The Shadow Goddess of the Cactus Cave

My very artistic and generous friend, Judy, made me a beautiful green, horsehair ceramic woman.  This figurine held a bouquet of pretty sticks, and wore a headdress of the same thin, straight sticks.  I thought she would look great on our forested hillside at the entrance of a cave, which is adorned and protected by a prickly pear cactus.

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This is her story. It is a Winter Solstice story:

She awoke at the entrance of a dark cave, not knowing where she came from or how she got there. There were many animals standing, waiting expectantly in front of her.

“Are you here to help us?” squawked the Steller’s jay.

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“Yes,” chimed in the bluebird and the chickadee harmoniously, “Can you stop the Coopers hawks from killing us?”

“And the coyotes from destroying our families?” Squeaked the gopher and the muskrat simultaneously.

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The bunny nodded hopefully.

“Are you our Queen?” Chirped the red squirrel.

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They all had “enemies” they wanted her to eliminate.

“A queen?” She thought to herself. Why, yes, I could help them all to get along. I shall be Queen of the Cactus Cave, and all will adore me because I am so beautiful. I can stop them from hurting each other.”

“Yes!” She affirmed to the animals. “I am your Queen of the Cactus Cave!”

That night, after all the diurnal animals left, the new queen settled in for a nice, quiet sleep.

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Suddenly she was awakened by someone jumping on her and eating her headdress down to nubs, and brazenly chewing up her bouquet. “Who are you and what are you doing?!” She screamed.

“Who am I?!  Who are you, and what are you doing in my cave?!”

“I am the Queen of the Cactus Cave, and I am here to heal this forest with my beauty!”

“Beauty?” Ridiculed what she could now see was a pack rat. “Look at you! You have no crown. You have no belongings.  You are nothing! I have taken your beauty from you. It was easy.  Your superficiality has degraded you.” With that said, the rat pushed her out of the cave, and she rolled all the way down to the bottom of the ponderosa covered hill, almost falling into the freezing creek.

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First, the bat came. “Are you alright?”

“No, a pack rat attacked me, and stole my beauty!” She whimpered.

“Ah,” said the bat, as it clicked her with its sonar. “I am usually gone this time of year, but I stayed to tell you that you will go through a dark and scary journey, but in the end you will be reborn into who you truly are. I am quite familiar with caves. Part of you will die. You will be given challenges. You will be confronted with all of your Fears. You will be initiated into your true destiny. Your former self will be broken down through intense tests, and you will let go of the old, and create the new. It will only be upsetting to the degree that you are attached to being the beautiful queen.  The forest is your mirror.”

The queen thanked the bat, but was left confused and overwhelmed by the prophecy she had just heard.

Then she heard giant footsteps approaching. The big black bear picked her up, and took her back to the cave. “You must go within to find the resources necessary for your survival.  You must meditate in your cave, and figure out who you are, and to find Sacred Love and Grace within. I came out of my den to tell you this.”

She crawled further into the cave this time. “Silly bear, I know who I am. I am the beautiful queen,” she thought to herself, but self- doubt crept into her heart, and she cried herself to sleep.

“You again! I thought I got rid of you!” Shouted the pack rat. “You are an imposter! You haven’t earned the right to be a queen! Get out of my cave!” And again, he pushed her out of the cave, and down she rolled right into the creek. Splash!

“Oh, you poor thing,” said the beaver soothingly. “You are sad and cold. Climb on my back, and I will teach you how to build your dreams.”  On the way, they went under the ice, and he taught her how to breathe air from the bubbles that he had left at the surface along the way to his lodge.

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Inside the lodge, it was surprisingly warm, and she cuddled with the furry beaver family to stay even warmer. They bestowed a sense of harmony upon her, and taught her how they work together. She thanked them heartily, and left to go back to her cave to work things out with the pack rat.

On the way, she encountered a raccoon, wearing a mysterious and mystical mask. The raccoon told the queen, “Share your time, not your beauty. Be present in the moment. Be adaptable and curious. Create a doorway in your mind to cross into new dimensions, and new ways of being. Don’t hide your true self behind a mask of your perception of beauty.” She also taught the queen how to defend herself, and to take care of herself so she could take care of others.

Then along came a skunk who taught her the meaning of respect. Self-respect, and being respectful of others and their processes.

She could feel herself deepening, and her heart opening. It was a beautiful and scary feeling. She looked at the moon and stars, and realized that she was feeling humble.

Just then, the queen, who didn’t feel much like a queen anymore, heard singing. She looked up and saw a porcupine waddling toward her. They laughed together, and she learned that enjoying life and keeping a sense of wonder can cause happiness. The porcupine was so good natured, and taught her about strength within vulnerability. She gave her some quills for her basket, as she warned of being too sensitive to the barbs of others, as well as being careful not to use barbed words.

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Along the way, the queen met several other night animals. Coyote taught her to laugh at herself, and to see humor and whimsy in everyday occurrences, and to have fun.

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Deer was very tender and gentle with her, and gave her dried flowers for her basket.

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Elk taught her about stamina and also comradery with those of her own gender.

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A fox appeared out of nowhere, and taught her about blending in to the night, to  be aware of her energy field and how to listen to Spirit.

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Weasel taught her how to understand the hidden meaning or reasons behind what someone might say; to understand what is really in their heart.

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A great horned owl flew down silently from a tree, from where he had been watching her. He took her gently in his talons to just outside of her cave. “I need to tell you some things, dear one,” he hooted.

“Wisdom is what you need, and you are rapidly gaining it with the help of the night people. You must learn to be silent and listen. Observe and honor your intuition. You must see the total truth, without lying to yourself. You must learn to love and embrace your shadow self, the parts that are hard to visit, but must be healed and cleared.”

“The darkness is a gateway to understanding. It embraces everything. Its nature is love, and in our confusion, we project terror on to it, or ugliness, or wrong, bad, unacceptable or unbearable.  It is all our imagination, or the story that we make up about it. It all just is.  Accept it, and don’t fight what is.”

The owl hooted to the pack rat that it is time now to let the “Shadow Goddess” of the Cactus Cave live here. The pack rat agreed with the owl, but from behind a rock said. “I was doing it to teach her a lesson, and to help her transition from pretentious queen to genuine Goddess.”

The owl nodded and gave our Shadow Goddess a feather for her basket to help with her transformation, intuition and dreaming.

She looked in her basket and was grateful that everything in it meant something deep inside her, as opposed to monotonous straight sticks. She smiled. She said a silent thank you for all she had learned.

_DSC0221Shadow Goddess crawled

way back into the cave

where she would live in

darkness, except for

about 15 minutes of

light every day, that

came in from a hole in the top of the cave.

She was grateful for the light, but was very comfortable in the darkness. She and the pack rat became great friends.

The daytime animals started coming to her.

“Come in, my dear. Have some tea.  Are you upset? Angry?  Afraid? Has someone pushed your buttons? Are you sad? Tell me all about it,” she said compassionately.

And they did, and all the animals began to feel more gratitude, love, harmony and happiness. They shed many tears of joy as they realized that they had no enemies, and that all was in balance.

And when the longest night came, the Shadow Goddess of the Cactus Cave delighted in the darkness. Winter Solstice had become her favorite time, and always reminded her of the turning point of her life, as it is the turning point of the year.

Happy Solstice everyone!

And Happy Longest Day to those in the Southern Hemisphere!

Finding Peace

On our ponderosa hillside, Bill and I created a little altar, where we vision, talk and express gratitude.

DSCN2197People who visit, or who receive some kind of healing from  the land, often leave something there – a special stone, feather or trinket. It is a sweet little sacred space. For my birthday one year, my cousin Jessie and her partner Mish, gave me a little green ceramic box filled with lavender, whose top was a little brown bear with pink wings. Bill and I put that, and a stone carved wall hanging of an angel that said, “Peace and Grace Be to this Place.” So we named the angel, Grace and the little bear, Peace.

When I went back up there, the following week, the bear was in a different place, and her wings had broken off. She didn’t seem any more worse for wear, so I figured she had sacrificed her wings to create a butterfly – a transformation of Peace.

On my next visit to the hillside altar, Peace was gone! What was I to do with no Peace? Of course, it became a quest to find Peace. Every hike, I searched. I looked everywhere for Peace.  For a while, I even thought that maybe someone had stolen my Peace.

A few months later, Grace disappeared. I thought for sure, there must be an altar trinket marauder. Grace was really heavy. How could a pack rat have moved her?  I wrote a little note, asking for their return, and left it in a baggie, thinking maybe it was a kid who thought they had been abandoned.

Finally, I let go.  If someone felt the need to steal them, they needed Peace and Grace more than I did.

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Over a year later, Bill and I were marking trees for a thinning project.  We were probably a quarter of a mile away from the altar and 200 feet higher. At the time we were about a hundred yards apart. I thought I saw something green and shiny buried under a large root.

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As I went to investigate, it began to dawn on me what it might be.

“Oh my God!” I shouted. “Oh my God!!!”

“What honey? What’s wrong?”  Bill yelled back, with visions of me lying on the ground, fractured and bloody.

“I Found Peace!”

The moral of this little pack rat parable is that you need not look further than your back yard, when searching for peace.

    Or

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When letting go of something, if it is meant to be, it will return.

A couple of months later, I found Grace. I think the magpies or  ravens must be in on these little capers.

May you find peace and grace.

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