Thursday, 31 October 2013

Of old years, new years, crows, sheep and a Kid Shaman



Samhain. It's become a kind of alternative holy day for Wiccans (did you know that Wicca was created and launched in 1954 by a British ex-civil servant called Gerald Gardner?) and is a day/night of note for anyone who identifies as pagan in their beliefs. For those of us of the shamanic persuasion it could almost be said to be business as usual - the Otherworld and communicating with spirits and all - I enjoy the idea that on this day, those spirits may be nearer.

My ancestors are all Celtic/Gaelic and their calendar names today as the end of the year. In her book Earth Wisdom, Glennie Kindred says:
All of life is withdrawing inside itself now...Once we accept this and let go our attachment to [the old year], a new set of possibilities is revealed. There is a new power to life as we nurture new dreams and new seeds in the dark. By accepting this period of rest, we find rejuvenation and renewal.
This is not a time for action but a time to drift, to dream, to vision and remember. It is a time for meditation and welcoming inner stillness, for long term plans and for nourishing our spirit. 
So while I'll not be giving today big high holiday status with ritual and ceremony, I am celebrating the start of a new year tomorrow and wishing farewell to the old one tonight. And if the ancestors and others from the other side choose to show up... excellent. Party on, ancient dudes.

Evie will be partying on with her best friend's family as they like to do Hallowe'en to the max, with pumpkins and skeletons and cobwebs and stuff. It's fun. And they don't go round knocking on people's doors. We talked about Samhain this week and old/new year and thin walls. She decided to go to the party dressed as a crow. That's my girl (and that's her headdress above which goes with black 'wings' cut into feathers and real crow feathers sewn onto the neck. \m/ ). Yesterday we were walking in the woods, looking for storm damage and came across an old tree who had a branch - still living - bent over the the floor where it touched a fallen log. The log, in turn, lay between the bent branch and the tree's trunk, creating a beautiful archway we needed to step up and through.

'Imagine,' she said,'That this is a portal into the spirit world (I did a quick context leap from the Marvel superheroes conversation we'd been having up until this point) and on the other side we turn into the animal we really are. I'd be a dog. Dad....Dad would be a fox (and I feel I should say he is always a fox). Zoey would be.."A CAT!"' we shouted together. So that's clear.

"Dooley would be a hare, definitely." I have to say he probably would.

"Mum you'd be a red-tailed hawk. Because they're intelligent and quite powerful."

One day, when she's 14 and hates me, I will remind her of this moment. Or maybe just hold it in my heart for solace.

We've never talked about Shamanism as such. It's not a word or concept she knows anything about so I figured this was a good time to introduce it. I told her that seeing people as or with spirit animals is shamanic and explained what that meant, with a little help from 'that old lady in that film Brother Bear'.

'Well,' she said. 'I'm a spirit-teller. Perhaps that means I'll be a shaman when I grow up. Or maybe I'm one now. But I'm not wise yet. Kid shamans don't know much so they're not wise but when I'm an old lady I'll know loads more.'

'Spirit-teller'? Really? Where does she get this stuff? Is Minecraft a secret online Hogwarts?

Anyway, then we went to see The Sheep in the Woods but that's a whole other story.

Happy new year. I liked this.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Nothing to fear



At times we all, I think, have a sense that the internet can be both a blessing and a curse. Of course it's neither, it's a mirror, and our use of it and our reactions to the people there can cause all sorts of issues to come to the surface.

I have one particular challenge which stares me down again and again. It manifests initially as anger and despair at the way something I care deeply about, something I consider to be vital soul work, becomes fashionable. Suddenly everyone I read is name-dropping the same names, referencing the same books, posting identikit photos, claiming a passion where there was none just days before. It makes my stomach clench, my heart hurt and my throat close painfully tight as I swallow my righteous indignation!

Crazy. And yet for years I didn't see that this reaction is all about my ego. My attachment to the concept that I exist in splendid isolation. And that in that isolation I DO NOT WANT PEOPLE. People doing exactly what I'm doing. Wearing my favourite most comfortable 'clothing' and making me look like a damn clone. I say 'for years' as if it doesn't still happen some days when the truth is it's happening here and now! This morning I want to throw a total diva fit, shout some long words and mean things at my laptop screen and cancel my broadband subscription. I am Angry of Wiltshire. I feel my loves debased by fashion and shallowness. I feel my beliefs turned into parlour games. I feel like too many people are jumping on the bandwagon when there IS no bloody wagon. Ever feel like this? Just me (irony)?

So I sit and breathe. I sit and feel where this is in my body. Where it's roots are. The work I did over the full moon weekend has illuminated the old stories and reactions enough for me to be able to examine them sans anger and indignation.

Here it is...the beliefs I have are important not just to me in this individual, physical form but to the whole of Life. I absolutely believe that Life needs as many people as possible to return to a sense of oneness, connection and kinship with Nature and Spirit. The Universe - for want of a more comfortable label - needs as many people as possible to learn and teach the ways to make that connection, be that through traditional rituals or modern interpretations of them. Evolution, baby.

That is the truth. People will dabble and play with it the way I have dabbled and played with hundreds of things. The things that are in harmony with who they are will stay, the rest will fall away to be picked up and treasured by another. This is how it goes. There is no threat or malice in a trend. It is attraction at work and that is exactly how it should be. This is how we all find our truth, our 'language'.

See? See how I talked my bad-tempered self down? Ha. Throw in a long walk through fields and woods to shake it out of my body and I'm good.

Today I saw something new in my reactions. I feel deeply threatened by the way a crowd pulls a spotlight on to a place where I may have been feeling safe and secure in the comfortable half-light. Suddenly I have to choose whether to step into that spotlight with others and be seen to be present which for me is 100% not safe, or...leave and look for a new safe place. So this fear of lost security, of enforced eviction, of having my home stolen and played with...ACK. No wonder I fall into emotional crisis and get all angry, defensive and possessive.

So this is the work I'm doing at the moment. Until this weekend I would not have believed I had the resources to stay and not run for cover but there was an unbinding of power that has changed that. I don't doubt my inner diva will rear her shadowy, defensive head again - she's a powerful piece of work - while the spotlight sweeps across my soul ground, but I do know that now I'm established in my spiritual home, my safety and security are always with me, that I am not under attack and that when I first got here, I was playing too. Playing is fun.

There is nothing to fear.








Sunday, 20 October 2013

Surrendered



I've been home almost alone. Charlie is working in Chile for a couple of weeks and, during the day, Evie is in school. I had enough annual leave left over to be able to take off most of this two weeks. I had plans for decorating and deep-cleaning but then decided that I needed the time for myself. It's been a long time since I could spend hours alone and in natural silence, letting go of shoulds and coulds and just letting life flow through me, doing its own decorating and deep-cleaning.

The effect has been profound. So when this weekend's full moon and lunar eclipse came along I was more than ready for a releasing ceremony. I've had some people ask me what's involved in this so here it is...something I found two years ago, thanks to Pixie and then Meg, who led a bunch of us through it around a log fire at a cottage retreat. I think its power comes from its roots in personal truth and so it's only right that each of us creates our own version. Certainly the backlog of things I wanted to let go this time called for a ritual that was 'bigger' than my usual practice.

The moon is technically still full today and has been since Friday. Tomorrow counts too. I knew that the bundle I would give to the fire would contain plants and words so I started early. On Friday I pulled out my flower essence and herb books and found what I needed in my own herb patch and garden, among them honeysuckle, cat mint and sage. Later I smudged the living room with sage and lit a candle to help me focus. I sat and let my hand write. I got to about three pages of stream of consciousness before a list started to appear.

Yesterday evening we started, Evie and I, with her gathering all our crystals - she has her own - and smudging them before setting them outside to sit in moonlight overnight. We smudged each other - doing this with my eight year old daughter is so special - and talked through what she'd choose to leave behind. We walked in the dark across the fields to see the rising moon and came home to set the fire and then settle her into bed.



In the quiet, I took my list of things to release and cut them into individual strips. I read through them and discarded a couple that were already history. I added two more that had come to me early that morning. I'd been mourning Jackson, whose 15th birthday it would've been yesterday, and the opening of my heart had triggered a flood of emotion and release leaving me with palms burning like torches in a way I haven't experienced since I learnt reiki in '98. This was deep, like shedding a skin from the inside. Stories, beliefs and coping strategies that had supported and protected me for years flowed out of me like lava. These were added to my list, ready to be blessed and released.

Wrapping plants, words and tobacco - as a thank you - in red cloth tied with string, I sat and dropped into a contemplative space, lowering my physical boundaries to feel my connection with all that is. In this place I gave thanks for what had been and for what will come, then gave over the bundle to the fire.






Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Don't mess with the old ones


I should have known better really. I wrote the post below with something less than the respect owed to the really old ones. The Edmund Hillary line was probably a bad idea. I stand corrected.

The night before last I had heard the horrible sound of a fly, buzzing like crazy, trapped in a web. On impulse, I grabbed him and set about unwinding the silk that he'd been partially wrapped in. I used a small pin and my best reading glasses. Finally, he was free and flew off leaving me feeling really smug and good deedy.

Big mistake. Huge. As the line goes.

So last night after the last of Evie's birthday visitors had said their goodbyes I took her up to her attic bedroom. For the first time in ages it was a bit cooler so I pulled the window shut and pulled the curtain. We never pull the curtain during the warmer months because the direction and size of the window mean very little light comes in but a curtain blocks fresh air, so this was the first time it had been moved in a while. I pulled it across and to my extreme horror was faced with thousands - I'm not kidding - of flies. Layers of them, snuggled up in the folds of the fabric, from top to bottom. Thousands of bloody flies. Something back in my lizard brain yelled,"DEAD BODY!" so I screamed and ran downstairs, with a confused Evie, in t-shirt and knickers, running behind me. Spiders aside, I'm not afraid of any insect but THIS MANY?! That's horror movie stuff!

Charlie took his time to get up there with a vacuum cleaner thinking, he later admitted, that I was exaggerating. I waited (downstairs) as he crossed the room and heard him shout,"Holy crap!".

He was our hero. It took him more than an hour and a half to clear the room of flies. Comic relief was supplied by the resident newly eight year old who insisted on helping out, dressed in t-shirt, knickers, swimming goggles, wild hair, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist supports. She brandished a big stick and charged about. Periodically she'd run downstairs to me and yell,"BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVAH!" before disappearing upstairs again. Weirdo.

We've lived here for four years now and never had this happen before. It was utterly terrifying and disgusting in equal measure. I kept thinking, 'I wasn't respectful. I messed with the system and stole from the old ones having just accepted their offer to guide me. Just because I think something is the right thing to do, does not mean that it is. I need to step back and mind my own business. Remember my place. Grandmother Spider said,"You want a fly? You think you're in charge of the flies? Okay. Here you are. Have All The Flies. Knock yourself out." '. Shit just got real.

We looked it up. Cluster flies. They hatch out from the lawn. Last week we had unusually mild weather so they hatched and then went looking for their hibernation spot. They favour attics and dark corners. They found a dark and cosy attic bedroom. They are harmless to humans and don't carry disease. They're slower moving than the usual fly but look enough like them to freak you the f*** out.

So there you have it: the ordinary explanation and the non-ordinary explanation. Personally I think the two are interwoven; but then everything is.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Weaving



Once I've written something here, I tend not to ever read it again so forgive me if we've had the spider conversation before. Clearly I wasn't listening or, more likely, was singing loudly with my fingers in my ears.

The last time I gathered with a circle of friends, I got into a conversation about personal power with Sas and Meg. They know a little about this stuff. They were giving me the very gentlest, kindest form of a telling-off pep talk. As I was explaining myself, Sas looked slightly to my right and said,"Heh...a spider just climbed onto your shoulder." At which point I found myself on the ceiling yelling,"WHERE? HELP! WHERE? GET IT OFF ME!" while frantically waving my arms about. Yes, I'm very brave.

Ahem.

After I'd returned home they were everywhere. Cellar spiders. One particularly forceful individual even slowly lowered herself from the ceiling in front of me, stopping at my face level and just hanging there, giving me the old eight-eyed stare. I met not spiders but a scorpion in my journeying, only to find out that scorpions are also arachnids. For a while I came as close as a phobic could to embracing the eight-legged as a spirit guide, wondering if perhaps she would help me with the mountain of shadow work I have to do.

Gradually, I let her go.

Since then I've been braver around them but this autumn our little crooked house is full of them. And I mean full. Charlie does a sweep now and then - not literally - and escorts them all outside but still, on any given day you can find maybe seven or eight or fifteen thousand in each little room. They don't frighten me one at a time, but en masse..shudder..my spidey senses go all weird and nauseous.

Earlier this week as part of my new morning practise, I was standing in a field asking for the support of the spirits and some advice as to who I should look to for guidance in this and other realms. As you do of a morning. I asked for a message from the spirit guide I need. At this point Dooley came running and took me to the nearest blackberry bush - no surprise there - and after finding him some juicy berries I glanced up at the rising sun and saw that between us were a thousand beautiful, dew-covered webs. Oh surely not..?

Denial.

The next day I'd begun to feel guilty about walking away from what I'd asked for. Sitting in the bath, I looked over at the pile of clothes I'd left on the floor (what?) and there, sitting on top like Sir Edmund effing Hillary, was a spider. Staring me down. We chatted. I caved. Said okay...I was in...I'd do as I'm told. At which point he casually turned and disappeared who knows where.

Back in my bedroom, I reached for a hairbrush and there on my outstretched arm was a small house spider and I am truly terrified of those. All the reaction I could muster was a resigned sigh as I let her run off me onto the bookshelf.

There's so much to be learnt from the spider but here's a nicely-wrapped summing up from druidry.org:

The spider is associated with its spiral energy, the links with the past and the future. The spiral of the web, converging at a central point, is something to be meditated upon by those with spiders as a guide. Are you moving toward a central goal or are you scattered and going in multiple directions? Is everything staying focused? Are you becoming too involved and/or self-absorbed? Are you focusing on others' accomplishments and not on your own? Are you developing resentment because of it - for yourself or them?
If a spider is a guide in your life, ask yourself some important questions. Are you weaving your dreams and imaginings into reality? Are you using your creative opportunities? Are you feeling closed in or stuck, as if in a web? Do you need to pay attention to your balance and where you are walking in life? Are others out of balance around you? Do you need to write? Are you inspired to write or draw and not following through? Remember that the spider is the keeper of knowledge and of the primordial alphabet. The spider can teach how to use the written language with power and creativity so that your words weave a web around those who would read them.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Preparation



The wind blew strong today for the first time in a long time. There are leaves everywhere and the horse chestnuts trees that are so common here are covering the ground with their jewels.

I'm feeling similarly stripped bare. What I initially mistook for anxiety was actually more a feeling of vulnerability. I've dropped a lot of beliefs and stories lately. This left me feeling loss of comfort, and vulnerable because so many of the ideas I've clung to for support, so many of the tales I've used to protect myself have also fallen. Some of them are precious too - good, truthful and loved - but I've come to see that they are overly complicated. The same idea presented over and over again in different costumes. Over-dressed. Much duplication of effort going on. So I'm stripping it down to the core truth. To the essence.

This is a slow, sensitive, mindful process - a first for me - and I'm making sure that I'm witnessing and understanding it, step by step. Peeling back the layers and rediscovering the bones. I'm learning that with less to carry, I am more flexible, more free. And far from being vulnerable, I'm stronger.

I'm constructing an internal checklist from my living truth and life really is simpler as a result. If something doesn't meet the criteria, it's a no. For me. Might be a big fat juicy YES for someone else and hurrah for that, but for me...no. What might seem a monumental waste of time for someone else might be the very essence of life purpose for me, and vice versa.

Despite my tendencies to navel-gazing and my understanding that 'the unexamined life is not worth living', I'm actually really rubbish at doing this stuff. Every e-course I was ever tempted to start, I dropped as soon as if it got deep. I don't journal and never have, despite spending a fortune on stationery in various attempts to get myself started. I love to philosophise and theosophise. I've done my turn in therapy. I know you have to love yourself before you can truly love another. But when it gets deep and personal I find a reason to be somewhere else. I can't look myself in the eye. Couldn't. Past tense.

I'm reading about the Crone. I'm trying my best to embrace her. As my body and mind start to turn to butterfly soup it is important to me to be the co-creator of the woman I am becoming. I want the third season of this life - potentially the most exciting and fulfilling - to be on purpose. To have simplicity, clarity, abundance and gratitude.

Right now this feels very natural and easy. I seem to have fallen into rhythm with the seasons. I am in my autumn, looking back with thanks at what grew through my summer. I am contemplative and still. My intuition tells me that the Crone doesn't chase the way the Maiden and the Mother sometimes love to. She sits and waits for what is searching for her. Something is coming and I am cleaning and clearing for its arrival.