Of Garbage and Rebirth

All my life I’ve known some form of magick. Even though I had no idea what that meant. Things I overheard while at the kitchen table helping the adults make Puerto Rican dishes every weekend. From family involved in Santeria; a Shaman maternal great grandfather, a powerful paternal grandmother (who tried to kill me at the age of 5), my Mami who read people from toe-to-head, never the other way around. My childhood was filled with magick. And yet I struggled from early on for the recognition of Elders in Santeria. I wanted that moment of acknowledgement to confirm for myself and others that I was indeed, gifted in ways I couldn’t even begin to explain. There are memories that live inside me that are such a mystery, I’ve given up trying to figure them out and simply accepted them.

I was never initiated into anything my family was a part of. Mami wouldn’t allow it, telling me I had plenty of time to decide my path. So it was to her that I would tell my prophetic dreams to, but not the endless nightmares. It was her that I would tell who would be dying soon when the acrid smell and taste of death permeated the air and my food. It was her that I would tell the secrets the Orisha statues would tell me. But I would also listen to the advice she would tell those who came to her and kept a mental Book of Shadows written in my Mami’s voice, which I still hear even now, five years after her passing.

I would write things down in pencil on small pieces of brown paper torn from the bodega paper bags and stuff them in my shoes. Forgetting about them for as long as I had the shoes. I played with candles, I created spells, I played with fire – a lot of fire; called to the wind and the birds. I watched my Mami do workings for others, always listening intently to her warnings and instructions. I read all of my Papi’s books on symbolism and numbers in dreams, my Mami’s books on numerology, palmistry, even her book on Nostradamus. She taught me to read the Spanish tarot cards. And yet, I still longed for what would make me different but mostly, accepted. Truthfully and perhaps selfishly, I wanted to be honored, heard, and loved.

I often look back on my life, especially after learning about past lives and how they can affect our current life, and I’ve seen some patterns repeat over and over but none so much as suffering and loneliness. I’ve searched for the remedy to both to no avail. It was only after meeting the man I decided would become my Godfather in Santeria, that I learned of my path; I’m a daughter of Oshun, which surprised me, and one of the avatars of her path is called, Oshun Ibu Kole. He told me it was the path of the vulture goddess and to research it. He explained how this particular avatar was one of a beautiful Oshun who had the ear of Olodumare and other Orishas and yet fell so far down that she was often seen rolling around in the mud; dirty and in misery. She sacrificed herself for humanity and was left to pick up what she could to survive. He compared it to what I’d been through in life; I gave and gave and was always the one left behind to suffer and pick from what was leftover. This Oshun was powerful and honored because of her sacrifice. The vultures were her messengers. There’s also a story I’ve heard since finding out about this path, that says if one is ever out and gets lost in the wilderness or the desert and sees vultures looming and gathering overhead ready to pick at the carcass, they are to shake their arms or dance so that the vultures know they aren’t dead yet.

No one wants suffering and loneliness.

No one wants to struggle and feel as though they are alone in this world and on this path.

And yet I see the path of where I’ve been so clearly now.

The cycle of garbage and rebirth.

And maybe that’s why I’ve always danced.

Homegrown Shamanism: Ponderings of a British Bloodline

Ok so I’m going to say this nice and clearly upfront! There is absolutely no intention here to gatekeep or attack any British person who uses the term I am about to discuss, to describe either themselves or their work. Please read the entire document before you attempt to burn me! This is merely my search for authenticity and it is fully open to discussion.

Here goes…….

Shaman – I’ve always had such a problem with the use of this word within my country, as do many other British folk. Quite basically because it’s not ours! Not our word, not our language, not our culture. Yet it’s thrown around carelessly by us Brits as we tread our spiritual pathways. It’s cultural appropration on its largest scale! Or is it?

According to Britannica.com “The term Shamanism/Shaman comes from the Manchu-Tungus word šaman. The noun is formed from the verb ša- ‘to know’; thus, a Shaman is literally “one who knows.” The Shamans recorded in historical ethnographies have included women, men, and transgender individuals of every age from middle childhood onward.”

And Greentara.ie says “Europeans first acquired the term for Shaman from Russia in the 1690s. During the mid-to-late 17th century, Russian-Cossack explorers and conquerors heard and recorded the word ‘saman’ from the Evanki tribe, a Tungus-speaking people of Siberian Russia.”

So as a British (English) woman, I have never been able to use that word to describe myself, even though I do the same work. Shamanic practitioner? Yes. Call myself a Shaman? Hell no! It always felt wrong. But let’s look into it more deeply.

England’s ancient countrymen would have done the same work as the Evanki Shaman within their tribes. Not the watered down, modern day version that myself and others like me do. I’m talking looking for visions in animal entrails here (sorry animal lovers, but it did happen). And when I say England, I mean Albion. **Albion being my land before the Celts, the Picts, the Romans, the Saxons, and the Norse ever arrived. The Ancient Celtic ‘Druid’ seems to be the word that fits the most as a stand-in, but again, I’m talking pre-Celtic history on our lands so that word doesn’t quite fit.

Other than the word Druid, we British folk don’t have a word for the work a Shaman does. Witch? Witches certainly do the same workings as Shamans, but as we all know, the word Witch has such an abused history that it’s seen as being a slur rather than an honoured path within a community or tribe. And the word Witch comes from Old English (wicce) which would make it Anglo Saxon. So I’m talking much earlier than that word too.

Little is known about pre-Celtic history in Britain. Nothing was every really written down until the Romans came. So when someone like me comes along and tries to find a root to what it is they do and connect with, it’s pretty impossible. And due to that lack of information, I’ve found myself forging my own path.

I call it Homegrown Shamanism, and it’s something that I was guided to by my beloved Goddess Morrigan (with a further push from Elen of the Ways). The Morrigan has always tried to move me away from labelling and boxing myself too much as it’s very restrictive to growth. So both She and Elen plugged me into my natural surroundings instead. And it works! If you consider what you see everyday, what energy touches you, what animals and plant life surround you…..those are your absolute closest allies. That is the purest, rawest energy you can connect with. The most unfiltered, deep down in the dirt, unprocessed, natural, freshest, cyclic connection you can forge. The Morrigan even brought me surprising animal spirit allies. Boars and brown bears! What?! They aren’t British! Oh but they were once. And my land holds many memories of those animals within it.

So let’s go a step further here.

Let’s discuss Elen of The Ways. Some cite her with the birth of British Shamanism! Is that possibly true? At the end of the ice age, Britain was still attached to Northern Europe. A vast continental land known as Doggerland, made it possible to walk from Norway, across what is now Denmark, to the Eastern side of Britain. The ‘suggestion’ is that the Northern tribes of Denmark and Norway, crossed Doggerland, following their Reindeer herds, looking for greener lands. And they brought with them their great reverance for Reindeer, and an Ancient Antlered Goddess. It’s fun to note that in the original northern Saami dialect, the word for a reindeer herd is ‘eallun’, pronounced Elun. Go figure! https://www.laits.utexas.edu/sami/diehtu/siida/reindeer/glossary.htm

Map of Doggerland sourced from https://www.dw.com/en/doggerland-how-did-the-atlantis-of-the-north-sea-sink/a-55960379

So when Elen is cited as the birth (or Mother) of British Shamanism, is it true? Is Elen our original connection to the shamanic path? Is the word Shaman actually a part of Britain’s oldest history? Can we safely use it without stepping into the big black pit of cultural appropriation? Of course, we’ll never know for sure. Very little is fact! But I do like the possibility that us Brits aren’t just Roman engineered conquerors who chose to ‘acquire’ countries that didn’t belong to us when we felt like it!

Whatever the answer to this whole conundrum may be, I’ll still walk my own path. I’ll still work with my closest energies and nature. I’ll still practice my ‘Homegrown Shamanism’. Because sometimes, overly searching for a label, a culture, or a tradition to fit into takes you away from the deepest root of all…..our connection to what is under our feet…..Mother Earth.

Food for thought my loves. Food for thought.

Lyndsey x

**Albion is the oldest name that I could find for England, but there is very little written to prove that it is indeed, England’s oldest name.**

©Badb’s Cauldron

ANCESTRAL MAGICK: More Than Blood

Ancestor

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“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”

Liam Callanan

For a lot of Witches Ancestral Magick looks the same but for me, it’s a complex, layered, emotional aspect of the Craft that took me years to dive and tap into.

Ancestral Magick is just that; connecting with your Ancestors, honoring them, and working with them in a Magickal capacity.

There are some who center their practice around their Ancestors, others simply incorporate aspects of Ancestral Magick into their overall practice, and others who do not incorporate their Ancestors at all, for a variety of reasons, but primarily because they don’t feel connected; usually there are deeply rooted generational traumas in cases where the cord between us and the Ancestors seems severed (it can never be severed; hidden yes, severed, no).

We all have generational wounds, they affect us differently, so to compare one to the other is futile.

However, we must be aware of these differences, they are important.

Those of us of European descent who came here, willingly or unwillingly, and had our hand in colonialization will have entirely different wounds to heal and psychic debris to filter through than people who, for example, are a product of African Diaspora (Transatlantic slave trade as one example) , or the Indigenous People who were slaughtered upon our arrival.

I’m not here to discuss politics, but facts are facts.

Regardless of how we, personally, feel about what happened in the past, regardless that it happened in the past, it must still be owned, discussed and healed.

Part of that healing is bringing true human ugliness to the surface.

The Witch community needs intersectionality just like every other area of the human experience.

Personally, I believe that past lives play a huge role in who we are, and what we believe; for the sake of my sanity (Ie. I can only imagine the comments under a blog about that) and the integrity of this piece, I will keep the two topics separate, for now, and focus on Ancestral Magick in the true sense.

Well, kinda.

Stars

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So, before I venture too deeply into territory where there is no turning back, let’s talk about what my Ancestral Magick is/looks like.

My Maternal lineage is Scandinavian (Dane, Norse), Scot-Irish, with a splash of French-Canadian.

My Paternal lineage is Polish and Italian. Slavic folklore was huge growing up; Stregheria was something I had to research on my own.

Therefore, history plays a pivotal role because we need to know about the conflict among our Ancestral lineage; this conflict is important to understand, on both sides.

Especially if you plan on using your Ancestors in a Magickal context.

The dead are tricky to work with in general, they have minds of their own, and we as Practitioners are responsible for finding a dynamic that works for all parties involved.

I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking I am out of my mind right now, but am I?

Have you personally not yet discovered that, for example, some Spirits and/or Deities prefer not to work together? They don’t like to have parts of their Altar next to so, and so? They request not to be evoked or conjured when another is present?

I have learned the hard way, the funny way, and the disastrous way that Spirits and Deities have “conflict” among them—by conflict I mean, the energies don’t compliment each other.

It’s the same with our Ancestors—the love they have for us is not enough to squash some of the beef that they have with each other, trust me. Particularly if you, like myself, are deeply connected to Ancestors from way, way back.

I keep an Altar dedicated to the dead all year long, not just during Samhain.

On my Ancestral Altar there are representations of Death in all forms, offerings, and tokens of my loved ones; I honor my Great-great Grandfather by having his Masonic books there, I honor my Grandmother with a broach of hers, etc.

Most importantly I honor my Ancestors in the foods I eat, the movies I watch, the books I read, how I believe, the way I live my life and who I am as a person; Ancestral Magick is not just about how we honor them in a Magickal and Practical setting, it’s about how we honor them in our day to day, mundane lives, too.

I feel most connected to the Grandparents who raised me (my parents were present, but both worked).

My Grandfather was first generation Polish-American, and a WWII Vet; my Grandmother was first generation Polish-German American, and they both hold huge chunks of my heart.

We are not connected by blood, though.

Yet they come through so strongly.

 

Ripple 2

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You see, my Father was adopted by a Polish family, but other than him being half Polish and half Italian, we don’t know much else.

When I connect with my Ancestors, it’s a pair of Vikings (how cliché, I know; they’re farmers by trade, warriors by choice, sworn to Odin and use the Valknut as their calling card) and my Grandmother who come through the strongest—Gramps kind of goes where Grams does, so he’s around, too.

During one Samhain Ritual, the entire Paternal side came through, and by that, I mean, ALL the Aunts, Uncles, etc. Most of whom were either already passed, or very old by the time I was even born.

They show up and show out for me whenever called upon.

For a lot of people, they don’t have the luxury of knowing their background, so connecting to Ancestors can seem like a daunting, and painful experience.

But, anything worth having is worth working for.

Ancestral Magick is powerful Magick; Ancestors even more powerful allies.

I have found Ancestors that will do anything for me because they love me, others who will do anything for me because they like discord and conflict, others who are mischievous and some who are just gentle healers and teachers.

Ancestors are not just those who we are connected to by blood, they are the people and Spirits who made us, guided us, and showed us the way; the people who raised us, the people whose hands helped heal and hold us.

“Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my Ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

Linda Hogan