Gender Alchemy in the Redwood Vortex


Spirit Weavers 2015


“ I release control, and surrender to the flow, of love, that will heal me”


 photo by kacie tomita

photo by kacie tomita

In May we gathered, 500+ women in the Mendocino Redwoods, for 5 days of sisterhood and remembering. With many of us traveling from afar, each had a long and genuinely arduous story about how they got there. My own involved a crippling shoulder spasm that caused me to leave home with as little as I could possibly carry. I arrived tired and in pain with a 50 pound bag as large as me in tow. Of course 4 different ladies offered to drive me up the hill to my reserved Adirondak shelter, but one by one, something would come up;  lost keys, an emergency on the walkie talkie. After the 4th time this happened, I finally realized“Oh- duh! Maybe I’m not supposed to be up there…”


I released all attachment to where I would call home for the next 5 days, opened myself to be lead.


Just as it was getting dark, a woman offered me a place in her cozy Soul Pad and I accepted, too exhausted to do anything but completely surrender to spirit’s plan for me. Darkness descended, and I sought the wellness center for relief from pain, disappointed to feel drawn back into that very old strategy for handling big energies, and just surrendering into that too. It's hard for me to ask for help, to not be able to be helpful. To my delight, one after another my most beloved sisters poured through the door of the wellness hut, as if following some kind of invisible ant trail from around the camp. The presiding herbalists poured me a little warm cup of wild lettuce tincture for my shoulder, which, although not immediately eliminating the pain, did begin to shift my mood from cranky and wrung out to mild discomfort suffused with the childlike joy of just being with your family. 


I tucked myself into my borrowed shelter, recited my nightly mantras and slept, dreaming of male tribal energies with sticks and masks, poking, prodding, investigating us all.

                                        photo by amara dreamer

                                       photo by amara dreamer

My first morning was spent with Amara Dreamer, making my own rattle. Women made the rattles as gifts for their husbands or a special baby in their life or to use in their healing work. The sound of the swirling corn paired with Amara’s medicine songs set the energy moving inside my body in a coordinated, complex spiral motion. I began to experience us all to be coexisting within a woven rainbow tapestry container of energy- safe, held, ecstatic. I felt so completely absorbed in the task of stitching my rattle, eventually only aware of the continuos message beaming at me from a seemingly separate consciousness residing in my hands, intent on getting my mind’s attention to say “ We love this! We love this! We love this sooo much” referring to the feel of wet animal hide in my hands. This is what it means to remember- to have the whole body tell you that this is what it knows how to do, was born to do- to be creating with only what mother nature so generously provides.


        photo by larry keenan

       photo by larry keenan


On the second night, I dreamed of the land being full of disincarnate hippies, not bothering anyone, just observing. I still did have fear of disincarnates, but surrender, soften, allow. I asked them why they were there, and learned that they are me, they are us, “coming back” or bleeding through the fabric of time to observe our work and heal the trauma of believing that their work had failed. I felt a huge healing and releasing of cultural grief- a healing for all those souls who had felt that they had come so close to changing the world and ushering in a culture based on love, sharing, and belonging only to see the pendulum swing the other way for a few decades. I felt the awe they felt to see that they had not failed, that it was not all for nothing- to see that the seeds they had planted where watered, and their dreams for humanity's collective awakening were carried forward. I experienced this as a soul retrieval, accepting back many parts of myself traumatized by the failings of that era- embracing my own psychedelic feminine, the romantic,  sweetly devoted, radically idealistic lover. 

From that moment of welcoming back this deeply psychedelic aspect of myself, I felt the tapestry of the gathering begin to shimmer and transform, revealing the nuanced, multidimensional nature of reality. It was truly stunning to see women I have known for years open just a little further, revealing more primordial aspects of themselves.



And in this complete absence of the embodied masculine, I felt able to tune in to the more subtle polarities of masculine and feminine energies within each woman.


To my surprise and delight, I felt able to begin to play with great fluidity and ease at running masculine or feminine energy with different people depending on what they brought to the moment. I watched a woman I know very well strolling across the lawn in the sun, and felt pulled back in time, again to the 60’s as the thought ” “Hey- thats my man” darted across my mind with an accompanied feeling of warmth and pride. She tossed her structured hat atop my floppy hat with a casual remark about masculine and feminine, structure and softness, and each time I saw the hats on the chair next to my table of goods in the marketplace,

I felt a flutter and a rush to be truly experiencing life as ceremony, where casual comments become invocations, and small symbolic gestures become mudras: micro movements with macro results. 


 photo by amber magnolia hill

photo by amber magnolia hill

Night falls. It is cold and I am in my pain body again, and ask a friend for help. Perhaps a nice hot shower together would set us on a better track? We get to test all of our philosophies- of being vulnerable, of asking for what you want- of communicating hopes ( to help each other drop into a juicer, more spacious and sensual vibe from which to teach from) and fears ( that it might get weird, feel weird, bring up new feelings, change our friendship) and just speak really honestly about it all. I tell her the truth- that whatever happens, I will stay in the conversation, promise to show up for it. We choose the yes, agree to meet at 6 am, before the bustle of the day takes hold. The cement floor is sticky and cold, the water pressure weak. It feels innocent and nourishing to indulge our child-like curiosity- “oh! your nipples are so cute and pink- now we know that about each other…” more amusing and sweetly transgressive than sexy…a nice way to start the day.

In my own Kava Temple + Talisman Making class, I am reminded so beautifully that the medicine is there with us through the power of intention and calling in the spirits. The energy is palpable before the Kava is even served. I am shown again and again that the medicine is just a medium, an externalization of something that is already inside of us. We spoke of Kava and Mugwort, The Mists of Avalon and my belief that mindfulness is your best protection. I am enjoying myself, at first unsure of the groups response, and thankful for tears as feedback, some sign that the medicine is working and people are experiencing the small shifts that open us up for healing to occur and continue. People’s wheels are in motion, and I am happy.

The next day we dive into my newest content for Kava Temple: Sacred Sexuality. Growing up on the puritanical east coast and having only a handful of lovers in my life, I could not have been more surprised a year ago when spirit tapped me for this mission- to make sure there was a space here for women to bring forth their questions, hopes, fears, and triumphs of our collective clumsy stumble towards embodied spirituality, in a culture that so often makes spirt and body opposing forces. My journey with Tantra has been a steep learning curve, but the message clear- its time to weave these parts of our journey together, the crown to the root and everything in between.

                             photo by renata chebel

                            photo by renata chebel


I am becoming more comfortable, and ask another friend to help me do a tick check, where I begin to understand that to see a woman’s breasts up close, the right kind, puts me in a trance. I have thought about this a lot, and believe that

SO MANY OF US remember this POTENT symbol of deep fullfilment, love, and home base from nursing and receiving our first nourishment from our mothers this way. Why should men alone get to return to that space through the initiations of hormones and puberty? The comfort of the breast belongs to all.


 Image via

Image via

No one denied us this, we deny ourselves this based on cultural agreements about the meaning of our behavior. It has been a major epiphany of the last year to learn that nothing we do has any inherent meaning other that that which we assign it. 

Now it seems everyone is in this collective ascent, shedding further layers of masks. Larger, juicier, wilder, more complex soul designs are emerging out of every woman I see. One of my dear friends began to transform into a powerful snow leopard, eyes tracking me as I moved around the camp. And in that tractor beam gaze, that dance of hunted and hunter, I felt the ecstasy of participating in the dance of life and death. More than fear I felt awe and reverence, and swooned with longing to be the prey. In beholding the sweetness of surrender, I remember that in every moment of surrender, in every YES, we are yielding to the reality of death-the death of the past which is certain, to embrace the present, which is unknown.


It has been a long time since I felt this feeling, a curious mix of fear, desire, reverence, and sedation, the feeling of love as indistinguishable from the ego’s dissolving at the moment of death. 


The next day I had signed up for peyote stitch beading taught by my tent mate. I work with my hands all the time and am always the one where teachers say “ Oh- you’ve obviously done this before”  but this time was different. I felt incapable of following the instructions. I felt the world was gently pulsing, and that each time I pulled the thread out, I went far out on a cosmic journey. Each time I brought the thread back to the beads, I felt I had arrived in the present moment for the first time, and that I had no idea what was happening. I started to say “I feel like I’m trying to do this while high” to which the teacher replied “ well, your really sensitive- I wouldn’t be surprised if you have thousands of years worth of people doing this in ceremony streaming through you right now.” The harder I tried to concentrate, the deeper my swoon back into the tapestry became, and in there, I felt the stalk of my big cat friend, and felt a magnetic pull to find her. No goal. No narrative, just the pull of her presence. I decided to take a break and get some tea/ try to ground myself, and I excused myself from the shady picnic table grove where we sat and crafted, abandoning my mangled pile of purple beads and string.  Of course I walked straight into the arms of the very friend I had been immersed in this psychic dialogue with. We hugged, and I burrowed into her chest, laughing…500 women in the woods, but somehow you will always find who you are meant to find. We wander hand in hand, find a quiet place to sit, heart to heart, allowing our vibrations to harmonize, our song bursting with beauty. My mouth finds hers. Are we lesbians now? It doesn't matter.

We are being guided, and allow the Shakti and downloads to pour over us like a waterfall, the pure, unadulterated, amplified essence of woman, the essence of embodiment- spirit flowing downward into the world of body and form. We are drawn into a breathless and beautiful initiation into an ancient knowing- that spirit cares not for our chosen gender identity. That our bodies are but instruments, and when spirit has a message for us, it is best to let it come through the channel. Much beauty can come of allowing our bodies to communicate directly- letting the quantum membranes of our skin relay codes and messages of great importance and subtlety...the remembrance that we are allowed to activate one another. We are allowed to communicate in this ancient way. I am filled with wonder at this new way of understanding what is possible as sisters on this journey. 


            photo by renata chebel

           photo by renata chebel

I have a vision for a photo shoot with 4 of my most dear witches, never all together in the same place. It is perhaps too much to take on, to attempt to coordinate 4 different women’s complex agendas for this time together, and we end up with 3. The vibe is quiet and reverent, and I  ruin it by channelling bad 80's music, as I am often compelled to do

"So here we are again- this time it's truly right"

(and by truly right, I mean I'm pretty sure no one will be burned at the stake for their participation in this moment of pleasure) . Afterwards, I return to my home base, my table in the marketplace to be still, to integrate.

From my place of observation, I begin to drop into yet another reality. At the intersection of tables in the center of the market, lies an instant manifestation vortex, where whatever is voiced within it comes to pass immediately. I watched this happen again and again, until I literally could not tear myself away from the unfolding phenomenon. And after a day or so of sharing with anyone who would listen this incredible occurrence that I believed myself to be observing, it occurred to me that the marketplace had come together as a result of many hours of administrative advanced pre-planning…by me!  I had, somehow, participated in the construction of this energetic phenomenon, and the mystery of that was beyond my ability to comprehend. I could only be in awe and reverence for it, that each action we take in the mundane world, if done with love and intention, carries some kind of magical, 4th and 5th dimensional counterpart- that we are doing magic all the time, but may not be in a space of presence enough to notice the many dimensions our work may echo into. Between each class taught or attended, between it all, I return always to the marketplace. There I release all agendas and just bask in the flow of beautiful hearts all around. I invite women to come sit with me for a meal or a chat. There is a whole world of beauty out beyond the Market doors, but I am content to just BE there, needing for nothing.



And then, as quickly as it had begun, it is ending, and I find myself on the little stage conducting the closing announcements. My snow leopard shaki sister sends me a little cacao in a beautiful ceramic mug, delivered to me in the hands of the 8 year old daughter of another council member- delivered by a virgin messenger. Deep in the prayerful flow, I take a moment to hold the cacao, to look within at the prayer wanting to come forward, and whisper silently“ I am a yes to the journey, whatever this is- I will show up- I will clean up my side of the street” and imbibe of the blessed muddy water.


The crowd proceeds to the Angel Wash, the closing ceremony that was the most powerful aspect of the gathering for me in years past. The world is shimmering, tears flowing, and I feel within my belly the unmistakable sensation felt just once before in my life, when I conceived my son- I felt the moment of conception, and am floored with emotion, wonder, deep love and gratitude, totally incapable of reason. My shuttle is due to take me to the airport in a half an hour, and so I find a friend. “ I have to talk to you!” I gush. She’s in a different space, holding a measured, careful, clinical kind of presence. I feel ashamed, shy, vulnerable, suddenly alone, like I have ruined something- didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t be right there experiencing that moment with me.


We are collectively descending now, falling from congruity at different rates. I tumble back through the rarefied dimensions, back to earth.


Tears at needing to part in this way- heavy, uncertain, yet blessed, honored, deep in the pool of mystery within my heart, reverent and in quiet awe of the beauty. The cacao holds me steady in that space for the long shuttle ride back to San Francisco, my friend from home carefully stewarding me through the airport lines and gates, helping me keep track of all my belongings, beautifully present without needing to know the details of the space I am in. I am grateful to return to my husband, my son, my family. After many years of bumpy landings after ceremony, we are learning how to help each other- the house is clean and he is present, listening to some stories, giving me lots of space to to reel in all my trailing bits, to be in continual arrival and begin the integration. The play is real, the unparralled sensual pleasure of being completely and totally in flow, but now the real work begins- the work of watering the seeds that have been planted, of processing and making meaning of what new parts of ourselves where seen and felt and experienced within this sacred rainbow tapestry of light that we are all weaving together. 

Written By Erin Rivera Merriman of Active Culture Family