Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Monday, August 25, 2014

URBAN SHAMAN by Serge Kahili King

Book review


This is one of my favourite books. It was one of the first books on magic I ever read (nearly 20 years ago) and remains, in my opinion, one of the best. It's on shamanism and I'm a witch, but I'm a pretty eclectic witch. In any case I think this book, while staying within a tradition, also transcends it. 

It's not dogmatic, and it IS practical. If you try the exercises, they will work. In practical terms magic is about shifting energy, in any context. King shares a number of techniques, and discusses the sorts of situations in which you might want to use them. Not everyone will want to do everything, e.g. I am trained in various healing modalities and have no need to add huna healing to my repertoire. It's still interesting to read his description of it. 

He also discusses the theory and beliefs behind these practices. His shamanism is a loving variety, and the seven principles on which it is founded are attractive and make a lot of sense to me. 

I also find the book very readable and engaging. 

I recently sent a copy to a 15-year-old grand-daughter who is developing an interest in magic. It's benign, easy to understand, and it works — what better introduction? 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

HEALING WITH THE GODDESS

(A talk I gave to a women's circle: The Goddesses of Shining Light)

Some of my sweetest childhood memories involve being sick in bed — because my mother was so good at making me feel better. She always seemed to know exactly what I needed — the best comfort foods to tempt my palate when I was able to eat; and whether to close the blinds so I could sleep or let the sunshine in and prop me up on the pillows to read a book. 

It starts when we're very young. If a small child falls over and gets hurt, they run straight to their mother, who says, "Let me kiss it better." So when we think of the Goddess as healer, it's natural to evoke Her in Her Mother aspect — the one who knows how to give us comfort, the one who can cure a hurt with a kiss, whose hugs are a haven, the one who makes everything better. It's a beautiful experience to rest and recuperate in the arms of the Mother. It can be as simple as calling on Her in thought when we feel unwell. 

Sometimes, being human, we forget that we can do that. 

We can evoke a particular Goddess, or simply The Goddess, that overall Divine energy of which specific Goddesses are aspects or representations. It may be that a specific Goddess is particularly suited to heal a particular condition. We can choose whom to call on, or be guided intuitively.

There's the Celtic Brigid — though she's also associated with poetry, so I tend to ask for Her help more often in that aspect of my life. There's Quan Yin, Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, who is connected with various healing systems, notably the Karuna Ki  energy healing modality. There's Mother Mary, whose wisdom and tenderness continue to guide many. And a number of others. Some people think that the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost — as in 'Father, Son and Holy Ghost' — is really the female aspect of Divinity, disguised in language because the early Church was so patriarchal. If you're a Christian, it is perhaps not inappropriate to ask the Holy Spirit to help when you need healing. The Reiki Master who initiated me as a Master was also a priest in an esoteric Christian church, and she believed in this interpretation.

These and other various manifestations of the Goddess as Healer are perceived as exquisitely gentle and comforting when they're in that healing role.

But healing is not always peaceful and gentle. It may involve painful surgery. It might take the form of purging to get rid of toxins. Another Goddess of healing is the lion-headed Egyptian, Sekhmet, who is associated with a system of energy healing called Seichim or Sekhem, which is similar to Reiki and has a Sufi component as well.  Sekhmet sometimes uses drastic methods, and you could find yourself undergoing a healing crisis, where you feel worse on the way to getting better. Then again, Sekhmet can be gentle too when that is needed. After all, her alter ego, the other aspect of her, is the nurturing cow goddess, Hathor. They are two sides of the same coin. So don't be afraid to call for Sekhmet if you are so guided. Trust that this form of the Divine will know and provide whatever you most need,

A simple, mental call for help will work. In an emergency, that may be all you can manage. Because you have, through this group, made a conscious, loving connection with the Goddess, your call will be expedited by that love energy. But She hears all those who call Her.

We can go further and use ritual to evoke the particular Goddess we'd like to work with. I expect you already have your own methods. Lighting a candle in an appropriate colour — or a white one, which encompasses all colours and so can substitute for any — is one simple way. Or you can be more specific. Brigid, for instance, loves flowers, so you could put an offering of flowers on an altar dedicated to Brigid. How lucky we are to live in the age of Google! It's easy to research the specific ways of honouring specific Goddesses. 

Prayer is a universal way of contacting the Deity. A mental yell of, 'Help!' Is a prayer, but if you have the time, you can make the request as long and detailed as you like. My particular path to the Goddess is through witchcraft, and I regard spells as active prayers, so I might well choose to perform a healing spell if possible. And there are many kinds of spells, some of which don't require a lot of tools or activity. Saying an affirmation is one kind, and you can do that while you're lying in a hospital bed. I might choose to cast circle — and I know that if I was lying in a hospital bed I could do that with visualisation and it would be acceptable.

Colour healing is another possibility. 'Breathe in green and breathe out pink,' my favourite colour healer once told me, when I was about to have surgery. Green and pink are the colours of the heart chakra, which again we may equate with motherly love. You can also research which colours are best for particular conditions.

Naturally I am not suggesting we ignore medical help. I'm trained in all sorts of wonderful and effective healing modalities, but I still go to the doctor if my symptoms appear serious, or they don't go away in a hurry. I see spiritual healing, energy healing, all kinds of natural healing, as complementary to traditional medicine rather than alternative. I'm a great believer in doing EVERYTHING that might work. (Which is one reason I've done so much training in so many modalities.)

So far I've focused primarily on one's own need for healing if illness or injury should befall. That's important.

We can serve the Goddess in many ways, and we don't necessarily have to be well to do so — but for the most part being well is more practical, and enables us to do more good for others. Not to mention the fact that it makes one's own life much more enjoyable. The Goddess is in favour of joy! So yes, make it a priority to take care of yourself and keep your energy replenished. Remember the saying, 'You can't give anyone a drink out of an empty glass'.

However, we can also call on the Goddess to help with the healing of others. We had an example of that only this week, when we received an email asking us to hold one of our members in the light as she underwent surgery, and in the days of her convalescence. Group energy is indeed very powerful, as we know from our meditations here when we send out light and healing,* and it doesn't necessarily require the members of a group to be physically together — though of course it's wonderful when that happens, as we are together now. 

Holding someone in the light is effective, and particularly suited to this group, as we are the Goddesses of Shining Light. When we send light to surround one of our own, naturally it is done with love. Projecting Love energy towards someone is always the most powerful thing you can do, in a group or as an individual. Easy when you happen to love someone in everyday life, but what if it's a stranger? What if it's someone you don't like very much? 

You are not obliged to give healing to anyone, and it might be better not to if you have mixed feelings about it. But if you do want to go ahead for altruistic reasons and you have trouble summoning up a feeling of love, one way is to project white light to the person, identifying that light as the energy of Unconditional Love. Another way is to put the person into the care of the Goddess with a formal declaration that you are doing so. You can speak to the Goddess concerned — 'Dear Sekhmet (or whoever), I place X within Your care in order to be healed' — or you can inform the Universe: 'I give X into the care of the Goddess to be healed.' It's nice to have someone bear witness, so you could state it aloud in a group, or to a single individual. Or you could say it, either aloud or silently, with no-one else present and ask the Earth or the Universe to be your witness.

Though I've focused on the obvious connection between healing and mothering, the Crone aspect of the Goddess, with her wisdom, also has a place in healing. While mothers are the obvious nurturers, grandmothers can also be very nurturing, sometimes in less obvious ways. They're good for a cuddle, but they may also encourage their grandchildren's self-reliance, intuition or creative thinking. In those difficult conditions which doctors have trouble explaining, it could be helpful to ask a wise Crone goddess for assistance. 

Old age leads to death, always. The Crone may transform into the Dark Goddess — Kali, Lilith, Hecate, the Morrigan. As my Reiki Master used to remind us, healing and curing are not necessarily the same thing. 'Death,' she used to tell us, 'Is the greatest healer.' 

On this plane we can't always see the bigger picture. Miracles do happen. People with terminal diagnoses don't always terminate. But sometimes it is indeed a person's time to go. This can happen at any age, with or without warning. A friend of mine in Melbourne recently lost her son to a quick and unexpected cancer. He was still a young man. She's an extraordinary woman. While deeply grieved, she has also been in touch with him since his death and understands that in his last few years of life he had lost connection to his own soul, and he needed to die in order to recover it. I hadn't seen him since he was a schoolboy, so I don't know how his soul got lost. But I trust the mother's insights because she's always been highly spiritually aware.

Death is hard on those left behind, but it may be a joyous blessing to those who move on. In that case, as healers we can seek to keep the person's quality of life as high as possible, as long as they have life, and to ease the transition when that time arrives. We can also recognise that our primary healing role in such a case might be to comfort and strengthen the bereaved.

You may be familiar with the practice of 'drawing down the moon', which witches sometimes do on full moon celebrations. It means that we invite the energy of the Goddess in Her Moon aspect to enter us and fill us for a time, to empower us in our magickal workings. 

We can all do that at any time, with a request. We can most certainly do it for healing, so that the Goddess works through us as we speak to a sick person or touch them with soothing hands. When we are done we can say thank you to the Goddess and ask for the energy to withdraw, or simply let it fade as it will over time. 

Above all, remember that the Goddess is available to you at all times. If you or anyone else needs healing, ask. A way will be found.

Perhaps there is no healing that does not come from the Goddess.


* When the circle meets, healing is sent not only to individuals who need it at the time, but also, always, to the whole planet — and in particular to places where there is disaster or conflict.