Eye of the Reindeer. Photo by Sergey Gavrilov
‘Have you ever looked deep into the eyes of a reindeer? It’s like a magical mirror. First you glimpse the tundra and everything the reindeer sees, but when you look deeper, you can see so much more – some people even see omens. It changes you, looking into a reindeer’s eye‘. Taken from ‘The Eye of the Reindeer’ by Eva Weaver.
It’s the dark of the year and although we mark the rebirth of the sun in the dark days of late December and on into January towards Imbolc often feels like we are plunged into an ever deeper darkness.
As much as I have prepared for the darkness, beginning my descent at Autumn Equinox I’ve experienced a darker edge to this darkness. This is hardly surprising when you consider all that is unfolding in the world around us yet unfamiliar to me as I like the dark, I often crave the dark which isn’t too surprising as I am the daughter of a woman who willingly shut herself in dark closets when she was a kid just for the comfort it gave her. This year more than any other I find myself overwhelmed and really needing some rest – to which I question do we really know how to nurture ourselves and find ways of bringing us towards restorative rest past sitting down and watching a film?
I find ritual one way to restore myself. To counteract that deep darkness I’ve tried to dream a little longer, danced just a little more furiously and ran further when I shapeshift from my human form and across the worlds to run with the reindeer herd.
Through the Eye of the Reindeer
It’s been wonderful to see people embracing the roots of the female reindeer of Northern European traditions and yet sometimes I find it ridiculous to have a connection to an animal that only my ancestors had. An animal I’ve never met or touched even and yet has haunted me in visions and dreams since I was little.
Last night the half moon has a remarkable ring around it, like a dark pupil only half lit up. I felt watched by this great crone eye as she looked down on the planet. She is the eye of winter, an inspiration for us to focus on our own dark int he winter. she offers a stillness in the frost, a shushing of traffic and all the frenzy of consumerism.
The drum is a portal, a great eye of sorts. When I pick it up and the heartbeat of the reindeer begins to beat again, my very being is soothed by traveling between the worlds and journeying with the herd.
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And in these dark days of the Solstice, I came across the most wonderful book ‘The Eye of the Reindeer’ by Eva Weaver. A book that fed all the parts of me needed feeding!
‘People are afraid of the drums these days, but there’s nothing to fear. The drum reminds us of many things: the sacred heart of the reindeer, a baby’s heartbeat and its mother’s, the earth’s beating heart and our own. many stories have been woven into the drums and I you listen carefully, they will reveal themselves. Drums are alive, they carry the heartbeat of the world back to us’.
Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Ritva is sent away to Seili, an island to the south of Finland. A former leper colony, Seili is now home to ‘hopeless cases’ – to women the doctors call mad. But Ritva knows she doesn’t belong there. As biting winter follows biting winter, she longs to be near to her sister, and wonders why her father ever allowed her to be taken to this desolate place.
Hope arrives in the form of Martta, a headstrong girl who becomes Ritva’s only friend. Martta is a Sami, from the north. All through her childhood, Ritva’s mother told her wonderful Sami legends and tales – of Vaja the reindeer, the stolen sealskin, of a sacred drum hidden long ago. When Ritva and Martta decide to make their escape, this is where they will head.
So begins an odyssey over frozen sea and land towards a place where healing and forgiveness can grow. This is a story about friendship, about seeing the world through a different perspective, and the stories and tales that can make up a life.