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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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It was difficult to get into any deep trances this past week.  We went away to a camp with some family members for a few days, which will always throw me off my routine.  However, compared to going away to a hotel, it was easier to maintain my typical devotional practices.  I set up a temporary altar and even did a little working on Lughnasadh.  In addition, my daughter and I picked some raspberries and we offered them to the local spirits.

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A temporary altar on the windowsill at camp.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Like I said, I didn’t engage with any deep trances, but I did do some meditation.  I woke up and left my husband and daughter to rest.  After my morning toilette and devotional, I went outside to the dock where I sat towards the water, relaxed, and breathed.  In my opinion, the best way to engage with the Two Powers or the Three Realms is to sit on the shore of a lake, river, or ocean.  It’s all right there for you to soak up and contemplate!

One day, I noticed a beautiful spiderweb on the dock and just stared at it for awhile.  I was struck by how delicate it was, how dainty, and yet it withstood heat, rain, and wind in order to assist the spider’s killing.  Life and death… all part of the cycle.  I realized it was Lughnasadh, and contemplated the nature of harvest.

After meditating, I did some yoga.  I would love to live on a lake or river one day.  I would go out as often as possible to do yoga on the shore!  How invigorating.  I kept it simple.  I started in child’s pose on the dock, looking through the wooden planks at the shimmering water below.  Behold the waters of life!  I then stretched my arms and fingers upwards in a sun salutation.  Hail to the sky!  I moved into a tree pose, fixating on a pine directly across the lake.  I stand like the World Tree rooted deep, crowned high!  The whole process was a moving meditation, and I felt deeply at peace and connected with the world around me.

While I’m on the topic of trance, I’ve had to put Harner’s book on Shamanism down for a bit.  While I liked the beginning, both for the author’s experiences with Shamanism and indigenous people, and for the “Journey to the Underworld” exercise, I’m starting to find the book worrisome.  The following exercise, about meeting your spirit animal, seemed… well… for lack of a better phrase, it felt like “playing Native.”  I’m all for respectfully learning from other cultures, finding parallels, etc… but it just felt too much like ripping off Indigenous people. Besides, I’ve done a variety of “meet your spirit guide” exercises before, and have been working with spirit guides for awhile in the context of modern Paganism…  Not that I don’t have more to learn (I totally d0), but I just was not feeling that exercise at all.  Amazingly, I started to see a lot of criticism of Harner and his Core Shamanism popping up among my ADF and Reconstructionist friends.  I’m sure there’s some more to learn from the book, and I’ve already grown in trance from the first exercise, but I’m not as enthusiastic about that title anymore…  I’ll pick it up again at some point.  Ah well.  It’s part of the process.

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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 personal accountability.  If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!

I’ve continued my trance practices over the last couple weeks and included some magical workings in the process.  I’m going to briefly describe each trance session in a bulleted list for this entry.

  • Charging Incense – It was daylight but during the waxing moon.  There was some noise outside; children were playing in the street. Using the drum recording, I travelled to my inner grove and met with my spirit ally.  I discussed my intent – to charge the ingredients for the incense I was about to make.  My spirit guide and I did the dance he taught me when we charged the new moon water.  It is exhilarating to and so natural seeming to add the dance to my trance.  When I think of the very powerful experiences I’ve had in the past, dancing around bonfires during drum circles, it makes sense to add it to some of my workings.  The fact that my spirit guide taught it to me…  Well, it’s very intimate now.  It’s my own personal wisdom.  When I felt that the ingredients were sufficiently charged, I let the residual energy flow into the ingredients, took a few breaths, thanked my guide, and returned to my altar to finish the work in the physical realm.
  • Failed Practice at Family Altar – I wanted to do some trance work, but my husband came to bed as he had work the next day.  I went downstairs to the family altar but the cats were around and I felt off.
  • Inner Exploration – Once back in my room, during the night, I did more trance practice.  I utilized the drum recording but decided to explore my inner grove and chat with my spirit guide.  I had trouble focusing, possibly due to the heat.
  • Self-Healing – This is a real outlier for me.  While a lack of ritual usually doesn’t amount to much, and while I usually struggle to focus when uncomfortable, I did a spontaneous inner working to help myself deal with some pain.  It involved some shielding to ward off negative energy, sort of like a spiritual disinfectant.  Then my spirit guide sliced into the area with the pain and pulled it out – all using his antlers.  The pain looked like a glowing purple orb.  He threw it towards my altar and saw it burn in the candle flame.  My body healed, but not before an otter popped out and swam around me.  I’ve been feeling more otter energy as of late…  I felt the pain subside, but to continue healing, I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I administered some reiki to myself.  It was an interesting if uncharacteristic situation for me.

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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 personal accountability.  If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!

Last week, I posted about my work following The Way of the Shaman by Harner.  My first Underworld exercise was successful.  Listening to a basic, recorded drum beat really helped.  It was interesting to read that most shamans have an assistant drum for them.  This made me feel better about my previous failures drumming to trance.  I’ve had mild success in the past, but it’s hard work and very rare.  Working up the stamina to drum, keeping the same beat, and allowing myself to journey…  it didn’t work well most of the time.  In fact, my biggest success was at a group drumming session.  My second attempt at trance last week did not go so well, and I suspected part of the reason was that I did it outside of a ritual setting.  It lacked the lead up, the offerings made to helpful deities and spirit allies, and the necessary mental keys (aside from the drumming).

I’ve done two more trance exercises since.  The first followed the same theme of journey to the Underworld via an entrance from my inner grove.  I once more rode my spirit guide.  Prior to this journey, I made offerings to Brighid and did my nightly devotional to her.  I remembered seeing a being during my absolute first attempt who I instinctively felt might be her.  We went through the illuminated passage and found our way to her.

The being revealed herself to be Brighid and said she heard me calling. I talked to the Goddess about my focus and where I should head.  She emphasized service to others and truly embracing hospitality and generosity; she stated that those are very important to her.  She specifically mentioned helping the less fortunate.  This is something I will have to think more on as there are many ways to go about this, and I need to figure out what I can do that doesn’t require a lot of money and works with my schedule.  Maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen a bit over the summer?  It would be a good start and is certainly something I can do.

For my second trance journey, I focused on my inner grove and my spirit guide for a magical working.  He gave me a special sign to inscribe on objects to promote increase or growth, and taught me a sort of dance to do.  I utilized the symbol and dance to inscribe and charge some water that I then left out to soak up the new moon energy.  I plan to utilize it in creating some incense.

So there you have it – I’ve kept up the Trance 1 momentum!  I even worked in some magical working, which I can use towards Magic 2!  I wonder what this week will bring?

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I posted a few weeks ago that I planned to get back into my trance studies, but I had to wait until my vacation started and I could get into a routine.  I did, however, begin my reading: The Way of the Shaman by Harner and The Trance Workbook:Understanding and Using the Power of Altered States by Hoffman.  I have only read the introduction of the later, but I really like the former so far.  It’s written by an anthropologist and includes narratives about his own exploration via teachings from practitioners around the world.  I’m always a bit cautious of anything Western that includes the word “Shaman” or “Shamanism” out of a concern for cultural appropriation, but, so far, his work seems respectful and insightful.  His work bridges a myriad of different traditions, translating them for modern Americans. Rather than attempting to explain away with cold science, he explains how very meaningful they are.  The science is important, I think, but we mustn’t overlook the very real cultural implications of such practices in the process.  Rather than insisting the reader utilize words, visuals, or gestures from any specific culture, he looks at the commonalities and allows the audience to go from there.

During my weekly ritual on Saturday evening, I announced my purpose to the Kindreds – to once more begin my trance studies and explore the entrance to the Underworld.  This exercise was based on the first Harner describes.  It’s rather open-ended: think about an opening to the Underworld (he gave some examples), listen to drumming for ten minutes, and allow yourself to visualize.  Ok, there was more detail than that, but he did not give a script to follow, which I appreciated it.  It allowed me to take what I already know about Underworld mythology from my hearth culture and apply it.

I found a Youtube video that featured basic drumming meant for trance.  It lasts just slightly over ten minutes and includes a brief moment of silence to signal that the end is coming.  The drumming is not jarring in the slightest.  I was able to play this without headphones, at a low but audible volume, while my daughter slept.  I decided to visualize the oak tree and the holy well at its roots.  This is imagery I’m very used to as it’s how I see my “inner grove” – relics from previous attempts at trance 1 that I still interact with.  I called to my spirit guide and I rode him through the waters, swimming downward, arching back up and through the surface of a pool within an underground cavern.

At this point, I realized that I was able to get into this state rather easily.  The drumming was just what I needed.  All distractions, aside from this single thought, had not come to bother me.  I put this thought aside and moved forward, riding my spirit guide through an increasingly visceral, rocky tunnel.  Spirals and triskelions covered the walls, and torches lit the way every few feet.  There was a greenish, bluish tint to everything. At times I saw golden faces, but I never felt afraid.  I was very immersed at this point. 

The tunnel widened and there was a massive, underground lake with a large treasure chest in the middle.  I left that alone – that wasn’t my purpose today.  I decided to explore a little and found a chamber with a long table.  Various golden-faced beings were feasting.  I saw a kindly, feminine face and thought she could be Brighid – in part because she acknowledged my presence with a quick look after I had asked her to guide and protect me in my workings.  She went back to the feast.  I didn’t interact with any of the beings, and I had a sense that I was like a fly on a wall to them; here I was, a small, mortal being not worth bothering over unless I troubled them.

I started to think about time around then.  Don’t eat the food.  Don’t linger, my mind urged.  Or was it my spirit guide?  Both?  A long time seemed to pass, the drumming in the background… I wondered if it really was a ten minute video… was it longer?  Would I hear the signal?

Thinking about time and the drumming video started to bring me out of the experience.  It was time to turn back.  I felt like my spirit guide really picked up speed – we practically flew over the lake and up through the tunnel.  Back through the well and up the rabbit hole…  I thanked my guide and the Kindreds, promising to continue my work to improve my skills in order to grow as a priestess and better serve my family and community.

It was a really good, visceral first experience after a hiatus.  I tried again last night to continue exploring, but it didn’t go as well.  Unlike the first night, I did not do it in the context of a formal rite.  It was also very humid, and the space between my bed and altar felt too tight.  I was too focused on my physical discomfort…  I started down the tunnel but had to turn around.

I intend to keep at it.  I like the drumming.  Perhaps I need to always trance as part of a ritual, with offerings and all the mental keys.  Or, perhaps it was merely that I could not get over my own physical discomforts?

 

 

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Each week, I draw a card from my Druid Animal Oracle deck as an omen for the week.  I pray for guidance as I go forward.  During this week’s ritual, I pulled the owl card. I’m not used to seeing this omen, so the meaning didn’t come to me right away.  At first I thought about wisdom, stealth in the dark, and change because of the myth of Blodeuwedd the flower maiden.  She is transformed into an owl for betraying Lugh.  

This made me stop and think a lot about change.  The frog card can signify change, but it’s a total change – inside and out, possibly including one’s environment.  Snake can also indicate change, but more superficial.  One must shed one’s skin in order to grow.  What kind of change is the owl, then?  A punishing change?  An unwanted change?  Change via divine intervention?

I then thought about the link between owls and An Cailleach, as the Scottish-Gaelic cailleach-oidhche refers to owls.  An Cailleach transforms from old to young in several stories.  Could the owl card refer to a change via age or even a spiritual transformation?

I asked for more clarification and drew another card after shuffling.  This time the cat card came to me.  I associate this card with protecting the home and, at times, sensuality.  The former meaning comes from some Irish stories in which cats guard treasure, especially in fairy realms.  As I have cats at home, I see them as protectors and very hearth-centric.  I thought more about the connection between the cards.  They are both predators capable of seeing in the dark, yet I felt more confused.

Although I feel I have a good sense of the cards, their meanings, the symbolism of the animals, and my own understanding of their lore and biology most of the time, I occasionally turn to the companion book for further insight. I might have forgotten something.  Interestingly, another meaning for both cards is “detachment.”  Well, when both cards have literally the same word in their symbolic description, it’s hard to overlook the emphasis.

I’m not sure what this omen means to me yet.  Is it a blessing?  A warning before something comes up?  Maybe it means that, in order to engage with the spiritual change I seek, I need to take some time for myself.  This would make sense given my last post about  once more delving into trance practice.  Only time will tell.

Learning a divination system can be a complex process, but I love how rich and thought-provoking it is.

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