The Visit From Spider
I rinsed the soap off and opened my eyes. Hanging at eye level in the shower was a big, furry grandmother spider. I asked if she had come with a message for me. This was a surprising out-of-the-ordinary event, but I figured I’d check whether it actually meant anything. I got back a resounding YES!
Receiving a sign involving spiders often indicates the need for writing with the intention of weaving together gossamer strands that beautifully support the sharing of gifts and information with my spirit family. Please note, your personal spider meaning could be completely different!
In the past month my desires and dreams, my relationships, my career, my community and pretty much everything that matters to me has come under the lens of scrutiny. I’ve been asking for guidance, asking for signs, asking to simplify and clarify my visions and desires, so I may put my attention and awareness on creating what’s truly aligned with living my best life in service to my purpose and the divine.
And here was spider, hanging in a most unusual way, telling me to go inwards and listen to what she’s saying.
So now I am sitting and listening. What is it you are here to share with me miss spider?
In response to this inquiry I have a sudden epiphany of an appropriate offering that I can use in ceremony and in connecting with my teachers, from both the human and natural worlds.
For years I’ve struggled with the idea of tobacco as an offering. It didn’t feel right to me, and I had absolutely no personal relationship with it. I longed for an offering that felt like I was truly giving something from a place of deep respect and purposeful gifting. This sudden epiphany had me realize that my unique offering is compost! Of course!
A New Kind Of Offering
Compost symbolizes the truth of our lives as part of a great cycle. Compost allows sacred nutrients to return to the earth to be used for future life. It is a “gateway drug” for many people into the world of sustainable and regenerative farming. It opens people eyes to the truth of our farming systems and the depleted state of our soils, hopefully motivating them to take action for change!
I take great delight in doing my part to create compost, combining the greens and browns, turning it when it’s time, and checking the temperature with my great big compost thermometer. I’ll admit, this obsession was probably one of the biggest factors for why I HAD to go to graduate school for soil science. I couldn’t stand not knowing, in great detail, the inner workings of the composting process and its relationship with soil and plants.
And there’s another side of compost to contemplate. It is a great symbol for the space between d e a t h and r e b i r t h. There is so much spiritual wisdom to be unearthed in contemplating the essence of compost. What is this?
The Space Between Death and Rebirth
In the Western world we don’t tend to think too much about the space between death and rebirth. For millennia Christianity has been the dominant voice on the matter, and for many Westerners life after death means spending eternity in either heaven or hell. It’s a one-way deal. Let’s visualize it as a straight line from point A to point B, from Earth life to the eternal afterlife.
What this idea fails to acknowledge is the perpetual cycles that are part of nature here on Earth. I’m not here to get into a big discussion about Christian ideals. I’m simply using it as an example and a theory for why our Western minds aren’t programmed to think about these cycles of nature.
And thus compost is the great symbol that allows us to explore the process of death, disintegration and rebirth. It is the great connector in the cycle. It takes that straight line and bends it into a circle, or perhaps even a spiral, where the cycles go on for eternity. There’s no more point A to point B. It’s a completely different system now.
When approaching death in this way, as part of a death/rebirth process, it doesn’t seem as scary. And it also gives rise to the potential for the death/rebirth process as being something that we experience alllllll the time in much smaller ways than “the big death”.
Death Is Always Knocking On Our Doors
The cycle of the seasons is a prime example of a perpetual death/rebirth process. In this cycle, winter is a form of death that we experience year after year after year.
People who live anywhere but the equator experience the darkening of days as the earth rotates around the sun (for a great visualization of why this happens, see http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/seasons/en).
With this comes a slowing down of plant life, a slowing down of animals in the wild, and, if you’re lucky, a slowing down of your own life for the winter season.
I like to think of what life was like before we had the ability to quickly transport food around the world, before refrigeration and electricity were commonplace, and before the industrialized world hypnotized the masses with its consumerist ways.
Winter in those times was a dark, dark season. It was cold. The possibility of starvation was very real, as there were no grocery stores to run to if you didn’t have enough food to make it through the winter. People used rituals as timekeepers to signal when to undertake certain activities, such as harvesting and preserving food so they could make it through the winter. Ritual also played a part in helping them to remember to celebrate the gifts of winter, such as slowing down and resting deeply in preparation for the next growing season.
Even though we aren’t forced to live this way in our modern age, I find my body, mind and spirit wanting to honor and participate more fully in these seasonal cycles. During winter I want to slow down. I want to contemplate death and rebirth. I want to practice rituals and be connected to the seasons. I want to know myself as part of nature.
Riding The Waves Of Death
I feel the slowing down in my body whether I like it or not, and it doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it is maddening! I am a very happy person, yet I feel the slowing down as a feeling of being depressed. It feels like I’m actually being pressed down, with all the unnecessary stuff being squeezed out of me.
I begin to question everything. I question whether I’m living in integrity to the best of my ability. I question whether I’m putting my creative power and my awareness into feeding things that I truly desire, that I love, and that nurture me in return. I question whether I’m being of service in alignment with both my purpose and the needs and purposes of those whom I serve. I question whether I need to make any changes to what I’m doing or how I’m doing it.
Then, in the dark season, there often comes an unexpected shaking up that helps me go even further and even deeper with this questioning and rearranging of my thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This year it came both as the shocking election results and as a shaking up of questioning whether my partner and I are doing the best we can to support each other and come together as whole people. I question what it would look like to do better at this.
In the acute moments of both of these events, it felt like the floor came out from under me, and I wanted to run. Fight or flight kicked in, and let me tell you, my default option is flight. But something in me knew, in a soft whisper that was barely audible, that neither fight nor flight would bring about the true change that was needed in either of these situations. There had to be a way forward through this great shaking up. There was at least one other option, a door number 3.
Door Number 3
A lifetime of living under the programming of patriarchal society has suppressed my innate knowing of what I want as a woman in partnership with a man. What does it look like for me and my husband to embody our sacred feminine and masculine? What do I want for myself? What do I want from him? How can I give to him in integrity? How can we best serve each other in the most authentic ways possible?
I don’t know all the answers, so these will be questions I explore in the next year. There are dozens and dozens of women leading “goddess awakening” courses and retreats. I question whether these are what I need, or if there is another direction that would best serve the excavation and activation of this inner wisdom and guidance.
This process hasn’t been easy or particularly fun. Actually, it’s been shitty and terrible at times. I do my best to ride the waves of death, rather than be smashed and tumbled by them, in these darkest days as we approach the winter solstice. I want to run away and hide in a cabin surrounded by snow with a “no visitors” sign on the door. But I stay. I stay at home and in my marriage and with my responsibilities and commitments.
I mourn my mistakes, I grieve the moments when I realize I sacrificed my truth for someone else’s fulfillment. I forgive myself for letting these violent acts (though not physically violent) occur in my life whether as a result of default programming or as a result of my conscious choices. I accept that I have fucked up on some level, despite thinking I was doing what was best in the moment.
Making It Through The Unknown And The Void
Ritual gets me through this. Community and support from my elders and teachers gets me through this. Living at my pace, going easy on myself, and allowing my life to slow down gets me through this. My creative passions and pursuits get me through this (yay podcasting!).
In the past I would have fled. I would have dropped my life like a hot potato, not caring what the consequences were. In those days I didn’t have a community. I didn’t have a spiritual practice. I didn’t know how to ask for help (this is a biggie, if you don’t know how, then learn ASAP!). I only knew how to run and burn everything in my path as I got the hell out of there.
But now, just because there is an internal death and rebirth occurring, it doesn’t mean my outer life has to come crashing down in a dramatic show of flames. But that might be a fun ritual to enact to satisfy my innate need to kill it all and run. ?
I stay and let the waves of death and clarity come to me. I surrender to the divine, asking that I am used for love. I review my desires, and I surrender those, too, asking that if they are aligned with being an instrument of divine love, that they are brought into being. And I ask that if they are not aligned, that I am released from the constant pull towards these visions and desires. This practice feels like a great big reset button, bringing me back to deep center, and letting me let go of what no longer fits with living in love.
I genuinely love my life, so it’s hard to go through this period. No matter how awesome I am at reconfiguring, visioning and surrendering during this next year, I will arrive in this place again come winter, only to feel the same waves of death coming over me until I remember to get on top and ride them.
This is natural.
This is part of life.
Perhaps there is a way to go through this process with less intensity, but I’m the type of person who needs a nice kick in the ass to make changes happen. Otherwise, I go about my life as if it’s all great, on-point, and perfectly perfect.
Noticing And Acting On The Signs
So now I’m contemplating the compost both as an offering and as a focus for meditating on the place between d e a t h and r e b i r t h. Right now I’m in this void amidst the waves of dying, waiting to be reborn. I’m finding ways to bide my time. I want to avoid rushing through this void, as I may miss something important or move too fast to see the true guidance and vision that will lead me forward in more complete alignment with purpose and integrity in the coming year.
And I’m contemplating the visit from Grandmother Spider this morning in the shower. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have come straight to my computer to type out all these thoughts and feelings. I’d miss out on what’s swirling around in my heart and mind, waiting to be put to “paper”, so I can more clearly understand the processes I’m going through right now.
And I see that at the very least, she is telling me to write more. Write and use my words to weave. Use my words to heal. Use my words to connect with the hearts and minds of those whom I am meant to be in community with. Use my words to share what I am, what I stand for, and what I offer to the world in humility and service.
I am humbled by this great sign from spider and all the outpouring of healing that has occurred as a result of listening to her guidance.
I am grateful that my stubborn ass didn’t put off writing for “some other time”, and that I went immediately to my computer to dig into what spider had to say to me. Thank you spider.
What Webs Are You Weaving?
I am grateful for you, dear reader, for reading this far. I hope that this has revealed and awakened something of value in you, something that can help you ride your own waves of death and rebirth with grace, peace and love, despite however messy it might look on the outside.
I want to know. I really, truly want to know, do you go through this annual death and rebirth process too? Did reading this awaken, clarify or help heal something in you?
Do you feel like you are suppressing your process?
Do you have ceremonies or support structures in place to help facilitate your experience of this process?
Do you immediately act on signs, or do you think you’ll do it later, only to forget about it?
I want to honor that which spider has shown me. I want to weave these threads and webs of community and healing with words, and you, my dear reader, are very possibly an important part of this community.
Let me know what this brought up for you, either in the comments, or by way of email.
If you enjoyed reading this, then stay in touch via signing up for our newsletter here:
featured image from the 1954 movie Susan Slept Here
Image attributions for most of remaining images: Pinterest or Google sourced, I will research artists to the best of my ability and post them here. If you know who to attribute, please let me know!