My mother tells me that moon was my first word.
“Well,” she says, “you made the ‘mama dada’ noises first, but ‘moon’ was up there.”
Yes, it was up there, and baby Julie needed to see it. My mother would have to carry me around the house every night from window to window until we found it, and then we would point up at it and croon to each other, “mooooooon, moooooon.” I remember a moment as a child when I was looking up at a full moon in a pale blue sky (is there anything more captivating than a daytime moon?) while twirling around with my arms open wide, musing to myself, “I think ‘Grandmother Moon’ is my favorite of her names.” I was always a moon child, and, as my brother liked to tease me, this made me a lunatic.
So it came as no surprise when I was having my birth chart reviewed by a Vedic astrologer friend during my Ayurveda training in 2015, and he said, “Wow, it looks like the moon is your deity!”
I laughed and said, “Tell me something I don’t know!”
In Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, the word for moon is Soma. But this is not the Greek word that refers to the body, as in, a somatic experience. No, this Soma is something else, something elusive— something magical. Soma in Sanskrit means the moon, but so much more. It is bliss, nectar, the esscence of sacred herbs. It is the elixir of immortality.
Cut to little Julie again, sitting on the front porch looking out at the spring flowers, wondering what I would say if an adult asked me what sort of animal I would be. It seemed the sort of thing an adult might ask a child my age, so I was preparing my response. I concentrated for a moment, and the answer popped into my head: rabbit!
“Rabbit?” I thought. It seemed a little pathetic. I wasn’t weak and fuzzy like a rabbit. But the more I thought about it, the more it stuck. Rabbits were graceful, mysterious, elusive. There was something compelling about them that fit with me. And so, I had already been a rabbit in my own mind for several years when I first discovered the Chinese Zodiac. My fierce and elegant grandmother and I shared a love of Chinese culture, and I was eager to learn everything I could about their customs and beliefs. Imagine my delighted shock when I discovered that I was, in fact, born in the year of the rabbit!
“Affectionate yet shy,” says every paper placemat in the Chinese restaurant in regards to those born under the year of the rabbit, “You are the luckiest of all signs.” I had to know more. I had taken to wandering in to the metaphysical section of my local Borders bookstore, and one day I happened upon Theodora Lau’s book on the Chinese Zodiac. I studied that text like my life depended on it— my tattered old copy still has highlights, dog ears, and notes in the margin in little Julie’s handwriting. As it turns out, I discovered with great joy, in China, there is a rabbit on the moon. And that rabbit’s job? To grind the pill of immortality that creates the elixir of life.
The rabbit, if you will, is an alchemist.
There is a stage of The Hero’s Journey, from Jungian depth psychology, where the hero has been to the underworld and back, proved themselves through countless trials and challenges, and is now returning home with their hard won reward. This stage of the journey is called Return with the Elixir. For me, that stage is Moonhaven. It is true, my spiritual path has taken me into the underworld of my subconscious, through the labyrinth within, and I have dug deep to find new courage to overcome my shadows and reintegrate all the parts of my Self back into the whole. I have done the work. (And continue to do it!) But that is not enough— now, it is time to share what I have learned. I have found my own Soma, my own elixir of immortality, the bliss of my own soul, and now it is my spiritual duty to bring that elixir back to the outside world.
As a dear friend and teacher of mine often says, “We are a world that is hungry for meaning.” Something about magic calls to us these days, in stories and film, in music and art. We look at the ancient wisdom traditions of certain cultures, and feel a deep yearning. And so we roam around consuming what we can, but never feeling full. When I first came into my new spiritual identity, I could have used some more guidance than I had, more friends and mentors on this path. I wish the community I needed had already existed, but as it turns out, it has been part of my task to create that community all along.
There are many kinds of Soma out there, many kinds of elixirs, many ways to delight in the divine. What I offer at Moonhaven is my piece of the puzzle. Come, drink of this wisdom, and add your own contribution to this font of knowledge. Let us be partners together in the alchemy of the soul.