Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Simple Summer Solstice

The Cicadas are singing, lightening bugs are dancing, and it is finally High Summer!  Most of us look forward to this time of year.  It is full of wonderful festivities and in the pagan community, I’ve heard it called Festival month.  I’ve been fortunate over the years to get to visit some of the organized events such as the Pagan Picnic or Pagan Spirit Gathering and more. Of course, not all of us can.  This year was simple and pleasing, but there is a depth and great importance to the simplest of seasonal rituals.

My little girl stayed the night with her Meme on June 19th.  I asked how late she stayed up, while we ate Chinese food for lunch.  She really likes to stretch her 9 p.m. bed time when she gets the chance. “I stayed up until the sun showed up. Mom, the night is really short.”  Illiondra observed that the solstice was just a few days away.  High summer holds great importance and joy for me, but celebrations are not always the same from year to year, and they are saturated with the experiences of being born in Southern Missouri.  I associate this season with family, revelry, the sun, joy, water and the little folk.  If you were to glance at my altar you’d see a large muscle shell from the black river, a smudge stick of rosemary, stones, herbs, a glass bowl of water, a jar of sweet tea, sometimes flowers and little necklaces or home-made objects –just simple things.

I’ve danced around more than one fire or to the addictive beat of drums at PSG.  I have shared wine with ladies and fellows of like-mind and spirit, embraced the call of pan through a lovers arms and shared laughter with complete strangers. My June last year was a small group gathering full of glow-in- the-dark arm bands, hula hoops, a bonfire and a delicious group pot-luck.  I followed up with a solo camping trip into the woods of the Mark Twain Forest, trying to attune myself to more primal aspects of my nature –a good way to connect with the earth.

June is a spiritual time,  “connections” of all kinds are highlighted.  At some point, I began asking myself during each turn of the wheel:  What have my experiences been with the sacred elements during this season?  At this moment of questioning, my rituals and practices began to unfold with depths that were undeniably tied with my deeper-self.

When I was a kid, my mother and father would haul everyone into car or into the bed of dad’s old blue ford truck and drive into Frisbee. The waters were dark, cold and green.  When it rains this time of year you can ‘smell the rivers,’ as I sometimes say.  The earthy scent brings back memories of digging for muscle shells in the Black river, or visiting my grandmother in her cabin on stilts,  in the woods of Arkansas.  The smell of fried cat fish and fried home-potatoes with a side salad, made my mouth water with anticipation.  My bare feet soaked up the cool feeling of the slippery mud by the river.  While I waited, I’d gaze at the big cypress trees. I looked forward to grandpa driving us on his boat deeper into the swamp, where I could see the massive Cypress and their nubby stubs sticking out of the green-brown waters.

In Missouri, June is the month it’s finally warm enough to play in cold water strait from the hose, take a dip in the old swimming hole or drive out to Wappapello Lake and camp beneath the stars.  I’m surrounded by water in this place.  There is the St. Francis River, the Black River, Little Black, and the Mississippi.  I’ve always enjoyed the water folk (spirits) that seem to be active around this time of year.  They really listen when you reach out and they don’t mind if you enjoy yourself as long as you volunteer to really clean up around the banks of the river. If you’re interested in offerings, they seem to like sweet things and flowers. If I go swimming, I ask for their blessings and stay cautious –rivers do change frequently. The river wasn’t a stop for me this solstice as Father’s day fell on the same day, a double whammy for reasons to celebrate. I began the day by watching the rising of the sun.  I embraced the light with the understanding that from this point onward the nights would gradually be longer.  By three in the afternoon, we were grilling chicken and veggies in the back yard. The family had already pinned the fish-fry in May. My nine year old swam in her pool, decorated with mermaids, and we enjoyed the summer heat.  At the end of the evening, I poured some of the sweet tea in a small bowl and found other treats.  I went to the back yard and sat in stillness for a moment.  I thought of the calm day before digging a hole and leaving the tea and sweets for the little folk.  There were no elaborate rituals or bonfires but still, it was a beautiful, simple solstice day.

These memories paint my deep love for this time of year.  The place I’ve been born and the way I’ve experienced the summer through the years has integrated, truly making my daily routines and rituals a part of my own “Craft”.  I think fondly of what summer has meant to me as time floats by.  Some years, I dance with the drums and the spirts while enjoying revelry with the community.  You might find me swimming in a pond, leaping around a fire, or watching the stars.  Other years, I stay in the comfort of my home enjoying the garden, food, family and all that it means to me.  I look forward to the turn of the wheel as I do every year with nostalgia and joy.

One Final note.  When it comes to teaching about the celebrations of the solstice, I don’t initially start with the fact that it has been celebrated for thousands of years nor do I bother to review history. I start with asking:  How did you grow up with summer and how can you integrate those experiences into your craft?  These are the things that we truly pass to our children and our loved ones –the joy that become legacy to the future generations as the great wheel turns on.

 

 

 

Sin Eaters and Dreamwalker

Dreaming of Sin-Eaters

My recent dreams of a human with an odd gift have lent inspiration to begin this article. The dream begins on the outskirts of the woods. A woman lives in a small cabin and her face is kept hidden beneath a tattered cloth. She spends time with animals more than people who keep their eyes to the ground in fear of her. They came to her when they were troubled or a relative had recently passed away. As the observer in the dream, I thought I was looking at the witch archetype until she began to pull strange, living black clouds out of both the living and the dead.

Living black clouds were a dream image I’d been accustomed to since 2005. I didn’t have a logical reference for the symbol but found it noted in my journal through the year. The dream continued for three nights. I heard a voice call her a “sin eater”. The voice seemed to narrate the woman’s life before speaking to me directly. It said that the path of a sin-eater wasn’t one I had to follow. Those final words rang in my head as I sat up in my bed wide awake.

A sin-eater as history accounts it, is a person having the power to unburden people by devouring their sins through ritual acts. Most often, this was said to take the form of a literal meal eaten near or on the body of the person afflicted. “The sin-eater whispered over the meal and then consumed it in the presence of the family. Unburdened by their carnal transgressions, the dead could now enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (http://weekinweird.com/2012/06/29/dining-damnation-short-history-death-eaters/) I’d never heard of these individuals. Taking to my usual methods of attempting to understand something new, I entrenched myself in anything I could find.

Graves across various parts of Europe were known to be the resting places of these poor people. The BBC released a short article on a sin eater that included a picture of the grave. There are records in various places across European countries of people reputed to be sin eaters. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/_eO3wrJmR9G8oNpMfVSv6g) They were also known in various places in the United States. Sandy Gorin of the Kentucky Historical and Genealogical society writes about them existing in the Appalachian regions until the 1940s. (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/KENTUCKY-LEGENDS/2013-06/1371649328 Grave houses and the Sin Eaters Ref.) The research on sin eaters combined with my own experiences of dream walking and empathy started to reveal what I needed to understand. I hypothesized that sin-eaters were incredibly sensitive individuals having the ability to deeply empathize and connect with people. I came to this idea due to many things that have happened over the years.

DREAM WALKER

Though I never knew what dream walking was until 2007, I did have an understanding that dreams could breach the boundaries of the individual having the dream.
I first read Michelle Belanger’s book, Dreamwalking May of 2007. It was the first time I’d heard someone else vividly describe what I’d been experiencing since I was seven years old. Memories of odd coincidences surfaced very quickly. On one occasion, I sat around the fire with a group of sixth-grade friends at a boy’s and girl’s camp-out my mother loved to organize every year. There were ten of us all together. We’d been taking turns telling scary tales. It was my closest friend, Joni’s turn. Joni started her story by saying that it was a terrible dream. “In my dream I was staying the night and we left your room to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom. When we came back to your room it was dark and a horrible creature started to chase us down the hall!” I was drawn in and perplexed by her tale. It was a dream I’d had only two nights prior to the party. Of course, I knew more gruesome details and chimed in: “Oh yes, the monster was awful. It had slithery tentacles where legs should have been. Its skin was yellowed and rough, and it showed a terrible grin with a detachable, snake-like jaw. A terrifying feeling came as its one large eye peered at us through a hole in the bathroom door.” I was sure I scared my friend that night. She wanted to know how I knew the details.

Boundaries dissolved in the dream worlds. Often, I pulled people into my dreams and there were times I’d visit their dreams instead. Empathy had no apparent define lines much like my dreaming experiences. The thoughts, emotions, fears and even physical ailments of others leeched into my energy field as though I were a black hole Often people commented about how much better they felt around me, peaceful feelings, and even one person who said they felt intoxicated. It made me uneasy despite joking to friends about being a human vacuum cleaner.

Empath

The Empathy allowed me to connect to others and the dream walking just made this more pronounced. I devoured dense energy, but it had begun to take a toll when I could no longer cycle it out of my body. Grounding became increasingly difficult, my body literally echoed with sharp pains without logical or medical reasons.

I learned that the dream walking was my ‘back up.’ When I was sick, or my energy dropped too low I dream-walked to replenish those sources. It was my instinct kicking in. That instinct was a real vortex beast and at times, it left others depleted. I had serious illnesses I’d struggled with from a young age. With time and help, my dreams began to help me to heal; the dream about the Sin-Eaters was one such dream.

Perhaps, Sin-Eaters were very powerful Empaths with other spiritual talents. The extreme energy exchange and lack of recovery eventually left their physical and spiritual bodies riddled with the guilt, fear, sadness, shame and terror that others wanted to give away. Who is to say a Sin-Eater knows what they are so much as being aware of what it is they can do for others? I don’t know. The voice in the dream said that it didn’t have to be the way that I saw it, and that is a great comfort.

I hope to have less in common with the Sin-Eater as the black clouds dissipate from me and return to their origins. I’ve learned to take better care of my own needs. This means that I have to separate myself physically from others in order to reconnect, ground and keep my balance. I place myself in environments that are healthier and as a result I too am healthier.  When my energy body is in good shape I find that I dream walk less,  and I don’t make the mistake of absorbing dense energy that doesn’t belong to me.

– Shion Flame

Other Links on Sin Eaters:

 

A Craft Without a Name

 

Craft with no name -Altar with dried plants, herb packet, molcajete, oil, bell and stones.
Craft with no name -Altar with dried plants, herb packet, molcajete, oil, bell and stones.

Human nature loves to place a label on things in life.  We want to know and to define things.  I’ve been contemplating for a while about how to explain my craft without ending up a book instead of a blog post.

To begin with, not all the women in my family call themselves witches.  In fact, most of them are a little horrified that I’ve embraced the word at all, but it feels right to me and I don’t think hateful things about it.  I find the word witch to be beautiful, wise and helpful.

My dreams and a whole lot of unanswered questions brought me to where I am now.   I was curious about the mind and spirit from a young age because of powerful dreams that came in the night and the visions that seemed to play while my eyes were wide open.  Truth be told, I had a difficult time telling what was a dream sometimes.  By fourth grade, I was researching topics related to outer-body experience, astral travel and faith healers.

Later, my mother met two witches. Spirit Moon was the name of their circle.  Our gatherings were in a well-wooded area on private property belonging to Ciah Redhawk, the priestess. The home was small but well taken care of.  Not too far away, was a small pond and an old out-house.  The first time I visited, it was a hot day in June.  I recall singing cicadas and the lighting bugs looked like a golden river of fairies dancing through the darkness.  We would tread down a roughly cleared pathway, through the woods before exiting into a large clearing.  A large circle had been mowed low on the ground and an altar made of an old spool table (that is what I called them) was sitting at the center.  It was a still night.  I followed the three women and my mother into the circle.

Old lanterns we’d carried down the path were sat around the circle. On the altar were shells, a large smudge stick, twine, candles at the points where each woman stood around the table.  A white pillar was at the center.  There were other things too; a stick lighter, a bottle of Sangria and a glass chalice -without fancy designs since it came right from the kitchen cabinet.  Ciah lit the large white candle sitting at the center of the table and then she threw some salt to the four corners and asked the spirits to be with us.  Sometimes I heard her talk about Great spirits but I mostly just kept my trap shut and watched.

We gathered during a full moon for rituals, but we would spend time having dinner, laughing, doing divination for each other and watching movies.  Sometimes, we got together because someone asked for a favor that required a little magic.  We left offerings to keep our relationship to the land and honored the passing seasons.  I was encouraged to know my deeper self and unravel my own inner mystery.  At the time, I’d no clue what that meant.  I just knew it would be revealed to me in time.

I was a participant and observer through 1998 and into 1999.  A little over a year later,  I formally joined the group. Formal  Initiation came at the Spring Equinox  of 2000 and with it a name that was given to me by the women of the group.  Group mind wasn’t a word in my vocabulary then, but I had a good dose of it when our energy worked together.  Grounding was called Earthing, spells were called workings, specific gods were never called, but spirits of the land and nature were.

We didn’t celebrate Beltane, but we did light fires and dance.  Our most important times were the equinoxes and we did celebrate Spirit’s festival -a time that most of us call Halloween and I still call it that too.  I knew what it was to be close to a circle of women but my age left me feeling a little lonely.  The women were all in their late forty’s and fifty’s, with years of life experience beyond me. A lot of conversations flew right over my head and if they all got together for fun and maybe to had a few drinks, I’d wonder what they were all whispering and cackling about.  Mostly, I had to carry things, set things up and though I asked questions most of the time I got funny looks or riddles.

By 2000, I was looking into Celtic Wicca.  I’d found books by D.J. Conway and stories about the faery folk reminded me a little of the land spirits we worked with. There wasn’t a certain name for them, but they seem to like sweet corn bread, shiny things  and things that you personally make -could even be a song that you play on a flute.  From there I read a book called True Magick by Amber K.  In time I came across Buckland, Raven Wolf and more.  I started blending what I’d learned with modern Wicca.  One peculiar thing I came across while studying Wicca that raised my eyebrows was coming across the place they called Summerland.

When I was a little girl playing in a swimming pool.  I used to walk in a circle over and over till the water swirled into a whirlpool. My dolls would go around and around all the way to the center.  When they popped up they were in a new place and I happened to call it summer land.  The faeries lived there and other spirits too.  In the game, my winged dolls would pick up the floating dolls from the pool and I’d ‘fly’ them over to my mom’s garden full of tiger lilies, black-eyed susan flowers and elephant ears.  The water drips from the air conditioner made little rivers among the green.   The garden and the places of light were all summer land, but you couldn’t get there without help from spirits, but everything there lived forever.   I suppose it could be a complete correlation fallacy, but then again I’m not a believer in coincidence.

As time went on I learned that the things I grew up with were folk magic. Mom always had an iron horseshoe  hanging upwards in the kitchen.  There was one outside the shed too.  It was supposed to bring good luck and ward ‘nasty things’.  If I dropped a knife then a man would visit.  A spoon dropped meant a woman would come by.  More than three cardinals meant that and old friend would show up unexpectedly and if you found a group of blue jays squawking loudly it meant that there would be a family squabble before the day was done.  Death meant stopping clocks and covering mirrors and if you when to a visitation it was customary to lay your eyes upon or sometimes kiss the body of the dead, “So they won’t haunt you and you can say good-bye,” my mother said as we stood before the body of a woman I called Aunt Easter.  Of course, there is always more to the story but if I put everything said and done here I couldn’t call this a blog -it would be a book.

My craft is now blended with various things I’ve learned.    I am still looking for others with similar tales and heritage.  In writing this, I feel I am honoring my roots however deep they may go.  The family never called what we did folk magic.  Mostly, it was referred to as ‘common sense.’ I’m not sure where all of it came from, but it is what it is. My Craft has no name but maybe one day I’ll give it one.

 

 

 

Welcome Readers

Hello, I’m Shion Flame, welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy reading and that you stick around for future posts.  Come along with me on my journey in blogging!

The decision to create a blog has drifted in and out of my mind for over a year.  I was writing a lot.  Creative moments were piled into little boxes as scraps of paper towels, cardstock or printer paper; any kind of paper close enough for me to reach. Several sets of three-inch binders were settling with dust on a bookshelf.  A trunk of notebooks with a lock on it pulled at my attention in the storage shed.  For a very long time, I’ve ignored them.

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My daughter and I were deceived and abandoned.  My four-year marriage and my sense of security were washed away.  I kept waiting for my husband to keep his promises.  He never came home.  In September of 2014, I’d learned he’d returned to Missouri and that I’d been divorced and didn’t even know it. Over the course of a year, I looked for a place to call home but every road seemed to be a dead end. Cliche statements apply when I say not everything was as it seemed.

Vultures were picking away at the dead parts of my life. Each death left me with an understanding of myself and those around me.  During the many transitions, I held tight to my writing.  It moved me through each struggle and propelled me to the next step.

The personal value of writing for me didn’t reveal itself until a friend in Florida sent my personal journals to me through the mail. Upon touching them, I was overcome with relief and joy.  At that moment, I realized I’d found the answer to my questions about personal passion. The discovery was the mode of expression relating to that passion: to learn, teach, inform, guide and do that in the ways that were most beautiful to me.

I’d already been teaching in nearly every sense of the word. I worked for school districts as an aide and substitute, volunteered as a tutor,  I was a traveling art teacher for an after school program in Texas and I participated in small groups and learning circles for the Pagan Community since 2004 both privately and publicly.

Collecting my thoughts on a dusty shelf serve no one.  You can expect to read about my experiences, perspectives and projects that are relevant to the spiritual seeker, student and the pagan community. Posts are published four times a month on Sundays.

Please, share your thoughts, opinions, and constructive criticism, even if you completely disagree. If you’d like to see a specific topic addressed, please email me at shionflameministry@gmail.com. My ears and eyes are wide open, catch me on witchvox.com or on Facebook at the Guiding Flame Community.  I look forward to your feedback!