Water for Gaia
Sometimes extreme lunar conditions create a very low tide, called a minus tide, which usually coincides with a full moon. During these rare hours the moon, flexing her cosmic muscles, pulls the water far out and away from its usual retreat line from the shore. It is a magical time to walk the beach. On the full moon night of March 2000, an exceptional minus three tide was predicted, giving me a rare opportunity to make offerings from the water altar at the edge of Seattle’s Puget Sound.
I had been looking forward to this night all week. After completing the water altar ceremony in my altar room, I collected my ceremonial tools: a bundle of sage, my abalone shell, a large feather for smudging, candles, an altar cloth, and, of course, the bottles of elixir from the water altar. Loading it all into a backpack, I drove the short distance to the beach. I parked and took a moment to consciously breathe, being present in the moment and in my intention to create a ceremony to offer this sacred elixir to Gaia.
The drumbeats from the beach were audible before I left the car. I got out, hoisted the backpack over one shoulder, and started walking toward the beach. Bonfire-lit circles clustered under the brilliant full moon. Shadows danced across the sand in rhythm with drummers’ hands pounding out primal messages on skins of animals stretched taut across wooden frames. The cadence of voices and drums, rising and falling to an ancient tempo, was conducted by cellular memories deep within their swaying bodies. The ancient celebration of the heartbeat of the Mother was being honored and performed by her children.
The great ebb of the minus tide stretched me toward the northern end of the beach, away from the drum circles. No one else had ventured down this far. The rich smells of low tide were delivered by a mere whisper of a breeze. The night was cool but not cold. I was very comfortable walking along the shore.
I felt enchanted by the magic of the moment. The moon demanded my presence, and I obeyed. I walked with her, that great silver ghost crab, as she sidled across her appointed path, traversing the black beach of night. Far from its usual boundary, the water lapped lazily in small, frothy waves. Following the shining walkway, I felt the profound feminine energy of Gaia, the Mother.
The exceptional low tide exposed the beach like a shy lover gradually dropping her gauzy nightgown to share her secret beauty with her beloved. I walked along cautious of each footstep as I intruded upon the seldom disturbed realms of sea creatures caught out in the lunar light, vulnerable now to my approach.
A low, flat rock caught my attention. It looked like an altar just waiting for a wandering water priestess to make her ceremonial offerings. I accepted its silent invitation and stood behind it. Opening the backpack, I removed my tools. The deep purple of the altar cloth splashed its color onto the sand as it draped over the stone. Striking a match, I lit one tea candle and placed it in the center of the cloth. Taking the six bottles of the elixir, filled earlier tonight from my water altar, I positioned them in a circle around the candle. Abalone shell, sage, and feather followed. I ignited the sage in the candle flame, let it catch fire, then blew out the flame, resting the smoldering and pungent stick in the shell. Using my feather I moved the smoke over and around my body, the altar, and bottles holding the elixir.
Listening to the waves’ lilting music I added my own voice, singing in harmony with the water and the night. No words were in my song. I was chanting with ancient voices I could hear all around me, in praise of the water, the moon, and all the creatures of the Earth, and to Gaia, our Mother. Picking up two of the bottles of water, I walked the distance to the edge of the Sound, again marveling at the far distance the water was from shore.
Holding up the water as an offering, I spoke my prayers for the water, for Gaia. I sent my prayers out over the gentle waves, watching my words ride across the crests of foam like little boats. Kneeling onto the soft sand and pebbles between the bigger rocks, I poured out the contents of the bottles, visualizing all the waters of Puget Sound filling with the purple glow of the amethyst-infused elixir, watching it swirl away on a moonlit current.
“Thank you, Water, for your gift of life. I see you clean and restored.”
Walking back to the altar rock for the last two bottles, I heard a loud, roaring sound. It had been so silent and I had seen no one else arrive; what could this sound be? Perhaps a boat was going by in the night? Or maybe it was one of the local seaplanes out for a moonlit joy ride?
I turned and looked. There was no boat, no plane. Just me and the water, which had rushed up to meet me at the rock! The tide was still very far away from the shore. The exposed beach still spread out on either side of me. But here, just here at the altar, the water had come to me. I felt it had come to thank me for my offerings. I fell to my knees to embrace this moment, the salt of my tears joining the salt of the Sound. As the water retreated back to the far edge of the beach, I poured the last two bottles of the elixir onto the wet sand and watched it journey back to the sea, trailing its amethyst light behind it.