2022 was tough for many of us. In our family, health was a central theme of the year, as first I, then my husband and finally our adult child all underwent various surgeries and covid illnesses. We’ve watched the world around us struggle with fear: fear of illness, fear of war, fear of rising costs, fear of divisiveness, even fear which simply seems to pervade …everything. Fear and trauma seep through all our interactions, so that we react from our primitive amygdala before we can even engage our thoughtful pre-frontal cortex. That coupled with the recurring surges in a pandemic which is now defined as endemic – even tripledemic – has left many of us feeling depleted and cut off from the very things which bring healing – community.
After our kiddo came home from the hospital, I found myself baking – a lot. Not from the novelty of it, (as in the beginning of the pandemic when folks were swapping bread recipes), but instead, baking old family recipes. Looking at the handwritings of my mother and aunties, now gone. My mind was also on my dear mother-in-law, who passed this summer (so this was the first holiday season without her festive meals, too.) Suddenly, we’ve become the oldest generation. Feeling called to the hearth, which for most generations, before the current times, was the heart of the home.
We think of winter as cold and shriveled, much like the way we portray the Crone in modern culture. But earlier cultures looked beyond the wrinkled bodies, and clouded eyes, and saw our elders as the wisdom keepers and storytellers. The smells from their kitchens, the warmth of their hugs, have left visceral imprints on our hearts. While it is true, sadly, that not all people had the gift of a good external parent, we can all access the Good Parent within; hugging the inner child who hungers for companionship, nourishment, and love. And thankfully, many have been able to call in surrogate mothers/grandmothers to inspire and warm their lives. I find myself calling in the Divine Feminine in the form of the Crone, asking which are the lineage of ancestors (biological or not) who inspire us to kindle the hearth anew?
While the dominant image of the fearsome hag continues to negate elders (especially older female-appearing individuals), we forget about the lifegiving qualities of the Crone. Just as winter appears (on the surface) to be cold and barren, under the snow and rotting leaves, new life is forming which will burst forth in the spring. Likewise, the seed of the grandchild is within the womb of the grandmother as she carries the mother. The magic of the Crone is that she calls us to honor our ancestors while nurturing our future descendants. So this winter, I am inviting in the Crone, to dwell at my hearth, to help me vision what the coming year may bring.
At the hearth we tell stories of hope, we break bread together, we nurture and teach the young, we create family not only of blood, but family of bond. My mother used to say “How is it I could have 6 kids and no 2 of them are anything alike!” We come to the hearth as different individuals. We don’t always get along, and even cause harm at times, but the warmth of the hearth can be a metaphor for warming the heart – our own or those family or friends who we’re estranged from. We often work out those family of origin patterns in community, bringing our vulnerability and our hope that healing may happen. The experts in trauma teach that, as we metabolize our trauma and find healthy ways to move forward in our own lives, the healing ripples not only forward to future generations, but backward as well, to the ancestors; healing the epigenetic fractures within our DNA.
I’m hungry for the hearth and community, and in our fall survey it was clear others hunger too. 57% of respondents resonated with the idea I’ve been exploring, about creating interspiritual community. What might the hearth look like if we came together through shared spiritual practices instead of shared dogmas? How might my heart soften when you tell your stories of struggle and survival that echo my own? How might our image of ourselves – and of the divine – shift and grow, when we make space for each of us to live into the fullness of our own truth? How might we cool the heatedness in our society while cooling the heatedness mirrored in Mother Earth?
So this new year, I invite you to explore these questions with me. I will continue (of course) to provide individual spiritual direction, reiki, lifecycle events, workshops and guest sermons. I will continue to offer some of the programming we had last year, but this year I am setting the intention to birth an interspiritual community. That means I bring the fullness of my spiritual journey – Catholic child, Jewish adult, interfaith minister – into relationship with the fullness of your spiritual journey – whether you come from a place of faith or no faith. In launching this new community, you’ll see (on our upcoming events page) that there is a different type of experience regularly each week: 1st Tuesday Being Spirit Healing Circle, 2nd Saturday Shabbat Service, 3rd Tuesday Teachings, and 4th Friday Supper & Song. And in keeping with the rhythms of Mother Earth, we will continue to offer Dwelling in the Luminous Dark on the new moon. There will also be special holiday programs like the Mystical Tu B’shvat seder on Feb. 5th when we will enter the four worlds and invite healing for the Tree of Life and all life on earth.
You can come to the hearth at the Shelter, either in person or via zoom for most events (though some are billed just as online and others as just in person.) Sample the menu, come warm your spirit, and bring your own wisdom to the table.