Episodes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX … all in one place …
2018 decided to show me who’s boss … first we had another ice storm, thankfully not as severe as the last one, the power only went out for a couple of hours and no more branches were lost from the Winter Tree, or trees in our neighbourhood. There has been unfortunately, a tremendous amount of branch trimming and tree lopping as people began to clean up the storm damage. And … I’m now recovering from five migraines in six days. Not just your planet-buster migraines, these were galaxy-busters. Thank you 2018!
On with the post I was going to write before the above mentioned galactic destruction was let loose inside my cranium.
Ever notice how things come in waves?…
… you find that pair of wrist braces in a backpack that hasn’t been used for years …
… that jar that fell behind the fridge (that you couldn’t be bothered to move the fridge out to get) suddenly appears on top of the dishwasher …
… and a sock finally reappears out of the washing machine of life, that’s been M.I.A. since midsummer …
… All within the space of 24 hours?
I call it Murphy’s Law of Attraction, (a variation of the original which says that anything that CAN happen WILL happen) which goes something like this: If one thing decides to screw with you then many things will decide to screw with you in order to keep it company and ruin your day/week/month/year …
… which is apropos of nothing to do with this post, apart from having been asked by a few people of late, both online and off, about that one little phrase in my ‘About Me’ page, that goes like this, ‘… I’m a shaman…’
It all began a few decades ago… in a Galaxy Far, Fa … erm … in a country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean
I was running late. (still do, and with monotonous regularity) I missed my bus connection and speed-walked for six blocks, thankfully most of them downhill, and found the room in the building where I needed to be. All the other women in the room were seated and, apart making quiet eye contact with whomsoever they knew, seemed to be firmly in this physical reality.
My embarrassment that I might be too late and interrupt all sorts of otherworldly goings-ons vanished. I sat down on the only empty chair left and prepared to embark upon the unknowable. I breathed a few deep breaths and closed my eyes. The lights dimmed and my first Journey began.
(I’m not going to go into the mechanics of shifting into a trance state. There are so many different styles and the experience is ultimately unique to each person.)
I was sitting inside my head, metaphorically twiddling my thumbs and wondering if anything out of the ordinary would happen at all, when betwixt one moment and the next, my sense of what was real expanded beyond any understanding I had a context for and catapulted me into somewhere else where anything, quite literally anything, could happen.
My body, from my neck to my thighs stretched and grew longer, like I was made of rubber. I could have reached up and touched the ceiling above me without any effort at all. I had never experienced a physical sensation like this ever before, but for some strange reason I wasn’t scared. Disconcerted? Certainly. Who wouldn’t be? But not scared. My fear had been suspended by something, someone perhaps, for unknown reasons, so, because I didn’t have any other experiences to judge it against, I simply accepted the phenomenon as something that was supposed to happen in a meditative state.
My awareness of the strange physical sensations in my body evaporated and I was … elsewhere.
If all the realms beyond this mortal physical one were like marbles in a bag, I had manifested somewhere in the spaces between the marbles. Out of the nothingness of this Gap Between the Worlds, roots swirled into being in front of me like gnarled fingers and flowed smoothly into the trunk of a tree. Magnificent branches spread out from the trunk into a massive umbrella of grey-green branches. It was a huge Moreton Bay fig tree.
I reached out and gently brushed my fingers along the bark. Its roughness caressed the edges of my fingertips. Awe took my breath away as realized I was in the presence of such a potent physical response in another realm of Awareness, while I was also sitting in an ordinary room with my eyes closed, and yet, this felt right, like I had been waiting all my life for it to happen.
A retrospective digression . . .
Small country towns and rural backwoods often produce offspring with itchy feet and restless minds. This Journey of mine started in a tin shack on the bank of a creek in the harsh untidy Australian bush.
All through my childhood and young adulthood life I lived through a variety of mundane and oh-so not-so mundane abuses. As I grew through the first decade of my life, and became aware of the wild bushland that was my backyard, I sensed a deep awareness of something that seemed to be sleeping, waiting for me to grow to adulthood when I would be able to understand it. In my childish innocence I simply felt ‘safe’ out there. There wasn’t much in my childhood world indoors that was safe, and I escaped outside to the bush as often as I could.
I never really liked school. I always wanted to know the layers of ‘why’, about everything, and to see beyond the horizon, and all that going to school did was to keep my nose firmly buried in books of rote material, and exams. So, I left school as soon as I was legally able to, (14) and got a job. Not a very fancy one mind you, but I earned enough to live, just. I lost that job and found another. I learned how to survive. I lied about my age and got a better job with better pay.
All the time, searching for that next horizon.
The townships around where I grew up were quite famous for their early colonial architecture, particularly the churches. In my teens I began investigating these monolithic sandstone manifestations of religion to see if they could answer my rebelliously agonizing questions of Life, Sexuality, the Universe, and Everything.
I found them all wanting. I never believed their story. For awhile though, in a sort of a spiritual desperation, seeing as it was the only form of spirituality around me at the time, I tried to believe their dogma, but I rebelled at the blatant separatism (among many, many ‘isms’), that each belief system or creed taught. (I had the ridiculous experience of one of these religions offering to ‘cure’ me because I was a lesbian)
I didn’t fit their model and they certainly didn’t fit me.
In spite of a childhood of adult imposed terrors, the agonies of adolescence where I knew I was different and fearing I was the only one in the whole wide world, and the longings of young adulthood, I knew beyond any doubt that there was something waiting for me out there. Something that was magical and wonderful, and once I found it I would never be the same, ever again. Until I found it, or it found me, I was content to just drift along the line of my life, trying all sorts of new experiences. Experimenting with love and lust, consciousness altering substances, political movements, and the philosophical paradoxes of the adult world.
All that changed the day I discovered a sport that set my heart on fire! I felt like I KNEW what I was waiting for at last. I mapped out my path with a dedication and self-discipline that brought a tear to the eye of the most cynical of my friends at the time. I planned to progress through the amateur rankings, then play professionally, and then become the best in the world. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was my destiny. I declared my every, well almost every, waking moment to that goal.
(The trophies from that era are long gone, but I still have the memories safely tucked away, to be taken out now and then and looked upon fondly)
I was in my early twenties and I rode a motorbike. It was cheap to run, because I couldn’t afford the luxury of a car when every cent I earned seemed to disappear into training for my dream. I felt such freedom, and strangely enough, a sense of safety when I was riding my bike. It seemed that none of the ghosts of my past could ever catch me.
Have you ever gone to a lookout at night that overlooks a city? All those beautiful fairy lights, innocent in the distance. In summer the air carried the scent of flowers and freshly mown grass, and in the winter, wood fires cast lazy tendrils of aromatic smoke through the chilly air.
I would ride out in the early hours of the morning when the country roads were empty of human life but so full of the energy of the night. I traveled along backroads and highways that flowed like rivers of pure moonlight. They wound across endless dark plains, up through mountain clefts, and over high peaks and mountain passes.
Early one night I was idling my way home through a rugged terrain of gorges and steep twisted roads when suddenly all I could see in front of me was the glare of headlights. I was smashed off my motorbike and my dream of athletic stardom ended in a trail of broken bits of plastic and machinery from my bike, and a butchered knee. It was 7.30pm on the 5th of April 1983. As it turned out, a time and date to remember. (but that’s another story for another time 🙂 )
I would never be physically able to ride a motorbike again. (without it being severely modified) My time as a ‘biker’ was done. I never regretted a single moment of my time riding one, and I know for certain that if I had been in a car the night of that accident I surely would have died. The bike allowed me time and the agility to maneuver enough to save my life.
As a treatment for relieving pain in broken bodies, morphine is magnificent. During the 5 weeks and 1 day I was in hospital, Sister Morphine and her less (relatively) intense siblings, numbed my emotional turmoil and physical pain to a level that allowed me time and space to reconcile myself to the undeniable fact that I would always, and only, have one-and-a-half knees.
I remember lying in that hospital bed with my leg swathed in bandages from my ankle to my thigh, knowing that I had come within millimeters of not being alive at all, knowing how bad the damage was, and wondering if I would have a leg to stand on at all. In one simple rush of thought, like the swelling of an unstoppable tide, I relinquished all my dreams, hopes and fantasies. I was back at the beginning of my searching again, almost.
Of course this epiphany happened only at an intellectual level. It took a little longer for this information to percolate through to my other levels of Awareness, and a lot longer for me to accept it. For many years, in my dreams I would always have two good knees. I would wake up and start to get out of bed like I used to, and either hurt myself terribly or catch myself just in the nick of time from falling flat on my face. Either way, getting out of bed was not my favorite activity of the day. To finally appear in my dreams with my damaged knee was, in a strange kind of a way, a relief.
Anyway, back to the hospital. With my emotional responses thus temporarily suspended, I was intellectually able to find some of my answers to the big WHY?
I would never be that world famous athlete, but I would be able to walk upright, eventually, with a limp, and the rest of my body functioned as it should.
I realized I had been given the gift of experiencing the passion of Knowing, of understanding at a very deep level in my Spirit, what being on a Life-path felt like. I just hadn’t picked the right one yet! That seemed simple enough. All I had to do was find out what my path truly was, (fully aware of the irony of the statement) but I KNEW that all I had to do was keep looking. And so I did.
I left the small town behind and moved to Sydney (Australia) and found out lots of things about how to survive in the Big Smoke.
Moving from the country to the city also kick-started my political education as a woman in a capitalist patriarchal society. I got scared, I got angry, I got radical, I got even. I got laid, I got into collectives and consensus, I got into women’s peace camps and anti-nuclear protest rallys. I got into performing, I even got to play guitar in Sydney Town Hall on International Women’s day! I read the worlds of Mary Daly, Kate Millett, Diane Stein, Starhawk, Monica Sjoo, Dale Spender, Vicki Noble, and many, many others. My head spun. I found in those books, and living that life, the answers to so many of my questions, but not all. I’d found my key to what I was supposed to be doing, but where, oh where, was the door?
I was deep in the painful end of a relationship. I had just begun to study at University. Architecture if you please! If there is a more secular bastion of intellectual patriarchal endeavor, I’ve yet to come across it, but for a high-school drop-out simply getting into University was a great achievement. In the midst of these not insignificant events, I heard about a meditation group that I thought might help me find at least some balance in my chaotic life that also might give me some clue as to what and where that door was.
Little did I know, that very first evening, when I found my door, it would swing wide open without hesitation and welcome me into its Mysteries. Although, with hindsight, it felt like it sucked me in, shredded me, and spat me back out, remade and ready to begin again.
… but what happened after the Moreton Bay fig tree, I hear you ask? … Well, that’s for the next chapter.
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… the story so far … Childhood of major suckitude … searching for spiritual meaning … my first encounter with meditation … end up in front of an ancient tree … and away we go …
I took a moment to assess my situation. The Morton Bay fig tree was real and I was really standing next to it.
A large almost weightless ebony ball appeared in my hands.
Surely not a crystal ball, some irreverent part of my mind commented, but as I looked vague shapes shimmered and flared inside it and I knew what they represented.
The remnants of my stress at running late looked like a mini lightning strike. An odd-looking jiggly thing off to one side was the tough week I’d had at work. Another shape was my University workload. Another one was my relationship, it wasn’t going well. My health, finances, all the aspects of my everyday life captured in miniature.
The tree was a kind of way-station on my Journey between the physical world and whatever lay ahead. I couldn’t take all my mental dross with me, so this was the perfect place to leave it, to be collected on my way back if I so chose. I gently lodged my ebony ball in a comfortable little nook between two branches, and feeling much lighter, took a deep breath.
My perception shifted and I looked down on a sea of long rolling sand dunes in shades of yellows and browns stretching out in all directions. No trees, grasses, or visible life anywhere. The air around me smelled crisp cold, with a dry bite, not at all what I expected. I glided on soft silent wings across the sky, flying from horizon to endless horizon.
My flight seemed to last forever but eventually the desert ended at the edge of an ocean and plunged abruptly into the green depths beyond the gentle tidal surge. The sea, too, extended in an hypnotic rolling swell as far as I could see.
I landed at the edge of the sand and faced the sea, folded my wings back from whence they came, and waited. Not much else I could do, really.
A wooden rowboat aged by wind and tide gently beached itself. I got in and off we went, across the sea to the opposite shore, which looked exactly the same as the one I’d just left. Sand dunes rising out of the water and then more sand dunes, beyond sand dunes, beyond sand dunes. I left the boat, unfurled my wings and soared onward to my final destination.
An oddly shaped building appeared at the edge of the horizon, becoming larger and larger as I drew close.
By now I was starting to feel, not exactly tired, but edgy, as though the part of me that firmly believed in three dimensions and all the familiarity and safety they entailed, was having a bit of a terse conversation with the part of me that accepted all I was experiencing here, as real too.
I drew closer to the building. Long sweeping planes and cunning tight corners flowed into curves rather than angles and took on a very specific shape. The seven storey high building was a statue of a very elegant looking Siamese cat with her front feet tucked together and her tail draped neatly over the tops of them.
Well, color me gobsmacked! My internal discussion shut down without a whimper.
“Of course it’s a giant Siamese cat,” I said. “What else would it be?” I really hoped I wouldn’t hear an answer because I was starting to feel a little punchy at this point.
As I softly landed in front of the building that towered above me like an overhanging cliff a doorway opened up in one of the giant toes. With a kind of fatalistic acceptance I stepped through. The opening wasn’t very wide, but the scale of the temple was so massive that just one toe left me with ample headroom.
The opening closed behind me without a sound, leaving me in utter darkness. Not just your ordinary darkness either, where you know the sun is out there on the other side of the planet, just out of sight for a while. This was a complete absence of even the concept of light.
My internal voices really had something to discuss now. Mostly about whether I should feel an ordinary garden-variety existential fear, or outright unadulterated imminent-annihilation terror.
I didn’t know which way was up, which way was down. I didn’t know where to go, or what to do next. I had willingly entered a place I had no frame of reference for, that was completely beyond the constraints of any time or measurements of distance that I knew of. Where magic was happening all around me, and dreams, possibly nightmares, came true.
I spent endless moments in that unutterable blackness before I realized I was still standing upright. Therefore, it followed that I had to be standing on something. My rational mind was so pleased to have some sort of reality to hang on to it relinquished its terrified death-grip on my throat and I could breathe again.
Breath meant movement and with movement came light. As I walked, a faint glow bright enough to see by emanated from the walls and faded back into blackness as I passed. The walls themselves were carved in long serrated grooves as though something with very big claws had scratched it out of the bedrock.
My eyes adjusted to the dimness so that when I reached the end of the tunnel, the circular room beyond seemed like it was bathed in brilliant white light. It was a perfect hemisphere nestled between the two front feet of the giant statue. I looked around but the only thing that I could make any sense of at all were a series of deep gashes carved into the walls in a herringbone pattern.
I reached out and touched them, they weren’t rock anymore, they were made out of clay, and I knew they represented a telling of my entire life. My past, present, and my unknown future. In some places the clay was still damp and in others it was so old and dry that I was afraid it would crumble if I even breathed on it. I understood the clay was made out of the blood of the earth, the first Mother of us all.
I knew if I could translate the pattern I would be able to see the course of my life from its beginning to its end, and beyond. The enormity of such knowledge set my hands shaking and I felt cold, ice cold.
A pair of french doors appeared right in the middle of the solid clay wall. They looked as though they’d always been there. Perhaps they had, and I could only see them when I needed to. They led out into a small courtyard, with beautiful green growing things and hidden somewhere just out of sight, the sound of water flowing, like a fountain.
Suddenly I was warm again. I walked through the lush tropical greenery with tears in my eyes.
This potency, this beauty of my ‘interior’ or ‘spirit’ world had always been here and I’d never been unable to access it until now. I laughed and cried. I felt sad for all that I’d missed, and elated for all I might find, all at the same time. I wanted to go further, beyond the garden, beyond the sand dunes, to explore just how far this wondrous paradise extended, to venture into who-knows-how-many other magnificent Realms. I wanted it all in one big hit. I wanted . . . I wanted . . .
A lifetime’s hunger condensed around me into this one impeccable moment. I hurried to the edge of the garden and bumped into something large and immovable. I looked up, and up, and up.
Her name, she said, was Bast. She cocked her head slightly to one side and glared fiercely down her whiskers at me. She held one gigantic, yet perfectly proportioned paw, just above my head, poised to stamp me out of existence.
“I want to fly,” I shouted at her with my arms outflung. “Give me back my wings.”
Bast laughed. Her belly shook with her mirth. “I will catch you and eat you. You will not survive.”
I glanced at a tiny butterfly innocently sipping nectar in the garden, and I thought I might be able to fly out as a very small and insignificant butterfly so no-one or no-thing would notice me, and I’d be OK.
“No,” Bast said. “I will squash you.” Her paw quivered just above my scalp. “You are not ready, and you will not survive.”
She seemed so very sure of herself and, seeing as how she was a whole lot bigger than me, I conceded her the point.
As I returned to the garden, and thence to my physical body, sitting in a chair in a small room in an old suburb of a ocean-side city, exhaustion swept over me like a tidal wave. Moving, standing up, breathing, took all of my energy.
Obviously, there were things I had to learn before I could go exploring any further, so I was content to wait, (at least until the following week) to understand how and what I would need to survive.
I was so excited though. Here was a place, a Realm, that could take me as far as I was wiling to go. I felt invincible.
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Since I posted the first ‘Prelude’ I’ve had a few comments both here and elsewhere about the nature of these meditations, which are quite a bit different from your average meditation, where we are able to calm all the noise in our minds so we can relax, and then, feeling refreshed, we go back to our lives.
This, isn’t that.
I stated previously why I didn’t go into any detail about how I entered into the trance state, but, in the interests of clarity, I’ll expanded a little on how I go about it.
First up, what I didn’t (and don’t) use: Consciousness altering substances … of which there are many, and many Traditions around the world do use them.
I discovered very early on in my adult life, long before I started this Spirit Path, that although ingesting consciousness altering substances, alcohol, marijuana, various opium derivatives, chemicals, and fungi, did indeed alter my perceptions, I never felt like I was ‘getting in touch with the real me’. Instead I felt like I was me-through-rose-colored-glasses.
I sit in a chair rather than laying down so I’m not tempted to fall asleep before the fun bits. Also, falling asleep during this work can be … troublesome. Other realms of existence open and the rabbit holes you can fall into are not for the faint-of-heart. In fact they’re downright dangerous.
I use visualization to relax my body, center my mind, do a bit of ‘housekeeping’ – sending healing energy to any bits of my body (usually my knees) that need it, give the old power centers (‘chakras’ in some Traditions) a bit of a vacuum and polish, and generally make sure what I leave behind, my physical body, is taken care of. (When I’m teaching, this visualization is spoken, or guided, by me, but it’s second nature now because I’ve been doing this for so long so I slip into it without a great deal of effort)
I usually set my destination (one or more of the Realms in that bag of marbles I talked about in Prelude I, of which there are as many as there are motes of star-dust in the universe) and the work I want to do ahead of time, then I head out.
Basically, beyond all the trappings, a Shaman’s work is to Journey into other Realms of Awareness and bring back that which is useful here in this one.
I had a week to think about my first adventure. I felt like I’d traveled through a movie. Who knew it could be this exciting? The sensual technicolor images, exploring unknown places, mythological images becoming manifest. As for Bast’s warning, it lost its impact with each day that passed. Nothing really horrible happened to me the last time. Not really. I was eager for a repeat experience. I wanted it all. To soak it up like a desiccated seed absorbing an ocean. I could hardly wait.
“I don’t know,” came a doubtful whisper.
“Oh, pish-posh,” I replied. “On with the show.”
The old tree flowed into existence in front of me, but my ebony ball was nowhere to be found. I visualized it as hard as I could, to no avail. For a moment I was too stunned to react, a frisson of panic rippled up from the pit of my stomach, but my journey continued to unfold around me, so off I went, ready or not.
I was flying through the star-lit sky at the speed of thought, heading towards the planet Neptune where I was supposed to experience unconditional love. On Neptune? And where I was to meet Venus, the Goddess that is, not the planet.
My throat constricted, and my eyes filed with tears of pain, of loss, of a grief too terrible to comprehend. I was going so fast that the starlight stretched until it looked like time-lapse video of car headlights at night.
Then the space around me began to harden until I couldn’t even move, even to breathe, bound in a coffin of rock, pushing at me, in me, a part of me, becoming me.
My chest caved in and my heart collapsed, crushed by the weight of that terrifying grief. In some strangely separate part of my mind I wondered if all the grief I had ever experienced in my life was somehow coming back to haunt me? Had all the ghosts I tried to outrun on my motorbike finally caught up with me?
Another thought swiftly replaced it. What if this grief isn’t actually mine? What if I had somehow unwittingly tapped into the rivers and oceans of grief that humans have been crying since we began inhabiting this planet? And I wondered, what would the weight of that do to me?
Another part of my brain screamed at me to open my eyes and everything would be normal. The crushing weight would disappear and the waves of grief would recede and return from whence they came, but I couldn’t open them, my physical body was too heavy.
I grew heavier and heavier, still unable to move, bearing it until I broke, until my bones and muscles and organs were crushed to pulp. Until the floor beneath me gave way under the strain. The floorboards splintered under the enormous weight and I fell straight through the floor beneath and down, down into the ground, where I knew, beyond a doubt, I would die.
Then, between one moment and another I was back in the room. It hadn’t collapsed, nor had I been crushed out of existence, but that grief, the unutterable weight of anguish, returned with me. I broke into great heart-wracking sobs, frightened to the depths of my being
Later that night I watched the news on television, as it relayed images of a great tragedy unfurling on the other side of the world, where people were already dying. My breath caught in my throat and I felt as though I were suffocating. I walked to a nearby park near where I lived and stood under the naked stars.
I whispered into the gaping wound inside me that wouldn’t close, “Why is this happening to me?
A voice that was neither inside my head nor somewhere out there beyond the furthest star, perhaps Bast, spoke to me. “So you will learn the First Lesson.” There was so much Power in that sentence I could almost hear the capital letters.
First Lesson. I pondered the words. First Lesson. What the hell did that mean? No-one answered. The words rattled around inside my head keeping me awake for hours.
Eventually, at some point during that sleepless night I figured a couple of things out. If, I chose to continue this work (and at this point it certainly wasn’t a given) I would be expanding my awareness of my surroundings and what constituted my reality, and I needed to be able to discern what was meant for me and what I was picking up from ‘out there’ that wasn’t meant for me. I was essentially bearing witness, nothing more.
Another even bigger ‘if’ was that if these Realms were as real as the physical one I’d inhabited for all my life, as real as the walls of my house, and the trees and asphalt pavement of my street, then perhaps I could’ve quite literally died under that crushing weight.
I’d been given a (relatively) painless glimpse into the true size and potential of the Path I’d innocently stepped upon.
It was a hard decision, but in the end I trusted what I’d learned from my motorbike accident, knowing that I must accept every challenge that came my way. Hard or easy, pleasurable or painful, to willingly go where the Journey took me. To trust that I would be cared for … until I’d learned what I needed to know in order to survive on my own.
I had no idea of what I was actually agreeing to.
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I must admit, after the events of the previous week I approached my third Journey with a small degree of trepidation, and wondering just how vast an undertaking this was all going to be.
In the Gap Between the Worlds a whirlpool of misty vapor came into being in front of my feet. Tiny eddies of energy at the edges swept inexorably around counter-clockwise surging faster and faster toward the center and disappearing down to who-knows-where. I studied it intently, looking for clues as to what this might mean. I was pulled down into it with a force that took my breath away. Before I could gasp my breath back into my lungs, I was standing at a place where the sea meets the sand looking out across gently breaking waves.
Some years prior, Ocean and I had come to a mutually agreed upon covenant which did not include me going swimming in Her, even if it was in another Realm of Awareness.
I glanced behind me. Nothing there. Literally nothing. I sighed, perhaps a little fatalistically, and said to the wavelets, “Well then, I’d just have to go forward, won’t I?”
The wet sand squeaked as I walked into the water. It rose higher and higher around my body and the receding tidal surge pulled the sand out from under my feet. Soon the water lapped at my chin. Panic brought tears to my eyes. I tilted my head back and held my breath, trying to find the strength to trust the choice I made only days ago.
I can do this, I told myself. I can let the water close over the top of my head.
My breath was now stuck somewhere between my lungs and the back of my throat. An unearthly howl of terror rippled across the water. It took me a moment to realize that it was me. I was drowning.
A part of my awareness, far off in the distance asked, “What is it about water that brings this terror up?” But no answer was forthcoming. I had to do a lot more Work before I would be ready to face the answer to that question.
Also, I didn’t drown. Which was a great relief.
The water simply became a substance like air, albeit denser than air, that I could pass through. I took in a few steadying breaths and descended to the ocean floor where a scattering of coral outcroppings floated among the mercurial beams of light that danced across the sandy floor.
I could get used to this. I smiled as I walked toward a small crevasse that caught my attention. The closer I got the bigger it got, or the smaller I became, it was hard to tell. I passed through some sort of portal in the crevasse and entered a completely different ocean. One with a living pulsing entity. I hung, suspended, with nothing to see except the blue-green water.
Suddenly my ‘walking through water like it was air’ wasn’t working anymore. I struggled and thrashed about until I created enough bubbles to show me which way was up. I took off for the surface as though my life depended on it.
My lungs filled with water. Seawater tastes disgusting when you’re drowning. Eventually I broke through the surface and thrashed around some more, trying really hard not to sink. I spun this way and that desperate to find something to hang on to, to keep me above the water.
Then I became aware of Her.
A presence, encompassing all the waters of the world. Lakes and streams, rivers and oceans, and even tiny puddles on the side of a road. She held me in Her immense watery arms, and murmured over and over again, “You will not drown. I am holding you.”
It was my personal experience, starting right back in my childhood, that no-one was capable of that kind of holding.
I stopped struggling though, and tried to accept that I wouldn’t drown. That I would be able to rest in the depths of the passionate love She offered.
In a voice that washed around me like a caress, She asked, “Do you trust Me?”
I broke out in a cold sweat, which is really a neat trick with most of me submerged. My heart pounded so hard in my chest that I wondered if it would shatter my ribs.
“Do you trust me?” She said again.
I could say that, yes, I did trust Her, but we’d both know that wasn’t true. So, how was I supposed to tell an entity of Ocean’s eminence that, really, I didn’t trust Her?
I had to answer, that much I did know. It was part of the agreement I made when I chose to do this Work.
I struggled to hold myself still, to relax my body, both physical and psychic, so that I could face my fear and be able to answer Her truthfully.
“No,” My voice cracked and the words seemed to come from very far away. “I don’t trust You.”
My heart slowed down and I said again, this time clearly, with ownership, “No, I don’t trust you.” I braced myself for the end of the Universe or something equally catastrophic. Or at the very least, my own demise.
My choice was simply accepted, not judged, nor reacted upon, simply accepted. I had been challenged to find the courage to risk an unwelcome answer, to be true to myself. I was cradled and rocked on Ocean’s gentle breast, accepting acceptance.
When I was a child we lived in a shack built of sturdy bush timber and old corrugated iron next to a small gully with a creek at the bottom of it. We carried our water up from the creek by hand and emptied each bucket into a trio forty-four gallon drums.
I loved that creek. I loved it’s earthy, lush smell. I loved all the unknown creatures that wiggled, slithered, and flapped just beyond my line of vision either along its banks or down in the, sometimes still, sometimes burbling along, green waters.
Our main swimming hole was formed by a natural rock dam that headed the first ever waterfall I saw, all of about a meter high, but seeing as I wasn’t much taller than that it impressed me none-the-less. Through all the floods that came and went that swimming hole never silted up, and I dog-paddled around in it to my hearts content because I knew that no matter where I was, my feet could always touch the bottom and I was safe.
The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean I was about ten years old. Up until then my horizons had always been limited by trees and garden plots, houses, and the clutter of human things. I looked across the waves and felt completely lost. I was very young but I felt such an adult fear. It was something I had no words for, and so I filed it away in my silent place inside, with all the other knowledge and fears that I had no words for, that grown-ups wouldn’t understand or believe.
When I was in my mid-twenties a group of my friends and I traveled north to a Women’s Music Festival at Lismore on the North Coast of New South Wales. Afterwards we headed to the ocean and camped for a few days with some other women from the festival. The ocean called to me like a Siren, an irresistible pull, and wasn’t I an adult now? Not a child with childish fears?
The others were in the water already, confidently swimming out to catch the crest of the waves and body-surf them in to the shore. It looked all pretty easy, so I plunged in and swam out beyond the surf. Floating in the swell I battled with the lump of fear in my throat which was conducting an on-going dialogue with my rational brain, that went something like this: “The tide is turning, I will be dragged out to sea, the positive buoyancy that women are supposed to have because of the extra layer of fat is a lie, and I will probably just paddle around like that silly woman in that silly Sixties song ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, (not that I was wearing anything … which probably contributed to the … hmm, getting ahead of myself here) get waterlogged, and sink anyway.”
After a while it became obvious that none of the above scenarios were about to unfold, except the one about the tide turning, so I decided it was okay to relax and enjoy myself, and try body-surfing.
The very first wave I caught was perfect all the way in, until a few meters from the beach where there was a pit of gravel dug out by the undertow from that pesky turning tide. I ended up back on the beach all right, but half-drowned from having swallowed a generous portion of the Pacific Ocean, and the ungrateful recipient of a gravel rash from my chin to my knees.
It was then and there, as various soothing unguents were being applied to my body, that Ocean and I made our agreement. I would be able to travel over Her, walk beside Her, even paddle and splash about and make sandcastles at Her edge, but I would never go any deeper into Her than what I could stand up in, and She wouldn’t drown me!
Quite fair, I thought.
-oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo-
I found myself in an old, old forest.
Moss-covered tree-trunks towered above my head while shafts of pollen-laden sunlight angled through the sparse undergrowth and shone on fallen giants repurposed as nurseries.
I sensed, rather than heard, birdsong and the lilt of falling water underneath the sound of soft rustling leaves and creaking branches.
I was so happy to be Journeying again I spoke without thinking. “This is much better than drowning.” My words disappeared the minute they passed my lips. I paused, warily. The universe didn’t immediately end so I counted my blessings and moved on.
The gnarled tree trunks gave way to saplings and then to a clearing. In the center an old woman kneeled next to a small energetic campfire. Its light threw her flickering shadow up against a tiny house made of things the forest had bequeathed her. She sensed my presence and slowly got to her feet. I could see massive scarring surrounding her right knee.
She, was me, perhaps in the future, or from a different timeline. Our eyes met and a flash of recognition passed between us, but then her campfire exploded into a giant fireball and consumed her. Higher and higher it rose. In-between one heartbeat and the next it seared the trees and undergrowth, and reduced the entire forest to cinders.
The fire burned so hot I could feel it scorching my clothes, burning my face and bare skin. It towered over me, challenging me.
“What do you want?” I shouted over the raging noise.
The flames blazed even higher and hotter.
My skin began to blister as though I’d been out in the heat of a long Aussie summer day for hours. Some separate part of my mind said that I couldn’t be burning. After all, I was really just sitting with my eyes closed in a room in the suburbs. You’d think that by now I would’ve learned that what’s real in one Realm is also real in another.
However, prudence required I take a step back, just in case, then, in a flash of clarity I rephrased question.
“What is my lesson?”
The fire lurched towards me, surrounding me. I’d experienced being surrounded by fire once before and I didn’t like it very much then either.
The heat was so intense my flesh started to disintegrate right off my bones. I had to find a way to escape, or die.
I wondered if the fire was an illusion designed to test me, something I could walk straight through if I chose to. I stepped forward and got cooked some more. I tried again, then gave myself up to the inevitable. This Fire was going to consume me.
My thoughts turned philosophical. (probably in order to stave off the screaming heebie-jeebies. I mean, who in their right mind stands willingly in front of a raging bonfire and calmly contemplates their demise?) I would experience Death and Transformation, without having to actually reach the end of my physical life. Who knew what epiphanies I might epiph.
A tongue of flame shot out from fire and licked across my body reminding me that philosophy had its place, but that place was neither here nor now.
So be it.
Trial by Fire.
Fine. If I couldn’t go through the flames I would go under them.
First I had to protect myself. I flexed my will, (I was getting the hang of this bit) and caused a hard shell to form around me with a pointy end, a bit like a bullet shape and began burrowing into the Earth. The cool earth relieved the burning sensation on my skin. When I sensed I had gone far enough to outdistance the fire I headed back up to the surface, and emerged in a completely different place.
I was vaguely aware of my physical body trembling with tension. The struggle had exhausted me, but my success at getting past the fire pushed such minor considerations away.
I stood on the surface of a small planet or moon, so small I could see the curve of the horizon quite close to me. I was safe. I could breathe, and more importantly I had passed another Trial.
I spent a bit of time looking around, not that there was much to see, until it occurred to me that I’d escaped Fire by entering Earth, so, logically, that was where I was supposed to go next. I decided I would skip the week-long wait, resume my bullet-ish shape, and dig my Self back down into the earth beneath my feet and continue my adventure.
A searing heat rippled around my body. A subtle reminder that I knew this Journey was complete, and to push this particular boundary, at this particular time, would incur the wrath of Beings best left un-wrathed.
That night my skin still felt kind of warm so I looked in a mirror and was shocked to see my face covered in a heavy sunburn. Being fair-skinned, and the Summer season at its height, I hadn’t been out in the sun without a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen for weeks!
My knees went weak and my heart rose up in my throat and pounded so hard I thought it was going to break out of my body, again! I sat down abruptly and asked myself what was I doing gallivanting around the cosmos and coming back with a sunburn?
My skin blistered and peeled and took several days more for the redness to fade.
Elsewhere in my life a different sort of crisis was looming.
I was doing fairly well at university despite my abysmal lack of math expertise. Although I had a logical mind, I’d left school before I could delve into the intricacies of geometry, and it’s elder sibling, algebra, was something I’d heard of only in passing.
But, I was being pulled between two polarities. At one end was university, where everything was measured, calculated, precise and concrete, literally as well as figuratively. Where we were told we were being taught to think for ourselves but that anything that deviated from an acceptable ‘norm’ (set by the faculty) was publicly exposed in a classroom situation and used as an example of how not to do that particular task.
I can’t say this was true of every student around me or in every faculty, or in every institution of learning, but it was enough for me to wonder if this was where I wanted to be for the next six years.
Then, there was this other new world I was discovering with equal intensity. A world of Myth become manifest, where there was no right or wrong way to be, only my way. (which, of course, is different for each and every one of us who choose to walk a Path of Awareness)
I was dis-covering, uncovering, a knowledge that had remained dormant all my life, and perhaps even before this life. Knowledge stored in my very cells, the only safe place for it until I was ready to recall it to consciousness. Knowledge that made my heart and Spirit soar with its Beauty and Power. Knowledge that had such a profound sense of rightness and balance to it that sometimes I was moved to simply sit and just be with it.
My dilemma then: How could I continue to venture forth into a rigidly structured academic world that was fast becoming the antithesis of the knowledge I was thirstily absorbing in the Spirit Realm?
One day, at the end of a scorchingly hot summer back in my Aussie dyke-on-a-(motor) bike days, I decided to go for a ride along one of the endless roads that linked the one-kangaroo towns scattered infrequently across the length and breadth of the country. Some of them so small they didn’t appear on any maps.
I was on my way home, tired but content. For a while I had outrun my ghosts.
Maybe it was an idiot throwing his still burning cigarette out of his car, or sunlight through a broken bottle, a lightning strike, or even deliberately lit, but a bushfire (we call them ‘wildfires’ here in Canada) had sprung up and spread rapidly through the scruffy tinder-dry bush.
Over a small hill ahead of me a towering plume rose into the sky faster than I ever thought possible. Suddenly the harsh sunlight turned a sickly beer-bottle amber. Smoldering and charred remnants of gum leaves and twigs gusted all around me like grimy soot-stained snowflakes.
As I rode along the sun disappeared behind the choking smoke. Finally I pulled over and looked behind me, hoping to go back to where I could skirt around the fire and take another route, the long way, home. The smoke was thicker that way though, obscuring the flames just out of sight, roaring like some kind of nightmarish monster and heating the stifling air around me.
If you’re caught in a bushfire they tell you the best thing to do is stay inside your vehicle, right? Good advice if you have a vehicle to get inside of. My options weren’t good. Mentally tossing a coin I decided to keep going forward. I lined myself up with the white painted center-line of the road and gingerly inched my way through the smoke and heat and ash. I rode without ever seeing a single flame until I was well beyond the fire and high up on a ridge.
At a lookout I stopped and took off my helmet. Tiny smoldering holes pocked my jacket and thick pants. I breathed in the clean air and watched the road I’d just ridden along get swallowed by the fire. If I’d’ve turned back, I would’ve been caught in that maelstrom and would not have survived.
-oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo-
Every time I Journeyed another layer of my fears, my preconceived notions, my externally imposed (and thereafter internalized) limitations and deceptions, peeled away. I could see clearer and clearer each week.
I wondered, a bit nervously, what this week might throw at me.
I’ve only ever ridden a horse once in my life, which lasted all of five seconds. I went up one side, over the top, and down the other. The horse looked down at me, flat on my back, with that gleeful superior expression horses get when a human has done something ridiculous. (his name was Rain Lover, a retired racehorse who’d won the Melbourne Cup twice, the biggest race in Australia, so in my defense, he was a whole lot taller than your average bear … erm, horse)
Now, I found myself atop a beautiful grey mare whose job it was to see that I stayed on her back until we reached our destination, far off into the desert. Unlike the above mentioned nag, she did so, and at the end of our journey I slid off her soft warm back, stood on wobbly knees, and thanked her profusely.
I’d arrived at a box canyon carved out of the surrounding sandstone by some long gone river, and was greeted by a gathering of women. They seemed to glow a little around the edges as they ushered me toward a dark opening in the back of the canyon wall.
We stepped from the scorching heat of the desert sun into the shadowy coolness of the cave, and as we walked they asked me to recall the things I had already learned in my Journeys and be aware of the enormity of the things I didn’t know.
Yep, I thought to myself, this was going as expected.
I hastily complied as we progressed along curved tunnel. One by one the women faded away as though they were melting into the rock. By the time I got to where it opened out into a good-sized cavern, they’d disappeared completely.
In the center of the cavern a small fire burned brightly. I hoped it wasn’t of the exploding variety like my previous Journey. The shadows of the women sitting around it danced along the walls. They were the same women who’d just faded away on me, only less solid, Spirit versions of their Selves. None-the-less I stood to one side waiting for an invitation to rejoin them. It seemed the polite thing to do.
A women rose and glided toward me. She carried a beautifully fashioned stone knife in her hand and began to cut the same herringbone pattern of marks I’d seen carved into the walls of the Bast temple on my first Journey, into the skin of my forearms.
A little part of me that carried the trauma of my motorbike accident in its nucleus squeaked in fright. Okay, it was a big part.
A Much Shorter Retrospective Digression Than The Last One …
I’m the only woman I know who doesn’t have a piercing upon her person, of one sort of another, anywhere.
Long before I received all those wonderful scars on my right knee from the motorbike crash, I had accumulated two other important scars that contributed to my non-pierced self.
The first occurred when I was a child. (separate from the usual bruises, scrapes, bumps and general bloodletting-spawned scars of childhood)
My father, who was as confused about my burgeoning baby butch identity emerging from the wilds of my early childhood as I was, tried to force me to wear a dress for a family outing. He won, but only because he was bigger than me. I later fell and cut my leg. (funnily enough, in the exact place on my knee that would be sliced off when I had the motorbike accident twenty years later) I got blood all over the dress, ended up wearing my old clothes, with a giant bandage over my wound. I wore that ‘huge’ scar (I was just a little kid so size was a matter of perspective) like a badge of honour.
My second scar of renown was a self-inflicted one on my left forearm. A scream for help from my teen years that no-one heard, so I resumed my self-imposed protective silence. You wouldn’t believe it these days, but back then I had a spoken vocabulary of only a few hundred words. I never spoke more, or less, than what I required to survive.
In the heady days of my ‘steep learning curve’ when I moved to Sydney a year after the motorbike accident, all the women around me had pierced ears and/or were contemplating getting some in places with significantly more nerve endings. (this was a time, long past, when body piercings were only starting to enjoy their hedonistic popularity)
I honestly contemplated it for a few … moments, but the idea of voluntarily choosing to have my body skewered by inanimate pointy objects, even if they only made a tiny little hole to stick dangly ornaments through, made me feel queasy and heading in the opposite direction at a great rate of knots.
Back to our story …
“This is a Blood Ritual.” The Spirit Woman said gently, trying to soothe my fears as she staunched the flow of blood from my arms with some silvery dust. “In this moment, you have a choice. You can stay here in this Place of Power and the shedding of your blood will not have meaning, or you can go further into the Mystery and find the strength and means to continue this Path.”
My heart then did what I was coming to expect it to do when Truths were revealed to me on these Journeys, it seized up for a few moments then thudded against my ribcage until it got back up to speed.
The Spirit Woman indicated a dark tunnel branching off from the cavern. “Choose.”
The second tunnel curved and sloped downward. My eyes adjusted to the darkness as I walked the spiral, and ended up directly underneath the first cave. The tunnel ended in a shimmering wall that looked like quicksilver or the surface of water as a fish might see it.
A friend of mine once said, on a completely unrelated topic, that all we really need to do is stand in our life and breathe.
Once I stopped thinking about what to do next and simply let my sense of my Self lead the way, I knew what to do.
My hand passed through the quicksilver surface of the wall and, meeting no resistance, I stepped through the Portal into a dark space.
I was in another cave, bigger than the others, but again directly underneath the other two. I had descended into the heart of the Earth in a Sacred Spiral.
The quicksilver Portal retreated to one side of the cavern taking the small amount of light it generated with it.
There was that the familiar thudding in my chest again. I was buried who-knew-how-far underground, in the dark, utter dark, with no way out, and I was supposed to do, what?
Because of my previous adventures I had learned enough to know that I could create whatever I willed, (with varying degrees of difficulty) if only I could figure out what that might be.
My heart settled down. I breathed some more.
First, I needed to create light from lightlessness.
I focused my attention on the pattern tattooed on my forearms, and moved the energy pulsing there down to my hands.
Tiny bright tendrils of energy began to radiate from my fingers. The streams of light swayed and danced from finger to finger, grew brighter, swallowed up my palms, spread across the backs of my hands, and even shone through my fingernails. My hands were wreathed in pure light.
I gazed at these beautiful glowing hands, my hands, in amazement. I lifted them over my head. The light spilled out through my fingertips and filled the whole of the cavern with the most brilliant of whitest lights.
My eyes, used to the dark and overloaded by the intensity of the light immediately filled with tears. When I could see again I beheld a cave made entirely out of crystal. The light reflected and refracted around the space until it shattered again and again into a million rainbows and returned to pure white light once more.
I did a little dance of joy like a gleeful child who had just discovered the most wondrous magical thing ever. I laughed and I cried and l laughed again, dizzy with euphoria.
I calmed down eventually but I still had a big grin plastered on my face while I looked for a way out. I hadn’t noticed until that moment that the floor of this wondrous crystal cave was crystal too. Of course it would be. Nice long pointy shards of crystal, angled in every direction.
I faced the next part of my challenge. To get back across the cave to the Portal, the edges of which glowed with the same bright light still shimmering all around me.
I focused my will and saw the crystals as all soft and smooth. They ignored me and remained pointy. What if I flew above them? The crystals flexed and slowly turned their pointy ends toward me. Several of them started to grow.
Got it. No flying.
I must walk, (and it was made clear to me there was no other way to do this) with bare feet, across the razor sharp edges of the crystals, without shedding a single drop of blood.
Remember that part of me that had a thing about not willingly putting myself in situations where I would have my person perforated? She was a gibbering mess now.
I shifted my weight onto my right foot and slowly, very slowly raised my left and lowered it onto the crystals, the very pointy crystals. I could feel them pushing against the sole of my foot. I held my breath and shifted my weight onto it.
I knew I couldn’t entertain even the merest thought of injury or my fear would bring the entire structure down on me and there would be slicing and dicing and blood everywhere. I focused my will as sharp as the sharpest of the needle-like crystals underneath my foot and took another step.
And another, until I stood in front of the Portal, where I finally remembered to breathe. My solar plexus ached and I shook from head to toe, but I’d done it!
The bright silvery light of the Portal slowly shifted. Swirling patterns rose to its surface and resolved into a map that showed the three caverns I’d already been in and others both above and below those three. An endless labyrinth stretching beyond my capacity to understand.
This was the way out though, I knew that. I stepped through the map and found myself back at the entrance to the very first tunnel in the desert canyon, only the canyon wasn’t there anymore. Nothing was there.
-oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo-
When last we saw our intrepid hero, our Shaman-in-training, she was standing on the edge of … well, nothingness. (which I wasn’t happy about, at all)
Christmas was a big deal when I was a child, not because of the ‘Christmas Spirit’ (which I didn’t really ‘get’) but because I would receive, ordered all the way from England, a ‘Girls Own’ bumper album of stories, (which probably accounts for why Hermione Granger is one of my heroes – I was born in England and my family emigrated to Australia when I was two, and I think this was one of the ways my parents kept that connection alive for me) and a similar ‘bumper annual’ book of Rupert the Bear’s adventures.
All these stories had a satisfying beginning, middle, and end, and later as I sought out my own reading material (science fiction and fantasy mostly, although I did have a brief flirtation with regency romances in the 70’s) I required those three elements to be present.
Where were you when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, premiered? I’d traveled all the way to Sydney (a two-hour train trip) and queued up for hours to be one of the first to see it.
Remember how it ended?
Han Solo, encased in carbonite, carried off to Jabba the Hutt to a fate worse than death. Luke Skywalker, with his new hand, in shock because of that ‘I am your father’ moment. Leia, discovering she’s connected to the Force, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian leaving in the Millennium Falcon to search for Han.
As far as I was concerned, when the end-titles started rolling up the screen, we were still in the middle of the picture. (which was in fact the truth, but I had to wait several years to see the other half)
The end of my previous week’s Journey felt similarly unfinished. I’d obviously got a handle on the ‘basics’ (obvious to me, at least) and I was ready to go deeper.
It was time to meet the neighbours.
A breeze skimmed around the room even before I’d begun my Journey. It pulled me Between the Worlds, through the nothingness of the week before, and deposited me in the middle of a sun-drenched cobblestone boulevard, wide and inviting. The buildings on either side looked vaguely Romanesque, but with strange angles that created optical illusions where light and shadow met.
There were many women walking along the street, all heading in the same direction, so I joined the throng.
Some politely nodded, I was not known but felt welcomed none-the-less, and some, so set on their destination, walked a straight line that never deviated, looking neither right nor left.
Being a student of the female form divine, I noticed that some of my companions moved in ways that didn’t seem quite … human, let alone female-form-divine-ish.
What hubris, I chided myself, to think that humans were the only ones to do this Work. The more I looked the more I realised that beings, Spirit Walkers from all walks of life and species, strolled alongside me.
I beamed from ear to ear. This was so cool!
We arrived at our destination, a great Hall, essentially the boulevard roofed over, with corridors to museums, storehouses, and smaller meeting rooms, branching off from the main atrium.
Some of my companions headed down those halls but the majority of us milled around, ‘meeting and greeting’, then gradually settled into the wickedly comfortable seats facing a wide stage, most of which was hidden behind two huge burgundy coloured velvet curtains. I introduced myself to those seated around me and we chatted for a few moments until the room slowly darkened.
The curtains wafted back and forth as though someone had walked behind them and ruffled the air.
A voice spoke quietly but such was its power that everyone heard. “Are you ready?”
I glanced around at my companions, who were all doing the same thing.
Well, someone had to start things off. “Yes,” I said, not as confidently as perhaps I could have. A wave of assents followed, then quiet descended again.
We were asked the same question again and this time we responded immediately and with a touch more confidence.
“Very well,” the voice continued. “You who spoke first, come forth.”
It figured. I stood up.
A shaft of light, like a spotlight, surrounded me and suddenly hardened into a crystal shell which just as abruptly melted away, and I was somewhere else.
I stood in another hallway of the enormous Hall with a colonnade along one side that opened out onto a broad sun-dappled pergola, festooned with purple and white wisteria blooms. The delicious flowery aroma distracted me and it was a while before I noticed two women standing next to me.
They motioned me to join them as they walked, until we passed a shallow flight of steps with the swirling nothingness at the bottom.
The women informed me that to Walk Between the Worlds I must learn the process of true transformation into each of the Four Elements I’d already learned to manipulate. (with differing degrees of difficulty and success I might add)
“Rock, for example,” one of them said as we approached a giant boulder in the middle of the walkway. “You need to un-define the boundary between your body and the rock, to become rock, to know its essence, to be able to do this as easily and as smoothly as the breeze that caresses your skin.”
The other woman took my hand and pressed it against the rock. “Do it,’ she commanded. The touch of her hand ripped through me like a white hot fire, but not painful.
‘Painful’, was the furthest thing from what I felt at that moment.
She took her hand off mine and repeated her command with less intensity. I probably imagined the tiniest upward curve of her mouth as my hand sank into the rock and the rest of me followed.
I was surrounded by a fiery redness, churning and boiling, compressed by the weight of an entire planet until it could find a crack in the mantle through which to break out.
I ‘undefined’ my Self until there was no difference between me and the magma. I became mindless except for that singular purpose, to escape.
I forced myself through that crack, and shouldered aside the puny tectonic plates who dared to thwart my will.
Up, through the surface of the earth until suddenly, like uncoiling a tightly wound spring, I exploded out of the volcanic vent and high and wide into the sky. I screamed in agony as the cold air began to quench my passion.
Time passed, ages, eons.
Continents shifted. Seas rose around me and drained away with soporific regularity.
At last I became a solitary sentinel. My substance scoured by wind and water and sun until all that remained was obdurate stone.
Once in a millennium a tiny grain of sand blew loose from a crack in my substance and began its long fall. This tiny intimate part of myself was hustled by the wind until it reached the ground and was part of me no longer.
I became aware of my sense of my Self separating from my sense of ‘rockness’. Tears welled in my heart, weighted with the loss of that tiny grain of sand.
I slowly made my way through the stone to the top of the butte. The breeze from the beginning of my Journey had followed me here and whipped around as though inviting me to leap off this narrow pinnacle and trust my fate to its capricious nature.
Nope. Not gonna do that! Being in such a precarious location had brought me completely back to my senses.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and was about to retrace my path down through the butte when the way back snapped closed. That narrowed my choices, but there was one problem with that flying with the wind thing, I didn’t know how to fly.
Someone tapped my shoulder and I bloody near fell off my perch!
There she was, the woman who told me to ‘do it’, way back in another time and place, floating just off the precipice edge. She was wearing snug-fitting, dark coloured clothes.
“Do it,” she said as though expecting me to immediately comply.
I was tempted, but it’d already been a bit of an eventful trip. I was emotionally wrung out and in no fit state to step out onto nothing but a bit of wind, even if it was in the company of a rather attractive (even if I do say so myself) Guide.
I shook my head and waited to return from whence I came, for the Journey to end. (I was kind of looking forward to a bracing cuppa tea and a biscuit/cookie)
And waited …
… and didn’t return.
This was new.
I took a moment to catch my breath and do a bit of a Grounding, before whatever was going to happen next started happening.
The ‘dark woman’ hovered nearby, not quite smiling, but I could sense a gleam in her eye. A tiny shimmer in the air next to her caught my attention as it grew and grew until it manifested as a woman who was both old and young.
Her name was Oestra, Goddess of cycles; menstrual and lunar, relationships, Journeys, birth-life-age-death-rebirth, and from whom many of the most fun Easter (and Spring Equinox) traditions have descended.
“What do you want?” She asked in a voice filled with ferocious Power.
I glanced at the Dark Woman.
“Not what she wants,” Oestra said. I could’ve sworn she restrained the urge to roll her eyes. “What you want.”
What the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say. I took a deep breath. “To fly.”
Because of course I wanted to fly. Who wouldn’t, given the chance? How often have we watched a bird in flight, from the soaring wingspan of a eagle to the tiniest hovering hummingbird, and felt awe, tinged with just a wee bit of envy?
The Dark Woman made to bump shoulders with Oestra, but probably thought better of it as Oestra glided toward me.
“You must give up all that anchors you to the ground.”
“All? Again? I just did that with …” Oestra quirked an eyebrow at me. “Right. All. Again.”
She immediately whipped out this honking great sword and sliced off a piece of me, from head to foot!
At least that’s what I thought she did until I looked closer. There was a silhouette of me laying on the rock, but it was in a primary colour rather than black. The part of me where she’d sliced was actually still attached and unharmed, but clear, like glass. I could see right through me.
Suddenly the pain of being cut open, albeit psychically, with a sword, hit me. I almost keeled over in agony.
She sliced again, the other side this time, and I screamed. Another silhouette in another primary colour lay on the rock.
Another slice. And another and another. It went on forever.
My mind turned to ice and was electrified by the pain at the same time. I shed more and more colour and became clearer and clearer until only small globes of colour, aligned with my Power Centers, were left deep within my body.
Fuck flying lessons. I was being tortured. The pain took me beyond my limits, beyond trust, beyond comprehension, beyond fear, beyond death.
My Guide, the Dark Woman, came toward me, and in that moment, that blessed moment, my suffering lifted. She reached into my body, and pulled out the coloured globes one by one, stacking them in a pyramid at my feet, until only one remained.
This one, tiny, red, battered, pulsing, heart, I had to take out myself.
I reached into my see-through chest with my colourless hands and removed it, and handed it to Oestra as my last sacrificial benison.
My feet left the ground.
I shot straight up into the stratosphere. This was what being a jet or a rocket must’ve felt like. I rushed up beyond the pull of the atmosphere. I hovered there for a moment and then came plunging back down as fast as I went up.
I screamed again, but this time in an exhilaration that was almost as painful in its extremity as the torture had been.
I leveled out and began to slipstream from side to side, soaring above fields and water, continents and alien landscapes, following the sun around whatever world this was, until I met up with Oestra and the Dark Woman, my Guide, again.
The flight was over. I was no longer colourless.
As I landed on the butte I staggered and almost fell off. The Dark Woman hauled me back and turned me toward Oestra who hugged my tight. I leaned into her endless compassion until I felt strong enough to return.
My relationship was in its last desperate death throes and I felt very alone in the world. I had friends but they couldn’t touch the hurt abandoned place in my heart, which ached for that deep touching that only a lover could bring.
Oestra understood, and by enfolding me in her arms, not only did she share my exhilaration about my flying, but she also eased that loneliness in my heart for a while.
I found love, acceptance, attending, when I Journeyed. Sometimes it came from the most unexpected places, and in the most unusual ways.
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I’d come to terms with the less-than-salubrious aspects of University life and started to enjoy stretching myself academically. It certainly was something, as a high-school dropout, I’d never envisaged for myself.
My Journey work consistently blew my little cotton socks off every week. Learning about aspects of my Self and my abilities opened me up to worlds beyond my wildest imaginings.
But … my home life was ripping me apart. Sometimes relationships end painlessly, (relatively) and sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes there’s evisceration and misery. Lots of misery.
My first ever full-on, flat-out, moving-in-together, long-term relationship was done, finished, kaput. We were at the messy, ugly, and never-ending, cutting-up-the-corpse-and-getting-rid-of-the carcass, stage.
Part of my ritual before setting out on a Journey was to connect with the energy of the Earth and use it to center and ground my physical, emotional, and intellectual bodies, and to give my Power Centers, (Chakras in some spiritual traditions) a bit of an invigorating, ‘out with the old and in with the new’ energy burst.
These energies usually manifested in a wondrous mix of colours and images, but that afternoon my ex and I had a huge blow-up, and in celebration of that singular event, black tar covered everything, and no-one wanted to come out and play in my technicolour journey-scape.
With an, ‘Oh bother’, and a ‘Bah-humbug.’ (I may have used slightly stronger phrases) I got on with it.
I traveled through time and space to a lake high in the mountains, a vividly blue lake, the blue of mountain air, winter, and cloudless skies.
In the middle of the lake was an island,(for any newcomers to my blog who don’t already know, for the last six years I’ve lived on an island in the middle of a lake. How cool is that?) and in the middle of the island, towering over everything, stood a very active volcano, reputed to be a summer home of the Goddesses of Volcanoes, Chantico and Pele.
I needed find out, quickly, what season I’d landed in, because if those two were vacationing nearby, this little black duck (Daffy Duck reference) was gonna get outta Dodge, pronto!
In the meantime, my destination came into being around me. I stood in a little vale nestled between two spurs of cooled lava flows. In a glade near the center of the valley a group of women were dancing a Spiral Dance. (There’s a video at the end of this post that gives you a better idea of what a Spiral dance is than my favourite go-to resource, Wikipedia, can)
The women invited me to join them but I really didn’t feel like it. My black mood from the fight with my ex, and my tarred Power Centers, clung to me like a bitter miasma.
I considered leaving and calling the whole Journey off when the ground gave a little shake. Pele and Chantico obviously had other ideas. I sat my glum self down on a nearby log and wondered what I was in for.
The two of them got the whole volcano a-rumbling and a-grumbling for a while but then everything went quiet and still.
I held my breath.
A single CRACK! snapped through the air like a gunshot. Then another, and another. A breach formed high up on the rim of the volcano. A narrow fissure gnawed its way down the mountainside, through the vale, through the glade, and stopped right in front of my feet.
“What?” I said, as it nudged my toes. “I’m not moving! Go around.”
“Sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with this, so it may as well be now.” Pele/Chantico, now joined in a single entity, answered.
“I’ve already battled once today. I don’t want to do another one.”
She seemed to consider my stance for a few moments, then the fissure zipped back up the volcano, and all was it had been.
“That was easy,” I commented to no-one in particular.
I looked up at the rim and there was Pele/Chantico,waiting for me.
“Well, fine,” I muttered under my breath, and I set off, one foot after the other, up the side of the damned volcano.
My path through the glade soon came to an end and the only way up that I could see was along a very steep, boulder riddled, creek bed with shallow rills of water burbling and skipping down it. I lost count of how many times I slipped and fell on the rocks. I cut myself so often the water began to run red with my blood.
“Why are you bleeding and angry?” Pele/Chantico asked me when I finally reached the top.
“I’m not angry!” I said through clenched teeth. “I am so sick of having to cut my heart out every time we meet.” I wasn’t sure if I was referring to my ex or my Journeying, or both. “I’m tired, wrung out, bled to death, and empty.”
Pele/Chantico looked at me with such compassion in Her eyes that I nearly crumpled into a puddle of tears on the spot. She stretched out her arm, palm facing me and focused on my Crown Center. I closed my eyes and felt a golden sparkle dance through my skull and dissolve all the bleak tar energy that had filled me to despair. She imbued my whole being with the essence of Her energy.
I smiled to myself. Love, that wondrous gift, did indeed come from the most unexpected places.
The golden energy enlightened me, quite literally. As my colourlessness had previously enabled me to fly, this kindly gift lifted me off the top of the volcano and swept me into another Realm.
I landed on a ledge high up on the face of a single mountain. On one side a green fertile valley with cultivated fields and darker green patches of forest stretched to the horizon. On the other was an ocean, bright and sparkling in the glorious summer sunshine. Behind me eternal snow capped the top of the mountain.
It felt like home.
A cloak of feathers and other magical things fell around my shoulders. Soft and warm, it too felt like home.
I turned around, (it was always a struggle to turn around. Some times were easier than others. This time it went rather smoothly) and came face-to-face with a woman who had a cloak, identical to mine, on her shoulders.
She hugged me then said, “There’s a storm coming.”
I looked out to the horizon, expecting to see a thunderstorm brewing, but there was nary a cloud in sight. She turned me around and pointed down the face of the mountain.
A turgid, roiling, mass was clawing its way up toward us. Livid streaks of oppressive colour oozed through it like slow-motion lightning.
I watched in horror as an arm, a woman’s arm, struggled free of the morass only sink back below the surface. Then a leg. Elsewhere a head. A torso.
My senses were assailed by the most heart-rending emotions.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked the woman, feeling like I might collapse under the weight of my broken heart.
“Let it go,” she said.
It was then I saw I had a rope in my hands, attached to that … that thing, that storm. I was holding it up.
“Let it go,” she said, gently.
“But there are parts of me there. Parts of my relationship with her.”
“Let it go,” she said, implacably this time.
Slowly, so slowly, I opened my hands and the rope slid through my fingers. The storm, with all the body bits still sticking out of it, fell and shattered on the rocks at the foot of the mountain.
I didn’t think I’d ever feel clean again. I needed to get off that ledge.
I certainly wasn’t going to climb down through that slimy mess so I handed my cloak back to the feather woman, cleared my body of all colour and ran to the edge of the mountain.
I somersaulted through the air, twisting and turning this way and that. I laughed out loud for the sheer joy of flying and hovered a few meters out from the ledge.
There was a different woman standing there, tiny, hunched in on herself.
“Don’t go,” she called out in a scratchy hollow voice. “Don’t leave me behind. Please take me with you.”
My eyes filled with tears. “I can’t. This ending was your choice. Now you have to follow that path.”
I could see her judging the distance between us and I hastily backed up a few meters.
Her tearful face changed abruptly and she sneered at me until finally she turned and began to clamber down off the ledge, muttering under her breath all the while. I knew that as soon as she was out of sight she’d forget all about me.
My breath caught in the back of my throat as I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The feather woman wafted her cloak across the ledge, clearing away any residual energies.
As I landed next to her she passed me my cloak. I slipped it on and felt the feathers take hold.
“There is not much time left,” she said with the unflappable, yet focused demeanor that birds of prey exhibit just before they take flight to hunt their next meal.
“Time enough though.” I said kinda cheekily, as we spread our wings, together.
The only image I could find of Chantico on the public domain, via Wikipedia
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A endless expanse of lakes shimmered under a soft autumn sun as far as my eyes could see. At the edge of the horizon an ancient meandering river fed this great plain of lakes, fed it with the lifeblood of the Mother, Earth. Trees that had stood since the time of the dinosaurs, along with their myriad relatives and descendants, clothed all the land between the lakes. Creatures, both of this world and otherworldly, dwelt here in harmony. The air around me was soft and cool with a bite to it that promised winter would soon be here to cloak all and sundry in a coverlet of white.
It was a glorious day in the neighbourhood.
I stood on a pebbly beach on the shore of one of the lakes, waiting for my guide, and skipping stones across the still water, something I hadn’t done for a long time. I hadn’t lost my touch.
I felt quite light of heart and spirit. I’d cleared mountains of dross away last week, and was mostly back on track both here and in my personal life. Not that I wasn’t grieving, angry, and feeling like I was living on the outside of my skin, but the brutal rawness had eased.
The shimmering energy rose up from the lake and coalesced into a canoe, built for two. Boots clattered along the shore and my guide, the Dark Woman, came into view. I thought about making a smart remark about canoes and paddles, but she smiled and a paddle appeared in my hands. I restrained any further outbursts, I was clearly outclassed, and inserted myself into the canoe. She got in behind me with far more grace that I ever exhibited, even on my most elegant days, and off we paddled.
I tried to turn around to talk to her, but with a subtle thrust of her chin she indicated, ‘eyes forward and keep paddling’. I obeyed, glad in a way because my on-going struggle to turn around in my Journey world, which consisted of mostly failing at it, distracted me far more often that I was happy with.
The surface of the lake was as smooth as glass, a silvery green, with blue and grey highlights. The only movement that marred the surface was the lazy ‘V’ of our wake rolling across the water.
I was so busy enjoying myself that I didn’t notice the approaching shore until we were almost upon it. We beached the canoe and tied it off to a nearby tree then faced a clearing with fallen logs scattered hither, thither, and yon.
I was right about the weather changing. A great snowstorm, the first of the season, was about to hit these lakes and we needed shelter, quickly. Unfortunately there were no shelter-building tools or materials to be had.
I started to flex my will to manifest an assortment of saws and chisels, etc, and duct tape, (always manifest duct tape whenever you can) when the Dark Woman walked over to one end of a log and steered me to the other.
We focused the energy of the Earth through our hands and the log slowly rose into the air, then with deliberate gestures we sawed the log into long planks. Then another, and another.
We ran our hands along some of the planks and smoothed them into floorboards, others we cut and notched so they fitted together to form a snug little cabin. We pulled stones from the waters edge and fashioned them into a wide-hearthed fireplace.
It took us most of the day, but as dusk fell we attached the solid door and stood back to admire our handiwork.
The Dark Woman pulled me into a quick hug and I could tell she was as chuffed with what we’d achieved as I was.
A gust of wind ruffled the surface of the lake then rushed toward the jumble of left-over wood shavings and whipped them into the air. The stars shining in the fading indigo sky were snuffed out as a battalion of tumbling clouds thundered in from the west.
The storm broke above the placid lake and raised meter-high, foam-capped waves in an instant.
In the interests of efficiency and insulation the cabin was half-buried in the ground. I ducked under the lintel and stepped down into the main room.
For all its fury, the storm made little impact inside the cabin as the Dark Woman and I sat cross-legged in the center of the room facing each other and began … wait a minute, I was sitting cross-legged! How was that even possible?
Up until that moment I’d always experienced my Journeying Self as having one knee that bent the way it was supposed to and one that didn’t. This was the first time I’d naturally, and without even thinking about it, bent my knee as it ought to be bent. More chuffed-ness ensued, until the Dark Woman pointedly cleared her throat.
I refocused my attention on her, but the oval shape of her face was an endless star-filled expanse.
Countless stars, strings of them, galaxies, universes, everywhere across my vision. Between each one lines of energy crackled and flitted, linking them all into a single entity.
Enchanted, I leaned in closer until our faces touched. The stars swept around me and pulled me in.
I was still in our cabin, but oh, how it had changed. It was bigger, much bigger, and the walls were now circular. Gigantic stone hearths stood opposite each other. In the center a massive wooden post supported smoke blackened beams that radiated out to the walls, which, in turn supported a conical shaped roof high above. Tendrils of smoke wafted up from the fires and slowly oozed out through the thatching.
The wooden floorboards were now flagstones and the walls themselves were made of rough-dressed stone, with cunningly designed niches that held all manner of esoteric and mundane household items.
This place felt ancient, felt like home. The bones of my ancestors were buried here. (which made sense as my mother was half Irish, and I stood in a Celtic roundhouse)
A stone ledge of a rich golden colour ran around the whole circumference of the room, (apart from gaps for the fireplaces and doorways to other rooms) and carved into it were rows and rows of glyphs. Some I recognised, runic alphabets, astrological and mathematical symbols, and still others whose meanings were hidden from my sight.
I understood that this room was an annex of the great Hall, (that I first visited in Prelude VII – where I learned to fly) and had manifested at the Dark Woman’s request.
Sunk into the ledge were padded bays with scatterings of colourful squishy cushions. I sat down and made my self comfortable.
A line of women walked through one of the doorways. They were similarly garbed but with subtle differences so that each one was somehow surrounded by the cloth of her heritage. They slowly circled the room and walked out. They passed by me without acknowledging my presence. I felt as though I were witnessing a parade of corporeal ghosts.
The Dark Woman sat next to me. Close enough that our shoulders and legs touched, but not in an uncomfortable way.
I nodded toward the women. “Who are they?” I whispered. Anything louder seemed inappropriate and disrespectful.
“These are the shades of all the women who have died seeking knowledge.”
She didn’t need to tell me how, or when and where they’d died. I felt it in my heart as each woman passed my by.
“What are they doing here?” I asked when I found my voice again.
“There are so few who come here who can see them,” she answered. “So, when anyone does, they enter, seeking a Witness.”
The Dark Woman took my hand and we sat in silence, and Witnessed their passing, honouring their lives, and deaths.
It took minutes, days, perhaps forever, but when the last woman had returned from whence she came, the Dark Woman stood up and stretched.
I appreciated the view for a moment, then rose to join her as she walked to a circular stack of shelves now occupying the center of the room. In the shelves were rows and rows of dust-covered books. Massive tomes, with hand-tooled leather covers, bound by straps, and clasped with brass buckles so old they’d turned green. She pulled one out, blew some of the dust off the top, and set it down on a pedestal.
The book fell open to a blank page and as I watched, writing and drawings appeared. I recognised my handwriting, my artwork. These were the assignments, structural drawings, and renderings I’d created for my university architecture courses.
After turning a few more pages the Dark Woman closed the book, re-buckled the strap and put it back on the shelf.
“All these books,” she said gesturing to the shelves. “Belong to a part of your Self, just as that line of women, your ancestors, those of your bloodline and those of your Spirit, are equally a part of your Self.”
I nodded and we sat down in front of one of the fireplaces that glowed with the warmth of a welcoming fire. I knew what was coming. I’d known it from the first moment of my very first Journey.
My university studies were all consuming. I’d received ‘above average’ marks for my assignments. I was good at it, but I had almost nothing left over for the rest of my life.
My Journeying provided a counterbalance that, although exhilarating, also left no quality energy, or time, for anything else.
In all honesty I was glad my relationship ended when it did or I would’ve been reduced to a complete gibbering wreck instead of half a one.
I entered a period of calm in the center of a storm of life-altering chaos. It wouldn’t matter in which direction I moved, chaos would ensue.
Nevertheless, that moment of stillness the Dark Woman and I shared was a gift and I let it surround me for as long as the moment lasted.
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