Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Solstice Circle, An Inaugural Event by Women of Rome
Nonetheless, my housemate Courtney, an active co-parent to my children, paused before heading to the same event.On a well-intended whim, she invited my daughter. Only slightly surprised by this, I was genuinely taken aback when my child actually wanted to come.
A short drive later, we were all wandering up a dark path toward a campfire. Strangers and friends had begun the evening earlier with a potluck dinner. Upon our arrival, they had formed a circle around the fire and were taking turns introducing themselves to the group. When our turn came, Courtney sang about Appalachia. My daughter leaned peacefully and silently against me. I spoke about my business and my activism.
Next, Danielle instructed women to throw both holly sprigs and paper into the fire. We were to infuse these with ideas of things we wanted to release and to achieve within the coming year. My daughter embraced this exercise without question. To the holly sprig, she whispered her intention to shed her fear of the dark. On the paper, she drew a detailed picture of our family outside a new home. When she threw the paper into the fire, it lingered along the edges, barely singed, until mine caught first and then swiftly engulfed hers as well.
Later in the evening, one guest shared a Native American song and dance meant to honor the elements. My daughter quickly picked up on the words and the movements, joining in with enthusiasm and grace. Later, she sang her own song, a freestyle expression of all she'd experienced during the ceremony. Visionary entrepreneurs, artists, educators and activists surrounded me. Yet, watching my daughter set a new precedent offered me the deepest insight and joy.
The Winter Solstice marks the northern hemisphere's shortest day of the year, when the Sun is at the greatest distance from this half of the Earth. Celebrating the solstice is an opportunity to honor the concept of darkness and also to celebrate the concept of light's return.
Danielle's Solstice Circle emerged organically after she formed a Facebook group, Women of Rome, designed to unite open-minded women residing within the vicinity of our mid-sized Georgia town. She took inspiration from the idea of red tent gatherings, a modern take on the ancient tradition of placing women together during their menstrual cycles and times of childbirth. Thanks largely to author Anita Diamant's work of historical fiction The Red Tent, red tent gatherings of the past and present are framed as empowering spaces within which women can support each other and acknowledge the sacred during times of sweeping change. In my opinion, contemporary red tent gatherings offer women an opportunity to co-create an alternative social structure from which mainstream culture would do well to take a heavy dose of inspiration.
Danielle's decision to begin Women of Rome came after her experience of a Native American sweat lodge ceremony, which we both attended in November. Some elements of the Solstice Circle, such as burning the holly sprigs and slips of paper, took inspiration from the sweat lodge and felt very welcome and familiar to me. However, there is no single right way for women to gather. The most important step, as with so much else, is just deciding to show up and honor one another.