A Witch Who Cannot Heal

I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I’ve been mulling a great deal the last several weeks over my shadow work progress. The entire point of 2016 for me is to work on myself, to deal with the issues I have with myself and my history, those things in my past that have marked me deeply. And I had to make a hard assessment of my efforts. And truth is, they haven’t been enough.

I haven’t been taking this seriously. I haven’t been taking myself seriously.

There’s a saying that “a witch who cannot hex cannot heal,” meaning that a witch who is unable to harm another, who is unable to cause hurt, is unable to heal it when it is brought to them. We cannot know the light without experiencing the darkness, for we do not know the light without the shadows it casts.

So, I made a choice. To take myself seriously, to take my healing seriously. To express myself, instead of bundling all my pain and hurt in my heart, mind, and soul.

Shadow Work journal

I pulled out the journal I had bought months ago and sat down with it, writing my current frustrations and pains on the pages.

It was not a lot, but it was something, and a small wound is now less red, less inflamed than it had been.

 

 

It’s amazing how some color and washi tape can make you feel happier.

I love how bright it is. With the colors and the flowers. Not what I was expecting.

Red

Shadow Work journal2I sent my best friend some pictures of the projects I’ve been working on, mostly the new bullet journal I started this weekend, but also a shot of my shadow work journal here.

I had inscribed a number of quotes after my first entry, all dealing with the shadow self, with shadow work. Quotes that have affected me or inspired me in some way along this darkened path. So many colors, and so bright.

“That’s the point,” I told her when she commented on it. And it is. I don’t want to sit in darkness anymore, and I need outlets for my creativity. I need some color in my life, even if it’s just ink on the page.

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This journal will sit on the small altar I have set up atop my bookshelf in my office. It will sit upon the black scarf I have, with the candle and jar spells that I did for 2016. The small and empty jar of sourwood honey has a lavender candy spoon inside it from Sionnan and Penny from our equinox ritual last March, an attempt to hold onto my spoons as I deal with how much my mental illnesses take out of me in day-to-day life. The box I’ve had for years, almost as long as I’ve been Pagan, and in it are stones and items to bring me peace, joy, and courage.

Time to take this seriously now.

May Reflections on Creativity

ShadowMay
This reading wasn’t an easy one and I think it’s because the Triple Horned Goddess and Triformis cards are meant for you to understand, not me.
I got the impression they refer to the Morrigan but as soon as I thought that my insight sense shut down, so interpret that as you will.
Earth and The Great Rite indicate that you need to stabilize a profound relationship. How that relates to creativity is not clear to me, but it may be clear to you.
My best friend Red was gracious enough to pull this reading from her Well-Worn Path/Hidden Path joint divination deck by Raven Grimassi for May. “Incredibly NeoWiccan, but somehow still my go-to deck,” she told me after texting me the photo and her interpretation. I’ll admit that I take issue with a great deal of Grimassi’s ideas and writings, but I trust Red’s divination ability, so I spent most of May mulling on what this could mean for my year-long shadow work journey.
Red’s interpretation mentioned the Morrigan, but I had the feeling it was more to do with my deities as a whole set, rather than one in particular. After a month of relaxation, it was time to again focus on my oath…and another oath that I haven’t spoken of very much.
When I was young and foolish (though I still am), I spoke words aloud that I should not have without realizing what they would mean. I swore to not let the gods be forgotten, to do what I could to keep their names alive. A silly oath for a 19-year-old, but one all the same, and one I am obligated to commit to.
This morning, I took down the tenth shrine shelf on my wall, the empty shrine that had lain unadorned for weeks. I came to the realization early in May of what the purpose for this shelf would be, but it was damaged a while back and I have to replace it. It’s unfair to have a broken guest room, after all.
May was about my oaths, my words and my bonds I have made in previous years. It was a reminder of what I have promised, of what I must do to keep those promises. The Earth and the Great Rite cards confirm this, and it is not lost on me that the other two cards are both in reference to threes, a highly sacred number to me and my path—as well as a part of my oath: I swore on my hands, my mind, and my body to do these things, to speak their names and share them with those around me, with those who ask.
I spent May renewing my shrines, cleansing them and working on reciting my prayers each day. I made purchases for some of the shrines, including two new icons that are due to arrive today, and which I will lay upon the shrines this evening. I will replace the broken shelf and adorn it with small offerings, giving my love and adoration to any gods that may come to call, especially given my new purpose. But that’s a tale for a different time.

April Reflections on Protect

il_570xN.895186568_26vvWhen I drew my card for April on January 1st, the card I lay was Protect, bearing a mossy stone lock, its clasp entwined with ivy, and a black crow feather in the keyhole.

I had a few ideas of what it could mean, but I am lucky enough to have friends that read tarot and oracle cards and are willing to give me a hand when it comes time to figure out a focus for the month. For April, Chase did a reading for me to help me determine what “Protect” had in mind for me:

April Protection_ANGE

Two of Cups | Seven of Pentacles | Nine of Wands

So what I’m getting here is basically: find balance/harmony/equality in your relationships with others and with yourself, do not work so hard when you have already done all you can (and at this point you can only wait and see what fruit comes from your efforts), and rest/recover while also realizing that this is nowhere near the end of anything.

We agreed on the meaning: self-care. By that point, I was exhausted, physically, mentally, emotional, socially, and spiritually. You can tell from my previous post, Bone-weary, that I just felt overwhelmed by my life and responsibilities, so April was meant as a focus on me, on myself. I needed to protect myself and recharge before continuing forward.

I spent most of the month focusing on personal things, watching an online series, and playing video games, all things I typically deny myself in favor of my various responsibilities. It gave me a chance to come home after work and avoid facing much of the real world, instead giving myself the opportunity to just be myself, to do what I wanted to do, instead of what I had to do. I spent the first week or so of May also focused on myself, finishing up the last few things I wanted to get done before beginning to once again knuckle down.

Bone-weary

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

-“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

“I think you need a break,” my therapist said to me, after a half hour of my language and posture becoming more and more aggressive, my words harshening, growing more rapid as I tried to voice everything inside me.

She was speaking specifically about work, but my entire life has felt to be in free fall for quite some time.

I work a lot. On Tuesday, I pulled in over 14 hours. I finished this week well beyond 40 hours, and I’ve done the same the last several weeks as well. In 2016, I’ve had more weeks over 40 hours than at it.

I’ve let myself become taken for granted, and while most of my team is appreciative of my efforts and hard work, the one person in charge of my salary and raise is not impressed, from what I gather. Despite my hard work and my crosstraining on three separate positions, in addition to my own; my dedication to the quality of my work, which is why I regularly work late and often watch the sun set through the windows of my fifth-floor cube; and my constant requests for more work, leading my supervisor to think long and hard on various projects I can attend to during my downtime,  I have been informed that I am “not working hard enough.”

Color me furious.

But that anger has disappated, as I have so many other responsibilities on top of those with work: I am a partner to my boyfriend, a mother to my two dogs, a friend who wishes to maintain my relationships with those close to me, a leader in my own small community, a writer and blogger, a researcher, and oath bound to my gods. There is so much work to be done, yet every day passes and feels shorter than the last. I sleep too late, my body trying to tell me to hold back and take a breath. I have so much to do, yet the hours and minutes pass like so much sand between fingers that have lost the will to grip tight.

I am bone-weary.

As I came to reflect on the focus of my April shadow work, I examined the the card fate had dealt me: Protect–a stone lock enveloped with moss in its cracks, open with vines entwined around the mechanism, a long black feather deep in the keyhole.

I need to take better care of myself, protect myself from that which might rend me. I must find this balance between my outside responsibilities and those I owe myself, for I have allowed myself to sacrifice for other for so long, yet been unwilling to hold out for myself. To help myself, before I help others. And that has begun to break me.

I am tired. I am so very, very tired. And while I have miles to go before I sleep, I can see where I may lay my head down for a while, and it is not yet so far.

March Reflections on Time

wp-1459910902668Each month, I am lucky to have had a friend do a clarifying reading for me regarding the focus of my shadow work for that month. For March, Brooke was kind enough to do a clarifying bibliomancy reading for my shadow work focus, clarifying the card of the Earthbound Oracle I originally drew for March: Time.

Brooke reads from The Lord of the Rings series for her bibliomancy readings, and she received the “Song of Beren and Lúthien,” which you can read here.

 

We, as the readers, are supposed to recognize the parallels [between the “Song of Beren and Lúthien” and the tale of Aragorn and Arwen]: the love story of Aragorn and Arwen, another mortal man and Elven princess, is said to be “Beren and Lúthien come again”, the two being compared to their ancient ancestors of old. A huge theme of Lord of the Rings as a whole is this idea of rebirth (And destiny): Aragorn shedding his Strider persona and accepting his role as King, Frodo inheriting the Ring from Bilbo, Gandalf’s transformation (through which he literally dies and is reborn) from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White; Gollum being the one to destroy the ring even though he was the one who started all this; etc. Second chances, new life from old death, things coming full circle. Transformation and rebirth.

The reading you did for yourself spoke of Time. Remember that one of the key quotes form Lord of the Rings is Gandalf’s famous sentiment to Frodo that “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” I think that is relevant here, as well. If Aragorn and Arwen are the rebirths of Beren and Lúthien, what can you learn from that? Is there not hope in that? Is there not a beauty in that? While some things pass into memory and story, others live on; and it is through those stories that we are able to see the connections. We must turn our eyes forward, towards the horizon, and see the “big picture” – I think getting lost in detail is not what you need right now. You need to focus on the threads that weave everything together, not the differences that set things apart, if that makes sense. And through that, you need to make your own transformation(s).

I believe your Shadow Work for March should focus on time as it relates to rebirth – what do you need to transform right now, in your life, in the time you have left (because accepting your own mortality is a big part of all this)? Who do you need to transform into – what do you want to become (physically and metaphorically)? Are there aspects of your life you know you need to change, but up until now, you have been too unwilling/stubborn/lazy/half-hearted (either consciously or subconsciously) to make those changes? What connections can you see between your own life and the lives of those who came before you? What Gods do you feel can help you with become wiser, and able to see the big picture?

I’ve spent most of March, and even the beginning of April, mulling on this: What do I want in my life, and how can I get there?

This is a question that I’ve been posed before, and I can never quite answer it. When my previous therapist asked me what I wanted in life, I just shrugged and told her a dog. That was apparently not a good enough answer for her, neither was me expressing my desire to travel. But truly, my desires are quite simple.

As a freshman in high school, one of my peers asked me what I was most afraid of. I told them that I did not wish to die ignorant, that I wanted to learn as much as possible. In many ways, this is still my intent behind everything I do: I wish to learn, and I wish to experience new things. I have a very active mind, and the idea of it going stagnant or of not having mental stimulation (or at least not having the opportunity for mental stimulation) is terribly frightening to me.  So I must develop a road map to learning what I wish and come to terms that I will not be able to accomplish everything I desire—and this, too, is terrifying. I have so much I wish to do.


 

Late last year, I came to a decision, which I haven’t shared outside of one or two close friends, but I am making it public now. It’s a long-term goal, and one that I have an intense desire to one day achieve: I would like to be ordained, to become a Pagan minister or other clergy.

I’ve started doing what I can now, at the age of 26: researching opportunities for training, reading a variety of Pagan literature and philosophy, even that which I disagree with; and working on developing the Fellowship Beyond the Star, the interfaith Pagan group I founded with Chase two years ago.

It is a lot of work, and I think overall this is what the intent is behind my 2016 focus on shadow work: working towards becoming a stronger person, developing the strengths and skills I would need to one day be a Pagan minister, and strengthening my ties to my communities.


 

In a lot of ways, the reading Brooke did for me confirms this: the idea of rebirth, of not just growth but transformation and development. I am now at the stage of a chrysalis in many ways—and not just on this journey but on my life’s journey overall. I am a mere 26 years of age, and hopefully have many more years to go before this journey ends. And there is so very much more to be done.

February in Review: Thoughts on Balance

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The card I drew for February in my 2016 oracle spread was Balance. I had had an idea of its intent when I drew it, but as with January, I asked someone to do a clarifying reading for me, in order to avoid my own personal biases that may occur if I were to do my own. My friend Sionnan graciously agreed to do not just one but two readings for me in regards to clarification of the theme for this month and my shadow work focus for February.

Reading1.jpg

Clarification about Balance: Death | Resistance | Growth

“So, some spreads are “balanced” spreads, where the left card and the right card are contrasted against each other, while others are “story” spreads, where the cards lay out in such a way as to write a sentence. I don’t decide what the spread is– I just figure it out once I read it. This is a balanced spread, contrasting the death and growth cards across the resistance card. What feels significant is that the skull and the jar are the same general shape, just reversed, rotated 180 degrees around the stone.

It almost feels like it’s being swept around the rock by the current.

The water rushes into the vessel as it rotates around, washing out the poisonous flames and noxious smoke.

It definitely feels temporal though, like you’re shifting from position A to position B.”

As February approached, I’d had a sense of what I needed to focus on this month, but as I said earlier, I wanted to avoid my own biases and get another opinion. The above spread confirmed my thoughts, but Sionnan graciously did the second reading, too:

Reading2.jpg

Shadow Work Focus for February: Water | Protect | Achievement

First thing I get is an impression of rising in elevation from sea level to land to the mountain peaks. The black feather is a crow feather, birds being one of the few beings that can access all three locations easily. Right now the crow is on the land, unlocking old, hidden paths for you. You’re coming up on some sort of significant point in your path. It looks like the midpoint, but there are only three cards so it’s hard to tell. Actually, no, sorry– You have just unlocked something. The next stage. Cue the video game music!

In the end, we agreed: I needed to work on my fear of death.

For the last several years, February has always been extraordinarily hard for me. Many years ago, a shooting occurred on my college campus. I was shaken up by it, though at first I thought I was fine. Now, after only a few sessions with my new therapist, I’ve been told that I likely have PTSD based on this event. It’s something that’s been suggested before, but now I had a professional making the comment, giving it more weight. I’ve struggled a lot with the idea of death and dying, even though the macabre has always fascinated me. So, too, is the theme found amongst the deities I work with and worship: Anubis, god of embalming, of preparing the body for burial; Persephone, Queen of the Underworld and consort of Hades, Lord of the Dead, Queen of shades and spirits; Hekate, the psychopomp of the dark moon, Lady of Necromancy; Odin, the Hanged God, Lord of the Breathless, He who Governs the Gallows; the Dark Hound, with his similarities to Arawn, the Welsh god of Annwn or the Celtic Otherworld, and who may very well be the same as the Dark Hound I have honored for several years; the Morrigan, Irish goddess of the battlefield, She of the Carrion Crow.

Death has always had its place upon my shrine, thought I kept my back to it, not wanting to look too closely at the darkness.

When I was in my early teens, I struggled with spirituality, with the concept of what happens after death. Having been raised a non-Christian and not yet aware of the non-Abrahamic options to me, I did not believe in Heaven, nor in Hell. So I lay in bed one night and tried to conceptualize the idea of Nothing.

I royally fucked myself up. There is no way to imagine Nothing, though I tried.

That has stuck with me ever since, and it is closely entwined with my fear of death.

But this month, Death has made its presence known, and there has been no way for me to avoid it.

I spent most of this month with the concept of Death in the back of my mind. Hard not to, with the anniversary of my school’s shooting coming up. But when my mother called me, for the first time in two months, to tell me that my grandfather was hospitalized and not likely to make it through the night, I had to sit down and take a good long look at myself and my relationship with death.

I didn’t know my grandfather well, and now I won’t get to. He passed away two days later, after stubbornly hanging on for two days, because that’s how my family rolls. I prayed for him to pass easily, solicited prayers from others as well, for his easy passing, a painless death, for peace for my family in this trying period.

My grandfather is the first close family member to die for me, the first family member I have lost. In his death, I found the push I needed to make a more conscious effort to become okay with Death, with my own mortality, something I have vehemently rejected for the majority of my life.


 

This last Saturday, I made a large first step towards my own personal peace with Death. Chase, Sionnan, and I made the trek up to Frederick, Maryland, to Hood College where they hosted a Death Café, something I have been wanting to do but too scared to do since I first heard about it a year or so ago.20160227_100326

We sat and talked with complete strangers about death and dying, about things that have held a stranglehold over my life for several years. We discussed green burial options, and the physicality of the body, about what we want done with them after we have passed. This has always bothered me, freaked me out, and made me deeply uncomfortable, this notion of my body past my time with it. But that’s no surprise, as I have always had a very physical sense of self. We talked for two hours, and I spent most of that time listening, chiming in here and there with my own ideas and my own experiences with death and fears of it. I think I spoke a grand total of three times in those two hours, most of the time staring at the tablecloth while I listened to this table of women discuss their experiences with death and the dying.

We three left the Death Café around noon, grabbing lunch in Frederick before heading on to Mount Olivet Cemetery. Cemeteries have also always been an intense place for me, a place so sacred (yet frightening) that I have never been sure how to deal with them. But having Chase there helped, as she frequents her own local graveyards and has a better sense of how, what, and why we do things there.

After parking, we discussed the gatekeeper of the cemetery, which was quite obvious with the large monument at the gates of Francis Scott Key, who is buried there, and Columbia, with her sons War and Music. We left pennies for these keepers of the dead. I slipped mine between my lips, coating it in my saliva, something that I prefer to always leave at a cemetery, which is a rare occasion. But it feels right, to leave a part of myself for the dead, and so I lay the slick coin beside the goddess’s foot and turned back to leave her domain.


We walked a good ways through the city of the dead, which went on and on for a while. We barely traversed a third of it, if that, in our hour or two of meanderings, talking in quiet voices of the dead, admiring the delicate carvings of stone, and sharing what stories we could parse from names and dates. As we headed back, Chase sang the hymn she had written for Persephone, for our upcoming ritual this equinox. As she sang, we walked, eventually pausing, the three of us, at the same grave while Chase sang the last line, and all was quiet.


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I may not be over my fear of death, but I feel less terrified of it than I did when the month began. My books have begun to arrive, books recommended to me or that I have found, on death, on dying, on the cities of the dead. Each is beautiful, in its own way, and though it scares me to delve into their contents, it is part of this longer journey that I must take towards death acceptance.

January Reflections on Voice

imageWhen I did my oracle reading for the year of 2016, the card that I drew for January was “voice,” the card showing a wolf howling with what looks like a night sky behind them, stained with deep blues, rich dark purples, and bleeding pinks, dotted with stars.

I won’t lie—this card confused the hell out of me. I had no idea what to expect in January.

About a week ago, after having wracked my brain for what this card could be trying to tell me, I finally decided to draw a new reading for clarification. With the blizzard that hit the East Coast this past weekend, I ended up working from home Monday and Tuesday since we were still pretty snowed in. Sitting at my desk, I pulled out my Earthbound Oracle, and I began to do a reading.

 

Resistance, Sleep, Cycle.

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The cards that showed up were easy enough to read in light of their overtone card, voice. Knowing when to speak up and when to hold my tongue. But why? What could I possibly need to do or realize with this? And so I felt no more clarification than I had when I first pulled the deck out again to read the cards.

And then I remember a reading a friend of mine did for me earlier this month. They were offering free Tarot readings on tumblr, and while I typically don’t request readings from others, I couldn’t resist. I knew that this year was going to be a rough one, tumultuous in terms of emotional rending and healing, mental chaos, and a lot of changes going on. But when they gave me the results of my question (What should the focus be for my shadow work this month?), the cards they sent back and the interpretation they gave hit me like a sack of bricks. I knew what I needed to do.

But gods damn, did I not want to do it.

See, the cards that Delffin sent back gave a general message of me confronting someone that has had a lot of control over my life, someone I had recently done a small battle with and that I was feeling drawn away from but I needed to fix the bridge between us.

And there was only one person who fit that bill: my mother.

I won’t go into details, because it’s highly personal and I don’t want people to think I’m dragging my own mother through the dirt. The truth is, we are very different people, and we have both had a great deal of trouble coming to terms with that. I am the eldest child, my parents’ first born, so it’s been tough for both of us. I love my mother, but like most of the people we love, she can be extremely frustrating. I had not spoken with her since before Christmas, and my maternal grandmother had reached out the previous week because she knew something was wrong but she did not know what and she wanted to know what was going on. I gave my side of the story, and we talked, but this was another sign of the universe bringing this once more to my attention.

And so after the clarification reading, with all of this in mind, I asked the cards how I should approach my mother.

Balance, Home, Self.

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Well, shit.

The Earthbound Oracle really does not pull any punches. I get nothing but pure honesty from these cards, and it’s always been highly specific about its answers to my questions. These cards are quite easy to interpret: finding a balance between my roots, my home, my mother, and that which makes me myself.

That is hard.

But the Universe wasn’t quite done sending me the message. My aunt, mother’s sister, and I had been talking of late, and after speaking with my grandmother, I had vented to her about my stress over the situation. She and I ended up Skyping later that day and talking about it some more, and she gave me some advice on how to approach my mother.

But I wasn’t ready. I put it off and put it off, and I didn’t want to do it.

I really did not want to do it.

But today, I did it. I sent my mother an email, very brief, and reached out.

And that’s the end of that, for now.

Shadow work is a real bitch.