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!

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.

On Working with Hekate

Earlier today, I made a comment on an excellent post by Seillean over at The Serpents Wisdom. My comment addressed my work with Hekate. In writing that comment, I realized exactly how difficult it is to fully articulate my work with her and what she means to me. What I said on Seillean’s blog is true but it seems so inadequate! For those who have no clue what I am talking about, here are my two cents from the comment (directly quoted):

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Greetings!

I actually read your post this morning and have been pondering how to respond right up until now. Hekate can – being the Worker from Afar – feel distant; however, she does not feel indifferent to me. Hekate is always watching and waiting. In my experience, as a friend of mine often puts it, Hekate does not take the unwilling! Those who seek her wholeheartedly and of their own True Will find her walking the world’s liminal places whispering truths into the night for the benefit of those who will hear them.

Since I first encountered Hekate in 2007, I have been unable to tear myself away from her mysteries. As her (unoathed as of yet) devotee, she has a hand in every occurrence in my life. From spirit-work to priesthood training to basic ritual craft, Hekate guides my hand and inspires my process. Also, perhaps most importantly, Hekate works with me in my self-development/psychotransformative work. She is most definitely my torch-bearing guide, protectress, companion, initiator, and goddess at the gate.

I guess I would say that Hekate is very much a goddess of becoming – on all levels, goddess of the myriad processes that unfold and often intersect to create a moment, a person, a new experience, a star, a galaxy, and all the rest. All of the Work that I do and all of the beings that I do it with are a part of my becoming and I am a part of theirs. And it is by Hekate’s grace that we are and by her grace that we become, changing and transforming, weaving ourselves and the many worlds into existence.

Put plainly, I love her and I plan to oath to her this year. My practice thus far has been informal – prayers, talking to her with an open heart, and performing some Hellenic recon style rituals in her honor at the dark moon and in the dark half of the year. Ok, I am going to stop here because I really need to hush :-) .

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I keep thinking “that, and then some”. Like for instance, I left out that “becoming” often SUCKS. Hekate can be brutal as Midwife to one’s becoming/rebirth. The truth is the truth and she will lay it on you mercilessly because it can be delivered no other way. If her followers are even a little self-deluded, she will correct that BS in a heartbeat. Or worse, she may “let you” linger in it for a while and when that truth can no longer be denied it sears the spirit deeper, hurts longer, and will probably leave a scar. I put “let you” in scare quotes because I believe that Hekate is often following our lead, especially with the decisions that shape us the most. Hekate does not want to be the goddess that people blame when things go wrong and forget to thank when things go well. No. Your life is your responsibility, but she is available as a GUIDE among many other roles for those will will accept her as such. When you, as her follower, make crappy choices, she is there with you and she laments (but still accepts) the pain you brought on yourself by rejecting her wise counsel (or your own good sense!) in the first place. And yet, and here’s the gloriously blindingly beautiful part: that too shapes you. That pain too is a part of your becoming. Your unique path, and it is by her grace that we become who, what, why, and how we are. No apologies and dozens of regretless regrets.

I think Hekate wants us to be so honest with ourselves because as I said before she oftentimes follows our lead. What we are not ready for, she will not push, but she can see the heartache and soul shards that will result from whatever collision course we are on. Our pain does not please her but she respects our path, she accepts it and will assist us through the pain (as Hekate Atalos – the Tender). Yes, Hekate has darkness within her but there is also great gentleness and care in her, for those who can get past their love affair with the brooding and gothic stereotypes of her character. When I fuck up, she does not deliver a snide “I told you so”. Instead she smiles like a wise older sibling and tells me to heed the warning signs next time so that the same pain will not linger and follow me any longer than it must.

Now that the pain is out of the way, she also has an active hand in the good stuff! She brings me social honors and accolades and blesses me with still more opportunities to achieve (see Hesiod’s Theogony if you don’t know). When I have a positive experience that serves as a milestone in my journey toward my goals, of all types, she is there opening gates and helping me to make meaning of my past, present, and future. As mentioned above, Hekate is the “Worker from Afar” so sometimes I interact with her in ecstatic moments of full-blown Contact, oftentimes it’s a low grade energetic connection to her majesty, but every day I feel her, I pray, and I talk to her. I know she is around, like a mom, or friend, or older sibling in the next room down the hall and around the corner. All I need do is laugh with joy or cry is sadness and I know that she hears me and that she will come to me when the times demand it. And, in the spirit of reciprocity, when she calls, I answer!

Hekate stands at life’s crossroads – of weal or woe. She guards the gates, the checkpoints along our Way. She busts out the big keys that unlock the deep and serious gates that we have to pass through to become our true selves (because it is only as our true selves that we can truly help ourselves, truly serve others, and be truly served by them). She wanders the liminal spaces between who we were and who we will be in order to weave our becoming, to sort through the healthful and baneful pharmaka of who we are, to give counsel, to offer companionship, to initiate, to unlock and swing open gates, to light the way in the dark, and to cast shadows during the day (lest we become complacent, stagnant). In return, we give her our devotion. We help with the Work of midwifing the birth, death, and rebirth of everything – people, animals, plants, stars, planets, galaxies – the whole nine. Some of this can be done directly by supporting certain key organizations (only you can decide which are in line with your values and spiritual convictions) and educating others (about whatever you feel is important to the shaping of the Worlds) and some of it has to be done spiritually/magically through creating and maintaining “right relationship” with any and all beings (including yourself)! This is the stuff of liminality, transformation, magick, and Mystery.

Hekate is big, she is powerful, and she is awesome – in the classic sense of the word. The rant above is only 3% of the reason that I want to oath to her service. She has not demanded it of me. I want to, of my own free and true will. I want to help her with the Work. It’s the least I can do considering how much she has helped me with mine!

Seidhr, Hamrammr, and Other Wyrdness

As mentioned in previous posts, seidhr (pronounced “say-the”, according to Jenny Blain in Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic) is a Norse/Germanic shamanistic practice that many Heathen magickal practitioners are reclaiming. Seidhr has a mixed wrap. Some people view it as a positive practice for healing, prophesy, faring-forth, shapeshifting, weather-work, wyrd-working, and spirit communication (especially with the Ancestors and Wights, but also the Gods – of course). Others associate seidhr primarily with maleficent workings like mind tampering to cause delusions and bring on madness. If you are looking for a crash course on the who, what, when, where, and why of seidhr, the Viking Answer Lady gives an excellent treatment of this art for those who seek detailed information that is grounded firmly in the lore. Diana Paxson, Kveldulfr Gundarsson, and the folks at Vanic Paganism also wrote very strong articles on the subject. Just follow the links above directly to the articles!

I have been working seidhr for about two years now. The majority of my experiences and budding skills have been in the areas of spirit communication, faring-forth, and prophesy. I have also done some shapeshifting but I am still getting the hang of that. Frankly, the initial phases of shapeshifting can be a little disorienting and disconcerting! There is nothing quite so odd as sliding into the perceptual framework of another creature! Sight, taste, smell, sensation, all change. Not to mention, you get shorter so you are seeing the world(s) from a completely different vantage point :-). Very cool. Very useful. Very wyrd. My hope is that as I improve at shapeshifting, as I become hamrammr (shape-strong), the transition from human to animal and back again will become smoother. What is interesting to me is that something like shapeshifting is not outside the scope of seidhr as defined across ancient and modern Norse/Germanic shamanistic practice. Seidhr is everything that I mentioned above, and more.

At this point in my development as a seidhkona, I feel good about my growing abilities and I of course want to continue to strengthen them for the service of the community. While testing my existing spiritual skills, I also feel like I can take on a little more; I hope to begin learning seidhr for wyrd-working! This totally qualifies as “and more”. I would definitely begin small and work my way up to more complex weavings. I am actually not certain how much a seidhkona can change an individual or group’s wyrd given the profundity of the wyrd – what it means – but I hope to study with a deity or other weal-willing spirit in order to learn more. Soon I will propitiate Freyja for her guidance on the matter likely through both journeying (aka faring-forth) as well as through the runes (my new-found spirit allies in the process of working wyrd). I’ll approach her with questions like: Is this a good course of action for me to take? Is this the right time? What must I learn or do first? And others. I think I may also approach the Nornir for their counsel and, of course, I will consult Odin, whose insight in such matters is quite invaluable. All will receive proper sacrifice of course because nothing in any of the Nine Worlds is free. A gift for a gift as the Havamal teaches. Right now, I am thinking dry mead for Odin, perhaps a rich dark beer for the Nornir, and a cyser for Freyja.

Hail the Ancient “Seithing” Arts and the Ones Who Weave Wyrd!