Frost and Stone: Grounding Energy in Winter’s Dark

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There is ice in old Earth Mother’s blood these days, and everywhere the ground is as hard as unyielding stone. The winds are biting cold. The sunlight, though still low on the horizon, is bright and sharp. It glints off the edges of every surface, refracted, scattered in a thousand directions.

My thoughts crackle like frost. My spirit swings between the extremes of brash enthusiasm and sluggish exhaustion, repeating in frenetic inflexible patterns etched in ice. I sit in the shadow of a great evergreen tree outside, struggling to root, straining to bring the manic energies back into balance. I seek a quiet place of inner stillness, and find myself shivering.

The whole world seems to be cold fire and frenzied air.

This won’t do. I have to find another way…
 

A Few Necessary Things

Oils that are musky, soft and earthy, balancing and clear. (Dark patchouli, vanilla, rosemary — a few drops of sandalwood, perhaps, or lavender, or mint.) A deep-throated drum, a steady voice, a beating heart. Two stones rounded by the ocean waves. A pitcher of water. A bowl of salt.

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A Ritual to Ground

One

I sit for a long time in the cozy warmth of the den, the silence of the household unfolding gently around me. The curtains fall in thick folds against the windows, and beyond them the night outside is cold but quiet. I craft a sanctuary out of the winter’s dark, breath by breath, prayer by prayer. Next to me, the cat purrs in his sleep.

Two

Be with me swift hawk. Be with me bright stag.
Be with me salmon of the waters. Be with me star-crowned bear.

Be with me, beloved ancestors,
and spirits of the sacred land.
Be with me, great gods of my people.

Oak and Ocean, I call to you.
Wild Song, I call to you.
Here in this sanctuary, may I know you.
May I dwell in your presence.

With these offerings of oil and salt,
I honor you.
By breath, blood and bone,
I cherish you.
By sky, sea and land,
I walk with you.

Earth Mother, remember your daughter.

Three

On the altar before me are two round stones. They are just large enough to sit nestled in the palms of my hands. When I lift them, I feel their weight — soft and smooth and sure – like two anchors to which the base of my spine is a balancing third. I close my eyes and sink into the darkness that rests like memory in the heart of each stone.

Breath by breath, I sink. The sound of the waves surrounds me — a breath of in-dwelling, a breath of release — the dark, vast currents wash over me. Breath by breath. I am drawn into the presence of Ocean: receptive, dynamic, ever-changing, implacable. I feel the warmth of sun on the waters — a breath of welcome, a breath of praise — I feel the grace of movement beneath the shifting lightness of ice. Breath by breath. I am moored to the unshakable shore. I am rocked by the ebb and flow.

Four

The drum is a creature of wood, sinew and hide. With each beat, it sings a rich chorus — the humming, tumbling, resonant voices of the wild. To these I join my voice in low intonations and the rhythm of my own heart beating.

Reach down, the voices sing, reach low. Rise up, dark waters, rise up and flow.

Reach up, they say, reach high and bright. Bring down the wind, bring down the light.

Reach in, they chant, reach out and wide. To root and wander, sow and stride.

The three realms meet in an interweaving dance, and where they touch the presence of Oak unfolds: ancient, attending, striving, patient and strong. Against my breast rests the tiny acorn pendant, symbol of my path, thrumming with the energy of heart and voice, drum and wild song. Slowly, gently, I feel the tension of hard winter unwinding around me, giving way to the nurturing softness of soil, the moist, rich smell of earth. I feel the roots and branches of Oak unfurling, seeking, opening the path before me. To the mounting cadence of the drum, I follow.

Five

With these offerings of oil and salt,
I honor you.
By breath, blood and bone,
I cherish you.
By sky, sea and land,
I walk with you.

I hold the small pitcher between my hands, adding my energy and breath to the oil, salt and water that mingle there. I dip three fingers into the pitcher and mark the triple-rayed symbol of awen on the surface of the offering stone.

Even as I whisper a final prayer of gratitude and peace to the four directions, unweaving the sanctuary I’ve made, the stone’s damp surface is drying. Beside me, the cat stretches and yawns.

Earth Mother, your daughter remembers you.

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A Bath to Renew

Later, after the rite is ended, I add the remaining salt and oils to a warm bath, an offering to myself and the in-dwelling spirits of my sacred body. I sit for a long time in the darkness, watching the steam rise from my skin in the light of a single candle. I let my anxieties and annoyances soak into the calm water, settling, sorting themselves out or drifting away… until at last my soul again begins to shine with the clarity of a still pool. I feel somewhat myself again, centered, grounded, whole.

With a final sigh, I lift myself up and step renewed back into the world.


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Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

7 Comments

  1. 12StepWitch
    Jan 9, 2014

    beautiful beautiful beautiful.

  2. Diana Casabar
    Jan 9, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing that beautiful, grounding moment in your life. I truly appreciate it.

  3. Kaye MacArthur
    Jan 9, 2014

    This was something that I very much enjoyed reading, especially on a day like today when my own anxiety was bouncing around so much. Your grounding ritual is rather inspiring as well and make me think that I should look towards doing a rite of my own to help ground my energies, too.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Alison Leigh Lilly
      Jan 9, 2014

      Thanks, Kaye! :) I’m really happy my post was inspiring for you. These cold winter months after solstice — when the days are starting to get longer and brighter but the weather hasn’t gotten the message yet — always leave me feeling restless with cabin fever. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who struggled with grounding during these times. If you do decide to do a rite of your own, I’d love to know how you approach it and what your experience is!

  4. Christian
    Jan 10, 2014

    good words, cousin

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