At this time of year, all of nature teaches us to release and let go. But we often struggle with the “shoulds” and “should-nots” of releasing roles, relationships, and projects that we’ve outgrown. We’re often afraid to let go of a familiar way of doing things, because we don’t know what will take its place, or because we are reluctant to let other people down.
One of the core teachings of Goddess Spirituality is the eight-fold lunar cycle as a pattern-holder for the process of life / death / renewal. This cycle is reflected in the eight holy-days and divisions of the solar year as well. The pattern applies to anything with a life cycle: projects, relationships, groups, belief systems, roles we play.
Eight-fold Cycle of Life / Death / Renewal
- New Moon / Winter Solstice: Dormant / seed capsule.
- Crescent Moon / Candlemas: Germination / first shoots.
- First Quarter Moon / Spring Equinox: Shoots, roots & stems / buds.
- Gibbous Moon / Beltane: Buds / flowers, blooms.
- Full Moon / Midsummer: Flowers, fruits.
- Disseminating Moon / Lammas: Fruits, harvest.
- Third Quarter Moon / Autumn Equinox: Harvest / decomposing / release of seeds.
- Balsamic (Dark) Moon / Hallows: Death, decomposing, compost, going dormant.
I find it very comforting and helpful to know that all things begin, wax to fullness, wane, then die, before beginning again in a new form with a new cycle. It helps me to make peace with whatever it is that is ending, especially when the ending is one that I choose, instead of one that is thrust upon me.
My astrologer of 20+ years, Sheila Belanger, has been working with midlife transits as initiations as long as I’ve known her. She recently created an e-course out of this material, The True Nature Midlife Map. (Highly recommended!) In the first class of the series, she discusses the three-fold Initiation Journey, and notes that we go through many of these cycles during our midlife years. Our understanding of these journeys can be enriched by studying the astrological transits that underpin them.
Three-fold Initiation Journey
The three-fold initiation journey, as Sheila describes it, is one of separation, liminality, and re-integration. When I place this map against the eight-fold lunar cycle, I see that it starts after the full moon, or peak of the life cycle. After our energy and interest in a certain project, role or relationship has peaked, we separate from it, even though we may feel lost. As the metaphorical moon wanes to darkness, we explore the wilderness of not-knowing, before re-integrating as the cycle begins again with the new moon.
An example would be a significant relationship. Let’s follow the eight-fold lunar cycle. You meet someone, fall in love or become friends, ground your relationship in shared interests and activities, and it peaks in a time of mutual love and companionship. Then your interests shift, or perhaps there is a crisis of some sort and a falling out. Your relationship begins to wane. You don’t spend as much time together as you used to, and perhaps you find yourself annoyed with your friend more often than not. Is it time to end the relationship, or do the inner work it takes (perhaps with the help of a counselor) to repair the relationship and shift it to a new level?
The three-fold initiation journey begins after the peak, or “golden age,” of the relationship has passed and you make the decision to separate yourself from it. The role you played in that relationship no longer serves your wisest, deepest Self. Something’s gotta give. So you enter the liminal time of not knowing what to do next, whether to completely end the relationship, or whether it can be transformed. You pay attention to your emotions, listen to your dreams, and follow your intuition in this stage. You make a choice to change, and the relationship changes too. Finally, you enter the stage of re-integration, where you can continue the relationship in a renewed, revitalized way, or end it and allow other relationships to develop.
I created a tarot spread to help illuminate this process. My intention is to provide a process that will help us make peace with that which is ending in our lives, and to point the way to a new path opening up before us.
Tarot Spread for the Three-fold Journey
Think of a situation in your life (a project, dream, belief system, relationship, role you play) that is waning, past its peak. It could be something you are afraid to end, or it could be something you long to end.
Pull a card for each of the stages of the Initiation Journey, and write about the question and your responses to the card in your journal. Choose just one of the questions in each stage to answer. Allow the cards to spark ideas or insights, to call your attention to something you might not have otherwise noticed.
- What do I need to release? What am I cutting away?
- What story no longer fits me? What role is too small for me?
- How might I gather up the courage to let go?
- What is it I no longer know? What is now uncertain?
- What am I afraid of? What emotions are strong in me right now?
- What do I feel or know intuitively? What dreams are beckoning to me?
- What might nourish my Soul?
- What hope do I have for the future?
- What is next for me? What path opens up before me?
BONUS: After Re-integration.
Pull cards and respond to these questions at some point after the situation has been resolved and re-integration has occurred, probably some months down the road.
- What do I know now that I did not know before the separation and threshold?
- How can I express the mystery I experienced in the liminal stage?
- How am I now living a more authentic life?
I decided a few months ago to close my membership site, the Gaian Tarot Circle, in March of 2014. It feels very bittersweet to me. I feel a great release and an opening up, but at the same time I feel a lot of sadness around no longer being in community with the people who are part of the Circle, and I am also concerned about letting them down.
Separation: What story no longer fits me?
9 of Fire. I am no longer at a peak of power with the Gaian Tarot (9’s are peak cards), in the sense that I no longer feel “on fire” and charged spiritually by a tight focus on the deck. The man meditating in the cave is a type of spiritual teacher — I can imagine students coming to him, wanting to be taught. I’ve played this role in the Circle, and I am ready to let it go.
Liminality: What is it I no longer know? What is uncertain?
3 of Fire. I no longer know what creative project will light me up and get me dancing. I have a number of ideas for teaching, for writing, and for artwork. Which do I work on first? Which will be the best choice to sustain me emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially? I have a few glimmers, but I am still waiting for direction to be made clear.
Re-integration: What is next for me? What path opens up before me?
9 of Water. (Oh goodie! Do I get to go back to Cornwall?) This card still does not make it clear to me what the new path is, but whatever it is, it’s something that lifts me up and fills my heart and soul. I bloom, I lift my arms, I sing the praises of the One who fills my heart and spirit. It is another peak card (a 9), but this time in the realm of mysticism, art, and emotional connection. What a lovely promise of the quality of whatever it is that will follow the end of the Gaian Tarot Circle.
(I shared this process with members of the GTC on a teleseminar the other night. I’d love to hear about any readings you do with this process, and how it has helped you to make peace with your own endings.)