From Poison to Medicine
It’s the Aries full moon today, a good time to begin something new—even if this new blog is all about endings. For the next twelve months, I’ll be posting on the full moon about fear, endings, and transformation, drawing from rituals I’ll be doing each balsamic moon (right before the new moon—a time of endings). You can join me in this exploration of our personal and collective shadows, or merely support me by reading. Below, the first post.
In September I had a birthday and I drew up my solar return chart to get a sense of the year ahead—not what will happen in the world, but what’s coming up within me. Solar returns are an energetic snapshot of our shifting energy, of what we pay attention from birthday to birthday. Usually, I see a wide range of themes—maybe a strongly placed Venus brings relationships into focus, or maybe sixth house planets encourage me to take my health more seriously. Analyzing all these pieces of data and weaving them into a map for the year ahead is a generally a fun birthday present for myself. Picture me humming that satisfied tune all Virgos hum when they have a complicated puzzle to solve and the right tools to solve it. Even as I don’t try to predict the future, solar returns give me a sense of control over myself—a way to shape my own future through problem-solving and focused projects.
Not this year.
This year I found one message in all caps. With several exclamation marks. Perhaps even a skull emoji. And it said something like this:
This year, you need to release control. This year, you will face your fears. Something is transforming in you. Most likely, you will lose something you don’t want to lose. If you align with transformation, you’ll find healing, wisdom, and resilience. Even so, you will often feel lost and uncertain. You will be very different on the other side. Don’t try this alone.
If you’re curious, this message came to me though excessive emphasis on Pluto, Scorpio, and the 8th house. Every major player in the chart was linked to these themes of death and regeneration, trauma and healing, intensity and transformation. If I see three links to a theme, I take notice. Here, I saw over a dozen.
So what do you do with a message like this? In many ways, the history of astrology is the story of trying to avert disaster, of uncovering the hidden cycles of the cosmos that will help us thrive rather than suffer. While this is a very human impulse, the shadow side of astrology is the need to control. I never forget that I work in a discipline that has been bent to help kings and dictators keep power. Western astrology also comes to us through cultures of patriarchy, colonialism, and conquer. The same oppressions that we face in our culture are tightly woven into the tools I use to resist that oppression. But there are ways of subverting this. When I learned astrology as a healing tool, I was taught to focus on the highest in the chart. The same themes that look like poison have the potential to be medicine.
This is my task, this year. Transform poison into medicine. This is the only map I have for my year ahead.
As I lived into the first month since my birthday, I found my deepest fears everywhere I looked. Personally, these include the sharp return of a chronic health condition that has been dormant for years, as well as financial scarcity and relationship uncertainty. Collectively, I’m seeing my communities shaken by important call-outs and insufficient understanding of what transformative healing looks like after them. Globally, there are almost too many to mention, from climate change to the rise of concentration camps in the US. In the course of this blog, I’ll be touching into all these things, moving from the personal to the collective to the global and back again, looking for connections. Because what we’re facing collectively isn’t separate from our own illnesses and financial worries. It is deeply enmeshed in our relationships.
Next year is shaping up to be a critical time for all of us, a time when the current crises may become exponentially worse—or when we start to find other ways of living. I don’t have a program for a better way forward—how to shape a future that is more empathic, more creative, more healed, more queer, more just—but I do know for us to be able to imagine and weave such a world, we need to be able to face our fears.
For the next twelve months, I’m taking on this task with a monthly ritual. Every balsamic moon, I’ll be doing a ritual about facing fear, loss, and endings. For me, this is personal work, political work, and spiritual work. My intention isn’t to wallow in negativity, but to make room for real transformation. I invite you to join me in this if you feel called to this kind of work—I’ll be posting my calendar below, or you can set your own days for doing ritual. I’ll be posting my intentions on Instagram the day before I do each ritual. If you don’t feel drawn to that level of engagement, you can also support me by being in conversation with me—commenting, asking questions, even just reading along each month. Being in connection with you will help me do this!
So, to end this first post, here’s what happened in my first Balsamic Moon ritual:
On September 27th, the day before the new moon, I made an altar in my backyard under the towering Sitka Spruce that spreads long, drooping arms across our yard. The afternoon was sunny and dry, warm enough to sit outside for half an hour and listen to the wind. I had written down my intentions for the ritual—to encounter death and its transformational energy, and the songs I would sing—several Hebrew prayers I’ve learned as I’ve been reconnecting to my Jewish ancestors. I sang in protection, I sang in love, and I invited my beloved dead to be with me in this space. I invited my own death to be a guest in this circle, acknowledging how present death is throughout our lives, how it is knit into our very cells. I felt into the pain in my body, the organs that have been struggling lately, the exhaustion in my muscles. When I was in this space of protection and connection, I sobbed out loud for how much I love this life. Every dead leaf, every crumbling seedpod, every hair on my living arm. The grief of loving is such a powerful force, and I let the sobbing carry me past any story about why I sobbed. At a certain point, my biggest fear seemed to be death itself—losing my capacity to sense and taste life, to inhabit my own mind and memories, to hug dogs and kiss my friends. At another point, my biggest fear seemed to be being alive as a human—being subject to internal chaos, feeling adrift in the universe, having a narrow perspective on time and interconnection. As I cried, the day turned rainy and the wind picked up. The spruce branch stroking my back felt comforting. I sang once more, thanking and saying goodbye to the beings I’d invited in. I ended the ritual by coming back to life—I took a walk, ate some fruit, and prepared for dinner with my friends.
After this ritual a certain feeling lingered with me—not that life was less scary, but that I was more full of life. On so many days, I abandon myself. I’m busy, I’m in pain, I’m tired—I shut down. I might not even realize it’s happening. After this ritual, I felt I was fully present, all pieces of me accounted for and alert. That feeling of wholeness within oneself is a kind of joy, a kind of power. This power is the opposite of controlling power. From a sense of wholeness, we can improvise. We can dance with the uncertainty and strangeness of life, we can accept grief and fear as several steps in the larger dance.
Balsamic Moon Ritual Summary:
Intention: To face my fear of death, and my fear of public self-disclosure (hello, I’m Corina Dross and I’ve published articles for many years but never so clearly centering myself).
Main activity: Sobbing under a tree, telling you about it.
What I learned: We need to grieve in order to reconnect with our deep love for life. We need to feel held when we grieve—by ancestors, by trees, by our beloved dead, by living friends—whatever is available.
Join the conversation: What are your rituals for facing fear? What holds you? What brings you back to courage, or joy?
Balsamic Moon Blog Schedule:
September 27: Ritual
October 13: Blog Post
October 25: Ritual
November 12: Blog Post
November 25: Ritual
December 11: Blog Post
December 23: Ritual
January 10: Blog Post
January 22: Ritual
February 9: Blog Post
February 21: Ritual
March 9: Blog Post
March 22: Ritual
April 8: Blog Post
April 22: Ritual
May 7: Blog Post
May 20: Ritual
June 5: Blog Post
June 19: Ritual
July 5: Blog Post
August 17: Ritual
September 2: Blog Post