With Samhain right around the corner, stores are full of decor that makes many of us excited. While I usually prefer supporting artisans or making my own tools, I saw this ceramic cauldron at Target and it was exactly what I wanted for my Ancestor shrine. I like to give offerings of beverages, usually tea, and I’ve often felt that their shrine deserved a special cup or bowl. Well there we are – the cauldron of rebirth. I do intend to commission a friend who does ceramics when she is ready and when I can afford it, but this will do for now.
The last couple weeks (since I last updated on my work through basic trance exercises and techniques) have felt like a backwards slide. You see, I went back to work after a long vacation. In many ways, this was a good thing, especially because it thrust me back into my ten-month routine of waking up with the sun, doing a devotional first thing in the morning, and then going to bed at a decent time. Unfortunately, getting back into that schedule, on top of all the mental, physical, and, yes, spiritual demands of work – in addition to taking care of my family – has been exhausting. Trance has been difficult to achieve, let alone attempt.
That isn’t to say I haven’t tried. I continue to breathe, ground, and shield via visualizations each morning. When I have been stressed, I’ve closed my eyes to visualize all the irritations floating away or burning up in the candle fire… I engage in the Two Powers often, especially when I do my weekly ADF-style ritual. Last week I journeyed to my inner grove just to be. I only moved through my Three Realms yoga practice once since I last wrote about it, which bums me out.
As I move forward and readjust to the usual schedule, I am striving to continue my studies. I am reading when I can, and I intend to work on some new exercises. I know that periods of stagnation are normal, but I can’t let it come to that when I’m actively working on my Initiate Path.
Onward, my friends! Onward and upward!
Bee and I went on a “signs of autumn walk” today. We looked at trees changing colors, observed which wild flowers were still out, and collected acorns. We also collected some fallen leaves in various states of decay. Some were freshly fallen, while others easily crumbled into “leaf glitter.” We used the latter in some artwork. (Bee wanted to try out her new glue stick.)
This is the first year she’s truly observant of the changes and is making connections. She barely remembers last year, so activities like this reinforce everything she’s learning about nature, and provide a creative, tactile lesson.
Leaves are changing, apples are blushing, pumpkins are at farm stands… Feels like autumn to me!
Posted in Druidism |
The following is an account of my continued work with trance as part of ADF’s Trance 1 course, advanced studies towards Initiate status. I’ve decided to share my personal experiences on my blog as a way of accountability. If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!
Since I last posted, I’ve been doing a few different things here and there. I continue to maintain my daily devotionals, and often try to work in short visualizations into it, specifically when I do the Two Powers meditation and shield. The practice has evolved since I started working through Trance 1. I see the waters below me and the sun above me. I let those energies flow into me, feeling the coolness and warmth. Often, I see myself somewhere that I’ve actually experienced the Two Powers at once, such as while swimming in the St. Lawrence River or Star Lake. I then let those energies combine and turn into mist. Sometimes the mist is colored, and I just take note of what color(s) it becomes. Sometimes I choose a specific color to help me with the day. I then move into my Druid Egg shielding exercise, visualizing the colored mist flowing out in the directions specified, and solidifying into a protective egg shell that lets positivity in, but refracts negativity. This is one of those practices that I need to remember when writing my essay about using trance in magical workings.
Peace before me.
Peace behind me.
Peace to my right.
Peace to my left.
Peace above me.
Peace below me.
Peace around me.
Peace within me.
From there, I then visualize the mist swirling wider and wider as I inhale and exhale. It envelopes my whole home and everyone within it. I pray for protection in my home, then move into making offerings and prayers of gratitude for the Kindreds. Although this has evolved, I actually started to shield a couple years ago after a negative experience with a co-worker. Ever since I started beginning my days in this way, I find that I am more positive and happier in all my interactions. I sometimes “renew” the shielding if I have a stressful day.
Something new for me this summer, sometimes I do a moving meditation in the backyard using yoga techniques. It’s based on the work I did at Star Lake a few weeks ago. While I don’t have a body of water to commune with at home, I instead focus on the moisture in the grass and soil around me when I do child’s pose. Then, I work my way into a sun salutation and focus on the warmth and light of the sun shining down upon me. From there, I do a tree pose, fixing my gaze on a tree ahead – usually a birch tree. This always seems significant when I do it at the beginning of the day since birch represents new beginnings. It’s still a work in progress, but I really love the way in wakes up my body and engages my mind. I become really focused on the Three Realms and my access to them when I do this moving meditation. It does become trancelike in some ways. I would like to do it more often, and I wonder how it will evolve as the colder season moves in. Like my shielding, it puts me in a great mood for the rest of the day.
I’ve also been working through The Trance Workbook: Understanding and Using the Power of Altered States by Kay Hoffman. It’s a bit different from The Way of the Shaman by Harner in that it’s meant to be accessible to people regardless of religious or cultural affiliation. I know the Harner book is technically meant that way as well, but it is obviously heavily influenced by his experiences with South American tribes and their worldviews. As discussed elsewhere, I had to put it down for a bit because the exercises started to feel like appropriation, and I really needed to reassess my approach. I do intend to finish reading it, but if something makes me feel uncomfortable, it’s important that I stop and evaluate the reasons and whether or not I should engage.
Anyway, the beginning of The Trance Workbook contained some thought and word association exercises that I really did not like, but I pushed forward. I did the “Conscious Confusion as a Healing Trance Technique” as found on page 28. It involves viewing one hand as negative and the other as positive, then bringing them together to feel a sense of completeness. Going into it, I thought it would be really silly, but it was actually interesting. As I slowly brought my hands together, I focused on cultural associations with the right and left hands, then my own. I did this both physically, but also in my inner grove with my spirit guides around me. I did not use any drumming this time around, but it was part of a ritual, so the mental cues and incense stimulation was enough. It was easy for me to get into this trance and then work with my hands. As I brought my hands together, I thought of how my left hand was not negative, but it was very supportive of my right hand, the leader hand. The right hand, while dominant, cannot easily do many things without the left, supportive hand. I felt a sense of completeness in that, realizing that I’m constantly shifting back and forth between leadership and supportive roles, and that’s just who I am. The omen I drew for that particular ritual was the ogham alder. Interestingly, according to Ian Corrigan, that symbol means both leadership and support! It was very affirming, and I reflected on that experience for the rest of the day.
As one last hurrah before our summer vacation ends, my family took a day-trip to Oswego, NY, to see the Draken Harald Hårfagre. It’s a modern viking ship that traveled from Norway, down the St. Lawrence River, through some of the Great Lakes, and is now going to move through the Erie Canal, heading to New York City. The crew stressed that it’s a modern viking ship, based on historical evidence and craftsmanship, but also equipped with modern navigation technology, bathrooms, and diesel engines. Its 21st century conveniences don’t detract from its magnificence, and the people on board have weathered Atlantic storms and maneuvered around icebergs. They have a lot of respect for their Viking Age predecessors. We’ve been following their voyage via Facebook and their website with great interest. My husband has been especially interested in it since he has Norwegian ancestry and has always been drawn to Norse culture.
If you live in NY State and want to see the Draken, she’ll be stopping in Little Falls soon before making her way to New York City. It’s $10 per adult to board, and the short tour is worth it, in my opinion. You’ll be able to get up close and look at all the craftsmanship, smell the pine pitch covering the ropes, see the effort and passion that’s gone into the voyage, and meet with Odin’s ravens. A truly powerful experience.
There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the Adirondack Mountains. I used to spend just about every weekend of my childhood summers swimming in lakes, fishing off docks, climbing small mountains, and hiking through forest trails. It was where I first learned to truly treasure the wild places that have, in many areas, vanished. It was where I grew into an animist. I always felt a sense of something there – spirits. Very old spirits. I felt how sacred and connected it all was, and I felt it flow in and through me. It is different from the forests around my childhood home and my new home. They are very special to me as well, but they are less wild. There is more sound and light pollution. Roads interrupt their power. Not that the Adirondacks lacks that, but there’s a greater effort to reduce it. (Although I could be romancing it as someone who does not live there…) When I’m away for long, I feel it calling. I feel the mountains and lakes calling. When driving on Rt 11 through Lewis County, I always look towards the Adirondack Mountains in the distance, rising beyond the rolling hills. Last week, we returned to answer the call and renew our wild spirit. Here are some of our experiences.
Decay never looked so magical. My husband and I mused on the nature of animism, life, and death while hiking near the Raquette River in Tupper Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.
It’s a bit blurry, but I was proud to stumble upon some Indian Pipe flowers in the forest. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.
I learned a little more about a new spirit ally at the Wild Center. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.
Some of the High Peaks as seen from the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY. We all enjoyed our time there. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.
We also visited the Ausable River. There’s a place to pull off on the road and a very short trail into the trees. It’s a catch and release area, but we just wanted to see the river. I had to sit quietly for a bit to take her in, then sang a song of offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.
On a whim, we decided to explore a trail across the street from the Ausable River. It lead to the Copperas Pond. I wouldn’t call it an easy hike, as it went up some slight inclines and involved some scrambling over very rocky terrain. It was challenging with a three-year-old, but she was so determined to do most of it by herself. The end result was worth it – an isolated pond free from motor boats. It was so quiet… we couldn’t even hear the traffic on the other side of the wooded hill we climbed over. It’s apparently a popular hike, as there were other people in and out, but the traffic wasn’t so much that we weren’t able to enjoy lots of peaceful moments. I definitely had to take off my hiking shoes and put my feet in to fully immerse myself in the Three Realms. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.
I already look forward to returning, possibly in the Autumn. We hope to climb a small mountain now that Bee has officially caught the hiking spirit. With any luck, she feels the pull of the mountain too, and the family tradition of exploring and honoring the Adirondacks will continue.
As Lughnasadh starts to turn us towards the Autumn Equinox, and as it is the beginning of the major harvests, I find myself reflecting on the successes and failures of our little container garden. Each year, we learn more about our plant allies. Each year, through a mixture of experience and research, we recognize opportunities for growth and improvement.Not pictured is the basket of tomatoes we gathered, mostly from my husband’s hydroponic buckets. In addition, I also gathered some basil and sage which I hung to dry. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our own cupboards.
I’m also thinking on my metaphorical harvest. I’ve had a fairly productive and joyful summer. My family hasn’t faced as many struggles this season. I have had more opportunities to do things that make my soul sing. I have room to improve, but the harvest is stil good. As we move toward Autumn, I’m already preparing a fall garden. I’m also making new goals – things to sew, books to finish, essays to write… May my next harvest be just as, or more, successful!