Retreat: Dancing Divine Feminine Wisdom

upload Two years ago I was the officiant at Thaemos and Jami’s beautiful autumn wedding, a role which I was honored to play. It was a gorgeous hot day and we made the magic happen. Lo and behold, they were hitched!

2015-11-13 12.00.16Last weekend I was given the most amazing thank you gift. I went with two dear friends (and met a third there) for weekend at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. 2015-11-15 15.10.22

We participated in a 10-hour workshop led by Banafsheh Sayyad, MFA, LAc, a Persian sacred dance artist and transformational teacher, and Safron Rossi, PhD, who teaches mythology and depth psychology at Pacifica Institute and is curator of collections at Opus Archives. Safron recently edited a collection of Joseph Campbell’s writings and lectures on goddesses.

“Transformation of consciousness is a key to navigating the chaos of our world, both personally and collectively. Hidden in the wisdom of the great goddesses of world mythologies is the seed for this transformative potential. What does it feel like to embody mythic consciousness? Tap into the archetypal energy core of the great myths through dance and myth-telling, and experience the transformative power of the feminine. Women and men both need to cultivate an intimate relationship with the feminine divine, and dance is one of the most direct ways to experience her energy and embody her wisdom.

“Join Banafsheh, Safron and musician Tony Khalife in a weaving of mythic storytelling, images, reflective writing, Dance of Oneness®, and live music. Invoke, explore, and embody the goddesses Sophia from alchemical and mystical traditions of the East and Christianity, the Sumerian-Babylonian Inanna, and the Greek Aphrodite. Dance of Oneness®, the conscious movement practice and philosophy designed by Banafsheh, supports living your fullest potential through loving your body and your Self, and living as a Lover. Guided movement and dance technique serve to ignite your unique expression of dance. Open to everyone. The workshop includes ceremony and ecstatic dance celebration.”

Doesn’t that sound delicious? I can assure you, it absolutely was! We explored so many juicy questions in examining the myths and images of Inanna, Aphrodite, and Sophia. Diving into that goddess mythology and imagery again felt wonderful; it’s been quite a few years since that stuff was part of my daily life. It was like meeting an old friend again and getting the most comforting warm hug.

2015-11-13 17.29.34These are some of the ideas we explored: After hearing the myth of Inanna’s descent into the underword, we were asked: What are you willing to let die, to sacrifice, to make room to birth something new? What is trying to be renewed? What part of you yearns for rebirth, transformation, or transmutation? What needs to be born?  

Innana’s descent brings to mind  the shedding of layers or masks, the sacrifice of our identifying symbols, or even the sacrifice of self or self-concept. In the darkness lies an opportunity, a seed. It holds the possibility of the excavation of oneself. Janelle said “composting.” Let die to be reborn; within the dank earth the seed can germinate. Yellow Galaxy Whorl

Banafsheh taught us the basics of Sufi sacred dancing. For something like 45 minutes we whiled like dervishes, spinning fast or slow, unwinding into a quiet, listening place. What goddess is whispering to you? When you dance what goddess is dancing in you?

I learned the Arabic word for womb is rahim. Banafsheh said it also means mercy and compassion. This was an important moment for me, it cracked my heart wide open. We played with our womb energy and moved it through our hearths and out in the world through our expressive dancing. My womb energy is my caretaking, interconnected, merciful,  loving, compassionate source. It’s both suffering and birthing, of my self, of love, of child of light, of the world.  I was inspired that maybe I could say rahim instead of amen.

2015-11-15 15.14.322015-11-15 08.06.29

We also covered Aphrodite, a goddess I have always been tuned to, and especially her connection with rapture, that force which longs to join, to unite, with the beloved. She is playful. Curious. Elemental, born out of conjoining of earth,  sky, and ocean. Birthed in sea foam. Aphrodite is lusty, earthy, but also atmospheric, ethereal, light, airy, flighty. A dove is one of her symbols.  She is luscious, unapologetically sensual. Yet even Aphrodite must be by herself a while, regularly, and renew her virginity, to go within and renew herself. Replenish. The goddess, the divine feminine, is a vessel of love, energy, rhythms, and compassion that is constantly pouring out into the world and welling up within us to be poured out again. We have to refill our personal vessels sometimes. Esalen is Jami’s place of replenishment, revirginificaton. Where is mine? I wonderd. How can I get there more?



We also touched a little on Sophia, the goddess of the world’s wisdom, God’s companion, adviser. She appears in Jewish, Persian, Gnostic tradition. She is the soul of the world. I would like to study Sophia more. We didn’t have enough time with her.

Jubulant, juicy Jeena and JamiDuring the workshop we danced and danced. We met women from Iran, Indonesia, Wales (via Fiji), and many parts of the US. We co-created a transformative space, where we were safe, able to move and express ourselves, able to weep or vocalize or whatever. The environment was made magical by Tony’s music. All the dancing was to live music. Such a gift he has, weaving story and voice, drums, guitar, and other instruments I didn’t know the names of. He was delightful too.

So will our delightful leaders and a group of participants who were inspiring and courageous, we made some serious magic by the sea. We women wove our dance together and the goddesses moved through us. And it was a rare and wonderful treat to see Jeena for a whole weekend! upload2015-11-15 08.08.27    2015-11-15 07.59.43

I will refrain from waxing poetic about the baths. Suffice to say, rahim!

And then it was done. We felt full and tired, energized and awake. I think we each came away with a lot to think about. I felt more in touch with a part of me than I had for a long time. I have in the past been cautious about revealing my own spirituality here. But this is too important to be quiet about. 2015-11-15 17.10.53

On the way home, we stopped to touch the ocean, bathed our eyes, lips, hearts, bellies in sea foam, and found red rose petals scattered on the sand, one for each of us. Thank you, Aphrodite.

My heart is full of gratitude. So to Jami, who made this happen. Thank you!


Here’s a flashback: On the way down to Esalen, we stopped at Point Lobos and did a teeny-tiny hike. It was so amazing to be back at the sea again. I’ve included shots here because it was so completely beautiful.2015-11-13 12.08.372015-11-13 11.58.29 2015-11-13 12.12.12 Me and my soul sister Janelle. Many thanks to Jami for the photo.upload

Remembering My Grandmothers


It’s November, a time when many cultures remember their dear, departed loved ones. I happened to read today about a Chinese goddess named Dou Mou, who is the goddess of the north star. People call on her to protect the spirits of their dead and to keep the living safe from illness. It’s said that people write messages to the dead and then burn them so the message can be delivered in the smoke by Dou Mou.

I am thinking a lot about feminine power and wisdom, after my special weekend. Today happens to be the anniversary of my grand aunt’s death. Yesterday was the anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s death. They died two years and 365 days apart. I was inspired to write to them and to my maternal grandmother, who has been gone fifteen years, I think.


Dear Mabel,

You were so clever and kind. I sometimes didn’t know how to relate to you, but it got better as I got older. You always encouraged me to think and stand up for myself. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in your home for a little over a year while Ian and I were saving money to buy our house. It was a lovely little home and it made me feel good knowing you lived there with my mom, aunts and uncles. It was a happy time for us, in that sweet little house.

I regret not coming to see you after you moved out of your home. I regret it a lot. I was just very self-absorbed, working long days and long weeks, and fully involved in my marriage and newlywed life and friends. I was selfish. I am sorry. I miss you.

I will always love you.



Dear Nana,

Today is the anniversary of your death. I miss you a lot, especially whenever I pick up my paintbrushes to paint. I am grateful for all the love and abundance you showered me with in my life. I am most grateful for the support you gave to my intellectual and artistic pursuits. You gave me my first camera. You gave me paints and canvas, and endless drawing supplies. I wish I could discuss art and painting with you now. I wish I could see more of the art you made in your youth and while you were teaching. I miss you.

I will always love you.



Dear RoRo,

My heart aches when I think of you, RoRo. You have been gone now two years. I miss your warm smile, your smell, your soft skin, even your mumbling, whispering words that were so hard to understand at the end. I miss our shopping trips and especially the trips to the nursery. I miss talking to you about flowers. Thank you for your boundless generosity. You gave me so many advantages in life. You made me feel special and wanted, even when I was bratty and selfish, even while I was pulling away to do my own thing. I wish that you could see me now, see my boys growing up. I know they’re scruffy, but they’re kind and smart and brave and they take care of each other. You loved them so much, and I think you would like them too. I have started wearing your orange silk kimono. I never saw you wear it, never imagined you would own such a garment. That you did has allowed me to imagine you as a woman, and not just my grandma. It fills me with wondering. I miss you.

I will always love you.


Spring Festivals E-Book Is Here

My friend Eileen Straiton of Little Acorn Learning and I are very happy to announce that our Spring Festivals E-Book is now available!

Spring Festivals mosaic 3x10

This is a teaser mosaic of photos from our e-book. It covers St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Equinox, Ostara, and Easter, and is packed with Waldorf songs, stories, verses, crafting tutorials, caregiver meditations, fingerplays, and stories to inspire you and help you create fun and meaningful festival celebrations with children in your home or classroom.

four leaf clover hunt

Part One: Saint Patrick’s Day
Leprechaun Poems and Finger Plays
Irish Blessings
The Four-Leaved Clover
Four-Leaf Clover Hunt
Caregiver Meditation: Luck
Saint Patrick’s Day Kid Craft
Make a Leprechaun House
Simple Shamrock Crown
Irish Stew
St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun Mobile
Shamrock Window Transparency
The Sunbeam’s Visit
Rainbow Playdough
Jolly Leprechaun Ring
St. Patrick’s Day Paper Ornaments
Clover Suncatcher
The Golden Purse and the Seeing Eyes
To Catch a Leprechaun
Rainbow Science
Dip a Rainbow

Third Grade Cherry Blossom Poetry Festival

Part Two: Spring Equinox, Ostara
To Spring
Seeds and Grateful Spring
Spring Poems
The Story of the Two Seeds
Spring Equinox Wreath
Recycled Bird Feeder
The Feisty Fairy Story
Make a Fairy Pouch with Your Child
Build a Fairy House
Five Little Fairies Finger Play
Homemade Fairy Wings
Spring Bird Puppets
Spring Cleaning in the Home or Classroom
Natural Vinegar Cleaning Solution
Cherry Blossom Festival and Writing Haiku Poetry
Cherry Blossom Branches
Paint Cherry Blossoms
Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry
Pressed Flower Frame for Spring
Flower Pot Compost
Spring Zucchini Bread
Watercolor Flower Wreath
Simple Tissue Butterflies

Natural Dyes

Part Three: Easter
The Easter Flower and Easter Week
Lent and Sacrifice
Easter Hymns
Five Little Easter Rabbits and other Rhymes
Creating Your Easter Nature Table
Easter from Calendar of the Soul
Caregiver Meditation: Awakening
Little Felted Chicks
Stewart’s A, B, C’s
Flood-Tide of Flowers
Easter Dish Garden
Dyeing Eggs with Natural Dyes
Dyeing Easter Wool
Easter Egg Rolling
Easter Glove Bunny
Paper Easter Bunnies Banner
Felt Easter Ornaments
Decoupage Easter Eggs
Needle-Felted Easter Egg

This volume is the fourth in our series of Festival E-Books designed to help you find a way into the natural and religious festivals that occur around the time of the Solstices and Equinoxes. We have endeavored to provide inspiration and celebration ideas that will help you create fulfilling and joyful holidays in your home or classroom.

Some of the craft projects in this e-book are geared for adults or older children (but everyone can enjoy them). We have written simple instructions and provided step-by-step photographs to assist you. Other projects are simple enough that even the youngest child can assist, for creating art is a fundamental human desire and an important part of learning and expressing ourselves.

Circle-time rhymes, fingerplays, and games are also an important part of learning about our bodies, our world, and our friends. Some of the classic poetry we included may speak especially to the adult caregiver or teacher, for we believe it is through maintaining a sense of wonder and a love of beauty that permits our souls to shine forth in our daily actions.

This volume contains both a nature-based religious perspective, honoring the Goddess of Spring, and a Christian perspective on the holy days of Lent and Easter, celebrating Christ’s resurrection. There is, in our opinion, significant overlap of symbols and traditions, and we feel they can coexist in the context of the spring festivals in peace.

We hope you enjoy our e-book. It can be purchased on the Little Acorn Learning website here, and if you look around on Little Acorn Learning you will find many more delightful products there.

My personal thanks go to my coauthor Eileen, for her can-do attitude, unflagging faith, endless creativity. I’d also like to say thank you to my husband and my children for their assistance, participation, and great tolerance of the many messes my creative projects produce in our home during book production.

Happy Imbolc!


(photo from Imbolc celebration 2007 by Mark Kelly; used with permission)

Today is the Celtic fire festival of Imbolc, which is so deliciously wrapped up also in the Catholic festival of Candlemas, the Irish Saint Brigit, and the goddess Brigid, who is the Celtic Triple Goddess. I find all these synchronicities and conflations of culture, myth, ritual, and worship to be fascinating.

Imbolc welcomes the warming sun, ushering it back into the world so that spring may come. It’s said that if Imbolc (and Groundhog Day, which is tomorrow, February 2) is sunny and bright, winter will hold on a good long while. If the day is sunny, then the Gaelic divine hag, the Cailleach, can gather plenty of firewood for an extended winter. If the day is stormy, then she’ll sleep in and the winter will end sooner because she will run out of firewood.

The goddess Brigid is associated with fire, with early spring, and is the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock. Her symbols include arrows, bells, thresholds, and doorways. Several animal correspondences are also tied to Brigid, particularly ewes, dairy cows, bees, owls, and serpents. (Thank you, Wikipedia, that will do.)

Today I learned that Saint Brigid was a patroness of students, and also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination. She is known as Saint Brigit of Kildare, or Brigit of Ireland (variants include Brigid, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd and Bride), and was nicknamed Mary of the Gael.

She’s awesome, right?


(photo from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia)

Two years ago we were able to have a lovely family Imbolc celebration, which I blogged about here. This year we have been very busy with preparing for Asher’s sixth birthday, and his birthday party is happening tomorrow on February 2. I honestly don’t think I have much in me for Imbolc this year, except to quietly observe it and take comfort in knowing that winter is now halfway over. We are closer to spring now, and that’s a joy and comfort.

My hope for tonight is simple because I need a rest. Glass of wine. Fire in our fireplace. A little crafting to finish up for tomorrow’s party. Maybe over the weekend we’ll roll some new beeswax candles to light our home and warm our hearts. We’ll take it slow, and if candle-making happens, great. If not, that’s OK too. For me, this is a festival of home and hearth, and snuggling in with our beloveds.

In honor of Brigid’s association with poetry, I offer a poem I wrote for children last year. OK, don’t laugh.

joseph Farquharson
(“Beneath The Snow Encumbered Branches” by Joseph Farquharson, 1903)

Wool Dreaming

Shepherd, shepherd,
Tend your sheep
In the snowy yard.
Rams and ewes, heavy with lambs,
Endure the winter’s cold.

Shepherd, shepherd,
Take good care
Of charges in your fold.
Their wool will be a comfort
To newborn, young, and old.

Shepherd, shepherd,
Feed them well
That their fleece grows soft and fine.
I would like wool warmth to wear
All through the wintertime.

—by moi, Sara E. Wilson

Treasure: Earth Mother

I’ve discovered I like sharing our delicious children’s books, so here is another one I treasure.

Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson

Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson is the gentle story of the goddess going through her daily routine of tending to the earth and the earth’s creatures.

"She fanned sacred smoke in each of the four directions."

With dignity and great reverence, she nurtures even those things that seem insignificant, giving the beetles shiny jackets and sharpening the thorn bushes. She brings the rain and cradles the otter in a tangle of seaweed, rocking him on the waves.

"Bending low, she placed a piece of summer in a flower's seed."

“Bending low, she placed a piece of summer in a flower’s seed.”

"She spangled a tree with fireflies."

“She spangled a tree with fireflies. She spread spiderweb lace on the grass.”

I love the illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon, award-winning (Hugo Award and Caldecott Medal among others) illustrators who have been married for five decades and collaborating and making art together all that time. In this story, Earth Mother is radiant on every page; the patterns in her clothing change with every scene, sometimes they are geometric, other times feature frogs or mosquitoes or men. Flowers break out of the square frames on every page. But the real test of any picture-book illustration is whether it supports the author’s story and theme. The Dillons accomplish this brilliantly, in my opinion.

Along her way, Earth Mother meets a man, a frog, and a mosquito. Each of them complains bitterly about one of the other two, and gives thanks for the abundance of the third. Each would like her to rebalance their proportions.

“Thank you, Earth Mother,” said Frog. “Mosquito and her sisters fill my belly and give me life. But why have you sent Man to catch and eat me? Man is bad, bad, bad. Sweet, delicious Mosquito, on the other hand, makes me happy. If there were more mosquitoes and no men, this world would be perfect.”

The interconnectedness and interdependence of the three creatures is beautifully explored. All the while, Earth Mother maintains her calm serenity, simply sighing because they do not see how perfect the earth already is.

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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