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Swimming With Tahlequah
Last night under a dark moon Tahlequah said her final goodbye to her calf. In her closing gesture, she let go. Maybe she glanced down as that little body disappeared into the dark depths. To us humans, the dark depths of the sea hold so many secrets, hold so many fears and unspoken experiences, things we shove away to the dark recesses. How do orca view the dark deep of the ocean for they cannot reach those depths.
Like them, we are emotional creatures, moved by the pull and release of the moon and go through our own emotional tides. All life came from the oceans and before that the stars. Last night in the final gesture of her ritual meteors rained down from a dark sky. Perhaps this great mother looked up or saw the falling light reflected on the water’s surface.
She carried her calf one day for every month that it had grown inside her. She carried her calf for 17 months as it grew, for seventeen months she sang to this little one. For seventeen months she carried the hope of her pod, each of them knowing each calf born in the last three years has died.
She Who Holds the Wheel (with the spirals of Newgrange overlaid)
She wasn’t alone in these 19 days as her family around her supported her. They took turns in holding her calf afloat and brought her food. These days carrying her calf was an act of love, an act of holding on, it was an act of ritual. This is why I called on people to make art, to offer a gesture of ritual. Ritual, art, ceremony these are the things that keep us sane, these are the things that help us see how things really are. What are Newgrange, Loughcrew, the Clava Cairns and Callanish if not our ancestor’s way of honoring, of making sense of coming together to honor the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown.
Brighid is our midwife, she helps souls to be born into this world and she helps them on in their journey leaving this world and into the otherworld. On this dark moon night, Tahlequah allowed her calf to be reborn as she too was reborn as we in our shared grief with her. Rebirth is a powerful ritual. It is the turning around of despair and apathy, it is a need to do something, to make something matter and not let it be forgotten.
Last night I swam in dark waters, rolling on my back to watch meteors fall above. There were many others there in spirit in whale form. We helped her in the last stage of her ritual, we supported her in her letting go. Her grief speaks to outwardly spiraling circles, it is reborn in many ways. Through us it gives voices to the mama pig stuck in a gestation crate (magical creatures who like to sing to the moon), through us it gives voice to the mama cow whose udder is aching and full and her heart is breaking at the sound of her calf crying who has been taken away from her. Our everyday lives cause unmeasurable suffering, nearly all species are in decline apart from humans.
‘We are the most compassionate, the most violent, we are the most creative and we are the most destructive creatures ever to appear on this planet’. Carl Safina
But my point isn’t to lecture, we know these truths, my point is that art and ritual can allow our unspoken grief to be reborn. Weren’t we grieving for ourselves as we grieved for Tahlequah? Didn’t she give us an invitation to release so many things we just can’t give voice to? My point is that we can turn around those feelings and do something to help the plight of so many animals who are suffering.
Yesterday a dear friend invited me to use the Dark Moon to ritualize the grief felt by Tahlequah, the orca whale with her dead child. I was lost in my own grief around my husband’s health and, though my heart ached for this dear, sweet being-ness, I didn’t think I could respond. As it was, I was stuck and immobile. However, the more I thought of this beautiful whale and her child, the more my heart cracked open and so I went to the canvas. As an artist, it is my go to when I need to move energy.
I felt I was to paint water… waves of emotion… so with only 2 colors and my fingers I began to work. Then I felt led to add a touch of the Kintsugi concept of filling our cracks/wounds and grief with gold. The flower of life stencil also kept calling, but I wasn’t sure it “fit”. Then words began to flow – not in the raw, visceral way of most of my writing, but rather more hopeful.
On the surface, a simple little painting, but as with life if one looks below the surface there is soooo much there, so much more visible if only we look.
A mother Pilot whale grieves over her dead calf – click on the image to view the video
Carl Safina’s Ted Talk – What animals are thinking and feeling, and why it should matter
I’ll be posting more about gestures of ritual and overturning our grief (not erasing, not pretending it isn’t there) but inspiring us into action. Sometimes ‘activist’ is a word that shames us – we’re not doing enough, we aren’t doing anything. I totally get, for I speak for myself, in sometimes being completely overwhelmed.
This Samhain I’ll be launching an Ancestral Mothers Wheel of the Year – some of those ‘mothers’ are ancient wise women who I know from the land in Scotland. We engage with their ancient stories with art and ritual. There is Breejah, a priestess of Brighid, who honors Brighid in her bear form, Cee-al who is connected to the legends of the Selkies, there are Scottish Amazons, stories of the Gathers, sacred maps, ancient descent stories as we journey into hibernation with bear. Women such as the bird shapeshifting Taliesker, the great crone the Cailleach and the priestesses of the great antlered one, the women who run with the herds of reindeer.
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Send via the Sisterhood of the Antlers facebook page (click the antlered woman logo) or email me – judelally (at) celticsoulcraft.com
Most folks by now have heard the story of Tahlequah, the young orca whale whose calf only lived a very short time after birth before she died. She was last spotted was spotted two days ago which marks her grief ritual of 17 days long of carrying her dead calf.
You’d need a stone heart not to be moved by this and her story and grief speaks deeply to me. It speaks to the woman who keens, the woman who honors the need for death rituals, our human need for ritual and ceremony. It also speaks to me as a Human Ecologist, the activist who know it is us humans who have created this chain of environmental events which has accumulated to cause the starving condition of this pod and their poor birth rate.
It’s been interesting to see the reaction of people to this story from animal communicators, to those who believe she is sending a message to humanity and to those criticizing these anthropomorphic interpretations. We are empathic creatures, extending our empathy to other creatures in trying to understand is a good thing, however, not recognizing the signals and blindingly overriding them is not so good a thing. This article invites you into a deep magic, to swim with Tahlequah, you’re also invited to share your art and join us in our Facegroup group to share the art and tomorrow I’ll post on practical ways to help.
Tonight is a dark moon and if you have clear skies you might see some meteors from the Perseid meteor shower. The dark moon is also an ancient tradition of setting intentions. Not some new age wish or a fancy car or big new house but a time to consider your work in the world. A time to consider the steps you next need to take which are aligned to your soul’s purpose, your true work in this world – work that creates a creative action against this crippling grip of patriarchy. The mess we are in today is a natural progression of a death culture which has no regard for the endless supplies of resources it needs to feed the ugly, hungry monster of capitalism.
So this dark moon I invite you to sit by your altar, sit out under the meteor shower and allow yourself to feel. Swim in the waters with Tahlequah, feel the weight of her pain, her grief. Feel the collective pain of the pod and allow yourself to swim through the cool water currents. Swim with her, help her keep her calf afloat – we know she must be exhausted as well as starving – body and soul crushed by her grief. Her’s is a beautiful grief ritual, it allows her to feel her pain and connect to our own pain – to that part of yourself that feels the destruction of habitat, the degradation of river systems, seas and oceans and the stories of so many animals, insects, wingeds and wild ones who are suffering.
Keen for her, let go of the grief that you are used to carrying yet shoved it somewhere as your never ready to deal with it. Cry, sing, chant, tone for her – use your voice as much as your body. Play wild music, dance your feelings, sweat your prayers to her.
Be gentle with yourself, hold your heart for this is heartbreaking work. use your own language of a simple gesture of ritual or ceremony it can be as simple as breathing with Tahlequah, it can be as simple as imagine holding her calf with her. The deep trough of grief she expresses show the deep love she has for this small one who has moved on to the otherworld.
Be gentle with yourself. You might want to lie down with some soothing music, move your body as if you are swimming through the deep, dark waters. Send her strength, understanding, and love, whisper to her.
Be gentle with yourself once you’ve finished your ritual. This is real stuff – record your impressions of being with her – write, drawn, paint. Collage your feelings, make this matter!
Tahlequah by Leah Pinken Kolidas – click image to view her page on facebook
All feelings and interpretations of this mother whale’s grief are relevant yet they are lost if we don’t take action in helping the plight of the entire pod. They are starving due to the lack of salmon and yet they face other stresses such as pollution such as the level of PCB’s found in the salmon, the noise and the sheer volume of marine traffic in the Pudget Sound. Tomorrow’s post will outline those who are working to help this pod of Orca’s and have been doing so. We can help support those doing this work otherwise we simply turn our head away from Tahlequah.
Feel free to share your evenings ritual, your art here in the comments or join us in the Sisterhood of the Antlers facebook group.
A Lughnasadgh Lament?
(or In the Time Before Lugh)
I remember a time before Lugh was born. This time of year was a time of great gatherings. Yet where is my great gathering? Where are my sisters, and mothers, my aunts and my grandmothers?
Where is Taliesker arriving in her great shadow of wings, turning the sky dark with her flocks of crows? Are the seas so poisoned and polluted that Se-al Kie is dead or harpooned and no longer navigates the sea currents to land ashore and step out of her sealskin?
I miss my sisters who follow the herds arriving with a great clicking of hooves as they step from their world into ours.
Thankfully I know these women as I was born between the worlds. I still hear their voices on the very edge – on the edge of twilight…on the edge of far-flung Scottish islands. I was also born into this world, born into a warring, patriarchial fucked up world.
But if you can take to the skies, with Taliesker and look down on the world at night. There are hundreds of small fires, hundreds of wise women and men gather. For the wise women still, meet. The witches still meet.
They still dance between the worlds. They still spin their magic that will bring this world down. Magic that will free the girl children from horrid stinking rooms of sex slavery. Magic that will empower every woman and child. Magic that will transcend all the lives tortured in intensive farming, magic that will replant the trees, clean the oceans and protect the herds.
In a world, whose temperatures are hotter than hell my harvest is scorched, strangled by the fingers of patriarchy. Patriarchy who is happily wielding it’s scythe and cutting us down.
She Who Brings Rebirth
Yet they have forgotten the essence of this age-old wheel story, the force of rebirth!
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