Tag Archive for: Goddess

The Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey (Part 2)

In Part 1 of The Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey we explore the trials the hero goes through to reach the ultimate boon.

The Ultimate Boon

When we embark on a shamanic journey we have so many expectations for what is to come. There is a climax to this story we are certain. We will come back with a new power, a supernatural gift, a better life. The promise of riches from this journey are so compelling that we can become obsessive, even mad, in our quest. Our motivation to attain this goal is what helps us overcome the most nasty and devastating of obstacles. We are willing to give up what keeps us safe, long-held belief systems, and ego barriers. We are willing to face our deepest fears. Where does this expectation of a boon come from? Myth of course.

This is the stage of the hero’s journey where after much trial and striving that he reaches the ultimate boon. In many stories it is often a literal boon such as Jack’s golden egg, Jason’s golden fleece, and Prometheus’s recaptured flame. We are used to seeing the hero depicted in movies and books coming home with a great treasure, a mystical diamond, a magic staff or sword. In mythology this object is what literally makes the hero’s life better. This direct thinking can present a problem with the shamanic journeyer causing her to expect to be able to return with some THING that will improve her life. We know it sounds ridiculous at the time, but this is a difficult expectation to shake.

We are so oriented to stuff and things, and the shamanic landscape can look deceivingly like our own. When we ask what gift the power animal or soul part is bringing back, they can show us an object (a flower, a wand, a crystal, a stone). I can’t tell you how many years the magical child in me secretly fantasized about finally being able to bring one of these objects back. It is an obvious leap to make even though we know the laws of physics are against us.

I always encourage those I do soul retrievals for and those I teach to journey to watch out for the pitfall of taking this object literally. It is a slippery desire. The gift is in the simplicity of the metaphor. The way we bring this gift into our ordinary, everyday life is to assimilate the deep meaning of the simple truth that is coming through. It is easy to understand the object literally and it takes a heroic transcendence to understand it symbolically. It takes time, sometimes years, to understand the vast resources of this seemingly simple gift. This is why this is actually one of, if not the, most powerful and mystifying boons to receive.

Other boons are not objects, but climaxes and accomplishments. Joseph Campbell tells of sacred marriage with the goddess and gives numerous examples of the male hero coming to and marrying the divine feminine. In today’s world, what this looks like is the intellect marrying the heart. This is the coming together of action and receptivity. This is the sacred marriage. At this time in the shamanic journeyer’s progress they meet their anima or animus and are joined with them in the journey. This is the beginning of the end to the split between reason and feeling. The two come together in the journeyer. The coming forth of the “other” side allows the person to become fully integrated. The polarization between right and wrong that causes so much suffering in us is absolved in this moment, and no longer does disharmony rule the consciousness like it once did.

Now the journeyer has access to congruence. The form of congruence depends on the journeyer. It could be a new found decisiveness, a new found ability to hear one’s intuition, or a indescribable sense of peace. This is a coming to peace with one’s life and the process of birth, life, death, and rebirth that is inherent in the goddess. Often we would place the divine feminine as the heart in this exchange, but Mr. Campbell explains her as wisdom which is beyond intellect. “Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known… The hero is the one who comes to know” (p. 97). The shamanic journeyer comes to know what is needed at any given moment as she gains full access to her intuition. Without any preference for life, death, or rebirth – holding all as potential – true knowing can come through.

At the climax, the hero can finally come into confrontation with his father. Joseph Campbell calls this “atonement with the father” and artfully translates it into “AT-ONE-MENT” (p. 107). At ground level, this can be a confrontation with a male figure in one’s life that seems to always sit in judgement of our actions. At the spiritual level, this is the belief in a wrathful, vengeful, or just God that sits in the sky delivering judgment. Zeus is a perfect example of this projection, but regardless of the name of the male God, this is an imprint in our consciousness.  Atonement is about coming into oneness with divine will, letting go of all the judgements and justifications we use for holding on to our ego. What this looks like in the shamanic journey is coming face to face with our righteous selves and the reasons we use to justify our arrogance and vengeance. The final trial is a transmutation, a purging, of our ego.

The mystagogue (father or father-substitute) is to entrust the symbols of office only to a son who has been effectually purged of all inappropriate infantile cathexes – for whom the just, impersonal exercise of the powers will not be rendered impossible by the unconscious (or perhaps even conscious and rationalized) notice of self-aggrandizement, personal preference, or resentment. Ideally, the invested one has been divested of his mere humanity and is representative of an impersonal cosmic force. He is the twice born: he has become himself the father. And he is competent… to enact himself the role of the … sun door, through whom one may pass from the infantile illusions of “good” and “evil” to an experience of the majesty of cosmic law” (p. 115).

The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands – and the two are atoned.” (p. 125).

In the shamanic journey this can look like a battle with a great force of darkness. It can be struggling against a black tsunami or facing off with a fire breathing dragon. It can be encountering a frighteningly giant snake, spider, shark, or squid. Always the opponent feels malicious, all-powerful, and wrathful only to find that we are able to come to peace with them. We do so by releasing the need of our ego to triumph and replacing it with the call of our soul to atone.

The final boon that Joseph Campbell outlines and that the shamanic journeyer may encounter is apotheosis which is defined simply as “the elevation of someone to divine status”. This is where we experience the cosmic law that “what is in one is in the whole.” This boon is of the more rare kind in my experience, and something we are lead to. This is not a boon any traveler can make happen no matter what obstacles they overcome. This is God coming to the hero. Absolute dissolution into the sacred is hard to come by and is only accomplished in unplanned encounters that are fleeting. These are the possessions by the divine as explained by St. Theresa of Avila and other great mystics.

In a journey, apotheosis is proceeded by a dismemberment experience. Apotheosis for the shamanic journeyer is when one’s consciousness completely dissolves into white light, when one is completely taken over by a divine being, and when one all of a sudden takes in the world and all of its suffering at once. We inherently open our lives up to the possibility of this life changing experience by following the hero’s journey in our own mythology. Oftentimes God hears us and comes. Ultimately, our small, personal mythology is a reflection of the large, collective story of what it is to be human. What is in one is in the whole.

Read PART 3 of the Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey


Deer Spirit Animal

She nibbles grass by gathering at a few blades at a time with her gentle lips and clipping the greens into her immaculate, petite mouth. Nearby, another of her kind, a male with velvet dripping off his headful of antlers tenderly plucks leaves from a service berry bush. She senses her others also around quietly browsing, but the brush and their tawny coats obscures them from view. Everything appears halcyon, at peace, but this belies the sparkling tension in the air. With an unexpected crack from a small twig they know not to be born by one of their own, they all turn and take flight into the woods.

Deer are so commonly known in myth and in everyday life, and still there is a magic about them that startles the ordinary away. Their delicate yet tenacious manner has lead many hunter astray into other worlds and even to their death.

The Goddess Artemis & Deer

There is the myth of the goddess Artemis, huntress and protector of animals. Artemis was in a pond washing naked and swimming with her similarly unclothed nymphs one day.

A straying hunter came upon them and gawked at the site. In her anger, Artemis turned him to a stag and called his own hunting dogs upon him. He was killed by his own hunting party. Artemis was a virgin goddess and this tale reminds us of the importance of guarding our own innocence. Innocence and purity are at the heart of deer spirit animal.

Meaning of White Deer

White stags appear in legends from around the world, but most notably in the stories of King Arthur. He was never able to catch the white stag, but in his attempts to do so he was lead in to great adventures and mystical places.

By following the deer spirit animal into the woods of the mystery either within ourselves or within spiritual teachings we risk losing track of all time like the children of Narnia caught up in the wardrobe. And too we are invited into forgetting ourselves all together.

Stag Symbolism

There are three aspects to deer worth considering – stag (buck), doe, and fawn. Each has their own particular expression that is unique enough to explore independently.

Bucks are more independent traveling alone or in lose, unrelated bachelor groups. Their antlers symbolize connection to the heavens and intuition received through the mental plane. Their crown of antlers also corresponds to royalty and, thus, power. Bambi’s father was called the Great Prince or King of the Forest for this reason.

A mature buck with a 6-point rack in full rut strikes reverence in the heart of any man. There is a confidence and valor in a buck that rivals even the most fierce of predators. The biggest and strongest bucks in the forest mate with the most does and produce the most off-spring. They do so by fending off other suitors in battle. This is the quintessential Darwinian “survival of the fittest”.

Notice that for most of the year the bucks live peacefully side by side, but there is a season for competition with deer spirit animal. When in your life are you in competition? Are you able to enter into a test of strength when appropriate and then drop your weapons (antlers) and move on to coexist without strife the majority of the time? We sometimes judge against competitiveness, but there is a striving and refining that happens in these trials that carries us through tough times (winter) and births new energy into the world.

Stags can teach us that by knowing when to compete and when to drop our attachment to the game we can become the kings of our own inner wild nature.

Doe Deer Symbolism

Does stick together in groups related maternally year round. Their presence is of a drastically different measure. To understand the nature of doe energy simply think of the phrase “doe eyes”. Their eyes are big and soft, and any woman with doe eyes is known for luring you in.

There are many myths around the world of women who turn into animals or who are half woman, half beast. In some North American tribes there is a legend of the Deer Woman who is half woman, half doe. Some stories tell of how she lures men to their deaths. This relates back to the story of Artemis and how the gawking hunter lost his life. So, despite the fact that bucks are confident and courageous and does are soft and sweet, the two have a reputation for luring men into potential danger.

The masculine aspect of all of us (the animus) is our active nature, our “doing” way in the world. When we are caught up in the activity of our lives we easily go on auto-pilot. Then we are unknowingly subject to the luring energy of deer spirit animal. Before we know it we’ve wandered into an unknown part of our own inner forest and we think to ourselves, “I don’t know who I am anymore and I’m not sure where I was going.” This is when deer spirit animal magic has been at work in you.

Creativity and Deer Spirit Animal

Courtship and mating occurs in late fall, early winter (October-December) and the gestation period is 7 months. We often think of spring as the time for babies, but really fawns are not seen until summer officially arrives. This speaks to running on a later schedule than is expected, possibly even being prone to procrastination. This can also be a tendency to wait until you know what the picture is going to look like before moving forward.

By November, the deer have a good sense of how they will fare through the winter because they have seen the fall harvest and built up their reserves as best as nature will allow. The timing of their breeding depends on rainfall, temperature, and day length. Some species of deer will wait until January to breed.

In thinking about deer power animal, How are you approaching new creative projects right now? Are you holding out as long as you can to see what the environment will be like? Are you able to recognize a good or mild season when you are in one and move forward as to take advantage of the favorable conditions?

Symbolism of Deer Fawns

There is a doe that sets up residence around our house with her fawn(s) each year. As these things go, she just showed up for the first time this year, today, during the process of this writing. She announced her presence by chasing and charging our dog Diesel. Diesel was jumping and barking at her, and then she was in hot pursuit of him, front hooves lashing out.

We called him off and looked back in time to see a teeny, tiny little spotted fawn jump up and run the other way. The fawn had been laying down just feet from where we had walked. Our dog never saw her until she was on the move. By then he was back with us and stood and watched politely.

In the first three weeks of the fawn’s life, the mother leaves her young bedded down for up to 8 hours at a time while she wanders and grazes. The fawn is not yet able to run quickly enough to evade predators, so the best protection is to lay in hiding and wait until mom comes back with udders full of milk.

Deer Spirit Animal in Fight or Freeze

A combination of the defensive mother, the camouflage of a dappled coat, the ability to be completely still, and the lack of any scent is what keeps the fawns safe. The mothers clean their fawns immaculately, so no trace of a scent remains. All of these kept our keen nosed and eyed dog from spotting the little one.

Seeing how small this newborn was and thinking of it laying there frozen, waiting for danger to pass reminded me how intensely vulnerable these tender creatures are. We often think of freezing in the face of fear as a weakness, but the combination of the fiercely protective mother and the perfectly still fawn makes an incredibly strong pairing. I mentioned before that purity and innocence is at the heart of the deer totem, this is because as fawns they begin life pure (clean of scent) and innocent (unable to defend themselves or run from danger).

With deer spirit animal, what is your relationship to being vulnerable? Are you ashamed of the tender part of you that lays frozen in the brush? Do you over-emphasize the protective nature of the mother? All of this is necessary for your well being. Keep in mind a balance. Judge not your innocence, love the purity of your soul, and honor your own courageous spirit.

PHOTO CREDIT: David Anton. To view more of David’s beautiful photos visit his website: https://kitestream.wordpress.com


Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide



goddess pele

The Goddess Pele

In late July, I found myself arriving late at night onto “The Big Island” of Hawaii. I planned to go on this trip, but had left the details to my husband. We made a trade. I scheduled the logistics of our earlier trip in the summer to southern Colorado with our horse and he booked our flights to Kauai and The Big Island. It was great to finally let go and be along for the ride. I was pretty exhausted and immensely happy for the plush lodging and full-on spread of food our friend had arranged. Admittedly, I was confused and a bit worn out by the enthusiasm of our friend as he pulled out a bag full of freshly picked plumeria flowers, a “lea needle” and thread. He was excited to show us how to make our own leas. I held my eyes open through the demonstration then allowed myself to be towed along out to his car.

Where in the world could we be going at 12:30pm at night with three leas in hand? It was cold outside and that cozy bed sounded so nice. Our friend was bubbling with excitement and rightfully so, I had no idea what was in store.

In 5 minutes I was there, standing on the edge of a gigantic volcanic crater. The moonlight lit the entire crater and nearly blotted out all stars. Out before us rose and traveled out to sea an enormous plume of smoke, the breath of lava. At the mouth of the crater the smoke glowed bright red reflecting the lake of molten earth below. Molten earth. I had no idea I was going to see the Goddess Pele creating new land. I hadn’t even realized what this meant before this moment. At this moment, I remembered having this desire all my life. The fulfillment of this desire ran fresh through my veins. I was stunned by the experience and felt intense gratitude as our friend sang a chant to Pele and directed us to cast our leas as our gift.

This is what it looks like to travel, to live, without agenda. I wonder if this is what it’s like for Pele to create new land, to all of a sudden find that she has stepped foot into an experience that fulfills a deep yearning. What if every experience of our lives could be this spontaneous and this preordained? I encourage you to consider releasing the agenda and showing up on new ground. I surely wasn’t disappointed.