Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lucina’s Circle – London

Saturday December 15, 2007:

Outside, the busy Grays Inn road roared incessantly, as I imagined in the gloom of a winter’s afternoon, the glittering buses rumbling on, filled to the gunnels with shopping humanity.

Inside the seemingly insubstantial wooden building, all was warm busyness. In the kitchen, a group of children noisily cooked something which smelled a bit like Chile. In the children’s play room, thirteen adults gathered, perched on low chairs and earnestly discussed what we would do to mark the solstice in our own indoor ritual.

The ritual contents agreed, we began. Sage and camphor wafted over us as we entered the warm shining place and gathered in our circle. Stepping forward one by one, we named ourselves, declaring that we had come to “lighten our load”.

I called Lucina, she who visits the children on cold frosty nights, her head wreathed in a circlet of shining candles, glittering in the dark. As I spoke, I felt myself stretching out my neck and balancing my head, as though weighted down with lit candles. Behind my closed lids, circle upon circle of candles, wavering and bobbing through the dark, set on the hopeful heads of a never ending line of figures, moved into the room and encircled us.

We moved into the warm womb space to dream. Wrapped in my big old coat, I settled back, allowing myself to be guided by the voice, speaking from the other side of the circle.

It was dark in the woods. The grey purple mid winter sky hardly lit the path between the trees, whose bare branches were sketched against its slate light. High up in the trees, birds called their evensong, their wings whispering as they flew from branch to branch.

I walked through the woods, searching for the tree, wondering if I was coming the right way. And then there it was, old and gnarled, the entrance at its roots black against the darkness of the day. I stooped and climbed in.

Inside it was pitch black. But it was warm, and I was glad to be out of the chill of the twilight time in the woods. It was damp-smelling, a bit fungussy but yet alive and not unpleasant.

I felt my way around and found the carved shining handrail of a flight of steps. Carefully, I put a foot out and began to edge my way cautiously down.

My knees creaked as I moved. On and on, I stepped, down and down right into the bowels of the earth.

Finally, I was at the bottom. My feet held on compacted earth. I felt around me and found I was in a chamber whose ceiling I could only imagine, a long way above my head. I moved to find walls and found them, impacted earth, with rocks and stones embedded in them. I followed my hands stroking the walls and as I moved, little showers of earth were dislodged.

The chamber narrowed into a corridor. Then I was having to squeeze my way between two walls that had become a narrow doorway and into another chamber, this time more of a small round room.

In the corner , a red fire glowed. Beside it, a shape, darker than the walls sat still. I knew it was she and knelt before the shadows that were her shape.

Did she speak? I don’t know. I only know I felt tears come and allowed them to fall in the compassionate silence that seemed to be her. I must love myself, I thought as I reflected upon the darkness that had been my mind these last weeks. I must preserve myself, I commanded myself as my mind turned to the shadowy thoughts of self-destruction that had visited me of late. I must trust myself, I heard myself say inside my head as I remembered the jealous anger that made my relations with those I loved so very difficult right now.

She shifted and I knew I needed to reach out and cup my hands. She placed in then , a not heavy, palm sized warm, shiny stone – too light to be a hard stone, more like something fossilised. I touched its soft and shiny smoothness and knew it to be jet. Bowing, I thanked the silent figure, and wiping away my tears, got up to go, the piece of jet held close in my hand.

The staircase seemed to go on forever. My knees shrieked their protest as my leg muscles spasmed. Up I puffed, up and up, my hand following the smooth carved wooden handrail, until at last, I reached the top, and crawled out into the wood.

Night had fallen. The birds were silent now. The wind had dropped and all was still. I walked back through the wood, stepping lightly on the soft loamy soil of the path. I felt the trees watching me with simple compassion.

On a prayer, the words self-love came into my mind. This, I had struggled so hard to find within myself, but yet I wanted as my gift to someone else. I dropped the paper upon which the words had been written into the bowl provided. As we circled and sang our thanks for the meditation and for gifts that we shared, I lifted from the bowl a small piece of paper upon which the word “comfort” had been written. I let the concept settle softly in my mind as I led a song in celebration of the light’s return.

“Celebrate the birth of the sun
Light the way o Lucina.
Dance around on Sabbath night.
Blessed be the great mother.”

Holding hands we began to move, spiralling in and out, turning slowly together as our voices rose in joy and we danced. Outside, the night had fallen. The children laughed as they ate the product of their hard work. The dance over, we encircled our own feast spread before us on a low table, ourselves encircled by the still burning candles and honoured another turn of the wheel.


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