Our Midwinter Gathering this year was a particularly special occasion for the Wood Sisters, as for the first time, we welcomed men to our celebration. From the beginning of the Celtic Circle meetings over 15 years ago and on through our three years of Wood Sisters Gatherings, our vision has included a rebalancing of the relationship between the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine and our method has been what is often called ‘positive discrimination’, as we have worked to create safe spaces for women to share their wisdom and reclaim their sacred stories and spiritual perspectives by sifting through several thousand years of predominantly patriarchal myths, stories & teachings.
Over the last year Wood Brothers have often joined us to help in creating & raising our Red Tent. So as Sue & I prepared for a Midwinter story focus on Adam and Eve, it felt that the time had come to open one of our sacred celebrations to our Wood Brothers. We had planned to have a Red Tent fundraising party in the evening and although this was finally postponed, we stayed with the ‘dress red’ theme. So the one brave Wood Brother who courageously joined us in our inner sanctum, found himself surrounded by scarlet women, including Ronnie as the Lady of Misrule and looking stunning, from her psychedelic trousers to the top hat on her bright red hair.
After our opening Midwinter Wisdom Pot, Sue’s storytelling drew us back into Biblical times and beyond, through a telling of our Western Creation myth. Sue had spent many weeks researching Christian, Jewish and Muslim versions of the story and related texts and teachings, including the ancient Mesopotamian myths they were born out of. So while Sue’s telling contained many familiar characters and motifs, it also contained some less known ones.
The story opened into the mysterious unconditioned space described in Genesis One, when all is ‘formless and empty’. Sue evoked the creative spirit beautifully for us through the image of a night bird dipping its wings into the primal waters and the unfolding of the formless into many forms… with Creation as a mirror of the Source. The many different forms in which Source was known were acknowledged in Sue’s telling, including the Divine Feminine and Masculine through the ancient names of Asherah and Yahweh, Mother and Father in One.
Divinity was described as creating a soul being in their own image, as it says in the Bible, both male and female. This undivided soul is the first ADAM who is depicted as living in a state of grace, in open communion with the Source. The next step in the story, the separation of female and male, seemed like another mirroring, a way to know OneSelf, and so the second Adam emerges from a sleep of forgetting her/his undivided nature to meet his first mate, Lilith.
After a joyful honeymoon period, there’s trouble in Paradise! Old texts describe Lilith upholding her equality; she wants to sometimes ‘be on top’ but Adam refuses to give ground and so she leaves to live by the sea with the Archangel Samael. No amount of threats or demonising can force her to return and so the story turned to the creation of Adam’s second wife, the better known Eve. In keeping with a Kabbalistic perspective, Sue described the testing of Eve and Adam by the subtle serpent as a process of awakening. I’ll let her evocative words speak for themselves, as Eve and Adam taste the fruit of knowledge;
‘And in that moment, transformation took place. Suddenly they saw the world with different eyes, no longer was it a place of innocent one-ness. They saw the distinctions between things, they fell from child-like grace into adult knowing. And although it was a transcendently glorious moment, it was also a fall. Deep in the pit of her stomach, Eve knew nothing would be the same again even as she gasped at the knowledge that was now in her understanding.. Adam saw clearly, further than he had ever seen, but knew that along with wisdom and a knowledge of right and wrong he now had, came fear and shame. They saw themselves as naked, they saw all the little deaths they must now die and there was a longing for the innocence they had lost, just as there was a thirst for the new-found glory they had acquired.’
So Adam and Eve enter the final stage of creation as they take on physical form, their garments of skin, and that intimate contact and knowing of their deeper being, as one whole in communion with the Source, is obscured… symbolised by their leaving the Garden of the Soul. As we all know, reawakening to our true nature is not easy, it is as if a angel with a flaming sword guards the way back into Paradise.
Sue concluded her story with a picture of wandering humanity ‘always searching for the source, their true home, catching hold of half memories of the Garden, of past lives, of the spirit world, always caught between the twin pull of innocence and knowledge’ and how within that search is the search not only to marry up the different aspects of our beings but also to reunite the feminine and masculine in our vision and experience of the Divine.
What a lot we had to meditate on, reflect on and discuss together following this deep retelling of what has become over many centuries a difficult and damaging story. After our bring & share feast, we worked with the story some more, this time through creating our own shadow puppet shows. Each woman now had their own chance to depict a motif or character from the myth and how diverse creation is! Adam looked strikingly like a member of the Bee Gees (!) and both he and a full skirted Lilith/Eve were dwarfed by a fantastic articulated serpent. The beautiful Tree of Knowledge actually offered its fruit to the first couple, while later the angel had some trouble with his flaming sword!
During the performances, set in darkness, with all eyes focussed on the lit space of the shadow puppet screen, even the simplest puppets and least confident puppeteers created real magic. All kinds of scenes unfolded… from moving moments of the night bird dipping its wings in the waters of creation to hysterically funny ones as Bee Gee Adam and Lilith both struggled to be on top.
After a lively and creative afternoon, our day concluded with a simple and mainly silent ceremony to light candles and make prayers and blessings around the Christmas Tree. It struck me more than ever before how well the Christmas Tree symbolises both the Tree of Knowledge, with its baubles like tempting fruits, and the Tree of Life with its tiers of lights or candle flames. As each person lit their candle the Tree was like a living picture of our potential to awaken together, to remember our wholeness and our true life as one with Source.