Ginny here. We’ve been having our own version of Deep Winter this past weekend. A foot of snow had us buried and power outages had us isolated—makes the days that feel like they’re out of sync, slipped into another space and time.
We’re back in the sunshine now and it’s steaming off the melting snow crust. Time to tell you about the workshop earlier this month; it was a Winter winner.
We met up on a very chilly Saturday morning on the north shore of Lake Whatcom and sat in the cheerful kitchen, most of us with hot caffeine, getting to know one another better. The colors of Laurie Potter’s Cool Branch Road were just outside. It was already fun and got better, with a group of contemporary women who live in the now but were ready to travel freely to the past and the future.
The day was full of stories, laughter and revelations as we shared how we perceive the turning of the seasons and the celebrations that light up the winter dark: Chinese New Year, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras. By evening we had created an altar we all loved and designed a ritual for Deep Winter that had meaning for all of us.
More photos from the workshop can be found here.
Here’s what our friend Sara Holodnick, co-founder of The Bureau of Historical Investigation, has to say about her experience:
Sara here. When I decided to go to the first Sacred Return workshop I said something aloud like “Oh yeah, I’ve never been spiritual, but it’d be neat to learn about tradition and ritual with cool, accessible people.” But reflecting back on that explanation, I realize it wasn’t the full reason I wanted to be there. True: Ginny and Jess are incredibly cool, accessible people with big hearts and warm smiles. It’s hard not to feel at ease with the two of them in front of you, which makes learning new things from them seem like a great fit. They opened the workshop recognizing that this sort of thing can be pretty woo-woo (or “out there”), but that they wanted to give people like me—those without any real experience—a bridge to exploring rich history and tradition… With maybe only one woo to start with.
I doubt that I could’ve articulated the real reason I wanted to attend Sacred Return until after I had already gone. I don’t mean for that to sound sales pitch-y or hippy-dippy; neither of those things are my style. I do mean it in the sense that it feels so clear now why I needed to be there: My sometimes hectic lifestyle and big changes I’ve experienced over the past few years should’ve been really good indicators that I needed to reclaim my time and rebuild a connection to things outside of the very important work I love, and exert a little more control over my life.
So why did I really go to Sacred Return? What is the reason that seems so clear now, but that I couldn’t see before I walked through that door?
Well, let me put it this way: We live on a massive globe that is hurdling through space. This big rock spins and shifts, and the life on it shifts in time with it. We waltz: The Earth turns and tilts, and we often stumble along without realizing its lead. Box-stepping our way through life, we’re regularly pivoted into a new season. Much like taking a dance lesson, I went to Sacred Return to learn how to follow.
It’s said that the best dance leaders are those who can communicate their intentions, and the best followers those who can read those intentions and respond to them. Rather than being whipped from one season to another by exclaiming “How is already the end of February?!” I’d prefer to pick up on the signals I’m sent, to be more connected to the world around me.
Even amid the sleet and snow this past weekend, I saw our lilac bushes beginning to bud. Did you smell the change in the air last week? Could you swear the sun felt different than it did a few weeks before? Did you start craving that bottle of rosé as much as I did (that is, before the snow left you leaning more toward hot toddies)?
Once at the workshop we began by learning a bit about the wheel of the year: the equinoxes, the solstices, the physical changes in the world around us. After some general context for all the changing seasons, we focused on how the turning of the Earth was (and still is) celebrated in a variety of cultural traditions. The focus of the workshop I attended was Deep Winter, when the light is growing daily and little hints of Spring are starting to show, but things like snow still happen (sound familiar?). Brigid’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Lunar New Year are a few examples of the historical traditions we explored.
It’s easy to write holidays like Valentine’s Day off as an annual capitalist game we all play, but in the context of the changing seasons it feels much more valuable. Suddenly finding ways to cherish those around me are part of recognizing and honoring the passing of time. Tokens and chocolate and flowers seems sweeter, more pure. But embracing the turning of the wheel doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing exercise: Cards with cartoons or TV show characters have a place just as much as a Brigid’s cross. Maybe one tradition makes you feel better than another? That’s cool. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.
I’ve thought a lot about Sacred Return since I attended a few weeks ago, reflecting on what resonated with me. I have plans to continue to practice ritual as the wheel turns, and have started talking to friends about doing the same. I’m exploring some other ways of paying better attention to the world around me. Taking the time to think more concretely about the seasonal changes around us, the history of human celebration, and the practice of ritual has given me a sense of clarity and inspiration that I didn’t expect. In other words: It was just enough woo for me to take away and play around with.