Linden: Walking the priestess path

I am the tree that will meet you at the crossroads. I am the entrance to the labyrinth that is the central mystery of life.

I invite you to enter. I ask you to leave your preconceptions at the door. I am the place where you agree to let go of certainty. I am the path your life takes when you align it with the higher values of the universe. Enter if you want to be of service only. I am the path of the shaman and the priestess.

Note that my pathways are not straight. I do not offer up my secrets easily. Those who come to me for initiation will need to accept that the path ahead of them is not always what it seems to be.

I ask you to give me your pride. I ask you to give me your fear. What I offer you in return is the joy of a life well-lived. But make no mistake: the price I am asking you to pay is higher than you think.

Humility and simplicity may appear to be simple things, and to be the pathways of those who are without ambition or purpose in their life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is in giving up yourself that you will discover your true purpose in life. It is in agreeing to let go of your desires that you will discover that which you want the most.

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Will you come to me? I am offering you my guidance in this journey, but it is up to you to take the first step.

If you agree to do this, I will ask you to perform this little ritual of dedication.

The rite of flowering.

Wear white. If possible do this ritual at the time of the new moon. You will want the energy of the rising tide to be with you in the weeks that follow.

This is a very simple ritual. Take a large sheet of paper. Draw a flower on it. Then, with your eyes closed, step inside the center of the flower. Then call on me.

I will appear to you in the form of a dryad or animal guide. You may or may not have encountered me before. That depends on your own journey prior to this point.

I will come to fetch you. Stepping onto that flower is a conscious act of stepping onto the path towards initiation. The next thing is to confirm this by taking a white ribbon and tying it around your wrist. This is a kind of betrothal. You have agreed to step on this path, and you recognize that this is a path of service, one where you align your will with something that is bigger than yourself. The ribbon signifies that you understand this. Continue wearing this ribbon as a bracelet while you work through the other rituals.

Do not rush this process. This is an offering of yourself. You need to be certain that you want this. Once you have confirmed your choice, there will be no way back. You will have aligned your will with the bigger streams of life, and getting out of that stream once you have entered can be extremely difficult.

Do not fear. You are not at that point yet. If you decide to walk away after all, simply stop wearing the ribbon. There will be no hard feelings. This path is not for everyone. You can take away the lessons you have learned and use them to enrich your life in other ways.

Now that you have started your journey, you will need to learn to be open to the voices of Spirit. They are the ones that will show you the pathway that is yours. It is likely that this will take time, and that you will first be making detours and work with several other trees before you get back to me. That is the nature of the labyrinth. Remember that this path is not a straight one. It will probably be right when you are convinced that you have almost reached the center that the path will suddenly snake away and take you on another course of learning first…

Working with Animal Spirit Guides

This will not be a post on how to find your personal spirit guide, but more of a personal account. A story of how my own spirit animal continued to present itself to me, despite all my efforts to dismiss it…

I may work with gods, do divination, talk to trees, …, but despite all of that I am not at all into ‘woo’. And especially I tend to be very, very critical of everything that has an odour of commercialization or ‘plastic shamanism’ around it. And for that reason, for a very long time I avoided working with animal spirits. Because it seemed like something that was the topic of almost every single ‘introduction to shamanism workshop’ (but.. if this is for real, you shouldn’t treat this as a bit of spiritual entertainment, right?). Or all these oracles around ‘learn from the wisdom of the animals’ (is this real spirituality, or are they mostly put on the market because it sells?). And I am not even going to mention issues like cultural appropriation (but really, having a ‘spirit animal’ that doesn’t even live on your continent, how real can that be?). Justified criticism or unreasonable prejudice? I’ll let you make up your own might on that…

Anyhow, because of this I was very critical when at some point within the course of Druidry I am taking myself (with OBOD), it was suggested that we do some shamanic journeying to figure out what our spirit animal would be. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do it. As I told myself: I am perfectly happy working with trees. They are my guides. What do I even need a spirit animal for?

And so I decided to do a bit of divination on the topic. Try to connect with the animal spirits, and ask them what their opinion is. What about all the commercialization? Isn’t all of this just plain wrong? That divination session did not yield any of the answers I was expecting to get. I had expected to be confirmed in my opinions. Instead, I was called out. Below is an attempt to paraphrase the message I received:

We are seeking to reach out to humanity. What you see as petty commercialism may, for some people, well be the first time they are touched by the otherworld. The first time they truly get face to face with a non-human animal in an environment where the animal is not only considered as an equal, but rather as a teacher, on that has wisdom that is worth listening to.

We use the channels that are available to us. Many of them are not perfect. And yes, unfortunately some people take personal advantage of this to enrich themselves. But that should not concern you. The point is that this allows us to reach people we would otherwise never be able to reach. And once the spark is planted, who knows what might be possible in the future?

What to say to that but bow my head and acknowledge that I had been at least somewhat wrong in my views? And so I consented to take the journey for myself as well: I did the meditation, and at some point on the journey found myself standing in front of ‘the council of animals’, where Hare came forward to be my guide on the spiritual path.

Soon after that I found myself in the middle of a heap of real-life issues to deal with first, and so that experience with hare quickly faded into the background. And when things went finally back to normal, I reverted to the parts of my practice that were familiar  from before. When questioned on the topic of animal guides, I’d tend to say that I was a tree person, and that I didn’t really do animals.

Only, it seems that someone is not quite as ready to abandon me as I was to abandon her…

She’s made a point of showing up at during some of the most crucial points in my spiritual journey:

I’ve only ever seen a wild hare once. This happened when I was heading towards the place in the woods where I was going to perform a Ritual of Dedication to Cernunnos, one of my patron deities. When I arrived at the spot, there she sat, waiting for me. In retrospect, that ritual turned out to be a pivotal point on my spiritual path.

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Then, exactly one year later, I was sitting in meditation, mentally preparing for my Initiation into the OBOD Druid grade. They made me wait for quite some time. Then, suddenly, a white hare jumps into my Inner Sacred Grove, and leads me off onto a path into the forest, its pawprints leaving little sparks of light on the path for me to follow. I hear her whisper ‘Of you go, then.’ Then she’s gone. Some thirty seconds later, I hear a knock on the door. I am being fetched to start with the initiation.

After all that, I feel that it just won’t do to ignore her any longer. And I find that now she’s beginning to turn up in my meditations more regularly. I was just about to write that despite all, I still didn’t really know what this was all about, when she almost jumped at me, insisting on whispering this message to me:

See me as the voice of your intuition. I will be there when the path seems obscured, and when you need guidance in taking important life decisions. My territory is that of the night. The light that guides me is that of the moon. And aren’t you a moon-creature as well? Let us take that journey together then…

Yes I am a creature of the moon. The moon is quite a dominant force in my personal astrology, and the main goddess I am dedicated to is Artemis, a moon goddess. But those are all things that I only figured out long after hare had appeared for the first time. Guess I’d better start paying attention, right?

As a sign that I’m intending to listen this time round, I’ve honoured her by putting her on my drum…

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Imbolc: a time for shaping dreams

The winter months are when we can regroup ourselves after a busy year. The first phase, right after Samhain, is the time of shedding and sorting, after which the time of processing reaches us at the winter solstice. It is with this first spark of light that the impetus comes to understand our past experiences and recycle them into resources for the next cycle.

That part is familiar to anyone celebrating the festivals. That part we generally accept and are even grateful for. For we were tired and we needed rest. And so we accepted the coming of winter. Only… then we had the promise of renewal beginning to take hold: the promise of renewed life, even though it is not yet visible in the outside world.

But still: we have been allowed a brief vision of the future, and as a result the continuing reign of darkness makes that we begin to feel restless. Was it then mere illusion?

This will change at Imbolc. At this time, the hold of darkness on the land begins to loosen. And if you pay attention to the energies, you can feel how at this time the land breathes a sigh of relief. It welcomes the returning light and begins to turn its gaze towards the sun.

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And yet…

We still find ourself in the middle of winter, with part of the harshest weather still ahead of us. So we have to take care to not let hope carry us away into foolishness. This is seen in the planetary associations with this time of the year: there is the spirit of revolution we know as Uranus, which is ushered in by the light that is returning. At the same time, there is the necessity of restraint that is forced on us by Saturn.

But let us not see these forces combining as a contradiction, but rather as an opportunity for growth and learning of a type that will not present itself at other times of the year.

What this season invites us to do is to give shape to our dreams, and to create a blueprint for change and growth that can fuel us through the coming year. The following ritual suggests a way to harness the magic of the season.

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The ritual

What you will need:

  • a candle
  • A box ( something that feels like a treasure-box to you)

The rite

  • open sacred space in your usual way. As you draw a circle, you may want it to be opened and closed in the northeast, the place of Imbolc.
  • Begin by calling on the spirit of the season, and inviting her into your life ( use whatever version that speaks to you most: this might be the goddess Brighid, another goddess, the rising sun,…)
  • As you make your call, stand in the northeast, and light your candle as soon as you sense her presence. Welcome her and, if it feels right, present her with an offering (this will depend on your personal practice)
  • Now, take some time to sit in silence in the northeast, while you contemplate the light of the candle. Open yourself to its influence, and feel its blessing and inspiration flow through you.
  • Then, take your box and hold it to your heart. Make a wish, and ask that the box be filled with all the inspiration and understanding needed to allow you to fulfill your dream. Visualize how the light of the candle grows brighter, and a shaft of light illuminates the box. Notice how the box feels notably heavier afterwards.
  • Give thanks and close the ritual. Do NOT open the box. If possible, allow the candle to burn up fully, with the box sitting next to it, continuing the impregnation process.

The contents of the box represents the period of incubation between Imbolc and the beginning of spring. If you open it, ideas will spread prematurely and the magic will be lost. Instead, over the coming days and weeks, hold the box during meditation, or place it right next to your bed, and ask that you may be granted the inspiration to help you fulfill your dreams.

 

A love song of earth and sky.

Every Pagan is familiar with the wheel of the year. Usually the story is told from the perspective of the earth. In this blog I will try to explore the meaning of the festivals from the perspective of the sky.

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Before we can do this, let us start with some general considerations. It is obvious what the role is of the earth within our lives. She is our mother: she gives birth to us, she nurtures us, she carries us throughout our lives.

And yet we should not forget that there is a second factor in play as well: the sky. The air that surrounds us, that gives us the breath of life, that is a conductor for the light and warmth of the sun. The one that shields us from the deadly environment that exists outside the earthly atmosphere. It is in the embrace of these two forces that we are given life.

The cycle begins at Imbolc, when the first whispers of the sun begin to stir the earth back to the memory of embodied life. A call that is first taken up by the snowdrop. We are called back to existence, while still sheltered from the worst cold by a cover of snow. That covering is a gift from the sky. A reminder that warmth can be generated in even the most dire of circumstances. A call of love: be not afraid. If you decide to embark on this adventure, I will be here to protect you.

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There will still be time before life is in full bloom, but around the Spring Equinox the first definite signs can be seen that the call was heard. And the sky keeps its promise: along with the birth of greenery come the gentle spring rains. A clear message: dare to grow. You are held. In need, you will find the sky to be your biggest supporter.

This gives confidence, and the example of the early pioneers is soon followed by the rest of the natural world. And the call is infectious, and the urge to create new life is strong. The time of Beltane comes. And once again, the sky shows its support, with the coming of warmer days. You must not be afraid to make new life of your own. In the coming months, life will be warm and gentle, and the light of my love will shine on you.

As the first fruits come to ripeness, and the pups play in the grass, a first gentle warning is voiced at the Summer Solstice. I am your father, and I love you dearly, but be aware that my resources are finite. This is your call to grow up. I will give you all my love and shelter you for as long as you can. But make sure that in the coming months, you create the memories and stories that will shine for you as a beacon in the darkness the next winter.

Not that there is any urgency just quite yet. At Lughnasadh, the realization that life will not last forever is a distant background warning. The sky is gentle, and clouds cover the brightness of the sun every now and then to make sure that its children are not burned. The rains support the making of memories, and allow the fruits to swell to magnificence.

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There is however a time when final preparations need to be made, and once again the sky is there with a gentle warning. At the Autumn Equinox, the winds of change begin to blow, a warning that is passed on by the rustling of the leaves. Not just a warning, but an invitation as well. Together, let us celebrate the abundance of life one final time. Tell me your stories, and I will carry them in my memory, and repeat them for future generations when you will no longer be around.

Then, a sudden change. The sky seems to have taken on a different guise: from protector of life, at Samhain he turns into a taker of lives, as the first frosts open up the gates of the Otherworlds. But there is always that whispering. Have no fear. I will guide you onwards. I have come to be your guide in difficult times. When your earthly body is taken away from you, you will find shelter in me. Your spirits shall be my body and together we shall go and be the memory of Earth.

For at the darkest time, at the Winter Solstice, it will be us who sing the sun back to life. It is us who have lived who will carry the hopes and dreams of the next generations. We are always with you. For we who once were earth have now become the sky. And we love you dearly. And together we will make sure the cycle continues. Now and forever. As long as love is at the center of your life, you will live forever.

 

Becoming children of the earth again

(This post was produced through automatic writing. My personal belief is that the source of this lies outside of me, but obviously I have no way to check this, so feel free to read this as me giving my opinion on things in a somewhat unusual format, speaking from the perspective of the gods. What matters ultimately is whether the contents of this resonates with you or not. )

I want to tell you a story.

There used to be a time when humanity did not yet pretend that they were the rulers of the universe. When you were still small children who had just learned to play with tools.

It was during that time that you became self-aware of yourself in a way that many other creatures are not: you started to see the world around you as something you could master, a puzzle you could try to figure out in order to improve your living conditions.

At first this was just an innocent little game: try to seed some seeds and come back the next year to see if it had made a difference. But quickly enough, you began to see that it indeed made a difference, and you increased your experimenting and became more pro-active, no longer seeing this as a game, but as a serious business.

It is at this point that the gods began to take note. For we became aware of the potential consequences this would have, as your relationship to the world around you began to change.

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And so we reached out to you. We sent some messengers to communicate with you. Both to help you on your way, but also as a precaution to make sure that you would not disturb the balance too much. And we taught you to work in accordance with nature, honoring the plants that gave you food. It is no coincidence that many of the early creation myths speak precisely of this: of how the gods had created the people by teaching them how to feed themselves. For that is indeed the moment when you became humanity, and not just a type of animal that happens to celebrate very elaborate rituals and wears clothes.

Let me make clear what I mean when I use the word animal here. I use it in the sense of a living being that has a place within the web of life, and has a body that can move of its own accord. Under that definition, you are animals. This is not something that distinguishes you in a positive or a negative way.

Except that you began to think of yourself as different. Even with our guidance, you began to see the world around you as something that was there mostly for your benefit. And that worried us.

For even among peoples who celebrated the earth as a sacred place, and animals as brothers and sisters, there was this sense that your species was different. Maybe not better, but still different. And this had the risk that it could develop in a way of thinking where you would consider yourself as so different that you would stop your efforts of communicating with the world around you, and start to rely only on the resources of your own intellect, and no longer come to us for guidance. And thereby, think that you no longer needed us and that the world around you was there especially for you, and was there to feed you and be subservient to your kind.

Our fears came true. The worst happened: as you began to understand the world in which you live in a more and more mechanical way, the thought of it as sentient and capable of deep thought and emotion became more and more alien to you. And so a group among you stopped your communication altogether. And you all know where that has brought you, for that group of people is the one that eventually birthed you.

And so we worry. For your current way of living has the potential to destroy the earth, if you do not start changing your ways real fast.

But we are still here, and we still want to help. For we still believe that it is not yet too late, and the mess you have made can still be cleaned up.

And so I have a question to each of you. On whose side are you? What is more important to you: Your own personal comfort and survival, or the survival of your kind and of this planet?

I hope you have given the second answer. If so, I have an invitation for you. I am the Earth. I am your mother. I am the one who feeds you. Will you work with me? Will you allow me to teach you ways of seeing differently, of respecting your fellow creatures? Will you allow me to help you to become just an animal again, and to regain the connectedness that you have lost?

Exploring the meaning of freedom

What does it mean to be free? Does it depend at all on our material circumstances, or is it rather something that exists in our mind?

I recently wrote some posts from the perspective of a tree, over on the other blog I am contributing to, Anima Monday. These posts were based on a communication with a tree, and this was a challenge that this tree-being posed to me. ‘I have no body that I can move around with, but does that make me less free than you? Probably you are just bound by other kinds of restrictions…’

The more I think about this, the more I realize just how very true this is. We are part of the narrative of our society, and that narrative binds the way in which we behave in many, many way. We are given a mould which we grow into, and are told that the meaning of ‘growing up’ is accepting that mould. ‘Leaving our childhood behind’ means stopping to be a free spirit and instead accepting the rules imposed on us by others.

Is this a bad thing? It isn’t, until it is. There are certain things a child indeed has to learn, like thinking further than its own personal instincts, and also taking into account the rights of others. There is also the inevitable fact that in order to become something, it may be necessary to give up on other things. In order to grow, some sacrifices will always need to be made and instead boundaries accepted. So that, by becoming less, we become more at the same time. Because by restricting the world we choose to explore, we get to spend more time there, and we get to know it on a much more intimate level. In other words, the seed that once danced in the wind accepts the limitations that come with becoming tree.

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So far the healthy. Giving up freedom can be an essential part of life.

Let us now turn to the other side of things. Freedom lies in accepting a restrictive situation if that helps us to become the person we need to be, both in our own interest and the interest of our society. But this is a state of restriction that is in constant flux, one that still includes an openness to change, and an acceptance of the value that lies in the unknown, the unexplored, the other-than-self.

Stagnation threatens if we try to impose the boundaries that have served us personally onto others. If we can no longer see the seed but rather a potential copy of ourselves. Or worse, as a new chance to become the things we failed to become ourselves.

Each seed is unique, and needs to be given the chance to develop according to its own individual strengths. That is how we create a strong and diverse society as well: if all kinds of skills and strengths are equally welcomed, the collective will thrive as well.

Now think of this for yourself. How often have you abstained of doing something because of a fear of ‘what will others think if I do that?’ Whose interest did that serve? Society, or simply someone else’s fear of the unknown? Or maybe it was actually just a projection of your own fear of becoming and being seen for what you truly are? Now, what will you do next time? Which fight is more worth fighting? That of fighting for the right to become whole, or that of helping to sustain fear as a force of oppression in the world? Choose to fight for what is right. It will make a more worthwhile effort, even if it is not necessarily the easier path.

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Also think of your own task as nourisher of other people’s seeds. Will you accept their truths, their individual beauties even if they are far different from your own? Can you let go of fear and opt for love instead?

Together, let us strive to become forest. Becoming free by turning into strong, mature trees. So we can start seeding a better future.

A new year’s message from the Earth.

To my children.

I dearly love you and I would like to wish you all the best for the coming year. May you find joy and love and happiness, and may all your wishes be fulfilled.

With that out of the way, there are a few other things I would like to remind you of as well.

Firstly, that you are my children. I am the one who has given you life, and I am the one who feeds you every day. I do this because I love you. But I would like to remind you that you are not my only children. It is not fair if you claim all of my gifts for yourself, and leave next to nothing for your non-human siblings.

Second, you are my children, and so it is my responsibility to help you grow up to become responsible adults. And this I do because I love you. And I will continue to do so even when you continue to ignore my many calls to you. Why have you stopped listening when I speak to you? As your mother, I am concerned for your well-being. It is your own needs that you ignore if you do not pay attention to what I have to say.

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And also, you are my children. Can we celebrate this new year together, as a family? I invite you to have a party that you will never forget.

Go outside and call out to the world. Tell it that you love it. Allow it to share in your happiness or even in your sorrow. Stop limiting yourself by living in a purely human world. You are so much more than that. This year, if you make a new years resolution, let that be it: promise yourself that you will learn to listen, and that you will love your brothers and sisters. All of them. That includes yourself, but also the weeds on your front porch. They are part of me. They are part of you. Step into the new year together.

And for those among you for who this is not a happy time, know this: you are loved. My love for you is unconditional. If the human world sometimes turns their back on you, then come to me. Hug a tree, or roll through the grass. Feel the gentle caresses of a stream or lake or sea. Look at the birds flying overhead, and listen to their song. They sing for you. Sing back, and join the chorus.

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Child of the earth, I love you. May the coming year be a good one for you. May you prosper.

Blessings from your mother.