This last decade, my life has been a seriously weird trip down the rabbit hole. I still can barely wrap my head around it. This is especially true when I think about what I do for a living these days.
Quite often I perceive that people are skeptical about my taking up the practice of past life retrieval, and divination, for others, especially the ones who’ve known me the longest. I mean, its just weird. Who does that? Per my previous way of thinking about such far-fetched things, the only two sorts of folks who’d do this would be a complete charlatan just out to separate the gullible from their money, or an all-powerful Divine guru on high with supernatural abilities. I am neither, and I don’t want to be perceived as either of those extremes.
Through my work as a Witch, I now know these abilities can be very normal, if one is trained to them, and can accept their talents as a natural awareness within a wider-than-obvious range of possibilities. Besides, I consider myself rather scientific about such things. The science that unlocked my thinking was quantum mechanics and the illusion of time and space and the fundamental level of information deep within all things; you get down small enough, smaller than the atomic level, and its all just information going all the way back to the big bang. To find what I want to know, I can go deep within to connect to that information.
Then there is the mystical approach:
“If that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.” The Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente
I understand the skeptical reaction, because that same attitude kept me mute about a great many things for a great long while. Fear of losing your loved ones is a powerful motivator. Once, in the last years of my marriage, my husband discovered that I was seeking to take a medical herbalism class from a woman who also read tarot cards. He went ballistic, ranting on about what an idiot, what a charlatan, she must be. Right now I can still perceive the fears within him causing that reaction. But, he wouldn’t allow me to spend his money, or to be associated, with those kind of people. He spat that last part out with all the vitriol and hatefulness you are most likely imagining. It hit me with the force of a thousand heartbreaks, that *I* was those kind of people, and if he knew the extent of it, how could he still love me? As it happens, I was right, and our marriage didn’t last much longer.
So, how does a woman go from being an Interior Designer/Housewife/Stay at Home Mom, to hanging out her shingle for Heron Rising Spiritual Services? Long story short (if 4000 words can be considered short,) for 12+ years I’ve continued in training within Wicca and Witchcraft, passing through many initiatory gates, each unlocking my understanding and abilities further. I actively turned the wheel of the year by ritually celebrating the cycle of seasons, and connecting to the Divine rhythm of nature. (That was the textbook answer, by the way.)
The more you practice, the easier it becomes. That is the key, you see: PRACTICE. You do the things you read or hear about; more and more “weird” things happen; those weird, hard-to-explain things become very real, very everyday common things; the need for faith or belief dissipates; the unseen forces become as obvious as your best friends; “reality” just gets bigger and weirder, but then the veils between normal and weird become sort of laughable and silly, and it’s just the ISness; it just is.
So, lots of doing things means that my visualization skills improved. And I have this nifty trick where I can shift consciousness outside of my own body, and go into a deep trance state at will. Through teaching and guiding others for many years, I developed the very specific skill of simultaneously being in deep trance, while playing a singing bowl or drum as my accompaniment, while allowing Divine Inspiration to unfold the visual journey before me, while speaking that out loud for others to follow along.
In other words, I can go down the rabbit hole, letting the Divine show the way, and I can take a room full of people with me. Their visions and journey may be totally different than mine, but I can act as that catalyst, and experience it at the same time. It took me years of teaching practice to do that effectively.
I’ve also studied many forms of divination, like pendulum, runes and tarot, that I used for myself and friends. I grew as an energy worker through my attunements as a Reiki healer. Oh, and the gods occasionally talk to me, like, in conversation. I call these my “burning bush” moments.
Here is a short timeline of my more recent stops on the trip down the rabbit hole, and the catalyzing events that encouraged my endeavors with Heron Rising:
Sirius Rising – July 2012
Christopher Penczak, pagan author extraordinaire and co-founder of The Temple of Witchcraft, comes to teach a weekend of intensive workshops through my store. On Sunday, he leads us on a guided journey following the Descent of the Goddess Inana to see her sister, the Queen Ereshkigal, in the land of the dead. Of course, any time spent in learning with Christopher is going to be profound, but I believe that journey work kicked off what would be our own spiritual pilgrimage the next day.
After taking Christopher back to the airport, two friends from the Sojo Circle and I packed the cars and headed for the Sirius Rising Festival at the Brushwood Folklore Center in New York state. We were going there to meet our friends from a traditional Wiccan coven we know from New Orleans. We also had been in the process of seeking training with this coven over the previous few months. Mind you, we were all self-initiated in eclectic Modern Witchcraft already, having been in practice for decades between us. As for me, I desired to know the difference between the two sides of the Craft, and I’d allowed myself to be convinced of my lacking in legitimacy because I had no “traditional initiation” through any lineaged witch.
This high-priest offered to train me in their ways, so that I’d know what wasn’t in any books, and gain that lacking credential. The plan was that we would get to the festival, complete the dedicant requirements, and there would be a ritual for us while there. However, I was in an internal struggle over some things that I found to be inconsistent in their teachings, and a few things were not sitting right with me. I’m a rather academic occultist who does her research. Plus, I’d done a lot of reading about the foundations and history about their lineage. Frankly, I was not impressed, nor convinced that their legitimacy was any more so than mine. Yet, I was seeking guidance from Spirit, and holding the space and asking questions before I made a final decision.
Meanwhile, I made great friends, got to hang out with some pretty (in)famous pagans, enjoy great music, have deep conversations and bum ciders off of Jason Mankey, dance around enormous fires with great drummers. We even went on a trip to a spiritualist meeting in Lilydale Community and posed for pictures with Raymond Buckland’s corvette (though we never saw Raymond.) It was good pagan fun.
At the famous “stump” in Lilydale where Spiritualist meetings take place with my circle mates and the intrepid blogger, Jason Mankey
After returning from Lilydale on that grey and misty afternoon, my circle mates and I went for a walking meditation of the Spirit labyrinth. There, I had a “burning bush” moment. I’m in walking meditation, descending deeply. I’m at a crossroads of my Spiritual life and I’m asking the BIG questions of Spirit about whether or not I should proceed with the dedication or retreat from the training program.
Deep in my soul I know clearly that I should retreat. <Frustration!> Then WHY IN HADES WAS I LED DOWN THIS PATH?!?!?! I exploded with indignation at the gods. I do beleive there was audible huffs and stamping of feet involved.
GRATITUDE!!!! They barked in response, with a hard yank on the solar plexis that rings through my body like a cosmic gong. They answered back with an energetic spanking! Gratitude, they say, that their faithful priest did as he was led, and that I followed the path as I was led, and learned what I needed to learn to get over the bullshit self-doubt that dogged me for a decade.
Full-color visions erupted in my mind and flowed like a movie, I heard them speaking–in plain English–in my mind, and I have an interactive argument with them about a lot of things. If you are curious, arguing with the Gods is a very effective way to experience the…um…visceral quality of interconnection.
All this happened while quietly walking along with my friends. I left the labyrinth with a decision not to dedicate to the traditional coven, and having received my sacred mission to be their conduit for service as the priestess I already was. In short, it was time to take up the responsibility, to be fully public and stop apologizing; it was time to own it, criticism by others be damned!
I returned to the shrine the next night (after the community ritual there) when all the candles were still alight, to perform the simplest of esbats with my witch sister. I consecrated and put on the moon crown that was gifted to me the previous Yule by priestess friends and their coven who’d tried to convince me of my preparation, though I’d rarely ever worn the crown before. There, I took my oath to Spirit and became their priestess, with a stick of incense jabbed into the moss, the black water of the reflection pool, the damp earth beneath us, a thousand tea light candles, a simple feast of a granola bar and some mead, and a tarot spread. I consider this the outer acknowledgment to my inner third degree initiation, and ordination. While I’m very grateful my witch sister was there with me in that sacred space, no human was an intercessor between me and the Gods, my ordination was direct from Source, and I know now that this is the only way for me.
The pond under the tree in the Spirit shrine. Each candle is a wish lit by the celebrants and left there during the night.
In The Spirit Shrine, July 2012
The next day, I attended a class entitled “Past Life Soul Regression” with Donata Ahern, who is a trained shaman, a high priestess, and a certified hypnotherapist. She taught us how to retrieve both for ourselves and for others. The partner who chose to work with me was another shaman who works with clients in a similar practice. So he was already very familiar with his own past lives, and how to help others to learn the practice as well. When, on my first try, I retrieved stunningly clear details of one of those ancient lives, right down to the detail of the Greek armor he wore, his weapons, the landscape in which his army was encamped, his rank, the fleet in the harbor beyond, and could corroborate what he already knew. Let’s just say that his reaction to this vision was very affirming to me. I never would have even tried to do this sort of thing if I hadn’t wandered into this workshop, if for no other reason, this workshop is why I was led to Brushwood.
What’s in a name?
Receiving my name; that was another important thing about that trip. Everywhere I’d looked in previous weeks, I’d seen Blue Herons. It was a right and proper heron haunting. Early in my witchhood I’d selected Heron as a working name because I’d always loved them. As it happens I’m tall, lanky and have ridiculously knobby knees. Though, at the time, the spirit animal working with me was beaver! (community building, etc.) Later, as I was called to open The Sojourner and come out of my broom closet completely, I knew I had to merge all my secret internet personas, pagan community names, and inner circle names, and simply be my legal self. Lunachic, Sorcha, Heron…all those enfolded into the reemergence of Michelle Puckett Jenkins: mom, business owner and citizen. Just after I began teaching, during a pendulum divination session with an alphabet mat, I asked what my new magickal name should become, and no shit, it spelled, M I C H E L L E J E N K I N S, plain as day. Okiedokie then.
But here I was many years later, I’d shape shifted into heron and other water birds as part of shamanic journeys to find my fetch, and then later Sirius Rising happens. While driving home from that festival, some bruhaha erupts in our local community with facebook as the unfortunate vehicle used to spread the divisiveness. My opinion and position about that drama was so crystal clear to me. I felt passionate about it, not just as a member of that community, but finally as a fellow leader within it, as a peer of those people who I held in loving, perfect respect, whom I could see causing this community harm, AND as a corporate entity who has a choice with whom we do business, endorse, sponsor their events, etc. I could clearly see what devastating harm would come if those actions went unchecked, so I checked them.
To quote Christopher, sometimes the responsible thing to do is to say, “I hold you in perfect love and trust, but right now you are being an asshole.” With a simple, respectful, public statement, I made sure that my position was clear; I would simply not support the divisive actions, nor remain associated with those people who committed them. I asked them to carefully reconsider their position, and then I said no more.
“With no fool a season spend, nor be counted as his friend.” ~The Wiccan Rede
A great many things changed after that, some for the better, some for the worse. The personal attack towards me from one individual I disagreed with was pretty stunning, but I found that it didn’t much bother me; I mean, haters gonna hate; Wounded people gonna wound. But I also felt the love and support from those who agreed with me, and with that nudge there was impetus to create healthy change. The only social control I ever have is with whom I associate, am I right?
The next day I opened the Messages from your Spirit Animal Guides deck by Steven D. Farmer, that I’d bought for my kids at the festival. I bought it because the cover art was the Blue Heron, and this is her medicine that arrived like a greeting card directly from my guides when I needed it most:
“Make a stand for what you believe in and do what feels right in spite of any judgment or disapproval from others. Trust your deepest sense of knowing what the right action is and do it, and don’t rely on others to tell you what to do or how to act. Not everyone will approve of the decisions you make, and if your choice goes against the grain of what people expect from you, you’ll no doubt run into strong criticism and judgement. Stand still, look around you, and breathe. You’re doing just fine in spite of others assessments of you. Besides, your greatest and most fulfilling support will come from that place inside that guides you by revealing signs that tell you what path to follow. Heading these signs helps your soul be in alignments with Spirit’s intent for you.
You may have to get both feet in the water and wade through the dregs of other people’s disapproval, asserting yourself where needed…Trust in your inner knowing, and let that be the source of your strength to help you keep moving forward.”
To this day, this is my guiding message, my mission statement, so to speak. I retook the name Heron as my spiritual name, and she is my guide in all that I do.
The Pagan Dream Cruise, January 2013
A few months later, in January of 2013, I went on the Pagan Dream Cruise, headlined by
The palace at Xunantunich is behind me.
Christopher Penczak. By this time, I consider him more than just a mentor, he is my friend. This floating pagan conference was organized by Books, Beans and Candles, a metaphysical store in Birmingham, Alabama. Part of our week of workshops and excursions (and singing loudly in the piano bar) included a pilgrimage to the ancient Mayan archaeological site at Xunantunich, Belize. Our group climbed to the top of a mound and held a ceremony, going on a meditation journey. From the moment Christopher called the Spirits of the place to be present, the air within our circle coalesced, flashing and sparking; with my naked eyes, in the sunlight, I could see the energy flowing, undulating like the serpent around us. It was palpable. Others saw/felt it, too, and balance became a problem, as though we were surfing on the waving earth.
We sat to meditate, and I connected deeply, choosing to engage my skills of diving back through time. I saw the city at its prime, then I realized I was shape shifting into the three sacred animals to the Mayans of this city: eagle, serpent, and jaguar. First, I was the prowling jaguar, touring the city on foot, with the merchants in the square, seeing the young children at play, and the adults at their domestic work, smelling the cook fires. The stepped pyramids were clad in red, with bright colors everywhere, topped in hut-like houses. Life here was happy and abundant.
Then I rose as the serpent, like the kundalini rising, through the king and queen as they joined in the heiros gamos, bursting upward as the eagle to take the bird’s eye view of the outlying farm lands around the city. These were all accompanied by an emotional soundtrack, and what it was like to live there so long ago. When we all returned from the journey, there were others who’d seen strikingly similar details. I haven’t been quite the same since that pilgrimage. Time renders itself pliable; matter becomes luminous. When I ground, I can choose to find the stability of earth, or I can shift to tap the speed and power of its revolution and rotation. We are, after all, rocketing through space at break-neck speeds!
To close or not to close? That was the question.
On a Mexican Beach with Christopher Penczak
During that trip, I was debating closing down my shop because it was still notfinancially able to support me after 4 years. It was only still open because I continued to yearly prop it back up with more investment, or beg the community for fundraising efforts, but the money to invest was running out, as was the alimony income on which I live. Christopher and I had what we in the south would call a “come to jesus meetin’.” He scolded me for not offering my skills in divination, clairvoyance and healing to others. Why wasn’t I helping people? These forms of service that people need, and want, and that not everyone can do for themselves? These, he chided, are how the Gods work through me; these gifts and talents are valuable, the same as my former interior design talents were valuable, and important. To withhold them was a disservice to myself, my community that is served through my shop, my students who are also served by my full-time attention to spiritual work, and to the Divine, for whom I would be unable to serve at the same level if I was forced to go get a paying job. A good friend like Christopher is the kind of mentor I needed at that moment. He’d already crossed this bridge to full-time priest with integrity, so I could trust his business and priestly advice. Once you’ve time traveled together from a Mayan temple mound, well…shit gets real. What can I say, when Christopher spoke, I listened.
Wicked, wicked money, and the a very specific fear attached to the exchange of money keeps a lot of good opportunities from happening. There is a very old, very fundie Wiccan criticism out there in pagandom for exchanging pay for spiritual services and training, but pagandom has no means or organization to pay clergy like other faith traditions do. Still there is a very real need for the service of dedicated, experienced and available clergy. We also, as a general rule, tend to argue amongst ourselves a lot. A community of sovereign people are gonna be like that; put 10 pagans in a room, and you’ll be bombarded with 10,000 clear and sanctimonious opinions, and most of them are about how the other 9 people are doing something wrong. <sigh>
I’m learning to let go of a fear of criticism, thanks to my guiding Heron. These aren’t the same times, nor the same world, and we aren’t all traditional British Wiccans creating new taboos. But I do understand energy, and there must be an exchange of energy for the benefits of magick, so that the proper balance of respect and value are maintained. That is often lost in this modern society and we get “entitlement” problems, and arm-chair pagans who expect their community/learning/rituals served up on a TV tray for them, assuming the tab will be paid by someone else. Money is the form of energy that pays the enormous rent bill on the “temple” we’ve created there at the shop~on Main Street USA~and it’s open 7 days a week, offering a kind word, free information and safe haven to EVERYONE. That temple is of enormous value to this region in a way that cannot be calculated in terms of monetary value, yet money pays the light bill.
So….I got home from the cruise, and hung out my shingle. Heron Rising Spiritual Services was born and that monetary exchange has gone a long way to saving the shop, and my full-time dedication to my faith community. It hastened the deepening of my practice because I’ve now had dozens of opportunities to dive down the rabbit hole, and explore time, culture, love, loss, pain, freedom, slavery, redemption, death and birth, and many more lessons in the most intimate of ways you simply can’t get by reading them in a book. Now I can share that with you!
Reiki Level 3 ~ March 2013
The final stop on this trip down the rabbit hole was that I was attuned to Reiki level 3, which is known as Reiki “Master,” but I don’t like using that word so much. The further I go, the more I realize how much I still don’t know. Yet, it is through the fusing of my more advanced Reiki methods with my other witchy methods that I am able to get down into Spirit and retrieve this information. I amplify that with crystals, herbal oils, and the Reiki symbol of Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen (healing energy through time and space.) From what I can tell, this fusion and my methods are unique to my weirdly wandering eclectic practice. I would like to begin sharing my journeys by blogging about them, with the methods that I use, in hopes that it will inspire other practitioners as I have been inspired.
“For today only, I will anger not, worry not, do my work with appreciation and be kind to all beings. Namaste.” ~my version of the Reiki affirmation.
Soon, I will post about the lovely soul I met Saturday through a past-life retrieval session. I call him Bernard Branagh. Stay tuned!