Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mother Night, Winter Solstice, and the Chapel of the Stars

The Germanic pagan traditions celebrate the feast of Mother Night on eve of the winter solstice. Mother Night marked the beginning of the twelve day long festival of Yule that celebrated the return of the sun. Mother Night was sacred to the Goddess Holle (also rendered as Holla, Holda and Hulda) and the disr - the ancestral mothers of the people. On this night people gathered to give honor to Holle (or Frigga in the Scandinavian traditions) and those ancestral mothers.

Falling as it does on solstice eve, which is the time when Mediterranean and southern European cultures celebrated the rebirth of the sun child, it is hard not to associate the two festivals. While the Germanic cultures did not celebrate Yule as the rebirth of the sun child in the same way as did the Mediterranean cultures, they did celebrate it in terms of a rebirth or regeneration of the light of Sunna/Sol, the sun goddess. No matter which way it’s looked at, Yule—the Winter Solstice—is a celebration of the return of the light, and also a celebration of how light comes forth from the darkness.

I found this to be a great significance. So often the attention is given to the sun child only and not the mother who bore him, except perhaps in a round-about way. Yet here was a festival which seemed to be honoring First Mother, the great mother of all manifest life—Mother Night, she who gives birth to Light (in the form of the stars), and therefore, Life. She is indeed the great Ancestral Mother of all, and the idea of celebrating her on Solstice Eve appealed to me greatly. In the great cosmic scheme of things, Solstice Eve represents the time of her confinement, the time when she labors to give birth.

"Ave Maria" by Henryka Ternier

Let our celebration of the return of the sun child’s light and warmth begin with due honor to the mother who bore him/her—the darkness who gives birth to the light. 

Here is a Vision Journey from my book, Lady of the Sea: The Goddess Who Births the New Age, that you may find a useful addition to your Solstice ceremonies.

Create an altar. It can be as simple as a candle on a small table (or even the floor), or one that uses an altar cloth and symbols of the season. I use a midnight blue altar cloth and a beeswax  candle in a safe candle holder. Sit silently before your altar, breathing deeply till you are in a relaxed and receptive state of being. 

Meditate for a few moments on how this is the darkest time of the year; the time when, in the natural world, all life and movement has slowed to a seeming stop before the sun is reborn and the wheel of life begins to turn again. The moment may be likened to the end of labor, when, although the mother is working hard to birth her child, for the rest of the world around her there is a sense of waiting, of regular time suspended, as all focus on the impending birth and await the joyful sound of the infant’s first cry. When you have meditated upon these things, and feel sufficiently relaxed and calm, light your candle and begin the Vision Journey just below.

Journey to the Chapel of the Stars

Become aware now of the Four Directions that surround you—East, South, West, and North—and  focus your attention for a moment on each of them in turn.... In your mind’s eye, see the candle that burns at the center of your altar.... Focus on its flame.... As you gaze at this flame, you feel your own inner flame, the spark of divinity within you, awaken in response.... You watch as the candle’s flame begins to grow, increasing in size, strength, and brilliance..... and you feel your inner flame growing stronger and brighter as well, and your awareness increasing along with it.

With your inner vision, you watch the candle flame grow in size till it becomes a wall of fire, a curtain of flame. You step through the curtain of flame and find yourself in a very different kind of place. You are standing at the edge of a wood, looking into a clearing, in the midst of which sits a small stone building. It is a cold wintery night, and overhead the stars shine brightly in the dark clear sky. The moon has set but the stars are bright and provide illumination. You walk toward the building in the clearing, and as you get closer you can see it is a small chapel, with three wooden  stairs that lead up to a porch and a wooden door.

You reach the porch, and spend a few moments looking at the carvings on the wooden door…. Then you climb the stairs, push the door open, and enter the chapel, closing the door behind you.

To your surprise, the chapel has no roof ... Starlight gleams down, giving a dim illumination to the interior. You see a floor of roughly cut flagstone, with a spiral carved into one of the larger stones just beyond where you stand. You see a several icons on the chapel walls, several rows of wooden benches that start just beyond the spiral, and at the front of the chapel, a stone altar. You gaze at the carved spiral on the floor, and it comes to you suddenly that you must walk this spiral. You feel incredulous about this because the spiral is so small, you know your feet will not fit within the measure of its lines. But the impulse to walk it is strong, so you step gingerly onto it, feeling large and clumsy, with your foot just touching the opening of the spiral. As you step into it further, the urge to walk intensifies, so you take another step, then another, and another.... As you walk, you become aware that your consciousness is changing, deepening…. Taking the next step you notice that walking the spiral is not as difficult as you thought it would be. You take another step, wondering if you have grown smaller or the spiral larger. With the next step, you know that it doesn't matter… and that somehow, you are doing what is necessary to do.

You have an awareness, now, of those nameless others who have walked this spiral path before you. In your mind you hear a voice say, "Many have walked this path before you and many will walk it after you." As you continue watching your feet move along the spiraling line, the room around you seems to disappear, and the spiraling path you are walking seems to grow larger. A thought comes to you of the soul’s spiraling path into and out of incarnation.... You continue walking, focusing your attention on each step as you take it. With each step, your consciousness expands, and your awareness of your surroundings dissolves… only the path remains, and your feet, treading it…. The spiral grows smaller… tighter… smaller… and tighter, as you spiral inward, step by step….

At length you reach the center of the spiral, and look up. You find that you are within a vast, starry expanse. Directly in front of you the brighter stars seem to form the outline of an oval shape, larger at the bottom than the top. As you gaze at it, noting the dimmer stars twinkling within it, you are aware that "It" is a presence, a feminine presence, and most definitely alive—in fact, pulsating with Life. You realize that She is very lovingly aware of you. Her size and power are awe inspiring; you feel blessing and beneficence radiating from Her. You know that you are in the presence of the Source of all creation. You pause for a few moments to simply BE in the presence of this enormous Being....

As you gaze at her, you notice that there is a particularly bright star gleaming in her center, the area of her heart and womb.... Suddenly it bursts forth brilliantly, shooting out many bright sparks. A large spark shoots toward you, enters you, floods through your being, filling you with its light and enlivening power, and comes to rest in your heart center.... Other sparks shower through the sky and down toward the earth... you sense that they are filling the planet with their divine light, coming to rest in the body of the earth—in the mountains, the plains, the deserts, the rivers, and the oceans... and in all beings, including humans.

As this happens you become aware of a sound… it is the sound of many voices singing a wordless but harmonious melody. The melodious voices stir your soul, open your heart, and expand your being; you feel full of love—love for life, love for all of the wondrous creation, love for all that is.... You spend some time experiencing this....

After a while... you know that it is time for you to return, and that you must set your feet once again on the spiraling path and travel outward, returning back the way you have come. You pause and give thanks for the love and blessings you have been given. With the star spark glowing within you, you turn, and looking down at your feet, you begin walking clockwise ... out of the spiral ... step after step.... As you walk, the path broadens feel your consciousness begin to shift... Beneath your feet you see once again the flagstone floor of the chapel… and the carved lines of the spiral….A few more steps... and you step out of the carved spiral... and become aware once more of the chapel in which you are standing....

As you stand there, you feel that something else is required of you....You walk up the center aisle to the altar… and reaching into yourself, you take a spark from the glowing star spark within your heart. You place it upon the stone altar with a prayer.... The spark blazes up for a moment, then sinks into the stone... becoming one with it....

You feel now that it is time to leave. You turn and walk down the center aisle to the back of the chapel. You step over the threshold, out into the night, closing the wooden door behind you. You walk down the wooden steps and out into the clearing. After a few more steps you pause… looking upward at the sky... feeling the vast consciousness there. The stars twinkle in the dark sky... and as you gaze upon them, your vision shifts, and you see that the stars outline the form of a woman swaddled in a long hooded cloak. Her womb is glowing, and she holds a child in her arms..... As you perceive this image, you feel her presence and her motherly love.... Then your vision shifts again, and although you still feel her presence, you see only a starlit sky ....

You begin walking across the clearing, and just past the tree line, you see a fire burning in the distance.... You walk toward the fire, and find that each step you take brings you more and more into your normal waking awareness. You reach the fire, step through the flames, and find that you have come back to this time… this place… and into a room where a candle burns.... You are back .... Settle into your body, and when you feel ready you may open your eyes.

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Peace and blessings to all on these Holy Nights!


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