Photo: Teddy Kelley

As Winter Solstice returns, I feel in my bones the ancient ones guiding me to hibernate in the primordial cave of the Pachamama (Mother Earth). During this season of the year, I attune with her rhythms and resonate with her cycles. Like a compass turning me inward to release, rest, and reflect, I walk toward darkness. I’m drawn into reverence and ritual to honor her Holy Season. Holy! Holy! Holy!

Many indigenousness cultures have origin stories wherein they emerge from the heart of the Earth – the mother’s womb – and return cyclically for renewal, prayer, and ceremony. The Hopi (Peaceful People) offer their prayers in a Kiva deep underground where the Kachinas (ancestral spirits) come to receive their prayers and take them back up to their Apus, the San Francisco Peaks. They are the intermediaries between the people and the Holy Ones. The time is ripe for consciously choosing to lie down, rest, and dream with the Mother in the pervasive silence of her quiet season. The Pueblo People say, ‘the Earth needs to rest for a while’. We need to be dormant so that we may become fertile again, incubating our dreams and visions as the days grow longer with the return of sunlight. We rest so we may dream with our shadow.

Photo: Adlers Jilden

“Full moon,
Where will you be going from here?
Into a retreat.
Why do you take a retreat after fullness?
To make myself full again.”

Hazrat Inayat Khan

The heartbeat of the night travelers calls us on a journey to surrender to the darkness, not run away from it. We invoke our beloved mother, father, creator, creatrix, Wiraquocha (Great Originating Mystery), and animal allies. Kneeling with our foreheads kissing the Earth, we offer prayers to the Pachamama and then feed the Tirakuna (Watchers) and all the Holy Ones. In the sanctity of her womb we are refined in her alchemical waters where anything blocking our usefulness will be transmuted so we may become hollow bones. The darkness is emptying us and purifying the vestiges of stories, old traumas, thoughts, and feelings that no longer serve the great work. For me, Jaguar is by my side mulching the dense energies and recycling by mikhuchiy (feeding) them to the denizens in the lower world.

JChopiartist – Background image courtesy of Kathy Franklin

During the Winter Solstice we are called to take refuge in the abode of the soul, to travel to the Ukhu Pacha (inner realm). There are many pathways into the sanctity of the darkness. Life invites us to consciously commune in the unseen depths, and many life transitions strike like a bolt of lightning, shattering our world and casting us into darkness. Plunged into the dark night of the soul, we take painful shapeshifting journeys that deliver us intimately closer to Spirit. Where the duality of pairings balance and inform one another – grief and love, fear and trust, dark and light, vulnerability and courage. We’re tossed about in upheaval and uncertainty, riding the waves from moment to moment – some arrive gently, others like tsunamis. We surrender to the experience by listening and trusting our soul’s intuition not to recoil, resist or run away. We endure by trusting that there will be a new shore.

The vital waters of life flow from the darkness when we’re submerged in the mercy of the nubilous depths. We’re guided on pilgrimages into those primordial waters, so that we may become hollow bones, sacred empty vessels to fill with Munay (love) and K’anchay (luminosity). We are held in the tenderness, mercy, and compassion of the Divine Mother’s love. She comes sometimes as the Black Madonna. Andre Harvey reveals her as, “the blackness of divine mystery celebrated by the great mystics who see the divine as forever unknowable, mysterious, hidden from all our senses in a light so dazzling it registers on them as darkness.” She is the Queen of Nature symbolizing an urgent call for reciprocity and Earth-honoring ways. Willka Nusta (the black virgin), is an Incan mythological princess of the black light. The mystery of the black light reveals the Yanantin (sacred pair) pairing of light and darkness. The holy coupling of light and dark embody the sacred duality of their complementary union.

Chaco Canyon Nightfall 1998 – Photo: Bill Hertzog

I am so grateful for all the sacred strands of life’s lessons that lead me to my soul’s tapestry of becoming an embodied spirit. Many years ago, when my beloved and I were in Taos during the holy season, a Taos Pueblo elder drew a map to Chaco Canyon on the dusty window of our truck and handed us a piece of heartwood from a pinyon pine for our fire. He prayed in his language and waved us on our way. We had just chosen a drum and he instructed us to play it after we had settled in the canyon and lit the campfire. We hadn’t planned on making a pilgrimage to Chaco in the dead of winter, but there we were in the dark of the night heading to a place we’d never been with a map scrawled on the window of our truck, a drum, and a piece of wood given to us by a revered elder. I was already filled with a sense of wonder and magic from earlier that morning when we watched the first snowfall blanket the Blue Mountains during a sunrise Turtle Dance at the Pueblo, and I could sense that the ancestors and Holy Ones were guiding us as we four-wheeled and bobbled our way along the rutted backroads. When we arrived at Chaco everything was alive and speaking. The presence of the ones who had come before us was in the rocks, the ancient kivas, and the starry night sky; we were on hallowed ground. When my beloved lit the fire with the wood, we were instantly connected with the spirit of nina (fire element) and its life-giving magic. The first drumbeat sync’d us with the heartbeat of the Pachamama while the ancient ones infused the cold of the long night with the medicine of their light in the dark.

Adams Calendar South Africa – Photo: Ajaya Sommers

As children of the Pachamama and Inti (Father Sun), we return again and again to receive the medicine of the darkness from the womb of Mother Earth. We emerge when the light of the sacred dawn returns. We become hollow bones, so that the light and love of the universe can stream through us, imparting love, wisdom, and compassion in all directions. Our passion for our service inspires our compassion, igniting the courage to dive into the Ukhu Pacha (inner realm). We incubate in the womb of darkness to return and shine as beings of the light. We restore wholeness and bring balance by living the Earth-honoring ways in reciprocity with the sacred web of life. We emerge from the protective darkness of the womb and harken to the wind whispering “Wilka, Wilka, Wilka, Wiracochan, Nunay” (‘Sacred, Sacred, Sacred is the Living Soul of Creation’).

“Some nights stay up till dawn, as the moon sometimes does for the sun.
Be a full bucket pulled up the dark way of a well,
then lifted out into light.”

Rumi

About the Author

Deborah Sullivan

Deborah Sullivan

Featured Contributor

Deborah is a universal ceremonialist and cross-cultural energy medicine practitioner cultivating sacred ways of living within oneself, with others and with the Pachamama. She offers her visionary skills as a teacher, soul path mentor, shamanic aromatherapist, yoga nidra midwife, and minister. For the past 45 years, she has apprenticed and walked with medicine men and women, guides and teachers who have generously transmitted their sacred ceremonies and beautywalk – Deborah’s service path is an infusion of this love and wisdom. She has been guiding women’s circles and ceremonies for over four decades, supporting women through initiations and transformations. She serves as a life transition guide supporting both conscious death and grieving loved ones. She is the creator of Sacred Ways and Elemental Nature. Elemental Nature embodies the art of sacred, alchemical blending and its rich ancestral heritage with our plant relatives and the ancient medicine ways. You can discover her aromatic sacred space sprays and alchemical blends for honoring your medicine path at sacredways.net/shop/
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