Ritual wisdom


I am making a journey today.  In imagination, through thought, into the space behind words.

She waits there, older than the hills and quicker than starlight.  Today she looks like an Anglo-Saxon princess, long, flaxen hair tied back, a deep, blue linen robe and course white apron.  She sits weaving with a spindle, twisting the wool into yarn.

Tell me, I say, about ritual.  What must I do?

There are shadows flickering here on the walls, from the fire.  She doesn’t answer straight away and I wonder if she has even heard.

You know already, she says.  You have always known.  You must feel for them.  They are there already, knit in your muscles and bones, deep in your flesh memory.

But I want to get it right, I say.

In which case, she smiles patiently, you are already missing the point.  You cannot work to a formula here.  This knowledge is too deep and that way will only take you so far.  You might use it as a blueprint, a map, you might see what is done by others.  But the greatest power comes in your own work, the work you grow and birth yourself. 

Where do I start, I ask, drawing in the ashes with a stick, spirals, flowers, leaves.

Start with your wish. She twists the yarn, drops the spindle.  Start with the whisper in your heart, what are you seeking to bring?  Is it healing, or change, is it as gift for another or your own work, to release something old, to conceive something new?  Remember to do no harm.  Remember the limits of your responsibility, you may make a wish for another, but not compel them, their lives are their own.

She pauses in her work to add a log to the fire.  She goes on.  Once you know your wish you might write it down, you might sing it to yourself.  Then you need to embody it, act it, if it is to release you might take thread and cut it, or find a stick to carve and then bury, or paper to mark and then burn.  You already know. 

Show me.  I say.  For instance.

She looks unsure.  I will not tell you what must be done.  The work is yours, you must trust your truth.  But…say you want to release a friendship, or an old lover.  You feel them still strongly in your heart, but your time is over, you are ready to let go, to be free and move on.  You might take salt first.  Scatter it in a wide circle, and pray for the blessings of the elements to be with you in your work.  You will breathe deeply, feeling yourself grounding into the earth beneath your feet.  You light a candle and take yarn or string.  You tie into it memories of your lover, whispering your goodbyes as you do.  Then you hold it tightly and cut it, imagining as you do your connection being released.  You take it and burn it with rosemary and sage, to cleanse and heal.  You scatter the ashes to the winds and let them go.  You end with thanks and gratitude, thanking the elements for their blessings.  Then you refresh yourself with drink and food, bringing yourself back to the place and time, ready to go forwards.

I am silent.  It seems so simple.

It isAnd also more complex than you can imagine.  You only need to begin where you are.  The rest will grow.  Now.  I have work here.  She gestures to her spinning.  You must go.

I bow to her and leave her, there in the shadows.  To return to the waking world.


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