In three weeks, many of us will be celebrating
Winter Solstice. For Earth-based spiritual
paths, the Solstices are primary times
to align ourselves consciously with nature;
to re-new ourselves so that the inner
and outer landscapes are in harmony.
Winter Solstice beckons us to tend the
seed flame within through the ColdMaker
months while Summer Solstice urges us
to grow ourselves during the WarmMaker
In previous newsletters,
I have focused on both historical and
ceremonial Solstice topics. The
web site includes postings from Circles
around the world about their plans for
This year, however, I find myself more
intrigued with the transition marking
days before and after the Solstices.
Some spiritual paths specify a certain
number of days preceding and following
the Solstice during which we are urged
to take up certain topics for reflection
or engage in particular activities.
I will be sending this newsletter to
our WebWeaver for distribution tomorrow
- that is, the day before Thanksgiving.
From this perspective, I am reflecting
on the seasonal changes and transitions
occurring from Thanksgiving through the
first of January. I focus on the Winter
Solstice because it is almost the exact
midpoint in this transitional time, and
a day celebrated throughout the Northern
Hemisphere. I am hoping that some of
these reflections will be of use in these
days preceding the Solstice and assist
us after that day, to moving towards
changes we wish to see.
However, it is important to adapt my
comments to what happens on the particular
landscape where each of us live. A primary
intention of shamanism is to return our
selves to our inextricable relationship
within the natural world and that means
letting our ceremonies arise from place-dependent
experiences. In Earth-based practices,
we must do our work in harmony with our
own environment, our own ecology. At
the same time, we are part of a much
larger reality than our specific space
and place. The challenge is to use wisely
the knowledge we receive from both our
bounded and unbounded realities.
Both Winter and Summer Solstice are based
on the dance between Sun and Earth. We
celebrate the Seasonal transformations
that are activated by certain movements
in this Dance. Perhaps attending to the
landscape surrounding us is one way to
recover a renewed appreciation for these
transformations. This can lead us to
assuring that we embrace powers particular
to these Seasons. In so doing, we participate
consciously in our own transformations
and we become partners of change in the
Persimmon Tree - the Mentor of Transition
For example, I am enchanted by the changing
leaves of the Persimmon Tree that I can
see through the large picture window
here in my cottage. I first noticed leaves
with a blush of orange about two weeks
ago. During this time, her orange blush
mingled with intense green leaves. In
recent days, however, Persimmon began
changing her make-up even more dramatically:
moving from those slight brush strokes
to a candlelabra of golden light. This
morning I could see the orange balls
of fruit hidden 'neath the golden leaves.
So fiercely intense is her make-up that
from a distance she appears to be a tree
marvel that in the time when Sun is most
hidden in the Sky, this Lady of the Woods
speaks of dying with fruit bright and
leaves flaming. In the time when less
food survives on the land, her leaves
give nourishment to Ground while her
Golden Balls provide food for us and
the many birds around. While walking
by Persimmon the other day, I wondered
aloud to Her
"What does this season signify? What
is it about the Winter Solstice that
calls us humans to some gathering, some
sharing and joyful activities, while
some folks peer through a hole in Stone
somewhere so they might know just when
Sun should begin its long return."
Often when preparing for Solstice Ceremony,
we do our searching with the keywords "Winter
Solstice Ceremonies" or ask Helping Spirits
in our journeys "what is the meaning
and how shall we celebrate the Solstice." I
have always enjoyed this searching with
others to learn more and to develop ceremonies
that honor this Seasonal cycle in our
This morning, however, for the first
time I thought to inquire of the Persimmon
Tree that lives in my own backyard, "speak
to me of Sun, of this day that we call
the Winter Solstice." And as I watched,
listened, and wrapped my arms around
her, images and reflections wove themselves
through the two of us.
The Call to Attention and Intention
She reminded me that she had been changing
her leaves for almost three weeks now
but in the last two to three days, these
changes were accelerating. All such transformation
is based on how much Light - or Sun -
the landscape receives. Each Being in
nature uses this Light to activate processes
of birth, growth, death, and rebirth.
In the time of decreasing Light, there
is less food (or energy) available so
it becomes important to use this limited
energy for the most essential life sustaining
activities. That also means releasing
those things that are now too much to
Persimmon's changing leaves speak to
this diminishing of the Light within
the Land, within the Body. The approach
of deepest dark and profoundest cold
is now making steady footsteps to our
doors, to our own bodies. She acknowledges
this by using the little green left in
her leaves and then releasing them. Whatever
She keeps now goes into maturing her
fruit. And soon, these Golden Balls too
shall be released for within them are
the Seeds that shall be fed when Sun
returns---thus starting the cycle again
of Seed to Tree to Leaf to Fruit to Seed.
devoted is Her relationship with the
Whole that every thing she manifests
goes into feeding the entire Web: leaves
to ground to nourish the soil; fruit
for the birds who eat, fly off, and poop
those seeds on other fertile ground.
In that whole process, She mirrors to
me my own future if I follow the equivalent
ways of harmony: releasing what I no
longer can wear so, without waste, passing
such items around. Offering up for others,
the fruit from my year of growing because
someone, somewhere, can use this fruit;
and when others take the fruit, they
will then drop the seeds and someday,
somewhere, those seeds might grow a tree
or an idea or a dream.
This is not just a romantic notion...
or idle play with words... or my imagination.
It is all of these to be sure. But
it is also descriptive of the reality
of how change happens in the world. How
I change - you change - we change: it's
just a matter of whether we do so with
conscious intention to dropping Seeds
that will grow the world more beautiful
for us, for others, for our children,
and for the Web entire.
This is one reason why our Ancestors
so marked the days before and after the
Solstices. They knew... and they wanted
us to remember... that what we did during
these times would determine if humans
helped re-member the World or if humans
dis-membered the Earth.
During the 12 days before that awesome
Solstice Day they marked the wisdom of
growth of that year and every day something
no longer needed was dropped to ground
- and ON that very awesome Solstice Day,
they made great Joy with the Return of
the Light---for on the followng Day as
Sun slowly started home to them, their
hearts, minds, and bodies were ready
and able to re-member Earth and their
Covenant with Her and Winter was such
a fine, fine time to begin.
Celebrating Change and Growth
Just as Persimmon stands forth in her
leaves 'afire, this time of transformation
is replete with glorious colors everywhere
with the world of Plants. Consider how
beautiful are those plants we now see
and those we eat. The pumpkin round,
squash, corn, and beans with color abound.
Fruit in various sizes, shapes, and juices.
A time when grocery shelves are stocked
with the harvest with choices enough
for any palate. Whether wandering through
those aisles, the farmers' markets, or
the fields just harvested, it is a most
magical time of year. Holding a pumpkin
in my hand, it is time to remember what
has come to roundness in our own lives.
What did we fruit and what seeds shall
be dropping from within the Ground of
our own Being that will ripen and enrich
our inner worlds and those around us?
Again I turn to Persimmon, my teacher
for Solstice 2009, to learn the ways
of changes in growth She reflects to
We planted her in 1982. During the first
two to three years, there was no hint
of what is now an impressive girth and
little reason to think She would bear
fruit or leave her seed. Now I can imagine
Her, over those years, Her roots delving
deep, becoming entangled with the roots
of others around as She continued reaching
further and further into the ground while
making for Her Self a foundation sound.
She has survived earthquakes, lashing
rains, and roots, down in a hillside,
all too vulnerable to mudslide yet she
has endured. I can feel the strength
in Her trunk with my arms around Her.
From a small sapling She now supports
my climbing up her body and into limbs
that can hold me.
After these seasons of growing downward,
upward, and outward, She stands this
late Autumn like a Lighthouse upon the
Land. Praise be for Persimmon Tree. In
our Solstice Celebration this year one
candle for her shall I light with prayer---joining
other Candles with which our Circle arrives.
Yet She reminds me not only of Her changes
and growth but invites each of us to
acknowledge the changes we have made
- and how we have grown. She invites
us to consider the arc of our lives,
to see in what ground have we planted
our roots, to tend to our own fruiting,
and to celebrate with song and dance
who we have become. I firmly believe
that each of us, up to now, have done
the best that we could by ourselves---may
we honor and celebrate that we have. With
the very next breath, perhaps other changes
may be required if we are to continue
growing and fruiting and dropping seed.
Dance of the Solstice - what I call the
Dance of the Merciful Spirit - is thus:
Dance for Who You Are
Celebrate all you have become...
Sing for your Life
Wake up! and Dance for Whom You seek
And know that you have the Wind at your
and the Sun drawing you forward...
Welcoming Winter's Weather Spirits
Last year for the first time in my memory
here, we had to water Persimmon Tree...
as well as other trees and plants. Again
this year the land has been achingly
dry... the soil like skin that has lost
tone, with texture crumbly, dessicated, and
rough to the touch. We created gardens
with California Native plants that are
mainly drought and frost tolerant. But
even these plants need some water and
thrive themselves with periods of cold.
Our current drought, however, is combined
with the most warm weather days on record
in this area. This presents a challenge
in deciding which plants to coax along
through providing some water but little
can be done to create the desired cold.
A week ago the local weather forecaster
promised the arrival of water by Thursday
evening. Thursday afternoon I went to
see a close friend of mine. I arrived
joyous with the promise of rain. As she
opened her door, I exclaimed:
"We're supposed to get rain tonight.
She responded "Oh not tonight. I have
plans to go out."
I felt a flush of embarrassment sweep
my face... followed quickly by a deep
sense of shame. Her response echoed ones
I have made at other times. My embarrassment,
my shame, was that we humans should have
our desires, our plans, to be more important
than the arrival of necessary weather.
I was not faulting her... it was more
that I recognized me in her response....
I recognized us humans in her response.
I made some feeble comment like "sorry
about your plans but you know we do need
some rain" but I sounded like some poor
apologist for Rain. Driving home, I wondered
what it would be like if I were 'RainMaker'
and heard various renditions on the phrase
"go away, go away Rain...
come again some other day..."
morning arrived and there had been no
rain... and no rain was foreseeable...
I almost felt that RainMaker had turned
away - having received no great welcome
in our lands. I came to my cottage, picked
up Drum, tranced myself, and inquired
of a Weather Guardian "Teach me the way
of working with WeatherSpirits, esp.
with Rain and Cold Maker." The message
I received was twofold:
** to plant seeds of a new relationship
with these Beings on the Winter Solstice,
** to talk with them each day until the
Solstice so I would know more about the
Seeds I was planting then.
I was assured that I would know what
seeds to sow that would be conduits both
for beckoning and honoring these Weather
Spirits. Gathering these specific seeds
is my first task once I complete this
In addition to learning more of RainMaker,
I was surprised how much my Weather Guardian
emphasized developing a good relationship
with Cold. So while writing this newsletter,
I have used the moments, away from my
computer, to meditate on Cold and ColdMaker.
Perhaps the next newsletter will speak
of Rain and RainMaker... I never know
what will surface from month to month.
But I do know ColdMaker wants attention
just now and desires to be celebrated
during this coming Winter and at the
Coming to Honor and Cherish ColdMaker
I know from observation that there is
some correlation between the lessening
of the Light (Sun), changes in Persimmon's
leaves, and the increase of Cold, and
the presence of moisture. The simultaneous
appearance of these four has occurred
year after year.
Now I know as the days grow colder,
Persimmon changes more rapidly. And I
know with the arrival of the Winter Solstice
Sun, the nights and days are increasingly
cold. With increasing cold, I bundle
up myself while Persimmon stands in her
naked self. Both of us are relunctant,
it seems, to move about much or to stretch
our branches into the cold. Yet in the
increasing 'standstill' (of Buffalo to
which I referred in my last newsletter),
there are these quieter stretches of
time when I know more of my belonging
to my Self. Some folks speak of this
time as being 'in the dead of Winter.' I
tend to think of it as a time when most
of the storyline is not apparent and
the key events are happening within or
underground - out of sight so to speak.
It's the season when I imagine I shall
get my writing done or flesh out the
projects of my imagination. The basis
of our behavior - whether it be we humans
or the plants or the other animals -
is governed by the great WinterSpirit
called ColdMaker. ColdMaker is the one
whose arrival makes possible the development
of the seed: whether below ground or
within in my own Ground of Being.
So what happens if I forego any welcome
to ColdMaker? What eventuates if all
together we push ColdMaker away? Can
we do this? Will ColdMaker then not arrive
someone sent me a photo in which a Polar
Bear was standing on a chunk of ice barely
large enough to hold him. Though no words
attended the photo, I assumed it was
connected with global warming. Seeing
this photo, I wondered if some day we
would be celebrating the return of Cold
during the year just as we celebrate
the Return of Sun or Light at Winter
Solstice. Might there come the day when
Cold Being would withdraw from our presence...
or, at the maximum, appear only as occasional
chunks of Ice.
I recall the story of the time when
only Water covered the World. Grandmother
Bear restlessly worried about her children
because they had to be always swimming,
no place to rest their bodies. As she
watched some cubs die from weariness
of swimming and others develop gaunt
bodies from always moving, She looked
to the large Silver Ball in the Sky and
decided to travel there, to see if She
could find some different home for her
cubs --- one that had some resting place.
With maternal determination, for years
and years she traveled the Aurora Borealis.
When reaching the Moon, each time she
would grab a chunk from Moon's Body,
toss it downward, and then walk back
down to her Cubs below. She did
this as long as her body could endure
the harsh journey and finally it came
to be that She had no strength to return
to Earth below.
On a full Moon, the outline of her form
can be seen... looking to the right,
curled up into the larger body of Moon.
From there She can watch her family who
now have many large chunks (continents)
upon which they can live, thrive, and
grow. Over eons, She has seen the appearance
of Green Things grow and the birth of
animals never known in her lifetime here.
We were told that on the full Moon, look
upward and thank MoonBear for creating
Below what we call Earth.
Bringing Back ColdMaker
Well, when I saw the Polar Bear standing
on the chunk of Ice, I could not but
help return myself to that old, old story.
Rather than expansion of the solid ground
She created, from Silver One in the Sky,
we are seeing the undoing of Her
lifetime's labor. And if that happens,
some day the only Bear we shall see will
be the GrandMother in the Moon.
As I wonder what GrandMotherBear might
be thinking now, I return again to my
Winter mentor, Persimmon.
This time, however, Persimmon used her
limbs to branch outward so I could follow
the arc she created to the Evergreens
and the Oaks on the hill above our house. "All
of us suffer when Cold no longer comes" I
could hear her whisper. My eyes scanned
Others on this Land and I looked toward
the North. I've been blessed to walk
within many families of Trees, Plants
and Animals. As with my human kin, I
try to follow news of these families
too. I remember reading how Cold helped
the Northern Forest withstand parasitic
infections and, overall, help keep the
Great Woods everywhere from dire shrinking.
And we are discovering more ways in which
Cold is essential for the human body
to recover from certain traumas. From
this perspective, Cold is one of the
great Healing Powers.
Cold is needed; welcome Cold's arrival;
send Cold to places that have become
so vulnerable and frail for lack of Her
Let this be a year when we focus on the
Return of the Winter Weather Spirits
just as we do the Sun or Light. Maybe
this year we could undertake shamanic
journeys in which we travel to the great
Weather Beings and learn from them what
we each can do... whether by ourselves
or in Circle with others... for example,
learn how to merge and become Cold and
spread Cold's power.
I am not implying we are supposed to
be Cold... Cold is Cold... I am suggesting
that we find ways to welcome Cold and
keep Cold around for as long as is necessary
to reestablish weathery balance... for
as long as is necessary for all Beings
dependent on Cold, to drape themselves
with her Power and thus, trigger the
reactions essential to growth and life.
Part of Cold's power is to turn us inward
and with this inward turning, may we
meditate with Cold. This invitation is
not to become frozen selves or forego
the necessary sources of warmth we need
when Cold hangs around for a while. Yet
is is important to let ourselves experience
Cold's nature and power, so that as we
seek to greet Cold, we know Whom we are
I imagine the time of our Ancestors,
when someone would carry the burning
torch to another village whose fire had
died. Or the image of the Olympic
athletes carrying the Flame across the
World. So many memories and feelings
evoked as Flame moves through the air,
empowered by the Soul of the runner's
feet. Ridge Runners were famous in California
for running the high mountain trails
between North and South. Moving food
or fire or essential messages from one
village to another was so important that
some Native Americans might spend half
their lifetime developing the bodies
and skills that could perform these feats.
the analogy of the Torch runners, how
would we carry "Cold" from village to
village, land to land? I have a momentary
image of someone from Santa Cruz running
to the far, far North and asking for
help from the people there who still
have some Cold. The problem with this
is that I have heard that Cold has not
been seen as much in the far far North.
It may be that a better response would
be to protect what little Cold remains.
It's analogous to the ongoing struggle
over water rights and taking water from
some place, diverting it to another,
and before too long, neither place has
enough to nourish their respective ecologies!
I don't know the answer but we need to
find our way. Perhaps just surfacing
the issues among ourselves, consulting
our Helping Allies, is the way to begin.
However we have tended this issue heretofore,
now is the time for doing the Solstice
Dance of the Merciful
Let us welcome Cold, welcome ColdSpirit...
we need Cold as does the whole Land.
I can imagine a time when ColdMaker withdraws
and the experience of Cold becomes a
I paused earlier today to talk with Bob
about Cold... we were sharing how Cold
(as well as Heat) is connected with Wind.
I spoke about going to the far North
in search of Cold but another way to
do this quest is to beseech WindWoman
to bring more Cold South to us. And,
of course, then we must carry this further
and learn to welcome Wind to our door!
A delightful aspect of seeking to know
one Being or one Element in nature is
that you realize Beings are known in
relationship to other Beings - we are
truly not inseparable; we are interdependent.
There can be no full appreciation of
Cold without some understanding of Wind.
However, this newsletter is intentionally
restricted to learning from Tree Spirits
(Persimmon) and Welcoming Cold. While
doing one or both, we shall discover
other relationships, and other Helpers,
in our journey to be stewards of the
As I come to closing this month's newsletter,
I feel restless with my writing... as
though Wind sneaked in and stirred me
up. I want to settle myself down with
some specific suggestions for what we
might do whether individually or with
** in these days before Solstice, find
some Being who will speak to you
about the Return of the Light... there
is a Persimmon Tree everywhere!
** find ways to Welcome the Winter Weather
Spirits-remember that we need them to
return just as we need the Light of the
** share seeds, nuts, and fruit with
others... having seeds we can touch,
see, and eat ignites our most Soul-Full
selves... stirs something deep in us..that
something deep reminds us of both the
strength and the fragility of life. While
sharing of these, may we also share what
seeds we are planting in Winter and how
we plan to nourish them until Spring.
Leaning now into Winter's imminent arrival,
I am intrigued to discover what changes
will have happened, within the Land,
between now and writing January's newsletter.
I remember an image from Plutarch's Antisthenes
that involves a faraway land where the
cold is so intense that words freeze
when uttered. After some time, they thaw
and become audible. The people there
say that is why words spoken in Winter
go unheard until the next Summer. I doubt
that we will receive that much from ColdMaker...
but even so, still let us welcome Cold,
Rain, Snow, Wind... as well as the Return
of Light and Sun.
Blessings and Thanks Givings,
- Carol's Workshop Calendar for 2010
will be posted Dec. 15, 2009.
- For more of Carol's writings, and
to view her 2010 Workshop Calendar you
can visit her website www.shamanicvisions.com