Soul Path Sanctuary

A place of pause, renewal, and connection for seekers


Waiting with the Dark: A Week with the Ancestors


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

“In the dark, every voice could be the voice of an ancestor or a spirit guide. In the darkness, who can tell the living from the dead?”
― Clark Strand, Waking Up to the Dark

The ancestors are our biological family, of course, but also those connected to us through choice, place, ideas, and traditions. Like the living, they are a mix of wise ones and trouble makers; sometimes all mixed in the same person.

These ancestors come with gifts to offer and as the days grow darker the way opens for rituals, meditations, and reflections that connect us to their wisdom.

In this week in our movement toward the Solstice, we light four candles, but then blow one out to create a doorway through the ancestors can pass to join us in the circle of light. We sit with them, receptive to the gifts they have to share.

You would like to receive more detailed prompts for connecting to the ancestors? You can sign up today for Descent and Return of the Light, an e-retreat in everyday life that will guide you through release and renewal in the dark so you ready to tend the returning light after the Solstice. 


Descent and Return of the Light: We Begin in the Dark


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

“Though you live and work in the light, you were conceived and shaped in darkness. Darkness is one of our closest companions. It can never really surprise us; something within us knows the darkness more deeply that it knows the light. The dark is older than the light. In the beginning was the darkness. The first light was born out of the dark.”
Celtic poet and philosopher John O’Donohue 

Today begins the first half of the 2017 Winter Solstice-hinged e-retreat and ritual: Waiting with the Dark.

Themes stay the same each year as we do this waiting – cultivating gratitude, connecting with the ancestors, opening to dark nurture, releasing what we don’t need to carry into the next year – because the Sun is consistent in its movements. But the Moon varies, and the shifting dance of Sun and Moon give a different quality to each year. Our 2017 season will be guided by a new moon arriving right before the Winter Solstice so that Sun and Moon will gather light together. So the deep release invited by Waiting in the Dark will have extra celestial support to move you into the re-birth of the light in the coming year.

As we begin, you are invited to set an intention for this time of seasonal tending. Feel free to pull a Tarot/oracle card or connect with another wisdom form (perhaps pick a line of a poem or go for a walk and notice what animal or plant you first see) to inspire you in this intention setting. Record your intention in some way so you can be reminded of it, but hold it lightly. Let it be a guide not an enclosure.

You would like to continue Waiting with the Dark so you are ready to Tend the Returning Light in January? You can sign up today for the e-retreat in everyday life that will guide you through these themes with prompts for reflection and ritual, release and renewal.


Threshold of the Dark Mini-Retreat


For Grievers – For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

yellow leaves dark branchesEach season offers different gifts and challenges, flows with its own rhythm and mystery.  When we tune our awareness to the offerings and energy of the season, we can better receive its wisdom and be supported in our spiritual devotions, divinatory seeking, and/or creative vocations.

The turning from October to November is a threshold time in many traditions. In the Celtic tradition, both from its earth-honoring origins and later Celtic Christianity, these days were a time to prepare for the coming dark, gather in circle to share stories, and remember the ancestors.

In this mini-retreat day on Saturday, October 28th, we follow in the footsteps of tradition and do our own listening to the land at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, MA to find the wisdom that speaks to our hearts and souls at this time.

In our time together, we will:

  • Greet each other and the season.
  • Find focus and inspiration for the day’s exploring. Yes, we’ll use Tarot and oracle cards for inspiration!
  • Talk a Wisdom Wander. No matter the weather, there will be an invitation to connect with the land and creatures at Arcadia in some way.
  • Have time for journaling, drawing, doodling or just sitting.
  • Eat a simple lunch highlighting local vegetables and fruits (vegan and gluten-free friendly).
  • Create a Threshold of the Dark Altar and remember our beloved dead.
  • Conclude with a Wisdom of the Season Sharing Circle.

This will be an intimate gathering. Only 13 slots available.

You are invited to bring any, all, or none of these things:

  • Clothing appropriate to the weather and shoes for walking around on well-laid out trails. (OK, clothing is a requirement at this time of year. Not really optional!)
  • A journal, drawing pad, piece of paper, pen, and/or colored pencils.
  • A Tarot or oracle deck.  If you don’t have one, there will be decks for sharing for use at the retreat.
  • A picture of a loved one who has died to place on the Threshold of the Dark Altar.
  • An object that represents the Threshold of the Dark time to you to place on the altar.
  • A camera for contemplative photo receiving.


  • To be held 10am to 4:30pm at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, MA on Saturday, October 28th.
  • Fee is $85. Pre-registration required by Tuesday, October 24th so we can plan how much food to make.

Payment options:

Pay with credit card/use PayPal.  

Or send a check to Carolyn Cushing, 1 Cottage St., Box 33, Easthampton, MA 01027. Good idea to send me an e-mail if sending a check so I can hold a slot for you.


Faces and Spaces of Justice: Gaian Tarot


Justice – Tarot


In Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot the scales of Justice transform from object and symbol into a living being. We can gaze upon this face of Justice and imagine he is holding in balance the passions of his heart with the elevated consciousness of his mind (as represented by the feather). Heart and mind working together allow him to see both the beauty and the destruction of the world in which we live. He feels a connection to, and joy in, the animals and land surrounding him. He also knows that their lives are in peril.  Joanna has selected for this image plants and animals that are endangered or threatened species:

Spotted Owl, American Ginseng, Canada Lynx, Echinacea, Vancouver Island Marmot, Fender’s Blue Butterfly, Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Black Necked Stilt, Northern Sea Otter, Trillium, Red Wolf, Whooping Crane. We also see, in the distance, a forest of stumps left over from a clearcut. Each of these species has its own story of why it is threatened, and how it might survive. The beauty, mystery and diversity of our extraordinary planet is diminished every time another species becomes extinct.

And as our planet floods and storms and burns, we, too, are called to live in this mix of beauty and destruction.  Through the Gaian Tarot we are called to make our own bodies the scales of Justice as we raise hands, hearts, and mind to contribute to the healing of the Whole.

If you would like to continue exploring Gaian Justice and have your own encounter with this numinous wisdom figure join me – and Joanna Powell Colbert, too! – for the Serving Justice Moonthly Chat & Meditation on Tuesday, October 17th at 8:30pm ET in the USA. It will be recorded for later listening. Sign up to come onto the live call or receive the follow up link.


Persephone Descending: Letters to the Dead


For Grievers – For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

I am re-posting this from last year to support you in connecting with the energy of Persephone Descending from the 2017 Fall Equinox to the next dark moon days of October 17th and 18th. I also did a tele-sessions with added prompts for writing letters to your beloved dead. You can find that on my Soul Path Sanctuary Facebook page

In March 2016, before the Equinox, and as the moon opened to fullness, I had an experience that is basically inexpressible because of its power and because of its commonness. I sensed the moment the seasons shifted as the moon rose over a river filling with spring’s ice floes.

To convey a glimpse into the mystery of that moment, I’ll say I encountered Persephone, the Goddess of Greek myth who is kidnapped by Hades to serve as the Queen of the Underworld, welcoming the dead, and mourned by her mother Demeter, whose grief brings winter. Persephone’s seasonal visit to her mother awakens Demeter’s joy and brings the bounty of spring and summer. Most often Persephone is depicted as a beautiful maiden either being kidnapped by her husband or returning to her mother.

But the Persephone I encountered was a weathered woman climbing and clawing her way out of the Underworld through the dirt of earth. She used her Underworld crown as a plough and carried in her pockets letters from the Dead to their beloveds still living. (You can read more in my March newsletter.)

Persephone’s secret story is the story of her as Traveler and Messenger, the one who twice yearly, millennia after millennia, makes a journey between the worlds when the night and day stand in balance.


Fall Mandala with Persephone from the Dark Goddess Tarot

In each world, she has loves and responsibilities. She must prepare for both departure and arrival at this time of year. She sadly says goodbye to some while anticipating reunion with others.

What calls Persephone from one world to the next? How does she know when to begin her preparations? In 2016 as I stood under the September harvest moon in an orchard watching Goddesses Descending, it came to me. Of course. The moon is Persephone’s signal and guide.

In spring, the days of the growing moon from new to full closest to the Equinox set her on her journey back to earth. The days of harvest moon’s descent invite her to depart.

We are in the days of Persephone Descending. As the moon moves from full, through the Equinox, and into the next dark moon days, Persephone prepares, Persephone descends.

Perhaps you feel the weight of this time as she grows heavy. And if you feel it, too,you might consider your heaviness in another light, a lunar light. This heavy time brings a dark gift of attuning to the Divine, to the eternal cycles. The trees know this as they let down their leaves in fluttering surrender. Perhaps you may take the tree as your spiritual director.  

And as our perspective on this descent time shifts, we can open to opportunity, have a more expansive view. Recognize that our loss of Persephone brings a boon for the Dead. She is their Queen and comfort who loves them. She is the Traveler who has been away but now returns with new stories and gifts.

You can help Persephone make her reunion with the Dead. You can send gifts and stories along with Her. You can write letters to the Dead.

It may seem strange. You may doubt your letter can travel such a long distance. But just the act of writing and sending the letter might heal your heart.

I am writing letters in these days and offer these ideas to spark your own letter writing rituals. You might consider:

  • Who do you want to write to? Joining in conversation with the boundaryless there is no limited to the possibility. You can write to those you knew in life and those you didn’t. Your beloved dead. The ancestors. A long-dead writer who inspired you. Your departed pets. Make a list.
  • How will you send the message? An aerogram. A drug-store card. Leaves of petals to send without words but infused with love. You might match your form to speak most deeply to the one with which you want to communicate.
  • When will you send it? You can send your letters along as you write them or wait for the dark moon days after the Equinox. Any of these days as the moon moves from full to dark are the times of Persephone Descending.
  • How will you send your letters? Burying your messages in the earth is appropriate. Persephone can gather them up as she makes to the Underworld. But follow your inspiration. Maybe there is another story of life’s cycles that inspires you so you use a method that aligns with that wisdom. If water beckons you, send your notes on streams down to the sea. Light your letter on fire and watch the spark rise to heaven. Let leaves lift it into the all surrounding air. You can’t do this incorrectly.
  • How will you thank your messenger? Don’t forget to express your gratitude to Persephone or the One who helps you deliver your letter. You might say a prayer of praise, make an offering, or dedicate a positive action to their name.  

Will you receive a reply?  Well, the universe is full of echoes and all kinds of communication. I have received messages from the Dead and I’m not the only one. Your letter is unlikely to be returned as a letter so you might tend your openness to different kinds of communication in ways such as these:

  • Take time away from the demands of the living. It’s noisy here in the living world so just as you would step with your cell phone out of a crowded room to better hear the person on the other end, step out of the daily. Dedicate some time to ritual, communing with the dark, walking in nature. Sometimes go alone This gives you a better chance of hearing. But remember to walk in balance along this path; you do still belong in the land of the living.
  • Honor the communal celebrations of the Dead. The first half of November brings sacred and secular remembrances of the dead: Samhain, All Souls and Saints Day, the Day of the Dead, Veterans Day. The shortest days of the year as the Solstice approaches invite us to Wait with the Dark and in the quiet hear the numinous. Or perhaps you have to wait until Persephone Rises again in spring, bringing letters from the dead in her pockets.
  • Remove this waiting for a response from the work of the rational. What you are going to do is not rational and is outside the bounds of all we can assert with certainty here in the earthly world. Don’t try to make your listening fit inside these walls. You don’t have to give up the rational as you live your daily life- we need it – but you don’t apply it to your waiting for a response to your letter.
  • Listen slant. The poet Emily Dickinson said “tell it slant,” counseled that messages of Truth if too bright can blinds us. The Dead no longer speak as we do, perhaps are even forgetting the way of language with all its limits. They will reach out to you in unusual ways, in slant ways. Through a song that plays on the radio when you are thinking of them. Through the things they left behind found just at a moment that gives meaning. Through a revelation of hawk or cat or rainbow. From a rational world perspective you can never be sure from where the message comes, but when inspiration moves your heart, always take the gift it brings.  

If you are looking for support for your listening or attuning to the wisdom of the season, I have: 1.) an upcoming in-person mini-retreat, Threshold of the Dark, in Western Mass on October 28th; and 2.) the Winter Solstice-hinged seasonal ritual begins with Waiting with the Dark on November 27th. Be sure to sign up for my list to receive the latest news about offerings and events.  

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