by Selena Fox
On Thursday evening, July 24, 2003, twenty-one women gathered at Circle Sanctuary land in Wisconsin to celebrate Kuan Yin and grow in understanding of Her. This gathering was a meeting of the Goddess Circle, an interfaith women's spirituality study group associated with the Circle Sanctuary Community. Each month, we focus on a different form of the Divine Feminine. On this evening, we worked with Kuan Yin and Her powers of healing, compassion, and illumination.
We began our Kuan Yin evening indoors in the Temple Room. As we arrived, we created a Kuan Yin altar with the variety of Her images and symbols we brought from our homes. I presented an overview of the evening and facilitated a brief group discussion about this. Then one of our members, Elspeth, shared her ideas for our Shrine journey and passed around Kuan Yin attribute cards she had crafted. Each card named some associated quality of Kuan Yin, such as "Goddess of Healing," "She who brings Inner Calm," "Protectress of Farmers," and "Goddess of Mercy." Several colored ribbons were attached to each card to signify Her connection with Rainbows. Elspeth invited the women to select a card to take with them to add to the Shrine as an additional way of honoring and connecting with the many facets of Kuan Yin there. After we finalized our plans for the evening, we began our ritual work.
I guided our honoring of sacred space. Standing, we faced and connected with the seven directions. As I sounded a ritual bell, we aligned with the sacred powers of North, East, South, West, Cosmos Above, Land and Planet Below, and the Center, the interconnecting Great Spirit. We envisioned a Circle of Light around the entire land, encompassing our ritual activities outside as well as indoors. Then we began aligning individually with the Goddess Kuan Yin. I passed around the ritual bell. Each woman rang it, and, speaking her own name, said "I celebrate Kuan Yin." After going around full circle, we ended with a group alignment by chanting three times: "We celebrate Kuan Yin!"
We next prepared for the processional to the Kuan Yin Shrine. We took in hand our attribute cards and various offerings, such as flowers, incense, and ritual objects. Rowan led us in an ancient mantra which included both jewel and lotus, two symbols traditionally associated with Kuan Yin. As we walked along the road to the Kuan Yin Shrine, we chanted: "Om Mani Padme Hum" and resonated with its meaning: "The Jewel of Creation is in the Lotus."
Upon arriving at the Kuan Yin Shrine, we formed a circle and began repeatedly chanting Kuan Yin's name to invoke Her and honor Her. As we continued to chant, one by one, each woman went before the Shrine, placed flowers, incense, and other offerings, and silently and personally asked for Kuan Yin's help in some way. At the center of the Shrine is a statue of Kuan Yin and behind it is a handcrafted trellis of Willow wood, a tree sacred to Kuan Yin. As we each took our personal turn at the Shrine, we tied onto this trellis the attribute card we had selected. After we had all completed our individual work with Her, we joined our hands in the circle and did a group honoring of Her as we intensified our chanting of Her name. The chant peaked, and then we were silent for a time, experiencing Kuan Yin's presence.
I then guided a Kuan Yin Healing meditation. We visualized ourselves receiving healing from the Goddess for ourselves. Then we called upon Kuan Yin to bring healing to loved ones as we called out their names. We next visualized Kuan Yin bringing healing light to the community of life on planet Earth. We concluded with a soft chant of thanksgiving to Her, "We give thanks."
As we prepared to depart from the Shrine, I played a singing bowl and we began toning on its note. We continued toning as we journeyed back indoors into the Temple Room. Once we had reassembled there, our sharing circle began. I began by talking about Kuan Yin's growth as a multicultural Goddess and gave a bit of the history of the Kuan Yin Shrine on our land. Then I passed around, as our speaking symbol, a small image of Kuan Yin carved out of the gemstone adventurine. As the Kuan Yin symbol made its way around our circle, each woman had the opportunity to say something about Kuan Yin. Some spoke about experiences at the Shrine. Some talked about their ways of working with Kuan Yin in their personal spiritual practice. Some shared poems they had written or found. Others shared some of Her lore or spoke about Her symbology.
Our Circle concluded with a thanksgiving to Kuan Yin. We faced the seven directions and gave thanks as I rang the ritual bell. I passed around the bell again and each woman rang it and spoke of something she took from our evening into her daily life. We concluded a closing chant.
Selena Fox is high priestess of Circle Sanctuary. She has been guiding rituals and presenting workshops for more than thirty years. Her writings and photographs have been published in books and periodicals as well as on-line. For more information about the Goddess Circle Selena facilitates each month at Circle Sanctuary Land, see the website.
Monaghan, Patricia (1997). The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. pages 185-186.
Pears, Jeffrey. "Kuan Yin: Goddess of Compassion."
Vames, Amy "The Goddess of Mercy: How Kuan-Yin became a Chinese Deity" Rutgers University News & Media, December 14, 2001.