Awaiting New Birth

Pillars of Creation : image from Webb Telescope

“It is the demand of the universe for the birth of the ultra-human. It is the rising of a new form of psychic energy in which the very depth of love within you is combined with what is most essential in the flowing of the cosmic stream. It is Love.” Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955)

When there is a new beginning in a story older than time, everything that follows is seen in a new light. As we look with awe and amazement at the photos being sent back to Earth from the Webb Telescope, we’re being given a fresh vision of the beginnings of our Universe.

Now we may understand words, premonitions, foreshadowings, intuitions, offered by the mystics and poets of the ages.

We might find ourselves saying, “Oh, so that’s what was meant….”

Paul wrote in his first century Letter to the Romans: “From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth…” (8:22)  

Meister Eckhart, medieval mystic, wrote: “What does God do all day long? God lies on a maternity bed, giving birth all day long.”

Reflecting on the words of Meister Eckhart, Diarmuid O’Murchu writes:

“The infancy narratives… need to be approached afresh….as an archetypal statement of the God of prodigious birthing….we  are called to become co-birthers with our birthing God of the ongoing evolutionary re-creation of God’s world in justice, love, compassion and liberation. Incarnation becomes an empowering and liberating dynamic, and Christians, instead of fleeing the world, are now challenged to embrace it in its full embodied existence.” (Jesus in the Power of Poetry,  2009)

As we look to the approaching Feast of Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of the Christ, what if we were to celebrate as well the Birth of our Universe, rejoicing in the Love that gave birth and continues to give birth to everything?

And what if we finally understood that we too are called to give birth?  

If we, both women and men, accept this invitation to be co-birthers with God,  one shining figure arises to show us the way forward: Mary of Nazareth, the woman called to give birth to the Christ.

In his poems on “the Joyful Mysteries,” John O’Donohue invites us into the heart of Mary as she receives and lives her calling. In these poems we glimpse the wonder, the magnificence, of our own calling to give birth. We are offered hints about how to ready our hearts for what awaits us… 

1. Annunciation

Cast from afar before the stones were born

And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,

The words have waited for the hunger in her

To become the silence where they could form.                                                                                 

The day’s last light frames her by the window,

A young woman with distance in her gaze,

She could never imagine the surprise

That is hovering over her life now.

The sentence awakens like a raven,

Fluttering and dark, opening her heart

To nest the voice that first whispered the earth

From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;

Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Visitation

In the morning it takes the mind a while

To find the world again, lost after dream

Has taken the heart to the underworld

To play with the shades of lives not chosen.

She awakens a stranger in her own life,

Her breath loud in the room full of listening.

Taken without touch, her flesh feels the grief

Of belonging to what cannot be seen.

Soon she can no longer bear to be alone.

At dusk she takes the road into the hills.

An anxious moon doubles her among the stone,

A door opens, the older one’s eyes fill.

Two women locked in a story of birth.

Each mirrors the secret the other heard.

3. The Nativity

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman.

Even the moon leaves her when she opens

Deeper into the ripple in her womb

That encircles dark to become flesh and bone.

Someone is coming ashore inside her.

A face deciphers itself from water

And she curves around the gathering wave,

Opening to offer the life it craves.

In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers,

She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears.

A red wire of pain feeds though every vein

Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn.

Outside each other now, she sees him first.

Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on earth.

(John O’Donohue in Connemara Blues)

May we live the wonder of this season as we await our time of birthing.

Living the Season of the Dark Goddess

Image: Sekhmet, Lion Headed Goddess of Ancient Egypt

In this season of barrenness, darkness, emptiness, we trust the Wisdom of the Dark Feminine.

Through her loving presence, through the truest, deepest desires of our hearts, we shall be led into newness and rebirth.

The Three-Day Festival of Samhain has ended. We are immersed in the Womb of the Sacred Feminine where deep soul work awaits us.

Sylvia Shaindel Senensky writes of our calling in these words:

“We have come to a time when we can no longer remain silent.  We are being called upon by the sorrowing and powerful Dark Feminine to know our own darkness and the profound richness of all dark places, even when they are laden with pain.  Through her we know the mystery of existence and the sacredness of the cycles of life.  We learn how important the destruction of the old ways is to the rebirth of the new.  When she steps into our lives and awakens us, we can be shattered to our core, and we know, as we see the tears streaming down her face, that she too is holding us in her compassionate and loving embrace.

“We need to know her as the source of life in the material realm, and to know her sorrow at how we have so unconsciously set out to destroy her…our Mother Earth.  She is calling upon us, each in our way to do our inner work, to become her allies, to become the best human beings we know how to be; to allow our creativity, our compassion and our love to flow to ourselves and to all life forms on this planet.  This is the lesson of the Feminine we all need to remember.  We need to honour our earth and all creatures, human and other, that she supports.  We need to nourish ourselves, each other, all children, and the unbelievable creative potential within each human being….As we come to a place of love and compassion for ourselves, our struggles, and our own vulnerable humanity, we will at the same time begin to kindle a similar compassion for others.  Love attracts love.  If we flood our planet with loving and transformative energy, our actions will begin to mirror our feelings.  We will come home to ourselves.” Healing and Empowering the Feminine 

Senensky’s words speak to our present reality. Today, on our planet, leaders, advocates for a healing of earth are gathered in Egypt to consider how we might intervene in what the UN Secretary General, Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, described to the assembly as humanity’s drive to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.

In December of 2020 Mr. Guterres had declared that “making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st Century.” Since then an ever-increasing bombardment of climate-related catastrophes across the planet has amplified his message. The ongoing war in Ukraine along with its other horrors, has hijacked plans to wean ourselves off the fossil fuels that are at the root of global warming.

This is our present reality. If it feels overwhelming that’s because it is. 

And yet, though it seems counter-intuitive, voices of wisdom repeat that the way ahead calls for a deepening of our spiritual practices, a commitment of our lives, our energies, our love, to the Sacred.

Thomas Berry saw that what was needed was “not simply adaptation to a reduced supply of fuels or to some modification in our system of social of economic controls….What is happening is something of a far greater magnitude. It is a radical change in our mode of consciousness.”

Berry went on to say that “(W) e are just emerging from a technological entrancement. During this period the human mind has been placed within the narrowest confines it has experienced since consciousness emerged from its Paleolithic phase.”

To emphasize this, Berry noted, “Even the most primitive tribes have a larger vision of the universe, of our place and functioning within it, a vision that extends to celestial regions of space and to interior depths of the human in a manner far exceeding the parameters of our own world of technological confinement.”

This is what we must recover. This is the change in consciousness that will direct our efforts even at this late hour. As former civilizations once did, we must establish “our exalted place within the seasonal sequence of the earth’s natural rhythms” and create “spiritual centers where the meeting of the divine, the natural and the human” may take place. This is the source of the hope Berry saw in the current global crisis: ”the universe is revealing itself to us in a special manner just now. Also the planet Earth and the life communities of the earth are speaking to us through the deepest elements of our nature.”

(Quotations from and references to Thomas Berry: Ervin Laszlo, Foreword to Thomas Berry Dreamer of the Earth, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 2011)

Where better for us to be now than within the womb of the Sacred Feminine, allowing ourselves to be transformed in consciousness, prepared to be the humans we must become in this crucial time.

As the wise ones teach us, we will only save what we love, and we will only love what we recognize as sacred.

The Wizard of Oz as Heroic Journey:Two

Under an Ancient Plane Tree on Mount Pelion we revisit our lives as a journey, find where we are now in the story, and share with our companions.

The Road of Trials, the Belly of the Whale

Dorothy is offered Guidance, but not a map. “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” What in the Hero’s journey is a road of trials, often for the heroine includes a time of what Campbell calls being in the “belly of the whale”. In the Wizard of Oz, this is symbolized by the poppy fields where Dorothy and her three companions suddenly fall deeply asleep under the spell of the Wicked Witch.

Dorothy among the poppies

The Belly of the Whale takes us by surprise, for just when we know we know what we must do, just when we manage to fool the guardian and pass the gate, we find ourselves blindsided… by a depression, an ingression, a call to the depths of being. Though we are clear about our mission, we are not yet prepared. The Belly of the Whale gives us preparatory time, time for deep inner work.  We enter our own depths, the source place for all endeavours, the womb of our becoming.

It’s time now for inner work, as Jean Houston advises: Find your form for this inner work: drawing or dance or journaling or music or drumming or nature or working with an archetype. When you discover who your archetype is, you have guidance. You are put on the path. “You may not know what your archetypal guidance is, but your archetypal guidance knows who you are.”

Assisted by her friends, Dorothy wakens and all four approach the Emerald City, once again facing a guardian at the gate who will not allow them to see the Wizard. Dorothy’s tears as she speaks of her longing to see her Aunt Em break down his resistance. Yet the Wizard, when they at last meet him, refuses to grant their request until they fulfill an impossible task: Bring me the broomstick of the Witch of the West!

The challenge here is to discover the task that you never believed you could do, but the Wizard of the inner sanctum of yourself always knew you could, and if you did, would change the nature of your belief about yourself….Your inner Wizard…the Friend, stands before you and asks you to recall the “impossible things” you have done…. Now the Friend-Wizard asks you to consider what “impossible things” you have yet to do in the near future. The Friend- Wizard also asks you to imagine as vividly as you can actually doing it, with all the difficulties and acts of courage that it may require. Remember that you have allies, a Protector and the Friend to help and accompany you. (Jean Houston, The Power of Myth and Living Mythically 202)

Emergence with Amplified Power

You discover now that your expectations become magnets, drawing to you what you need for your task, your life work. You have entered the path of wisdom, and with her come all good things. You experience the grace of ABBONDANZA. You are moving into the fullness of life. Your entelechy holds the seed of what you truly are and draws you into the magic and mystery of being “a local outcropping of the Godself in time”.

The life force of Toto (“Run, Toto, Run”), the support and cleverness of her three friends, and finally the life force of water accomplish the impossible. Dorothy and her companion return to the Wizard in triumph.

Return with Elixir: You begin to embody the deep happiness that is your birthright. You heed the call to live the WHY at the centre of your life.

And so Dorothy returns home, changed by her adventures, companioned within by those whom she met and loved in Oz.

“Home” is that land to which one returns in a deepened condition after the trials and adventures of initiation. It is now a realm that was perceived in Oz, but can be felt in the here and now as the deepened and extended land. You have brought back with you now mindfulness, heartfulness and courage….You have gone home to Kansas, but not before you have grown up in Oz….

You have returned a mythic being, and, like Dorothy, you now have the chance to green the wasteland of your own particular “Kansas” with your newfound knowings. (Jean Houston 210-1)

We sit beneath the great plane tree and ask ourselves:

Which part of the journey am I now experiencing?

What do I need to do at this stage?

What do I now understand? 

What happens next?

Under an ancient tree in Greece…

It’s afternoon on the day when we wakened early on Mount Pelion to watch the eclipse of the Blood Moon. The magic still lingers. The eclipse had looked like great branches of light, inviting us, as Jean Houston had said, into the next level of our human becoming, activating our essential humanness as it moves to its next possibility.Now we are about to explore our lives, to see them as heroic journeys, to discover that next level of our human becoming, that next possibility that awaits.

Massive branches hover protectively above us as we gather beneath the ancient plane tree in the courtyard of St. Paraskevi Church. The tree is older than the story we are about to hear, older than the storyteller, older than the listeners.

Jean is going to take us through the story of “The Wizard of Oz”, to illustrate the stages of the heroic journey, using the framework created by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The first stage is the call. In the film version of the story we see Dorothy in a dying wasteland, living on  a farm in a dust bowl with an aunt and uncle as grey as their home, so focused on counting their chickens that they cannot hear Dorothy’s cries for help. The only life in the scene is Toto and when he is threatened by Miss Gulch, Dorothy becomes desperate, longing for a new place, a place of safety and happiness, “somewhere over the rainbow”. 

Miss Gulch arrives and takes Toto away. When the little dog escapes, Dorothy determines they must run away. They don’t get far. Professor Marvel receives them with kindness and understanding, then urges Dorothy to return as her Aunt Em is sick with worry over her…That might have been the end of Dorothy’s search for a new life… the end of longing, the refusal of a call that feels impossible….

But then comes the twister, the twist of fate that knocks her on the head, picks up the house and carries it with Dorothy and Toto inside it, to Oz.

So this is where our journey begins: the call to leave a way of life that we have outgrown, followed by a refusal… because we can’t find our way or we don’t feel ready or we must put it off until we have placated Aunt Em….

Then fate steps in and, ready or not, we are on our way!

“What emotional or psychological twisters have you brought on yourself in order to get away from Kansas?….Taking on a twister is what human beings often do to get from here to there. And sometimes twisters just arrive on their own steam.” (Jean Houston in The Power of Myth and Living Mythically 183-4)

What call allures us now? What are our reasons for refusing?

Meeting the Guide, Crossing the Threshold

In the heroic journey, following the hearing and refusal of the call, Joseph Campbell found that the hero(ine) was given a guide, a supernatural helper to assist in crossing the threshold, which was guarded by a fierce presence. Arriving in Oz, Dorothy meets Glinda, the wise friend who can guide her steps in this wondrous strange land. Glinda is the archetype of the benign protector, a figure who appears in all myths. It is a figure that lives in everyone. In fact, look inside now and ask for your Protector to come forward. You may feel or sense their presence in many ways….You can even begin by imagining a radiant bubble of light coming toward you, and then opening up to reveal…who?” (Jean Houston, 187) Glinda will be Dorothy’s protector from the ferocious witch who is determined to punish the girl who killed her sister by dropping a house upon her. In addition to Glinda, Dorothy will gather three more allies: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion who will assist her in her quest: to find her way home, even as Dorothy offers to assist each of them in his quest.

to be continued…

Journey of the Heroine

Sophia Blog for September 29, 2022

Does autumn stir your blood? awaken desires for travel, adventure, newness…longings that slept quietly through the lazy days of summer heat, now awakening with the first whiff of autumn air?

It was so for Frodo, the reluctant hero of what many consider the greatest journey tale ever written, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. When the call to leave his beloved home in the peaceful Shire arose for him, Frodo resisted…suggesting he might wait until autumn:

As Tolkien writes: To tell the truth, he was very reluctant to start, now that it had come to the point…. When autumn came, he knew that part at least of his heart would think more kindly of journeying, as it always did at that season.

With the inspiration that arrives with the Autumn Equinox, I invite you to join me on a journey of the soul, inspired by Jean Houston’s teachings on The Heroine’s Journey. Here is how Jean describes the task that sends us forth:

In becoming a hero or heroine, we undertake the extraordinary task of dying to our current, local selves and being reborn to our eternal selves. And then we continue to travel deeper still until we reach the eternal place of sourcing and resourcing.  There are two great works for heroes and heroines to perform. The first is to withdraw from everyday life and open ourselves to the inner creative life through which lie our only means of reaching the Source. The second work is to return to everyday life, carrying the knowledge we have gained in the depths and putting it to use to redeem time and society. (Jean Houston in The Power of Myth and Living Mythically p.14)

Jean sees a recurring pattern in the journey of one who sets out to be a heroine in her own life:

The Call for a woman is a state of reality that is drawing you; the call may even be a mistake, but it gets you moving, puts you in an intensive learning situation. What is calling you now? What are reasons for refusing? Why do each of us say no?  As you hear the call, who is there? What are the powers gestating? What is the new story? What do you need to over-ride the continued refusal?

The Guardian at the Threshold asks how you want to change the world and what help you need with this… what more must you ask? Fool the guardian with the unexpected.

The Belly of the Whale takes us by surprise, for just when we know we know what we must do, just when we manage to fool the guardian and pass the gate, we find ourselves blindsided… by a depression, an ingression, a call to the depths of being. Though we are clear about our mission, we are not yet prepared. The Belly of the Whale gives us preparatory time, time for deep inner work.  We enter our own depths, the source place for all endeavours. Find your form for this inner work: drawing or dance or journaling or music or drumming or nature or working with an archetype. When you discover who your archetype is, you have guidance. You are put on the path. “You may not know what your archetypal guidance is, but your archetypal guidance knows who you are.”(Jean Houston) Live in the Temple of Inner Abundance where you are the womb of your new becoming. Choose your daily practice and be faithful. Think of something you have to do in the world for which you are not yet ready. What aspect of yourself might help you prepare? List your inner selves – your writer, perpetual child, cook, caregiver, teacher, priestess, dancer, mother – choose one who can be really helpful in the belly of the whale time.

Emergence with Amplified Power: You discover now that your expectations become magnets, drawing to you what you need for your task, your life work. You have entered the path of wisdom, and with her come all good things. You experience the grace of ABBONDANZA. You are moving into the fullness of life. Your entelechy holds the seed of what you truly are and draws you into the magic and mystery of being “a local outcropping of the Godself in time”. (JH)

Return with Elixir: You begin to embody the deep happiness that is your birthright. You heed the call to live the WHY at the centre of your life. In women’s ways of knowing, inner space has as much ontological reality as outer.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore how each of these aspects of the Heroine’s Journey show up in our lives.  

For this week, let’s be aware of the Call. How do we recognize the signs that a new call is about to arise for us? Often we feel restless, begin to experience an inchoate longing. The Poet W.S. Merwin expresses this awareness:

“Send me out into another life
lord because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way”

This restless longing opens us to recognize a call to newness when it comes, often in surprising and unexpected ways….      

What is calling you now? What are reasons for refusing? Why do each of us say no?  As you hear the call, who is there? What are the powers gestating? What is the new story? What do you need to over-ride the continued refusal?

Sophia at the Autumn Equinox

As the Autumn Equinox approaches, darkness and light, night and day, winter and summer move into a delicate balance. Following her example, I allow the earth to guide my own balance of feminine and masculine both within and outside of myself. This prompts me to return once more to Rabbi Rami Shapiro, opening my heart to receive his translation of the “Song of Songs”, the Jewish text originally written in Greek somewhere in the second or first centuries BCE. Shapiro, in his book, Embracing the Divine Feminine, traces the history of rabbinical scholarship and offers his own insights into this poem of erotic love which he sees as “a celebration of the union of the seeker of wisdom with Lady Wisdom herself.”

In his Introduction, Shapiro writes: Given the centrality of Chochmah, Lady Wisdom, to this reading of the Song of Songs, we would be wise to take a moment to understand just who she is. According to the Book of Job, Wisdom is the means by which God created the universe. God looked and took note of her. (Job 28:27) In other words, God looked to Wisdom to discover both the form and function of the universe. Wisdom therefore is the very nature in nature.

Curious, I opened my Jerusalem Bible to the Book of Job and found these lines:

But tell me, where does wisdom come from? ….

God alone has traced (her) path

and found out where (she) lives….

When (God) willed to give weight to the wind

 and measured out the waters with a gauge,

When (God) made the laws and rules for the rain

and mapped a route for the thunderclaps to follow,

then (God) had Wisdom in sight, and cast (her) worth, 

assessed (her), fathomed (her). (Job 28:20, 23, 25-27)

Who is Lady Wisdom?

For answer, Shapiro offers his own translation of Proverbs 8: 22-32. (Remember Thomas Merton’s dream of a young girl named Proverbs who was for him the Sophia Presence?)

I am the deep grain of creation,

the subtle current of life.

God fashioned me before all things:

I am the blueprint of creation,

I was there from the beginning,

from before there was a beginning.

I am independent of time and space, earth and sky.

I was there before depth was considered,

before springs bubbled with water,

before the shaping of mountains and hills,

before God fashioned the earth and its bounty,

before the first dust settled on the lands.

When God prepared the heavens, I was there.

When the circle of the earth was etched into the face of the deep

I was there.

I stood beside God as firstborn and friend.

My nature is joy and I gave God constant delight.

Now that the world is inhabited, I rejoice in it.

I will be your true delight if you will heed my teachings.

Follow me and be happy.

Practice my discipline and grow wise.

(T)he Hebrew is clear: the speaker is Chochma, Lady Wisdom, and hence all the pronouns and verbs referring to Wisdom in this passage are feminine. The grammar of this and every passage that speaks of, to, about, or for Wisdom always uses the feminine form.  

Shapiro invites us to consider the qualities of Wisdom usually associated with God. She is the “firstborn” of God and from her come the thousand things of creation. Her way is of truth and justice while her essence is pure delight. Wisdom delights in humanity and one who finds her finds life.

Shapiro compares this with Jesus who said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) Paul connects Jesus with Wisdom in Corinthians 1:24 when he writes: Christ is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.

Then Shapiro goes further: What becomes the male Christ in the Christian Scriptures was originally the female Chochmah in the Hebrew Bible.

He continues: Wisdom is the way God manifests in and as creation. Uniting with Wisdom, as the Song of Songs invites us to do, is a way of uniting with the life and the Source from which life arises.

Why do we personify Wisdom? Shapiro believes it is because “on a deep and subconscious level we know her to be the other with whom we long to unite. She is not an abstraction but our Beloved. She is not to be thought about but physically embraced in a manner that reveals YWVH to us.”

Returning to Proverbs, Shapiro offers us his translation of Chapter 9, 1-6:

Wisdom’s house rests on many pillars.

It is magnificent and easy to find.

Inside, she has cooked a fine meal and

sweetened her wine with water.

Her table is set.

She sends her maidens to the tallest towers to summon you.

To the simple they call: Come enter here.

To those who lack understanding they say:

Come eat my food, drink my wine,

Abandon your empty life and walk in the way of understanding.

Shall we accept her invitation?

Touching the Earth

As the whiff of autumn coolness awakens us to the knowing that summer is about to depart, this stirring reflection by Thich Nhat Hanh offers a practice for coming closer to Our Mother Earth.



In the Buddhist tradition, I am part of, we do a practice called “Touching

the Earth” every day. It helps in many ways.  You too could be helped by

doing this practice.  When you feel restless or lack confidence in yourself,

or when you feel angry or unhappy, you can kneel down and touch

the ground deeply with your hand. Touch the Earth as if it were your

favorite thing or your best friend.

The Hill of Tara County Meath Ireland

The Earth has been there for a long time. She is mother to all of us.

She knows everything. The Buddha asked the Earth to be his witness by

touching her with his hand when he had some doubt and fear before his

awakening. The Earth appeared to him as a beautiful mother. In her arms

she carried  flowers and fruit, birds and butterflies, and many different

animals, and offered them to the Buddha. 

The Buddha’s doubts and fear instantly disappeared. Whenever you feel

unhappy, come to the Earth and ask for her help.

Touch her deeply, the way the Buddha did.

Madonna of Combermere

Suddenly, you will see the earth with all her flowers and fruit,

trees and birds, animals and all the living beings that she has produced.

All these things she offers to you.

You have more opportunities to be happy than you ever thought.

The Earth shows her love to you and her patience.  The Earth is very

patient. She sees you suffer, she helps you, and she protects you.

When we die, she takes us back into her arms.

With the Earth you are very safe. She is always there, in all her

wonderful expressions like trees, flowers, butterflies, and sunshine.

Whenever you are tired or unhappy, Touching the Earth is a very good

practice to heal you and restore your joy.

Seeking Kindred Spirits

Blazing Heat. A fiery sun in a clear sky. Only the kindly presence of great leafy trees catching, sharing a breeze, offered reprieve. It was not yet nine am on that first Sunday Morning of August, People were beginning to gather for a day celebrating Irish Heritage. By mid-afternoon the temperature, with humidity factored in, would reach 43 degrees Celsius.

Staff at the Pioneer Village in London Ontario assisted as I lifted from the car’s trunk boxes of my newly published books, Singing the Dawn. The books were set out on a trestle table in Doctor Jones’s barn. We placed a large banner on a wooden stand so that Jo Jayson’s wonderful painting of Brigid smiled over the display of books.

On one side of the barn were tables where the London Archival Society displayed photos and documents of nineteenth century Irish settlement in London. On the opposite side were tables where an Irish speaker would tutor those who wished to learn a few phrases in their ancestral language, and a genealogist who would trace family roots back to Ireland.

It seemed the perfect location, the perfect event where I might meet kindred spirits who shared my fascination with Ireland’s earth -honouring, woman- respecting, life- enhancing Spiritual Herstory. Soon they would be coming in through that open barn door, eager to learn more of Brigid and her fiery community in 5th Century Kildare. People aware as I have been of our need for just such a fire to ignite a new spirituality for our time on this planet… People thirsty as I was for nourishing waters of the spirit. People like the characters in my novel who were drawn to the Communion of Star of the Sea on an island off the West Coast of Ireland…

The day moved on. The heat intensified . Crowds gathered at the venue on the other side of Pioneer Village to watch the talented young Irish dancers in their brilliant velvet costumes.

A few people found their way to the Barn where I waited. They gazed at the image of Brigid, glanced at the books, moved on.. Some asked questions about the book and of these three or four bought a book.

By midday the heat was becoming intolerable. I looked towards the open door of the barn. A red-haired woman in a long white dress was walking across the grass. Brigid perhaps? But no, This woman was from our time, She was carrying a bag from who open top I glimpsed an electric fan. I recognized my younger sister Margaret. Though the heat , the labyrinthine paths she’s found her way to the Barn.

In a few moments a blessed breeze transformed the setting. Margaret purchased books for the family which I signed. We sat together to talk. Soon our sister Kathy came by. I signed her book while she traced our McLaughlin Lineage from the North of Ireland to Mayo with the Genealogist.

When my sisters left it was probably high time for me to give up, pack up and leave….but something held me there.

A young woman approached. “I’ve been looking for teachings on Spirituality,” she said, picking up the promo sheet from the table, reading…

What if a seed survived from Brigid’s Community in 5th c. Kildare? “Singing the Dawn” is a novel set on islands off the west coast of Ireland “beyond the ninth wave” where the old tales promise the Otherworld is present. The seven women who form the “Communion of Star of the Sea” in the twenty-first century are the inheritors of a way of life founded in the ninth century by Maire, a woman living in the Kildare Monastery, four centuries after Brigid. The destruction of Kildare in a Viking Raid forces Maire to flee to the west. On the shores of Lough Corrib, she encounters a woman who gives her the task of beginning a Community whose role will be to prepare for a future time when once more the Feminine Sacred will be honoured on the earth. The members of the Communion live as hermits on the islands, gathering to celebrate the eight earth festivals of the Celtic Calendar. The story begins in 2012 with the arrival of a new woman, Ohn’ya, mysteriously drawn to the islands by a message found in a roofless chapel on Achill Island.

“What I find on line is so shallow,” the young woman said. “This is what I need,” I signed her book. For a while we spoke of our need for a spirituality that answers the longings of our hearts while embracing the wonders we are discovering about the Universe and the fragile aching beauty of life on our planet.

That one conversation would have been enough. Yet there was a second. A woman close to my age came in , sat down in the welcome wind emanating from the fan… She spoke of the house she’s building on her ancestral land in a forest, of her longing to find companions who share her love of the earth, her yearning for a spirituality needed for our times. I spoke with her about the women in my novel who share these same longings.

“When you gather women in your home to speak of these things, invite me to come to talk with them. I gave her my card, signed her book.

” I don’t often come into London,” she said. “I think I came here today to meet you.”

Kindred Spirits. They exist . In books and in those who long to read of them, and sometimes we find them in person: in sisters, in strangers.

Introducing Singing the Dawn

by Anne Kathleen McLaughlin Published by Borealis Press

Why Would you Read it?

You hold a book in your hands, one you’ve not yet opened. You feel a tingling anticipation as you prepare to enter a story, a setting with imaginary characters. What are you seeking? Will an action, an insight, a decision of one of these characters shed light on your own unanswered questions about life? Will there be something that responds to the longings in your heart?

As a young woman, wondering where my life was leading, I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I still recall my astonishment at her habit of taking solitary walks where she pondered her life’s path. After a time of great suffering and loss, Jane was offered security in a loveless marriage to an idealistic clergyman who needed a wife for his missionary endeavours. After taking time to consider, Jane refused his offer. I still hear her words: “No, I cannot marry you. I have been loved.” I knew even then that Jane’s wisdom, her sure knowing, came from within her.

Through the next decades of my life, I explored inner wisdom, discovering through sources such as the writings of women mystics, feminist theologians, ancient stories, indigenous wisdom and Celtic Spirituality, the inner journey to wisdom.

Singing the Dawn is my way of sharing what I’ve come to know of this journey, guided by the Love that pervades the Universe and dwells within each of us.

I began with the questions: What if a seed survived from Brigid’s fifth-century monastery in Kildare, Ireland? What if that seed was planted in the ninth century by a follower of Brigid on an island off the west coast of Ireland? What if that seed grew into a Communion of Women that still exists today?

The story begins when a young woman from Canada, soul-starved for a spirituality that honours the wisdom of the natural world, embodied feminine wisdom, and her desire for self-fulfillment, is mysteriously drawn to this island beyond the ninth wave. Will she find what she longs for among these seven women each with her own tale of allurement to the Communion of Star of the Sea?

Singing the Dawn is a fictional tale offering soul nourishment for women as well as men who share these longings.  It is published by Borealis Press in Ottawa, Canada

Comments from Readers

This fascinating, intriguing and heart-warming tale of the return of the feminine Sophia…(puts) into words what I only intuited so many years ago, (bringing) home the drastic results that occur when the feminine is forgotten, ignored… Mother Earth is yearning to be recognized and revered as a sacred blessing in our time. Your story… is so timely and so needed today. Its publication will be a blessing and a healing for the future life of our planet and indeed, the entire universe. The Sacred Feminine has accompanied and led you in all the labyrinthine ways of your life story. Others now will be blessed and encouraged to be attentive to her Sacred Presence in their lives. Kathleen Lyons CSJ

I like how you handle the “overlap” of the magical islands…with glimpses of the “outer world” mentioned in quite realistic details: how supplies are brought in, the internet mentioned somewhere, Ohn’ya’s reflections on past memories.  It deepens the sense of wonder and mystery! I find Ohn’ya’s evolution believable and compelling in its unfolding through her varied experiences here on Rose’s island… you leave us/me desiring to know what the next step will be for Ohn’ya in her journey….though she’s reached a place of greater self-awareness.   Carol (Northeast New York State)

I am writing to you thru tears as I read again, and anew, your “Singing the Dawn.” It is beautiful. It flows like living waters.….(T)he narration of finding, being welcomed, by an image of divine in human form and being offered a drink of that living water spoke to the part of me that seeks to have such clarity of connection to the divine in all….the circle of women proclaiming their Source of living waters… there are many tributaries in my own life that I could write my story around — and it is a gift to recognize that, and be called to honor those flowing waters as I read your writing.  Gaynell (rural Connecticut)

I’ll pour myself a cup of mint tea, bake a little salmon with greens, saving the scone for later. I have enjoyed many meals, sunrise, sunsets, swims with Onya and the women. Your art as a writer WEAVES a tapestry calling forth all the senses. Along the way I am sensing a transformation…as your being becomes the loom, “A place where harmony dwells.” Singing the Dawn is a great myth, calling our aspects (in)…You have woven a wondrous tale. Suzanne (Chicago)

I am enjoying your book so much. It takes me to a calm place during a time that is filled with chaos, isolation and uncertainty.               Colleen (Ontario, Canada)

I felt I had stepped into another place and time as I entered the story. A place where I wanted to remain. I felt comforted by reading of not feeling the presence of the Lady for periods of time. I know how that feels. When I read your words I feel embraced. (Rosemary, Croton on Hudson, New York)

Through retreats, workshops, stories and plays, Anne Kathleen McLaughlin works with women who are seeking to discover the pattern of the Divine woven into the tapestry of their everyday lives. Her novels A Place Called Morning (2001), Planted in the Sky  (2006) and  Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind (2013) are published by Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada.

A member of the Community of the Grey Sisters in Pembroke, Canada Anne Kathleen holds a Master’s degree in Religious Communication /Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in Chicago.

Before Leaving the Rose Garden

For the past four weeks, we have been sitting at the feet of scholar and wise woman Anne Baring as she unfolded for us her research, her intuitions, her reflections on the Divine Feminine, especially as She is known in Judaism as the Shekinah. These teachings have been so rich and profound that they merit more than a brief reading. In preparing the four reflections, I spent many hours seeking to understand Anne Baring’s work, seeking a way to present her teachings so that you might also enter them with joy.

I invite you to spend time re-reading the Rose Garden pieces (below).

What do you hear the Sacred Feminine say to you?

What do you wish to say to her?

You may be blessed to receive a poem in which this Presence of Love speaks to you directly. Or you may be inspired to simply write your own words to this Sacred Presence. I offer you three examples:

Here’s the Dark Mother
by Peggy Rubin
I am the Voice in the whirlwind,
in the place others call, and experience as,
I am above, below, within the Chaos.
I am the darkness. And I am the One to seek when you need to source yourself in joy,
in peace, in turbulence.
But beyond, beyond, way beyond
the normal experience of darkness,
I invite you into the Darkness — beyond and before and after Time.
This is your Source, your Origin.
If things fall apart,
if you fall apart,
come into my all-holding embrace.
I am the energy that shapes and holds universes together.
Can I do any less for you?
There is pressure in my holding
and incalculable power — so
after a time of rest you may begin to feel the pressure
of new birth — persistent, insistent.
I who shape galaxies
do not hesitate to shape you —
fiercely, perhaps — but truly to your most
elegant and beautiful design.
Your design — like the galaxy —
is glorious to behold.
And in my vast darkness
I hold that pattern, and desire
you to recognize it, to become it.
You will not fly apart,
though it may feel like it.
I am holding you and
I am holding your becoming.

Black Madonna

Mother Wisdom Speaks

by Christin Lore Weber

“I am the maiden of joy. 

I am song in the wind and rain upon the rocks.

I am fair love and holy hope and the flight of the dove.

 I am earth, betrothed. I am mystical rose. 

I am the mother of mystery. 

I hold opposites together.

I birth children and sever the cord with my teeth.

Those I love I send away to their lives.

 I am the cauldron of fire and the cup of milk.

I am the two edged knife. 

”I am the old woman: I am the queen.

If you seek me you will find me everywhere.

I am the womb of wise blood.

I am the world’s crown. I am diamond. I am pearl.

 I shine with the wisdom of God.

”I am the circle of being.

I am glory — splendor of infinite life.

I am the spiral, the fullness of being, fully becoming,

 forever, world without end.”


Some of you I will hollow out.

I will make you a cave.

I will carve you so deep the stars will shine in your darkness.

You will be a bowl.

You will be the cup in the rock collecting rain…

I will do this because the world needs the hollowness of you.

I will do this for the space that you will be.

I will do this because you must be large.

A passage.

People will find their way through you.

A bowl.

People will eat from you

and their hunger will not weaken them to death.

A cup to catch the sacred rain….

Light will flow in your hollowing.

You will be filled with light.

Your bones will shine.

The round open center of you will be radiant.

I will call you Brilliant One.

I will call you Daughter Who is Wide.

I will call you transformed.

(Originally published in “Circle of Mysteries: The Woman’s Rosary Book“, 

and “Woman Prayers” edited by Mary Ford-Gabowsky)

“In My Glad Hours” by Rainer Maria Rilke

In my glad hours, I will make a city of your smile, a distant city that shines and lives. I will take one word of yours to be an island on which birches stand, or fir trees, quite still and ceremonial. I will receive your glance as a fountain in which things can disappear and above which the sky trembles, both eager and afraid to fall in.

I will know that all of this exists, that one can enter this city, that I have glimpsed this island and know exactly when there is no one else beside that fountain. But if I appear to hesitate, it is because I am not sure whether it is the forest through which we are walking or my own mood that is shaded and dark. (Rilke: Early Journals)  

With what words will you respond to the Sacred Feminine or in what words will this Presence of Love address you? So that we may have a sharing on the Sophiawakens Blog next week before the summer break, please send your words/poetry/insights to me at this email address : 

awakening to the sacred feminine presence in our lives