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Samhain is a good time to journey; the barrier between this world and the Otherworld is thin and easily traversed.

It has been so long since I made a successful trip that I was worried I’d forgotten how, but as I sat at my altar at just past midnight, the single candle casting weird shadows across the room, and breathed the incense-laden air, I slipped down through the roots of the world-tree and into the Otherworld without any resistance at all.

I don’t know if it was the time of day, time of year, how tired I was, the new arrangements I tried or a combination of all or some, it worked and we had a wonderful reunion; I am very happy I was able to make the journey.

Post-mortem:

  • The candle and incense are an established constant. They will stay.
    • Is it worth using a particular scent for a particular type of journey? Is it practical?
  • The blanket across my shoulders served as both a ritual robe and a way to keep warm. This will be staying (although whether I use the same blanket is open to debate).
  • Vocalising my intention and speaking out loud helped, I think, even thought it was difficult both psychologically and physically. I can overcome the psychological element, but I’ll wait until I get my throat back before I try chanting again.
  • I’m not sure about marking out a ritual space with the incense. If I do it again, I’ll do it standing up.
  • I don’t think I took long enough to work myself into a trance state. I need to take longer to build an atmosphere (the blanket, lighting and incense help, but I can still do more). The length of the ritual should balance need and intention with tiredness (and what I’m doing the next day!) if I intend to continue doing this in the middle of the night.
    • Meditation, breathing and serpent swaying
    • Chanting, drumming, bells and music
    • Dancing, yoga or other physical exertion
    • Wine, entheogens and flying ointments?
    • Check deVries for alternative trancing methods
    • Trancing at PsiPog.net (print-friendly)
  • Offerings are only polite and are the bare minimum I can do. Next time, I should offer some sort of foodstuff as well as alcohol.
    • I’ve not yet worked out if the spirits prefer one thing over another for offerings. Vodka or whiskey? Bread and cheese or fruit? I should ask.
  • I’m still not sure how to close the ritual. Last night’s attempt was appalling and possibly insulting (I know I felt insulted by how bad it was).

In the end, the ritual achieved what I needed it to; a reunion with my friends on the other side after nearly a year-long absence and a chance to try some new techniques.

I have regained my shattered confidence and I can’t wait to go again.

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The first mention of Tapping the Bone I heard was in the Unnamed Path podcast (episode 2), where it was suggested as a meditation method for contacting the Ancestors, using a bone or skull as a medium. Animal bones and skulls are acceptable for use in this ritual, apparently. Hyperion suggests lighting a candle and ‘activating’ the bone to call the Ancestors, then using your heart (love/passion) to reach beyond the veil whilst meditating. By observing your thoughts, it is possible to hear the Ancestors’ voices or to see visions they inspire. This method of spirit contact is not as vivid as a shamanic journey, but is a more conscious event.

A brief bit of further research reveals more information:

Tapping the Bone is about tapping into the Ancestral (racial?) memories which are said to be stored within our bones. The Canny Crafting website alleges that this is because bones and quartz crystal have a similar structure and properties. I would look this up if I wanted to pursue this avenue any further, but I am aware that bones represent the alchemical element of earth in the human body, and that will suffice for now.

The skull is usually placed on top of the Stang with a candle placed between the horns then lit.  Then we call on the Ancestors and breathe Ond (life-force) onto the skull using three breaths, the last breath should be taking in deeply and then forced out with a haahh sound, and feel the Ancestors take possession of the skull, then you can sit in your compass-ring and just let thoughts come to you, any ideas or thoughts that come can be empathic and may well be an Ancestral Guardian guiding you or you can ask the Ancestor for help in your craftings.” [1]

The Craft of the Wise [2] contains a section on Tapping the Bone, referencing the works of Peter Paddon and Robert Artisson and providing a guided mediation (‘Ancestral Meditation’ from the Coven Book of Ways):

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Focus on your breathing – in and out, in and out. With every breath in, feel yourself calm and at peace. With every breath out, feel the tension of the day drain away. Your heartbeat becomes slower, your body becomes heavier. Breathe in peace, breathe out tension. All thoughts of the day and other distractions leave your mind as you become completely relaxed and focused. There is no rush. When you feel completely calm and relaxed, you can begin.

See yourself stood upon the crest of a hill, breathing in the cool, refreshing air. You fel revitalised by the breeze and admire the beauty of the rolling fields beneath you. Above you soar birds of prey, calling to one another across the valley.

To the right of you lies a path through the long grass, meandering gently down the slope, towards an ancient yew grove . As you approach, you marvel at the yew trees, whose low, damp branches have entwined into one another over the ages. The canopy of branches seem to be arching now, and invite you to enter the forest.

You step into the forest of yews, safe in the knowledge that you are protected , and nothing can harm you here. You follow the path which leads beneath the shady boughs above ; you touch the gnarled bark of the yews as you start to walk deeper into the forest, feeling the wisdom of this place resonate through your soul.

Soon you see that the forest is beginning to thin out to a clearing, revealing a mighty yew in its centre. This yew is the oldest in the woods and is home to the ancient spirits. You marvel at the size of the tree, which dwarfs the others around it. Its roots are strong and reach deep into the earth.

Now you sense someone else is present in this quite forest glade, and watch as a figure begins to step out from behind the mighty yew. This is your ancestor – he or she has been waiting for you.

You approach the tree and greet this person. You sit with your ancestor, as they recall tales of the past and reveal wisdom to you that will aid you on your spiritual path. Listen carefully while your ancestor speaks.

Now he or she offers you a gift, a small stone with a hole running through the centre. It is a Hag Stone, a tool of otherworldly wisdom, which your ancestor places in your palm. Thank them for your gift and, if you have any questions, ask them now.

After a time, your ancestor gestures that it is time for you to leave. He or she walks back behind the ancient yew tree and becomes part of the forest once again.

Now, when you are ready, the image of the trees begins to fade away and you start to feel yourself returning to this world. When you are ready, open your eyes.

The guided meditation is very different to the previous techniques, and I’m not altogether confident about doing them, except as a visualisation exercise. I will give the guided meditation a go, but I always have doubts about whether I am speaking with spirits, or just my imagination. I suppose, if the knowledge of the ancestors is in my bones, I should be able to access it subconsciously and guided meditation is as good a technique as any.

——————

[1] Canny Crafting
[2] Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism and Witchcraft; Bramshaw, Vikki

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Get Spiritual

Sitting Meditation – Ten minutes of sitting meditation can make all the difference in our ability to confront the world head on as we do our best to be what we are; walkers between the worlds. Sitting meditation need not be complicated. Try simply sitting and focusing on your breath. You can use a timer if you’re on a tight schedule. Sitting in the same position every time and incorporating a simple hand gesture of some kind (also known as a ‘mudra’) will help you enter a relaxed state more quickly. Don’t expect miraculous visions or mind blowing experiences when you sit meditation. Expect to sit, following your breathing, bringing your attention back to the breathing whenever you lose focus.

Keep A Journal The Artist’s Way is a great resource if you’re new to the idea of stream of consciousness journal keeping.  Alternatively, just write out whatever is on your mind that day. This is a good opportunity to discover where you’re out of balance or what’s really bugging you. It’s also a good time to count your blessings and express gratitude for all the many things that are going your way. Journal keeping is one of the best ways we can track our growth, keep records of our magical experiences, and touch base with ourselves.

Water Purification – Once a day, preferably after your meditation &  journalling session, breathe all your stresses, troubles, and all that does not serve you into a glass of clear, clean water. As you breathe out, imagine all the muck leaving your body and filling the water. When you feel emptied out, hold the water up and outward and invite the divine to clean and clear the water of all you put in it. Imagine the water blazing with pure light of whatever colour works best for you that day. Once the water is pulsing with light, drink it down, knowing that it has been charged with power and will fill in all the spaces that were emptied out during your purification. As you drink, imagine yourself glowing with this light, sparkling and shimmering with it.  Once you’re done, ground in whatever way best works for you and get on with your day. This need take no more than three to five minutes, and can be integrated with your daily shower or bath if you’re really pressed for time.

Prayer – At some point during your day, offer up a prayer affirming that you are open to the love of the divine, and to whatever messages the divine has for you that day. If you have a history within a religion that has made prayer difficult for you, push through that. Keep trying. Offer prayers out loud or silently. Think of this as talking to a cherished friend. If you aren’t sure who to pray to, pray anyway. Someone is listening and in time, they will reveal themselves to you wearing whatever mask you most need to interact with.

Making Offerings – You’re already offering your time and effort in the previous four practices, but if you’re having an especially wonderful or difficult time, take a moment to offer something of personal value to the divine. This can be food based – honey, milk, liquor, fruit, bread, a portion of your meal – or bardic – a song, a poem, a story of your own creation – or you can offer natural items like flowers, crystals, stones. Anything that’s pleasing to you is bound to be pleasing to the divine.  You can do this as often as you like as a way to express gratitude for what’s going right, or as a way to petition the divine for assistance with issues that are troubling you.

Consulting the Oracle – Once a day, or however often you like, pull a card, draw a rune, or use your oracle in whatever way best suits you to get a very basic, simple read on where you’re at. If you’re new to using methods of divination, the most widely used method is Tarot. Pull a card, jot down your impressions and what you think the image on the card is telling you, and then and ONLY then, look the meaning up in a good resource.

Walking – Walking puts your feet in direct contact with mother earth, and it’s best done out of doors, which makes it an ideal way to connect with natural forces. While it’s true that we are surrounded by the elements of life whether we’re stuck inside or not, it is easier to relate to air as wind than as some abstract concept. Walking out in whatever weather can increase your physical stamina, which is important for energy raising (and dancing with abandon around a festival fire pit!). It also heals lazy libidos and is effective in easing depression.

These simple practices can be done together, flowing from one to the other beginning with meditation and ending with walking, or you can also just pick one and focus on that one for a period of time until you find your interest flagging. At that point, switch things up and try something new.

Source: Toronto Paganism Examiner

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I went to this workshop for two reasons:
1) to meet Shamanic practitioners in and around Cambridge, and
2) to see if there was anything I can do to overcome my current journeying difficulties.

I had anticipated a core shamanism event with focus of drumming and/or rattling and journeying. Instead it was very North American orientated and seemed a bit New Age-y; in fact, I was rather uncomfortable, given that my recent train of thought has led me to ponder the wisdom, effectiveness and morality of taking practices and traditions from various cultures and inserting them into an alien environment.

There was a part of me that couldn’t avoid looking in at over a dozen white, middle class men and women dancing around reciting chants in Navaho to give thanks for the gifts we have received and ask for blessing. It felt uncomfortable and – if I’m honest with myself – somewhat ridiculous.

I didn’t feel a lot of the ‘energies’ people were talking about, but there was a definite shift in atmosphere after the circle work. The pushme-pullyou exercise in not forcing your will and co-operating was an effective illustration of the ideas and how useful they were.

In fact, the only chant I felt comfortable with (because it was the only one with no non-English counterpart?) was Hoof and horn, hoof and horn
All that dies shall be reborn
Corn and grain, corn and grain
All that falls shall rise again

It was pitched as Celtic, but to be fair, they never said how OLD it was; and written by Ian Corrigan, an American and a Celtic Wiccan/ADF boardmember.

Nonetheless, singing felt good. Even the dancing wasn’t too bad (at least we weren’t all in ceremonial robes with headdresses and face paint), and it seemed effective, particularly the gounding and centring bits.

I learned, through intospection, that my inability to separate my body and soul might be cauised by stress – it’s been an issue for about as long as we’ve been trying to buy the house and one of the ladies said that Mercury has been retrograde for about three months (I’m still not sure I buy into astrology, though).

We finished with a short drummed meditation (OK but not successful) and a rattled, guided meditation (the woman’s voice kept pulling me back into the room whenever she spoke), and a sharing of our experiences.

So, in summary:
– I don’t get on with guided journeying
– Singing and chanting seem useful (if I’m not blatantly nicking them from other people)
– Dancing might be useful, or at least fun, if I can overcome my embarrassment
– Group activities aren’t as bad as I’d feared
– I need a warmer blanket to lay on in cold village halls. I think I shall make one specifically, rather than buy one. Hopefully it will be more powerful and a lot cheaper.

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If means permit, arrange a weekend camping or cabining trip to a place in nature. Get away from the city’s concrete and steel. Along with other supplies, take your camera, notebook and pen. Once settled in, find a picnic bench or break out your camp chair.

Now embark upon your great discovery. Beginning with your sense of hearing, listen to the sounds of spring. Is there a gurgling brook or a sunlit creek skipping over small stones? Are there birds in the trees, industriously setting up housekeeping for the year? Listen for as long as you like, then record what impressions came to you.

Next consider the smell of spring. What is the scent of the earth, watered by spring rains? How does the waterfall smell, rushing by? Press your face to a leaf or bend to sniff a wildflower. Tilt your face up towards the sun and drink in the fragrance of the day. Jot down your thoughts or write a poem about this experience.

You may have to take the taste of spring camping with you. Put together a salad of spring greens and herbs. Set a dish of plump strawberries or blackberries for dessert. I dare you to play at face painting by tracing some of the juice across your nose or cheeks!

Pour yourself a glass of spring water with a sprig of mint. Dice up an apple and scatter it nearby, that the creatures of the earth might dine too. If you are led to say a pagan grace, it might be something like this:

“Blessed is the earth on which I stand. One Mother, giver of all life, renewed and renewing for time without end. Blessed is the goodness you provide to nurture my body and soul. May I walk gently, ever mindful of your grace. So mote it be.”

Savor your little feast and thank [the spirits] for feeding you once again. Take time to be grateful. After your meal, see what gift you can give back to the earth. Pick up some aluminum cans or trash. Pour the last of your water at the base of a tree, or bury a few silver coins for the unseen spirits of the land.

Next look around you, visually noticing the colors of spring … Notice the changes in light and in shadow this time of year … Choose a single flower or a leaf, and press it in your journal. Stand by a stream and note the patterns on wet stones. Have your camera ready to catch the budding trees’ reflection in the water.

Finally, reach out with both your body and your spirit. Skip a few of those smooth flat stones! Roll up your pant legs and go wading and splashing like the earth child you are! Take your hiking stick in hand and see what’s around the bend. Rake aside a bit of old brush and reveal the seedlings popping through the ground, tiny mushrooms and insects busy at work. Tuck leaves into your hair. Revel in the joy of spring!

When you have returned to your camp, write down anything of special significance to you. Then thank [the spirits] with words like these:

Here in the heart of nature, my spirit is renewed
And all my senses quickened.
Let me never lose the sight of beauty,
The scent of the breeze,
The taste of all the earth provides.
Let me hear the living earth hum around me
And feel your love in the weaving of nature’s web.
Blessed Be.”

Excerpt from: Witchvox article: Ostara…It’s Not Just For Kiddies Anymore!

I’ve edited it to reflect my personal cosmology, but the intent is the same: connect with the spirits of the land and enjoy the changing seasons.

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Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

1. Turn off your mobile and unhook the phone.

2. Wear comfortable clothing.

3. Play some soft NON-vocal music or nature sounds.

4. Close your eyes.

5. Look at the after image behind your eyelids.

6. Take and hold a big breath.

7. Place all your thoughts, anxieties, stress, into this breath while holding it in.

8. Release the breath.

9. Take and hold another big breath while visualizing a clear or white light coming in with the breath. This is a POSITIVE calming energy.

10. Release this breath.

11. Take and hold a third breath while visualizing a pure white or gold light coming in at the same time.

12. Place your being-ness into this energy.

13. Imagine this energy going throughout your entire body.

14. Send this energy out with your consciousness through your crown and out of your body.

15. Exhale and breathe normally.

16. Send your consciousness out to space.

17. Notice the house below you, then the entire area.

18. Continue extending your consciousness into the sky until you can visualize the curvature of the earth.

19. Picture yourself arching your back and looking up.

20. See a spiral of light with a black circle in the center.

21. Extend yourself into the center black circle – remember you are perfectly safe.

22. As you enter the center of the spiral, it is warm and inviting.

23. As you extend into the center of the spiral, it becomes a roller coaster type movement, going down and to the left.

24. Spiraling lower and lower at a safe speed.

25. After a time, notice a light at the end of the tunnel.

26. You get closer and closer to it.

27. Soon, you realize it is an opening or door.

28. You stop at the door. The doorway has a gold frame. Notice the details.

29. Look out onto a peaceful meadow, see the flowers, and smell the grass, trees, and ground.

30. Step out to the meadow, sit down and feel the sunshine on your body.

31. After a time, you get up, stretch, and feel refreshed.

32. Notice that there is a Silver Door in the distance.

33. Walk toward it. When you get there, look back and know that you can return here at any time.

34. Step through the door, and find yourself back in your own body.

Source: Witchvox essay: An Easy Meditation Technique

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