Friday, July 31, 2015

Moon of Transformation, Time Between Time

A blessed full blue moon to you. 

This is a time between time, an interval...a punctuation, if you will. A coda, perhaps? The lesson of this moon is transformation in the interstitial spaces, the between times, the dreamtimes. The end of summer draws closer with the grain harvest of Lughanasdh. Lammas Eve is here! Corn King is coming, and he will sacrifice himself with the ripened grain that all may be fed. But for now, Goddess blooms in full summer heat, and the moon hangs heavy in the sky.

May her peace gently transform you, fill your heart with love, and show you the way. Blessed be and naho!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Magical Tools

Making magical tools, ritual items and various related items has long been a passion of mine. In fact, it may very well be one of the most fun aspects of the Craft for me. In my early days, there wasn't much available to purchase, so one had to be resourceful. Yard sales and thrift shops are a good source, and I have found many an item there over the years. I also recall buying several brass items at Pier One Imports as a baby Pagan.

To my mind, though, nothing beats a handmade ritual tool. Today, there are many, many skilled artisans who make sell stock items and take custom orders (myself included). We have Pagan and metaphysical shops in most larger towns and cities, many of whom carry both handmade and mass produced items. What a thing! In my lifetime, we've gone from nothing to mass production. I didn't see that one coming!

We also have historical re-enactment groups from whom to purchase items. Some of these will be specifically Pagan-related, some are just overlapping interests. For example, artisans in the Society for Creative Anachronism make mead horns, which they wear to be historically accurate when portraying northern european personas. But a heathen may use one for ritual purposes. Know your local Renaissance faire and re-enactment group, is what I'm saying. There's a lot of overlap in the community members too, but that's another post.

That's all fantastic, but if you have some gumption, you can make your own magical tools. From many years of experience, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Start small. Try an easy project like a simple altar cloth before busting into a full-scale pair of beaded moccasins, for example.
  2. Know and cater to your strengths. Are you great a knitting? Knit yourself a capelet to wear to rituals! Great with computers? Make your designs online, print them out and transfer them to the object in question. Good at woodworking, but not painting? Make that altar and have a friend paint it for you.
  3. Make it to fit YOU. Symbolism works best when it resonates for you - that is far more important than any rule or book. Consult your guides, ask the Divine, meditate, use divination - do whatever works for you to access your internal wisdom. (Protip: when using symbolism from a book or other source, be SURE you know what it means)
  4. Sharpies are good for marking and embellishing a variety of surfaces, and they take less skill than a paintbrush.
  5. Go out in Nature to find inspiration and materials. Always ask permission to take something and leave an offering in return.
  6. Above all, just get started. Make a realistic goal, and start experimenting. Making anything takes practice, and you'll never get anywhere if you don't try!
Lately I have been on a roll with making magical tools. Here are a few examples of my recent work. Have questions? I'd be happy to answer them and help out!

Elkhide frame drum & mountain laurel beater

Holly wood runes
Hawk & deer archery armguard

Travel egg rattle

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jomeokee, the Great Guide

For several years, I have been wanting to take another vision quest. Each time I tried, something came up and things did not go as I planned. This time, things fell together naturally. I took the son of my spirit on a pilgrimage to Jomeokee last weekend.

Pilot Mountain is in the piedmont of North Carolina. It is the closest mountain to where I live, which some people believe means that it is my protector. The native Saura people called this mountain Jomeokee, which translates to the Great Guide or Pilot. They used this mountain as a landmark to navigate their trade routes. As European settlers entered the area, they did the same - a wagon route was built near its base. The mountain and the land around it were held privately for many years, but it eventually became a state park. As it happens, Pilot Mountain became a state park in the year of my birth, 1976.

"Between one billion and 600 million years ago, the supercontinent Rodinia – which came before Pangea – began to break up. With it, a basin began to widen and formed what was essentially the Atlantic Ocean’s grandfather. This was the Iapetus Ocean. Today, Pilot Mountain marks a point of uplift from the Iapetus Ocean. Essentially, it is Iapetus Ocean seafloor. The ocean existed in the Neoproterozoic and Paleozoic portions of earth’s history, roughly 600 million years ago, so the presence of today’s remaining marker is astonishing." Source

This place was a landmark, a guiding point in early navigation, but it was far more than that. The knob of the mountain is quartzite, which is a metamorphic rock composed essentially of quartz. This ancient megalith, by its very composition, is a giant conductor and amplifier of power. Jomeokee also sits on a convergence of several ley lines, which is called a ley point or vortex. POWER, thy name is Jomeokee!

A few years ago, I met a Native man who is an environmental educator. He told me about taking people up on Pilot Mountain to see the spirit lights and tell the old stories. I didn't remember that until just now, but it is reassuring. Though the Saura people are gone, some Native peoples remember the significance and power of Jomeokee. Legend has it that the Native peoples believed that the mountain and 30 miles around it were holy ground.

We arrived on a Saturday morning, and it was already quite hot. Neither of us were in the mood to talk to officials, so we just drove into the park and followed the signs for the campground. We circled around several times before deciding on a campsite and settling the bill. This was to be a theme for the weekend - spiraling around to the eventual destination. We set up camp and resolved to rest through the heat of the day.

Rain moved in during the afternoon, bringing blessed coolness with it. We had a fun time "trying to stay dry", but we didn't' try very hard. It was delightful. Eventually, we realized that there wasn't much daylight left. There wasn't enough time to walk to the pinnacle from our campsite, though the trail was conveniently in our back yard. Instead, we drove up to the parking lot.

We climbed up to the Little Pinnacle, then took the trail over to the Big Pinnacle, which then circles around the base of the outcropping. We passed a few families, then found plenty of quiet. We must have walked halfway around the knob when I announced that I needed to merge with the mountain. I found a good place and settled in for some meditation. My son was off like a mountain goat, climbing up a crack and away somewhere on the pinnacle itself.

I spoke my thanks to the mountain for allowing me to visit, and offered salt, cornmeal and tobacco. I closed my eyes to better focus on the energy of the place, which was intense yet gentle. I asked the questions I had for the mountain. I drew in its healing power to renew my spirit.

Many natural places in NC feel gentle to me - I think due to their age. The mountains here are old, old old. They are rounded and low, mostly covered with trees. There is a mysterious feeling also, which has driven many of my explorations. Out west, I needed to climb the next peak, see the next vista. I was filled with awe, and often, the mountains there would push me to my limits and beyond. Here in NC, it's more about finding the next hidden treasure, like a grotto or waterfall pool. It's a sense of exploring inward, or perhaps backward in time.

At length, I sensed a presence and opened my eyes to see a large doe no more than 20 yards away. We watched each other for a timeless time, and she moved off out of my sight. A short while later, she or another doe appeared on the left side of my field of vision. I love to visit with the gentle spirits of deer. They are so watchful, so wary, so gentle and graceful, yet they can be fierce when necessary.

For a time, we could not find the trail back to the Little Pinnacle. We resolved to walk around the knob as many times as needed, until the mountain let us go. This was perfectly acceptable to me; it seemed a fitting offering, similar to using prayer beads or offering Yoga practice to the Divine.

Eventually, we made it back. I wandered over to a minor overlook and looked out over the patchwork of homes and farm fields that surround the mountain. There was a great deal of haze, no doubt due to the high humidity, which prevented me from seeing Virginia to the north, or the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west.

I spotted a hawk, and as we watched, it flew closer to us, riding the updrafts along the base of the peak. Filled with joy, I reached out my hand and made a grabbing motion toward the hawk. It's a little idiosyncrasy of mine - I do this when I want something, the way a small child would. At that moment, the hawk flew directly overhead, and froze in midair.

The hawk held its position overhead for what seemed like an eternity. Just hovering. My son and I looked at each other. The hawk hovered.

At last, the hawk moved a bit to the south. We followed and continued to watch. The hawk chose a spot facing west and hovered again. The hawk finally flew into the west and dropped out of sight.

It has taken me a full week to figure out how and what to write about my visit to the Great Guide. It was a powerful experience, and I am so grateful. Not just to the mountain, but to my son. He is so incredibly talented and powerful. I am so proud of the man he is becoming, the person that he is. The mountain sheltered and renewed us, but I may have learned as much from him as I did from the mountain. It is well. I got what I needed.

Blessed be!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ancestral Clearing

Harvesting and eating fresh produce makes me think of my biological family. Both sides of my family were great gardeners, lovers of flowers and backyard picnics. Today I made cucumber and carrot pickles. I was fascinated by the vibrant colors and smells of the chopped veggies and so proud that they were homegrown. It took me right back to summertime at my grandparents' house. We would sit on the back patio and eat dinner together on seemingly endless summer evenings.

A connection to the land and enjoying good food are ancestral patterns that I am perfectly happy to carry on. Others, however…not so much. Shamanic practices can help with healing ancestral patterns.

Ancestral clearing is based on the idea that the experiences, emotions and issues our ancestors experienced are present in our DNA and energetic field. That means that we inherit physical traits and characteristics, but also emotional and behavioral traits or even disorders not linked directly to genes. The theory is that we can partner with shamanic practitioners or channels, who will help us contact our ancestors to work through and release these issues, as well as healing our relationship with ancestors that we knew when they were alive. This work can also be done on one's own, by experienced practitioners.

Shamans tend to travel to the realm of the dead, or some other meeting place, to contact ancestors. Many shamans partner with their ancestors in all of their path working, so ancestral clearing is in my opinion a necessary step in building a healthy relationship. Some shamanic practitioners also guide groups of people through journeys of their own to do this work.

Channels will contact ancestors directly, and sometimes even have ancestors speak or move with the channel's body. They will do the same type of guided process that a shaman does, in healing and making peace with ancestors. In some cases, the channel will cut energetic cords tying you to your ancestors.

Another approach was taught to me by a wonderful African priestess - the Table of Light, which heals and clears ancestral trauma. Here is how to build your own Table of Light:

  1. Designate an altar or small table to this effort; be sure that it is physically clean.
  2. Drape the space with a light colored cloth. (white, yellow, pink or other colors associated with healing and light in your tradition)
  3. Add beautiful, healing objects to the space, like quartz crystals, fresh flowers, etc.
  4. Add as many candles as will fit in the space safely.
  5. Place a glass or bowl of fresh water on the altar.
  6. Write down the names of as many ancestors as you know on a piece of paper. If you know the name of one person, but not their spouse, use their familial title, like Grandmother XXX or what have you. Be sure that you list only deceased relatives. Place the paper on your altar.
  7. Each day for seven days (or use a powerful number in your spiritual system; I think the intent is to show dedication over a period of sustained effort), refresh the water, light the candles, call each ancestor's name three times, and offer prayers of healing. We are holding them in the light and allowing them the opportunity to heal. Reiki or other energy healing is appropriate here as well.
Whatever method you choose, ancestor work is powerful. I remember having an aha moment when that same African priestess said to me - who do you think answers your prayers or requests for help? It is not always the Divine, or an angel - it is your ancestors! Heal them. Release unneeded patterns. Partner with them, and you will be all the stronger for it.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Journeying with the Runes

Writing this blog has been a blessing to me, as have my study group, my old coven, and the Pagan community in general. Participating in discussions forces me to think about and verbalize the practices that I use subconsciously or innately in my life.

What I have overwhelmingly realized is that I don't need to add much of anything to my practice. My life is magical, and has been throughout. It's simply a matter of realizing it on a conscious level, bringing various things under conscious control, and delving more deeply into the well, so to speak.

One thing I have realized is that I get various types of messages. Sometimes it's in the form of a vision; my spirit names have come to me in this way. In both cases, I went into a spontaneous trance and received the name as a vision. Other times, there is a subtle knowing, like when driving, I will often know the next move of a nearby driver, or know that I need to go one way or the other on a familiar route. I also have occasional important dreams that give me some necessary information.

At other times, I go out on spiritual journeys. Occasionally, I have done this on purpose, but most often, it has again happened spontaneously. Early in my Pagan career, I practiced straight astral projection. That’s not what I’m doing now. This is definitely in the realm of the shaman, what I would call journeywork. Is it still my astral body? Christopher Penczak writes that shamanic journeying is “more than astral”, that it is whole-being, soul or psychic projection. Honestly, I don’t know. An interesting question, to be sure, but not a vital one for practitioners.

What happens for me is that I go to my inner temple – a special place within. I honor each element there, then perform whatever work is needed that day. When it’s time for a journey, I shapeshift. Usually, I change into a hawk and take flight. I fly first over the trees that surround my inner temple, then to the nearby river. The river takes me where I need to go.

My current project is to systematize my journeywork. I was blessed to meet a local eclectic oracular group who have been heavily influenced by seidr, the norse shamanism and magical work. The workshop in which I participated included direct experience. We went on a trance journey through the world tree and looked into the well of Mimir for answers. We later went into trance and answered questions ourselves. This was surprisingly easy and powerful for me. At first, it was very hard to speak what I was experiencing/seeing/feeling. My jaws felt frozen and my tongue wooden. After some timeless time, I spoke, and it began easier the more that I did it.

Afterwards, I was set afire with incorporating the runes into my journeywork. I have been a woman obsessed, researching and reading, dreaming and creating my own ways. This is the next logical step in my journey with the runes.

At this point, I don’t yet know if my journeying will lead to oracular work. Maybe. Maybe not, though. One can also work magic in the other realms, do healing work, explore, battle and many other things. So far, most of my travels have been in the middle realm – here on Earth. In the future, who knows?

It seems that it’s time for another vision quest. It’s been a while. I know that I have some unfinished business with a certain hilltop grove.

As I get older, I see that spiritual life…maybe all of life, is about re-discovering truths that we know deep in the center of our beings. It's not really about learning, or getting new truths or insights. No, instead, it is becoming aware of our multitude of talents, traits, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. Learning is essential to this process, but often, the things that resonate most deeply with me when I learn something new…this is a thing that I remember. It may be a faint, far-off echo within my being, like a memory of a dream…but when examined, the call grows stronger, louder and clearer…like the tolling of a pure bell. A bell that rings with truth.