Category Archives: Witchcraft

Journey To The Underworld

 What Is The Underworld

I have seen that place as an endless forest full of lost spirits and creatures horrid that take the shape of something I desire. The cities are abandoned or forbidden, my beloved home is lost and my people are all gone. I am misplaced and my memories are so scattered I cannot recall how I came to this place or why I am here. Familiar places are buried by the sands of time and weep at the sight of them.  I swear to the archaeologists that it was only yesterday. I’ve wandered in honeycomb caverns with the deepest fear I’d never see light again.  My body has been pulled through the endless blues of a barren sea and I’ve felt devoured by it all.

The Underworld is a place to find lost things, to remember, to discover. It calls to us all and willing or not, there is a pull, a yearning, an urge to descend in order to discover exactly what is down there waiting for us.  What happens if we become lost?  How can we find our way out again?  Each person experiences the underworld differently and it may appear differently to each of us.  We go there when we choose to let go of a vice (addictions of all kinds.) When life reaches out with something unexpected and we feel devastated by a loss.  This might occur as a result of an accident, diagnosis of an illness that must be overcome or one that cannot be changed but only managed. It could be a sudden death, facing death or other unmentioned, unseen circumstances. One thing holds -none leave without being changed and feeling out of control is the general consensus.

Having spent many years descending and ascending, I wonder how long I stay before I dive into the depths of those places again. The recent Mercury retrograde has me in an introspective tizzy.  I have been reflecting on my experiences and how I have recorded (mapped) them through the years.  I hope to perhaps record my next descent consciously and place it here for all to see. Since each journey is different, my own can only be an abstract for those who are interested in swimming deeper.

Willing Descent

After the dream visit from the Crone, I started to feel like it was time to go see her.  For several weeks I spent time searching the various names any myths of the dark goddess.  I wondered why she had come to my door and what is was I needed to learn from her.  My own Underworld visits often begin with a dream.  These “big” dreams are my signpost for important change in my life.  With change always comes sacrifice.  I wanted this time to be different.  I didn’t want to go kicking and screaming to the underworld; pulled into the caverns by faceless, monstrous voids, grabbed and dragged into street drains into the watery depths.  This time, I wanted to go to the gates of the Underworld myself and descent into her sacred realms.  What might I lose or set aside?  What might I gain?  How much time do I truly have to prepare? and How can I utilize and integrate what I have learned?  These are the questions I set out to answer as I begin another descent.

What follows is a description of a ritual I will work to mark descent.  Often, these experiences happen all on their own without an individual seeking to initiate the experience.  In my own case, I have chosen to complete this ritual to symbolically mark my own experiences and process through what I need to ascend to the surface with.  As Meredith points out in her book, some people are caught in the underworld for a very long time without the understanding of how to integrate the wisdom accumulated there.

Signs and Preparation

The first signs I am entering the underworld is often an unsettled feeling followed by what I referred to earlier as a big dream.  The experience of such a dream indicates to me that my life is about to change (not that it is all doom -it is most definitely the opposite.) I didn’t plan to begin another underworld journey without research.  I discovered a book called:  Journey To The Dark Goddess, a book by Jane Meredith.  In her book, Meredith explains that prior to an intentional journey, the first step should be preparation. My own preparation will involve several steps. In my preparation, I considered the ways in which I have journeyed the Underworld previously and write out how I can prioritize time to visit this realm at least once a year.  I was delighted to find the suggestion in the book to write a letter to yourself prior to descent.  While different, I do often write letters to “Old Mother.”  These letters often provide me with guidance concerning daily aspects of my life. The outline below is a rough sketch of what Meridith describes in her book and it does not include every detail of ritual planning due to the spontaneous nature of my own work.

  1. Acknowledging the dream (the call) and asking myself big questions:  What must I face?  What must I embrace now?  How can I grow from this experience?  What actions can I take? (Reflection of the dream and contemplation through questioning and silence.)
  2. Prepare my backup plan. In this step, I decide who I will use as my “safe person” This person is aware of my ritual and what it is that I am doing.  They are there if I need them.  If I go to deep this person helps to pull me from the underworld. I let them know when I begin the ritual and when I end. In the past, this was sometimes a person who literally monitored the ritual.
  3. I spend time listening and nothing more.  This may be for a set time period such as twenty minutes for three days.
  4. Choose offerings for the underworld.  I will create something:  a song, a painting, a dance.
  5. Create a sacred space.  This can be done in a number of ways, I typically work with plants so I will smudge the area or burn an oil.
  6. I gather all of my tools which will include the way I plan to record or map out my journey.  Since I often write, journaling is the easiest route -of course, my journals are never limited to writing alone.  I will gather pens, colored pencils or any other objects I plan to use.
  7. Review my life journey so far both positive and negative events:  I do by first writing things out and then I create a drawing that expresses it.
  8. Conjure the energy for casting circle and complete the circle casting ritual.  Verbally announce the purpose for the journey.  Often, I go through these rituals and then they play themselves out in my dreamscapes.
  9. Descent.  Often I use dream imagery and guided visualization that helps to move me into the Underworld.  Since I’ve been there before, I often find myself descending deeper into broken roadways at construction sites that lead into the ground.  I’ve also gone to this place through a large opening in a tree.  This first image is the first gate.  I’ve heard that there are seven gates, from other’s who have made the journey, nine gates. At each of the gates, I give something up in order to go deeper.

Despite how the journey is made, whether you design your own or follow a formatted based from myth, understand that the journey results in an internal change that often causes external things in your environment to change.  The descent is only that.  Merideth pointed out in her book that the general format above can get you into the underworld but not out. While you are in the underworld,  it is important to keep your focus on the purpose of the journey and to give yourself a reason prior to return.  This was my own challenge as I discovered I’d already been living in the Underworld for quite a long time.  It is for that reason that I’ve chosen to ritually acknowledge the journey and begin the ascent to the surface once again.  If you a preparing for a descent, I’d fully recommend researching mythic stories of descents and picking up the book that inspired me to write this blog.

 

References:

Journey To The Dark Goddess How To Return to Your Soul -Jane Meredith

 

Grandmother Winter Challenge

Free Image from Pixabay
Free Image from Pixabay

The crisp air of winter crawls up my nostrils.  I watch the steam from my cup clash with the breath streaming from my mouth. Great grandmother watched the signs of the seasons, she said that that fogs during the autumn indicated how many times it would snow.  Already, there have been two foggy days.  With the cold comes Grandmother Winter.  I dreamt there was a knock on the door.  Without hesitation or concern for who may be on the other side, I opened the passage into my home.  Snow drifts were piled high, the wind howled and I felt her presence as she rounded the bend to my door.  Clad in a heavy cloak, slouched over with a twisted cane was an old petite woman with eyes dark as coal and skin reminiscent of the deep cracks in bark.  Here, before my eyes stood Grandmother Winter.

This time of year I prepare, I go within.  For the next month, beginning this evening I’ll set the intention to connect with the dark, with silence and see what it has to show me.  From tonight until the eve of December 21, I’ll be documenting my experience here on my blog for the sake of accountability.  Deciding to use my beautifully illustrated oracle cards by Stacey Demarco, I drew the Skull of Darkness, beckoning me into the shadows to explore my own nature.  My runes revealed Isa indicating the need for stillness and receptivity.

Skull of darknessRecently, I’ve found myself amused at all the challenges floating across the internet.  Over the past week, the mannequin challenge has been on the news, on campus and during my daughter’s birthday party, in my living room!  In the spirit of challenge, I charge my readers to complete the next 21 days with me and share your own thoughts and experiences along the way.  How will the divine feminine appear to you?  What do the Shadows have to show you?  What might you discover in the darkness?  Let’s find out!

Connecting to the Ancestors

 

As October rolls around and the early mornings begin with cool, crisp air, I am overcome with a sense of nostalgia for the old, for things that need to be remembered.  As a witch, my thoughts turn to the shedding of the leaves.  There is some sadness in those fading colors but I find myself looking forward to the stillness of the winter-time, the warmth of the hearth and early mornings with hot tea while looking out the windows at the cold.

Autumn leaves

When I experience the bold transition from fall to winter, my thoughts fall to my ancestors, all those who have gone before me in endeavor,  bloodline, in spiritual heritage and more.  I put forth here that ancestors are far more than blood relatives that have passed to the Otherworld.  How do we honor them if we do not know them?  How can we reach out and reconnect with the roots that hold us fast and safe?  Do we know our own roots and what calls to us?  Answers to such questions cannot be found in books but only by looking deep within the self

Our ancestors are all those who go before us.  I’ve been fortunate to learn a few things about my ancestors by talking to old relatives and hearing the stories they had to tell. I asked my mother what her mother most liked to eat or what my great aunt’s favorite color was. When I most need to know I sit and contemplate.  I look outside to the changing weather and consider what my ancestors may have done during seasonal changes.  Simple acts, such as eating seasonally may aid in putting us in tune with ancestors.  On my stove sits a heavy mortar and pestle.  Close by is a candle that reminds me of the hearth fires and how those fires kept families alive.  I pull together what I know and invoke that connection. My ancestors are in the stars, the earth, the trees and in the flowers.  They live in memory, in action, passion and most certainly blood.

Drop of blood

In 2012 I pondered how in the world I would be able to connect with ancestors that I did not know.  Now, before I begin let me put it out there that this method was mine, I don’t suggest that you do anything like this –especially if you are squeamish.   At the time, I worked primarily with candles and plants.  I already had a list of favorite plants and flowers.  Setting intention is all that is needed but pondered a way to directly tap my bloodline when I was hit with a sudden epiphany.  For well over a year I’d been hearing a very odd message; “It’s in the blood.”  With firm intention and final understanding, I briskly walked to the cabinet and got out my small melting pot.  I threw in wax I’d been saving and melted it down.  While it melted, I gathered wick and a tin can.  I soaked a sharp pin in alcohol, washed my hands.  I closed my eyes for a moment and connected.  With a firm prick of my middle finger blood seeped to the surface.  A few drops collided with the wax and I stirred it around a little before carefully pouring it into the tin can.

Blood may be a disturbing medium for many.  That said, It is, of course, by no means necessary.  It is a symbolic act, one that is profound in my own mind hence the use of it.  If you do choose to use this method, take all necessary safety and health precautions for yourself and anyone you are working with.

Here are a few things to consider prior to working with the ancestors. Consider who you may be connecting to; not all of our ancestors were friendly or would wish us well. Also, not all ancestors are blood relatives, they may also be those connected to your practice, perspectives or even your work. In your Invocation of ancestors, specify who or what kind of ancestors you are looking to connect with.

  • If you have pictures or other memorabilia use it.
  • If you have cultural heritage you have not explored, then get to know it.
  • If you know the favorite foods of loved ones, you can take the time to prepare small portions of those meals and set a place for them.
  • If you desire to visit a grave, take a small gift to leave there with your loved one.

 

 

 

 

It Runs In The Family

I received a phone call last night at around 9:12. The phone rang once and the stopped. I noticed it was my daughter calling and picked it up. “Something is wrong mom, I need to come home.  Her father left out any details and simply said that she needed to come home because the house wasn’t a safe place for her. Aaron and I hopped into his car and drove to get her. After a few minutes, three figures emerged from the apartment complex. I greeted them beneath the building lights. “Is the house haunted?” Her dad looked at me, “Yeah, that is a given. I won’t be staying here tonight myself.”

Once home, I made some hot chamomile tea, gave my daughter a blanket and turned on the lights. My ten year told described to me exactly what she saw. “Dad fell and he caught the leg of the couch. I saw a smoky black thing standing beside him. I did what you told me mom and I tried to focus on my shield. I tried to go over to my dad but I felt like something invisible was blocking me from getting close.” I sighed. “Well, that may have been your protectors, the protection spell around you or maybe both.”  The conversation lasted for about an hour, we watched a cartoon and then turned in for the evening.

My daughter, now ten,  has seen the Otherworld off and on since she was very small -too small to remember. I used to watch her crib from my bed at night and found myself amazed and a little unsettled when large, people-sized, white glows came close and gathered around her. I wasn’t sure if they were family or not but the sight of them did not make me afraid. However, it would be a lie to say I’d never encountered anything that didn’t send the chills straight up my spinal column.

Nothing sets the inner fire ablaze like a mother’s need to protect her child. I grew up with unusual experiences and clung to my fear. I would be nearly fourteen before gaining some amount of confidence about what to do about it. As a mother, I set the intention to raise my child with awareness so that if and when she experienced the world with her “special-eyes” or “special ears” she would know that she could set boundaries, and find her own strength. Even if she was afraid, she could face it or choose to turn from it without shame.

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Despite my early experiences with the Craft, I was nearly twenty years old before my mother sat me down and talked to me about the more disturbing experiences. My youngest sister’s spiritual battles had prompted the conversation but it was her last words that seared into memory: “When each of you girls were born, I cried. I cried because I didn’t want you to have this gift and I cried because you would all live life as women too and that comes with its own lessons.”

As a family, we have been through the grand “W” which are (What was that? Why is this happening? Why us? Where did that come from? What are we going to do?) To find peace, the answer was first to ignore it which didn’t really work. This went on for a few generations -perhaps more. In our own way, each of us questioned our sanity. In fact, I’m sure that there were times we were all driven to the brink of emotional and even physical tolerance. The second route was to fight it which seemed to cause more conflict because the feeling was one of being cursed.  Years would pass before we gained some understanding as individuals how seeing can serve us -or others.  Acceptance of ourselves and acclimation to the reality of it came slower.  One node of comfort was knowing that for better or worse, it ran in the family.

Writing this brings me back to 2009 when I overheard a conversation between two co-workers.  One of them was having frightening visions of black dogs that both she and her daughter were experiencing.  The advice and commentary she received shook me to my bones. She was told it was because she was not living her life the right way, that she shouldn’t live with a man without being married or go out to bars, etc. It left her feeling guilty and confused. Religious convictions aside, we can live our lives to the best of personal standards and still have a lack of answers.

 

Stepping over what must have been a boundary, I later offered her this consideration: “It is not your fault and you are not alone. If you can, find strength and believe in something greater and more powerful than yourself but remember that you are not powerless.” We talked about the black dogs and discovered that she had English and Irish ancestry.  This encouraged her to personally research visions of black dogs. She worked with me a year but before moving away, she gave me a hug and offered a deeply felt thank you.

awareness-1052371_640

I’ve written this article because I feel there are many families out there with this story. Deep in my heart, I am sure that we are not the only one with strange tales who have been witness to the visions, voices, and secrets that have been revealed to us. The spiritual and energetic worlds are definite realities to those that closely experience them. We cannot close our eyes and pretend it did not happen for long. No longer do we have the privilege of asking if these things exist. We can not un-know what our eyes have been opened to.

Finding Stillness

Finding stillness in a busy chaotic world full of chores, to-do lists, work and play can be a challenging effort. How can we find the stillness we need and what can if offer us? How do we know that we need stillness? I place my hand in my rune bag and move it in circles. The tips of my fingers move the pecan shells around until just the right moment. I feel a cool zap and a rune catches between my fingers. I’ve drawn the rune Isa (stillness) more than three times this week. Images of a standing tree in the winter time or the quiet of the darkness when it is cold are the memories I’ve associated with this symbol. It hasn’t been drawn since early last year so I sit for a while and reflect upon the week I’ve had.

At work, tension builds up as the new versus the old way of doing things play tug of war through fellow employees and leadership. On the homefront, my father and I reconnected after eleven years and to say the least, he is in rough physical and mental shape. Neglecting his health and well being, life now forces him to look at the difficult time ahead of him if he chooses not to make a few relevant changes. He is a man without resources in regard to savings, health insurance, medical provider, or healthy living choices. The reality is, I am not able to care for my father the way he needs to be cared for. He is a man of pride and stubbornness and he desires deeply to keep as much of his freedom as possible. When I say he is the kind of man that would pack a bag and vanish into the forest I am not kidding.

In the past five days, I’ve gone on what feels like endless errands, attended work meetings that were scheduled last minute to deal with new team membership challenges, and got my little girl started at school again. My father’s partner had an accident and the doctors have sent her for recovery in a nursing home. I’ve spent time visiting her and updating her on how my father is. This, of course, does not omit the reading for my own classes that begin tomorrow, taking care of the house, pets and yard work. My own routines of going to the gym and completing my morning dream journaling have all taken a back seat. Frankly, the permeating feeling is on of exhaustion. After a long night of sleep last night, I sat down for my cup of coffee this morning and nearly fell to sleep in it!

This week, I’ve decided on a stillness dedication. Stillness is my own point for rejuvenation. It is a state of receptivity where I do not try to do, to visualize, to think etc. I take a nice nap for thirty minutes, I make warm tea, I go for a walk. Because I love to talk -a lot, I promise myself to speak less. In the time of stillness, I may observe where I need to prioritize my energy. I may discover what drains me or sustains me. I am the kind of person that looks around and discovers a plethora of activities to keep me moving; walk the dog, do the dishes, fold the laundry, read for school, exercise. Not moving leaves me with a sloth feeling and some regret that activities are not finding completion. The result is feeling worn and having little ability to respond to my usual “pick-me-ups.”

When I begin to buzz back and forth almost mindlessly, it is the first sign that I need stillness. To do this, I have to call upon my own boundaries. I turn off my cell phone, the t.v. and stop checking social networks online. Stillness means saying no to those that are constantly interrupting the time needed for restoration.

I place the Isa rune back in its sachet with the promise to myself in mind. I acknowledge my busy list of things to do but set them to the side until I must do them. Until then, I set boundaries where necessary. I choose to sit in stillness and listen to the darkness.