Jen is back with another celebration….this one from the recent chinese new year traditions.
Any opportunity that presents itself for renewal or rebirth of any kind, I am so there. After many decades of living here on Earth, there is the never-ending needless clutter that begs to be cleared out, so many unnecessary things that just take up space. So when I was asked to participate in The Golden Cicada ceremony, and that it involved an egg and red envelopes and a grassy hill and the shedding of the skin, I couldn’t resist.
It was the first day of the Chinese New Year, also known as The Spring Festival. This year it fell on January 15; it marked the beginning of The Year of the Dragon. There are many fabulous ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year, much of which often involves the cleansing and purging of the old, sweeping away ill-luck, so to speak, and welcoming in space for the new year ahead. For us on this mid-January winter’s day, we would celebrate by shedding our symbolic skin and emerging anew.
There was an air of hushed secrecy in the room as a dozen curious folks gathered in the darkened basement of an old town building. Our pockets were filled with 27 single dollar bills and an egg that, under strict instruction, was to be purchased and boiled without anyone seeing. Glossy red Chinese New Year envelopes were spread across the floor while our fearless leader Asha sat us in a sacred circle and shared the symbolism of this ancient Tibetan-Buddhist feng-shui ritual. Our lucky envelopes were stuffed with dollar bills which would later be tossed into a ritual fire. We were given cinnabar in the palm of a hand and 27 drops of high-grain alcohol, which, after gently mixing, we then rubbed over our egg, a symbol of rebirth found throughout time and culture. Finally we transferred the egg to a brown paper bag. The preparations ready, we set out to a local sacred hillside, eggs in tow.
You may be familiar with cicadas, known for their singing which for many signals the beginnings and endings of planting seasons. Cicadas live in hot climates or where temperatures reach the mid-80’s…there is nothing that says Summer more than their song on a hot summer night here in New England. They are relatively harmless insects, although the laying of eggs by the female can leave deep scars on the branches of certain trees and shrubs. When the eggs hatch, they drop as nymphs to the dark ground where they borrow for at least several years. Eventually they emerge and ‘molt’ or shed their skin, leaving behind a thin exoskeleton on the branches of trees. In ritual, the cicadas are symbols of reincarnation, rebirth, transition and renewal.
And so, in our cicada-like way, we took our dozen eggs up a snowy hillside. We oh-so-carefully peeled the shell, that outer layer that both contained and protected something quite wonderful inside, and placed the pieces back in the brown bag. We offered a bit of egg to the four directions, took a bite ourselves, and tossed the remains to the sky. In a final moment of shedding, we walked 108 paces with our brown bag full of peeled shell, the hard outer-layer of the past. Taking a deep breath we tossed it as far as we could, then turned quickly and walked back home, never once looking behind us.
All of us drove home that day feeling a little lighter, a little freer, realizing that going back is impossible. It’s best to simply let go, to not look behind us but rather to emerge fresh, renewed, ready for a new journey ahead. We were all filled with a sense of possibility that day, a feeling of having made space for the new adventures that 2012 would bring. It was a transformative morning indeed, and even if those 27 envelopes don’t bring us the riches we expected, there is no doubt we are all singing a bit louder, cheerier, ready for a new season for sure.