Good morning friends,
When the redwing blackbirds return, (which they have, I heard their call across the hibernating meadow a few days ago, high up in the branches of a cottonwood tree) I begin to turn my devotions toward the element of Water. All winter I have been courting Fire. I don't stray too far from my hearth. The ash from the woodstove is poured out each morning on the slumbering lilacs, the dreaming peonies. And then the fire for the day is sparked. Having the wood stacked high on the porch has made me feel rich and satisfied all season long, for I know the house will be warm. There is deep comfort in knowing that there is an ember in the hearth. But when the redwing blackbirds return, I begin to welcome the rituals of Water. This begins with the tapping the maples for their sap, which I drink daily. I take out my essence making bowls from their chest - place snow in each bowl and leave them out under the full moon to be cleansed for the next essence making season, a water-based form of medicine making. I introduce gentle lymph moving teas into my rotation; there is a blend that I made with plants that grow along the stream in my yard: fir tip, violet, self-heal… starting to moving the waters of the body for the season that is right around the corner.
One of the oldest divinities that my Slavic ancestors worshiped was the Earth herself: Mati syra zemlja or Matka Ziemia - which translates to Moist Mother Earth. This was the name they would call our beloved Earth. Moist! When Mati syra zemlja awakens again in Spring, it is the water that feeds the deep soil & fertilizes the land, that offers replenishment and vitality once again. We know this too: Spring arrives in a flood, with intense winds and thrashing storms. Spring is not a gentle season, no matter how many flowers blossom. It is riotous, frenzied; a birth that is brilliant and painful. 
In many Slavic lands there is a ritual that is woven into the Spring equinox that is an ancient enactment of the death of winter and resurrection of Spring. This ritual centers the goddess Marzanna (her Polish name, she is known as other names such as Mora, Mara, Morana in other cultures) where signs of her cultus in western Slavic tradition points to her as a great Mother goddess. She is said to rule over the season of winter. But within her, she also carries the Spring… she is death and rebirth, the world turns on the crux of her creation and destruction. This ritual now survives as a school children's ritual that celebrates the return of Spring. A effigy is created in the image of Marzanna and is brought down to the river, lit on fire and then drowned. 
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Marzanna returns to the water, to the depths of Moist Mother Earth. This water is then what makes the world awaken again in Spring when it returns as rain. The Slavs believe that Water is a doorway to the Otherworld, the place where the ancestors lived. The other doorway was Fire. By setting fire to Marzanna and then throwing her into the water, she is immersed in the ancestral realm: Spring emerges from death, death surrounds life. And so the cycle continues.
Tending the dying embers of winter, welcoming the waters of Spring; I find myself in the essence of this liminal space. Marzanna is close by. Knowing this ritual mythology is a comfort to me; it feels important to acknowledge the death that Spring emerges from, especially as my usual markers of the season continue to shift and change due to climate emergency in the anthropocene. Feeling the energy of the season shifting, whether or not I am ready for it. Unsure of how Spring will arrive this year; at least I know the redwing blackbirds are here again. I will keep listening. 
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Another Slavic ancestral ritual: to predict the crops for the year ahead, peasants would dig a hole in the ground and put their ear to the hole, to listen to what Moist Mother Earth said. If they heard a sound of a full sleigh, it meant a good crop year was coming. If it was the sound of an empty sleigh; a poor one. I dig my hole and listen deep. Moist Mother Earth, show us the way to Spring. What do the waters of your body say about the season that is to come? 
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Sap Rising begins next Tuesday! I think this will be the last time I offer this work in this format, so I do hope you can join us. Perhaps you want to locate your body in this season amongst ancestral rituals and traditions. Perhaps you are wanting to deepen your connection to the land around you, to listen to the waters, to meet the land spirits. Perhaps you want to befriend plants for opening to desire. Oh, I love to feel my body reawaken in this season. I ground into Willow, into Birch, into Nettle. What plants guide you in Spring?
We will begin with Marzanna; I will tell some of her folktales & we will spend eight weeks together enacting our rituals of Spring, informed by older European folk magic traditions. Please let me know if you have any questions about the course. Or want a payment plan! To read more about the class and register, click here.
As always, thank you for being here, for reading. 
To continuing to tend the hearth while sipping the sweet sap, 
xx Liz 
p.s. I forgot to mention that I was interviewed on the How To Be Human podcast with Anna Toonk in January. You can have a listen here