Spring Cleaning

imageI can always feel my heart lift slightly when February comes to an end because I know then that the sun has more strength, the days are growing steadily longer and the cold weather, even if it has one, or two final encores, will soon lose its grip.

I am really not a winter person, I don’t enjoy the cold but if I am allowing myself to fully align with the seasons, I should learn to how to really appreciate that we need this time, knowing that seeds are being sown and germination is taking place deep within my being as it is within the earth.

So here I am at the start of February, not at the end no matter how much I might wish it could be so, and I fully intend to embrace this time of the year even though I may find it goes against all I would wish for.

A few years ago I discovered that Februarius was the original Roman name for February and that it was named after the Latin Februum meaning Purification. I also learnt that every year on 15th February, the night of the full moon in the old Roman Lunar calendar, a Purification ceremony known as Februa was held. February is also where we find the period known in the pagan wheel of the year as Imbolc which may have got its name from the old Irish Imb-tholc meaning to wash or cleanse oneself in a ritual cleansing. This may also of course be where our idea of Spring Cleaning came from. These discoveries gave me a way to approach the month that for me anyway, gives it a real purpose and helps me to both connect with it and appreciate it more fully.

So for me, using the month of February as a time of cleansing and purification makes complete sense and by doing so I know I am really preparing myself for the months ahead. In this way I am preparing the ground for the seeds of whatever I want to bring in during the year ahead. I have been doing this for the last few years but each year it takes a different form. This year I am much more drawn to a physical cleanse than I am to an energetic one which is what I would have been doing during previous years.

Now I’m not about to do as the Romans did and make the whole month a time of cleansing and purification, nor am I about to spring clean my whole house but I can think of a few places in the house and my healing room where I know I am holding onto books, papers and notes that I can’t ever imagine needing again, so probably this is a good place to start. I can already imagine a bit of recycling, a lot of re homing and of course some ritual burning to be going on with as well as the cleansing of the space that follows. It’s always nice to get guidance on the best way to do something like this though so I journeyed to gain insight into the most appropriate way for me this particular February.

I am sitting by a fire with my two teacher guides, around us the earth is covered in snow but despite this tiny snowdrops are in bloom, clusters of them, heads up looking cheerful against the cold snow. The fire is burning brightly and warming the ground around us creating a circle of heat, we are all wrapped up in blankets and I am told that even though I am looking to cleanse and purify I have no need to strip off and roll in the snow, I also need to keep warm and there is nothing wrong with this which I am delighted to hear. As we sit there I become aware of the sound of a horse and carriage and shortly one draws up nearby, a box is offloaded and handed to me. As I open it I see it is full of things that belong to me, photographs, notebooks, papers, files and so on. As I begin to take things out I am told to sort it carefully that it is important not to throw everything away. I begin to sort it into piles. One is of photographs; of me, my family and of my ancestors, some of whom are unknown to me. The next is of my notebooks, my journals, things that are important for they represent my journey here. The final pile is everything else and it is this pile I know I can release and recycle. I carefully pack up the things I am keeping, tying them up in small bundles with coloured ribbons. These I place back in the box and on the box I write the word Memories. I am handed herbs, pine and lemon grass and I place these in the fire breathing in the delicious cleansing fragrance as they begin to burn. I am then told to place the remaining pile on the fire, all the things I wish to clear out, but to do it one piece at a time so that I spend time with what I am giving away. I am told that it is important to do this with clear intention so I am fully aware of what I am doing as I cleanse and purify my life at this time.

As with all journeys everything here is symbolic and it is up to me to make sense of it, to interpret, not at face value only but to make sure that any deeper meaning is brought to light. Although this journey was for me I undertook it whilst writing this blog and so I am sharing it here as it may resonate with some of you reading this. If so then please put yourself in the place of the one cleansing and purifying, preparing the ground and feel free to interpret in a way that makes sense to you.

Monday Musings – Altars

imageThe only thing an altar should be is a special place to you, other than that it can be anything and be anywhere e.g. in the house, in a special room, on a shelf, in a window, on the floor, or even outside in nature. It can change whenever it needs to change such as over time as you change, with the seasons or with each turn of the wheel of the year. It can be a place where you go to connect with something e.g. spirits, the divine, with your ancestors, or with yourself. It can be a place where you worship or simply a place you like to visit.

The photo on here is of my own altar. It is basically the top shelf of a bookcase in my healing room. Despite having a Cambodian Buddha on it, my altar is not somewhere that I go to worship for I do not worship gods, goddesses or any spirit come to that. My altar is a place where I keep some of the things that are important to me and this includes some of the tools whose spirits I work with. All of the items there are present because their energy makes a positive contribution in some way.

The Buddha is on my altar simply because I like its energy and the peace it brings me when I look at it. The Buddhist prayer wheel is from Nepal which brings back memories, also I love the idea that inside it is the Buddhist peace prayer and that every spin of the wheel sends out the prayer 10,000 times to the world. Tucked in between the prayer wheel and the Buddha is a Reiki crystal which was a present from one of my students. The shape and energy of the crystal remind me of the purity of the energy of Reiki and the gift of being able to work with it and pass it on to others. The key on the blue ribbon was also a present. On it is inscribed that it is a journeying key and this reflects another very important area of my life, that of shamanism.

At the back are two fetishes from the witch’s market in Peru, a sun which, along with the small candle, represents the element Fire and the Condor which came from a witch who told me it was for a traveller. It also balances the energy of Eagle which is here in the small bundle of eagle feathers at the front right. I have other feathers there too, the large feather is from Condor and was another gift. Its spirit works with me in many ways including realigning, clearing and smoothing the energy field. There are other feathers here but the remaining feather that can be clearly seen is Owl. This was a gift at a time of initiation and its spirit now works with me usually at times of initiation of others. Feathers also represent the element Air whereas the various stones that can be seen on my altar represent the energy of Earth. I know how important it is for me to have balance in the energy of elements so also on my altar is, but perhaps not visible here, a shell which represents the element Water.

There are other items on my altar but I am sure that by now you get the idea. Sometimes I add to my altar, sometimes I take away. The cloth and colour of cloth changes often but there is no regular pattern to the changes. Some items are always there, some shift in and out depending on what I need. I always check the energy of the placing of things on my altar and while it may not always look amazing, the energy of it is always perfect for me and the space it is in.

One thing I hadn’t realised until I was writing this is how many of the items on my altar have been gifted to me. This does not have to be so but is how it is for me, at the moment anyway.

There are no rules about altars, no right or wrong, so creating an altar is always a very personal activity and reflects the person who has created it, their energy, their beliefs and what is important to them.

 

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Monday Musings – Resolutions

imageI have quite honestly never made a resolution in my life until this year when, as part of my publisher’s blog we were all asked to write some. My main one was to spend less time on Facebook and more time working on writing something other than my blog. I’m not sure how this will pan out as I enjoy writing my blog, usually in the morning over coffee, whereas I really have to make time and space to write anything else.

So in order to write more, then Facebook needs to take a back seat, which is hard as that is where I do most of my networking which is important for my work of course. As I write on my iPad I always have access to the Internet so I think if this is to work then I am going to be need to be much more determined and self controlled.

So why is it that I don’t make resolutions?

It’s because the less I plan or try and control it the better my life pans out. In the past I have tried to control what is happening and have got myself into more and more of a mess by doing so. Neither do I set myself goals or targets preferring to go with the flow, being aware of the signs and messages I am being given, listening to my guides and trusting that everything will work out as it should. If I fight against the energy of where I am being taken then that is where I really do have problems.

I do though believe strongly that nothing new can come in unless we make space for it and so throughout the year I hold fire ceremonies whenever it feels that one is needed. Here I usually write down on paper whatever it is that is no longer serving me and then burn it, thus releasing it to the energy that is Fire. At others I energetically tie what I wish to release into string and then offer that to Fire. From time to time I may also hold a Despacho ceremony, making a Despacho or prayer bundle to honour the spirits and also to release whatever I wish to. Although Despachos can be buried and given to the Earth, once again I usually use Fire if I am releasing.

Sometimes I am clear about what it is that needs to be released, at others I will do a shamanic journey to work with my allies and so gain insight into what is holding me back. I may also sit and talk with my guides to see what advice I am being given or even look back through my journal to see what patterns are there that can inform me.

So no resolutions, goals or targets, but lots of releasing to make space and then being aware so that I know where my path is taking me.

image The Pagan Experience

Creative Fire vs Wild Fire

imageI have always known that fire can both feed and destroy but until recently had only ever had first hand experience of fire as a force that is creative. The last couple of weeks though I have seen the other side, the wild destructive, all consuming side of fire. It’s been a hard lesson for me but one that I believe will stay with me for a very long time.

The first thing I should explain is that there is a lot of fire in my energy anyway, usually balanced and dampened nicely by earth which is my predominant energy. I work with fire all the time, I love having fire around my room when I am healing, I use fire to release things I no longer feel are serving me, I sit close to fire, dream into the flames, always have fire present when performing ritual or ceremony and it has never failed to fulfilled its role as creative fire for me.

I am at present training as a Bard with the OBOD and have so far spent time working with earth, water and air. The week before last I was ready to begin working with fire, something I was really looking forward to. As part of the training each element is begun with a ritual that helps me to connect with whichever element I am to be working with. The ritual went well and I was very comfortable with it all until at the end as I was meditating on the fire within my fire bowl. The energy of fire ran along the ground, into my body and my energy field and for a few moments I actually became fire.

As I stood up after the ritual my abdomen felt uncomfortable and within hours I had cystitis. My pharmacist when dispensing my medicine blamed it on ……too much heat.

The following week I spent two days passing on the Munay Ki rites to a student. These are given and received as seeds that are then fed with….fire! Probably not the most sensible thing to have been doing but it’s hard to reschedule work sometimes.

Since then fire has continued to blaze inside me bringing some things to light that might otherwise have been hidden but also continuing to create problems for me as I have been completely out of balance.

I have been working hard with the elements of water and earth, especially water, to try and calm down the fire raging through my being. I have avoided any contact with fire, the energy of fire and also direct sun wherever possible. Gradually things are now settling down but I know I’m still not quite there yet.

August 1st was Lughnasadh, chance to hold a ceremony to mark the cross quarter fire festival, the turning of the wheel and to call down the God of Light and Fire. I gave this a miss, finding instead other ways to mark the point in time and recognise its significance for me and my life.

An Ovate in the OBOD that I was ‘chatting’ to online, explained my recent experience as being like the difference in the Norse tales between Loki and Utgard-Loki or creative fire and wild fire; wild fire is so ravenous it will eat everything and even consume itself.

I hope that the fire in me is now almost under control. I am being patient before I continue my work with the element for although I love fire I have discovered first hand, the dangers, the risks involved and even though I need its energy to feed the seeds I am sowing in my life now I really do not wish to be consumed by it.

Snapshot of My Life

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I’ve been thinking that some of you might like an insight into what a week for me is like after all my life can be more than a little varied as I don’t have a normal 9-5 job.

Looking back through the diary for the last week this is what my week was like…..

Saturday:
I began the day with a Fire Ritual as part of my Bard training with the Order of the Bards, Ovids and Druids. This meant setting up my fire pit, opening a circle and then fully connecting with the element Fire. I can’t say any more than this or I’d have to kill you 🙂 The day then continued with me working on a client who is recovering from a stroke. The real delight of seeing her face as her hand which had been stone cold began to warm up was a real pleasure.

Sunday:
Day off 🙂 Reading the Sunday papers, hanging out, normal stuff really

Monday:
Shopping as I needed to get in food for a course over the next two days. Decisions, decisions about how much to get, what people might want to eat and how long it will keep if we don’t get through it all. Then it was home to prepare my healing space for the next two days.

Tuesday:
Day one of passing on the nine rites of the Munay Ki. I so love giving these and seeing how things open up for those I am working with. Today was the four Foundation Rites; the Healer’s Rite, Bands of Power, Harmony Rite and Seer’s Rite.

Wednesday:
Day two of the Munay Ki. Today it’s the turn of the five Lineage Rites; Daykeeper’s Rite, Wisdom Keeper’s Rite, Earthkeeper’s Rite, Starkeepers Rite and the Creator’s Rite. So much fire around over the two days as the seeds of each rite are fed with fire. It all fits in beautifully with my beginning to work with Fire for the Bardic work too.

The beauty of passing on the rites is that I also get to receive them as being able to pass them on once students have worked with the archetypes of the Harmony Rite is a big part of receiving them. Every time I receive them it deepens my connection with them and the way I work with them in my life.

Thursday:
I took today off from clients to do a bit of catching up with paper work, a little housework and time for my own studies where I continued working with the current Gwers of my Bard training.

Friday:
I am a member of our local art group which is on it’s summer holidays at the moment but one of our members organised a painting day at her house. This really meant we met up, chatted for a good hour or so, had lunch, chatted a bit more, a few people decided to do little drawing but a few of us didn’t get round to it.

Saturday:
To keep developing my art work, now and again I will do a distance learning course. This year it is in colour pencil work and I have been putting off starting it but our art day yesterday seemed to have inspired me for today I began to work on the first set of exercises. My day was interrupted though, first of all by the baby rabbit that got spooked by my husband and ran into our conservatory looking for sanctuary, then the Irish Stoat that entertained us by running around outside, including on the ledge around the conservatory and finally by the larger rabbit that was hopping around outside the front of the conservatory.

So that was my week 🙂 and looking at the diary for this coming week I have clients for past life regression and shamanic healing booked in and I have a distance reading to do. It’s also our wedding anniversary which means a meal out somewhere lovely and as it’s Lughnasa on the 1st August Friday will see me holding a solitary ceremony.

No week is ever the same and it’s this variety that I really enjoy. I really do love my life.

Pagan Blog Project – Fire

imageFire is my favourite element to work with. It’s the one I feel drawn to most, closest to in many ways and the one I always go to first when I need to release, clear or transform anything.

As a shamanic healer, fire is also very important in my work I am not sure I could manage without it. When I am working I always light candles around my room knowing that they will combine with everything else I do to form a layer of protection around me. I am especially careful to place them in corners and the darker areas of my workspace so the fire surrounds me.

Without fire I would not be able to work with sage as fire is necessary to light the bundles. The smoke from the sage is then used to clear energy and space.

Fire is always part of any ritual or ceremony that I do, be it on my own or with others. This may be as simple as having a candle lit in the centre of the space I am working with or as complex as having a fire pit with fire blazing in the centre of the circle. I am not sure that I have ever held ceremony or carried out ritual without fire being present.

When working with Munay Ki fire is always used to feed the rites and to energise the archetypes in the harmony rite.

When making Despachos, a form of prayer bundle, I often use fire to send the prayers and intentions on to the spirits rather than bury the bundles and work with earth.

When I wish to release something, to let go, in order to make space for something new I use fire to burn the old and transform the energy that has been held there. There is something really empowering about writing down what you need to let go of and then watching it turn to ashes as the fire eats it up. Equally though when I want to bring in something new I use fire to energise whatever it might be, again writing it down and giving it over to the fire but this time using fire as a driving force.

Fire is, in my mind, the most transformative of all the elements and although it needs to be handled with care so that it does not run wild and become destructive it is also remarkably easy and flexible to work with.

I journeyed as I was writing this to ask my helpers for a fire ceremony that could be used in the Spring and this is what I was given to share here:

Collect up twigs, dried leaves and small branches that have fallen over the winter
In a safe place to light a fire use the wood to make a pyramid shape and the leaves as fuel to light the fire but do not light it yet.
Collect up a bundle of twigs and hold them so they form a small brush
Use the brush to clear a circle around your wood pyramid. If you are used to casting a circle as part of your practice, begin in the East and cast your circle as you brush.
As you brush hold the intention to create sacred clear space in which to work.
When you have brushed your circle move to sit facing East, direction of Spring and new beginnings.
Call in the energy of the East, in your own way, asking it to work with Fire in the space you have created.
Light your fire using your breath to help bring it to life.
Once your fire is lit, again working with your breath, speak your intentions into the fire. Ask for whatever you wish to bring in to be energised by fire.
Visualise your intentions coming to life as fire carries them, bringing energy to them as it does so.
When you are finished wait until the fire burns away to ash and is safe to leave. While you are waiting you could continue to visualise your intentions becoming reality.
When the fire is no more and has finished its work thank the element of fire for working with you.
If you have cast a circle then make sure you close it before you leave.

Pagan Blog Project – Cleansing

Extracted from Shaman Corner Blog Post – Moon Books Blog

February was originally named after the Latin februum, which means Purification which is another name for cleansing. Purification or cleansing rituals called Februa were always held on February 15th which in the old lunar calendar was full moon.

The idea of February being a month of purification, a time where we can cleanse ourselves, purify our body, mind and spirit before moving into the new energy and new beginnings that come with Spring seems to fit.

I often use fire ceremony at other times of the year to cleanse and transform, to let go of the old and to make way for the new. I have many different ways of doing this, but as this is a new way of thinking about February for me, I decided to journey to ask my guides for a fire ritual that could be used at this time of year for the purpose of purification. I was given a lovely ritual but to my surprise it was one that used all four elements and not just fire.

As I stepped into my journey I noticed I was dressed in white and wearing a headdress of willow. Within a shamanic journey everything is symbolic so I have interpreted the white dress as representing the holding of the intention to be purified and the willow headdress as needing to be flexible with the ritual. In my journey I made use of a stream, river stones, fallen leaves and soil and as I know I wont always have these to hand, I have been flexible and have adapted the ritual so it may be used more easily.

February Purification Ritual

  • Holding the intention to be purified, shower or bathe until you feel that your physical body has been completely cleansed. Allow the water to away anything that you are able to release.
  • Continue to hold the intention to be purified
  • Take river stones, smooth pebbles from the beach or smooth stones from the garden and build a base for your fire.
  • On top of the stones build a small fire using wood you have gathered if possible.
  • Light the fire.
  • If indoors, a base could be made of small stones or crystals and a candle or night light set on top of them to represent fire.
  • Collect leaves that have fallen from the trees and which have been lying underneath them.
  • Drop handfuls of leaves onto the fire so that they create smoke.
  • Indoors bundles of dried herbs such as sage, sweetgrass, lavender or rosemary, which are good for cleansing could be used to create smoke. These could also be added to the fire outdoors too of course.
  • When there is enough smoke step into it so that it can cleanse the energy body.
  • As air moves the smoke follow its movements, turning, twisting, dancing until the smoke has permeated every part of the energy body.
  • If indoors then hands or a feather can be used to brush the smoke through the whole of the energy body.
  • When the energy body feels completely purified pick up a handful of earth and sprinkle it over the fire to douse the smoke. Make sure the fire is completely out.
  • If indoors earth or sand can be used in the same way.
  • Finish by thanking everything that has been used in the ritual for helping with the purification.

This ritual could be used at any time of the month but perhaps the full moon, which is always a good time for letting go, would add extra energy to the ritual

Spring……or not

Spring …….or not

I’m sitting writing this shortly after Imbolc. The wind has been howling, seas are wild, tides high and villages, towns and cities are under water. This morning our power went off and we were literally left in the dark.

Imbolc in the Celtic tradition is when we see the first signs of spring and in Ireland it is still taught in schools that February 1st is the first day of spring, although the term Imbolc is unlikely to be used. Many is the year though that the weather has had other ideas, although none as bad as this one.

Having lived most of my life in England where 1st March is more likely to be considered the first day of Spring, with it being the start of the three Spring months, March, April, May, the annual disappointment that February brings rain, winds and very occasionally here, snow, has taken some getting used to.

So why then is this belief so out of line with the seasons and the Gregorian calendar?

Imbolc marks what is in the Celtic calendar a cross quarter day, a fire festival and the time that the crone gives up the icy grip she has on nature to make way for the maiden. Traditionally it falls mid way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox although nowadays it usually settles around the 1st or 2nd February.

The pagan goddess associated with Imbolc is Brigid, the Celtic fire goddess but when Christianity reached these shores she was appropriated by the church and her mantle passed to St Brigid, born in Co. Louth, who founded a monastery in Kildare and lived out her days there. Imbolc was then renamed as St Brigid’s Day.

A St Bigid’s Cross has since become a well known symbol of Ireland. It is made from a specific type of rush and the making of it is still taught today. Many homes especially in rural areas would have a St Brigid’s cross hanging in them to protect from fire. When I first came to live in Ireland I was taught how to make one and told that I should make a fresh one each year to hang in the rafters of my house, that way it would be sure never to burn down. I still have a St Brigid’s cross hanging in my home.

So where am I in all of this, brought up with the Gregorian calendar but living with the Celtic?

I’m caught in the middle and like many hedge my bets. I celebrate Imbolc by sowing the seeds of what I wish to grow in the coming year, working with fire and water to assist me. This year standing out in the garden with a gale blowing around me I also called upon the element of air. But I find it very hard to ever think of this as Spring.

For me this is the time when the earth begins to wake up, stirring occurs and yes the crone loosens her icy grip although she often doesn’t entirely loose it. I like to think of the maiden as a seed being sown under the mantle of winter with all the protective covering that winter brings, a bit like the seeds I have just sown. I see her cosy there, protected, warm and safe, given time and nourishment by the earth so that when March comes she really is ready to step forth and become Spring.