Last time we talked about the beautiful Norwegian tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon and its implication and deep wisdom for relationships. As it’s still technically winter here where I live in our colder Northern hemisphere and snow-covered streets, I thought that I can share today just a bit more on the symbolism of the bear and how it teaches us the importance of tuning into, trusting and following the cycles of our lands – the lands of both the outer and the inner realms as we walk along our unique physical, emotional and spiritual wildlands.

Winter is a time of keeping warm in all the spaces within, contained for love, peace and clarity. The branches are bare, so that wide treets can no longer hide us from our eyes, and the coldness demands for absolute honesty. Of course the sun is rebellious, and especially in snow it always wins, to then stretch along the frozen waves, clear the pools, and awakens us to match its heat. In winter we remember to tend to ourselves, from the inside.

Art by Jackie Morris

In Indigenous and many others cultures, people have an intimate connection to the natural world. They relate to rocks and trees – as they connect to humans. I believe that everything around us has consciousness – in its own way of course, maybe not as evolved as a human mind – but it is alive. I believe that spirit flows through everything. And I believe that how we treat nature and everything else around us – including our furniture – reflects our relationship to ourselves. If we can see wisdom in the grand philosophical texts, we can surely then have no problem seeing the wisdom in the little things and throughout the simplicity in even the children’s tales.

To build a deeper connection to nature, spirit and life – we don’t have to go out and look for the faeries or read a whole bunch of spiritual texts – all we have to do is just spend some silence in our bedroom. Truly sit still and notice – notice how everything around you is a part of greater consciousness and unites it all together; how every object is imbued with spirit. This is spirituality. We can do this anywhere, even confined to the walls of a room.

Art by Angela Barrett

Everything in life is a relationship, and we are in a continuous relationship to all and everything – to ourselves, to one another, to the streets upon which our feet walk, and to the way we clean our house and treat our dresses.

To build a connection to someone or something we only need to spend time with it, see it truly as it is, and appreciate it even when it doesn’t look like you or share the same language.

The way we build relationships is: listen, respect and share.

Relationships teach us silence and listening is one of our most important skills to learn in life. Silence enables us to listen and to experience the relationship as it truly is; and to learn and discover who the other person truly is and what they need. It enables us to know when to speak and when to act for the greatest mutual benefit and wellbeing.

Relationships also teach us respect for other lives, and to only take that which is truly needed. Relationships also teach us sharing as we need to also understand the spiritual concept of equivalent exchange of energy. They teach us how to live in the world with one another and that essentially, we are all interdependent.

Sharing of ourselves is an offering to the world, and in many cultures when we share our talents and natural gifts, it is said that we are dancing for others, and inspiring them to dance in turn. Our kindness and compassion are also meant to be shared, towards ourselves, others, and the wildlife also.

Art by Lucy Campbell and Virginia Lee

Before we move on to the cycles of the land, and following the bear, let’s first briefly understand what the Indigenous medicine wheel is. The medicine wheel is seen as a sacred hoop with the four cardinal directions and has been used for millennia in Indigenous cultures worldwide to bring harmony and wellbeing to the communities. Throughout the history of humanity, we can see that almost all mystical traditions encouraged the walk-about, or the vision quest, for accessing deeper knowledge, wisdom and inner truth, and personal power. We enter our self and re-claim our power through the introspection that only quietness and solitude can provide us. The wheel essentially represents the cycles of life, the cycles of nature, and the circular pattern of the universe. 

On the medicine wheel, winter refers to the direction of the north, and it shifts our eyes towards the importance of introspection for the purpose of building a strong spiritual core.

Photography by Katerina Plotnikova

Enter the North Wildlands:

The north is the space we enter when we want to go to the core of who we are. We seek the answers to the questions: What do I believe? What are my values? Who am I? Why am I here? What is my soul purpose? We shut out the outer world and we go inward – to uncover the essence of who we truly are within. Once we know this deeper truth about ourselves – we will no longer allow the external world to define our identity. We have to understand and accept the humble truth that without self-knowledge and emotional maturity, nothing else in our life will ever make sense. This is why the spiritual and emotional bodies, the north and the south directions, must be tended to for inner and outer harmony and wellbeing.

The north relates to night time or 12am -6pm. This is the quiet time when we become more intuitive, our body regenerates itself, we shut out the outer world and go into the other astral realms. This quietness of night and north is needed time for the purposes of introspection, spiritual growth, and self-reflection, so that we make the unconscious conscious, and awaken our clarity and discernment to make wiser choices in the upcoming spring.

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet

This part of the night is related to the courage of the soul, and the courage of the subconscious as all shapes during that time. We need great reserves of courage, strength and self-honesty to enter the spiritual or subconscious or unconscious. Spiritual development is not for the faint of heart, and real love too is not for the faint of heart.

As already mentioned, the north relates to the spiritual body. When we are in alignment to our spiritual body, we are living in the truth of who we are. And when we are living in the truth of who we are, all else in life will just flow more easily and more naturally.

The spiritual body is our church within. It is our bridge to faith and to love. It is the place where we can always be held in a power that nothing and no one can take away from us. It is our connection to God, and to the ability to trust in life’s hands and unique timing of the unfolding of your life. Your spiritual core is what anchors you, gives you peace and where you can surrender in trust and in knowing. It is the bridge to yourself – and you need to keep this bridge sacred and clear, because otherwise you’ll lose your way.

The spiritual body is the way of the devotee, the priestess, the mystic – it is the inner quest when you close your eyes and feel the weight of your body against the body of night, when you relax like water into the silver of spoon, and you enter yourself. It is the drums, the deep humming, the slow rhythm, the ancient voice calling you into the depths of the mist and towards the moist dark northern forest – a voice older and more ancient than us, from a time before time beyond time. It is your soul.

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet and Anton Lomaev

The north is essentially about self-development, soul growth and self-realization. When we let go of the external validation and ego-based identities, we can finally see and accept ourselves, and live an authentic life of deep fulfillment.

We will also recognize the divinity in us, and through this, we will also be able to see the divinity in another person. The north relates to the third eye chakra – because we need to see clearly.

And while our spirit is often aligned to the element of fire, the north is represented by the element of earth. This is because we need grounding when we are working with the hidden realms – otherwise we’ll just fly up somewhere and have a hard time coming back. We need an anchor, strong morals and values holding us to the earth, so that we can go journeying in the other realms and then know how to come back. This is why one of the first things we work on for intuive and psychic development is the physical body, including both cleansing, strengthening and grounding techniques, because it is the vessel through which all flows, and when it is balanced, clear and strong, we’ll be able to channel and hold higher frequency. Discernment is a most powerful spiritual gift and perhaps more important than anything psychic related.

Photography by Katerina Plotnikova

Follow the Bear:

The bear is beautiful animal often related to the north and the winter time; and has been present in many tales and lore throughout history and throughout many cultures. In most tales, we often see it refer to transformation and the unveiling of the true self, such as Brother Grimms’ tale of Snow-White and Red Rose, and the Norwegian tale of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Animal bridegroom narratives can be traced back to 4,000 years, and they often portrayed the relationships between people and the way we needed to adjust to one another’s different worlds through honesty, patience, acceptance and compassion.

To the ancients, the bear symbolized resurrection, and the connection of women to the cycles of the land. In winter, she would go into hibernation and its heartbeat would decreases to almost nothing. Often times the male would impregnate the female right before hibernation, and yet perhaps miraculously, the egg and sperm would not unite immediately. They float and dance separately until the approaching of spring. And then, at the end of her winter’s sleep, they would unite so that her cubs are born in the warmth of spring and she could feed them as she awakens – to provide them with the nurturing, caring and attention that they need to grow healthily.

This is a profound metaphor for our lives and for the importance of knowing how to tune our bodies to the cycles of land, both lands of our inner and outer realm. In relationships too, there are times for quietness, and there are times for intentional initiation. What could be seen as a dry empty phase, would only be followed by spring and the newness of the blossoming – from seeds planted before yet knowing that all needs time to grow with a patience and kindness of rhythm, and with trust in life, and with trust in oneself and the other. It’s a natural unfolding but what is meant for us will never pass us by.

Art by Alexandra Dvornikova

I find the depth of the metaphor to apply to the way things come together in our life.

Dreams shape within and we continue to nurture and nourish them in the landscapes of our heart.

And even when time passes and nothing has shaped physical yet, to come into our loving hands, this doesn’t mean it will not happen – for it is on its way towards us.

Keep your actions aligned to your intentions, and keep pouring in your efforts with trust and patience.

We also need to protect our dreams because they are vulnerable in their gentle beginnings of shaping. Make sure you do not share them with all people, because the way they will react or respond may affect you deeper than you realize. Do others doubt you and your dreams, or do they encourage you? Do they support and believe in you?

Protect and nurture your heart’s wishes like the way you’d protect and nurture a little child.

In the psyche, the bear often symbolizes our own ability to navigate through our emotional wildlands, and to regulate our own feeling life. The bear power is in the ability to move in cycles, be fully alert and aware, and when needed to quiet down into a hibernative sleep – the higher purpose of which is to renew our energy for the next cycle and phase of life. It also offers us insight on the ability to be both/and: both patient and initiative, both generous and fierce, both tender and resilient, both kind and protective. We make our boundaries known clearly, we protect our territories, and we shake the skies when we need to; yet we remain fair, compassionate and accessible at all times.

Our intimate relationships go through their own phases also. It is often said that within one marriage exist few different marriages; as after every significant phase, we need to re-learn and re-discover one another. Even in our every day we need to listen and pay attention, and learn the way we need to be kissed, held, and cared for, not in the way we always were, but in the way we need to right now. No matter how long we’ve lived together under the same roof, our inner worlds change and we can’t assume we’ll always know everything about the other person. There will always be parts of them that will remain wild and unknown, just like we too will have something new to discover within ourselves, something that will remain a secret to others. We can approach our relationships like art, discovering new angles and shades, and paying attention to each other, rather than take each other for granted. Life making is like love making is like art making.

Art by Kay Nielsen

Follow the wisdom of the bear, trust your inner wildlands, paths and phases. There are clocks beyond the hands of our human clocks. Unstrikeable, unclockable by us. There, in the cosmic fabrics, time has its own timing. No matter how many straight and direct concrete roads we build, the real paths of life are often full of twists and turns, and we’ll never know it all. The humility of this deserves to be treasured.

There is time for quietness, there is time playfulness, there is time for passivity and there is time for passions. There is purpose always to it all. Life breathes through us, moves like waves, ebbs and flows, expands and contracts like the breathing in our chest. God himself breathes through each of our emotions, and experiences himself in a way he could not have otherwise. It is purposeful. And like the moon, we too wax and wane in all our emotions and physical bodies as women; and like the moon too, the waning will always still be held by its waxing, by something yet to blossom in its beauty in spring, even when we can’t yet see it. There is fullness, there is wholeness, there is beauty. Then, now, always.

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Cover photography by Katerina Plotnikova.