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Archive for the ‘spiritwork’ Category

There is a animated series about horses that is very popular at the moment. When one of these ponies finds the thing that he or she is best suited for, a picture of their special talent – a cutie mark – appears on their rump. On days like today, I wish that people were granted that boon.

An admission: no, I haven’t been called to serve.
I have never survived a life-threatening illness, nor had a near-death experience. I have never walked with a god in a  dream, nor felt the presence of the unseen in the waking world.

I find interactions with people tortuous sometimes, and would struggle to counsel the truly desperate. Getting drunk is difficult is difficult because I fear losing control, never mind entering into a trance.
I will never be a doctor, or a doula, a healer or a historian. I am an artist – excuse me – an Artist. A Storyteller.
It is what I do, it is part of who I am.

I am not a Priest, nor a Witch, nor – depending on your definition – a Druid. Not really. It’s taken me a long time to figure it out, but I understand now that that’s OK. I can’t fix an engine, remove an appendix or retile a roof. That’s why there are professionals who do.

I am an Artist; it’s what I want to do, it’s what I’m trained to do. Sometimes, I forget that it’s OK not to be totally self-sufficient.

I might not be part of a grove or a coven, but that doesn’t mean that I’m alone.

Sure, I want to help people, and I will if I can, and I’m always looking to expand my skillset to do so, but that isn’t a calling, it’s basic human empathy. My cutie mark is a palette, not a pentacle.

I am an Artist.

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Juni’s latest blog post has me asking a lot of hard questions.

Why am I learning to trance? For what reason? What do I want to do with this skill? Everyone writes about how, but what can you do once you know how? Why would I want to let myself in for this?

I’m shit at keeping a schedule. I’m beyond terrible at keeping up with my own interests, and that’s stuff I WANT to do. Would it be different if I HAD to do it? How much obligation is too much? What would I get out of doing this, and what do I do with it? ‘I want to help’ is a fucking stupid answer. If I wanted to help, I’d quit my job and join a volunteer group. To help HOW? WHOM? I can barely help myself, I’m in no position to help other people. ‘Wounded healer’ is about right.

I have a mortgage, and job, a fiancé (who doesn’t believe in ANY of this stuff); do I have too much invested in the world to risk letting go? Can I strike a balance between spirit and physical, because I’ve always been rubbish at balancing acts. Can I do this without betraying myself or my spirits, such as they may be?

I haven’t even started, and I don’t know where I want to go.

I’m not called to this. If I walked away now, no one would call me back. There’d be no god guiding me back to the path, no spirits giving me nightmares, no spontaneous visions. I haven’t crossed in months, and no one’s come looking. And why would they? A silly little kid, playing at shamanism? We’re a pound a pound.

Fuck it all.

Focus on the house.

The touchstone. The millstone. The big project. The new start. It’s nearly done, only a couple of weeks more. Then I can start working things out on my own terms.

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A couple of odd things happened this last week.

Firstly, I have been dragging my carcase out of bed at 06:30 to do early morning meditations (that’s not the odd thing). Since I’m still finding my feet, I’m reading the Dorling Kindersley 101 Essential Tips: Basic Meditation and trying out different things here and there.

I was doing the door-and-stairs bit – visualise a door and go through it, descend the stairs you find and go from there – and I ended up in a corridor lined with doors. Picking a door at random, I opened it and entered. I found myself deep underwater and above a drowned city, barely visible in the murk below, and felt a terrible sense of unease – as if I were in a Lovecraftian horror. Not wanting to face the inevitable Shoggoth monstrosity, I visualised a door and departed. So far, so normal (for me, anyway)

Back in the corridor, I opened another door and entered into a cave. Tall and deep and sandy-floored, this is the cave I use when I go walkabout. I knew that the end of the cave leads down into the Lower World, but I avoided it; I haven’t been out on the beach much and I felt like exploring. Turning, I found that the cave had been blocked. The walls ware still brightly lit, as though the cave mouth was open to the sky, but huge boulders blocked my path. A voice echoed inside my head – ‘now you’re trapped, and will never be king’. I knew the woman whose voice I could hear and could call her to mind easily – tall and imperious, with alabaster skin and raven hair, and dressed in black from head to toe, like Morgana leFay in an 80s BBC drama.

Confident that I couldn’t be trapped there, I opened my eyes, and shut them again very quickly – I knew that I wasn’t fully in my body, but was looking at the world from just above and behind my head. I couldn’t just get up and walk off; I knew had to finish this properly, so I went to the back of the cave and through the tunnel into the Lower World.

When I started journeying, the books I read suggested forming a ‘safe place’ within the Other Worlds that you could venture forth from, or retreat to, and that’s where I ended up. It had changed some since the last time I visited, but was still familiar and – most importantly – safe. Salmon was waiting for me in the pool in the middle, and I knew that was where my exit would be found, so I waded in and spent a few, wordless, moment with him, before completely submerging myself, visualising my exit and leaving.

~~

At the public Vernal Equinox ritual/Full Moon Grove on Saturday, we did a ‘grow new habits’ spell. Once again, I had no idea what  I was doing and just went along with what I was told.

I thought hard about what I wanted to grow and spread the seeds around the ritual space, still thinking about my intentions, then returned to the circle. Since it was my first spell, I wasn’t sure it would work, so I added a bit of personal visualisation to reinforce the affirmations I’d been repeating to myself.

I visualised the seeds germinating, and the tiny shoots emerging from the soil … and promptly lost control of the visualisation. The shoots erupted from the ground, twined together into a large tree, came into leaf and presented me with a large, dark red apple. I took the apple and took a bite before returning to reality.

~~

It’s the second meditation session in six months that’s turned around and done its own thing, and – if the visualisation during the ritual is anything to go by – it seems to be getting more common. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I have a suspicion that I’m being called back to journey-work.

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Both my pendulums (pendula?) have been gifts; the first – a shaped clear quartz point – was  given to me by a family friend (a third grandfather, really), while on holiday in Wales in 1995 (some time around then, anyway). The second – an inverted pyramid made of serpentinite – was a a gift received at the Cambridge Pagans’ Yule moot back at the beginning of December; it was he (the serpentinite pendulum) who renewed my interest in pendulum divination. I did some divination work back in the 90s, when I started looking into Pagansism, but, although I stopped after a few months, I’ve been wearing the quartz pendulum as a necklace on a semi-regular basis since then.

Since it has been so long since I used the quartz pendulum, and the serpentinite one was new, I figured I should start from first principles.

I started by politely asking each pendulum to give me a ‘yes’ signal, a ‘no’ signal and a ‘maybe’ signal. Each pendulum has their own distinct signals and, I discovered, their own individual identities as spirits of the stones – the quartz identifies as female and the serpentinite as male, for example – and each has their own name and (presumably) personality.

I’m still getting to know the stones, exploring the differences in the answers they give to my enquiries and the areas they specialise in, but from here on in, I am at least aware that they are two different people. As such, I feel awkward thinking that I’m ‘using’ the stones to give me an answer; in the future, I’m going to refer to divination as ‘talking with’ the pendulum.

I have established that both crystals are rejuvenated in different ways: Quartz asked to be left in the window with my pot-plants for 24 hours, Serpentinite wanted to be soaked in a peppermint tea for three minutes (my book on crystals suggested running him through the flame of a brown candle, but he gave me an emphatic ‘no’ when I suggested it).

Each crystal prefers different offerings, too. Serpentinite wanted a glass of rum, Quartz wanted chocolate (she directed me to the hidden box of chocolate in my first attempt at location dowsing). When held over their requested offering, the pendula began making very energetic clockwise circles around the offering (Serpentinite doesn’t make circles as part of his standard response vocabulary, so that was a bit peculiar right off the bat). After about thirty seconds, they came to a full stop and didn’t make any further movement unless I asked another question.

I’ll be doing more research and practice in the near future, but – for now – I think I’m off to a good start.

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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.

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

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