Pagan blog project: when Journeywork isnt Journeywork

Journeywork, shamanism, animal totems… It’s all you read about these days. I see so much of it I would almost assume that this is what everyone is doing, right? And if everyone is doing it, it must be easy, right? And if I can’t do it, it must be an issue with me, right?

Only life isn’t that simple. Shamanism and journeywork aren’t things that everyone can do, they aren’t our heritage or birthright. Look at tribal cultures across the globe. If we imagine a tribe of 50 people, how many of those would be shamans? 2? 1? I want to be very clear here, since this is a controversial topic. IMO, if you haven’t been initiated, you aren’t a shaman. And if you aren’t a shaman, there is a chance you don’t have the mental wiring or spiritual support to do journey work. This is not a fad, this isn’t the next cool thing to do in the pagan community. This is something that I almost died for.

You heard that right. I died and they rewired my brain. On the plus side, I can talk to Gods and spirits and I am starting to see ghosts and other… things. On the minus side, I have sacrificed my chance for a child and my chance to be “normal”. By normal, I mean… not having people look at you weird in the grocery store when you smile at them, being able to follow a conversation at work and not slowly be phased out of the talking because you cant relate and you cant keep up. I wont get a chance to go back to school and finish my degree, I have other things I need to do. This isn’t whining, this is called tradeoffs. We all have them, we all have to chose.

Did I have a choice? I’m not so sure. Somewhere along the line, after a hospitalization for mental illness, homeless for a year and an illness that had me in fevers and hallucinating for appx 3 weeks, somewhere in there choice became a moot point. I have mourned the loss of “normal” and the loss of any children I might have had and then I have picked myself off, dusted off the dirt and moved on down the path.

So here comes the controversial part: do I think that core shamans and shamanic practitioners and little Betty Wiccan/Druid/Kemetic down the road are doing journeywork? No. Do I think that anyone besides shamans are doing journeywork? Yes. They are the witches and seers and hedgewitches and oracles and siedhworkers and spirit-touched and God-chosen. They are the hidden and the unseen and the ones who DON’T talk about their work and WON’T put their latest travel on their public blog. If someone online and in a public setting says “Oh yeah, I do it all the time and its perfectly safe” chances are they have no idea what they are talking about. But if you peel back the layers and you see hints of death and blood and madness and them lying on the floor crooning kill me… just let me die… just let it be over, I guarantee that you have found a true practitioner.

Journeywork is NOT safe. Those spirits don’t care if you come back in one piece, five pieces or at all.

Journeywork is NOT easy. It takes practice and training and dedication. It has taken me 3 years to learn it, and I only get it right about 30% of the time.

You can’t learn this in a weekend class or seminar. You learn it by dying and then learning how to make your way back from the dead.

I can’t teach you if you aren’t already on the path.

Ok rant over.

I can see your sad faces “But Raan, I really wanted to learn how to visit cool places.” Well, you can. Its called guided meditation. Journeying to you inner psyche is still as cool and untamed and dangerous as journeying to NOR, the difference is anyone can do it cause the majority of us have psyches. The trick is it is your own inner landscape. Want to heal? What to unleash your potential? What to give up bad habits and anger and other things holding you back? Want to meet totems and spirit guides? You can do all of that, I promise.

Google guided meditation and close your eyes and click and most of the links will take you someplace good. You can even listen to drumming. I love you guys so much I’m gonna link my favorite MP3’s here. Its in German which I don’t speak or read but the music is awesome.

Its not journeywork, but hey, someone has got to maintain the sanity, yes?

Big change coming

There is big change coming, just beyond the point where our human eyes can see. Big change right around the corner. My shamanic friends here can see it, sense it, feel the same push to move, change, get your shit in order. One of the big Midwestern shamans has gone MIA. His websites are down, his voice is silent. One of the blogs I follow, who is a pretty consistent reader here, seems to feel the same push to get back on path.

How many weddings this year can we see from confirmed single people?
How many babies?
How many going back to school or leaving long time jobs or moving?

Can you feel the message: get your house in order?

Pagan Blog Project: Just be

I was contemplating what to write about for my J post and thought about the latest and greatest fad to journey work. But as I turned this idea over in my mind, I heard a voice speak very clearly: “Just Be”. Just be? What is that, a mantra, a new-fangled idea? What could They possibly mean by Just Be and how am I supposed to write about it?

No, I’m not going zen. This is just a part of my shamanic re-education that I wanted to share with you.

Lets do an exercise. Close your eyes and imagine yourself at 80. Now ask yourself the following question: when I am 80, will this thing I am sooo stressed about right now matter to me at all? Will we care that we couldn’t afford the latest clothes or that we were 5/10/30/100 pounds overweight? Will it matter that we rented instead of owned a house or that the car wasn’t cutting edge? Will our video game achievements still excite us? Will our worries and excuses and stress still seem significant? Another blog I am avidly reading puts it this way: can you live without it? Is that thing that you are obsessing over something that you can be just fine without?

And the reality is, there is no right or wrong answer here. It doesn’t matter if we say no to something, nor make us a better person in saying yes. This isn’t an exercise in judgement, but an honest look at our lives. We are trained to want, to think we need, to desire and covet. How many have ever tried to convince a teenager that they could live without the latest and greatest? Its not true, their lives don’t end just because you refuse to buy them a $200 phone. Once upon a time human lives really did depend on what they could or could not live without. That plow, that second horse, that new axe meant the difference between surviving a winter and perishing. But that’s not the case anymore.

So in the middle of the hustle and bustle and stress and 9 to 5 and commutes and soccer and dance lessons and dinner on the stove, Just Be. Let the world pass through you. Become an observer. This isn’t a meditation thing, we aren’t stilling the mind. The goal here is to become impartial and no longer emotionally attached to the stress of the moment. Stress and emotions are inherently tied to the moment, and when we take that step back, we can begin to see the threads that keep us forever bound in the cycle.

We can watch a horror movie and laugh because its not our danger. We can gossip about a coworker because its not our pain or failing. But most of the time we are so deep in our emotions that we can’t see how fleeting this moment actually is. There is stuff worthy of emotions. But your stupid job or that fight with your SO? Will that matter when you are 80?

I stand at the sink and wash dishes and practice Just Be. I acknowledge the cat who is twining around my ankles, convinced she is starving. I watch the moths who have invaded my home in the last few weeks dance around the light source. I listen to the boyfriend play World of Warcraft in the other room. And I start to see the patterns of happy, the things that are a blessing in my life. I used to do this as a meditation at work, stand at the sink, repeat “I am blessed because of…” and watch the stress drop away. Now I don’t say the words, I just exist within the moment and watch the world run fast paced past me. I won’t die because I refuse to keep up. When my mother won’t stop nagging me about how much we spent on our new car, I can chose to see her for who she is and I end up smiling, because its a play and she still thinks people are watching.

We get so caught up in the emotions, the depression, the love, the lust, the anger. We get trapped like fish in a net and then flail, crying, that we can’t get out.

What happens when we stop and allow ourselves to Just be?

The current carries us forward into freedom.

Pagan Blog Project: Isa and Cen (a Juton fairytale)

Once upon a time,

the Giants existed in a land of fire and a land of ice, surrounded by deep blackness and millions of stars. The fire giants to the south lived amongst fields of rolling lava, spouts of magma, mountains of glass obsidian so high you couldn’t see the tops amongst the clouds of ash, and valleys so low they filled with layers of soot and grew the brightest coals and the most radiant sparks in the land. The ice giants to the north preferred their mountains to be snow-capped icebergs and their valleys filled with the fluffiest snowbanks.

In between these two lands was a small strip, where fire met ice and each element was transformed into something magical.  They transformed into life.

The ice became a raging river nearly 50 feet wide, filled with fat salmon, slithering tadpoles and even frogs singing into the warm dusk air. The land of fire gave way to a glassy beach, teeming with grasses and cattails and snowdrops of every color of the rainbow. And as the salmon leapt in the water and the sparks of fire blossomed into flowers, the birds came to perch amongst the reeds and ring in the warm night.

Now, amongst the fire giants there was a lad by the name of Cen. He was a beautiful young man, with hair that flowed down his back like rivulets of magma, eyes as bright as the last embers in the night,skin glossy and black. But the best part of him was his imagination. All of his life, he had sat at the feet of the storytellers and listened as they wove tales of a magical place where the heat of the land was tempered by a rush of icy air, a place where more colors existed than anyone had ever dreamed of before, a place where music filled the air like the ash and soot he had always known. Cen listened to these tales and his eyes grew bigger and bigger and before long his imagination had caught fire and all he could think about was colors and music.

Instead of doing chores, he spent his time learning to whistle. Instead of sleeping, he lay in the red glow of the night and tried to imagine what other colors there could possibly be. He drew snowflakes in the ash of the great stone hearth and imagined what cold felt like. And his resolve grew with each passing day: someday he would travel to that magical land and see these colors with his own eyes.

In the land of ice, a young girl grew up hearing the same stories. Isa could not imagine a world that was not cold, where things moved and did not freeze. In the land of ice there was music, but it was the crack of the icecaps, the ting of icicles as they grew and fell, the muffled sounds of movement across the snow. Sounds started and stopped, died amidst the layers of white. What other sounds could there possible be? And soon she too had resolved to discover the answer for herself one day.

So each child grew, buffered by their lands, silently dreaming of a day when they would be old enough to journey out like the adventurers they had heard so much about. And when the day finally came, they each slipped out of their houses, silent as a snowflake, and headed towards the direction of the magical land.

Cen arrived first. The sound of the birds and frogs broke over the last dunes in greeting and he dropped his bag and ran. What he saw stopped him in his tracks. He had seen reds and yellows and oranges before, he had even glimpsed hints of blues and purples in the ritual fires, but here was pink and magenta and green and amber and even white, as pure and unblemished as he had imagined the stars to be! He leaned forward to touch the petals and almost cried when they wilted and turned to ash in his hands. And the frogs and birds ran away at the mere sight of him. He was going to have to be content with sitting on the black banks of the river, silent as a stone, and absorbing his surroundings in the stillness. And as he sat, the birds and the frogs grew bolder and went back to singing.

And that was how he was sitting when Isa arrived.

Cen was completely enthralled. He had never seen such a vision before. Instead of long flowing hair, hers sat up in blue shocks, sharp and brilliant. Her eyes were as bright as the flowers along the banks and her skin was crystal clear and white, instead of the dark glossy skin he was used to. In all the stories he had heard throughout his childhood, why had no one mentioned the other people, glittering as the night sky?

Isa didn’t see Cen at first. She was shocked by how rich and dark the sand on the other shore was and deafened by the music of the birds and the frogs and the voice of the rushing, raging river. It was louder than anything she had ever heard before. Instead of the short staccato notes or the snow and ice, this was a rolling symphony that filled her head and made her a little afraid. As she crouched down in the reeds with her hands over her ears, she caught sight of Cen staring at her from the opposite shore.

What was this? he looked like her but instead of being of the ice, he looked like he was made of the sun and the black of the night! There might have been a few moments of shocked silence between the two of them.

The stories don’t tell who spoke first or who made the first overture of friendship. They do speak of the passing days that became months, as Isa and Cen returned to the bank of the river to talk to each other over the rush of the water. Each became fascinated with the tales the other would bring of their home, stories of embers and icicles, snowflakes and soot. They never did brave the currents of the raging river, knowing that it was dangerous and that the jagged rocks could tear them apart. But they taught the birds to fly from bank to bank, and then from home to home, carrying hidden messages of friendship and love in their music.

Then the day came that Cen went down to the shore and Isa was not there. He came the next day and the next and still she did not show. At first the birds came back with no answer, then they began to refuse to fly north at all and Cen grew sick with worry. He stopped doing chores and working. he stopped sleeping and eating. He spent every day and night on the shore, staring across the waters and wondering where Isa was.

He had no idea of knowing that the land of ice was locked into a terrible storm. The roads had become impassible and the ice giants had taken to slumbering in their homes, waiting for the storm to pass, much as our bears do in the world. Isa was completely unaware of Cen’s panic. She thought the birds would tell him of the weather and so she slept without worry. I don’t know how many months the ice storms raged or how long Cen waiting. How many months does it take to build up enough courage to pass through a raging river? For that was his resolve. He didn’t listen to the pleas of his family, that a fire giant could not survive in the water, much less the ice. He didn’t listen to their promise that she would return when she could. He only knew that he had to find her.

But the moment his feet touched the water of the river, something horrible happened. He began to turn to steam. His cries of anguish and love and terror wrenched the hearts of the birds, and they began to lift of their voices in song. The words are unknown but they were magic, magic born of patience and love. And the words of their song mixed with the steam of poor Cen and lifted him into the air and painted him in brilliant colors across the night sky. The boy who had dreamed of colors was forever engraved amongst the stars. You can still see him, if you travel north towards the ice and snow.

Isa awoke from the storms after many moons and ran down to the banks of the river to find Cen. She had dreamt of him for nights on end and long for his company again. But the river was empty and as she stood there in the dusk, she listened to the song of the birds and began to understand. Cen was gone! He had tried to find her and had sacrificed himself in the attempt. As the truth dawned on her, Isa cried. She did not want to live without him. What was life without love? So Isa did the only thing she could think of to do, she stepped into the river, ready to join him wherever he might have gone. And the magic of the birds music, coupled with the immense love of the two young giants, transformed her as she shattered in the water. Instead of ice falling to the bottom of the river, tiny, multicolored pieces of quartz glinted from the water. You can still find her to this day, hidden in mines and caves and stones by the river.


I wrote this after being inspired by a discussion on Facebook. While driving in the car on my way to work, I asked the giants if they had any stories or fairytales that had been lost in the mists of time. This was the story they told me. The entirety of this is based on UPG.