month, Dana Reynolds shares her life-transforming
thoughts, ideas, and sacred imagination based around our
"theme of the month." Dana is a visionary Spiritual Midwife, who
devotes herself to helping women birth their creative
gifts into the world.
Seeking Sacred Alchemy
When I first learned that the topic for this month’s
column would pertain to Feminine Spirituality I
was excited by the possibilities. Then our world was
forever changed by the free will of the maniacal minds
of the terrorists, free will that chose evil. Suffering
and loss came home to us in ways that have left us in
shock and deep grief, while stories of miracles leave us
awestruck by God’s grace. This paradox is the sacred
alchemy of divine benevolence and blessing. My myriad of
choices of what to write about disappeared and only one
remained. How do we transform grief into healing?
How each of us chooses to express and manifest
our own transformational alchemy in these difficult
times is limited only by our perceived creative
limitations. I believe our sacred imaginations are key
to transforming our grief and anger into transcendence
The Divine Feminine, the Mother, our creatrix of
nurturing and balance offers us guidance. She holds
precious pages from the guidebook of life that we need
to become sacred alchemists. I’m speaking of how we
might transform our grief and suffering into meaningful
service and glorious creative expression.
Throughout time, women have mourned and grieved both
personal and universal losses and sufferings. In many
cultures women don black clothing at the time of loss of
a loved one and wear this as a sign of mourning the rest
of their lives. Others have wailing ceremonies and
rituals that last for an entire year. Still others
portray symbolic burials of parts of themselves that
have died along with the loved one. Women carry in their
cellular memories the collective grief that has been
experienced and expressed by their ancestors and sisters
before them, in these ways and in ways that time has
erased even from memory.
Women have gathered in circles for millennia. Now
more than ever we must come together to create
community, to support one another through our grief and
to co-create new ways of living and being. The circle
will hold us. It is an ancient form. When we sit in
circle together with common intention we invite the
remembering of the Goddess culture, the Mother, and the
ways of the feminine.
Over the years as I have worked with hundreds of
women through my workshops and retreats, in circle. I
have come to recognize those who are the mourners. There
are, I have discovered, women who seem to be deeply
sensitive to not only their own personal grief but to
the grief of the collective. We all mourn and grieve at
different times in our lives, but there are those who
seem to hold an interior continual vigil of suffering.
How each of these women carries their sorrow for the
grief endured by friends, family, nature, and the human
family is varied and mysterious.
They express their grieving in a myriad of forms. One
woman crafts a tiny spirit doll made of tree bark as she
grieves for the annihilation of the world’s landscape.
Another transforms a small wooden box into a shrine to
honor her dying mother. And another closes her eyes and
dances barefoot to silent music as she rocks an
invisible child in her arms. Later she tells me she was
praying for the starving children in Africa. Making
altars, writing poems and stories, moving the body with
intention, cooking a nurturing meal for family, praying
while folding the laundry or driving to work, these are
forms of sacred alchemy. When feelings are made manifest
transformation occurs through the making.
Many of us in our country right now are having
difficulty coping with the overwhelming grief we are
feeling even though we may not have personally lost
family or friends in the tragedies. Still our hearts
have been shattered by the stories of loss that we’ve
read and seen portrayed in the news on television. The
grief we’ve been feeling is bone deep, cellular, and
heart-breaking. How do we cope with our pain? How do we
move forward and honor the lives that were lost? How do
we transform our suffering into service?
I believe the Divine Mother, offers us answers. The
Mother I am referring to here Gaia, the Earth. She is
our living breathing assurance of sacred alchemy. In the
simplest of age-old stories, the autumn leaves fall to
the ground where they rot and decay returning to the
earth to be reborn in spring in the form of new growth
The Mother knows about regeneration, alchemy, and
transformation. The charred forest after the fire, in
time yields wildflowers and new seedlings. The Mother’s
life-giving creative energy lives and breathes in each
The tragic happenings of September 11th
have stunned us, broken our hearts, and catapulted us
into grief. We are in uncharted waters. The wheels of
time will turn and deliver us to new and unfamiliar
territory, and out of our mourning our creativity and
sacred imaginations will take hold of our psyches and
souls the way the hands of a trusted friend reach out to
offer comfort and assistance. Creativity and sacred
imagination are our allies for healing.
Just as there have always been mourners to carry the
grief, there have always been artists to express that
same grief in ways that become transcendent. Often these
persons are one in the same. This is the sacred
alchemical process. Through poetry and writing, painting
and sculpture, music, theater, and dance, the human soul
is lifted to the vaults of heaven for solace and
comfort, benediction and benevolence, blessing and
healing. The wildflowers push forth from the charred
remains on the forest floor.
This morning as I lit a candle and asked for guidance
before I began writing I instantly remembered a story I
wrote several years ago entitled The Mourners. I’m
grateful to the angels and muses who seem to always
arrive just before a deadline to offer a creative
My remembered story was inspired by a vivid dream I
experienced when I was recovering from breast surgery. I
have been guided to include the story here following my
column. Please read it and contemplate the symbolism
beyond the literal interpretation. My intention in
sharing this story is to invite you to contemplate how
you might use your creative gifts and talents to express
the story you are carrying from the devastation of
September 11th. How will you transform your
personal and collective grief? How will you pay homage
to those whose grief is unending and to those who died?
I believe this complex and disorienting time in our
lives asks greater things from each of us than we may
believe we are capable of delivering. The events of
September 2001 have called us to be mourners...to wail
and grieve our personal, collective, and planetary
sufferings. Perhaps those same events are also calling
each of us in his/her own way and time, to become
artists so that we may recreate our lives and our world.
Artist in this sense of the word applies to all aspects
of creative interaction and expression for the Highest
good of all concerned.
May we each discover new languages and forms of
expression to transform our grief into active love,
compassion, and most challenging of all forgiveness. May
we become sacred alchemists and may the Mother and our
sacred imaginations guide us into regeneration and new
ways of being through our actions and our words but most
of all through our hearts and souls.
A short story
inspired by a dream...
A breeze caught the russet colored leaves spinning
them into a spiral while the women gathered near the
midwife’s porch. It was autumn. And the sun was
beginning to descend as night prepared to spread her
dark velvet canopy. The women arrived together in pairs.
Maidens, mothers, crones, they were dressed in black.
Their faces appeared to be scrubbed clean. They were
transparent, glowing like alabaster or mother of pearl.
Their eyes were wide, full, and attentive to their
Each woman carried a burlap sack that was bulging,
round, and pregnant with the decorative icing of her
life. Lipsticks and embroidery, perfume bottles, wedding
rings, photographs, love letters, recipes, and watches.
All manner of material ties to her mortal nature. Again
the chilled breeze of autumn brushed the leaves about
the women’s feet. In evening’s deep blue shadows,
they gathered close together, lighting white candles in
tall glass jars, to illumine the darkening day.
The midwife’s long gray hair cascaded around her
face as she stood waiting on the porch. She had been
readying the sacred space to welcome these martyrs and
mystics to their new home.
The townsfolk were silently convening. They formed a
circle around the cluster of women now silhouetted
against the setting sun. Again a gust of autumn wind
caught a cluster of red and golden colored leaves and
sent them dancing across the feet of this holy audience.
Meanwhile, overhead in timeless victory formation, one
hundred geese swam through the kaleidoscope sky in
search of warmer places. They chanted ancient platitudes
to the crowd below.
The midwife gathered her purple knitted cape about
her shoulders. The women numbering twelve in all, stood
like candles on a cake. A circle lit by the fires they
held in their hands. Their faces glowing from the
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. Husbands,
daughters, sons, stood wordless and close around them,
like a pomegranate embracing the seeds within. They held
hands in somber reverie, while the sun gasped and
relinquished its cinders to the cool breath of evening.
Standing tall and straight, the midwife lit a torch
and held it out above the heads of the sacred twelve.
She raised her free hand as though to bless the crowd.
Directing her words to the attending families, her voice
shattered the silence. "Behold! Behold the
mourners, the sorrow-keepers. Your souls have called you
to this moment. You are participants in this Divine
play. And now your sacrifice begins. Your relinquishing
of these kindred feminine spirits will open the space
for the healing of suffering humankind." Turning to
the women she instructed, "Come now! Leave your
lives, your possessions, and your herstories. Let go of
time, of your memories and your names."
The women surrendered to the trance. Silence once
again embraced the crowd. They had been preparing for
this moment since last spring when the angel had first
appeared to them. The heavenly messenger had brought
word of their mission from the Creator. Since that day,
families and friends had been preparing for this moment
of separation. Their partings were sanctified,
consecrated. Those who were being left behind were also
martyrs. They, too, were part of the story. They were
part of the mystery and miracle that was about to begin.
The angels had promised the onlookers special graces to
protect and heal their breaking hearts. Now as the women
walked away from their lives and loved ones, a strange
peace fell as a blessing upon the ones remaining behind.
With reverence, the artist in the crowd came forward.
She pulled her wooden cart into the center of the
mourners’ circle. One by one, they emptied the
contents of their burlap bags into the artist’s wagon.
One by one they let go of their belongings while each
one voiced a collective prayer, "I release my
worldly attachments, my identity, this life, to become a
vessel for the sorrows of all humanity."
The cart began to fill. A strand of pearls, a box of
sea glass, a hand mirror made of silver and shaped like
the moon, and a porcelain faced doll dressed in a
tattered blue gingham dress. And still more treasures
fell into the holy cache. A tarnished locket, a small
red leather journal, an amethyst crystal, a well-worn
One by one, the women emptied their satchels and
themselves. When they had finished they placed the
barren bags on a nearby pile of kindling. The midwife
descended the stairs of her veranda and with her torch
she set fire to the burlap. Turning to face the women,
she nodded. The procession formed and in single file
they followed her to where she was before.
The artist covered her cart with an old quilt, and
pulled it aside. Now the crowd drew nearer to fill the
space where the women had been standing. The midwife
appeared as a resurrected Goddess. She turned to face
the women standing behind her on the porch. Empowered by
unseen forces she spoke, "…..and now it begins.
The Great Spirit, the Creator and the Mother, have
called you to hold the grief and suffering of the entire
world. Put away your smiles. Open wide your hearts and
souls. Begin your mission. You will lift the woes from
humankind through your grieving. In so doing, you will
create space for Light and healing to bless the earth.
You are invoking the return to Paradise." Holding
out her arms to the women she continued. "I have
been guided to prepare your new home. You will be cared
for as the pain and suffering of our tormented humanity
is transferred to your hearts to bear. Today you become
Saints, and in the time of the world’s rebirth you
will join the angels’ chorus. Receive your mantles and
veils of mourning as outward signs of your
Moving in and out among the women, the midwife
appeared as a needle weaving a tapestry. She covered
each face with a black sacred cloth. The women were
silent, transfixed. Their eyes, now barely visible
behind their mourner’s weeds, were clear and
Then the midwife turned to the shrouded women and
said somberly, "Come, come, sisters of sorrow,
mothers of mourning, guardians of grief. Come into
cloister and wail the inequities of the universe.
Express the anguish of the voiceless. Embrace the pain
of the sick, the abused, the neglected. Sing with the
voices of the ancestors to rattle the souls of the evil
ones so that they too might awaken and choose light
instead of darkness. In doing so, you are freeing the
world, readying it for the Light that is being born. You
will spend the remainder of your lives in sacred
alchemy. You, who by the grace of the Divine will
transform darkness into Light, misery to miracle,
loathing to love."
The crowd of family and friends joined hands and in
unison said softly, "Go now. We release you to do
the work you have been chosen for. We bless you for your
sacrifice. And so it is."
The women turned and two by two they crossed the
threshold into the midwife’s home. They gathered in a
circle in the central room. When the door had been
closed and bolted after them the silence deepened.
They knew it was time. Collectively the women took a
deep breath. They inhaled into their bodies, minds, and
spirits the torments and agonies of the suffering world.
The women fell to their knees and their wailing began.
It was as if the soul of Earth herself was releasing all
her accumulated pain since the beginning of history and
herstory. Their cries could be heard a great distance.
The crowd turned in silence and dispersed in all
directions. The family’s spirits were sustained, as
the angels had promised.
The artist, pulling her cart filled with the women’s
possessions, prayed for the mourners all the way home.
Meanwhile the second moon rose in the east.
The next morning, just before dawn, the artist
wrapped herself in a blanket and went to her shed. Her
breath was warm and heavy. It formed misty clouds that
hung in mid-air. She built a fire in the wood stove in
the corner. She lit candles and incense. Then slowly,
she cast a circle of twelve large stones upon the dirt
floor. Each stone became a prayer to a sister of sorrow…Elizabeth,
Alice, Hannah, Kate. Each stone a blessing…Margaret,
Amanda, Caroline, Laura. Each stone an honoring…Barbara,
Renata, Rachel, Irene.
When all was ready the artist carefully removed the
old worn quilt from her cart to reveal the women’s
discarded belongings. Lovingly, reverently, she began to
sort the bits and pieces of their lives. Her blanket
fell away and kneeling naked on the earth, one by one
she paid homage to the castaways. A pair of reading
glasses, a tiny silk pouch containing a baby tooth. A
hairbrush entangled with silver strands, a sea-gull
"How to begin??" She wondered out loud.
"You will create their monument. Their
shrine." The angel had commanded this to her, on
the day when the second moon first appeared in the sky……"You
will build a memorial to honor the sacrifice and
martyrdom of the Sisters of Sorrows."
The artist continued her sorting as salty tears
rolled down her cheeks and onto her breasts. She kneeled
among an assortment of photographs and earrings. Looking
over the field of momentos now arranged like a carefully
planned garden, she whispered a prayer for guidance. The
blessing was lightening fast to reach her. She felt the
brush of an angel wing as she began to absorb the energy
of the objects that lay before her.
Reaching out to touch the now sacred relics…she
whispered through her tears, "Tell me your stories….tell
me your stories."
Meanwhile, beyond these walls, the day was breaking….and
all over the planet the miracles had begun.
invited to submit your story and accompanying
photos to be considered as a feature for the Sacred
Imagination column. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright© 2001 Dana
Dana's Past "Sacred Imagination" Columns:
2001 - "Invoking Your Muse"
2001 - "The Blessings of Daily Bread"
2001 - "Entertaining the Dream Visitor"
2001 - "Embracing the Whole:
Choices for Conscious Living"
2001 "Nourishing the Souls of the Children"
2001 "Opening the Senses to Beauty"
2001 "The Eyes of Love"
2001 "Patterns of Authenticity"
2000 "Finding Peace in the Fields of Time"
2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer
2000 "Journey to the Center - The Sacred Mystery of
2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"
2000 "Transforming Life’s Challenges into Beauty and Story"
2000 "Sacred Spaces Invite the
Muses of the Soul"
Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:
and the Sacred Imagination: The Dance of Co-creation
For ten years, Dana Reynolds has
been facilitating women’s spiritual presentations and
retreats nationwide. Her work as a Spiritual Midwife,
one who assists women as they birth their creative gifts
into the world, is the foundation of all her endeavors.
Her background as a visual artist and writer enriches
her Spiritual Midwifery: Birthing the Feminine Soul
As the creator of an art making
process known as visual prayer, Dana teaches
women how to combine ritual with sacred intention to
create altars, collages, spirit dolls, and other
touchstones. The creation of sacred spaces is also
paramount to the Spiritual Midwifery experience. Her
offers samplings of her visual prayer collages, poetry,
and a workshop catalogue.
Dana is the author of the
whimsical and colorfully illustrated book, Be An
Angel, a co-creation with illustrator and graphic
designer, Karen Blessen, (Simon & Schuster). Her
essay, Visual Prayers is included in the
anthology, Our Turn, Our Time: Women Coming of Age, edited
by Cynthia Black, (Beyond Words Publishing).
A trained labyrinth
facilitator, Dana incorporates the labyrinth and other
spiritual wisdom into her retreats and workshops. She
recently traveled to Chartres and Vezelay Cathedrals in
France to gather information pertaining to ancient
sacred mystical traditions. She currently lectures on
such topics as spiritual midwifery, sacred journal
keeping, feminine spiritual wisdom, and the early
Christian women saints and mystics.
Dana’s life follows the
spiral path from rim to center and back again. She looks
for the sacred in forgotten places and openly embraces
the great Mystery of life. Guiding women to the
discovery of their creative inner gifts is the passion
that fuels her soul.