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Midwifing Metamorphosis:

The Initiatory Chrysalis 

9-week Online Series for Artists, Movers and Healers Who Don’t Want a Return to ‘Normal’


“Incremental change is not enough. It will take radical change to shift our current, calamitous trajectory ...The world we know is dying. What is unsustainable cannot persist, by definition...What hope is there, then? There is the hope that breakdown will become, or coexist with, breakthrough. There is the hope that what is dying is the caterpillar of immature humanity in order that the metamorphosis might yield a stunning emergence. That whatever survives this collective initiation process will be truer, more heart-connected, resilient and generative.”

(-“What if the Virus is the Medicine?”, March 2020)

There’s no road map for radical change. Yet the process is informed by age-old patterns and archetypes. In this nine-week series, we’ll be exploring them together from within a collective cocoon.

This course helps healers and artists stuck in the murky depths of metamorphosis to understand and metabolize the changes underway so they can emerge from their cocoons with a renewed sense of belonging, purpose and inspiration. 


None of us can know what wants to emerge from our deepest, most intimate churning. But we can tend to the process and see it through to witness, with luck, the eventual unfolding. Ours will be a liminal space in which the seeds of change--personal and collective--can sprout and be nurtured. Together we’ll tend one another’s metamorphoses through such diverse means as story, ritual, grief-work, writing and group process.

This Series May Be for You If:


*You’re a mover, dancer, or creative artist who feels that this time is full of potential as well as pain. 


*You resonate with the image of a chrysalis and feel that you may be stuck ‘mid-molt’


*You don’t want a return to “normal.” You want to honor the radical transformation(s) underway in this extended time of separation and ferment. 


*You’re seeking support--through ritual, community, story-telling, writing and grief-tending--with navigating the multiple metamorphoses at play in our lives and the world. 


*You’re not expecting easy answers or quick fixes but are interested in depth work and are willing to embrace messy complexity for the sake of meaning and beauty. 


*You’re excited (maybe a little anxious) to meet others with a similar orientation and do some deep work together.

Participants will:


  • Be guided by Heartward Sanctuary founders Julia Hartsell and Jonathan Edwards who share reverence for and have undergone traditional initiation rites 

  • Be woven into an intimate container of community support for this next season of the pandemic

  • Learn more about initiatory frameworks and stories and have the opportunity to view their own pandemic experience through this lens

  • Take inventory of what’s transforming and ritually honor the transitions

  • Explore the themes and dynamics of initiation

  • Learn and practice techniques for honing intuition and deepening relationships with the elements, plant spirits and animal allies

  • Experience somatic and movement practices to support presence, curiosity,  regulation of intensity and grieving

  • Engage  meaning-making processes incorporating word, movement, story and art

  • Take part in a personal & collective death meditation 

  • Participate in a music and movement-based ceremony for grief tending

  • Identify and nurture ‘imaginal cells’--the inspirations and visions for the world we wish to co-create for our descendants. 

  • Be encouraged to engage in the material at home through altar work, visioning, creative art processes and journaling

  • Have opportunities to connect with others through sharing and witnessing in compassionate community processes--both group wide and in breakout groups and an optional Facebook group  

The Course May NOT Be a Good Fit If You:

- are enmeshed in religious or political dogma

- are mainly looking for a place to promote your own offerings

- are not prepared to do some deep reflection and listening in a group space

- have fixed, rigid expectations of what transformation needs to look like for you or for others

- are not ready to show up with kindness and to explore vulnerable terrain


This offering is limited to 25 participants in order to maintain an intimate ritual container.

Register here


“I remember the sacred meaning of my life

I remember my heart, in death and in flight”

~Jessica Sirena





Live calls Thursdays 3-5pm, February 25 - April 22, 2021

Tuition: $350-500

Payment plan options available (email

A handful of scholarships available for those who have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic - email for more info. 

Register here


Weekly Schedule

Our format is weekly 2-hour calls on Thursdays 3-5pm EST--supplemented by suggested readings, ritual assignments, and an online space for continued discussion and connection. At the heart of our time together, we’ll have two sessions of focused, collective group ritual to catalyze transformation as fueled by our grief, rage and longing for a different world. Each call will have 90 minutes of active guidance and 30 minutes for sharing.

Phase 1: Ritual Preparations, Preparing the Chrysalis


Week 1: Weaving the Cocoon


Orientation, introduction and course logistics

Grounding practice and Invocation

Themes: Initiation, metamorphosis, death-rebirth

COVID as collective initiation asking us to change at personal and cultural levels

Role of midwife

Ritual: weaving community cocoon 

Guided journey

Writing Prompt

Week 2: Archetypes of Initiation, and the Elements


Grounding Exercise - Roots into the Earth. 

Elemental forces as allies and deities

Guided practice 

Initiatory Myth: Churning of the Ocean. 

Writing Prompt

Week 3: Embodied Ritual Movement Practice

This week we create a space for somatic experience, allowing what’s percolating to be felt and moved through the body. In addition to laying some groundwork for our grief ritual (week 5 or 6), this week’s practice will offer strategies for resilience and allow for expression, shedding and release. It will also help participants tap into their intuitive capacities in preparation for the work of Week 4.

Week 4: Connecting with Supportive Allies

Introduce animism and cosmology, types of supportive allies. 

Ritual, relational etiquette -- greetings, appropriate relationship style, offerings, gratitude.

Role of intuition and portals of perception.

Discuss initiatory animal & plant archetypes.

Journey with one of the animal or plant allies.

Phase 2: Melting Down/Goo


Week 5: Ritually Greeting Death


We have already experienced tremendous personal and collective level deaths in this time. Separation from others, practices and structures in our lives. So many things we may have once took for granted, we can no longer. Parts of us are dying and parts are being born, and we don’t have control. Some parts may need active releasing to bring forward the lives we want and to make space for new seeds to take root. Looking ahead to the deaths of our bodies can help us reckon with our moral responsibilities, relational impacts and how we want to live, thereby offering a guidepost through the turmoil of initiation.

Week 6:  Grief Ceremony


Participants will be guided to prepare their own altar, sacred space and offerings for grief tending. We'll harmonize our bodies with invocation, imagination and somatic exercises then slip into wordless space to be present to the body and whatever arises. Music  and elemental ritual will support our collective journey through the watery and fiery realms. 

Week 7: Community Circle, Sharing and Integration


Phase 3: Reorganization & Emergence

Week 8:  Feed the Imaginal Cells

Together we'll consider, what is emerging to guide the reorganization and emergence? What nourishment is needed to fuel the process?  What practices, habits, relationships, beliefs, thought patterns, values will support (or cease) the new being? What structures will support you in this next phase? What will nourish you and keep you grounded and aligned?

Week 9:  Integration - The Power of Our Stories and Honoring what is Emerging

Register here

About the hosts/teachers:

Julia Hartsell  is a dancer, ritualist, catalyst for soulful, earth-honoring community.  With a background in performance art and world religions, Julia has spent her adult life seeking the mystical through movement. Trusting the body’s inherent wisdom, she utilizes diverse practices to access the body’s intuition for emotional expression and transformation. 

With an animist worldview, her work is focused at the intersection of spirituality, ecology and culture. After experiencing a series of paradigm shifting ancestral encounters, Julia began training with Dr. Daniel Foor of Ancestral Medicine in 2015 and was certified as an Ancestral Lineage Healing Practitioner in 2017. She became an Initiate of Ọbàtálá and Ọ̀ṣun in the Ifá/Òrìsà tradition of Yoruba West Africa in 2018.  Julia has developed her own unique Grief Ceremonies, Ritual and Ancestral Dance practices for reconnection with elemental forces and ancestral allies. Death--both literal and symbolic--has been a touchstone and organizing principle of her work in recent years. Co-founder of Heartward Sanctuary, she is committed to reclaiming meaningful rites of passage work, especially end-of-life transitions. 


Jonathan Hadas Edwards, LAc. (a.k.a Djed) is Heartward Sanctuary’s co-founder and wizard-in-residence, working transformation through arts of acupuncture, herbal formulation, aromatics, divination and the written word. 

On a 2008-9 Fulbright fellowship to study Ayurvedic medicine in Nepal, he connected with last-of-his-lineage alchemist Keshab Laal, a pivotal experience that set him on the path of herbal practice and traditional healing arts. Not long after, while working on his MS in East Asian Medicine at NUNM, he found himself amidst  a complex and challenging several-year initiation cycle involving plant medicine and Afro-Brazilian spiritual traditions. This ferment culminated in a trip to Nigeria where he underwent a rite-of-passage to become an initiate of Ifá. 

Having experienced the rigors and risks and complexities of spiritual initiation without benefit of coherent guidance at critical moments, Jonathan considers himself lucky to have made it through intact (though not unscathed). He is keen to help others avoid the most treacherous pitfalls of the molting process so they can grow into their potential and find their place in the essential work of our time. 

White Butterfly
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