A Deep Swim to find an Old Poem

becauseI'mYoungThis morning, I took a deep swim for a bit, resulting in my previous post, The Other Option.  I posted that through my iPhone, from the patio of the local Starbucks, on a bright and sunny morning, as the bustle of traffic and progress buzzed around me.  (It has now been edited! Sorry about that, folks. No more trance-posting without editorial review.)  There was a Chai Tea Latte to be enjoyed, my trusty calligraphy pen in my hand, and a book I couldn’t wait to read.  The occasional dear friend popped by to say hello and give squeezes! Sounds like an ideal summer morning, right? You’d think.

“The deep swim,”  is what I call it when I slip into the deeps of the rabbit hole without really intending to do so, but I become opened to what is happening outside of my little body/life/house/town, and the feels just come flooding in, sometimes I get swept away. I can get lost down there in the murk, and as I am rather empathic, those feels become my feels and can be difficult to shake off.

Thing is, they aren’t my feels, so meanwhile the tidal wave comes crashing through me, my conscious, analytical mind is busy observing them. I am both experiencing this funk of the world and observing them from a distance.  When I came back from that swim this morning, I was aware of this palpable quality to the outer world…tension, fearfulness, mourning. I check FB later, and there is another school shooting. Didn’t this just happen? And the time before?  My friend Lynn comments that these have brought the longest period of “consistent despondency” she’s ever had. That was it. Those words capture the feels of the deep swim…relentless, “consistent despondency.”

Ghostbusters 2Picture me at that moment on the Starbucks patio, just like Ray and Winston in Ghostbusters 2, covered in the pink mood slime of these blargy feels of fear and resentment, angry that I’m laid opened and bare to these things, that this is the person I have become, in what this world has become, trapped in this problematic meat-suit <downward spiral diatribe redacted.>

This image comes to mind of how the world has this nasty, seething, hideous underbelly, and I was sick and tired of having to stare it down all the time. I didn’t choose this! <fists shaken to the Universe>

*Click*

Maybe I did ask for this….that underbelly idea rang a few chimes. So I went back and found this poem I wrote my senior year of high school. I was 17, impetuous and so full of my own sovereignty it is a wonder I survived. This is before I ever had any idea that neo-paganism, or witchcraft,  existed…back when all I knew was that the Bible did not apply to me, that I was about to go off to college and I wanted to learn EVERYTHING (even the stuff the church said was “of the devil”,) and I could not wait to be out from under my mother’s thumb so badly that I could taste it. I wrote this poem as my anthem, it was the giant middle finger, brandished backwardly, as I galloped out of the South and into the horizon. I was such an asshole.

It was published in the Fine Arts Center’s literary journal called The Cripple Creek Review in 1992, so that is where I found it.  The 22nd anniversary of my high school graduation was this week. I am amused now to see how many of these wishes came true, literally and figuratively, for better or for worse. (I’ve covered that “drunk” and “pregnant” wish well-enough, let’s hope I earn the rights to try “old.”)

I wanted to discover the underpinnings of the Universe in unbridled exploration of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I got my wish. Now I should write one called, “Because I’m 40 and Know Better…”

Alas, for your amusement…

Because I’m Young

Life, I said,
slam shut the faded covers
of instructions booklets, of bibles.
Open my eyes, guide me naked, white
through wet streets at midnight,
through Budapest, Brooklyn, Beijing.
Take my hand, envelope me in your time line,
play connect the dots with each fate I cross.

Show me the gray underbelly of shadows
that lie waiting like small dragons in alleys;
lull me to dreaming in the blue fog of grief;
slip me through cracks in this sidewalk;
show me those who have gone before;
let me love them, breathe them.
Lay me down, cradle my head on your black
lacquer chopping block, cleave open
my skull like Queen Mary* and pour
from your green goblet
of knowledge.

Show me Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha;
make me drunk, pregnant, old;
mold me in your Plaster of Paris of stomach
and spit me out.

Life, I demanded, pull back your thorny fist
and hit me for all you are worth.

 

*My kids make me aware that not everyone knows that when Queen Mary was beheaded that it took the executioner several swings of the axe to get the job done, which was some brutal, messy business. Then they found her dog hiding under her skirts.  She went to her death bravely and with grace.

Down the Rabbit Hole of a Past-Life Retrievalist

My favorite part of the witching work I do is past life retrievals. Its some wyrd work, to be sure.  While I have no idea how other retrievalists discover their talents, what training they’ve had, or techniques they employ, I can tell you that I got here via a winding road that began when I was a small child.  I’ve always remembered parts of my previous life as a WW1 soldier in France.

Throughout my formal education, I bounced between colleges and majors, studying creative writing, religion, philosophy and psychology, anthropology and history, and for something completely different: historical costume design. I finished with a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design, so I know a fair amount about the history of art, architecture and furnishings, too.  Ultimately, I had something like 60 random extra liberal arts credits that you might think were a waste of time and tuition. Au contraire! Spirit guided me along the circuitous path, even when I knew not why. Why is any of that important? You’ll see…

What truly kicked off this journey for me was my Reiki II energy training. Quite by accident, I discovered that I have a knack for healing through time and space. Moreover, while I’m channeling Reiki, I can “distance view.” Learning that praxis was like getting the keys to a time machine! Then in 2012, I made a pilgrimage to  Sirius Rising Festival in Sherman, New York, where I took an hour-long workshop on how to do retrievals led by Donata Ahern, who was delightfully stern.  She came in, told us all in no uncertain terms that we were capable of doing this miraculous thing, laid out a script we’d follow, said YOU SEE THIS THING NOW, and so I did–in shocking, full visionary detail. I recently connected with her via FaceBook to thank her for that life-changing hour.

Now, thanks to Donata, I both teach other witches how to do this work, and help my clients to tackle their current life issues by rediscovering lessons learned in previous lives. While we are there, I send Reiki to aid in healing and understanding old “karmic” issues when they occurred.  I call these sessions, going down the rabbit hole. Down there in the between, I’ve met amazing people, felt all their triumphs and downfalls, fallen in love, had my heart broken, seen life-affirming, consciousness-expanding, mind-blowing things! I only wish there was a way to video what I see and feel for you, or take you with me…but wait…I can write their stories.

Care to take a trip with me to medieval Scotland? It all begins with the deep breath in…take in the air that connects us to all life, through all times, passed from all peoples…in and out, deeper and deeper…we are connected…

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The process

I sit across the table from my client with incense burning, candle alight and a psychic blend oil on the third eye and each palm. She is an academic professional, most likely of European descent, just for interest. It is noteworthy that at least 50% of the time the previous life I retrieve is a different gender expression, and of an entirely different race, heritage or sexual orientation. It is my understanding that soul groups do travel through lives together, but are not at all bound by genetic lineage, culture, religion or anything else. They also trade relationship roles; mother in one life, husband in the next; taking turns as incarnated and spirit guide for each other.

I begin the flow of Reiki healing energy down through my crown chakra, to my heart, and flowing out through my hands. I attune a small quartz crystal to be an open conduit of healing for my client, and awaken it to amplify and record the session. My client’s arms rest on the table, palms up. I place the quartz in her right palm, and my attuned amethyst crystal in her left palm.  I rest my hands on top. This forms the physical bridge over which I send my consciousness to link with hers, connecting us as I follow the flow of Reiki moving through my hands.

“I begin this session with an intention and a prayer, calling to all our guides, gods, angels and ancestors to guard and inspire us. Show us the way! Keep us safe and healthy as we journey together. We seek to retrieve the past life that holds a lesson needed in her current life. We ask that the lessons be revealed in a way that is gentle and correct for her at this time.  I offer myself as the conduit, guide my words so that they are most meaningful, and of most benefit, harming none. Blessed be.”

I push Reiki healing energy through my hands, breathing deeply, willing my descent into a meditative state. This is how I unfold the journey in my minds eye: I see myself crossing the bridge of our hands to meet her spirit within her body or energy field.  I approach her on those banks, and we take hands like school children might to skip off to play.

reiki-distance-healing-symbol“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we connect.”

As we turn, I visualize the thread of her spirit’s journey like a river, and we board a boat together.

“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we go back.” (I see the symbol.)

I see us flowing back through time, descending into a deeper trance state.

“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we go back to the beginning.”

I visualize my client at the moment of her birth and look into her tiny face.

“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we go back before the beginning.”

I move backwards with her into the void, the betwixt and between, to before she merged with the flesh in this current incarnation. It is usually around this point that I am no longer aware of my own body, except that it is the heavy anchor to which my floating consciousness is tethered; it is a state of ecstasy to be so unbound.

Meeting Our Guides

I stretch open the void, like opening the curtains on a wide window and allowing it to be deeply black. I call to see the element that guided the lifetime that we will retrieve.

Is it earth, air, fire, or water? Its like spinning a pinwheel that has the colors and elements on it. Then I let go of the edges of the void and whichever element snaps into the foreground is the one I follow. Fire flares brightly into prominence.

Which of the zodiac signs of fire where they born under? Aries, Leo or Sagittarius? Usually, I visualize the sign’s animal or symbol on that wheel, then I snap the void again, and Leo the Lion roars with power.

Spirit guides of that Leo lifetime, will you work with me? Show us the way! I work with the guides of this middle world of matter: plant, animal, mineral.

Was there a plant guide? A branch of a white flowering tree appears. As I am searching to see if it has thorns or not, and I am just settling on Hawthorn, my client who is a witch in her own right, says “I see Hawthorn!” I completely agree. Hawthorn is strongly associated with the Fae in Celtic cultures, protection, death and transformation, and with Beltane, therefore fertility.

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Was there an animal spirit guide? A small bird swoops in. This was not as clear, rather wild and simple looking, with a red head/face and beige on the back feathers. I call him “red bird.” He looked a lot like this robin image I found afterward.

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Was there a mineral guide? GOLD! Chunks of raw, bright gold flare into imagery right away and with some force.

I ask them to help us understand what lesson of that life my client needs at that time; to take me back, and I follow red bird back into the void to find the long line of lives, standing in what looks like a cue. I find my client in the middle of that line, knowing that her future lives (like grey shades) stand before her, and then I pass down the line of those that lie behind her.

Meeting Bearnard Branagh

Who will meet us today? Step out into the light!

I always focus first down at the ground into a pool of light. Within a moment or two feet step out of line and into my vision.  Sometimes there is hesitance, and sometimes it seems like a scuffle among the lives to gain my attention. In this case, rather quickly, a heavy leather pair of men’s boots appear, mid-calf, brown leather, worn and rough, rather primitive in design.

Ok. I feel a strong male presence in those boots, solid, rooted, pleasant, authoritative.

I work my way up, taking in the details of his clothing and physique. He is wearing a pair of rough woven breeches in an earthy, darker brown color, tucked into the boots. I’m guessing a wool, but its not much finer than burlap, though softer. Moving up, there is a woven tunic, of thick, soft wool. The tunic goes to mid thigh, and the sleeve to mid forearm. There are thicker bands to make hems, and a round neck hole, down to a slit at the throat, and slits at the hips. The tunic is belted with a thick leather belt attaching at a metal ring. He wears a leather pouch and a knife attached to his belt in a very utilitarian fashion.

The man is of average height and stocky, small paunch at the belly, but over-all very powerfully built, like you might imagine the dwarves from The Lord of the Rings books. He has dark hair, cut shortish, dark chest hair visible at the collar, and a reasonably Celtic Torgque necklacewell-groomed beard that is a few inches long, both are streaked with some grey. I’d place him between 35-45, in the prime of his life. He is wearing a torque style Celtic necklace, like a semi circle of twisted bronze metal with two knobs at the end, that lays around his neck. He has green eyes and a very pleasant demeanor. I can tell that he is a relaxed, confident, satisfied person who is in good health and is a person of authority.

Put us into your landscape; where do you live?

Now we have the birds eye view of the geography in which he lives. Between this and the hint of the clothing/jewelry, I’m guessing that we are in the highlands of Scotland that are so beautiful and distinct. It is definitely a high rocky, mountainous moor, with a silver loch nestled in the bosom of the green valley. There is a village on the hillside, sheep and other beasts are grazing around.

The village is a smattering of about 20 low-slung buildings of stacked stone, wood beams and thatch. Very quaint, but rather primitive. I zoom back to try and pin point a general location and all I get is that the sea is some distance to the north and west of what I’m viewing. I’m guessing we are in the early medieval period, 600-1000? Give or take a century! (All those extra anthropology and history classes I took in college come in somewhat handy these days.)

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Take us to where you work; what occupation keeps you busy?

Now I’m inside a building, looking over his shoulder as he works. It is a workshop/barn made of stone, with heavy timber structure and thatch roof, dirt floor. There is a round forge with a kind of metal hood over it that leads through the roof. He works with metal, but as I look more closely, I see he is more a farrier than an armorer. Horse shoes are shown to me, and I know there are large working horses there. Also, the metal and leather parts to what look like carts, plows, crates, barrels. These are farm implements.

What is your name?

This can either come screaming through in perfect clarity without me asking, OR is a highly tricky process. I am rarely clairaudient, meaning I can’t “hear” voices. Mostly I am clairsentient (I just suddenly know things), clairvoyant (I see things like watching a movie I can somewhat control) and empathic (their emotions are flowing through me like the musical soundtrack to the “silent” movie.)

When it comes to names, I only have my own symbol set to use for translation, but I know when its in a language I don’t speak, and often my guide will “break the fourth wall” and just tell me what it would mean in English.

In this case, I got a clear “B” and then an “r” sound, two syllables. I ran through a few options that didn’t seem to stick. Bernard flashes to mind but with the English inflection of BER-ned. I saw a flash of a spelling and it was a lot more letters that is strictly necessary, so I’m pretty sure they are trying to show me Gaelic; though I doubt this person I’m retrieving is literate. These are the guides trying to convey the information visually. Sometimes I see carvings on gravestones, or I’ll see words written down on documents. It is much fuzzier when they can’t read or write themselves.

Now that I’ve done some research I find that the Gaelic spelling is Bearnard, and means “strong and brave as a bear.” Bernard is also the patron saint of mountain climbers, which will prove to have an interesting correlation, as you will see.  We agreed that I’d call him Bearnard. Later in the retrieval, the surname “Branagh,” flares into mind without my asking for it, which tends to happen a good bit, and I love it when it does because that is a good indication that they are interacting with me with enthusiasm, rather than my mere probing. As I research Branagh as a surname it looks more of an Irish name. <shrug>

Bearnard, take me to your home; where do you live?

We move quickly through the door of the barn, and we are in a courtyard formed between that work building and stable and the cottage beyond, which is set into the hill side. I can see the mountain rising high up behind the cottage, which is two story on one side, with a roof slanting down to the one story section. There is a kind of lean-to shelter beside the house for livestock and implements, I think. There are sheep about, and other animals wandering free around, like geese.

Into the cottage we duck through a small door, and his plump and smiling wife is by the hearth fire, with his two, teen-aged sons. He is filled with love and happiness for them all; this is his pride and joy. She was wearing a tunic of woven fabric, with a sleeve that was fitted to the wrist, and belted at the waist with a leather girdle-like belt. She wore an apron-style over-dress of a darker color. Her hair was streaked grey now and pulled back with a muslin cap that had the chin ties hanging down, untied, but she flashed an image back of her maiden-self and she’d once had red curly hair.

The cottage was constructed of rough stone, and wood timbers, with thatch roof and a stone floor, with scattered thresh and at least one sheep pelt as a kind of rug. Upon entering, there was a large stone hearth with the metal racks and a pot for cooking over the fire. A chimney rose through a loft above. There was one cabinet with a work surface that served as a cooking area, and a rectangular wood table with benches. The boys had a ladder that rose up behind this kitchen area and they slept in that loft where the heat of the fire rose up to warm them. The rafters and thatch were pretty rough up there, and there was obvious nesting birds and such. They had hooks in the beams were they hung their few clothes.

Behind the main living area, set back further, like an “L” floor plan, was the sleeping area for the adults, with a low wood bed frame and what appeared to be a lumpy stuffed mattress and furs and woven blankets. I saw a wooden storage chest. All the ceilings were low. The front of the cottage had two small windows with heavy wooden shutters that enclosed them, but no glass that I could see. It was a cheery place and his emotions are full of accomplished pride; he is king of this manor!

The two sons were wearing ratty woven tunics. The younger had a bowl-cut of straight chestnut brown hair and was shorter and stockier, like his father, and had a more sullen demeanor. The older boy was lanky and lean, energetic and devil-may-care, with a shock of curly red hair that he’d shaven close over the ears and back, leaving a kind of rat-tail lock on the right side that was braided with beads, or shells or some decoration. Both had leather strap belts and closures on their garments.

Bearnard, show me something that you prized, where were your passions expressed, your joys?

He unwraps from a scrap of suede-like material a beautiful broach/pin used for securing the blue/green tartan cloth at his shoulder. It was a bronz-y patina and was intricately created as a work of art. He was an artisan who took great care in his work.

Show me the hard lesson of this life. What was the pain, the difficulty that taught you the most?

We are now at the bedside of his elderly wife, who’s silver hair is loose on her shoulders, wet with sweat. She is pale and suffering from a fever. The hardest thing was to lose his wife to this illness late in their lives.  The boys are now men with full beards and gathered around her at the end. I flood the scene with Reiki energy, hoping to bring a sense of peace and acceptance to the family.

When I asked him to move me forward to his own end, I see him as a kind of long, grey bearded fellow with a walking staff and his hood thrown over his head like The Hermit card image, or a Gandalf looking fellow. He would walk alone in the highlands, climbing, and there was a cave like place he would visit in the rocks.

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Normally, I ask them to show me both how they died, and I sit with them, a midwife to their death, watching as their Spirits rise and find their way into the between. I’ve accompanied folks through every manner of death, but they are shown to me, as with hindsight, with a detached acceptance. What their spirits do next will be the subject of my next article…stay tuned!

I asked Bearnard again about his crossing over, and again I was at the cave. He stubbornly refused to show me anything more. This time I see his adult sons laying him to rest there, laboring to stack stones around his body, which they’d arranged respectfully on the cave floor. My first thought was that this seemed a divergence from what I understood about the burial rituals of that culture, but the sons merely said that this was a sacred place for their father, and they were honoring his wishes.

He fills me with an understanding that while this was a harsh life in some ways, it was an abundant, content and secure life full of love and pride, as well.

The Lesson

I give my client the chance to ask questions of Bearnard before we close, and as she is a busy professional, she asks him how he made time for his creative work.  He shows me that it is winter, the snows are piled against the cottage and he does small detailed jewelry work at the table by the hearth fire. He conveys that in his life, the dark times of year are when nature imposed a rest and break upon them. That all HE had to do was honor that and work with what limitations he had. We receive that message as you have to build that time into your life, whether it is convenient or not; that rest and reflection needs its place in the cycle.

We work our way back out of the trance state, returning the way we came, with gratitude offered to each guide. I conclude the session with a three card tarot spread. The middle card represents the aspect of my client’s current life to which the retrieval is speaking. The left side card is the advice brought forward by Bearnard, and the card to the right is how she should use that lesson to move forward in this incarnation. I won’t share those cards, but lets just say that they spoke clearly to what we’d just seen and were of great significance to my client, affirming what she already knew. It was a touching and emotional reading that leaves me humbled and grateful, like always.
Blessed Be.
~Heron

Down the Rabbit Hole to become Heron Rising

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.

HeronShamanicDrummingSo, 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.

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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.

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The pond under the tree in the Spirit shrine. Each candle is a wish lit by the celebrants and left there during the night.

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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.

IMG_3970What’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.

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.

Ardayne, Schmardayne

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!