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Posts Tagged ‘three realms’

I didn’t wear the right footwear to trek into the woods behind my parents’ home, but I didn’t let that stop me. The house was chaotic and our schedule today is packed. I needed a moment, so I locked myself in my childhood room as I did as a teenager. The weather was springlike today. I found myself wondering why I brought my wool coat. I let the breeze waft over me as I faced the woods. I studied the gray branches of maple trees etched against a cloudless, cerulean sky. 

I easily found myself transported to my inner grove. I walked the familiar trail to a mighty oak. On the right, a fire pit circled by smooth stones. The flame magically stays a manageable height. At the left is a semi-circle stone wall built into the river. Water seeps through openings, creating a small wading pool; not a well, by it’s what my mind has constructed in its place. I walk in and let my the energy of water and sun meet me in the center. 

Just like that, all was well within and without. Even though I couldn’t easily go into the forest and my day was packed, I made the most looking through a window. 

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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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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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This past weekend, I spent a couple days at different beaches along the St. Lawrence River. On Friday, I put my feet in the public beach at Alexandria Bay. On Sunday, I went swimming with friends at Grass Point State Park. It was a fantastic way to spend some of my remaining vacation, especially as it was so hot. Both times, as I stood in the blissfully cool waters and felt the warm sun on my skin, I was reminded of the Two Powers meditation. I remember how I struggled with that once upon a time. Turns out, the more I did it, the better I became at visualization and even sensing the energies flowing through me. Part of my improvement over the years has been through mindfully storing memories.

As I stood in the waters, I did my best to be present at that time, capturing details of the experience for later reference. When the bitter cold winter sets in, I will need memories of summer at the river to help me connect with the cooling waters and warm sun, just as I rely on my winter experiences to supplement my summer meditations on hot, sticky days. As we move into the cooler half of the year, I hope you take some time to reflect on your experiences in places where you connected with the sky and water energies.

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A view of Alexandria Bay and Casino Island. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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A lovely, moss-covered rock I encountered on my walk today.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A lovely, moss-covered rock I encountered on my walk today. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Today I went to the forest to do a devotional. It’s a perfect day for that. The sky is clear, allowing the sun to hit the changing leaves. It makes them look like a brilliant flame!

As a precaution against hunters and bears, I donned a red jacket and, once I was in the forest, sang “We Approach the Sacred Grove” on my way to my little nemeton. When I got there, I circled clockwise, stopping before the oak tree. I then allowed myself to breathe and take in the beauty of my surroundings. I felt so at peace and thankful to be there. It’s something I look forward to each week. If I miss my walks for some reason, I do my devotionals inside, but there’s something extra special about doing them in the forest.

I called to Brighid as a Goddess of inspiration and as a gatekeeper. Like others in ADF, I have been experimenting with this portion of ritual and looking to the fire as the beginning of a ritual working upon reaching the sacred space. While I do not start fires in the forest, I look up to the sun as the great bonfire in the sky. I prayed to Brighid:

Lady Brighid, Goddess of flame,

I pray that your fire sparks the flames in my mind

Inspiring me to speak with truth, beauty, and eloquence.

I pray that your fire shines a light into the darkness,

Chasing away the negativity.

I pray that your fire’s smoke carry my prayers to the Other Worlds

And that you open the ways.

Lady Brighid – let the ways be open!

 

It is a work in progress. I feel that I tweak that process and prayer a little each time, but I like how it is working out.

I attuned with the fire, well, and tree, meditating on their symbolism and power. This is always very visceral for me when I’m outside. I focus on how I sense them. The sun’s warmth and light touches my face, the creek nearby often gurgles, or the sun glints off the raindrops on the leaves. The oak tree, which I lean on when I focus on the Two Powers, gives me strength and stability. The firm earth gives me a foundation on which to stand.

I sang to the Earth Mother, then bent to give her a kiss. Next, I prayed and gave offerings to the Three Kindreds, followed by special offerings for my spirit guide and patroness.

When I am in the woods, I meditate, but not the way I do inside. Being out in a forest, off a path, I need to be mindful of the possible dangers. I relax but generally don’t close my eyes. I stand against the oak tree and soften my gaze. I let myself truly open up to the sensations of the forest. My purpose in going to the forest is to commune with the land, with the Nature Spirits there, and praise the Kindred among the trees. I’m not trying to escape that in some way by visualizing an alternate grove. When I meditate in the forest, it is to fully immerse myself in that environment. When I leave, I carry that with me for all the times I pray and meditate inside. Going into the woods is like recharging a battery.

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The view from Wellesley Island, NY. Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

Like most people in America, I spent some time outdoors with my family this Labor Day weekend. We decided to explore one of the larger islands in the 1000 Islands – Wellesley Island. We chose to take a late afternoon hike on one of the shorter trails at the Minna Anthony Nature Center. We arrived shortly before the building closed, but we were able to take a quick peek at the butterfly house. There weren’t many butterflies in there, but we did enjoy what we saw. Honestly, the highlight for me was finally seeing a positively identified nettle in person. There’s a world of a difference between looking at field guides and live specimens. Now I have a better sense of what to look for when I go foraging again!

Since we had toddlers with us and none of us were dressed for a longer hike, we decided to take a short trail. You can lengthen your hike by continuing on to a lookout over Eel Bay, but we turned towards a dock*. All the while, the St. Lawrence River was just visible through the still green trees, it’s gentle waves hushing the chattering squirrels. There were several large oak trees near the path. We stopped to admire them – even hug them. I’ve been teaching Bee that trees are important Nature Spirits. We say hello to them, and I teach her their names as we do this. “Hello oak!” She always waves.

We were delighted at how quiet the dock was. Perhaps it was the time of day, or perhaps most people were busy swimming or having picnics. Had it only been myself, my husband, and daughter, I would have asked for some quiet time to meditate. It’s a great spot for just that. We put our feet in and caught some sun on our faces. Land, sea, and sky – an island is a great place to connect with the Three Realms.

Weretoad and I intend to return on our own in the future. We want to hike the longer trail to Eel Bay, and I would like to do some meditation. It’s a large state park, and there seem to be plenty of quiet areas where a Druid or even a very small group could go to meditate.

*We discovered afterwards that the dock is also accessible via an even shorter trail right behind the center itself.

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I’ve been working on a nighttime prayer to say with my daughter and I think I’ve finally settled on wording that I like. What do you think?

“Goodnight Prayer” by Grey Catsidhe

Goodnight moon and goodnight sun
Goodnight every Shining One

Goodnight lake and goodnight pond
Goodnight loved ones from beyond

Goodnight Earth and goodnight tree
Goodnight nature all ’round me

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