We are soon approaching the Winter Solstice, which in Celtic Spirituality is said to be a thin time, a moment when the spirit world is a bit closer to us, a time which celebrates the end of darkness and awaits the return of the light. We cannot see it yet. But the promise of light is near.
In Five Element theory, we hold a similar idea. We leave the season of Autumn and the element of Metal as we progress toward the season of Winter and the element of Water. In the practice of acupuncture, we call this particular transition a radical transformation.
Consider the process. How can one transform Metal into Water? Metal is hard, dense, and unyielding. Water is fluid, embodies movement, and life is born from it. How can we logically explain such a drastic transition? The creation cycle of the other elements is clear: Water creates Wood. Wood creates Fire. Fire creates Earth. Earth creates Metal (minerals).
But what of this radical transformation of Metal turning into Water? How does it happen? How can we apply laws of physics?
We can’t. This process involves magic. Alchemy. The hand of God.
In Five Element theory, the shift out of Metal and into Water is said to be the movement of death into birth, similar to the Celtic view of the Winter Solstice and moving from darkness into light. And so this is why the shift from Metal to Water is called a radical transformation. We must make a giant leap. A leap that science cannot explain. A leap of faith. Hard and unyielding Metal will be affected so deeply by some inexplicable force that minerals will be turned into water and life will start anew. It is a transition beyond the mind’s reach.
Magic. Alchemy. The hand of God.
This transition involves a belief in a divine process, in divine law, not man’s law. A process which requires us to make space in our lives for divine movement. This is the space in which God plays. And it is the space in which we wait and trust in our Creator’s deep love for us and in the belief that life will go on, despite what seems to be highly unlikely odds.
We experience this transition — this waiting between endings and beginnings — in times of grief and sorrow as well. In Chinese Medicine, it so happens that grief and sorrow are associated with the element of Metal. And the element of Water is associated with fear.
Ah, now, doesn’t this get a little more interesting?
When we grieve, we hurt so deeply that we are convinced we cannot survive our pain. Grief is a momentary death of our spirit. We are at the end of the cycle of Metal. Water is on the other side. Grief checks us. Fear stares us down from the distance. We are afraid of what’s on the other side of sorrow and grief. We wait in darkness, immobile, resisting the alchemical shift from death into birth. We are at an impasse. We are terrified of living again, of feeling again.
On the other side of darkness though is emerging light. Always. The Celts knew this. The ancient Chinese knew this. Metal waiting to be turned into Water. Death waiting for rebirth.
Magic. Alchemy. The hand of God.
To consider rebirth though and to start this cycle again is to risk great pain. We clutch at the darkness. Darkness is at least familiar. It is not normal or sensible to want to feel pain.
Birth is painful. For the woman. For the child.
But it offers immeasurable joy too. Birth is the only path to the human experience. To experience joy means to eventually experience sorrow. You cannot have one without the contrast of the other.
As we move toward the Winter Solstice, ask yourself these questions:
- What in me has died?
- What in me is waiting to be reborn?
- Am I willing to take the radical journey of alchemy from Metal into Water?
- Am I willing to make space for magic and trust in the hand of God?
And in the tradition of a woman who asks no one to take a journey she has not taken herself, I assure you that I am on the path of radical transformation as well, walking right alongside you.
Blessings and peace to you as we all await the light’s return,
Maria Grace Mandarino