Waiting with the Dark Week 1: Gratitude

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

This is the first week of the season-long ritual, Descent and Return of the Light, that takes the Winter Solstice as its hinge. This week we prepare to spend time in the dark of the year and gather materials for our candle wheels; one less candle will be lit each week as we move toward embracing the gifts of long nights. Coming out of Solstice we circle back through the candle wheel, lighting one more candle each week. You are invite to join the e-retreat for support in making this circle with daily emails and weekly virtual circles.

This week we prepare to journey into the dark. All journeys require preparation, even the inner journey. But we need a different kind of gear to travel on these paths. What we carry can not weigh us down; it must be light but powerful. Must fit into a bag no larger than a Seeker’s bundle and provide what we need to move through any challenge.

Our gratitude is the gear to help us travel in the dark. In this first week of the Descent and Return of the Light, we pause to gather in our gratitude by reflecting on gifts given during the passing season of harvest and the whole of the year.

Gratitude is a powerful gift that can be sparked from the smallest things. Jean Shinoda Bolen in her book Crones Don’t Whine writes of its nature:

Gratitude is something we have inside us that rises to the surface when something in particular invites it out. Gratitude is a wonderful spiritual practice, actually. Every time you breathe an “ahhhh” or savor a moment, a thank-you for being alive is rising from your soul to fill your heart. Yes, it’s about the beauty of seeing the geese flying overhead, but it’s more: it’s a thank-you to the geese, to nature…And even more than this, it’s a thank-you that I am here, and that I have a place in the universe (pp. 60-61).

Gratitude wells up spontaneously in us at times, and we can also invite gratitude to come meet us. We can create rituals that deepen our connection to gratitude.

The structure of ritual supports us even when our seeking is difficult. We need this support now; the times we live in are troubling. And as fires and floods keep come one after another, I worry about us humans and our ability to live on a warming planet with generosity and compassion for each other. To acknowledge rather than ignore the intensity of our reality in 2020, we are attending to lament along with gratitude as we make our way through the week. You can see how they travel along side each other in my diary post for the week.

In such times as these, gratitude lifts us by reminding of us the good in our lives. Gratitude lifts us not so we ignore the hard truth, but so we have the energy to meet the challenges, to try to make things a little better.  And no matter our difficulties, we receive elemental support. Each morning comes to us as gift from the Sun’s fire. Each moment are held by the earth and enliven by the air. Water enters our bodies so our inward flow continues.

The elements bless us each day and this week as we begin our time of tending to the dark, gratitude for the elemental good in our lives is the focus.  

To Begin: Create the Waiting with the Dark Candle Wheel

Create your wheel by placing four candles surrounded by something like holly or evergreen branches to represent the everlasting light in the dark. You may wish to have a central inspiring element. I have placed a fifth pillar candle, black and light rock, and small sculptures at the center of my wheel though the years.

For this week’s ritual you are invited to light four candles representing the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth. If working with the Tarot, you can take out the aces out of your deck and place them next to each candle. As you light each candle pause to offer a gratitude for a different areas of your life inspired by the elemental association and images on your Tarot cards.  Take time to bask in the candle light before concluding.

Engage in this ritual practice as much as you have time and space for in your life. Perhaps you set aside an hour on one night or do just five minutes of candle lighting each night this week. Find your own rhythm and lead by the guidance of gratitude.

In the e-retreat, daily e-mails provide reflection prompts for each element as you move through the week as well as inspiring quotes and images. We also have weekly tele/audio circles. You are invited to join us. Next week’s theme is Opening to the Ancestors.



Waiting with the Dark Gratitude—and Lament—Diary

For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

11/14/20 – Earth

It’s the first gratitude day of Waiting with the Dark when we are inspired by the element of earth to appreciate all things physical, natural, solid. Instead of sitting in meditation, I go for a gratitude walk, doing the circuit I did all spring when we were under stay at home orders. 

The sky is bright blue and the sun shining draws my attention upward. The trees are bare of leaves. Towering shapes are revealed and high up in branches I see nests, empty now but I know they brought forth the next generations of sparrows, robins, orioles. All the birds that sang to me as New England warmed. 

I arrive at the pond and pause. The sky’s reflection turns the water blue except at the edges. Here I see down to the mud and it reminds me of the white lotus and green lily pads that bloomed here. 

I walk on, feel the ground under my feet, think: The earth always holds us, steadies us.

In the same moment I remember the earth on fire in Australia, California, all over the west. Communities were devastated. Too many died. And in a number hard to hold, three billion more-than-human beings left the planet. When it happened in the spring I stood on the edge of that number and skirted away, but walking today I let it sink in and it is horrific. Billions, yes, billions of koalas, foxes, rabbits, deer dead and their habitat destroyed. The earth didn’t hold them.

I walk on and encounter the Catalpa tree I watched bud, leaf, and bloom with a lushness that seems more of the Tropics than New England. It’s a skeleton now, branches of somber sticks and there are these long slim pods of deep brown. The seeds of the next generation. They wait for late winter or early spring to let go winged seeds to seek some moist ground in which to plant themselves. 

Life is fragile and fleeting, subject to natural and human-caused storms. And we humans are driving the earth’s systems to the edge of collapse. But life is also, inventive, persistent, beautiful. The seed of renewal and the next cycle coming is always present. Life fragile and life persistent are true together. My gratitude for earth’s inventive beauty grows even stronger when I hold it up against the possibility of collapse. 
















Reading of the Death Moonth: The power of the dream

For Grievers – For Seekers – Moonthly Renewal – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Sanctuary

Death comes in the middle. 

As we travel year after year with the moon’s cyclical shifting through the consistent solar round, we learn the same lessons in new ways. We are tempered by time and our wisdom deepened. 

And so now, as we do each year, we encounter Death—through this Tarot card’s correspondence to the astrological sign of Scorpio—to be changed and shaped again by the symbols, wisdom figures, and layered meanings offered by this image. This soul shaping path of Death opens up this year for us starting with the new moon coming overnight November 14th into the 15th (exact at 12:07am ET on Sunday, the 15th).

Death comes again. Yes, death comes in the middle of our lives.

This has long been a description of Death I’ve offered to people confronting one of the Tarot’s most notorious cards. When I’d teach a class or welcomed visitors during open houses at my studio, I’d point out the 21 super-sized Major Arcana cards displayed on the wall, and, yes, at card number 13 Death pretty much was in the middle. Of course, I’d follow up with the usual caveat that the Death card’s meaning isn’t really about physical death, but more about transformations that renew our lives and society.

From Tarot Roots of Asia 

But in November 2012 Death broke into my life. My partner John died in a car crash and I encountered Nothing. He was utterly gone. Death in my life had brought me to the End. Hard stop.

Death shattered my beliefs. I hadn’t thought that we retained our earthly personalities after death, but I thought there would be Something. Instead Nothing closed around me.  

And then I had a dream.

I dream a field of wild grass blowing, dry, but with the slow whoosh of blades bowing.

A cottontail crosses my path.

I follow the rabbit to a room without walls. Rise up into this place with a table, old wood polished. I leave something on the table as I pass through the room. I hear it land with a clank.

And beyond, finally, John is sitting there wearing an electric blue T-shirt, the usual cap.

He is holding a box. He is reading a food label. He is saying: “There can’t possibly be any tomato in this thing – and it’s not organic.”

And I am moving toward him as he is reading and talking. I am reaching like you would reach for a cat you don’t want to escape under the couch. I am grasping his arms and looking into his eyes, saying: “I love you. I love you forever.”

He looks a little surprised. He had, after all, only been talking about a tomato.  

I woke with a wet face, but these tears were refreshing. So absolutely himself from his cap to his tomato reprimand, John was there. He wasn’t alive in body, but I had encountered him in a distinct way. A feeling of connection was as bright within me as his blue shirt. Nothing became Something.

The Something come from the Dream was Love. Death didn’t end Love. Love returned Death to the middle of my life. I began moving again, feeling my way toward tending this loving flow between John and me. (More of this story and practice prompts for doing the same with your beloved dead are in Speak Soul to Soul available on the website.

I am telling you this personal story because it aligns with this new moon’s invitation to the collective, to all of us. This moonth’s path of Death passes through the place on the Wheel of the Year associated with the 7 of Cups. This is the card of dreams and fantasies, those strange visions that arise from the depths of our desires and bring us to new places.

The Shining Tribe Tarot‘s version of the 7 of Cups

Dreams and fantasies are derided by mainstream society’s rational culture and norms. The powers that be frown upon daydreaming and reading fantasy novels. They’d rather we were productive. Why? Maybe deep in their subconscious they know that dreams and fantasies are truly powerful. They break the spell of control they’d like to exert over us. When we dream beyond the way things are, we lay the foundation for the transformation of current reality. 
A recent national death experience—the 2016 election—seemed to some to send the US into a formerly unimaginable End. Many in shock just wanted to return to what had been before, but when Death comes, going back is not in our power. So, others began to dream of Something else. 
They gave voice to their Somethings with words whose power grew the more they were echoed: Black lives matter—all black lives. You are not alone, #metoo. United we dream. Joy to the polls! 
And these Somethings have moved us through this US national death experience and into a new presidential team. I’ve talked with people of various backgrounds post-election about how they feel a tension they weren’t even tracking being released from their body. I watched the commentator Van Jones weep on TV saying, “And this is a big deal for us just to be able get some peace and have a chance for a reset.”
The cards of this moonth invite us to keep dreaming. Despite real and immediate challenges ahead—Death remains active in our lives—the 7 of Cups reminds us of the power of dreaming to keep Death from becoming an ending.

Of course, dreaming alone does not complete the transformation. We must act. The model for our action this moonth is the Knight of Cups. The Tarot’s Knights are dedicated to their causes. They move at different speeds, motivated by different elemental forces, but they are united in constant movement toward what serves the good of the Whole. 

Yup, it’s John as the Knight of Cups from the Mass Tarot Deck

Knights of Cups, when they are in their most powerful flow, are in touch with their emotions, own even their wildest desires, and dare to imagine beyond the boundaries of what currently exists. They are open to allies in all the realms. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the living, and imagine their beloved dead at their side, their ancestors at their backs. 
Knights of Cups move into dreams with their whole broken-open hearts and unite their hands with others to make the dream real. 
The reflection questions / reading of the moonth is offered to support dreaming through Death are: 
DEATH: What ending is opening up in the middle of my life?
DREAM: What dream can come through the opening made by Death?
MAKING THE DREAM REAL: How can I best step into making the dream real during this moonth? 
I do offer this as an e-reading in my collaborative initiative format for $23.  Sign up with Pay Pal or email me about sending a check. When I receive notification, I’ll be in touch to let you know about when to expect to receive your reading by email. I generally have openings to do these readings on Mondays and Saturdays. 
If you’d like to more on-going support for your dreaming through these long nights that come before the Solstice, you are invited to join us for the e-retreat Descent and Return of the Light

This will be the 6th year that I have offered Descent and Return of the Light. Each year the themes stay the same, but I weave in reflections and practices to meet the needs of the current year. This year we will include lament with our gratitude practice and dive deep to release all that we don’t want to carry from the sometimes crushing weight of 2020 into the new year. We will seek the regeneration that comes from working with rather than pushing away the darkness that comes at Winter Solsticetide. 


Dark Moon Release with Maat as our Guide

For Seekers – Moonthly Renewal – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Sanctuary

Before the moon is made new overnight Saturday, the 14th, into Sunday, the 15th (exact at 12:07am on the 15th), it returns to the place on the astrological Wheel where it began its moonthly journey. The energy gathered through the moonth now flows away into moonless nights. What will you send with this energy to be transformed in the dark?

The moonth we are concluding began and now ends in Libra which corresponds to the Tarot’s Justice card. In the Dark Goddess Tarot, Justice is Maat, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Justice. Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, creator of the Dark Goddess Tarot, description of her includes:

[Maat] becomes the scale itself. Within the Hall of Truth, she weighs the souls of the deceased as they enter the underworld. The human heart, where the soul has its home, is balanced against her single sacred feather. A light heart, one free from wrongdoing, may continue on the journey toward paradise. The unworthy heart is devoured by the ferocious monster of the underworld, the goddess Ammut.

Before death, people prepared to stand before Maat by learning prayers and having these words of power inscribed on the walls of their burial places. Scholar and writer Normandi Ellis in her work Awakening Osiris has created a poetic translation of these prayers and inscriptions, including what are known as the Negative Confessions:

Hail hands of fire, baker of bread and men and truth, I’ve not fed myself before the hungry child. I’ve not carried off the praise intended for gods. May we live forever.

Hail white teeth, a biter of heads, devourer of men, I have not killed the cow nor uprooted the wheat, but that I know its spirit feeds mine. When the time comes, I give up life without regret to feed a spirit greater than mine. I shall die, a small thing becoming part of the larger world. May we live forever and forever. 

May the light shine through us and on us and in us. May we die each night and be born each morning that the wonder of life not escape us. May we love and laugh and enter lightly into each other’s hearts. May we live forever. May we live forever. 

Dark moon times are a chance to touch the underworld energy and prepare for our own transition from the earthly into the eternal one day. In this darkness, Maat guides us to release our hearts from any and all constriction. Here we peel off what troubles and inhibits us so that the heart can follow its natural attraction to the beauty, balance, and truth of Maat. She invites us to speak our prayers of release aloud so that the energy of the words becomes a magnet that we follow into manifestation. 

Starting with the 48 hours before the new moon’s arrival at 12:07am ET on the 15th, the dark moon comes to support our transformation. You are invited to engage in reflection and ritual to celebrate acheivements of the moonth passing and release what you do not want to carry into the next lunation. 


Look back on the happenings of the moonth that began on October 16th. If you journal, you’ll have a handy record for your personal memories, but even just looking back at your appointment calendar or photos taken can jog your mind about what’s been going on in the past few weeks. The collective happenings of the time were many so you could use them as a guide for reviewing as well.

As you look back, especially tune into the times and situations where your heart felt most open and light as well as the times and situations where your heart felt most constricted and heavy.  

Reflect further on the times when your heart felt most open and light. What supported this openness? What did the lightness made possible? You may want to write out some lines of gratitude to Hail and Welcome all that supported your heart in this moonth. Be sure to say them aloud.

Finally, seek to understand with more clarity the times and reasons for why your heart was constricted and heavy during the moonth. Write brief statements on slips of paper to express these heart-heavy times. Take these strips of paper into the Dark Moon Release Ritual.

Dark Moon Release Ritual

Bring your heart constrictions strips of paper with you and an equal number of blank strips of paper with you.

Create sacred space by lighting a candle, imagining that you are ringed with a circle of protection, and/or your usual actions.

You can invite Maat and/or the face of Greater Than that you have been serving this moonth to with you and aid you in this dark moon release. Spend as much time as you need connecting with Them.

When you are ready, take your first constriction strip of paper. Read it silently. Rip it up. Call on Maat and/or your face of the Greater Than to help you write out a counter balancing statement to the one you just ripped up. This statement will move you to a lighter heart. Once you have crafted your statement, read it out loud. Do this for as many statements as you have. 

After you have completed your releasing, tune into your body, feeling it lighter. Re-center yourself by connecting with earth below you and the sky above you. Feel their energy mix in your heart. Offer gratitude. Be open to a blessing coming to you from Maat and/or your face of the Greater Than.

When the new moon arrives, you may want to make wishes for your light heart will guide you in the moonth to come. Be sure to write them down to revisit at the end of the moonth.



Full Moon Revelations: Hidden Healers

For Seekers – Moonthly Renewal – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Sanctuary

They emerge, they emerge,
the dark hidden healers,
power from secrets,
visions from stones.

Rachel Pollack

The full moon arrives on October 31st sending its light to flow over days of ancestral remembrance—Samhain celebrations to mark when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, Mexican Día de los Muertos traditions, and Catholic masses for All Saints and Soul Days—as well as the U.S. election.

This moon comes in the place of the astrological Wheel of the Year associated with the Five of Pentacles. In the iconic Rider Waite Smith image, two figures in tattered clothes, one using crutches trudge through the snow outside an opulent church. Societal institutions have failed them, offer no relief, This is one of the bleakest cards in the Tarot pack. It is also a mirror to our present moment of a pandemic exacerbating the cruelty of systems set up to privilege profits over people.

a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley and retrieved from Sacred Texts. Deck available from US Games

Oddly, it is reassuring to see this card appearing. There is truth here that is missing from the messages those who want to stay in power are sending. I feel a little less crazy! At least the Tarot isn’t lying to me.

And along with not lying, there is always a different version of a difficult Tarot card that presents the antidote to difficulty seen in the Rider Waite Smith. That Five of Pentacles antidote card is the Shining Tribe’s Five of Stones created by Rachel Pollack.

The image shows five spirits in a cave that can be called upon for healing, for guidance for protection. The triangle at heart level of the central figure is a symbol of Venus, letting us know these spirits come to offer loving support. We are not alone in our difficulty. Helpers from the other realms—the ancestors, the Divine, nature spirits, depending on your beliefs—gather around us especially at this time of year. We are invited to open our hearts to receive their love and let it flow through our hands into the world.

Inspired by the Five of Stones and other correspondences of the moonth, Yesbelt Fernandez of Yes Spiral and I prepared a special video filled with musings, prompts, and practices for marking this full moon and drawing upon its healing potential. Parts of the video and their starts times are:

We start with some lines from poet Frederico Garcia Lorca (in English and Spanish!)

At 3:50 mins – Influences, card correspondences, and subtle patterns of this moonth (10/16-11/14).

At 10:15 mins – Yesbelt leads us through creating a Rose Elixir—inspired by The Herbcrafter Tarot’s association of The Empress to Rose— as well as suggestions for heart opening and stress reducing teas.

At 22:30 mins – Intro to Full Moon card correspondences and energies with the Shining Tribe Tarot as our guide.

At 29:00 minutes – Meditation to encounter healing spirits like those in the Shining Tribe’s Five of Stones begins (last about 20 minutes).

A closing thought on the Five of Pentacles. Even within the bleakness of this card there is potential. The two figures stand together. As we move from the days of ancestor reverence into the US election, we need to stand together and stand up for what we believe in. I’m sure you have already heard how important it is to vote. This year we may also need to defend the vote from a power grab. It seems hard to believe, but better to be prepared than shocked and uncertain what to do. You can find out more at Choose Democracy. Trainings are being led by a wise elder, a long time social change strategist and non-violence activist who I had the privilege to work in the early 2000s.

Pentacles and stones are accepting. There are no doors in the granite landscape. All are welcome. When these wild times try our souls and drain our energy, we can go and stand with stones or hold even a pebble in our hand to be reminded of time’s long sweep and that which is Greater Than ourselves. Then supported by stone, we can keep going where we need to go. 

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