Not too long ago just about this time of year, I attended a Bone Mother ceremony. This is a way to help teach women to listen and to hear the wisdom of the mothers who have come before us that is carried in our bones.
Many cultures believe that some knowledge is passed down genetically in our very bodies. Scientists are starting to realize that some animals exhibit behaviors that seem to support this assertion. If we accept that this can be true, we can feel comforted that, perhaps, when we listen deeply to ourselves, we listen to the voices of all the mothers who came before us and we carry their lessons into our lives.
I believe that the gathering with our elders in this time of the year when the Earth begins to prepare for slumber, when the darkness creeps in a little more each day, when we are worrying about heating the house for the Winter and "putting by" enough to eat, is in some ways, about listening to the voices in our bones. We draw close to our own mothers (spiritual or physical) to listen to their wisdom in a time when it is easy to doubt our own voices.
For some, this is really a symbolic exercise but, for others, it can be more traditional. Maybe you all sit around and tell stories of your elders before you or you learn at your Grandmother's elbow exactly what she puts in her dressing this year. Maybe your Grandfather tells you a story about how he met and courted your Grandmother and you learn how you wish to be looked at and cherished. Maybe this year is the first year you are allowed to eat at the big table.
Maybe you learn, for the first time, the traditions of your new spouse or maybe you simply continue to learn the traditions of his family.
Maybe your lessons are less positive or happy. When the past's rusty doors squeak open, we can't say which memories slip out on cat's feet.
Still, here we are closer to death than any other time of the year, it is true. We are also closer to more lives than we normally have access to; those whose lives we carry in our bones.
Listen to your bones.