Norse Shamanism ~ Santa & the Mushrooms

~Norse Shamanism & The Magick Mushrooms ~

Santa Shrooms

Its Winter Solstice time and from the North comes this Shamanic influence on our current day Christmas traditions ~

Now we can explore the similarities to the ancient’s traditions from Nordic and Siberian Shamans, we have been brought a few interesting customs, includings the origins of Santa Claus bringing Solstice (Christmas) gifts to all ~ Dried mushrooms that were hung by the fire with care.

Here in the USA, we are most familiar with Shamans as relating to our Native Americans. Even though we are dealing with a very much different environment, Mother Earth provides ~ This mushroom is the Amanita Muscaria, also called Fly Agaric. Muscaria is a psychotropic, bringing in visions and altered states. It is also toxic and must be handled with care to get the psychedelic effects without the toxic ones. Shaman to the Tungus~speaking Siberians is a religious master, just as the ones in America. Although much less Tribally diverse, the Tungusic are the Russian indigenous people.
As for the Lapps, they live above the Arctic Circle and they are Reindeer herders. The Shaman cared for the mushrooms, for both the spirituality and as wise protectors. So, the Shaman would collect the mushrooms in a bag and deliver them to families, who would hang them in socks near the fireplace to dry. This drying process provided safe mushrooms by the time the Solstice arrived as it solved the toxicity problem. Amanita Muscaria grows only beneath a Coniferous Tree. (Pine Tree ~ starting to sound familiar ???) It has a symbiotic, non~parasitic relationship with the roots of the tree. Now the Shaman didn’t have things totally easy here. The Reindeer love the mushroom as well. So the Shaman had to beat them to it. Yes, the staggering Reindeer would be truly “flying” in a sense from their tasty morsels ~

Siberian Shamans continue to dress in ceremonial red and white fur~trimmed jackets to gather the magick mushrooms. They started the drying process by placing them on the pine boughs. So lets see, we have the Red clothes, red & white mushrooms on pine trees, Santa and Christmas colors on the Christmas Tree. But how do the presents get into the home ??? Well, with traditional yurts, if the snow had buried the doorway, there was that hole at the top to let the smoke from the central fire out. They would be gathering enough to supply the whole Tribe and then deliver . So then the Shaman (Santa) would come down through the roof hole (Chimney) bearing gifts. The celebration was on, and yes, You can be sure that Santa and the Reindeer were “flying” on that “magick” Sleigh, as was the entire Tribe elsewhere ~

yule-welcome-mat

Originaly posted here: http://thesecretmoongarden.ning.com/group/allaboutyule/forum/norse-shamanism-santa-the-mushrooms

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~Tantric Sex – A Spiritual Path to Extacy~

At a time when even the word “sex” is suspect, and everywhere there is this perverted and distorted view of sex  and sexuality, (it makes me shudder to think how this is affecting our children, and the internet is by far the biggest culprit in this unhealthy pursuit of disturbing pornographic material and imagery), it is vitally important to explore the depth of this misunderstood phenomenon from a new perspective…a spiritual one.

We came into this body through the act of procreation…better known as sex, (unless you were artificially inseminated), you wouldn’t be here unless a man and woman had sexual intercourse. They experienced animal desire and it gave them animal pleasure, triggered by a deep spiritual need to connect and copulate. 

While we are in a body, this pleasure underpins much of our lives. It matters not if you are a nun, monk or prostitute. Whether you deny it or not, sex runs much of your existence. Unfortunately most of us have lost that special ingredient of this physical attraction that moves us beyond mere physical pleasure to a deeper and more satisfying wholeness.

At one time, long before so-called civilization permeated our culture, humans cultivated this pleasure to transcend into higher dimensions of consciousness, beyond the material, animal orgasm. Thousands of years ago, people had achieved a high degree of awareness and an alchemical formula for converting what we know as sex energy — called by many names such as Chi, vital force, soul, etc.,using it to enter into a state of Divinity. Their spiritual philosophy held sexuality as a divine rite and an expression of union or yoga.

Unfortunately, as our planet moved out of the Taurien Age (4300-1700 BC) and became masculine and aggressive, it also lost this deep spiritual connection to this vital sex energy. While sexuality touches every part of our lives, it’s sad that this most pleasurable life-affirming phenomenon –the act of creating our very birth is today tainted with fear, abuse and general negativity.

There was a time when people with an awakened consciousness practiced Tantra with an artistic and cultural lifestyle of pure bliss and harmony with each other and the universe. They lived in a state of enlightenment. Tantra, the art of spiritualizing sexuality, offers practical tools to transmute fear and attachment into love and universal power.

Like the spring flower freeing itself from the frozen snow, Tantra is again budding, offering the Aquarian Age an alternative–a way to reverse the negative energy on the planet, and a way to release yourself and reach transcendence. Put simply, Tantra is the total surrender, or letting go of all mental, emotional and cultural conditioning, so that universal life energy can again flow though    us like a river without any effort. It is a letting go and embracing universal oneness…to love.  When fear is removed, Tantra remains.

Tantra’s History

The word “Tantra” has many definitions, and perhaps its real meaning has been lost to antiquity. Some scholars claim it comes from the Sanskrit or Hindi word for fabric or tapestry, meaning that it is woven into one’s life. Others say that is comes from two Sanskrit words tanoti and trayati.    Tanoti means to expand consciousness, and trayati means to liberate consciousness. One might then say that Tantra expands and liberates consciousness, making it the fabric of existence.

The highest possible synthesis between love and meditation, Tantra is also the connection between the third dimension and other planes of existence beyond mere materiality. While not a religious philosophy, Tantra embraces a  deep spiritual understanding of life, and an ancient art of living in harmony with existence. It is a poetic science of super sexuality that dates back thousands of years, not only to India and Tibet, but to the Far East, Polynesia, and indigenous cultures of all parts of the world! The  North America’s native Cherokee culture, even practiced a form of Tantra called Quadoshka. It was used as a vehicle to achieve cosmic consciousness and union with Divinity.

Tantra treats sexual energy as a loving friend, rather than something to be suppressed or talked about secretly in low tones. It does not deny sex, or consider sex a hindrance to enlightenment or heavenly grace. To the contrary, Tantra is the only spiritual path that says that sex is sacred, and not a sin, or something against god, whether in a marriage or not. Tantrikas are god-loving, rather than god-fearing.

There is a most beautiful word for sex in the Sanskrit language, and that is Kama, which means sex-love together, undivided and indivisible. In Tantra, sex is always loving. Almost everyone is familiar with the 7th century classic the Kama Sutra, a Tantric treatise on lovemaking. Kama is also the name of the Hindu Goddess of love. And love is what Tantra encourages–total unconditional love, including the mind, the spirit and the body.

Reaching out and connecting with the divine

Tantra doesn’t tell you to control or suppress your sexual urges to reach the divine, but rather says the opposite. It supports development of this vital energy to achieve union with Divinity.    The essence of Tantra is the full expression of being–a merging with, rather than a    withdrawing from. It is the ultimate yoga, which is Sanskrit for union. In Tantra, the orgasm is with the universe. You become part of the primal energy of everything. In the Kama Sutra, genital contact is but one of the many kinds of intercourse. Tantrikas learn to make love with everything, letting go of all barriers to pure bliss.

Sex becomes sacred and divine when you approach it from your heart and body, rather than your mind. It is common for Tantrikas to “drop their mind” when engaging in Tantric lovemaking. When the energy comes from a space deep within you–your essential Self–it connects you to god, goddess, and all that is…moving you into the realm of spirit.

The body is only layers of invisible energy in form, and it can be awakened if we let go and reach out to to the sexual energy. This is the way of Tantra. It affirms the life energy within you in totality, so that those on this path find themselves whole and self-confident, with a positive panoramic view of everything.

Tantra changes one’s view of relationships as well. Tantrikas are less co-dependent, jealous or neurotic. They tend to be harmonious, fun and energy-filled. In the way of Tantra, you also discover that the relationship you seek outside is already within you. You simply need to learn about and cultivate theTantric vision, a vital, bliss-filled approach to sex, love and life in general.

Primal Energy

Today many people have been exposed to the use of energy for healing, as with Chinese medicine, Reiki, Touch for Health, etc. Yet, few people, except for the Taoists, use the body’s most powerful energy centre–the sex centre–for the achievement of divinity, immortality and enlightenment.

In Tantra, sexual energy is used as the ignition for firing the Kundalini force, the body’s biological life-energy system, merging it/you with universal energy. Mystics and metaphysicians call this reaching or achieving Godhead,   Nirvana, Samadhi, Mooksha or union with Divinity.

However, unlike Taoism (which actually stemmed from ancient Tantra) that says bring your energy inside for longevity, Tantra says let it go…let it all go! There is no reason to hang onto anything if eternity exists.

In Tantra, sex is used as the Cosmic union of opposites to create the polarity charge, or potential, that connects with the primordial    energy from which everything in the universe arises–the totality of ALL.

On the Tantric path, we learn to use sexual energy in an extended way, not denying the physical (though nothing is really physical), but going further…deeper…higher. We dance with the electromagnetic force field of our partner, and that dance leads to cosmic oneness. When this energy is matched and balanced correctly through a loving surrender with a partner, the sparks fly. In that moment of sexual embrace and energy exchange, a couple may achieve a cosmic orgasm, with their essential selves exiting the body. Those who can read auras can often tell if people are Tantrikas. In Tantra we learn to open ourselves to others, not only on the physical but on all levels. our aura becomes more vibrant and it reaches out further and begins to mingle with the aura of those around them, when orgasm is achieved by Tantricas, it is as though our auras detach completely from our physical bodies and mingle and twirl in ecstatic and beautiful union creating swirls of sexual energy.

The basic difference between unenlightened sex and Tantra, is that Tantra declares “the kingdom of god is within your heart.”  In Sanskrit it is called Pinde So Brahamande, “the physical body is the temple of god, and the body is the replica or representation of the entire Cosmos.”

21st Century Spirituality

Contemporary society considers neurosis and deviant behaviour normal, no more a problem than the common cold. Our present social and cultural structure supports separation and has created    division among individuals and nations, manifesting in violence, war and in general a world of perversion, devoid of beauty and love. Western (and now even Eastern) culture uses sex for    manipulation–sexy models being used to sell cars, soap and other products–while at the same time suppressing sexual expression. Who will ever forget Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl! With sex being such a powerful force, we have created the perfect environment for neurosis, sexual violence, and violence in general.

Tantra says we can celebrate life when the idea of separation, or otherness, disappears from the body and mind, allowing people to meet on all levels of consciousness–physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual. In fact,Tantric partners often consider themselves “soul partners.”

Tantra, the art of spiritualizing your sexuality, offers practical tools to transmute fear and attachment into love and universal power. Jealousy, possessiveness, guilt and other negative emotions that drain your life-force energy, drop away.

While most fundamentalist religions–even Eastern, Moslem and Christian philosophies–focus on the elimination of sensual pleasures, Tantra welcomes the full expression of bodily pleasure, recognizing that in the body is hidden the “bodiless,” or the spiritual. The body is only layers of invisible energy in form, and it can all be awakened if we let go and embrace the sexual energy.

The art of Tantra should not be mistaken for material hedonism. Perhaps it could be called “spiritual hedonism,” which says, “eat, drink and be merry, but with full awareness.” Remain awake as you enter into sex before the old habits come and take over. Just remain conscious of the energy. Tantra says Yes! to sex, Yes! to love, and Yes! Yes! Yes! to unconditional love.

    Enlightenment NOW!

If you can learn to be conscious of the body and the breath, you can become conscious of the    Universe. What Buddha said can be said of Tantra, “The truth of the Universe can only be realized within the framework of the physical body.”

So, while Tantra is associated with sexuality, it is essentially a merging with oneness, using the physical plane as the launch pad. We indeed create our own reality says Tantra, and this reality can be in the here and now–in the body through the Tantric orgasm. While it is possible to study Tantra for years, learning technique, meditations, and nuances, of the Tantric lifestyle, the very essence of Tantra assumes you already have all the knowledge to become enlightened immediately.    

DO IT NOW Life wasn’t meant to be a struggle.

Simply available as a path to experience full enlightenment, Tantra doesn’t ask you to believe anything. In fact, it says let go of all belief systems. Seek out a teacher who can guide you through this essential experience. In the experience itself you will discover your oneness with the universe.

~Samhain – The End of Summer, The Third and Final Harvest~

Generally it is celebrated on October 31st but some traditions prefer celebrating it on November 1st. Regardless of the path/tradition it is a time to pause and thank for all that we have harvested this year, be it the fruits of our physical labour or our spiritual labour, and give thanks. Because, like during Beltane, the Veil between the Worlds is at its thinnest, it is a favoured time to do divination and spirit work.

Picture courtesy of:  http://wilhelmine.deviantart.com/art/Samhain-Altar-2009-143250744

Traditionally for Samhain we carve pumpkins (turnips in Scotland)), we leave an extra chair at the table and a plate of food for the spirits of our ancestors, we light candles and leave them on the windows to help guide lost spirits. There are many activities to do during Samhain and usually they are path specific like for example burrying apples along roadsides and paths to guide lost spirits or provide for the ones that have no one else to provide for them. Samhain is Re-Birth through Death. Leave the past behind, let it go and celebrate a fresh beginning. Make a list of what you wish to shed and let go of and burn in your bonfire or in your cauldron. Make a list of what you wish to manifest during the next year and keep it safe in a secrets box. Samhain allows you to come to terms with your past and leave all regret and mistakes behind, planning the best for the future. The bonfire was actually called ‘bone fire’ and the leftover animal bones from the Samhain feast were thrown into a fire and the next day retrieved to check for signs of what the future might bring. Foods traditional for this Sabbat are pumpkins, gourds, turnips, corn, beans, wholemeal breads, seasonal fruit, poultry, beef and pork dishes, nicely seasoned with thyme, rosemary and black peppers. It’s a good time to bake bread, cakes and cookies – especially treats for the little ones like these cranberry-pumpkin cookies, marzipan fingers or yummy truffles. Absolutely mouthwatering! YUM!! Colours that correspond with Samhain are the ones you usually see in Nature at this time: black, brown, marroon, deep red and orange, purple and the herbs connected with this Sabbat are usually mugwort, mullein, allspice, wormwood, catnip, nightshade, oak (bark and leaves), sage and straw. (Please remember that these can vary slightly according to each path/tradition).

~Of Shamanic and personal development~

“Shamanic ecstasy is the real “Old Time Religion,” of which modern churches are but pallid evocations. Shamanic, visionary ecstasy, the mysterium tremendum, the unio mystica, the eternally delightful experience of the universe as energy, is a sine qua non of religion, it is what religion is for! There is no need for faith, it is the ecstatic experience itself that gives one faith in the intrinsic unity and integrity of the universe, in ourselves as integral parts of the whole; that reveals to us the sublime majesty of our universe, and the fluctuant, scintillant, alchemical miracle that is quotidian consciousness. Any religion that requires faith and gives none, that defends against religious experiences, that promulgates the bizarre superstition that humankind is in some way separate, divorced from the rest of creation, that heals not the gaping wound between Body and Soul, but would tear them asunder… is no religion at all!” Jonathan Ott

Shamanism is a word borrowed from the Siberian Tungus tribe, one of the first shamanic cultures to be studied. The office of Shaman is a unique one, and is present in the history of every hunter/gatherer culture around the world. In tribal culture, the Shaman is the link between the people and the worlds of the spirit, employing ecstatic trance states to travel to other dimensions. The Shaman is the priest, healer, magician, diviner, and the mediator between the living and the ancestors.

The state of ecstatic trance is central to shamanic practice, and is achieved through various methods (and combinations of methods), including self-hypnosis, hallucinogens, and repetitive drumming. Many of the major themes of religions- ascension to heaven, descent into the underworld, etc., are believed by anthropologists to have originated in shamanic practices.

The use of hallucinogenic (or, entheogenic) substances is central to most Shamanic traditions. In the Amazon, the most notable of these is Ayahuasca, a complex brew with renowned healing properties. In the Americas, tobacco was popular, and in Siberia, marijuana. The use of these substances is so central to Shamanic practices that some researchers, such as the late Terrence McKenna, believe that they are inextricably linked with the origins of human spirituality. Additionally, there are traces of entheogenic plant use in almost all historical religions, a curious fact that is largely ignored by most modern religions.

One becomes a Shaman generally by heredity or selection, and through rigorous and sometimes difficult (even dangerous) training and initiation. Beware of dubious claims of anyone offering high priced ‘workshops’ in idealized Native Shamanism- most shamanic traditions are practiced in secrecy and are not available to outsiders or curiosity seekers. It is highly unlikely that a true initiate will go on the workshop circuit, and many tribal leaders consider these to be exploitative and offensive.

~About Soul Retrieval~

SOUL RETRIEVAL IS DEAR TO MY HEART. It is a gentle, graceful, and profound healing practice. This information will better help you understand your soul retrieval. In the description that follows, I am using a shamanic framework to describe and clarify the nature and experience of the soul. This article will help you understand and possibly engage with the unseen world by presenting a framework that our conscious minds can understand. You don’t have to believe in or agree with this framework to have a soul retrieval.

The soul, as referred to in soul retrieval, is the energetic essence of your being. It encompasses the intangible aspects of your being, including gifts, qualities, and aspects of who you are. It is the you that transcends physical experience. Pieces and parts of that soul essence can sometimes become separated, trapped, and/or lost. If you imagine the soul energy as a sphere, when soul loss occurs, there are voids and areas that are missing.

Soul loss is part of the human experience. It’s designed to protect our nonphysical essence from various kinds of trauma. If something traumatic is happening, such as a car accident, physical violence, or an emotional assault, the last place we want to be is fully present in our bodies and in the experience. Instead, part of us goes away to avoid the trauma. Psychologists refer to this as dissociation. The shamanic community calls it soul loss. Either way, it helps us to survive the various kinds of trauma that happen in our lives.

Lots of kinds of trauma can cause soul loss. Examples include accidents, surgery, sexual violence, and combat trauma. Whenever someone says, “I’ve never been the same since my accident/that relationship/my surgery,” they are describing a soul loss experience. Trauma that causes soul loss can be subtle and different for each person. Being teased or shamed can cause a sensitive child to lose soul parts.

Whatever the trauma, the protective mechanism of soul loss causes part of our life essence to leave in order to protect itself from being damaged or traumatized. The soul part leaving sometimes carries away some of the memory and immediacy of the experience. In the normal course of events, the soul part would return on its own after the trauma had passed. But sometimes the trauma is so severe that the soul part goes so far and fast that it can’t find its way back and gets lost. In cases of chronic trauma or abuse, the soul part may not know it’s safe to come back. There’s no time in shamanic reality, so the soul part doesn’t know that twenty years have passed and the violent stepfather is no longer in the picture.

Another type of soul loss occurs when a part leaves because it doesn’t fit or because it is sent away. This could be an aspect that is shamed or punished; for example, a girl might send away her anger. Sometimes we send soul parts away because they don’t fit into our adult lives, disowning our impractical passions.

Finally, soul loss can happen when parts of our soul are taken by or given to the significant people in our lives. As human beings, we struggle to maintain good physical and emotional boundaries. The concept of good energetic boundaries is not something that occurs to most people. When soul parts are taken or exchanged, it invariably happens on an unconscious, energetic level. People who have had soul parts taken unknowingly take soul parts from others. While there’s no judgment or blame, this does put people in an inappropriate energetic relationship.

Picture a mother, already diminished by her own soul loss experiences, looking at her child. She might think that if she could just have some of her child’s vitality and energy, she would be able to cope with her life. On an energetic level, she reaches out and takes some of the child’s essence. The child may resist at first, but eventually it is easier to give up the soul part than keep struggling. Or perhaps the child feels sorry for the parent and gives up their soul part willingly. Again, I want to emphasize that this isn’t deliberate. When I retrieve soul parts, parents are always glad to give up their children’s soul parts once they realize what they’ve done.

In a romantic relationship, the people involved often will trade soul parts. Our culture’s love mythology implies that when we love someone, we give them our heart and our soul. It’s easy to mistake a lack of energetic boundaries for closeness and connection. People often unconsciously give their lover some of their own vital life essence along with their love. This exchange makes both people more dependent on each other, less able to stand on their own, and thus less likely to leave. It can feel safer and more connected to both parties, but in reality, both people are diminished.

Whatever the source of soul loss, the effects are much the same. Soul loss will diminish a person’s sense of well-being and joy in life. It can cause a lack of vitality and interest in the world. People often feel depressed, listless, and as though the world was all gray. Soul loss can lead to gaps in memory. People can feel fragmented or spacey or even like pieces are missing. Sometimes people become accident-prone or keep falling into the path of misfortune. People with soul loss can spend a lot of energy working through events of their past and still feel impacted by them. In extreme cases, soul loss can cause a lack of sense of self, suicidal tendencies, and vulnerability to physical illness.

Impact of a Soul Retrieval

The experience of soul retrieval varies from person to person. Some people experience soul retrieval as life-changing: a sensation of being filled up, a tingling or a heat. Other people feel a subtler impact. Often a much greater effect is felt some hours after the soul retrieval than immediately after the work is completed. I felt the largest impact at dawn the day after my soul retrieval.

The shift in your life can be subtle. Some clients have reported that they felt very little at the time but found that they felt more solid in themselves, less tired, more sure of their choices and path following a soul retrieval. Things that would have been nearly impossible seem fairly straightforward after a soul retrieval.

In terms of emotional impact, soul retrieval is very gentle. Even when parts are lost due to severe trauma, they come back unharmed. When people get back memories of the traumatic events that caused soul loss the memories are factual, with no emotion attached. After a soul retrieval, people often want extra downtime, to reflect and just be with themselves. If people have a strong emotional response to soul retrieval, it’s almost invariably one of profound joy and celebration. “Dark night of the soul” work and emotional catharsis are valuable, but they are not generally part of the soul retrieval experience.

Because soul retrieval is so gentle, people are sometimes surprised by how much of an impact it has. Afterwards you may find it much harder to accept situations where you are not being honored, regardless of the economic or emotional advantages of being in that place. For example, I used to be very good at swallowing my truth and not speaking up. After my soul retrieval it became much more uncomfortable to be silent than it was to speak, so I began saying what I needed to say to those around me. It was a good change, but it happened very quickly. A soul retrieval has the potential to put you on the fast track of interpersonal growth.

If you get soul parts back from another person, this can impact your relationship with them. In some cases, returning the soul parts instantly improves the relationship. Tensions and conflict may dissipate overnight. In other cases—if a marriage is teetering on the edge, for example—a soul retrieval could precipitate its end. Any relationship where the other person is invested in controlling my client is likely to be made rockier by a soul retrieval. This is because a soul retrieval makes the recipient stronger, more complete, and harder to control or manipulate.

Those individuals who have ended a major relationship and are having trouble moving on are perfect candidates for a soul retrieval. Very often a soul part is left behind with the former spouse or lover and returning that part to my client frees them to move on. If someone who held your soul part has died, returning that soul part has a powerful benefit for both of you. It frees the soul of the other person to move on, unburdened by energy that they can’t use. For my client, it can release them from a fascination with and a pull toward death.

About Power Animals

My soul retrievals include bringing back two power animals. They help support you following the soul retrieval. Power animals are spirits who appear in shamanic reality in animal form. It is believed that when a child is born, a benevolent spirit in animal form looks at the infant and sees how helpless they are. That spirit takes pity on the child and becomes their ally and protector. Often a person’s power animal will be an animal that they have a strong affinity for.

In ordinary reality, a power animal is a source of protection and power. It’s your power animal’s job to make sure that the idiot driving way too fast doesn’t hit you and that if a rock falls out of the sky it lands next to you, not on you. They work on our behalf to keep the physical world safe and positive for us. A strong connection to a power animal provides a source of energy and support and enhances the flow of your own energy.

The power animals I bring back may or may not be the ones that you expect. If I bring back an unexpected power animal, it doesn’t mean the one you expected isn’t your power animal; it almost certainly is. It just means that these are new animals coming into relationship with you. The more work we do to heal and grow, the more spiritual help is available to us, hence more power animals.

With kind permission from Katie Weatherup @ http://www.handsoverheart.com

Celtic Spirituality~Shamanism

The purpose of these practices is to develop
the ability to perceive and communicate with
spirits of nature and the Divine.

Those familiar with Native American spirituality will find many similarities in the Celtic way, for it is grounded in honoring the Earth, Ancestors and the Spirits of the Land. For the Celts, life sprang from the Earth and was inseparable from her. Fertility of the land and abundance of game and harvest determined the prosperity of the people. In addition, spiritual connection to the land gave meaning and belonging to people. The spirits of one’s home and landscape were honored in all ceremonies and called upon for blessing, protection and power. Their presence would guide the ceremony and increase the power and energy.

Honoring the Ancestors
Ancestors were revered in Celtic world as evidenced by the extensive genealogies kept by the bards. As with one’s connection to the land, a connection to one’s ancestors supported a sense of belonging. Knowing where your ancestors came from can give you a powerful anchor. One recent study revealed that ethnically-specific body rhythms and physical mannerisms were carried into the 5th generation after leaving the “old” country. Our heritage is literally in our bodies, bones and psyches.

The term ancestor includes a spiritual as well as blood lineage, for the spiritual teachers and guides of your spiritual lineage are also your ancestors. They reside in the spiritual Otherworld that exists beyond time and space. In the Celtic way, they live beyond or in the mists. One’s relationship with teachers and guides of this realm must be nurtured and developed over time, just like any relationship.

Animal Totems
The shamanic aspects of Celtic spirituality were highly developed, and animal totems and allies were often used. Common totems included the deer, bear, badger, raven, eagle, swan, otter, mouse, boar, cat, horse, wolf, hound, eel and salmon. In Celtic legend, for example, the deer often leads the hero through the mists or into the enchanted forest to an Otherworld encounter. In both Irish and English legend, many seek to catch the Salmon of Wisdom. The one who eats the first bite of salmon becomes endowed with the gifts of poetry, prophecy and shapeshifting.

No totem animal is considered to be greater or lesser than another is, for each has its own gifts, strengths, and lessons to teach. In addition to clan totems, each person also had a totem that was known for their protection, guidance and inspiration. In times of need, a totem animal could be called upon for strength, clarity or courage. With an understanding of the specific characteristics of the various animals, their appearance in physical form or encountered while in dream, vision or trance could be interpreted as a message from Spirit.

The Lorica
One form of protection used in the Celtic world is the lorica. In legend and practice, the Celts called upon the forces of nature in its many diverse forms to serve and enhance themselves. One of the most famous of these is St. Patrick’s breastplate:

I rise today
Through the strength of heaven
The light of the sun
The radiance of the moon
Splendor of fire,
Swiftness of wind,
Speed of lightning
Depth of sea
Stability of Earth
Firmness of rock.

You may wish to try using a lorica yourself, for it is a powerful shamanic practice that gathers energy and protection from the forms of nature called forth. You may call upon power animals, angels, ancestors, trees, or guides.

First, sit quietly and center yourself. Focus your intention on invoking strength and protection. Then, set one form of nature in each of the seven direction (these include the four compass points, plus above, below and within yourself). For example, you might say, “Bear before me; moose behind me; wolf to the left of me; badger to the right of me; eagle above me; salmon below me; and the clear light of Spirit within me.” Most people feel a greater solidity and groundedness with using the lorica.

Druidic Training & Shapeshifting
The druids were among the highly educated priest class of the Celts who were responsible for an extensive oral history. They also underwent a rigorous 20-year training that included most of the shamanic initiations common to the indigenous world: fasting, sleep deprivation, ritual burial, forms of vision quest and extended periods of time in nature, trance/meditative states and ceremony. The purpose of these practices is to develop the ability to perceive and communicate with spirits of nature and the Divine. Druidic training was based in poetry, healing, prophecy and shapeshifting.

Though a Christian, Saint Patrick clearly had Druidic training. He used his famous shamanic breastplate to create a cloak of invisibility around himself and his eight monks in order to escape capture by an angry king’s guard. The guard did not find Patrick, and saw only nine deer slipping away into the forest. There are many similar accounts of shapeshifting in the stories of the Celtic heroes and saints.

The ability to merge with Nature by bringing one’s energy into synchronicity with that of the forest or an animal is the essence of shapeshifting. There are many degrees of success. One can merge to the point of being able to feel what it is like to be inside a bear’s body. Or, one can be attuned so as to know the instincts and knowledge of the eagle. More masterful still is the ability to align one’s energy with another life form so well as to be perceived as that life form. Finally, one could become so adept as to actually take on the physical form of another animal.

The Celtic access to the spiritual realms was through the thin places. These are points of transition where matter melds from one form to another. Thin places include the beach, where land and sea meet; doorways between inside and outside; dawn and dusk; life initiations, such as marriages, onset of puberty, birth and death; and the sacred places of the land where spiritual presence is felt. It was and is believed that it is easier to access Spirit in these times and places.

Shapeshifting Exercise
You might try reaching across the mists to experience a simple form of shapeshifting yourself. Choose a thin place and time to connect with a plant or animal. Bring your awareness to the core of your being and feel your connection to the Earth. Slowly, let awareness expand from your core to include your surroundings.

Now, focus on the plant or animal you have come to know better. Share with it your appreciation for its beauty and presence in your world.

With your mind’s eye, draw a circle around the perimeter of the plant or animal. With your intention, let your awareness sink into that shape. What do you notice? What is the feeling of this creature? Are you experiencing an emotion or perhaps a flow of energy? What is the experience of this creature’s being? Can you feel differences in body structures — skin, muscle, bone; bark, leaves, wood? Can you communicate with your plant or animal through images, feelings or words? Communication can be very subtle, so be ready to receive what comes in any form.

With practice your experience can become deeper and richer. In time, you can learn to merge yourself with another life form and access its knowledge and wisdom.

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