August to December at Wayfaring Woman

In the last third of 2016 I took a bit of a break from writing and significantly reduced¬†my work here at Wandering Woman Wondering and at Wayfaring Woman (my column on the Agora at Patheos). I’ve included links below to the articles that I did not previously link here. Some of them are updates and revisions to work that I previously presented here on Wandering Woman Wondering, and some are new.

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Magical Masking and Dionysos

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2016/08/wayfaring-woman-magical-masking-and-dionysos/

The Roman God Mercurius – An Introduction and Ritual

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2016/08/wayfaring-woman-the-roman-god-mercurius-an-introduction-and-ritual/

Gifts From the Heart – An Autumn Spiced Guided Meditation

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2016/09/wayfaring-woman-gifts-from-the-heart-an-autumn-spiced-guided-meditation/

Guarding and Protecting Your Magical Workings

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2016/10/wayfaring-woman-guarding-and-protecting-your-magical-workings/

Hekate’s Hounds – Warders Between Worlds

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2016/10/wayfaring-woman-hekates-hounds-warders-between-worlds/

I hope you find these to be useful stepping stones along your own path, or at least intriguing in some way ūüėÄ

Masking: A Dionysian Mystery

Masks¬†are symbols¬†for the surrender of as well as the transformation of identity. By way of masking, we have the power and the freedom to take on a new persona and experiment with new ways of being and feeling. These are the gifts of Dionysos, whose idols were often simply a mask¬†set atop a post or pillar draped with vegetation. At the mystical level, the gift of masking goes deeper than¬†tinkering with identity; it is the call to lose one’s self entirely within Dionysos, to be filled with the god himself (a.k.a,¬†enthousiasmos, meaning¬†possession by a god). The mask – an extension of Dionysos’ power – obscures the identity of the wearer and allows the wearer to fall into the Dionysian current, to be as a maenad in a ecstatic revelry or as¬†a player in ancient¬†Greek theatre creating¬†a character by shedding his own.

In early August, I gathered with two fellow witches in the pitch of night around a blazing campfire in the woods of southern Illinois to honor¬†Dionysos, he who is God of Ecstasy, Lord of the Vine, and Leader in the Dance of the Fire-Pulsing Stars. We invoked the god, burned fragrant incense, and poured libations of local port wine in the god’s many names. I pulled my mask over my face and allowed myself to slip into Dionysos’ power. As I beat a slow steady rhythm on my modest frame drum I settled into the liminal space betwixt and between the self and other, between the internal and external. In the space between I could feel Dionysos’ might begin to fill me. I lifted my voice in his honor and I new for a moment a sliver of what the maenads feel enveloped in him. I played on and we witches¬†danced around the fire shouting Dionysos’ many praise names into the night.

That night I reveled in the life that filled me and the life all around me. I felt connected to the stone beneath my feet, to the trees all around, and to the animals roaming at the edge of the fire light. This is a part of Dionysos’ gift as I experience it. He brings an unrelenting awareness of life and connection with the vital forces of being. Identity shifts, ecstasy¬†consumes, and Dionysos emerges.

Masking is only one of Dionysos’ mysteries but it has blessed me a great deal in the time that I have been experimenting with it. It is a way to slip out of one’s own skin, to loosen ego/personality, to shift and shape¬†self, and to experiment with various ways of being. It is powerful magic and as such it is not without its risks. There are many ways to mask; it is not limited to placing rubber or plastic on one’s face and stomping around in the woods. Masking can be done by way of the clothes we wear, the voice we put on, the make-up we wear, the smile we strategically assume, and a slew of other physical and behavioral props. Depending on how you mask, when, and why there are different potential challenges and risks involved.

Masking requires that one¬†know one’s self (at least well enough) before willing to lose one’s self, whether it’s undertaken for fun or to serve Dionysos. Masking in his honor is truly awesome and quite beautiful, but remember that Dionysos is not all fun and games. Disrespect for or misuse of his mysteries can manifest¬†a host of psychic ailments.¬†At best, careless masking can leave one adrift inside with little to no sense of core being and disconnected from Source. Among other things, such a state could make a person overly reliant on other’s perception of them and/or more likely to accept and wear¬†the masks (or psychological projections) that others place upon the person. At its worst careless masking can result in character erosion (like telling lies and eventually believing them), madness, and soul loss. Basically to avoid the negatives, be mindful and aware of both yourself and the nature of the mystery as you enter its practice, *especially* if it is something that you plan to do on a regular basis.

Masking is an amazing Dionysian magic and mystery, and one with tremendous potential to stimulate self-exploration, ecstatic release, and mystical union. I very much look forward to continuing this work.

Hamrammr: Lessons in Shapeshifting

In this betwixt and between time (November 1st to about¬†January 1st), I have been thinking a great deal about transitions of all sorts, including changing shape. It is one of my favorite witch’s crafts. There are many reasons one might shape shift: to obtain information using another being’s perception abilities, to enter or leave places in the astral that one may not because to access otherwise, to commune with the creature’s spirit and gain insight into its nature, to go unnoticed/unrecognized, or insert your reason here. Whatever possible purpose you select, as a witch and spirit worker, it is a useful skill to develop.

I thought that I’d share a few reflections for those who are interested in training in this craft. Mind you, I am not an expert or even just a seasoned shapeshifter from way back. I am just a witch who has been half dragged and half seduced into acquiring this particular ability, and it is still a young one for me. I just wanted to reflect on a few things thus far in my process.

With regard to physical preparation, I have found that I benefit from wearing comfortable, loose fitting clothing. I prefer to work at night or at twilight times like dawn/dusk. It is essential that I find a relaxing position in which I do not feel constricted. For me, that means feet on the floor and arms at rest at my side or on my lap. Depending on the animal form I am assuming, I may have my eyes closed or leave them open. I relax my jaw and loosen my other muscles as well if they feel tight. In short I try to be as “free” of my human form as possible and working at a time as aligned with the Otherworld as possible.

At the mental level, I hone in on sensory information. What do I see? What do I hear? Taste? Smell? I spend a good bit of time attuning to my environment. I find that this level of awareness, if I stay in it long enough and really attend to what I perceive, my animal brain kicks in and my senses are¬†heightened. At this point, I reaffirm my intention and I reach out to Coyote, Crow, Serpent, or Barn Owl. (I haven’t really entertained the idea of doing this work with an animal or animal-shaped spirit with whom I have no relationship.) I ask for their protection and blessings, in addition having my own personal shields and wards in place. Then I deepen the connection. I get up close and personal with the energy of the animal. I let it consume me…enough to shift my astral form/energy pattern but not so completely that I cannot access my humanity when it’s time to come back.

Barn Owl was the first. He showed me how to take his form. Coyote came next, in the space between asleep and awake sometime ago. I was stuffed into Serpent’s skin by Dionysos in The Wood Between The Worlds not too long ago. And Odin gifted me with Corvid’s hamr very recently¬†in The Place Where The Worlds Meet. The work that I’ve done with Barn Owl and Coyote was shapeshifting to my mind, but according to the lore, its possible that only my work with Serpent and Crow qualifies. You can learn more about shapeshifting as it manifests in Norse/Icelandic lore here.

At the level of spirit, preparation has involved a great deal of travel between the worlds in my own form over the last six years – the between worlds meet and greet with key beings and powers wearing no animal skin¬†or similar “cover”. Just me. At the level between the mental and the spiritual, shadow work has also played into my preparation quite heavily. I value psychotransformative/shadow work highly. I find that it both empowers and wards me in the magic and spirit work that I am learning. In shapeshifting, a portion of one’s consciousness is open and connected to a particular animal’s might. Without rootedness in my own psyche and awareness of shadow, becoming lost in the animal hamr is not an unreasonable concern. The animals (and animal-shaped spirits) that I work with can¬†dredge up stuff¬†if you don’t have a firm handle on your¬†shadows and related baggage. At least that’s what I’ve observed in my own work. Really it makes a lot of sense. Our Psyche is the stage on which a percentage of our Otherworldly experiences play out. If the Psyche is in disarray then all manner of Otherworldly thing can sweep through and raze the theater, and not necessarily intentionally. Shit happens.

Shapeshifting work hit a peak for me when I stepped through my most recent psychotransformative door, and I have no doubt there will be more. These things are spiral after all; the work is never done as sure as we grow and change. Now that I see a few more things clearly and even more things differently, the skins slip on faster and fit more comfortably. I look forward to more adventures in the Otherworlds in animal form.

As you do your own shapeshifting work, I am interested to hear about your experiences. Feel free to comment here and/or provide a link to your own blog posts about this topic.  look forward to connecting!

Sacrament

I walked mindfully in the warm embrace of afternoon Autumn light. One after another I slipped a motley crew of grapes past my lips and into my mouth.

Only tongue and teeth and seconds to press. To ferment each grape into a wine-sweet moment. His flesh is their flesh is my flesh. His blood is their blood is my blood.

Filled to the brim by his Holy Sacrament, I knew Ecstasy on a random Friday in an Illinois September. I laughed out loud. The young man passing by gave me a peculiar look. He kept on. I kept on. I stared into his eyes laughing, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a God.

Dionysos Ekstatophoros (Bringer of Ecstasy), be praised.

dionysus

 

Shake It Out

The song Shake It Out from Florence and the Machine is another jam that I have to share with folks. It helps me connect with my core self and also with Dionysos :D. I discovered this song and very cool music video a few months ago (along with Cosmic Love).

Shake It Out makes me dance wildly! I cannot tell you how many stiff necks and sore muscles I can credit to this song. It has catharsis and liberation written all over it for me. I let go and suddenly I feel good again.

Could the same happen for you? Go find out; Shake It Out!

Dionysos and the Fire-Pulsing Stars

“Leader in the dance of the fire-pulsing stars,
overseer of the voices of night,
child of Zeus, be manifest,
with due companionship of Maenad maids
whose cry is but your name.”

~From Sophocles’ Antigone,
Translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff

The above excerpt from the Choral Ode in Antigone came to mind when I was listening to “Cosmic Love” (lyrics here) by Florence and the Machine earlier today. Watch the “Cosmic Love” music video on YouTube.