I slipped two intentions into the cauldron during the last Full Moon Circle: the first, a fervent desire to release the generalized low-level anxiety I had been feeling over the past several weeks. (The second, I’ll write about in another post.)
Perhaps I could blame my mild hyper-vigilance on the Trump Effect, “an uptick in harassment and violence against racial and religious minorities after Trump’s election victory.” Or maybe my sense of unease had been a side-effect of the social-emotional punches several members of our Kindred had been enduring—suicidal ideations, hospitalizations, closings of businesses, significant injury, losses of jobs, terminations of marriages . . . the year seemed to have left no stone unturned—or friend unscarred—in our community.
I returned to my place in the Circle, listening to the flames as they licked up the energies we had fed them. There was no crackling or popping, only a continual hiss, like a slowly indrawn breath softly whistling through a wind cavern. “When the flames die down,” I thought to myself, “my anxiety will change; it will be released.”
Except, that’s not what happened. I had forgotten that when transformation is invited, you’re no longer in control of what happens during the visit.
The flames did not die down; instead, they spurted higher, swirling several inches above the illusory boundary of the cauldron’s lip. I started to worry about how close the altar was to the back window of the Sanctuary, wondering how I was going to explain sooty glass to the church Board members. I fretted about how hot the tripod legs of the cast iron cauldron might be getting as they dug in to the altar cloth, and the table beneath it. Would the cloth smolder? Begin to flame? Would the table then catch fire? I had been granted what I had asked for: my anxiety had changed, but in the wrong direction!
“Well,” I thought, “this Ritual is lost on me.”
Except, it wasn’t. The meaning I made wasn’t in the moment; insight seeped into me afterward, after the flames had accepted and consumed our intentions, after they had tucked themselves back into their warm blanket of glowing ash and smoldering possibilities.
That moment—that spark—between latent potential and fiery metamorphosis can seem instantaneous, but the flames of personal transformation, once fed, take as long as they need to consume the fuel you’ve given up to them. Sometimes they take longer than the time you had thought to allot. Sometimes the flames consume a fuel—a sharp stick of Self—that you hadn’t realized you had offered until you watch it transmute into something you cannot recognize as having been a part of you. Too late for take-it-backs now; you’ve invited change into your life. Time to reap the firestorm wind, My Friend.
And sometimes, perhaps more often than we’d care to acknowledge, we can’t recognize—we don’t understand—what we are left with after our intentions have been offered to and accepted by the fires of personal transformation. We are different, changed, and—being not quite as we once knew ourselves—we don’t quite know how to move and live and have our being in the sameness of the world, in the predictability of our communities. We’ve been tempered, annealed . . . but into what, exactly? And how best to care for, to nurture our new and tender Selves while yet maintaining our commitments, meeting our obligations of family, of community?
I opened myself to personal transformation, and offered my old way of Being to her flames. I sought release, and instead was offered purpose. I sought control, and instead was set aloft. I sought a quick spark of change, and instead was given a slow-burning field of embers that even now is changing the landscape of my interior world, licking up the energies I released and transmuting them into something new.
Ground fires can smolder unseen beneath the surface of a forest floor, and so, too, has it been with me after our Full Moon Circle was opened last month. Threaded under the convivial post-Ritual chatter I heard a tentative new song of my Self testing out its emergent melodies. Some of the phrasings are yet forming, still in the composition process, but they have integrity. Some of the inflections seem to be harmonies I’ve never heard before; they are strange, but compelling. Unsettling, but comforting.
They sound like slowly indrawn breaths softly whistling through a wind cavern, catching me unaware, as entrancing as Circe herself.