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!

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Blood Moon Communion with Hekate

On October 11th, I observed the Blood Moon with a small Full Moon rite in honor of Hekate. Before the rite, I purified the space and myself with candlelight and cedar. As I set the smoldering cedar tips to rest in my censor, a small albino spider ascended the wall behind my altar. I took his presence to be a good omen and continued with the work. I called out to Hekate as night wanderer, torch bearer, and moon goddess. With offerings of organic barley, homemade mugwort tincture, Hekate oil, Hecate the Saffron Clad incense from Otherworld Apothocary, and Hecate incense from Forest Grove Botanica.

After the call and the making of offerings, I stood for a time basking in her presence. Tingling sensations surged through me. She delivered much needed counsel and then departed. After her visit, I felt that I had greater insight into a few nagging questions. I also felt less fearful about my ability to hear her voice and pick her words out of a cacophony of divine utterances. I felt good about our connection and where I am headed under her guidance. Hail Hekate!

Hecate by Hrefngast (on DeviantArt)

For even now, when a mortal propitiates the gods and, following custom, sacrifices well-chosen victims, he invokes Hekate, and if she receives his prayers with favor, then honor goes to him with great ease, and he is given blessings, because she has power and a share in all the rights once granted to the offspring born to Ouranos and Gaia.

~Excerpt from the “Hymn to Hekate” in Hesiod’s Theogony, translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis

In Search of the Roman God Mercurius

I have been working with Mercury also known as Mercurius (the Roman God of Exchange et cetera), since 2008 but have only recently begun to scratch the surface of his personality (let alone his mysteries!). I have encountered him as stately diplomat, knowledgeable teacher, wordsmith, swift-footed divine messenger, animal husbandman, lord of commerce, patron of public transportation, god of communication, and also as meddler, confusion monger, cheat, liar, and thief of wit. His facets are many. In addition to his manysidedness, I will say one of the greatest challenges in my search for Mercury has been his syncretism with Hermes. Sometimes I think I am one of zero people who actually think of Mercury as an individual god, separate from Hermes. To my thinking, they are like twins; they look alike, but they are different people with their own unique proclivities and personalities. A few times I have actually given up and tried working with Hermes. Each time, both gods protested! The second big challenge to working with Mercury is the scarcity of scholarly, English language works that treat him within his Roman cultural context with minimal (or even simply moderate) reference to his Greek brother. I have no trouble locating the precious few books that exist but they are in a language that I do not speak (usually French)…So close, yet so far. Each time this happens I hear Mercury whisper, “You know, you could always learn French.” Given the problem at hand (my lacking French knowledge not being the least of it), I appealed to him and constantly received the message that direct communication with him was best anyway, whether I had the scholarly sources of not. Who’d of thought it? The god of communication wanted me to actually communicate with him. Such rocket science was beyond me in the early stages of our relationship, but I eventually figured it out.

We slowly made regular direct contact; however, over the course of the three years that I have known him, at times he has seemed utterly present and at others profoundly distant. At first, I childishly thought it was me, that he did not like me or that I was not doing enough to honor him, but based on further conversations with him, I discovered that being everywhere and nowhere, present and distant is part and parcel of his nature. This realization was solidified for me in a vision from about four weeks ago. In it, I was in the middle of a vast ocean standing on a very, very tiny landmass. I felt very insecure and unsafe. The water was everywhere and I was nowhere. When I took control of my emotions in the situation I could suddenly leave the tiny landmass and navigate my way to more solid ground. When I arrived on the much larger, lush tropical island, Mercury was waiting for me on a high cliff overlooking the vast ocean that I had traversed. He actually looked completely out of place (black shirt, jeans, and bare feet sans wings) in this tropical paradise. We talked for a time and he helped me to see that I was being too clingy for a swift-footed god of wind and change. When I began to accept his transient nature, he reminded me of some old roles and began cluing me into other roles that he was playing in my life at the time. In the very same vision, as divine messenger (an oldie but a goodie) he returned my attention to Elegua, who also happened to be on the island and who had some words for me regarding our budding relationship. As I began speaking with Elegua about offerings and other matters, Mercury flitted off.

Mercurius’ transitory nature as expressed in the vision is consistent with other experiences I have had. Earlier I had noticed that he was exceedingly good to me when I needed him for “the big stuff” and wily as ever when I wanted him for “the little stuff”. For example, when my life changes majorly, that often but not always heralds the coming or going of a deity or spirit in my life. When the deity or spirit is coming, Mercury is usually the one who makes initial overtures with deities (before I figure out what the heck is happening), drafts contracts and the first set of “rules of engagement”, and arranges for the preliminary sets of signatures. This is the behind the scenes stuff that he only recently saw fit to share with me via an impression during a divination session; by the time I get a tap on my noggin (i.e. Mercury patching a call through from a deity), he, Hekate, Odin, and the other deities I work with have already come to some conclusions about their relationships with one another and the basics of how and why they will involve me. In the case of my March 2011 initial contact with Dionysos, by the time my head stopped spinning from the initial encounter, Mercury had a contract and sticky notes labeled “Initial Here” on the proverbial table for me to sign. He’d all but licked the tip of the pen. On the flip side, when I have to be out and about by 8:30AM, I hit snooze at 8:15 for ten minutes and then jump out of bed yammering prayers to Mercury to make the bus late. He pats me on the head for being audacious, and then chuckles knowingly as I exit my apartment just in time to see the bus sail by…without me on it. The bus was indeed late, but not late enough. He gets a kick out of that sort of thing because I was foolishly more than half serious in my brazen request.

The search for Mercury has been long and hard, but I think that fact is my fault. The tighter I squeeze the farther he flies but, when I relax and go with the flow, he’s present in some way or another, or sometimes he isn’t but in either case I am alright. Whether our relationship continues or ends in the near future, I feel blessed to have known and worked with Mercurius. But I won’t lie, I hope to get to know him better in the coming months! At this point, my intuition tells me that Mercurius and I have a least a few more encounters to look forward to.