The Truth

by Izzy Swanson

The truth of who I am is not pretty. I didn’t come to be who I am today with years of training as a Shaman. I didn’t travel to another place to have the wisdom of the ancestors handed down to me. The truth is, well there are many truths, and one of them is that I was born this way. The other truth is that I had to dig myself out of a pit of insanity, abuse, trauma, and 16 years of drug addiction. The truth is that my spirit and my body have been battered, demoralized, and broken in ways that hurt me to even speak of. Much of what I have seen, much of what has been done was carried out at the hands of my family or abusive boyfriends but if we are talking about truth so much of what has happened to me I did also to myself.

Why I am here? Why am I telling you this? Because the value of my trauma is that I am who I am today. I need to say this to myself as much as you need to hear it. I need you to know it because I have never believed that anything I said or did was right, or valid. I needed to be defined by the opinions of others and yet even when I started to feel like I was getting it right it was never enough. I still would look to someone else and judge the quality of my work by their definition of what is right and wrong. You need to know it because you need to know that the things you tell yourself and the emotions you feel are not that by which you should define yourself. You need to see that there is a way to feel whole, that there is a path to unbrokenness. You need to trust that the pain that I have broken my body with is the strength by which I will help you heal yourself. This is the truth, of who I am, of who you are, of why we do this work.

I will tell you my story, at least as much of it as I can without breaking others who were part of it, and I will tell you how I came here and maybe if you can stay with me through the story you will find that I can show you a way to survive yourself. I will guide you through the darkness in the pit of your soul and show you how to embrace the balance of the dark and the light. I will guard you in the liminal spaces. I will mother your tears. I will show you the peace of the warrior and I will make you a priestess of your own life.

The time has come to shed the lies, to destroy everything that you know, to make your sorrow your biggest gift, to use your pain to achieve your goals1. We are being called to the front lines of a war that is about redefining who we are as individuals, as a species. Whoever convinced you that this needed to happen peacefully, quietly, and completely in the light has not told you the full truth or maybe you did not see the other half of the message. We will have to first stand at the doorway to change and face our fears. We may even have to break, shatter into a million pieces, before we will know the complete truth and power of who we are. For powerful is what you are. It’s what I am and it is what we are together.  Do not be afraid even when the walls fall down and you are overwhelmed. Do not fear. Do not run from the immensity of who you are, of who we are. Warrior Spirit, Queen, Priestess, Guardian, Teacher, Mother, do not run from your soul’s purpose. We are here now for a reason and even if I can’t clearly define it in this moment, I will be here to help you see it. I for one did not come here to run.

02/08/2016

Izzy Swanson of Feileacan MinistryIzzy Swanson owns Feileacan Ministry in Austin, Texas. She is a Shamanic Reiki Master, Teacher, and Priestess. She specializes in healing soul wounds and working with PTSD, trauma, and addiction.

You can find her online at: www.transformationreiki.com as well as on Facebook at www.facebook.com/feileacanministry and Instagram at www.instagram.com/transformationreiki/

 

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Rag Tree Tradition by Lora O’Brien

So, I’ve worked for the last 12 years as a professional tour guide to the sacred sites of Ireland, and let me tell ya, I’ve seen some shit.

8 of those years were spent managing the sites and visitor centre at the royal complex of Rathcroghan, Cruachan; which (as many of you know, unless you’re believing the nonsense that there’s no Morrigan sites in Connacht), is where the Morrigan ‘resides’ – Her primary site in Ireland is the Cave of the Cats, Uaimh na gCait. This site is an ancient cave, worked by human hands in later times, known as the primary physical entrance to the Irish Otherworld, which Medieval Christian scribes referred to ‘the Gates of Hell’ due to the unfortunate amount of monsters and demons (to their perception) which flowed out from this hole in the earth on an all too regular basis.

I’m probably telling y’all stuff you already know here, being folk who are interested in Herself. I’ve been Her priestess for 13 years, and I know how hard she pushes us to do the work, and how important real information is to Her.

But what you might not be aware of, and what I’d really, really, like you to be aware of (and tell all your mates), is the absolute misconceptions and horrific disrespect that Pagan or ‘spiritual’ visitors to Ireland show at our sites.

Let’s talk about the Rag Tree tradition, shall we?

In Ireland, we have long had the custom of the ‘Raggedy Bush’ or Rag Tree, and there’s similar in Scotland, with what they call ‘clooties’ tied to certain trees. The trees are Hawthorn, one of our most prominent native trees/bushes – Crataegus Monogyna, or in Irish, the Sceach Gheal. The Irish name literally means something like, ‘that which makes the hedgerow bright’, and when it’s covered in colourful rags it sure does. Most often, there’s a particular hawthorn, growing near a particular holy well, and this is the local Rag Tree.

Occasionally there’s no well or spring to be found, but my theory on that is that there used to be one and it’s gone now, or that the misconceptions around Rag Trees stretch back further than your average modern American tour group, and some fecker just decided at some stage that a single growing hawthorn was actually a Rag Tree, way back in the mists of time, and it stuck. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no magic there today… just that it probably didn’t start out that way. The water nearby is a pretty important part of the magic here.

What’s it all about then? Well, basically, the tradition goes that you take a piece of cloth from a sick person, tie it to the tree (often with prayers), and the sickness disappears as the rag rots away. The water nearby is most often a holy or healing well, which helps of course.

Sounds simple enough, right? From a magical perspective, we’ve got sympathetic magic in the rotting of the fabric – the visual representation of the illness losing power and strength and eventually disintegrating. We’ve got an energetic loop that’s formed between the sick person (it has to be an item they’ve worn while ill, so imbued with their DNA or essence) for illness to flow to the tree, and back the way then with the healing energies from the water, through the roots of the tree. Make sense? Sure!

You know what doesn’t make sense though? Folk who come along and tie their rubbish to the tree. Or tie strings or cloth so tight they damage the tree branches. I’ve removed everything from crème egg (candy) foil wrappers to junk jewellery rings to plastic covered wire wrap ties from the branches of our Rag Trees on this island. Not cool people, not cool. That, at least though, can be written off as ignorance of a ‘quaint’ local tradition they want to be a part of, by people who are really just here for lip smacking the Blarney Stone and the Guinness.

What’s more worrying is the visitors who come to sites where there’s no Rag Tree, on supposed spiritual pilgrimage, and tie their shit to whatever tree happens to be there.

The Cave at Cruachan is a prime example of this. I was a guardian there for 13 years, and for 8 of those I was paid to be in and out of it most days of the week. There’s a hawthorn that grows over the mouth of the cave, but it’s a relatively young one. Maybe 20 or 30 years old is all. It’s a fairy tree in the sense of it being smack bang over the mouth of a Sidhe dwelling, and it’s definitely magical… but it’s not a Rag Tree. Every week though, there’d be some new bit of tat tied to it. One tour group got a nylon umbrella off their bus, ripped it to bits, and tied the bits to the tree. Then they left the umbrella carcass in the field, got on their bus, and drove off.

There were obviously some who wanted to leave an ‘offering’ at the site, to connect themselves there in some way, and perhaps that’s how some of the cloth strips got into the tree. Maybe some were even cloth from the garments of sick people. But this is not a healing site. In my experience – personally, and collected from feedback of those who energetically interacted with the site – the entities at this site will gleefully follow any connection you choose to make there, go right back to source, and tear down anything weak that they find there. Ostensibly ‘for your own good’, of course, but they are absolutely merciless about it… if you lay a pathway for them they will follow it. This is not a good thing, for most people. Especially unprepared people. People who maybe think that Irish entities and Sidhe spirits are essentially pleasant and good natured, full of the craic, and harmless to let in. People who are perhaps sick, and not at full energetic defensive strength.

There was once a baby’s bib tied through the branches of the hawthorn tree at the Morrigan’s Cave. Just take a moment, and let that sink in for yourself.

You see now why I might be a bit ranty on this topic? Can we not do this anymore?

My best advice is to take local advice. If you want to find a real Rag Tree, there’s websites and books that will tell you where to begin your search, but first and foremost you should be talking to local people. Get exact directions. Check that the tree you think might be the one is actually the one. And remember, just because some eejit has tied something to it before you got there, doesn’t make it a Rag Tree.

Please, be sure?

13625325_10154343445948833_754878224_nLora O’Brien is a native Irish Author and Guide to Ireland, facilitating your authentic connection to Ireland one small step at a time. You can get involved with the excellent Irish Rewards by becoming a Patron of her work at www.Patreon.com/LoraOBrien, or visit her website to find out about her upcoming on-line course, Meeting the Morrigan. You can find Lora’s blog, books, mailing list, classes and more at www.LoraOBrien.com.

 

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