Chakras, Reiki, and History as I Understand It

Chakras come up a lot in energetic healing, and I thought that they might be an interesting topic to tackle. Chakras are points in the energetic body where certain energies pool, making a sort of vortex. If you ask someone in the spiritual community about chakras, a good portion will tell you that you have seven chakras, starting at around the base of your spine and ending at the top of your head. They are assigned different colors of the rainbow, red at your base chakra to violet at you crown. This model of chakras has been popular for a number of years, and people sometimes mistakenly believe that it is the only model.

The idea of seven chakras come from the yogic world, but is by no means the only chakra map from yoga. It has an interesting history that, if you are interested in it, you can read more here. Energy centers have a wider history than India, though. Chinese medicine works a lot with energetic meridians. Qi Gong works with a few energetic centers (that overlap with a few of the chakras). Different Western Occult traditions have their own energy points and pathways that they focus on.

When I first learned Reiki (the energy healing technique with which I began my training), I was taught about the seven chakras that are popular in many Western alternative healing modalities. I learned about body and emotional connections to each chakra. It’s an interesting marriage, Reiki and modern yogic chakras. When Reiki was founded by Mikao Usui, he taught specific ways to place your hands when giving someone Reiki. While there was an overlap in hand placement and where chakras are understood to be, I don’t believe any of his work had anything to do with the seven chakras. I surmise that they found their way into Reiki around the time it came to the states.

Because I was trained to feel them when doing Reiki, as well as trained to feel them in myself in my scattered early years of esoteric research, I still often use them when doing energetic work. I associate different energies with different points on the body. I am left wondering how much of that is how our auric bodies are, and how much is just how I associate energy and place on the body. I also use minor energy points in healing work, such as the ones found at your hands, feet, elbows, and knees.

I have also mentioned different chakra work I do in ritual. When learning the rituals of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), the first two energy points we are taught to focus on are the third eye and the solar plexus. The third eye connects us to our spiritual senses, while the solar plexus has connections to self (and, as my teacher Adhi like to point out, service). After a while, AODA ritualists begin to store planetary energies where their sacral chakra would be located and solar energies where their heart chakra would be located. Eventually, you use those two currents to create a third, stored where your third eye chakra would be. John Michael Greer, the author that revived the work of the AODA, mentions the different chakra systems. He suggests that it is better to focus on select chakras as points of power, so your internal energies aren’t stretched trying to strengthen a whole bunch of power points.

I believe we have many energy points throughout our body, and it is our practice that strengthens some over the others. There are a few points that seem to be relatively universal. The sacral chakra is one that seems to crop up in other systems with different names, so it seems that it is rather important in our energetic bodies. The third eye, lining up with the pineal gland, is a hotspot for spiritual traditions trying to connect to the more etheric worlds. The heart

seems to also be a popular one, though some systems move that energetic point closer to the physical heart, on the left side of one’s chest.

Though I work mainly with the seven popular chakras, sometimes I’m directed to unexpected parts of the body or aura when doing energy work. Everybody is different, and everyone has their own certain auric quirk. My job as a healer is to roll with it, and listen to what my client’s energy is telling me. Let me know what your experiences are with chakras. I would love to hear a different perspective.

Stay warm out there. It’s frigid up here in the North. Winter has arrived.

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Freedom To Breathe

There is a certain magic to working with herbalists in finding ways to stay healthy. You get to use plants, or extracts of plants to find a body balance. You’re working with someone who is (hopefully) setting time to really listen to you, someone who isn’t bound by the strict schedule a doctor has to work with. The medicine can be cheap, or even harvested by the person looking for a little bit of healing.

It’s not that people shouldn’t use our medical system. We have amazing ways to test for different issues. Antibiotics, when used appropriately, are a game changer and life saver. If I break a bone, or have a heart attack, you better believe I’m headed to my local hospital.

Both fields, though, have their failings. As anyone can call themselves an herbalist, it can be difficult to choose who to listen to. You can go the route of only trusting herbalists who have gone through specific programs, but that can discount a lot of knowledgeable folks out there. It is also sometimes difficult to get good information on herbs. With some sources being a mix of valuable information, and useless drivel, sometimes an herbalist has to figure out how to deal with a problem as they go.

I am having one of those situations.

I have asthma. Upon contact with the right mix of allergens and weather, my airways become inflamed and have difficulty getting in air. For those of you who have not had the experience, it feels like someone is sitting on your chest, and you can’t expand your lungs enough to get the air you need. The worse it gets, the less air you can get. In severe cases, without medication the asthmatic can die. My first asthma attack was when I was two years old, and it’s been a reoccurring problem ever since. I have gone as long as a year without an asthma attack. Sometimes it’s minor. Sometimes, if I don’t have the medicine I need on hand, I have to go to the ER.

This is one of the cases that is generally left to our general medical system. An albuterol inhaler is used for an asthma attack in progress, while steroids are used as a preventative method. I had tried a few herbal remedies, but for the most part they were relatively useless to someone with moderate to severe breathing problems. The closest I could find to something that helped was a mix of essential oils (peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and thyme, if you are wondering). It would help, but it was in no way strong enough to get me through even a moderate attack.

The problem with the medicine is that not only do I have to jump through the regular hoops to get the prescription written out, they have jumped in price around 2009. This came about due to pharmaceutical lobbying using the movement to protect the ozone as a chance to make more money. It’s an interesting and frustrating story, which you can read about in depth here and here.

I recently had a scare with my inhaler where it looked like I might not be able to refill my prescription in time, meaning that I would have to hit up the ER, and pay the ridiculous bill that would follow. All to be able to breathe. It made me realize how vulnerable I am with this health issue, and how much I depend on the medical system to keep me alive. It definitely inspired me to continue my research about how I can be more self reliant in my medical care.

There is an herb that has shown to be actually useful in asthmatic care. In fact, the active ingredient in my albuterol inhaler is a modified version of norepinephrin, one of the constituents in this herb. It’s called ephedra. There are a few plants in this family that have the needed constituents in varying degrees, but the common one used is Ephedra sinica (Chinese Ephedra, or Ma Huang). At the turn of the century, supplement companies began to promote and sell ephedra, but not as a way to deal with asthma. They noticed that they could use it as a performance enhancing drug and a way to lose weight. While it was effective, the amount that was recommended for use started showing side effects, including possible death. It became enough of an issue that in 2004, the FDA banned sale of products containing ephedrine alkaloids. They didn’t want to deal with dosage safety, or supplement companies making dangerous miracle claims with a plant that needs to be respected.

We still use constituents present in ephedra. Pseudoephedrine shows up in allergy medicine and decongestants (now you know where the name Sudafed came from). Ephredrine and norephedrine, other constituents in ephedra, are still used in medicine. In controlled amounts, it is a helpful medicine. Used indiscriminately, it can be dangerous.

This is where the importance of research and experience come in. While products containing ephredrine alkaloids cannot be sold, the plant ephedra can be sold. Using it isn’t illegal, just selling it for use is. With continued research, and careful care of the plants when I get them, maybe I can find a little extra freedom from a medical system that has an uncomfortable amount of power in my life.

Interestingly, there are three other herbs that might be able to help. One is my all time favorite, stinging nettles (you can find out about it’s energetic properties in my store). It’s a wonderful herbal ally that I have never heard of having any undesirable side effects. It has the reputation as a tonic that will help the body’s response to allergens (amongst many other things). I find that it’s something that I need to take continually to reap any benefits in that department, but its help is there.

The second is a lovely plant called elecampane. It has been used in asthma lozenges in times past, and I find it does minorly help open up the airways. It’s great for someone with a little wheeze, but it is only so useful against major asthmatic issues. It’s a good ally in maintenance and minor issues.

The third is one that I’ve yet to experiment with. Around these parts, we have relative of the famous medicinal mushroom reishi. Reishi has a host of benefits. One of these benefits is helping with lung inflammation. I’ve read about supposed asthma help. I was walking through the woods with my teacher Adhi this past weekend as she stopped at the base of a dead tree. “Hey, that’s reishi!” she said as she pointed out a red, orange, and white glossy shelf mushroom. I picked the gigantic mushroom, gave thanks, and I am presently in the process of chopping and drying. Next step is to make an extraction, and see if it is any help. I can only hope.

 

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

A Tale of Rattles, Drums, and Hallucinations

In the Shamanic work that I do, one of the first things I learned from my teacher was to shake a rattle. No, not like an infant’s rattle (though I imagine you could use one, if you needed a rattle real quick). Something more like this. You take a rattle that makes the right kind of sound you’re looking for, and shake it until you start seeing things.

Okay. It’s a little more complicated than that.

When a healer is shaking a rattle (or drumming), they usually do so in an even beat, while channelling earth energy through their tool. The repetitive nature of the sound is to lull your mind into a different state (usually Theta brainwave state) to access more subconscious levels of the brain, as well as interact with spirits. It’s usually referred to as Shamanic journeywork. It’s a great healing tool, as well as a way to access knowledge not easily accessible to our conscious self.

I had heard of using sound as a way to access a sort of trance state before I took on my Shamanic apprenticeship, but I had only heard of people using drums. When I met my teacher, Adhi, I was surprised to learn that she used rattles more often. Her teachers had taught her that drums were for putting a person back in the body, while rattles were better suited for journeywork. Not that drums can’t have the same results, it’s just the two different tools have very different energy. So, I began to practice with what I found in my house's pile of musical instruments. I remember the first time I brought the tools that I had been using to Adhi’s. She did her best not to laugh at the cheap maracas that I had found. They were quite ridiculous looking, but they did the trick.

My first real rattle was the one I made on Assateague Island with Adhi and a handful of other participants. I was looking for a deep sound. What I made had a sound reminiscent of a box of quarters. Again, it did the trick, but it was not soothing. Eventually, I decided it was time to make another rattle with a more gentle sound.

I began with a goat rawhide Adhi had gifted me. I made offerings to the spirits in the water that the rawhide soaked in. I went to my Burden Tree, another part of my Shaman work. She’s a maple tree that is over one hundred years old that I work with to balance myself and connect to nature. She had lost a small limb, from which I cut, shaped, and sanded a handle. I stitched my rattle head from the now pliable rawhide. Once that was fully formed and dried, I poured kale seeds from a second year plant that I had grown in my garden. I sealed them together, tying them with the four colors I use to represent the four elements. It had a great, gentle sound. I loved it!

Within a week, I accidentally dropped it and stepped on it.

While still sounding great, it has a “unique” look. The beat up look has yet to discourage me in its use in healing work. It’s one of my favorite go to tools, unless I need to use a tool to move out blockages or dense energy from a client. Then, I resort to my loud sea rattle from Assateague.

Usually, journeywork is done by a client while the practitioner rattles or drums. When I do my daily rattling practice, I am aiming to go deep enough that I do see things that I can’t normally see. It’s been years of practice, and I just recently started seeing things while my eyes are open. When I have a client on the table, I can also use my rattle as a way to move energy. While I can (and have) done energy work without tools like a rattle, it does make the process easier.

And that is my rattling practice. If you ever have a session with me and you hear me break out my rattle, now you know what I’m doing.

 

 

Have a beautiful week. Stay warm.

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Cutting The Ties That Bind

This has been an interesting week. Between Josh (aka “The Rune Goon”) doing a bunch of readings for people, and a handful of clients coming my way for healing work, we’ve been busy in the esoteric world. In fact, the joke that Josh and I had going that he lays down the hard truth and I do the work to help them deal with what they’ve learned seems less like a joke. A Rune Goon and Green Mountain Mage tag team? Seems like there might be something there.

I had the privilege to work with some amazing people these past few days. Interestingly, the work all seemed to have a common theme: unhealthy energetic connections. People in this line of work refer to these connections as cords, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today. We all energetically connect to others. That’s part of daily interaction. We talk about people opening up to us when they start really sharing where they are at, and that is exactly what is happening energetically. You’re opening up to another person’s vibes as you share yours. Opening isn’t an unhealthy thing. It’s super important to us as social mammals. We thrive on healthy energy exchange!

Energetic interactions can become unhealthy when there is an unfair exchange. We can unhealthily lean on someone. These people leave you feeling drained after every interaction. They talk about their problems without looking for a way to fix those problems. They just want your compassion and, usually unknowingly, your energy to replenish theirs. They leave the conversation feeling great, while the person they engaged feels wiped.

There is the other side to this coin. Unless a person is very good at taking your energy, they didn’t take it without some sort of consent on the giver's part. That’s usually someone with a big heart and with a knack for empathy. They feel the pain the other person is experiencing and, in an effort to help “fix” the person, they open up and give of themselves. Neo-shamanic practitioners talk about giving away pieces of your soul. I don’t know if you can give away your soul, but you can give away energy that you need for yourself. The thought that the person you are listening to needs it more than you is almost a subconscious thing. This is not true. It is also not helpful.

By the way, I used to be one of those people. I think that it’s an easy trap for people sensitive to the energetic exchange to fall into. In the end, though, it doesn’t do much to help the other person, and just leaves you unwhole and unwell.

Being in the role that I’m stepping into, it’s true that once a client steps into the room we are doing work in, it ceases to be about me. It’s all about the client and the spirits for the allotted time. My work is to open up my client so we can find what needs work. There is also an unequal energy exchange, though not unfair, as this is part of the process the client has signed up for. The difference is where the energy is coming from and the end point of the work. In Reiki work, we are taught to channel energy. That skill has been reinforced in my life with my ceremonial work. Tools, such as drums and rattles, also help me move energy without depleting myself. In fact, I often feel on top of the world after a session, as the energy nourishing my client is also nourishing me. Also, at the end of a session, I try to give my client homework. This is putting the ball back into their court, and reinforcing that we are our own healers. It is also part of cutting any energetic ties created in the session. I can ride the emotions with you, but at the end of the allotted time, they are yours and not mine.

Talking about energetic ties brings me back to the cords that I spoke of at the beginning of this blog. Sometimes, a strong, unbalanced relationship can form. When there is a repeated unbalanced interaction, it can create an energetic cord between people. This link feeds a person while draining another without the two being in the same room. A good energy healer can feel these cords on their clients, and sever them. Unfortunately, sometimes those cords are recreated the moment the client leaves the healer (why homework and post table work discussion is so important).

These cords, in rare cases, can also be consciously formed. There are people out there who are willing “energy vampires” and justify to themselves taking people’s vitality from them to use for their own purposes. You’ll know when you meet one of these people, and they’ve attached to you. You’ll feel drained and just weird, wondering why you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. If a person is making you feel like that, it’s best to cease interaction best you can with that person, and have strong energetic boundaries when you do interact with that person. It might also be helpful to head over to a healer you trust, and talk to them about it.

These cords are also something that you can feel out and fix yourself, with a little bit of visualization. Do you remember the elemental cross I was talking about a few blogs ago? A simplified version changed to deal specifically with cords follows:

Stand and breathe. Still your monkey mind. See the sun (or the light of God, or whatever celestial source of good juju you work with) in your mind’s eye shining bright above you. See a light descend. Pull that light into your head. Pull it down to your solar plexus (or heart, if that feels right to you). Light pools at the chakra you’re working with as the beam of light continues down to the heart of the earth. Feel that pool of light at your solar plexus or heart strengthen and expand past your body. Any cords attached to you is severed from your body by the expanding light. Soon, that light has enveloped you, moving any bad juju away from you. See those cords detach from the other person (no need to even visualize who it is, they’re just some shadowy figure in the distance). Offer it to the light above or the earth, whichever feels best. Know that is will be recycled by whatever you just gave it to. The sphere of light you are in is moving about you, moving all unbalanced energy around and away from you.

The easiest way to deal with cords is to not let them form. It can feel good to be needed, and I think that is part of the reason these cords are formed. Helping people is a good thing, but helping them stand on their own two feet is even better. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so create safe boundaries for everyday interaction. If you are feeling drained by a situation constantly, there are boundaries that need to be set. You can listen, and even experience emotions with others. That’s part of the work. In the end, though, don’t own it.

Hope this helps a little bit. With Thanksgiving coming up, the next week is crazy for me. So, I will not be posting a blog next week. Next blog entry will be up December 1st!!

 

Have a great rest of November.

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Naming My Shadows

Hello. My name is Isaac, and putting myself out there as a mage scares the ever lovin’ shit out of me.

Perhaps you have been fooled by my creation of Green Mountain Mage, and the blog you are presently reading into thinking that I am comfortable wearing the hat of an herbalist and occultist. If so, that’s good. That means that I created the illusion that being out there and talking about the work I do is something of a second nature to me. Unfortunately, it’s not.

I think that anyone reading that has followed an unconventional path like mine can feel for me. It’s kind of scary to talk to others about this sort of work. Worries of what people think, and how they react when I bring up ceremony, magic work, or any other topic of esoteric nature is a heavy burden to bear. People either know little about it, fear the idea of it, or dismiss it as the work of the delusional or mad. For me, add not being straight into the mix, and the fear of someone muttering behind your back “there goes that fag who thinks he does magic” is a real thing.

This, of course, does not serve me.

Perhaps it did when the worry of being understood when trying to talk about esoteric work pushed me to study it the best I could. Perhaps it did when it pushed me to understand how to view both magic and science, and to develop a thinking process to grapple with both in a way that they would not necessarily contradict. Perhaps it did when I worked with different teachers, and decided what held true for me, who was full of shit, and how I work. Now, though, is the time to move past it.

The process of owning this work that I love, and being open about what I do has been a long one. Working through my own doubts, while maintaining a healthy skepticism has been a strange balancing act. It’s easy to fall to one side, losing sight of the other. When someone questions my work with spirits, or “energy” (chi, mana, whatever), it can be hard to gracefully explain myself. To face others doubts, one must first face their own. The only way I know to face these doubts is to do the work.

I can tell you that I do ceremonial work all I want. I can tell you my experiences. I can tell you my logic for thinking the way I do about the world. I can tell you what I’ve learned from others. That will only convince you so much, though. It is through experience (usually repetitive experience, to really hammer it in) that we gain belief in a world that a good group of Americans don’t believe in (or, in the case of the religious, don’t think they believe in it).

This is one of the reasons I love walking the path I do. The deeper I go, the more I can offer others in experience of a world bigger than the one that we see. Every sincere esotericist offering to work with others is widening the doorway a little more for American culture, and it’s fantastic! Meanwhile, every skeptic pushes us to be better, think more clearly, hypothesize about our experience more accurately, and keeps us on our game.

Fear and unreasonable doubt are the things we must face and overcome to become better in the work. These are the demons that hold us back from stepping into our power. Our fear can push us to become better, but there comes a time to leave it behind, for with it comes disadvantage and weakness. This blog entry is part of me exposing mine and leaving it behind me.

So, this is me stepping into the role of hedge mage and herbalist. I’m trying to work out some workshops that I can offer at the beginning of 2018, as well as other ways I can do this work for the public. Keep an eye out. I’ll be announcing them in the next few months. There are also new items headed to the shop. Furthermore, please remember that I am happy to do custom orders.

I’d like to take a moment to thank you all who forced me to step into my role this week. Sometimes, we all need a nudge to step out of our comfort zones and face our fears.

 

Stay warm. Keep doing the good work.

 

-The Green Mountain Mage.

Above and Below

My first introduction to shamanic work was from a friend who tried to introduce me to journey work and a finding an animal spirit to work with. The plan was for her to drum, and for me to use the sound to imagine travelling to a sort of underworld. I would imagine myself entering a hole in the ground, going deeper and deeper until I found a different world where I would meet my animal spirit. It’s a common practice, especially for “Neo-Shamans”. Despite how actually traditional it might be, it can have a place in magical work.

It was later explained to me that many times these sort of Astral journeys can be broken up into travelling in three different worlds. The is an Underworld, a place of power and wild energies. There is a Middle World, the realm in which we all exist in. The third is an Upper World, the realm of knowledge and Guides.

Fast forward to me beginning to learn ritual through the AODA (Ancient Order of Druids in America). When beginning that work, the start is with the four elements, and their corresponding directions. Then, the three types of Spirit are introduced. There is Spirit Below, a realm of power and wild energies. There is Spirit Above, the realm of knowledge and the heavens. Then there is Spirit Within, the place where you find balance with the six powers that have been invoked before.

As far as I know, many of these shamanic traditions evolved quite separately from the Druid Revival, so the correlations interest me. In “The Druid Magic Handbook” by John Michael Greer, Spirit Below and its corresponding current, the Telluric Current, are compared to Kundalini practices and other practices that draw power up. Spirit Above and its corresponding current, the Solar Current, are compared to the many traditions that draw power down (including many mainstream religious work).

It is theorized in that book that these are the two major power currents that most religious and magical work draw from. Most of the time, groups will pick one to work with and ignore the other at best. At worst, the powers that be will demonize the other current, saying that their current is the proper one to use, while the other is evil. Druid magic, and a lot of the shamanic work that I’ve learned, believe otherwise. Instead, they try to utilize and balance both.

I have a clear memory of walking through the woods as a teenager trying to understand the energies that I was experiencing. On one hand, I could feel the wild energy that I associated with the forest around me, and the spirits that I experienced there. On the other, there was an energy that I felt when in an intense church service, experiencing what I understood as God. I remember sitting below an ancient pine tree, comparing the two, and marvelling at their very different feel. At the time, I believe that I felt this meant I needed to make a choice between the two. Now, I have a language for what I was feeling, and a way to deal with it.

In my Druid work, one of the things that I am supposed to be aiming for, through meditation and ritual work, is combining these two currents within me to make a third. In this tradition, it is referred to as the Lunar Current. I think that this may have been one of the deal makers in my decision to work with the Order’s system; a way to mediate between and use both planetary and celestial energy in my work.

The interesting correlations between my Shamanic work and Druidic work does not end there. Part of the Druid work is to do Pathworking exercises into the realms of the elements, and the different realms of the three Spirits. The method used is in ceremony, where you call in the help of the elements and the three realms of Spirit to help you explore the Astral realm of a specific element or direction of Spirit. Shaman work involves exploring realms like this, using repetitive sound to shift your brain into a Theta state. I enjoy using both these tools at the same time to explore these powers.

Another interesting connection between the work of using both the Telluric Current and the Solar Current, and other traditions is the presence of trees in sacred mythology and magical practice. Trees are often seen as point of connections between the worlds. With their branches absorbing solar energy and their roots drawing nutrients from the Earth, they make a great metaphor, if not example, of the work of both the Shaman and Druid. That is why they find their way into the work. One of my first tasks as I began my apprenticeship with Adhi was to find a tree to work with, my Burden Tree. My relationship to that tree would grow as the tree helped balance my energy, and acted as a spot that I could use in my journey work to access different worlds. In the Druidic tradition I work in, trees are eventually used as a blueprint to create a flow of the Telluric and Solar Currents within you as you use them to create the Lunar Current.

If you have any thoughts about the use of these currents, and see them in whatever practice you use, let me know in the comments here on the blog, or on Facebook. I love comparing commonalities in practice, and hearing what works for others.

 

Until next week,

 

The Green Mountain Mage

My Samhain Tradition

I apologize for the tardiness of my blog. I thought I would be able to finish it up before I headed to Connecticut this weekend to officiate my cousin’s wedding, but that didn’t quite work out. So, I’m back to the green mountains, in one piece.

A few interesting things from the weekend:

  • Ritual to help with stage fright is a fantastic tool. Even if it’s a little ritual. It can help give you a little boost in confidence.

  • Doing ritual in a strange place (such as your cousin’s bathroom post shower) is an interesting experience. I normally do my work in one room in my house, or outside, and I don’t notice much change in the space. When I did it in a space that has most likely never experienced that kind of work, the change was very noticeable.

  • Once you get over the fear of talking in front of a whole bunch of people, and the worry that you will mess it all up, officiating is a wonderful experience.

  • Finally, always do a pre-ceremony mic check.

 

I was going to go into more magic theory, but, in light of Halloween (or, as those crazy pagans like to refer to it as, Samhain) being tomorrow, I thought that I would talk a little about my tradition that I’ve done on Halloween for a number of years now.

Halloween may be one of my favorite holidays. I love the adrenaline rush of being scared in haunted houses. I love scaring people (safely!) with pranks. I love the creepy and weird. I love costumes and masks, how they are tools to step out of our own skin into someone or something else’s. I love how a largely celebrated holiday actually corresponds with one of the eight sacred holidays that I celebrate.

I don’t remember if my personal tradition started before or after I began my rambling Druid training, in which I am to commemorate each of the sacred holidays that I celebrate with some sort of ceremony. I do remember the thought process that brought me to my actions.

I was thinking about the origins of the tradition of the Jack O’Lantern.

The tradition of creating Jack O’Lanterns officially started in Ireland, a few centuries back. At that time, the preferred harvest veggie for carving out a face was a turnip. The purpose was to keep rogue spirits and unwanted shades from wandering to close to your house. If you want the longer version of the history of the Jack O’Lantern, the History Channel put out a little article about the story of Stingy Jack and the Jack O’Lantern (though I have a sneaking suspicion the tradition might be older than the story).

The story of the jack O’Lantern as a protective device struck a chord with me, so I took one of the pumpkins I grew, and started carving. After finishing my rather “handsome” fellow, and waiting for nightfall, I put in a candle, lit it, and began the trek up my road.

I know I have mentioned before that I live in the middle of nowhere. This is not an exaggeration. When I give directions to my house, the line “you’ll think you’ve gone too far, but don’t worry, you haven’t” finds its way in there. I live on a dirt road off a dirt road, in the middle of the woods. So, walking up the road, through the woods, with only the light of a Jack O’Lantern to illuminate your way can be unnerving. It’s not so bad when you’re close to full moon, but there have been some Halloweens where there was no light besides that candle. Watching it’s orange light dance across bare branches of deciduous trees and the drooping limbs of the spruces that line the edge of the woods does not help calm an overactive imagination.

Eventually, after about a half a mile, I come to the top of my road. Besides the top of the road is an old, small cemetery. I walk up to an exposed rock in front of the cemetery, and place my Jack O’Lantern. His job is to protect my road from any unsavory spirits out to create mischief on the night it is said the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest. Now, whether ghosts are closer to the world of the living at the end of October or not, I’m not sure. It does seem as good as time as any to honor ancestors, and those who have passed before us, especially with winter, a time of death and cold, just around the corner.

This brings me to the second part of my Halloween tradition. A drink with the dead. There are only about 20 graves in this cemetery, and I walk to each and make an offering of a drink to them. Usually a good beer. I then take a moment to remember people who were close to me who had passed. I make an offering of a drink for each name. I then make an offering to the spirits of the place, and the elements. I drink a few sips myself.

I don’t know exactly why an alcoholic drink feels the most correct to me in this situation. I often use tobacco and herbs as an offering in ceremony. Maybe it’s the informality of it. Maybe sharing drinks is something that has a lot of meaning in comradery, and just being generally alive. Maybe pouring good beer onto the ground is a serious sacrifice to me. It just made sense at the time, and still does.

It’s a very informal tradition. There are no symbols drawn, no tools besides a carved pumpkin and some beer. It’s a powerful thing for me, though. The artistic aspect of the Jack O’Lantern. The bravery it takes to walk up a dark road in the middle of the woods. The informal time with the dead, almost as if they never left. The honoring of their memory.

I didn’t grow any pumpkins this year, so I have to use the winter squash I grew, or buy a pumpkin tomorrow. Wish me luck on the carving and the walk. The ghosts and the drinks… that’s a little easier, though a little more emotional.

 

Happy Halloween. Merry Samhain.

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Elemental Rituals

In Ancient Greece, about 500 years before the birth of Christ, philosophers suggested that there was a single material source of the world that we experience. Some suggested it was water, others suggested fire, and I imagine that there were quite a few other suggestions being offered. One of the philosophers of that time, Empedocles, came up with his own theory, one that still resonates in our modern culture. In his poem “On Nature” he introduced the idea that the world was not the product of one material source, but four. He argued that everything was made up by the process of air, water, fire, and earth combining and separating.

This idea has seemed to stick with us as a culture. From the rings in the cartoon Captain Planet (excluding heart, which would be compared to “aether”, or spirit, an addition to the elements from Aristotle), to the movie “The Fifth Element”, these classical elements seem to be well represented by pop culture. Perhaps the correlation between the elements and the states of matter help keep them in our collective mind. Earth is a solid, water is a liquid, air is gaseous, and fire corresponds with plasma.

The lasting awareness of these four categories of the material world might also have something to do with their persistent use in Western magic. The idea of four (or five, if you count spirit) elements seemed to have spread out from Greece, to be integrated in medicine, magic, and philosophy of other cultures. It found its way into Ayurvedic practice, Buddhist texts, Islamic philosophy, alchemy, and astrology. The alchemical and astrological uses of the four elements seemed to have deeply affected the magic of the Renaissance. European ceremonial magic used the four elements, and it seems that a lot of the correspondences that many mages use nowadays stem from their work.

The elements grew to be a bigger metaphor than the actual matter that is earth, air, fire, and water. Each was a handy way to categorize the spirit world, the natural world, and the human experience. Plants, planets, directions, and even archangels were assigned an element, and a lot of these associations live on in ritual magic. There were even beings said to be specifically from elemental realms; undines from the realm of water, salamanders from the realm of fire, sylphs from the realm of air, and gnomes from the realm of earth.

I personally use the elements quite often in my ritual work. In fact, the ritual format that I use relies heavily on it. In my work, I usually call on the four elements, and three different forms of Spirit (which I will cover in a separate post). For actual consecration work, such as blessing a tool or an amulet, I would have a full set up, tools to represent the four elements, a central altar, and a lot more invocation and blessing work than what I do on a daily basis to connect to the spiritual nature of Nature. My daily work doesn’t involve tools, it just involves me.

The ritual I perform daily is called the Sphere of Protection, and it is a practice from the Ancient Order of Druids in America, the Druidic order to which I belong. I like it’s use to connect to the natural world, and how well it translates into ritual for purposes beyond connecting to natural forces. I also like how adaptable it is. One could change it to fit whatever belief system they like, as long as they are interested in working with nature within the parameters of their belief.

The first step of the Sphere of Protection (or the SoP), is to calm your mind. The order suggests imagining that you are standing in a clearing of a forest, surrounded by standing stones. I find that part is optional. The only part important to imagine is the sun shining above you, and the heart of the earth shining below you.  You raise your hands towards the sun and imagine a beam of light streaming down to your hands. You pull the light to the center of your forehead, and intone an appropriate sacred name. Honoring my past with Christianity, I intone the name of Raphael, the Archangel assigned to Air. You then bring your hands to your solar plexus, drawing down the light to that part. There, you intone the second name. I use Uriel, the Archangel of Earth. As you intone the second name, the light shoots through you to the heart of the Earth. You bring your right hand out, the light following, and passing into infinity, as you intone the third sacred name. I use Michael, Archangel of Fire. Your left hand goes out, sending another beam of light from your solar plexus as you intone your fourth sacred name, or word. I use Gabriel, Archangel of Water. I then ask the powers of nature to protect me as I visualize two more light beams from my solar plexus, one before me, one behind me. I then chant the word “Awen”, a holy word of the Druid Revival.

Then comes the actual invoking of the elements. I start in the East, with Air. I draw a symbol for air, invoking it with the Druidic name of the Spring Equinox, Alban Eiler, and the animal that represents air in this tradition, the hawk. I ask for its elemental blessings. I also ask for it to be balanced in my life, as the elements can be destructive if not in balance in your life, physically and metaphorically. I move to face South, the traditional direction of Fire. I invoke it with the name of the Summer Solstice, Alban Heruin, and the white stag. Blessings and balance. Then I face West, the direction of water, and invoke with the name of the Autumn Equinox, Alban Elued, and the salmon. Blessings and balance. Finally, I face North, the direction of Earth, and invoke with the Winter Solstice, Alban Arthuan, and the bear. Blessings and balance.

One ends that by creating the elemental cross again (the bit where I used the names of the Archangels). At the end of that, you focus on the light of your solar plexus, expand it to a protective ball of light about you, and imagine it spinning forwards, sideways in a clockwise manner, and diagonally. This is to solidify the energies of the elements within your spirit body, and help protect you from harmful, unbalanced energies that you might run into.

The ritual actually continues into work with Spirit, but this entry is long enough already, and working with the elements for a while is a good start before moving into Spirit. If you find this ritual intriguing, I suggest looking it up on the AODA’s website, linked here, for a more detailed explanation, as well as other ways people practice it. You can also find it in “The Druidry Handbook” or “The Druid Magic Handbook”, both by John Michael Greer.

 

Until next week

-The Green Mountain Mage

A Little Tree Magic

I’ve recently been pondering my role as a mage in the Northeastern corner of the US. Every teacher that I have had the honor of learning from seems to eventually break down this work to relationship, with myself, and the world around me. As I deepen my work with the subtle world around us, I am constantly reminded that I receive certain responsibilities with knowledge.

This really began hitting me as I was driving through a few towns in my area, trying to experience and describe the vibes of these places. While there can certainly be wild variances in the feel of a town from one end to the other, I usually generalize from the town’s center and go from there. There are a few local towns that have quite the oppressed, unhealthy feel. There are a lot of things that play into it, including economic shifts, lack of jobs, the struggle of smaller brick and mortar retail, and drug issues (which are all interrelated). It feels as if the energy of place helps keep the town there, though. Some places, despite the obstacles I just described, seem to be thriving. Is the general feeling that the people of a certain town, mixed with landscape and the ways land energy move throughout the town play a role in sustaining a town’s depression?

There is one town in particular (the name isn’t really important) that, every time I drive through, I think “Damn! This place needs some major juju fixing.” It feels like this immovable heaviness that is way bigger than me, a problem that I can’t address on my own. As I was driving through that town, I was wondering how I could potentially nudge the town’s energy flow in a healthier direction.

Then, I remembered something that I read in “Natural Magic” by John Michael Greer. It was specifically a quick sentence tucked away in the part discussing the magical uses of Oak. He suggests placing an amulet or talisman beneath the roots of an oak tree you are planting. The idea is that the oak will then help with the work, exuding that energy as the tree grows. In this way, it continues its work long after the magician has died, assuming the oak is allowed to live out its years.

I can’t imagine that the magic exuded from this method is acute. Instead, I would imagine it as a slower working, gentle yet patient. The same way the energy of place seems to work. Imagine a grid of these magic trees planted throughout a place that seems to hold heavy, dark energy. Would trees planted with amulets created to change the energy it interacted with to healing energy effect the people around it?

To answer these questions, and to try and lift some of the heavy energy that is certainly not healthy for my neighbors, I propose an experiment that I need a little help with. I would like to create a sort of grid of these magically charged trees, especially in the local towns that need it. Do you live locally, and want to have one of these trees on your property? I would be more than happy to create an amulet to bury. All it would take from you is buying a tree, waiting for me to make an amulet and bring it to you, and letting the tree grow for as long as you are able.

I plan on experimenting with starting oaks from acorns. Once they mature to a point where I can transplant them, I will happily donate the tree, along with the amulet. Until then, you will have to supply your own tree. It would also be interesting to try out other trees besides oak, and see how the energetics of different trees interact with the amulets.

I wouldn’t be planting anything until the Spring, so you have about half a year to consider it. I feel that this might be a good way to do good work for the area. Worst case scenario is we plant more trees, which is still a great outcome. We might just change any oppressive vibes that might be lingering about, though, and that is good work.

If you don’t live close to me, or you want to do your own magic, play around with this work yourself. Make and bless an amulet for healing, abundance, love, or whatever you think your space needs a little more of. Plant it with an oak. See if you have any differences blossom around you. Like I said, worst situation is that you will have a lovely tree for shade and wildlife habitat.

 

Until next week

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Keepin' Faith Alive

If you hadn’t caught my Facebook notification on the Autumn Equinox, I was down south in the Florida Keys for a week, helping my dad and my brother repair my parent’s place in the wake of Hurricane Irma. My dad’s place is pretty sturdy, so it survived the two feet of ocean that flooded it relatively well. He was lucky. Others were not so lucky. There were people in the area who had lost everything.

The islands were covered in the wreckage of everything that the wind and waves could grab. Add a film of sea silt and organic matter, and you can get a picture of what our surroundings were like. The power was slowly being restored, and the water was running, though it was under boil advisory. Anyone who didn’t have the money to have a house built higher up had to gut their houses. Each place on my dad’s road had piles of furniture and sheetrock waiting for the town to go through and move it. It was a mess.

As I worked there, sweating in a house without any power, I mulled over how the Keys seemed to be a place where humanity didn’t really belong in the way that they are there. All fresh water is piped from the mainland. The sand for beaches is shipped in to cover the petrified reef that the islands are naturally formed from. It all feels slightly artificial. That mixed with climate change, all the work that we were doing felt a little senseless.

I talked to my teacher Adhi about the way that the trip had affected me, and she proposed that I do a fire ceremony to help transmute the grief of the people on the island, as well as for the islands themselves. As someone walking a path towards being a shaman, dealing with grief and finding ways of helping others express it are jobs that I am to take up. Along with helping a friend and her clients dealing with the grief of a big change in her business, this was the perfect time to experiment.

The first part was making the fire. Once it was going well, and I had all the kindling and wood that I would need to keep it going, I began to rattle around the perimeter of the fire, as well as smudging the space with cedar. I made offerings to the East and Air, South and Fire, West and Water, North and Earth, Below and the Planet, above and the Sky, and to the Fire and the almost Full Moon. I called in the four elements to bless the space and the work, as well as the currents of power from the Planet, the Sun, and the Moon.

I then made an offering of rue to the fire. I had been taught that rue pulls heavier energetic entities into it, so I had hoped that I would be able to use it like that to draw grief to the fire. I’m not sure if burning it cancelled that effect out, though. That part is still in experimentation. After that, I rattled, sang, and prayed. I know that this is a little less than specific, but at that point I was just following what felt right. I dug into myself to find any grief that I may be carrying about the destruction in the Keys, or my friend’s life change. After that, I sang to pull grief away from the people I was holding ceremony for to be transformed in the fire.

Fire is such a helpful tool in ceremony. It lends its own energy to the work. It can act as a portal to send away negativity, or even as a tool to transform it (such as I was trying to do in this ceremony). While such ceremonies can be done with the people you are holding the ceremony for far away (using yourself as a point of connection between the people and the fire), I find it far easier to have the people actually at the fire.

I think that I helped alleviate a little pain with the ceremony. I know that my friend seemed lighter about her life transition, and my emotions that I carried from seeing people in suffering had lightened. I hope that the ceremony helped the Islands and the people there, as well. Ceremony shouldn’t be where help ends, though.

We’ve had many tragedies around the globe recently. It’s easy to “send thoughts and prayer” (though I feel that sometimes people feel that just typing that on social media is enough), but skip the next step, which is work. As I first learned Druidic ritual, it was always emphasized that action should be taken as soon as possible after magical work to create the change that the ritual had begun. It only begins in our consciousness. The next step in the work is action.

Ceremony serves as a way to process emotions, reconnect, and inspire. These things alone cannot solely help a situation. Churches that pray for the poor, but do nothing help their situation are rightfully ridiculed. The same goes for people of a spiritual persuasion and any disaster or tragedy. Ceremony is important. So is food, clothing, water, and other necessities. Hold sacred space for those in need, but don’t forget to help, or donate to those who are in a position to help.

The Bible says “Faith without works is dead” and I must say that I agree. We are the meeting place of spirit and the material world. We must create the change we want to see. Positive thoughts aren’t enough. Even when all we can do is ceremony, bringing that ceremony into this world takes work. Change isn’t free.

I’ll be doing ceremony for Puerto Rico soon, but I will also be finding a way to donate to a group there helping out. How will you help the world about you, magically and otherwise?

 

Until next week

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Stories and Magic

I remember the first “official” storyteller I ever saw. He was performing in front of a local library. I was rather young (no more than 12 years old) and it was summer, as we were outside. He had a poofy purple shirt that even I thought at the time was a little ridiculous. He told a few stories that day, but I only remember one (which is pretty good, I think, for being told over two decades ago). It was the story of a woman who was working as a maid at night. The Devil decides to visit her and take her as a bride. With the help of a talking mouse, she tricks him out of a whole bunch of riches, and delays him until the morning, when he is forced to disappear. Later on, an unkind character takes her place as a maid, and the Devil decides to come with her. She becomes greedy, doesn’t listen to the mouse’s advice, and ends up being taken away as the Devil’s bride.

I find it interesting how this story and storyteller has stuck with me throughout all these years. I think it was when I first fell in love with the art of live storytelling. Storytelling can pack quite an emotional punch! I think most of us have had the experience of watching a movie that affected us so deeply that we had to process it for days after. A well told story can shake us to our core!

Live storytelling and song served as entertainment in the world before movies, but they also served as a way of passing down information and knowledge. Putting knowledge into a pattern that our brain enjoys is a highly effective way to remember something! A technique for quick memorization, called “The Memory Palace,” uses our mind’s spatial recognition and its love of story progression to remember a random list. It’s famously used by people who are competitive memorizers (it really is a thing). I believe that stories work that way, especially when relying on oral tradition to continue the dissemination of knowledge. The story of the Devil and his would be bride that I heard as a child is a moral tale, speaking to the virtues of patience, keeping one’s wit about them, and being open to listening to the wisdom of others. Ignoring good advice that has proven worth and being too egotistical are ways to end up in a real bad situation.

Storytelling was (or is) the art of Shamans, Druids, and Bards. It was the vehicle for information on how to live, and why things were the way they were. In other words, storytelling is where myth is born. While the story itself may not be rooted in truth, there is a truth about the world from the storyteller’s perspective that they are trying to give to the audience. Perhaps myth is so effective and so intriguing because it is a vehicle that still interacts with a more subconscious part of ourselves.

Ceremony is a certain form of storytelling. Many times we are calling in mythical powers in ritual. Whether you believe these figures exist outside of your consciousness is usually irrelevant. They are there for the story you are creating, or the story that you are trying to change. I’ve mentioned before that magic works best on the magician doing the ritual. The ceremony is a pivotal part in your story, the point where your journey changes to go where you are trying to get it to go. You are using symbols, sounds, and other sensory tools (just like a good storyteller) to communicate with your subconscious. A good story will convince the audience to change in some way, or reinforce thoughts or actions that the audience are already involved in. Good ritual does the exact same thing.

So when someone feels that a song, or a movie was a changing point in their life, they have experienced magic! The artist used the tools of story, sound, and symbol in a way to change the person they are entertaining. This is the power of storytellers.

As a side note, this is also the power of media. TV commercials are designed to use sound and symbol to make you buy something. The best commercials (or the most memorable) are the ones that elicit an emotional response out of you. They then use that emotional response to direct your action (in other words, buy their products). John Michael Greer, a favorite occult writer of mine, has called advertising a form of “black magic” and, while funny, it’s also kind of true. Effective politicians do the same thing. Creating the emotional response of fear, then directing that fear to a certain action is an incredibly useful, and incredibly immoral tool.

So, look for how stories direct your life this week. They can be fictional stories that strongly affect you, or true stories that direct you and your actions. Even look at your internal narrative in which you are the hero. These are the really interesting stories that define us! Also consider how you can change these stories or narratives. That is the beginning of life changing magic, I promise you.

 

Until next time,

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Creating and The Divine

Every month or so, my teacher Adhi Two Owls gives her apprentices homework outside our regular work of rattling, dreamwork, listening, divination, and working with our Burden Tree. This month, we’ve been tasked with creating something with plants and stones, listening to their individual energies, and mediating between them to create something synergetic. While this is a fun project for me (I’m thinking that an amulet is in order for this particular piece of homework), it touches on something bigger. It works with the Divine nature of creative expression.

Before she started her journey as a Shaman, Adhi went to art school. She often talks about the connection between her work as an artist and her work as a Shaman. In order to quote her correctly, I asked her to give me a quote that I could use on my blog about the relationship between the creative process and the work of the Shaman. This is what she gave me:

“The creative process is the one thing we do as humans that most reflects the Divine nature of the Universe. The Universe is in a constant state of creation and expression... There is no particular goal only the meandering exploration, binding, destroying, churning of energies and matter. The Universe is defined by the nature of its unfolding and mutating creating worlds... elements.... stars... etc...

Art and the creative process for us humans is the same. We imagine and muck about with the skills, materials and challenges. We go into relationship with the process and it brings us to greater understanding.... And if we are lucky something beautiful or useful. As the process unfolds we engaged and a participate and we create each other... In a sense no inside or outside... Oneness... "

The creative process as an extension of Divine work fascinates and resonates with me. There are moments in artistic creation (whether it be through paint, sculpture, music, or verse) where a disassociation can be felt, as if you’re channelling more than creating. This is a magical moment, and your work can seem bigger than you.

It’s something that can make the Sacred tangible, as well. Music is a magical thing that can have amazing effects on us. Art can move us in ways we didn’t think possible. Poetry can speak to your heart where nothing else could. This is the magic of inspired creation.

Adhi is not the first person who I have heard this from, though. The creative experience plays a large role in Revival Druidry. They refer to it as Awen, a Welsh word for poetic inspiration. In Druidry, it is much more than that. It is inspiration itself, the draughts of Cerridwen’s Cauldron of Wisdom. It is the current of intuition. It is the individual purpose of being that each of us carry. It is what drives us to create and change.

Awen is such an important concept in Revival Druidry that it finds its way into most of their ceremony and work. The word itself is treated as sacred. To them, the creative process is the expression of the Divine. Creativity is an important part to crafting magic and communing with nature.

The healing and magical nature of the creative process is something that is a joy to explore. So, my suggestion to you this week: Try creating something that has sacred meaning to you. It can be simple as a quick dry clay pentacle, or something as ornate as prayer beads to honor a deity you’re fond of. Maybe you want to create something ugly to represent a heavy emotional response that no longer serves you and your process, then destroy it. Or perhaps write something that carries that emotion, then burn it. The creative process can be a great venue for release, as well as a way to bring beauty into the world.

 

And with that, I’m going to get something creative done myself.

 

Until next week…

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Meditation Obscuration

My relationship with meditation is a difficult one, fraught with all of the mental flailing and general stubbornness that I can muster.

I remember my first time trying to explore meditation. I was in my younger teen years, and I figured I would try to meditate on an amethyst that I had. I stared at this chunk of violet crystal as I sat on the bathroom floor, trying to focus. I expected this to be an earth shattering moment of clarity and power that I had only dreamed about. About five minutes later, I was still sitting there, staring at a rock, and not experiencing the explosion of energy I was expecting. In seven minutes, I stormed out in frustration.

Even now, my patience can fail me, but I am at least a little farther along my meditative path. Knowing its place and importance helps. That’s what I want to talk about today: meditation’s place in magic, and even a method of meditation that you may have not heard of before.

Meditation has a larger place in history than one might suppose. When mentioned, meditation can bring to mind the image of a Yogi sitting in lotus position, fingers locked in Mudra, and chanting a continuous Om. While that can be what meditation is for some, it’s actually much bigger. It’s found in many different traditions. Standing meditation is common in Qui Gong and Kung Fu. Seated meditation can be found in Druid and Christian traditions. There are even traditions that encourage meditation and movement!

There can be a lot of reasons to take up a meditation practice, but the main selling points to me are focus (especially in ritual) and relaxation. For anyone who has tried working in ceremony, you may have noticed that it’s easy to lose focus. It can be for me, anyways. Trying to call elements can be difficult if part of your mind is busy figuring out bills that need to be paid. Relaxation comes in (along with focus) when I am doing Reiki. I am trying to focus, relax, and let the energy flow, but I find that I easily get in my own way. Meditation can help that.

My normal meditation practice is usually married to my rattling or drumming practice. In my shamanic work, I am supposed to be rattling or drumming every day to get my brain into a Theta state. There, I practice acquiring information, and interacting with the spirit realm. While I rattle, I follow the sound, listening to it. Thoughts of the daily grind pop up and try to interfere, sometimes successfully. Other times, I can get into the zone I’m aiming for, and get a little work done. There is another tradition, though, that I have tried and would like to introduce you to.

The tradition of meditation that I want to talk about today is one that I’m trying to rework into my practice. I learned about it from John Michael Greer’s “The Druidry Handbook,” and it is an intriguing tool. It’s called Discursive Meditation, and it is the favorite method of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, an order to which I belong. This practice is not quite like the Eastern traditions where you try to find a place of “non-thinking,” but a practice of observing and directing your thought in a focused way.

Discursive meditation starts in a seated position with your feet on the floor. The Neo-Druids who created this style of meditation believe that crossing your legs in lotus position can cut you off from Earth energies, and is less conducive to the Nature orientated work that they stride for. Breathing and relaxation techniques are employed for the first five minutes or so to get your body relaxed and your mind ready to work. Then, you begin to think upon the theme of the day’s meditation.

The theme is ideally picked the night before meditation, and briefly touched on right before you go to sleep. This gives your subconscious a chance to sort of chew on it in your dreams, ready to tackle it during your meditation session the next day. It is suggested that the theme be no larger than a sentence or phrase. This is a great opportunity to pick something that you might be working on, should you be following a magical path. Perhaps it can be a symbol you are working with, or an herb, or stone.

After breathing and relaxing, internally repeat your theme three times. Now, you think about it. This might not be as easy as it sounds. I know at least for me it isn’t. My monkey mind starts chattering. I find my meditation on Rowan has somehow devolved to the dishes that need washing, or how much I disagree with the Game of Thrones theory that Bran is the Night King. The practice at that point is to gently stop and try to back track your way to the original theme. How did I get to Bran in Game of Thrones? Well, I was thinking about the godswood trees that he is fond of. Those tree leaves remind me of a red version of oak leaves. Oaks were sacred to Druids. Druids probably used Rowan, as it seems to be well rooted in Celtic traditions. And here we are, back at Rowan. Eventually, this should train the mind to recognize when it’s beginning to go off track.

The reason I like this method is its use in unpacking and dissecting knowledge. It brings magic work to an intellectual level, while helping focus and energy flow. I plan on using it to explore Oghams (the Celtic magical tree alphabet that I’ve previously mentioned) more, and try to adapt them to local trees, versus their traditional trees, some of which don’t grow here in northern Vermont. It should also help me in my focus with rattling, as well as my Reiki work.

Should you want to learn more about Discursive Meditation, you can check out the articles on the Ancient Order of Druids in America’s website here, or order “The Druidry Handbook” here.

Now, I head up to continue my work on my new workspace. We’ve been coming up with silly names for the second floor room that is now my herb lab, creative space, and general wizardry room, but, if you can think of something properly ridiculous, please let me know.

 

Until next week,

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Reclaiming Othala

I was watching a video about the insanity that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, and I noticed that amongst the crowd of white supremacists was a person toting a flag with an Othala in the center. For those of you who don’t know the Runes, Othala is the Rune of heritage, inheritance, and family, and it has been used by white supremacists from time to time. As a magic practitioner that uses Runes, this angers me.

White racists have grasped at the Runes as some connection to a “pure Aryan past” that is specifically from their culture. Their use of Runes have raised the attention of a few watch groups that now list them as “potential symbols of hate” (such as this article from the Anti-Defamation League). While these articles usually point out that these symbols are used outside hate groups, the fact that they are still symbols that people have to watch out for is disheartening.

It feels as if they are taking my magic symbols away from me.

On top of rhetoric threatening me and my family (non-straight folk are usually not on their lists of favorite people), and friends who have different melatonin levels than I, their appropriation of my sacred alphabet is the icing on the cake of anger and frustration. I don’t want people to look at my Rune tattoos on my back and misunderstand their meaning.

This has been something in the back of my mind for a few years now, but the events at Charlottesville has brought it to the forefront of my mind. I’ve struggled with the use of Runes, and wondered if the use of Runes by supremacists and nazis have, in a way, tainted them. I think the Rune class I recently took was what finally made me comfortable with it. The Runes haven’t been fully appropriated, as the swastika was by the nazi party (that story is linked here!). So, this week’s blog is one of protection and reclamation.

I could keep going on about it, but I believe others have written better than I on this subject.

Here is an article that words it well.

And finally, here’s something that my husband found on one of the many Asatru/Heathen groups that he’s part of. It’s well worded.

“Don't stop wearing Mjolnir. Don't cover your Tiwaz tattoo. Don't leave your Othala bracelet at home. It will be difficult, and there will be much explaining, but the only way to keep the white supremacists from taking our symbols is to keep them and wear them and use them and explain them. Nazis stole the symbol of Sunna because we weren't there to protect it. They took double Sowilho because we weren't there to protect it. We are here now.

 

Othala will not be taken from us. It is OUR inheritance, and our children's.

 

Tiwaz will not be taken from us because justice prevails.

 

Mjolnir will not be taken from us because Thor is the guardian of ALL Midgard - not just those with so little melanin, we can see their yellow bellies.

 

Be proud. Be willing. Be heathen.”

The Runes are mine to use, and I won’t let those who want to use them as a weapon against those they deem different take them from me.

 

Until next week

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Raising My Voice

Singing and vocalization finds its way into so many spiritual and magical traditions that it’s hard to ignore. On the surface, it seems strange that sounds strung together in a pattern would have so much power. Yet, music has a strong presence in acts of connection to the Divine, and magical work. As an amateur musician, I find it especially intriguing.

My first foray into using sound as a magical tool was church. I loved the singing part, most of the time. As my family moved around, and I was able to experience different churches, I began to notice that some of the services had praise sessions that felt more powerful to me than others. I didn’t connect as well with older hymns, especially when sang at the slow tempo of the church my parents finally settled into. I still wonder if part of it was lyric relatability, or the congregation. It seemed to me that, sometimes, you could sing the same song with one group of people, and feel this amazing connection to God, where, sang with another group, it seemed dead and meaningless.

I think my Granny agreed. She often times told me that my parent’s church was a “dead” church, and they didn’t know how to praise. Come to think of it, she may be one of the first real driving forces that started me on my path, though she’d be rolling in her grave if she knew where I stood in life now. She leaned a little more Pentecostal with her faith. When I tell people that one could tell if she was in a good mood when she started cheerily singing in tongues, they probably think I’m joking.

I’m not.

She believed that God had worked miracles in her life. She claimed the Lord spoke to her, sometimes literally. She even claimed that she died once and Jesus sent her spirit to her suddenly healed body. She even told me as a child that, if I prayed hard enough and believed, God would heal my eyes so I wouldn’t need eyeglasses. While there was a clear disconnect with how things work here on Earth, coupled with religious justification of questionable behavior (like implying weaker eyesight has a correlation to levels of faith to a small child), I believe she could feel and experience things that were outside the realm of everyday perception. One of these experiences was being able to feel and identify ecstatic energy raised in a group via singing.

The human voice has a place in prayer and praise throughout much of the human experience, and it makes sense. Music moves us. It has demonstrable effect on our brains. Sound itself is vibrations in the air that our ears pick up. Sound has the ability to affect matter. Music comes naturally to most of us, whether it’s simply humming a tune, or being able to play an instrument. It even has effect on plants and animals. Why wouldn’t it affect the Astral Plane?

I remember a weekend workshop I attended with a Pomo Medicine Man, Lorin Smith. He spoke of how his father was a great Medicine Man, and how he even had a song to sober up quickly after a night of drinking. Whether his dad’s sobering song was something real, or just a tall tale about someone who already had powerful abilities, it’s an interesting concept to consider. The idea that someone could change the way that their brain was reacting to alcohol in his system through sound and otherwordly help would be an incredibly handy skill to have. Lorin emphasized that he did not have that skill, though. Instead, he shared a song with us that we sang for at least an hour. Repeating a spirit song over and over like, inducing a Theta state in the brain, was an interesting experience, for sure.

This all brings me to my Lughnasadh celebration this past Tuesday. For those of you not familiar with Lughnasadh, it’s a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. It was co-opted by Wiccans and pagans as one of their eight holidays (or, as Wiccans would call it, Sabbats). I like the eight seasonal holiday set up, as it’s closely connected to the seasons, they are all well placed through the year, have great traditions associated with them, celebrate the Earth in its journey around the sun, and I just generally think they work for me. My husband and I set up a fire outside, brought offerings in thanks for the harvest (homegrown blueberries, kale, and lemon balm), and sort of hodge podged a ceremony together that felt right.

As we stood around the fire, and spoke our piece, I felt the need to rattle a bit. As I rattled, and Josh spoke words of thanks, I felt a nudge from spirit. Use your voice, it said.

I have been working with getting comfortable using my voice in toning and song in front of people. This was our first real seasonal celebration that we had both observed. My insecurities said that I didn’t want to ruin it for him. Then, I realized I was ignoring something bigger than me, and, through that, I was potentially missing out on a powerful moment.

So, I began to sing.

After he was done, I asked if he minded me singing some Runes. He didn’t, so I did. Then, he toned some runes, while I rattled. It ended up being a powerful experience for both of us.

I guess the moral to this tale is that playing around with sound in a sacred setting is not an experience to miss. I can’t count how many times ceremony would have been less without someone being brave enough to raise their voice, and sing, or intone. If you have a situation that opening up your voice is appropriate, and it doesn’t step on anyone else’s experience, do it. Try it when it’s just you and a tree. Or a thunderstorm. Or a mountain. Play with it. If you can’t listen and find a song, find something magical that you can copy with your voice on YouTube. Or bang a drum. Shake a mason jar filled with BBs like a rattle. Get out there, and explore. Who knows what you might find.

Speaking of getting out and exploring, between an upcoming family camping trip, and a weekend excursion to CT to do some work with my teacher, Adhi, I am thinking that I won’t have the time to write a proper blog next week. So, next Friday, I will not be posting. I will continue my weekly blog a week after, on August 18th.

Be well. Enjoy the summery weather.

-The Green Mountain Mage

Blessings of Rowan

My arms were a little sore from some water therapy that Sandy, a teacher of mine, was having her apprentices try out that day. Apparently, holding someone up in a pool intermittently for an hour while trying to connect to water spirits is a great workout. I shook my arms out as I headed up the hill to meet with the other apprentices under the Rowan tree by the roadside. Our next task was to connect with the tree.

Rowan has a LOT of history and mythology. European cultures seemed to love it! It was a tree that saved the Norse god of thunder, Thor, from an untimely demise. It was reputed to dispel evil witchcraft. It has been said that it was the wood best used when carving runes. It has a creation story in Greek mythology, reputed to grow from the blood of an eagle battling demons. Scottish tradition did not allow Rowans to be cut for anything other than ritual purpose. It was used in magical fires, walking sticks, wands, and shields.

Perhaps it was its indomitable nature that caught their attention. There are Rowan relatives strewn across the globe. We even have a few growing here in the States. Perhaps it was the wine and jelly made from the berries (I hear they are delicious, but they need to be cooked before eaten). Perhaps it was the strong energy of the tree, which I have had the pleasure of recently being introduced to.

As we sat under the Rowan (or, as it’s called around here, American Mountain Ash), we talked about the protective nature of the tree, and it’s place in the Celtic Ogham. Oghams are an ancient Celtic alphabet that has risen to the place of a magical tool and system, much like the Runes. Each of the 20-25 Oghams (depends on the set you use) has a tree associated with them. The second Ogham, Luis, represents the Rowan tree, and its protective and magical nature.

At first, as we crowded around this tree, I didn’t get much besides how much the tree liked another one of the apprentices. Sandy asked us to sit with a Rowan, or a piece of one during the coming New Moon. Okay, I think. So, during the time of the New Moon, I grab a branch of the Rowan.

I was expecting to sit with it that night, but the Rowan decided to get my attention on the drive back, as its branch lay there on my lap. It seemed to ask me “So, how about all those insecurities.”

Well, I thought, that’s an interesting ice breaker.

As I followed this sudden, rather personal interaction with the spirit of this tree, she began to show me how her energies were that of creating a sort of safe space within oneself. She felt strong and safe as we explored different fears that I have that hold me back. Grow into your own path, she seemed to say, don’t worry about feeling competitive with anyone else’s.

I have a lot of these insecurities, but I’m excited that I’ve connected to the energy of this plant. I think that this is going to be a tree that I work with for a while. It’s a power that I am going to call on in my work to help me acknowledge where I am, and to help create a stronger inner world. An interesting exploration, to be sure.

And on that shorter than usual note, I leave you all to your Fridays. I hope you get a chance to get out. Maybe connect to the world out there. It’s a wild place.

 

Until next week…

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Mountain Myths

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 33rd birthday by tackling an 8 hour hike looping over Mount Lafayette. It became pretty clear how out of shape I was about a half an hour in. An hour and a half in, I caught passing fellow hiker’s worried glances as sweat poured down my face and I gasped for breath. I probably looked like I was close to dropping dead. It’s a little bit of personal karma for bringing friends on the exact same hike when I was far more fit, wondering why they couldn’t keep up. That’s a different story, though.

As I breached treeline on Little Haystack Mountain, I knew that the physical discomfort was worth it. The breeze met me, along with a 360 view of the mountains surrounding me. On the other side of the mountain lay forests and mountains all part of the Park, some of which rarely sees humans. To my left was the ridge I would continue to Mount Lincoln, then Mount Lafayette. To call it stunning is an understatement.

When you get to the top of mountains like this, the sense of sacred space envelopes you. As I traversed the ridge, all I could think was “Here! This is where my Gods reside!” For me, it is a mixture of the spirits that live on the mountains, and the mountains themselves. As I summited Mount Lincoln, I had five minutes where there were no other hikers, so I took my rattle out of my backpack and played to the mountain and its spirits. I felt them come to the sound, curious and numerous. As I noticed a few hikers approaching, I gave an offering of tobacco and other herbs in thanks.

I believe the act of offering before, during, and after the hike is an important one. First, gratitude to the mountain for letting you safely travel on it is important, as well as offering gratitude for all the people hiking on it that day. I make offerings to anything that strikes me as something needing special acknowledgement. I make offerings to the mountain at top, as well as to any spirits that speak to me. I make offerings at the end of the hike. This turns my hike into a ceremony for me, where I am interacting with the wild forces that I pass by and upon.

Mountains have quite the history in myth and sacred landscape. Perhaps partly due to mountaintop’s inherently wild and dangerous nature, they have long been the home of deities. Mount Olympus in Greece is one of the most well known examples of this. One does not have to travel to Europe to find mountains with sacred myth, though. Mount Katahdin in Maine was held by the Abenaki as the home to Pamola, a powerful bird spirit with the head of a moose and the body of a man! He was not a fan of people climbing his mountain, so they generally steered clear of the mountain top.

Another mountain known as a sacred space is Mount Washington. Mount Washington resides in NH, about an hour from my home, and holds the title of the tallest mountain on the east coast. The Abenaki believed it to be the home of the Great Spirit, and generally left it alone. Then, white folk came along with very different ideas on how to deal with this rocky behemoth. This famous mountain now sports an Auto Road, a railroad, a weather tower, and a few other buildings.

The story of the mountain’s sacred nature could have been due to it being the biggest mountain for miles and miles. It could be the fact that the mountain is known to be the home of some nasty weather. There are often casualties on the side of that mountain of people who were not prepared for the kind of weather they were about to face, or people who suffered the type of accidents that happen on a large steep mountain. Perhaps the stories of spirits were just warnings that the mountain was generally unsafe. The stories didn’t end with the development, though.

There are fascinating ghost stories that I’ve both read and heard. Stories of lights and voices where they shouldn’t be. Stories of feeling watched. Some of the stories even have a more malevolent edge to them. People have attributed these stories to the ghosts of folks who had died on the mountain, but I believe it to be something bigger than that. I believe these stories to be about a mountain spirit that really isn’t into people being in its space, especially without permission. This doesn’t take away from the sacred nature of the mountain. It does mean that, when I get back into hiking shape and hike Mount Washington, I have a lot of gratitude work to do with it.

An interesting book that touches on the nature of mountains and shamans is “Masters of the Living Energy” by Joan Parisi Wilcox. It’s about her experience with Q’eru shamans of Peru. These shamans derive their power from Apus, mountain spirits. Their relationship with the Apus as well as their sacred bundles, their Mesas, is incredibly interesting. I suggest you give it a read if you have the chance.

In other news, the creation of my Rune sets are coming along. I’m aiming towards getting them in the store soon, with some new herbs to follow.

 

Until next week

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Runes, Tattoos, and Life Lessons

With a computer issue Friday night, and a birthday party to put together Saturday, I’d like to apologize for the lateness of my blog. I’ll be back on track this upcoming week, I promise.

There is a blessing in the tardiness of this week’s piece, though. My husband and I just returned to our house from part 2 of a 3 part class on Runes, giving me a little time to talk about this magical Norse alphabet that I work with.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Runes, the Elder Futhark (the set of Runes that I work with) is a writing style from Northern Germanic tribes from around the 2nd to the 8th centuries. There are 24 letters in this alphabet, and each carry a meaning and its own power. As myth goes, the Norse God Odin hung himself to Yggdrasil, the World Tree, pierced by his own spear, for nine days and nine nights. From the Well of Urd at the base of the tree, he beheld the Runes that the Norns carved into the tree to direct fate, bringing the information into this world. That’s, at least, how the story goes.

I believe my first real introduction to Runes was from my high school friend Robin (who, incidentally, also introduced me to Shamanism). I dabbled in working with them for years, using them for divination, and even using them to invoke energies in my life by having select Runes tattooed on my back. I’ve also always integrated them into amulets that I’ve made, finding their basic angular shape easy to draw or embroider, and their ability to move energy to be rather powerful.

My husband and I heard that Sali Crow, my mentor Sandy’s sister, was doing a three part class on Runic divination and magic recently. With both of us having interest in Runes, we decided to try it out. The first class was all about the meanings of Runes in divination, and different spreads to use. It was incredibly informative and added a whole new level of understanding for me to use in creating magical objects with them.

The second class was using them in healing, which was especially interesting to me as a Reiki Master. It included an energetic attunement to the Runes. Watching an attunement to a certain type of energy unfold is an interesting thing, especially when you can compare the way different people react. In my case, I get to experience it unfold within me, while watching how it unfold within my husband.

Soon, after the attunement, Sali began discussing using the Runes. As she mentioned writing Runes on you for magical effect, she then threw in a warning. “Unless you are really sure you want to enter into a life long contract with a Rune, don’t get them tattooed on your body!”

Well. Shit.

So, my overthinking mind went down the path of how the Runes tattooed on my back effect my life, and push me in the directions that I find myself pointed in. For the most part, they make sense. I did pick them for their meaning to me, so a life long contract with the Runes for Divine messages, balance, personal gifts, and protection aren’t the worse Runes to be stuck with, especially as a Healer and Mage. It does make we wonder what part of the things that have driven me is the part that chose those Runes, or are my life choices partly driven by the Runes on my back?

Then, there is the Rune that I thought was important at the time in my life that I decided to get it tattooed on my back above my other Runes. It’s a Rune that isn’t part of the Elder Futhark and I honestly can’t remember where I found it. I understood it as a Rune of necessary tribulation. After a little research recently, I found where the Rune was from. The Younger Futhark, a reduced form of the Elder Futhark that had come along centuries after the original. The Rune I had chosen was the newer version of Hagalaz, the Rune of hail. The Rune of disruption, destruction, and uncontrollable acts of nature. In other words, a tricky Rune to have a life long contract with.

Now, this Rune does have healing aspects, but none of them gentle… There is a connection to the dismemberment experience of the Shaman, and the destruction of the ego to make way for a better self. Good things, but not easy things. I’m still organizing my thoughts on all of this, but it is interesting to think about ways that the Runes I have may have shaped my life in ways unclear to me at the time. I’m sure I will have more to share as I unpack the implications a little more, while by body digests the Runic attunement. Perhaps the third class, which is on singing Runes in magic work, will clarify the situation a little more for me.

In part of my Rune work, I will soon have hand made clay Rune divinatory tiles on the website. Stay tuned. I will also make a few sets of Ogham divinatory tiles for you Druids out there who might be interested.

 

Until next week….

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

How I Met A Sea God

It was the middle of the night, and all I could think about was that one of the other campers on the island were going to come over to our site, thinking that someone was dying, the screaming was so loud. To this day, I’m surprised no one did. We were gathered around a woman who was weeping and wailing, and we would have had a hard time explaining what was going on to anyone who happened to be checking out what was happening at our site.

Let’s back up a bit.

On the first or second full day on the island, Adhi had made little beeswax disks for each of us. She told us to work any negativity that we’re trying to get out of ourselves into our beeswax throughout the week. A good tool for me, as I had some rough resentment issues I was trying to let go of. Whenever I wasn’t working on my rattle, mesa, divination bag, divination practice, prayer braids, or general work connecting to the island, I would be squeezing and reforming that beeswax, trying to work in all the negativity I was carrying. This practice would stay with me the entire week. I’ll speak more on that later.

One of the activities that we were supposed to be doing on this weeklong workshop was to work on journeying every night. If you are unfamiliar with Shamanic Journeying, it is the practice where one attains a Theta brainwave state usually using using to the repetitive sound of a drum or rattle. The Theta state is where we dream. When journeying, it is a conscious dreaming where we direct what we are doing. This is a tool to explore your inner landscape, as well as using it to project beyond yourself, or to interact with spirits.

This didn’t happen for the first few nights. There always seemed to something else to be done, or the weather wasn’t cooperating, or Adhi had something different in mind. Later, she would tell us she had been waiting for us to get used to working with each other, as she felt someone would have a sort of breakthrough when we finally got to the journey work. Without a sense of safe community, we wouldn’t be able to go very deep.

We did try the night before. We were all in the big tent and Adhi broke out her rattle. It was a good experience, but the tent was cramped and I don’t think a lot of us went too deep into our psyches that night.

The next night, we went to the beach. We laid down in a row, heads towards the water. “Journey into the water. See what you can find there.” said Adhi. She started rattling as we laid there, eyes closed, listening to the sound of the rattle mixing with the ocean waves…

Twenty or so minutes later I sat up, startled and disoriented. As I remembered where I was and who I was with, I tried to recall what happened. I hadn’t fallen asleep. It felt different. Like I had just lost a chunk of time. I could vaguely remember meeting something… something powerful… something so much more than I am that it was terrifying. It felt as if I had bumped into something that my brain couldn’t handle, so it didn’t.

The group shuffled back up to the campsite and sat down around the picnic tables. Adhi chuckled as she shared that she had seen beings coming up from the water to us, spirits meeting us halfway. She began asking folks about their experience. I sat silently, feeling strange and on the edge of some overwhelming emotions that had been buried somewhere deep in my subconscious.

Adhi came to one lady in the group, asking about her experience. The lady in question was a rather level headed woman who had done a little bit work with Adhi dealing with unresolved grief. She began talking about her journey, which ended up being less about the ocean, and more about wandering the world, looking for purpose. As she described what she had experienced, she began crying.

This is one of those points in my stay on the island that I don’t think I can do justice with my words. The most powerful events seem to elude me in description. We watched this woman unload all of this grief and hurt in a half an hour collapse of crying and screaming. There wasn’t much for us to do besides keep the space for her and allow it to all come out. It was deep, primal, and very real. Some prayed. Some held her. Some tried to ground all of the power that was flowing through all of us. And we all witnessed. As the woman on the ground worked through all of the emotions that she was letting go, some of it came out in gut wrenching screams. Somehow, none of the other campers came over to see what was happening. Maybe they heard and didn’t want to be involved. Maybe they didn’t. We were all so involved in the moment, not many of us would have noticed anyways.

After she had  out, she was limp and weak, but relieved. She had gone through some kind of rebirth. She would even swear she looked different afterwards, that she didn’t recognize the woman she saw in the mirror. We carried her to another woman’s tent so she wouldn’t be alone that night.

Once that was over with, and all had calmed down at the campsite, some of us briefly  talked about what we had just experienced before everyone returned to their tents. Everyone, but me. I still had unfinished business.

I had put the feelings I was working through from the journey aside when my friend had her release of grief and trauma. The experience from my journey was still there, though. It had left a silent gnawing inside of me. Thinking no one had the energy after the experience of that night to help me deal with how I was feeling, I decided it was up to me and the sea. So, to the beach I returned.

I sat there, watching the waves the best I could in the dark, listening to them break upon the shore. That’s when I saw it. Movement from the waves. The beings that Adhi had mentioned, coming from the water. A little freaked out, I continued watching and listening. Then, the figure of a man rose up from the waves. Not like a bad CGI scene in a b-movie where someone rises head first to stand on green screen waves. No. This figure crawled out and stood up, facing me. That was the point I went from a little freaked out to full blown fight or flight mode.

As I jumped out, about to run, I looked back. I didn’t see anything. I was using the sound of the waves to journey, and, in that state, I had connected to spirit. I decided it was time for bed.

The next day, we discussed our experiences. As I talked about what I had seen, Adhi asked poignant questions that somehow led me back to the sigil that I had drawn in the sand the day I had arrived. As I talked it over, I had an epiphany. I had an experience with Manannan Mac Llyr, the sea god I had made offerings to throughout the week. The realization hit me so hard, I began to cry like a fool. Adhi just smiled this ridiculous all-knowing smile as we moved on to the next person to talk about their experience.

The next morning, our final morning, we went out to the beach before sunrise where we built a sacred fire. Adhi pointed to the three logs making the main teepee for the fire, telling us it was a gateway to somewhere else. This was where we were to throw the beeswax, along with everything we had been filling it with. I meditated on it before angrily throwing it in. I silently stared out at the ocean.

As we left, Adhi took down the prayer flags which adorned her tent all week. She cut off two flags for each participant. In the center of each flag, a Wind Horse. A beautiful way to bring a little bit of the magic we had worked with home. Mine still hang from the porch of my old farmhouse.

And that was my Assateague Retreat experience with my teacher. For those of you who have not had journeying experience, it isn’t normally this intense. This was a week of work, in a magical place, under the guidance of an experienced shaman. Even when all those criteria are met, the experience still depends on the group, the time, and the spirits. I think there is a lot in this work that is simply out of our control.

What shall I write about next week? I don’t know yet. If there is a subject that you’d like to hear my thoughts on, please let me know in the comments section on the blog, or on Facebook.

 

Until next week!

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Rattles and Bones

The trick of the story is in the telling, isn’t it? And the story of my stay on Assateague is a difficult one to tell. I think most stories involving work with other realms can be hard to put into words. One almost worries that the importance of events is lost in the telling, because, really, you had to have been there. That’s a little bit of how I feel when it comes to this story.

Once we arrived, it was late and getting dark. Folks rushed out to help us put up our tents, fighting against the ocean breeze and the airborne sand. We squished together at the dining area to eat dinner and meet each other. It was lovely, and I wish I had been more present in that moment… but I wasn’t. All I could think about was the ocean.

I consider myself an ocean person. I love the feeling of it, the wild power. It’s this thing that is way bigger than me. It’s the womb from which life crawled out from. It’s wild, soothing, yet potentially dangerous. My dad and grandfather were both involved with the Coast Guard, and had a thing with the ocean themselves. I believe I come by it honestly.

Living in Vermont, my trips to the ocean are rarer than I’d like. That, along with a personal issue that I wanted to give to the ocean, made me antsy to get to the beach. At the end of the lovely meal, I rushed out there to be with the waves. I sat. I listened. I opened my heart. I drew a sigil for Manannan Mac Llyr, a Celtic Sea God that I work with (or, rather, he decided to work with me). The waves washed over the sigil and offering as I walked away to go to bed.

The next morning was figuring out how the week was to go. We would be making mesas, divination bags, and rattles. We would also be making a mesa for the campsite. I know I’ve mentioned mesas before in another post, but for those who may have missed it, a mesa is a sort of sacred bundle, normally a portable altar of sorts. The camp mesa was not portable. It was a community art piece that we made offerings to every now and then. Adhi kept the tobacco, cornmeal, and jasmine flowers close by so that we could go in our free time when we felt we needed to make an offering. It was all feathers, seashells, stones, and bones. Pretty impressive, but I am currently unable to find a photo of it. You’ll just have to take my word on it.

Between creative projects, we were encouraged to walk around the island and interact with it. I remember one holly tree that called out to me. I had never seen a holly tree. They don’t grow bigger than a bush up here, if that! It was the first being that really got to hear my new rattle. I still honor that tree with two leaves that fell from it that now live in the little mesa I made to bring home with me (which resides in the big mesa I use in my everyday practice). I rattled for it for about ten minutes until I was directed to go deeper into the woods. There was a lot of small magic on this walk (raccoon prints, bright red birds, and a raccoon skull), but the big magic was when I broke through to the bayside of the island. There was a herd of wild horses, grazing on the sharp grass.

I sat with them, and listened. They eyed me, but left me alone. I wandered the salt marshes until I came across the feather of a Broad Wing Hawk, an animal that I’ve worked with for years. It was magical to find one so far from home, where a nesting pair has always lived, even when I was a child.

There were all kinds of magical moments like that throughout the week. Things that might seem pretty basic and relatively unexciting perhaps to someone who wasn’t there. They weren’t as simple as that, though. This is where language fails me. The magic was there in the waves. The magic was there when I listened and was guided to meaningful items. The magic was there in the mesa creation. The magic was there with the rattles and the divination bags. With all the small things, along with the skills and knowledge that Adhi imparted, the weeks would have been amazing with just that.

It became a little more, though, when we started doing journeywork. And that part I will leave for next week. The story of bad juju beeswax, rebirths, snake magic, and sea gods.

A side note. Tomorrow, I am leading an herb walk in Littleton, NH. There is still room for others. If you’re interested, find the event link on my Facebook (or click HERE). All of the info should be there.

Have a safe Independence Day Weekend

-The Green Mountain Mage

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