Celtic Polytheism, fae, Paganism, Spellwork, Spiritwork

Riders on a Baleful Wind, and a Charm to Keep Them at Bay

This time of year, between the autumnal equinox and Samhain, is when I notice the most activity from a loose grouping of spirits I’ve begun to refer to as Riders on a Baleful Wind. I’m referring both to the Wild Hunt ⁠(or, really, Hunts, plural) and also to some of the Fair Folk⁠—trooping fairies who travel near these dates*, and groups like the slua sí, who are also associated with wind or storms, and overlap somewhat with the folkloric Wild Hunt.

As a folklore motif and a mythological archetype, the Wild Hunt is prevalent across much of Northwestern Europe, and the Hunt of each region has its own leader. Often these leaders are Pre-Christian deities associated with war or death, like Odin/Woden and Gwyn Ap Nudd. Other times they’re figures associated with the aos sí, like Manannán Mac Lir, or they’re said to be famous ghosts, like Herne the Hunter. These folk tales came with European Immigrants to the Americas as well, and here the Hunt is sometimes known as the Ghost Riders. (Some of you will be familiar with the song, I imagine.) Besides the leader, who or what exactly the rest of the company is varies from tale to tale. Sometimes they are human dead, sometimes they’re said to be fairies or demons, but most frequently these groups seem to be something of a motley crew. The overlapping circles of the Fair Folk, the Gods, and the Dead are difficult to pick apart, and it’s especially difficult to draw any clear lines when we’re looking at the Wild Hunt and related groups of weather-riding unfriendly otherworldly beings.

Unfriendly and intimidating though they may seem, not all of them are actually malevolent. That’s why I term them “baleful”, not “baneful”, and each individual group poses a different type and level of danger. Malevolent or not, however, they’re generally not spirits most witches want in or around their homes or places of business, and with that in mind I’ve been working on a charm object to add a little additional protection to whatever wards you already have in place.

Warding Charm

The charm itself is fairly small and would easily blend into an autumn wreath. The ingredients are pretty simple as well: a sweetgum ball, some red yarn, and iron water.

SWEETGUM BALL: One per charm, dried, preferably with the stem attached.

Part of the work I’ve been doing with the Ogham for the past two years (or more, really, but I think it was two years ago that I really started diving in deeply in a structured way) is finding local plants that have similar energy to the plants of the tree ogham list.** Sweetgum, a tree indigenous to my area, has an energy that I think is similar in some important ways to Blackthorn. While it doesn’t have thorns, it does have spiky seed balls, and its sweet-scented sap, like blackthorn sloes, is actually very bitter tasting. Additionally, it’s a favored food of luna moth caterpillars, an insect I have long associated with nocturnal fairy beings. Blackthorn is sometimes said to belong to or to ward off the Othercrowd, and I find Sweetgum fits that niche as well. I have since learned that sweetgum balls are also used in hoodoo for protection, which dovetails nicely with both my experience of the tree, and this charm.

RED YARN: Or thread, I suppose. Enough to wrap around the sweetgum ball twice at perpendicular intersections, and tie off to leave tails for hanging.

I decided to spin my own yarn. I’ve wanted to learn to spin for a long time, but until recently thought I was allergic to wool. It turns out, I’m probably reacting to a chemical used in the commercial processing, because I did a test with a friend’s fleece-to-homespun and had no redness, no itching, no bumps, no hives! Excited, I borrowed a drop spindle and purchased some red-dyed roving from an artisan supplier. They included a sample of some other colors and I used that to figure out a technique for spinning. That way, once I started on the red roving, I could focus more on spinning my intent and my power into the yarn, instead of still figuring out what the heck I was doing. If you don’t spin, I recommend braiding embroidery floss as a good alternative for adding your intent and power to the string. Something like: I’m a badass witch and I protect this space; I decide who enters and who the wards keep out.

Iron Water: Soak some nails in water with a little splash of apple cider vinegar for a few days. When it’s ready, dip the sweetgum ball, yarn and all, into the water and let it get saturated.

I doubt I need to tell most of my readers that iron is known to ward off the Fair Folk, but just in case you need the refresher: that’s why we’re using iron water. You could also stick those very nails into this charm if you wanted, but that’s a bit stronger than I wanted for my personal charms, and it would be a little too strong for some allies I don’t want to keep out. I wanted something vaguely iron scented. Enough iron to say that I know what I’m about, but not enough iron to deeply offend those who are welcome across my threshold.

This is also probably a good time to tell you that this charm, as I’ve made it, is basically a “No Tresspassing” sign. It’s not going to do much good if it’s your only line of defense. If you have decent house wards, though, and gods or allies you can turn to in times of need, that sign will be enough to make those Riders more inclined to go around, rather than through. There are fewer obstacles elsewhere, and easier prey to be found. As with most predators, that’s usually enough, as long as you don’t provoke them.

* Though the ones who travel near the autumnal equinox may be following the Pleiades, not the equinox. See Morgan Daimler’s recent writings on that for more information.

** Nota Bene: The Ogham is an alphabet, and it’s not just about trees. Trees are one of the ogham lists. There’s also word ogham, skill ogham, bird ogham, even dog and waterway ogham. Eventually I’ll make my own local herb and bird and waterways lists, too, and maybe a modern skills ogham. But a lot of my general witchy practice includes work with plants, so trees seemed like a good place to start.

fae, Holiday Celebration

Our Midsummer, and Working Intuitively

Midsummer, for us, is a celebration of Manannan and Fand. Last year we got down to the waterfront, but this year we stayed closer to home. We made a simple offering of an apple, some cheese (we were having grilled cheese for dinner), a fruity summer alcohol, and their candle, placed on our table and lit.

After dinner, we went to our plot in the community garden a few blocks away, where I *finally* got the weeding done (we’d had an explosion of something I didn’t manage to identify earlier), and did a bit of gathering. I brought home this mugwort and lavender to dry, along with a few other herbs, all harvested with a ceramic knife.

This is also an important time for the Fair Folk, and it does seem that whatever carnival shenanigans were going on earlier this summer are now over, and I’m a bit relieved.

I’m not exactly sure why I needed to harvest these herbs on Midsummer’s Day as the day waned, or what exactly I’m meant to do with them, but the ingredients seem to be a dreamwork blend of some sort, and I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I got a nudge, and I followed it. Story of my life, really. I do most of my witchcraft by intuition, trusting that I’ll figure it out as I learn by doing. Sometimes it all becomes clear later, when someone pops into my life, desperately needing something I made months earlier and then stashed in a cabinet!

fae, Spiritwork

Faery Weather Report: Beltaine

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but last night I was meeting with some of my local witches, working on a small-but-growing pagan community at our local UU church, and as the conversation drifted, one of them asked if things had been weird for others, as it seemed to them that there’d been an uptick in spirit activity, especially of the chaotic and dangerous sort. Others agreed, and though I hadn’t really noticed a change, my daily life is mostly lived inside my own wards, and wherever else I go I can’t help but notice a flurry of spirit activity unless I specifically shield it out. For better or for worse, my particular brand of Senses mean that I very rarely experience the Veil the way I usually hear others talk about it. So I took a moment to check in with my local allies among the Fair Folk, and the response was swift and somewhat amused at my lack of awareness.

I was told that, yes, the Borders were Open. Fae were riding and rioting like they normally do at Beltaine, only it had begun with the first sliver of crescent moon in April (approximately the 7th), and it would continue until the very last crescent was lost to darkness in June (approximately the 2nd)… or perhaps beyond. Topsy Turvy time was upon us, and Lawlessness, and all things were allowed during the extended carnival.

While that might sound fun, for humans it is Bad News. Capricious at the best of times, fae unrestrained by anything resembling rules of engagement are incredibly unpredictable. And unpredictable could mean anything from general bad luck and milk souring to getting distracted at the wrong moment and dying in a freak accident. In my experience, that’s one of their favorite ways to steal children and pregnant people in our modern world: accidental deaths.

So: shield yourself, your family. Ward your home, your vehicle, your place of business. Get some iron and rowan. Look to folklore. Be careful out there.

I do not know how far afield this warning stays true, but it applies at the very least to the Potomac River watershed, and I have corroboration from a colleague in Baltimore that it’s true up there as well. So likely for most of DelMarVa, DC, parts of PA and WV. I would not be surprised if it’s more global than that but I have no evidence one way or the other. If you have contacts among the Fair Folk local to you, I suggest you check in with them. (It’s good praxis anyway, to check on anything a fellow witch tells you, yes? Yes.) At the very least check in with your guides or do a bit of divination, to get specifics on how things may affect you.

I’ll be camping for Beltaine next weekend so I will not be available after the 2nd, but before then I’m happy to answer questions or offer advice. I’m not the only one who does this work, though – chances are you already know someone. Ask around.

If you’ll be at Fertile Ground Gathering in Triangle, VA, however, I’ll see you there on Friday and Saturday!

Spiritwork

A Call to Action

I want you to know that I hesitated to write this blog, Dear Reader.  I want you to know that I have been struggling with it all afternoon and have been turning it around and around in circles in my head because I was afraid of what you might think.  Afraid you might think I’m writing this for the fame, for the drama, because I’m paranoid, because I think I’m the ultimate witch.  But no.  I wouldn’t have written this at all if I hadn’t been called the fuck out by a deck of cards I used to ask Na Morrigna for clarification.  “What should I do?” I asked.  Do I really need to tell others about the working I’ve done?  Do I need to share my UPG?  It’s very, very, deeply, woo.  I had hoped the answer would be No, that They would tell me I’d done enough in bringing the situation to the attention of a few key groups and networks.  But, alas.  “You agreed to be our Priestess.” They said.  “You agreed to help organize the Warriors.” They said.  “So DO YOUR FUCKING JOB.”  I didn’t argue.  I wrote the blog. Here it is.

Today, I got a news alert from NPR.  That is not unusual.  The news alert said that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had missed a day of arguments.  That is unusual.  Very unusual.  It has never happened before in her entire career.  I immediately had a Bad Feeling, and while I initially thought it was a bad feeling of the usual sort, it remained seared into my brain until I had a quiet moment to check in with my gods and guides and as soon as I was paying attention, they roared DO SOMETHING.  This was not a normal feeling, this was not a normal occurrence – something beyond the mundane had happened.  So, as is my usual inclination, I first sought more information.  I did not have much time just then, so my first dive into trance was shallow, only enough to touch base a little deeper with my allies.  The message they had for me was fairly clear, though: banework had been thrown, likely by a group as a concerted effort, and not only at RBG, but also at Sotomayor and several members of Congress, particularly concentrating on a few newly-elected progressive women of color.  Na Morrigna were also waiting for me, and their message was brief: Activate your Networks.

So, I began to spread the message.  I posted the news article and suggestions or requests for curse-breaking, healing, and protective magical workings, in several different places.  Practice and study groups on facebook, on my witchy tumblrs, even a few private messages.  I kept it close to home, so to speak, within circles where people already know me, and are already more or less familiar with who I am and the work I do.  Some people responded back, and one in particular launched immediately into their own investigation and working, and then discussed with me at length the messages they were receiving – many of which confirmed my own.

My own working had to wait until I had enough time to focus, which did not occur until my toddler went down for a nap. (Ah yes, the joys of stay-at-home parenthood.)  I began with almost a dozen candles to various deities and spirits, including DC land spirits, the Potomac River, my ancestors, and the ancestors of those targeted, with pleas for help and aid.  I’m a devotional polytheist, and that’s where I usually begin.  Bast and Sekhmet as Eyes of Ra.  Be Chuille and Dinand, the sorceresses of the Tuatha De Danann.  The three Morrigna.  Apollo.  Athena Columbia, Elutheria, Dike, Nike.  I pledged, I pleaded, I offered, I cried.

And then I made myself comfortable on my couch, I set up my meditation music, and crossed into the Otherworlds.  I began, as I usually do, in the Waystation, my home in the Otherworlds.  There is a shrine in that space, a sanctuary in the middle of a sanctuary, where the being I call StarFlower, the Fairy Queen to whom I am bound, does workings Over There.  She joined her powers to what I had begun, and replicated the candles I lit to increase the strength of their call.  She also created protection spell candles for those most severely affected by the baneworking, and stuck them in her eternal flame, to keep them ever-burning until such a time as they are no longer necessary.

Then, we spoke to her mother, Be Chuille, and asked what she could do.  As we have done before on a smaller scale, Be Chuille used my body – my human, incarnated body – as an anchor in time and space, to help Her move more easily to where work needed to be done.  And then move She did: bindings and banework turned to vines in Her hand and then withered, died, and became the damp detritus of the forest floor.  This fed the land spirits, who rose to Her call and ate away larger vines wrapped around buildings, and I came to understand how it had been cast.  The casters knew where the targets would be (the Supreme Court, the Capitol Building) and cast it there to wait to ensnare the targets when they came by.  But I watched Be Chuille remove vines from children, spouses, family members, and supporters as well as representatives – the traps had been set wide and imprecise.  (I wondered, then, if that was a side effect of people casting magic with prayer and intent but without the full knowledge of what they are doing.)  There were so many baneful ropes, though, and Be Chuille was more focused on removing them from those who had not been directly targeted.

Dinand arrived, then, speaking to the spirit I know as the Lady of the Potomac River, a land spirit I consider to be a local goddess. They discussed the need for a storm, for precipitation to help wash the leftover energy away, and to dissolve any that remained after being removed.  When I was back to myself later, I shared that with a fellow practitioner who has a close relationship with Gwyn Ap Nudd and His Wild Hunt, especially as they relate to storms, and they agreed to talk to Him.  I was told that Gwyn agreed there was a need for a cleansing storm, and He reiterated a need for human practitioners to do work alongside His own, to tip the balance.

StarFlower collected me again then, and she began working more deeply on RBG, Sotomayor, Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Kyrsten Sinema, and perhaps others.  I assisted as she disentangled banework from blessing, and drew the banework out, allowing the blessings to move closer to their skin.  She snipped the fine threads of banework – my brain supplied the visualization of a scissors – working methodically until she had removed as much as she could easily find.  I got the sense that time was distorted – as long as human practitioners do their work in the next few days, we will all be working side-by-side, at the same “time” and in the same “place”.  As she worked she began to shine more and more brightly, until she finished and then blossomed into the star that is the reason for the use-name I know her by.  What stars do is their own business, but it seemed she was still working on cleansing, just on a grander scale.  Dispelling the Glamours Gwendolyn Reece discusses, perhaps.  Things distorted beyond my ability to easily recount what I witnessed before she returned to her more normal size and shape.

After that I was handed over to Na Morrigna, as has lately been my position, and They transformed me into one corvid in a flock, swirling in the air, towards I knew not what, at first.  When we arrived, however, it became more clear.  I saw something that had a humanoid shape and glowed uncannily, and yet seemed not to be a natural being – it felt more like clockwork, like an android, like a computer program.  I can only imagine it to have been something like an egregore, yet those are somewhat outside my realm of expertise.  Whatever it was, however, it is no more.  Na Morrigna gave a battle cry, and we all descended upon it.  Corvids, carrion birds, and birds of prey clawed and pecked, while wolves and other four-legged creatures tore with claws and teeth, and the thing was destroyed.  Many of the spirit-creatures then ate of the flesh of the thing, which fell into the shape of a horse once mortally wounded.  Once they had their fill, the remaining flesh melted into slimy water, now fertility for the soil.  I returned to the Waystation, and then I returned to myself, on my couch, my head reeling.

Food became necessary, but was not nearly enough to ground me.  My toddler awoke and that helped to focus me some, and when my husband returned home, he assisted more, but I still felt the pull of unfinished business… until I sat down, riffled my cards, and asked the Morrigna if I had done enough, if I really needed to do more.

And the answer to that, of course, is at the top of this post.

Consider this your call to action.  Do what you can, be it curse-breaking, healing, protection, storm-calling, or simply lighting a candle and praying for divine assistance.  If you have a favorite deity of justice or healing, go to them.  If not, ask assistance of the one in your favorite pantheon, or turn to someone I mentioned above.  Do what you can, and do it now.

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

Witches’ Sabbat: Meeting the White Lady

I have been trying to write this for more than a month, now, but every time I do, I hesitate. I am uncertain how much of the story is truly mine to tell. Today I am trying something new: I have asked the White Lady herself to join me, to watch what I write over my shoulder, and to tell me when things must be struck from the record. So here is the story, somewhat abridged. But first, a warning: be careful, witches, when you consort with the Fair Folk, for you may have wondrous experiences, yet be unable to tell the full story to another living soul.

This is the story of how I came to meet one of the Gentry in the woods in Canada, this past Memorial Day Weekend. As I have said in previous blogs, I was there attending The Witches Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll, near Ottawa. Our weekend centered on fairylore, especially Fairy Queens and the Wild Hunt, and as part of my personal work, I wished to meet the Locals, whoever would consent to meet me. To that end, I spent a free part of an afternoon wandering the area, looking for a sign.

Near the Birch Grove, I saw two mourning doves, who turned to look at me, and a chill went down my spine. I knew, somehow, that these were my heralds, come to lead me to the place I was seeking. And so I followed them, as they flew always a small way ahead of me, in a large anti-clockwise circle, and then they cooed at me and flew together over a clearing ahead of me, and then into the treetops and were gone. I entered the clearing, uncertain of what the next step would be, when I saw in front of me, dead in the center of the clearing, a bright blue damselfly sunning itself on a rock. I approached it, and it, too, flew in a circle, clockwise this time, before stopping almost exactly where it was before. It seemed to be waiting, so I poured a tiny bit of the mead I had brought as an offering, and when I got up from doing so, I noticed a trail leading out of the clearing. I walked in that direction, and it did not continue very far, but as it was disappearing, I came across a small hillock of some variety, and there perched on it was yet another damselfly, this one dark blue, and the hillock was surrounded by blooming wild strawberry vines.

On that hillock, I poured out the mead I had brought, and I sat and let my awareness open. While I sat there, I became aware that I needed to uncover my head, and that more than the mead was required in offering – whoever had agreed to meet me wanted a blood offering. I might have refused, but as I was suddenly swarmed by mosquitoes (who just as suddenly left), it was not a negotiable point. Blood was given. A clay-colored sparrow buzzed loudly. And I was allowed to See. My vision shifted, another scene began to overlay the hillock in the afternoon sun, and I slowly found myself in journey space.

I was standing, dressed in formal clothing in a wooden building, some type of outpost hall. In front of me stood two beings, drinking glasses of the mead I had poured out earlier. At first, they were both somewhat shrouded from me, cloaked in glamours, until I introduced myself and explained my purpose. A second call from the sparrow signaled an understanding and acceptance, and the glamours dropped from the being closest to me. Revealed, now, I could see she was tall, and very pale, with a sharpness to her features that spoke both of her otherworldliness and her viciousness. Her hair was long, straight, and white-blonde, and her clothing was also white, and seemed to glow. Describing it now, the words sound like Galadriel, but no. Her postures were active, dynamic, almost predatory, and certainly powerfully confident – nothing like the serene and benevolent Lady of Lothlorien. She was cold, not golden, and her white was more like the white of birch trees and of snow, though it did not seem to me that she had a seasonal alignment, like some others I have met. She told me something I did not understand, in response to my attempting to mentally categorize her, and when my confusion showed, she laughed and told me to attend Erik Lacharity’s workshop on French Canadian fairylore. Later, I learned that the almost-Scandinavian vibe I had been trying to categorize was partially right – whatever type of being she was, she hailed from Normandy (either originally or by heritage), and others like her were known in the lore of immigrants from Normandy that had settled in the area.

The other figure, still shrouded from me, was her consort, as I began to understand. The White Lady did not wish outsiders to look upon her consort, in order to keep the consort safe. I cannot give any defining characteristics of this being, save that the consort is part of the reason for the long version of the name of Raven’s Knoll campground. Having met and introduced myself to the White Lady, and learned what I could of her, I then asked if I was free to take my leave. The sparrow called once more in response, and I rose to go, leaving for my campsite taking a more direct route than I had when arriving.

On Saturday, during a break, I went down to the river to talk to the Lady Bonnechere, whom we had selected as our Fairy Queen for the ritual, and I spent a few minutes talking with both her and the White Lady. It seemed that the White Lady was a client of the River, the sovereign of a small territory beneath the Bonnechere’s domain. I attempted to share our plans for the ritual, for approval, and was given some insight that I took back to the group.

During the ritual itself that night, I spent much of the time talking to the White Lady as we walked anti-clockwise around the fire, telling her of my personal practice, painting a picture of my local community in large brush strokes, and other such things. I am certain there is much of that conversation I have forgotten, but the feeling of the conversation will stay with me. I do think I have made a new but lasting contact among the Gentry, and I find that even here, hours by car to the south of where I met her, I can still feel her presence when I wish to communicate with her. I am glad to have met her.

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!

Spiritwork, Uncategorized

It has been a while…

…since last I posted, and there are probably things I ought to catch up on (my Wep Ronpet, for one) but for today I am stopping in to write up something a bit more time sensitive: my first Unseelie Weather Report for the year.

Once again I went to see the Morrigna to ask them about the baton pass this equinox, and for the general themes of the coming autumn and winter.  What I was shown, briefly, is that the baton pass will go smoothly, but then the power transfer will cause an explosion of sorts, with the more feral types and the Wild Hunt(s) racing across the skies. It’s likely to be sensed as turbulence by sensitives, and may cause storms: thunderstorms, maybe even tornados and hurricanes. There may also be political “storms” (as above so below).  I did not see the blanket of snow this year, though – I was instead shown ice. Ice storms, freezing rain, hail, sleet – less visually arresting than huge piles of snow, perhaps, but just as dangerous.

Be careful, everyone. Stick together, watch your footing, and try not to slip on the ice.

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.

 

Other Updates, Spiritwork

Discernment

This past weekend, Glasreo and I attended an informal pagan discussion hosted by the Fellowship Beyond the Star, on the topic of discernment.  It was a very fruitful discussion, starting with general definitions and then branching off into individual stories of encounters and omens and general spirit work and work with deities.  It was fun to hear other people’s stories, and helpful for all of us to have others’ insight into our experiences.  In general, the discussion of discernment hinged on a couple of key points:

  1. Ruling out mundane causes.  This is a big one.  Sometimes a flock of crows is just a flock of crows, sometimes candles fall over, sometimes your air vents cause incense smoke to move a certain way.  Chances are, if it’s something pretty normal or totally plausible, it’s not a sign of something more.  It’s a good idea to learn as much about the science of whatever you’re working with as possible, and to get to know your environment.  Seeing a heron isn’t unusual if you’re near a body of water – but you might think it is unusual if you don’t know that there’s water nearby!  However, it’s important to know that you can’t ever rule out mundane causes 100%.  What you should aim to do is figure out whether what you’ve witnessed is unusual or common.  Unusual things may just be an omen!  This also applies to trancework: if you’re doing journeywork or astral travelling or something like that, and you aren’t sure whether what you’re experiencing is something you made up or insight you’re receiving, ask yourself whether the patterns are unusual  or common.  If you were going to daydream about the topic, is this what you would probably come up with?  Does everything seem expected, do you feel like it’s all something you’ve already known?  Then you’re likely to still be inside your imagination.  If something unexpected occurs or doesn’t go the way you’re trying to create it, that’s probably coming from somewhere outside yourself.
  2. Trusting one’s intuition.  At some point after you’ve examined the possibility of mundane causes, you need to think about how you feel, in general.  Sometimes a very common thing can be an omen anyway because it’s what you needed, or because the timing was exactly perfect.  If you feel strongly that it’s an omen, or that you’re receiving insight from outside yourself, and it’s not just wishful thinking, you probably are.  Learning to tell wishful thinking from truth requires a lot of practice evaluating your own thoughts and that can be hard, but the self-awareness that comes with that struggle is very much worth the end result.  You’ll learn to trust your intuition and in doing so, trust yourself and your experiences.  It can really deepen your practice to not be second-guessing yourself constantly.
  3. Using lore as a guideline.  Lore is really useful if you’re getting messages from deities or other lore-known spirits.  You can look up their animal associations, get a sense of their looks or personality, or other things and check those details against the information you’re getting.  Lining up 100% isn’t required for you to be correct, but nothing should be huge and glaringly contradictory.  Blonde vs brunette is probably fine; mountain associations instead of lake associations might be a bit too far.
  4. Using divination to double check the message. If you can, it’s always a good idea to do divination or to ask someone else to do divination for you and ask “Am I seeing things clearly?” or “Is the message coming from X deity?” or, “Am I really supposed to do Y thing?” to double check that you’re getting the message from who you think you are, and that it’s trying to tell you what you think it is.  Divination can also be helpful if the message is clear but vague: you can ask how or when, and get more information.  Be careful if you’re divining for yourself, though, that you’re not falling victim to wishful thinking (yep, there’s that little gremlin again).
  5. Asking for further signs or repetition.  One of the best ways to figure out if you’re really getting messages from spirits when they’re jumbled and unclear is to ask for some kind of unusual, specific sign.  Don’t make it something impossible, but make sure that it really is something unusual, that you’ll notice and pick up on.  You can ask for a certain number of something like birds, or ask to see a specific animal on your drive to work, or something like that.  It might be a good idea to give it a deadline, too, so that you’re not waiting forever and wondering if the answer is just “no”.  Repetition, whether you asked for it or not, can also be an indication that something is really a message.  Maybe there’s a cardinal nesting near your house, so seeing that one isn’t unusual, but throughout the day you see another 5 or 6 cardinals all over the city and there are pictures of cardinals indoors as well – if you feel like you’re being stalked by something, it may very well be a sign!
  6. Journaling.  One of the best things you can do when you receive a message or something you think might be a message or just witness something really unusual is to write it down!  Maybe it was a message, but it will only make sense after the fact.  Maybe the message is in the repetition, but until you write it down you don’t realize that you only really ever see crows on Wednesdays.  Even if you are sure it’s a message and you know who it’s from and what it means, it’s still a good idea to record it, since a lot of the messages will make even more sense with time.  That was you can also keep track of how different spirits and deities usually approach you with new messages, too, and it can help you figure out if things are messages or not much more quickly!

Hopefully this all makes sense to you, and maybe it’ll even help some of you – it certainly helped me to discuss it and write it all out!