I've been too busy to think, which is pretty normal this time of year. There's costumes to make, coloring pages to draw, candy to buy, and stuffie pumpkins to sew. (It's a thing. Don't judge me.) I often feel a little torn between the secular aspects of Halloween and the spiritual side of this time of year. The balance that I've found is that for the month of October I go full swing into modern traditional celebration. Costumes, fake blood, skulls, you name it we do it! Then there is the sugar rush of trick or treating.
I switch focus after that. I take the gory stuff down and switch it out for pictures of great-grandparents and beloved dead. We light candles and give offerings until Thanksgiving, which seems to work for me. In the middle of that is our grove Samhain celebration. As part of getting ready for our feast for the Ancestors I was working on creating some content for the younger set, including a coloring page. I thought I'd share this with the internet world, since I've complained often enough that there aren't many really good coloring pages for pagans. This year our grove is celebrating in a Celtic style, so we are asking the Morrigan to be our gatekeeper. She's not usually called on as gatekeeper, but it's what people wanted, and honestly, my grove has always been a little idiosyncratic anyway. So without further ado, coloring page goodness. Enjoy!
Friday, October 31, 2014
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
|Nature Spirit Shrine|
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the intrepid trio searches for the bits of Voldemort’s soul that he has hidden in the landscape of England and the lives of those surrounding the individual formerly named Tom Riddle. The book talks about how damaged he had become by splitting off bits of his soul, twisting himself until he was completely amoral and savage.
In the real world things aren’t that simple, and souls can be broken.
In the real world bad things happen, all the time, every day. War and death continue onward. Pain is real and unfair and unbiased. Pain breaks us. Trauma is the thing that shaves off bits and pieces of a soul. We all have lost a bit from time to time. Some have lost more than others. Occasionally we give some away to a beloved person or place. Our soul is our self: our energy, time, and psyche all rolled into one. It’s both a particle and a wave. It is real and imaginary, and can function in both the world of science and magic.
I’ve been doing trancework for over two decades now. I didn’t even know this spacing out and seeing stuff that I was doing had a name when I started. Many years later I do. I’ve been around the block, read the books, and tried the things. I know exactly how little I actually know. But in all this self-exploration and pondering of the cosmos I’ve learned a few things. Along the way I learned I was broken. Most people who have had traumatic stuff happen to them know this about themselves, but I’m stubborn. I figured it out though, and realized that surprisingly, being broken is helpful. At least it’s helpful for a spiritworker! I use pieces of my soul to do things. I send them off with tasks. I am my own team!
|Huginn and Muninn (private collection)|
A fetch is a piece of a soul in the shape of an animal that a spiritworker sends off to do his or her bidding. I happen to have a fetch shaped as a bird. Turns out, this is totally normal for shamans and spirit workers. In the lore, the soul is often described as a bird. Odin has his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Their names are translated as Thought and Memory. Just like how a fetch functions, he sends them out, they do his bidding and when they come back he knows all that they know.
So I am my own Voldemort. I use my soul as a tool to heal, to guide, to watch over people. I use the pain that I have felt to transform my self, and my community. I think that’s what they mean when they talk about the Wounded Healer Archetype. It’s not such a bad place to be. I kinda like it. But it’s definitely not something I would suggest anybody go and do to themselves. Busting off pieces of soul right and left is a bad plan.
Take a moment and remember something really bad that happened to you. Just for a moment, and eat some chocolate or laugh at something funny afterwards. But for a moment, remember it. That feeling of emptiness and pain? That’s the kind of thing that causes soul loss. It sucks.
Everyone has the potential to have horcruxes. None of us are an island, rising out of an ocean of nothingness. We are connected by our relationships and our energy and thoughts are part of that. Our souls interact. Pieces get stuck in corners or fall off like a rusty muffler. Funny thing about souls, you can grow them back. If a soul is energy and time and our thoughts and memories then we are constantly creating soul. All the time. Every minute. Even Voldemort. It’s what you do with your soul that counts, not how many pieces it’s in.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
|Woods In a Storm |
(original available for purchase)
I wasn’t feeling well that afternoon, and there was a damp chill to the air in the house. The north wind had brought his bounty of frost tipped leaves and slowly melting flowers. I carefully laid twigs in a crisscross on the logs laid in the fireplace. I hoped to drive the cold and the damp back out into the cloud covered landscape, and watched the fire closely, guarding the tiny youthful flames. The first flush of the light and heat rose up all bright yellow and sunny, only tinged with orange. As I fed the flames twigs and paper it rose high and then died down again and again, each time drying out the wood a little more, creating a few more hot coals to keep the blaze alight. As it began to truly catch and the heat was building to the point of no return, I saw that while the fire dwindled in light each time, it was not so with the heat of the flame. As the paper was reduced to ash, the fire condensed on the logs and got hotter and darker, a blue flame surrounding the red-hot center of the fire. I was reminded of chemistry lab long ago adjusting the Bunsen burner to create the blue flame of chemical transformation. My eye was caught by the dark vivid cobalt blue of that flame, the exact same color as the robes of the elf in myvision.
I was held in that moment where I sank into my internal reality while perceiving the external reality, trying to grasp the gestalt of what that color connection might mean. I often am led by the world around me. A hawk’s flight above me, a flash of color, or a word scrawled on the pavement can all be heavy with wisdom. It’s all about perspective.
These things I see and perceive are but metaphors for reality. It is a reality stranger than most, but I believe in the truth of it. The thing I must remember is that my reality is always tinged by my perceptions, seen through the lens of my neurons. The stories and preconceptions that make up my consciousness are the river that flows through my life, catching up flotsam and omens, cutting deep into the earth of my existence, carving channels with each choice and belief.
When I sat in trance and sent my imagination outward I fared forth along the river. I saw a troubling place in the flow of the river and I interpreted it as a story about a nature spirit in pain. Is that the truth? To quote Obi Wan Kenobi, “So what I told you was true…. From a certain point of view.”
Am I speaking with an elf with cobolt colored robes? Am I speaking to a piece of the cosmos that is the embodiment of the concentrated blue flame I saw in the fire? Am I speaking to a story my mind is creating? Am I speaking to a blue dwarf star in a galaxy far far away?
It’s a question I don’t think I can answer.
Nor do I think I need to. It can be all those things. It can be something else. To me the question that is important: Is this useful? Is this helpful either to me or to someone or something else? I have had enough experiences in my life that I have finally given in to the thought that there is something to this stuff. It may not be something that I completely understand, but this quest for knowledge, this journey into the inner (or outer) worlds is worth something. Worth the time and the questions and the bizarre knowledge that the things I do are not scientific and do not fit into a standard world view.
So, back to the elf.
This summer, on the back hill, in the dark, I saw him for the first time. He seemed fluid in his movement and dangerous in his gestures and expression. He came from the wood and offered to teach me. I told him I had limited time for such teaching, and wasn’t sure he was the sort I wanted to work with anyway. He seemed to take my honesty well, but mostly ignored it when he told me I would need to come visit on a regular basis. He meant spirit work. Faring forth. Wasting my time navel gazing and then writing about the figments that live in my imagination. I mentally shrugged and said in my mind, “I’ll give it a try. But no promises. No bonds. No oaths. I’m busy with my life and life must come first.”
He nodded and seemed pleased. It occurs to me that his haughty looks and domineering attitude are a thin cover for desperation. I don’t know what makes him so desperate.
The farm work is slowing down. The trees are coming into their fall colors early this year and I too have been changing. I am attempting to do weekly trancework again. I have even decided to share that work in a public forum in the hope that my experiences might have some utility for others. Apparently my pointy-eared friend was willing to be patient with me, because even though I had forgotten about our conversation, he clearly had not. We have continued our negotiations: what will be required of me and what I want of him.
He wants me to carve a sigil. “What kind?”, I asked, and he didn’t care. The process of creating the sigil and making it was what he wanted. I had decided what I wanted. Luck bringing magic. The skill and knowledge of that tricky and indefinable word. I have heard it said that the land is the luck and that the luck flows from the land. I already do luck magic. It’s something I’m asked for from time to time. There are two main ways to effect the outcome of a probability. One is to line yourself up with the waves of fate and ride them like a surfer, and the other is to alter the flow of the water itself. In my own work I often use the fabric of reality metaphor. I see lines of fate and force in my mind’s eye. I use my will to alter them, to create a sink hole, or bend a line. Sometimes I have been known to create a totally different fabric and let it settle onto the world like a gentle tissue paper overlay. I want to learn more, and like so many other things, it’s the spirit world that will teach me.
I have work yet to do in this endeavor for luckwork. Luck is seen as an uncontrollable force, a force of nature, or god, or chaos. She is a goddess in many lands, with many names. Names such as the Roman Fortuna Bona, the Lithuanian Laima who allots fate at birth and her sisters, Dalia and Giltinė, happiness and death. The Norns connect in this web as well. They are those who concern themselves with the bending and the placing of the lines of fate.
Synchronicity seems to be another path my mind wants to tread. Carl Jung defined it as “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events” or the unlikely alignment of events into what appears to be an ordered and significant framework. Then there’s the Norse ideas of Haminja and Maegen, a luck that is created by good deed and good word. Those words relate to luck that can be handed down from one generation to the next. My mind turns to the fairy rade for some reason, when the fey folk walk the land. This seems to tie in with my work with the ley line and I wonder, is this synchronicity itself? I can only hope that research weaves together with experience to create wisdom. It is an adventure of the mind, walking off into the labyrinth, with only a thread of thought to guide me.
It appears a deal has been struck.
Monday, September 29, 2014
So recently a friend, whom I will refer to as Biff, asked me for some assistance with a project. He wanted to create a functioning juju running ley line and he wanted to situate an anchor for it in my back yard. Naturally, I thought this was pretty cool. He lent me a book called Shamanism and the Mystery Lines by Paul Devereux which I’ve been reading. I’ve gathered that that for some reason or another, ancient people liked to make very straight paths. These very straight paths tended to connect sacred sites and cities along with natural outcroppings and significant features. There is also an idea that these ancient lines were sources of mystical energy, or at least focused said energy, sort of like water in a watershed flowing to a river. Scientists really don’t like that idea.
There seems to be a bit of a thing with British people hunting ley lines rather like some people go around geocaching. So the debates rage on and people argue about whether a church and an outcropping are close enough to actually be part of a line, or not, or whether it was full of sacred juju or not, or whether they really wanted to do anything other than get a cup of tea. (I like tea. I think I will go get some.)
Now that I have some tea:
Biff decided to put the arguments aside and just go make one. He’s been setting it up for some weeks now, and as part of the preparation he asked me to be the Earth anchor in his work. He works according to a Norse flavored four element system and I was honored to be included, as well as comfortable within his symbolic matrix. I was surprised when one night he came over with a large sphere of petrified wood. Holding it in my hand I enjoyed the weight of it, the density of the thing. I began to work with it, using meditation and trance work techniques. It seemed to function as a scrying stone, something I had never really used before, but what the heck, why not?
Last week I went for a walk to the river with the scrying stone. Earlier in the week I had a vision when using it. I had seen a vortex in the river, north of my home, near a bridge. This was a spot where the spirit of the river was unhappy. I saw a swirling downward sucking motion that was draining the river. When I asked her what had happened, she said her boyfriend the Oak Tree was the cause of this swirly sucking doom. She radiated anger and indignation at him. She wanted him to clean up his act, and do it quick! I thought this was weirdly soap opera-ish, and not my usual sort of experience when in trance work. I had to check it out.
So I headed north with the sphere and a few other things in a bag, and like most people on a quest I had a few adventures along the way. I met a Hare Krishna, who stopped after he passed me and called out to me. We talked and I got his card. How strange it was. He said there was something that caught him about me that made him think he should talk to me. The funny thing? As he walked past I thought the same thing about him. I have noticed that some people just catch the eye. It’s not about physical attractiveness. There’s just a glint in their eye, a way they move. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a spirit taking human form. Sometimes I think it’s a god looking out someone’s eyes. He was a real person though, not a spirit. When it happens that someone strikes me like that, there is a moment of recognition, as if for just a moment the person is someone I know. With some people the experience is more intense than others. It’s happened with a couple of animals as well. That moment when eyes meet and there is a recognition that happens. It’s a full body experience, like a bell that has been struck. Sometimes it’s just a little jingle, like with the Hare Krisha man. Sometimes it’s like being inside a belltower with the ringing thrumming through me like a fist.
I kept heading north along the river and I saw a downy woodpecker on a tree. I heard a killdeer. I started to think I was crazy about this vortex thing, but that was weirdly reassuring. I didn’t mind the idea that I was making all this stuff up. I came up to the train bridge and it looked normal to me. I didn’t see any vortexes. Then I walked past the bridge and saw a huge snag caught up against the pylons. There was garbage and twigs caught into it, and it stretched for nearly half the width of the river. Eddies and swirls of water surrounded the snag. I had found my vortex. There was also an oak tree, a little way up the embankment on the other side. I wondered about my vision and if that pretty river spirit was chewing out her poor beleaguered oaky boyfriend right now. It wasn’t his fault though; the snag wasn’t him at all.
I climbed up and sat on the train bridge. The track was stretching out straight and man made on either side of me, the river winding like a brown snake below me. I pulled out my sphere and meditated on the spot. The humans never look up to see me, but the bees noticed me and decided I wasn’t worth stinging.
I heard a hawk call, once, twice, but I couldn’t see it. I looked up over the train track and I saw the white underwing of a redtail hawk! It was swooping from one side of the train track to the other. And being, well… really noisy. Scree after scree the hawk called. So I did the logical thing and went to see what was up.
It was much hotter on the train tracks. I found myself taking mincing steps on the rails themselves, or walking on the jagged stone. Neither was a very comfortable option. The hawk led me a merry chase, slowly pulling me along the track with its voice. I began to think that the point was to get me to walk up the track, and once I had that thought, the hawk flew away, its noisy voice growing distant through the swampy wood. This particular patch of ground is designated as Crego Park on maps and I’m thinking that I need to explore this place. I felt a telltale tingle in my hands, a slight pulling, longing feeling in my heart. (Yes, I have called this my spidey sense before.) But this was not the time. My phone died, which is also my watch, and I needed to be back in time to pick up my kids. It was time to head for home. Crego Park will have to wait. Woods are generally patient things. I hope the river spirit will be patient while I figure out how to clean her up too.
Read more about my spirit work here.
Monday, September 22, 2014
|Night Sky(Private Collection)|
“How exactly am I supposed to do that?” I ask with indignation. So he instructs, “When you fare forth there are two of you. The one who is here and the one who is there. Simply make another one as you made the second. You should be able to do up to five.”
So here I am, some months later, wrapped in a cloak, with my inkspot cat sitting next to me and the stars above me. I am practicing, like a good little student. This multiples of myself trick makes my brain hurt.
And then the Elf From the Wood came. I don’t like calling him elf. I think he would find it offensive. The Lord of the Wood? I think that he might like that better but I would say it is arguable. He is the fey man with the long brown hair and the Elrond face and the so very blue cobolt colored robes. I sink even deeper into trance. I think: I am surrounded by dangerous men, they circle me like foxes with a mouse. But I am not the mouse. I am the fox. I am toothy and cunning. Beware my bite.
He has not taught me yet. He petted my hair like I was a dog. I am not a dog. I am not tamed. I am a fox. I have breath and I breathe and the cat comes inside my cloak. It is cold. The drum keeps going and I am holding my self against the cold. The cold makes my feet ache and I tuck them up. He has told me that he has things to teach me and I, well I have not yet agreed to the teaching. He comes from the wild wood and I am not sure I trust his face. But he comes and speaks and I don’t really see how I can stop him without making him mad. I am not ready to make him mad yet. I move and I am in an asking position. I ask and I spin and I want and I ache. What is it that I do with my magicians tools? I have so many, many tools. What do I do? I call this question to the cosmos and the answer is inconclusive.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Naked, I ran into the waves with my fellow women. The wind touched my skin and the sun’s unblinking eye watched from the horizon as we laughed and splashed. The cold water delighted us. The bracing feel of waves crashing into me was as if everything was being ripped away from me but this moment where the sky was painted in pastel hues that faded into indigo thunderheads.
We were at a secluded spot on Lake Michigan, modeling for a photography project called “The Women We Are”. I had waited patiently for the time when I would be released from props and light reflectors so that I might return for a time to my beloved Great Lakes. I am a Michigan girl at heart. At night I go to sleep knowing I am surrounded on three sides by the protective and moderating waters of these lakes. I also know the danger of the lakes. The riptide that pulls you down, the rocks that lay in wait. The sisters are all complicated, both giving and taking. In that moment she gave to us a gift of beauty and strength. I was renewed by my freedom. The rebellion of my body unclothed, kissed by the waters, was sweet indeed.
Each sister has her own personality, gifts, and dangers. I know Lake Michigan and Lake Huron most intimately. I think of them as the twins, touching at the tip of the Lower Peninsula where the Mackinaw Bridge spans the rocky waters there. Michigan shares a gentler and more joyous face with us. Her sandy beaches and powerful wind whipped waves remind me of perfect paintings of Victorian beaches or vacation brochures. She has a dark side, the riptide. Even as recently as the past season she has pulled young or inexperienced swimmers down to live with her under the waves. Never underestimate the danger of the lakes.
Huron shows a sterner face. Her rocky beaches are harder to walk on, and in my meditations she has not always been friendly. The subtle movement of her water meeting the land can be hypnotic, and trances are easy to reach with her. You must earn her trust before she will happily part with her stones and treasures. She seems to have a soft spot for the joy a child finds in a shiny rock or a gull feather. The Saginaw Bay is part of Huron as well. It can be a dark and stagnant place, which I wrote about here.
This summer I visited Superior for the first time ever. It was a pagan pilgrimage for me, and I had been advised of her powerful and dangerous nature. Her energy was compared to a high power line, and stories of the many ships sunk in her icy waters completed her ominous reputation. I had been told of the mists that come in over the water, obscuring vision and the temptation to go so deep into trance that it was difficult to come back. As we drove northward through the pine woods and rocky terrain so unlike the Lower Peninsula the mist rolled in, just as I had been told. The hair on the back of my neck rose with the anticipation of all things Wyrd. We arrived and there was no easy or immediate access to the beach, so typical of my family, we hopped the fence and wandered off anyway. I met her for the first time, and hype aside, what I found was peace. The Eldest Sister brought me peace, calm, and healing. I saw the gentle side of the harsh sister.
Each of the Great Lakes has given me gifts, and I have given them small things in return, like a child bringing a mother a bouquet of dandelions. What could I truly give them that they don’t already have? I give them my respect. I have donated money to keep them safe and whole. There is an ADF prayer, written by Ceiswr Serith that goes:
The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us.
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindred bless us.
May our worship be true.
May our actions be just.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the Holy Ones.
The waters truly do support and surround me. My lakes, my land, my home. I am grateful for the gifts given, may what I give be received with joy and understanding. May everyone partake of the gifts of the Ladies of the Lakes, in wisdom and joy.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Somehow this pagan priestess ended up playing the part of Ravaging Nature in a short horror film this weekend.
I pretended to stab a lot of people with a long spiraling horn that apparently came from a Kudu. I had to go look up what a Kudu is. In case you were wondering, they’re a kind of antelope from East Africa. I also made weird growly noises and was instructed to push someone over and pretend to eat them. My lines were all in the form of angry haiku.
I was playing Nature Enraged.
I was cranky.
The thought has crossed my mind before that we are pissing off Mother Nature with our mountains of plastic crap and miles of paved parking lot. Certainly when I think on the possible release of the methane trapped beneath Antartica or the tide of trash, I feel pain. Honestly, I feel something that seems a lot like failure.
Today was a day where I delivered lines filled with anger and power. I got the chance to be the wounded party. I could be filled with the rage of extinction and the sorrow of death. But really, I just ended up feeling sorry for the characters I was supposed to be splattering with their own guts. I felt like the bad guy.
I was evil.
Me and Voldemort might have been buddies. (I get to say his name when I’m in the bad guy crowd. Oh yeah, I’m cool like that now.) Maybe I was taking revenge for all the horrible things that people have done to their home. There was a thing called a “gore cannon”. This movie is meant to be a messy bloody allegory for our issues with the environment. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how the finished product comes out. But in my heart, I can’t hate us for what we’ve done to the earth.
Mostly it made me realize that even as much of a eco-hippy-feminist that I am, in my gut and in my heart, I’m human. I identify with humans in a story where I can choose who the bad guy is. Even when I’m given a story where it’s made pretty clear that humans have done some major damage and this is their payback, I choose the poor, foolish humans.
That doesn’t negate my sorrow, or relieve my guilt for my part in ecological damage. Just like the realities of being a white woman living with white privilege, I live with the realities of the damage that my life brings to other beings. In both cases I work actively to learn better ways of living. I try to communicate honestly. I live with less and more thoughts. I build my skill sets so that I am more competent. I try to make better choices every day. I accept that I will fail. The attempt is worth it.
I don’t want nature to take revenge on us. I don’t want an escalating battle between the forces of wind and plague versus people. I want, more than anything, to find a way to walk in balance. That’s why I grub in the soil and why I mend clothes and make Christmas presents. That’s why I’m a Druid. Within the cultures that I am studying there are interlocking concepts of The Order of the Cosmos. The Vedic Rta, Lithuanian Darna, Norse Orlog, all of these words and more attempt to get at an idea across that there are ways of being that are in harmony with how things work and ways of being that are not. The idea that there is a sacred dance that the whole of existence moves within resonates within me. The idea that I could find my own tiny part in that dance sounds like a worthy life goal. I’m pretty sure filling the world up with trash ain’t it.
The experience of pretending to be Nature was worth it. I got a tiny glimpse of how the Earth Mother might feel about her exuberant, technology-wielding children. In the end I think the word for it was:
Everyone I know is trying hard. I hear so many stories of how people want to live more sustainable lives but they’re stuck paying off debt, or don’t know how, or are busy with meaningful work or kids. I get it. I think the Earth Mother does too. My hope is that if we all just keep trying our very best, we will get to a place where technology isn't about cheap plastic crap and grubbing in the earth is a game everyone plays. Compassion is a huge part of that vision for the future. I think it's the wise choice.
In spite of all of my deep pondering, it was hilarious when my eldest daughter pointed at me and said, “Watch out! Nature’s going to get you!” and all the kids hollered and scattered. In the end, it was pretty fun being the bad guy.