Frost and Stone: Grounding Energy in Winter's Dark

Frost and Stone: Grounding Energy in Winter's Dark January 13, 2017

Fern Frost. Photo by Alison Leigh Lilly.
Fern Frost. Photo by Alison Leigh Lilly.

There is ice in old Earth Mother’s blood these days, and everywhere the ground is as hard as unyielding stone. The winds are biting cold. The sunlight, though still low on the horizon, is bright and sharp. It glints off the edges of every surface, refracted, scattered in a thousand directions.

My thoughts crackle like frost. My spirit swings between the extremes of brash enthusiasm and sluggish exhaustion, repeating in frenetic inflexible patterns etched in ice. I sit in the shadow of a great evergreen tree outside, struggling to root, straining to bring the manic energies back into balance. I seek a quiet place of inner stillness, and find myself shivering.

The whole world seems to be cold fire and frenzied air.
This won’t do. I have to find another way…

Ritual Items. Photo by Allison Leigh Lilly.
Ritual Items. Photo by Allison Leigh Lilly.

A Few Necessary Things
Oils that are musky, soft and earthy, balancing and clear. (Dark patchouli, vanilla, rosemary — a few drops of sandalwood, perhaps, or lavender, or mint.) A deep-throated drum, a steady voice, a beating heart. Two stones rounded by the ocean waves. A pitcher of water. A bowl of salt.

A Ritual to Ground

I sit for a long time in the cozy warmth of the den, the silence of the household unfolding gently around me. The curtains fall in thick folds against the windows, and beyond them the night outside is cold but quiet. I craft a sanctuary out of the winter’s dark, breath by breath, prayer by prayer. Next to me, the cat purrs in his sleep.

Be with me swift hawk. Be with me bright stag.
Be with me salmon of the waters. Be with me star-crowned bear.

Be with me, beloved ancestors, and spirits of the sacred land.
Be with me, great gods of my people.

Oak and Ocean, I call to you.
Wild Song, I call to you.
Here in this sanctuary, may I know you.
May I dwell in your presence.

With these offerings of oil and salt,
I honor you.
By breath, blood and bone,
I cherish you.
By sky, sea and land,
I walk with you.

Earth Mother, remember your daughter.


Ritual Salt. Photo by Alison Leigh Lilly.
Ritual Salt. Photo by Alison Leigh Lilly.

On the altar before me are two round stones. They are just large enough to sit nestled in the palms of my hands. When I lift them, I feel their weight — soft and smooth and sure — like two anchors to which the base of my spine is a balancing third. I close my eyes and sink into the darkness that rests like memory in the heart of each stone.

Breath by breath, I sink. The sound of the waves surrounds me — a breath of in-dwelling, a breath of release — the dark, vast currents wash over me. Breath by breath. I am drawn into the presence of Ocean: receptive, dynamic, ever-changing, implacable. I feel the warmth of sun on the waters — a breath of welcome, a breath of praise — I feel the grace of movement beneath the shifting lightness of ice. Breath by breath. I am moored to the unshakable shore. I am rocked by the ebb and flow.

The drum is a creature of wood, sinew and hide. With each beat, it sings a rich chorus — the humming, tumbling, resonant voices of the wild. To these I join my voice in low intonations and the rhythm of my own heart beating.

Reach down, the voices sing, reach low. Rise up, dark waters, rise up and flow.

Reach up, they say, reach high and bright. Bring down the wind, bring down the light.

Reach in, they chant, reach out and wide. To root and wander, sow and stride.

The three realms meet in an interweaving dance, and where they touch thepresence of Oak unfolds: ancient, attending, striving, patient and strong. Against my breast rests the tiny acorn pendant, symbol of my path, thrumming with the energy of heart and voice, drum and wild song. Slowly, gently, I feel the tension of hard winter unwinding around me, giving way to the nurturing softness of soil, the moist, rich smell of earth. I feel the roots and branches of Oak unfurling, seeking, opening the path before me. To the mounting cadence of the drum, I follow.

With these offerings of oil and salt,
I honor you.
By breath, blood and bone,
I cherish you.
By sky, sea and land,
I walk with you.

I hold the small pitcher between my hands, adding my energy and breath to the oil, salt and water that mingle there. I dip three fingers into the pitcher and mark the triple-rayed symbol of awen on the surface of the offering stone.

Even as I whisper a final prayer of gratitude and peace to the four directions, unweaving the sanctuary I’ve made, the stone’s damp surface is drying. Beside me, the cat stretches and yawns.

Earth Mother, your daughter remembers you.

A Bath to Renew
Later, after the rite is ended, I add the remaining salt and oils to a warm bath, an offering to myself and the in-dwelling spirits of my sacred body. I sit for a long time in the darkness, watching the steam rise from my skin in the light of a single candle. I let my anxieties and annoyances soak into the calm water, settling, sorting themselves out or drifting away… until at last my soul again begins to shine with the clarity of a still pool. I feel somewhat myself again, centered, grounded, whole.

With a final sigh, I lift myself up and step renewed back into the world.

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