Alas, that is not the way it works in Real Life, is it? It's hard to slow down when the world doesn't want you to. And we don't get days off for Tu Bishvat, or for Imbolc and Candlemas, the other two holidays that have occurred recently:
January 29/30 - Tu Bishvat (I discussed this here.)
February 1 - Imbolc.
A day to celebrate the Celtic Brigid, who is goddess or saint, depending on your tradition. In typical Celtic fashion, the goddess and saint stories blend; she was said to be the foster-mother of Jesus. I adore her; she is my divine soul-sister, associated with poetry, the hearth-fire, metalsmithing, midwifery, bees, and sacred wells.February 2 - Candlemas.
A Christian celebration of the return of the light, involving the blessing of beeswax candles, and officially ending the Epiphany season. Traditionally, people would leave up their Christmas greenery until this day.All three of these days celebrate the return of life to the earth, the very beginning of spring's return, the waxing of light. The planting of seeds is a common ritual for all three celebrations. Imbolc and Candlemas are closely associated and the focus is on purification and renewal of vows, rededication to the Path, refocusing, taking new action.
This ties in nicely for me with Yesod's emphasis on actualizing spiritual concepts. My sap is rising up the Tree, from Malkuth to Yesod, but I needed a jumpstart. These holidays provided me with it. However, the not getting days off really irked me. I ended up spreading my celebrations and rituals out over an entire week, just to fit it all in around my schedule.
My plans were elaborate; I was going to:
- burn my Christmas tree which has been standing forlornly in my backyard since Epiphany
- take a meditative orange-tinted salt bath for purification (using kosher sea salt and the Elmo fizzy bath colors Eliana got for Christmas - one yellow and one red)
- begin my Svadhisthana exercises
- bless the orange beeswax candles I bought at Cid's
- then fill the whole house with candlelight, while I
- thoughtfully write out and then recite my spiritual vows for the year
- plant an indoor herb garden with the kit I bought, focusing on the meaning and fruitful fulfillment of my vows (Basil - for love, exorcism, prosperity; Rosemary - for love, purification, and faithfulness; Thyme - for courage, health, and strength)
I then went through my new exercises for the first time, while listening to The Bee Priestesses, which was remarkably energizing and empowering. After that, I took my ritual bath, which was also a powerful experience, but by then, the day was winding down to the time when the kids come home, so I had to stop there.
Then the boiler that powers my baseboard heater system went out. And I became very aware that elaborate rituals and celebrations are a luxury when you're too cold to function. I was forced to slow down, then. One day I was so cold all I could do was take a bath and get into bed. I slept all afternoon, which was a luxury in itself, and one I haven't indulged in since I can't remember when.
During that period without heat, I thought about homeless people in cold places like New York and Chicago, and I thought about people who don't have any time to themselves because they're too busy surviving, and I felt that strange tension between gratitude and guilt that seems to be a characteristic of citizens of western industrialized cultures.
Am I being frivolous, self-indulgent by doing these things when I "should" be working? This was the question I kept pushing away when I started my celebrations. But after the heater broke, the question was irrelevant, because I was involved in a more basic existence issue. Even being able to ask questions like the one above is a luxury. A privilege, a freedom.
But no. It is not frivolous to do these things if they help me to center and be healthy and grow. It is, however, a luxury, a privilege, a freedom - not to feel guilty about, but to be grateful for. And so, the heater breaking factored into my vows, which hadn't been properly written yet when it happened. I made several vows related to different areas of my life, but the most important one, resulting from my heater ordeal, was to offer gratitude and praise for everything, not in some vague general way, but for specific individual things and people and events as they come into my field of vision, and thus to grow in my awareness of them. Even when they're unpleasant and I don't like them.
So with the burning of the tree*, I let my guilt becomes ashes to feed the earth.
With the blessing and lighting of candles, I awaken my awareness of blessing and light.
With the burying of seeds into earth**, I plant my intentions, and as the seeds die out of their form and grow into something new, I will express my gratitude for the death of my old shell and limits of perspective, and I praise the earth and light and water and struggle that bring forth new life.
The unexpected completion to my celebrations:
Jenny Stevning posted this drawing as a page to print and color
in response to my mention of her in this post.
Thank you, Jenny. Coloring this was most fun!
*The tree burning actually didn't go too well. I had forgotten how long it takes wood to dry. I did manage to singe it a bit, after a half hour involving a lighter, copious amounts of newspaper, very cold hands, and more starter fluid than I care to admit.
**I mixed the body of the dead bee I found at Epiphany into the soil. It just seemed like the thing to do.