December 21, 2012 — Many of us were involved in a myth that could carry us into consciousness and bring healing and restoration to our besieged and suffering planet. There were many opportunities for exploitation, obfuscation and fear mongering around the date, and most of them, if not all, were utilized. But those who had studied the myth and its archeological foundation knew, and we hope the others see by now, that whatever was or was not happening on that date would not lead to planetary or galactic disaster. Rather we were witness to and participating in the unfolding of a mythic story derived from ancient consciousness. The source was Maya in this instance. It is important that so many people across the earth were willing to grant foresight to an ancient people. To honor the myth was also to honor their culture and knowledge and make amends for hundreds of years of brutal oppression, followed in the most recent years by patterns of chilling genocide. It was also to begin a process of return to earth-centered sanity that has eluded the dominant culture for hundreds if not thousands of years.
One way of understanding myth is as a living story, a vital pattern, enacted on individuals and cultures, again and again, in different forms, but not, usually, literally. In the movement from 2012 to 2013, we entered in the energy and vitality of one cycle ending and another beginning. The classic myth of the celestial journey of navigating the Sacred Road along the Milky Way was coming into prominence and heralded possibility not destruction. People across the world used the myth/date as a common opportunity to work toward changing their lives and, as importantly, their life styles. The mythic resonance was an opportunity for a global conversation, a council of sorts: What will it take to initiate personal, cultural and political transformation? The media and different governing bodies feared (and stirred) people’s fears of imminent destruction. But many of us were, and continue to be, alarmed about the somewhat slower (not by galactic time) but relentless trajectory toward extinction unless the human population on the planet changes its ways.
Changing its ways means stepping out of the materialistic, power driven, violent dominant culture. The date, its association with the end of a cycle, did not imply apocalypse; the date could auger new beginnings.
John Major Jenkins articulated the myth this way: The alignment from the perspective of earth, of the sun with the galactic center, the dark rift in the Milky Way, is a story of the birth of First Father (the Sun) from the womb of First Mother, (the dark rift or the black hole from which the galaxy, itself, was born.) The birth of First Father augers the beginning of a new World age. “We are living today in the Mayan end times. The Great Cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on the winter solstice of 2012 A.D. Following Mayan concepts of cyclic time and World Age transitions, this is as much about beginnings as endings. In fact, it was considered by the ancient Maya to signify the Creation of a new World Age.” (Jenkins: Thesis and Mayan Cosmogenisis.”)
For the Maya, this journey across Xibalba, is the journey from the birth canal, the journey of life to death, the way or journey of spiritual transformation central to each person’s life.
My dear friend, Guatemalan writer and human rights activist, Victor Perera,wrote about it this way: “ … the fabled twins of the Popul Vuh, Hunahpu and Xbalanqaué [descended] in Xibalba to defeat the Lords of death [in] as seminal an event in the Maya cosmology as Mose’s ascent of Sinai is to Western Religion.”
And these lines from my novel, La Negra y Blanca: “Something else is entering that is neither death nor eternity. We have no name for what it is. The Maya had a word for it. Their word is Xibalba. Awe. The place of Awe. The entrance to this world has no door. What it has is an opening in the heart.”
These stories are not about the accuracy of astronomy, though they could be, but about the essence of mythology, the way the great stories recur in, frame and guide our individual and collective spiritual lives. At a time of such tragic global descent into violence and environmental destruction, the possibility that an ancient, indigenous myth might help us emerge into a new time of restoration is welcome and most gratifying.
It is striking and important that this mythic assistance comes from an ancient, indigenous civilization, one that predates the Conquest. Its origins underscore a growing understanding that challenges the poisonous thoughts and merciless actions of the European Conquest on both hemispheres, North and South, and all instances of colonization and imperialism, everywhere on the planet, in the last two thousand plus years. Increasingly and everywhere, the old, old cultures are being honored and attempts made to recover, record and restore their teachings. It may not be appropriate to practice their rites and rituals, that is to subsume or co-opt them, but it is essential for planetary survival that we study and learn their wisdom and live accordingly.
What we now call the old, old ways, the ancient and indigenous cultures, the tribal ways, the earth and spirit centered ways of life were profound and honorable. When we went to war against the original peoples of the land, we went to war against the sacred; banality, alienation and the pain of modern life are what we have reaped. Restoration calls us to retreat from the criminal trinity of the military, merchant and Christian missionary structures of the 4th world toward a spirit centered and earth centered 5th world. The great wisdom of the original people of North America, is contained in the simple but profound phrase, mitakye oyasin, All Our Relations.
Idle No More is just one example of the strategic relationship between honoring indigenous rights and protecting and sustaining the entire earth and the future – all actions considering, at the least, the next seven generations of ALL beings.
When I was young, everyone asserted that we should not and could not refuse the developing technology. We were told that we must not become Luddites, that we could not go back to the old, old ways, that progress was good, necessary and inevitable. Those who were unwilling to participate and serve it, would be left behind, exiled, ostracized, or as we learned from history, destroyed in a thousand different cruel ways.
This is no longer a truism. 2013 may not be a carte blanche to all technology. We may be entering a time of choice. Perhaps we will become free to avoid the dangers of being immersed in fields of microwaves, radiation, toxins. Perhaps we will give priority to our concerns about the fate of our autistic, depressed and emotionally disturbed children before we sign on to the environmentally and emotionally toxic world we have been told we must accept. Refusing genetically modified foods, the Keystone pipeline, a gun culture, drones, increasing surveillance and smart meters develop out of the same ethical concerns, out of a passion for loving kindness. 2013 can be the opening of a passageway from the world of death, the inanimate, the technological, the object, to a vital, animated and inspirited universe. Perhaps Solstice 2012 was a door.
December 21, 2012. People everywhere on the planet marked the date. In Topanga, we held a three day Solstice observation that was coordinated with other observations across the hemisphere. We entered into meditation, council, story and dream telling. We walked the land. We set up tents in the four directions, so individuals could meditate on and for the land despite the cold, rain and wind. We sat in silence. Some of us fasted. We entered ritual space and did ceremony. We ate simply and communally. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed.
It’s been seven weeks since the 2012 Solstice. It is time to reflect on our time together and what, if anything, has come to be as a consequence of that ritual experience. Did something, anything come to be? Are we altered? Are we altared? Might a new cycle have begun, at least for some of us? Enough to provoke a shift for all of us in time?
Seven weeks is hardly long enough to truly observe and consider what might be emerging for any of us, or for the collective, from the long time of preparation and the three days that some of us spent transiting, we hope from one world toward another. Seven weeks is hardly long enough to note and confirm a transition from one way of thinking to another, tiptoeing out of the 4th world and stepping toward the 5th world. Might we consider that the beginning of change occurred even though the date was preceded by the Newtown massacre, by further revelations about rendition, torture, drones, by war, more war and more war? Might we hold firm to the possibility of a shift despite more and more revelations of the on-going destruction of the environment and the intensification of the suffering of animals and other living beings.
Perhaps the three days in between are just symbols of the lifetimes it takes to transform from one state of being to another. Perhaps we are on the border or in between, in the Bardo, in the dark river, in the chrysalis, in the womb or in the birth canal, in the nowhere or the no place, in the ending or the beginning. And though we cannot assert yet, that we may as a species have come to a point of return to goodness, it is still important to reflect on possibility, on those three days, and on the time that has intervened. Where have we been taken?
This was the structure of the three days in Topanga: December 20th: Deep Reckoning and Introspection. Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World. December 21st: Alignment with the heart of the universe. Transformation December 22nd: Invoking and honoring Spirit. Meeting the land and yielding to the ways of the natural world. We couldn’t look toward the future until we took responsibility for the past. The first steps were not going to be easy.
“Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World” required awareness of the tragic patterns of our time, the activities and values that reinforce them, the fear and consequent violence that has characterized these last several hundred years. Despite the security of familiar patterns, despite thinking there are no other options, we have to be willing to step away. Actually, it was to interfere in these tragic patterns that we had prepared for months, even years, for this moment. Only by beginning the process of disengagement, could we align with the heart of the universe. Removing the obstacles, we were able to bare our hearts. Having bared our hearts, we created a habitat for Spirit and gained the guidance and intelligence needed to walk on the earth in the right ways.
We began drumming at 12 noon on December 20th. Brian and Keith Davies brought their djembes and their drumming, sometimes together, sometimes spelling each other, often drumming with others, and continued until 4:30 am on December 21st. Earleir, when we had come up in procession with drums from the yurt at 11 pm, where we had been sitting in council, we found Jonny Nadlman drumming at the fire. He continued without stop, entranced, until after the solstice moment. (The next evening he, his wife, Carrie Dinow and their very young daughter, Ruby, attended council and helped prepare and serve dinner. And so community coheres.)
At 3:15 am, after sitting in ceremony, meditation, council, ritual space for fifteen hours, after keeping the drumbeat for same time, “To send a strong message to Spirit that we are here and sincere in our intentions,” we came to the sacred fire we had consecrated together and made offerings to the Heart of the Universe with which we hoped to be aligned.
When Native American people give a gift of respect, such as tobacco, they often say – four times – “From my heart to your heart.” We were entering, we hoped, into such a connection. “From our hearts to your heart, Great Mother of all Life.” It did not matter if the alignment was a physical reality. It mattered that we were responding as if it were true, as if there were a direct line between the earth, the sun, and the Womb or Heart of Universe. Our sincerity mattered; we were determined to try to stay in such symbolic and spiritual alignment for the rest of our lives.
A most memorable moment was when Lone Eagle, an elder in the Lakota Sioux tradition, spoke of what it means to offer oneself to the Sun Dance on behalf of the people. He is an old maner. He is not well. He often needs a walking stick or assistance. But he is still dancing at the Sun Dance, no matter the blistering sun or his own difficulties. He has and continues to give his flesh. What he and his wife, Morning Dove want more than anything is to walk the Red Path and to live in the right ways.
Offerings: Sound healer, dream tracker, Danelia Wild committed to live absolutely by an offering she had been moving toward for several years. She offered to live by all my relations, by right relationship, no matter what. Binding oneself with such a pledge, is a moral, ethical and spiritual act. It implies a shift to we from I. It refuses dominance and calls forth alliance. It requires constant scrutiny and devotion. It is not a new year’s resolution, quickly forgotten. Speaking about this with Danelia, two days ago, I heard her voice crack with emotion. The depth of her intention still with her.
The Hebrew tradition has language for such an act: “D’vay kut – I bind myself to You.” A pledge between self and the Divine is far more serious than a promise to oneself or another human being. Meeting the Heart of the Universe, hoping to shift one’s self on behalf of a future for all life, carries such solemnity, such significance, and carries joy. The joy of releasing ourselves to our best selves. The joy, even delight, that the slightest shift here makes a great difference there. That the slightest shift now will make a great difference then. The joy of living according to our soul’s wisdom. The joy of the possibility that our lives might really make a difference.
Change doesn’t happen in an instant. It isn’t mechanical. It arises out of a shift in consciousness which leads to different responses and reflexes, to different circumstances – then, suddenly, one is living differently and then we are living differently. With the hope that this might occur – the slightest consistent shift in thousands of individuals creating an enormous difference – people entered meditation or gathered, not concerned with the end of the world, but rather with the possibilities of new beginnings.
As I am editing this piece, Julie Ariola calls. “Everything has changed since the Solstice,” she said. “The patterns of 68 years have to change. I have been given a ‘redo.’ How often does that happen?” We are all called to such changes,” I say, “Every change you make is for all of us. Every success you have, shows us that we can do it as a species.”
Surely, we have all noticed differences in thinking, new assumptions, postulations, new values in the last years, weeks and days. An elegant austerity or frugality replacing conspicuous consumption and flagrant consumerism. Downsizing everywhere. The value of paying for services instead of things. Exchanges.
Simple value shifts. Wearing a heavier sweater in the house, turning down the thermostat to preserve cherished resources. Increasing activity against Keystone, against further oil drilling, against coal, against nuclear plants, against topping mountains and being willing to do without accordingly. Publicly and frequently valuing all the creatures and beings of the earth. Increasingly refusing to see other human and non-human beings as commodities. Using paper carefully, planting trees whenever possible, often as gifts, and, yes, talking to them, offering prayers. Portioning one’s use of water, fuel, even food. Blessing food before eating as a sincere rite of community, setting out spirit plates, making offerings, living reciprocally, valuing relationships, praising and protecting the earth increasingly – a subtly arising consciousness occurring globally.
But there is so much more to leaving the dominant culture, or stepping out of the 4th world than simply limiting or diminishing the familiar ways. Thinking of all our relations creates a new and spontaneous kindness. Once you are in a dialogue with the invisibles, once your life becomes an offering instead of acquisition, everything changes. On Sunday night, at the conclusion of the event, we learned that Kathryn (Mama) Farmer had cut off all her hair in order to express her devotion.
My own offering to the fire was to be even more conscientious about choosing Spirit whenever I discerned the call. No exceptions. This leads to different goals, ambitions, passions, concerns. To live by dream, by divination, intuition, checking and rechecking to be sure I am not being bamboozled by my own desires, and then meeting whatever Spirit calls me to.
I’d had a dream in 2010, which I have written about before, in which I was given a year to become an indigenous woman. I attended that dream for a year, asking each day and at each critical moment, how a native elder might respond, how an indigenous elder would understand a situation, what values needed to be honored, what action needed to be taken to align with indigenous wisdom, what served the land, the community, the future, also water, fire, air and earth. Over time, as you might imagine, I changed. Dominant values fell away, indigenous wisdom inserted itself. Soon I began to see that my reflexes were different. After Solstice, even my dreams have changed. Increasingly, they are about the presence of spirits. I move toward Spirit and Spirit confirms its existence. So I feel encouraged. Encouraged for all of us and the future.
Admittedly, I don’t know how to meet these times. I don’t know how to change the trajectories. I don’t know how to meet a world in which murder, cruelty, rape, assassination, torture and the killing of innocents by armies have become commonplace. But I believe that Spirit knows that there are ways. And I believe that Spirit is able and willing to guide us, if we listen. I do believe this. It is the basis of my hope.
Living by Spirit isn’t always easy, even on the small and personal level. After Cherokee’s sudden death a year ago, I had to yield to repeated divinations that denied me any one of several four-legged companions who seemed perfect in every way. 2012 was for me the year of being broken hearted. It was a year of losses of all kind as it was for so many I know. Month by month, loneliness increased and yet the divinations remain consistent: No! Two weeks ago, I was propelled out of my chair to check the internet for Husky rescues and found a site I had never seen before. The next day, with the confirming divination, I brought Cheyenne home. He is the perfect companion. This is, undoubtedly, his home and community. Beautiful but soaked in urine from the less than adequate conditions, he called out across time and distance to bring him home. His need – not mine alone. All our relations.
Back to the Solstice Daré. Several dreams were at the core of the event. We heard them on Thursday and listened to them again on Saturday. Ending war in ourselves and in the world was central to our concerns, particularly after Sandy Hook Elementary School; the dreams spoke to our distress. We had come together so that the group energy would help us understand the dangerous conditions of our time, so we could disengage and, together, find and commit ourselves to pragmatic life-giving forms. We couldn’t be certain in advance that it would be possible to realize our prayers and intentions through council and ceremonial work, but by Saturday night, many of us, believed that we had actually crossed over, that we were altered (because altared) and so would be living differently.
After fifteen hours of continuous drumming – “to give a strong signal to Spirit” – it began to feel as if the signal had been received and we were on different paths from the ones we had been walking before. Susan Hammond told a dream of harming children and helping them. A mother, a grandmother and a former teacher, she was devastated by the reflection that she had done harm. After Newtown, all of us were distraught about the harm coming to all our children and focused upon what we must do to make their lives safe and vital.
Katja Beisanz told a dream she’d had 35 years ago. It remained in her consciousness even though she had rarely spoken about it. In her dream, “a community, exhausted from constant war, was offered the opportunity to end it. Thinking of the children, the people agreed it was more important to have peace than victory. Then those who had never fought were required to take up swords in order to pierce the hearts of those who had wielded them while looking steadfastly into each other’s eyes. “In healing,” she concluded, “there is a moment when you have to look at something unbearable and bear it.”
Ayelet Berman Cohen dreamed, “If you want, if you choose, there can be an end of war for you.” A year before she had dreamed that she was on an island in a lock hold with an enemy that she was wounding. The enemy couldn’t heal, she couldn’t be free and they couldn’t leave the island as long as the wounding continued. Spirit was speaking to us adamantly: If you, if we want, if we choose, there can be an end to war.
How shall we accomplish this? We don’t know but we see that we are being guided. Our dreaming is changing. We are, increasingly, receiving dreams that resemble the dreaming of indigenous people. In order to honor this gift, we have to live the ways the dreams instruct us.
A week after the Solstice, Sharon Simone dreamed that we are to teach the young children the Four Directions. In the dream, if she could orient herself according to the spiritual dimensions of the Four Directions, she would not be afraid in the wild. Because she is living by dream and divination now, because she trusts the ways to the 5th World, she flew from Los Angeles to Connecticut to teach her grandchildren, five, three and one years old, the Four Directions. Her five years old grandson, the most aware of her young students, woke her each morning to watch the sun come up in the East of new beginnings.
In such difficult times, it relieves the heart and soul to see evidence of a spiritual intervention on behalf of the earth and the future that can guide us to restore sanity and possibility in a broken world. Because indigenous understanding has been violently suppressed through colonization and missionary activity, we have to learn the wisdom ways again. It takes years and we are still very young in our knowing, but circumstances seem to be calling us to new ways. On the third night of the Solstice ritual, we danced.
Two weeks ago, I co-lead a Circle, the Healing Path of Story, focusing upon lived and traditional stories, with the Native American elder and healer, Lewis Mehl- Madrona, M.D. During these days, the dreams that came to a gathering of people who did not know each other spoke repeatedly of the Road, the Path and the Way. One Native American woman told several dreams that indicated to Lewis that she was dreaming the sacred ways that had been suppressed and lost. The dreams and stories gathered us into our common longing for restoration of the real life. It was for a day, simply a familiarly extraordinary workshop, full of wonder and surprise. Then Barbara Mainguy, Lewis’ wife, ritual and ceremonial partner, took out colored cloth, string, scissors and tobacco. Soon she had taught us how to make prayer ties. The circle continued but differently, far more profoundly, as it was also sustained by the underlying rhythm of placing a pinch of tobacco on the cloth, folding, tying, praying, and on to the next. Pinch. Fold. Tie. Pray. Pinch … Pray. We were now in another kind of Circle, this one located in the 5th World.
The Solstice rituals of December 21, 2012 were on behalf of the 5th world. But they were also the enactment of the way of the 5th world. To go toward is to become. Some years ago, Spirit taught me that even, or especially, the healer must make an offering on behalf of bringing healing to the afflicted one. The one who is ill or in pain, calls forth the healer in us. Such a calling is a great gift to receive.
I go out in the mornings of the on-going dry season and offer water to the frog people on behalf of rain. Sometimes the clouds gather in a startling blue sky and the predictions of clear weather are revised toward rain. I only pray for the non-human beings. If the earth is restored, you and I will have everything we want and need. You and I – we don’t matter – we are the obstacles in this time – except as we become the conduit to Beauty. My dreams tell me so.
I dream a passionate discussion of the power of dream images. In that dream, I remember drinking mead in a hotel in Poland after spending three days in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Honey mead in the midst of devastation. Then I buy amber earrings for my mother. Somehow amber is another kind of honey. The honey of preservation. I dream I buy a gift for the Mother in a time of devastation. Maybe the dream means we will save the bees.
In my recent dreams, the spirits look into the great window and laugh. Another time, they come into the house and take what they need but not a penny more. Or I look out of the window onto a magical path winding between small green trees, red flowers and dappled light. In my day life, the gold finches have, after six months or longer, found their way to the new feeder; I can see them as I type this on the computer.
At Daré, our on-going council (fourteen years now) on behalf of personal and global healing, we realized that everyone in the circle at that moment had been at the Solstice Daré and everyone recognized that their lives had changed. Not because the date had come and gone but because they had prepared deeply, entered ritual, engaged in ceremony, and offered themselves. The old ways are true ways if we take them to heart.
December 21, 2012 marked the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. This is the cycle of restoration and beauty. It is also called the 5th World. If we walk the Sacred Road together, it will take us to the 5th World.
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The 19 Ways to the 5th World (see Ruin and Beauty blog and my website, www.deenametzger.com) describe some of the changes of mind to which we are being called. I am teaching A Training Program for the 5th World to understand and incorporate these ways. Individual work, guidance, counseling and mentoring are available for those who wish to be part of this shift through this essential transition. If interested, please write to me at email@example.com.