Thursday, August 27, 2015

Primitive Instruments

Frame Drum
Some people collect handbags, or action figures...and some people collect primitive instruments. Wherever I go, I'm drawn like a magnet to any sort of flute, drum, rattle or unrecognizable musical instrument made of natural materials. Over the years, I've made several, and I'm sure this trend will continue.

Amusingly, I didn't think of myself as a musician for most of my life, despite the fact that I own and play many an instrument. Nor did I have any idea what this fascination was really about for me.

Egg rattle
When I learned to play guitar, I began to notice how the vibrations made me feel better. I remarked on this to my teacher, who was nonplussed. "Duh, why do you think we make music?" - a paraphrase of his view of the matter. In those days, it was one of my main reasons for playing, but I didn't think of the larger implications.

Rain Stick
The further along I got with my singing, the more I started to see the light. Music is sound healing, sound therapy. Singing, especially, has been a big part of my personal healing process. It helped me to address issues with first and third chakras. It has also acted as an indicator of my progress - my ability to sing has progressed the more that I heal, whether or not I have been practicing.

Gourd rattle
Bull Roarer
But back to primitive instruments. Might not our ancestors have recognized the healing properties of music? Certainly they used music as a method to alter consciousness. Shamans use sound to induce trance states for healing, journeywork, and oracular work. So surely, the makers of these primitive instruments must have known on some level about the healing vibration of sound. How cool is that?

"The Baconator" native flute
In my mundane life, I work as a healer. I'm a massage therapist, yoga therapist and reiki master. All of this work, regardless of modality, is about moving energy. To boil it down to essentials, I try to remove blockages in people's energy so that they can heal themselves. Take away all the fancy lingo, the certifications, the licensures...and that's what I really do.

Conch Shell Horn
Turtle rattle talking stick
Bamboo flute walking stick
Wood shakers
Now it makes sense - I'm a shaman and a healer, and I love the vibration of sound. That means more music for everybody! More singing, more chanting, more drumming, more dancing! And soon, I'll be offering my own trance journey/sound healing sessions. I'll keep you posted, internets.

Meanwhile, check out all these neat instruments. What do you play? Drop me a comment, I'd love to hear about your experiences with primitive instruments, sound healing and shamanic work!
Turtle ocarina

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wild Woman Rising

Wk 3- August 17: Deity and the Divine – This will be the third week’s topic every month and an opportunity for you to share with everyone those who guide, inspire and inform you. Tell us about your favorite Deity of Learning or Harvest this week!
I spent last week with a tribe of wild women at Women's Wilderness Workshop 2015. This event is a four day gathering of women, a transformative and joyous adventure in learning, and a deep retreat in nature. Our teachings focus on skills to bring one closer to the Earth, skills to both survive and thrive on your earthwalk, including things like hide tanning, fire making, basketry, harvesting animals, herbal medicine, Yoga, belly dance, and spiritual tools.

Each day, I rose at dawn to teach a Yoga class, then taught my Meditative Archery in the afternoon. In the evenings, I helped to lead our ceremonies in the moon lodge and around the fire. In my (*cough cough*) spare time, I revelled in our beautiful community and learned new things for myself. It was a busy, full week that I am still unpacking mentally and emotionally.

Together, we built a sacred wild woman sculpture, a kudzu goddess. She was a bit taller than a person, with a wood and kudzu frame, a head covered with burlap, flowers for eyes, and ah, what was the word...she was anatomically vivacious. She was complete, I hear, with aureoli, a yoni and luscious buttocks. I didn't check underneath her sarong, but I trust in the sisters who constructed her. We all contributed something to her being, whether it was a borrowed piece of finery, a birch branch, a trailing garland of kudzu, or a clothespin infused with our essence.

Our Sacred Wild Woman presided over our ceremony by the fire on our closing night, the New Moon in August, the Healing Moon, the Harvest Moon. We called out to the five sacred things - air, fire, water, earth and spirit. We drummed, danced and sang. We did many a thing not to be spoken of outside the circle. It was a beautiful and sacred occasion, to me made all the sweeter by the collaboration of the musicians, facilitators and our lovely celebrants.

Several people said afterwards that the Wild Woman loomed over us during the ritual, seemingly ten feet
tall. Dear friends, you and I know that Goddess entered our sculpture. We chose to call her "wild woman" because the gathering included women of many faiths. That doesn't matter; it is true that she personified the archetype of wild woman. Regardless, She is what She is, no matter what name by which She is known. Whether Goddess enters a living priestess or a sculpture like this one, She stands tall, filled with power that crackles like summer lightning, lifting the hair on the back of our necks. And so it was.

There is so much more to say about this gathering, of tremendous vulnerability and strength, power and curiosity, creativity and healing, community and many beautiful things, moments, people. But I find it hard to write about; perhaps it is just something that must be experienced.

One more thing I will discuss: this event and others like it are important. It is valuable for those who are just beginning to see another way of living. It is valuable for Pagans who struggle with their connection to the natural world - of these, I have met so many; but that is a story for another day. It is valuable for women who struggle with their identity as women. It is valuable for women who struggle with their relationship to other women. It is valuable for those who have knowledge to share. It is valuable for those who are searching. It is valuable for us all in some way.

One of our sisters, a woman of color who lives in an urban area, spoke of her struggle to find her place in this community. She is not particularly outdoorsy, does not teach survival skills...she wondered if she belongs with us, why she is drawn to this community. She asked us to share why this event is important to each of us, so that she could better understand her own place within it.

My answer is this: our world is at a crisis point. We are on the brink of ecological disaster and possibly a financial collapse of unprecedented scale. Maybe. Or perhaps we are not, but it is certainly true that things are dire in many respects. People speak of political change, of laws and regulations. It is true that governments need to take action.

But I am starting to see another truth. We need cultural regeneration, especially in my home country, the USA, but in many, many parts of the world as well. Without a change in our collective consciousness, a shift in the zeitgeist of our age, mere regulations will not fix the problems that we face today. We must realize our place as citizens of the global ecosystem, and as stewards tasked with its preservation. We must rise above the use of force to settle our disagreements. We must heal ourselves of our greed and selfishness. We must work together to create global change.

With all love and respect for men, I believe that this cultural healing may need to come from women. Are we not the keepers of life? Are we not the preservers of beauty and culture in times of natural disaster and war? How else can we heal from the wounds of patriarchy? Who better to bring forth something new?

So we begin with healing the relationships between women. We continue the work of our mothers and grandmothers. They stand behind us as we reclaim our connection with Mother Earth, with Gaia, with Pachamama, with Goddess, and by doing so, we reclaim our power. We heal ourselves, and by doing so, we heal womankind as a whole.

Each woman that is healed becomes whole, and she can birth a new life who will stand on her shoulders to take the work further. As creators of life, women must lead the way as we heal our families, our communities, our tribes, our nations...our world.

What do you think? Have I flown off into flights of feminist fancy? It seems strange to me that I would now be writing such a post. For most of my adult life, I have not identified with the feminist movement.

Instead, I have called myself a humanist. I have thought that our task is to stop focusing on gender and start focusing on becoming the best human beings that we can be. Age and experience have taught me that this is naive. We are not past feminism yet. Not while human trafficking still exists. Not while women are treated as chattel by religious extremists. Not while men are oppressed by their gender roles. Not while animals are treated as objects. Not while we exploit our natural resources, our sacred home, the Earth. No, patriarchy is still in place, and it harms all of us - all genders, all sexual orientations.

Here in the US, the foundations of patriarchy are wobbling. We have a black president who, while a product of our flawed political system, is making historic changes. A man who fights for the equality of all. A president who, in this twilight of his final term, seems to give no fucks at all about his many naysayers. A man who is charging ahead, making every effort he can with the power that remains to him.

The cultural backlash is severe at this time. I have said many times that the cultural war has been won, and this agitation we now see is the result of the old guard making a last ditch effort to turn the tide. Let it be so. Let their hysterical cries of fear and hatred die with them. Let the oligarchy die with them as well. Now more than ever, we need democracy. We need change, and we need something new.

At the end of our magical conference, our convocation of wild women, we did not burn our kudzu queen, our Sacred Wild Woman, our vegetative Goddess. No, some said that our ancestresses who died by fire precluded this idea. Instead, we reverently removed her finery. We dismantled her body, and we returned her to Mother Earth. We put her to rest in the bed of kudzu from which she came...until next year.

One thing is certain. It is time for all wild women to rise. Cast off your fetters and rise, women of Earth! Come back to the Goddess, if only by reclaiming your own sacred power. Heal your relationships with your sisters. Rise and spread the teachings to others. Rise and pay honor to wild men in partnership and mutual respect. Rise and heal the Earth.


This week, Wild Woman is my favorite deity of learning, of harvest. So much of the spiritual work that I have done in the last five years has led up to the beautiful harvest brought in at this gathering. It was transformative for me on a personal and professional level. I am happy to call myself a wild woman and a priestess, in the old sense of the word. I hope to help many other women find their own wild woman within in the years to come. I have found my tribe. My Clan grows stronger with each passing Moon. I will howl at the moon, sing to the stars and always, always listen to the wisdom of the Earth. I am rising. Join me, sisters!

So mote it be. 

And so it is!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tracking a Fresh Trail

The Pagan Experience - Wk 2- August 10: New Paths of Learning.. This is the time of starting new paths of learning as students either prepare to return to school or complete their studies. How do you determine what new paths of learning should be added to your foundations? Where do you seek further training? How do you balance the old and the new?

This year, my study group has been working with rune magic. We have been performing the rituals in Diana Paxson's Taking Up the Runes. Previously, we worked through Northern Mysteries & Magic by Freya Aswynn. At this point, we are a year into working with the runes. During that time, I've been exploring the magic, mythology and shamanism of my Germanic ancestors.

I didn't plan this turn of events. In fact, I may have been the one saying "no more than six months" when we originally discussed studying the runes. I was anxious to get on to other things, namely, studies in shamanism. 

As it turns out, this is exactly what I needed. I've been using shamanic practices for a number of years, but many of them came from indigenous cultures with whom I have no biological connection. This troubled me deeply, and I stirred up plenty of contentious debates as I processed this part of myself. Discovering that my ancestors also were shamans...this was very healing for me. 

Of course, we could also say that witchcraft in general is the shamanism of Europe. In retrospect, my journey with witchcraft has been a long trail of re-wilding, of shamanization, if you will. I started out influenced greatly by Doreen Valiente, who in turn was the chief student of Gerald Gardner. His work was, in my opinion, quite heavy on the ceremonial magic aspect of witchcraft. Looking back, my work has gotten more and more primal over the years. Closer and closer to the Earth.

As far as where I seek knowledge, and how I choose generally shows up at the right time. At this point in my life, I tend to ask friends that I trust for book and teacher recommendations. I cast about online. I hit used book stores. I meditate about it. More often then not, the right teacher appears, even if only for a moment.

The runes are a great example of how I learn - I first studied them as a baby Pagan around age 15. I used them to record my magical work, and for divination. I even made my own rune sets to sell, complete with a book that I wrote and hand-bound. I thought I knew the runes.

About four years ago, I went to a rune class taught by a local Heathen group. When asked why I was there, I said that I wanted to learn about the cultural context of the runes in order to understand them better. Later, I found my coven and my study group, who then chose to study the runes with me. Following that path has not only deepened my understanding of the runes, it has enriched my shamanic work. It's helped me tie my ancestral magical heritage together. It has opened so many new vistas that I never dreamed possible. It has made me more whole. 

I guess that for me, determining and following new paths is really a process of peeling back the layers. Of retracing the steps of my ancestors. In some cases, going places I have been before with a new level of understanding. Spiralling backward to find a new way forward. And of course, following my nose to sniff out fresh trails!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The First Harvest

The Pagan Experience - WK 1- August 3: Harvesting! In any spiritual pursuit there are times of planting and seeding and times of harvesting what has gone to fruition. How do you recognize what is ready to be cut down? How do you discern what needs to remain for more ripening? How do you move through your harvest in a productive way?

Lughnasadh is here! May the blessings of the Corn King shine upon you and fill your larder with abundance. This is the first of the three harvest festivals on the great wheel of the year. Lughnasadh, or Lammas, is the grain harvest. Mabon is the fruit harvest, and Samhain is the animal & soul harvest.

Where I live, all sorts of things are ready to harvest. My tomatoes are spitting out a gallon of fruit at a time. The beans are going crazy too, and the okra is just beginning to come in. My peppers are almost done, except for the jalapeƱos, which have gotten their second wind. We had a mystery plant that turned out to be pumpkin, and we have several small pumpkins in the garden. It seems strange to see them ripe in July, but then, it has been a strange year.

It's been a hot, hot summer, and it continues to be so. Because of our long, hot growing season, we are actually coming to the end of the first and second plantings (or in my case, one lazy, late planting). It's now just about time to clear out the garden and start over with late summer and fall crops. I think I may replant zucchini on one hill, and add butternut squash on the other hill.

The commercial farms in the neighborhood have tall tobacco plants and cotton bolls beginning to form.
The soybeans are in full swing too. All three of these cash crops will not be ready to harvest for a long time yet. Corn and watermelons are in the markets, and I have a powerful craving for corn at the moment.

In a spiritual sense, this too is a time of harvest. At Yule, we dreamed and envisioned the year to come.
We cleaned away the cobwebs of the unnecessary at Imbolc. We planted the seeds of our work for the year at Ostara. We watered the seeds at Beltane. At Litha, we celebrated the abundance of the land and of our path. Now it is Lughnasadh, and harvest season begins.

So these questions, suggested by our lovely facilitator for The Pagan Experience...they are interesting for me. This year, I was bound and determined to have a luxuriant basil crop. I'm quite fond of pesto, and my plan was to make a giant batch and put it in the freezer. It's not farfetched; I've done this before. I use the tiniest canning jars, cover the pesto with a layer of olive oil, and then enjoy meals that SCREAM summer throughout the winter.

Mother Nature had other ideas, as it turns out. I did indeed grow a luxuriant crop of basil, but it was a real struggle to keep it alive. Along with the extreme heat, the rain has come in a few giant bursts, rather than an even spread through the summer months. Meanwhile, my work schedule has gotten more and more full.

I let the basil go too long. I didn't recognize when it was time to harvest. It was looking so big and beautiful a month ago, and now it's in full flower and the leaves are dying. This is a powerful lesson about flow for me. When one grasps for more and more, rather than taking in the harvest when it is at its peak, it's easy to lose out entirely. I was upset that it flowered too soon - an early heat wave caused many things to flower before their "normal" time. I'll still get some pesto, but it will be a much smaller batch.

For me, the lesson this year is trusting that my needs and desires will be met. There's no need to worry. I need to take the leaps of faith and take in the harvest knowing that I have enough. I am enough. If I need something else later, something more, that too will come. Perhaps more importantly, I need to remember that perfection is not the goal. Recognize the perfectly imperfect for the blessing it is, and go with it.

This Lughnasadh, I am truly blessed. My life and path are beautiful, messy, abundant and growing all the time. I am stepping into my power more and more. My Clan is flourishing. The year-wheel's turning has been eventful, and truly, all things are just as they should be. I am grateful! Sing it with me:

Hoof and Horn

© Ian Corrigan

Hoof and horn, hoof and horn

All that dies shall be reborn

Corn and grain, corn and grain

All that falls shall rise again.