Listen to the beat of the Heart of the Witch
My mother-in-law has been in a closed psychiatric facility for the past 10 days.
This blog isn’t about her. Like the rest of my husband’s family, I have my opinions and hopes and fears about her condition, which may be psychosis (hearing voices, paranoia) or a symptom of Lewy Body dementia.
This blog is about soul alignment, and it carries a question to those readers who work within the world of counseling/psychiatry/mental health: Do you think that some mental illness may be caused by lack of alignment of the Triple Souls?
What is soul alignment?
Soul alignment is fundamental in a variety of (pagan and magical) religious traditions, the practice of bringing the Fetch/Younger Self/Etheric body PLUS the Shining Body/Talker/Aura PLUS the Godsoul/Higher Self into congruence. (If you aren’t familiar with this practice, I urge you to read or watch some of the great material about Soul Alignment that is available, notably from Thorn Coyle (http://www.thorncoyle.com/evolutionary-witchcraft-excerpt/) or Gede Parma (http://www.gedeparma.com/?p=288). While the practice as they describe it derives from Anderson Feri Tradition, the psychological aspects of a Triple Soul are most certainly part of the work of Jung and Freud).
When souls aren’t aligned
In visiting the psych ward, what was noticeable in my mother-in-law and in the other patients was the lack of integration – the literal disintegration – of the Three Souls and the body, the physical vehicle of these souls.
One could energetically feel that the Three Souls had drifted apart, ‘doing their own thing’ in their own realms as it were.
My mother-in-law’s roommate doesn’t speak; huddled under her blanket all day, smiling blankly when addressed, one feels her Fetch, her little Animal Soul, is so wounded it has taken over her existence. There’s another woman who has lost her voice, clearly intelligent and delighted in the visits of her grandchildren but unable to answer their questions or remark on the drawings they bring her. One feels her Talker is so angry that it is saying ‘f—k you’ and just won’t come to the party.
Noises that sound more animal than human occasionally escape the locked doors at the far end of the hall. A pregnant woman who seems to have no energetic field at all drifts into the group sitting area on her way to the ‘game room’: she has to ask the nurse to light her cigarette.
Other members of the ward are refusing their connection to the body – one young woman, now in a state of foot-shuffling overmedication, will not eat without being ‘encouraged’ to do so. She is in Stage 3 access: she can only leave the locked ward if an orderly accompanies her. My mother-in-law is Stage 2: she can leave the ward, and even the building, for a few hours each day if accompanied by family. ‘You get to go outside?’ the skeletal young woman asks her. ‘Oh, that is what I want. How come you get to do that?’
It’s been ten years since I left the US where, sadly, a lot of people deemed ‘mentally ill’ are living on the streets. And in remembering their affect, this kind of non-alignment, this lack of defined energetic body, this lack of connection to the body (except sometimes through the miserable addiction to alcohol or substance) comes to the fore.
And it occurs to me that we quite literally call the mis-aligned ‘lost souls’.
Three Souls, One Body: On Target
With this blog, I am not proposing that those suffering from dementia or chemical imbalance are responsible for their lack of alignment. There are concrete physical, historical and individual aspects to mental illness, and unlike some of you reading this now, I don’t have the education or framework to understand the subtle gradation of health to illness in this area.
I am, however, wondering if – like a lifetime practice of moderate exercise and sound eating – a daily practice of aligning the triple souls might enable those ‘on the edge’ to remain firmly on THIS side of the mental health continuum.
I remember that in one of Thorn Coyle’s workshops, she shared that if we could view our energetic bodies from the top, in alignment they would look like a bulls-eye: our physical bodies surrounded by the ‘glove’ of our etheric/’animal’ body, the shining aura of our mental/communicative self, and the God Soul which connects us to All and may be seen as a globe of energy at our crown.
As humans we can keep those Bodies communicating with each other through our practice. When They are not in communication, our effectiveness and joy and power are diluted. Aligned, open to the guidance of our Godsoul/Higher Self and practicing kala and prayer, we accumulate energy to a clean centre and become a pillar of power.
So, once again I’m asking: Mental health professionals – Reiki masters – counselors - those who work in a healing modality – do you think alignment can prevent or ameliorate mental illness?
At this time of Brighid, I’ve been working on another blog entirely. Well, to be honest I went back to a blog I started last year at this time entitled ‘Healing with the Gods’ Help,’ because that is what happened for me back in 1996/97, when I was led to heal from cancer and simultaneously found my faith. And then I have another blog on the go, which has something to do with Brighid. Maybe I’ll hammer it out by next year, we’ll see.
In the past weeks, there has been a noticeable shift in attention for me: friends, colleagues, family have been asking for prayers for their own or their dear ones’ healing. At the same time, with compatriots in an online course focused on Brighid, there has been a lot of sharing about what needs healing in our lives – physical healing, spiritual healing, emotional and mental healing.
So every day since committing to prayer for my colleague G’s cat, I have been lighting the Brighid candle on my altar, and praying to She and Isis for the healing of all who have asked. More every day, it seems.
Healed from complacency
Noticing even the seemingly ‘random’ stuff that pops up endlessly on Facebook, I shared this quote last week:
‘We want healing from illness, but it’s through illness that we grow and are healed of our complacency.’ – Peter Kingsley, In the Dark Places of Wisdom
Healed from our complacency. Healed from our assumption that today is just like yesterday, that if we keep looking at our mobile phones we’ll be saved from the train wreck, that if we just keep moving forward without the awareness of the sharp edges all around us we won’t be cut. That quote made me reflect upon my own time ‘fighting’ cancer – mostly fighting with doctors who wanted to cut out body parts that weren’t meant to be cut out – and also made me confront the truth: We are dying, at this very moment. We are living, at this very moment. How to stay aware and awake at the point of contact between these Sacred Twins, the most foundational in our lives? How do I/we stay connected to the preciousness of this moment, to the fact that this moment is the moment to offer up our wealth and health and life to improve that of other beings’?
Circe Santaniello, High Priestess
This post is really about Circe Santaniello, a great friend, a great Witch, a huge personality, a great teacher, and the High Priestess of my first training coven, which I was part of in Seattle back in 2001-2002. Circe’s creativity and her grounding in psychology as well as witchcraft served our coven well. (I was a complete sceptic about ‘witchcraft’ if not about magic. My friend Dragonfly craftily persuaded me to go to ‘a women’s group’ and that first Dark Moon meeting, Circe led a trance in which I met Isis. It was undeniable, and real, and I never looked back.)
This is what Circe posted on Facebook this week.
“Home Sweet Home
Quite simply put, I am no longer looking for a counseling job, nor any other kind of work. For those of you who do not know why I was in the hospital last week for two whole weeks, it is because I have been diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer…
...Interestingly the depression I had been experiencing due to lack of employment, among other situational events simply evaporated! Hey, situation gone, depression gone. This has been a welcome surprise.
Most of my life has been about following my spiritual path and meaning. To find myself attempting to crawl on to the mainstream grid of 9 - 5 due to financial circumstances this late in life was simply exhausting to begin with let alone in this job market. Don't get me wrong, I loved achieving all I did in the past 7 years and am quite proud of myself, but I would rather be herding goats, leading ritual, snorkeling or writing. So two degrees, an LPC license, and over a year and a half of seeking a counseling job was a bit wearing on me.
I had recently re-assessed my goals also. Psychodrama, working out, shamanic ritual work and continuing to be creative by writing and working artistically in my 3D virtual world were the things that fed me. Looking at my medical history, age and situation, I realized those were the endeavors I wanted to concentrate upon. Now I will spend my time doing several of those things all the while knowing just how amazingly successful I was working towards those other goals that had been thrust upon me. No job needed. It is time for rest and spiritual work.
Very dear friends have flown to me from all around the country to help me carrying their love and various types of healing skills. I am so very grateful for this outpouring of love and support in person, letters and phone calls. I just wanted to finally tell anyone else who wanted/needed to know what was up with me. It has been a bit tiring telling the tale over and over, so here it is.
Time to go home.”
This was the most eloquent, generous, honest, and beautiful expression of someone on the finest edge between the wrestling twins of Life and Death. And for me, the most eloquent expression of healing.
Thank you Circe. Thank you. Thank you for the magic you started in this embodied life, my embodied life, a magic I hope I can pass on to others.
At this time of Brighid, I see what we Witches do for each other and the world: we hold magic and the space for healing – that space where Life and Death go from wrestling to making love - and pass this wisdom on to others.
Candle to candle,
Flame to flame
Holding the Edges,
Chanting Her Name
Drawing from Centre,
Wise beyond Time
We make healing and wholeness
Between living and dying.
– Fortuna, Imbolc 2014
The time before the return of the Light on Winter Solstice has always been celebrated by old customs: we light candles on the weekends in Advent, bring evergreen branches into the house and put offerings for the little winged beeings outside. And every day we open a new door of our Advent calendars. This year little Tarot treasures are waiting there for you:
I'm sharing my knowledge and experience of the Tarot, which is a true a loyal friend in my every day life and on my spiritual path: as oracle, guide and inspiration.
For me it is essential to find a very personal way of interpreting and working with the cards. Therefore you'll find very different exercises, practices, experiments and insights of and into the deep world of Tarot, giving you opportunity to decide on your own which way works for you.
The Tarot Advent calendar is a free offering - though offered only in German.
Have fun & Tarot!
There are many books written on self-love, probably more than are written on selfishness, though we could likely debate that.
I’m not here to debate that. I am here to enjoin us toward the love of self that enables us to better love each other. I’m here to ask us all: are we not part of God Herself? Are we not an integral part of creation and the unfolding of the patterns of life? Really. Why are we here? We are here to find and follow our destiny. We are here to listen to desire. Even if the call is faint, let us pray. Every time we show up to another friendship, we are seeking to follow the path of desire. Every time we go to another workshop, ritual, art gallery, concert, forest, or beach, we are seeking desire. To seek desire, is to follow desire. What connects us? What draws us forward? What brings us back to relationship, again and again? Desire.
Desire is the fire beneath us, that keeps us moving forward. Desire is the fire at sex and heart, that illuminates our lives. Desire is the sparking of the mind, that spurs our thoughts toward creation. Desire flames in the cauldron of our belly, giving us the will to carry on. The people I love most in life are guided by desire. They listen to their God Souls and this tugging force of destiny and fire. They light up themselves and the world around them, in ways that might seem simple, basic, but are driven by deep choice. And some of my friends? They set the world on fire.
What is your way? Are you still dousing the fires of desire with self-loathing or indecision? Are you sinking in and training, in order to live a life that feels bold? Are you listening to the great silences, and coming forth renewed? Are you speaking to the wind, and to the rain? Desire draws all things together, and draws still others, on their way. Each peptide in our body forms itself to do its work. What is your work?
These things that help us know, and will, and dare, these things that rise from stillness… all of these, too, are part of the flowing of desire. Let yourself feel it. Let yourself taste it. Let yourself live.
The journey is ever moving onward. The process is never someday but always now.
Recently I had an experience with my horse riding teacher that left me kind of devastated. She made a remark about my looks that was a) very hurtful (it brought back all kinds of youth trauma) and b) very inappropriate. After the initial sadness and the anger that followed, there was the sudden realization that this is something that unfortunately happens a lot when someone is in the 'teacher position'.
As a teacher myself, not of horse riding, but of the craft, the way this woman not only treated me, but also my fellow students is so against all the ethics I hold when teaching.
What kind of ethics are important when teaching? And I mean any kind of teaching here, not just the craft.
Using power to empower
The first thing a teacher should always be aware of is that the teacher-student relationship creates a certain power issue. Students usually come to a teacher because they want to learn things from someobe who is a senior in that particular field. This creates a certain hierarchy, the teacher knows more about the material presented than the student. So you could say that the teacher in this field holds more power than the student. In my opinion a good teacher will empower his students to try and fail and try again within the safe container of the classroom, gym, riding school etc. Because that is how we humans learn! A good teacher will be aware of the responsibilities that come with this power and will teach with authority, not act as a dictator and will certainly not belittle the students. My own experience is that while teaching I can still learn a great deal from my students. I have been teaching kids and their wisdom never ceases to amaze me.
Staying grounded in the glamour
Then, there is the glamour that comes with teaching. I see that within the Reclaiming tradition I am a teacher of. Even though Reclaiming is a tradition that is very averse to hierarchy and power-over issues the position of a Reclaiming Witch Camp teacher is quite idealized and many campers long to be one when they grow up. I can start rambling about how unglamorous the job of being a witch camp teacher is and how much hard work it is, but that goes beyond the topic of this blog.
Fact remains that the glamour is there and of course it does something with our egos. Students do look up to their teachers, and as a teacher you do get a great deal of attention. All very flattering and if you forget to ground and are not surrounded by people who keep you sane this could easily go to your head, resulting in feeling better than the rest and behaving accordingly.
A teacher shouldn't behave like a diva.
The importance of trust
Trust is of utmost importance when being in a teacher-student relationship. This goes both ways. As a teacher one should be able to create an atmosphere in which students feel safe enough to put their trust in the teacher. Students must have the feeling that they are taken seriously, that their questions will not result in joking about them and that their personal stuff is not shared with others without their permission. Also, they have to trust that you indeed know what you are teaching them and where you are in that process. As an example: I wanted to join a challenging activity at my gym last week, one I never took any classes for. I asked one of my instructors whether he thought I could finish that activity at all, and he said he was sure I could. Well, I trust this instructor, he knows my routine and knows what I am capable of. I took the class and ended up in the fastest half of the class!
On the other hand, as a teacher you have to trust your students. Trust that they will learn the things they need to learn from you. And as a teacher you have to trust in Magic, if that is what you are teaching (and even not) – it is amazing what can come through you that is directed towards your students' needs.
Teaching is service
As a teacher you are being of service to your students, and your community. And a community can be anything, a school, a gym, a camp. The show is never about the teacher, it is all about the students and creating the best learning possibilities you can for and with them.
And the last thing I want to highlight: once you have become a teacher that does not mean you never have to be a student again! As human beings we are never done with learning, and for teachers remaining a student is mandatory. To study new things expands our capacities even more, makes us aware of our blind spots. What areas can we make even better? How can we keep coming up with new and challenging exercises or deepening practices? What helps to motivate me when I am studying and how can I use that information when trying to motivate my students?
Know your work
I have been lucky, I have come across a great many fantastic teachers. In the craft I had and still have fabulous teachers, and at my local gym I train under the supervision of instructors who have really gotten the points mentioned above. All these teachers are models to me: they motivate, make me explore my boundaries, they don't provide an easy ride, but they always remain respectful to me and my fellow students and enthusiastic about what they are teaching. I deeply honor them and am grateful for their impact on my life and all they have taught me.
One more thought
Oh, and very important: they know what they are doing! This is THE ground rule when teaching: know your stuff! There is nothing that will damage trust more than a teacher who doesn't know what she is talking about, or who doesn't know routines, movements etc etc. That doesn't mean a teacher can never make mistakes, after all, teachers are human too.
Make sure you show up to the job on time and well prepared. And don't let your mood swings (yes, teachers have those as well) influence the job you were hired for! Your moody remarks may have more impact than you are even aware of!
Last April I got fired from my office job. Strange as this may sound, it was actually something I had been wishing for for a while, so, I was reminded to be careful what I wish for.
I had been so unhappy for so long in the company and position I was working for, not to mention with my boss, that I felt nothing but relief and gratitude that I would never have to go back to that place. To quote a dear friend: I felt like I finally got my souls back.
All of a sudden there was time and space to explore what I really want to do in this life. I felt energy coming back to me that had been lost for such a long time, and I was really enjoying my new found freedom.
Shortly after I got fired we went on a family vacation. During this vacation I met several new people and one of the first questions one gets when meeting new people is: 'What do you?'. With 'what' meaning what kind of job you have. So of course I had to tell people that actually, right now, I wasn't doing anything. Job-wise that is.
And one day during this vacation I was walking the dog and caught myself thinking: what kind of value do I have now I don't have a job/career.....I am not really contributing anything. Thanks to years of training I caught this Self sabotaging thought immediately when it came up. I don't even want to think about the kind of negative train of thought I otherwise would have ended up following. Because in an instant I understood what is happening to so many unemployed people I hear saying they feel useless or desperate etc etc.
Sadly enough, these days our core value seems to be measured by, or based on, what we do for our living. Our 'job', as most people would say. Yes, there is a reason why I started this blog with saying I got fired from my office job. I happen to believe that I have more jobs than just that one. I am a mother, a partner, a dog owner, a teacher of the craft, so I can hardly say I had just one job. My 'job' doesn't depend on whether or not I get a pay check. My non-office jobs emerge from my core my essence, who I am, what I care about. I'll admit that sometimes being a dog owner is like job, for instance when it's raining cats and dogs. My dog still has to go out and I don't really feel like walking in torrential rains. My commitment to my beloved dog, however, arises from my core.
So, what did my office job have to do with my core? Honestly, not so much! Because for my core I have to dig deeper than just the surface that my jobs provide. Some of these jobs do tell something about the heart of this witch, others are only adding some kind of varnish. Luckily, I have done a lot of digging over the years, so that helped me to avoid the trap the over-culture created in terms of money-earnings jobs and self-worth.
Because that is what is happening. We are all programmed to think that if we don't have a business career we have failed. As if being successful in business is an indicator of how fully we have lived our lives. Sadly enough we live in a world where so many people have forgotten that there is more to life than improving your position on the economic ladder. A world where we measure the value of people by what brings them money; where mothers who choose to stay home to take care of their children are looked at as aberrant. Instead of looking beyond all that and see what someone's core is like. When we are aware of our true core, society can't exercise such influence on us anymore. We know who we really are and what our value is. And what our values are.
What is an indicator of successful living to me then? For me it means leading an honest life. By that I mean, living in proper, clean relations with myself and my core. If I do that I know who I am and what my value is, and I don't need to depend on other people's opinions of who I am, or a job, to boost my self-esteem. Leading an honest life is about knowing yourself, knowing what feeds you in more than just the physical way.
What would this world look like if more people would take the time and effort to explore their core? Would it help us to reach out to someone else's core as well? I certainly think it would, awareness creates understanding. And by having a better understanding of your own core it is easier to look beyond jobs, careers and other surface-level varnishes in other people.
So what do I want to say with all this? Yes, I am preaching to get to know your core and own it! Sit with it, explore it, dare to plunge in the deep well that is your core! Not only will this lead to better understanding of yourself and others, it will also be a huge step towards greater power, and strength. You will find that when you know your core it doesn't matter so much what other people may think or say because you know who you are and what your value is.
May we all shine in beauty and power!
The Astral Temple, like much astral work, can seem pretty nebulous to we embodied humans.
At a recent witch camp I saw a dear former classmate from Thorn Coyle’s 2-year European training. She really wanted to see Thorn in Heidelberg this November, she said – but she found the topic of the Astral Temple to be, frankly, ‘bullshit’.
OK. Now we’ve said the word. And I’ve had to think really hard about my own experiences in the group Astral Temple I visit, and why I might want to build my OWN temple on the astral.