The Winter Solstice

At the urging of my students, Clan Bradan will attend a public Winter Solstice ritual in Hampden tomorrow. My students are curious to see how other pagans celebrate Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice. I’m apprehensive and excited at the same time. I’ve been to a number of outside pagan events before and have withdrawn because like any community, there are egos and agendas to negotiate.

ImageThis is my lovely Yule tree (before the cats destroyed it).

I’m older and a little wiser (I think) but as a Mentor to this small group of wide-eyed witches, I am fretting over what they will get out of the ritual. Though they are experienced with moving energy, we’ve never worked on this scale. Others, or even my students, may realize that I have sheltered them to some degree (and for a good reason). I will be introduced to their new friends as their “High Priestess” (gah!). That idea is troublesome.

When I was younger, I wanted so much to be a “High Priestess.” I thought it was the be-all-end-all of my spiritual journey. Now that I’ve been through a number of evolutions (and devolutions) on my path, I couldn’t care less what title I’m given. I could be “Queen of Quite A Lot” or “Lil’ Miss Princess of Paganism” for all the good it would do me. Now I just see myself as responsible for the people I’ve taught. I’m hoping that what I’ve taught shines true within each of them.

I see them as my children in some ways. I have encouraged them to look at other view points, to form their own opinions (backed up with painstaking research of course), and to spread their wings. They have taught me in ways that only students can. I can’t walk with them every step of the way and that is probably a good thing. Walking with them tomorrow is going to test me.

Will I be found lacking? Yep, the whole insecurity thing. I know it isn’t about me, but that doesn’t make the apprehension go away. I’ve been tested and have failed or have been found wanting on several occasions  and when I had least expected it. Will I stick my foot in my mouth and embarrass myself or my students? They aren’t just students, but friends, so that would be a huge disappointment for all involved.

Example: I took my son to his friend’s funeral a couple of years ago. His friend had died in a car accident on the way home from a party.  The young man hadn’t drank or used drugs. The tragedy was caused by inexperience. His mother had asked me if I had allowed my son to attend the party. I had said “No, I think I’m too overprotective.”

Okay. Grieving mom blames herself for her son’s unfortunate death. Think about how she’d take that comment. Yeah, you’ve got it about right. She was hysterical and in the words of Harry Dresden, “My gast was truly flabbbered.” I had spoken of my own short-coming in the matter (I had thought if my son had been with her son, this wouldn’t have happened) and she had taken it as a judgment against her. That, my friends, is Foot-In-Mouth-Syndrome and I have an epic case of it.

So I’m a bit nervous, but I must go out and investigate! I promised Sarah to write a post about how ritual might feel to people at different levels of experience so I’m going to go forth and ask lots of questions. Hopefully, I won’t be tasting any shoe leather tomorrow night. And if I do, it’s not like it’s the End of the World, right?

Dialogue With Shadow

If you are still having trouble communicating with your Shadow(s), there are other meditations out there. One that is reasonably easy to use was written by Timothy Roderick in his Wicca: A Year and a Day book. Our clan has used the meditation successfully. Also, feel free to add to my meditation if you need more visual or auditory stimulation. Writing your own meditation is another option to explore.

The idea is to meet your Shadow and open a dialogue. This takes patience and persistence. Keep returning to the practice of engaging and embracing these aspects of your psyche. You will become your own best friend.

I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old so that puts me at 27 years of shadow work as of 2012. It has been an amazing journey of self-discovery. I’m going to introduce you to my “Shadows” so that you understand just how rich the experience can be.

* * * * *

There are no walls. Beyond the illuminated area we occupy is a deep, grey nothingness. We sit around a kidney-shaped, glass coffee table holding saucers and demi-tasse cups filled with rich, dark espresso. Al is seated to my right on the semi-circular, black velvet sofa. Her ash blond curls are scraped back from her studious features and her pale blue eyes regard me from behind wire-rimmed glasses. She has a tablet in her lap and holds a stylus poised to write whatever I say. A tattoo of a caduceus peeks over the collar of her white blouse.

Morti sits to Al’s right. She’s the bad-ass of the bunch dressed in sleek, supple leather. She’s dark everywhere, like a Hindu goddess, and her long black hair is a glossy spill of ink over her shoulders and arms. She’d agreed to host this little ‘party’ at her place. That way she could deliver a smack-down if anyone got out of hand.

To my left was Gina, the reason Ali had called this meeting. She was a true red-head, the kind with a peaches and cream complexion and emerald green eyes, and she was dressed in Jacobean finery. She looked like a beauty from one of Waterhouse’s oil paintings.

To Gina’s left sat Claire. She had grown since I’d last seen her. Her skin had lightened from an olive to a shade like milk with a drop of coffee in it and her dark eyes regarded me steadily, which was a change from the submissive sidelong gazes she’d given me before. I was pleased.

“Al called the meeting to discuss the consort business,” I said.

Gina crossed her arms and leaned back against the sofa, “She’s more interested in books and spells. What would she know about men?”

“I happen to agree with Al that you make lousy choices,” Morti said.

“You’ll settle for anything.” Al pointed the stylus at Clair, “And we need to set a good example for her.”

“Well, I don’t know if you ladies have been paying attention, but there isn’t much out there. I have to make do,” Gina waved a hand.

“We shouldn’t have to settle,” Al said.

“You make it sound like I spread my legs for any willing candidate. We’re dating, not hopping into the sack.”

“We fixate.” Clair’s voice silenced us all. She blushed and looked at her hands. “It could be my fault. It’s all new to me; the feelings are intense. I like it.”

Gina lifted a brow as I snapped my mouth shut. I hadn’t been paying attention to the fact that Clair, a scrawny, frightened child when I’d met her, had grown into a teenager. That meant hormones and craziness. That meant crushes and new feelings.

Al glanced at me and then stared at her tablet. She hadn’t noticed either. Morti rubbed her hands over her face and let out a sigh as collectively we grasped what this new complication entailed.

I don’t think any of us here could be called experts in relationships. In fact, we were all pretty lousy. The only person qualified enough to guide Clair through these waters was Gina and her only talent in that area was that she knew how men operated. She could at least keep Clair out of serious trouble.

Clair was the gentle soul of our collective. She was quick to forgive and she’d been through a hell that the rest of us had witnessed but in different ways. Al was the brains so what we experienced was processed on an intellectual level by her. Morti was the muscle, and she’d fought us through the nightmare of our childhood with a raw determination that showed in the firm set of her mouth.

Gina was the passion of our collective and she fueled our creativity and emotional expression. She wanted to be surrounded by beauty and love. She craved these things the way a starving child craved a pastry, to the point where she would beg, borrow, and bend to get it.

I was the Director. I wanted everybody to get along and I had to figure out how to coordinate their individual talents into a unified effort. Fun.

“The part of us that can experience true love is a teenager,” Morti bounced her head against the back of the sofa.

“And you thought it was me,” Gina studied her nails. “I think someone is owed an apology.”

An airborne pillow surprised a muffled squeak from Gina. Thank the Lady she’d set her espresso down or she’d have been wearing it. Morti tossed her hair over her shoulders and leaned forward.

“This is a distraction.”

“Anything to do with the finer, gentler aspects of life are a distraction to you,” Gina said.

Morti grabbed another pillow and I held up my hands, “Ladies, we need to focus on how to make this work. Clair is growing up. We should celebrate her coming of age. Al, we’ll need a ritual. Gina, we’ll need a crown. Morti, we’ll need tattoo equipment—”

“I don’t want a tattoo.”

All eyes turned to Clair. Her hands were fists at her sides.

“Everyone gets a tattoo,” Morti said.

I thought maybe Clair would capitulate but she squared her thin shoulders, looked Morti dead in the eye and said, “No.”

Morti looked ready to leap across the coffee table and grab Clair by the scruff of her neck. Clair’s eyes narrowed as Morti growled.

“I will kick your ass, little girl.”

“No, you won’t. Io won’t let you.”

Morti looked at me. I sighed.

“She’s right, Morti, but so are you. Everyone gets a tattoo. It’s the rule. It is a way of joining us into a greater whole and you don’t have one yet. You were too young but now, you’re not.”

A big, fat tear leaked from Clair’s left eye. She let loose a quivering breath and took a tissue from Gina.

“It’s going to hurt.”

“Yes, it is,” I said.

“It shouldn’t hurt.”

I rubbed the bridge of my nose and looked to Al. She shrugged and pretended to read the tablet.

“Hurting is part of life. It makes us more compassionate when others are hurting,” Morti said.

Clair wiped at her eyes, “Really?”

Morti nodded, “Even I’ve been hurt.” She shrugged out of her jacket to reveal her tattoo sleeves. “Each tatt tells a story. See this one?”

She pointed at an image of the Kraken on her right bicep, “That’s what we escaped. I killed it so that you could come out of hiding. And this?”

She pointed to a heart pierced by three swords on her left shoulder, “That’s what beats inside my chest when any of you are hurt. You should let me out more often to defend you instead of trying to be so damned civilized.”

Morti shrugged back into her coat, “You only have to get one and it can be very tiny so you decide.”

Clair nibbled on her lower lip, “I want a heart.”

“You already have a heart, Tin Girl,” Al teased.

Clair smiled and I was a little unsettled. Our youngest member was growing up. She was changing before my eyes.

“On your shoulder?”I asked.

“No. On her right cheek.” Gina pointed to a spot just beneath the outside corner of Clair’s right eye. “Right?”

Clair nodded. Morti rolled her eyes but didn’t contradict Clair.

“This isn’t some strange teenage ritual, is it? Like the number of tear drops telling those in the know how many bodies you’ve left on the ground?” I said.

Clair chewed her lower lip, “It could be a sign to the universe that we are ready to love.”

I hadn’t thought of it that way.  I looked at Morti, “You think you can handle something that small and delicate?”

She scowled but said, “If I must.”

“And the crown?”

“Oh, I’ve got something in mind,” Gina said as she stroked Clair’s cheek.

“What?” Clair asked.

“Butterflies, of course—for transformation. This will be the most beautiful crown ever.”

* * * * *

Remember that coffee-clatch I told you about in the very first paragraph of this series of posts? That’s how it rolls. Those are my girls. Each one is much more integrated now than when I first met them.

When I met Morti, she was a furious biker-chick gone bat-shit crazy. She would hold me down and shove horrible thoughts through my head because she had no other way of telling me that she was suppressed. I’ve discovered that she’s Kevlar, titanium-plate on the outside and squishy marshmallow on the inside. That doesn’t make her weak; she just has texture. These days she’s my enforcer and she’s the scary thing that peeks out of my eyes when someone has crossed the line.

Al was a rebellious teenager when I met her. She has a smart mouth and can think circles around most people.  She was even good with the mind-fuck, which we’ve thankfully abandoned. She likes puzzles and can figure out what makes just about anybody tick. She’s good with words and has a quick, quirky wit that she camouflages beneath a studious exterior. She keeps the knowledge of the collective and shows us how to use it.

Gina is the mysterious one. Not a one of us can figure out what makes her tick. She’s demanding, exacting, and an elitist. In fact, she reminds me of my mother. She likes the finer things (whereas Al likes function) and wants to find a man to give them to her while worshipping at her feet in abject adoration. She’s winsome, alluring and utterly frustrating.

Clair was the first Shadow I met and she had gotten stuck in childhood.  Things weren’t so great for us then. When I realized I couldn’t blame my parents for my problems anymore, I found Clair-a greasy, malnourished ten-year-old at the time-in the basement closet of a condemned house. Abandoned, terrified, and distrustful, I had to lure her from that closet with promises that I would be the best “mommy” ever.  I’ve been raising her, with the help of the other three, and it seems that she’s grown up right under my nose. This is a good thing <fingers-crossed>.

My four entities are part of my psyche and correspond to a number of symbolic systems: the Qabala, the Witches’ Pyramid, and the four elements. I use the associations and my vivid imagination to assign shadow fragments to these constructs for processing and transformation of the energies. They speak to me through the characters of my stories, through the work of other artists, and through the simple interactions I have with others.

The introductory meditation is only a first step. With continued dialogue through journaling, play-acting, drawing, music, or any other art medium, you can get to know the many faces of You and establish good working relationships between them that are a hallmark of integration.

Questions are welcome and I hope you share your experiences with me. Email: iokirkwood@annekirkwood.biz or leave a comment. Thanks!

Face to Face

This is the guided meditation. If you haven’t done the preparatory work, please click here.

You may have someone read this to you, or you may record it and play it back. Soothing music to block out any distracting sounds is recommended but not required.

BEGIN HERE:

Close your eyes and take a deep, even breath.  You are safe in protected space. You stand in a darkened auditorium < Pause>(give the participant a few beats to visualize at each pause).

Take another deep, even breath and walk towards the dim stage. You see a set of stairs at either end of the stage. Choose one and climb up. The boards creak under your feet. You can smell linseed oil, acrylic paint, and turpentine. <Pause>

You breathe deeply again and a spotlight glares to life. Caught in the beam of light is your Shadow. You study the shape and features, become aware of the energy coming from it, and even notice its scent. Take your time. <Pause>

Ask, “What is your name?” The Shadow responds. If not, ask again in a different way until you receive an answer, whether sound, picture, or feeling. <Pause>

Ask, “What is your purpose?” The Shadow responds. If not, ask again in a different way until your receive an answer, whether sound, picture, or feeling.<Pause>

After the Shadow has spoken, you say, “I recognize you. You are a valued part of us but somehow we have lost touch with you. ” < Pause> “Come home. We need you. We miss you.” <Pause>

You listen as the Shadow speaks. < Pause>

When the Shadow has said its piece, you respond. <Pause>

Say to the Shadow, “We have made the first steps towards understanding each other. We will visit again very soon.” <Pause>

The spotlight disappears.  You are in darkness now. Breathe deeply. The scent of oil, paint, and turpentine fades.  <Pause>

Breathe again and the boards no longer creak beneath your feet. <Pause>

Breathe one last time and feel the weight of your body. When you are ready, open your eyes. <End>

You’re not done yet: you are still in protected space. Give thanks by saying, “In the name of all that is holy, I release the energies in this space.” You may also say, “In the name of <Divine>, I release the energies in this space.”

Make sure you do this. If you forget, do it the moment your remember. Just feel yourself in that moment as you ended the meditation, and say the words. Held energy has a tendency to entropy and it loses form and turns to chaos. If it can’t move, it will wreak havoc right where you had used it to create order.

Journal: now that you have made your first journey to meet Shadow, take some time to journal. You may use the questions below to trigger your thoughts:

1. Describe how this Shadow appeared to you. Shape? Size? Color?

2. Describe other characteristics like scent, sound, and feel. Did this Shadow touch you?

3. What is this Shadow’s name?

4. What is this Shadow’s purpose?

5. What did your Shadow say to you?

Over the next week or so, keep a diary of any unusual or noteworthy events that might be related to meeting this Shadow.

If you were unable to answer questions 3 and 4, then you will need to go through the meditation again until you have the answers.

If you were able to answer questions 3 and 4, then this Shadow is ready to work with you and you will be able to speak with it whenever you feel the need.  You’ve opened up a dialogue and if you truly want to see change, then you should invest in building the relationship.

Next: Dialogue with a Shadow

Meeting Shadow

Take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the EVENT.  If you’ve just come in on the blog, please click here.

For magickal people, certain principles become self-evident as they work with energy. One is, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Sounds Newtonian doesn’t it? That’s because magick works on the same principles as a combustion engine or the pumping of the human heart. Magick is NOT supernatural—it’s just been explained in metaphors for thousands of years because humans didn’t have physics vocabulary and equations as a language yet.

That’s why I had you do the preparatory steps of naming your Collateral Damage Negative Trait (C.D.N.T.) and identifying the Equal and Opposite Positive Trait (E.O.P.T.).

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept:

Now that you are armed with understanding,  you will meet your Shadow, the one you chose, also known as the C.D.N.T. This is the imp that has been causing you the most trouble. It is an angry, alienated aspect of your holographic personality. It’s the misanthropic teenager of your collective and you are attempting an intervention.

Don’t expect smiles and welcoming hugs. You are the insensitive jerk that has treated this entity like a left-handed, red-headed step-child for possibly years. Trust needs to be developed just like with a real person. The time it takes will depend on the collective’s ability to trust. And if you’re working on suspicion—um, give yourself plenty of time to reach an agreement with this aspect of You.

Be prepared for this process to take more than one sitting, more than one conversation. In fact, look at this as a process, an ongoing dialogue between the Shadow and you. Are you ready?

First thing you need to do is find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. The space should be conducive to relaxation. If that means darkness or a candle or incense for you, go for it. Those are all ways of putting you in a meditative state of mind.

To deepen your relaxation, you are going to straighten your spine and close your eyes. Set your hands palms up on your knees. Imagine you are a tree with your roots deep in the earth as your branches reach up into the skies. Through your roots, you take up the nourishment of earth and water. Through your branches you take in the fire of the sun and feel the cool winds whisper through your leaves. You are complete and at home.

When you have reached a state of meditative awareness, say aloud, “By all that is holy, I cleanse, bless and seal this space.” You do this to keep out nosy or disruptive energies.  Only the energies you call on purpose will be allowed inside the space you’ve created. If you have a Divine energy to call upon, you may use , “In the name of <Divine>, I cleanse, bless and seal this space.” As long as you feel safe and protected, it worked.

Practice this technique a few times if you haven’t done something similar before. When you’re ready, we’ll move on to the guided meditation.

Next: Face to Face