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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

New Year

posted by Donna Henes

As we enter the New Year, our thoughts turn to new beginnings, new possibilities, new hope. This fragile interval which separates one year from the next is pregnant with potential. We find ourselves taking time out of time to evaluate our past experiences and actions and to prepare ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually for our future. Our reflections and resolutions at this transition period of the great turning of the annual wheel are critical, for they create the ambient atmosphere and attitude for the entire year to come.

A new year represents another chance, a fresh start, a clean slate, and so we embark upon the shift as on a dangerous journey, freshly bathed and outfitted, full of purpose, fingers crossed in blessing. People enjoy elaborate toilettes; bodies washed, dressed, groomed, combed until they are thoroughly cleansed — often internally as well through fasting. In India it is traditional to bathe in the Ganges to purify one’s self for the New Year. The Cherokee immerse themselves seven times in a river at dawn on New Year’s Day.

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In addition to purifying our person, special care has always been taken to clean and maintain the temples, churches, synagogues, cemeteries, groves and shrines, in which prayers for the propitious New Year are made. In Myanmar, the former Burma, the New Year festival of Thingyan is celebrated by drenching the entire country, every building and dwelling, and all of its inhabitants in cleansing water. All images of the Buddha, indoors and out, are scrubbed clean as a crucial display of blessing.

By obvious extension, this New Year’s urge to purge includes our home environments, where the most intimate and ordinary prayers of daily life are uttered. If a man’s home is his castle, surely it is a woman’s shrine. Cleaning house to make ready for a new year is a universal task, as symbolic and reverent as it is practical. Out with the old and in with the new! Death to dirt! Removing the dust and detritus accumulated during the previous year ensures the ridding of a dwelling and its occupants of the shortcomings and disappointments delivered during that time as well. Domestic renovation signifies spiritual and social renewal.

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All over the world, houses are scrubbed spic and span from top to bottom and yards and walkways are swept spotlessly clean. In old England, New Year’s Day was the annual sweeping of all chimneys. The expression “to make a clean sweep” comes from this New Year’s custom. In Hong Kong, ten days before the New Year, women observe a Day for Sweeping Floors.

At this time, an intensive house cleaning is begun in readiness for the New Year. Nothing — no corner — is left untouched. In Siberia, the Nganasan people celebrate the Clean Tent Ceremony, the premiere rite of their ritual calendar. On New Year’s Day Moroccans pour water over themselves, their animals and the floors and walls of their homes. In Wales, children go door to door to beg water from their neighbors which they then scatter all over the houses of their community in order to bless them.

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Midwinter is when the sun first reappears in Siberia finally after the months-long polar winter. At this most eagerly awaited, wondrous time, the Nganasan people celebrate the Clean Tent Ceremony, the premiere rite of their ritual calendar. A special “clean tent” is erected in the village and here the shaman sits for three to nine days while the children dance and play outside the tent. Encased in dark isolation, surrounded by the insular sound of her beating heart pulsing in prayer, s/he seeks the guiding light of the spirit and invokes the protection of the god/desses for all the people and the whole of nature for the year to come.

Some peoples, like the Incas, like the Creeks, discarded everything, EVERYTHING, used in the past year. In a more tame tradition, symbolic of the same spirit, the Mayans replace all of their domestic articles of everyday use.

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In many Native American cultures, in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, hearth fires are extinguished annually and ritually rekindled in a New Year ritual of new fire. In this way, sins and devils are purged in purification ceremonies symbolizing spiritual renewal. Zuni women throw out their live embers, then sprinkle their entire homes with corn meal in a rite called House Cleansing in order to ensure good fortune in child birth in the coming year. During the Iranian New Year celebration of Narooz, wild rue is burned in households because it is believed to drive away all evil and usher in a happy and propitious new year.

Santería, which combines elements of the West African Yoruban religion with those of the Catholic Church and the traditions of the indigenous tribes of the Caribbean, has many methods of spiritual house cleaning. Ordinarily one cleans one’s own home, altar, and aura with a wide variety of special washes, herbs, and candles. But in serious cases of impurity, a padrina/padrino will make a house call to perform a special purification ceremony. S/he most often will spit rum in a fine spray around the room, or roll a burning coconut along the floor while praying, to rid the place of bad energy.

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So, let’s get out the brooms and the buckets, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Scrub the grime out of our environment and our mentality. Let us start this new year. This decade, with a clean sweep. With a clean slate. With a clear conscience. Let us cleanse and purify our houses, inside and out. Purge our negative energy. Polish our intentions. And make our world shine.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entertaining a New Year

posted by Donna Henes

This fall I went to the 60th birthday party of a very old and dear friend. Due to budget constraints, the venue was the back room of a very funky bar. The refreshments consisted of pitchers of beer and sangria and scant little fried things. All in all, perfect for a college bash, but a bit strange for a room full of midlife women. Or so it seemed at first.

The birthday Queen specified no gifts, but requested a song, instead. And her adoring guests complied. They brought songs alright, complete with costumes and creative props. The show was fabulous — touching and hilarious. And there was dancing. Lots of dancing. It was a really great celebration, rich in all the right components. I can’t remember having so much simple down home fun at a party in a long time.

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After all, how many poo-poo foodie parties can you stand? You know the kind I mean. “This cheese is so special, only two cows in the whole world make it! And it only costs $46. a quarter of a pound.” Pulease.

One of my New Year resolutions is to entertain more this year. Not big parties, but intimate dinners with six or eight people who can be depended upon for fascinating conversation and true communion. I am craving old-fashioned one-pot suppers — soups, stews, casseroles, salads. Good bread. Good wine. Good talk. Good quality time.

I remember my mother talking about the depression. It dashed her plans to go to college. Instead, she had to work in a fruit store. But she never complained about that. (Don’t get me wrong, my mother was a world class complainer, but she never complained about the Great Depression.) She always said about those years, “People stuck together then, and helped each other.” And, “We knew how to have fun.”

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With this New Year we enter a new era. The main challenge that we will face in these uncertain times is not the economy. Nor is it the unnerving and seemingly psychotic political scenarios being played out all around the world. Not to mention the grief that they create.

Our challenge is to stay in our center, come what may. Our challenge is to breathe in the energy of the life force and to exhale respect, reverence and awe. Our challenge is to be unshakeable in our faith. To share our love. And to shine our spiritual light.

This year may we discover and embrace our own purpose, passion and power.

May we accept our responsibility and our rule. May we take our ideas and our skills and use them to create a viable, safe, sustainable and sane world for us all.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

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Like the Goddess Isis, We Make the World Whole: An End of December Celebration

posted by Donna Henes

By Carolyn Lee Boyd

The end of December is almost upon us. As we celebrate more familiar traditions of rebirth, renewal and the return of the light, let us not forget ancient Egypt’s Goddess Isis. As you may know, Isis deeply loved her brother and beloved, Osiris. Their brother Set murdered and dismembered Osiris, then scattered him across the land. Isis, in her desolate mourning, gathered up the pieces, remade Osiris’s body, and conceived their son, Horus, who is said to have been born around the time of the Solstice.

I wish I were like Isis, dashing around the globe picking up fractured bodies, minds, and souls and making all beings whole. Instead, right now, I am Osiris. I am at the edge of being a “queen,” of an age and coming into the life circumstance of greater freedom and life experience to be queenly. Still, I find I am still too much a dim and wavering shadow with unhealed and unintegrated fragments of my being lying here and there in too many times and places to resolutely ascend to the throne of being wise, confident, and effective.

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If I were to send Isis off on a journey to recompose my scattered pieces, I would send her to my 20s to reclaim the sense that every object, building, street in the city I then called home, was infused with a vibrant magic that faded with more responsibility and less time to dream; to scout out the hiding place of the belief from my gentle childhood that love is the natural law of the universe after witnessing too many ordinary people obeying only the law of fear; to rescue the lightness of life that vanished after too many medical diagnoses that promised only pain and death rather than hope among family and friends who deserved better. She would return with a collage of people, all with my face, but yet not me, in different eras, from all directions. She would come to know me better than myself, yet still not be able to answer the question “Who is she?”

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But, in the end, the Isis I have been envisioning does not come when I call. There is only me, the all of me and none of me that walks through daily life feeling too wounded and unfocused to be the strong and powerful woman I imagined I would be by my age. As I go over Isis’ story over and over in my mind, I begin to wonder, “Perhaps the gateway to being a queen is deciding that I will be Isis myself instead. Maybe crowning myself and going in search of my fragments is the gravity that will draw them to me.”

I envision myself and Isis melting into one another. I rise into the air to go in search of little bits hiding in my own memories, conscious and unconscious. When I see myself and my life from the outside, as Isis would, when I do not look only at what I have chosen to remember most, but all that really happened, the vision changes. As a child, I always walked my own path and saw what others didn’t see, whether that was a future for myself beyond the suburbs or spirits out of the corner of my eye. Could it be that what I now perceive as a lack of magic is simply over-familiarity with living on different levels of reality as part of daily life? As I grew older, I became more aware of the violence from which so many suffer each day, but I also have met hundreds of people putting their minds, souls, and bodies between attackers and strangers. How could I have forgotten them? As I come closer to the present, when so many people I love have passed over into death, I remember again the happiness and fulfillment of their decades of life and our time together rather than their last weeks of physical dissolution.

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As I see my life through the eyes of Isis, she who brings together and sees the truth, my story becomes whole. I begin to no longer feel bereft and barren, but rather, my vision of myself expands like a Goddess rising through the air and seeing not just the room she was in, but the whole neighborhood, city, continent, and world from the heavens. I see that my task is not necessarily to change who I am, to become someone else or to return to who I was when I was younger, but to begin to incorporate all my experiences into who I am, leaving no moment behind, no matter how insignificant it may have seemed when it was being lived.

So often when we read stories of goddesses, we don’t think how their experiences would transform them. Perhaps when Isis travelled near and far to seek and gather up Osiris, she too, experienced an expanded vision of herself and her mission. We so rarely wonder why a goddess gives such abundant gifts to us. Could it be that Isis’ acts of healing for humans, so much that she even vowed that those who worshipped her could outlive their destined span of years, was the result of seeing both the misery and promise of humans on her journey? Of seeing that she was a goddess beholden to the whole world?

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As I gaze with my Isis eyes upon the world, I see how it, too, has become dismembered and desperately seeks restoration to life. We began as one people and adventured out to the distant continents, growing apart in geography and custom until now when we are consumed by our differences. Our faith in ourselves, justice, and the certainty of our survival lies scattered on battlefields, abandoned villages where victims of genocide used to live, and melting icecaps. Whole cultures are disappearing, leaving empty chapters in our human story.

We must all be Isis to recover and heal the broken body of our wholeness as humans. For my part, I can try to begin looking through eyes that have seen the planet and all who dwell on her as one being. When I read of wars and starvation in a land far off, I can say to myself “that is my home, too, and those who live there are parts of me” and provide whatever support I can. What I write can express a greater horizon that will show how all our fragments are really all of one piece, that what one woman experiences is a reflection of everyone’s life on Earth.

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Through Isis’ supreme act of love for Osiris, she became a great healer to all who worshipped her. We live in a time when healing is our generation’s great task. Before we can restore our planet to environmental health, before we can reweave the bonds between nations and peoples, before we can truly progress as a species, we must heal ourselves and those around us. By looking at ourselves and the world through Isis’ eyes, we, too, can make this the season we truly become queens and queenly healers.

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Celtic View of the Dark Time

posted by Donna Henes

This comes from a sister Queen, Jo Coffe.

It was really a lift to read your piece about the Dark Time. I have been feeling out of sorts, but it helps just to realize that other people are in the same situation, and that there are ways to work with this time.

I’m passing on these thoughts from the Irish sense of the year as a way of perhaps participating in your work at a distance.

The New Year begins at Samhain (around November 1) with death. Death is probably the most powerful portal to the Otherworld, not just for the one who dies, but for those who have some connection with the dying one.

Samhain is the death of the year, so this is the time of year that the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. That’s where our Halloween festivities come from, of course. Death is also a time of dissolution, a time of breaking of form, in that sense, a time of destruction.

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The very next significant moment in the year is the Winter Solstice, when the elements that have been liberated by death are brought back into the cycle of life through the marriage – the cosmic sexual union – of light and darkness. The 5,000-year old temple at Newgrange celebrates just this marriage, when the light from the sun enters the womb of the earth at sunrise, the junction point of night and day.

Around the solstice and just after, the period we are now in, all things – the creatures of the earth and even the sun – are quietly and mostly out of sight growing, gathering energy and strength, getting ready to be born.

Light and dark, day and night, are the two primary energies as the Irish understand space/time. Male and female present themselves in the first instance in these forms. I found an interesting confirmation of this recently in a piece entitled “The Golden Age” that Yeats published in his Celtic Twilight:

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“A while ago I was in the train, and getting near Sligo. The last time I had been there something was troubling me, and I longed for a message from those beings or bodiless moods, or whatever they be, who inhabit the world of spirits. The message came, for one night I saw with blinding distinctiveness a black animal, half weasel, half dog, moving along the top of a stone wall, and presently the black animal vanished, and from the other side came a white weasel-like dog, his pink flesh shining through his white hair and all in a blaze of light; and I remembered the peasant belief about two fairy dogs who go about representing day and night, good and evil.”

Yeats makes the patriarchal identification of dark with evil. It’s so important to work to correct that, just as you are doing.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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