Home again, after a long awesome weekend in the mountains ~ soaking in the hot springs . . . and participating fully in a powerful intense weekend of community and open heart-ed sharing. We learned African Dagara Grief Ritual, with our teacher, beautiful Sobonfu Some. A ceremony of the soul that will truly heal western culture if we embrace it. I awoke before dawn and soaked in a steam filled hot spring above the rushing sacred Breitenbush River, with other early rising women ~ ahhhh two early mornings I was so honored to witness the stars turn to blue sky . . . revealing misty Cascadian fir trees and snow covered mountains. We nourished ourselves on pure organic vegetarian goodness provided for us in the lodge – indulged in chocolate as needed . . . steamed in the shack built on a natural geyser and cooled in a claw foot tub . . . we laughed and sang and shared. This was a complete body-soul cleanse. Wild Raven and Deer gathered near us as we did our inner work. What a delicious weekend . . . which ended with a privately chosen meditative walk in in the sunshine, along a stone labyrinth with a bouquet of colorful flowers – lillies, daisies, daffodils, roses . . . where I remembered and honored significant family and friends. – The ritual, the alters, the celebration, the community, forgiveness, letting go of what didn’t serve us, embracing fully what does, the hugs and smiles. . . the healing and the love ♥ ♥ a blessed sanctuary~ & retreat i would love for everyone to experience. Today I rest and process ♥ 🙂 🙂
Healing Through Grief
We had all gathered around our teacher and she led us to create three alters. One representing our ancestors and loved ones who had passed, this one was decked in materials of red and yellow, with many flowers and lit candles. We also built an alter of forgiveness – of self and of others in our life – and on this was placed a bowl of water, colorful flowers and many candles.
The Forgiveness Alter was framed in blues, greens and whites. Our Grieving Alter was made out of nature, from tree limbs; browns, greens, blues and whites. Inside the shelter area we placed a large blue bowl filled with water, and also a burning candle. We were not to cross the line of lit candles which lined the entrance of the Grieving Alter.
On each alter we placed photographs of loved ones and items of meaning. Some of them represented those who had passed on, and some of them our ancestors. Others represented those we needed to forgive. I brought a fragment of a headstone, a slumbering angel which had belonged to my grandmother, for the Ancestor Alter. For the Forgiveness Alter I placed a statue of a sitting Green Goddess who was pregnant with an Earth belly. My large blue bowl had been chosen to hold water and a candle for the Grief Alter.
Sixty people were fortunate to be here, and more were on a waiting list. We’d each brought with us our love, our grief, and our alter offerings. All of us shared with each other in the building of our sacred space, many sentimental photographs and objects of meaning. It was lovely.
We were guided by Sobonfu to create a ‘bundle’ of symbolic objects consisting of energies which do not serve us, and which block us from being our ‘true selves’. I named each separate despair that must be released, spit on it, then tied it into a bundle. I was ready to shed and release, to ‘unblock’ and let go of them all.
In the deepest richness of ceremonial ritual, we all released these bundles to the shelter of our Grief Alter, and then we began our intense soul work. This work involves the courage to grieve, and this was when the true beauty and the magic of soul cleansing began to take form, to Transform, us all.
Pillows and kleenex lined the floors facing our Grief Alter, as we began organic rounds of emotion. Some people knelt, some lay down on the floor, each one grieved in a unique way. None of us were alone with our pain as always there was a member of our community who silently ‘held space’ for the griever – with a light touch, a solid embrace, or a quiet presence nearby.
At first it was a shy time, as we in the western culture are taught to hide our vulnerable pain, to ‘mourn alone’, ‘suck it up’, ‘be tough’, and to ‘keep it inside’.
Small, polite sounds and silent movements began the process, while those who had done this ritual before lead us to our core selves, through their brave examples.
We had each been in a circle and shared our story with this new community, and now we were holding a sacred loving space fore each other. Community felt safe now, it honored our hearts and held us together; offering permission to release pain in an environment of non judgment, and love- with our own added courage to mourn openly what feels so private within us.
Sobonfu taught us how the sacred space of community is healing and how to respect each other in a most sacred way. She described her own pain of experiencing the illness of western culture . . . with a time of walking down a frozen winter street in Michigan long ago and feeling that many of the people who passed by her seemed ‘more frozen than the ground’. Where was community? Why were these people so separate and sad?
When a person in our group sneezed she would immediately stop and exclaim “Thank You!” because a sneeze is the spirit’s acknowledgment that what is being talked about is very important, somewhat like an exclamation point from our souls.
Some of us had come for healing and renewal, others had come with hearts heavy and a burden so deep that the emotional mountain to climb was too steep to grieve alone. As I sat before each alter, danced and played drums, held’ sacred space’ for another soul who was grieving aloud, or experienced the purging of those painful shadowy depths myself . . . I noticed that each round of release was more cleansing than the one before, likened to peeling away of the layers of an onion skin.
We sang a lovely song together, three lines over and over and over, an African song . . . meaning we are not alone in our sorrow. We are all in this together. We are safe to cry and others are safe to cry. We are midwives of grief for each other at this time . . . Our voices sang in unison, along with the drum beating, for hours we sang and drummed. A trance so deep that I cannot remember the tune or words a day after the event itself.
It was as if we had entered a spiritual healing realm and this song was in a dream. We continued this ritual for hours and hours and hours. Many felt exhausted after a while, but we continued at the same pace, and our second wind brought deeper cleansing to already stirred up and softened sorrows. They were finally at the surface now, ready to release. More singing, more community, and more healing tears.
How could we keep this going? Some people expressed this aloud. Sonbofu told us that Dagara Ritual in Africa lasts 72 straight hours. There is not a pause. She was letting us sleep at night in our cabins while two of us remained always in the sacred sanctuary where candles never went out.
With all these breathing spaces and meal breaks, exhaustion was still not a stranger. We drank an abundance of water and yet we needed more water to stay hydrated. We discovered with each moment, how the next cycle of grieving brought even deeper levels of exploration and cleansing. Beyond traditional therapy, this sacred soul cleansing of Grief Ritual was an answer of prayers for healing to many, if not all of us.
Honoring sacred tears. The Angels did bear witness. The sanctuary atmosphere was swimming with spirit, with Light, with Guides, ancestors, power animals and yes, our Angels. They were with me at every alter. They welcomed our acknowledgment. Sobonfu reminded us that honoring them is like their ‘food’. They eat it up.
Another night and morning More steaming and soaking in minerals to soften and stir up what was still inside and longing for release.
Full circle round and then a renewed cycle of grieving began after breakfast.
Our ritual resumed . . .
I was drawn to a woman who’d lost her twin sister . . . she moaned and sobbed, pounded the floor with her fists and swept the floor with tear dampened hair. She felt lost and helpless at the injustice of it all. Of being torn from such a significant piece of her self and she wanted it back. She longed to be whole again, she prayed to be whole again. She called out with full body wailing, for the healing of her soul.
I was drawn to the unspeakable horror and pain of a mother who’d recently lost a three year old son to a tragedy of backing over him in the driving. He’d died in her arms as she’d screamed in agony. I saw her grief, her helpless rage and pain, guilt and sorrow as she wept at the Alter of Grief. And her husband was there at the Alter beside her; the Father, hearing his mate wailing for their child and reliving the moments, he was grief stricken once again. I saw how well they mourned for their son. I heard their cries. It tore at my own pain and I could no longer hold space for the woman who cried before me. I had to get down on my own knees.
Suddenly the shell to my own tragedies cracked wide open, and I gave in to my guidance, and knelt behind the grieving mother and simply wept along with her. I went to that place in my cave where waterfalls pour with abandon, and threw myself over the falls into a space of love and sorrow for her broken heart. I wept for her stricken husband, for the older son who remained with them still, and for the child in spirit . . .and as I grieved with her, the overwhelming intensity of my own grief washed over me in waves.
This grieving couple had opened my heart. In the spirit of community, I allowed it to be so.
Our third round of ritual became deep and real. No longer self conscious or distracted, I simply walked into the sanctuary room, with candles and flowers, Alters, Angels, guides, spirits of our ancestors and loved ones . . . felt it’s sacred energy, and this brought me to the core of my soul. I was one of the first to kneel and weep. Our community knew what to do this time, we’d said our invocation and prayers of gratitude, and then we didn’t hold back the process.
I heard men wailing with emotions along with the crying of women. People had finally found the courage to grieve fully, and at last. Full bodied sobbing was born, and complete immersion by others, into the act of ‘holding sacred space’ for each other. It was soul cleansing awesome-ness.I say with full faith, I will never be the same again.
For a time our ritual was akin to the wailing wall in Jerusalem . . . or a Festival of Crying. This was our final morning and our last chance to give it our ALL. This was the most precious and vital portion of our sacred soul cleansing.
I held a woman as she wept. I didn’t try to comfort her out of crying. I didn’t try to make it stop. I didn’t offer advice. I simply let her be in my space and held her while she cried.
I felt the hands of a person on my own back as I took my turn to cry.
I danced to the drums in between all the intensity, for a ‘breather’.
I sat in deep emotion and gratitude on my knees, at each alter of photos and flowers.
I dipped my fingers into the water of the bowl of forgiveness . . . and released my bundle of burdens to the Alter of Grief . . . I did not hold back from this rare opportunity to transform and renew within a supportive community.
I heard a woman wailing, “This is my life dammit. This is MY grief. This is MY pain. I will cry I will cry!”
I heard a man screaming, “Damn you Dealers. You killed him. Damn You!”
I heard humanity, I felt humanity in our communal grieving.
In rest time, as I soaked in silent meditation I remembered Sobonfu’s words, “The reason you think you came here may not be the reason at all. In fact, it may turn out to be something else entirely. Maybe if you knew what it was you came for, you would not have come. Or, maybe if you knew, why you would wonder what took you so very long.”
Sobonful lit sage and allowed the smoke to surround us. Ahhhh I needed this smell, this clearing energy. Three men were sent away with an African blessing and sage bath, by Sobonfu, as they took away all of our bundles to bury them in the cold earth of winter. They showered afterward with salt, and then returned to our community which was by then singing and dancing ~ greeting one another with warm hugs and smiles. As each man entered the sanctuary, we cheered and hugged them in gratitude, thanking them fully for taking on the important work of burying our bundles. We celebrated, honoring the soul work they had done for us.
I thought I was here to release the Maiden and to embrace the Crone. But within this silky hot immersion of Cascadian mineral waters, I suddenly looked with new eyes at the beauty around me.
It was barely day break, and as a witness to dawn’s earliest light, I saw the silhouettes of every size and age of naked woman soaking in the pools around me ~and with a sudden passionate clarity, I felt a ‘knowing’ I was here to embrace the Goddess.
In this moment of my realization, my heart suddenly opened fully, and pure joy filled me. Beauty surrounded me. It was Her, the Goddess. Beyond intellect and logic, I know Maiden will always stay with me, forever. I am keeping her. And Crone, well she is welcome to approach me in perfect timing as she always does.
Goddess, She is eternal. She is always here and I simply had not seen her clearly as I did so now. There is no place that she is not. She is above me, below me, before me and behind me. She exists in everything, living and non living.
I saw through new eyes, that the nude young woman with a body of perfection and a most beautiful tattoo, who was walking from the hot spring waters toward the showers . . . she is a Goddess.
A woman Elder lay in the waters nearby with eyes closed, her head resting on stones and steam rising from the delicate cream colored skin of her shoulders, I witnessed her serene expression as she listened to the rushing river below us, and saw she is a Goddess.
The solemn faced mother who sat missing her grown children and mourning the loss of young motherhood– I witnessed her mature, lovely solidness, the beauty of sorrowful letting go, as she leaned against a tree with the outline of her legs soaking in the waters. She is a Goddess . . . .
And the teenage girl with flowing straight hair and taut new skin . . . suddenly her radiance and innocence spoke Goddess volumes as she floated quietly on her back with arms wide, embracing the glorious vastness of sky above her.
Even the contemplative middle aged man in the shadows, the one who watched the rushing waters of Breitenbush river below, with a masculine jawline and toned, rugged arm muscles . . . . he was glowing with Goddess.
Everyone and everything, the trees, the raven yelling above, the steam rising from the hot springs, the snow on the mountains, the jewelry around our necks, the large soulful eyes of deer grazing. . . everything was radiant and filled with sacred Goddess energy.
After all this courageous grieving and soul cleansing of Ritual, what I’d really come to claim was Goddess. I had taken the scattered pieces that had fallen apart in my life, and somehow in a moment of open heart-ed radical acceptance, put them all back together in beauty.
The Ritual healing continued as we all hugged each other with open and grateful hearts. I found myself walking toward the mother and father who lost their child in tragedy, and whose pain had pierced my own heart. As I moved to hug the mother, this woman who had helped me purge my own grief with her story, the husband appeared close beside her and opened his arms to me also. In an instant I decided to take them both in my embrace. Warmth and love.
Here I was, heart wide open in a full loving connection with this man and woman, parents, who had lost their young son. In an unhealthy relationship, their union may have broken apart. But I felt they were still deeply in love, still supporting each other with respect and humor, and most importantly, they grieved openly and honestly with one another. They had even brought their older son to Grief Ritual for a few minutes, to fully grieve with them and with community, for missing brother.
The woman, this mother, had guided us all, through the most beautiful prayers in honor of all Children of Earth. She had touched us with her words. And her husband had graced us with his humorous jokes, causing belly laughs that left soreness.
These two were such beautiful souls. I wanted to express my heart to them.
For a few sacred moments of which I will feel gratitude for all of eternity, my soul poured loving energy toward this young couple from my heart to theirs. My hug said silently, “I love you, I’m so sorry for your loss. Here is my loving energy and prayers for your peace and healing . . . please receive it. Goddess Bless You. Goddess heal you. My heart feels your pain. I care. I cry with you.”
As we stepped back from each other after the hug, we stood for a moment in silence. I noticed that all three of us had somehow placed our hands over our own hearts, as a reaction to the warmth and love that was channeled by that hug. We stood and basked in this glow for a moment, and then moved onward for more hugs and greetings.
I know with all of my Being, I was gifted with the opportunity to love these parents the way we all long to do for parents who grieve. In the spirit of community, I was honored to support this family and all of the beautiful people who only two days before had simply been strangers to me.
Joking, laughing, dancing . . . we ended our gathering with a last round of prayers and gratitude. We knew each other in a sacred way now, and had supported each other through a rare re birthing process.
We had helped heal each other, these sixty brothers and sisters of western culture from cities spread across the countryside. We were only together for two and a half days, yet had formed an intentional, loving community, in the spirit of healing through sacred grieving.
In Ritual we were very brave, and willing to reveal what was in our hearts. We were willing and loving enough to hold non judgmental space for each other during times of Joy, Gratefulness, Celebration, love, and most important at this particular time, Grief.
Sobonfu reminded us that as we heal and renew through this process; the relationship to that which we grieve changes. Even though we never forget, we see with new eyes. I saw how the mother and father nodded with her in agreement as she said this. I felt washed clean from the inside out, from way deep inside.
Something important had shifted. It’s still shifted now. Nothing will ever be the same for me again and this is a good thing.
She told us how to create our own alters and how to place a blue bowl of water if we wish to have a Grief Alter. She reminded us to place salt in the water, and to replace this water every couple days. That it’s very important to replace and freshen the water.
We can maintain a rhythm of purifying our soul by releasing it when we feel it. We can help others to grieve and heal, by holding space for them when they are sorrowful. It is for our own good, for our future generation’s good. For our community’s good. Because others who are grieving infect everyone around them and the entire community then becomes ‘sad’. Then entire culture, city, state and nation. We can be brave and be a community for each other. We can make a difference. This knowledge is to share with others.
So very grateful for Dagara Ritual and for the many spiritual gifts from Sobonfu . . . I approached her one last time, looked deeply into her wise dark eyes and said, “Thank you Sobonfu. Thank you so very much. You are a Goddess.”
“Fawn, you are a Goddess too.” She smiled back. Ah Ho!
Fawn is an amazingly accurate Psychic and Shamanic Practitioner who offers her services here on Angel Messenger. Fawn offers email readings as well as readings by phone and Skype. Read more about Fawn here.