… as published in Goddess Pages issue 6.
As the Wheel turns into Imbolc in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the Seasonal Moment of Lammas in the Southern Hemisphere. For those in the planet’s South, Earth’s tilt is delivering the post-Summer Solstice welcoming of the new Dark, the first harvest celebration. I understand it as the “wake”/funeral Moment of the Earth-Sun annual cycle. Some of Earth-based tradition celebrate it as the wake of “Lugh” a Sun god, naming the Moment as “Lughnasad”, but in Goddess tradition, we may all understand ourselves as the grain – we are all harvested. We all feed the Universe, we are all Bread – to which the name “Lammas”[i] refers. And so, like its polar opposite Early Spring/Imbolc, Lammas may be a time of dedication: it may be a conscious opening to transformation, to the role each “grain” plays in the scheme of things. Each grain goes to make the bread.
In counter-balance to Imbolc’s dedication to the nurturance and Brigid-ine[ii] truth of the particular self, the Lammas dedication may be an opening to the cataclysmic truth of the larger Self. Whereas Imbolc’s invocation is of the Virgin/Young One aspect of Goddess – the dynamic of the Urge to Be as I call it, the Lammas invocation is of the Old Dark One, the dynamic of Space to Be into whom the small self dissolves – from whence she arose. It is a time for ”making sacred” – which is the meaning of the term “sacrifice”. In the ritual, as it is done in my place, each participant is asked by the “Dark One”, a representation of the transformative Crone aspect of Goddess, what holds them back from opening to Her dissolution, from giving the self fully to the “sacred consuming”: What are your fears? She asks. These are the things to make sacred – instead of hating them, running from them: What do you have “for-giving”? … for turning over to Her basket? There is so much personally and collectively that may be turned over to the forgiving and generous Space Who receives all.
This Lammas dedication is seamlessly connected to the Imbolc Moment … the post-Winter Solstice welcoming of the new Light, the manifestation of the New Young One in all its sacred beauty. This New Young One is as connected to the Lammas Moment as the foetus is to the womb: it cannot Be without this darkness. To comprehend the simultaneous occurrence of these Moments of Creativity is to take in the whole Gestalt – Earth is doing both at the same time. As we take on a planetary mind in our times, holding the vision of EarthGaia as a whole being, we may sense more clearly the seamlessness of the Cosmos.
The New Young One … Not-Yet?
In these awesome times of planetary transformation, we are constantly faced with the losses and pain of so much and so many, and we may shrink from it: how can a small self bear this? How may we open to the grieving, to the space for facing What is happening? It is a kind of dusk, when so much – both what we love and what we hate – is going into the Night. So, I imagine sitting facing the “setting Sun” as we commonly say: yet it is WE who are turning – and the dawn is already on its way. Indeed dawn is already happening somewhere. I imagine then that whenever I wish, I may turn to face and await the dawn. We know that in this Universe, She is always coming around. It is the nature of our Place. What we may await and seek is fresh eyes with which we may see the new forms – “the new bone forming in flesh”:[iii] and that is the purpose of the Dark – to freshen our eyes, scrape clear the “learned cataracts”, to derail our minds. In the larger Cosmic story, She has always emerged … Creativity has always proceeded. Gaia-Universe has an impeccable track record – of some 13.7 billion years, which for our minds might just as well be described as “eternal”.
We can learn from Her story, the evolutionary story, which is Her unfolding: that there is always more, that the potency for the new is always present, that the “Not-Yet”[iv] will surely come into being … “as surely as “the chlorophyll molecule was co-created by Earth and Sun, as Earth reached for nourishment; as surely as the ear was co-created by subject and sound, as the subject reached for an unknown signal”[v] as surely as we are here at this moment. And yet Cosmogenesis is always a surprise, a magic new form.
The young deserve our honoring of this – and it is the Young One in us all, of all species, but certainly the Young Ones of our own species: to honor that there is a Creative Future. It may be well beyond our imagination – and it may be well into the future, a long haul – Gaia’s timeframe is different from ours, but we may certainly hold the Space for it. It begins with an honoring of the Dark Space which includes embracing the larger creative arc of Gaian Creativity that we participate in, but that we are not in control of. We are sitting on a planet that is going around … we are one of the grains with which the whole loaf is made.
The Mother’s Eco-logical Order: How She orders Her House
These times have been storied as the Age of Kali, the Age of Caillaech – the Age of the Crone aspect of the triple-faced Creative Dynamic of the Cosmos. There is much that is being dismantled: it is social, cultural, and geophysical. Kali is not a pretty one: but for those who understand Her, She enables a change of order. She may thus be understood as “Compassionate One” – bringing in change that we would not have the stomach for. Last year, after seeing an image of the Indian Goddess Chamunda.
I added Her to the litany of dark Goddesses named in the Lammas ceremony as Ones “who accept and receive our harvest, who grind the grain, who dismantle what went before.” Such Dark Goddesses are rarely understood in Western minds particularly, where there is much discomfort with the Dark and death, as is expressed in Light-obsessed religious language: this seems true even amongst those who purport to be telling a new story. At best, the Dark Goddess is often described as “dancing in triumph”, which is inclined to conjure ‘war’ metaphor and malicious intent. But thankfully in the narrative below Her image where I saw Her, She was described well and in Her context:
… only terrifying to those who oppose Her, for Her devotees She is a powerful vigilant guardian. … Chamunda belongs to the group of ‘matrikas’ – the powerful Mothers who ensure universal order.[vi]
While this “order” may seem bizarre on the surface of things, many of us DO want to change – know that we must. The Dark One’s embrace then may be trusted, may be accepted – to take us through the night to the “Not-Yet” which is beyond our comprehension. And this letting go to dissolution is not about not taking action ourselves, because the taking of action will not only perhaps provide some comfort to another, but it will also change the bodymind of the actor … bring forth the very Care, and the New that is awaited. Every action of Care is a grain that makes up the loaf, that nurtures the womb of the present, gestating the future, allowing the Young to appear.
In the making sacred of the Dark Sentience within … in the finding that we are She, the Transformation of the Ages, we admit the Dark and Ancient Wise One upon Whom the present moment is built. This is how Creativity proceeds: this is how we got here, how any manifest form has emerged. Much is for-given … let go of, compassion is invoked, the Cosmic Cauldron is enriched, new synergies may appear.
The Creative Future
There is a Creative Future: we can promise the young that. But it will be a different world from the one promised in the advertisements, the sermons of the consumer-faith[vii] will not be the one where they may drive their SUV’s into their old age. We have to be able to tell them and ourselves about loss and death, and its deep foundation in our present Being and thus in the Being of the Future. We have to be able to tell them and ourselves that we participate in something much larger than our small anthropomorphic stories, that we are in this for the long-haul, that it is not about our personal “harvests” … these personal achievements are our participation in “the cosmos-creating endeavor”[viii] – the whole loaf of Bread. Each one’s singular tastiness and beauty which may be celebrated at Imbolc, is how we each participate in the self-organisation of Cosmogenesis – the re-ordering of the House celebrated at Lammas. In the making of our small selves sacred, we may enable the opening to the “Not-Yet”, who beckons.
The night has advanced. The stars are more brilliant than ever.[ix]
(c) Glenys Livingstone 2013
[i] It is sometimes thought that term “Lammas” for this Seasonal Moment is a Christian one, but it is more the case that it was adopted more easily by Christian minds: that is, “the feast of the Bread” could be more easily construed as Christian than “the wake of Lugh”.
[ii] It is frequently Goddess as Brigid who is called upon at this time.
[iii] This expression is from “Refractions”, a poem by Cynthia Cook, Womanspirit journal Spring 1980, p.59.
[iv] This is a term used by Brian Swimme, The Earth’s Imagination, video 8 “The Surprise of Cosmogenesis”.
[v] Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p. 248.
[vi] “Goddess Exhibition” at the Art Gallery of NSW, Summer 2006-07.
[vii] As I have heard Brian Swimme call it. See The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, ch.2.
[viii] A term used by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry to describe one of the three aspects of Cosmogenesis that I identify it with the Crone aspect of Goddess: see PaGaian Cosmology, Chapter 4, particularly p. 117-120.
[ix] Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts, p. 141.
Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker). SF: Sierra Club Books, 2006.
Cook, Cynthia. “Refractions”, Womanspirit journal Spring 1980, p.59.
Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.
Swimme, Brian. The Earth’s Imagination. DVD series 1998.
Swimme, Brian. The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos. New York: Orbis, 1996.