(My previous fifteen adventures into other Realms of Awareness can be read in sequence on their own page, ‘Prelude’ just up there on the header, or you can catch up with individual episodes over to the right in the ‘Topics’ section, under ‘Prelude’)
For those who have journeyed along with me on these adventures you might’ve gleaned an inkling of what is to come. If you’re new to the story, you might want to start at the beginning.
What is about to happen is not for the faint-of-heart, nor the unprepared.
‘I had found the ‘keystone’ … or rather, the keystone had found me.’
After the finale of the previous episode (XV) I spent the next few days, and nights, in a bit of a daze. Whatever that ‘presence’ was, I knew I would have to thoroughly defeat it in order to continue my Adventures. It wasn’t a friendly or blithe spirit, or even a manifestation of Herself as an Elemental Energy. (Earth, Fire, Air, Water) It wasn’t an Ally with a gift, or a tool, or a weapon. It was my Adversary.
Adversarial energy is that which we, sooner or later in this work, must overcome in order to move forward. It is the manifestation of our shadows, the wounds on our Spirit that are as a result of the actions of others, and/or our own actions that have impacted on the wounds of others.
We all have one. (at least) Buried, perhaps deep down within our Selves in that place that is filled with things we never show anyone else, ever, not even ourselves. (unless were pushed to it) Or we carry it before us, either for all and sundry to see and be turned away, or to be held in reserve then slipped from bondage in order to cause as much harm as possible then swiftly resheathed until next time.
The Adversary is the greatest danger we will ever face. Until the confrontation occurs we have no idea, who, or what, or how it will manifest, but once defeated, which is not an easy thing to do nor is success guaranteed, we are never again in thrall to it.
We will however, always carry the scars. How we choose to carry them is also part of the defeat of the Adversary.
I didn’t set off on this Journey as I had all the others, skipping off from the Physical Realm without any clear idea of what I would be doing or where I would be going. This time my steps, at least at the beginning, needed to be deliberate and clear. Once the Journey itself was underway, all bets were off.
I began by sitting in a different physical place, and not with the usual group of women. I was alone. There was no room for error or the unintentional interruption of someone coughing or sneezing or even shuffling around in their seat.
I created an inviolable Sacred Circle warded by the Four Elements, The Four Directions, The Four Guardians. Never had I needed their grounding and protection more. With loins, and other bits, girded, off into the cosmos I went.
I deliberately started my Journey in the Gap Between The Worlds. (the place where, in my very first Journey, I left the silver ball in the branches of the Moreton Bay fig tree) It looked different this time but fulfilled the same purpose. Journeys already begun, were scribed as giant circles that Journeyers had passed through on their way to whatever Realm of Awareness awaited them.
I stood in the middle of one of these Circles and was joined by a Warrior Woman, Malawatea, and yet, not-Malawatea. She was the manifestation of all the Spirit Warrior Women I had and would meet in all my Journeys, past, present, and future. (The restriction of linear, forward-moving time only has meaning in the physical world)
She dressed me in a tough leather tunic, protective leggings, and handed me my spear. Then, suitably garbed and armed, I passed through the Circle to my destination with the Warrior Woman at my side, where I immediately snapped into high alert mode, back-to-back with the Warrior Woman. Great danger lurked here even though the surrounding forest seemed calm and peaceful.
Nothing immediately manifested or attacked so I relaxed, a little. The trees in one direction parted to reveal a path leading up a gentle slope beside a creek that trilled and chuckled to itself as it merrily rolled over tiny pebbles and rocks.
“After you,” the Warrior Woman said with an un-ironic smile. We both understood how this worked.
“You are too kind,” I said with equal courtesy.
As we walked along the path the untamed elemental energy of the Earth was so strong I could almost see it rising off the water like a heat shimmer.
We came to a natural pool in the flow of the creek where the knee-deep water drifted lazily over a cracked and crumbling seam of ancient basalt.
The shimmering Earth energy focused in the center of the pool, marking it as a doorway, a Portal into another Realm. I thought it a bit odd that I could see through the shimmer to the opposite bank where the path rose up from the water as though the Portal didn’t exist. In my, admittedly limited experience, that wasn’t how Portals worked.
With a mental shrug I waded into the water and through the shimmer. I dashed a quick look over my shoulder where the bank looked exactly as I left it. Also odd.
The bank I was now facing however, had changed significantly. An open mouth of a cave gaped where the path had been. The ordinary light of this Realm wasn’t able to cross its threshold. It looked like an impenetrable gash in the fabric of reality.
My conscious mind began to babble. Thoughts of the day, times of my life, anything to distract me from going into that darkness. The Warrior Woman waited patiently while I got my rebellious mind back on track, taking each thought and acknowledging it and putting it firmly away from me.
“My task was to guide you to this place,” she said as she faded from view. “And make sure you were suitably armed.”
Yep, that was how it worked. I thanked her without taking my eyes off that tear in reality, still not quite ready to wade the rest of the way across the pool and enter it.
A discordant smell started to waft around me. It smelled like … I looked down and my heart sank. There was blood in the water.
“So there is,” a gruff voice next to me sadly agreed. “You’d best turn around and face it.” She pulled me back up onto the bank opposite the cave and took my chilled hands in her own enormous paws and introduced herself.
“I am Ursu. The Great Bear.”
Glad to be momentarily distracted from the blood I chuckled, although it came out sounding more like a lament. “Yeah, I kinda figured that.” Her furry brown shoulder was level with the top of my head.
She looked at me very intently. “You cannot falter here.”
So much for distractions. She handed me a shield to partner to my spear. I put my arm through the straps and snugged them tight.
“You will need it.” She wasn’t one to waste words.
“Back to the cave then,” I said, somewhat reluctantly.
Ursu smiled. If you’ve ever been up close and personal with bear fangs you’ll know that her smile was, impressive. “Not to fight,” she said. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Another Ally.”
The more the merrier, I thought, until I peered into the strange darkness that began to writhe as I watched. A cold shiver ran up my spine.
The darkness grew thicker and formed into a long, sinuous shape. A large triangular head and a flaring hood reared up as though sloughing off the residual darkness and a pair of emerald-ringed, jet-black eyes stared across the stream at me.
I turned to my bear companion. “An Ally?”
“Come,” she said and plunged across the stream. I followed like an errant leaf caught in her wake.
I’d lost count, but this had to be at least the third time I’d passed through the shimmering Portal. I was beginning to feel a little dizzy. Ursu helped me up onto the bank with one arm and gestured to the really, really big, black snake with the other.
“This is Naja,” she said. “A cobra.” It was obvious she wanted to avoid any insult that might’ve come out of my unmindful mouth.
I nodded to the sn … cobra, and she nodded back, blinking slowly and looking me up and down, taking in the spear and shield.
“Good,” Naja said quietly without even a hint of a hiss. “Now we fight.”
Ursu nudged my shoulder. “Turn around again.”
“Again?” I closed my mouth before either of them saw. I’d been turning around all this time without even noticing it. But, could I do it again, this time consciously?
Of course I could.
Only this time the stream and its banks had shifted to one side and I stood at the edge of a small grass covered dell. On the far side of the little clearing was my Enemy. A shadowy form, male, human, covered from head to foot in a foul-smelling slime.
With Ursu on my left and Naja on my right I stepped forward into the glade, as did he.
The slime pooled at his feet as he moved and I saw that he had a wolf skull and pelt, still wet and steaming from its brutal slaughter, covering his face and shoulders. He was a little man, thoroughly and utterly unredeemable. Just being this close to him made my gorge rise in an acid lump. The miasma of corruption clung to him like a shroud.
The cobra, the bear, and I, waited until he drew a short staff, knotted and gnarled with stolen power, out from under the wolf-skin and swung it at me.
I raised my shield and easily deflected the feeble blow. Then it was my turn. I ripped the clubbed staff from his hands and flung it in the stream. It was no match for the puissance of the water and dissolved into nothingness.
He clawed at my shield but the few marks he managed to make I healed with a flick of my will before he could blight it any further. I grew suddenly suspicious. This was too easy.
Just then my awareness shifted and I was outside of my Self, high up and to the left of the conflict. I saw a woman with a shield and a spear. I saw a bear to her left, and a snake to her right. But where was the Enemy?
My heart thudded in the back of my throat. There was only place he could be.
I turned around as a grey mist surrounded me. Ursu and Naja appeared at my side and the mist parted a little to reveal black rain-drenched rocks, topped by a tower built of dark and ragged stone. Here and there protrusions of fungus erupted like some obscene act that could no longer be contained behind the stone veneer.
The three of us swiftly traversed the bleak landscape and reached the door to the tower, a monstrous thing of decaying wood, bound with straps of rusted iron, and barred shut with huge bolts. Ursu dug her claws into it and with a disdainful flick of her wrist wrenched it apart.
Before I could move Naja ducked in front of me and rose up with her hood spread wide, ready to strike a killing blow.
“Wait here!” she commanded, and disappeared into the opening. Ursu and I exchanged glances, yeah, right, no way were we going to let her go in there alone.
As we passed the threshold I heard shrieking and thumping as though a great struggle was taking place, then, silence. I looked down and saw a glistening fluid trickle out of the gloom.
A great wail rose up from my throat so loaded with pain I thought it would sear my vocal cords forever.
Ursu roared, a sound to match my pain and made to go in but I held her back. I wasn’t going to lose another Ally. I walked through the shattered opening with Ursu by my side, following the trail of blood.
My feet made no sound on the loose earth. It had a fresh turned fragrance to it that lifted my spirits until I sensed the sweetish iron-tainted taint of spilled blood mixed in with it. This was how he corrupted all things innocent, all things of the Mother. The trail of blood spiraled into a shallow depression in the middle of the space, and there I found my magnificent cobra.
He had taken her dismembered head and stuck it on top of a pike wedged upright among a hastily assembled pile of stones. The Earth having refused to condone such an obscene violation.
I looked up into Naja’s eyes, bereft of life, and I felt a rage build in me, strong enough to destroy worlds, potent enough to enact an armeggedon that would have no equal. I pulled Ursu’s willing spirit into me, joined her rage with mine, her strength with mine.
But first we had a duty to the dead.
I placed my spear on a clean patch of earth then, unclenching my fists with a shake to stop them trembling, I reached up, and as gently as I could, removed Naja’s head from the gore-streaked charnel-pike. I knelt down and laid her next to the spear. It would be her protector now. They both flowed into the earth until nothing of them remained above ground.
I stayed there for a moment, then slowly got to my feet and pulled the pike out from the pile of rocks. Naja’s blood quickly dried on my palms giving me a firm grip on the wood. Even in death she was still with me.
I turned quickly and silently. I knew who it was standing behind me, as if to ambush me, catch me unawares, as he did when I was a child. I swung the pike around in a wide deadly arc like an axe and cut off his head.
His corpse collapsed on the ground.
His head rolled in the dirt.
I walked up to that lifeless thing and gently lifted the poor wolf’s pelt, until I could see his face. What he did to me, to his daughters, to the women and girls I knew as a child, and my rage and shame and anger and fear, almost gagged me, but finally after all the years of silence, I found my Voice. I spoke with a strength and power that started the stone walls crumbling all around me.
“This vile excrescence is the monster who molested me as a child!”
The Bear within screamed, thirsting for vengeance. “TEAR HIS HEART OUT!”
I agreed. He deserved no better.
I punched the pike through bone and muscle and severed the heart from the body, then turned, effortlessly, and walked away as the tower crumbled to dust.
The forest reclaimed the hate-blasted land and healed the aching wounds with its rampant life. The stream offered water to the new growth, and soon only a single patch of bare earth remained. I planted the heart deep within that little plot of land and sat on the soft green grass beside it.
With a huffing sound, Ursu plopped herself behind me and wrapped her giant arms around me as I cried. As I sobbed. As I moaned and wailed and grieved. For all that had been taken from me and for all that I had reclaimed.
She held me in her arms until I had cried my Self clean, then handed me a handkerchief.
“I always carry a spare,” she said with a catch in her voice as she blew her nose on another.
It was a good thing she was sitting behind me because I was so exhausted, so drained that I would’ve fallen over if she hadn’t been. We sat together, waiting, for something, we didn’t know what, but it felt like it might be something good, something hopeful.
The patch of earth shimmered and broke open and out from that tear in reality Naja rose, alive and whole. She had a scar around her neck. A scar she would always carry with honor, for me, for all the women.
From the time I was of an age to understand that the man who was always looming over me, stalking me, was out to hurt me, I’d woven an impenetrable web of Silence about me. The kind of silence children impose on themselves when there is no explanation for the horrors adults inflict on them.
The truth of the matter is that we are never very far away from whatever abyss swallowed us up when we were children. I’ve walked the edge of my ‘Silence abyss’ a few times in my life since I was a child and will walk it a few more before I die and head off to the next great adventure. Because, as any Walker of a Spiritual Path knows, even if the battle is fought but once, the remembering and the scars and our human ability to trip over our feet, are very real and constant companions. However, walking the edge is far different than falling.
Some years later I was retelling this story at a Retreat I was Teaching and someone asked me why didn’t I forgive my abuser rather than having to do battle and carry that wound with me all this time.
I answered thusly: A – it wasn’t my job to forgive him, it was my job (as a shaman) to overcome my Adversary, and then to transform the energy released at his death into something useful, either in that Realm, or this, or both … and… B – by his actions over many years, he had not earned forgiveness. He had a wife and two daughters and every woman and girl child in our valley, including them, had been exposed to his corruption in one way or another … and… C – forgiveness serves no purpose, either here or in the Spirit Realms. It is a construct aimed at controlling the rage of the abuse survivor more than anything else, so those around her/him feel less uncomfortable with the truth about the choices human beings are capable of … and … D – I did not carry the wound any further that this Journey. I carried the scar, which is a completely different kettle of kittens.
I recently had an email exchange with a woman who was debating with herself about whether to out her abusers (who were well known within her particular profession) or not, because they were in ‘ill health’ and ‘what good would it do?’ (her words) I shared my thoughts on the matter and never heard from her again. I hope she made a decision that honoured her Self.
Speaking out is about healing our Selves, in whatever way, whatever Path, we choose.