Pilgrimage as Ritual

Pausing at the entrance between the stones, you take a breath and touch the Earth, humbly asking permission of the Ancestors of this place to enter the labyrinth in front of you.  In your hand is the offering you created for the Goddess of Labyrinth.  You breathe here for a moment, opening yourself to the energies of the Earth beneath your bare feet and the Cosmos above your uncovered head.  Sensing that you have been granted permission, you take the first step forward.

Connected with your breath, the now, you contemplate those things you have come here to release.  With each step, you feel them draining from your body, your mind, your spirit.  Releasing, releasing, releasing…

It seems like you’ve been walking for a long time; you wonder if you will ever reach the center.  You’ve almost given up hope when finally, it appears in front of you.  You stop again, requesting permission to enter, and then sit upon a flat rock.  You make your offering to the Goddess, and open yourself to Her messages.  You will remain here, in the center of the labyrinth and in the center of yourself, until you feel complete.

Rising, you leave, taking the path back out.  As you walk, you call forth those things you wish to manifest, to become, to be…  You feel lighter and so does each step as you joyfully move from the center and back out into the world…

Last weekend I brought our Women’s Lunar Rites circle on our 8th Annual Labyrinth Pilgrimage.  Pilgrimage as ritual is essential for our communityit helps to shake things up, to quickly and easily move us a bit further out of our comfort zones, and can even give access to new insights and new ways of being.  Sisterhood of the Moon has been making this pilgrimage since the year of our birth, and so there is a familiarity combined with the sense of adventure that only fresh experiences bring.

Since it was a Saturday morning, our group was smaller than usual, and yet we were a merry troop as we congregated and prepared to set out together in weather almost-perfect.

Ritual done outside of our dedicated sacred space requires a different form of leadership: a type of “leadership on the fly” which includes a necessary surrender to what is and a considered detachment from expectations—be it due to weather conditions, interactions with people who are not part of the group, an animal wandering into Circle, etc.—as an act of devotion and trust, yielding to the current that presents itself is paramount.  Just the simple act of meeting up in a parking lot can cause minor issues; this time, the lot was full and my co-Priestess and I had to park away from the site, walking in instead of using one of our cars as a meeting point as planned.

When gathering in an unfamiliar setting, holding center requires an especial finesse.  There are so many new things to see and feel and experience, and we are generally high-spirited, animated, and delighted to be together somewhere out of the ordinary.  I’m compelled to be louder, bigger, brighter, more expansive, and more patient to bring everyone’s attention into alignment.   This must be accomplished gracefully, deftly, and with a very light hand as well as an exquisite awareness of the energies present and the flow desired.

We take hands in the parking lot, coming into resonance with one another, and I offer some guidance on grounding and centering as it relates to this sacred land, this particular pilgrimage.  Together we send our roots down deep into the Earth Mother, our branches high up into the Cosmos.  We feel ourselves as part of the Earth and as part of the Sky—the pillar Between the Worlds.  We breathe collectively again, and then go around the Circle, announcing our presence with our names and an exuberant: “I am here!”

On the road, I need to give more instruction than when we are at “home”—both magickal and practical; it’s necessary that all are aware what we will be doing and how we will be doing it, and that everyone is acquainted with the same information.  Before we set out, we talk about safety—poison oak, rattlesnakes, mountain lions—and walking with awareness.  Although we will be performing a formal rite once we arrive at our site for the day, the pilgrimage itself is the ritual:  providing both container and form.

 

Finally, we begin our hike to the labyrinth itself, in dyads, triads, individually; conversing intensely, lightly chatting, or simply holding a reverent silence.  No matter how we walk, it is clear that we all know the magick has begun.  Mindful are our steps, each one offered up to the path with great intention—our roots in the ground, our branches in the air, open to the messages that come through.  Messages come in the forms of hawk, of snake, of frog, of dog, of plant, of lizard, of vulture, of crow.  Women with specific questions are finding them answered before we are even halfway through our ascent up the steep and rocky path.

We reach the overlook and briefly stop as I make sure all are well and accounted for.  Organically, we cluster again into one body as we look down upon the labyrinth, respectfully taking in the sight.  This is a place so special to our community, and some of us have been coming here to do magick together for nearly twenty years.  For a moment, we laugh and share stories, drink water, take pictures.  One Sister finds a tiny wild turkey feather and tucks it carefully into her pocket.  The day is stunningly gorgeous, mostly full sun with wispy clouds high overhead, casting dark shadows upon the land as they travel swiftly by on the wind.  I don’t think the air is ever fully still at this place.

Refreshed, I guide us in beginning the careful hike down, down, down into the magickal bowl waiting for us at the base of the cliff.  Arriving here, we arrange ourselves around the perimeter of a miniature labyrinth, the little sister of the main spiral.  A tiny green and gold snake lifts her head up in greeting and we hail her with appreciation and respect, acknowledging her presence as sign of Ariadne’s welcome.

The land itself is our altar.  Still, I open my backpack and set up the candle I have chosen for us, affirmations affixed to each side: “I shoulder my responsibilities with ease” and “Today I move forward with confidence and ease”.  I take off my shoes and then light some white sage to pass around.  Some of the Sisters make offerings of fruit in the center. The winter was (finally!) so wet that the tiny pond which usually has all but disappeared by now is still broad and full, tadpoles and waterbugs teeming within it.

 

Again we return to our breath, making contact with our roots and branches.  Just as I would in our home space, I lead us in expressing our intentions for the day.  Our shared purpose is to name what we are individually calling into our lives and to release that which blocks us from manifesting our desires.  As we shift into this special vortex sheltered by the high rock face, I feel the enduring vibrations of the magick done here in this holy place from time immemorial.  Lingering in the stones and plants and in the very air itself, I also feel the energies of our community’s past work and the magickal work I have done here over the years alone and with others.

I prompt us in calling out to the Grandmothers and Ancestors of this land—Ohlone, Bay Miwok, Northern Valley Yokut—asking their permission to be here, to do this magick in this, their sacred place.  We call out, too, to the Grandmothers and Ancestors of our own personal lineages—blood and otherwise—asking for their wisdom and assistance.  We call out to Ariadne, Lady of the Labyrinth, asking Her permission to enter Her home.  Our voices gently trail off and hush as we take in the energies present.  We sit again to pass the rattle and discuss the labyrinth as a spiritual tool; this symbol of wholeness, this physical illustration of the Spiral of Birth, Death, and Rebirth.  We will enter it as a metaphor of endings and beginnings as we gather under the last Full Moon of Spring and prepare ourselves for Summer.

Our conversation winds to a close and we are finally ready to approach the labyrinth itself and do our sacred work.  Each woman pauses before entering, touching the Earth, asking permission, giving gratitude.  We each walk at our own pace, some of us singing:

We are the weavers, we are the woven ones

We are the dreamers, we are the dream

We are spiraling into the center

The center of the Wheel1

Some women move quickly, dancing, skipping; some move slowly, baby step-by-baby step, pausing to right rocks that have rolled into the path, or to leave offerings where called.  I enter last and am blessed by a view of the labyrinth filled with women, each at a different place in the spiral, each individual, yet One:  A living, moving metaphor for life.

 

We meet again in the center.  Women are presenting gifts to Ariadne, offering representations of what they wish to call forth, and gently setting down and releasing that which they wish to leave behind as compost.  Some Sisters are crying, some meditating, some smiling.  There is no conversation here; we are each doing our own work in our own time, bearing witness to one another’s magick.  As we wait for our final Sister to join us, I begin to sing quietly and everyone takes up the song.

When all solitary work is completed, we stand to weave together our intentions.  Hand-to-hand the string passes, our web growing larger as we each name our intentions aloud.  Web completed, we raise it high above our heads for the blessings of the Cosmos, then delicately lay it over the center for the blessings of the Earth.  Pouring local honey over our web, I offer our salutations and gratitude, “…For the Lady of the Labyrinth, a jar of honey…”2

One by one, we leave the center of the labyrinth, following the spiraling path back out.  With small strips of red cloth, we fasten our wishes to the little trees in the grove that border one side of the labyrinth, tying our knots with focused intention, keeping company with the wishes of past visitors.

Gathering again at our blankets, we share food, picnic-style, and I pass the rattle for those who desire to share their experiences within the labyrinth.  The energies have peaked and are starting to ebb and so we stand to thank Ariadne, the Ancestors, and the Grandmothers of each Element.  It is done, it is done, it is done, done, done.

Now, the last Full Moon of Spring has waned and we step forward into Summer—cleansed, prepared, ready.  As solitaries, in pairs, and in small groups we start the hike back to our cars, scattering out to the remainder of our day like so many seeds.  We will gather together again with everyone in our community for Solar Tribe’s Summer Solstice ritual on Tuesday night. Our next pilgrimage is a much-anticipated women’s Mermaid journey to the sea.

With Love, Lady Jesamyn

*********************

Credits:

All pictures by me or by Priestess Sabrina Moon, used with permission.

1: Shekhinah Mountainwater or Lorna Kohler

2: Linear B Tablets, Knossos, 1500 BCE

 

About the Author

Transformational Priestess of the Luminous Void, I am the founding High Priestess and Lineage Holder of Sisterhood of the Moon (a matriarchal ritual community) and Sisterhood of the Tribal Priestesses (a consortium of teaching Priestesses), as well as Founder and Facilitator of Magick & Empowerment (a modern-day Mystery School). I am a particular and enthusiastic student of ritual magick, leadership, and communication; and my spiritual ministry is dedicated and devoted in service to empowering women and other people of integrity through truth-speaking, authenticity, and self-exploration. It’s my mission to bring joie de vivre, beauty, and mirth combined with serious study and foundational Witchy skills to all that I do. In my "free time" I enjoy sampling fancy cheeses and interesting libations, obsessing over professional sports, and admiring animals of all kinds, especially black cats. You can find me here: www.MagickandEmpowerment.com and here: www.SisterhoodoftheMoon.org. Thanks for reading!

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