March 1 is the day of Baba Marta, ‘Grandma March’ – the Bulgarian Grandmother Goddess of Springtime.
It’s early spring and the tender signs of new life awakening appear everywhere, somehow surviving the wild storms which are also gifts of Baba Marta.
On March 1st in Bulgaria, Romania and Greek Thrace, people honour Baba Marta by giving each other martenitsas: amulets of twisted red and white yarn. Red and white are the colours of life and of cleansing, and bring protection, health, prosperity and renewal.
You tie the twist of red and white thread - often with a Goddess-resembling double tassel - around your wrist or to your clothes for a few days or weeks, until you see the first storks, cuckoos or swallows, or a beautifully flowering fruit tree. Then you throw the martenitsa into flowing water, place it under a stone near a river or tie it to a special tree which shows vigorous buds and abundant new growth.
Baba Marta is the wise woman who has the power to bring new life into the world: ‘Baba’ means both ‘grandmother’ and ‘midwife’. She also wields the destructive power of spring storms. Like the dance of Shiva, this dance of creation and destruction is in Her hands. The balance between these two poles is also the dance of inner and outer, shadow and light, and the labyrinth of the Lenten/Easter cycle of descent and resurrection.
We experience this powerful spiral of release and renewal every day, too, every lunar cycle, every time we dance, and in all sorts of other ways. And of course our own life paths ‘decide’ when to take us through surprising cycles of symbolic death and rebirth, which may last days, weeks, months, years regardless of the external cycles of the sun, the moon and seasons.
My approach to traditional women’s dances aims to strengthen our understanding of them as tools for personal transformation, and our ability to work with them consciously, so naturally the dances can help us align with this ancient springtime process. As you dance (and I hope you are dancing), I invite you to ask yourself: what change would you like to invoke in your life, and what are you ready to release in order to make space for the new?
You can take a few moments to reflect by writing in a journal, sitting in meditation or spending quiet time in nature. These simple steps can help you deepen your awareness and open the doors to your own wisdom and intuition.
Above all, the women’s dances help us to understand the naturalness of this cosmic cycle, to feel at home with it, and to discover the joy of the journey, whichever part of the path of descent and return we may find ourselves on. So wherever you are, don't worry: you too are in perfect alignment with the spiral of life… and what goes down, must come up, like the newly sprouting seeds of spring.
If you feel moved to discover more about vanishing women’s ritual traditions and dances of Bulgaria, join my Sacred Journey to Bulgaria this August 4-16, 2015. I offer this journey only every five years, to coincide with the renowned Koprivshtitsa folk festival, where you will see real-life babi, singing, dancing and performing rituals, wearing traditional costumes made by hand and rich in symbolic wisdom. There are just a few places left on this women-only journey, so book now.
Chestita Baba Marta!
With love and blessings in the dance,