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Ecstasy is essential to living a healthy life. Our bodies require experiencing ecstatic states of consciousness. From getting lost in music to dreaming without limits, from beautiful sexuality to having visionary experiences, we need moments of ecstasy to remain in balance. Ecstasy is part of what makes us human. Did you know the same chemicals that allow plants to communicate and create a thriving ecosystem, are the same chemicals our brains create when we are in the ecstatic states? These states are the vehicle for our reintegration back to Nature.

Currently we have a deficit of ecstasy in our culture. People find endless substitution for it such as, the use of drugs and alcohol, adrenaline filled videos, cell phone addiction, and in violence based on religion. What are we seeking in these behaviors is a state of feeling connection to something greater than ourselves. Our soul is longing to know it has a place in life. And in the case the suicide bomber, through death they seek to feel the presence of God. All of these things speak to profound feelings of isolation and our disconnection with Nature.

Our most useful tools for finding the ecstatic states are listening and trance. These can lead us back into connection with Nature, where we live in a magical animated world.

When we listen with our whole being, all our senses, we are trying to feel the nature of the other (for me this is the practice of meditation). Inherent in this practice is the softening of cohesion of the self. Trance is simply a deeper state of the same dynamic where the self and the other dissipates altogether, leaving only that which is. Trance can seem like an abstraction, or a practice for the fringe people, or something beyond the potential of the average person. This is nonsense. It is profoundly simple. Trance is simply soul deep intimacy. The feeling you get in your body when you hear your favorite song, that is trance. The wonder you feel when you hold a newborn, that is trance. The awe you feel when you look up in the night sky and see the same stars dancing that prompted your ancestors name them, that is trance.

Ecstasy is our birthright and the denial of it is killing us. We need to reclaim ecstatic practices and shared visionary experience. We need daily ecstatic practices as part of our spiritual pursuits. We can experience divinity when we get out of our personal story and become part of the bigger story of life on Earth. Let’s sing and dance and make love. Let’s find vision again. This is what we were made to do. Ecstasy and vision are what Nature created us for. This is our part to play in the scheme of life.

Blessing of connection,
Snowhawke /|\

Last night I went to the local prison where I volunteer to mentor a pagan group of men. During the past six months or so, I have been bringing a rattle to use during ritual and meditations. Working with the rattle has brought some uncanny synchronicity between what I experience in my journeys and what the men experience in theirs.

When I rattle, I hold sacred space and I listen with all my being to all the spirits of place, to the men, to the air, to the light, and to the entities that come join our circle. As an animist, I see my rattle as a living being, minded and filled with intention. I am in relationship to it. And together we are in relationship to the greater external reality. When I rattle, I set an intention to call out to all that is unseen and ask those willing to come engage with us, to do so in peace and in a manner we can understand. Poetically speaking, I am calling to the spirit world.

Here are a few examples of synchronicity that brings a sense of wonder. I am rattling. In my minds eye I see a Native American couple wrapped in blankets come stand behind an African American man who has joined us for the first time. I am seeing his ancestors. After the journey session he tells me he is 1/2 Penobscot Indian. Also during the journey I see a stag come in and stand beside a young man. An owl also comes and sits on a branch behind that same man. After the journey, unprompted he tells me in his journey he was in a pine forest and a stag came to stand beside him and an owl landing on a branch behind him. I had said nothing about what I had seen come into the room. So is this just coincidence? Last night the only spirit I saw was a black winged creature come down from above and fly past me. I could physically feel a breeze from its wings. We didn’t have time to talk about the journey at all. On my way out, a man asks me if he can tell me about his journey. He tells me he was in a high tower and a huge raven came flying down to give him a message. Are these “real” or is it just coincidence and imagination?

By the traditional definitions of “God”, I am an atheist. But I also live in an enchanted world filled with spirits I can craft relationship with. The spirit world for me is simply that which is unseen. I do not draw a line between imagination and “reality”. Intellectually I know air is gas molecules moving. I can feel them. I can see their effect as they move through the forest shaking branching and making the leaves dance. I make relationship to it, breathing it in and exhaling it out again but in a different mixture. I can feel the wind and it responds to my engagements (wrapping around my body, messing my hair, moving through my cardiovascular system). The wind is gas. It is also spirit.

So what are these spirits I encounter in my journeys? They are simply things of Nature that I cannot normally see. And that is explanation enough for me. I don’t see them with my eyes, yet I feel their presence. They in turn respond to my engagements. Are they real? I pose that question isn’t relevant. If we try to reduce everything we encounter to an explanation, we lessen the human experience. I am naturally a skeptic and fully support scientific research and the scientific method. Science is beautiful, powerful, accurate. It leads us deeper and deeper into wonder as we discover just how mysterious the universe is. It helps eliminate superstition and fear. But intellectual understanding is not the same thing as experience. I understand ice cream. The experience of eating it is what really matters to me. As science reveals more and more about the nature of Nature, it is important for us to remember, it the living that matters, not the thinking about living.

There is so much more going on than what our limited senses tell us. It is human hubris to think the tiny spectrum we are able to perceive, constitutes a deep understanding of the actuality of Nature. The important thing is to stay engaged with the unseen, feel the wonder of it and realize we are utterly blessed to live in an extraordinary enchanted world filled with possibility for delicious relationships.

We seemed surprised when there is a response to such a call as my rattle makes. The dance between skepticism and surprise is delicious as well. Let’s keep dancing.

Peace and wonder,
Snowhawke /|\

One of our key roles as druid folk is to bring the Awen. We cannot do this and not be changed by it. We cannot “control” it. We don’t get to demand it on our own terms. To find it, we have to craft relationships so intimate awen flows. We have to surrender to the river of awen and ride the currents or it is shut off immediately. To have such an intimate relationship, we have to identify with the other. We have to shapeshift.

Another key role of the druid is to be the bard, to give voice to the that which needs to be heard. We don’t do this as a computer translating input. We instead swallow it whole and feel every nuance, every pain, every bit of chaos or pattern of sorrow that comes with “bringing the spiritual news” (reference to one of the questions asked in “The Colloquy of the Two Sages”). We interweave our soul with that which we give voice to, whether it a story, a song, or the raw rage and grief that screams out from the land where blood has been spilled or toxic chemicals dumped, transforming a living landscape into a wasteland of ugly and endless consequence. To give voice in a powerful inspired manner, we become one with the poisoned land, war torn village, dying species, the myth, or the song. Finding the story requires true intimacy. Through intimacy, it becomes “our” story.

How do we do this and get through the experience unscathed? We don’t. We don’t get out of life alive. And we don’t live life without acquiring scars. To do this work is to be changed, hurt, broken, and killed (as well as healed, inspired, and ecstatic). The self will not survive. And there is a 100% chance our physical bodies will not survive. It is really just a matter of how long we can dance with the currents of change and still hold our identity. When it comes to being in service, the question really is how far are we willing to go to bring the awen to our people and the land, forging a better world for our progeny? In other words, how much intimacy can we manage?

In our culture, I see tendencies (myself included) to try to have our cake and eat it to. So many spiritual pursuits are controlled through and through. We go to church. We meditate overlooking the beach. We gather in our pagan circles in beautiful forest far away from Fukushima, abattoirs, and the crime ridden inner cities where oppressed people are still reeling in generational trauma from slavery and colonization. We celebrate the beauty of Nature, but rarely touch the destructive aspect of her. We do everything but get dirty, broken, changed and scarred. We do everything but become that which we try to give voice to. Even though we have our spiritual practices, deep inside we feel stuck and separated. We long for freedom. Yet without soul deep intimacy, we will never find it.

The power we carry as priests is completely dependent on just how much of our self we are able to set aside and move into sacred relationship. It is the most simple thing in the world and yet one of the most challenging. Doing this work changes one. It will break you open and add wrinkles and scars over the years. It is the price one pays to bring the spiritual news.

What news do you bring?

Blessings of the harvest,
Snowhawke /|\

Hail the Trancestors

You cannot have solidarity with life, honor the flow of life, honor the sacredness of Nature, honor your ancestral line, honor the evolutionary process, and at the same time be transphobic and support anti-equality for transgender people.

We are descended from a continuity of life that has no binary sexuality. We are descended, from transsexual, asexual, bisexual beings, and on and on – fill in the prefix. By the very nature of our being here, we owe a debt of honor to the gender fluidity of Nature. Gender fluidity is at the root of life on Earth. As a pagan and animist, I honor the whole of it. The whole of Nature is the foundation of my religious practices. So as someone who sees Nature itself as the highest authority, I need to understand, acknowledge, respect, accept and engage with the entire ecosystem. This is at the core of what it is to be pagan.

The procreative energies of our shared ecosystem are not simple duality!

Yvonne Aburrow in her article We Are Rising stated, “Gender is not a binary, not even a spectrum, it is a vast glittering field of possibility, many gender, many hues, many different expressions of being and love.” Such a beautiful sentence (Thank you Jim Lindenschmidt at Gods & Radicals for the link). This is the actuality of Nature, the beauty, power and wonder of Life.

So I write this to say, we as a pagan people, need to stand in solidarity with our LGBT community. To compromise on this is to say, “I only respect part of Nature. I know better than the Earth.” And that is hubris to the extreme. To not honor and respect the diversity of gender and sexuality in our community of life, is to deny and reject our own personal heritage.

In ritual this weekend, at the height of sun energy, the peak of creative energy on the planet, we will call and honor our gender fluid ancestors – those who came before and gifted us with this precious thing we call life. Perhaps we can playfully and joyfully call them our “trancestors” – not to make light but to celebrate and find the joy in the whole “glittering field of possibility“.

“Hail to the trancestors. We honor you and thank you for this gift of life. Please come share your knowledge, your stories and songs. Share with us your wisdom. Be welcomed in this circle of equals. Come dance with your children. Hail the trancestors…”

In solidarity,
Snowhawke /|\

You do what you can

I haven’t written in some time. Tonight though, Awen flows.

I just returned from the prison where I volunteer with a pagan group. We celebrated Beltane together this evening, a group of young men, incarcerated, struggling, frustrated, and angry. Rooting into the Earth, feeling the support of our sacred Mother, finding that connection to the land and place, we shifted the energy from prison life to sanctified, the dingy concrete room filling with the presence of the divine. Simple rooting. Simple ritual process. Call to spirit in the four directions. Call to spirit in the heavens and the Earth. Call to the gods, the divine masculine, the divine feminine, and deity in all its endless forms and aspects. Cast a circle to hold our intentions and prayers, crafting a place of safety and sacredness amidst the chaos of prison. These things are simple, yet they make all the difference.

We called the directions holding unlit candles as we aren’t allowed fire per the prison rules. One man called to the spirits of the West. His words sincere. Lacking resources and freedom, he used what he had. Shaking a plastic water bottle half filled, he created a water rattle. It was poignant, powerful, and real.

Each person tonight wrote down on a piece of paper what they wished to sow at the end of this new season of growth.  I took these intentions home with me.

This was the last meeting for one man as he is being released in a few days. His time in prison clearing his mind and body from the slavery of addiction. He is ready to join in the outer world again. He stated what he really wished for was strong connection to his family, a good job that allowed him to simple be in a place and find a good life. This was beautiful to hear. His deepest desire was for strong mud roots and strong blood roots, finding the strength of his ancestors and connection to the land allowing him to live well and walk with honor. Again simple things. Powerful things.

There is power in big intense rites, pilgrimages to sacred places, vision quests, extended fasts, rituals in deep snows and bitter cold rivers. Sometimes these powerful rites change the course of our lives. Sometime though, they are just a bubble that burst, leaving us following our familiar patterns. As I grow older, I find it is the simple things that keep us on the good path – waking with gratitude for the day, honoring our food, lighting a candle daily for our ancestors, rooting into the Earth finding presence in our breath, calling to the spirits in all the directions asking to make good relationship. It is these small things that make the difference over time, guiding us to live immersed in the sacred, dwelling in a world that is enchanted and holy.

As I said, I took their intentions home with me tonight. I could have burned them on walk way, but I changed into my sneakers and took my little cauldron down by the river, stepping in the fresh snow that fell today. It was really just a small thing, a little more effort, a simple decision to go to the river. I put each piece of paper into the well used blackened cauldron and burned them, asking the fire to carry these prayers into the spirit world. Once burned, I offered the ashes to the river. Their red glow drifting in the breeze until they were taken by the dark water.

The river tonight was as beautiful a thing as I ever seen. The night sky reflected on its still surface, as mist moved over it dividing the river from the land, the three worlds sliding into one another, earth, sea, and sky. It was simplicity that brought me to this place, the little things guiding my steps. And that made all the difference in the world.

Blessings of Awen,
Snowhawke /|\

Fuel for the Soul

What we take in makes us who we are. There is no doubt about this. Our body is created by the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Given that we understand this as it is straight forward, why is it we don’t extend this out to our other sensory input?

Other input makes us who we are much the same as our food intake. All sensory input has some affect on our attitude, our way of processing information, and our behavior in return. Our underlying belief system is affected through conditioning. Conditioning is simply repeated input. So I think it vitally important to look at the sensory input we take in on a day to day basis.

Are we spending too much time on the internet? Are we watching mindless TV as a distraction? Are we reading too much political claptrap? Are we living in ugliness? Are we in high-stress jobs where we multitask with many open-gated input streams coming in all at once? Is our life bereft of deep philosophical consideration, intellectual discipline, beautiful and stimulating art and powerful storytelling?

I write this because I see how the input I am taking in is affecting my sleep, my dreams and my attitude during the day. When I read too much political commentary, I spend my day full of angst. When I watch violence or scary TV my dreams are filled with violence and horror. When I spend too much time in front of the computer, I lose awareness of my non-visual senses and feel my frontal lobe working overtime to process all the visual stimulation and ideas being thrown at me at light-speed.

We get to decide to some degree, the input we receive. All our senses require a healthy diet. To that end, I am challenging myself to seek out the healthy things in life. I need to spend more time looking at the night sky, listening to the wildlife and wind through the trees, reading writings filled with deep consideration and elegant prose, listening to music carefully and not as background noise. So many ways to bring health into my being. I am going to seek something healthy each day, not let it just be by chance.

What can you do to change the stimulus you receive on a daily basis? What stimulus do you think should be limited? What kind of person do you want to be and what will it take in terms of input to become that person? All sensory input is fuel for the soul. What do you need to fuel your life?

Faith?

Faith is an interesting concept. I lived without any faith for much of my adult life. The search for meaning in life, the search for the sacred, my reaching for relationship with divinity, didn’t provide any sense of “faith in a higher purpose”, and guidance from a caring God outside of the tangible forces of Nature, which are my gods. I had no faith.

A year ago I attended a gathering in New Mexico. The night sky in the West shows clearly the sheer vastness of the universe; our own Milky Way one of billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, with trillions of planets, the night sky, huge beyond my human capacity to take in.

As part of the work we did at the men’s conclave at the Cuyamungue Institute, we visited a secreted archaeological site of the Pueblo people. Everywhere I looked there were shards of pottery on the ground, thousands of remnants of simple practical containers for carrying food and water. These things of simple human life showed me a continuity, a sense of humanity living and dying – first living though, passing life onto the next generation. It is a beautiful poignant site, a very sacred place and I feel so honored to have walked on that ground, seeing the remains of a culture that dwelled there for generations, living simple lives off the land as all our ancestors did.

And here we are today, all seven plus billion of us, none of us all that unique, special, or significant. And behind us? Endless trillions of ancestors, reaching back to the very beginning of life on Earth, passing genetic code and the gift of life to the next generation, evolving from single cell beings, to multi-cell, to plant, to animal, to human, and all the other endless species of life on Earth today, all of us relatives descended from that initiation. Each one of us but a speck of space dust in the flow of the universe, living lives immeasurably short, but life we are.

Working with the ancestors reveals our own utter insignificance. That is very freeing. We are just one of endless trillions, all going about a similar life process. All of us moving through time, through life and consciousness, back into the void, and then back into new forms. None of us is truly important to the scheme of things.

The work we did at the conclave helped me feel the “spirit world” moving right in tandem with our physical reality. And I felt my dance within that dynamic, saw how I touched other souls, how I had influence, and how I was touched and influenced in return. And this good work gave me a sense of faith. We are completely significant to ourselves and those in our community. The saying “As above, so below” does not really ring true to me. Inward and local, we are vital. From the bigger picture? Utterly meaningless. Faith is found in the interplay between these perspectives.

That is an intriguing dichotomy, the dance between insignificance and complete significance. Letting go of our own self-importance in the larger scheme of life is vital to our well-being and in gaining a sense of peace. We are here today. Some of us will be gone tomorrow. All of us inevitably going back to source. To quote a favorite singer/songwriter, “We all get a chance to be nothing.” ~ Bruce Cockburn. Holding onto to moments, images, thoughts, emotions, ideas, is an act in futility. Yet we are hard-coded to do just that. Freedom comes not in dispelling and dismissing these impulses, but rather in letting them move through us, changing us, not resisting their movement, watching, observing, and engaging. This is what we druids mean when we talk about flowing with the currents of Nature. Hold onto a moment and we miss others as they move by, our sense of the breadth of life then diminished. These moments are precious to us though. We do our best and that is enough. Remembrance is part of Nature as well.

So where does faith come in? Faith for me lies in knowing there is so much more going on than I can perceive, the dance of life more complex and beautiful than the tiny spectrum I see, hear, taste, touch and smell. The universe, a.k.a. Nature has created us and we can observe change. There is a reason for this, even if it isn’t apparent. That is faith for me. And I know Nature is minded and eternal. There is much to discover about the nature of Nature. Knowing we are built to observe and engage gives me a sense of faith. Choosing to observe and discover is to choose a rich spiritual life.

From what I can glimmer, all of Nature is looking at itself, dancing with itself, from the rain falling on the fields, to the waves crashing on the beach, to the owl hunting the mouse, to the sun bathing the Earth in light, to the Milky Way dancing with other galaxies in the endless darkness of the Universe. We all look and perceive. There is a reason for this. I couldn’t possibly say what it is, but I have faith that such a beautiful and stunning dance has purpose.