The Circle and The CentreThe Tree is in the Seed
Grandmother Earth weaves the web of life as she spins around the sun, informing, maintaining, transforming and dissolving all beings in her care. Life ebbs and flows, from spirit into matter, and back into spirit. The in-breath and the out-breath of creation is not an event of remote history, but an integral part of the continually changing present. A seed is the link with the eternal, a contracted potential. Under the right conditions, some seeds remain intact for thousands of years. When the life force enters, expansion takes place, and from the seed, emerges the tree. An acorn not only knows how to become an oak tree, but it will also adapt to the particular environmental circumstances. This inbuilt knowledge is ancestral memory. The memory within an acorn is accumulated from prior experiences, from acorn to oak to acorn, and it also includes the memory of its evolutionary past from the first primordial life form.
Every lifecycle leaves its imprint in ancestral memory. In humans, this not only includes the memory of our recent cultural and tribal identity, but also of our migrant ancestors, who navigated their survival during eras of upheaval. These were the progenitors of all the current races of humans on Earth. They passed on to us the memory of our species, and its origins. Beyond species is the memory that links us with all mammalian quadrupeds, and still deeper, we share a link with reptiles, birds, insects, fish, and the micro-fauna and flora from the forests and oceans. At its essence, ancestral memory connects every species back to the Creative Force that animates the universe.
A newly fertilised egg of a human embryo divides to create a placenta. The seed unfurls, gathering nutrients from the mother soil, and an individual expression of the universal vital force that is destined to find its way into a human life begins the journey of transformation. Each one of us has made this journey and ancestral memory provided the map. As the embodiment developed, we transitioned through the protozoan, algae, fungi and plant stages, and the spirit of life, destined to become human, reached for the light. A human infant is born out of one fertilised cell. But the miracle does not stop there. From plant, through fish, reptile, and bird consciousness, the infant wriggles and swims, until the force that pulls her upright guides her into human consciousness.
The end of life is equally miraculous. When a human heartbeat stops, the physical life dissolves away. That which once seemed permanent, instantly becomes of the past. For relatives and friends, a death is a cataclysmal change. Further from this epicentre, it is registered as a slight ripple. Around the world, this exchanging of energy, through birth and death, is a state of continuous dynamic metamorphosis. It is a nuclear chain reaction of life giving-way to more life, ever evolving and transmuting.
One of the most potent symbols is a circle. The centre of the circle is connected to all directions. There are an infinite number of points on the circle, but only one centre. The circle is to the centre that which the physical universe is to the Source. The centre is the contracted circle, and the circle the expanded centre.
The East is the direction of the rising sun and the Spring Equinox, of new beginnings, and the impulse of initiation. In the Celtic tradition, the East corresponds to the child within us. Birth provides a template for how we begin new things. Do you approach it directly, headstrong and focussed? Or are you reluctant or anxious, and need to be helped to get through the door? This is the apprenticeship phase, where we learn the ropes of our craft or trade. In the Lakota tradition, the spirit animal of the East is the Eagle. It relates to the Air element, the power of vision, the quality of Illumination and the gift of insight. With the eyes of the eagle, we can see the past, the present and the future. This is the position of the new born, not yet fully embodied, and still connected to the Source.
The South is the direction of the Summer Solstice and the longest day. In the Celtic tradition, this is the stage of youth, adventure, love, experimentation and learning. In the old trade crafts, it is the journeyperson phase, where we must ply our trade and make our way in the world. In the Lakota tradition, the spirit animal of the South is the Mouse. It relates to the element of Earth, the sensation function, the qualities of trust, curiosity and Innocence; it offers the gift of experience. In alignment with the South, where the day is long and the nights are short, we are encouraged to fully embody our physical form, to discover its discipline and limitation, and to find satisfaction and fulfilment through earthly experience.
At the Vernal Equinox, on 21st September, day and night are once again of equal length, and from this point onwards, the lengthening night will overwhelm the power of daylight. The West is the direction of the setting sun, the ripening grains, and birds and fish gathering for migration. The focus of life turns away from growth, and moves to consolidation, seed formation, hibernation, and preparation for the coming winter. In the Celtic tradition, it is the stage of parents and grandparents, kings and queens and teachers and guides who provide structure and boundaries. In the crafts, the West corresponds to the beginning of mastery. In the Lakota tradition, the spirit animals of the West are Bear and Salmon, with the message of the return to the point of origin. It corresponds to the water element, the feeling and intuitive function, the ability to listen to the voice within, the quality of Introspection and the gift of self-knowledge.
The Winter Solstice is the longest night, and the North is the direction of Winter, when the ice settles upon the earth, and much of life is sleeping under its canopy. The North brings us closer to the stary heavens and the Northern lights. Winter is the time for lighting fires to keep warm, for storytelling, dreaming, and planning. It is also the time for prayer, introspection, magic and healing. In the Celtic tradition, the North is the direction of the sages and sorceresses, the healers and masters, who have learned to transition between the worlds. Fire is the element that corresponds to Spirit, and the North is the home for our spiritual nature, just as the South is the natural home for our physical being. In the Lakota tradition, the spirit animals of theNorth are Buffalo and Wolf, with the quality of Instinct, and the gift of wisdom.