Secrets of the Blackened Pool

black pool

baba yaga by ivan bilibinIn early October I rambled the woodlands of western Massachusetts, and came across a blackened, vernal pool. It looked for all the world as if it had sprung full blown out of the pages of a book of Russian fairy tales.  I half-expected Baba Yaga to peek out through the leaves, and kept one eye out for her as I slowed my breathing and stilled my mind.

This particular pond appears every spring and is usually dry ground by fall. But because of the unusually wet summer, it lasted long into the dying season. On this rainy day, it took on the persona of the Old One, the Wild One, its body a portal to the Realms Below. I felt a bit like Persephone standing at the gates of the Underworld, and yet a sense of deep peace and joy filled my heart.  I batted away persistent mosquitoes, recognizing them as a metaphor for the distractions of daily life that keep us away from accessing this place of peace.

black pool

I gazed at the pool, inhaling raindrops, noticing the depth of layers, seen and unseen . . .

Above the water . . .above

On the water . . .on the water

Under the water . . .under

Falling into the water . . .into2

Concentric circles rippling out . . .circles

And I realized I was being nurtured by death and dying, a gift of this out-of-season vernal pool.  Our summer in the Northwest had been very short, and I had been dreading the onset of autumn and winter.  Here, in this Northeastern place, I made my peace with with the Dying Season.red leaves

The aroma of burning sage wafted towards me as I made my farewells and prepared to leave. I turned back to bow once more to the pool. The scent of sage meant another pilgrim was nearby, honoring the woodland, the death and the decay.

And so I also honor the Old One.  Namaste.Ivan-Bilibin-Baba-Yaga

Artwork: Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin, circa 1899

(Note: I led two workshops this October on “Connecting with Mama Gaia” — one at Arcadia Wildllife Sanctuary in Easthampton, Massachusetts, where this encounter took place. The other one was part of the Gaian Tarot Retreat in southern Ontario, Canada. James Wells wrote a beautiful post here about his experience of the Retreat.

10 thoughts on “Secrets of the Blackened Pool

  1. These photos are wonderful for pondering the shadow nature of earth and her inhabitants! 🙂 I’m enjoying the Gaian Tarot, everyday as I choose a card to journal by and to affirm me for the day! Thank you, Joanna!

  2. What evocative and deeply compelling words and photos you have shared here, Joanna! I especially love the “Concentric circles rippling out” photo. Thank you for giving me a new way to look at the darker months soon upon us.

  3. Thank you Cynthia. I love the concentric circles too . . . like community, rippling out into the world. Blessings!

  4. Thanks Judy, just checked out your blog. Love it! Thanks so much for being part of the Gaian Tarot Retreat and bringing your gorgeous bracelets.

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