I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
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“When all is said and done I think every Witch should, at some time, face the moon alone, feet planted on the ground, with only his or her voice chanting in the starry night.”
–Laurie Cabot, Power of the Witch
I will never forget the first time I heard someone recite the Charge of the Goddess from memory. Bare-breasted, she strode around the fire in sacred circle at a large goddess festival in Kansas, delivering the words with power, grace, and confident resonance. I thought: I will do that someday.
In February of this year, we took a family trip to Dauphin Island. While there, the afternoon of the full moon, I decided that the time had come: I was going to memorize the Charge of the Goddess. First, I thought I would only memorize it a piece at a time. It seemed “too big” to do in a single sitting. I had it printed out on a piece of paper that rapidly became damp with the salty sea air. I drew a labyrinth in the sand with my toes, set one of my goddess sculptures at its entrance, and drew a Womanrunes card.
I've started and deleted this blog entry half a dozen times, both in my head and on the screen, over the last several days. It's hard to know what to say when your heroines fall, when your leaders betray you, when your inspirations prove to be hypocrites of the worst sort. And even if it's not the first time -- and it's not the first time -- it doesn't get any easier. What do you say when the place that you came to for healing and liberation is exposed as a site of pain and oppression for others, especially for others you care about? How do you stand up and say, "Not in my name"?
Then again, how do you not?...
This May I was blessed to be asked to teach at a wonderful event at Dunderry Park in County Meath in Ireland. 'Animystics' was a two day event that wove together various Celtic traditions and earth based practices to really deepen our connection to the earth and our own souls. My session was all about connecting with tree spirits, and the tradition of the Bile, or sacred tree, clan totem and representative of the world tree in the Celtic Traditions. Standing there, in a field on a beautiful May morning, I was struck again by how such simple acts as breathing and being present to nature can restore our balance, and by extension our connection to our own sovereignty, our own souls, and the soul of the earth Herself. Dunderry is just a few miles from the hill of Tara, said to be the ancient seat of the semi- mythical high kings of Ireland, and I felt the ancient ancestors, with their passionate love of the land reach out to us, to remember, and honour Her again as a way to restore ourselves in these often troubled times.
Tara is such a special place, a wide green hill that overlooks a vast and verdant landscape. On a clear day it is said you can see all of Ireland from it's summit. Once an Iron Age hill fort, it is also home to a Neolithic burial mound, 'the mound of the hostages', granting access to the womb of the earth, the realm of the sidhe, and the Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, said to have been brought from the otherworldly city of Falias by the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish gods. The Lia Fáil is said to cry out when the rightful king stands upon it. Once it stood beside the mound, but now it stands sentry a little further off, overlooking the wide plains below. Whether this solitary monolith was truly the ancient mythical stone will always be up for debate, but standing there touching its weathered grey sides, sensing the endless generations that have come here, and used this as the touchstone, the still and central point to anchor their spiritual and earthly selves together, to find that link to sovereignty in a world that tries to take so much soul and so much power from us, is always a healing and humbling moment....
Sometimes the most obvious uses for magic and the craft don't occur to us until someone else points them out. Take me, for example. I've been writing this blog for a couple of years now, and yet it took an Internet meme to point out what I could be doing to help my children by using simple aspects of the craft.
Given my frequent forgetfulness at all of the spiritual healing tools available to me when one us falls ill or gets a minor injury (e.g. scrapes, bruises, et al), maybe it shouldn't be such a surprise. Sure, I grab the bandages or dit da jow, but Reiki or shielding? Totally forgotten. After all, I keep track of thousands of mundane objects and events across a given week, it's hard in the day-to-day to recall the deeper lessons from the past....
It’s June. It’s cold and raining, and everything outside my window says ‘climate change’ to me in ways that make me deeply uneasy. High winds, torrential downpours, and at the same time, an explosion of hawthorn flowers like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The wild garlic and the horse chestnuts have been exuberant as well.
What does it means for Pagans? The ancestral dates of festivals no longer relate reliably to what’s happening. We don’t know what’s coming, or how it will impact on us. Our world is changing. The seasons are changing, the climate is changing....
These past few months I’ve been working with the Otherworld and the Sidhe, trying to come to understand them from an experiential point of view rather than a mythological or academic perspective. We can read about it all we want, but the Otherworld must be experienced for it to be truly integrated into a particular tradition.
I’ve written previously about the Otherworld and the concept of duality last year on my other blog site as we approached Samhain, and have been pondering it ever since. Preparing myself for a conscious encounter, so to speak. I’ve encountered the Otherworld before, meeting beings on my wanderings out and about the landscape, but haven’t made a concentrated effort to really connect with them, whatever they may be and wherever they may originate. I’ve had difficulty in the concept of an Otherworld, for to perceive a conscious split between this world and the Otherworld interferes with my ambition of pure integration. Or so I thought.
The premise that I am now leaning towards is not so much a separation between the Otherworld and this one, but more of an overlay, a deeper perceived reality than what we can experience with our physical and mental awareness when it lies half-dormant. The Otherworld is this world as well, but on a deeper level. It is a Deeperworld, where beings exist that require a deeper connection to the landscape than on a superficial level. Perhaps I was simply getting too caught up in the name, the Otherworld. For me, in my journey towards pure integration, there is no Other.
The pitfalls of taking things too literally.
And so I made my journey to the nearest tumuli, a Celtic burial place that lies halfway between an old Celtic settlement and a ritual henge along the Suffolk coast. I had planned to meet with the Sidhe, those beings who dwell in the Otherworld and who can traverse the perceived realities between the worlds with greater ease than we can. I had a friend come along to share in this Beltane ritual, and also to keep watch. But the energy was not quite right, the timing was off. The hawthorn had yet to bloom at the beginning of May, the weather was all over the place, sunshine one minute and hail the next. As our ritual progressed on the hilltop next to the tumuli, a headache turned into a migraine that left me feeling really rather ill. As I still persevered in my attempts to contact the Sidhe, the Shining Folk, my head pounded and I suddenly heard “Come back when the May is in bloom”. And so we ended the ritual, strange energies swirling round our ritual site, the low clouds threatening, and made our way home.
A few weeks later, the hawthorn blossomed and I had my chance to get back to the tumuli. I originally had planned to spend the night there, but plans had changed, and so I was given only a couple hours grace to visit the site. Alone, I hiked there, the scent of the May blossom heady in the hedgerows. As I approached the tumuli, walking through grazing sheep at the base of the hill, the warm sunshine opened out over the landscape and washed it with light, almost making everything sparkle with life.
I walked around the tumuli as I always do, past a small flock of beautiful black and white goats resting in the shade of an oak tree. The energy around the site was calmer than the previous time, for which I was glad. It was more settled, but very strong, almost clear. After circumventing the tumuli I walked to the top and sat down, simply breathing and attuning to the place, a squirrel running through last year’s leaf fall, collecting nuts and acorns from his hidden caches.
When I felt fully connected with the landscape, not merely an observer or traveller to this land but a living, breathing, active and aware part of it, I placed my hands on the ground before me and let my soul sink into the soil, opening my nemeton to the spirits of place. Almost instantly I felt a presence all around me, a small group of beings, three or four, standing in a circle looking at my form sitting on the earth, hands pressed to the ground. Not wanting to break the moment, I kept still, my eyes closed, and saw them with my mind rather than my physical senses.