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Brick by Brick We Rebuild the World

by Oak

Winter Solstice is the time of year I reflect on what sustains me in the darkest of times, what gives me hope and sees me through. For the last twenty years, I have spent Solstice night with good friends. Throughout the long night we cook and eat food, create crazy crafts and art, tell stories, laugh, argue, and get progressively sillier as dawn approaches. This is the true magic of Solstice, of surviving that long night to witness the birth of the light. Over the years it has become clear that what enables me to endure is fairly simple. It is the mess and chaos of human community working together to entertain and feed ourselves as we wait for the dawn.

On September 11, I felt us fully enter the time of the Tower, the tarot card of sudden change, where old structures fall and nothing is for certain. It is a shaky time, a time when control is lost and rigidity is shattered. It is a breakdown that may also be a breakthrough. Living in a time of the Tower is to live in a difficult and challenging time, a frightening and unstable time. I have been thinking of how living in this time is like living perpetually in the Winter Solstice, waiting in the dark for dawn, waiting for the time of the Star card. This is a time of humanity working together in tandem with the universe, waiting for human culture to wake up to feeling connected to the beauty and interdependency of nature.

For many of us, love is the anchor that grounds us as we try to keep standing the shakiness of our world.

I have the great privilege to work as a therapist, a job that suits me. I am endlessly curious about the simple chaotic drama of each individual life. This job has become incredibly challenging in this time of the Tower. Hour after hour, I listen to my clients as they try to make sense of a world gone crazy. They express fear, anger, uncertainty, and grief. In a time of the Tower all illusions come down. It is evident that media and politicians are banging the drums of war, that our economic system is not sustainable, and that the powers that be are invested in taking away our civil liberties. Overwhelmingly, what I hear in my office is a longing for peace, love, and understanding, and a growing feeling of alienation from popular culture. I hear a yearning for connection and the burgeoning desire for a human culture where self-interest is not the organizing principle. It is hard to see what should or could be done to change things. For many of us, love is the anchor that grounds us as we try to keep standing the shakiness of our world.

In times like these, we all are survivors of trauma. When I work with survivors of trauma, I recommend mindfulness of the five senses. A time of the Tower is by its very nature traumatic. Over and over we are getting the message that life is now irrevocably different. This is a shock to all our systems and to all our senses. It is a time to bring in beauty and comfort, to see beautiful things, to taste delicious food, to hear pleasing music, to touch and be touched with pleasure, and to smell uplifting scents. Like the warmth of a kitchen full of friends on solstice night, these are the things that can help us endure and sustain. Mindfulness in the five senses can help heal and restore hope. This is a time to rigorously connect to the regenerative power of nature, as well as connecting our emotional responses to our personal histories.

Magically, personally and politically, this seems like a time to work close to home and from the heart.

For any of us who grew up in a crazy family, these crazy times can throw us right back to old coping mechanisms, dysfunctional behaviors, anxiety and/or depression. This is a time when it is difficult to know what to do. Many of us feel as disempowered as we did as children, but this time with no fantasy or possibility of growing up and moving away. Things are so shaky and reality so porous it is difficult to know even what to imagine should happen next. I know that magically I don't feel adept enough to work on a grand scale, of trying to manipulate or bind anything that is going on globally. Magically, personally and politically, this seems like a time to work close to home and from the heart. I find myself working with clients on making their lives the center of their lives. I'm trying my best to do the same.

It is a time to infuse our lives and our communities with visions of what we want to become, of how best we can live together on this one green planet. The time of the Tower is one in which all the structures we have assumed to be solid, are shaken. The old walls of reality have fallen and everything seems uncertain. It is time to rebuild on a small scale, knowing that everything is connected and that one small change affects the whole. As a therapist, feminist, and Witch, this is a core belief of mine. In my therapy office I work with family systems theory, which says that if one person changes in a family, it affects the whole family. A central tenet of feminism is that the personal is political, that our lives matter. As Witches we say that what changes in one world, affects all the worlds. Reading the headlines in this time of the tower is to fall into a morass of despair and disempowerment. Looking in the mirror at both our ourselves and our community, we can see what needs to be attended to and healed. This is the best way to restructure our world.

In the Bay Area the Fall Equinox ritual was going to focus on healing the community. While the Bay Area Reclaiming community is one of the biggest in the nation, we are by no means the most cohesive. Like most human communities, we have factions, personality conflicts, and power dynamics that are difficult to acknowledge. Reclaiming is like many spiritual and idealistic communities in that we are fabulous critics of popular culture, but resist any dissent or negative analysis within our own ranks. The planners of the Equinox ritual wanted to focus on strengthening the bonds and threads that hold us together, a plan that had me skeptical as it has been my belief that in order to heal something, you need to name and acknowledge what hurts. September 11 changed the focus of the ritual somewhat, but strangely brought back home the point that in order to heal the world, we must start with ourselves.

On the shaky Saturday of the Equinox ritual, being connected literally to others in the circle by a handspun thread was exactly what was required and was all any of us were capable of. As the wheel turns and we head into the dark, that connection to our human community, no matter how fractious and messy, is what is needed in order to see us through. That connection will serve in helping us do the hard work that restructuring our world entails. It is time in our own community and in our own lives to say what needs to change, what needs to be rebuilt. It is time to take stock of how our structures reflect our values.

This Winter Solstice will once again find me surrounded by loved ones, good food, and a worthy art project. I want to be in a kitchen, a community, and a world where dissent is allowed and self-interest is not the organizing principle. I want to be fully in my five senses, enjoying the staggering beauty of this natural world. As I travel through these grim Tower times, yearning for the Star card — for a time of enlightenment where peace, love, and understanding are the foundation of reality — I know that the rebuilding of the world starts from within: that as within, so without. At winter solstice I will honor the hard work my clients, my community, and I are doing in attempting to assist birthing a dawn. In that long night I will smile at our incredible ability to entertain each other. As solstice night progresses, I will be thinking about how creating a life and community that gives me joy, that I am proud of, is work that I am up to, and is work that indeed, can change the world.

Brick by Brick Blend

1 part oil of black pepper (I suggest 5 drops)
1 part oil of rose (5 drops)
1/2 part oil of blue chamomile (2-3 drops)

Use this blend in oil of jojoba for body oil, in distilled water for a spritzer, or add to sea salts for bath salts. Use when you want to focus on improving, rebuilding or restructuring yourself or your community.

Mary Greer, that master aromancer, uses black pepper in her tarot Tower oil, blue chamomile in her Star oil and rose in her Empress oil. Her book The Essence of Magic is one I refer to again and again. Black Pepper increases our ability to confront and endure difficult or dangerous situations and removes energy blocks. It strengthens courage and helps move mind and body into action while providing stamina. It is the energy of healthy dissent and loving rabble-rousing. Rose is the quintessential oil of love and of healing. It helps us work from the heart and promotes loving relationships. It is the quintessential oil of the Goddess. Blue chamomile helps create harmony and organization, while calming hysteria and nervous stress. This oil helps keep us focused on our path, helping us overcome any bitterness, anxiety and anger that blocks us from speaking our truths.

Oak, aka Deborah Cooper, is an aromancer, psychotherapist, artist, long time Reclaiming rabblerouser, and a priestess of the Temple of Elvis.