It was late October, and I had made the hour-long trip up to Mt. Airy, MD, to join some friends of mine for a journey group, led by Monika HealingCoyote. The aim was to contact the ancestors, and it had been some time since I’d done a journey.
I pulled in close to showtime, avoiding roosters and stable hands at the farm that was loaning us the space: a large barn loft, beautiful with its wooden floors and high beams. Inching my way past the caterpillar on the stairs, I made my way into the loft, carefully opening the door to avoid letting the warmer air escape, nor any barn cats that may be awaiting their chance.
Monika, the workshop leader, is a shamanic healer in the DMV area. I’d had the chance to meet her and attend one of her workshops at Frederick Pagan Pride Day this year, and I was both impressed and a bit smitten by her. She’s a sweet person, and conscious of her role in her own life and communities. Having enjoyed the workshop she gave and the short journey she led us through, I was intrigued to attend this journey session and see what I would see.
For the first journey, we aimed to travel to a helping spirit to bring us to an ancestor, so that we could ask them what gifts and blessings we received because of their life. Monika began the music, and I pulled my hood over my face to bring myself into the darkness.
I walked along the path, finding myself in the apple orchard I frequent. A dry creek bed is hidden past the trees, not the flowing stream that I usually see. The trees are bare, their leaves gone for the winter.
I walk along the path until the orchard opens up into a clearing. Only a few years away there is a large graveyard, headstones dotting the grass without order, their names illegible. I walk purposefully towards the yew, and make my way through the roots of the tree.
It is dark within here, but I find the tunnel and begin to make my way through, eventually coming out at the base of another tree, of My Tree, the large sylvan beast that I typically find myself entering this world from beneath. But, instead of standing at the top of the hill, before me spreads a wide expanse of dry prairie and scrubland, with two tall stones standing on either side of the entrance. I sit before one of the stones, and I wait.
At some point, the dog appeared, a collie snuggled beside me. He seemed larger than he was, but didn’t appear to be much bigger than others of his breed, at least not to my eyes. We stood and I followed him as we walked into the dry lands.
Cresting a dune, I looked down to see a large circle of people dancing in the dark, all clad in white, dancing around a fire. I watched for a while, unable to make out details from so far away, then followed my guide as he continued through the expanse. In the distance again, I caught sight of two men, battling with swords as they stood in the rain atop a ship’s deck. One slipped and fell to his knees, but the other did not kill him, though he was the victor. He showed mercy, and the scene faded.
At the far end of the prairie, we came to the edge of a forest. I began to crawl through the forest, over roots and fallen trees. In a small grove, sunlight broke through the thick canopy, and I knelt in the patch of light and began to dig, dirt quickly caking my fingernails. The earth was cold and wet beneath my fingers, and eventually I came to a skull, then slowly uncovered the rest of a skeleton—my own skeleton.
A crow came and landed on my shoulder, and at some point, my collie guide began a young woman, watching me as I dug up the skeleton that was my skeleton.
In the hole in the ground, I lay myself atop my skeleton in the damp earth, and I watched the trees above me until it was time to return.
As I came back, I ran, fleet-footed through the forest and through the desert back to the boulder. I lay my hand against the rock that was not there, then licked both stones standing beside the entrance to the tunnel. We ran, and as I went down the tunnel, the crow cawed and flew back behind me. Eventually, I was back beneath the yew tree, and I clawed myself out from under it, digging my way back to the surface. Emerging from its roots, I took a handful of water from the pool near me, lifting it to my mouth, then spraying it back upon the yew’s trunk in thanks.
I ran again, back down the orchard path, toward the cliff where I had started, and back to my body.
Our second journey was once more traveling to a helping spirit, to ask about the struggles and blockages we inherited from our family. We were to ask if our ancestor(s) could help us, work with us to cut away that particular influence in our lives.
Once more beneath My Tree, I stood by the standing stones. A crow joined me from the air, and a snake beside my feet. Once more, we made our way to the forest.
It was the same forest where I found my body, but we did not go beyond its edge. I stood there, surrounded by figures dressed in white who surrounded me, encircled me.
I drew the knife from my pocket and reached forward until I gripped the heavy, cold iron cord that bound me to the woman who had nearly killed me, the one I had thought to be my best friend.
It was a thin strip of iron, not unlike rebar, growing from the middle of my chest, out of my own heart. It was straight and cold, black like cast iron.
The woman appeared at the other end of the cord, and as I sawed back and forth across the iron band, my ancestors would come with buckets of water, pouring them over the iron as it heated from my efforts. Finally, I made it through the cord, my arm becoming weightless as it no longer had the iron holding it up. I lifted my hands, and I blasted her with my desire for her to be gone, casting her out of my life and into the depths of the forest.