-some thoughts and recollections of my spring equinox weekend immersed in Bear energy in Switzerland This was a weekend that I had waited a long time for, it was over a year ago that Stephanie Schudel suggested I go to Switzerland to share my work with her groups. Stephanie is the creatress of the Gottin und gruner Mann Tempel in Winterthur, an experienced Priestess and workshop facilitator and wonderful hostess ! You can read more about her work here http://pureheart.ch/
I arrived in Switzerland on Thursday afternoon and was met by Stephanie , we drove to Winterthur and visited the Temple , then wandered round the city centre in balmy evening sunshine. Wow how clean and beautiful this city is, very little traffic or pollution, no litter or noise.....a real joy.
On Friday we drove to Bern , city of bears. Legend has it that it got its name when the founder of the city ( in 1191) Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, said that he would name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, which was a bear. The city is famous for the keeping of bears in various bear pits since around 1440.The Bear I had been waiting to visit was at the museum ....She is the Dea Artio, the celtic Bear Goddess . The most well known representation of Her is a statue found near at Muri near Bern and dates from late in the second century.
It shows a woman seated, she holds an offering plate with an omphalus in one hand, on her lap and to one side of her are offerings of fruit. A bear faces her and they appear to gaze at each other, perhaps she is about to feed it. The text on the base reads 'To the Goddess Artio, from Licinia Sabinilla’. The language structure suggests both gaulish and roman influence. This statue reflects the very ancient interconnection between humans and bears. Who is the Goddess ? Is the woman a Priestess serving the Bear Goddess ? Or is the woman the Goddess and the bear her magical companion animal? I think both aspects are true....the lines have long been blurred.
After the museum we took an electric bus to the Bear Park on the banks of the river Aare. This was to be my first experience of seeing a bear in the world, all my contact with them so far has been in dream worlds or the screen. I approached it with very mixed feelings, part of me didn’t want my first experience of bear to be one in captivity....yet I know that a huge part of my work has to do with the connection between patriarchal attempts to tame nature and so to tame the wild feminine. So I had to face and experience what we have done to bear.....to witness this wild creature trapped, and feel into my own wounding.
We leaned over the railings and gazed at the beautiful , brown bulk of a male bear. What struck me first was the myriad of textures and colours in his fur. Chestnut, chocolate, coffee and caramel, deep and fuzzy, smooth and velvety blended together over his body. I couldn’t quite take in the bulk of his body, although not particularly huge bear , he was broad of foot and ample of backside. He snoozed with his head on his paws, and rear end in a dip in the earth. He shuffled slightly every so often to get comfortable. The tourists above him clicked camera's and chitter chattered. Then a gap came in the flow of human watchers and only Steph and me were left.....at this moment he turned and looked us very deliberately right in the eye. His eyes were the colour of my eldest daughters hair, glossy ginger, glowing with light....very unexpected and forever in my memory.WOW ! My heart was blown wide open and in one moment I fell completely and utterly in love, and simultaneously felt my heart break for his captivity. We tore ourselves away from the bears and walked back through the city of bears, there are images of bears everywhere, in heraldry, statues ancient and modern, carved into buildings and spilling out of the souvenir shops.
On Saturday we were in the Temple in Winterthur with a small group of women who had come to journey with the magic of bear. The focus of the weekend was to create our own ' pawprint' , an intention of what we want to manifest in the world. This reflects the rising creative energy of spring equinox, and my work with firewalking. Fire is the energy of spring equinox, indeed the sun really came out for us. On the Temple of Ursa wheel of Bear Goddesses the bear of spring equinox is 'Fire Bear', She is all about emerging into the light, coming out of your cave and burning brightly in the world. From my firewalking experience I know that this calls for clarity, in order to manifest, and make things happen in the world we must be clear about what it is we want. We must focus on the first step and make it.....then Bear will leave the next pawprints for us to follow.So we worked with 'The 4 pawprints of sleeping bear' to help us step into our creativity and get clear about what our personal pawprint is to be. 'The 4 pawprints' are principles given to me by the spirit of bear who sleeps under the landscape in the Highlands. They each come from a particular place on the land, and along with the wheel of Bears form the core of my work.The first pawprint we engaged with is 'Sleeping in the Cave of Grandmother bear' which asks us to look at our relationship with spirit and dream worlds.After playing with the children’s chant 'We're going on a bear hunt ‘we took a meditation journey to meet Grandmother Bear and ask Her 1- what is blocking our creativity, and 2- what She wants us to manifest in the world.Next we worked with the pawprint 'Council of the Bear Clans' which asks us to look at our relationship with our community. We sat in council and shared what needed to be released, our wounding which holds us back. We practiced listening from the heart, speaking from the heart and spontaneously.After lunch we looked at a timeline of ancient bear artefacts stretching back to 70,000bc. Then we went 'Stretching to our wild expanses' which asks us to look at our relationship to our body. For this we looked at how the 'teddy bear' is a dumbed down version of a wild bear, how the taming of bear mirrors the taming of woman......as we do to bear we do to ourselves. We created ceremonies embodying and reclaiming our claws, and our wild voice and ceremonially giving them back to Bear. In the evening we went out into the woods and built a fire, we created our first draft of our personal pawprint by drawing our vision, learning to speak it with power, and giving it to the fire. We shared stories and songs about Bear and immersed ourselves in Her creative fire.
On Sunday we touched on the last of the 4 pawprints 'Bare Bear witnessing' which asks us to look at our relationship to the earth. As homework the group will find places on the land near their homes where they can sit and 'be' in nature.
We then used the ash from the previous nights fire to create paint, and we used the same technique our ancient sisters used in the caves to create our footprints.
We supported each other in creating them, then wrote our clear intentions in them. As a group we made a mandala representing our journey together with Bear. Each woman putting all four paws firmly on the earth, for it is only when we have all these grounded can we walk forward solidly. In circle we spoke them clearly and strongly and witnessed each other.
After lunch we had a delightful time together embodying the Dea Artio statue, working in pairs we took it in turns to be the bear, and the woman. One woman feeding and the other asking for what she wants and fully recieving. When we step into this fully our hearts are blown wide open and there was much nuzzling and bear hugs.The big hearted, abundant nature of Mama Bear filled us up.
To wrap up the weekend we finnished off the afternoon with journey round the Temple of Ursa wheel of Bears using the Bear Oracle set as guide. This wheel mirrors much of our lives as women and the lives of bears out on the land walking this earth.
The next step....
I have come home to Somerset full of renewed enthusiasm for my journey with Bear and already am planning to go back to Switzerland for more.
If you have enjoyed reading this, and want to know more please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about weaving Bear magic into your ceremonies, workshops and events.