Welcome to Tending the Returning Light, the second half of our Solstice-hinged ritual and retreat-in-everyday life. To join in the ritual, you may want to find a Solstice Seed of the New (don’t worry selecting this Seed any time after the Solstice is just fine and New Year’s Day is a great time for doing so). In the weeks to come, we will will be meeting the Seed and gaining guidance for manifesting its gifts throughout the coming year. I’ll be doing weekly posts, but if you’d like more support your can join the e-retreat which is delivered via daily e-mails that break the weeks’ themes into daily reflections, a weekly virtual sharing circle, and an Overview Booklet.
Before the Solstice, we embraced the darkness, released the no-longer-needed into its dark nurture, and imagined the seed of the new planted in the compost of what we’d released. Then we gathered in holidays celebrations filled with sparkle and fire. Lit candles at tables of feasting. Circled bonfires sending a river of sparks up to find the sun. We exuberantly invited new light into our lives.
But January’s nights are still long. The light is as slim as the crescent moon, as small as the pin prick shine of distant stars. To tend this light is an act of hope and faithfulness. We might take the Spider Woman who spins her web on the Dark Goddess Tarot’s Star card as a guide. Ellen Lorenzi Prince-Prince writes of the power and wisdom of this Hopi Goddess of Thought and Creation in her Dark Goddess Companion book:
In the darkness in the beginning of time, Spider Woman is told she is too small and weak to help, yet through intelligence, persistence, and belief, she travels to and returns safely from the Lake of Fire. She succeeds in bringing light and warmth into the world where more imposing animals try and fail. In another tale, she keeps the rising sky from leaving the world entirely by spinning web lines day and night to tie heaven to earth and preserve her creation.
Heaven sends its light to earth, and the Seed we planted at Solstice, so small itself, feels the quiet invitation: “Come, Emerge. Begin.”
Your seed is responding to what Demetra George, author of Mysteries of the Dark Moon, calls Light Quickening, which is the Crescent phase of the moon’s cycle and corresponds to January and the post-holiday season in the solar cycle. In Mysteries of the Dark Moon, she writes, “The symbolic seed breaks out of its seed casing and pushes it first shoots above ground.”
How we break is how we grow.
The urge to present ourselves as images of perfection, achievement, and control are reinforced by deep roots (the Puritan belief that being bound for heaven could be seen in success while living, for example) and surface reflections (commercials around the holidays, for example, or pretty much any time), but the truth is we are imperfect and constantly breaking. We lose jobs, love, and money. Forces beyond our control buffet us. Things don’t turn out as planned and we are disappointed.
When this breaking happens, the forces of perfection tempt us to turn on ourselves and others with criticism, doubt, shame, or just trying to escape. But in this place of Light Quickening guided by Spider Woman, we are invited to a more gentle approach, one that cultivates qualities such authenticity, self-compassion, and joy. These are some of the qualities that researcher and writer Brene Brown explores in The Gifts of Imperfection. She defines them drawing from her research on shame, vulnerability, and wholehearted living:
- Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.
- Self-compassion includes being kind to oneself; recognizing that suffering and feeling inadequate are shared by all humanity; and mindfully paying attention to all our emotions but not over-identifying with them either.
- Joy, which comes from the Greek word chairo meaning “culmination of being,” flows to us when our hearts open to connect to Spirit and gratitude, both when we are happy and when we are challenged.
When our lives – and our seeds – break and are met with authenticity rather than shame, with self-compassion rather than self-criticism, and with joy rather a closed-down heart, then we grow. We are still broken, but we grow.
In this first week of Tending the Returning Light, you are invited to gather the elements of a candle wreath / ritual focal point, including four candles to represent the light and something like a bowl of dark water to represent the dark in the light.
As many nights as you are inspired or able to this week, light the first candle to representing light growing in the season as well as your emerging Seed. Surround your Seed with Tarot or oracle cards pulled to show you what is most important to pay attention to to grow authenticity, self-compassion, and joy in your life.
Tend the returning light, wait for its emergence. Know we are all held in a web of connection. When one of us grows, the whole web expands.
The seasonal ritual continues next week with the theme of Root and Reach. Follow along on the blog or join the e-retreat.