A reader asked me recently asking whether or not it was really possible to experience the Gods through our senses, to have some type of direct engagement, where we sense, hear, or see the Holy Powers, what is called theophany (from two Greek words: φαίνω “to see” and θεοί “Gods” and meaning essentially to see or perceive the Gods). It was a very good question and forms, I think, one of the most difficult chasms to cross from 20th century post-modernism into actual devotion, and certainly to the type of devotion that informed the world of our ancestors. For our ancestors, including our medieval Christian ones, it was acknowledged that one might experience the Gods via the senses (how else would one experience Them? Our sensorium is the way that we experience every aspect of our world, after all) (1). They set up temples where one could go to pray for dreams, developed mystery cultus to allow for cathartic experience of the Powers, and worked this awareness into their philosophies and literature (2).
I will preface this by saying that I think everyone who experiences the Gods directly does so a little differently and that’s because our brains are not wired to take in something that inhuman and immense. The experience, the Being, the Presence gets filtered through our consciousness, so if person x sees but person y feels or hears that’s a matter of their own inborn facilities/predilections (some people learn better visually, some by hearing, etc.) and how their brain is processing the stimuli. One modality isn’t better than the other. Now onto the actual question!
One thing that I realized with this question is that I didn’t come to Heathenry or even to polytheism unprepared. I had a very good devotional upbringing. I was encouraged to pray, to do novenas, the idea of “God” being able and willing to engage with devotees was not a foreign one so I never self-censored there. I didn’t close that off, the idea that engagement was possible, but I think like a muscle one might work at the gym, the facility to sense the Gods was actively developed through years of prayer and meditation and later shrine work, devotional work, study, etc. Also putting myself in space where it was more likely such contact might occur didn’t hurt, and a couple of years of ritual work further developed that awareness.
I think many times the Gods show Themselves not through the raw impact of visions or direct theophany but through small graces, gifts given through the natural world or one’s daily life and that is potent and powerful too. Learning to see all things as sharing in that connection, that capacity for engagement is important because if we are always looking for the big explosion of Presence that overwhelms, we may miss the small whisper of grace that opens. Both are important and maybe, just maybe it’s the latter that prepares one for the former.
I’ve argued with other spirit workers about whether or not the capacity to experience theophany is part of one’s inborn psychic or spiritual wiring or whether it is something that can be developed through consistent prayer, meditation, and devotional work. I default to the latter and perhaps that is because I was a priest long before I became a spirit worker. It’s also though that I have seen ecstatic ritual move people away from the tightly locked down headspace of their daily lives and into receptivity toward the Gods. I also think that saying one can only experience the Gods directly if one has the inborn talent for it negates the agency of the Gods in this equation, and without that agency no one is going to be experiencing anything!
As a spiritworker I have to say, don’t be upset or discouraged if you don’t immediately receive the feedback of direct experience. You are having experience just by engaging in devotional work and there is far, far more merit in doing that work without the bold and obvious interaction/theophany/etc. than in doing it solely to receive that. Pray without expectation without preconception and you will be opening all the doors of your heart and senses to the glory of our Gods. Besides, theophanies usually come with work. The Gods are there and will usually meet us more than half way if we but start in whatever fumbling capacity we can down the road of devotion. In the end, that’s all that matters.
- Even in omens, prodigies and κληδόνες, the person receiving such a gift is experiencing that through their sensorium: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
- One of my favorite passages in the latter is found in the Virgil works in a powerful description of a priestess of Apollo being possessed by Her God:
“But the prophetess, not yet able to endure Apollo, raves in the cavern,
swollen in stature, striving to throw off the God from her breast;
he all the more exercises her frenzied mouth, quelling her wild heart,
and fashions her by pressure.”
At, Phoebi nondum patiens, immanis in antro
bacchatur vates, magnum si pectore possit
excussisse deum; tanto magis ille fatigat
rabidum, fera corda domans, fingitque premendo.
Virgil’s Aeneid, 6 77-83.
I love this description of possession because it so aptly depicts the partnership required and, while it’s been awhile since I’ve read the Aeneid in Latin, I believe in at least one other place, it’s actually described with vocabulary that conjures up the horse and rider paradigm that is used in modern Afro-Caribbean religions to describe the process of Deity possession, a metaphor that many polytheistic traditions use as well.
Note that the word that is here translated as ‘raves’ is ‘bacchatur’ and means to ‘behave in a bacchic manner,’ i.e. to be taken over completely in divinely inspired ecstasy, possibly violent ecstasy. It may also be translated accurately as ‘rave’ or ‘rant’.
I could have translated ‘fingit’ more as ‘tames’ rather than ‘fashions’ though either is an accurate translation. (this isn’t my translation — I’m not sure whose translation this is, but I liked it. I would probably translate it this way: “But, not yet fully opening to Apollo (or enduring Apollo, or allowing Him in, but the sense is that Apollo has not yet seated Himself fully on the prophetess because she is instinctively resisting), immense (vast) in the cave she raves, trying to drive out the great God from her breast; He exhausts her mad fury, taming her wild heart, instructing her by seating Himself fully (this is one of the possible poetic meanings of premendo).
So, just looking at this quickly before I hit ‘post’, I could make several choices in the translation and I’d probably have a half page of footnotes lol.
Wynn recently asked, “Generically, what are the general requirements to handle sacral tools? Piety, cleanliness, and the ability to shield oneself from the tool/the tool from oneself?”
I love the way this question is phrased: “generically.” Why? Because the “requirements” will change depending on the Deity or Deities involved, the tool, the tradition, and even the person doing the handling (and their headspace, talents, etc.). The question also acknowledges that if there is an issue, that issue might just as easily be with the person handling the tool as with the tool itself. This too, is significant.
Now, I try to avoid handling my sacred tools indiscriminately. They are reserved for sacred work and as with all things that come into contact with the Holy, may carry that type of spiritual contamination. That’s an odd word to use with something holy, right? It is such a negative term in English but I don’t mean it to be so here. It simply is. When a person, place, or thing comes into contact with the Holy Powers in some way, I was taught that this effects an ontological change in that person, place, or thing. It changes them in a way that can affect others. As with any contact with the sacred, one should be prepared before that engagement.
This contamination carries over into spiritual technicians – spirit workers and shamans, orpheotelestai, etc. They carry the contagion of the holy. That’s a good thing, a renewing thing, but something that may have significant consequences as well. This is the first reason that a specialist’s sacred tools need to be carefully maintained and cared for (the second being simple respect for the Holy Powers). If someone is mentally or emotionally unbalanced, if they’re avoiding dealing with themselves, if they are going through a tumultuous patch, if they have hurts that they aren’t yet ready to examine…well, such contact as I was taught, can force the issue all by itself. It can destabilize, open everything up, force the addressing of things, and hopefully bring one through to the other side. This isn’t something a spiritworker, et al does consciously but rather a direct result of that sacred contamination. The goal of such a process is healing and coming into better, cleaner relationship with oneself and with the Holy Powers but I’ve seen it in action and it is … quite remarkable to see unfold. So, being picky about who might handle one’s tools is just a good best practice (1).
It’s important to recognize the sacred and its boundaries. That presupposes piety and respect, of course, but also an understanding of protocol and procedure and a willingness to follow it to the letter. Also, these are sacred tools (or regalia). They belong to the Gods and spirits in question and are used by the specialist. That warrants a bit of respect. They are extensions of the Holy Powers and Their sphere of influence, Their territory. That’s not something to mess about with lightly.
One thing to note as well is that you must be properly centered, grounded, and preferably shielded before you handle any of these tools. I have known people to become dizzy, nauseous, headachy, and even to slip deeply into an altered state just from being in physical proximity to a spiritworker’s tools and/or regalia. I make sure that my ground crew runs through these basic exercises thoroughly before we get to work for just this reason. I’d also have khernipsor Florida water, or some type of cleansing and purifying substance (2). It can help you, the spiritworker, and may be needed for the tool itself. I’d also recommend having silk gloves. I have found that silk insulates to a certain degree from these energies. I also keep organic linen on hand to wrap tools and regalia up in for the same purpose.
Energy is such a nebulous term in this context. When I use this word, what I mean is that through use, consecration, blessing, etc., the tools or regalia in question have become imbued with a tiny, infinitesimal rhythm/pulse/force/flow of the Deity’s Presence/power. As I noted above, it becomes an extension of Them, Their territory, Their sphere of influence (3). It is precisely for this reason that one cannot and should not treat sacred tools and regalia as one might regular clothing. Those things no longer belong solely to the practitioner.
So, when you are going to handle sacred tools, I would suggest praying, centering and grounding, and fully cleansing yourself first. This is good protocol for any ground crew. Remain mindful that you are dealing with sacred things and stay focused and you should be fine. This is part and parcel of what a ground crew does. After tending to the spiritworker, one of their main responsibilities is care for gear, tools, and regalia.
Aside from that, just being respectful and organized will go a long way.
- One thing that I have rarely seen or heard discussed as a spiritworker is what to do with sacred regalia and tools after one’s death. I strongly advise every spiritual technician to put in his or her will clear instructions detailing who should receive those things, or what should be done with them. This may take a significant amount of negotiation and divination on the spiritworker’s part before this can be clearly worked out but not doing so can be disastrous. The numen contained within working tools and regalia can make non-spiritworkers ill if they are unprepared for it. The last thing you want is your sacred regalia turning up at a yard sale after your death. You’re responsible for any harm incurred from that, because it is within your power to make appropriate plans while alive.
- Khernips is a type of holy water used for purification and cleansing in Greek polytheisms. It is easy to make: take good, clean water and a bay leaf. Light the bay leaf on fire and douse it in the water. I usually offer a prayer to Apollo asking that through this union of opposing forces, fire and water, mediated by earth (the leaf), this substance be granted the power to purify.
- The same might be said of the specialist. They too become extensions of the territory and sphere of influence of the Gods they serve while in active service.
I was telling my husband how helpful his honest question about drinking horns had been and he looked at me and after a moment said, “you should write something about what makes good ground crew.” I’ve only very rarely seen this discussed, even amongst spiritworkers, so I think maybe he’s right and so here we go.
Firstly, what do I mean when I say ‘ground crew?’
This is a term a bunch of us came up with (or at least began using) in 2004 after the first ‘Keepers’ Crossing’ gathering held at Cauldron Farm. This was an international gathering of spiritworkers, shamans, vitkar, mystics, et al that we held yearly for five or six years. It was the equivalent of a professional conference and gave us a professional forum where we could meet with other specialists and delve into the nitty gritty aspects of our work. We networked, exchanged tech. and sometimes talked terminology. It turned out that quite a few of us were using similar terminology to refer to the team of people – be they spiritworkers or not—who assisted us before, during, and after possessory work (1), intense trance and journey work, or other aspects of spirit work that require altered states of some sort.
Why do we need ground crew?
Well, we may not needground crew, but a competent and committed ground crew certainly makes the sacred work go more smoothly.
The spirit worker needs to be focused on doing the work he or she has set to do, in order to do that as cleanly as possible. That often means neglecting their bodies. If that person is splitting attention, distracted by practicalities it can make him less efficient. If she has no ground crew to monitor her, she can push into injury, pain, or even seizure. If a Deity is coming via possession, then it is only polite to have attendants. After such work, a spirit worker can be disoriented, sick, in pain, or just spacy. The ground crew makes sure that the spirit worker does everything required to transition back into mundane headspace safely. What that entails will differ from spirit worker to spirit worker and it’s something that must be discussed in detail well before any work occurs (2).
It’s easy to forget essential things if one is doing any type of altered state work so the team acts as spotters. Spirit work of any kind is grueling on the body. It can trigger chronic pain flares, immune issues, neurological problems, migraines, muscle spasms, and dehydration to name but a few. I don’t know how much of it comes from the average spirit-worker’s intense focus and stubbornness about pushing through, and how much is just a side effect of the work itself. Shifting states of consciousness, dropping quickly from regular headspace to a deeply altered state, carrying divine energy, working with the energies with which many of us work takes its toll and we learn to dissociate from pain very early. It’s really, really helpful to have a team that doesn’t do that, whose sacred job is taking care of the physical needs of the spirit worker. Usually that means, attending them as they prep for whatever work they’re doing, watching over them during that work, and making sure they’re fed, watered, and relatively functional after. It also means doing all the physical driving. Do not drive after doing altered state work of any kind, people. It may also mean acting as a spotter if the spirit worker has to do on site unexpected spirit work. This happened to me, for instance, the first time I went to Gettysburg. I had an intense experience with some of the military dead, one that laid me completely out for three days. If I hadn’t had a very calm, centered keeper with me, I could have walked into traffic, fallen and broken an ankle, forgotten to eat, etc. Ground crew are angels, absolute guardian angels.
On a purely practical level, it’s also really nice to have a pair of hands or several pairs to help manage tools and sacred items. This is important work – not everyone can safely handle exposure to sacred tools. They’re also capable of bundling up the spiritworker and calling 911 if need be – I’ve done a lot of my work in the woods, and accidents happen even when one is just hiking. Add altered state work on to that, or any other type of spirit work, and it’s best to be prepared. One of my ground crew always has a full medical kit with them, and enough first aid to make use of it.
So, what makes good ground crew?
Well, this is my opinion and what I look for in my own ground crew. I’d love to hear from other spirit workers about what you look for in your team. I also want to emphasize that having a ground crew is a real privilege. I worked for over 15 years without one and I have to say, it’s so much easier to do good, effective work with ground crew. It was mind-blowing to me just how much easier it was the first time I experienced it. To those who are willing and able to serve in this capacity: THANK YOU a thousand times.
Firstly, while I prefer ground-crew that has at least a bit of sensitivity to Gods, spirits, and energy, it is perfectly ok to have someone head-blind on your team. The important thing is that they know how to monitor both the spirit worker and everyone around them, especially if it’s a public ritual (3). If they are gifted, they need to be in control of that: grounded, centered, and with a capacity for shielding, preferably up to and including the ability to shield someone else. Spirit workers can make excellent ground crew themselves and it’s always good to do this for others, because you learn what it takes.
I like at least one person to have medical training – at least CPR and first aid. The best ground crew I ever worked with had two people in the medical field on it, one of them a nurse. They also have to be discrete. They’re going to see the spiritworker at his or her most vulnerable, possibly up to helping him/her dress or undress, vomiting, passing out, etc. They need to know how to keep their teeth together. They are also responsible for making sure the spiritworker’s property, tools, garments, etc. are in good order, collected, and with the spiritworker when they depart. It’s important that they have food, hydration, and other necessities for helping the spiritworker ground and come back to mundane headspace afterwards. They provide aftercare, making sure the spiritworker isn’t in shock, is hydrated, fed, grounded. They provided grounding and shielding if needed. They force the spiritworker to eat and drink (discuss this with them very early on and work out what is acceptable. Each spiritworker will have preferences. I tell my crew to make me eat, to be hardasses about it because I know I won’t want to and I’ll be resistant). It goes without saying that the crew must be pious (4).
Most important of all, every single person on the ground crew needs to be organized, capable of following instructions, and willing to take orders, but also think on the spot as situations arise and/or change. It is the spiritworker’s obligation to teach the ground crew what they need to know: preferences, protocols, emergency procedures, situations that may occur, etc. They need to function as a well-oiled team. Most of all, the crew has to be security aware. Their job is to protect and assist the spiritworker who may be operating on a completely different state of awareness or not conscious at all if possession is happening. They are there to provide care and safety. The team cannot be afraid to get their hands dirty and they cannot be hesitant when it comes to protecting their charge. I like one of my team to be armed for just this reason.
The ground crew has an incredibly important function: they ensure that sacred protocols are followed by everyone concerned so that rites and rituals can happen properly, in ways that allow for clean communication between the Gods and the community, and that enable the spiritworker or specialist to come through the work with as little damage as possible. They make the transitions as smooth as possible. So, take the time to train a good crew and treat them like gold. They’re worth it.
I would love to know what questions you have so please don’t be shy. Post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer as best I can.
- This term refers to the practice of Deity possession, allowing a Deity to pour His or Her consciousness into ours, taking over for a time to engage with devotees. It’s a sacred act and a traditional one, appearing in polytheisms the world over. There is ample evidence for it having been practiced amongst the Norse. Today, folks are probably most familiar with it from various Afro-Caribbean religions like Lukumi, Voudoun, and Candomble.
- As an example, before the third day of our solstice ritual I was right at the cusp of a pain flare (I have fibro). I was in growing physical pain on a number of levels. I knew that if we waited a couple of hours I would probably stabilize and could do the ritual without a problem. I said to my team, “I can push this, but I’ll pay for it.” And we discussed whether or not that was necessary. It wasn’t, so we were able to wait a couple of hours and everything went off quite well. Had I needed to force the appropriate headspace and mobility, I could have done, but the wisdom of my ground crew took over and they were better able to evaluate the situation (whereas I was really concerned about the work to the extent I would push all else aside for no need). Because of that, I was functional later that evening and not in terrible pain the next day.
- In a public rite, the spiritworker should ALWAYS have a keeper who doesn’t leave their side but isn’t at all intrusive. I remember several years ago being asked to carry our moon God Mani via possession, what we call “horsing,” an Afro-Caribbean term that implies that the Deity rides the devotee like a rider might a horse. We don’t control when the Deity seats Him or Herself. Our job is to prepare properly and show up with a willingness to be of service. That’s it. If the Deity decides not to descend, that’s ok. There could be a million reasons why that have nothing at all to do with the spiritworker. Our job is to show up prepared.
Well, Mani is unusual when He possesses in that He likes the sense of corporeality of the horse experiencing the God experiencing the horse. He’s slow and careful, leaving all the devotee’s mental architecture in the same state when He leaves as it was when He possessed. He doesn’t rush. So, He was skirting around the edges of my consciousness, partially there but not fully, taking His time as is His privilege to do.As I was pacing before His offering table, another spirit worker, knowing better – so much so that I cannot help but think this person did this in order to break me out of the necessary headspace and ruin the ritual—came up and grabbed my/His shoulders and basically told Him to get the show on the road. Had I been fully me, I’d have clocked the polluted creature in the mouth for violating ritual space and possibly for assault because this person wasn’t gentle. Mani is much calmer and was in me enough that I wasn’t fully me. This prevented my own normal response (let’s not even get into the fact that this creature knew I have neck damage and the way I was grabbed could have compounded that).
My ground crew had gotten separated from me – people often want to be close to the horse because of the Deity energy pouring through them and one of the things a crew does is monitor that and keep it orderly. The horse should never be overwhelmed and touching a horse in anyway, particularly before the Deity fully seats Him or Herself in them is a huge no no. It can completely break the horse out of the necessary receptive headspace for the possession. Well, I’m told later that the head of my crew saw it, saw this other spirit worker coming and couldn’t get across the field in time to head it off. Fortunately, I am very experienced and thanks to my training was able to remain focus. Mani slid in when it suited Him and held court and people were able to engage with this God.
I recount this to emphasize the necessity of training your crew for every possible situation. I had worked with those wanting me to carry Mani before, and knew most of those gathered. I had no reason to suspect that an experienced spirit worker who, while we disliked each other personally, was a professional would behave in such a violent and inappropriate fashion. I had not prepared my ground crew for this, because I assumed that such a thing – unthinkable to anyone with basic piety—would not happen. I was wrong and because I did not prepare them, it wasn’t on their radar as something to pay particular attention to so even when the head of my crew saw it happening, he couldn’t stop it. It is incumbent on the spiritworker not the ground crew to prepare the crew with all necessary protocol and for any possible situation that may occur. ].
- On the positive side, because they are navigating everything behind the scenes, the ground crew will usually be the first to witness the theophany of possession, and it is with possessory work that they are the most crucial for the spiritworker’s welfare.
I don’t do drugs. Mind you, I think they should all be legal, but I’m too old, too creaky, and have too many health issues. I don’t need to complicate my life, even as a spirit-worker. Perhaps if I weren’t taking certain medications for my migraine condition, I might occasionally walk the Plant Road, but right now, that’s just not in the cards, and it doesn’t have to be. There are multiple techniques and roads by which a spirit-worker can get to where they need to be. The Plant Road has never really been one of mine (1). That being said, it’s a powerful road and one for which I have the deepest respect. Depending on the plant allies with whom one is engaging, it can be potentially fatal. (This is why protocol and preparation are so important). Last night, without ever ingesting anything, I got a powerful taste of a particular spirit’s medicine and got taken on a rather unexpected (and initially non-consensual) journey.
My husband belongs to Dionysos and part of his sacred work is guiding people on plant journeys safely (2). Last night, after several weeks of preparation, one of our housemates had arranged to meet Amanita Muscaria, Little Red Man (3). He’s called “Little Red Man” partly in a nod to the vibrant color of the amanita and partly because the spirit of this mushroom often appears as a fierce little man with either reddish skin or a red cap or both. Sannion was all set to be guide and guard. Not being involved in this work, I was planning instead on working on my final paper for the school semester (which I did, for a couple of hours, at least). They went to do their thing in part of the house, and I went to my studio/office in another part in order to get to work. Ne’er should the twain have met lol.
About an hour into it all, I started to get massively nauseous (one of the symptoms of having ingested amanita – which I repeat, I had not at any point done). It took me awhile longer to realize what was happening, during which interim, I had several significant epiphanies about my paper topic, which I credit to the inspiration of Amanita). Finally, I gave up working, understanding that I was linking in way too much to the power of the Red Man, and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water with rehydration salts (important on plant road journeys – and yes I realize a mushroom is a fungus not a plant but consider “plant” shorthand for the whole breadth of spirits with whom one might work on this road—to stay hydrated before, during, and after) and sat down in the living room to wait for my husband to finish up his work. About an hour later, he came out, by which time I had the beginnings of a bad headache (which is why I don’t do plant path).
We chatted for a bit and realized that because amanita is one of Odin’s plants, because it is associated specifically with berserkers, which gift I have, and because I tend to be very open to the Gods and spirits that are within our household retinue, I had tapped right into the experience our housemate was having, though we each went very, very different places—or, more likely, amanita had tapped right into me. This is what I learned and what I share now about the power of this being:
- I always knew that despite various scholars’ meanderings, amanita ingestion does not cause the berserkergang. Only someone who was not a berserker and who had never tried amanita would think it did (4). Being a berserker is knit into one’s soul. It’s an inherent part of a person, not something learned or acquired; HOWEVER, when used by someone who is a berserk, the spirit of amanita grants speed, incredible speed (everyone and everything else seems to be moving and thinking and existing incredibly slowly), one hell of an advantage in battle.
- It renders one impervious to pain. The Berserkergang does this anyway, but it’s different with amanita. One sees the injury or pain, is aware of it, but is above it, unimpacted. The berserkergang itself has a healing capacity and can ensure some measure of healing to these things so perhaps this would have been useful in knowing where to direct that healing?
- I was several rooms away, working on an academic paper. I hadn’t ingested anything other than a cup of Darjeeling tea. Because of the factors outlined above, I linked unexpectedly right into the Red Man. Parsing this out later, we had a major insight. One person takes amanita and while the Red Man is affecting him/her, that spirit’s influence is beginning to affect the person next to that first, even before that latter person ingests anything. One person taking it augments the next, who augments the next and this would lead to tremendous power and cohesion in a battle situation. I can well see why Odin would suggest use of this mushroom to His warriors. I also suspect that a vitki or spirit worker or shaman offering to the spirit of the mushroom, engaging with it could ensure that the berserkers didn’t mistake their own people for the enemy in the haze of the battle fury. Such a person could direct, along with the cooperation of the spirit of the mushroom itself, the ride.
Ironically, Sannion had suggested before he and our friend began their work that I micro-dose (take a miniscule portion of the mushroom so that I would be inside its influence). I declined because A) I don’t do plant path and B) I had academic work to accomplish. I wish, in retrospect, that I had done as he suggested. I think it would have been an easier journey (I would have known I was taking a journey for one thing!). Today was rough. Because I hadn’t prepared (though I had divined and helped our friend in that friend’s preparations, including talking to Red Man which, of course, had me primed and open for his later influence), coming back to mundane time/space/head-space hurt and of course with me, that often means migraines. But it was worth it. I received information that transformed my research in exciting ways, learned something about one of Odin’s allies, and learned that the ancient contracts and alliances between Gods, spirits, and particular groups of our ancestors (in this case berserks) don’t just disappear. The groove is there and under the right conditions, can easily be activated again. This is a hopeful thing, because it means that we *can* restore the broken lineages and covenants our ancestors threw down when they converted (and even if conversion was forced – a horrendous and horrible thing, a violation on both sides in many ways—the broken covenants with the Holy Powers still exist). Our place in taking up and repairing those threads will be recognized by those Gods and Their constituent allies. That is a good thing, a useful thing, a blessed thing.
- Though it must be noted, that Plant Road work can be very powerfully done without ever engaging with entheogens.
- It’s always good to have an experienced guide the first several times one meets and engages with a plant ally, especially if that ally is an entheogen. It’s also always good to have a spotter, someone to hold the space soberly to make sure that one comes through safe and sound, or to call for help if something goes awry. I think the Gods like courage, not stupidity after all.
- CAVEAT: if you eat this without proper preparation, it will kill you horribly. If you eat too much of this, with proper preparation, it can still kill you horribly. Do not play around with this. Unless you are working under experienced supervision AND are called to the Plant road, it’s best to leave this mushroom and spirit alone. In our state, he is legal, btw. It varies state to state.
- There’s a trend in scholarship to ascribe any mystical, visionary, or magical experience to drugs.
Today is so bad. I woke with a migraine bad enough to make me vomit. Too much spirit contact and unexpected at that. Last night, I already wasn’t feeling great. I had a bit of a migraine mostly from the weather so I took migraine medication and settled in to watch some tv with my housemate and my husband. I wanted to show them a WWI show that I like: The Crimson Field. It’s all about VAD nurses in WWI (got cancelled after one season, probably because it showed how fucking incompetent military leadership was). I didn’t think to first make offerings to the military dead, even though they are one of my primary group of spirits, especially the WWI dead.
I’ve since decided that whenever I watch anything having to do with WWI, I’m just going to make offerings to that family of the dead as a matter of course. That’s my new protocol now and forever a-fucking-men.
As we were watching the series last night, I started getting enraged and wanting to grind my teeth and at one point the man who had risen up with his brothers-in-arms behind me actually used my voice to hiss bitter at the story being portrayed and that’s when we all realized the dead were around us. An ancestor worker carries the dead always. We carry them with us and whether it is men who sing like angels or men and women who plodded through mud and piss and shit and hell they are with us always. I realize the story being depicted was so very close to what had happened to the spirit behind me and he was still so very angry so we gave him voice and gave him and the others there offerings and the room grew crystalline bright and I saw the spirits of the dead ringing us misty and pale and that is how we spent out night and today I feel as though I have been beaten. My head is not large enough for the multitude that wanted to pour their stories and their pain into it. The honeycombed halls of my heart are willing to receive their stories, to carry their pain but oh I feel as though someone clubbed the back of my head hard.
Sannion: “the spirits take everything.”
Me in response: “OMG that’s absolutely the truth. They so do, but they give everything too.”
And he and my housemate concurred. They take and they give and we are stretched thin in between.
11 years ago today one of my most popular books, Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner, released.
Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner is not denomination-specific: rather, it seeks to provide an entry into interior practice for anyone involved in a branch of this broad family of traditions of the ancient Norse, Germanic, and Saxon peoples, using material suitable for the solitary, independent practitioner. Those outside of the Northern Tradition who wish to deepen their own devotional practice will find this book helpful in their own work, as well.
Hard to believe it’s been 7 years since this book first released! Who has a copy?
We are all surrounded by spirits. Many people feel called to work with them, but few know where to begin. Enjoined by the gods and spirits to fulfill this need, Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova have reconstructed the indigenous spiritual traditions of northern Europe and Scandinavia extinguished more than one thousand years ago by the spread of Christianity. Arising from basic survival needs, these practical traditions are fundamentally tied to the elements found in the harsh world of the ancient North.
Beginning with the skills tied to the Earth element, necessary for grounding prior to the more demanding aspects of the practice–working with Sun, Moon, Plants, Animals, Water, Fire, Craft, and Air–the authors explain, step by step, how to build relationships with each elemental spirit and the Ancestors. Offering 83 practical exercises, from cleansing with the Moon or borrowing the legs of Reindeer to making sacred space with Mugwort or creating an ancestor altar, they also explore building spirit relationships through altered states. Emphasizing the proper management of your spirit relationships to avoid spiritual debt or offense, the authors outline the ancient cultural rules and taboos that circumscribe these practices, essential knowledge for successful and fruitful spirit alliances.
Detailing the beginning set of skills needed to work with the spirits of this ancient world, this comprehensive workbook offers a unique ancestral spiritual outlet for those of northern European descent as well as an accessible guide for anyone trying to fulfill their shamanic callings.
A step-by-step guide to working with the spirits of ancient northern Europe
- Explains how to build relationships with Earth, Sun, Moon, Plants, Animals, Water, Fire, Craft, Air, and the Ancestors through 83 practical exercises
- Explores the role of altered states in spirit work
- Outlines the ancient cultural rules and taboos to avoid spiritual debt or offense
5 years ago today this book made its first public appearance.
Divination is a sacred art, craft, and science. It is a means of facilitating right relationship with the Gods and other holy powers. It is a means of sorting out our wyrd and bettering our ability to function as responsible human beings. It is a means of bettering our luck, and making the most of the opportunities sent our way. Most of all, it is a means whereby even those without the ability to hear or sense the Gods and spirits consistently and accurately can learn what the Gods and spirits want from them, what their obligations may be, and receive guidance on where to go with the struggles, problems, and questions in their lives. With over twenty years of experience as a diviner, Krasskova answers important questions about performing divination within the context of an engaged polytheistic religious practice. Covering topics like binary systems, proper mental and spiritual protocols, dealing with clients, and the differences between divination and oracles, this is essential reading for those called to a vocation as a diviner, as well as those who are simply interested in divination as a part of their personal spiritual practice.
Available on amazon: http://amzn.to/2fRMrPo
Someone emailed a colleague of mine out of the blue with the following question (he shared it largely out of shock at the utter obliviousness of it all):
-” What does the shaman who horses (1) deities get in return for all the sacrifice, hard work & suffering they had to endure to become a shaman in the first place?… Can the shaman expect to be a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer whose (sic) able to bring about change in his life & this world through sorcery, after horsing deities for years? Or is it dependent on the relationship that is forged with the deity?”
The question is offensive on many levels and oblivious on many others, so much so that I was left quite literally speechless when my friend emailed me. (I think I said something to the effect of ‘I don’t know quite what to say here but you do get the best questions. Damn!’).(2)
Even writing this, I’m still pretty boggled by the question. First of all, what do you get? You get a job. You get the honor and privilege of serving the Gods, a particular privilege that most people never even conceive of let alone experience.
But more to the point, it’s not about us. A shaman provides service to the Gods and to the community. It’s not self-serving. No one in their right mind would want this job and yet, it is an honor and a privilege to be taken up in this way.
I just am so boggled by the incorrect attitude displayed in the email, not just to the idea of a shaman’s work being for personal empowerment, but the idea that we can use relationships with the Gods for personal greed. It is so incredibly wrong. If you ever wanted a primer on how not to approach the Holy Powers, this is it.
There are many ways to approach the Gods but first and foremost there is a foundational commonality on those that are appropriate and that commonality is respect. These are Holy Powers. They are the Movers and Shapers of the Cosmos. We were created to exist in right relationship with Them. They do not exist to pander to the worst of our instincts and desires.
Part of regaining right relationship with the Powers involves understanding that everything is not about us. We are not the super-center of the cosmos. The universe does not exist to cater to our whims and to stroke our egos.
So to answer this fool’s question, you get to be of service. You get to go to your grave knowing you did your part to restore right relationship communally with the Gods. You get to experience specific Deities more closely than can ever be imagined. That is both a grace and a blessing. No, you cannot, as a result of horsing (or anything else we do) expect to be “a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer” capable of bending the world to his will (and if you want to study magic, that too is a lifetime’s commitment and takes sacrifice). This is not a D&D game. And everything, everything is always dependent on the relationships we forge with our Gods, and those relationships that we nurture? They’re the reward for the work.
1. To horse a Deity is to carry that Deity via possession. It’s terminology drawn from the Afro-Caribbean traditions. The Deity “rides” the devotee as one might ride a horse.
2. I asked my colleague’s permission to share the question for this post.
Be sure to check out my other sites:
Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy
My academia.edu page
My amazon author page.
Walking the Worlds Journal
My art blog at Krasskova Creations
My blog about all things strange, weird and medieval.
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So I was contacted by a colleague today and asked my opinion on the term ‘spirit-worker.’ Apparently it’s become a fad to use this term when one is not, in fact a professional. I thought it might perhaps be wise to clarify for those who are confused.
This term came into being in 2004 at a gathering of shamans and spirit-workers hosted by Raven Kaldera. We were looking for a term that legitimized the work of those bound to the Gods and spirits, people who were doing the work of a shaman–engaging with Gods and spirits in a larger, more meta way than a devotee is called to do and doing so specifically for clients and communities– but who had not undergone the death-rebirth trauma of a traditional shaman. After much discussion, someone suggested ‘spirit-worker.’ It’s an apt term, one that refers to a person who works for the Gods and spirits (regardless of tradition).
It is a specialist term.
It is not a term for laity no matter how sensitive or skilled that lay person might be. I may know how to pop an abscess or suture a wound (i do in fact know these things) but i’m not a surgeon.
There’s apparently a great deal of confusion, or so i’m told (I myself haven’t seen it) surrounding this term, particularly with the G&R crowd currently trying to purge the devotion and piety out of polytheism reducing it to mere transactional relationships with random spirits. One might in fact be high psi, one might be very sensitive to the Gods and spirits of one’s devotion but unless you are snapped up into active service (which presupposes not just a binding agreement but training and binding obligations), you’re not a spirit-worker. The only workable difference between being a spirit-worker and a shaman is that psychic shattering of the death/rebirth (or with some shamans madness/restoration) experience.
The last thing we need is to see “spirit-worker’ get parsed out into ever smaller and more specific categories — you know, how some people at both patheos and G&R are trying to do with ‘polytheist.’ Such linguistic splitting is a matter of rendering the whole irrelevant and it should be resisted, at least in these cases. It does not help or bring clarity. This is not a difficult thing. If you’re not a specialist, not a professional, you’re not a spirit worker. Embrace what you ARE. Do that which is given to you to cultivate be it tending your shrine, engaging in prayer, maintaining ongoing devotion. that’s important, in fact that’s crucially important. It may not be shiny and sexy but it’s fundamental and our traditions could not exist without the laity doing that work.
I’m cranky today. It’s in the high nineties and i’m working in a studio that has almost no air conditioning. If my tone here is brusque, I apologize but I will also say that I’m getting massively sick of problems being created where there aren’t any. maybe this all goes back to the ‘words mean things’ debacle of the last year and you all know where I stand on that.