I wasn’t sure if you would want to read this post with a word like ‘sacrifice’ in the header. After all, doesn’t sacrifice refer to the killing of people and animals in the name of religion?
Yes, and there’s more.
The root of the word may surprise you. It comes from Latin ‘sacrificium’, which is composed of ‘sacer’ (sacred) plus ‘facere’ (to make’). So to sacrifice is to make sacred. It refers to a particular kind of renunciation.
Sacrifice is not like putting out rubbish on the kerb. Sacrifice means surrendering to a higher good, or as the dictionary puts it, ‘making an offering in homage to a deity’.
Sacrifice may be about releasing old beliefs, attitudes, grudges or survival mechanisms in order to move into a higher state. This is not necessarily easy. The word ‘sacrifice signals the pain that often accompanies renunciation.
Sacrifice and the flame tree
I am reminded of this every day when I look out to the flame tree that grows between my home and the sea. It’s still a shock to see how the once leafy crown has been reduced to a sharply severed trunk. The side branches have been dramatically cut and their foliage stripped.
The result looks brutal, but the arborist assured me, when I ran out to ‘save’ the tree, that he was acting for the best. His method meant removing the weight, for the trunk was affected by disease and the heavy crown could cause it to collapse and fall. The arborist was acting to save the tree.
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Sacrifice and the seasons
Each seasonal shift involves surrender. What do you need to let go of, now that daylight saving has ended and the last gaze of lingering evenings gives way to the shadows and shivers of autumn?
Is it the illusion of stability? Is it the seductive thought that the serenity of autumn is the norm and all else is an aberration, or even an affront?
It’s human nature to want to hold on to what we perceive as good. Yet as the Buddha said, the only constant is change. And all change brings challenge.
As we dip into darkness, the northern hemisphere lifts into light. As we dip into the challenges of inclement weather, seasonal death and decay, people in the northern hemisphere lift into the challenges of growth and the demands of regeneration.
Easter in two hemispheres
Last week, after walking the labyrinth at St Matthew In The City, I mused on how I tend to wince at the mismatch of our Easter falling in autumn. But when I reflect on our autumn as the season of sacrifice, it seems fitting that Easter begins here before swinging up to the northern hemisphere for spring resurrection.
How to attract something new
Have you ever tried to bring something new into your life, to attract love, a better job, more money or happiness — and then wondered why it didn’t happen?
All too often the element of sacrifice is ignored. Think about the cycles of nature. Before the earth can be seeded anew, old crops must be harvested and debris cleared away, maybe even burned.
One Easter in the 1920s Mary Ursula Bethell took a break from working in her garden. She sat in her cottage in the Cashmere Hills (near Christchurch) and began to write her poem ‘Dirge’:
So, purging our borders
We burn all rubbish up,
That all weak and waste growth
That all unprofitable weeds,
All canker and corrosion,
May be consumed utterly.
These universal bonfires
Have a savour of sacrifice.
In the last verse she describes taking the bonfire ashes and spreading them ‘for nutrient about the roses’. This is an age-old practice. in old rural ceremonies bonfire ash from rituals was sprinkled on to the fields before they were left to lie fallow. Then it was necessary to wait and accept nature’s timing before bring in new seed.
So it is with your wish for something new and bright in your life.
You must first clear space for the new by releasing any ways in which you are clinging, perhaps unconsciously to old ‘waste’ and ‘unprofitable weeds’.
This may be done through means such as visualisation, healing practices or ritual. In the Sacred Art of Ritual course I’ll be showing you how to create a personal ritual of healing, attraction or renewal, so that the full process is attended to. And yes, you’ll realise by now that the element of sacrifice will be included.
Greetings to you all as we pass into the darkening days and nights. May you discover unexpected gifts in every season to come.
The important thing is this: to be ready at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you could become.—Charles Dickens
The Sacred Art of Ritual
There is still time to register for The Sacred Art of Ritual before the course begins on Tuesday April 14.
A wonderful group has gathered already. If your heart is open to joining, there is a place waiting for you.
Click on this link to register or find out more.
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Books to support The Sacred Art of Ritual
‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons’, and the sequel ‘Dancing with the Seasons’, offer information, stories & inspiration to support your seasonal rituals. ‘A Cup of Sunlight’ gives practical advice for integrating spirituality into everyday life.