I do not “worship” the gods.

el-salvador-337441_1920To worship a being means to deeply respect and revere that being. That basic definition is powerful and meaningful for me personally because by that definition I worship all beings – deities, humans, animals, plants, rocks, you name it. However, when most people use the term worship, it is understood to mean that one not only respects and reveres a being but also submits to and defers to that being. That understanding of worship centers hierarchy and the logics of domination in my opinion, which is not really my bag.

statue-250819_1920I honor the “Powers That Be”, I praise them, I edify their holy names, but I do not worship them in the sense that they are better than or more important or more holy. The worlds gain nothing by asserting the worth of one class of beings over another. Do the gods have power and influence beyond my own? Hell yes they do. So much so that it scares me sometimes. But there are human folk who fit this description to a degree too. Honestly, President Obama has more power and influence than lots of people, but he’s not worshiped. I think that’s because his worth is obviously equal to other people’s. In my view my worth and every other person’s worth is equal to the worth of the gods, pandas, slugs, herb plants, river rocks, and the host of other beings in our universe. The gods have great worth and so do I. The gods have great value and so do I. I appreciate the gods influence in the worlds and their power to effect change, but they are not better than anyone or anything, and neither am I.

statue-1405539_1920I prefer ecological models of relationship to hierarchical ones. Hierarchies obscure the ways that we are utterly interdependent and interconnected. We are side by side, not one above or below the other. If any one group of beings is removed from the ecology, the entire system shifts for all beings involved.

Honoring a deity takes strength of spirit. Worship is what we are often encouraged to do in relation to “higher” powers. From my experience of worship it easily gives way to obligation and bondage. The soul caliber required to choose a deity and be chosen by them and to continually choose one another and the Work that you both value for it’s impact on the world shapes many aspects of my spiritual journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have come to believe that power, value, and worth are really best figured horizontally rather than vertically, ecologically rather than hierarchically.

Astral Appointments with Gods and Spirits

alice-in-wonderland-1253474_1280Astral travel as I see it is the process of projecting one’s consciousness out into realms and worlds far from, adjacent to, and/or overlaid upon this one (readily accessible, easily acknowledged, consensus reality). In my own practice, I most often refer to astral travel as journeying or faring forth. When I plan to fare forth and its on my own timetable, I like to prepare by igniting rich resinous incense and lighting anointed candles. These acts serve two purposes. First and foremost they are initial offerings for the Powers who taught me to journey and who support the work that I do on those journeys.  Second, pretty smells and warm lights signal to my busy mind that stillness is needed. When taking a planned but somewhat leisurely trip to the otherworlds, I take these early moments of preparation to focus on my destination and any Powers I need to meet and greet in that place.

When I have time to prepare, because I am journeying on my own schedule, I prepare offerings for the denizens of the worlds I plan to visit. My offerings are sometimes simple, taking the form of bread and wine and fresh flowers, or sometimes elaborate requiring two or more hours of cooking, arranging, dressing, anointing, and pouring. These things I place in sacred space along with the candles and incense.

When I fare forth on my own schedule, I also enjoy taking time to slowly ground and center. I draw my awareness to my body by wiggling my toes and fingers, rolling my neck, flexing my muscles. I settle into my own skin and the wonders of corporeal existence. I bring my awareness to my breath, to the steady rise and fall of my abdomen as I take in and release measured air. I allow myself the simple pleasure of humming a haunting melody, whatever creeps into my mind at the time. I feel the vibration of my voice as it resonates through my bones and blood. When preparing to fare forth, I take stock of exactly where I am in this world that I might more easily find my way back.

alice-30615_1280When it’s time to then fare from here to there, I allow my body to sway, my breath and voice to summon a spirit song, and my mind to reach out in search of a road, a path to carry me there. Sometimes the way is smooth and clear, sometimes its crooked and narrow. My fylgja comes with the song and rides it with me into the otherworlds. It may sound like I’m in charge but in fact he leads the way. Oftentimes he is so sure of the place to which we journey. Sometimes not. But he leads all the same. And with the flapping of his wings we end up exactly where we need to be, having a chat with exactly who we need to talk to. Sometimes he stays with the Powers and me, other times he wanders off. Over the years it’s become a gauge for me of how safe I am with the spirit or deity I connecting with. Safe equals fylgja flying free, doing whatever he feels like doing. Less safe equals fylgja practically perched on my face. He and the gods who charged me to travel the worlds nevery promised me absolute safety. That would be silly, and impossible. What wisdom is ever really wrought by safety?

When our audience is done, my fylgja leads the way back home. With a whoosh of my own breath I am back in my body, wiggling my finger and toes, checking my mind, body, and spirit for impurities, broken or lost bits, and hitchhikers. Good times…when I have time.

alice-29775_1280But over the last two years, with changes in the professional demands on me from my doctoral program I didn’t have as much opportunity for leisure, planful strolls through the otherworlds. However the calls to journey across the hedge kept coming. My fylgja visited his sense of urgency on me and shouted every call from the Powers That Be that I had let slip with an Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit-like ping in my left ear: “You’re late!”. What? Then I was dragged off into the otherworlds while on the bus, watching TV, cooking, or at some other inopportune time. If I was lucky, an unplanned trip happened while winding down for bedtime.

When the pings first started happening on a semi-regular basis, I tried to delay the powerful pull into trance. I would ask my fylgja to buy me more time, usually a few hours, so that I could wrap up what I was doing and then cross the hedge. Sometimes I would try to delay things even longer, especially if I knew it was a big call. I did this with a call from Hekate once. She was 47 kinds of pissed, so needless to say, I stopped procrastinating and started turning the damned stove off, having a seat, and letting the trance come. When I strolled through the otherworlds more regularly, this sort of thing still happened but was less often and was oddly less surprising when it did happen.

alice-in-wonderland-276452_1280When I was journeying more regularly, I felt the call more urgently and was ready – in mind, body, and spirit – to make the trip. But when I started traveling less, each call felt less urgent, and it was unexpected, so I found myself less ready to travel. Of course astral travel/journeying/faring forth skills take spiritual and psychic muscles, and I had let myself go a bit for about two years. So it’s not really any wonder that the gods and spirits started pushing harder. Of course my fylgja had to grab me by the scruff and drag me to the appointed meeting place with the spirit or power in question.

I’ve been basically done with my doc program (yay!) for the last several months so I am getting back into the flow of journeying.  It’s been rewarding building my spiritual and psychic muscles back up so that I don’t have to be grabbed as often!

In summary, here’s what I learned from being called, shouted at, and then grabbed by my guide/ally and dragged off into the otherworlds:

  1. If you are paying attention, you get notification in advance, or at least have an inkling that a particular power may be calling on you soon.
  2. If you don’t pay attention, you may be man/woman/person-handled by your guide/ally.
  3. By the time your guide/ally is forcing you into trance, find a safe place and don’t resist the lull into trance. You’re late for an important appointment and your guide/ally is just trying to look out for you and make sure you get there while receiving as little flak as possible from the spirit or power you’re supposed to meet with.
  4. After these encounters, gift the spirits and powers (including your guide/ally!) richly, because you kept them waiting beyond a reasonable time frame, which some may read as a sign of disrespect.
  5. Schedule time for regular travel so that you are less difficult to call and meet with.

Happy Astral Traveling!

Wayfaring Woman: Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires

Hekate Kerberos Herakles

Hekate with Twin Torches, from ancient Greek vase

I have updated my Wayfaring Woman column at The Agora on Patheos.com. Check out my latest post, Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires!

Wayfaring Woman: Ethical Spiritual Intercession

Guido Reni - Archangel Michael

Saint Michael the Archangel, venerated as a healer and aid to the sick among other things

I have returned to blogging after a long hiatus. My most recent blog post is available on The Agora at Patheos.com. Check it out here!