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The sun is shining today.  I felt it would be a Druidic sin to stay inside so I donned my winter gear and headed to the forest!  I spent a few moments with a birch tree but grew distracted with how active the chickadee population was.  Without so many deciduous leaves hiding them, birds sure stand out!

In the end, I found myself mostly engaged with deer tracks.  They were everywhere!  I followed a few until I couldn’t determine where they went.  It’s an interesting way to live vicariously through a Nature Spirit for a short time. You see where they pawed through the snow for a meal, where they defecated, and where they slept.  You see that they prefer to walk in certain places over others and you learn from them how to navigate in the woods.

As feline as I often feel, I cannot deny the pull the deer have on me as well.

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My most recent post about ahimsa and Druidism sparked some conversation with prophet_maid on Live Journal.  We talked about vegetarianism, eating meat, the food chain, and the hierarchy implied by Jainist ahimsa.  It helped me sort through my thoughts better and I realize that that isn’t the best way for me to express my reasons for what I do.  Many of the ideas surrounding ahimsa still resonate with me.  I am very inspired by Gandhi’s application of it

A hierarchy naturally implies that I feel I am better and more privileged than other creatures.  As I’ve expressed to others before, I really don’t think that.  I don’t believe that humans are any better or worse than the other Nature Spirits.  I believe we all have natural talents and that some of us are better at certain things.  Framed by human-centric values and aspirations, I can say that we are more creative and innovative than other creatures (sometimes for better or worse), but there is a bit of hubris to that.  I am proud to call myself creative and artistic, but I am not close-minded to the possibility that some other creatures have a different definition of art and think of themselves as more capable in that area than us.  Who really knows?

In the end, I have made a spiritual decision about what I will and will not eat.  It almost seems like a hierarchy in that I am choosing to eat some things and not others, but I feel no true superiority over the plants I eat.  I have a great respect for plants.  I talk to them, ask permission before I harvest, leave offerings, sing to them, and thank them frequently.  I hug trees and am not ashamed to admit that.  I do not feel as closely related to plants as I do those in the animal kingdom, but I fill a kinship nonetheless.

In talking more about it to prophet_maid, I compared myself to herbivores like rabbits and deer.  I explained that I didn’t feel removed from the natural cycles of life or somehow less human because I was denying myself participation in a common human act.  I said that I was just as connected to the cycles of life as a deer.  I don’t see it as the denial of basic human needs; I see it as another way of experiencing humanity – a way just as valid as eating sustainable meat.  Thinking of it this way in combination with the end of my previous post, in which I discuss spiritual prohibition and life lessons, it makes so much more sense to me.  I am feeling more comfortable simply saying that it is a spiritual choice I have made connected to the lessons I must learn at this time in this life.  Perhaps there will come a time when I am meant to learn the lessons of eating meat again.  Who really knows?

Comparing myself to a deer, though, opened up a new door – one that has been slowly opening for years.  I’ve had different spiritual experiences with deer.  I could say it started as a child as I delighted at seeing the deer outside my home, but what child wouldn’t feel that way?  Truly, the first time I felt spiritually tuned in to this creature was when I started college.  I was in a rough place emotionally.  Although I was experimenting with Wicca before a breakup, it was after that I really became a practicing Pagan.  It was then that I started to work harder and develop my skills.   I went into the woods to meditate.  One day, after meditating, I opened my eyes and was surrounding by a herd of deer.  It seemed like a buck and a harem of does.  I looked at the buck and I remember that I wasn’t afraid.  I was in awe as he stared me down.  I remember saying to him in my mind, “I’m not here to hurt anyone.”  He made a noise – the first time I ever heard a deer speak in anyway – and stamped a hoof.  The herd moved away, dissolving into the woods.  I felt such a rush and instinctively felt like, after so many years of playing in the woods as a child, I was finally formally allowed there.  Was the spirit of the Horned God in that deer?  I’ve never been sure, exactly, but it was one of the most spiritually important events in my life.

The second time I brushed with the spirit of deer came during meditation.  I met with a spirit of the forest – a fair woman who called herself a lady of the deer.  I was then obsessed, for a short time, with Flidais.  I tried to research her and seek advice from others.  There is little on her, and some people seemed dismissive of it.  Yet I felt so drawn.  I still do…  I let that fall by the wayside because I didn’t want to seem too “New Agey” to Celtic Reconstructionists and scholarly folk who seemed to think she was just a literary character in the tales and little more.  I wasn’t as driven or emotionally strong then.

Most recently, I was in the woods making offerings.  I called to the spirits of the forest and asked for their teachings.  In that moment, a deer ran through in the distance, vanishing into the darkness.  I wanted to follow it, but was also frightened for some reason…

I don’t think of myself as the sort to attach oracular significance to every natural event I witness.  Most of the time, if I see a raven, fox, or such, I just hail it as a passing nature spirit.  There might be a lesson, but most of the time it is simply a blessing to see them.  I feel lucky for that alone.  The deer though…  I cannot shake the significance of those times.  I feel that this is something I should really work through and explore more.  Perhaps I have another spirit guide I should be working with in addition to Breeze the Lynx?  Perhaps I should start walking into that darkness and facing the fears.

The doll above, “Flidais,” was made by the extremely talented Forest Rogers.  
( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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  I was meditating before bed last night.  I found myself in my astral nemeton and briefly met with my lynx spirit guide.  He chided me for not visiting often.  I next started to focus on a symbol – the triquetra.

It’s the symbol tattooed onto my back and is very significant to me.  I don’t think I’ve ever been able to focus so intently on a symbol before.  If a nagging thought threatened to derail me, I easily waved it away.  Suddenly a great blue heron flashed in my mind, flying across the triquetra.  This made me recall the once hopeful Misty Marsh Protogrove I and a few others were attempting to start in Utica.  We felt that the Utica Marsh was such an important part of our eco system and we were attempting to use the great blue heron in a logo.  My husband actually designed a prototype of a heron standing in front of a triquetra.  The group thought it was too Celtic (which I hadn’t considered at the time) and so we decided not to use it.  In the end, the group wasn’t meant to be and now I’m up in the North Country while one of the other possible grove members is in Albany.  C’est la vie, right?  Anyway, I felt it was strange that I saw the heron but it evoked memories of home.

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Last night I got into a somewhat heated discussion on otherkin, vegetarianism, and animal rights on the ADF IRC chat.   A couple of members who believe they are otherkin brought up a publication and I asked them a couple things about being otherkin which kind of started it all.  You see, when I first heard of otherkin several years ago, I thought to myself, “huh.  That’s interesting.  I wonder if that’s why I’m so drawn to cats?”  I never really thought much more about it though.  Last night’s discussion kind of forced me to think about otherkin again and articulate my thoughts about my own relationship with the animal kingdom.

Animal rights and vegetarianism can be very divisive issues as last night proved.  There are scientific sides to the arguments, but when push comes to shove, a lot of what a person believes is based on UPG and their own concept of animism.  And that is fine.  I know I can’t push someone to see the world as I do anymore than they can push me.  Some of you who know me better understand that I think animals and humans are no better or worse than the other.  We are equal.  I believe that we have different talents and purposes, but that we aren’t somehow better.  As I thought about it last night, I realized that the Druidic concept of “a gift for a gift” is very much a part of my understanding of the natural world.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I understand that animals can be cruel to each other.  Cats torture small prey and monkeys wage wars on each other.  Etc etc etc.  What we call “human nature” may very well be “animal nature.”  I think humans are capable of forming symbiotic relationships with animals and here is where the trouble begins.  I have no problems with people who raise animals on farms or who hunt.  Our ancestors seemed to understand the spiritual side of this as well.  I’m generalizing my studies, but there are plenty of people who thanked their kill or left offerings to guardians of the hunt or livestock.  Brighid, a guardian of domesticated animals, could be thanked for the milk.  She is a protector of dairy giving creatures – maybe even one of them in some forms. (That is my own UPG.)  I don’t find deity to be limited to the human form.  If anything, I get the impression that the Gods are real forces and we gave them avatars or they chose visages that we would feel more at ease around.
Back to reciprocity.  We give cats and dogs shelter and food and they keep our homes free of vermin, help us hunt, drive our sleds, entertain us, etc.  We both give each other love.  I feel that, today, while we may have that symbiotic, “gift for a gift” relationship with our pets, we’ve lost it with the greater wild kingdom.  Instead of giving our cattle a comfortable home in exchange for milk and meat, a majority of them live in horrible conditions and are beaten.  We rape our forests in the name of profit.  We plant a tree here and there but is that enough?  Perhaps the forests, especially the rain forests, have given us enough and our gift back needs to be rest and lots of it while we learn to better recycle what we already have.  (Desertification is a very real and growing problem right now.  Mama Earth will be fine but what about the many humans displaced?  What about the countless number of plants and animals killed in the process due to human greed?)

This brings me back to otherkin.  I’m not convinced that I am one.  There are days, it’s true, when I suffer from “green guilt,” but I am not about to forsake my humanity.  There is plenty about it that I love – especially the arts.  I do not know if nature spirits have their own art – they might! – but I am enamored with human art whether it is painting, sewing, dancing, or song.  And while there are horrible, greedy people out there, I find that a majority of humans are kind-hearted and well-intentioned (if ignorant – but aren’t we all that way in certain areas?).

I do not really think that I am a cat stuck in a human body.  I am more inclined to think that maybe I was a cat in a previous life (some would argue that makes me an otherkin) or that the cat is a symbol I am repeatedly drawn to, physically and spiritually – a symbol representing the lessons I need to learn in this life, my shadow, or, perhaps my animus (one of my spirit guides is a male lynx after all…)

I do not reject the animal in me anymore than I reject the human.  If anything, I am trying to find a balance between my human and natural side.  I can’t escape my humanity – doing so would mean leaving behind the people and activities I adore.  But I feel like it would be irresponsible of me to ignore my inner animal and, thus, my connection to all of nature.  My inner animal is my empathy with other creatures – the drive of my vegetarianism and my desire to do less harm to Mama Earth and my brothers and sisters in the natural world.  I want to be closer to them, to better understand my place in the cosmos – not as their master, but as their sibling.

I don’t have an idealized vision of Eden where I’m lounging with the lion as fearlessly as the lamb.  I know enough about the cruelty of nature having lived in such proximity to it for years.  I’m under no illusions and am aware of the chaos and the destruction necessary for the renewal.  Just as human siblings quarrel and don’t see eye to eye, we compete and become annoyed with our nature kin.  But we must learn to live with them and love them somehow because we are all connected.  At the moment, I think our relationship is imbalanced and consisting of more “take” than “give.”

Perhaps my connection with the cat (and now my growing connection with the fox) is more shamanic than anything else.  I am inspired by them and seek spiritual union.  There are lessons for me in these forms.  The carnivorous cat has taught me to respect and value the hunter – no small feat for a vegetarian!  What else can they teach me?  And in the meantime, what can I do for them to return the favor?

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Teacher Fox

 

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve been working through Paxson’s Trance-Portation. I mentioned a few entries ago that I’ve been revisiting animal spirits / spirit guides. Paxson suggests asking a companion animal to lead you to a spirit who can teach you to better navigate the inner realms.

Last night, while the husband was at work, I took advantage of my free/quiet time and prepared to trance. I took a cleansing shower to help me release the stress and tensions of the day. While there I felt compelled to chant which felt great. Chanting really gets me in the mood for spiritual activity.

I then sat at my altar, honored the kindreds and lit a stick of incense to honor my spirit guides in particular.

Going into trances is coming easier and easier to me given the right mental cues. It used to be a real effort for me to guide myself into anything. Now it’s almost second nature to call on the Two Powers and enter my inner nemeton. I’m finding that my inner realm has a definite landscape that I can navigate. I’ve really not ventured far. Beyond my nemeton is a field and, in the distance, more forest. In the middle of the field is a big rock that I’ve visited plenty of times in Katrina’s rock meditations. An Dagda likes to frequent it.

Before leaving my nemeton, I called to my long-time spirit guide, the lynx. I’ve been trying to work with him more and feel like I have a better relationship with him. I asked if he could lead me to a being who could teach me more about trancing and navigating. We walked through the field and a few animals passed by, including a deer. They weren’t interested in stopping. Finally a fox walked in our path, stopped, and waited for us. I asked her if she was willing to teach me and she said yes. At this point I felt a pull from my physical body – my throat was irritated and I knew I was going to cough but I held back. The vixen laughed at me, called me a foolish human, and basically said that if I need to cough I should just get it over with. She then said that I needed to finish healing before I come back to her and sent me off.

It was an interesting experience, that’s for sure. And then today I kept seeing red foxes *everywhere*.

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“Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are the heirs of Br’er Rabbit and Anansi. We give our children toy ducks to protect them in the bath, and Teddy Bears to ward their sleep. When small, my grandchildren were guarded by a tattered toy in the shape of a bear that belonged to their great-grandmother when she was a girl.

“I have vivid memories of an afternoon in the Cornish town of Padstow, when a friend and I watched the procession of the Padstow “Hobby Horse.” This is a stylized horse-shaped construction that has been carried through the streets to bless the town every May 1 for centuries. We listened to a young man from the procession explain very seriously to his young son why the “‘Oss” was more powerful than Spiderman. We have been conditioned to believe in and trust our animal helpers since we were very small.

“In animals, we see the wisdom that comes from an unbroken connection with nature and the innocence of beings uncorrupted by the human world. We relate to them in a visceral and preverbal way that bypasses conscious inhibitions. By developing your connections with the animal powers, you expand your capacities without losing the advantages of living in the human world…”

Page 99 of Trance-Portation.

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My friend Katrina is pretty good when it comes to astrology. She and her husband have been studying it for quite some time. She brought it to my attention that Mars is in retrograde. I did a little bit of reading up about it and, apparently, this causes stagnation of projects, a lack of energy, arguments, and illness. I have been feeling so out of it recently. Earlier this week I had an upset stomach. By the weekend I had an ear infection and a fever. Goodness gracious – early March, hurry it up!

In other news, I’ve moved on in Paxson’s book Trance-Portation. Before I became so dreadfully ill this weekend, I started to revisit my spirit guides. “Revisit” should tell you that I’ve done work with them before. Now, spirit guides, animal totems, or whatever you want to call them have a nasty New Age reputation. For good reason! It’s an easy meditation that newbies can do and is usually one of the first trance exercises introduced to people in self-help type circles. Just think of that scene in “Fight Club” where the lead character has a vision of a penguin who tells him “slide.” Things like that make it seem very ridiculous, but I think it can be approached in deeper, more fulfilling ways than is portrayed by the media. I find myself agreeing with Paxson’s sentiment – regardless of whether or not we create the spirit guides with our own unconsciousness, they can be helpful in communicating with that side of our being. Think of them as the adult imaginary friends if you want. And cultures all over the world have legends about meeting animals on heroic journeys. My own hearth culture is filled with sacred prohibitions and bonds (gease) with dogs and birds. There are cats guarding treasures and otherworldly entrances. There are salmon full of knowledge and magical deer. As myth can be a symbol for the heroic journey we must take internally from time to time, I find no problem with meeting spirit guides in an Indo-European context. Just ask my friend Dubhlainn who recently had a very powerful spiritual experience with a blue heron.

So I’ve started to interact with my spirit guides again. The first time I did such an exercise, I met a dove. I’ve never seen that creature since. The one creature who has had staying power is the lynx. The last two times I called out on my inner journeys, I met … a beaver. It was quite unexpected, let me tell you, but he has prodded me both times with messages about productivity, creating, and rebuilding. I’m starting to wonder if it has something to do with my house… I really should get around to making curtains…

The lynx showed up as well. I don’t know the beaver’s name, but the lynx gave me one. Only… it’s not in English. It has something to do with wind and grass. I feel a comfort that the lynx is still there. The appearance of a beaver in my mental landscape adds to the population of North America, specifically NY, fauna.

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