by Seer Matron Elisa
Riding the wave of last month’s full moon, the Moon of Initiation (the first moon in the Avalonian Cycle of Revealing), we now welcome the next moon, the Moon of Distillation, and draw a new card from the Avalonian Oracle deck to guide us. We also continue our work with Ceridwen.
Ah, Ceridwen. Each of our Avalonian Goddesses has moons that she resides over throughout the year. Ceridwen’s moons can be the most challenging of the Cycle, as I’ve experienced them. Of course, difficult and even tragic events can occur in our lives throughout the course of any moons throughout the year; but I have found that during this time of the Cycle, when we are willingly calling upon the universe to reveal the dwelling place of our shadow and to coaxing it into the light—all in the name of growth—well, that’s a special kind of challenge for me.
This Lady never fails to provide an abundance of opportunities for growth, often disguised (in their gentler form), as misadventures, mishaps, accidents. At Her most direct, she might bring, okay I’ll say it: calamities, tragedies, hard blows. And still, we return-and-return to the Work, year after year, cycle after cycle. I think we each know in our hearts why we choose to do the work, even when it’s hard, but how do we do it? Or at least, how might we be more prepared? What energies can we draw on as we make our way to the deepest of dark winter to help make the journey inward, gentler?
I was curled up in my chair when I realized this was the question for the cards this moon. After locating my deck, which took a few minutes (if you saw the condition of the “creative space” I work in, you’d understand why), I held the Avalonian Oracle in my hands and shuffled. I began to sing a chant written by a woman I have never known, Bryte Unicorn, but feel I know, through her song. Over and over I chanted:
Deep Cauldron, Ancient Wisdom
Life yields to Your embrace
And is born again
When I finally stopped, I simply chose the card my fingers were touching, and turned it over.
Before we explore this card, I hope you won’t mind a quick sidestep as I say a few general words about our Avalonian work. Those familiar with the Avalonian Tradition are likely also familiar with the Cycle of Healing. For those new to the Sisterhood, the Cycle of Healing, like the Cycle of Revealing, follows the wheel of the year measured by the moons. In addition, the Cycle of Healing is marked by five stations, each station corresponding to one of the Holy Days. For example, the first Station of the year is Descent and is marked by the holy day, Calan Gaeaf, which we celebrated just last month at the Moon of Initiation.
Riding the Cycle, we now find ourselves diving headlong into the Dark Half of the year. As we make our way to the second of Ceridwen’s moons, the Moon of Distillation, we are also moving toward the upcoming station of Confrontation and the holy day Gwyl Mair (February 16, 2022).
I mention all of this because I am a person who likes the predictability of systems. I enjoy getting out the calendar and marking the moons and the upcoming holy days, and being on schedule. I sometimes still need reminding, however, that my work, unlike the phases of that celestial body whose predictability I find so comforting, does not adhere to a fixed schedule. Over the years, I’ve learned that I am not alone. And if you don’t find yourself in sync with every moon or station, neither are you!
Some women, for example, may be discovering that energy from the Moon of Initiation lingered on even after that full moon passed last month. Others may find that the Station of Confrontation is arriving earlier than its calendar date. And that’s all right. I recall it was a great relief to me when I came to understand that I could define where I was in the cycle, rather than the calendar.
The Cycle is a sacred tool to guide and aid us in our growth, but it should not define our practice. It was so liberating to feel that I couldn’t do anything “wrong” as long as I was honoring my own process. I wasn’t going to get left behind if I took a little extra time; nor was there cause for being at risk of missing something if I skipped ahead because the tug of the next moon or station called me a little early. This realization freed me up to do the work by honoring my inner cycle within the greater Cycle.
Well, that was a little more than a sidestep; isn’t this column supposed to be about Avalonian Oracle card readings? I hope somebody benefited! Now back to the Hearthkeeper card and hopefully a little insight on what I think she has to offer us during this Dark Half.
I spent several minutes gazing at the card. It gave me such comfort. The image of a mature woman holding a baby close in one arm as she tends to her cauldron and stirs the brew with the other. The cauldron is suspended from a tripod over a bright fire. The scene feels contained and complete as if the only things the woman and the child need are within the confines of their simple roundhouse. They are secure. Protected. The way I like to imagine all of our sisters here on The Isle.
I wondered, “Why the Hearthkeeper card? What is the significance of the Hearthkeeper in our community this moon?” The first thoughts I had related to the divinatory meaning of this card as written about in the Avalonian Oracle. While we face the challenges that inevitably surround us, the Hearthkeeper is a reminder that we must tend our own hearth. We must not neglect to nurture the parts of ourselves that need our attention. Otherwise, we have nothing left with which to nourish ourselves. Likewise, we have little to offer those whom we love and who depend on us.
Then I considered the nature of hearth tending. It is demanding and even tiring work. It can be vigorous and its duties extend beyond the tending of a fire. So while the card shows a woman sitting, she is not, as I see her, at rest. Her gaze is watchful and intent. Alert to her surroundings. Her posture is upright and straight, rather than huddled over the fire for warmth. Again, she demonstrates that she and the baby have everything they need.
She reminds me that even when there is calm and quiet in a space, there can be simmering and brewing below. Perhaps, like us, she is doing her own Cycle work! I asked her, “What is on your mind right now as you sit here so serenely? What can you share with us about this moon?”
Words didn’t exactly follow, but a general message around space-clearing and uncluttering was her prevailing sentiment. And more than that: simplifying one’s choices. And then my eyes popped open: this is the Moon of Distillation, after all! How fitting that her message is about simplifying…distilling.
Could this be why her card is so sparsely illustrated and with only one little being who is the recipient of the Hearthkeeper’s full attention? The Hearthkeeper has wisely narrowed down her priorities, how she spends her time, and with whom. Too often it feels like many outside forces are vying for our time and attention. Setting time aside for a soothing bath or other self-care we enjoy is important, yes, but these are often remedies we seek after we’ve already been depleted. I believe the Hearthkeeper hopes to teach us to respect the limits of our giving and set boundaries for ourselves so that we can successfully care for the priorities in our lives—including ourselves.
Perhaps more on-point is her message to us, as sister-Avalonians, that our spiritual work—our Cycle work—is best done (only done?), when we tend to it in the same way we must tend to our daily lives and physical bodies.
As I revisit the question I asked at the beginning of this piece: What energies can we draw on as we make our way to the deepest of dark winter to help make the journey inward, gentler? I think the Avalonian Oracle has given us a beautiful image to embrace in the Hearthkeeper. Some of us may do some very intense work this Cycle, especially as we approach the Station of Confrontation. May we call on the energies of the Hearthkeeper and may her image remind us that it is against a peaceful and serene backdrop that she does her work.
Oh! And she’s whispering in my ear right this very minute with a message for us: She says it’s taken her a very long time to find her way into that card…we should never be discouraged…and it’s so very worth the work.
Sisters, may the tending of your own hearth enhance and enrich your work this moon, station, and cycle!