Call and response, leaning in and learning from each other
rumination's at the close, offerings, and a happy new year
Greetings lovelies. I want to leave you with some last words for the year and a welcome to new subscribers - thanks to a couple of shout outs from my fellow substack tribe, especially Operation Uplift. It’s been a wild ride with the weather acting out in full exclamation marks and I am as we speak sitting in some random cafe 20 miles from my home waiting for the power to get back on. Since I happen to be for the moment fully mainlined into the matrix I couldn’t even boil hot water this morning. So welcome to some ramblings and grumblings and gratitudes and if you can last to the end some exciting offerings!
Ive been percolating in the brine of the last of year dregs and this strange time of limbo between solstice and new year, where we are often thrown from normal routine and into the ceremony of the the holidays,
Holding ceremony, being part of ceremony, partaking in ceremony is such an intrinsic part of us messy humans and although now we call it other things such as Christmas, Hanukkah or Solstice etc., it all involves a ritual or two. Even if it is, at its most a cookie and beer for Santa looseness, it’s a ceremony, dripped in agreed tradition.
I think one of the reasons people struggle with these holidays as well as adore them is that it’s one of the few sturdy vestiges of ceremony that we have left in the west, collectively and culturally.
And ceremony really does pivot around the order and placement, the gathering and intention and the inclusion of the high preist/preistess, the diviner, the spokes person or sybil, the one who holds the space for the greater than. So it helps if that person, leader, elder, even stranger, actually has some sense that that is what they are. It makes a difference to how the process hits, whether the sense of order and placement are cohesive or not. And I feel that, for a lot of us, that this time is a non time mostly because of a lack or loss of that sense of ceremony and absence of a respected prolocutor.
I tend to do my end of year ceremony at solstice, and my celebrating at Christmas. I am grateful that I recognize ceremony, whether it has been me and a handful of folks singing and burning our end of year tally around the fire, with minimal structure, to full on group ceremony with the winter Madonna where we pour our hearts out in prayers - our petitions to the greater than - threading soul connection to the great mystery in timeless gestures and communion, to being guided by the psilocybin spirits giving glimpses of the great interconnectedness of all beings breathing in unison.
This year I find myself more than ever emotional. It’s a miracle of sorts, that I have the space to be able to take up. That I have been able to feel supported enough to be open hearted. It’s a place that I have worked really hard to reach, like that good job or position of power. Except mine is not advertised by material rewards or convenience. It’s rather outlined with grace. And I feel accomplished which honestly creates more space and more love and more tears.
Generally on this substack I talk a lot about my connections to the plants, the other than human beings who heal me and guide me and is my medicine. Right now I have just finished a day of picking black cottonwood buds which I will tincture so that I can help folks with that absolutely horrible sore throat that comes with covid. The one that makes it so painful to swallow and is just miserable, especially if you are a small child with no reasoning that it will pass. Not only is black cotton wood an ideal anti microbial but its also analgesic, it has a numbing quality to take away the pain while it heals and protects.
What I don’t talk about is the group work I do with the more than human, a bunch of messy adults. Ive been in this group, led by a very talented healer, for about 10 years and the way it has changed and affected my life has been beyond words really. It has been how I have been able to continue and maintain intimate and healthy relationships, haha to even know the difference. Innocuously named women’s group it is a place where 8-12 very divergent women get together once a month to practice reaching out for support, transferring and unearthing emotional patterns that no longer serve, learning how to receive support and most of all tracking where we are in our bodies and in the world so that we feel better equipped about our choices around how we connect.
This is our holy practice space. You can’t work at being in relationship without practice and you can’t practice being in relationship by yourself or one on one with a therapist. And the advantage of our women's group is that our main intention and commitment is to support each other in this work, unlike family, friends or lovers, husbands, wives and children. Where the support might be there or not, might be appropriate or not.
And its pretty amazing what happens when you find a well held and skillfully guided container to do this work in. This year in an ongoing effort (because it is work) our group decided to hold friends-giving and boxing day celebrations as part of building community, something that has become an apparent longing for most everyone involved. And so the end of year liminal space has been particularly rich. Most of us have family and children and some version of whats fucked up with that and it was kind of a dream to be able to land for a moment in a space which vaguely mirrored that expectation of what family and community feel like, dishes over flowing on the table, tribes of children marauding round, close friends and friends of friends sharing intimacies or niceties, a place where there was always arms for the baby and someone to help with the washing up. And if its sounds to good to be true, I can reassure you that I have diligently every month for over ten years shown up and sweated blood and tears, revealed and exposed deep shame, worthlessness and despair to reach this place of blossoming grace. Its work never done but damn does it help. It is a way that I have found to be more present, more vital and more in love with myself, each other and the world around me.
So I am grateful dear reader to celebrate this connection that I have worked hard to breath into and keep alive. I wish you blessing in your ongoing work that can seem so impossible and lonely at times. I hope that this year you have been able to find support and strength in keeping your connections alive. To find way to let the beauty of your soul touch another.
Which leads me into one of the other things that has been swimming around in my end of year liminal soup and if you’ve made it this far at least I know your vaguely interested.
I have, for a couple of years now, offered a service called Herbalist on Call, where for a yearly subscription you can call/txt/email me and get herbal advice. It started when I noticed a lot of home herbalists, kitchen witches and cunning folk, beginners to very competent, needing a holding hand, a reassuring grandmother to say yes, yes that how you do it with the occasional added bonus of extra tips and know how when it came to making and using herbal medicine. Things that youtube and lack of context lack. That communal support. And it seems especially appropriate right now, with the advent of the last 3 years and the decay of trust in faceless experts, to promote and practice this ancient tradition of apprenticing and observing and mentoring. Where you get to learn by practice, while being watched and guided by some one who’s been there before and can offer support and wisdom to the old ways and witness to the new knowledge that happens along the path.
So I have been thinking of starting a subscriber substack with the chat feature specifically around home herbal medicine and remedies. I will lead the group by talking about what I’m harvesting through the year, what treatments I am finding effective as the seasons swing and a place where we can share and build and grow with an open chat where we can all chime in and ask questions. And I’m curious if this would be of use to you, my lovelies and if you would subscribe to such a thing for the price of a cup of coffee a month.
If you would be interested in having a curated online herbal community email me or drop a line in the comments and I’ll let you know when I set it up in the new year.
If you would like to know more about the group work that I am part of drop me a line and I can share resources and join up info for the online and in person offerings
And if you would like to share your own ceremonies during this season I would love to hear from you!
Many blessings and much Love
with any great bunch we become more than the sum of the parts
It is an exclusive space, defined by sex. If you’re curious as to why please drop me a line.
You can work at how to be a better person with a therapist but for relational work its far more healthy if the relationship isn’t also defined by the teacher student, doctor patient dynamic that happens with a therapist. In the group we are just in relationship with each other equally.
I would be interested! :)
Happy everything to you, Natasha!