Shadows in the Dark

A contradictory title? If, like me, you’re currently ‘exploring’ the Underworld it may make more sense. My journey into the Underworld began in February, on the day my brother flew back to America. It was like some energy that had been stirred within when he arrived was suddenly unleashed by his departure. You see, in our family my brother is the trailblazer, the independent spirit who tries to shake us up and convince us to leave our safe cocoons. The Gods seem to be in agreement.

During this Underworld journey I have been in the dark about so many things. One after another old constructs, things and people I once held dear, and my safety net have been ripped away. While painful and sometimes terrifying in the empty potential they leave behind it has been my Shadow Self that has repeatedly reared its head.

Just when I feel I can catch my breath yet another dark, unlovable part of my Self arises, hungry for attention. Because I’ve pushed them down for so long, ignored or denied them, they have chosen very visible ways to make themselves known to me – most notably in communication with others.

While I like to believe I’m a good, honourable, ‘light’ individual I have had to face up to the fact that I can also – on occasion – be a darker, selfish, judgemental person. Not often, but boy have those Selves made themselves known in the last few weeks.

Yes, my Shadow Selves are having a field day,  rearing their heads like those whack-a-mole games you see at fairs or the pier.

I feel utterly annihilated. This goes beyond any inner work that has come up before. It’s been combined with grief over lost health and the life I wanted when I was 17 and got ill, grief for loved ones and my beloved cat, loss of trust and respect in a friendship that has now ended, failures in checking my ‘channel’ to Them causing major upheaval and damage in my devotional life, and a sense that nothing will ever be the same. It’s also combined with the upheaval of my Saturn return, where everything that no longer serves or holds me back is ripped away and I have to start living as a ‘proper grownup’. My old life – and that’s what it feels like – is gone.

Like Theseus in the dark of the labyrinth I am hanging on to Ariadne’s tenuous thread. The more I seek answers and struggle the further I sink. I have realised I need to stop looking for answers and explanations, and that I just need to let the process happen. It isn’t easy, and with fresh Shadow work coming up its hard not to just give in completely. 

One thing that is helping is Shadow integration work. I didn’t know until around a week ago how to work with the Shadows to help integrate them. I found this article and blog very useful as a starting point, and thanks to the suggestions of another blogger I am working my way through a couple of books for further help. This post came at just the right time, when I was feeling really lost. And this well-timed daily card reading popped up in my news feed an hour before I finished writing this post.

The good news is that I know – to some extent – I’m starting to make progress. There are better days, there are days when I can feel happy again. There are moments where I can feel that loving connection to my Beloved Deities slowly returning. There are moments of inspiration and enjoyment coming back. I’ve also been having dreams every so often where I’m rescuing or bringing home a cat, or cats. I worked out that these are parts of my Self coming back. So I know there’s progress, even if it feels so fleeting and can be hard to remember when I’m knocked flat by all of the emotional and soul-searching work I’m having to get through.
For anyone going through this here are a few things I have personally found helpful:

  • Try to accept these Shadows as a  part of who you can be, even if it’s only a very small part, and they’re not all of who you are.
  • Try to hold yourself in a place of compassion for the decisions you have made that led you to this point.
  • Take personal responsibility for your actions during this phase, but don’t use it as a stick to beat yourself with.
  • Try not to constantly struggle to find answers. Surrender to the process and let the answers come to you in time.
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts, fears and revelations. The Underworld journey can be a very personal one and it may not be right to share all of it.
  • Ask for support when you need it but don’t let others take over. This is your healing process.
  • Talk to your Deities, even if the ‘channel’ goes quiet or you can’t trust it. Pour your heart out to Them.
  • Engage in activities that nourish you, and make sure you take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself!
  • Do things that make you feel good; just don’t fall back into old coping habits that might slow down the healing process.
  • Engage in a relaxation therapy or techniques – massage, yoga, tai chi, meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Cut out activities, TV programs and reading that drains you and makes you feel stressed.
  • Don’t make rash decisions – wait before making that phone call or making an important purchase, save that email as a draft instead of sending it straight away, and try not to react instantly to other peoples’ words.

Most of all recognise that no one is perfect, and that while those dark parts of you are within you they are not all of who you are. You have the choice to find a more positive way to ‘own’ and integrate these parts of your Self. You have the choice to decide who you want to be going forward.

Shared post: Transitions by Rowansong

 Rowansong has a beautiful post up today. It encompasses so much of what we go through, and these paragraphs in particular speak to me:

If we truly want change then we need to stop feeding the old habits, behaviours, thinking or choices and trust them to fall away in their own time instead of investing in them or allowing feelings of failure or self-reprimand to creep in. Even if we have to go back into our past to understand and come to terms with our previous choices, this is still moving us forwards, it is new growth.

When we commit our energy and our focus to what we want to create, to change, to grow, to heal or transform – when we act and make choices that are aligned with the new cycle rather than the old – then we have what we need to carry us through to the spring that supports us in establishing the changes we have longed for.

You can read the full post here:
Transitions – http://wp.me/p1B0uc-cs

3 Years of Loki

Today marks the third anniversary of Loki coming into my life.

During this time I have come to the conclusion that I will never fully understand this nebulous Being. Even his facets have facets. Rather than being discouraged this just means there will always be more to ask about, explore and ponder. There will never be a dull devotional moment with Loki in your life.

Although I have had experiences with him in his role as gift-giver, wordsmith and inspirer it is his role as worldbreaker that has helped me the most. Loki’s lessons can be harsh; he can burn all around you like wildfire until there is only ash. So many things have ended, changed or become unviable in these last three years, but somehow I have made it through. Even long-cherished and fought-for aspects have had to be thrown onto the pyre. Loki allows me the time to grieve, he is there watching over, then he tells me it’s time to move on. So I pick myself up, wipe the ash and tear streaks from my face and body, and I gaze around me at where I am now. Like a sapling I reach for the light of the new world I have awoken to, trying to draw strength from that which nourishes me. Loki and Sigyn are teaching me what truly nourishes me, and every time they feel I’m ready Loki burns another bridge to the past, the old and defunct. Sometimes I despair that I lose yet more, but knowing He and They are there, that They believe I can get through it, is what keeps me going.

While there are questions as to whether it is a Heathen or later Christian concept, Ragnarok is a powerful image. For what comes after Ragnarok but renewal? A new world rises from the ashes of the old, one that is brighter and full of hope for the future. Loki as worldbreaker, to me, is the fierce fire that works it’s way through everything, allowing only the purest parts to survive and start over. His terrible, harsh, loving work forges our true self. He gives us these challenges because he believes we can be more.

I made my first (personal) set of prayer beads for Loki last month. I’ve had the main beads for a few months but didn’t know what design he wanted, so they’ve sat in his bead envelope waiting patiently. Finally I sat down and just asked him what he wanted. These are the result: The main beads are very tactile, with a texture similar to large sugar crystals. It’s just the right length to wrap around my hand, and I’ve found it very soothing to hold onto while struggling with the health relapse I’ve been going through. It feels like an anchor, because exhaustion, brain fog and pain can block out so much of Their presence. I’ve found Loki’s prayer beads a great comfort and focus. On several nights I have fallen asleep holding them. I’m truly grateful to him for them.

As a side note: Loki’s anniversary of coming into my life coincides with International Women’s Day. How appropriate for a gender-fluid Deity who is well known for valuing (and even embodying) the strength of the feminine.

World Book Day 2017 – My favourite books from the last couple of years

A fellow bookworm friend who is a Wiccan asked me not long ago what my favourite books from the last couple of years have been, and if I’d recommend any. Luckily – since brain fog means my memory is atrocious right now – I have been writing down what books I’ve read since 2014 and rating them so I have something to refer back to. Any with a rating of 7 are ones I might read again, but ratings of 8 or above are the ones that gave me the most information and/or enjoyment. It’s rare for me to give a 9 or 10. I thought it might be interesting to share, but bear in mind any read before 2014 that I enjoyed won’t be on here. Perhaps I can do an ‘all-time favourites’ post some time. 

Note: Apologies that it’s not categorized or listed properly. I wanted to fix that but I haven’t been able to use the computer for over a week and I’m relying on my phone due to being stuck in bed. I also have bad migraines atm.

Here are the books I rated 8+:

  • Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes.
  • The Love of Destiny: The Sacred and Profane in Germanic Polytheism by Dan McCoy.
  • Vikings: a History by Neil Oliver.
  • Embracing Heathenry by Larisa Hunter.
  • The Crane Bag: Ogham Oils and Essences by Roisin Carroll.
  • Journey to the Dark Goddess by J Meredith.
  • The Lost Gods of England by Brian Branston.
  • Aura Soma by Irene Dalichow.
  • Nid, Ergi and Old Norse Moral Attitudes by Folke Strom (research paper).
  • Scandinavian Mythology by H.R.Ellis Davidson
  • The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe by H.R.Ellis Davidson
  • Roles of the Northern Goddess by H.R. Ellis Davidson
  • Images of Set: Changing Impressions of a Multi-faceted God by Joan Ann Lansberry
  • Goddesses and the Divine Feminine by R.R.Ruether
  • The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm and R Hygate
  • The Gentleman and the Faun by R. Ogilvie Crombie
  • Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing Well by Morgan Daimler
  • Playing With Fire: an Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson by Dagulf Loptson
  • Walking the Heartroad by Silence Maestas
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin
  • Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup
  • From a Drop of Water by Kim Huggens
  • Bach Flower Therapy by Mechthild Scheffer
  • The Hummingbird’s Journey to God by Ross Heaven
  • Plant Spirit Wisdom by Ross Heaven
  • Green Spirit: Path to a New Consciousness by M. Van Eyk McCain and various
  • Elves, Wights and Trolls by Kvedulf Gundarsson
  • Pagan Portals: Fairy Witchcraft by Morgan Daimler
  • Julian of Norwich: a Very Brief History by Janina Ramirez
  • Walking With the Gods by W.D. Wilkerson
  • Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston
  • Holding Space: a Guide to Supporting Others While Remembering to Take Care of Yourself First by Amanda Dobra Hope
  • Upon This Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition by Mary McCormack
  • The Alchemy of Illness by Kat Duff
  • ENUFF: Eliminate the Needless, Useless, Foolish and Frivolous by Kate Carpenter.
  • The Minimalist Lifestyle by P Morrisey.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Maria Kondo
  • DIY Bath Salts by Sarah McMillan
  • Bath Bombs for Beginners by Family Traditions
  • Green Guide for Artists by Karen Michel
  • The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by M Windrow
  • Wesley by Stacey O’Brien
  • Beautiful Ever After by Katie Piper
  • Silence and Shadows by James Long
  • Ferney by James Long
  • Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth by Naghib Mahfouz
  • Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins
  • Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
  • The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
  • The Atholl Expedition by Alex Roddie
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • some of the Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon – yes, when my brain needs to switch off my guilty pleasure is Paranormal Romance.

Sigyn and holding space

During a healing treatment yesterday Sigyn came to me. She gave me a revelation of a part of modern life she embodies: that of holding space.

Sigyn teaches us the sacred basics of holding space for another, whether they are in pain, are suffering or need a shoulder to cry on.

First she catches you in her bowl so you cannot fall further. Her strong, loving arms hold you in the bowl, supporting you while giving you space.
She collects the poison, your hurts, pain and tears, and then tips it away. She listens but she does not take these emotions into herself.
Like everyone she also needs a little time away to regroup and collect herself; to pour away her own poison, or to rest a while.
Then she returns, strong and ready, prepared to hold the bowl once more.

Sigyn is a healer, and in this role her magics are love, humility, strength and compassion.

 

Side note: how lovely that her teaching in this should be my 100th post.


If you would like to learn more about holding space I can recommend Holding Space: a Guide to Supporting Others While Remembering to Take Care of Yourself First by Amanda Dobra Hope. It’s available in paperback and kindle format.
I also found this article helpful:
http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/

Poem for the New Lunar Year

Welcome,
Lunar year anew.
Another cycle,
Guide us through.

Wax and wane,
Ebb and flow,
Building up
And letting go.

Bright light shining,
Blinding orb,
Lost from view,
Dark absorb.

Moon:
Maiden, Mother, Crone,
Teaching us
We’re not alone.

Guiding light,
Dark remain,
Always changing,
Never same.

Seed, Flower,
Winter-bloom,
Dark and empty,
Budding womb.

Light and dark,
Dark and light,
Changing ever
Every night.

Dark Goddess,
Virgin, lover,
Hag, naive girl,
Mother.

Moon:
How we watch you grow,
Your tides, your gentle
Ebb and flow.

Welcome,
Lunar year anew.
Lead us, Mother,
Guide us through.

 

Copyright: Michelle Gilberthorpe, Northern Tamarisk 2017