Friday, November 21, 2014

Crazy in a Good Way: The Dissociative state and Trancework

This is about controlling the dissociative state. This is about using our own psychology for our benefit.  About taking what we shove into psychosis and instead trusting in all the threads of experience, research, and the ancient lore woven together like a net under circus performers.  Come with me and let us fly above those who would stand by and watch.

Bee Spirit Meditation
The creative process is a lot like trance work. When I work at my best and most creative I move most deeply into a different consciousness.  There is a certain state of mind that I get into where I am not fully aware of my self as a self.  I can feel larger or smaller than my actual size, outside of myself, or simple unconnected to reality.  I also go into this state of mind when I’m deeply stressed, anxious, or feeling threatened.   It’s something I’ve always done.  I go into trance states easily.  When I was first learning this sort of work my challenge was to come out of the trance states, not to go into them.   I find, in general, two main categories of difficulties when individuals want to practice trance work.  The ones who have a hard time getting it to work at all, and the ones who can’t stop it from happening.  I was the second sort of person, and many years later, I know something about how to help people on both sides of that coin.

I’ve always felt a bit on the crazy side. Let’s face it.  When you have hyper real daydreams, don’t feel connected to your own self, have a sense of energy flowing through trees and people, and all the kids in school call you weird, you kind of get the idea that you might be a bit different than the norm. 

You have that moment when you’re like, “Wait.  Everyone doesn’t have dreams of the future? Really? What the hell!”  You think everyone else is weird because they don’t have imaginary friends anymore.   I spent a lot of my adult life running around finding people who did.  It was really helpful. 

Recently I was doing some research and I came across a psychological disorder called Depersonalization-Derealization Syndrome.  Like most official diagnoses it’s hard to know what that actually means. Turns out, it describes a fair amount of the things I experience:

“Common descriptions of symptoms from sufferers include feeling disconnected from one's physicality or body, feeling detached from one's own thoughts or emotions, feeling as if one is disconnected from reality, and a sense of feeling as if one is dreaming or in a dreamlike state. In some cases, a person may feel an inability to accept their reflection as their own, or they may even have out-of-body experiences.[3] “ (Wikipedia)

Wow, just like me!

In reading about the disorder it seemed like the main problem that actually occurred was the anxiety created when people felt like they were going crazy with those symptoms!

My theory is that they aren’t symptoms at all.
They’re skills. 

A talent. Like perfect pitch, or a way with numbers.  But this talent is for connecting with the world on a non-rational level.  A sensitivity to place, people, and space that can aid humans in a number of ways.  A gift for the shamanic, if you know what I mean.

This is the ability to step outside of one’s own perspective, quite literally.  Seeing reality from non-linear non-ordinary points of view has gifted me with an ability to think creatively.  It’s given me hope in this age of decline. I’ve seen how people have been changed and strengthened by developing their own inner narrative through trance work and spirit work.  I believe that this way lies healing.

Also from Wikipedia:

“The core symptom of depersonalization disorder is the subjective experience of "unreality in one's sense of self",[11] and as such there are no clinical signs. People who are diagnosed with depersonalization also experience an almost uncontrollable urge to question and think about the nature of reality and existence as well as other deeply philosophical questions.”

Apparently thinking deep thoughts is now diagnosable.  Damn me and my epistemological quandries!

A study by Dr. Richard J. Castillo indicates that meditation actually is a method of causing dissociative states.  It’s okay when Buddhists do it. But not when average Americans do it.  I get it. We don’t have a context for how to fit that sort of thing into our lives.  We don’t have teachers who can guide us on that path.   We don’t have an infrastructure of culture that can support a time and place for dissociative states.

So I’m learning.  I’ve been studying the occult since I was a teenager in an attempt to understand myself.  I found community and helped build spaces where people could explore this skill set.  I’ve practiced, experimented, and recorded my work so that I could see patterns emerge over months and years.  I am not the only one doing this work.  There are many of us, living normal, productive lives that also include invisible friends and non-ordinary reality.  We are building a culture where we can fit, filled with people who don’t need to be diagnosed at all.

(if you like my work and you'd like to support what I do, please check out my redbubble site. Thank you.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Samhain Coloring Page for the Morrigan

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!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Am My Own Voldemort

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

Wherein I See a Flame, Speak of Fate, and Find a Spark of an Idea

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 GiltinÄ—, 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

In Which My Trancework Becomes a Latino Soap Opera

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

Monday Trancework

Night Sky(Private Collection)
I was working at multiplying myself during my trancework.  This is a task one of my spirit guides has set for me.  Some months ago he said to me, “Make three of yourself. Now.”

“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.

The Elf is gone and it is only me and the winking stars in the end.   I know I need this time, quiet and rejuvenating.  The work I do takes it out of me.  I am reluctant to be honest with myself but I am tired. But the rest I need is this work, sending myself outside of myself.  I never have known why it heals me, but it does.  Long before I was a pagan, long before I was a druid I did this thing, and other things.   I chart my own path, and for so long there was no map.  But I have a bite and wings, and other things.  I am the seer. I am the priest. I find a way.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cleansed by the Ladies of the Lakes

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.


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