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

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What are we fighting for?

In recent times I have been wrangling somewhat with the question of why The Morrigan called me. I’m 5ft nothing and every inch not a fighter of any kind. I was recently heard bemoaning to a fellow devotee that I want to live my life from a place of peace and compassion and I don’t understand why She has called me.

This morning my Facebook feed is full of news about an Alt-Right rally that took place in Charlottesvile, Virginia in the US. A large group of people marched and shouted Nazi slogans. When a peaceful protest came together in response a man got in a car and drove into those protestors, killing one and injuring many others.

In the shower this morning I realised in a flash that I am called because I want nothing less than a peaceful, compassionate and healthy world, where every living, sentient being has value and can live safely.  The only way I am going to get this is if I fight for it.  This is what I believe I am fighting for, this is what I believe She wants from me.

Now there will be those in Her community who will say they believe the same, and yet there is often racist, sexist, misogynistic and bigoted talk in Her communities. People who say they are Her devoted and yet believe that People of Colour and Trans Folx and anyone else who is Other in some way should not exist.

If the world you are fighting for is not one in which every living, sentient being has value and can live safely in a peaceful, compassionate and healthy world then I think its time you asked yourself why not.

Sometimes in Her communities there can be heard the cry of, why are we fighting each other, why are we fighting amongst ourselves. Well, we will keep fighting amongst ourselves until we are all fighting for the right of every living, sentient being to have value and live safely in a peaceful, compassionate and healthy world.

I don’t want to fight with my fellow devoted. If I have to fight, if I have to be Her warrior in this lifetime, then I want to fight for my right to live a peaceful and compassionate life and for everyone – EVERYONE – to be able to do the same. How about you?

(c) Awen Clement – August 2017

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Practical Warrior in a Scary World

A practical warrior thing you can do in a scary world

The world seems a scary place, I’m not going to rehash all the scary stuff in the news recently, but you know what I’m talking about right? When it gets scary it is perhaps a normal reaction for pagans, especially followers of a war goddess such as the Morrigan to think about warrior stuff. Self defense, martial arts even hitting the shooting range. However a lot of people I speak to express frustration at where to begin what can be done immediately. Tragic and terrible events are difficult to comprehend and can leave you feeling powerless and responding to them is the job of the authorities. However there is a fairly simple thing you can do which I believe can help.

***Learn First Aid***

Learning first aid is a brilliant life affirming thing, often it’s possible to get a degree of training for free, paid for by charities or even your workplace. In the US it is possible to get EMT training via community colleges, in the UK you will have to make do with a St John’s Ambulance or Red Cross Course (or get creative in how you access this kind of training). Even getting a qualified first aider to show you the basics without any associated qualification is better than nothing. As a minimum you need to be able to deliver CPR to adults or infants, deal with choking, bleeding, broken bones, shock and burns. Being shown how to use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) and an Epipen takes minutes and could quite literally save a life. In an incident a little training goes a long way, add a basic first aid kit and the good you can do expands exponentially. When you are undergoing your training interact with your trainer and talk about worse case scenarios like multiple casualties and responding to the aftermath of violence. First Aiders love to relate the training to real life incidents and I find I learn as much from the conversations around training as the training itself. Also ask them about improvisations for when the incident exceeds the contents of the first aid kit supplied.

When there is an incident in which people are hurt, the immediate seconds and minutes while the authorities respond are vital. The more first aiders there are in the community the faster the response can be. People can be like antibodies rushing to the affected area. They react and try and help as well as they can but without training this can be to little avail and it is a sad fact that sometimes the people helping are just another problem for the authorities to deal with. Where there are multiple casualties, the first responders will often leave people who know what they are doing to get on with it or enlist their help in responding to the situation. Obviously as more responders arrive they will take over and this is right and proper.

Having first aid training will allow you to know what to do in the aftermath of an accident, or violent incident (if it is safe to do so). Instead of thinking “somebody should do something” you can be the person who can do the thing. Finally, first aid makes sense for the really minor stuff, it means you know what to do when someone (perhaps you) cuts themselves with that ceremonial knife or burns themselves on a candle.

 

From a original post made in the Call of the Morrigan Community by Rob Preece

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The Art of Caitlin Urksa

Caitlin Urksa is French, 51, and teaches English to 11- to 14-year-olds. She has always been an artistic type at heart, drawing, painting, sculpting, making things she jokingly says that her Muse is hyperactive.  She has been a pagan for 30 years (sort of Druid-ish Wicca first), and then the Great Queen came barging into her life some 10 years ago, which changed quite a lot of things.

The first painting here is a portrait of the Great Queen that she did in 2010, and the second photograph shows the story of the painting as it came into being. Caitlin says that painting the picture of the lady that she saw was a very powerful experience.  The following two images are some of her more recent work inspired by her connection to The Morrigan.

http://martyberlou.wixsite.com/palette-onirique

 

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A thousand blessings

I was sat in meditation in my temple space, contemplating the retreat we are hosting for The Morrigan in September and She came and gave me these words to share with you all.

***

Come one, come all
Come to my fire
Come seek vision in ember and flame

Travel with me on the winds of the night
Dance among the stars

Take my hand, let go of fear
Feel the strength of ancient warriors at your back

Remembering our beloved dead, never forgotten
Drink of the power of the land

A thousand blessings upon you
A thousand blessings upon you

I am the earth at your feet
I am the light in the sky
I am the name on every warrior’s lips at death

Be as one tribe, protect all the children
Be the wolf, many headed and clawed
Be the ever watchful crow

A thousand blessings in my name
I am the old one, my name carried on the wind
I am the fire in the hearth and in your belly

A thousand blessings upon you
And a thousand blessings more

Awen Clement (c) June 2017

***

If you feel called to join us for this years retreat – The Queen’s Vigil – follow the link for details and do be in touch with any questions.

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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.

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Answering the call

The first time She comes to me, I don’t recognise Her. I see a crow. I’ve never seen one here before. The crow in that place, at that moment, piques my curiosity, and I think, “I’ll come back later.”

I do come back later.

The crow is there waiting. It leads me deeper into a wood of late Autumn birch, leaves a gold and brown carpet on the forest floor. The crow lands on a naked branch above me. It looks down on me, and suddenly transforms.

The crow is not a crow.

She takes me to a cave. It’s empty there, but for us, cool, dark.

She tells me to sing. I sing and there is a merging of time, we are where we are in the dark, and we are in the cave with many women singing, and fire in the darkness.

When it is done, we ascend, and she asks me the first time, “Will you serve?”

I don’t want to answer. Quite honestly, I am afraid. I just want to get away.

I snap out of the journey space into the ordinary reality of my bedroom, thinking to escape.

She’s there, with me. “Will you serve?” This time louder, more insistent.

I don’t want to answer. What answer could I possibly give? I know who She is. I don’t know why She is there, or what She wants with me.

“Will you serve?”

With the force of the question, it’s clear there must be a response. I am silent, and shaking. I don’t want to answer.

And then She says, “You named your daughter for me.” These words echo in my mind. I know that this is true, though when I named my daughter, I did not know that this is what I was doing.

“You named your daughter for Me,”

The resonance of these words hits me like a code unlocking memory, falling back back back deep into time, calling to life pieces of me that She knows, that I have forgotten, an unraveling.

She asks once more, commanding, “Will you serve?”

And I, I find myself answering, speaking from a place beyond who I am in that moment, speaking words that come from me but from a place beyond thought, affirming ancient vows that I have surely made before and even more surely will make again, a gift of memory and awakening.

Anon (c) May 2017

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Unladylike by Heather Lewis

Unladylike

You’re so cute, he says.
My lips retract, not a smile but
A feral baring of teeth.
I do not tell him the truth,
That would be unladylike.

I do not tell him the truth –
That I am dangerous.
That I am the eater of black hearts.
That I am the devourer of shallow minds.
That I am the seeker of truths.
That I am the giver of life and
The bringer of death.

He sees only
A round face,
Soft skin,
The temptation of ripe curves.
He is blind to the chaos
Barely contained by my
Tender flesh and frail bones.
He cannot understand
The wildness of me.
He cannot know the ravenous hunger
For things he could never dare to dream.

And so I smile and say thank you,
Just the way I was trained to do.

(c) Heather Lewis

***

Heather says of this poem

I wrote this piece several months ago, I had strayed from my spiritual path, caught up with life and only recently found my way back again. As I was reflecting on the Morrigan and what is she expects of me, it occurred to me how the way women are socialized to accept traditional gender roles often clashes with and suffocates those aspects of womanhood that the Morrigan seeks to nurture in us – basically how women can often finding themselves hiding their wildness and power – all the things that a patriarchal society doesn’t understand and therefore, fears. And so I just started writing about the way women are often perceived versus the truth of womanhood and by the time I was finished, I had this piece

***.

Heather is 34 years old, currently studying English lit and creative writing at Morehead State University in Kentucky. She has not previously been published, though she is currently working on a small collection of poetry and short fiction which she hopes to find an audience for in the not too distant future.

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What to offer when you feel you have nothing

I am sure many of us are familiar with times that are financially thin, times when we have to make difficult decisions about what to spend our money on. At such times we can feel the weight of needing to honour our Gods with offerings, feeling that we cannot afford to spend food or heating or medical bill money, but fearing Their displeasure if we don’t.

Perhaps first it is worth mentioning why we make offerings. We make offerings to our Gods as an honouring, as a sign of our love and respect for them. We may make offerings because of something we wish to receive in return. We make offerings to strengthen our connection to them and maintain their presence in our lives. I recently heard Morpheus Ravenna explain it really well. If we think of our relationship with our Gods as being like a friendship. If we forget to stay in touch with our friends, if we don’t manage to honour or maintain the friendship, the friend doesn’t disappear but the friendship will wither away.

Fortunately offerings don’t have to cost anything, there is much you can offer that is absolutely free and in some ways may be better received than bought objects.  The key thing with all of this is the intention with which it is done. That the offering is made with active focus and consecration in the name of the deity it is intended for.

Here are a few suggestions for you, and maybe they will spark some other ideas of your own.

Prayer

Prayer has become almost a dirty word for some pagans because of its association with Christian practice. But we spoke in quiet contemplation and focus on our Gods long before Christian priests had any say in it. Speak with your God(s), speak from your heart, honour them, show gratitude for Their presence in your life. Sometimes we pray because we need something, but it can also be a simple act of devotion.  If you’re not sure what to say there are prayers available online and in books that are perfectly acceptable to use with the right intention and attitude.  In time you may find your own words and voice to offer.

Story, Song and Music

Telling the tales and stories of our Gods is how we keep Them alive in the world, even if it’s only between us and Them. But if you can, tell others Their stories, tell them to friends and family, tell them to your children or if you can find the right opportunity tell them to your community.

Sing for your Gods, and never mind whether you think you have a singing voice. Song is prayer carried on voice and breath.  Simple chants are just as effective as songs of many verses and no it doesn’t matter whether you learn the words by rote, use a book and sing with intention and heart.

Make music, if you play an instrument play it for Them, compose for Them. Or if you have a drum, drum for Them, the beat of the drum carries to the otherworld.

Song and story connect us with our ancestors who would have done the same, sharing with their families, tribes and communities. In this way we strengthen the ancestral lines behind us and before us.

Acts of service

There are so many of these it could become a long list but I will mention two really strong ones that in my experience the Gods really appreciate. Volunteering in your community and the clearing of sacred or natural places.

Can you spare a little time in your week to those in need? Whether it is for an elderly neighbour in your community, a young mother struggling with her children or time given to a charity in an area that matters to you. This time, these acts are a way to show that your tribe, your community matter and as such that you honour the God(s) that watch over you and them. Think about what your particular Gods represent and align your act with that.

It is an ongoing and maddening thing for many pagans to find natural or sacred sites covered in rubbish, the saddest thing is that sometimes it is pagans who add to it! None of us should be leaving rubbish on the land, and if we come across it clearing it away is a strong act of honouring, a way of showing that our lands matter. I encourage you to carry a bag with you wherever you go so that you can do this. Also think before you leave an item at a sacred site. It is better to leave a non-physical offering at a sacred site than an item that can cause damage. Even items that can biodegrade are not necessarily ok, things won’t biodegrade in sites such as caves and items tied to trees and plants can choke them and stunt their ability to grow.

Study and Learning

Dedicate some learning or study to your Gods. It might literally be the study of Them and Their stories, getting to know as much you can of Them. Or it might be your college or university studies, or training for your job.  Dedicate the growth of your knowledge to Them, your efforts to be able to do more for yourself and your community.

Physical Training

This may not be right or appropriate for everyone but many Gods welcome fit and strong devotees. Make an offering of your physical training, your exercise regimes, take up a fighting art in Their name.  Make your body your offering to them.

There are of course many ways of making offerings to our Gods and different things will be appropriate at different times in our lives and our spiritual practices. These are just a few ideas that may help you when you feel you have nothing to give.  Give only what you can manage, do not harm yourself to make an offering. Better to make a promise of an offering in the future and sing Them a song for now.

Awen Clement – May 2017

*Some of the thoughts in this article have arisen from taking the class ‘Polytheist Devotional Practice’ with Morpheus Ravenna of the Coru Cathubodua, with thanks to her for her teaching.*

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.

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Pilgrimage to The Morrigan

A few months ago I posted on Facebook asking where I should go if I was to go to Ireland in honour of The Morrigan. The resounding response was Owenyagat, The Morrigans Cave. So I spent some weeks dithering about, and not actually arranging anything, like you do when you know you’ve got to do something life altering for The Great Queen.

Eventually I got myself together, booked some flights, booked a hire car and booked Lora O’Brien to guide me and a friend to the cave. Now, bear in mind I had never flown in my life, and my friend was going to meet me there, you can see where the first part of this trial lay.

Arriving

The trip happened this past weekend, just a few days after Beltane. I flew into Dublin on Friday evening, learning that flying really isn’t that bad at all once you’re up.  Found my way out of the airport, found my friend and collected the hire car. The blood red hire car. It made us feel we were expected.

The red chariot

We stayed over night in a great B&B just outside Dublin, found ourselves some dinner in a local pub and hung around to hear the advertised ‘live music’, that turned out to be one man and his keyboard doing bad cover versions….we opted to head off to bed instead.

On Saturday morning we drove across country to meet Lora in the village of Tulsk in Roscommon. We had an awesome visit to the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, getting to deeper grips with the stories of the area and admiring some fantastic artwork.  The centre do awesome work and the café is fantastic too (tea in a proper 6 cup pot no less!).

Mebh’s Throne

We drove up the road and visited Ogulla, the holy well. A natural triple spring with a shrine.  It has a statue of St Patrick and a story to go with it, but the story tells that it was once a sacred site looked after by pagan priestesses. It’s a beautiful, tucked away spot, easily missed. Sacred waters flowing, surrounded by sacred trees.

St Patrick at Ogulla

Waters of Ogulla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove on then to Rathcroghan mound. Now I’ve visited many sacred sites in my life, it was almost a hobby with my parents when I was growing up and I’ve done my share of visiting as an adult pagan too. Rathcroghan is something really quite special.  It looks quite unassuming, just a big grassy mound in the middle of field, surrounded by a fence and full of sheep who seem slightly disgruntled at the presence of two leggers. Lora told us what is known about the mound from the archaeology and led us to the top via the eastern face, where the ceremonial entrance would have been. I received strong visions here, memories, whether they were mine in a past life or just picking up on echoes I don’t yet know. But the place was familiar to me, and welcoming.

Rathcroghan Mound

We took a break for lunch before heading for Owenyagat, to take our turn to go into the ground and seek The Great Queen. When we arrived some other folk were there, so we took time to sit in the sun and Lora told us the story of how the cave got its name. For Owenyagat means ‘cave of cats’, and it refers not to a feline cat, but an otherworldly creature, a creature whom Mebh called from the cave, from the otherworld, to test young warriors including CuChulainn.

Lora O’Brien Storytelling at Owenyagat

Then it was time for us to go in, I had thought I would be anxious, but if anything I was eager, I had been waiting for this, I had broken my fear of flying to be here and do this. Lora went in first, pointing out various features as we went. It is deep, and yet it’s not, it’s cold and yet it’s not, it’s dark and. No, it’s really dark. After a brief time with torchlight, we took our seats and sat in the dark with our Queen. I can’t really tell you what passed at this point, it’s quite personal, but suffice to say we were graced with an audience.  It felt right and comfortable to be there and I know I’ll go back in the future.

Owenyagat

Inside the entrance

Inside the cave

Emerging into the sunlight afterwards was a little strange, time had gone all bendy, which I find it often does around Her. Lora commented that I had experienced all three worlds in a weekend, upper with my flight, middle in exploring the land and the lower with the descent into Her cave.

Cleaning up after the cave

After the cave

I had challenged myself in a number of ways for Her, because She asked it of me and without wanting to sound big-headed, I’m really proud that I lived up to it. I could have freaked and bailed from as early as arriving at Birmingham airport, right through to going into the cave. But I didn’t. Suddenly I know that anything is possible and that is a huge and wondrous feeling.

Heading home

Awen Clement © May 2017

If you are thinking of visiting Ireland, to see the sacred sites and honour The Great Queen, I sincerely recommend either contacting Lora O’Brien and seeing if she is available to guide you or alternatively join one of the magical tours run by Land Sea Sky Travel, who gave great support and advice in the planning of this trip.

***

Awen is a priestess of the Morrigan who lives and works in the West Midlands in the UK. She is a land guardian, storykeeper and priestess offering teaching and healing work for those who need it on their journey. She can be found at www.wildmagpie.co.uk

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