Tag Archives: ancient Inuit story

Travelling with Sophia

Even to think about (Wisdom) is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.

She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

(Wisdom 6: 15-16 Jerusalem Bible)

Poring over notes from the Greece Journey, I seek a place of re-entry, so that I might invite you back inside the deep teachings, the healing processes, the beautiful sights, sounds, stories of our travels in that blessed land. Once again my memories turn to Sophia, the Greek name for Wisdom. Icons of Mary, such as the ones I showed you from the Church of the Hundred Doors on Paros Island, abound in Greece.

For the Greeks, Sophia is a loving presence, close, active, supportive, loving, healing, often seemingly conflated with Mary. I turn again to last week’s posting for Epiphany, find the quote from Chapter 6 of the Book of Wisdom (see above). And then I decide to share a deeply personal experience.

In Holy Week of 2015, I was taking some retreat days here in my riverside home in the woods. As happens when the mind is quiet, dreams came. In one, I found myself in a darkened room, where my teacher Jean Houston was showing me framed depictions of the work I have begun in recent years: a promo for my Irish play, “The Wooing of the Soul”, my book Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind, the retreats I facilitate…

Further into the room, the darkness was deeper. I understood I must go there alone in order to encounter the Sacred Feminine, the Presence of Sophia. The dream ended there, but stayed inside my heart like an unfinished story. A few weeks afterwards, as I was wondering whether I should consider the Greece Journey, I remembered that dream. Would I find there the presence that awaited me?

On our last morning on Paros Island, before departure time for our ferry, I was walking through the streets of the town, hoping to find the shops open. They were shut tight, but on a narrow side street, I chanced upon a tiny white building whose door stood invitingly open. Inside, I found a small darkened chapel. On two walls were Icons, glowing in the fiery red light of lamps.

The Icon on the wall to my right was of Mary/Sophia. I gazed at her calm lovely face. It seemed that she gazed back. I stood there, unable to move, drawn to rededicate my life to her. Still I could not go. Then I noticed the child she held. At once I recalled the Inuit tale of the Sealwoman who set her son (her spirit) on the shore in the moonlight for his task was to become a drummer, a singer, a storyteller. She promises him, ” I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs.”

I understood that I must do the same: send my recovered spirit out to tell the stories, trusting that she, Wisdom-Sophia, would “breathe into (my) lungs a wind for the singing of (my) songs”… I was filled with joy and gratitude. I took this photo before I left the small chapel.

Greece Paro dark chapel t2015 174

It was only later, on the ferry back to mainland Greece, that I remembered my dream of the darkened room and the Sacred Feminine Presence who awaited me there.

Truly Wisdom-Sophia  herself walks about looking for (us) and graciously shows herself to (us) as (we) go, in every thought of (ours) coming to meet (us).

Here is a poem by Jan Richardson to give heart to us in all our journeys:

For Those Who Have Far to Travel

A Blessing for Epiphany

If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
undertake it,
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping,
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go,
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions,
beyond fatigue,
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know:
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace
– See more at: http://paintedprayerbook.com/2016/01/02/epiphany-for-those-who-have-far-to-travel/#sthash.jTkLHSWC.dpuf

Encounter with Wisdom Sophia

Yesterday I spent time engaged in a ritual designed by Starhawk. It was an invitation to go outdoors, to encounter a growing plant, study it, listen to its wisdom, learn from it. This is what aboriginal shamans did, how they learned about the medicinal qualities of plants as well as other aspects of earth wisdom.wisdom plant 001

This plant in my garden is awakened by the sun’s morning appearance in the east, inviting her to live a new day. Reflecting on this, I recalled words of Ezechiel: “Live and grow like the grass in the fields”. Was this the plant’s wisdom for me? I turned towards the south whose warmth engenders life within this plant, asking what I need to engender new life from within. I remembered the west wind loved by poets, the winds that ruffle the leaves of this plant, soothing, caressing. I remembered friends whose gentle winds of love sustain me through times of inner turmoil. I faced north, the place of transformation. What is north for this plant?

Winter, I thought, imagining her glossy green leaves brittle, brown, broken. Winter when she must let go of all she cherishes, feeling it blown away by cold winds until nothing remains but her buried roots. Under the snow-covered garden, she endures the long wait through darkness until her new life emerges with spring. But would she know about spring? I found my thoughts turning to my own life, to the way I resist recurring cycles of loss and transformation, as though I too were ignorant of the way spring must follow winter.

I looked at my plant, admiring her steady presence, her calm acceptance of the rhythms of life…. She has become my wisdom-teacher.That ritual opened my heart when I later read Rilke’s poem, “The Apple Orchard” :

The trees….
bear the weight of a hundred days of labor
in their heavy, ripening fruit.
They serve with endless patience to teach

how even that which exceeds all measure
must be taken up and given away,
as we, through long years,
quietly grow toward the one thing we can be.

(in “A Year with Rilke“ Joanna Macy, Anita Barrows, ed.)

My heart knew urgency. What is that “one thing (I) can be?” And how soon might my winter come? I decided to share with you, my blog readers, the work which has been taking shape in my life, the “one thing” that I can be and can do. I invite you to be part of something new that I have been called to create, as my small work within the great work of transforming spirituality in and for our time.

June is opening around us, releasing young birds into the air, drawing the tall purple Iris into bloom, bursting trees into leafy greenness. At each moment the universe is birthing newness. We in whom the universe dwells are continuously being reborn. Yet we carry in our hearts, our minds, our very souls, old, outworn, decaying images and thoughts of the sacred, unaware of the beauty within us, blind to our own light, deaf to the music of our longings, utterly incapable of knowing how deeply we are loved.

June2015 033
Reflecting on Ephesians 4:6, Elizabeth Johnson writes:
The One who blows the wild wind of life, who fires the blaze of being, who gives birth to the world, or who midwifes it into existence does not stand over against it or rule it hierarchically from afar but dwells in intimate, quickening relationship with humanity and the life of the earth…. Enfolding and unfolding the universe, the Spirit is holy mystery over all and through all and in all. (in “Woman, Earth and Creator Spirit“ Paulist Press 1993 p. 57)

We are being wooed by a Love passionate and faithful beyond our imaginings, a Love that yearns for our freedom, our transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, into a newness that is joyous, rich, empowered to reach out in love to transform the world.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable of choosing what that will be…
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbour of your longing,
and put your lips to the world
and live your life.
(Mary Oliver)

There are three aspects of this invitation for you to consider, allowing your own desires to guide you in your choice to become involved in one, or two or all three facets of the work.

First, gather a group of friends who share your desire to imagine/ to explore/ to create together a new expression of spirituality.

Second, contact me to arrange a time and place when I might come to offer the play, “The Wooing of the Soul”, woven around the ancient Irish tale of Midir and Etain.

Third, should you and your friends wish to continue to engage in this adventure on your own, I shall provide resources and suggestions that will assist you, serving as a compass.

If you have been experiencing a stirring, a call to incarnate a new way of knowing the Holy, a desire to share this with others, you may wish to pray these words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
Please remind me that people are waiting for my work,
That I make them suffer even more by withholding it.
Please help me to create in all mercy toward others
For I’ve been given everything I need to be one who awakens myself and others through
how I live, how I work, not so much even in the doing than in the BEING….

I am willing to work with you to make this possible, affordable, enchanting. It will form the heart of my work over the years ahead. You may contact me if you have questions or for further clarity. amclaughlin@sympatico.ca

Let us together put our lips to the world and live our life!

Anne Kathleen McLaughlin

The Deep Homeplace Part Two


The Storyteller has just danced for us the ancient tale of the Seal Woman, her son, and their journey to the deep homeplace. She has invited us to take time to reflect on what the story awakens in our own lives.
Now, after a time of quiet, I ask her, “Why did you say that this story is about the deep homeplace, the place where the Beloved dwells within?”

The Storyteller answers: Think about the Seal Woman, about her longing for her sealskin. She needed it for her return to the homeplace. She knew that if she did not return there, she would die. It is so with you as well.

There is a deep homeplace hidden in the depths of your own soul where all that you are is held in love by the Beloved. You need to return there often, but most of all when your sight darkens, when you limp rather than dance. Recognize these signs as calls to home. Then go. At whatever cost, leave, for you must leave, even those who insist that you stay. Find your own true centre and allow yourself to rest in the embrace of love. Know that this is a matter of life or death to you.

Her words surprise, even shock, me. Do you also feel that?
“Since I’ve been a small child,” I tell the Storyteller now, “I’ve been taught that I must care for others. When people need me, call out to me, rage at me because of their need, how am I to leave them?”

That is above all when you must leave. Love and need are irreconcilable. The husband raged, broke his promise. He showed himself to be one who did not love. But the boy, who loved his mother truly, returned her sealskin to her, even though he knew what must follow.

“The Seal Woman never returned from the deep homeplace, “I say to her. “Could I go to the homeplace for rest, for the healing of love, then return to those who need me?”

Understand the mystery of story. The child whom the woman returned to the shore was her own spirit. Did you not hear her say, “I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs”? A woman’s spirit is the part of herself she sends to the outer world as drummer, as dancer, as storyteller, as poet, as singer, as healer, as soul friend. But to do this, she must keep her own soul nourished by love in the inner homeplace. It requires of her a balance, a sacred dance, between the topside and underside worlds of her life.

She smiles at us, asks the question that I want to ask….
So, who am I in this story? Not the fisherman who, within a woman’s psyche, always lurks, waiting for a chance to steal her Soulskin, driving her to overwork, demanding that she give until her soul and spirit are raw. But I am the Old One who calls her home when it is time. I am the Child within her who hears that call and answers, giving her what she needs to return home, if she will listen and receive. And I am the Woman who cries out inside you, “I must have what belongs to me”.

I am in the story in another way also. Can you guess where?

This is difficult, for she has already named each character. Then suddenly I know.
“You are the homeplace. You are the One who waits to receive us, body, soul, mind and spirit, into your heart of love when we feel the call to return home.”

She does not reply, but I know from her eyes that I have discovered another of her identities. She looks now at you.

Where is the deep homeplace where you go when your soul cries out for nurturing?
Do you recognise the child within you who is often the first to notice your need to return home? The child within hears the call of the Old Wise One, for a child’s ears are quick to hear the Holy. Do you follow the child’s promptings or do you tell that child to go away because you are too busy to listen?

When have you known the call to the homeplace?

After you have been restored and nourished there, what is the gift your spirit brings to the shore?

I watch as you ponder these questions. Though I hear no words, I can tell that you and the Storyteller are deep in conversation. I wait until I can see by your expression that you’ve said all you need to say for now. Then I ask her another question that rises in me.

“What is the meaning of the Seal Woman’s words, ‘Only touch what I have touched, my firesticks, my knife, my carvings of sea creatures’?”

The Seal Woman is instructing her son in wisdom. His work, which is really the work of her deep spirit, will require the firesticks of passionate engagement, the wisdom of knowing when it is time to cut away excess, to cut free of entanglements. The carvings hold the memory of the deep sea, true homeplace of his mother, of his own soul.

“Is there anything more you have to teach us today?” I ask her.

Only the need to remember the Seal Mother’s words, for they are my words to you, beloved ones: I am always with you. Call out to me, and I shall breathe into your soul a wind for the singing of your songs.

She looks now directly at you. I know she is asking if you have understood, though she speaks no word that I can hear. I see you smile. And she is gone.

We must make our way back to the topside world now, you and I. She will not return today.