ancestor work, Event, fae, Paganism, Retreat/Festival/Convention, Spiritwork, Workshop

Hallowed Homecoming 2018

I meant to blog about this right away, but first I was still processing and then Samhain season really hit. It’s still hitting, and I’ll blog about that, soon, but first, here are my impressions of Hallowed Homecoming.

Generally, I liked the event! The workshops were enlightening and inspiring, the rituals small but effective. The staff was amazingly helpful, the food was delicious and filling (and they are SO GOOD with allergies!), and there was enough tea to keep my cup always filled. The parkland was beautiful, and the cabins were spacious. The only bad thing, really, was the weather.

It was cold. Cold and wet, and the cabins didn’t keep out the chill – they barely kept out the drafts. I had a brand new coleman sleeping bag rated to 0°F, and that combined with wearing three layers and a hat to bed made me barely warm enough. The rest of the time, I was fighting numbness in my hands and feet, even with thermal layers beneath my clothes, my good new boots, and gloves. Part of that, of course, is due to my chronic illness: I have poor circulation and difficulty with temperature regulation. The tea helped, and the fire in the main hall helped even more, but with wet firewood making fires in workshop cabins a struggle, I often found myself too cold to be fully immersed.

Our first day opened with registration and unpacking, and then I opted to skip the first workshop (on crafting ancestor altarpieces) in favor of walking the land, as I did at Witches’ Sabbat this past May. I started with my traditional self-introduction with tobacco in the Anishinaabe language, and after that I went wandering in search of the local Courtly Fae.

I was guided down a trail, under a fallen tree, down a fork to the left, across a field, down a hill, counter-clockwise around a holly bush, over another fallen tree, and to a decaying stump covered in bright green moss. Like the small hill in Ontario, this natural landmark was an anchor to a Faery Court, and when I gave an offering (of a delightful elderflower and lemon soda), I perceived a beautiful hall, and in a throne on a dais, a young and exquisitely beautiful Queen. She hadn’t been expecting my visit, but was pleased enough to meet me and accept the offering. I called her Wood Violet, because the flowers were a repeating feature in the decoration of the room and her wardrobe, and her eyes were the same purple. Scott accompanied me on the physical journey, but did not join me in the Hollow Hill.

Byron Ballard was the keynote speaker for the weekend, and that evening we attended her first workshop: Practical Ancestor Work. She began with a line from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”, which is also a favorite of mine. (If you don’t know it, I highly recommend reading it.) My notes are sporadic, because Byron was teaching to a mixed-level group, and I was already familiar with much of her material. I did not know, however, that there is a version of the Wild Hunt in Yorkshire called the Gabble Ratchet that is associated with migrating geese, and is said to collect the souls of the recently departed. Byron also emphasized that there are several different types of ancestors: 1) blood family ancestors, both recent and ancient, 2) adoptive family ancestors, including friends who have passed, 3) the Beloved Dead, who are people from history that you feel a special kinship with, and 4) the Mighty Dead, who are the cultural heros of groups one belongs to, be they ethnic cultures, religious cultures, trades or crafts, or subcultures. A lot of time, people seem to shy away from Ancestor Work because their most recent ancestors were abusive or intolerant of other faiths, but there’s a wide world of the Dead out there, and no rule that says you have to start with the grandmother who hated you. (Although Bryon did also say that sometimes, those toxic relatives get a better perspective once they cross over, and they realize what they’ve done and feel obligated to make things better. Not always, but you might try contacting them and seeing if they’ll help you out occasionally, if speaking to them isn’t likely to trigger too strong of a negative reaction.)

The Opening Ritual was mostly to introduce the Guardians for the weekend, and to establish sacred space. My friend Kate joined them this year, and I felt that we were in safe hands for the work we would do the rest of the weekend.

Kate also led the first workshop I attended on the second day, on Hedgewitchery. Despite some technical difficulties with the fire in the craft cabin (damp wood), she led a pretty lively discussion of traditional witchcraft, her family’s German-American folk magic, and her approaches to hedgecrossing. The last part of the workshop was a guided meditation to speak to an element, and I had a very insightful conversation with the goddess Dinand while standing in a river. I was very glad to finally attend this workshop, since I missed it the last time Kate taught it!

Byron’s workshop on Saturday was one I believe I’d seen before, called the Spirit-Haunted Landscape, but the stories and the way she teaches change every time, so I was happy to listen again.  She talked a bit about human spirits and different kinds of ghosts, and then of land spirits – both the large spirits of place, and the smaller more fae beings associated with plant growth.  The last group she talked about are what I would consider the Gentry, the more powerful among the fae, like Wood Violet, the White Lady, and my own Queen, Starflower.  Her words were as much warning as instruction: do not do the work if you are not called to it, she said, because you will be happier and have a simpler life without Them.  But she believes that, for those of us who are called, we need to heed it, we need to brave the danger, because They can help us heal the world, and we need all the help They can give, even if it means that some of us lose parts of ourselves.  I found myself nodding along with much of what she said, and I wasn’t the only one – at the end, she asked a few of us whom she either already knew or could tell worked with the Gentry and she asked us to share a nugget of wisdom.  Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely, considering the subject matter), I can no longer remember what I said.

After that was my own workshop, an intermediate-level introduction to the three Morrigna, specifically the Daughters of Ernmas. There were about a dozen attendees, and I think it was pretty well received, even though I came dangerously close to info-dumping during my section on the Morrigna’s appearances in lore.  I’ll be sharing the journey prompt in my next Dark Moon Crow Calls blog.

Following my workshop it was dinner time, and then after dinner we were all turned out of the main hall long enough for the staff to set up for the main ritual.  We gathered outside for the main ritual and processed in, finding seats in near-darkness and near-silence.  After what I recognized as a fairly standard Wiccan ritual opening led by Rev. Tristan and Byron Ballard, we were led in a call-response honoring ancestors who had many different types of deaths.  Then a yarn rope that had been woven during an earlier workshop was stretched into a circle around the room, with each participant holding onto it in their non-dominant hand.  We were instructed to give a single word answer to describe wisdom we’d received from our ancestors, and then take the scissors from the ritual leaders and cut a piece of the rope.  My word was “peacemaking”.

On Sunday, Byron opened her workshop by explaining that she’d gone off site last night and had been in contact with the wider world, and expected that most of us had not, as that area of the parkland is a cell signal dead zone.  She painted the Pittsburg tragedy in broad brush strokes, and said some strong words about banding together and fighting bigotry and the importance of interfaith work, before giving us all a moment to process.  I had already begun to feel that we shouldn’t stay all the way to the end of the day, because the cold and damp was beginning to get to me, but after the news I just wanted to get home to my baby.  My baby, who at eight days old, was given a taste of sacramental wine while a rabbi spoke prayers in Hebrew over him.  My little family may be pagan, but we’re Jewish, too.  We still observe some of the traditions of our ancestors, even if our religious views differ.

Once most of us had regained our composure, she began her workshop proper, on the topic of Peasant Magic.  She shared a paraphrasing from Jason Miller, who split magic into two broad categories: temple magic, and field magic.  Peasant magic and folk magic, she explained, was field magic, where you do the work that needs to be done with whatever tools and materials you can scrounge up, be that a bit of lint from your pocket and your own saliva, or an herb you grow in your yard and your good wooden spoon.  She talked a bit more about community, too, about being our own first responders and not relying on bureaucracy when its ways will take too long.  Boom the creek yourselves to stop an oil spill from making it to the river.  Set up networks, where you know who to turn to for each crisis, be it one of waterways, immigrants in crisis, or a house fire.  No one can devote time to every worthy cause, she reminded us, to it’s best to pick 3, and devote as much time and effort as you can to those three, and trust that your neighbors will cover the rest.  You can support them in solidarity when they need your help, and they will support you back, even if it’s something as simple as buying a box of candles for a vigil.  Mundane actions and magical workings work best in unison, she said – one without the other isn’t as effective.  But if you try a spell and it doesn’t work, and then you try it more carefully and harder and it doesn’t work, and then one more time while pulling out all the stops and invoking all your gods and it still doesn’t work, you need to stop.  She calls it “1,2,3, Brick Wall”.  After the third time, you’re being told that the work is not for you to do, and your need to accept that.  She told a poignant story about the fires near her home a few years ago, to illustrate the point, and ended with the wisdom that what seems like a disaster may contain within it new growth; some seeds are only opened by fire.  That resonated with me, especially considering the messages I’ve been getting from the Morrigna and the Eyes of Ra lately.

After the workshop we packed up to leave, and did not stay for the closing ritual.  We said our goodbyes, and exchanged contact information with a few new friends.  Some people asked if we’d come again, and I wanted to say yes, but I could already feel how much strength the weather had sapped from me, and the insight of the chronically ill told me I’d be spending days recovering.  So I don’t know.  I enjoyed the event.  I’d love to see the space again; I’d like to return in the spring to see Wood Violet in her time of power.  But I’m not sure if three days of damp and cold was wise.  I may need to look into staying somewhere off site, somewhere warm and dry, but then the expense may be more than our budget can stretch to cover.  We shall see.

Event, Spiritwork, Workshop

Queen Under Mound, Queen Under Wave

This past Memorial Day Weekend, Scott and I joined a group of friends from the Fellowship Beyond The Star to a witchy camping retreat near Ottawa, Canada, called the Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll.  I’m still processing my experiences, so that will come in another blog soon, but I wanted to post the journey prompts I wrote for the workshop I led at Witches’ Sabbat.

My workshop, titled “Queen under Mound, Queen under Wave” was an introduction to Fand, an Irish Fairy Queen and Sea Goddess.  The first part of my workshop focused on her appearances in myth as well as modern associations and shared gnosis about her.  The second part included two pathworkings, one to visit her as Queen of a sí mound, and the other to visit her in the depths of the ocean.  I wrote both of these for the workshop, and I’d like to share them both with my readers here!  Each takes about 10 minutes.  You can try recording yourself reading them with the indicated pauses and playing it back.*

Queen Under Mound

Breathe yourselves into stillness, children of earth.  Breathe deep.  Breathe in relaxation… and breathe out the worries and cares of the world. Breathe until you reach that space between, the space that lets us walk between the worlds.  We will all go together. Feel as mists steam up from the ground and surround us here.  Pay attention to notice the shift – we are leaving Raven’s Knoll, and coming into another place.  When you are ready, open your inner eyes and see the dirt road beneath your feet. On either side grow hedges of hawthorn, and there are a few blooms on them still, despite the lateness of the season.  Continue forward to the crossroads where I stand, and behind me, to one side of the dirt road, a table piled with offerings.  There are things to drink and eat, instruments for playing music, flowers, shells, and more.  Find the gift you are meant to give, and bring it with you as we continue forward.  Walk farther along the dirt road until you see to your right what looks like an opening in the hawthorn hedge.  Examine it more closely, and notice how the thorns seem to give way as you approach.  Press forward, and feel them part gently around you as you pass through.  When you have come all the way through, you will find yourself in a meadow with a low mound, and beyond it, a forest.  Stop for a moment to observe everything around you. [5 count beat] What do you see? [3]  Hear? [3]  Smell? [5]  Then continue towards the mound.  As you approach it you notice a strange shimmer in one area – head towards that, and do not be surprised when you pass through it as easily as through a projected image.  Inside, you find yourself in a great hall, with big oaken beams.  To your right there are a great many feasting tables, and directly in front of you is a brick circle that contains within it a great fire, the smoke rising up into the heights of the chamber, much taller than the mound somehow, and out through a hole in the roof.  To your left there is a raised platform, and on it are two great thrones.  Fand sits in one.  Is the other occupied?  Take a moment to observe the room. [5] What do you see? [3] Smell? [3]  Hear? [5]  When you are ready, approach Fand, and give her the gift you brought.  At this time you may ask her the question: “How do I balance all the roles I must play?” Listen closely for her reply. [PAUSE FOR FIVE MINUTES.]  When you have finished, thank her for your time, and leave the way you came. [10] Out the doorway… to the meadow, [3] across the meadow… to the hedge, [3] through the hedge… to the road, [3] and down the road… back to the swirling mists… and into your body. [3] Welcome Home.

 

Queen Under Wave

Breathe yourselves into stillness, children of earth. Breathe deep.  Breathe in relaxation… and breathe out the worries and cares of the world. Breathe until you reach that space between, the space that lets us walk between the worlds.  We will all go together. Feel as mists steam up from the ground and surround us again, as we move into that other place.  When you are ready, open your inner eyes and again see the dirt road beneath your feet, hedged by blooming hawthorn. Continue forward to the crossroads where I stand by the table piled with offerings.  Find the gift you are meant to give, and bring it with you as we continue forward.  Walk farther along the dirt road until you see to your left what looks like another opening in the hawthorn hedge.  Once again, press forward and feel them part gently around you as you pass through.  When you have come all the way through, you will find yourself at the top of a low sea cliff, on a track that leads down to a little beach.  Go down the track carefully, and wade into the water.  The water is chilly and yet you do not seem to feel the cold.  You instinctively know you must swim from here, and even if you don’t know how, or are not wearing the appropriate clothing, you have perfect confidence that you will succeed.  So plunge in, and begin swimming out to sea, as small waves rise and fall around you.  A short way out, a sea creature that is known to you swims up from the depths and greets you.  It is here to show you the way to the castle in the depths.  It squirts water into your face, and then dives.  You dive with it, trying to follow closely, and when you can no longer stand the pressure in your lungs and ears, you are filled with sudden knowledge – and you take a breath.  You have been given the ability to breathe underwater, and this makes your journey much easier.  You join the sea creature in diving down into the blackness, where light barely penetrates, where only by small bioluminescent animals guide your course.  You come to what appears to be the entrance to a cave, and the interior seems to be made of glowing stone, so that you can see again in the dim light.  As you pass through the doorway, the impression of being underwater fades, and you now walk along the floor of another great hall, this one all of glowing stone. This one, too, has a raised platform. Stop for a moment to observe. [5]  What do you see? [3]  Hear? [3]  Smell? [3]   Taste? [3]  Who is on the platform? [5]  Do you recognize Fand, in her aspect as Queen Under Wave? When you are ready, approach Fand, and give her the gift you brought.  At this time you may ask her the question: “What hides in my own depths?” Listen closely for her reply. [PAUSE FOR FIVE MINUTES.]  When you have finished, thank her for your time, [5] and leave the way you came.  [5] Back to the door, [3]  back swimming with your sea creature guide up to the light, [3] back swimming to the beach, [3]  back up to the cliff, [3] back through the hedge… to the road, [3] and down the road… back to the swirling mists and into your body. [3] Welcome Home.

 

* I don’t mind these being shared for personal work or even small group work as long as it’s shared directly from this page and I’m given credit, but please don’t use these to create your own workshop, and it’s definitely not okay to use this anywhere where you’re getting paid or even compensated monetarily for your time.  When in doubt, email to ask. Thanks!

Event, Ritual, Workshop

Sacred Space 2017 – Days 3 & 4

See Days 1 & 2 Here!

 

Workshop: Glamour, by Gwendolyn Reece

Gwendolyn Reece is Hellenic Revivalist priestess of Athena and Apollon and a member of the Wiccan Assembly of the Sacred Wheel who lives in DC, where she has founded a temple to her patrons, called Theophania.  She has always been politically involved, but recent events have kicked her up a notch, and she believes that humanity, as a group and oversoul, is on the cusp of an initiatory challenge.  In order to succeed, she believes we need to clear out what is preventing our spiritual evolution, and one of the largest obstacles is what she refers to as glamour, inspired in no small part by the book Glamour, a World Problem, by Alice Bailey.  This echoes thoughts about the change from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius, and Gwendolyn emphasized that we really need to look at trends in terms of 200 years, not 20 years, in order to really see the patterns she’s talking about.  Part of the initiatory challenge, she said, comes from several different crises: crises of government are obvious (remember, modern democracy is only a little over 200 years old!), but she is especially concerned with the crisis of climate change.  She believes that most of these crises and movements toward spiritual evolution can be boiled down into a move towards the self governance of adulthood.  Previously, most forms of government revolved around the idea of sacred kingship.  Now, most world governments give at least lip service to democratic elections.  But a lot of glamour needs to be dispelled if we are going to succeed at this initiatory challenge.

Gwendolyn defines “glamour” as: a delusion that occurs at the level of consciousness in which cognition is mixed with emotion.  She adds that most humans are functioning at that level most of the time.  Academics and occultists frequently work at higher levels but tend to return there; some people may spend time below there but tend to return there when they are more clear-headed.  She spent a while explaining the different planes/vibrations and how, for the most part, humans are aware of only the center, but if we shift our perceptions (via trance, etc), we can access different parts.  It is the work of the occultist to go higher, and in doing so, we can get above the cloud of glamour in order to see it more clearly – and hopefully dispel it.  She emphasized the need to start with the glamours we are carrying, ourselves, and then working up to small groups and larger groups that we are a part of, potentially all the way up to the human oversoul (though that’s probably best done in a group effort, she says).

She gave one pretty detailed functional example that I’ll share here: Cynicism.  This one raises three very important glamour red flags: 1) it is a cognitive pattern that evokes an emotive pattern that allows them to feel superior, 2) it is a cognitive pattern that deprives them of power while giving them the illusion of power, and 3) it functions as a self-reinforcing loop.  Cynicism has become a marker for intelligence, which then allows those who are cynical to feel superior to those who are not, because they’re smarter and not hiding from “harsh truths”.  Cynicism removes swathes of intelligent people from being invested in their communities because “there’s no point”, and they feel self-righteous and correct when things then fail – but their refusal to engage is actually one of the causes of failure.  As Gwendolyn says, if she was Sauron, contemplating how to enslave Humanity with a really good spell, she couldn’t do better than that!

To dispel glamours in yourself, Gwendolyn says the best thing you can do is to strengthen your intuition and practice mindfulness.  At a higher level, she recommends rising through the planes above the cloud of glamour, and contemplating it until you truly understand it in a mystical way – what is the core of the glamour itself?  And once you know, find the light within you or ask for assistance from a being of light (like Apollon), target the center of it, and blow it away as best you can.  This will require repetition.  And the larger the group that you’re trying to remove the glamour from, the larger a group of practitioners you’re likely to need to make a dent.  She emphasizes, however, that dispelling from above is a lot more effective than dispelling from the same level, and you probably only need about 20% to hit a real tipping point where it will steadily get clearer and clearer.

 

Ritual: Tea with Your Dweller, by Holli Shan

This was a guided meditation to help with shadow work, where we were guided to have a talk with our Dweller on the Threshold, our shadow self.  We discussed the concept first, and then did two short pathworkings, which I found immensely useful.  There was actual tea provided, a warm and calming blend made by Tintalle Foxwood (but alas I failed to write down the ingredients).

The guidance was more or less as follows: Take our cup of tea, take a large sip and hold it in our mouths, really tasting it.  Then, focus on breathing for four breaths as we sink into trance.  Holli led us down a spiral staircase, and into a room in a palace deep in the ground where there was a small table, with a single candle, and a single cup of tea.  We were to sit down at the table, and then call to our Dweller, who would take the chair opposite us.  Then, we shared the tea – three sips each, back and forth and back and forth.  Once the tea was gone, we were told to ask our Dweller what they had for us, be it message or object.  Many of us were given gem-like objects (which Holli had previously said was how she often pictured the exchange) which we were then told to identify, and release, destroy, or re-integrate according to what it was that we had been given.

Some people were given childhood memories that they had to reintegrate after releasing negative emotions.  Some were given more overt messages, like “You need to make time for self care so you can love yourself again”.  I was given two objects in the first pathworking that I could not identify, but the first one I knew I needed to release, and the second one needed to be cleansed and then re-integrated.  In the second pathworking, I was given more information to better understand what the two things had been, and was given an additional two gems.  It was very healing, and reminded me somewhat of soul retrieval.  I will definitely do it again on my own.

 

Workshop: Magick for the Good of the Polis, by Gwendolyn Reece

This was Gwendolyn’s second and more overtly political worskshop.  She said that before she does any large workings aimed at a group (because that is what a polis is – a body of which an individual human is a part), she starts with an ethical reasoning process, borrowed from academia.  This is a six-part process of ethics questions:

  • Self-Assessment: Is it really about service? What is it feeding in me?  Am I doing this for myself?
  • Self-Assessment: Do I know enough about the topic to properly identify the risks?
  • Risk/Benefit Calculation: What is the probability of harm? What is the magnitude of the possible harm?  What is the probability of benefit? Magnitude of possible benefit?
  • Comprehensive Identification of Risks: What is the risk to the individual practitioner? To the community of practitioners? To the community targeted? To any institutions? What is the risk of attracting unwanted spirit attention? Etc, etc.
  • Risk Mitigation: How can you mitigate the above risks?  How many of them can you mitigate at once?
  • Consult Others: Ask your fellow practioners for advice, and also consult your personal guides and guardians, deities, etc.

She did say that in the case of enviromental collapse, the risk/benefit calculation gives her more leeway than on most things, because the risk of not doing anything is total disaster.

Gwendolyn discussed various types of Ancient Hellenic practices, starting with the religion of the polis, then personal and household devotions, the Mysteries, and lastly the different types of magic: Magika, Goetia, and Pharmakon.  She said generally, magic on behalf of the polis was attempted after the following steps were taken: 1) recognize the miasma of the polis (miasma, in her definition, is what occurs when humans are out of right relationship with the gods and with each other, ie, when social contracts have been broken), 2) look for the causes of miasma (this was often done by consulting oracles or taking omens, etc), 3) appease or remove the causes of miasma and bind what cannot be removed (this is usually the majority of the magical workings), and then 4) strengthen the beneficial (by making sacrifices to the patron of the polis, for example).  It’s a decent pathway for modern practitioners to follow before doing workings, as well.  She then discussed various kinds of magic, including Apompe, Katadesmoi, Judicial spells, and Baityloi, before discussing a couple of workings she’s done recently.

 

Ritual: The Healing Labyrinth, by Irene Glasse

This was a labyrinth walk, on a labyrinth Irene brought with her rolled up on a huge sheet.  Irene is a yoga teacher and a trained labyrinth facilitator.  Her spiritual home is Frederick Unitarian Universalist Church, which has a large labyrinth in its courtyard.  Labyrinth walking is a somewhat unique form of mediation, because of the movement required.  She also said that everything on a labyrinth walk is an allegory, so make note of times you get lost, get distracted, or stumble.  It is also a very personal journey that sometimes must take place with others around, giving it a sense of community not unlike a meditative yoga class.

On our first walk, she wanted us to focus on what was stuck in our lives on our way in, what our blockages were, and what we must release.  On the way out, we were to focus on what needed to be received, what needed to come in to fill the space instead.  Before the second walk, she placed rattles and bells at various points around the labyrinth.
on that second walk, we were to stop at each station on the way in and pick up a rattle.  Then, through the sound of the rattle and the sound of our own voice, we were supposed to name a blockage and release it.  On the way out, our blockages cleared, we were to use the bells, and with their sound and our voice, welcome in those things we needed to receive.  As more and more people entered the labyrinth, it became a symphony of sound, and while it might sound cacophonous, it instead was a very healing sound overall, and many of us found that the things we were struggling with were also things others needed to release.

 

Closing Ritual

Like the Opening Ritual, this one is scripted almost the same every year, and yet it feels important to go, to get that closure.  The patrons are thanked and released, the egregore is put back to sleep as a chrysalis, and the wards are dropped as we return to the mundane world, with a parting gift.  The gift this year was a blessed Constitution, and since I already had one from a friend who attended one of Gwendolyn’s Theophania Temple rituals, Glasreo and I passed ours on to vendor friends who hadn’t been able to attend.

As always, after four days at Sacred Space, it was a little bit difficult to move fully back into our mundane lives!

Event, Ritual, Workshop

Sacred Space 2017 – Days 1 & 2

Opening Ritual

The Opening Ritual is scripted just about the same every year, as its primary purposes are to 1) awaken the egregore of the conference, 2) invoke Djehuty and Athena, the patrons of the conference, and 3) ward and sanctify the space.  The main thing that stuck out to me this year was part of Gwendolyn Reece’s invocation of Athena: Let us be useful.  It reminded me of my own budding work with Athena Columbia, a local cultus of Athena as Patroness of the District of Columbia and Protectress of American Democracy. (For more info, see my devotional tumblog.)

Workshop: 5 Herbs for the Hedgewitch, by Tintalle Foxwood

Tintalle Foxwood is a clinical herbalist who works out of her home in Baltimore, MD, and is part of Orion Foxwood’s temple and tradition of Faery Seership.  She presented this workshop on 5 herbs (plus one extra that jumped in) that can help build the spirit-mind-body connection, in order to keep occultists healthy and grounded in their mundane lives while still able to do their spiritual work.  Her six herbs were Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Milky Oats (Avena sativa), Linden (Tilia spp.), Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), and Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).  She picked these six herbs because they can all be grown and harvested sustainably, they are generally safe for most people to use (barring allergies), they have a history of traditional uses, they have scientific evidence-based uses, and the plant spirits were willing to be part of her program.  She talked at length about nervines and adaptogens generally (most of the herbs are one or the other), and then spoke on each herb specifically, giving uses for each.  I was somewhat familiar with Stinging Nettle and Passionflower, but her workshop gave me more ideas for the use of even those two familiar plants!  At the end, we each had the chance to blend an herbal tea out of those six herbs, plus a number of extras that she’d brought as flavor enhancers and “backup dancers”.  I blended a tea for Glasreo, to hopefully help on days that work fries his brain a bit too much.

Ritual: Ogma and the Voices of the Tree Ogham, by Raven Edgewalker

Raven Edgewalker is part of the Reclaiming tradition and has worked very closely with the trees of the ogham for twenty or so years.  At the ritual, she began by casting a circle calling on the trees to stand guard around us, and honestly I think it was the most comfortable cast circle I’ve ever been in. (Frequently I feel more cut off and claustrophobic than protected inside of Wiccan circles, which is why I tend to prefer druidic rituals!)  After an invocation to Ogma himself, the ritual was reflective, based on questions drawn from four ogham trees: Birch, Oak, Hawthorn, and Blackthorn.  Birch asked, “What are you beginning?” Oak asked, “What in you is strong?”  Hawthorn asked, “What do you fear?”  Blackthorn asked, “What do you wish to protect?”  We answered in our hearts, and then gave our answers to those whose eyes we met as we moved within the circle.  At the end, having found our answers, we raised energy to bless ourselves.  It was a very enjoyable ritual, and I gained a number of important insights.  Additionally, it cemented for me that it is time for me to start my ogham journey.  I purchased a set of staves from Raven (check out her etsy shop!) later that weekend.

Ritual: Oracular Seidhr, by Scott Momhern and Becky Sheehan, assisted by Laurel Mendes

This was my second time attending this ritual.  Previously, Laurel Mendes and Diana Paxson had taken turns being seer and guide; this time Scott and Becky were the seers, guided by Laurel.  I did not ask a question this time, either, but Glasreo did, on the topic of his personal path and growth that I won’t share here.  Highlights included this business advice from Odin, paraphrased: “Tell them what you need to – which does not mean tell them everyhing.  You can best serve them by doing your work well, whatever it is.”  As other questions were asked, I found myself in journey space, talking to Hela about our coming work together.  I gained some insight into why I find her so comfortable to talk with, and learned that deathwork is also within the realm of my healing work.  Freya also talked to me about oracular seidhr, and volva-ship, though she cautioned that it’s not a good idea to begin that work while pregnant, as I am too close to the edge already. I imagine we’ll discuss that more come summer.

Workshop: Guardianship and Trance Possession, by Raven Fitzcarraldo Mohnkern

After the mishap and my successful possession last year at the Conjure Dance, Glasreo and I both thought it would be a good idea to attend this workshop.  Raven is a member of the Universal Temple of Spirits and has been a guardian at trance possessory rites for about twenty years.  Guardianship, as she explained, means protection of the human attendees, moving energy into/out of people as needed, holding sacred space, and keeping the mundane world from interfering with the rite.  UToS is a polytheist pan-pantheon tradition, but they borrow some terminology from ADTs, including the use of Horse/Rider to describe possession.  At their rites there is a team of Guardians and attendants, and because it is a fairly small community, they tend to know which human is likely to be possessed by which spirit and what the human’s needs and boundaries are, as well as the spirit’s expectations, but Raven emphasized the need to express your own boundaries and any allergies, etc, to the Guardians whenever you are at a trance possessory rite.  She used the car driving metaphor to explain different levels of possession: sometimes, you’re driving and there’s a spirit outside the car.  Sometimes they’re sitting in the back seat.  Sometimes they’re sitting in the front seat, navigating.  Sometimes, the spirit is driving and you’re in the passenger’s seat, navigating.  Sometimes you’re in the backseat, watching.  And sometimes you’re bound and gagged in the trunk and have no idea what’s going on. That last one tends to be the kind Guardians need to keep the closest eye on, and is often the most obvious during a ritual.

Raven gave a run down of basic Guardianship rules: 1) always be watching (you have to learn by experience what to watch for, but erratic behaviour is a good start), 2) when someone is possessed, your job is both their safety and the safety of the entire ritual, 3) use whatever senses you’re good at to discern what kind of spirit is present and whether it’s going to play nice with others,  4) research and get to know as many spirits as possible so that you know their personality and preferences, 5) get to know the human attendees as well as possible, including their boundaries and limitations, 6) learn to use your body to catch people without anyone getting hurt, 7) take breaks when you need them, and 8) carry a tool kit.  In that tool kit, she recommended things for helping bring spirits in (like spirit beads and devotional objects), things for helping kick spirits out and grounding the human (like florida water, salt, and iron), and utilities (like bandages, flashlights, and lighters).  If the rite doesn’t have attendants to take care of the spirit once it has possessed a human, then that’s a Guardian’s job, too – keep things like alcohol, food, and tobacco on hand. She ended with a couple of things everyone could do to help trance possessory rituals go more smoothly: things like keeping track of your friends, catching them if they stumble, waving over a Guardian if you need help, and making sure others know their boundaries/limitations.  Water is also helpful, she said: just about everyone who has a possessory experience, even if it’s not very “intense”, will need water afterwards.  I think Glasreo has a lot to think about (even though possessory rites aren’t really his “thing”), and I certainly need to think about how to keep myself safe as I work more closely with Bast and Sekhmet.

That’s it for Days 1 & 2.  Here are Days 3 & 4!

Event, Healing, Reiki, Spiritwork, Workshop

Soul Retrieval Certification!

This past weekend (Jan 13-16), Glasreo and I attended a Soul Retrieval Certification workshop, taught by Monika Healing Coyote, in the neoshamanic healing tradition of Sandra Ingerman and Gryphon’s Grove. It was an INTENSE experience.  Which is part of why it’s taken me this long to blog about it… I’m still pretty heavily processing,but I think it’s time to share!  I’m going to give a brief overview of each day of the class, the topics covered, with more details on any personal insights I gained.  I will probably forget things and miss things because I learned SO MUCH, but hopefully this will be a passable record of my experiences.

 

DAY ONE:

There were six other attendees, plus myself, Glasreo, and our instructor, gathered in her living room.  It was a small room, and a cozy fit, but pleasant.  We did a round of introductions – the usual.  Name, experience level for journeying, healing modalities practiced, why learn soul retrieval?  My answer to the last question was pretty much,
Another Tool in the Toolbox.  I’ve been spirit-led to do soul retrieval on a few reiki clients previously, and I jumped at the chance to learn it more deeply.

We talked a bit about ways to jump in and out of journey space in order to take notes and ask multiple questions, but I already have a system I use for “pausing” journeys in order to do that.  I’ve really found it useful in my reiki practice, because it allows me to receive messages from spirits and look at the energy body deeply, and still talk to the client and be aware of where my body is in relation to theirs and everything else in the room.

Our first journey was to talk to our soul retrieval guides about soul essence and soul loss, on micro and macro levels.  My guides are the same as my main reiki guides: Airmed and Miach, Irish gods of healing.  They gave me imagery that spun up and down on different levels, comparing the soul to the nucleus of an atom, or the star of a solar system – the center that animates the outside (the body).  Many of my classmates also got solar or fire imagery, and most of us also got messages about the soul of an individual being part of a larger soul (and likely made up of smaller souls, as well).  Fractals, spiraling up and down out of our ability to conceive in both directions.  Soul loss, then, can affect us all on many different levels, and it’s as important to do soul retrieval for individuals as it is to do it for groups, the land, and the planet, if you can.

Since we started in the evening and everyone was pretty beat, it was a short session.

 

DAY TWO:

Day two started with us asking our guides for a dismemberment healing, to prepare the way for new energies.  As usual, I dissolved into the water that borders my Waystation island.  It’s very very calming, and a bit less violent than what usually comes to mind for a dismemberment healing, but just as potent.  We talked a bit about my own shadows and blockages, shadow work I need to do and things I need to be aware of as I’m doing this healing work.  Most of it was things I’m already aware of and trying to work on, one or two were new and struck a chord.  Self improvement is never finished, and I’m glad to have their guidance.

Then we talked for a bit, with Monika introducing concepts like client education, confidentiality, consent, other complementary healing modalities, so that we could discuss them and figure out our own paths through this work.  Glasreo and I will probably be combining this work with our reiki practice, first and foremost, and using reiki to both prepare the bodies (physical and etheric) as well as to help with integration afterwards.

The next journey was a pretty intense one – we were to ask our guides for a run-down of our specific method, ie, how we were going to perform soul retrieval with their help.  My particular method requires me using sound to call in nearby pieces, and visiting an underwater (but air-filled) cave to find pieces that get lost.  I see the soul like a little squishy ball of light as I work on it, clearing things out and helping pieces assimilate back in.  After learning our method, and hearing about everyone else’s, Monika paired us up to work on partners.  My partner and I didn’t have any trouble working on each other, and it helped me really cement the method I’d been shown.

We then talked a bit about integration, and how to tell the client what we’d seen, and when it’s best to keep some of the story to ourselves – it’s not a good idea to share something if it will trigger or re-traumatize the client.  It’s better to focus on what the soul pieces are bringing back, rather than focusing on why the left – you want the client to move forward, and heal fully.  We also discussed how different messages come through our filters, and how sometimes a symbol will mean a different thing to us than it does to the client.  It’s okay to just say you’re not sure if the symbology or metaphor is unclear – maybe it will become clear to the client afterwards!  After discussing integration, we did a journey to the soul pieces that were returned, to ask them for their story, and advice moving forward, in order to cement our own integration.

Our last topic was soul theft, and we discussed the topic before journeying to ask our guides how we would handle it as healers, and what we should do to prevent it from happening again.  Monika pointed out that frequently, human-on-human soul theft is a chain that goes pretty far back, and it might be best to go as far back as you can, or until you hit someone dead, to prevent the cycle from recurring.  Most soul theft is unintentional, and the perpetrators often need healing, themselves, but consent can be difficult, so I will probably free pieces and hand them off to someone’s guides or Higher Self, as attempting to put them back into the core soul without consent is likely to get me nowhere, and it’s not very ethical.  Spirits can also steal pieces of soul, or pick up pieces that left and hold on to them, and those may have to be battled or psychopomped, depending on the kind of spirit and how reluctant they are to give up the piece.  I’ll be working with the Morrigna in these cases, though, so I feel ready to do the work.

 

DAY THREE:

The first half of the day was spent on smaller topic discussions: ancestral line soul loss in the client’s family, past lives/reincarnation/soul contracts of the client, working on clients with mental or physical illnesses (especially the limitations of this work to “fix” biological problems – it can help, certainly, but “miracle cures” are incredibly rare), working on clients with addiction issues (and the limitations it puts on healing if they are not Ready, Willing, and Able to change), working on clients remotely (can totally be done, across time and/or space), working on land spirits, working on animals, and group healing ceremonies.

After we discussed animals, we did a small group session on the dog that lived in the house, and we found that some of us were called to do different parts.  For example, I ended up doing mostly gunk removal, from both the core soul and pieces, though I was not guided to gather or integrate more than one piece.  Another classmate was called to gather many pieces but not clean them, and a third was guided to hold space for the rest of us and then finish the integration process.  That led us into the discussion of group healing, and once we had finished all our discussion topics, we did a brief healing on Monika, as well.

The final journey of the day was a discussion (with our guides) of trickery and intrusions, from spirits and thoughtforms and suchlike that could mess with a healing. We were to come up with a system to guard against and deal with these issues.  My personal system is to remain basically the same as what I already do with my guides when working on reiki clients, or when encountering new spirits in journey space, so that was more confirmation for me than anything new.

 

DAY FOUR:

The first half the day was entirely devoted to a discussion on ethics.  We revisited consent and confidentiality, and also covered topics like holding space, moving past our own ego, self-healing work and shadow work, honoring equal exchange, knowing our personal limits, and making sure not to cause dependency, not to hold any healing back from the client.  Monika shared with us her own ethical code, and talked about the code put forth by the Indie Shaman quarterly journal, and we all thought a bit about our own guidelines.  Then, another journey – this time to ask our guides for their input, and to be told what the consequences might be if we broke our oath.  After that, we all participated in a short meditation to release any soul essence that was not ours that we had taken or ended up with, consciously or unconsciously, so that those pieces could find their way home.

After lunch, Monika led a ceremony to call forth many many spirits as witnesses, and we all gave our oaths.  The core of mine is that I will abide by the sacred rules of Hospitality, and I will Put Right what is Wrong. Some things will not be mine to change, and I should never put anything wrong that was right to begin with… It is somewhat difficult to put into terms, but I understand and my spirits understand, and the consequences if break this oath will be immediate and dire, and completely out of my control.

 

OVERVIEW:

I feel like I learned so much, from both the discussions, and the journeys.  It was also really helpful to hear about other people’s journeys, and where everyone else was coming from.  It was one of those times where I’m not sure it could have been replicated with another group of people, because we were all so in sync!  Hopefully Monika will teach the class again – I would highly recommend it to any experienced energy healer.  It’s been a lot to process, but I would do it all over again.  I really think this is going to help deepen my healing practice.

One last thing – before we receive our final certificate, we have to do 1 free soul retrieval healing, so if you’d like to volunteer for that, do let me know.  I’ll probably offer a handful for free to make sure I’ve really integrated what I’ve learned, and then I’ll add it to my reiki bag of tricks and stick it on the menu, so to speak. I’ll be updating the reiki & healing part of the website with more information soon.