearning for more. By placing that spark in your head, and intoxicating you with the dream of an adventure. By the realization of what you might achieve if only you put your mind to it.

Paper-birch-catkins

Or maybe you have been living for some time with that dreaded feeling of dissatisfaction, of knowing that you want more from life, yet not quite knowing how to even begin to change your current circumstances. How do you find your passion again? Sometimes life itself can be so exhausting that it seems impossible to relax, or the stresses related with everyday survivals and responsibilities, ‘grown-up life’, take such a toll that we simply cannot seem to make the time to dream anymore.

Beith invites you to step away from your normal world. She can help you reconnect with your life purpose. Its core message can be summarized as

‘Start following the way of your heart, and the path will be illuminated for you.’

Consulting birch doesn’t always need to be about big life missions, though: sometimes all you need is that little spark of inspiration when you feel stuck with that project you are working on (or can’t decide what would be a good way to spend your day off, or…)

5-minute ritual for inspiration

  • Close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly for a minute or two. Allow yourself to relax. 
  • Visualize how you are sitting beneath a birch tree. Feel its solidity, then look up and see its branches dancing lightly in the breeze, enjoy the sun shining through and caressing your face.
  • State what it is that you would like some inspiration for, and ask Beith if she wants to help you.
  • See how a spark seems to descend down from the sun, and floating towards you, eventually settling on top of your heart, and then seeming to enter you. Feel how its energy is re-invigorating you.
  • Say thanks, and return to the normal world.

It may be that inspiration strikes right away, but give it some time. Trust that the spark will show you the way. Remember the message of beith. Just start walking. She will be your guide.

For this ritual to be more effective, it would help if you first take some time to get acquainted with birch spirit. If possible, go to the forest, and sit with her for some time, taking plenty of time to admire her otherworldly beauty. (If this is not feasible for you, try to get a good sense of what a birch tree looks like, by looking at pictures, then, during a meditation, take the time to visualize her and just sit with her.)

Call to her spirit, maybe dance with the fairies if you happen to see them around, tell her about who you are and build a mental connection.  It is not necessary to do this every time, but she appreciates regular visitors.

A more elaborate version of the above ritual could be used as a kind of mini-vision quest. Not all of us have the option to spend multiple days out in the wilderness, after all…