Earth Day – vows

I found this beautiful vow while reading ‘Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy’ by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston. I thought they would make a lovely reflection for Earth Day. The vows are written by Joanna, and are shared here with her permission.

I vow to myself and to each of you:
To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume.
To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future generations, and my brothers and sisters of all species.
To support others in our work for the world and to ask for help when I need it.
To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengths my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.

You can find out more about Joanna and her ecology work here: http://www.joannamacy.net/aboutjoannamacy.html

‘Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy’ by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston.
Amazon UK link:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Active-Hope-without-Going-Crazy/dp/1577319729

Amazon US link: https://www.amazon.com/Active-Hope-without-Going-Crazy-ebook/dp/B007C8K79C

You can find out more about Earth Day here: http://www.earthday.org/about/

Bloodlines, Marvel and the path to Loki

I would like to address something I’ve seen crop up a few times since I started my devotional journey: the disdain for, and derision of, those who came to Loki and the Northern Tradition after seeing Marvel’s Thor movie(s). I have been on the receiving end of this myself, so this is my perspective as someone who generally enjoys reading and watching other peoples’ interpretations of the Deities.
This does not mean, however, that I identify those literary or film adaptations with the Gods Themselves, and I believe this is important to stress since that is the ‘argument’ and assumption some people seem to have. I also love Stargate SG-1 but it doesn’t mean I see Apophis, Ra, Hathor or Anubis as Goa’uld. Likewise when I watch the Thor movies I do not see Loki or Thor (on the two occasions I’ve had the pleasure of being in Thor’s presence) as Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth, or as the comic book’s versions after reading comics/graphic novels. 

For me there is a difference between character and Deity, just as there is between an actor and the character they play. Daniel Radcliffe is not Harry Potter, but there will always be something of Harry in him, and having played the role many people will now ‘see’ his face when reading the books. He has become synonymous with the character but he is not actually Harry Potter.
Likewise I believe a  Deity can appear in the form of a character if they choose to – it may be the best way to connect with someone. There is also the question of how ‘alive’ a character is, as many writers can understand. What energy is then built up when a character becomes beloved of so many? And what about when that character is inspired (however loosely) by a Deity – do they then carry some tiny piece of the Deity’s own energy out to new readers or viewers?
But Pop Culture Paganism is another path to mine and I understand little about its workings so it is not my place to speak of its beliefs, only of my own. Instead I now move on to how a movie helped pull strands of my past into the present and gave me a Gods-filled future.

As a child I loved reading myths and legends, tales of magic, giants, dragons, heroes, princesses and villains, Gods and Goddesses. One I remember in particular is my mum’s own childhood book – a Jackanory book of Icelandic tales. It included the story of how Thor and Loki dressed as Freyja and her handmaiden to retrieve Mjollnir. Odin and Sleipnir were also in there.
Over time I ‘moved on’ to Tolkien, Harry Potter and historical fiction (yes, in that order), but my love for mythology remained. In fact my appreciation and fascination with it only grew, as my various GCSE and A-Level art projects can attest. I read mostly about the Egyptians but the Celtic tales also captured my imagination.

In my early 20s I researched a number of different spiritual paths, but was always drawn back to the Gods and Goddesses rather than ritual. I’d found the general idea of Paganism to be a better fit than anything else, so started reading more about it. My main focus has always been the Egyptians – since I was eight they have held my heart strong and fast – but I liked the musicality of the Celtic tales, and I love Celtic and Norse design.
I fell in love with longships when I visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde when staying with Danish family, and I fell in love with Copenhagen. I was ten when I first visited, and I have been back twice since, though unfortunately not in the last few years for health reasons. I feel at home among the Danish people, even if I don’t understand the language. It’s in my blood. My maternal grandmother was Danish, and I live in Lincolnshire in the UK, a county that was part of the Danelaw. It was here that an old charm, “one for God, one for Wod and one for Lok” originates.

In 2012 I saw the Thor movie on TV. I enjoy superhero movies (the X-Men and Iron Man are my favourites), so even though it looked silly I gave it a go. Yes, it was silly in places (perhaps even irreverent to some) but a little strand pulled at my memory. I remembered the book of Icelandic tales my mum has and read it again but it wasn’t enough. I downloaded as many interpretations of Norse tales as I could find on my Kindle, and then eventually braved The Eddas, and later the beginning of the Gesta Danorum.
It felt like a piece of me just clicked into place, like I was rediscovering the religion of my ancestors. Throughout it all the brightest strand that sung from the pages was Loki. This was not the Loki of Marvel; this was a multifaceted Being who stood out in a way I couldn’t describe. The more I read the more questions I had, and slowly a quest began to unfold. But everything became one massive messy tangle in my brain and I pretty much gave up. Brain tangles plus brain fog aren’t a good mix.

By this point I had started saying prayers to the Egyptian Deities I love so much, finally accepting I was (in broad terms) a Pagan. By chance I came across a book on Asatru in the local library, and if you know our local libraries you will know this book was completely out of place. But there it was, and it opened a window on to the Northern Tradition. Like a number of authors this one expressed the view that Loki should be avoided at all costs and shouldn’t be worshipped. I felt rather offended on Loki’s behalf, but I wasn’t part of the Northern Tradition – my Gods were the Egyptians! – so I just continued as I had been. By this point I had realised that my love for the Deities went beyond the enjoyment of their stories; it was the Deities Themselves that called to me.

Then one night in 2014, months after reading the book on Asatru, Loki made Himself known to me as a golden-bright mist and a very awe-ful presence. For several days all I kept ‘finding’ were articles, pictures and mentions of the God Loki. Suffice to say the Asatru book’s warnings rang in my head. I couldn’t just ignore this flurry of ‘Loki’ however, so I looked online and came across books by devotional Polytheists devoted to Him, and realised I could be wary but I didn’t need to be so afraid. I also came to realise this is what I am: a devotional Polytheist.

After accepting Loki into my life my other devotional practices also grew and developed. Whole new ways of honouring and relating to the Deities opened up for me. I have also been opened up to the wonders of my Beloveds Sigyn and Hella, who I may not have known if not for Loki.
This whole journey has not been an easy one, and I’ve struggled as my health’s deteriorated, but my love and intention to honour the Deities with integrity, and in the way I live my life, has only grown.

That film reconnected me with my heritage and led me on a journey to what has become my bedrock. When all else has fallen apart around me I am back at that purest expression – honouring and praying to Them, doing what I love: devotion.
All because of a Marvel movie.

By the way, if anyone can recommend a book on Pop Culture Paganism please let me know because I would like to try to understand better that path, even if it’s not one I follow.

Channeling Isis – when Set arrives legless

One of my more recent tasks has been to reconnect with the Egyptian God Set. This Deity has fascinated me for years. With the breaking down of my old self I realise that my focus needs to be more balanced. Although Loki and Family are still truly Beloved to me, I have neglected ties with many of my Beloved Egyptian Deities.

As recompense I said prayers to Set, asking Him if He still wished to work with me, and if He would grant me His protection. I said I would like to buy a bigger statue for Him, as the current one was only around 2 inches high – the smallest on the altar. A good Set statue is hard to find in the UK, and I looked online but couldn’t find one.

Two days later I was sat in front of my altar and my attention was drawn to a book on my right. It was an Ancient Egyptian Herbal by Lise Manniche. I had done bits of bibliomancy before, so took the hint and turned to a random page. The entry was for Watermelon. According to the book Watermelon was created when Set spilled his seed chasing Isis in the form of a bull. It was used in a wine for protection against evil ‘demons’. Since I’d asked for Set’s protection during a very difficult and vulnerable time I took it as a sign. I looked online for Watermelon wine but to no avail. I did, however, come across some Watermelon liqueur. Asking Set through my pendulum whether he would like the liqueur for offerings I got a resounding “Yes” and ordered it.

Later that afternoon I got an ebay alert saying a Set statue had been listed! Now, you could look at this as three completely unconnected, random events, but I choose not to. To me this is cause and effect: you pray and make reparations, you ask for help, and express a wish to more openly honour Them, and They respond.

One week later Set’s statue arrived… His legs had been broken off in transit. I wondered if it was just bad luck, but when I sat and asked for guidance I received a surprising answer: for Set to help me stand strong on my own two feet I needed to involve myself in a bit of like-for-like ‘magic’. I have repaired and renewed Deity statues before, and in doing so with Set’s statue I would be channeling my inner Isis; my inner healer and magic worker. Isis pieced her husband Osiris back together, so taking on Her mantle and fixing Set was setting Him back on His own two feet, helping His statue stand strong. In turn He could do the same for me.

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Does that look like a happy face to you?

The Egyptians believed that statues actually become receptacles for the Deities, and so any statue could provide a ‘home’ or respite for the Deity. Even in His broken state Set’s statue exuded power. I couldn’t help but look at it. It’s a feeling I have very strongly with my beautiful statue of Bast, and to a lesser extent with my other Deity statues.

A few days ago I was well enough to piece Set back together again, and restore His dignity as well as His stride. I got a really strong feeling of approval when I was finally able to place Him on the altar, resplendent and standing tall. I made an offering of the Watermelon liqueur, and anointed Him with Lotus oil along with my other Beloveds. Since then I have made some steps forward – baby steps, but progress all the same. As an apology for Set arriving damaged the seller is also sending me a statue of Thoth/ Djehuty, so that’s a nice surprise – I’ve been reconnecting with Him too.

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Set standing resplendent with His mini-me, beside Maahes and Sekhmet

I am grateful to Set for coming back into my life, offering His protection and guidance, and showing me that They are truly forgiving. It also shows me that if we have the genuine desire to reconnect it can happen.

Prayer for passing over

For my Danish Great Aunty Else, who had a wicked sense of humour, loved Robert Ludlum books, Midsomer Murders, Chinese food, ‘collecting’, birds, and her family.

May you be held
In comforting arms
As you go
Upon your way,
May you leave
With loving thoughts
And memories of better days.
May you always be remembered
In our hearts
And in our prayers,
As you take
The next step
On your soul’s
Flight of stairs.

She will now sit with her sister, nephew and parents in my family shrine. I have a wooden comb she gave me when I was 8, and will always think of her when I use it.

Loki and Sigyn: facilitators for deep healing and Shadow integration

Loki and Sigyn by Michelle, Northern Tamarisk

If Sigyn is the Goddess of holding space (see previous post) perhaps Loki is the one who takes our hand and let’s us know it’s safe to open up. He is the one who encourages us to express our most vulnerable selves. All the while Sigyn holds the bowl, catching any poison and throwing it away. Together They are the ones who support us through the deepest levels of healing.

If there was ever a Deity suited to helping us heal our own Shadow it is Loki – He who knows His own, Who loves all His children; knows how to love the seemingly unlovable. He is also the one who calls out hypocrisy and the Shadows of the Gods Themselves. He is the one who helps us heal our deepest wounds.
When we are in our own caves, bound by things once dear to us, upon rocks of our own shame, Loki is there with us. He knows the agony, the torment, on a whole other level. But knowing the cave as He does He can help us through our own time in the Underworld. When our own Shadows, our own repressed selves, drip down onto us, tearing us apart, He is there. 

All the while Sigyn, compassion personified, holds us steady. She takes us in Her arms like She holds the bowl, letting the Shadow poison spill out, helping us to heal. She lets us know She’s there whenever we need Her again. She will always return to hold the bowl when needed.

What we need to hold on to during this process is that, somehow, Loki made it out of the cave. Somehow He was freed from the darkness, and Sigyn could finally rest Her strong but weary arms and heart. That means we can make it out of the darkness too. We can start to reclaim our lives, go out into the world and do what we’re meant to do. We are all the stronger for having been through our trials.

They are a partnership for deep healing. For how do we heal the Shadow? With understanding acceptance and compassion. Loki and Sigyn.

When the masks fall we meet Them as we Are

I have often enjoyed reading the works of mystics and contemplatives from different traditions. Those two words call to me again now. I have remarked to others several times before that I seemed to have been cast in a role akin to a pagan nun, not necessarily by choice, more through circumstance and beliefs.

I re-read Upon the Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition by Sister Mary McCormack of the Carmelites last night and was reminded so much of the all-pervasive love I held for my Beloveds before the loss and upheaval of the last 6-7 weeks, the last month in particular. Sister Mary’s words reminded me of how my whole world seemed coloured by contemplation of Them, particularly Loki and Sigyn.

I wept as I read, because not only did her words remind me of what I have (for now, at least) lost, but because she speaks of the “dark night of the soul” where we face our own shadows, where all we hold dear falls away and leaves us grasping in the dark, often affecting our connection with the Divine. Yet Sister Mary, through her own words, those of St Therese of Avila and St John of the Cross, gives hope.
Only when we are broken down, only when we face those harsh truths about ourselves can we stand before the Divine, no longer encumbered by masks. Only then can we enter into a truer relationship with the Divine; one that transcends anything that may have come before. When we stand as we Are we greet our God(s) with our true face, our true Self, and any preconceptions of how we relate to Them can fall away, allowing our God(s) to in turn reveal more of Their true Selves to us.

So I have hope again. I am remembering once more that all roads lead back to Them, no matter the detours.
I am also determined in these things: never again will I allow the words and misconceptions of another to poison my link with the Gods. Never again will I forget that though I may go through trials They are always there. My heart is Theirs, my love is Theirs, my devotion is Theirs. All I go through breaks down barriers and leaves me a better person, and a more open heart to receive Their loving guidance.

With love and a sapling heart I reach once more for Them.

My deepest thanks go to J, who lent me the book that has provided such solace for my heart, and returned my determination to keep reaching for Them. Little did we know how important this tiny book would become only a matter of weeks later. May your Beloveds hold you deep within Their hearts.

Upon the Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition can be bought from the Notting Hill Carmelites –http://carmelitesnottinghill.org.uk/product/upon-this-mountain-2/

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.