‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for February 4th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

So often it is difficult to know where the line lies between kindness and domineering. It doesn’t sound as if the two could possibly mix, but sometimes in our watchfulness over those we care about we’re inclined to think it a kind of goodness when it actually becomes domineering.

It is often the best and kindest thing to let others think for themselves. Even though the helpfulness is of love, it can be smothering to the ones who want to breathe freely, even of their own problems.

Concern can turn to possessiveness in the space of a moment and do it so subtly it is almost impossible to comprehend. All individuals have the right to make their own mistakes and also the undeniable right to correct those mistakes. It makes help appreciated when it comes and then help is recognized as help and not as ownership.

If we were all told what to do, it would relieve us of the burden of the responsibility of thinking, planning, or making decisions. Our lives would be literally free of care. And there are those among us who love to direct the traffic of other people’s lives. But have you noticed how detestable it is to them to have the smallest suggestion made concerning their own? What a display of vanity!

There are always sycophants, or “apple polishers,” if you will, who fawn and flatter the vanity. But to have one’s vanity built to great heights is not always an act of love, but more often subtle scorn.

Love is the only force against vanity. Love does not wish to command, but only to serve. If love cannot tell the truth it does not speak. Vanity separates, love joins. Love does not ask that another take the responsibility, but it asks only the strength to bear it.

___________________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – February 4

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – February 4

“We say there is a right time and place for everything.It’s easy to say, but hard to understand. You have to live it to understand it.”

–Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

The Elders tell us there is a right time and a right place. Don’t plant seeds in the fall-wrong time. One way we find out about the right time and right place is our experience. If we are lucky, we have a few friends who will share their experience; this will help us too. The best way is to let God guide us. Only He knows the right time and the right place. So we need to pray and ask Him for guidance.

Great Spirit, show me patience so I can live in the right time and right place.

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February 4 – Daily Feast

February 4 – Daily Feast

To stand alone does not mean there is no one else around. It means we are u na tse li dv-u na to tiv hi…. We think for ourselves in an independent way, using our heads rather than our feet. We fit life to us instead of letting it press us into a mold that would not makes us happy. Letting the world dictate to us is being one of the herd that runs – not because it is the right thing to do, but because we think everyone else is doing it, and so must we. Is it the right direction? Refusing to be swept along with every trend is cultivating our inner awareness of right and wrong. Awareness is there within us, but we have to hear it and heed it. This is why we were given intelligence – to stand alone so that we may have something to offer when someone else needs us.

~ Too many misinterpretations have been made….too many misunderstandings…. ~

CHIEF JOSEPH

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

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Daily Motivator for February 4th – No need for frustration

No need for frustration

Frustration is a painful, debilitating feeling that can often cause you to do  things you’ll regret. So choose to quickly let it go.

Frustration, as automatic and overpowering as it may seem, is a choice. And  you can always make a different choice.

The habit of reacting in frustration is just that, a habit. Like any other  habit you’ve developed, you can get rid of it when you choose.

Yes, life regularly presents you with difficult dilemmas for which  frustration is a perfectly understandable reaction. Other than grabbing your  attention, however, your frustration never does accomplish much.

So once you’re aware of the frustrating situation, make the choice to find a  more useful, effective response. Step back from the desire for instant drama,  and work on creating some long-term positive results.

Channel the high-powered energy of frustration into intentional, focused,  positive action. Give yourself the option to act effectively and appropriately,  and you’ll find you have no need for frustration.

— Ralph Marston

Daily Motivator

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Daily OM for February 4th – An Instrument of Change

An Instrument of Change
Wealth Is Neutral

by Madisyn Taylor

As a form of potential energy that empowers us to generate change, money is neither good nor bad.

At its most basic, money is a tool that enables us to meet our individual needs. As a form of potential energy that empowers us to generate change, it is neither good nor bad. Yet many people react emotionally to issues concerning finances, unconsciously condemning currency itself, the manner in which money is spent, and people who live lives of financial abundance. Individuals who are rich in gifts such as high intelligence are acknowledged for their positive traits while those who have acquired material riches or aspire to become wealthy are frequently judged harshly. However, wealth is not a trait upon which judgment can be legitimately passed. It tells us nothing about how a person lives, what they believe in, whom they care for, or the scope of their values. Like any blessing, wealth is merely an instrument of purpose that can be used both constructively and destructively.

From an early age, people learn to court wealth while simultaneously associating money with greed, selfishness, and unethical behavior. Consequently, this idea becomes entrenched in their hearts as envy. To attain a balanced and rational comprehension of money, as well as a fairer perspective of wealth, we need to recognize that outward manifestations of wealth tell us little about the individuals enjoying those blessings. When we feel the finger of jealousy prompting us to draw unflattering conclusions about people whose lives seem more financially secure than our own, we should remind ourselves that there are many elements of their circumstances we cannot see. Their wealth may be the result of long hours of taxing labor, they may donate a large percentage of their resources to charitable causes, or their bounty may be an incidental aspect of a life spent doing what they love. Ultimately, we can heal our hurtful associations with money by turning a blind eye toward both wealth and poverty when interacting with others and instead focusing on the individual before us.

If you take a moment to consider you own feelings regarding money and wealth, you may discover that you equate financial prosperity with happiness, power, security, independence, or self-indulgence. Money itself, however, is none of these things. You can begin developing a healthier view of wealth by simply accepting that while some possess great wealth and others do not, we all have the potential to create lives of beauty, substance, and wisdom using the resources we have been granted.

Daily OM

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The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

Author:   Crick   

As Paganism slowly but surely emerges out of the grip of suppression brought on by what is now commonly referred to as organized religions. We may want to be aware of several pitfalls and realities as we once again step into the light of day.

First of all, the top three organized religions are themselves fairly new in the grand scheme of history. Prior to their appearance on the world stage, basically everyone in the world followed some type of pagan belief, which was for the most part an individual spiritual belief and not an organized religion per se. Such beliefs were influenced by ones personal environment and the immediate world around them. There was an interpersonal awareness that helped to shape one’s values and thus their corresponding beliefs. In today’s artificial world we no longer have such a mainstay or influence to guide us.

The current “accepted” beliefs being touted by the main three organized religions and the suppression of former popular beliefs did not occur as a natural effect of events in human history.

It was and continues to be a planned and concerted action, which began in one instance with the advent of the apologists and has continued on through the ages by acts of repression, fear and some very clever propaganda. These deliberate actions have been supplemented by the tactics of politicians who are overtly biased in favor of the institutions of organized religion.

After all, power begets power.

As such we should be aware that the basic tenet of these man made religious organizations is to hold onto such power at all costs. We as a community would like to think that we are accepting of all religious beliefs and spiritual paths, as we should be.

But we should not be so naïve as to think that just because we are so accepting that organized religions will welcome us back with open arms from the isolation of an exile that they themselves imposed upon those of pagan beliefs.

In all reality they (organized religions) would very much like to see paganism fade away as just another passing fad. An example of this is the gathering in Rome in the summer of 2007 of the Roman Catholic Church of which the primary topic was “how to draw folks away from Devil worship (allegedly paganism) and back into the grasp of the one true church”.

Granted there are some individuals within organized religion who are realistic and enlightened enough to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe as they do. And thus are willing to work with members of alternate beliefs such as paganism.

However the harsh reality is that these folks generally belong to one of the very aggressive religious organizations whose leaders do not endorse such openness. And as such we are being accepted only in isolated situations and only at the very grass roots of these religious institutions.

Acceptance of the fact that the oldest religious/spiritual beliefs in the world were not obliterated and are making a re-emergence is going to take some considerable time, effort and patience.

We will re-emerge into the light of day one enlightened heart and soul at a time. To believe otherwise is in my personal opinion, both foolish and self-defeating.

Another pitfall we should be wary of is manipulation by the organized religions. They have by virtue of their position in the world today, proven to be very adept at such tactics.

And quite obviously (to some of us anyway) they are employing these tried and proven techniques to the very community that they would like to once again vanquish back into the throes of exile.

What is this manipulation you may ask?

Over the recent years, a crumb will fall off of the table of organized religion and a pagan will be ‘allowed” to sit at the same table as these folks. Each time it has been a Wiccan who is chosen to take such a seat and in each case the chosen Wiccan will proclaim themselves as representative of the whole pagan community. And then folks in the pagan community will swoon like young schoolgirls and say, “oh what a great thing this is for the community”.

In my personal opinion, such proclamations fall right into the hands of those of the organized religions who are sponsoring such meetings.

I have serious reservations about such an approach and reaction for several down to earth reasons.

First of all, realistically we as a community are dealing with folks who are well schooled in such manipulation. It is quite apparent that if you can’t outright obliterate what you object to then you find a way to control it.

For example Brighid the Goddess did not become a Christian saint by happenstance. It was an act of sage manipulation by an organized religion. Hence we have the old adage of, “keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer”.

And so with all due respect to those of the Wicca, I personally have to wonder why organized religion seems to only choose members of Wicca, which is by all accounts barely a generation old and thus but a babe in the world of paganism as the ones who are proffered a seat with these folks.

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here, I think that it is great that a pagan of any path gets the crumb that is offered, to a certain extent.

But then this brings me to my next concern.

One of the primary tenets of paganism is diversity. And if we are to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy then perhaps those Wicca who are chosen to be seated with organized religions should state responsibly, that in fact they represent but a small portion of the pagan community.

Again, with all due respect to those of the path of Wicca, not only would this be a realistic statement but it would also leave the door open to those of other pagan beliefs. And as such would be a confirmation of the pagan community’s stated belief in the tenet of diversity.

Paganism is after all an acronym or umbrella for many “diverse” beliefs. And no one path can honestly state that they alone represent the many different beliefs that align themselves under the banner of paganism.

In all reality, and yet once again with all due respect, as an Irish witch who also engages the path of shamanism, Wicca does not remotely represent my personal path. Nor does it accurately reflect the beliefs of those who are Asatru, Voudon, Santerian, Odinist, Yoruba, Shamanic, witch and so forth.

If we as a community are going to endorse diversity as one of our founding tenets then we need to surpass the temptations of ego and thus avoid the snare that is being put into place by those religious organizations that have shown such skill in manipulation.

Those who are tapped should show some responsibility and use their opportunities to ensure that organized religion is aware that we are in fact a diverse community and do not fit into one spiritual/religious shoe fits all.

By the same token, we as a community need to overcome our petty ego driven differences and be willing to proffer folks from various pagan beliefs as representatives of our community. Granted this will take a measure of maturity that has for the most part been lacking in our community.

But I personally believe that if we are true to ourselves and our community that we can indeed find the inner strength to exhibit such maturity as a community to express ourselves in such a manner.

The final concern that I would like to express in this treatise is this.
Why do we buy into the perception that organized religion has of us?

Realistically, it is “their” perception and should not be the view that we as pagans hold of ourselves.

Why do we as a community get all flustered and swoon whenever organized religion allows us a seat?

They are in all reality the newcomers to the world stage of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Paganism is in fact the oldest such beliefs in existence, period!
When one of us is invited to their table it should be with the approach that they (organized religions) should be honored to have a member of such an ancient belief seated at their table.

We need to stop playing into their blatant manipulation and express ourselves with aplomb and dignity and not as eager children grateful for a brief moment of attention.

I personally believe that this is why they (organized religions) only invite the Wicca (who are the babes of pagan society) into their midst. In this manner they can point and say “but they have only been around since 1952” and so the manipulation continues and unadulterated attempts at control continues.

In closing I would like to make it clear that I am not casting about disparaging thoughts against those of the Wicca or any other members of organized religions and/or other pagan paths.

My words are simply a reflection of the realities that we as pagans did not create but which we have to live with. How cognizant we are and how we approach such issues as a community in regards to organized religions will determine whether we remain in the daylight or whether we once again resume our existence in the darkness of religious/spiritual exile.

If you don’t want to think of these issues in regards to yourself then maybe you should consider the religious/spiritual freedoms (true freedoms) of your children and your children’s children.

For in all reality, such manipulation and control did not occur over one generation nor is it likely to ebb within just one generation. Freedom of religious/spiritual beliefs is an ongoing struggle against those who would have it otherwise.

I think the last 2000 years or so has made that quite clear…

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We Who Shall Inherit Ourselves

We Who Shall Inherit Ourselves

Author:  Brannawen Ravenhart

 

Over the course of the past decade or two, the giant surge of information on Paganism and Wicca, and Witchcraft in general has swelled to enormous proportions. Whereas I used to have to scratch pathetically through musty bookstores, or wait patiently for a dog-eared and battered single paperback copy of “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler at the library, or, if great luck would have it, borrow a book or two from some other fortunate soul who not only owned books, but might even know someone who knew someone who might have more; now I can walk into any mall, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks and find many different books in a wide range of topics, depths, and styles. I can surf the Internet and find information on anything I desire. Videos, DVD’s, television documentaries, are all available to me like chocolates in a candy store. What do I want to pick today? What do I wish to learn? What path do I want to know more about? What do I want to know of our own history? The plethora of books and authors allow luxuries today that were unheard of years ago. They also allow a freedom of choice that was never dreamed of. Before, we had to be happy with what we got, and if we did manage to get our hands on something, we often followed that specific information to the people and paths where we eventually ended up. The ways to wisdom had but few trails in the wilderness, and we ended up exactly where they took us.

In a way, this was a very good thing. The hardworking, dedicated individual could find their way only through the mysterious maze of the guidance of others. This led to strength and conviction and solidarity within the covens, groves, groups or even to the Solitary Practitioner, due to the inherent nature of the learning. There are pros and cons about the ‘opening of the Book of Shadows’ to the general public, and there are many valid points to each pro and each con. However, I know what I have felt transform in my own life. I have to base my experience and knowledge on what is real to me. No longer do I have to hide. I may still be cautious, but I know that I can stand in community now, shoulder to shoulder with other battle weary survivors of the shrouded times. I am not alone. I can now say ‘We.’ To that I add “We, who live in the Information Age.”

To me, it is the transformation of having to get up and manually changing one of the three grainy channels on a TV dial to holding the remote control for 400+ stations on digital cable. It is my great luck and fortune to be living in this time, the same way my grandmother and great-grandmother lived through horse and buggy days to rocket ships to the moon. I am a witness. I will never lose sight of that blessing.

This deluge of information, of availability, has propelled Paganism into the face of the forefront of our American culture. No longer complete outcasts, or hidden away, we now have been recognized, have constitutional protections, freedom of speech and religion that is allowed to any other person in this country, as it should be. And we are growing. The information feeding tube has given birth to fantastic amounts of interest, media coverage, watchdog organizations and it is a burgeoning vein that feeds back into itself. By this very exposure we have been given tools and opportunities to defend ourselves against ignorance and segregation, against defamation and harassment (and worse) from other faiths or beliefs who once shunned and persecuted us.

In the same breath, I will also say that I fully agree that now, our own worst enemy is ourselves. Over the years, I have run into many myths about Wicca and Witchcraft, from the days when I wrote my first little book on Witches at age seven (a horrible caricature which makes me squirm due to the naivetŽ it represents — I was equally fascinated and repelled by the wicked witch myth, ) up to today where I see infighting and slander from one group to another. Here is the irony: I conquered my own reservations and cultural enslavement to the myth of ‘evil and Witchcraft, ‘ and then found my way. I conquered my fear of the unknown and of unknown people when I reached out to find others who believed the way I do, and found my way again. I conquered my fear of speaking out and letting my family and friends know about my beliefs, and found acceptance. Now I find myself trying to conquer the anxiety and confusion caused by our own infighting.

I do realize that something this new, this tremendous, this explosive, this controversial will have, by it’s own combustive nature (the birth of a new wave of faith) these types of interwoven battles. Are they of supremacy? Possibly. Jealousy? Of what, I am not sure, but yes, of jealousy too. Does this make sense? No. But I think that at this time, we are not only here to find ourselves, but to find and define each other.

Every single one of us has at this time the potential to make a mark in this path. Relatively speaking, there are so few of us. Human nature makes us want to shine out, speak out, be noticed, be recognized. I have to admit to that. The key here is; what mark is it that we truly want to leave? This is why it is so important to be careful, think hard, and speak wisely. We all have the opportunity here to be heard, if we stop pushing a little. No biting, kicking, scratching or shoving, and as for our kids, well, they just better mind their manners also! We should take the opportunity now of our few numbers, and our own voices, to promote the greater good, rather than ourselves. We can all be heard. Perhaps in another millennium, surrounded by billions of Wiccans, Druids, Shamans and Neo Pagans of all paths, when we are culturally mainstream, we would not have this chance. But now? This is the time to work with each other. To be here and now in this time is such a gift. It is sobering to realize that not everyone can see this.

We are writing our own history. This has been said many ways, many times. This is so true. This is also what upsets me sometimes, when I see someone or hear someone who doesn’t seem to understand or recognize this, or who uses subversion or duplicity to undermine one faction just to promote his or her own. On the other hand, I also feel compassion. We do have to make mistakes to ‘get’ the lesson. That is why we are here, after all. The most we can do is hold onto that thought if and when we do make those mistakes ourselves. All we have to do is notice and thank the ones who do manage to speak out clearly, and fight not only the misconceptions about us, but also the misconceptions we have about each other. We hold in our hands the pen that will leave the mark on the wall of our history. Will it be graffiti? Or poetry? Caricatures? Or great art? We are at the beginning. Our forefathers are living here among us. They could even be ourselves. This is an endowment we should never lose sight of.

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Upon the Astral Plane and the Afterlife

Upon the Astral Plane and the Afterlife

Author:   Grey Glamer   

In their role as walkers between the worlds, Witches and Heathens are creatures born from apparent paradox. While the individual practitioner may emphasize one or the other, most Neopagans simultaneously honor both the multiplicity and the fundamental unity of All That Is. Meaning no disrespect to the true polytheists among us, I myself find deepest inspiration when I acknowledge one immanent Holy One who wears many masks.

As human beings, though, we’re decidedly prone to losing sight of the forest for the trees, and thus I find beneficial the practice of returning to our most basic beliefs from time to time. My purpose in writing this essay isn’t to resolve all the apparent dualities in our world, or any such herculean task. Rather, I want to focus upon one particular duality that profoundly shapes the quest shared by mystics and magicians, the observed gap between the realms of matter and of spirit, and the ways by which that divide shapes our sense of life, death, and rebirth.

Employing the term in the contemporary, non-Siberian sense, contemporary Witchcraft is a shamanic path. While many Witches and Heathens prefer to conceptualize and discuss magic via the language of energies and vibrations, at some point within our developing quest we encounter some non-physical entity that’s sentient in roughly the same sense that we are sentient. Whether we meet them during our astral journeys or perceive their physical manifestations upon our own material realm, they are undeniably real, possessing strangely familiar feelings and motivations.

Speaking from my own admittedly limited experience, some spiritual beings are beneficent, while some leave morality to be desired. Most are somewhere in the middle, neither angels nor demons. In fact, for all their whimsicality, the average spirit seems very, very human. They have needs and desires, dreams and fears, just like you and me.

This class of being, which impresses itself primarily upon our intuitive sense yet with occasional physical manifestations, I define as spiritual, as opposed to material creatures like ourselves who, generally speaking, prove more intensely cognizant of the physical. Of course, there exists no creature exclusively material or spiritual. Every material creature maintains an aspect within the spiritual realms, and every spiritual being produces some resonance upon the material plane. With precious few exceptions, however, most entities favor one aspect over the other, and only when the Mists between worlds serendipitously grow thin do we even acknowledge the multifaceted nature of our cosmos.

As walkers between the worlds, Witches and Heathens learn how to step lightly from the material into the spiritual and back again. Every Circle that we conjure creates a sanctuary where the material and the spiritual may intertwine. Every spell that we cast draws the two worlds closer together. Viewed from this perspective, magic becomes the awareness of how these two realms – material and spiritual – interact with one another.

Whenever we exercise our awareness of the spiritual, however, we encounter the possibility that we will misinterpret or overvalue the experience. Just looking around, it’s not difficult to conclude that creatures within the material realm are deeply flawed, vulnerable to entropy wearing the twin guises of decay and suffering. Faced with our own decline and eventual demise, we often cast about for something beyond our finite existence, something eternal and incorruptible. We reflect upon the turbulent swirl that is our life, turning towards religion or philosophy for solace.

So when the novice Witch first encounters the spirit world, they often harbor a predisposition to believe that here rests the incorruptible something they’ve been seeking. After all, the spirit realm’s inhabitants don’t appear to be bound by the same fixed life cycles that define our physical existence. Moreover, I suspect our culture’s mythos concerning ghosts and the restless dead fuels a prejudice that says our need for something beyond the grave can be filled by the spirit world.

In my humble opinion, I believe that seeking out eternal life within the spirit world is misguided, although there are certainly worse ways by which one can err. (I’m fully aware the above statement will contradict the beliefs held by many readers, and where that happens, please understand that I don’t consider myself any sort of authority on Truth. I draw upon my experiences and my reflections to generate my unique magical paradigm. Your experiences, your reflections, and your paradigm doubtless will differ from my own, and that’s a Good Thing!)

My intention isn’t to question whether we are eternal, because I believe we are. Nor do I question the existence of the Summer Lands, that blessed abode wherein the ghost recuperates and regroups before returning to the ever-turning wheel. The Summer Lands figure within my own paradigm. Still, I question the nature of the Summer Lands, and especially their connection to realms defined as spiritual or astral.

My interest concerning the Summer Lands took on fresh significance with two recent events. The first episode occurred while I was visiting my astral sanctum around Mothers’ Day. One of the spirits who accompanied me had observed the thoughtforms that people generated as the holiday approached, and asked me whether he himself had a mother. (Spirits, like kids, say the darnedest things.) I was surprised by the question, and since then I’ve delved into path working in hopes of discovering the answer to his question. (It’s material for another essay, yet for those who wonder, I believe the answer is yes.)

The second episode occurred during an otherwise unremarkable walk around my neighborhood a couple months ago. During that walk two spirits that share my home accompanied me. The ground was still drying out from rain the previous night, and we happened upon a dead frog. Not an unusual sight where I live; there are several lakes and rivers here, and when the clouds bring rain the frogs wander up into the streets, where they’re struck by passing motorists.

The “younger” spirit could sense where the frog had been killed, and I could feel her became alarmed that the same fate could befall her. Instinctively, I reached out with what comforting energies I could, communicating the sense of safety, yet after the encounter I found myself wondering: Are spirits in some sense mortal?

To borrow from the Venerable Bede, our own finite lifespan can be compared with the sparrow, which flies from the winter storm into the king’s fire-lit hall, before returning to the storm. That is, we are conscious about our own personal history for one short span, with the vast expanse of the unknown looming large upon either side. The metaphor aptly describes our condition as material beings, yet here I was confronted with two spiritual creatures that professed ignorance regarding the darkness before and after their own existence.

Based on these encounters, I believe spirits also wonder where they originate, and what lies beyond their apparent end. Ergo, spirits don’t possess the solution for the riddle of our own mortality, because they themselves are bound by the same entropic forces.

If the spiritual realms are not immortal, then either the Summer Lands are equally liable to destruction, or else the Summer Lands somehow transcend both the material and the spiritual planes. Because I believe our cosmos, and all things that inhabit this great web of existence, are intrinsically eternal, I must take up the latter argument, that the Summer Lands are neither material nor spiritual in nature, but rather transcend both categories of existence.

To develop an accurate cosmology, which properly honors the Summer Lands, we must first inquire about the planes where finite existence, both material and spiritual, plays itself out. The pantheistic philosopher Benedict Spinoza proposed that all things in existence are but modes that have their being within a unitary, self-caused Substance, simultaneously identified with God and with the cosmos. According to Spinoza’s ontology, this Substance remains unknowable except by its attributes, two of which fall within human detection: extension and thought.

In broad strokes, these two attributes are equivalent to what I term the material and the spiritual, and like Spinoza, I regard these realms as facets of one single, otherwise unknowable (upper-case) Truth.

Eternal life may be found, not among the spiritual realm, but rather within the deeper reality towards which both the material and the spiritual point; therein we learn the true import of our astral journeys. Spirits appear human precisely because they are driven by the same mortality that defines our existence. Certain spirits are heirs to ancient wisdom, but then, some material beings teach crucial truths, as well.

Rather than seeking a spirit world with all the answers, we must prepare ourselves to encounter beings with the same hopes and fears, and we must engage those creatures with the same empathy and compassion, which we would expect.

With the sharing of mutual respect, we acquire insight into the (upper-case) Truth wherein we may discover the Summer Lands and our own incorruptible nature. While spiritual beings don’t enjoy the complete picture, they do view the puzzle from angles that we seldom adopt.

Conversely, as material creatures we grasp certain aspects of reality more readily than most spirits can. Just like the proverbial blind people who grasp different parts of the elephant, we each hold crucial parts belonging to the most sublime puzzle. Only by building bridges of mutual cooperation with our astral cousins can we hope to remember our shared immortality.

May we walk lightly and with compassion.

___________________________________

Footnotes:
Spinoza, Benedict. “The Ethics.” The Rationalists. New York: Anchor Books, 1974.

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Trancework and Journeying

Trancework and Journeying

Author:   RuneWolf   

I came to Paganism directly through the practice of “core shamanism, ” so trancework was a foundation stone of my spiritual practice even before I consciously thought of myself as Pagan, and it remains so to this day. It is the third leg of the cauldron, so to speak, in my communication with the Gods, especially my Patron, the other two being prayer and meditation. I personally see these three practices as separate and distinct, although they are quite similar in many respects and overlap considerably in my practice.

Meditation, to me, is just plain ol’ Eastern-style void-stillness meditation, and I use it to give myself a break when the chatter of Talking Self gets to be too much. I use it to wind down the “rat wheel, ” to reestablish my spiritual equilibrium and to center and ground out the toxic energies we so often encounter—and accumulate—in the workaday world. I have been known to “slide sideways” from meditation into a spontaneous journey, but I do consider meditation a discipline, much like regular exercise, and when I set aside time to meditate, I try to stay focused on just that practice.

Prayer, for me, is nothing more or less than talking directly to the Gods. I have regular times – morning and evening, for instance—when I pray, but I don’t limit my contact with Deity just to those times. Depending on what’s happening in my life, I may be in prayer pretty much all day long, and I talk to the Gods “just as if” They were right there in the room—or the car!—with me, because in my understanding of reality, They are. Sometimes They answer, sometimes They don’t, but They are always there, and They always hear.

Journeying is what I do when I want to meet the Gods “face to face, ” in Their own Realm, and the majority of my journeys have been very vivid and very powerful. I have always been a very visually-oriented individual, and I conceptualize in pictures. So the imagery of journeying comes very naturally and powerfully to me, and it’s only a small step from there to incorporate sound and texture. The subjective realities of my journeys are so immediate, that I react physically to my surroundings—I’m told by observers that I “twitch” during journeys, as my physical body attempts to mimic the responses and movements of my Otherworld form.

Initially, I was concerned that small details—and sometimes large ones!—appeared to be inconsistent between one journey and the next, or even during the same journey. My Patron advised me that this was a matter of experience. Our minds, conditioned to this reality, have to adapt to the sensory input of the Otherworlds, and apparent inconsistencies in the appearance, texture, smell or whatever of Otherworld localities and entities is due to this process of adaptation. Over time, with practice and repetitive journeys to the same destination(s), our perceptions grow more acute, more vivid and more stable—if such a word can apply to the Otherworlds.

The other side of the trancework coin is “invoking for possession, ” or “channeling” Deity. I don’t normally trance in this manner, as the sensation of Someone co-habiting my body is unsettling to me. It can also be a dangerous practice, I’m told, although I have never had any unpleasant consequences myself, aside from the aforementioned discomfort. Indeed, on the three occasions I have invoked for possession, the sensations have been nothing short of ecstatic and transcendental. Perhaps the danger lies in that; I might easily get hooked on the “buzz” of channeling!

In all seriousness, invoking for possession is something to be attempted only with a foundation of experience in other forms of trancing, and with expert and caring guidance and companionship in this realm.

To prepare for trancework, I normally create some form of sacred space, usually a simple circle, invoking the Spirits of place and my other Allies to watch over my physical form while I am away. This is my “launching pad, ” and ensures that I have a safe point of departure and return, and also serves as a “homing beacon” when I’m journeying deep into the Otherworld.

I usually take a few minutes to stretch and massage out any kinks or stiffness that I may have physically. I also take time to consciously set aside any intellectual or emotional issues that may not have to do with the purpose of the upcoming journey, but which may create unwanted “static.”

After a few years of experience, I have found that simple breathing techniques, coupled with the appropriate visualizations, are enough to induce the trance and begin the journey. I have always used the cave/passage or well/pool theme as my entrance into the Otherworlds—lately I favor the well, as Brighid is becoming an increasingly important part of my life. For deep journeys, or when I’m having trouble “launching, ” I use a simple single-beat drumming CD. I prefer the CD as it doesn’t have the hiss that a tape does. Live drumming would be great, but I don’t usually have access to a drummer.

Of course, it always helps to take the phone off the hook, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign, and so forth; the fewer distractions the better. And I try not to journey on a full stomach—I tend to slip from “journey” to “dream, ” and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I might not get done what I wanted to do!

On returning, I take time to jot down a few notes, capturing the “high points, ” as it were, of the journey. I do this even if the impressions seem vivid and lasting, as things will sometimes become jumbled or fade in the most unexpected ways. After that, I often find a bit more stretching to be in order. As I have said, I respond physically to my journeys, and I have come back stiff and sore from particularly lively trips. I do a pretty typical grounding and centering before I release the sacred space, and then I make it a habit to have a light snack. I don’t usually eat heavily for at least half-an-hour to an hour after a journey, as I have found the effects unpleasant on one or two occasions.

One thing I practiced early on was “bailing out”—hitting the astral Panic Button and returning to normal consciousness at a moment’s notice. I practiced this to get used to the sensations—often unpleasant—of this kind of emergency exit, in the event I had to do so unexpectedly during a journey. I’ve never had to, but if I do, I believe I will be better able to handle the situation, having practiced on my own. Sort of like fire drills in school. One caution—I did my “fire drills” on my own; I would not recommend this! If possible, do these with a partner or teacher.

Journeying is, for me, a mystical, ecstatic practice. We often associate “ecstatic” with extravagant physical movements, but the physical stillness of a journey trance can mask incredibly powerful sensations. And I sometimes journey simply to experience that ecstasy, to replenish my internal reserves in a most emphatic way. I also use it to commune, in a very intimate and personal fashion, with Deity. I am not one of those who can “see” Deities and other Beings of Power in this realm. I can only do that when I journey to the Otherworld. So it is an affirmation, if you will, of the reality of Deity, and of the profundity of my relationship with Spirit. I can meet with the Gods in Their Realms, face to face, to question and learn, and sometimes just to socialize. It has been my experience that the Gods crave an intimate relationship with Their children, of a kind that cannot be experienced through the filter of dogma and liturgy, however “spontaneous” and “unstructured.” Just as Mom prefers a visit to a phone call, the Gods prefer to meet us “in the flesh, ” no matter how fervent our prayers or how reverent our ritual.

On those occasions when I have journeyed for the specific purpose of healing others, I can only say that it apparently did no harm to the subject of the healing. Was it “successful?” Did it “work?” That is difficult to quantify. Everyone I helped in such a fashion had been exploring every possible avenue for healing—if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have agreed to help. When we need healing, for whatever reason, I believe we must use every possible resource. To rely on one technique or body of knowledge to the exclusion of others is to limit the ways in which the Gods may help us. So I can’t say that my journeying alone, or the acupuncture alone, or the prayer alone, or the vitamins alone, or the chemicals alone, were what ultimately helped one person or another. I tend to think that everything positive we do for ourselves helps in some way. So I feel that, in journeying for those in need, I did indeed contribute to their wellness.

In Their Service…

RuneWolf

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Practice and method of Shamanism

Practice and method of Shamanism

The shaman plays the role of healer in shamanic societies; shamans gain knowledge and power by traversing the axis mundi and bringing back knowledge from  the heavens. Even in western society, this ancient practice of healing is referenced by the use of the caduceus as the symbol of medicine.

Oftentimes the shaman has, or acquires, one or more familiar helping entities in the spirit world; these are often spirits in animal form, spirits of  healing plants, or (sometimes) those of departed shamans. In many shamanic societies, magic, magical force, and knowledge are all denoted by one word, such  as the Quechua term yachay.

While the causes of disease are considered to lie in the realm of the spiritual, being effected by malicious spirits or Witchcraft, spiritual methods as  well as what we would consider physical methods are used to heal. The shaman often will enter the body of their patient to find the spirit making the patient  sick, and heal by removing the infectious spirit by the patient.

However, many shamans have expert knowledge of the plant life in their area, and an herbal regimine is often perscribed as treatment. In many places, the  shamans claim to learn from the plants directly, only being able to determine the effects of a plant and use it to heal after meeting the spirit of the plant  and getting permission.

In South America, individual spirits are called through singing icaros; to call the spirit, the spirit must teach you their song.

The use of totem items such as rocks is common; these items are believed to have special powers and an animating spirit.

Such practices are presumably very ancient; in circa 368 bc, Plato wrote in the Phaedrus that the “first prophecies were the words of an oak”,  and that everyone who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to “listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth”.

The belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujeria in South America, is prevalent in many shamanic societies.

Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm; others believe that all shamans have the power to both cure and kill; that is,  shamans are in some societies also thought of as being capable of harm. The shaman usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community, renowned for  their powers and knowledge; but they may also be suspected of harming others and thus feared.

In engaging in this work the shaman exposes himself to significant personal risk, from the spirit world, from any enemy shamans, as well as from the means  employed to alter his state of consciousness. Certain of the plant materials used can kill, and the out-of-body journey itself can lead to non-returning and  physical death; spells of protection are common, and the use of more dangerous plants is usually very highly ritualized.

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