Spiritual abuse is real

Spiritual abuse is real, it’s a real thing in pretty much every spiritual movement or religious community. Why? Because in these places there’s a real intersection of vulnerability and power. People are drawn to seeking when they need help, and those who are willing exploit that vulnerability for their own gain will, very sadly, do so.

One spiritual seeker to another, I’m putting this out there for anyone who needs to see this and hear this, the fruits and lessons of personal experience.

*Anyone can call themselves a priest, a healer, a shaman. Literally anyone. I know when you’re seeking, vulnerable, newly called the array of these folk can be dazzling. It’s so tempting to take up that offer healing, of sanctuary, of soul or power work when you’re feeling confused or vulnerable. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your time and to be discerning. Kind of like a first date. Do your research. It may sound obvious, but if you can’t find a history for this person, or they have a history of lying, thieving, or exploitation, treat that as a big red flag. Glamour and power can over a lot, don’t fall for it. Hang round the edges for a while. Check in with your own gut and guidance. Trust yourself if you’re hearing a ‘no’.

*The capacity to move energy doesn’t make someone a healer. Unless this capacity is coupled with some serious integrity and grounded experience, what it makes that person is potentially seriously dangerous. Shamanism, tantra, any advanced energy practice can harm as deeply as they heal—the harm doesn’t even have to be intentional. Think toddler running through a crowd with a big knife. Got the picture?

*Be highly suspicious of people (men in particular) who want to access your power for their own gain. These people generally have few to no peers, but possibly some (or many) followers. They love people who support their visions of themselves and their power. They don’t take criticism or conflict well. The classic lines like “The Goddess told me we would work together” or “She told me I can heal you.” I know it sounds cheesy when I say it here, but too many fall for it! Maybe you do want to work with this person, but don’t let these kinds of lines be the only reason you do.

Finally, if you have fallen for it, don’t despair. Betrayal is a classic and common part of spiritual awakening. It can make you or break you. Don’t let it break you, friends.

Here a few places where you can find safe and reliable connection

Coru Cathubodua Priesthood

John Beckett

Morgan Daimler

Lora O’Brien

 

(c) Rebecca Wright – August 2017

Please follow and like us:

Having a spiritual practice when you feel you can’t

Sometimes in life we find ourselves in places that make it difficult to honour our spiritual practices.  Perhaps you have to live with family who are not comfortable with your beliefs, perhaps you want or need to keep it hidden from friends, neighbours or children for safety reasons. Perhaps you are away from home and away from your sacred spaces.  So what can you do to maintain your spiritual practices, to keep honouring your Gods and deepen your connection?

Probably the first thing to recognise is that your connection with your Gods and guides begins within you.  Whilst we may build altars and have devotional practices to help us maintain that connection, these things do not make the connection external from you.  Whilst They may appreciate your efforts in maintaining altars and shrines or in performing devotional rites, they are not specifically necessary (I will add the caveat that some people do have specific direction on this from their Gods but that isn’t the point of this article).

So what can you do when life gets in the way of your devotional practices?

Pray

Prayer can sometimes be seen as bit of a dirty word amongst pagans due to the overtones it has acquired from the Christian faiths.  However, our ancestors were talking to the Gods of their land and people long before Christianity came along.

You can pray anytime, anywhere and it doesn’t have to be out loud.  It’s a really good practice to designate a time and space for it in your life, daily if possible. But if you’re working long hours, commuting a lot or have a schedule that makes truly regular practice difficult, then fit it in when and where you can.

Pray while you’re on the train travelling to work or college, pray on your lunch break, pray in your garden or bedroom when you have five minutes in the evening.  Pray when you find yourself in a space where nothing else is going on, where you can turn your focus and intention to your Gods and speak with Them.

Don’t know what to say? There are lots of great prayers out there in books and on the internet. Learn something short off by heart and use it with intention. But otherwise, speak what is in your heart. Tell your Gods how you feel about Them, show them honour with words. Prayer can also be a conversation about something that you may need from Them (and what you will give in return) but fundamentally it is about honouring your Gods and showing your appreciation for their presence in your life.

Think of it as being like maintaining a friendship, the relationship you have with the friend you call every day or every week is stronger than the one you only call once a year or when you want something. Your Gods are going to appreciate a regular five minute call with you over you worrying about having the right candle to light.

Meditate

Some people might not think of meditation as a devotional practice as we tend to see it as a space of emptying the mind or focus on the breath and so on. But actually it can be a really strong devotional practice. It’s kind of like a deeper version of prayer. Above I have advocated for the quick, five minute, when you can approach. But if you can make space for a longer session, then you can go deeper in your connection with your Gods.

To continue the friendship analogy it would be like going to visit somebody in their home for tea every day or once a week.  When we sit down in devotional meditation, we are sitting down for a longer visit with our Gods.

It may be that you combine devotional meditation with prayer or other rites and practices, but at absolute core it is about sitting down and putting your focus on your God(s) for a period of time. To sit and be with Them, be in their presence. To feel Them with and around you. To be open to Them, to listen for Their words or directions.

This may not be an easy practice to begin with, but committing to a regular practice of devotional meditation is extremely valuable in building a deeper relationship with your Gods and guides.

Make Offerings

I have written about offerings before. I wrote about it from the perspective of what you can offer when you have nothing, but actually the principles apply for those people who for whatever reason cannot make obvious or overt offerings due to living restrictions or the discomfort of others.

But in short, offerings of prayer, of story or song, of time in voluntary service or the clearing up of the land or sacred sites are offerings that are well received by most Gods. All of these offerings are things which can be done when our living situation prevent us from making physical offerings or working with devotional spaces.

Be on the land

For me, being out on the land is a massive devotional practice for a number of the Gods and other entities that I work with. Putting your bare feet (if possible) on the land and feeling your connection to the life of this planet, to the connection with all things. To the connection with your ancestors who stood on this land before you. To the connection with all those who have honoured the Gods before you. To feel the Gods in the land.

It is also possible to combine all of the previous suggestions in this article with being on the land. Pray on the land, meditate on the land, sing on the land, clean up the land.  Being outside is free and allows us a powerful connection pathway to our Gods. Whether you sit at the bottom of your garden, go to your local park or take yourself out into the wild somewhere.

 

Deepening your connection with your Gods does not require objects and gifts and fancy rites, though they are appreciated, it is about strengthening the connection that begins inside you, about maintaining and honouring the relationship you desire to have with Them. Whether that’s a five minute call every day or a weekly trip to the local park to meditate.  Do what fits in your life as it is now, add to it or deepen it when life allows. But do the work, every day.

Awen Clement © June 2017

Awen is a priestess of The Morrigan who lives and works in the West Midlands of the UK. She is leading the 2017 Call of the Morrigan Retreat – The Queen’s Vigil in West Wales in September.

Please follow and like us:

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.

 

Please follow and like us:

Three Paths, One Purpose by Morgan Daimler

12076537_10206739153311181_1519930415_oThe witchcraft community is a varied and diverse place, just like the people who belong to it. It can generally be said thought that there are three main approaches to witchcraft, once labeled white, gray, and black. The vast majority of people prefer to identify as white or benevolent witches, those who focus only on positive energy, healing, blessing, and connecting to nature; they usually strongly emphasize the light. The second largest group are the gray or moderate witches who favor a balance between dark and light; they generally seem to prefer the positive but are willing to use the negative methods when necessary. Finally there are the black or dark witches who are the fewest in number, publicly at least, and who focus on the darkness and on knowledge of hexing and destructive magics.

Obviously this is something of an over-simplification, as very few people are limited to only one view and each tends to blend into the others to some degree. And naturally in discussing it the different paths must be generalized – there will of course be exceptions and slightly different views in each one. It’s also important to note that each approach, light, gray, and dark, all can have followers who use their witchcraft in abusive ways. While it’s easy enough to picture the dark witch as someone who is simply cruel and enjoys hurting people, those same qualities can be found in those who follow the light exclusively. All approaches have benefits and risks. For those of us drawn to honor the Morrigan, undeniably a complex Goddess herself, it is worth taking the time to look at the different paths and how we relate to them.

The most popular path – publicly at least – is the light path. People drawn to this approach tend to see witchcraft as a tool for improving the world, for healing, blessing, and protecting. The light is a path rooted in love and so its emphasis tends to be on manifesting love; people who follow this path generally also follow the Wiccan Rede “an ye harm none, do as ye will”, the three-fold law, and karma. The Wiccan Rede can be interpreted in different ways, from forbidding all harm of any sort under any circumstances, to suggesting that no action should be taken without great consideration of the consequences first. The three-fold law, sometimes also called the law of return, states that the energy we put out returns to us, so that those who do good receive good. The western-ized idea of karma goes along with this and encourages people to be responsible for their actions through the belief that actions create similar responses; those who do good things have good karma and good things happen to them, or on a wider scale in the next life they bring this good energy forward with them. Light witches often refuse to do specific kinds of magic that are considered manipulative, believing that it is wrong to interfere with another person’s free will.

The strength of this path is that it encourages kindness and gentleness. It is a path of love and it encourages people to be positive and loving in life, to heal themselves and others, to bring happiness and optimism into the world. Spirits are dealt with, but usually only those perceived of as entirely beneficial or helpful to people. Plants need sunlight to grow and the world needs light witches to nurture and nourish that fragile sense of joy that is so easily lost. The weakness of this path is that it can tend towards intolerance of those who are not similarly inclined towards unadulterated “goodness”. It can also encourage a rejection of non-light oriented methods that can result in fear and judgment of those methods. Many people are drawn to this path because of its focus on positive things but is often misunderstood by those who don’t follow it who may believe it is shallow, fluffy, or too passive.

Those who follow the Morrigan and walk a light path may find it especially challenging to reconcile her harsher aspects with their rejection of anything harmful or manipulative. There may instead be an emphasis on the Morrigan’s sovereignty, prophecy, and land goddess aspects.

The second most popular path is the gray. A gray witch straddles both the light and the dark emphasizing balance between the two. Gray witches tend to reject either extreme and instead seek to walk in moderation, although in actual practice they tend more towards favoring a light point of view. Some gray witches do follow the Wiccan Rede or believe in the rule of three, but others prefer a morality based in the idea that if you need to cause harm you will, if you have no other choice and with an understanding that there will be repercussions to you. The common sayings which appeal in this path

is “you can’t heal if you can’t hex” and “only act if you are willing to pay the cost”. Gray witches tend to respect both life and death as powerful forces and emphasize the importance of incorporating both sides of human nature into the witch’s practice. Some people practice gray witchcraft as a blend of both light and dark, taking practices from both, while others see it as the line between the two. Magical practices in gray witchcraft often emphasize what may otherwise be labeled Hedge witchcraft, Green witchcraft, or wild crafting, with an emphasis on connecting to the spiritworld through a variety of practices and on applying magic in diverse ways. The gray witch may or may not work to help the larger community or be more personally focused.

The strength of this path is its avoidance of extremes and its willingness to explore a variety of methods and options. Gray witches tend to be open minded and appreciate open mindedness in others. Spirits are dealt with that are mostly benevolent towards people but those that are more ambivalent may also be worked with. The gray witch is necessary in the community because they serve as a bridge between the light and the dark and they, in many ways, represent the most organic approach to witchcraft. The weakness of this path is that moderation can sometimes feel like stagnation and there may be a struggle with feelings of indecision as the gray witch’s morality and practice is not necessarily rigidly set, leading to a need for situational ethics. Many people who follow this path are drawn to its moderate approach, but it can be misunderstood by outsiders as being both hard to define ethically and also reflecting an unwillingness to commit to one side or the other. Some people may criticize gray witches for wanting the public acceptance of the white witch while also having the darker magic of the dark witch.

Followers of the Morrigan who are drawn to gray witchcraft often like to focus on her connections to the Fey, who are also ambiguous in nature, and her psychopomp and justice aspects. Gray witches generally have no issues with any of the Morrigan’s associations and may find honoring her empowering.

The final category is dark witchcraft, the smallest public group and the most misunderstood. Dark witches themselves fall into a variety of sub-groups, but generally people are drawn to this approach because it doesn’t shy away from using the types of magic others consider dangerous. Witches who follow this path often prefer to rely on their own judgment to decide right from wrong. Consequences from actions are seen as the direct results of the actions themselves, rather than an energetic return and value is often placed on doing what is best for the self and those closest to the witch, rather than a more nebulous greater good. Magic and spellcraft are viewed as utilitarian tools, which like an ax or knife can, help or harm depending on how they are used. Knowledge is often valued, even of things viewed as dangerous or unpleasant. As with gray witches the belief is often that you should be willing to pay the cost of any action taken, but where a gray witch may feel that you can’t heal without knowing how to hex a dark witch might say you shouldn’t know how to hex if you aren’t willing to use what you know when needed. Although they tend to have a negative reputation few Dark witches will cause harm without a strong motivation to do so; understanding things like pain and suffering and having an affinity for understanding the darkness in others tends to engender a sympathy towards others along with a cynicism. Dark path witches generally believe that only by confronting and accepting the darkness can a person find strength and overcome fear. Things that other people may avoid or find uncomfortable like death, decay, and negative emotions are things that dark witches are often drawn to; where, for example light witches are empowered by sunlight or moonlight, dark witches look to the darkness and shadows for peace and empowerment. Dark witches often practice some form of necromancy, and emphasize working with the dead, spirits of various sorts, and protective magics.

The strength of this approach is its willingness to confront what others avoid and to deal with the darker aspects of life and of magic. Dark witches tend to be extremely open minded and accepting of people’s eccentricities and flaws, but also tend towards cynicism and introversion; this can be a strength or a weakness. Dark witches who work with spirits will usually work with a wide variety of types,

including those others might avoid. Dark witchcraft also has a strength in its emphasis on the importance of facing and overcoming our own negative qualities. People may be drawn to this path for different reasons, including a personal preference for the macabre, a desire to confront their own fears, or a need to feel empowered. A major weakness of this path is a risk of arrogance in the practitioner and a possibility of becoming too focused on power. This path is often misunderstood by others as being nothing but shock value, evil, or focused on malicious harm for its own sake.

Followers of the Morrigan who are dark witches may tend to focus on her war and battle aspects along with her role as washer-at-the-ford; her lighter aspects such as fertility are less emphasized. Dark witches who honor her may also acknowledge her aspects relating to madness, battle magic, and cursing.

These three paths, light, gray, and dark, have many differences and many similarities – but ultimately for those of us who share honoring the Morrigan her worship should be something which holds us together. We should learn to see beyond the differences in approach and philosophy to the person and the ways that we all ultimately seek the same thing. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to justify our own beliefs that we lose sight of the value in other people’s, and also the truism that there is no one way that is ideal for everyone. As Nietzsche said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist”.

And as to me, well I spent many years as a light-path witch and then, to quote Pratchett and Gaiman’s book “Good Omens” I “sauntered vaguely downwards” into dark witchcraft with a brief stopover in gray witchcraft. That, however, is another story.

(Read more from Morgan on her personal path in the post Reflecting Darkness on her blog Living Liminally.)

About: Morgan Daimler has been a witch since 1991, an Irish reconstructionist since about 1994, and heathen since 2006. She also practice seidhr. She loves studying other paths and other ways of doing things, and enjoys discussing religion, philosophy and spirituality with people from diverse paths.

She is the author of a number of books, including The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens, Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism, and The Treasure of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth. See more about her and a full listing of her work on her Amazon author page.

Please follow and like us: