To Die

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Maine Woods

I died in 2011. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what happened. My death wasn’t physical, however, but rather psychological. This wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. It was, however, one of the more tremendous transitions through which I journeyed, albeit somewhat unaware of its full context. I was often confused and overwhelmed, and, although I did realize that I was going through a change, and wrote about it at length through journaling and creative manuscripts, there remained pieces missing from my cognizance.

Initially upon reflection, I thought it was due entirely to the physicality of menopause, a threshold I reached relatively early. I attributed this to a decades old premonition; in my mid-twenties, I was convinced that I was to die at fifty years old. I thought through the years that this would be a physical death; this felt inexorable. As I began to approach that age, however, it seemed logical that the death I’d foreseen all those years ago was the bridge of moving through The Change. But it has been far more than that.

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Sonoran Desert, Tucson

In 2011, I had left the home I’d made (haven), the friends I’d bonded with (community), and the career I’d been slowly building from scratch (purpose) for nearly twenty years. My husband was desperate for a change in climate and job, so we moved from Maine to Tucson, Arizona. I naively thought I could simply pick up where I’d left off, re-create and re-discover what I’d left behind; it wouldn’t be easy, but I felt I could manage. That wasn’t to be and nothing seemed to be coming together. During my four years in the Sonoran Desert, I crashed and burned and tried to rise from the flames; I wrote two memoirs about those psychological traumas: Minoan Messages (about the pilgrimage I made to Crete) and Desert Fire (about my struggle to face the monster in my mind). Writing these books was very beneficial, but I still seemed to fall short in recovering peace and equilibrium.

I retreated further and further into myself, attempting to find outlets that would provide a sense of haven, community, and purpose, but my husband realized before I did that we needed to move; he recognized that while he couldn’t fix two parts of my loss, at least he could participate in finding us a place to live where we both might feel at ease. This led us to my birth-state of Missouri and a property and landscape that quickly felt like a haven, a true home. Roots and re-birth. One piece resolved.

Tree House Dream Sideways

Home in the Ozarks, Missouri

The other two pieces have been slower to emerge. Community is a slow, often awkward or even grueling process for someone like me who has a deeply introverted nature; it doesn’t manifest in the same way that it might for people who are extroverted. Another challenge is that I’m living in a part of the country where the majority of people have a completely different perspective on spirituality, politics, society, and culture than I do. I’ve been compelled to explore these antithetical views in depth, though that process nearly overwhelmed me at times. Nevertheless, I’m finally, after nearly two years, beginning to feel the presence and comfort of a loosely connected web of community.

The third piece is purpose. This aspect for me, historically, has broadly been about giving back, caregiving, and healing other beings (humans as well as animals). In the past, I took a direct route by working with friends in animal rescue, by creating a petsitting business, and by studying natural health care and transforming what I learned into a business that offered classes and consultations. I was writing books as well, another life-long interest of mine, but that was a sideline to my direct offerings. In Tucson, I was shown an indirect way to share healing and transformation: through writing.

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Copperhead

This reflection upon direct and indirect offerings is what has shone the light upon the death of one manifestation of purpose and the rebirth of another. I am not the same person I was six years ago; that self is gone, died. Do I want to continue trying to wear that “dead and useless skin“? Not really. Like the snake, I’m ready to shed my old skin.

My mid-life purpose has now shifted into using the experiences of my past and reflections in the present to offer healing-through-writing into the future. I realize that death will come again in a new guise, but for now, I’ve been reborn.

Calan Mai

It’s probably no surprise that I delight in May Day, referred to as Calan Mai by the Celtic Welsh, or as Beltane by the Irish; after all, this holy day occurs during my personal solar birth sign of Taurus, providing much needed invigoration for my otherwise introverted and low-ebb way of being. This year, I celebrate from May 1st (solar date) to May 8th (lunar date; the first full moon in Taurus). Alas, the only flowers on my property right now are some tattered and rain-soaked pale yellow Irises, although the pink Peonies are getting close to blooming (and I’m grateful that they are waiting until after the past few days of pelting, severe rainfall.

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Finley River Flooding

While full summer heat can quickly wilt me, this early entrance to summer time that I connect more with spring, when even the sleepy oaks in the Ozarks have finally awakened into verdant splendor, is one “awash with the vibrant intensity of all things green and growing as a fertile wave of vital energy crashes across the landscape.” (Telyndru, p. 130) This year, the crashing waves have been literal as this last weekend of April brought torrential rains that have produced formidable flooding that wash away roads and bridges, and cause power poles to tilt dangerously. The heavy rains also wash away winter and spring’s detritus. Now will come the time to plant and nurture.

It is said that “there is very little difference between burying and planting,” that we often “need to put dead things to rest, so that new life can grow,” and that “the thing put to rest … becomes the fertilizer for the life about to form.” I have indeed experienced an extended cycle of dying where I resisted putting the past to rest, and was suffering from “wearing a dead and useless skin.” I do tend to hold to what is familiar within myself; while I knew intellectually about my need to let go, my inner self was reluctant:

“One self carries us to the extent of its usefulness and dies. We are then forced to put that once beloved skin to rest, to join it with the ground of spirit from which it came, so it may fertilize the next skin of self that will carry us into tomorrow.” (Nepo, p. 145)

Am I ready to begin anew?

This time of the year corresponds to the Station of Emergence in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing; this cycle “is a symbolic distillation of the soul’s journey from roundedness to wholeness, from inauthenticity to sovereignty, and from disconnection to connection with the Divine.” (Telyndru, p. 13) This station in the cycle of healing–and Calan Mai in the annual agricultural cycle of life–is one significant for manifesting our dreams and potential. And, since manifestation or achieving goals has always been a challenge for me, this cycle has particular potency; I have lots and lots of “seeds” within, it’s growing them up, out, and into the world that is my challenge.

Missouri spring cave by Bill Duncan

Missouri Cave/Spring, (c) Bill Duncan

I have been intrigued by how this station is aligned with The White Spring in the Avalonian Landscape because the Ozarks topography (where I moved 18 months ago) is a haven for springs … and caves. The White Spring’s waters “rise from deep within the earth … percolating through the limestone caverns beneath the Tor” and our southern Missouri landscape is a veritable limestone “cave factory” (nearly 6,600 caves). I’ve always loved caves, and have been within many of them, but this is the first time that I’ve thought of them as part of an emergence process because of the waters and springs that create them.

I have no doubt that I am here in the Ozarks for a specific purpose, and that the Goddess will guide me through the journey.

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Telyndru, Jhenah. Avalon Within: A Sacred Journey of Myth, Mystery, and Inner Wisdom.

Nepo, Mark. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.

Celtic Healing Ways

When we seek beyond patriarchal and Christian overlays upon the Celtic pagan past, we find unexpected treasures within the healing ways that have been handed down, remnants though they might be. The holism that I follow in my personal healing ways for self (and clients) is mirrored by these patterns in Celtic practices: healing is a spiritual path.

Flame Pendant

Talisman

In spite of modern conventional medicines continued efforts to obliterate ancient, traditional, or indigenous healing systems, we regularly see a rise in the latter. Author Noragh Jones points out that, “throughout the history of medicine, ordinary people have gone on using herbal remedies and faith healing alongside or instead of professional medicine.” (P. 137) I believe that the faith healing aspect comprises far more than we currently can conceive, and goes beyond what has been recorded, and unfortunately derided, in history as runes or spells, prayers or magic by wise women and shamans.

Herbalism has an absolutely prominent place in healing. No doubt about it, whether in the past or the present. But there were usually unseen energies (of the plants’ elementals and/or of the spirit realm) that accompanied the herbs in their work and, I believe, were often of greater value to the overall healing itself, as referenced that there is “a sense that illness is some kind of imbalance in the individual, and so mind and body and spirit must be treated as a whole; and a conviction that healing is a spiritual resource as well as a physical process.” (P. 138) Some of the conventional medical establishment is starting to recognize these unseen powers of healing; from the encouragement of meditation and visualization, to healing touch and Reiki, to how nature influences the healing process (being able to see a park or trees outside a patient’s window). Within this realm of unseen healing energies lies Essences and Homeopathics, the bridge remedies that are my passion, and which carry healing on all levels of one’s being. Yet most people continue to leave out the spiritual component to healing.

The unseen energies were especially embraced when it came to protection and warding off evil, but also used within the healing itself. For instance, “the caim or encompassing was a way of encircling oneself or another with the spiritual protection of [one’s Deity] so as to keep at bay danger or distress, death and doom and the malice of ill-disposed persons.” (P. 142) Herbs and plants were used, but it usually wasn’t their physical substances that were being invoked. And, whether we call the encircling based upon psychology or spirituality, I believe they come from the same place: the soul.

As Jones points out: “It was impossible for a people who expressed their spirituality through the ordinary everyday activities, to draw a clear dividing line between their herbal medicine, their part-pagan runes and their faith healing. Healing was a spiritual as well as a practical activity which demanded of the healer not just plant knowledge but a quiet and serious intent, undivided attention, and faith in a power greater than themselves.” (P. 139) This old-world view of holistic healing is one I resonate with; a true healing occurs throughout one’s being, not simply in the body. In fact, if a dis-ease is addressed solely on a physical level, by either healer or recipient, then it will recur, either in the same form and place or, often, by moving elsewhere into an additional area of susceptibility.

Keeping this holism in mind, for those of us who do not collect our own herbs, essences, or homeopathics, we must rely upon our sources for their dedication to the healing path as a sacred one, or at the very least, an honorable calling (i.e., not just in it for the money). Jones reminds us that, “the quiet ingathering of healing energies began when the healer went out to other the healing plants.” (P. 139) This intention would encompass lunar and solar cycles and seasons, as well as the consciousness and spiritual awareness of the healer. Further, the wise woman knew that “as a healer you are only an instrument of higher grace and are nothing in your own right.” (P. 150) The healer would be conscious of the part they played in the healing process, and “had their own preparations to make as well as their charms to utter over the patient. They would bend down and place their two palms on the ground to get in touch, and at the end they would wash their hands in running water, to draw new energy from the earth and to wash away the burden of the disease that they had drawn out of the sufferer.” (P. 153)

Holistic healers were not ignorant of the unseen influences that surrounded them, whether they were of Celtic descent or from elsewhere in the world. Jones states in regard to this that, “Although their treatments were a blend of faith and magic runes and practical herbalism, the Gaels had the beginnings of a system to explain the ills they saw around them and experienced personally in their own lives.” (P. 150) These people believed that much dis-ease was caused by tiny, unseen life forms and energies; they didn’t know how these were inherited but saw that some lines — whether human or animal — were more afflicted than others. Thus, charms or runes were often needed from the healer that went beyond the mere physical: “In many healing runes the feeling is that the hurt or disease is something evil that has found its way into the body and can be shifted out of it if the right formula is found and applied in the right spirit.” (P. 151) From my own perspective, this “evil” arises from our own human frailty, ego and ignorance; from our fear or hate or shame. Since our evil within arises from our own lack of self-realization, then the energies of sacred nature can assist us in addressing that unawareness, and a conscious healer can support this journey. While in our modern society we tend to separate rather than integrate the various functions of wellness providers—we have psychologists and spiritual advisors, therapists, counselors, and medical practitioners—in the past there was more often simply the holistic wise woman of the village.

Beyond the unseen energetics of plants, we have those situated in place or land, from sacred hills or valleys, to sacred springs and wells. We find that, “the spirits of the wells were particular and local, but all were connected with the profound powers of below ground, the underworld of Mother Earth, source of fundamental energies.” (P. 159) There were often animal or tree guardians of these places, themselves imbued with healing powers and to whom offerings were made. But certainly healing springs and wells have been prominent in Celtic past through legends and myths.

Healing work, within and without, has been a part of my own spiritual path for nearly twenty years. Thanks be to Brigid.

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For quotes, see Power of Raven, Wisdom of Serpent: Celtic Women’s Spirituality by Noragh Jones; Chapter 6, Woman of Healing.

What is real?

View from deck 042417Is it real, this world? It is for me, but what if this abundant magnificence that I enjoy every day were, in a few thousand years, to disappear? And all that was left were stories of vast green tangled-woods where birds sing and night creatures roam; would that make what I have known any less real simply because no one can any longer imagine that this beauty could have been possible? So what about our own myths and legends. Are their stories real? Does it matter? Or does it only matter that we embrace the tales as portals into growth, self-realization, and love on all scales, so that the wonders of what-once-was can be manifest again?

My favorite aspect of Avalon Within: a sacred journey of myth, mystery, and inner wisdom is that the author Jhenah Telyndru offers to readers her perceptions of the Arthurian legends of Avalon entwined with the myths of Celtic Goddesses and energizes them through our modern understanding of archetypes. We are invited to explore not only what Avalon means to the author but to dive into uncovering what it might mean to each of us. How do we understand “Avalon within”?

IMG_0354Telyndru presents Avalon’s history in the context of Glastonbury and, while admitting we have no proof of this physical location might have been that of the ancient Avalon, she offers a possibility that, “Fabricated or authentic, there is an energetic connection to Avalon that overlays the town of Glastonbury like an ancient mist, constructed over time and through the workings of the collective unconscious.” I certainly don’t know whether I believe that Glastonbury was once the legendary Avalon, but that doesn’t really matter to me. Because, for me, Avalon is within…within me and within our imaginations and it is there the power for transformation and self-realization lies; we can recreate Avalon.

Telyndru goes on to say: “Firmly rooted in the archetypal realm, Avalon can be accessed through focused and disciplined inner questing.” And, while she provides many “tools” for “journeying to the spiritual landscape of ancient Avalon,” Telyndru also states that “there are as many ways of knowing as there are portals.” I’m grateful for her openness and acceptance that, although she has discovered the symbols and portals that resonate most strongly for her (and created her own Avalonian Tradition around them), and which she shares with all of us, she also realizes that many other ways of access are available to each of us.

Was Avalon real? Can we re-imagine a non-patriarchal version–a place of healing and wonder–into our world?

She Weeps and Fills the Well

In perfect synchronicity, last night I began reading about “entering the cauldron” of Ceridwen (Avalon Within by J. Telyndru) to receive the gifts of wisdom and prophecy, of healing. This morning, I woke to “the blessed rain that falls like grace, without regard to wealth or race” (from the song “We Were Sleeping” by Carrie Newcomer) — this is the rain that fills the well from which we draw the water for our cauldron. In a spiral of life, a deluge of water moving from one place to another, healing and nourishing. I feel myself soften and relax, just as I imagine the newly green trees are doing, as we breathe into the moisture together.

Rainy Day in the Trees 042017I would agree with Telyndru that “true healing is a function of the soul.” This is the premise that I have adhered to for more than two decades, and is the touchstone of my own spirituality and healing journey. The cauldron is a womb, a place of transformative power where the waters of grace hold the ingredients of that which we have uncovered within ourselves. Then, through each cycle of “cooking,” we bring forth precious drops of wisdom and heal a bit more of ourselves and thus the world. Or, as Telyndru puts it in her interpretation of the myth of Ceridwen’s cauldron:

“As we embark upon this quest for wholeness we gather the scattered parts of ourselves; at different times and in different seasons, we add them to the brew. Through this alchemical process, we reveal the three drops of Awen–the illumination within the shadow. Freeing these drops causes the vessel to break–the unneeded elements of the brew are our outmoded patterns ….”

And yet, the journey is far from over for, as many wise teachers have said, enlightenment is a process, not a single event. So, once the cauldron shatters and we ingest the wisdom of that particular brew, we form a new container for our experiences and begin again.

Celtic Flame

A new morning practice encourages me to wander into the patterns of Celtic women’s spirituality, to honor my ancestors and meet them at the hearth where we all come to join hearts and minds in a covenant of belonging. Blessings well up to keep me conscious of gifts received and reminders to share my abundance.

First thing in the morning, light the flame, a signal of conscious awareness; last thing at night, honor the dimming of glow in the house where shadows merge and reign upon our sanctuary, a blanket of dark protection. Here are the tethers of life, the wicks of gratitude and love; where once were coals upon a central fireplace, now a candle represents the resurrection off hearth-keeping as a sacred vocation, even when only an act of diminutive devotion.

IMG_0280Some of my ancestors came from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the English borderlands. Those who have studied their life-ways and myths or legends remind us that, “They can show us how to do ordinary things in a spirit of celebration that comes from a sense of being connected with the flow of humanity, the life energies.”

I wrote a while back about my personal and unique path to tending the hearth fire. My relationship to hearth and home is in continual transformation as I explore the mysteries of life. It is said that, “the household fire was more than a practical convenience … it was a reminder of the flame of life, of the need to rekindle basic energies every day of our lives, to keep in touch with our inner life force and avoid apathy and coldness in ourselves or towards others.” When I light my candle, this remembering is a portion of the context in which I see the flickering and feel it within myself.

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Quotes are from Power of Raven, Wisdom of Serpent: Celtic Women’s Spirituality by Norah Jones.

Unseen Healing

IMG_0456Among the unseen is the healing. This be within air, fire, water, earth, and ether. This be within plant, animal, and mineral. This be within feeling, thought, soul, and spirit. We know not the unseen that brings these into form and formless expression.

I know in my soul that before the patriarchy there was a different perception of life, though we cannot confirm definitively how that was. Our meager human minds seek the solid but pass over the subtle. We see what we want to see. Even among modern pagan paths, rarely is found the expansive vision needed to go beyond substance to subtlety for boundless healing.

Hidden in the past, among the mists of times long ago, before recorded history there was an acceptance that the unseen could do the work without the need of form.

Some accept energy work of the body (“healing hands” or “healing touch”), far fewer embrace the unseen resonance that is beyond the herbs in their physical forms. Many cling to only a substantive view of wise women as herbalists, without opening to the wider and deeper vibrations within the plants, within their elementals. Some accept that magic was normal in bygone eras, yet cannot release an attachment to substance in order to embrace the unseen.

I hold to the frequencies of the unseen in healing. Yet, I too need to go deeper, open wider, allow more freedom of consciousness to touch the true essence of the unseen in healing. Our minds restrict, our souls allow us access.

Bridge remedies, I call them, these Essences and Homeopathics. New method, ancient wisdom. The energetic patterns are the unseen, yet we still feel a need for the carrier. Maybe one day, we won’t.

Thanks be to Brigid for healing in all Her abundant ways.