Living WildGrace Funk
Singing up change to cultivate more yin and balance yang
Moon we talked under
Midwife of the Soul
My 2016 New Year’s Resolution was to learn how to drum.
I thought it would be in a more conventional sense, but when my favourite wise woman told me about Grace Funk’s Make Your Own Medicine Drum Workshop that she was facilitating with Sarah Miller of Embodiments Dance, I knew I had to get on board and A-SAP!
But the Universe had other plans for me. I became unwell two days before the workshop and couldn’t go. The symptoms were unusual and I recognized that I’d experienced these particular symptoms at just one other point in my life. When I was pregnant. Now I had it on good authority that I wasn’t preggers this time, so after some soul searching, I realized that I was retracing my pregnancy precisely when I really wanted to be making a drum.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘One door closes and another opens’ and I trusted that this would be the case. Sure enough, by missing the workshop, I came to learn about the year-long Four Seasons Journey offered by the School of Shamanic Womancraft, where Grace Funk is an intern teacher. A year-long study that I hope (oh how I hope!), will answer my soul’s longing to becoming a better woman.
I spoke to Grace at a time of transition, when she was re-branding her business from Midwife of the Soul to Priestess Your Life. Grace and I were both Day 2 of our cycle and so the interview quickly became deep and dreamy. We talked about being in nature, the Four Seasons Journey and what it means to be a Priestess.
You homeschool two of your children, which is an amazing opportunity to be outdoors more and connect with the natural world.
I’m only slowly piecing that together myself. I’m reading Minmia’s book Under the Quandong Tree. She’s an Indigenous elder and there’s so much practical wisdom in the book. She talks about songlines which I’d heard about before but never really understood.
Basically, what is the landscape of your birthplace saying about you? How are we written into the landscape? How does what’s around us affect us, to the point of it being a map. That’s the part that I haven’t understood before.
We are a part of the natural world and actually to miss out on that conversation is to miss out on crucial guidance or a map for us as soul creatures in the cosmos.
To grow up in a place where we don’t know what landscape we were born into because it’s been chopped down or we’ve moved away – well, then we are missing some crucial pieces of the map.
I love your description of being a Priestess in service to the Divine Feminine. What first sparked your interest into this realm?
In terms of that language, it was definitely my experience of being part of the Four Seasons Journey and that deep dive with women. That was after years of searching, leading to this deep dive with other people who were also doing this searching. In the context of women practicing their own spirituality, language like Priestess or Witch, is able to be aired and explored.
This all came about for me after a life-long fumbling with my own spirituality growing up Christian, plus going through my own sexual experiences and birthing my children. That Christian faith structure wasn’t fitting anymore – it certainly couldn’t articulate the sacred in terms of my own feminine experience. And I knew those experiences were sacred, because I’d lived them in my body and I needed some kind of spirituality to reflect that.
My education is a Bachelor of Theology, so I tried even to that degree to find my place spiritually, but I never was a priest and I knew that.
But Priestess feels like something that is being born in me and I’m still learning what that is.
I’m having to do a lot of re-education – it’s not like I grew up knowing how to priestess the cooking of food or how to be in nature. Which brings me back this sense of oneness – it’s even less of a doing and more of a being. Getting that balance of yin and yang.
When women are first starting to think about this kind of work they hit up against the witch word early on. Our fear and our conditioning shuts it down really fast and we don’t get to progress to what it really is.
Yeah, the language around it has been so loaded up. ‘Priestess’ still feels so loaded up for me and a potential block for people coming into the work. ‘Witch’ definitely feels loaded up. It feels okay for me now but it definitely was taboo for a long, long time.
It is still so confronting for people – we have that fear at a cellular level.
But I think women and men are feeling the call or need of that cultivating of ‘Yin’, whatever that looks like for different lives and different stages. Although it’s such a fumble trying to find it, how to express it and how to even look for it.
We are conditioned too that we need to express it in a way that is understandable and repeatable, just like a science experiment.
Yes, even from the perspective that it’s supposed to be something that we do. What does it mean to be a priestess that does stuff like workshops? What is my work, what is the Yang-Doing expression of it? Equally, what is the Yin-Being expression of it? How is it a sustainable place? I’m an introvert so I need the yin a lot. But I notice in my thinking, I still need to make some money, how am I going to do that? And that often takes me down a very yang path.
Earlier this year I was feeling a bit burned out by all the outward expressions of it. All of them were great but a few of them took a lot of energy. I was just back to: How sustainable is this work? What is my balance of self-nourishment?
Yes and you give a lot to your family and your clients. Can you share some of your self-care rituals?
What’s really nourishing for me is getting up early in the morning. That wasn’t sustainable for me with really small kids but my children are quite self-sufficient now – the youngest is 7, so no one needs me anymore, not really, so I have until 8.30am to myself. What that looks like at the moment is getting up, going for a walk, coming back and doing some journaling, a bit of reading and also visualizing my day.
The Indigenous Leader Minmia would say our soul, our Miwi, travels into the day ahead of us.
I am actually finding if I think about the day, real insight flows in with what I need. Last month, I’d just started bleeding and I had shitloads to do, packing up for a trip away.
I had the insight to lie down every few hours. To rest even though I had so much work on was a new concept for me, but it really sustained me.
Giving ourselves permission to rest is huge.
Yes and as women, if we allow ourselves to do that – to rest when we need to – the ripples are huge. My body was too tired this morning to visualize and so I just lay in bed. That early morning space is definitely sustaining but partly it’s about being flexible and not too rigid.
Another self-care ritual is trying to walk a bit more on the ground barefoot and earth that energy. That’s easier to do as it gets warmer and we move out of winter! And being alone – that’s always nourishing and in my life there are not many spaces like that.
If I was to take it to the next level it would be planning in one or two retreats for myself. But because I’m away a bit particularly for the Four Seasons Journey, then Seven Sisters Festival, things seem to just keep filling up in the calendar. It’s hard to say I just want this whole weekend for me! But that’s the next level.
You write that your work isn’t confined to women, but is informed by embodied female experience. You explain that we are all equally invested in this rebalancing as humans on a vulnerable planet, coming back to cyclical, intuitive, connection-motivated, trust-oriented ways of living. Can you talk to me more about that?
My shorthand is to say the work to heal the planet is about cultivating yin, whatever that looks like. And I say yin to move away from the gender specific language of masculine and feminine. Really, we are talking about polarity. Our culture has been one polarity for a long time and is still weighted that way – the statistics on rape and domestic violence shows us that.
The planet is crying out for the valuing of yin in multiple ways. That’s the shorthand way of saying it and I feel like that’s fundamentally the map.
It’s a pretty clear map, the tricky part is how to call for change, how do we sing up change, how do we balance the yang needs?
I’m not advocating at all for tossing in the yang aspects of life – I quite enjoy all that Doing Stuff. But I keep coming back to that cyclical map, the fact that life is a cycle. I grew up with it being such a linear thing, especially in the Christian realm where there isn’t even reincarnation. I grew up with “You live or die, you go to heaven or hell”. To shift my attention to nature which is constantly cycling and realizing that I’m part of that, why would I be any different? So cycles have become a map that I apply to everything – even my business phases, I look at as cycles.
Part of my work is being a Map Maker, collecting maps, the map of the cycles – harvest, death, decay, rebirth. That cycle map applies to all of the other maps including astrology. The map of the cycles feels fundamentally yin and feminine. It feels like knowledge for all of us as humans, but particularly as women because we embody it at a visceral level and we live it every month.
Do you find that more men are coming to this work?
The work still seems largely with women. I think when a lot of the spaces are languaged so much in the feminine experience, perhaps out of habit, men feel they can’t be part of it.
I have a dream, a longing for men and women to sit in circle together.
And at the same time I can’t get past: How can we create safety? When men are present, it changes the dynamic. How do we not get into all the sexuality stuff, so we could still do the healing work and do it together? It still seems so complex, and perhaps what that means, there is still a lot of work to do separately, before the coming together.
I find women like to talk about their birth experience – get it out. But I don’t know what to say when I encounter a woman who has so much pain. What would be your advice to support a stranger in the supermarket who has had an intense birth journey?
For one, I think it’s really cool that it’s coming up in conversation and it just points to the soul’s deep desire for healing. In a sense it points to the simplicity of speaking in a technology driven world – we just need a safe place to speak our story and then so much can be transmuted. Maybe not the whole story because it’s hard to do justice to a conversation with a stranger in a supermarket.
I’d validate her experience and I’d offer Jane’s website because she has so many articles about birth with that spiritual language woven in, validating one’s experience. Another fruitful path for anything, not just birth, is to ask: Where are you feeling pain in your body in this moment?
Where are they holding that story in their body? If they go to that part of the body, what information comes?
I really think there is so much guidance in the body. Often in the Four Seasons Journey we’ve used drum journeys as a relatively easeful way of accessing that body wisdom, but you don’t even need that. You can just tap in – our intuition is so big and we have so many senses, way more than just the five. Our Miwi, or our soul is working all the time to bring that healing that is required. Partly it’s about tuning in – it’s not that we have to really bend over backwards to receive the information or the intuition. Maybe it’s getting some other stuff out of the way like shame. Can it be validated enough to reach past the shame and heal what’s behind that?
Your hearing of her story might be enough. Your soul resonance and your heart openness might be enough for her to get to that next little bit, even in that supermarket moment.
Yes, there was a reason she reached out to me in the supermarket. You say that you are hoping to incorporate Herbal Nourishment at the Victorian Four Seasons Journey. I’d love to know more about this!
Part of Teacher Nymh Fox Harper’s self-care practice is taking infusions. So we are wondering, could we have nettle infusions available for the women to drink? And what does it mean to prepare food and herbal gifts for ourselves and our family – not just at a practical level which is great – but also at an energetic level?
Some of the work on the Four Seasons Journey is just the passing on of practical information like herbal nourishment and seeing that the practical and spiritual life are woven together.
This is our birthright as women; that we have these practical actions in the everyday and it’s possible to overlay and interweave the care of children – going to bed, getting up, getting dressed – it’s possible as Priestesses to weave meaning into every single one of those actions.
And not just meaning, but deep spiritual intention so that every action becomes really nourishing and really in alignment. That’s the possibility! I feel like I’m 36 and only just seeing that as a possibility now – it certainly wasn’t something I was brought up with.
So part of the Four Seasons Journey is sharing our gleaned information about how to weave in that extra layer of intentionality and care and really listen to our body feedback – do we even like nettle infusions? Maybe it’s not the right herb for us. We shouldn’t just take it because everyone else is.
That’s the practical kind of magic behind the Herbal Nourishment offering and it’s the same with the Eco-Printing offering. It’s a very practical process of just layering on leaves. But how does it become a piece that anchors that spiritual insight that’s flowing in?
The invitation more and more in all the work seems to be about remembering the spiritual element in everything.
And bringing beauty back.
Yes, that’s another huge learning for me, growing up Christian where beauty was something to be suspected. If you were interested in creating beauty, well that’s called vanity, so you just don’t go there! It’s very healing to be around other women who haven’t had that, whether it’s creating beauty in their own bodies or beauty in their lives and homes. To watch how different people do that is really nourishing and part of the bigger medicine of the planet.
When we are making beauty we are Taking Care to do that and that’s part of what the planet is needing – a bit more Taking Care.
What helps you feel your most powerful feminine self?
Two things; I feel it the most when I’m with my sisters in a really safe place, so on the Four Seasons Journey or other circles, where we have woven enough interconnections that I really feel myself as unique but connected in with everyone. That’s a really solid, powerful place particularly when we are doing some meaningful exploring, not just having surface conversations. In this lifetime, it’s spirituality that I’m most interested in and that deeper dive is really nourishing.
The second thing, would be me by myself, in the bush, totally alone. But still actually connected in, it just happens to be connected in with the trees who are our sisters too.
I am the most empowered when I feel my interwoven nature with those around me. When those contexts have enough room around me so I can be my most unique self, to be a particular way – those things that I can’t really change, they are just me – that’s when I feel my most powerful feminine self.
Grace, if you were in a position to lead a group of women, to lead them into a life more wild, a life more feminine, what would your battle cry be?
What arises for me is that I’m not sure I’d be yelling it.
Maybe a song?
Yes, it would be a song and it would be:
Come out into the bush with me.
Grace’s Lunar Journal is an opportunity to gather up your learnings and intentions, so you may more consciously plant them into the future.
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I need to hear more stories about strong women leading beauty-filled and spiritual lives, and so I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. It’s a forum to showcase the inspirational stories of women in uniquely feminine careers. It's also a bridge between what we think we know and what we feel is right. Thank you for joining me – let’s all learn, grow and celebrate the feminine together.
Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis