Heads and Tails – Joy and Play

I had the most extraordinary dream a couple of nights ago. I had woken in the early hours and was unable to get back to sleep, my mind restless and unsettled by thoughts and worries. These always appear more troublesome in the middle of the night and it took about two hours to finally drop off. Once asleep, I had a short but intense dream that actually brought me awake again with a start.

The dream was extremely vivid; a lucid dream where I was very aware of my choices and movements, just as I would be in waking life. My senses were sharpened. I found myself at the bank of what I knew to be the River Wye, winding its way through a rocky, tree covered gorge. It was in spate. I could hear the water and sense the speed and power of its current. The sounds of the river focused me and I felt at that moment – with absolute certainty – that I had to immerse myself and surrender to it. I waded into the water, the powerful current irresistibly gripping and carrying me forward. I should have been afraid but I wasn’t. The deafening rush and the powerful speed worked together to induce a blissful feeling of peace; the relinquishing of control bringing with it a deep release in my body and mind.

The scene suddenly changed and I was on the bank again lying on my tummy on a very stony footpath that followed the course of the river. The path was dry and I was acutely aware that I too felt dry, not merely thirsty but my whole being yearning for moisture. My skin felt sore and longed to be wet and so once again it became clear that I should enter the river. I then realised that I was lying on my tummy because, from the waist down, I had the body of an otter! Moving along on my tummy, I made it to the bank and slipped once again into the current, feeling an immediate change from discomfort to ease, my skin plumping out with moisture, my movements easy and natural.

The scene changed yet again, and I found myself naked and fully human once more. I was stood in a cave, the sounds of running water not far away. In the centre of the cave’s floor was a stone carving of an otter’s tail, poking up from the earth as if the otter had dived into the soil, its tail still visible. I felt the most amazing surge of sensual energy – utterly alive, my senses achingly acute – the feeling was so strong it woke me.

Once fully awake again, I immediately thought of Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s beautiful Druid Animal Oracle. The Oracle associates the Otter with joy, with allowing oneself to become a child again; Otter encourages us to relax and trust the flow of events, to not take ourselves or life too seriously.

I am so aware that life has felt oppressively serious for me for some time now. I have written here often about how easy it is to become habituated to stress and crisis and of how difficult it can be to then give oneself permission to play, not only in our leisure time but in our work also. Joy and responsibility need not be at odds with each other and sometimes play can move us beyond the obstacles and difficulties we encounter with more ease than struggle. I really need to learn to embrace more fully this rather wonderful notion; it doesn’t feel easy for me but I know that it is something that I would greatly benefit from. I think I have mistakenly thought that I need to cultivate joy and play, to work at, until it becomes a much more natural response for me. After my dream, it occurs that this laboured approach rather defeats the object. Play really shouldn’t be such hard work! In my dream, all it took was letting go, trusting and opening; it was remarkably easy! I rather resented waking up from such an extraordinary feeling.

Yet another watery creature that has moved me recently with its playfulness was a seal we were lucky enough to see whilst holidaying in St Ives. Walking above Porthmeor Beach, we noticed that the surfers were straddling their boards, bobbing on the surface and circling around something in the water. People had started to gather at the sea’s edge to watch. It soon became apparent that the ‘something’ was the head of a curious and playful seal, only feet away from the shore, obviously very taken with the surfers and wanting to join in the fun. As the surfers mounted the incoming waves, the seal dived and resurfaced amongst them. When the waves lulled, it would come up for air in the very centre of the group. The surfers were obviously delighted to have such intimate and joyful contact with such a beautiful creature; the seal apparently enjoying their company immensely.

It was a wonderful thing to witness. There seemed to be some unspoken connection between the seal and its playmates, one that transcended the boundaries of each species; a uniting of souls in the joyfulness of play.

In our world where there is currently so much civil and environmental unrest and suffering, it is so good to be reminded that joy and play are universal qualities, shared by all life and all beings. We do ourselves a disservice to view them as mere luxuries, only to be indulged in when more serious work has been attended too. They are central and essential to our well-being, and as my dream taught me, when we embrace these qualities we are filled with a renewed energy and spark that reminds us we are acutely and intensely alive!

The Blessings of the Maiden Within

Sunrise Ruby - Mara Berendt Friedman

At this time of Imbolc when the Goddess is transformed into her Maiden self, it can be helpful to acknowledge, honour and bless the Maiden within. No matter what our age, we can still feel her youthful innocence, energy and optimism moving in our beings. She is that eternal, ageless core that brings courage and freedom.

If we look back over our lives, we will see that our Maiden selves have ventured boldly into the world to explore many times. Young and inexperienced, she can be fragile; there will have been many occasions in the past when we could not know or see the dangers or hurt that would befall her, and many times we will have felt the pain that experience can bring. But the Maiden reminds us that we always have the power to begin again – renewed, untouched – and that despite the troubles that life may bring us, the source of our joy and playfulness is always there to connect to once more. Our Maiden self is the spark at the centre of the Source; the spark at the centre of our Goddess selves.

Like the gentle power of a new moon, the Maiden can help us to heal all the hurt and trauma of the past; sooth each scar; dissolve each knot of distrust; replace the fear with an openness and love of life. Through her there is always the opportunity to reconnect with our joy and spontaneity, even when the darkest of times have gripped us; even when we thought that we might never feel hope again.

I am Maiden

I am Bridie

I am joy and ecstasy

I am the dance of life

I am a new beginning

I am the bright spark

I am the precious pearl of light

I am play and laughter

I am curiosity and discovery

I am love of life and self

I am the quest for dreams fulfilled

I am the seed breaking open

I am blessed, beautiful and unique

I am.

Love, honour, and embrace your Maiden self with compassionate acceptance, as you would a much loved daughter; as the world slowly awakens, make a space for her playfulness and joy.

A Call to the Goddess and God of Imbolc

Brighid Light - Wendy Andrews


At Imbolc time we call upon the Goddess of the Sacred Flame, Maiden of the Snowdrops and the first stirrings of spring. Her seemingly fragile blossoming is filled with the strength of the inner fire of life, surviving the harshest frosts, snows and storms, just as the light of our spirit survives the darkness and cold, her love protecting it like hands cupped round a flame. She is that moment of magic as the first glow of light emerges from the dark horizon, signalling the coming of dawn.

She comes with her warmth and energy and quickens the seeds of our new life; she comes with the life-giving heat of her fire to thaw all that is frozen and trapped within us; she comes with the melting release of her healing waters, cleansing away the staleness of our spirits, the winter debris of our hearts. She is the liberation of the land from winter’s grip; freeing us from our own stagnation. She is the bright spark of life and inspiration that burns in us all; the hearth fire at the centre of our homes and hearts, sustaining and warming; a place to gather and draw inspiration, nourishment and comfort. She is the fire of passion that animates our creativity that we may create our world anew, that we too may become the spring. Goddess of the Sacred Flame and the Healing Waters, we open to you now,

We call upon the God of this time of quickening, he who has been held in the still darkness awaiting the warming and life-giving touch of the Goddess’s heat. Her fiery kiss melts the stillness and the first flow, barely perceptible, begins; the movement of new life ever building and strengthening.

As the God of renewing life, at the edge of our senses, we begin to feel his energy increasing, visible in the growing light and the first greening shoots of Imbolc. Like seeds that feel the stirrings of growth in the dark soil, we feel the first call of his desire, a sense that we must soon stretch, moving up from the warmth and safety of the dark to the ever quickening call of the light.  God of youth, beauty and love, we open to you.

Lighting the Inner Fire Meditation: 

It is a cold, crisp night in the hours just before dawn. The starry sky arches it vast, twinkling darkness above you. You are sat upon the earth; the soil is hard and frozen; the grass glistening with frost. The land is silent and asleep. Your body and being are motionless, chilled and inert like the winter earth but you sense inside yourself the stirrings of change and you know that you must prepare for its coming.

Draw your attention inward to the very centre of yourself; this place is the centre of the sacred circle of your being, and it is here that you will light the sacred fire; it is the spark of life; it is the fuelling heat at the centre of the planet; it is the burning sun at the heart of our galaxy; it is the fire of the smith that will magically melt and transform you; it is a candle flame of hope in the darkness.

Standing at the centre of you inner sacred circle, you see the tinder and dry wood of your life, ready to be lit, and in their lighting you know that the heat of this fire will bring a change in the land, will bring the first tender signs of new life and renewal, of growing strength.

Become aware of your solar plexus. There is a flame that always burns here. Take some of this perpetual flame upon your finger and now light the wood at the centre of your inner circle from it. At first it glows only beneath the dark wood. Blow upon it the breath of your ideas and inspiration. As you do this, the flames begin to grow until the fire lights up the darkness.

You find yourself back beneath the vast starry sky, upon the frosty, frozen earth, but now you are aware that there is a glow at the centre of your being. Feel its warmth and light spread out through your chest, down your pelvis, into your legs and feet; feel it moving up through your shoulders, down your arms and into your hands and fingers, up through your neck and into your head, until your whole body is filled with its golden heat and light. You are radiant in the darkness. Stay here in this moment for a while –take note of the feelings and images that rise…

Your attention moves from the inner glow to the land around where you sit. You gaze down at the once frozen soil beneath. The frost has melted into life giving moisture, droplets hanging from the blades of green, and through the earth a carpet of snowdrops rises, drinking in the life giving melt, strengthening themselves in the warmth of your glow. As if by magic you watch their brave green shoots pierce through, their delicate, white blossoms unfurl and hang in gentle bells of white. You have lit the fires of passion within and the land responds with the first tender signs of a new beginning. Pause for a moment; take note of all you feel and see…You gaze at the horizon; along the line of the land, a slim strip of the sky begins to lighten…the dawn will soon be here…