Swan Blessing: Vow of the Priestess to Separate Body from Spirit

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“I am naked under the gaze and protection of the stars. I am stargazing, star bathing, star being. Filled with the light, and energy and knowing of the stars. They move into me, touching me, illuminating me and the map, the mystery, the way, connecting me to my story, my songs, my dance, my medicine. As my blood returns to source, source fills me in return, with the dreaming and visions that will hold me during my growth, my woman years. I am star clan, star dreamer and star weaver.”

I’m always honoured to sit with people in their ancestral journeys in Swan Blessing sessions. I am not only holding space, I am listening intently, learning, travelling with and being taught about the ancient ways of each ancestral lineage. Because not only is ancestral clearing about releasing vows and beliefs the biggest gift and point to the work is to see and remember times when our ancestors lived in great connection to the earth and where respect for her cycles was woven into everything they did. Living life as a ceremony. I had the pleasure of sharing such a journey with Sarah who came to clear a vow, a memory in her lineage of a lifetime as a a priestess living in this beautiful way and then witnessing the destruction of this time of sacred living. A vow so strong that it created a separation between body and spirit. Her journey took her back to her most ancient of ancestors, the star clans, the star grandmothers and she was reminded of that she will always be a child of the stars, she will always have ways of finding her way home. When Sarah came out of her journey she looked up at the painting you see above, an original artwork by artist and fellow forest-dweller, Nadia Turner that hangs in our healing space as quiet guardian and was amazed to recognise her from her own journey and ancestral lineage.

“In the clearing we gather. In the clearing we work, laugh, play and connect to source, to her. The earth underneath our bare feet is soft, cushioned by leaf fall from the tall trees that guard our homes, which lie on the flat stone plateau. The trees are known to us. We listen to them, talk to them, understand their wisdom and offerings. We are in constant exchange with them, air, shelter, shade, fruit, and our own prayers and tending in return. 

I move through time, through the ages watching myself in this place of sacred connection. As a child I walk with my father through the forest, listening to his songs and chants. He takes me to the place where the grandmothers dwell so that I may learn from them. Learn about the plants, the herbs, their gifts, protections and poisons. Life and death are close allies too.

At my first blood I am taken by the women to the bleeding place, and then left. They leave me to journey here alone with the trees and the stars. I am naked under the gaze and protection of the stars. I am stargazing, star bathing, star being. Filled with the light, and energy and knowing of the stars. They move into me, touching me, illuminating me and the map, the mystery, the way, connecting me to my story, my songs, my dance, my medicine. As my blood returns to source, source fills me in return, with the dreaming and visions that will hold me during my growth, my woman years. I am star clan, star dreamer and star weaver.

Older, much older now. I am sitting in the cave of the Grandmothers, feeling the warmth of their wisdom and knowing. They are deep in the belly of the cave, while I sit at the entrance, with my fire and a pot filled with leaves. Smoke from the fire merges with the potent steam from the pot, the small clay pot that was once my mothers, and hers before her. Another woman is with me, inhaling the scent, and the healing of the steam. The spirits speak to her through smoke, cleansing and healing. I hold her hands .

We are not such a large group, 50 or so people living here with the trees, the plants, the forest animals, and with earth, water, fire, and air. We are strong in our bonds to each other, and other local clans. We are strong in our connection to source. We have lived like this for a long time, a long time. We know how to listen.

But my listening troubles me now. I hear a noise in the forest that I do not know, I sense fear in the animals, and even the trees. I ask the grandmothers. The Grandmothers see a time of pain, a time of estrangement and loss. A loss greater than we have ever known, but they seem to wait for it. I am upset and angry, even though they reassure me that we will remember, that the stars will call us home again. But when and how and what is coming?

I know soon enough. Soon enough I see them coming on horseback, coming with a ferocity we have not experienced. Hooves pounding, earth and dust flying, shouts and screams from them and us mingle into a horrifying scream. They come only to destroy, There is no regard for our rules, our ways, they come to trample and burn. Fire our ally, is turned against us, and they on horseback ride through our homes, alighting everything that will burn. Trees, ancient trees burn with my people, burn with the animals and the bodies of the young, the old, the all. Death is everywhere. Death is.

I am alone now, howling and grieving, and raging, and lost. I am a survivor only by there doing, one to witness the destruction, and to tell of their victory, their ways, their story. I will not tell their story, I will not tell their story and I will not priestess again. I will not. Not now, not ever. The temple of our lives is gone, the wisdom and knowing is gone and although my body lives on, my spirit is gone too. 

How long did I wander in the wilderness, scraping an existence, scraping something called life together? I wanted death, I wanted destruction but I was alive . Seven years passed before I saw daughters again, before I saw daughters of another clan, sowing seeds, preparing what they knew. I should have been overjoyed, I should have helped them, But I was not and I did not. I was not going to help create that which could so easily be destroyed again. I had made my vow, and I would keep it. I cut myself off from the wisdom that remained in the trees, the earth, the water, the fire and the stars. I even turned my back on the stars. And this turning away from, this cutting off from has been so very painful. In this life I have sought to reconnect with the source of all, to be held in the deep embrace of the earth mother, to refind myself as an earthling, a wild one, she who knows…and yet I have stumbled through the pain and separation of activism to the joy of my embodied dance work, but still I have been caught in the illusion of separation, still disembodied.  My work with the school of Shamanic Womancraft was a deep resurgence of all that I knew, and all that I had to trust. It was a huge part of my healing, and still I stumbled to trust my medicine, to trust my gifts. 

So this is my story. And through the swan blessing I realised that the vow I had made meant that I had cut myself off from my people, my ancestry, my knowing. I had separated body and spirit. I had in fact chosen to live the story of the oppressor, separating myself from source, just as they said was true. This story of separation is with us now, embedded in the culture in which we live today , and for many years I have been trying to reclaim a way home, to my body, and the body of earth, to integration with and to source. 

And although I went looking for my medicine instread and for me more profoundly I found a way home, a way back to my clan, my heritage, to source. After releasing my bindings and my vow, the grandmothers welcomed me home. They sang me and carried me home. They had never left, it was I who had left them. But now I am home, singing myself, dancing myself, trusting myself that my medicine is a home coming, a return to earth/star/body/spirit. And the messages keep coming, the grandmothers, the animals, the spirits are guiding me.

Towards the end of the swan blessing, I saw a star clan sister on the wall, and in front of me. I was staggered to see a woman from my vision there in a painting. Deep bow to the mystery. My work now is to continue to remember, to reclaim my heritage and to listen again to the wisdom of the heavens and the earth. I have had many beautiful conversations with the earth since then. A spontaneous swim with dolphins in the sea, visits by birds, feathers and of course the stars. My work now is to listen again to the songs of the trees, the earth and my people, to deepen my connection to my clan and this blessed earth. 

I am home.”  Sarah 2016 

Thank you Sarah for sharing your Swan story here with us, your words are a poem to remind us all of how we used to live and how to recreate this sacred life again. You can explore Sarah’s beautiful offerings of circles embodying the women’s mysteries and earth wisdom through dance and movement at Embodiments Dance – Sarah Miller

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