Reading the Soul Map- A Caveat

There is a system of divination extant in the Northern Tradition called the soul map. It’s a system of reading, usually done once a year (generally no more than twice a year) that opens up the various soul parts and allows the diviner to examine the state of each individually. Given that within our tradition the soul is divided into seventeen parts, this can be extremely useful. It provides one really good information on where one needs to work spiritually to better their lives and their devotional world. It helps one become spiritually healthy. It’s also one of the mysteries of the tradition. Because of that, there are some caveats, namely that it isn’t something one should practice unless A) one has been taught (and I really think this is something that needs to be taught face to face) and B) one is Heathen or Northern Tradition, and C) one is an experienced, very experienced diviner. I’m going to elaborate on C in just a moment. Before I do, I want to emphasize that this, even more than the runes (which will protect themselves if they’re not getting what they want) is a Mystery. This is not something to which outsiders are entitled, and it’s not something with which one should dabble. The danger in this system is one of the things you won’t know unless someone sits you down and shows you but oh boy, is it something one really needs to know. 

This is a dangerous system, and it’s dangerous precisely because it takes one down hard and really, really fast into the wyrd. So the diviner will swim there for a while not realizing how deeply he or she has gone – because while one is reading, one feels fine. It’s only after one closes the reading and returns to mundane headspace that one will then realize how deeply one was plumbing the threads. If one is doing a single reading, this isn’t so bad. But, it’s easy to forget how rough this can be – because again, it doesn’t *feel* rough while one is reading – and then the diviner decides, “oh hey, sure. I can do three or four readings in one go” and then that diviner wakes up the next morning wishing he or she were dead.   To be clear, nausea, massive headache, and feeling like one has been hit upside the back of the head (where there is a particular energy port) with a crowbar. Immediately after, because ancestors can come strongly during the reading, one can have chills, or fever, in addition to the blooming headache. It can lay a person out faster than any system I know. 

I say this having gotten into a mood last night and done seven in one sitting. We do them every January and I’d been putting them off but I already had a minor headache and I was sort of nauseous from it so I thought, ‘what the hell? I feel like shit now, why not just go with it?’  Ironically, because I was aware of this and I’ve been a diviner for thirty years so I know how to pace myself, and most importantly, because my husband was horrified and gave me really good after care, I feel ok this morning. I should also say, I got more than 12 hours of solid sleep before sitting down to divine and I suspect it’s that which made up the difference. 

My assistant, however, had not been so lucky. While I had warned her how dangerous soul map could be, she was taking notes for the readings and just peeking after I finished each reading (she’s learning how to do soul map, so this was a good opportunity to give her a chance to try her wings without the stress of being the primary diviner). She’s not doing so well right now. She thought because she wasn’t sitting directly at the mat she was safe from reaction sickness. She was wrong. To be fair, I thought the same thing. I was wrong too. The only reason she’s not praying for death right now, is that Sannion made us drink rehydration salts and eat protein immediately after the readings. We also took drugs and by drugs I mean aspirin, a lot of aspirin. I woke up very early this morning with the beginning of a migraine but managed to escape by taking the proper migraine medication (which my doctor prescribed because I get bad migraines) and hydrating again. I feel better than I have any right to after the amount of work we did last night. My assistant just described it as “someone put a pile of lead inside my head and I couldn’t get up this morning even when I really needed to and oh I hurt so bad.” 

I would suggest being very well rested before starting this type of reading. As with any potential reaction headache (and I suspect part of this is that it screws up the electrolyte balance too. I always treat it as such and that helps so I’m going with it), drink hydration salts or Gatorade (hydration salts don’t have the sugar) immediately. Even if you don’t want to, do it. Same with food. I had eaten a huge plate of sushi before I did my seven readings and the protein probably helped me almost as much as the sleep. Eat afterwards, even if you don’t want to (one will generally crave sugar or protein, the latter is better). If you can stand it, have a little caffeine. Then do no other spiritual or energetic work. REST. I do this as a matter of course whenever I’m doing a lot of divination or spirit work, even if soul map isn’t involved. 

Reaction headaches suck. They’re what happens when you go too deep, too quickly, when you take in more energy than your energetic channels can process, when you do too much at a given time, when you overwork your psychic channels. They can be worse than the worst migraine you can imagine.

It’s important that we have these practicum conversations. This is the real nuts and bolts of a practice, beyond the 101 stuff. So hit me with your questions. What do you, readers, want to know?

sample soul map, used with permission

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About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on January 30, 2021, in Divination, Heathenry, Spirit Work and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. I experience similar experiences after extensive healing sessions even with cleansing because exactly as you say – we go deep. I don’t think the physical body is really made to handle this which is why so many shamans have major health complications in their lives from the Gods remolding them for the Work. Soul Map reading is still something I really want to learn eventually.

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    • Any type of energy work, psychic work, spiritual work can cause a reaction headache. omg, they suck. I think that we are lacking certain things that traditional shamans with intact communities had as a matter of course, things that helped them shunt the energy better. I also think this is one of the reasons so many of us are overweight — we take in more energy than our bodies know how to ground and it’s an instinctive reaction (one to fight if it gets out of control– the healthier we are the better for the work, if only bc the work will grind you down). So being active and making healthy food choices, even if you’re overweight, is important — inasmuch as one can if there are chronic pain issues present, which I have so I add that caveat for others out there in the same boat.

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      • I attended a workshop led by a Mayan elder. Her name is Anna Larak. She comes from Mexico. The workshop was held for the most part in a yurt in a huge permaculture garden that belongs to an intentional community. Anyway, we were a pretty big group, and literally everyone, except myself and Anna and a couple of her apprentices were having major, powerful breakthroughs. It felt like a grief ritual. The only thing I experienced that comes close is sensing other people’s emotions. For whatever reason, I didn’t have anything of my own to process at that time. But at some point, a woman who was expressing her grief and anger kept going for her water. Then Anna told her to stop drinking. She said during spiritual and emotional work like this, drinking and eating is like swallowing your grief, anger, fears, and so on. Wait until you’re finished, close and ground properly. I’ve also wondered why so many western women practicing some form of shamanism are unhealthy or overweight. Maybe this has something to do with it. I’ve seen indigenous shamans, like Anna who are incredibly healthy for their age. Same with healers who lead healthy lifestyles. I know it from my own work as a massage therapist. And I’ve noticed there are some people I shouldn’t work on, because they drain my energy. So, now I try to only work on people who try to help themselves. Someone too lazy to bother making healthier lifestyle choices will drain your energy and too much of that will leave you broken. Those who are proactive leave me feeling energised and with a sense of knowing that my work was not for naught.

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  2. Sounds a spiritual version of the Bends.

    Also I’m now glad I didn’t ask for a divination for my 50th Birthday. I would feel guilty if you felt this way after tackling so many clients at once and mine was part of the pile.

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    • you wouldn’t have been part of the pile lol. When I do soul map I don’t do any other type of reading. I find that one is more likely to get a reaction headache if one mixes systems. I’d have done yours with a different batch.

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    • I thought the same thing – it sounds like ‘the bends” (aka. decompression sickness). This opens another facet of “Laguz”. Thank you.

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      • I keep a full medical /first aid kit with my gear including rehydration salts. There’s a brand that isn’t too gross: Liquid IV that my massage therapist recommended last year and I’ve been using that to great effect. Helps A LOT with migraines too, btw.

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  3. I’d love to have one of these done, but no way am I going to be the reason someone I like feels like they’ve been put through the wringer. My soul can just suck it up and deal.

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    • well, normally doing ONE soul map reading doesn’t make one ill lol. three, four, five and up…the reader’s gonna probably be hurting. but that’s on the diviner to marshal and manage his or her resources, not the client.

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  4. Do you do soul readings for non-Heathens? If so, how much are they? As much as I love Mani, I wouldn’t classify myself as a Heathen because I also worship various Ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Buddhist deities.

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    • I charge $125 for a soul map reading. Yes, I will do them for non-Heathens.

      The way we look at the soul is part and parcel of a cosmology and worldview that cannot and should not be separated. As long as you’re ok with that — because it will impact the language of the reading — I’d be fine with it. I will not be doing soul map readings until the next solstice though.

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  5. I’ve never heard of the soul map. Where or how did you learn about it? It’s not like there’s a long surviving tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
    I’d be interested to learn about it. Personally, I’ve never had the adverse effects you described in any of my spiritual work. I also tend to be someone who seeks a deep plunge into the realm of spirit. But even my most powerful experiences never left me feeling bad. Hungry, yes. Sometimes a surge of emotions, but that has always felt like a refreshing release, generally followed by laughter, because of how good it feels to let go of whatever I may have been holding onto. Oh, and the other symptom I’ve had is a boost of energy. Inconvenient at worst, like when it’s bed time and sleep is the furthest thing from my mind! Lol! Doing sweat lodges have been some of my most intense vision quests, for lack of a better description.

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    • Hi Jessica, sounds like what you are doing is spiritual work, not spirit work. This is the necessary internal spiritual work that you are doing to reknit, reweave, or realign the parts of you that need to be realigned. This is important internal spiritual work, and it is necessary for ongoing devotional work, but it’s not spirit work, which is what Galina is referring to. This is why you are feeling a surge of energy and laughter – in parlay, things are being fixed and adjusted, and sometimes personal internal insight is given – about you. As you are adjusting in such a way, you are also cleaning your energetic shunts, you are getting rid of stagnant or lethargic energy. This is why you are feeling an energy surge – its finally moving correctly.

      However, this is pretty much the opposite of what Galina is describing here (I’ve known Galina for years and she also does spiritual work, which is necessary for spirit work). Spirit work would be the next step – using that clean and well lubricated moving energy in your body and spending it on something that is not about you and your personal growth (if you are called to do that, as not everyone is) – work that your Gods and spirits need you to do. Journey work that requires for you to reach places that would spend that energy, the work of interpreting that which is so large and inhuman that it can blow all your receptors to absorb, sustain your presence there- all of these things would expend that energy. All of this is not about you or your personal self-growth. It’s about doing things for others, whether its soul map readings for people in the community (because our Gods and spirits want people to be on the right course in their lives and living well) or bringing mysteries that They need us to bring out. Countless things that are not about you and your own realignment.

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      • Hmmm… Ok… Then I’m not sure if I’m doing both sometimes as well. Once in a while I also work with ancestors or with spirits, but when I work with spirits it tends to be them passing messages on to me. Mostly these are messages relevant to me or my family, and the experiences I’ve mentioned with energy surges still apply. But there are times when I have dreams or visions during meditations that speak on a much larger, even global scale. I hardly know what to do with the information, and there are only a few people who’d take me seriously anyway. But maybe the reason none of that leaves me drained is that I’m not channelling one message after another in one go. Does that sound about right?
        I can say that when I work with massage therapy, physically I can handle 4 or 5 hour massages a day, but energy wise I’m better off limiting myself to just 2 or 3 in a day. It also depends who I’m working on. Some people are energy vampires, not necessarily intentionally, but rather because they do nothing to heal themselves, and I’m channelling energy for healing. It’s not just a feel-good rub down.

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  6. Heilsa!

    I noticed that you were talking about energetic issues in shamans and spirit-workers in our traditions translating to physical ailments. This past year, during the lockdowns, I was instructed in no uncertain terms by my Gods to engage in some fairly intense physical training, which has continued up to present: specifically, They directed me towards Hermes, one of the Patrons of the ancient gymnasium.

    I was wondering if the gymnasium, fulfilled some of the same functions as the yoga ashram do in India, i.e., merging of physical and spiritual training; and the extirpation of the gymnasium (and cousin institutions in Northern Europe) led to the loss of traditional disciplines that would have been of great assistance in protecting against the kinds of ailments that trouble our contemporary practitioners.

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    • Possibly, but I also tend to think the shamans and spirit workers of old had intact communities who came together in support of their specialist to ground out some fo those energies. We do not have that. In fact, most of us work in openly hostile communities. I firmly believe this is part of the reason it’s so physically grueling.

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  7. Sannion sounds like a good person to have around. Thank you, Sannion, for taking care of Galina after this session.

    Sounds like hydration salts belong in every soul-worker’s tool kit.

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  8. Jessica, that is a completely different tradition. And frankly, let’s see how healthy she is when dealing with our community. South American shamanism is not the same as northern tradition work. I would also add that she has an intact community and isn’t fighting her own community in order to effect a restoration. I’ll also add that your questions about soul map are intrusive and rude. Do you work in the northern tradition? Are you working under the aegis of an elder? Are you a trained diviner? Have you been divining with at least one other system for years? Do you know the runes well? Are you claimed by a Norse God? Unless the answer to all of those questions is yes, you aren’t a good candidate to learn the soul map. It’s lovely that you haven’t had the symptoms I describe. Good for you. You’re also not doing my work.

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    • Sorry if I came across rude. It wasn’t my intention. When I said I’m curious to know more, it doesn’t even mean I want to personally use the soul map. That would depend on how I feel once I know a little general info. Honestly, I’d never heard of it before. My spiritual learnings are Celtic of the Gaelic variety and Norse. This is a result of seeking my roots, the ways of my ancestors. Since I was a child, that’s the direction I felt pulled in. My inspiration tends to come from the native Americans, as they are the only indigenous people who ever seemed accessable to me who still have something of an intact ancient tradition. A shame that we native Europeans lost so much, nearly all. To try to answer your questions, I never had a real mentor. Just picked up tips and support here and there from various people. I’d like to do a training with the woman I mentioned, but covid made it impossible for her to come back to Germany this year to do the year long training she hoped to offer. Not sure the timing would have worked for me anyway. The one deity who has been guiding me since I was about 12 or so is Manannan. It took me years to figure out his name. I must have been about 20 or 21 when he led me to a name. I’ve had occasional dealings with Thor, a being I consider a dark Elf with whom I’ve long had a strong connection, and with a tribe of beings who seem to be thunder beings or storm beings. There are usually no words to describe my experiences. No words exchanged. The communication works differently for me. But the messages are usually clear. So, I’m self learning since a young age, which isn’t good enough for me. I wish I had an elder to teach me the shamanic ways, and I’ve felt called to that path since childhood, with no clear view how to get there. I am working on learning the runes and ogham, but I’m not really casting them in the sense of divination, but rather working on gaining an intuitive understanding of each. Seeking connection might be a good way to describe it. To do this, I meditate on one at a time. Another commenter clarified the difference between what I’ve experienced with what you’re doing, for which I’m grateful. I didn’t realize before reading her comment why there would be such drastic differences in the after effects of various spiritual work. Again, o didn’t mean any offense, and I honestly didn’t expect anything I wrote would be taken as offensive. I’m sorry. I only wanted to know what the soul map is and yes, how you came to learn it. I wasn’t asking to learn how to use it. The runes and ogham are enough for me to be getting on with for the time being.

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  9. Seven? Yikes! I’m glad you were able to avoid the worst of the reaction sickness.

    Out of curiosity, in general (not this specific case, of course), how would a missing Huge be interpreted?

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  10. Now that I’ve had a chance to cool off a bit, Jessica, it occurs to me that you may just be healthier on the whole. I came to spirit work with severe chronic injuries already thanks to my first career. I do think, however, that there is a dearth of community support for its specialists, one that those working in unbroken traditions do not experience. There’s something that a united community brings to the mix that grounds out some of that excess energy. Soul map is also just a bitch and a half to do.

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    • Keith, a missing huge would generally indicate that the person either had an injury to his or her spiritual body, or wasn’t going the spiritual work that they individually are called to do. Usually…each reading is unique.

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    • I remember reading something in one of your posts about your health problems, although I can’t recall specifically what, or maybe you didn’t say. Again, my apologies that my intention came across so wrong. This is why I hate communicating through text. I don’t always succeed in conveying my true meaning through mundane words alone. 😕

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      • no worries. I was pissy and cranky this morning, and likely read more into it than you intended! Also, it’s hard to really convey tone and intent when we’re only seeing what we write in posts. It’s way too easy to misunderstand. This has turned into a good discussion though. 🙂 Tatyana talked bout the difference between the spiritual work we all need to do, and spirit work, which is a specialty. I was moved to write about the crap in my kit. LOL and Horn and Hearth shared her own post on the same. I write about these things not just because people are curious, but because I wish when I was becoming a spirtiworker, someone had been writing about it. these are the mundane, practical questions about which I would have desperately loved guidance.

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      • Well, I’m glad we could turn this in a positive direction. Even with people like yourself writing about these things, and the rare chance to learn anything from someone with experience, it’s still a hard road to travel. The two years I lived in Massachusetts gave me the most opportunities to gain a little more knowledge from people who’d been on the path longer. There’s a little more “community” there regarding like-minded people. So I rely on my intuition and pick my way bit by bit, but most of my time these days is consumed by family demands and obligations. Even my writing has taken the back burner.

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  11. Jessica, some people ARE energy vampires, you are so right. When I encounter that, I won’t work with them (unless they are ethical — it can happen. I think there are ways for that to be used productively if one commits to doing so. usually though it’s not people with an inborn healing talent, but rather those who have no boundaries. They’ll suck a spirit worker dry if they can). I always try to make sure that I teach my students grounding, centering, shielding, warding, and cleansing, how to recognize people like that, and how to deal effectively with them. I also want to say that one should never, ever dismiss spiritual work. it’s crucial, even if one isn’t a spirit worker!

    Most types of divination don’t lay a person out like the soul map. The issue with the soul map is a hard and fast and really deep drop beneath the threads of Wyrd, while the spirit worker feels like they’re just hovering. Not realizing how far you’ve gone, means you go longer than you should — make sense? it’s easy to lose track.

    Regardless, I think it’s important for spirit-workers to know their limits, know how the work affects them, and know the best ways to restore and maintain themselves so that they can do their work for as long as possible, cleanly and well.

    I’m cranky today and I apologize — it’s not anyone here. It’s been one of those mornings where I’ve been spilling and breaking everything. I spilled boiling water on my hand (I have a charm though to keep burns from blistering and hit it fast enough that it worked).

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    • I’m sorry you’ve been having such a rough day. Same here. My boyfriend and I aren’t even talking at the moment after a big argument earlier today. There’s a yoga teacher training coming up, and I’d like to do it, since I never finished my training years ago. Been doing yoga since I was 18, and I got a job teaching by pure luck. So, going all the way with my skills and getting certified are a big priority for me. But money is way too tight. It felt like my boyfriend was pointing out all the reasons why I can’t do it, while I was only looking for ways to make it possible, and it all went downhill from there. I’ll spare you the details.
      But you’re very right about grounding and protecting oneself. I don’t believe most of the psychic vampires I’ve worked with are aware of it. Often they’re just stuck in old patterns which prevents them from healing or even finding a balance. Then they seek a quick fix, which will leave a healer drained at best. I discovered that I’m an empath during my massage therapy training. It explained so much about myself once I made the connection. I went years wondering what was wrong with me! 😂 Downside to not having a strong community, as you suggested. No wise elders to guide the young towards discovering their talents and purpose. That’s something I want to change, but probably only can change if and when I reach such an age and hopefully grow a little or better a lot wiser. 😉

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      • some days are just rough but that’s ok. Mine is shaping up, hopefully yours will too and tomorrow will be better. School starts for me this week so that will keep me out of trouble lol. I hope you’ll find a way to do the training. Is there any possibility of working out a payment plan with the teacher? Or some sort of work-study? it is sometimes worth explaining your situation and asking. You never know.

        for empaths, grounding, centering, and shielding are essential. I recommend “Spiritual Protection” by S. Reicher. The opening chapters really break down the exercises. I didn’t learn until my twenties but learning how to shield was a godsend.

        I think the problems in our community run deeper than “no wise elders.” we have teachers and elders now. My generations may not have, but this one does and largely the community treats them like shit. Maybe, until the community learns how to respect its elders, they don’t deserve to have the benefit of them. A colleague once told me that the blessing of community was community, but the curse of community is also community. With any restoration there’s a learning curve. Our community doesn’t know how to respect their teachers and elders partly because our over culture doesn’t respect teachers and elders. There still needs to be that cognitive reset. we’ll get there because people like you and others reading this are doing their part and working hard to make sure that these things change. 🙂

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  12. Jessica, I think that it’s possible to find the Gods in everything. If your family obligations are taking up most of your time, then there are Deities that you might seek out for advice: Frigga, Sigyn, Frau Holle come immediately to mind. (I’m saying this less for you — you probably got this already-but for newcomers reading, it may not have occurred to them). Changes in circumstance become a wonderful opportunity (even if sometimes frustrating) to find new ways to approach the Gods, new ways to center one’s life around devotion to Them, and different ways of working.

    I think family and home are very sacred structures and it’s up to us to maintain them in a way that honors that. I haven’t always understood that but the last decade has been enlightening there. I also think that spiritual work has its ebbs and flows that play out in our lives. I’ve seen folks worry a lot that they were “doing it wrong” when those shifts happened but they’re not. it’s a cycle of sorts. and now I’m rambling. lol.

    there is a good community in MA — I’m glad you were able to benefit.

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    • Ah, Frigga! My daughter prays to her every night to protect her from nightmares. She wasn’t our first choice, but it didn’t help praying to Nátt, but then we tried asking for Frigga’s help, and ever since, no more nightmares, or at least nothing my 6 year old can’t handle. It actually didn’t occur to me to ask the goddesses for help with my own struggles. In part, I’ve been feeling like I’m struggling alone with no one to turn to. The other side is that I grew up in the Bible belt, having religion pounded into my impressionable head. As a result, I still struggle with the thought of seeking connections to gods. If the initial contact comes from them, I am open. But I struggle to reach out to gods who haven’t first reached out to me. Something to reflect on I guess.
      Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it wrong too. So, thanks for that. 😊

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  13. That’s what I’m hoping. An info evening is coming up in February. Hopefully they are open to some kind of arrangement for people who would otherwise struggle with the cost.
    Are you a school teacher?
    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll try to get a copy. My own techniques are mostly intuitive. If I’ve been doing something like yoga or other activities that leave me open, I can get thrown into a full blown panic Attack if I come into an environment with a lot of strong emotions flying around. I’m fine if I know what I’m about to walk into. It’s the unexpected that can catch me off guard. Even if I have no idea something is going on (from outward appearances), and only find out later. 😅 So, I probably could use some tips!
    What country or state are you in, if you don’t mind me asking? There are elders, yes, but not necessarily accessible in the in person context. You know, like having a functioning, healthy village where the elders have known you your whole life, since you were a baby, like some indigenous cultures still have. And you’re right about how people treat their elders. As a child, I witnessed my parents generation and my own not appreciating their elders at best, and being downright cruel at worst. And in this I’m just talking about the old folk, not some spiritual leaders, you know. It always disturbed me. I grew up so close to my grandparents. They were so important to me, and I learned to appreciate the elders from them. Spirituality is still generally looked down upon, so I can totally believe what you say about the wise elders being treated so badly. Sad.

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    • I’m in grad school doing a PhD in theology. That does involve some teaching but I’m not a school teacher yet. I’m in upstate New York.

      so much of what you describe with spirituality being looked down upon, the mistreatment of the elderly, etc. is part of the culture of modernity. That doesn’t mean technology — ancient polytheists had technology. technology is awesome for the most part. It means rather a way of looking at the world and engaging that is very antithetical to healthy community. We can repair that though, I truly do believe.

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      • What I saw is we must believe, and although things will get worse before they get better, it will be the persistence of those who keep holding back the darkness who will make it possible to come through to bett

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      • Somehow I posted that before I was ready. (Maybe you can delete that first comment for me? This is what I actually wanted to write: I could have believed you’d be a teacher. 😉 Is that what you plan on doing when you finish your degree?
        Yes, that’s very true. There are undoubtedly some technologies that do more harm than good. While internet has given us the age of information, it’s also caused the societal disconnect to grow exponentially. It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t abuse/overuse it. Unfortunately, it appears that we’ve crossed the point of no return on that front.
        What I saw is we must believe, and although things will get worse before they get better, it will be the persistence of those who keep holding back the darkness who will make it possible to change the world for the better.

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      • 2 babies to take care of doesn’t make typing very easy! 😅

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  14. Jessica: yes I do want to be a professor . if that doesn’t pan out, the job market being what it is, I’ll teach Latin at high school level. lol

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