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!

Many Thanks to the House of Eleggua

I want to give a huge thank you to Carolina González over at the House of Eleggua for featuring Wandering Woman Wondering in Issue #2 of the House’s newsletter, which came out on Monday, August 22nd! For those who are interested in subscribing to the House of Eleggua newsletter, you may do so by visiting the House of Eleggua blog linked above and clicking on the subscription button there in the right-hand navigation bar.

In addition to the incredibly informative blog linked above and the newsletter, the House of Eleggua also runs a store where interested folks can find herbs, jewelry, magickal services, art prints, hoodoo waters and much more. I myself am a gigantic fan of the prints (I have Oya, Eleggua, and Pomba Gira) as well as the Wanderer Incense dedicated to Odin.

Again, many thanks to Carolina and the House of Eleggua!

Deathscape

Skeletonised Remains, from the Forensic Archeology site

Of late, I have been thinking quite a bit about death. I have waking visions of putrefaction that distract me from my day to day routine for a few minutes at a time (though nothing yet that interferes profoundly with my functioning). In the most recent vision, I saw both human and animal flesh decaying. It was so vivid I could even smell the process. It was not “pretty” but it was increasingly beautiful, the longer I entertained the vision. I am having these thoughts, seeing these images, smelling these smells and I am growing more fearless of Death and Dying – and perhaps most important – more fearless of the Dead themselves (though not to the point of becoming naive and reckless). Prior to these visions, Death, Dying, and the Dead were fairly unapproachable for me on a deep emotional level. Sure, I had an intellectual understanding of Death and Dying and an intellectual connection to the Dead, but since the visions I feel Death and Dying on an emotional level; The Dead seem tangible on a relational level; I have an intuitive, emotional, visceral grasp of them that I did not have before! It’s actually been kind of amazing. I think that this new encounter with Death, Dying, and the Dead marks a huge step toward improved relations with the Dead and the Gods, Orisha, and Lwa that lead them. This whole encounter with the Three D’s has actually been life affirming in a roundabout way because ultimately we stand on the rot and decay of previous ages. We etch our roads from the bones of the Dead, from the processes of Death and Dying.

And now, I will leave you with a very cool article on decomposition from Forensic Archeology, the site from which the above photo was taken. Hail Dying! Hail Death! Hail the Dead!

Offerings at St. Louis Cemetery #1

From June 30th through July 5th, I visited New Orleans, LA for the Essence Music Festival. As a part of that trip, I also reveled in the rich spiritual heritage of the city. The highlight of that revelry was a visit on Tuesday morning to St. Louis Cemetery #1 where Marie Laveau, the “Voodoo” Queen of New Orleans was laid to rest in 1881 (just over a century before my birth). What can I say? It was a powerful and completely amazing experience to be near the resting place of such a well known, well respected, and highly magical person.

Marie Laveau by Dimitri Fouquet, native New Orleans artist

Around 11AM, I arrived at the cemetery gate with three others who knew nothing of M. Laveau or the spiritual heritage of the city. At the gate, I made offerings of Bacardi Gold Puerto Rican Rum and an old penny to Elegua as the Opener of the Way and the same to Oya as Lady of the Cemetery and Queen of the Dead. I had the intuitive sense that the offerings were accepted and so I entered. Of course my friends were already inside, starting to course through the Necropolis in search of M.L. We knew that she was near the front of the cemetery but with no map and no prior experience in such a place, we wandered. In our 20 minutes of searching, we discovered several places in the cemetery where spiritually-minded visitors had left offerings for the Dead. Each place was awe-inspiring, sacred, and beautiful. Between secret smiles and silent personal reflections, I explained to my three friends the significance of the offerings and the ways in which New Orleans style “Voodoo” and similar African-derived, syncretic traditions diverge from mainstream Christianity in terms of what constitutes an offering and the reasons for them.

Marie LaVeau by Holly Sarre', a contemporary folk artist and native of New Orleans

At the 20 minute mark, we found her! One of my friends saw the plaque on the tomb and signaled the end of the search. I was so giddy I could hardly contain myself. I waited for the picture takers and tourists to roam in other directions before I placed my hand on her tomb and paid my respects. I left pennies for her and her neighbors, the other residents of the Dead City. A sense of contentment and peace washed over me after I laid the offerings down and said my prayers of honor and respect. I did not get a creepy feeling in the cemetery, which was actually a little surprising, but then again, I was not alone roaming the Necropolis at midnight under a moonless sky; it was 11AM, birds were chirping and people were out and about in NOLA.

I will never forget the experience of entering that place, laying down offerings, sending prayers, and touching the sacred. I am so grateful to have been granted access and to leave offerings. My givings did not have strings attached. I was not asking for anything in return; I just wanted to give to the spirits there, M.L. not being the least of them. I took pictures of the tomb for my ancestor altar because I think of M.L. as an ancestor-in-spirit. The pictures that I do not use for my altar will be destroyed. Also, if and when my altar changes and the inclusion of M.L.’s tomb no longer seems right (either to her or to me), I will destroy that image too. The way I am thinking about it at this point: I entered St. Louis #1 for spiritual reasons and a photo without a spiritual purpose would be disrespectful to M.L. I don’t want to hang it on my wall, to put her on display and say look how cool this is. That scenario just seems wrong to me. So, if the picture’s spiritual purpose (in this case, as a private altar item) ever expires, it will be destroyed. But until that time, I look forward to having M.L. among those that I honor as Ancestors.