Farewell to Carol Christ at the Kamilari tholos tomb, Crete by Laura Shannon

September 7, 2021

1. At the gate

On a hilltop between the horned peak of Mount Psiloritis and the wide blue expanse of the Libyan Sea, Ellen Boneparth, Tina Nevans and I prepare to enter the Kamilari tholos tomb. This round vaulted structure served as a communal and egalitarian burial site for thousands of years, from Neolithic through late Minoan times, and Carol brought more than 40 groups of Goddess Pilgrims here to honour those who have gone before. This is where Carol asked the three of us to perform a farewell ritual for her; she wanted no other ceremony. We each don a scarf and necklace which belonged to Carol and enter the sacred space. Kostantis stays behind to guard the gate, in case any other visitors arrive during our ritual.

2. Invocation

On this spot, hundreds of women have honoured thousands of ancestors. We ask for the benevolent presence and the blessing of all those who knew and loved Carol, living and dead. We ask permission of the spirits of the place to enter for this ceremony. We ask Carol’s own ancestors, and the Minoan ancestors of this place, to bless and welcome Carol as a beloved daughter and granddaughter of both lineages.

3: Circumambulation 

Tina leads us clockwise around the outside of the tholos; we pass through the warren of tiny rooms where ritual objects were stored–including a beautiful sculpture of a  circle dance–and through the low entrance into the inner chamber. Ellen leads us around the inside of the tholos, counterclockwise like the Cretan dance. This direction follows the apparent path of stars around the pole star as seen at night in this part of the world, to align with cosmic harmony and order and bring it into the human realm. Our procession ends at the altar in the east.

4: Libations

Laura reads from Homer, as quoted by Carol in A Serpentine Path (p. 2):
‘I poured a libation to all the dead,
first with milk and honey,
and then with sweet wine,
then with water.’

We pour libations of milk and honey; sweet wine, white and red; and pure spring water, and each speaks the words which come to her. We remember Carol’s beloved friends, with us in spirit on this day, and offer fresh and dried fruits to the dead: red and white grapes; almonds, raisins and dates; and two pomegranates Ellen picked by the Kamilari spring. We also offer dried flowers, carefully saved from past rituals here, and a tiny twig from the holy myrtle tree of Paliani. We place Carol’s necklaces on the altar along with other small items of jewelry which had been hers, for the energy of her life to be present in the east, direction of birth and new beginnings.

5: Returning Carol to Mother Earth

We process to the western side of the chamber – direction of death and the ancestors – where a natural opening in the earth receives Carol’s ashes. We pour more water and wine, and Tina places another twig from the Paliani myrtle, wrapped in a sprig of fresh ivy to honour the cycle of life, death and rebirth. A hawk soars low overhead and circles above us several times. As it flies off to the southeast, a second hawk joins it.

6: Readings

We return to the eastern altar.

Laura reads Carol’s own prayer: 
Our Mother Whose Body Is The Earth, by Carol P. Christ

Our Mother whose body is the Earth,
Blessed are you,
And blessed are all the fruits of your womb.
You give us this day our daily bread,
And we share it with others.
Our Mother whose body is the Earth,
We love you with all our hearts,
And our neighbors as ourselves.

Tina reads two short quotes and a poem:

Love, if it is love, never goes away. It is embedded in us, like seams of gold in the Earth, waiting for light, waiting to be struck.
-Alice Walker, Even So

Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without it, no other virtue can be practiced consistently.
– Maya Angelou

Antidotes to Fear of Death, poem by Rebecca Elson

Ellen reads from Sappho, fragments 42, 7, 8 and 9:
If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared

all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck

myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them

while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring
without song…

At noontime

When the earth is
bright with flaming
heat falling straight down

the cricket sets 
up a high-pitched
singing in his wings

I took my lyre and said:

Come now, my heavenly
tortoise shell: become 
a speaking instrument

Although they are 

only breath, words
which I command
are immortal

Standing in the heat ‘falling straight down’ and with the cricket’s ‘high-pitched singing’ in the background, we each read a verse of Jennifer Berezan’s song ‘She Carries Me’, which Carol’s groups always sang at the tholos tomb:

She Carries Me, by Jennifer Berezan

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.

Laura:
She is a boat, she is a light,
High on a hill, in the dark at night,
She is a wave, she is the deep,
She is the dark, where angels sleep.
High on a hill, where peace abides,
She carries me, to the other side.

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side

Ellen:
And though I walk, through valleys deep,
And shadows chase me in my sleep,
On rocky cliffs, I stand alone.
I have no name, I have no home,
With broken wings, I long to fly.
She carries me, to the other side

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.

Tina:
A thousand arms, a thousand eyes
A thousand ears to hear my cries,
She is the gate, she is the door,
She leads me through and back once more,
When day has dawned and death is night
She carries me to the other side

All:
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side.
She carries me, she carries me,
She carries me to the other side

Karolina, She carries you, she carries you.
She carries you to the other side
She carries you, she carries you.
She carries you to the other side

7. Thanks and celebration

We give thanks to the ancestors and spirits of the place and give our offerings to the earth. We share grapes, nuts, and pomegranates, which we place on an antique kitchen cloth from Lesvos, handspun, hand-dyed and handwoven. We rinse Carol’s necklaces with spring water, and later, we wash them again in the salt waters of the Libyan sea, before sharing a celebratory meal in Carol’s name – not forgetting her favourite wine.

May Carol be blessed and remembered by all who knew her. May she rest in peace and power.

– Laura Shannon, Sep. 7, 2021

photos by Tina Nevans and Laura Shannon

Bio

Laura Shannon is one of the ‘grandmothers’ of the worldwide Sacred / Circle Dance movement. She trained in Intercultural Studies (1986) and Dance Movement Therapy (1990), and holds the M.A. fin Myth, Cosmology, and the Sacred from Canterbury Christ Church University in England. Her primary research in Balkan and Greek villages seeks out songs, dances, rituals and textile patterns which descend from the Goddess cultures of Neolithic Old Europe, and which embody an ancient worldview of sustainability, community, and reverence for the earth. In 2018 Laura was chosen as an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Sacred Dance Guild. Her articles and essays on women’s ritual dances have appeared in numerous publications. Laura is also Founding Director of the non-profit Athena Institute for Women’s Dance and Culture. She lives in Canterbury, Greece, and the Findhorn community in Scotland.

‹ Ha’azinu and Models of the Divine by Ivy Helman.

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Ecofeminism, Foremothers, General, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Grief, Loss, Ritual, Spiritual Journey, Women’s Spirituality

Tags: Carol P. Christ, Laura Shannon, Tina Nevans

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