Posts Tagged ‘spirit guides’

I’ve been very busy since I last shared an update.  Some of what has occupied me deserves its own post.  For example, my protogrove is now officially Northern Rivers Grove!  Also, we once more participated in the Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown.  All very good things, but also very exhausting.  I’ve made sure to keep up my hearth practice as best as I can, though.  I’m finding that it’s important to stay grounded in my personal spirituality and numinous relationships while also reaching out to support my Grove and local Pagan community.

Sometimes, simply breathing and grounding before going to work or running errands is exactly what I need.  A difficult situation in the first week of October found me retreating to the bathroom at work to shield myself.  In the quiet of the restroom, I called upon the powers of the three realms, pooled them within myself, and built my “Druid Egg” in my usual fashion, strongly visualizing black to banish negativity.  I saw my egg glossed with reflective silver, and sent all the daggers back to their origin.  I then let the powers flow back to the land, sea, and sky.  I left feeling so empowered and energized; I felt and envisioned the proud weight of antlers upon my head, something I find myself doing when I feel strong like one of my spirit allies.

Later, at home, at the quiet of my altar, I turned to my inner grove to speak with my spirit allies.  Simply going inward can be very healing after dealing with difficult, yet ultimately minor, altercations.

Today I came downstairs before anyone else was up, before all the extra electronics were on.  To the sound of rain, facing the forest,  I once more engaged in my Three Realms yoga practice.  It refreshed me.  I’ve found that doing it twice satisfies my need for corporeal symmetry and thus a sense of balance.  Child’s pose connects me to the Earth and the Underworld.  I focus on what that means to me at that time.  I moved through serpent, into cow, into dog – feeling the Nature Spirits as I move upwards into a tree pose.  I stare ahead to the birch trees.  Then, arms upward, I salute the sun and feel the sky energy, today flowing with life-giving water.  This is still a work in progress, and I wish I could do it every morning, but I think making it part of my weekend practice will suffice, though!

Whatever you are working through, whether it’s the Dedicant Path, the Initiate Path, the Clergy Path, or other studies related to your Druidism – persevere and find a way!


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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.


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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!

This weekend, I decided to work on my inner grove.  I began with my weekly devotional, but I did not utilize any drumming in this trance session. It worked surprisingly well.  After I made my offerings, I focused on my breathing, closed my eyes, and visualized a door open above my altar.  I allowed my spirit form to climb through this and enter a path.  Trees of all sorts grew on either side: ash, apple, birch, pine, etc.  I noticed holly and ferns growing closer to the ground.

One of my spirit guides, a deer, appeared through the trees.  He came from the right.  Suddenly, an otter appeared at my left.  Otter, again.  I stopped to chat and learn the otter’s name.  She’s appeared before and I figured it was time to ask.  Then a bee showed up!  I realized that I now had companions representing all three realms!  I gave offerings that I had on me, and promised more in the physical realm.

We all rode the deer to my inner grove.  There, I took stock and tidied some things.  I noticed the changes since my last visit.  The animals with me went about their business.  Deer ate some plants in the hedge, bee visited the red clovers, and otter jumped in my well, swimming out to the river connected to it.  She is very playful.

At one point, my spirit form laid down, and I actually leaned back in the physical realm too.  I looked up at the canopy circling above.  It was relaxing…  Shortly after that, I decided to return to the physical realm.  I left my spirit guides there until next time.

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Offerings given. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Off to the forest with offerings tucked in my coat pocket, I trudged through the snow. Though much of it has melted, certain areas, especially the places between human dwellings and the forest, are still very deep. Movement was slow and difficult without snowshoes. As always, I thought of my spirit animal, the white tailed deer, as I clumsily made my way. They are so graceful and surefooted in the snow. Were a pack of coydogs to chase me, I would have a difficult time getting away in such conditions. And yet even thinking of deer surviving in the winter gave me strength and renewed my perseverance.

As I crossed the hedge, I noticed how the going became easier. The snow was melting faster in the forest. Why was that? Was it because the canopy of evergreens kept so much from piling up so there’s just less there?

Chickadees sang happily. I made my way to the shrine, passing some deflated birthday balloons that had blown in from somewhere. I made a mental note to grab them on my way back. As I stepped up a hill towards the shrine, I noted the familiar shapes of deer a few yards away. I stopped and looked around. When you slow down and really look  it is amazing what you can see.  A whole herd seemed to materialize out of the trees.  Some stared back at me, some struck their hooves against the ground, others continued to eat.  I proceeded slowly, not wanting to frighten them.  This herd and I continue to meet.  Do they recognize my coat, my tread, my scent?

I held an apple out to them.  I did not expect them to come and take it from me, nor do I want to encourage that.  I spoke softly, praising them, wishing them well, and telling them my intent.  I softly chanted “Fur and Feather”.  They ran a little to the other side of the forest.  They watched me a moment more, then vanished into the woods as they walked away.

I placed the offering upon the shrine, its stones bare of snow.  I thought of the deer, admiring their qualities.  They are all at once gentle, courageous, persevering, nurturing, cautious, and the females are very tribal seeming.  They are good qualities to admire and emulate.

I left more offerings of seed and herbs for the local spirits.  I took in the stillness and the life all around.  The melting snow… The red buds forming on branches… Spring is coming and potential is in the air!  I left the forest feeling light hearted and festive.  Funny how I even had balloons in my hand…

Snow melting around the roots of a big hemlock. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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A corner of my Nature Spirit altar is dedicated to the deer spirits.  Behind a jawbone is an image from a Solstice card I kept and a candleholder of silhouetted stags.

My recent post about cleaning a deer skull I found generated some interest in that spirit animal and my experiences with it.  It made me want to write something more in depth about my evolving relationship with deer spirits and the lore surrounding them.

My relationship with deer truly began as a little girl.  I was lucky enough to grow up on an acre of land with a forest behind our home.  On many an early evening or morning, a white tailed deer or five could be found grazing or passing through.  My father built bird feeders and even a deer/turkey feeder once.  I was enthralled by the nature spirits who came to feast.  Dad was a hunter and taught me much about deer – how their tails go up as a warning; how the males rub their antlers on trees at certain times of year; what they eat; what their droppings and tracks look like; even their sounds.  They are very sensitive to humans and their animal companions.  They are wary of cat piss and too many dogs.  The smallest crack of a twig underfoot will send them dashing away from you – always graceful through unseen trails, thorns, and deep snow.  My fascination has continued into adulthood.  Walking through the forest during winter can teach you much about them and their survival adaptations.  And when I came upon their dead – either hanging upside down from a tree on a hunter’s property or ripped open by dogs in a field – it was humbling.  I encountered death in a visceral way with deer that I had never seen before.  My parents quickly removed or never showed us our dead pets.  I only ever saw dead family members after the embalmers did their work, turning people into temporary dolls without a hint of blood or foul smell.  My father stopped hunting shortly after my sister and I were born because he just didn’t have the time, and we weren’t allowed to handle raw meat for fear we’d get sick.  To see a dead deer up close – it was the closest I’ve ever been to death on such a scale.  We are similar in size, after all – each a large mammal.  Our guts and brains melt away into goo as well, if given the chance…

Then there is my dietary choice.  As a vegetarian, I began to relate to their eating habits.  Plenty argue that eating meat connects humanity to the natural cycles, but by relating to a deer as a vegetarian, I realize that my diet is not so far removed from nature.  I often tell people that, in this life and at this time (sans survival scenarios), I am connecting to nature as the deer.  I do my best to eat local and sustainable food – but I’m aware that my hooves will trample creatures from time to time.  I can be very peaceful and not cause bloodshed, but if attacked I have my antlers to defend myself with.  I eat plants and will one day be cut down – either by a predator or time itself.  And when my body rots, the other plants and animals will take me back into the Earth Mother.  I am not the hunter – I am the hunted who knows there are predators in the wood and I must be careful.  It keeps me humble and alert.  It is simply a different way to connect with nature – no more or less valid than the deeply spiritual experience of the hunter and meat eater.

Meditation has brought the deer closer to my soul, finding me an ally in the spirit world.  At first it just kind of happened out of the blue.  Deer would show up – bucks and does.  Sometimes the deer would transform into humanoid shapes and talk or laugh.  More recently, when I encounter frightening things or have nightmares, the buck comes and waves his antlers, sometimes shredding the shadow.  I’ve ridden his back a couple times and he loves offerings of apples.  Once, while meditating in the forest behind my parents’ home, I opened my eyes to see a herd of deer around me – a harem, it seemed, guarded by one buck.  He looked at me and made his gutteral call several times, the mist rising from his nostrils like smoke.  He stamped his front left hoof in the ground, bringing up soil and leaves.  This was no helpless herbivore – this was a warrior and guardian.  I stared back in awe and fear but did not move.  He could have charged.  They could have stampeded over me if they wanted.  After a minute that felt like an eternity, the herd slowly melted back into the forest as if they never were.  Truly, of all the times I’ve encountered deer in some spiritual vicinity, this, and the day I found the whole deer corpse, stand out among the most influential.

Learning about the lore surrounding deer has been informative and transformative.  Like North America, Northern Europe also has deer but they are generally of the red variety.   There is also evidence that reindeer existed in Scotland in prehistoric times and some connections have been made with other cultures, who herd them, and the legends of the Celts.  Could such a practice have existed in antiquity? Could it have remained in the Celtic imagination and transformed through the ages?  Although we often think of boars and, especially, cows with regards to the Celts, findings by archaeologists lead them to conclude deer were the most widely hunted creature and thus held much importance.  Many stories that feature the eldest animals, such as the Eagle and Salmon, also feature the stag.

Some scholars assert the existence of deer cults lead by women in northern Scotland.  The lore surrounding Flidais, a lusty spirit/Goddess/character of Irish fame, connects her to deer, leading some to suspect deer cults existed there in the misty, pre-Celtic past.  Unfortunately, many compound her with Artemis so it’s very difficult to know more about her without finding parallels in other cultures or relying on UPG.  The old stories are rich with giant women and wee women who herd and even milk the deer as cattle.  These same women can even transform into deer.  While there is only so much information out there on Flidash, stories abound about Cailleach spirits.  I pluralize because, the more I study, the more it seems there is more than one and that Cailleachs are very localized.  They control the weather for certain regions (especially wind, snow, and storms) and herd deer.  Often, they’re shown as protectors of the deer.  Hunters must ask for permission before taking one of her herd.  In some stories, she gives the hunters very specific descriptions of who to kill, and punishes those who don’t listen or don’t ask permission.  To me, this shows that there was a definite understanding that hunters should be responsible and not decimate the herds.  If too many deer were taken, or if only a certain kind were taken, the population would weaken and there would be less food in the future as a result.

The Fionn legends are filled with deer: Ossian’s mother, for example, was turned into a deer and some stories say she was in this form when she gave birth to him.  The symbolism even enters into Arthurian legend.  Merlin is said to have ridden a deer when he went mad.

Finally, deer have some connection with the Otherworld and death.  Some of it is connected with Cailleach traditions (poor weather brings death, winter can represent death, she kills disrespectful hunters, etc), some through the general otherworldliness of deer (they are often very quiet and shy; legends connecting them to the fairy realm), and through what is observable – the cyclical nature of their antlers and their being hunted and sometimes sacrificed.

I have a little altar to the Nature Spirits that is always changing.  Soon, I’ll need to expand it in some way to make room for the deer skulls I’ve obtained.  It’s important to me that I continue to work with the deer spirits.  I definitely feel a strong connection and want to work on learning more and deepening my relationship with them.

References and further reading:
The Driving of the Cattle of Flidais, Book of Leinster. 
Brock, Juliet Clutton & MacGregor, Arthur.  "An End to Medieval Reindeer in Scotland."  Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (1988), pp. 23-35.
Carr-Gomm, Philip & Stephanie.  The Druid Animal Oracle: Working with the Sacred Animals of the Druid Tradition.  Fireside (1994). 
D'Este, Sorita & Rankine, David.  Visions of the Cailleach: Exploring the Myths, Folklore and Legends of the Pre-eminent Celtic Hag Goddess.  Avalonia (2009).
Freeman, Mara.  Kindling the Celtic Spirit.  Harper Collins (2000). 
Geddes, Arthur.  "Scots Gaelic Tales of Herding Deer or Reindeer Traditions of the Habitat and Transhumance of Semi-Deomesticated 'Deer', and of Race Rivalry."  Folklore, Vol. 62, No. 2 (1951), pp. 296-311. 
McKay, J. G.  "The Deer-Cult and the Deer-Goddess Cult of the Ancient Caledonians."  Folklore, Vol. 43, No. 2 (1932), pp. 144-174.

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Bone Gift

A friend gifted me with this lovely deer skull complete with antlers. Seems like it belonged to a young male. I am truly grateful to receive this gift. I must make a home for it. I’m thinking a special shelf/altar for my spirit guides of the deer tribe.


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As I’ve mentioned before, I started doing Ian Corrigan’s Nine Moons.  It’s a lot of work, and I still have a long way to go, but I really like it so far.  Making it work amidst my already busy schedule is a challenge, but I feel very driven to do it.  My last retreat day was especially fulfilling in part because I got so much accomplished spiritually and artistically.

Along with taking an amazing nature walk where I had an interesting experience with a new animal guide, I made some loose incense as part of my evening ritual.  It smells amazing!  It’s currently sitting with my plants soaking up the sun and moon.

At the moment, I’ve been doing a bulk of my workings on one retreat day.  April is going to be very busy thanks to classes, visiting relatives, a birthday, and various plans for spring break.  Needless to say, I’m going to be a very busy Druid!  This weekend will be the first that I have to divide my retreat over several days.  This isn’t necessarily an inconvenient thing as it will really help me focus on my meditation and trance skills on more than one day.  I’m not sure how everything will go in terms of being around family and friends…  It’s very hard to get alone time long enough for any deep meditation.  Somehow, I will make it work!


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