In the belly

Living Spirit continues to grow and thrive through the Wood Sisters and the Tree of Life School... while the rebirth of Open Spirit remains in a gestational phase,  'in the belly'.

But as this small school of the soul grows inwardly, it is starting now to have more of a form again and some new year hopes and intentions are being seeded and starting to put down roots, ready for some early Spring shoots to emerge at Imbolc/Candlemas and beyond. It's first shoot will be a Christian presence at the Wood Sisters Winter Festival, followed by a Holy Week celebration and a day programme of workshops, meditation and a collaborative communion in the Wood Sisters Red Tent at Quest Festival in July. To start with, here are some notes from the upcoming Winter Festival Programme, introducing some of the themes of Imbolc and Candlemas:

At Imbolc and Candlemas we are half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and enjoying the snow drops and earliest signs of Spring. Bride or Brigid, the goddess associated with Imbolc (subsequently the Christian St Bridget), inspired poetry, bards and blacksmiths and presided over healing springs and wells, among her many other qualities. She was later characterised as the midwife or wet nurse to the baby Jesus. Candlemas is a time to bless all the candles to be used in the coming year and to celebrate women as Mary returned to the temple after her 40 day absence following the birth of her baby. Christians tell the story of Anna and Simeon who welcomed the baby Jesus and his parents to the Temple at this time. Imbolc celebrated the first milk of the season as baby lambs were born. It may translate as “in the belly” – life is stirring but Spring has not yet fully arrived.

Open Spirit will be part of the Winter Festival at the South Devon Steiner School on Saturday February 1st. I, Sam, am joint festival co-ordinator with Sue Charman, my dear friend and sister founder of the Wood Sisters. We have put together a wonderful programme for the day and this year have added dance workshops and healing to our usual rich mix of myth and storytelling, talks, poetry and music, meditation and ceremony, crafts and delicious organic food. The Wood Sisters Red Tent, which we created in 2012 with the funds raised from the last Winter Festival, will be our Box Office for the day and a roaring fire and warm welcome await you there.

On the day, I'll be hosting the Sanctuary which has a full day programme of its own, starting with lyre music and meditation and moving on to include meditative storytelling and simple ceremony. There will also be times for silent sanctuary and space for writing prayers, lighting candles and just being.

As an Open Spirit at the Winter Festival, I am especially delighted to be joined by Christian friends and fellow/sister priests Debbie Parsons and Ian Adams. Debbie is a priest in the Church of England and works in the the Totnes Team. She has recently founded Sacred Space, an opportunity for people to encounter God through alternative worship. She will be joining me in the Sanctuary at 5pm for an hour of meditative storytelling moving from an ancient pre-christian celtic story of Bride and the Cailleach for Imbolc, through to the Christian story of the Biblical characters, Simeon, Anna and Mary, associated with Candlemas.

Bride and the Cailleach in both story and giant puppet form will also be opening the Festival in the Greenwood Hall at 9.30am, followed by Anglican Priest Ian Adams and his wife Gail, creators together of the Beloved Life Project. Here are their details from the Winter Festival website artists page:

A theme common to the mid-winter festivals of both Imbolc and Candlemas is the possibility of something new being formed as yet unseen, ‘in the belly’ of the earth and ‘in the belly’ of the person.

With a spacious mix of insight, stillness and spiritual practice, we hope that this session may enable you to further deepen your own patterns of spiritual practice, enabling the new thing to be formed ‘in the belly, as yet unseen’, and so to bring goodness to the world.

Gail is a life-coach, mentor and retreat-leader working with insights from thinkers and practitioners in human possibility and becoming: she runs the see:change project

Ian is a poet, photographer, artist and priest, creator of Morning Bell, director of StillPoint, author of ‘Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living’ and ‘Running Over rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

For more details about the Wood Sisters Winter Festival, please visit our website


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