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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in animism

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Moneyworking

For all that I write about money, I've never summarized how I work with it, in a religious sense.  In part that's because I only set up a formal money shrine recently, and having that around has caused me to step up my game.  Here's a snapshot of my money practice as of today.  I'm actually hoping that I will come back and read this in a few years and be amazed by it.  Who knows, maybe this will chronicle practices that I will forget, and then reconstruct based upon my own ancient writings!

But even if the internet archaeologists don't find it interesting, I hope some readers will.

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As I deeply value thriving in the connection with All Things, I make an effort to live that truth. There's no one way or right way, and when you're a cyclic person, that fact becomes evident right away.

Photo by Jessie Pearl ~ flickr

What’s a cyclic person? We’re many things, I suppose. Women identify with the phrase from the onset of menstruation. Certainly those who cope with challenges to mood and mental health conditions relate. Later in life, I hear more men comment around cycles.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

In the Betwixt series focusing on mundane support for skywalking seekers, we’ve talked about reciprocity with guidestaking the baton from guides, and finding etheric support in the life force around us. What about that of our immediate formed community, as in the people around us? How do they fit into our spiritual, if not animistic, Dream Team? How do we decide who should be on our Team?

Photo by ChinoGypsy ~Flickr

Most new to the path of actively connecting with aliveliness   rely heavily on spiritual benefactors, as in guides, spirit allies, engaging totems in trance or alone in Nature. However profoundly those relationships impact our lives, we can’t substitute them for human connection.

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  • singh pammy
    singh pammy says #
    yes dream team or team work

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Photo by Kelly Lee-Creel @flickr The origins of our holy day icons are significant, though it's easy to get ensnared in what symbols you "should" honor, what they're "supposed to mean," who gets to claim them, and understanding what they really mean to you. For that reason, in this exploration of seasonal totems I offer the entire Internet for you to peruse and learn about the symbols that have the most meaning to you at this time of year. My hope is that through sharing the seasonal totems that mean the most to me, that others are encouraged to cull out the holiday symbols that move them, connect with their power and bring them more deeply into personal holiday celebrations.

Totems, for most shamanists, are largely revered as soul animal kindred, though those who know me recall that I work extensively with plant and elemental spirits. Bear in mind as I explore the possibilities of holiday power allies that when I refer to totems I include animals, plants, minerals and elements. Generally speaking, totems are complex symbols that move us in some way. For me, the power of totems extends through several layers. I greet them as archetypes -- collective traits found through the particular species, as spirits of nature, as an energetic manifestation specifically visiting me, which some refer to as "Unverified Personal Gnosis" (UPG), and as creatures of the wild, drawing from study of the totem's behavior, habitat and anatomy.

Popular holiday totems today are mostly of Western European origin and influence, such as mistletoe, fir tree, reindeer, the Yule log, doves, geese, holly, ivy. More recent imports are the Mexican poinsettia and Middle Eastern persimmons and pomegranates. Most of my holidays totems happen to be among the fairly well-known; however, my reasons for including them may be a bit lesser common. Also, a couple of them aren't typical at all.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

"Bunch of wanna-blessed-be's. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the dark ones." - Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

I love that quote. It speaks to every judgment that can be made, one Pagan to another, that there is a right and wrong way to "do" Paganism, and that we all think we're better for our way. Not to mention how it characterizes non-Pagans...

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

So far I've been spending my time here setting the stage for introductory spirit work. But what about the spirits themselves? Who and what are these incorporeal beings that we're trying to communicate with in the first place? The answers to those questions, in complete, are much longer and more complex than I can cover in one article. So consider this a very brief and incomplete overview of some of the sorts of beings in the spirit world.

Ancestor Spirits: These are the spirits of humans who have passed away. Some people feel the ancestors still exist in this world with us, unseen but around us all the time. Others believe they inhabit their own afterlife-world, but can be called on for advice or help in times of need. Depending on who you talk to, any family member, friend, or other important person in your life can be considered an ancestor—in fact, since we are all of the same species we all share ancestors. Others are more strict, keeping it specifically to one's own immediate family and direct predecessors. Ancestor spirits are generally seen as protective in nature, though they can be angered if not propitiated properly (and, not surprisingly, what is considered “proper” is not universal).

Nature Spirits: This is a fairly broad category, since it includes not just the spirits of animals, plants, and fungi, among other natural things, but also spirits which are more abstract representations of natural forces. For example, one of the main parts of my practice involves working with animal totems. These are not just individual animal spirits, such as a gray wolf or a least tern, but archetypal beings that embody all of the qualities of the species Gray Wolf and Least Tern. Some people also consider faeries and devas (often taken out of their original cultural contexts) to be nature spirits, though the fey are also often thought to have originally been ancestor spirits, and the New Age conception of devas has deviated quite a bit from its Buddhist and Hindu roots. (This, incidentally, is part of why mythology and other cultural materials need to be part of your spiritual research!)

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Nature Before & After by Cuba Gallery @ FlickrI've been taking time daily, to connect with the spirits of my space, at work, home, the grocery store, the homes of others, and the commute connecting it all. It seems so silly. I've spent all these years focused on THIS totem, THAT guide, THIS space, sacred on/off, despite that intellectually I've known it's with me all the time. I am it. It is All.

What's the expression--the hell you know--to say nothing of the sacred.

I guess I'm beginning to sit more comfortably with not having to name things, less lines,  deeper relationships--even if they only last a few moments. The realization that whatever I need is wherever I am, etherically, all the time, no matter what, is heady empowerment. It's also terribly humbling.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Loblolly by the-specious@flickrI'm always reminding clients and students to use their totems, not just visit them in trance and arrange them just-so on altars. I don't know if it's a Western habit or a general human one, but it seems a constant reminder is needed that we have resources, we have help. Isn't that the crux of animism? We're not alone. We don't have to do everything alone.
 
One of the key components of shamanism that makes it viable is the engaging of totems in holding space, not just acknowledging them every now and then, but actually allowing them to help us create, hold, and be the space. Any time, any place.
 
Case in point: After a long hiatus from working out due to chronic health conditions, I've recently begun running again. It's been a long time since I've run, actually. Over the last two years I've done all sorts of other workouts sporadically, though managing acute asthma took a toll on sticking with consistent activity. In that timeframe my body has been telling me to run, and I've avoided doing so, partly out of sheer fatigue, but also out of fear, trepidation that I'd trigger the awful episodes I've worked so hard to control.
 
Last week I threw caution to the wind and decided it was time, not just to engage in duration exercise, but to do what my body has been telling me it wants to do: run. I've started with short duration and gone a little longer each day, climate-controlled, nice and tidy. The other day it was cool outside, so I ran outdoors. Once I got past the initial aches and moans of an asphalt half mile, I found my rhythm, then minor annoyances abated. However, other chatter began. My lungs began to burn and that familiar choking sensation crept through my airways, wrapped my throat, and I began coughing. I started stressing.
 
I slowed my pace but stayed moving, soothing the worried voice in my head. As I did, I noticed birds singing, a soft breeze blowing in the treetops, dogs barking, rasping cicada tymbals. I smelled pine, freshly mown grass.  Surrounded by Nature, I decided to take my own medicine. I realized my inherent soul connection to the elements around me, and thanked them for supporting me on my run. I invited them to tell me what they need from me, and was told to engage them again, and again. I really felt like I wasn't running through the elements, but with them, actively.
 
These weren't new spirit visitors or Nature friends. I've worked with many of them before in fleeting engagements. I honor them each time I create sacred space in my home because they are the Nature Spirits of my land, its Elders. However, bringing them into my daily routine was a vastly more validating experience, interactive not just in my senses, but my cells.
 
And yes, my breathing eased. I finished the run with no problem.
 
No, they weren't my personal totems. I don't have likenesses of loblollies or cicadas on my altar. The thing is, they don't have to be. Even in off-the-hook shamanist and totemist circles, there still pervades the idea that we're locked into certain totems, forever and always, that we can't just honor drive-by connections, or ones that suit specific circumstances. Such limitation is what inhibits deep animistic connections. It's just too easy to move through the space around us and not notice all the support that's there. Yet it's equally easy to pause for a second and consider the spiritual surroundings, the waiting support.
 
I say it over and over, but the hardest part of mindfulness and forging an authentic spiritual path is to remember to pause.  When we remember the pause, we recall to choose how we move forward.

SoulIntentArts.com

I haven't run outdoors since, but I will. I have, however, driven through my neighborhood every day, seeing it, hearing it, experiencing it with different appreciation, a fuller sense of being.
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So in my last post, I gave a brief rundown of why you might wish to communicate with spirits in the first place, and also offered up some ideas and an exercise for spirit communication using tools like spirit boards, pendulums, scrying tools, and the like. Now I'd like to cover communicating without using tools other than your own mind and spirit.

There's nothing inherently wrong with tools, of course. I have run into people over the years who thought that tools were just training wheels, and that a true practitioner of spiritual arts is someone who can do everything empty-handed. In my experience, it comes down less to how good someone is at what they do, and more about personal preference. For some people, tools are like Dumbo's feather--they train your mind to be able to perform amazing feats, but the tools themselves eventually aren't needed even as a reminder. For others, the tools have a life and spirit all their own, and these spirits become allies in the person's magical and ritual work.

So talking about tool-less spirit communication isn't a value judgement--it's just a stylistic preference, ultimately. Why might a person wish to forgo tools? For some, tools may feel cumbersome and distracting, like "Wait, what do I do with the pentacle again? And I'm not sure why I have a wand, and the incense is making my sinuses hurt..." There are also people who may not have a lot of space or time or money for acquiring an assortment of tools, or who like to do their spirit work in more remote areas where it may be inconvenient to haul along a bunch of magical effects. Whatever the reason you have for not using physical tools, you still have options for communicating with spirits.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

As I birth this blog on Mother's Day, I begin a journey into the numinous wilds on a path I'm only partly familiar with. My spirituality has never really focused on gender or sex, though they have sometimes been connected to it, here and there. I have been aware of the more feminine side of spirituality, but have not yet asked to enter the circle of women. I've been on a more solitary path, communing with nature and spirit, getting comfy with my metaphorical hermit cottage near the hedge.

I am a woman, and a mother, as well as a sister/daughter/etc. but due to a disconnection from the insular religion and culture of my birth, I have also been disconnected from my circle of women relatives and the community and friends of my youth. It is a lot like I have gone to live in a different world, and I need to integrate into a new community and form a family that includes the mothering and sisterhood I find myself yearning for. I hope to do so with wise women who aren't deprived by patriarchal forces of their own power, their own mind and spirit... women I could build something with... meaningful action in the world.

In studying anthropology, I've been learning about matrilineal and matrilocal societies where lineage is traced through mothers, and men marry into the clans of their wives, rather than patrilocal systems where women marry and go to live with or near to their husband's family. These societies have strong female networks of family and community that you probably sense an echo of in Western culture despite the exclusion of women from positions of community authority for so long. (Thank Goddess it's changing!) There are still networks, a community of women who hold sway over domestic life, at least. Mothers and grandmothers always held some authority in family life. The matrilineal/matrilocal societies tend to be more egalitarian and less legalistic. They tend to be foraging or horticultural societies, where women are the primary or equal subsistence workers, and benefit from stable and cooperative networks with each other. There are no known examples of a matriarchy – a society in which women exclusively control descent, inheritance, and social and political power. I don't think women have ever needed or wanted that extent of control. We tend to the egalitarian ways.

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  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    I would love to hear more about that, Ashley.
  • Ashley Rae
    Ashley Rae says #
    I studied anthropology ten years ago and had very similar thoughts on this topic. It has had a powerful influence on my developme

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
In Praise of My Land

I sleep in the belly of the mountain: mount Beacon, whom the Native tribes here once called Mattewan. His eyes are old and wise, this great dragon of the mountain, and he has seen eons of human folly tumble past. Once he was the glory of this valley, he and his brothers and sisters; now he is crawled upon by tourists and hikers who don't even bother to learn his true name. he doesn't seem to mind though. I think he likes people. He's friendly and being of mountain etin stock, I can tell you that's not always the case with mountain spirits. I've met mountains, these ancient memory keepers, whose power, ferocity, and grim anger at man has driven me to my knees. They're right to be angry. 

Mount Beacon, for all his age, is kind to those who seek him out. He honestly seems to like people. I carry his bundle and when chance arises, as it often does with spiritworkers, I introduce him to other mountain spirits. I give other spiritworkers a token from his bundle to take to their mountains, to facilitate the connection, and they do the same for me in return. We tell our mountains about their kin in far away places. We facilitate the connection. This is what our ancestors did and its time that communication between powers was fostered again. 

I gift him often. I"m not able to ascend his peak. I am far too injured for that, but he does not mind. He accepted me as bundle carrier anyway. I sleep in his watershed and from my bedroom window, I can see his peak. There are lights there, some remnant of a trolley that used to run to the top of the mountain. Those lights wink at me. I love this mountain. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Daniel FitzGerald
    Daniel FitzGerald says #
    This article made me smile so much, expecially because I've got close ties to the Hudson Valley. My wife lived in Fishkill for ye
  • Elaine Blakely
    Elaine Blakely says #
    I am a Cliff Dweller by the Sea Ripped from the Woodlands by Wyrd; Cocooned that I may Heal from that ungentle surgery - Rootless
  • anita edmonds
    anita edmonds says #
    I am just outside Asheville, in the Blue Ridge mountains—an old, old land, filled with spirits and the most beautiful place I’ve e

Friday evening I drove to Point Reyes Station to hear David Abram give a talk.  Ever since I had read his first book, The Spell of the Sensuous,  Abram has been on my shortest list of authors to read, reread, and recommend to anyone I meet. Including you, dear reader. (But unless you are a serious student of philosophy, skip chapter 2.) It was particularly fitting that I could hear him just a few days before Earth Day.

As a graduate student, Abram hoped his skills as a sleight of hand magician, and consequent heightened appreciation for how perception worked, would give him special entry into the worlds of traditional shamans.  He traveled to Indonesia and Nepal to do his research, and found they were indeed interested. He also, as he put it, got in way “over my head.”

His second book, Becoming Animal,  delves more deeply into the implications raised by his first, but for Earth day in some ways Spell of the Sensuous is the most important.  (See here for my review of Becoming Animal.  )

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

My previous post on connecting with Pagan Gods and Goddesses involved seeking to establish relationships with them by becoming involved in ritual Pagan practices where such events happen, and sometimes are even expected to happen. Having such experiences means our spiritual reality roots are directly into our own experience of the more-than-human as not only sacred but also willing to enter into explicit relationship with us. Such encounters are both wonderful and deeply transformative. They also upset our life plans in many cases, although in my experience leaving us ultimately better off than had such things not happened.

 

But are there easier ways to at least get a sense of this greater reality? Ways where we can be more active in our search?

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Honoring City Spirits - Part I

 

This is going to be a two, perhaps three part article series on honoring city spirits--something that's become a significant part of my own practice of late. In fact, having just recently taught a class in honoring the Holy Powers of the Northern Tradition, it struck me powerfully that in the end, so much of it comes back to honoring the ancestors (into which the Gods may, technically fit) and honoring the land. These little epiphanies are amazing--I find myself wanting to smack my forehead and wondering why on earth it took me so long to grasp what seems, in the end, so essential. I can't help chiding myself for not seeing these things sooner! I'm sure we've all been there at one time or another. Anyway, I've been doing quite a bit of work recently with city spirits and I wanted to talk about some of that with you, my readers.

 

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  • Hugh Eckert
    Hugh Eckert says #
    I can't remember whether I've recommended this song to you... it seems very relevant to your post... "The Local Gods" by Shriekbac

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