Hameau de l'Etoile, near Montpellier
You are walking in the woods in the dappled light of a fine spring day. You enjoy the springy grass and crunch of leaves and twigs underfoot. You graze on some early berries. You see the flash of water, and pause to look down at a cool, fast-running stream where fish gleam among the currents.
Wouldn't it be fun to try to catch a fish in your bare hands, like a child. You make a grab and, amazingly, you have a fish in your hand. You are suddenly, urgently hungry. You raise the fish to your mouth and chomp down and you enjoy the explosion of fish oil in your mouth. You may or may not have enjoyed raw fish before, but this live one is delicious.
As you wipe your mouth and bring your hand away, you notice that you are not quite the same as before. The back of your hand is furry, and the hand is larger and thicker than you remember and it has sprouted claws. You have become a bear.
You amble back to your cave. You remember the pleasure of taking a long winter nap down here, in dream contact with the Earth and your ancestors and the new life you would enter come the spring. For now, you are simply going to rest, and remember.
There are many levels to your cave. Some will take you into contact with ancestors who may appear as human, animal, or other. You may have to face tests and challenges before you can know your own, on the deeper levels. You may have to calm the male bears, and the warrior males who pretend to be bears. What you most want to find is the Divine Feminine energy of Earth that alone can gentle and contain the violence of men and turn the wildness of the Bear into a power of healing and protection.
Go deep enough, and you may be received into the embrace of Great Mother Bear. She may take you on her lap, like and infant, and nurse you and heal you. When the generous stream of her milk flows through you, you will be replenished and restored. Her claws may work like scalpels, to open you and heal in your body what needs to be healed. When you are blessed and healed by her, you may bring her gifts into your world and join the clan of the Bear Dreamers...
This is the invitation I gave to our circle for the first group journey in the depth adventure in "Dancing with the Bear: Reclaiming the Arts of Dream Healing" that I am currently leading at the Hameau de l'Etoile near Montpellier in southern France. The results were phenomenal.
It is especially moving to be honoring the Bear as a medicine animal in a part of the world where a serious attempt at speciescide against all bears was organized under the rule of Charlemagne. The church became convinced that the ancient cult of the Bear was the mlost dangerous source of opposition to the Christianization of Europe and persuaded the emperor to order two "crusades" in which all men with arms were ordered to kill every bear they encountered. Thousands of bears were slaughtered in this attempted holocaust. Here in the Midi, this week, we are honoring the Bear and its many gifts, and seeking ways to cleanse the "berserker" in man.
Art: "Drumming Bear" by Cristina Craciun in RM personal collection