Winter Solstice – Birthing Mystery

Rachma Mami Ishtar – Winter Solstice ceremony (2005?)

Beloved Sister in Goddess,

Even though its late, I thought I’d write you a brief account of tonight’s ceremony before the current of life catches me up and sweeps me on round the next bend. (My son is home early in the morning).

I had trouble tuning into the ceremony earlier in the week – lots of resistance there apparently – so it was only on Friday that I actually got as far as some simple instructions for how to fashion a ritual around the mystery of birthing/birth.  I found it very satisfying to chant/sing various permutations and combinations of the names RACHMA MAMI ISHTAR to the accompaniment of a simple drone beat from the low G string of my guitar (which I still have no idea how to play properly).  I used it in much the same way as I might use a hoop drum for trance work, but the guitar gave me a strong anchoring note to work around and come back to at regular intervals.  So that got included into the ceremony.  It seemed much simpler than last time.  It was both big and small for me – small in that not too many surprises, and the energy of birthing I am really quite familiar with by now.  Important in that what was wanting to be birthed through me is this whole Ishtar thing I’m working with, the further unfolding of “the work” which I’m already committed to.  (In fact I was too occupied to consider this too much tonight which was a blessing really)  And because birthing – even when you’ve done it before – isn’t especially easy or comfortable even when it is satisfying.

I think the ceremony worked though.   I sat down at the end, first thinking that I hadn’t worked particularly hard.  But then I felt my feet and legs tingling and realised I had been more in trance/pumping energy that I had credited.  And needed to sit a bit.

Anyway, to begin at the beginning… Karuna Nur arrived early to help me set up, which was lovely.  We had everything looking lovely by about 10 minutes to seven, when I suddenly realised we hadn’t put out any chairs for everyone to sit on.  So we did that.  10 women had told me that they planned to be there, 11 women turned up.  8 of the ones I was expecting plus three of their friends.

So we were a nice sized circle.

Standard opening.  Began by cleansing with bells – ourselves and then the space.  Then I called in the temple guardians (as usual) in the four corners, and invoked the four aspects of Ishtar lighting a candle to each on her own altar.  Then we all stood holding hands in a circle and connected to the deep earth / ancestors and to the cosmic energies through the waterlily meditation.   That felt pretty good.

Then I invited people to meditate on the energy of birthing in their lives at the moment, and to offer up prayers to any or all of the faces of Ishtar at one or more of the altars by lighting a candle and/or making a written or drawn prayer in coloured ink on a small piece of paper.  Including the option to offer up any fears or resistances that might be there for them.   Whilst they did this, I did my chanting improvisation to the drone accompaniment on my guitar, and invoked the energy of the Birthing Mother.  I had my eyes closed most of the time, allowing myself to go deeper into trance as I sang, but I opened my eyes momentarily two or three times and was aware that some people were moving around, standing or kneeling in front of different altars.  Others were wrapped up snugly in their blankets sitting on their chairs in the circle.  This went on for some time.  Then  most people were sitting and I gradually wound the energy of the chant down to a stand-still.

Then we all stood again, close in the circle, and I invited us all to imagine the earth in the centre.  To feel our connection to her.  To feel our circle hugging her close.  To feel her roundness.  To remember our attunement from the previous ceremony to her moment by moment pregnant being, and to become aware of her need to birth herself anew at this time.  To hold her in this.  And to know that in holding her we were holding ourselves, because we are not seperate but a part of her.  Holding the part of ourselves that is birthing, holding the part of ourselves that is being born anew into the world.  And then we reached out our arms to find the hands and make a basket to hold her.  And then we intoned RAHM a few times.  And then MAMI.  And then RAHM again.  And then we began to move our circle very slowly sunwise by rocking in on the right foot and out on the left and gradually progressing slightly to the right.  And then energy rose and fell in waves of birthing as we chanted and rocked RAHM (etc),  MAMI (etc), and each time we came back to chanting MAMI the rhythm got a little faster and the movement got a little faster… and there were some very primal moments… And then, in a supreme birthing effort, we all got ourselves born by coming through under the arms as we intoned a final MAMI together… and some got tangled and needed a little help, and some landed in an uncomfortable position and needed to adjust themselves.  And then we were all together in the big circular hug.  Holding each other.  Being held.  I offered a prayer out loud and invited others to voice anything they wanted to add.  I spoke how tender and vulnerable we all are in these birthing moments and how we need to be held by our community, by our sisters.  After a longish silence which we all held together, one person and then one other felt moved to speak their own prayers.  And then I was wondering how to end this very tender, vulnerable space.  So I felt to pass a blessing around the circle.  I turned to the woman on my right and held her heart – front and back – and spoke a blessing of being held, of there being One who sees her beauty, even when she cannot, of knowing herself loved – and then invited her to pass the blessing on with whatever words she felt moved to… and so it went, from one woman to the next… all the way back until it was me receiving the blessing of being held by Bronwyn who was standing on my left.

The women sat patiently whilst I did the honours and closed the ceremony, and then it was done.

It felt like a special prayerful space.  Felt like a very good way of honouring the darkness of the solstice.  And at the end I saw that there were lots of candles burning on the altars and folded prayers tucked in around the edges of the offering plates.  Which I will give to the earth tomorrow by burying them I think, along with my own offering (of small flowers from my garden and a lemon from my tree) that sat in the Gaia bowl at the foot of the birthing altar.

It was nice to have the circle grown a little larger.  The whole thing felt quite satisfying really.

And then we had tea and biscuits, and some people went home while some stayed a little while for a chat.  And I had some good help with the packing up, which was a definite blessing.

What I didn’t do this time was ask the women to call in any beings or presences they wanted to be there in the opening segment.  Didn’t pop into my head to do so.  I think it was nice that we did that last time, so perhaps I’ll think of it next time.  But I suppose each ritual will probably come out a little differently.

Wish you could have been here, and I look forward to the day that is coming when we get to do this stuff together.

Lots and lots of love to you.  I hope your long weekend went well and brought the little space of renewal you were looking for.

Blessings from your sister,

Ishara.

2006

Winter Solstice 2010 – Ceremony Outline

  1. Gathering in
  2. Set up physical space
  3. Cuppas all round
  4. Preparing materials for doll making
  5. Divination with cards
  6. Sit in circle – welcome song
  7. Turn lights to dim
  8. Tuning in to theme of ritual
  9. Simple centering exercise using breath
  10. Sharing from centre – paired & then group
  11. Waterlily meditation to ground & connect + call in women/spirits to be with us
  • Bringing down the chalice of light and opening the four altars
  • Sitting in circle in darkness (tealight burning on each altar only) – each woman takes some time under her veil to meditate upon what it is that is waiting to be born in her life
  • Group chant / Invocation of Goddess as Mother/Birthing Power
  1. Light central candle
  • Begin work on doll creation
  1. When shift in music happens, close eyes, change position – stand, squat, move as you feel to – inward focus
  • When music returns to womb sounds – resume work on doll creation
  • Rushes of birthing energy come gradually faster and longer
  1. Culminating in Toni Child’s track Birth
  • Hold your doll baby and tune in to what she needs from you now
  1. Music – Sinead O’Connor – all babies
  2. Each woman lights a candle on (or around the cake) with a prayer
  3. Sing happy birthing day and blow out candles
  4. Eat cake, drink chai
  5. General feasting
  6. Closing circle / close the ritual space

Waterlily Open Heart Meditation

A solo ritual to celebrate the Birthing Mystery at winter solstice

Instructions

  1. Create a time and space where you are not likely to be disturbed
  1. Set up an altar dedicated to Ishtar Embodied and the mystery of the Birthing Power. Dress it in black and green with red touches.  Place upon it whatever you will, but definitely including several (12?) candles.  An image or icon of the divine child would be appropriate.  Also a ‘birthing day’ cake with at least one candle on it.
  1. Organise your materials for making your doll, and a comfortable place to sit (on the floor or a low chair), in front of your altar. Make sure you have a nourishing drink within easy reach.
  1. Organise something to play the musical sound-track on.
  1. When ready to start, light some incense. Energetically cleanse your space however you prefer to do so.
  1. Re-read the written ‘tune in’ to the solstice mystery from Ishara’s blog.
  1. In your journal (or if you are not keeping one, on a clean piece of paper) write down whatever is in your heart and mind… your intentions for the greater journey with the Goddess mysteries and for this ritual in particular, your hopes and fears about manifesting and giving birth to your intention/dream at this time.
  1. Open the sacred temple space for the Ishtar mysteries, using the spiral Goddess practice which I have given separate instructions for on the learning circles site.
  1. When you have called in the three streams of blessing and affirmed yourself and your circle space as chalice – ie. when you have completed the first two thirds of the spiral Goddess practice – sit or stand in front of your altar and contemplate the mystery of Ishtar Embodied as you have represented it on your altar.
  1. Put on the womb-sounds sound track. Turn the lights down or off.  Veil yourself completely with a light scarf or sarong.  Spend a few minutes in darkness contemplating your sense of what within you seeks to be born at this time.
  1. Call in the blessings of Ishtar Embodied, the Great Birthing Power, through your words and intention. Move your body as you feel to.  Speak aloud your prayer for the safe birth of the divine child within you.  Light a candle upon your altar.
  • If you have not already done so, begin playing the soundtrack that we have compiled for you. While the womb-music is playing, begin work on creating your doll.
  • When the music changes (to a completely different sound) this signifies a rush of birthing energy. Put down your work and close your eyes. Change your body position – you may want to stand and sway your hips, you may like to squat or kneel on all fours.  Follow the impulses of your body.  Allow yourself to become very internal in your focus. Try to notice, without judgement, any feelings, sensations or images, thoughts or questions which arise for you.
  • When the womb-music returns, sit down comfortably again and resume your doll creation process. Remind yourself that this doll represents some newly emerging aspect of your relationship with yourself/Goddess. Let yourself be curious about that.  With each stitch/touch that you add to your doll’s creation, you are bringing your creative intentions into fruition in the manifest world.
  1. Cycle through the two steps above as the music prompts you to. Optionally, after a rush of birthing energy subsides, you may light another small candle on your altar – one for each rush of energy, or as you feel moved to do so, so that the light in your space gradually builds.
  • As the rushes of energy come closer and closer together, the moment of birth draws ever nearer.
  1. When you hear the Toni Child’s track with the snatches of ambulance sound and tribal chanting, it is time to stop working on your doll (if you have not yet done so) and hold her close to your heart. Pour all the feeling from your heart into her. Fill her with your love.  Let her be born.
  • Gaze at your beautiful doll. Breathe with her. Knowing that whether you yourself recognise it in this moment or not, no doubt everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, right now. Let the music of Sinead O’Connor – ‘All Babies’ – wash over the two of you. Let your doll communicate directly with your heart – speaking to the mother in you, letting you know what she and all that she represents to you is needing from you right now to protect and nurture her newborn existence.
  • Blessings upon the woman / priestess / mother that you are!
  1. Light the candle on your cake with a prayer of gratitude. Sing happy birth/ing day to your newborn.  Eat the cake.  Dance, sing, write in your journal – whatever you feel to do.
  • Take a photo of your altar and a close up photo of your doll.
  1. When ready, blow out the candles on your altar. Close the sacred space by completing the final part of the Spiral Goddess Practice and moving the chalice of light back up from the Ament through the widening spiral and up into the waiting hands of the Star Goddess.
  1. Much love to you from Miriam, Ishara and your sisters in the circle. We look forward to hearing about your experiences when you feel ready to share them with us. :) !

 

June 2010

Winter Solstice – The Great Birthing – June 2010

The Earth dreams in the dark embrace of the Goddess. Deep in her sacred womb-cave new life –  new possibility – stirs.  The heart-beat of creation sounds loudly in our ears. We pulse to a rhythm resonant with the birthing and dying of stars and galaxies, the rise and fall of species, peoples, empires… We are seeds, fallen into the fertile growing medium of opportunity.  Heart beats measuring out ripeness as the moon swell and shrinks and swells again.  Slowly the possible takes form.

Winter solstice brings a new appreciation for the generative role of darkness – as we prepare to celebrate the emergence of all that is – the endless process of becoming – which pours forth from the primal darkness of the Great Mother’s womb.  Now is a time for reflecting and giving thanks for the potency that is hidden away within our beings, often well out of sight of our conscious identities, until the time is ripe for its birth (or rebirth) into our lives and our world.  What within you now readies itself to be born?

June 04, 2010

Reflections on the Winter Solstice Birthing Mystery

 

The Earth dreams in the dark embrace of the Goddess. Deep in her sacred womb-cave new life –  new possibility – stirs.  The heart-beat of creation sounds loudly in our ears. We pulse to a rhythm resonant with the birthing and dying of stars and galaxies, the rise and fall of species, peoples, empires… We are seeds, fallen into the fertile growing medium of opportunity.  Heart beats measuring out ripeness as the moon swell and shrinks and swells again.  Slowly the possible takes form.

Winter solstice brings a new appreciation for the generative role of darkness – as we prepare to celebrate the emergence of all that is – the endless process of becoming – which pours forth from the primal darkness of the Great Mother’s womb.  Now is a time for reflecting and giving thanks for the potency that is hidden away within our beings, often well out of sight of our conscious identities, until the time is ripe for its birth (or rebirth) into our lives and our world.  What within you now readies itself to be born?

Whether we are on the giving or the receiving end of it, birth is always a leap into the great Unknown.

As pregnancy draws to a close, diurnal creatures will generally feel the instinctive need to find a protected hidden place in which to give birth, and this birthing often takes place during the hours of darkness.  Similarly, in the lead up to the great Birthing Mystery, we are called to consciously ‘feather our nests’ – discovering and gathering in the qualities and circumstances which will support and enable our innate capacity to trust the process and let go.

As the hour approaches, the rushes of energy begin. From the emerging child’s point of view, what once seemed a most desirable sanctuary away from the bright lights and rough edges of the world now comes to seem like an unbearable constraint upon our capacity to stretch into our manifesting potential.  As the rhythm of labour takes hold, it may feel like life is squeezing us unmercifully.  It is easy to forget that this too is our own co-creation. As some part of our experience contracts, so another expands, making way for that which is brand new to push its way out of confinement, into full expression in the flesh.

As human beings we have all been witness to at least one birth – our own –  whether we consciously remember it or not.  As a woman, you may not have ever physically given birth. Nonetheless you have in your body the cellular memory of getting born, and also the emotional resonance of your mother’s experience of giving birth to you.  Remembering that the ova which makes up half your genetic inheritance was fully formed within your mother’s body at the time of her own birth, this means that you also have access at a cellular level to your mother’s experience of being born and the emotional resonances of your grandmother’s experience of giving birth to her.

Like Janus, the two-faced god who rules over the threshold of each new year, the passage through the great gate of birth signals a death as well as a new beginning.  For both mother and baby, birth marks out those moments where an old way of being (in utero, pregnant) must inevitably cede to a whole new sensory experience of ourselves.
Sheila Kitzinger says “Motherhood not only changes what we do, it changes who we understand ourselves to be”.   As mothers, the reality of the baby now emerging marks the demise of our pregnant fantasies – as the imaginings of babies we might have been carrying now give way to the manifest experience of this particular flesh and blood child we behold and gather into our arms for the first time.

The new child is physically separate from her mother for the first time, yet still helplessly dependant, as she first masters the transition into independent breathing, and then begins to settle into the processes of ingesting nourishment, digesting what she can use and eliminating the rest.  For new mother and baby life becomes a never ending cycle of feeding, cleaning up and sleeping.  Beginning to take each other in – through the eyes and ears as well as through the warm vital contact of body on body.

What does all of this mean for our spiritual journey with the Ishtar Mysteries?

The winter solstice mystery point marks the point at which whatever fresh potential has been awakened within us now becomes visible to others for the first time.  Its emergence into our lives may precipitate a whole new way of understanding who we are.  The more deeply we tune in to this mystery, the more we glimpse a reality in which we truly are the newborn offspring of the Great Mother herself.  And at the same time, we may perhaps be gifted with a fresh sense of ourselves as mother to the Divine Child, through this process in which our innate gifts and spiritual inspirations find new expression in the world.

 

Catherine Ishara de Garis

First published online June 2010