Initiation on Epiphany
Long before dawn on January 6, the Western Christian feast day of Epiphany (literally “manifestation”), my wife Martha and I arrived at SeaTac Airport pulling wheeled suitcases full of summer clothes, sun shirts and shorts for snorkeling, guidebooks about Maui, and kava to offer to the spirits of the land in Hawaii. I had difficulty printing my boarding pass, perhaps because I’d had two hours of sleep, and joined the line for people with “other issues”: oversized baggage, pets in containers, etc. Uncharacteristically nervous about encountering any obstacles to boarding the plane, I called on the goddess Brigid to help me. I didn’t think she traditionally had anything to do with traveling, but she’s a powerful one to have by one’s side in any situation for protection and illumination. Sure enough, within minutes I had my boarding pass in hand, checked my bag, and we sped through an expedited version of the security check. We were on our way! Or so we thought.
Three weeks earlier, I had had a dream in which I was chased by a pack of large, wild dogs with sharp teeth. Their job was to bring me down, and they succeeded that morning. In a freak accident, I ran into the teeth of the escalator carrying us down toward the gate and fractured both bones of my right leg at the ankle. In a moment’s time our destination changed dramatically; we were headed to the hospital.
Imbolc, celebrated in early February, is the beginning of spring in the Celtic world and is sacred to Brigid. It’s the time when the ewes lamb, the trees begin to bud, a time of beginnings, renewal, initiation. We all go through periods of initiation, when an old path no longer leads us where we want to go and we must leave it and step out on a new one. The momentum of our habitual patterns and responses can be hard to break, even when they clearly no longer serve our needs.
My fall was a break in more ways than one. Though I would never wish such an accident on myself or anyone else, and though the experience has involved pain, immobility and frustration, the process of healing this fracture has also been deeply meaningful for me. Every experience of the last several months, in which I have been immersed in seeing, honoring and letting go of old childhood and family patterns, led right up to that moment of total surrender on the escalator as it took me down, literally and figuratively.
My father, his two brothers and their father were all medical doctors. The injury required me to move from painful awareness of the wounding that occurred in that family in the past to complete trust in my Western medical and surgical team in the present. There is no workshop, retreat, vision quest, or therapy session that could possibly take me where that experience has taken me. At some moments, I have had to completely let go of control; at others, I have appropriately and effectively asserted myself. I have been met with caring, reliability, and healing. I am grateful for the opportunity to create a new story.
Right before the dream about the wild dogs, I dreamt I was in a claw-foot bathtub with a woman who was about to give birth. Being so close to her was an honor; I anticipated the birth with great joy. In the process of initiation, after the fall, the break with the old ways, the death of the outgrown self, comes rebirth.
When I can again step confidently on my healed right leg, knowing the ankle can support me, what new path will I walk? Some clues have come in this dreamlike time when I have been removed from my usual activities. I know the spirits have something very interesting in store for me.
If you are in a difficult place, if you are facing adverse circumstances and it seems that you are unable to go on living your life in the ways that you have been, if you can sense something new calling you, you may be entering a period of initiation. I encourage you to find support to honor and release the old ways and open yourself to the new path that unfolds before you this Imbolc.