I was first introduced to sacred ceremony in 1992 at a workshop on feminine spirituality. In my circle it is also referred to as ‘ritual’, but since those unfamiliar with the practice may have only heard the term followed with the word ‘sacrifice’, I prefer the above. Sacred ceremonies you may be familiar with would be a child’s christening or a wedding. If you consider how important these rites of passage are for the child / the couple, and their community, understand that there are many moments in all of our lives that deserve to be marked and celebrated… and that the act of doing so will make the milestone or accomplishment more sacred. At times, there are obstacles to overcome, like a great loss, heartbreak, or regrets that get in the way of our own progress. This is when I find the art of ceremony to be most rewarding, and deeply healing.
We lost a beloved member of our community to leukemia in November. In December a conversation with her widow revealed that she wasn’t sleeping well, and that she was having trouble dealing with emotions of anger and bitterness toward an organization that had mistreated her beloved a few years before her death. The betrayal our dear one suffered led her into a spiral of depression and a crisis of identity from which she never really recovered. I assured my friend that her love left behind all of those worries with her body, and that she carried them no longer… which is what she surely would wish for those who survived her. I offered suggestions for cutting off from that energy and asked her to let me know if she needed support in doing so. At our next check-in she affirmed her desire for help in letting go.
So, we came together at the dark of moon. Lakeside and surrounding a brilliant bowl of fire, we set an altar of our reverence with a photo of our beloved’s beautiful smiling face – radiant with sunshine, along with a few sacred symbols and her guitar, with which she had formerly serenaded us all at campfires past. With the couple who had eagerly introduced our beloved to her wife a quarter century before, and another couple from their shared inner circle, this gathering was not a memorial for we had done that exceptionally well in the fall. This was an intentional ceremony of release for those who remained to face life without the presence of a sacred soul held dear.
These were the words that stated our purpose and intention for this ceremony:
“We gather to reconnect this sacred circle, and to support one another in the process of letting go. As we let go of that which does not belong to us, or that which no longer serves us… we are lighter and liberated for the work of mapping the path forward. We honor the darkness, for it was surely illuminated by the light of love. We have lost a great light in our lives for whom we grieve, but we find that while in the physical world there was rarely enough time to deeply connect… and now… beyond the confines of the body… we are able to commune with her spirit without interruption. Lynn is no longer limited. Our beloved is not gone from us, she is right here in this sacred space, and in our hearts. Her smile is brighter than this flame, and her laughter and her song are lifted upon smoke and breeze. The process of letting go allows us to pull her closer, as walls and barriers crumble and fall away.”
As I led our circle through a guided visualization, we journeyed into an ancient passage tomb where we would become aware of all that we carried from which we would now seek freedom and release. As we emerged into the light and back to our circle, we each took the time to write down every thought and realization discovered. We listed our regrets and our fears, our feelings of bitterness and sorrow, along with any words left unspoken to be carried to the expansive and ever present being of our beloved… no longer in human form. When every last word was written, they were carried to the flames and set alight with our heart’s desire for transformation… each page burning into ash within a small stone basin, then carried to the water’s edge. There, we symbolically cut cords attached to people who no longer would have ownership of our spiritual real estate, as we reached to the essence of water Herself… the Lady of the Lake… asking for Her mercy and Her love to receive our words, cleansed and purified by fire, to be blessed and consecrated then transformed and transmuted as dust became fluid.
We returned to fire circle, and we shared stories and sang songs… after all, this was one of her very favorite things… and then we concluded our work with these words:
“With open hearts and untethered spirits, we cast our nets forth into the wisdom of all that is, anticipating the limitless abundance the Universe delivers with grace and ease, for which we are eternally grateful.” And so, we are.
I know that our ceremony was blessed with great love and that the one that we can no longer see with our eyes remains ever present. She is in the garden with her love, she is at the fireside with dear friends, and she is sitting across from me as I write. Her laughter rises on billows of incense, and the flickering candle is the twinkle in her eye. It is not that we miss her any less than we did when the great void was opened that terrible day in Autumn, it is simply that we have chosen to carry her with us as we carry on. We were so blessed. We ARE so blessed!
(Psyche Weeping by Kinuko Y. Craft)