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Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’

A few posts ago, I talked about my hesitance to work with a rattle during a trance exercise suggested in a book.  Something about the context didn’t feel right to me.  It just wasn’t for me. Well, I attended the Central New York Pagan Pride Day on September 17th and had an opportunity to try a rattle as I danced in a drum circle.  It happened by chance – I was merely trying to encourage my daughter to try something and join me in the dance.

After the fact, I researched the instrument and found that it’s called an ekpiri rattle.  It was comprised of a wooden handle and various hard shells strung around it.  It made a satisfying woody rattle.  It’s apparently a common instrument in Ghana.

As the drummers worked their magic, I danced with my daughter and some old friends in the circle.  I won’t say that I went into any sort of deep trance – certainly not the kind I experienced at a Wellspring drum circle a few years ago – but I did find it remarkably easy to release worries and feel connected with the moment.  I have a vivid memory of looking up at the tall oak tree above the circle.  I admired it as I spiraled below, playing that beautiful African instrument.

As I rattled and focused on the oak here and there, inspiration struck – why not make a rattle in a more Druidic context?  I imagine utilizing wood found in Celtic lore- perhaps apple to represent sweetness and the Otherworld, or rowan for protection?  I imagine the percussive sound coming from acorn caps strung about the wood.  And this is leading me to research rattles and their ritual uses in European cultures.  Perhaps I should revisit my bell wand?

This could be the start of something personally transformative…  My trance studies are once more meeting with my casual love of dance while also appealing to my creative side.

 

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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!

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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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