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the trickster archetype

The Trickster Archetype

Daredevil skateboarders, snowboarders, BMX bikers, skiers, and motocross riders have an ever increasing dictionary of tricks. They are our modern day trick-sters, doing what defies logic and seems impossible while having a good time. An avid snowboarder for many years, I could never fathom what a rodeo flip was, let alone how to do it, but it didn’t matter, I still admired the beauty and grace of my trickster friends. These amazing tricks are a simple demonstration of how the trickster archetype stretches the bounds of what we think is possible.

Blaming the Trickster

Like the counter-culture members of modern-day youth, the trickster archetype is often viewed as a mischievous outsider. The trickster is interested in breaking through convention, undoing structures and over-stepping bounds.

Most people think of the trickster as a misfit that causes trouble. Many distrust the trickster.

The trickster archetype is blamed for our computer crashing in the middle of completing a lengthy tax form, our pipes breaking and flooding the basement during a dinner party, or an overdue loan payment getting lost in the mail. We often don’t see the trick coming, it comes at the seemingly worst possible time, our plans are defeated, and our life as we know it is ruined.

In viewing the trickster from this one-sided perspective, we leave ourselves subject to the whims of this energy. We feel powerless and helpless. We pass off blame. The best we can do is throw up our hands and hope life gets back to normal soon.

Paradox of the Trickster Archetype

When asking, “what is a trickster?” a key piece to realize is that the trickster is known for duplicity, landing us in situations that are both a blessing and a curse. This propensity for paradox is signature of the trickster archetype.

The Greek God Hermes

The trickster archetype has taken many forms throughout history, and the greek god Hermes is one that most embodies the paradox in this archetype. Only hours after Hermes’s birth, he made off with a handful of the god Apollo’s oxen. Initially, Hermes denied ever stealing them, but soon enough took Apollo to the cave where they were hidden. Apollo couldn’t stay angry with Hermes for long because he was charmed by the sound of the lyre instrument that Hermes had just created.

This story shows that the trickster archetype can be both charming and frustrating. We want to stay mad when the trickster wrecks havoc in our lives but we soon throw up our hands and find laughter. Usually the act of the trickster is so preposterous that we can’t believe it. A newborn baby stealing oxen and inventing a musical instrument is about as absurd as it gets. There’s nothing left to do but laugh in exasperation.

Hermes was known for being both the inventor of sacrifices and protector of sacrificial animals. He was the god of commerce and was a thief. He was heralded as a peacemaker and committed fraud. He was a great container for paradox.

The Roman God Mercury

The greek god Hermes was known to the Romans as Mercury. Today, astrologers call the planet Mercury the trickster.When the planet Mercury goes into retrograde (moves backward in relation to the earth), astrologers warn us to be on the lookout for the trickster. The element mercury itself is paradoxical, and as Carl Jung points out, Mercury “is metallic yet liquid, matter yet spirit, cold yet fiery, poison yet healing draught—a symbol uniting all opposites.”

Blessings of the Trickster

For some, the trickster is a constant presence. For others, he merely comes to visit on occasion.  However often he drops in, the trickster’s influence is typically unwelcome.

Many people believe that the best way to thwart the trickster is to become more conscious, mapping our patterns and befriending our shadows. This comes from knowing that the trickster is incredibly good at finding what is hidden, unveiling our greatest insecurities and fears.

In this protective stance against this multi-faceted archetype, we miss key blessings of the trickster archetype:

  • The trickster manifests what we wish for but are too afraid or meek to actualize. Whether it is changing careers or investing more time in a relationship. The trickster breaks what we no longer want and makes room for the new. The trickster makes the time and space for what we’ve secretly been craving.
  • The trickster knows what is best for our soul and cares little what is best for our reputation and pride. Staying home to dry vac a flooded house may be just what’s needed to unwrap us from the constant need to achieve and produce and impress.
  • The trickster is our natural “eject” button that pulls out of a crash course leading us precisely to a life devoid of soul. Even though the trickster’s tricks feel like a crash landing, the trick is a rescue mission bringing us out of our ego and into our soul. Anyone who values humility should befriend this archetype.
  • A trickster experience brings disappointment and elation. The trickster archetype teaches us the divine truth that everything contains its opposite. When we stop trying to frame experiences as either good or bad, we come closer to the sacred.
  • Fun, welcome, liberating and happy accidents are also the craftsmanship of trickster. Remember to keep an eye out for the faux-pas that delight and inspire. Give thanks to the trickster.

The Divine Trickster

Above all, rather than fear, revere the trickster. The trickster archetype has appeared as Gods, Goddesses, spirit animals, demigods, guardian angels, and helping spirits. He has played pivotal roles in creation myths and helped shape countless life forms. The trickster acts as a divine messenger bringing us much needed guidance when we are most blind to our own need. Leading us to cosmic truths, the trickster helps us transcend into the infinite. One of the most common forms the Divine takes to intervene and save us from ourselves, the trickster is a sacred instrument.

Confused with Tricksters

There are a number of archetypes that are confused with the trickster archetype, among those are the fool, magician, and alchemist. The fool makes jokes to alleviate tension within conventional structures whereas the trickster is set on breaking free of the structures.The fool often wants people to like his jokes. The trickster is not trying to make friends. The trickster could care less if we think he’s funny or not. The magician archetype is caught up with creating illusions and fascination. The trickster exposes illusion. The alchemist is concerned with the evolution of the soul and is invested in forward momentum. The trickster is glad to take one step forward and two steps back.

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Spirit Animals: RACCOON the BANDIT

He sneaks about in the darkness looking for the slightest opportunity. Any tidbit hidden in a crevasse becomes a jewel in his hands. He is at home in the city or the country. No matter where we find raccoon spirit animal we will find a dose of both good humor and good conscience. Who thought such a common animal could bring such luck?

These little bandits are ubiquitous across the whole of the North American continent. Found in swamps and marshes, on the banks of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, in the vastness of the desert and prairie, in the seclusion of forests, on the tops of mountains and the bottom of canyons, and in cities and suburbs, raccoons have adapted to any environment. Raccoons are happy to den anywhere from a hole in the ground to a cubby in an attic. They are the quintessential omnivore and will eat anything, plant, insect, trash, or animal, that they can get their little paws on.

Raccoon spirit animal brings the message that you have the occasion to be at home and find sustenance, even wealth, wherever you are. He does not cover a wide range, but he utilizes and explores every nook and cranny of his territory. Raccoon symbolism is all about being flexible with what’s available.

Raccoon is marked from birth with that characteristic black eye-mask. He has a reputation for being a trickster and nighttime bandit in disguise.

Disguise

Raccoon spirit animal teaches us about the nuances of disguise and what we do when we think we’ll go unrecognized. In movies, cartoons, and drawings, the archetype of the thief is pictured so often with a black scarf with two holes for eyes. In many legends, raccoon is busy stealing things under the cover of night or out from under the noses of blind people. Raccoon symbolism is closely linked with what we might be blind to or what others are blind to in us.

When we wear a mask or watch a character in a movie wear a mask there is the unwritten understanding that the wearer is attempting to escape the consequences of their actions. Even if the thief is robbing from the rich to give to the poor like Robin Hood (i.e. stealing for “good”) they still have to hide and evade because they are operating outside the law.

In the end, raccoons in legends are always caught and marked as thieves as evidenced by their face mask and ringed tail. In our world, we may escape without any outer consequences, but we will still have the inner doubt that plagues us. What if someone did find out?

It is worth evaluating how you use a disguise to get away with stealing. When you go to pay for a service and remember that you didn’t bring enough cash along, do you pose as innocent to convince the other person to take less money? Raccoons have the sweetest, charming little faces and they aren’t above playing the innocent to get away with something they want.

There is a splash of white all around the edges of the black eye mask of the raccoon. This can point to an inherent goodness shining out, a need to be recognized for the light we are in the world. Sometimes the masks we put on aren’t necessary and can be born of a shame that requests healing.

Raccoon the Bandit

Raccoon has lightening quick paws to grab aquatic creatures, pluck mice and insects from hiding places, and invade bird nests to take tasty eggs. He is known for raiding campsites and trashcans when everyone is sleeping.

We all steal from time to time, be it something as simple as a pen or as invisible as the attention of another. Stealing energy or time from another person, or even stealing from their reputation by mentioning their name, wears away at the fabric of who we are over time. Raccoon spirit animal teaches us how to notice the telltale signs in ourselves of when we are snatching up little bits that might not be ours. He helps us come further into integrity.

This isn’t about looking at the ugly side of your nature and disliking what you see, not at all. It’s about developing a mature conscience. An immature conscience depends on the opinions of others or even the laws of society. Both of these conventions can be mischievously fun to break. A mature conscience taps into the value of one’s motives and understands whether we mean to do harm or do kindness. It’s that simple. When we come from a place of valuing kindness, mischief falls away.

Some questions to ask yourself when contemplating raccoon symbolism:

  • What are the things you tell yourself to justify stealing? (They’ll never find out. There’s enough extra. They don’t need it anyway.)
  • What motivates you to steal? (Maybe it is feeling like you aren’t worth something, like you can’t come by it honestly, or like you just can’t wait.)
  • What is conscience to you? How do you decipher right from wrong?

Trickster

Mircea Eliade, a well-known scholar who studied shamanic practices around the globe, talks about the trickster as a character that plays all sorts of jokes. He makes fun of others and is made fun of. Oftentimes in myths, the trickster is actually a demigod in disguise come to bestow blessings on the object of his high jinks.

We think we know the path and set out on it the way we’ve decided is best. Then the trickster comes and bumps us off our road. This is the flat tire when you’re running late or the hard drive crash right as you type the last word of an important document. We learn to laugh with a sarcastic, “ha, ha” at the trickster’s joke, but often we are at the very least irritated by the interruption or at worse absolutely derailed by the catastrophe.

Once it’s all over we find we are better off or we are brought to a gift we never expected.

In the legends, raccoon cons wolf into freezing his tail into the ice and deceives three blind women into breaking their favorite pottery. He is among the ranks in the animal world of other tricksters such as coyote, raven, and fox.

Thus, raccoon spirit animal has the potential to bring you great teaching and wealth, but it will likely not happen in the way you anticipate. When working with raccoon it is a good idea to keep a loose sense of plans.

Dexterity

Raccoon’s sense of touch is his most heightened of senses and the majority of the focus is in his front paws. He has “hyper-sensitive’ hands that have long whiskers known as “vibrissae” that assist with identifying objects before actually touching them. Nearly two-thirds of his portion of the cerebral cortex responsible for sensory perception is dedicated to the processing of tactile impulses. He thinks a lot about what he feels.

Raccoon will wash his food whenever he has the chance. It is thought that he does this to soften the thin horny layer on his paws, which makes it easier for him to feel his food. Whatever the reason, he loves to play in the water with his hands.

Raccoon can adeptly open jars, untie knots and turn door handles. His five toed front hand closely resembles ours. His lack of an opposable thumb doesn’t stop him from attempting to enter our world. Raccoon symbolism is about how we choose to handle situations. Will we “grasp” quickly for what we want or will we take the time to “wash our hands” of our wrongdoing before enjoying the incredible opportunity around us?

Working with our conscience is all about how we handle situations. Raccoon spirit animal is most definitely here to help.

 

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Spirit Animals: BUFFALO ABUNDANCE

In the midst of the lowing of the herd, he takes a break from munching grass and saunters over to a bare patch of earth. The sun is rising and his breath is made visible by the steam that drifts from his nostrils like tendrils of smoke. His head sways ever so slightly as he walks, the bulk of his shoulders clearing the way as members of the herd part to allow passage. At the wallow he comes down to his front knees and the rest of his mass falls with a “thud” into the dirt. He rolls to one side pushing his entire body into the depression stirring up dust and frost at once. His grunts join into the contended conversation of the herd.

The buffalo spirit animal is a precious beast for so many reasons, some commonly known and others less so. What we most often call a “buffalo” is officially called the “American Bison”. There is only one other species of bison on earth, the European Bison. Both are considered ecologically extinct and the European Bison has come even closer than the American Bison to complete extinction. Bison are more closely related to cows than to actual buffalo, but in answering the question “what does bison mean?” this exploration will use the names interchangeably.

Abundance

Any study of North American history includes the grievous chapter on the decimation of the buffalo. In less than 70 years, the population of American Bison was brought from a reported 30-60 million to less than a mere 2,000 in 1889. This mass extermination was a gluttonous move by European settlers to win the west, a deliberate tactic to deprive the Native people of their livelihood. A number of Native Americans tribes relied entirely on the buffalo for food, clothing, tools, shelter, and more. They used every part of the buffalo in their daily life. Buffalo symbolism is directly tied to the idea of abundance because they literally offered an abundance of goods to the people that hunted them.

Freedom

Through various efforts, the buffalo has recovered to somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million individuals today, but the species is considered ecologically extinct because they no longer are able to range their native habitat like they evolved to do. They are kept in small parks and buffalo that wander out of the boundaries are shot. Did you know that wild bison are routinely rounded up and excess members are sent to slaughter? The plight of the buffalo today is strikingly similar to that of the wild mustang. The meaning of buffalo is closely linked to our ideals of freedom and how that freedom actually looks in practice.

Do you feel as if you have enough room to roam? Is someone or something curbing your range? Buffalo spirit animals roam the space they are given, but can be tough on fences. If you find yourself testing the boundaries of a relationship or circumstance, it may be time to focus on an area of your life where you have space to take more liberties.

A Keystone Species

Bison are known as a “keystone” species in that they have an impact on their environment that is disproportionately larger relative to their numbers. They affect the distribution of grasses, the way fire moves throughout the prairie, the cycle of nutrients, and the composition of grass and wildflower species. Their hooves aerate the soil which helps the plants better uptake air and oxygen for faster growth. Buffalo wallows are bare patches of dirt where they frequently roll. These round holes create vernal pools during spring rains which serve as mini oasis for wetland species of plants. The wallows remain in undeveloped areas for up to 125 years after buffalo have been removed from the land.

Ferruginous hawks used to create their nests entirely out of bison bone, fur, and dung. Prairie dogs preferred to colonize in areas grazed by buffalo because they could spot predators better in the shorter grasses. A whole host of animals from black-footed ferrets to burrowing owls to foxes rely on prairie dogs as a food source.

Bison not only provided a valuable source of sustenance for grizzly bears and wolves, but also for scavengers such as coyotes, eagles, hawks, and vultures. When their carcasses were left to rot, they would add enough nitrogen to the soil to make it 2-3 times more rich than the surrounding grassland. Even their urine mobilized nitrogen quicker than natural processes and added fertilizer quickly into the ecosystem.

Regardless of the fact that the buffalo is a key player in grassland ecosystems, they are also a part of a herd. Like any herd animal they find safety in numbers and their habits and days are affected by the movement of the herd. Buffalo spirit animal is a reminder that you are at once a critical component of the world AND just a member of the herd. It is important not to get too overblown in your own importance, and to plainly be yourself. Contributing to and participating in the whole is key.

By simply doing what they do, buffalo create variety and abundance wherever they go. Are you able to offer the same gift to the world? If we all could aspire to be so generous, the world would be a better place. Consider if your actions are contributing to the whole are taking from it. How can you tip the scales so that you are a source of grace for others while still standing in your strength?

Strength and Conflict

Buffalo are incredibly powerful animals that weight over 2,000 pounds. They can run up to 35 miles per hour and cross rivers over a half a mile wide. They easily lead barbed wire fences. In the winter they survive by pushing the snow from the grass using their massive heads. Built to survive warm summers and cold winters, they are at home in the stark, open landscape of the grasslands. They will fend off predators using their bulk and horns.

Buffalo spirit animals can lend us the strength to stand our ground, but they remind us not to crash around like a bull in a china shop. Only 5-10% of challenges between bulls lead to actual fights. The bulls compete for females by butting heads. They have special boney struts that reinforce their inner and outer skull as well as a thick matt of hair on their forehead to protect them from the force of the blows. This reminds us of the benefit of being “thick headed”. Sometimes it is necessary to know your truth and not give in to the shoves of others. Do be mindful although, because bulls easily gore their opponents by slipping off to the side. Remember that going straight on may leave you vulnerable.

Gratitude

Buffalo symbolism is also linked to giving thanks much in the same way as turkey spirit animal. When White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the Lakota people she did so with the teaching of right action and right prayer. Giving thanks was a part of her teaching. When considering the meaning of buffalo, remember that you are both the buffalo and the ecosystem that profits from their action. You have the opportunity to spread abundance wherever you go as long as you stay true to who you are AND now is the time to give thanks for the myriad of ways that the Divine brings abundance into your life.

Just now scientists are beginning to understand the immense impact that buffalo had on the vast grasslands that once covered the North American continent. They are just now seeing the connections between buffalo and their environment. All along, people who lived off the land and off the flesh of the buffalo understood that all was connected. They honored these connections and with an deeper understanding of the medicine of buffalo spirit animal so can we.

 

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meaning of turkey spirit animal

Spirit Animals: THANKFUL TURKEY

How perfect it is that during this season when we are taking stock of our harvest and practicing gratitude that we have as a mascot in our endeavor the humble turkey? The meaning of turkey spirit animal reflects service and sacrifice teaching us to balance receiving with giving. There are many aspects to the turkey’s life that we can relate to directly as we gather ’round with family and remember who we are in the group.

Meaning of Turkey in Social Settings

Turkeys are communal and social birds that travel in large flocks. They fly up into trees to perch and roost for the night, but they cannot take flight to travel long distances. This may indicate a need to stay grounded when in a group setting, and to know that you have an escape route nearby that will allow you the opportunity to see things from a higher vantage without having to leave the situation all together. This too can help you see things with a bit of detachment and be less angry or charged about what is going on. Turkeys are very mobile on the ground, running as fast as 25 mph. This speaks of an ability to navigate group settings and to travel with a group very easily. All of these aspects of turkey medicine relate to the family gatherings that happen around the holidays.

Turkeys look like primitive dinosaurs striding along the forest floor with long necks, legs, and tails. They are slender and from a distance, a plain brown. Their feathers do have a stunning bronze-green iridescence up close and at certain angles of light. They don’t have very good depth perception which explains why they tip their head from side to side when they walk. They are trying to determine how far away and big things are. Both the variable color of their feathers and their poor depth perception indicate a need to look carefully to decipher how big or small, drab or flashy, the situation in front of you might be and to not always make a snap judgement.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

Turkey Spirit Animal Language

Turkey males, or toms, are vocal animals that are easily lured in my the call of another male. We all know the characteristic gobble, but they also make an amazing sound called a boom or “chump” which is a sound emitted from deep in their chest that causes the air to shudder. The sound is like a subtle sonic boom. This chump is followed by a hum that is either created by a rattling of their tail or an exhalation of air through their mouth. The mechanism for each vocalization is not fully understood.

This reminds us to pay attention to how sounds affect our physical bodies. Which sounds repel or attract you? Turkey might be able to help teach you about how listen to your environment with your whole body rather than just your ears. It is also a reminder to be mindful of the vibration or energy we are putting out into the world from the core of who we are.

Meaning of Turkey: Showing Your True Colors

The males make overwhelming displays to not only impress females but to intimidate other males. They puff up to almost twice their usual size, fan their tails out behind them, and adopt an obvious strut. Their profile becomes round and compact. The images we are accustomed to seeing of turkeys during Thanksgiving are purely images of tom turkeys displaying. The color on the heads of toms varies. It is said that when they are excited their heads turn blue and when preparing for a fight, red. This is a bird that is not shy to state who they are and how they are feeling. Turkey spirit animal can come into our life to help us learn how to stand in our power, show our true colors, and boom our truth into the world.

Hen Turkey Humility

Then there are the unassuming, sweet, and relatively quiet females who “purr” and make “soft calls”. When not in full display, the males look very much like the females. The living out loud posture of a strutting tom is the rarity rather than the norm in turkey culture and it is interesting how in our culture we exalt the boastful image of the turkey. Even Benjamin Franklin understood that the turkey could be “a little vain and silly.” [1]  It is easy to get boastful in a world that is obsessed with selfies. The usual, humble nature of turkey is a reminder to not get caught up in booming who you are into the world.

The Service of Turkey Medicine

The main keynote of the turkey spirit animal is SERVICE. There is a selflessness to turkey medicine for they are known for giving their lives to nourish the tribes of North America. Sacrificing for the sake of nourishing another is balanced turkey medicine. The person who gives to show how great of a person they are, is dancing with the prideful energy of a tom turkey.

Where do you have the chance in your life to give back? How can your acts show appreciation for the abundance in your own life? Are you able to give without any return, without any recognition whatsoever?

In modern American tradition, turkey is obviously associated with Thanksgiving holiday. This is when we gather as a family. Turkey flocks are made up of nuclear family groups that work together to find food and keep each other safe. Isn’t that a lovely parallel? If you are dreading the upcoming holiday season and a house full of pesky relatives, you can call on turkey to help you come into harmony with the flock. Finding ways to help each other and enjoy each other’s company is an important aspect of honoring what we’ve been given.

Pausing for Thanks

This is a time of year when we’ve brought in the harvest of our labors, both literal and figurative. This is the season when we say “thank you” for what we’ve been given. By coming into relationship with turkey as a spirit animal, we are asked to study our relationship to what we have and what we give.

Are you able to appreciate what others have sacrificed to make your life possible? What are you willing to sacrifice so that others may prosper? Now is a good time to let go like the trees have their leaves and stop checking your bank balance. This is the time of year when you have too many things to do and too many holiday party invitations. Stop weighing the value of one act over another, of one person over another, and be willing to step in what it is that the universe is offering you as abundance. Then, remember to give back to the deep well from which that abundance pours forth.

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-benjamin-franklins-turkey-and-the-presidential-seal-6623414/?no-ist

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

 

Medicine Wheel by Season

How to: Prayers for the Directions

In an earlier post on “Calling the Directions & The Medicine Wheel” I shared a definition of medicine wheels, how to move about the wheel, and associations with the directions on the wheel. In this post, I share with you methods for composing a prayer to call in the directions.

The Nature of Prayer

Prayers are peculiar things that can take on any nature. Just because we call something a “prayer” does not make it sacred. The ego can compose self-involved pleas to a Higher Power. Many people choose not to pray because they’ve become frustrated with petition and gratitude prayers. Others grow weary of prescribed prayers (such as the Hail Mary or Lord’s Prayer) that can lose their spark over time.

So, how do we say sacred prayers that foster connection? How do we avoid the dry wishlist and rote repetition? Practice composing our own organic prayers helps. Petition and gratitude prayers are often fueled by fears. In tracking how our unconscious fears creep into our prayers, we can tailor our prayers to admit and release our fears consciously. Lastly, it helps to have a practice of cultivating your connection with your intuition and your soul. The stronger this connection, the more able you will be to create authentic, spontaneous prayers.

If you feel like you are entirely new to tracking your fears and cultivating soul connection that’s okay. Continue on the path of learning and, in the meantime, rely on the written prayers of so many who’ve gone down this path before.

Composing Your Own Prayers

Do not be anxious. There is no need for you to compose beautifully worded prayers. Use whatever words suit your needs and desires…. But don’t spend all your time summoning up the presence of God…. Simply set out your needs and acknowledge that you have no right to be always aware of God’s presence. There is a time for this, and a time for that. Observe them. Otherwise your soul will grow weary.” – Saint Theresa of Avila

Below are elements of calling in the directions that you may choose to include in your prayers for the directions. How you word your prayer for each of these elements will vary with your relationship to them. Notice that words aren’t the only elements here. Actions are just as, if not more, critical to your prayer. The cardinal direction you choose to start at is your choice. I recommend going clockwise on the wheel and finishing with all the cardinal directions before going to earth, sky, and center.

Step 1: Aligning

To align and show your intent for working with a direction you can very simply face the given direction. For the earth you have the option of kneeling and placing your palms on the ground. For the sky you may choose to raise your arms up to the heavens. In this portion of the prayers for the directions you state the name of the direction. It may be as simple as “Spirit of the East”. Some use “watchtower” or “guardian” instead of spirit. You may also choose a more complex name that you have adopted such as “Goddess” for the earth or “Our Heavenly Father” for the sky.

Step 2: Opening

You may choose to demonstrate your openness to greet and welcome in the power of the direction by standing with your arms open and palms facing outward. In a more private prayer you may choose to bow or kneel. You can simply say “I welcome you to our circle”. In my prayers, I typically follow that with the phrase “with open heart, arms, and mind.”

Step 3: Invitation

Here is where you can take the opportunity to name the graces or gifts of that direction that you are inviting into your life. “Please bring your graces of new beginnings and fresh starts” would be a perfect prayer to include for the East. Not to be confused with petition, this portion of the prayer helps us name and embrace what we are inviting in. You may say “I embrace/allow/invite your gifts”.

Step 4: Gratitude

Although we don’t want to fall into petition and gratitude prayer, gratitude is a valuable component to consider. To avoid saying “thank you for blah, blah, blah” instead say “thank you for your presence”. One way to field test your gratitude prayer is to see if it’s attached to a certain outcome. If you say “thank you for your fresh start” that is an outcome, but “thank you for the guidance and healing you offer” is less results oriented.

Step 5: Closing

Once you’ve completed your ceremony, it is customary to thank the spirits again and release them. Ultimately the space we use for ceremony is left off to serve another purpose and it is up to us to release the space to its new purpose. Often the ending sounds something like “Spirits we release you. Thank you. Your service today and always is greatly appreciated.”

Other Practices to Keep in Mind

When saying prayers for the directions many people like to include an instrument that goes beyond the power of words into the power of sound alone. Shaking a rattle or beating a drum while praying is common as is whistling or playing a flute. Some sing their prayers.

Speaking out loud helps us practice with the weight of words. Creating prayers like these helps us understand how powerful the words from our minds and mouths are. Mindfulness with speech is an important spiritual practice. When we decide to summon divine support let us do so with reverence and attention. And, it is worth listening to Saint Theresa of Avila when she advises we “use whatever words suit your needs and desires”. Take these prayers seriously, but not too seriously that you get tongue-tied. Be willing to put yourself out there in your beautiful imperfection.

“Humble Island of the Soul” from Gracious Wild

I opened my eyes, stretched in my sleeping bag, and looked around. After a few moments, I recognized where I was and realized that I still wasn’t. I still wasn’t much of anywhere or much of anyone.” (from Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks)

These are the first three lines of a book that I wrote on a crisp fall morning seven years ago. These are the first three lines of a story I lived many mornings of my life what seems not so long ago. This is the broken world we all have such easy access to. How can the first thought we wake up with be so alienating, so painful, so grave? I still wake up with that same pit in my stomach some mornings. I don’t know if I’ll ever not know this feeling or if my memory will be cleansed of this kind of suffering. Just now, I’m soothing a pit from my stomach with a hot cup of chai tea.

My black cat Gretchen sits on my desk next to the keyboard purring. She wishes she could be in my lap pushing her full weight through her back into my belly, kneading my thighs, and forcefully jamming my arm off the keyboard, but she’s not. She reminds me of my commitment to embracing the void, to being courageous in the face of not knowing. There is no turning back now. Her overbearing presence makes that clear.

On the island, the fears were so tangible and immediate. I really was alone. Now the fears are like smoke that slips through my fingers. My vision is clouded and the air smells odd, but I am surrounded by people, civilization and the busyness of life. This morning as I prepare myself for another day, the day of the release of my book Gracious Wild, I go back to these first lines of the story for guidance. They help me remember the raw, sobering truth that we never really know who is out there and what is coming, that our minds can play fabulous tricks on us to make up fantastic fears, and the very best we can do is get brave, really brave. In being brave I learn over and over again that we are both inconsequential to the course of the universe and of utmost importance. The ego cannot grasp this truth, but the humble soul can. Imagining myself alone on an island brings me back to my fear, but also to my humble soul.

Today I pulled a beautiful card from the deck “Osho Zen Tarot” named “Creativity.” I’d like to share a quote:

Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it lovingly, if your act of doing is not purely economical, then it is creative. If you have something growing out of it within you, if it gives you growth, it is spiritual, it is creative, it is divine… The important thing is to be open to what wants to be expressed through you. Remember that we don’t posses our creations; they do not belong to us. True creativity arises from a union with the divine, with the mystical and the unknowable. Then it is both a joy for the creator and a blessing to others.

May this book be a blessing to the world and to you the reader. May you find healing in the pages. May Graccia and Thalia and all who gave their lives to this story touch your heart. This is the blessing I offer to you and the service I am in to the creator.

 

 

 

 

 

The medicine wheel and the qualities of each cardinal direction.

Calling the Directions & The Medicine Wheel

Working with the Medicine Wheel

Honoring the directions within the framework of a medicine wheel is a common practice of shamanism found throughout the world and at the root of each of our ancestral lines. This prayer to honor the directions can be called a number of things depending on the culture and preferences of the person praying. Some say we are “calling in the directions” while others state we are “calling ourselves to the directions”. Others just see that we are setting up sacred space to do sacred work.

Regardless of the nomenclature, it is important to take a moment and reflect on why you have chosen to enter in to this practice.

Intention for Calling in the Directions

Are you worried about negative energy entering in as you open up to meditate or journey, so you feel compelled to set up protection around yourself? Do you wish to offer your gratitude to the seasons and rhythms of nature? Is it just because you learned it in a class and you’re trying to explore the power of the medicine wheel practice? Are you asking for help from all of creation for a healing? Are you offering yourself as a channel for the Divine? Would you like to call yourself back to center so that you can be your authentic self and be grounded in your being? Do you intend to set up a quiet space for meditation free from the chaos of the everyday?

The good news is that calling in the directions using the medicine wheel does all of the above and more. Your intent will shape the content and power of the chants or prayers you say. So take the time to reflect on your intent and then be willing to allow that intent to shift over time. The beauty of a shamanic practice is that it is personal and place based. Depending on who you are, where you live and what stage of your life you are in, calling the directions will look different because your relationship to nature will be different.

Directions of the Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel can be broken into five or seven parts depending on your inclination, but always contains the four primary directions: East, South, West and North and a central point or axis.

“Above” and “Below” can also be recognized individually or not because the central axis is seen as inherently connected to these two spaces. As you determine what qualities, gifts, elements and power animals to acquaint with each direction of the medicine wheel I have a simple framework for you to start with.

  1. Path of the Sun: The medicine wheel is laid out in relation to the path of the sun. The East is the place of dawn (beginnings) and the West is the place of dusk (endings)
  2. Seasonality: The medicine wheel can be laid over a seasonal calendar which for us places spring in the East, summer in the South, fall in the West and winter in the North (see photo above). If you lived at the equator you would only recognize two seasons, rainy and dry, or if you lived at the poles you would recognize light and dark, so your associations would be different.
  3. Diurnal Cycle: You can also overlay the wheel with the a 24 hour clock with the East being sunrise, South being midday, West being sunset, and North being midnight.

Qualities of the Directions

To help you determine your own, unique blend of qualities to associate with the directions of the medicine wheel, I offer the following ideas that I’ve accumulated from studying a number of cultures and nature herself. You may see some qualities listed in more than one direction. Feel into the quality and see where it fits for you.

  • Qualities of the East: dawn/sunrise, spring, new beginnings, birth, infancy, mental body, element of air, seedling plants, new shoots, fresh start, innocence, play, childhood, the Sun or Mother Earth, blue, yellow, green, swords tarot suit, astrological houses 1-3.
  • Qualities of the South: midday, summer, adolescence, physical body, mature crops, abundance, element of fire, the Sun or Mother Earth, passion, drive, vitality, fullness, ripeness, maturity, red, orange, wands tarot suit, astrological houses 4-6.
  • Qualities of the West: dusk/sunset, fall, adulthood, emotional body, leaves dropping from trees, letting go, harvest, gathering resources inward, the void, discernment, element of water, the womb, the Moon, surrender, trust and faith, the unknown, black, blue, cups tarot suit, astrological houses 7-9.
  • Qualities of the North: midnight, winter, elder, spiritual body, frozen landscape, silence, communion with Spirit, element of earth, the Moon, death, union, intuition, complete understanding, being filled with the Divine, white, pentacles tarot suit, astrological houses 10-12.
  • Qualities of the Center: Heart of the matter, in the moment, timeless, ageless, integration of all bodies, openness, channel/hollow reed, grace, connection to above and below, trees, mountains, inspiration, rainbow, all colors.
  • Qualities of Above: Cosmic currents, collective unconscious, movement of the heavens, wisdom of planetary bodies, future, possibility, stars, galaxies, expanded consciousness, God, angels.
  • Qualities of Below: Planetary currents, collective history, ancestors, roots, creation, fertility, the womb, the cave, Goddess.

 

Want to learn more?
Read this article about How to: Prayers to the Directions

 

How to: Blessing Food

“Through the earth, the creator brings us the food that will nurture us. When we do not receive the offering and gifts from the creator, we dishonor the divine source of all life, implying that we reject life.” – from Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins by Sandra Ingerman

Recently, I became very inexplicably sick. For six weeks I had a terrible, awful, wretched cough that no amount of herbs, homeopathics, or meditation seemed to be able to touch. I wrote a list of everything I tried in the course of six weeks and literally came in excess of 50 remedies. I continued to pray for healing, to invite the healing light of grace into my lungs, and to practice patience. My best friend yerba manza and beloved buddy osha root had no effect. My trusty standbys kali bichromium (potassium) and pulsatilla (pasque flower) couldn’t help move the illness out of my body. This is the gift of a wounded healer – the chance to know so many remedies and their actions -, but this wounded healer could not find relief. I was shaken awake at 3am gasping for breath, the cough choked me so badly that I was brought to the point of vomiting, and my voice trembled like I would break into tears at any moment. It was embarrassing and humbling. I was at a complete loss.

Then came the shift. A doctor muscle tested me and found numerous food allergies as well as a candida overgrowth in my gut. I was furious. Really? A life sentence of distrusting my food, refusing meals, and just waiting for the next spasm of my gut? I was NOT going to do it, no way, no how. But, what was my way out? As I drove the hour home, I started transmuting my rage into activism. Here is the central question that changed absolutely everything for me:

How can I be separate from that which is grown, prepared and blessed with love … that which nourishes me?

I knew this, beyond everything else, to be true, and I focused my entire next 60 minutes of contemplation, prayer and driving around this one sacred truth. Here is what I learned:

The muscle testing was true for that singular point in time. The projection of that momentary message from my body into the future was the distortion. Even the assumption that my body was saying “no more” of these foods was false. My body was just communicating what it knew to be true, that it was having a hard time digesting life. I was not able to receive the gift of nourishment from the creator. With this understanding I started to watch how I was eating, and allowing my body the opportunity to talk about how it felt. I wanted to hear her messages directly. This is how it should have always been, but I needed the gross perversion of the doctor’s projections to make this apparent. Sometimes our messengers are not the purest, sweetest souls, but if we’re willing to pay attention so much can change.

Here are the steps I took to find healing:

  1. The very first step I took was to start sitting with, holding, and blessing the food. “I bless you in the name of the Mother. I bless you in the name of the Father. I bless you in the name of the Spirit who moves through all things.” Other lovely blessings included “I am one with this nourishment. I am one with the divine. I am one with the Spirit that moves through all that is, was and ever will be.” I sent prayers of gratitude to the land that sheltered the food, the air, water and wind that nourished it, and the humans that raised and harvested the food. I channeled love and light into the food.
  2. Second, I stopped doing anything else but being with my food. I stopped working in front of the computer. I stopped watching TV and reading books. I stopped talking if I could help it. At the very least, I stopped heated and hurried discussions over my meals. I eliminated anything that came between me and my food. Instead of polarize away from it, I moved in and entered into an intimate relationship with it.
  3. Third, I moved in even closer and I slowed way down. I paid attention to how the food interacted with my mouth, my tongue, my throat. I found that I was eating WAY too fast. I nearly choked on my food every meal. I chewed and chewed and surrendered to the beautiful nuances of flavor that extended past the first encounter of the meal in my mouth. I felt the way my mouth talked to the flavors and then I sensed how my stomach received the nourishment. One of my dear friends reminded me, “put down your fork in between bites.”
  4. I began to watch not only my digestive tract but my entire body. I saw that I was sitting cross-legged and hunched over as I ate. I was twisting and compacting my gut. I was contracting and retreating from the experience. Now I consciously put both feet flat on the floor and feel the circuit between me and the earth close. The energy flows freely and I feel flushed and rejuvenated. It is like being steadied by both of a friend’s hands on my shoulders after getting off a rocky boat.
  5. Last, I listened to my body for the entire meal, listening closely for contentment. I found I was blasting way past contentment, into “full” and then into gorged. There is a quiet, comforting communication from the body that says “thank you” and settles in to the nourishment. The first time I heard it I understood how I had missed it all along. There is no quieter or more still voice. It’s like the silence of the moon setting on the horizon.

The result of this ongoing practice is that I now eat 1/3rd the amount I had been. I’ve lost a lot of weight, but feel more content with food than ever. My cough and mucous in my lungs is gone. I am eating all foods in rotation. My body asks for a variety of foods so I am sure to not go into auto-pilot when choosing my meals. Most importantly, I feel more connected to that which nourishes me as well as that who needs nourishment, my body. Some pretty healthy side effects! I would love to hear about your relationship with food and how you practice blessing the food. Please share in the comments below.