Rachma Mami Ishtar – Winter Solstice ceremony (2005?)

Beloved Sister in Goddess,

Even though its late, I thought I’d write you a brief account of tonight’s ceremony before the current of life catches me up and sweeps me on round the next bend. (My son is home early in the morning).

I had trouble tuning into the ceremony earlier in the week – lots of resistance there apparently – so it was only on Friday that I actually got as far as some simple instructions for how to fashion a ritual around the mystery of birthing/birth. I found it very satisfying to chant/sing various permutations and combinations of the names RACHMA MAMI ISHTAR to the accompaniment of a simple drone beat from the low G string of my guitar (which I still have no idea how to play properly). I used it in much the same way as I might use a hoop drum for trance work, but the guitar gave me a strong anchoring note to work around and come back to at regular intervals. So that got included into the ceremony. It seemed much simpler than last time. It was both big and small for me – small in that not too many surprises, and the energy of birthing I am really quite familiar with by now. Important in that what was wanting to be birthed through me is this whole Ishtar thing I’m working with, the further unfolding of “the work” which I’m already committed to. (In fact I was too occupied to consider this too much tonight which was a blessing really) And because birthing – even when you’ve done it before – isn’t especially easy or comfortable even when it is satisfying.

I think the ceremony worked though. I sat down at the end, first thinking that I hadn’t worked particularly hard. But then I felt my feet and legs tingling and realised I had been more in trance/pumping energy that I had credited. And needed to sit a bit.

Anyway, to begin at the beginning… Karuna Nur arrived early to help me set up, which was lovely. We had everything looking lovely by about 10 minutes to seven, when I suddenly realised we hadn’t put out any chairs for everyone to sit on. So we did that. 10 women had told me that they planned to be there, 11 women turned up. 8 of the ones I was expecting plus three of their friends.

So we were a nice sized circle.

Standard opening. Began by cleansing with bells – ourselves and then the space. Then I called in the temple guardians (as usual) in the four corners, and invoked the four aspects of Ishtar lighting a candle to each on her own altar. Then we all stood holding hands in a circle and connected to the deep earth / ancestors and to the cosmic energies through the waterlily meditation. That felt pretty good.

Then I invited people to meditate on the energy of birthing in their lives at the moment, and to offer up prayers to any or all of the faces of Ishtar at one or more of the altars by lighting a candle and/or making a written or drawn prayer in coloured ink on a small piece of paper. Including the option to offer up any fears or resistances that might be there for them. Whilst they did this, I did my chanting improvisation to the drone accompaniment on my guitar, and invoked the energy of the Birthing Mother. I had my eyes closed most of the time, allowing myself to go deeper into trance as I sang, but I opened my eyes momentarily two or three times and was aware that some people were moving around, standing or kneeling in front of different altars. Others were wrapped up snugly in their blankets sitting on their chairs in the circle. This went on for some time. Then most people were sitting and I gradually wound the energy of the chant down to a stand-still.

Then we all stood again, close in the circle, and I invited us all to imagine the earth in the centre. To feel our connection to her. To feel our circle hugging her close. To feel her roundness. To remember our attunement from the previous ceremony to her moment by moment pregnant being, and to become aware of her need to birth herself anew at this time. To hold her in this. And to know that in holding her we were holding ourselves, because we are not seperate but a part of her. Holding the part of ourselves that is birthing, holding the part of ourselves that is being born anew into the world. And then we reached out our arms to find the hands and make a basket to hold her. And then we intoned RAHM a few times. And then MAMI. And then RAHM again. And then we began to move our circle very slowly sunwise by rocking in on the right foot and out on the left and gradually progressing slightly to the right. And then energy rose and fell in waves of birthing as we chanted and rocked RAHM (etc), MAMI (etc), and each time we came back to chanting MAMI the rhythm got a little faster and the movement got a little faster… and there were some very primal moments… And then, in a supreme birthing effort, we all got ourselves born by coming through under the arms as we intoned a final MAMI together… and some got tangled and needed a little help, and some landed in an uncomfortable position and needed to adjust themselves. And then we were all together in the big circular hug. Holding each other. Being held. I offered a prayer out loud and invited others to voice anything they wanted to add. I spoke how tender and vulnerable we all are in these birthing moments and how we need to be held by our community, by our sisters. After a longish silence which we all held together, one person and then one other felt moved to speak their own prayers. And then I was wondering how to end this very tender, vulnerable space. So I felt to pass a blessing around the circle. I turned to the woman on my right and held her heart – front and back – and spoke a blessing of being held, of there being One who sees her beauty, even when she cannot, of knowing herself loved – and then invited her to pass the blessing on with whatever words she felt moved to… and so it went, from one woman to the next… all the way back until it was me receiving the blessing of being held by Bronwyn who was standing on my left.

The women sat patiently whilst I did the honours and closed the ceremony, and then it was done.

It felt like a special prayerful space. Felt like a very good way of honouring the darkness of the solstice. And at the end I saw that there were lots of candles burning on the altars and folded prayers tucked in around the edges of the offering plates. Which I will give to the earth tomorrow by burying them I think, along with my own offering (of small flowers from my garden and a lemon from my tree) that sat in the Gaia bowl at the foot of the birthing altar.

It was nice to have the circle grown a little larger. The whole thing felt quite satisfying really.

And then we had tea and biscuits, and some people went home while some stayed a little while for a chat. And I had some good help with the packing up, which was a definite blessing.

What I didn’t do this time was ask the women to call in any beings or presences they wanted to be there in the opening segment. Didn’t pop into my head to do so. I think it was nice that we did that last time, so perhaps I’ll think of it next time. But I suppose each ritual will probably come out a little differently.

Wish you could have been here, and I look forward to the day that is coming when we get to do this stuff together.

Lots and lots of love to you. I hope your long weekend went well and brought the little space of renewal you were looking for.

Blessings from your sister,