Síle na Gigh showed me, squatting, spreading her luscious lower lips wide open, grinning. Síle showed me the way to the womb of the Great Mother, Gaia, Mother Earth.
As our group of women called in the elements – air, fire, water, earth – we listened to hear what they had to say to us. Air gave me a single word: stillness. The smoky sky above Seattle held its breath for over ten days. Tree branches barely moved. Few birds fluttered about.
The raging fires brought transformation, birth and death. Amidst unimaginable destruction, in conditions of high heat, Douglas-fir trees drop their seeds. Those that germinate grow quickly in newly-opened landscapes.
I had just watched the documentary “My Octopus Teacher,” about a man who dives daily into frigid ocean off the South African coast to connect with an octopus, so it was easy for me to enter that element in my imagination. Water asked me to dive deep, immerse myself fully, and trust the wisdom of my dreams.
As soon as I thought of earth, Síle appeared, shining like her silver image on a necklace I bought in Ireland. Síle na Gigh (Anglicized as Sheela na Gig), ancient, mythic hag who survived centuries of demonization and neglect, whose stone-carved image adorns weather-worn Irish and English churches, who celebrates the ecstacy and pain of opening life’s doorway.
“Why?” I asked. “Why Síle, here, now?” What came to me is this: the Great Mother, the creative force from which all life on earth is born, is in labor. We are called to attend her, breathe with her, hold her, help her withstand the excruciating pain of transformation. What she is birthing – what we are birthing – we can’t imagine yet.
Anyone who has given birth knows that at some point along the journey, it seems impossible that a child will emerge. The pain feels all-consuming, and nothing the laboring one or their supporters do seems to help. All one can do is keep going, keep breathing, let the body do what it knows to do, and seek expert help when needed.
That is where we are now. So many losses, so much pain, illness, agony, death. Will it ever end? Will a new way of living be born, and if so, will it be monstrous and destructive or loving and life-generating? We don’t know.
Síle opens the door, shows the way. We need to show up as our most audacious selves and remember where true power lies.