An underworld journey

The five-petaled path of Venus as seen from earth.

At the moment, the planet Venus is absent from view in our skies. 

On December 19th, Venus left her position in the night sky as the evening star. On January 29th, she will return to view again, but this time as the morning star. Venus repeats this process every 18 months.

Right now, we are in the midst of the 40-day underworld journey of Venus. Ancient peoples linked the number 40 to transformation and change. In the Hebrew Bible, for instance, 40 was often used for time periods, 40 days or 40 years, which separated two distinct epochs.

We are now on an underworld journey with the Goddess and we are invited to rise with her into a new epoch upon Venus’ return to our skies as the morning star. 

Intention

For our journey this week, let us explore the question of what values or priorities you are called to commit yourself to for the next 18 months. 

Put differently, what commitments might you make that will help you to rise again and shine brighter in our world?

RSVP

Gaia Shamanism is offering free online journey circles in 2022 on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm PST. 

This weekly circle is an opportunity to hone the practice of journeywork in a  spiritual container of mutual support, real talk, and humor.

If you would like to join us this Wednesday, January 12, at 4 pm PST, email me at anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.   All skill levels are welcome.

Happy New Year!

I don’t expect things to get better in 2022, or in my lifetime.

In the past month, I stood in line for two-and-a-half hours for medication at our local pharmacy, twice filled our bathtubs so we can flush our toilets should we lose power from winter storms, and have suffered a spate of migraines in the aftermath of immunizations.

And I am among the most privileged of people in our world.

If a “better” year means an easier year, I’m afraid we can just kiss that goodbye. 

But if a “better” year could instead mean rooting more deeply into the solid ground of the soul, then we might just be in luck. 

To get through these times–and to enjoy them–we need to find ways to harness who we are, and what we love, to the service to others. Then, whatever might happen, we will be ready to move away from the default position of the frightened bystander into a spiritually potent and useful role that we have crafted for ourselves. Should we fail in our efforts to help, at least we can go down trying.

What is it that you have longed to learn, or do in the world, but haven’t found time for yet? Make a commitment to start this year so you might be of service to the world in ever more soulful and skillful ways. 

This year will see me begin volunteering with hospice and learning to forage in the forest for the ingredients to make tea. Both are rooted in my intention to become of greater spiritual service and both lend me a sense of purpose and excitement about the coming year, regardless of the challenges coming our way.

Great years are made, not received whole from a mysterious source beyond ourselves. Great years, like 2022, are shaped into something beautiful and useful from the muck and mud of our lives. 

I hope you will join me on this journey of service in 2022. May we fashion this year into something truly soulful and of use.

******

Once again, in 2022, Gaia Shamanism will offer free online journey circles on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm PST. 

This weekly circle is an opportunity to hone the practice of journeywork in a  spiritual container of mutual support, real talk, and humor.

If you would like to join us, feel free to email me at anna@gaiashamanism.com.  This week we will dedicate our journeys to the question of being of service.

And if you haven’t been to the circle for a while, but miss the heart-centered practice and camaraderie, start the year out right and join us this Wednesday, January 5, at 4 pm PST.

Blessed Solstice

It is said that the veils between the worlds are thinnest at certain times of the year, for instance, during the solstice. I always thought this was just a bunch of superstitious hooey; that is until I began hosting this journey circle.

I have found that my journeys are stronger with the combined intention and presence of others. If you want to journey better, journey with those who are more practiced than you. Journeying with practiced others improves our practice–even from a distance. 

But over the years I have found that journeys taken on equinoxes and solstices themselves offer a whole new level of clarity. Insight and vision truly are gained when we intentionally align ourselves with the rhythm of light.

So let us gather tomorrow, on the Solstice, with our questions, longings, heartbreaks, and gratitude. May we come to understand something new, find direction, experience healing, or feel more deeply connected to the living earth.

Let us ask, together, to receive what we most need on this, our blessed Solstice, that we might be better able to sew the seeds of Life in the coming year.

I hope you can join us for Gaia Shamanism’s last circle of 2021.

With all my love,

Anna

RSVP

If you would like to attend Gaia Shamanism’s free online Solstice journey circle this Tuesday, December 21, from 4-6 pm PST, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome.

An engaged and vulnerable love

As I sealed up our last surviving beehive this morning, after removing an empty quart jar of bee tea, I spoke a blessing through the open hole in the back of the hive that the bees might fare well through the coming cold months of winter.

It’s a precarious time of year for the honeybees–and for the human colony. 

While I knew we were approaching the grim milestone of 800,000 dead to Covid in the US, I burst into tears this morning when I learned that we have lost one out of every 100 of our elders in this pandemic.

Y’all know I’ve been caring for my folks, both of whom are in their 80s, preparing and eating dinner with them each night. Now, I am adding another lovely woman in her 80s to my caretaking duties on Wednesdays before we go over and cook for my parents. This is why our weekly journey circle is moving from Wednesdays to Tuesdays. 

With regard to these three elders, I am committed to helping them stay in their homes and to die a good death when that time comes. And, I am keenly aware that things may not go the way I hope either for my beloved honeybees or human elders.

But as I draw closer to these untamed places of heart and world, I am starting to catch glimpses of a luminous beauty that can only be known, it seems, from the sacred lands of an engaged and vulnerable love. 

I hope you can join me for the journey circle to explore these lands.

Intention

Let’s journey together to the untamed places of heart and world, of engaged and vulnerable love, and share what we find there with one another.

RSVP

If you would like to attend Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Tuesday, December 14, from 4-6 pm PST, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. Hope you will join us this week!

Walking each other home

It seems all I want to write about these days are the animals in my midst. 

In preparation for our journey circle a couple of weeks ago, I went to pick apples for an offering to Gaia from one of our trees.

I had a particular recipient in mind for these beautiful sunset-colored apples. There is a white horse who lives next door, so close that I can pet his nose while standing in the chicken yard. He takes great interest in the snacks I bring to the chickens in the late afternoon.

I don’t remember this horse’s name, but he spends his days apart from the other horses. Horses are incredibly social animals, so the white neighbor horse has three goats to keep him company. He often chases and plays with his three bleating buddies.

My favorite thing about the white horse, though, is his habit of rolling on his back in the mud. Now that the rains have returned, this horse is a giant and beautiful mess.

Neighbor horse is equal parts majestic, playful, and muddy. And until recently, I have adored him from afar.

The apples I offered to Gaia were meant ultimately to go to the horse. He liked the offering of those apples so much that he licked my hands gently in gratitude. 

Now, when I go out to feed a snack of Special K to my chickens (don’t judge, Dad just purged the cabinets of all expired cereals), I make a point of bringing three apples for our neighbor.

After the horse eats the apples out of my hand, I go collect the eggs. And the muddy white horse walks with me as far as he can go on his side of the fence. He waits for me there until I come back in his direction and then walks me back to my house as far as the fence will allow. He walks me home, as best he can, as any good friend would.

The animistic spiritual path is one we knew already as children. It isn’t a heady thing, though those words sound that way when they are all strung together. But the reality is simple.

To be devoted to the earth, to be in a relationship of growing intimacy and reciprocity with Gaia, is to learn how to be a good neighbor to the majestic and muddy ones in our midst. 

Intention

How best to attend to the human or more-than-human neighbors in your midst?

RSVP

If you would like to attend Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, December 8, from 4-6 pm PST, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. Hope you can join us this week!

The cave of transformation

Last week in Gaia Shamanism’s weekly journey circle we journeyed with the intention of meeting the Goddess, source of our lives, body of the land, ancestor of all beings.

The Earth Goddess has many names: Pachamama (Andean), Gaia (Greek), Mari (Basque), Umai (Mongolian and Turkic), and Mother Earth (North America) to name but a few.

Though I wasn’t sure which form of the Goddess would receive me, when I found myself suddenly standing on a craggy mountain ledge before the mouth of a dark cave, I knew.

Mari emerged from the cave in her frightening aspect: a hag with a gray stony face with wild and unkempt hair. She was the spirit of the mountain in human form.

I stepped forward and placed a bouquet of Eguzkilore, or yellow Basque sunflowers, at her feet.

Mari motioned for me to enter the cave.”Is it safe?” I asked.

Mari laughed: “I could make the very earth swallow you up right now.” Not very reassuring.

Or, on second thought, maybe it was.

I took a moment to notice and feel gratitude for the fact that the ground remained solid under my feet today, as it has every day of my life. One day, things might be otherwise. 

Again, Mari beckoned for me to come forward. This time I stepped into the cave.

Inside, I was surprised to find a world rich with beauty and treasure. There were two white silk thrones before me, gold tables with elaborate glass vases showcasing magnificent arrays of flowers, and loaves of bread, wrapped gifts, and fruits of many colors arranged in neat mounds about the cave.

Standing there, I realized that we were surrounded by many centuries of offerings of devotion to Mari. This dark cave in the craggy mountain was a hidden cathedral of love and gratitude for the sacred earth.

Mari walked over to her oversized throne, sat, and patted the white cushion next to her. She no longer looked like a hag, but now appeared as a beautiful black-haired woman with deep brown eyes. I sat with her.

Mari put her hands on my head “to heal my mind” as she put it, then placed my head in her lap where she combed my hair with her golden comb. Lovely though this attention was, I grew restless quickly. I could only see a narrow band of the cave from this position and wanted to see more. But when I tried to sit up, Mari held my head in place while continuing to gently stroke my hair.

To seek to enter into a deeper relationship with the sacred earth can be a frightening prospect—at least at first. To enter into the dark cave of climate change, pandemic, and social collapse at the behest of the Goddess is to enter a tomb that will only become a womb over the long passage of time.

Once we accept the earth’s invitation to transformation and step into Mari’s cave, however, we will begin to recover the lost riches, abundant love, and the undying devotion of our ancestors. The cost of recovering lost intimacy with the earth is the dissolution of our current way of life.

To enter into a relationship of devotion with the sacred earth, source of our lives, body of the land, ancestor of all beings, is to be held firmly by the powerful embrace of love and never to see the world the same way again.

******

If you would like to attend Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, December 1, from 4-6 pm PST, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. Hope you can join us this week!

Gaia

This week, I suggest that we journey to meet the Goddess, source of our lives, body of the land, ancestor of all beings. 

I’ve been holding this journey circle for years now and never have I suggested that we journey to meet the one for whom this work is named. There are a few reasons for that. 

For one thing, we are the earth. There is no separation except in our minds. When we feel lost, disconnected, or orphaned from the ground of our existence, we are speaking of a mental state, not our actual state of being. Just you try leaving the presence of the Goddess. Gravity will bring you home every time. There is a comfort in this fact, a closeness, and an overlooked intimacy with Divinity that is our inheritance as embodied beings. 

For another thing, being on good terms with the Goddess isn’t a straightforward proposition when one lives on land that has been stolen at gunpoint, fractured into pieces, and plundered for resources. Approaching Divinity by using any of Her names–Pachamama (Andean), Gaia (Greek), Mari (Basque), Umay (Mongolian and Turkic)–is not something a sane person does lightly. 

But no matter what we do, or how well we do it, we will never “deserve” to be speaking terms with the Goddess. At best, we are in process, deepening in some ways while falling apart in others, as we journey through the seasons of life. To be in process, to participate in this falling apart and coming together, is to become fluent in the language of the Goddess. 

So it’s okay. Come as you are, not as you aren’t. Set aside all pretense, be sincere, and ask to meet Her. The purpose of these times is to restore the Goddess to memory.

Let us begin.

Preparation 

Bring an offering to the circle for the Goddess, source of our lives, body of the land, ancestor of all beings. Be thinking about which name you will call her by and why.

RSVP

If you can attend Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, November 24, from 4-6 pm PST, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. Hope you can join us this week.

Relating well to the land

A snapshot of the land I call home: Belden map of 1855, showing the territories taken from the tribes of Oregon.

The earth has always been the main event, though humans have a tendency to overlook the ground in favor of the heavens. The current race to space among the billionaire class is only the most recent example of our disembodied relationship with the earth. The ground–not the sky–has always been the limit of human civilizations. We ignore the soil and the soul at our peril.

I, for one, find myself a bit afraid to bow into a relationship with the ground beneath my feet. The land I “own” was taken from its original stewards, the Kalapuya peoples, in 1855. The land you live on or own was similarly stolen from native peoples, fractured into pieces, and sold. The land has not forgotten, nor commonly been asked to forgive, these acts of theft, trespass, and violence. 

But because we live here now, we are uniquely qualified to ask forgiveness, repair harm, and learn to relate well to these lands once again. 

You and I occupy the fulcrum point in history where our primary job is to clean up messes and make amends for crimes committed some generations ago. If we shirk our responsibility to the land and to our descendants, the price of cleanup will grow–with compounding interest. Regardless of our heritage, regardless of where we stand relative to society, we all stand on a piece of the earth. This is where we begin.

To pretend the mountain, stream, or tree isn’t alive, capable of communication and communion, is to exempt oneself from the web of reciprocal relationships in which we are embedded. To continue to obey the dominant materialist paradigm which says that we cannot communicate meaningfully with the natural world is to tear, rather than repair, the web of life.

There are many ways to befriend the place we live, deepen in connection, and repair past harm. Journeywork is one way of entering into a heart-centered and mutual relationship with the land. 

If you were to seek counsel from the land about how to right wrongs, ask for forgiveness, or facilitate the health of that place, where would you start? 

Who would you call upon to begin the process of building a relationship? Our journeys this week will seek to begin answering these questions. 

Preparation

Before our circle, take about 15 minutes to walk around the land where you live. Walk mindfully, or sit, with your senses engaged. 

Bring a gift of some kind for your land. We will discuss our experience at the start of our circle.

RSVP

If you can attend Gaia Shamanism’s relating well to the land journey circle this Wednesday, November 10, from 4-6 pm PST, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. This is the first in a series of journeys.

Samhain

Our relationship to the land and the production of food is central to our religious understandings and calendars. As folks who don’t raise our own food, however, the spiritual meaning of the seasons can be lost on us.

According to Farmer’s Almanac, Samhain (“summer’s end”), celebrated on the same day as Halloween, “was the day when the cattle were brought in from pasture; those needed for the winter’s supply of meat would be slaughtered. Since Samhain was the death-night of the old year, it came to be associated with ghosts and graveyards.”

Around here, we don’t slaughter our animals or even take honey from our bees. You might say we farm with vegan sensibilities.

Though we sell the eggs of our chickens, we never “break” our hens of broodiness but instead allow them to take over a nest box and sit on their eggs to incubate chicks. We refrain from the common practice of “forcing” eggs from our hens by keeping a light on in the chicken coops throughout the winter (egg-laying is a light-sensitive process). Instead, we allow them a natural and “unproductive” season of rest.

Our relationship with the more-than-human world continues to evolve and be refined. This time around with our new flock of hens, we did not clip their wings. Our thinking was that our chickens might better elude predators with their wings intact.

But retaining the full function of their wings has made our flock truly free-range; we can’t constrain them to the bounds of their chicken yard, much less of our 14-acre property. This freedom may ultimately curtail their life expectancy, given the dogs who live pinned up next door, but for the quality of life they enjoy now, the risk seems worth it.

Our flock journeys to visit the goats and horses on the other side of the fence several times a day. They have breached our garden and orchard fences, regularly investigate the compost pile and the leaf litter in the woods, yet stand waiting for us to open the gate so they can step s-l-o-w-l-y back into the chicken yard late in the afternoon.

I love every minute of it. From the eggs that Escalera lays beneath the stairs to our house, to the visiting band of chickens who come by to say “hi” when I journey with others out on the land, to the hens balancing on our backyard fence after nightfall like toddlers who won’t go to bed, these rowdy young chickens of ours are sewing a joyful thread of chaos through our leaden pandemic lives.

Soon the days will grow dark enough that their egg-laying will cease and we will have to scramble to return our wayward hens to the safety of their chicken yard by 4:30 pm.

Whenever and however we are engaged with the more-than-human world, we are given the opportunity to reclaim the wisdom of our ancient spiritual roots born of soil and the seasons.

In the coming months may you also enjoy the adventure of unclipped wings, the luxury of dark incubation, and freedom from being “forced” to produce.

******

If you are interested in attending Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, November 3, from 4-6 pm PDT, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. I hope you can join us this week to kick off the new year in the Celtic calendar.

Samhain

Samhain (pronounced sah-win)

From the Farmer’s Almanac:

Samhain (“summer’s end”) is celebrated as today’s Halloween. Many historians believe that it served as the start of the new year in the Celtic calendar—their “New Year’s Day.”

It was the day when the cattle were brought in from pasture; those needed for the winter’s supply of meat would be slaughtered. Since Samhain was the death-night of the old year, it came to be associated with ghosts and graveyards. 

From Wikipedia: 

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. It was seen as a liminal time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned. 

This meant the Aos Sí, the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could more easily come into this world and were particularly active. At Samhain, the Aos Sí were appeased to ensure the people and livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes seeking hospitality.  Places were set at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome them. 

The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night of the year and must be appeased seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures. In 19th century Ireland, “candles would be lit and prayers formally offered for the souls of the dead. After this the eating, drinking, and games would begin”.

Intention

This week, let us journey to learn how we might best honor the endings and new beginnings of the year.  

Perhaps you would like to journey to craft a ritual observance for October 31? Or connect with a healed ancestor? Grieve a lost loved one? Give gratitude for the harvest of the past year?

Whatever the case, let us gather together on this threshold to deepen our relationship with the Unseen world. 

The more we use liminal moments like these to tie the Seen and Unseen worlds together with the humble threads of heartfelt intention and tangible action, the more we find that we are stiched together–re-membered–into larger coherence by forces greater than ourselves. 

RSVP

If you are interested in attending Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, October 27, from 4-6 pm PDT, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. I do hope you can join us this week.