It has been a year since our beloved friend Mary Barakha died, and the beautiful garden sprite she had created that hung in the little spirit-house we made for it in the Moss Garden, had gotten weathered. It seemed a good time to recreate this spirit-house as an ancestor shrine, sensing that Mary has joined with and is surrounded by loving ancestors. On the little moss roof we placed a metal wren, a spirited little bird, to carry our prayers. We placed in the spirit-house a lovingly crafted, spritely heart and a small ceramic dish for little objects of remembrance. Under this shrine we put a rock altar, envisioning that we could sit or kneel on the soft moss to make our prayers.
A few days later my friend Nancy was coming over for a visit. She shares with me an interest in fostering the connection of people, earth and spirit. I suggested to her that we each bring an offering and do a small ceremony at the new ancestor shrine in the Moss Garden, as my teacher, Daniel Foor, had taught us to do in a recent ancestral healing workshop. I put a bowl of rich soil on the altar. When she arrived I suggested that we each call to mind a loving ancestor, then think of a question on our hearts, and place it as a prayer into the earth that is our ancestors. Then we would add our ritual offerings as expressions of gratitude. As her offering, my friend made a design with cornmeal and squash seeds, with a heart in the middle. After making my prayers, I added dried apple slices and tiny hawera daffodils, gathered from the moss, placing a little daffodil bud in the heart. I sprinkled water from a little jar on the altar that had collected rainwater. This was a simple, homespun act of creating beauty, almost as if “when two are gathered” and make an offering, they can’t help but create beauty. She said for her it was healing.
After she left I took the offering and folded it into the compost, our questions and prayers to be digested. I had no idea that doing this simple little ritual together would leave me with such a calm, sweet, lighted feeling. I felt whole. I’m grateful to Mary Barakha, to Nancy, to Daniel, to the moss beings, and to the Loving Ancestors.
Now I’m wondering what contributed to feeling such a sense of wholeness. Perhaps it was because our ritual involved both of Jung’s polarities, instinct and image. Instinct included the physical acts of gathering the ingredients and making the offering, bodily expressing our prayers. The instincts of loving and longing were expressed in the creative, mandala-like image. A mandala is itself an image of healing and completeness. The feeling of wholeness also came from the joining of us people with nature and with spirit. Before the ritual we had walked in the woods and greeted the spring ephemeral wildflowers that were blooming there. We had laid down on the lush mosses, gazing up at the slowly moving clouds and high, soaring birds, and expressed gratitude for all of them. We made our offerings using ingredients from nature. Is it any wonder that being reverently with both nature and spirit makes us feel whole and healed!
In memory of Mary Barakha Mangum, April 9, 1947 – March 8, 2017