Chasing Waterfalls

I don’t set much store by the man-made calendar year. I personally consider spring to be the start of a new year. But we do still have a new moon tomorrow, January 2nd, the first of the new calendar year that we modern humans are still bound to, like it or not, and that still marks a significant turning point and a great time for renewal and healing.

I also don’t really value or follow the “New Year’s Resolutions” tradition, mostly because with all the constant cycles we do have, like the Moon’s, I’m already constantly trying to make new changes and new beginnings. I also find winter to be a difficult (if not completely illogical) time to try to make big, new changes and to suddenly start or stop certain habits. Winter is more of a time of rest and incubation, and a wintery new moon is an ideal time to start what I consider more of a passive new beginning than an active one, a time to release and recalibrate.

New Years New Moon by Theodor Severin Kittelsen

For this new moon, I’m focusing on the energies of waterfalls for cleansing, grounding and preparing for a new lunar cycle (and for the start of a new “human year”).

Earlier this week my husband and I took a short trip out to the Appalachians here in North Carolina to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. We went to the beautiful Pisgah National Forest to see some of the more accessible iconic waterfalls, for which the area is famous.

One of the first we visited was Looking Glass Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in the country and with good reason. It was one thing to see it from the top of the stairs that lead down to the rocky pool, but it was another thing entirely to go down there and stand right in front of the falls. The powerful, roaring rush of cold, misty wind that greeted me from the cascade was wonderfully invigorating, as though the very energy of each tiny, torrent-charged particle of water was being absorbed into me, into my cells, into the water throughout my whole body. It was cold but I loved it. It was communion with nature and Water.

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
photo by Meredith Everwhite

After visiting Moss Force (“force” or “foss”, both common words for waterfalls in the U.K., coming from the Old Norse “fors”, meaning waterfall) in 1802, Samuel Taylor Coleridge described part of his experience in a letter…

“What a sight it is to look down on such a Cataract!– the wheels, that circumvolve in it – the leaping up and plunging forward of that infinity of Pearls & Glass Bulbs – the continual change of the matter, the perpetual sameness of the form – it is an awful image & Shadow of God & the World.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, letter to Sara Hutchison from “The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: 1801-1806” Oxford University Press 2002

How right he was, and who could describe such a sight and feeling better than a poet? To look down on or indeed up to such a cataract reminds one of the power and significance of nature, and how much we are at its mercy.

It is especially what he describes as the continual change of matter, yet perpetual sameness of form, that perfectly encapsulates the power and energy of waterfalls, and how we can emulate them and use that energy and power to heal, ground, cleanse and improve ourselves.

Are we not but walking waterfalls? We are in constant states of flux, from our shedding and regrowing hair right down into our regenerating cells. Our moods, thoughts, feelings, where we direct our senses, how we interact with the world around us, are all always changing and morphing. We too are continual changes of matter yet with sameness of form.

Slick Rock Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
photo by Meredith Everwhite

Waterfalls are a potent blend of the Earth and Water elements, both feminine, both the best to use for grounding, healing and purifying. The constantly flowing water, soft and infinite in form, eventually carves out and shapes masses of rock and earth which in turn contribute to shaping and directing the flow and fall of the water.

Some waterfalls are mild and sparse, falling gently and scattering their “pearls & glass bulbs” lightly, here and there. These are falls you can stand under and enjoy as a wild shower. Then there are waterfalls that are elemental beasts and are not so welcoming, and if you go over them or attempt to stand under them, you are likely to be killed.

In the past twenty-five years, roughly fifty people have died at waterfalls in western North Carolina, six of them in 2018 alone. Many people make the mistake of thinking they’re safe standing and walking in the shallows at the tops of waterfalls until they slip on mossy, slimy rocks and are swept over the edge, which is how most people have met their deaths on waterfalls, some of them hundreds of feet high.

Upper Whitewater Falls, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina
Highest falls east of the Rockies and one of the deadliest falls in the state

These waterfalls are indeed as beasts, living things, as entities with powers that cannot be taken too seriously and will claim their offerings in the forms of careless humans. Both the rocks of Earth and the charging power of Water remind us who is the boss, who is the original “god”.

The reminder of our mortality and the threat of death that lingers throughout the beautiful scenery is counterbalanced by the peace, grounding, strength and renewal that we can also find in the falls. One way to safely and more conveniently harness this particular energy is through collecting water from falls and using it in rituals.

Cove Creek Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
photo by Meredith Everwhite

I collected water from the thin but surprisingly powerful cascade of Moore Cove Falls and some from the gentler but still lively Cove Creek Falls. This water contains the energy of the movement and environment of the falls and may be used for cleansing items and space, for anointing oneself, to invite movement and change into one’s life or a certain situation, and makes for especially potent Moon water. Simply having a bowl of fall water on an altar or other significant location can bring that same energy to a meditation or journey.

Every new moon is a new beginning, the start of a new cycle and a reminder that, as above and so below, all things are constantly changing and moving, whether the Moon itself or an ancient river still surging, shaping rocks, falling and churning away. Yet sometimes we find ourselves stagnated and still. Especially in winter it can be challenging to find the balance between the cozy stillness of hibernation and the movement and change necessary to regenerate us and carry us on into the new cycle. Waterfalls are perfect allies to remind us of that continual change of matter while maintaining our sameness of form.

© 2022 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

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