Prior to the pandemic, for years, Jackie Crovetto has met with women in her home in Glastonbury and in London to form “Circles of deep listening to the Earth and each other.”
Earlier this year I heard from a friend that Jackie was holding a 40-day women’s online retreat on the Sacred Feminine and the Earth, and that men were invited to join in support as well. I emailed her inquiring if I might join and whether I could interview her after the retreat.
If this topic is new you may find the links below helpful in providing more background info. I have very much enjoyed and benefited from watching these videos.
Without restoring the Sacred Feminine nothing new is going to be born in the world – nothing! We can’t think ourselves out of these problems.
All things, in our understanding of the ancient teachings, come from the Womb at the center of the universe, and the identical womb is in every woman…what we have forgotten during the masculine imbalance is that nothing new can be created without this sacred power of the Feminine coming into the center of the outer world, starting from the inner world.
Women can take the vibration, the holy sacredness within their womb when they work together in ceremony and put that womb out here so that a container is created in the ceremony of space for something new to be birthed.
The work in our women’s groups came out of the teachings of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, largely inspired by his book, The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul, (YouTube, The Work of the Feminine) — and has been aided by what Indigenous Elders are now saying, which is that there is a work that only women can do, and without that work, something new can’t be born within life. Back in 2006, sitting there, listening to Llewellyn, I caught myself waiting for him to give us a ‘how to’ list of instructions. Finally, realization dawned just how ridiculous that was. Working with the Sacred Feminine would be and is about responding to life in the moment.
Initially, we didn’t have any idea what to do or how to go about it but five of us decided to get together for a weekend. Our intention was to hold a space of deep listening, of being dynamically receptive with all senses alert. To sit with not knowing and just see what happened, and that was our focus for the weekend – an invitation to Life to show us how to proceed. It was and is very simple. Life continuously shows the way and we watch, listen and follow Her Guidance. That first time our attitude, intention, and focus were such that as soon as we sat down all the birds in the garden were looking from a tree through the window. Life had started to respond.
Each gathering is primarily a prayer for the Earth, a coming together for the sake of the whole of Life. It is not about getting anything for ourselves. This attitude is very important — to be able to drop all our stuff and shift from Me- to We- to Oneness. We usually begin with a silent meditation focused on the breath, and gradually the ‘space’ opens. We discovered that this space we are holding is a place of welcome, and sometimes an Angel would be present or an animal guide or an Ancestor. Many women could sense them, as we found when we shared our experiences, and it was only in the sharing that we would understand what was being shown. We’d become conscious of a teaching thread.
Gradually, over time, the work deepened, as did our gratitude and respect for all that was gifted. She/life showed the way — it was rather like watching a beautiful carpet gradually unfurled, and discovering your own little thread woven into the design. Part of me was still wondering, What are we doing? when in about 2011 a friend sent me the talk by Ilarion Merculieff where he speaks about the work of women and the Womb at the center of the Universe. This was a wonderful affirmation of what we had been experiencing in our circles of women.
Everything is present in that vast empty space. Everything arises out of it and returns to it. It contains the whole universe and the planes of being and non-being. It is both in and outside of the body, and in and outside of time, and accessible only when fully present in the moment.
Because of the Covid lockdowns, we haven’t been able to hold the women’s groups in person as before. Then one day last November whilst listening to Ilarion speaking again about women coming together in sisterhood and in sacred ceremony, this ‘download’ arrived. It was rather like receiving an unexpected parcel, it arrived whole but wrapped, so you didn’t know what is in there. The next morning, I woke with the phrase, “40 minutes for 40 days for the Divine Feminine.” To turn this enforced period of lockdown into a 40-day spiritual retreat and invite women to connect together each day for 40 minutes to pray for the Earth. Forty minutes –that’s a free Zoom session! The internet was a gift to humanity, freely given, that is a reflection of Oneness into this material plane; and if people come together in prayer, that energy of interconnection through the world wide web & web of life is palpable. So, this retreat felt to be in the true spirit of the Internet, where it comes fully alive.
A Story for Our Times
The next day someone sent a link to an interview with Michael Meade and Ilarion Merculieff. Michael relates this powerful White Mountain Apache story that is traditionally told in times of great trouble. It is almost identical to an Irish version of “The Old Woman Weaving in The Cave” told by Sharon Blackie in The Enchanted Life.
Here was another gift arriving out of the blue as this story of Mother Earth proved a wonderful source for our meditations and reflections over the 40 days. A story such as this is a collective dream, it had come to help make something conscious at a point where there was a possibility for us to learn and change. The third gift was the arrival of Llewellyn’s latest publication: A Handbook for Survivalists: Caring for the Earth, a Series of Meditations. I cannot recommend it too highly.
The Old Woman Weaving In The Cave
Here is the story from the White Mountain Apache, adapted from Michael Meade’s book, Why the World Doesn’t End.
The old people of the tribes would tell of a special cave where knowledge of the wonders and workings of the world could be found. Even now, some of the native people say that the cave of knowledge exists and might be discovered again. They say it is tucked away in the side of a mountain. “Not too far to go,” they say, yet no one seems to find it anymore. Despite all the highways and byways, all the thoroughfares and back roads that crosscut the face of the earth, despite all the maps that detail and try to define each area, no one seems to find that old cave. That’s too bad, they say, because inside the cave can be found genuine knowledge about how to act when the dark times come around again and the balance of the world tips away from order and slips towards chaos.
Inside the cave, there lives an old woman who remains unaffected by the rush of time and the confusion and strife of daily life. She attends to other things; she has a longer sense of time and a deep capacity for vision. She spends most of her time weaving in the cave where light and shadows play. She wants to fashion the most beautiful garment in the whole world. She has been at this weaving project for a long time and has reached the point of making a fringe for the edge of her exquisitely designed cloak. She wants that fringe to be special; wants it to be meaningful as well as elegant, so she weaves it with porcupine quills. She likes the idea of using something that could poke you as an element of beauty; she likes turning things around and seeing life from odd angles. In order to use the porcupine quills, she must flatten each one with her teeth. After years of biting hard on the quills, her teeth have become worn down to nubs that barely rise above her gums. Still, the old woman keeps biting down and she keeps weaving on.
The only time she interrupts her weaving work is when she goes to stir the soup that simmers in a great cauldron at the back of the cave. The old cauldron hangs over a fire that began a long time ago. The old woman cannot recall anything older than that fire; it just might be the oldest thing there is in this world. Occasionally, she does recall that she must stir the soup that simmers over those flames. For that simmering stew contains all the seeds and roots that become the grains and plants and herbs that sprout up all over the surface of the earth. If the old woman fails to stir the ancient stew once in a while, the fire will scorch the ingredients and there is no telling what troubles might result from that.
So, the old woman divides her efforts between weaving the exquisite cloak and stirring the elemental soup. In a sense, she is responsible for weaving things together as well as for stirring everything up. She senses when the time has come to let the weaving go and stir things up again. Then, she leaves the weaving on the floor of the cave and turns to the task of stirring the soup. Because she is old and tired from her labors and because of the relentless passage of time, she moves slowly and it takes a while for her to amble over to the cauldron.
As the old woman shuffles across the floor and makes her way to the back of the ancient cave, a black dog watches her every move. The dog was there all along. Seemingly asleep, it awakens as soon as the old weaver turns her attention from one task to the other. As she begins stirring the soup in order to sustain the seeds, the black dog moves to where the weaving lies on the floor of the cave. The dog picks up a loose thread with its teeth and begins pulling on it. As the black dog pulls on the loose thread, the beautiful garment begins to unravel. Since each thread has been woven to another, pulling upon one begins to undo them all. As the great stew is being stirred up, the elegant garment comes apart and becomes a chaotic mess on the floor.
When the old woman returns to take up her handiwork again, she finds nothing but chaos where there had been a garment of great elegance and beauty. The cloak she has woven with great care has been pulled apart, the fringe all undone; the effort of creation has been turned to naught. The old woman sits and looks silently upon the remnants of her once beautiful design. She ignores the presence of the black dog as she stares intently at the tangle of undone threads and distorted patterns.
After a while, she bends down, picks up a loose thread, and begins to weave the whole thing again. As she pulls thread after thread from the chaotic mess, she begins again to imagine the most beautiful garment in the whole world. As she weaves, new visions and elegant designs appear before her and her old hands begin to knowingly give them vibrant shape. Soon she has forgotten the cloak she was weaving before as she concentrates on capturing the new design and weaving it into the most beautiful garment ever seen in the world.
We had a 40-day period prior to the retreat to hold our intention and for individual preparation and started on January 2.
What life had set up for those 40 days, via the internet, was such an impersonal focused space, which we entered and left in silence — which was great as we simply don’t have time to go into our egos and deal with all our personality stuff. The prayer for the Earth was palpable. I nearly got thrown off my feet by the energy. Sixty people zoomed every day and other women joined on the “inner net.” And a circle of men were holding us in prayer too. I led people into the prayer either from the story or from Llewellyn’s Handbook which gives practices based on awareness of breath which are similar to what we had been doing in our gatherings. In these practices, the light/love comes down from the plane of the soul and through our hearts/wombs flows into the body of the Earth. The breath is traditionally the bridge between the outer physical world and the inner world of the soul…… It is the work of humanity to live this light, and so keep the energy flowing into the web of life where it can heal and transform in hidden ways. (p21-22)
Covid and lockdown were giving us the opportunity to stop and reflect, time to look at what’s really happening. Everything in our lives and Life is unraveling! So we focused on the point in the story where the Old Woman is frozen in shock. We reflected on our own experiences of life unraveling. The Indigenous Elders tell us that we could be the last generation alive on Earth and that every human being matters, that our every thought, word, and action has a consequence now for the continuance of life here on Earth.
We asked, What it is to be living in this time of dying? We did a lot of work around grief and fear. They are gateways. You only grieve for something you love. If you can bear to hold profound grief, that grief becomes a doorway to the love and joy that lies beyond and releases the energy to act and respond to the real need of the time. “God enters through the wound.” (Rumi.)
By facing fear and not pushing it away, we come to face our own mortality. We’re afraid of dying. And it’s really freeing to accept that everything is impermanent. Then you quickly learn what’s important and what isn’t. To hold an awareness of death every day informs your decisions. How you part with people becomes important. I had a rule that I would never let my children go to bed upset or angry because who knows if you’ll see them again? On the grand scale of things, does it really matter if the neighbor annoys you?
The news, for instance, keeps us in fear. I just watch a few headlines. I don’t listen to politicians and others speaking untruth anymore. Right now no-one’s got a knife to my throat, so what’s to fear? Being in a state of fear and anxiety leaves you with no energy for living!
We also paid attention to the fire in the story, the fire that’s been here from the beginning. Ilarion speaks about the prophecy of the Four Directions and how we peoples of the sacred colour white are the masters of fire. If you look around there is fire everywhere fueling our society, everything from light bulbs and vehicles to the internet. But this fire is mainly fueling our material desires and comfort, it is not in service to Life and the Sacred. And Pat McCabe speaks of a time “when the British Isles was the center of the most profound relationship between humans and Mother Earth and Spirit Beings”. Pat says she is wondering and waiting for what is to happen when we really reconnect and reignite that relationship and reclaim our responsibility for tending this fire.
I live in Glastonbury where there is still a memory held in the land of when we lived in sacred connection, of the time when the Earth was fully alive and not sleeping.
One of the many seeds I now hold from the story is that the Old Woman doesn’t react to the dog/ trickster crow. Things happen, all life is impermanence, the need to accept what is. There have been six Mass Extinctions on Earth, and we have brought about another. As humanity, we need to remember that there was the possibility to take this step in evolution without this period of unraveling. However in the Copenhagen Summit, 2009, ‘we’ made the choice to go for sustainable economic growth instead of taking responsibility for sustaining all life on Earth. We could have chosen to ‘unravel’ our destructive materialism and change the ways we live. As Llewellyn has described [Spiritual Power—How It Works, (2019), and Working with Oneness, (2002)] other forms of energy and Earth forces could be freely available to us once we do.
Now we’re experiencing dramatic and cataclysmic events. We still see the planet as inert matter. We need to revere Her. She is alive and deeply Sacred.
The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything we are out of tune…
Oak florets, like dangling earrings
of tiny purple grapes,
waver in the breeze.
They fear we overlook the miracle
of their birth and spirit
that inhabits them from root to tip.
A wave hovers over valleys
and redwood ridges.
It sounds through the crow’s dark calls,
crashes on deaf bones.
the rocks live more soulfully than we!
wavelengths beaming across the cosmos.
From At This Table