Soul Path Sanctuary

Supporting seekers in creating personal practice & tending to their unique needs


Dark Moon Release with Baba Yaga as our Guide


For Seekers – Moonthly Renewal – Practices for Soul & Spirit

Before the moon is made new on Saturday, September 28tn at 2:26pm ET in the USA, 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 Virgo which corresponds to the Tarot’s Hermit card. In the Dark Goddess Tarot, The Hermit is Baba Yaga, the Russian Witch of the Woods. Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, creator of the Dark Goddess Tarot, description of her includes:

She is reclusive with no wish to be disturbed, content as she is with the company of spirits and her faithful, mysterious servants: the bodiless hands she calls soul friends, and her beloved horsemen, the white, the red, and the black, whom she calls Bright Dawn, Red Sun, and Dark Midnight. Her powers are earthly and old and as encompassing time.

Despite little desire for human company, Baba Yaga will aid those with pure intentions who make the uncertain journey to find her deep in the woods. She gives them a near impossible task to complete. The reward for success is life and a possible – but not guaranteed  – gift of magic. Those whose intentions are corrupt are baked in Baba Yaga’s oven and eaten. 

To seek out Baba Yaga with her impossible tasks and a face with fierce iron teeth is a challenge that shapes us. Success in meeting the challenge is not the end of the work, but the beginning.  Baba Yaga’s words of wisdom told to us by Ellen are: Keep going, knowing the journey does not end. 

My new moon musings included inspiration from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, who began school striking to bring attention to the climate crisis. On Friday, September 20th, four million young people and adult allies around the world were strikers in the streets of 163 countries. Greta concluded her speech at the New York rally by letting everyone know – her fellow strikers and the people in power – that this strike was not a culmination, but just the beginning. Her journey continued into Monday where she addressed the UN Climate Conference in a passionate speech. Her expression was fierce and not pretty. Despite her young age, I saw Greta as a Hermit teacher and for her UN speech you might say she words echoed with Baba Yaga’s strange magic. 

What magic do you want to bring into the continued journey of your life? What are you willing to have transformed in the dark to make that possible?  

Starting with the 48 hours before the new moon’s arrival at 2:26pm ET on the 28th, 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 August 30th. 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 and the feelings, thoughts, and ideas that arose connected to the happenings of the moonth. 

As you reflect, tune into the thoughts and feelings that seem most important or arose most regularly. Identify the most important thoughts and feelings. 

Sort your findings into categories inspired by Baba Yaga:

  • Thoughts and feelings that come out of pure intentions, those that are reflections of your Soul Self. Some will be beautiful and inspired, but the odd and strange are welcome here as long as they are true to your soul. These thoughts and feelings are to be celebrated. Pledge to them a gift of your energy for their continued development. 
  • Thoughts and feelings that are corrupt. These are the voices you hear in your head that do not belong to you at all, but are from a corrupted part of the larger world in which we live. They might be thoughts that limit you, that belittle you, that spring from oppressions you’ve internalized because of an identity you hold. These are to be released into the dark to be destroyed and their energy reorganized into something better. 
  • There is a possibility that you will also have thoughts and ideas that don’t feel like they are from within you nor are they a corrupt outside influence. These thoughts and ideas are loving. Perhaps they seem kinder to you than you usually are to yourself. These thoughts and ideas cheer you on when you are operating from your Soul Self even when it is strange. These may be the voices of your soul friends. Like Baba Yaga’s hands and horsemen, these are invisible presences who support you as the journey goes on an on. Perhaps you think of them as your spirit guides or they may be your ancestors or beloved dead (we are entering the season of tending to the dead so the season is supportive of more of these messages). These thoughts and ideas are to be treasured as gifts from the Beyond.  

Dark Moon Release Ritual

You are invited to bring a piece of actual and delicious chewy food into this ritual. Alternately, you can also imagine eating this food during the ritual. 

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 Baba Yaga 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.

Place your real or imagined food before you. Breathe over this food. As you exhale, imagine that you are exhaling what you want to release out of your body and into the food. Imagine it leaving your body and going into the food. 

When you feel you have released all you need to release into the food, pick it up and take a bite. Chew the bite and imagine the corrupt thoughts and ideas being torn apart by your teeth until they are no longer recognizable, until they no longer have power over you. Swallow and know that the transformed food will give you energy to live your Soul Self in the moonth to come. 

Eat until the food is gone. Eat until your releasing is done.

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. Be open to a blessing coming to you from Baba Yaga and/or your face of the Greater Than.

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



Persephone Descending: Letters to the Dead


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

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. (More about Persephone’s spring work is here.)

Persephone’s secret story is the story of her as Traveler and Messenger, the one who twice yearly, millennia after millennia, begins a journey between the worlds when 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 moons from new to full following the Spring Equinox set her on her journey back to earth. The waning moons after the Fall Equinox invite her to depart. The pace of her journey may vary from year to year or place to place depending on what is happening in the lunar and natural world.

When the Fall Equinox arrives we enter the days Persephone Descending. Then as full moons fade to dark in September and October, 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 receive a letter in return so you can 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.
  • 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.   

FYI, I have two offerings for the 2019 season of Persephone Descending: an Urban Wisdom Wander in NYC with Yesbelt Fernandez and the annual Threshold of Darkness here in Easthampton, MA with the theme of Love Between the Worlds. You are invited to join us.  


Wisdom Wander at Fort Tryon Park in NYC


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit

Join Carolyn Cushing and Yesbelt Fernandez for a unique divinatory adventure to cultivate your intuition, tend your soul, and connected with like-minded seekers.

In this Urban Wisdom Wander, we will:

  • Find and explore a question that can spark our soul’s growth and delight.
  • Play with using our oracular tools (Tarot, angel cards, runes, ect) out of doors and on the move to gain new perspectives on their meaning and broader wisdom.
  • Practice seeing signs and finding synchronicities in the world around us. 
  • Connect with fellow seekers. 

Participants will leave with:

  • Special “compass” gift to keep you inspired moving forward.
  • Wisdom Wander booklet to inspire future wanders. 

To participate, you should:

  • Have your deck of cards or other oracular tool. We will have decks to share.
  • Have a little bit of experience working with your cards or oracular tool can be helpful. We won’t be talking about basic meanings in the group. But we will be guided by our intuition in this work so no worries if you feel like a newbie. 

Wear shoes for walking, bring water, and, If needed, be prepared for rain. Bring your phone for obvious reasons and also to document your experiences. You might also want a small notebook and pen to jot things down quickly. Travel as lightly as possible.  

Fort Tryon Park has lawns, gardens, 8 miles of pathways, The Cloisters Museum, and the New Leaf Cafe. There will be options for groups to wisdom wander together as well as going off on your own. We will bring a group into the Cloisters for which people will pay their own admission fee. If you are a New York State resident or a student in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you decide what you will pay. If you are not, the price of admission for adults is $25. 

Cost: $20 if you register before September 30th. On October 1, the fee will increase to $30. Early birds are rewarded! The fee is non-refundable, but you have to cancel, you may apply it to a future service or event with Carolyn or Yesbelt.

Date: Saturday, Saturday, October 12th

Time: 11am – 3pm

Location: We will meet up near the Cloisters. We’ll confirm the exact location the day before to account for the weather. We will wander even if there is rain, probably spending more time inside the Cloisters for any wet wisdom wandering. 

Sign up now with Pay Pal or mail a check made out to Carolyn Cushing to Soul Path Sanctuary, 1 Cottage St., Easthampton, MA 01027.



The messages will be all around us as we wisdom wander!


Threshold of the Season Retreat: Love Between the Worlds


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

dark love face

Each season offers different gifts and challenges, flows with its own rhythm and mystery.  When we take time to turn toward the offerings of the season, we can better receive its soul tending wisdom.

The shift from October into November is a potent time of year for remembering our beloved dead cross-culturally. Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, Catholic masses for All Saints and Soul Days, earth spirituality traditions around the thinning of the veils between the worlds, and secular commemorations on Veterans Day all offer different ways to connect with those departed. At the most basic level, this time of the year calls us to keep up a loving flow between the living and the dead. 

This year’s theme of Love Between the Worlds opens the door of our hearts to the loving ancestors for the sending and receiving of messages through: deep reading of the signs of the season; engaging in divination; and bringing our awareness to the energy of the expanding darkness. We will also be asking the ancestors for guidance on what we need to do to become good ancestors ourselves. 

In our time together, we will:

  • Greet each other and the season.
  • Honor and welcome the ancestors and guides who would like to support us on this day.
  • Take a wisdom wander. No matter the weather, there will be an invitation to connect with the land and beings at the wildlife sanctuary where we will gather. 
  • Eat a simple lunch highlighting local vegetables and fruits (vegan and gluten-free friendly).
  • Create a seasonal altar and gather round it to share stories and receive the wisdom of our beloved dead.
  • Leave with a message about pathways we can take to become good ancestors ourselves.

We will be a small, intimate group of no more than about a dozen.

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

  • An image or object to represent a loving ancestor who can serve as a wise guide. Feel free to think broadly about this ancestor who could be other than human, known to you in life or not, an inspirational figure from your vocational field, ect. You may invite more than one loving ancestor to sit in circle with us, but be prepared to focus on one that you introduce publicly to the group.
  • An image or object to represent someone who has recently died who might benefit from support from the loving ancestors to make their transition or receive healing. 
  • 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 camera for contemplative photo receiving.


  • To be held 10am to 5pm at a wildlife sanctuary in Easthampton, MA on Saturday, October 26th.
  • Regular fee is $95. There is an early bird special of $85 for those who sign up before Wednesday, September 18th.
  • Pre-registration required by October 23rd so we can plan how much food to make.

Click the button to pay with a credit card/use PayPal or send a check to Carolyn Cushing, 1 Cottage St., Box 33, Easthampton, MA 01027. If sending a check, do send me an email so I can start holding you a space. 


Reading of the Moonth: Wisdom for the Earth


For Seekers – Moonthly Renewal – Practices for Soul & Spirit

The arrival of the new moon stamps the moonth with an initiating energy that shifts and develops through the cycle of growth, fullness, and descent. The reading of the moonth can be done any time, ideally between the new and full moons. Revisit the cards you pull periodically up until the next lunation to gain new insight as the light changes. This new moon arrived August 30th (exact at 6:37am ET in the USA) . The full moon arrives September 14th.

As the season turns, we are nearing a completion here in the Northern Hemisphere. The landscape is still lush and the fields full, but growth has slowed. The sounds have shifted; the birds are quieter and the cicadas’ hum solemn. We are turning toward the final harvests.

The August 30th new moon astro-Tarot correspondences also point us toward this theme of completion as we are invited to walk the path of the Hermit,Major Arcana number 9, the last single digit.

Hermits turn from the demands of the everyday world and embrace solitude to seek the wisdom within. Paradoxically, this looking inward also tunes them into the wisdom that flows from natural cycles, the Greater Than, and all that is beyond themselves. They integrate their personal insights with the larger patterns to find an understanding of the Whole.

From the Mary El Tarot, now available in a second edition

Once in touch with their Inner Wise One, Hermits are called to return and share their insight with others. The lantern that is so common in versions of this card signifies this responsibility. Their periods of solitude are not permanent but periodic. They are still called to serve the communities from which they come, to respond to the needs of the world in which they live.

Being numbered 9 is apt for this card because to embody the archetype of the Hermit is an achievement that marks a cycle of growth’s completion. We may not be as old in years as the figures shown on Hermit cards, but we still have aged our wisdom selves when we’ve embraced a Hermit time.

So the path of the moonth calls us to completion, but there is still work to do before we are finished.  Our passage of the moonth takes us through the 8 of Pentacles.

A 1909 version of the Rider Waiter Smith deck (RWS currently produced by US Games)

The call of this card is: Keep at your work. In the fields, we will only have enough for the winter if we do the harvest and prepare the stores now. For our spiritual life, faithfulness to our practice is what truly tends our soul. With our activism, the troubled times we live in show us a world in need of our tending and healing. We hear the voice of the 8 of Earth in Maya Angelou’s words: Nothing will work unless you do.

And how shall we do this work? What will we look like as we travel the path? The correspondences of the moonth invite us to be explorers and questers devoted to the earth, traditionally known as the Knight of Pentacles. 

These exploring, questing Knights are devoted to their cause but move at their own pace. Noel Arthur Heimpel writes about the earth Explorer of the Numinous Tarot: While, like the other Explorers, there is movement in this card, it’s much slower. [They] are someone who takes their time, never rushing or making any hasty decisions. They want to have all the facts in place before they come to a conclusion.”

The Numinous Tarot’s version of the Knight of Pentacles (This fabulous deck is on sale right now.)


This description and the earth connection of all of these cards has me thinking about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who a year ago began school striking on Fridays to demand action on climate solutions with her consistent weekly presence outside of the Swedish parliament. What began as an individual action, has sparked a global movement of young people, who are now calling for a Global Climate Strike September 20 – 27. Knights tend to travel in groups. They know they are stronger together.

Invited to speak at the United Nations in New York on September 23rd, Greta took 2 weeks to sail across the Atlantic rather than fly because of air travel’s heavy use of fossil fuels. Her travels will continue by bus and train through the Americas to reach Chile where the United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in December. She travels at the pace set by her principles. 

Greta Thunberg is certainly a dedicated Knight serving the earth, but she is also the Hermit. In describing the origins of her activism, she says she first learned of climate change when she was 8 years old and didn’t understand why more wasn’t being done to address this global crisis. She became depressed and stopped speaking for awhile. This time in the dark was the impetus to begin her school striking. Now she speaks to the world and helps to lift up the voices of other young people. Her light spills from her lantern when she tells us: Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire. … I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.

And what about you? Who are you – the Hermit or the Knight? 

Having passed the 50 year mark, I can claim some Hermit wisdom. I’ve journeyed through the dark to bring back the light I found there. But in this moonth to come, better to be a Knight in service to the young Hermits who want to secure a future for themselves and the planet. They are calling everyone to participate in the Friday stikes on the 20th and 27th. They are welcoming adults who want to act as allies. I can follow and support them as a steady Knight of Pentacles.

The figures of the Tarot are shown in images that focus us on particular aspects for better understanding. But we are not a static card, but rather a complex mix of experience, abilities, and passions. We are the Hermit on the mountain top, the worker with the pentacles, and the Knight unfailing in service all at the same time. When we embrace, blend, and express these multitudes within to match the needs of the moment, we can be more resourceful. With increased resources, we just might find we have what we need to do the work, to achieve our visions, to reach completion.

Reflection and reading questions of moonth to call for the resources from the multitudes within are:

HERMIT: What message does my inner Hermit have for me about how to keep at my work during this moonth/cycle?

EARTH EXPLORER: What message does my inner Explorer have for me about how to keep at my work this moonth/cycle?

INTEGRATION: How do I integrate these messages to serve the Whole (of which the Self is a part) during this moonth/cycle? 

I offer this as an e-reading in my collaborative intitituve format for $23. I have times to do these readings generally on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. 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.

The work of cultivating the joy isn’t completed just at the time of the new moon. When the full moon comes on September 14th open to an encounter with the mystery of The Moon. People on my list receive more timely new moon missives and often full moon inspirations for ritual as well. Sign up if you’d like to receive those. 

Note: I’ve given some some shout outs above to decks and companies. FYI, I”m not receiving any fees or goodies for these. I just think they are great decks and want you to know about them.

Newer Posts Older Posts