Holding Fire

by Sarah Lyn

Last May, I stood in a field during a large community ritual, swathed from head to toe in gloves and sunglasses and hat and veil. I was fully protected from the sun. I was standing in the field. That was a feat for me.

Just six months earlier I had been in a freak accident. I had been on fire. I almost died. I almost lost my legs. I was in a coma. I woke up. I have fought every day since for my strides back towards independence.

Strands of a web were rolled out, followed by calls for those who would hold specific energies for the community, both in ritual and in the world-at-large after. These people were invited to come and hold the end of a strand.

They called for those who would hold Fire for the community. I was the most surprised when I stepped forward. One foot in front of the other, I began walking across the field. A few people around me gasped. I understood.

There I was, walking slowly but surely across the field to hold Fire for the community that so tenderly and urgently assisted me and my wife with deep, death-defying healing. I held the strand so that we could build a web of community. For me, it was a physical manifestation of the web of healing energy that had been created for me.

I could hold Fire for them. I had already become it and survived it.

4550956161_d504f97694_z

Photo by Trevor Hurlburt, used under a Creative Commons license

I can’t lie, though. As I was walking across the field, even before I held onto that ribbon, I wondered how I would hold it over the course of the coming year. It’s easy to be brave in the moment. How could I hold Fire when I was actively trying to heal from it?

What work would Fire and I do together through the year?

As far as outreach goes, I have been actively promoting and educating about fire safety, even though it was not a factor in my accident. Awareness matters. And I am currently on the search for the first responders who saved me. I want them to see that life exists on the other side of the fire. I want them to see the life they saved. I imagine they don’t always get the chance to see the good outcome. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.

The other work I have been doing with Fire has been simple and personal. I had been partially devoured by the elemental. No one lives through such trauma without fear, but I was determined not to allow that fear to creep into the spaces the fire cleared away.

I am pagan. I do not blame the fire for being fire.

I understand the fear others felt for me, for my life, for my mental health. There was reason for that fear.

But my community used that fear as a catalyst to come together in prayer and healing for me. I felt it. It pulled me out of the darkness I was drowning in. I stepped up to the challenge. I answered fear with love. The speed of my healing was unexplainable. Miracles happened. Not just for me.

Fire devours, but it also ignites. It sparks transformation.

I had to hold myself accountable for being the catalyst for my recovery. If it was going to get better, it had to start with me. Every time I stood up, even though I couldn’t feel my legs beneath me, mattered. Every time I walked an extra lap mattered. Every time I thanked those who were taking care of me, even when they caused me pain, I changed the trajectory of my journey. Every morning I get up and get outside and walk means I will recover.

Many times, in the hospital, the nurses commented about what a supportive community I had. One of my favorites went so far as to say she thought it said a lot about me, that people were so eager to help. But you get out what you put in. You become part of a community by plugging into it, by helping where you see the need. You become a strand of the web.

It was an honor to step up and hold the fire for a community that holds me.

Join us in holding this year’s web at Rites of SpringOnline registration is open through May 13.

Advertisements

An Unexpected Journey: Caribou Clan at Twilight Covening

This post is by Rose Starwind.  She started pursuing her magick at the age of 13, and has walked many Paths and followed many trails in pursuit of spirit.   A poet, environmental consultant, and mom, she has a deep love and respect for the Earth. Twilight Covening remains a significant part of her spiritual work each year.

The year I birthed my daughter was the year I birthed the Caribou Clan. By then, I had attended Twilight Covening sixteen times, and suddenly all the things I had experienced and been taught there fell into a big soup cauldron. My clan leaders’ combined energies, devotion, and love of their Crafts gave rise to something new: an understanding of what it was to be deeply magickal without compromising who I was as a woman. I knew clearly that any Work I did was Women’s Work, because I was a woman doing it! Coming to the Mountain as a new mother, my first time leading a Clan alone, with my six-month old daughter and her father forming the Kangaroo clan, something essential shifted inside me again, watching my daughter wander the Mountain. Her first tooth appearing during the Visioning Ritual, and the forms of nourishment that could be absorbed shifted profoundly — for both of us.

Looking into her eyes at that moment, I remembered the dance of the energy exchange in the Lynx Clan, the resounding silence

Photo by Bruce McKay

Photo by Bruce McKay

that fell after we had raised a sound with our voices. That sound had become a clear chiming as the energy blended into something other, a whole far beyond the sum of its parts. I remembered shuffling in a sodden circle, shape-shifting through the elements of fire, all of the Alligator Clan in Sarah Cooper, attempting to thaw in front of the fireplace. I really remembered what it felt like to Shift into bear form, my shoulders bunching and relaxing as I walked — or actually, as I lumbered along. As the room warmed and our chill faded, the bear gave way to the lion and I felt what it was to walk with intensity, to hunt, to take down prey, my eyes glowing like the fierce sun present inside me, warming spirit and form.

I remembered my first Reindeer Clan- immersion in the practices of the wild north- food (knekkebrod!?) storytelling, magickal crafting, journeying with the drum. I laughed, remembering my chagrin and the heart-felt laughter of my fellow Reindeer when we returned from a journey to meet our guides. I met a puppy. A puppy with big dangling ears that it stepped on and tripped over rather consistently. ME (?!), with a puppy for a spirit guide? Only in hindsight can I find the lesson there: yes, in many ways I was just a pup. My all-grown-up and magickally mature hunting hound had to find the places where we still stumbled on our ears and needed to trust, and gain both strength and grace.

I stayed with the Reindeer work and then into the Ptarmigan work at the forge: the creation of the sacred fire using specific woods to build it, the sound of the smith’s hammer echoing as we journeyed to its rhythm. I remembered my first snowfall at Twilight, flakes striking the forge and the hot iron with tiny hisses. The following year, one might say that I moved from the proverbial frying pan of the Ptarmigan Clan into the fire of the Gryphon Clan. And oh, the changes that came from that Work. Profound, intense, sacred, and silly, the Gryphon Clan changed me: my perspective of who I was, what I believed about myself, and how I contended with Pain, whatever its source. A new strength was discovered, and after years of suffering with physical pain, I was able to simply identify it as pain. That was the Secret: pain was nothing more, and certainly nothing less, than just pain. The Gryphon work in particular prepared me for the pain of childbirth, embracing it to fuel the change within myself, and allowed me to birth with confidence. Yes, it hurt, and yes, I hollered — there is no safeword in childbirth to make it stop — but the lessons from Gryphon allowed me to ride that pain, not allow the pain to give rise to fear, and therefore my child came into the this world without her mother’s fear coloring her birth.

In Albatross we shared the poems of the Norse, found our way through our experiences, and engaged each other to write our stories, poems, musings, the challenge being to write them in skaldic verse (a specific Norse poetic form). It was there I touched a grief I didn’t know I had; there I was enabled (yes, even as a clan leader) to be held in safety and trust by my clan, and there that I created poems and art that birthed my healing. In Elk, we used the stories of the Norse to reflect our own realities: what were Our Stories? How do we continue to stumble through we should have learned from our Ancestors? We became the Norse that find and express the laughter despite hardship, or pain, or fear, or cold, or wet. Exploring the wisdom of the ones that have gone before, fueled by laughter, rich stories, and trust, the Elk stayed warm and dry despite the eight (yep, 8!) inches of rain that fell across that Twilight weekend.

It is with a profound sense of gratitude – for the Earth and the mountain, for the clan leaders and participants who have helped to shape the woman that I am today, and for the opportunity for growth and change that Twilight Covening represents — that I approach my 20th consecutive Twilight Covening. But most of all, I’m grateful for the journey that began with a long drive up a steep mountain road, my first Twilight Covening, all those years ago.

———-

Twilight Covening is a weekend-long ritual where participants work in small groups focused on a particular aspect of Earth-centered spiritual practice and then come together for community rituals in the evenings. This year, it will be held October 11-14; registration is open until September 25.  Learn more or register now.