Burying My First Cache

Tonight I decided to take Fox’s suggestion about creating caches of items in the Middle world for use while journeying. Something Ravenari mentioned to me at one point is taking the “essence” or “spirit” of a physical item with you while journeying, and so I wanted to experiment with that concept. So when I sat down to drum, I held in my lap my antler handled ritual knife that I’ve been using for over a decade through the various permutations of my magical/spiritual practice. Of all my ritual tools, I have the strongest connection to it, and the greatest amount of my energy soaked into it, so I thought it would be a good choice for something to hide and then find again. Granted, I might have taken something I was less attached to in case things didn’t work, but I wanted something I’d have a good chance of not losing.

I drummed, and when I got to my starting point, Fox arrived shortly thereafter. S/he took me to a particular pile of stones, made hirself small, and leaped down into the crevice. I did the same, and followed after hir, though not until I spent a few moments pawing at the crevice, trying to figure out how to make myself small, and hoping I didn’t get left behind! Fox led me back further under the rocks, and we got smaller and smaller and smaller, until we got to the very back of where we were going. There I saw a glowing patch of golden light, and Fox told me to place the spirit of the knife there. So I did, nudging it into place with my muzzle. I asked Fox who could see the cache, and s/he told me only s/he and I could. I asked why s/he could see it, if it was my cache, and s/he said “Because I’m the one who showed it to you, that’s why!” So now I’m wondering if Fox will show me more caches, or if other totems or spirits will, or if I’ll be finding or making some on my own, or some combination thereof.

Then we came back out from under the rocks and returned to the starting point. I had forgotten to bring food for Fox, so I went off hunting and caught a Douglas squirrel for hir. S/he appreciated it, and ran off with the food. I then headed back.

To my understanding, caching the spirit of the knife (or any other thing I choose to take there) has two purposes. It allows me to access that thing while I’m journeying; I plan on stockpiling various things over there, such as things for offerings for the various beings I may work with. It also allows me more connections to the spirit world through the physical items themselves. The physical item and its spirit are still connected; the spirit’s just been moved to where I journey. I should probably find out if there are any specific things I should do to take care of the physical items, or any other considerations.

I have a few other specific things I’ll be taking over in subsequent journeys, things the spirits have told me are good for this sort of work. I want to keep exploring the Middle world, too, to see what’s out there.

Replying to Owl, and Fox’s Tour

I journeyed again today to tell Owl about my answer regarding the Upper World. When I arrived, Fox and Scrub Jay were there, asking for my attention. I asked them to please wait until I could give Owl my answer, and they told me they would wait with me for hir arrival. So I called to Owl, and asked hir to please share hir time with me, if s/he was willing. S/he flew overhead, and told me s/he’d give me time if I’d catch a mouse for hir.

So I ran off into the underbrush, trying to scent out a mouse. I found where they were hidden deep in the earth, and also places where they had once been, but weren’t any more. Fox then came and said, “I can show you where you can get a mouse easily–follow me!” So I did, running up the mountain with hir. S/he showed me where there was a hollow log with a family of mice inside. I chased them from end to end, until one finally slipped out, a little confused, then realized hir mistake and tried to burrow under the log. I caught hir before s/he could get out of reach, and carried hir in my mouth. I was a little lost by that point, but Fox came back and led me back down to where Owl waited. I was a bit concerned that Mouse would be unhappy about me catching one of hir young, but Fox told me, “Mice get eaten all the time, including by Owl. That’s just the way of things.”

So I brought the mouse to Owl, who told me to kill the mouse. I did, and gave the mouse to Owl, who ate the carcass in two bites. Then Owl told me to tell hir my answer. I explained that my only reason for wanting to go to the Upper World was out of curiosity and a desire to know what was up there. Owl laughed and said, “That’s good enough for me. Now, when you feel you’re ready to go up there, let me know and I’ll show you how”. Then s/he flew away.

Fox then told me to come with hir. S/he took me down the trail to the west, and showed me where Mole lived–a recluse, and not easy to get to come out, but valuable to know. Then we went to the waterfall, and watched the river dragons leaping ecstatically over the cliff, laughing gleefully as they did so. I got the feeling they were analogous to the spirits that showed up as blue flames on the trail to the Upper World, that the river dragons guarded the way to the Lower World. This was one point where I could meet with them when the time came to go there.

Then Fox took me back up the trail a ways to a place that I had been interested in before. I couldn’t go there in waking time, but I was perfectly able to do so while journeying. I sniffed around there a bit, and Fox told me that this would be a good place to “put things, create things, build things”. Basically anything from a shelter for myself, to a place to do a ritual as needed, and most importantly, one of many places I could cache things I might need later on. I need to have some things on hand for offerings and gifts, and also have the spiritual “versions” of certain ritual items that I possess physically. Plus, in case I receive any gifts in return, it would be a good idea to have a place to keep them. Fox told me things should be safe so long as I hide them well; there really aren’t many other people who journey there.

Then Fox and I went back to the starting place, and I came back home. I noticed that while I still waver in and out of my altered state of consciousness while I journey, I’m doing it less, and staying focused on the journey more consistently. Practice makes perfect, right? (Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)

Quick Commercial Break

I try to not talk too much about my professional writing pursuits here, since this is mainly a blog about my shamanic practice, and I figure most folks who are interested in my books/etc. will go check the link list. However, I did want to bring attention to a recent project that’s been published that’s relevant to some of what I’ve talked about here. Talking About the Elephant: An Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation is the first anthology I’ve edited. It came out last month through Immanion Press/Megalithica Books, who have published my other books as well. Talking About the Elephant is a collection of essays from a diversity of authors coming from backgrounds ranging from Celtic Reconstructionism to neoshamanism to ritual magick, and then some. I tried to create a collection of essays that presented numerous perspectives on the issue of cultural appropriation in neopaganism, rather than just a bunch of people saying the same thing different ways.

I figured that since I’ve talked a fair bit about cultural appropriation and shamanism here, that readers may be interested in the anthology. There’s more information at the link above; if you want to order a copy directly from me (it’ll be signed by me as well as my husband Taylor, who was also an essayist), be aware that my first shipment of copies just sold out a couple of days ago; I’m expecting a new shipment around the end of the month, but you can go ahead and get an order in to reserve your copy.

Alright. Back to the usual stuff. Thanks for reading 🙂

You Mean I Have To Give a Reason?

I’ve started journeying again since the year turned over. Only once, but it was an important one.

I showed up at my starting place, in the form of a wolf per usual, and was met by the Animal Father. He carried me inside himself up the mountain to his home (no, it wasn’t squishy and I wasn’t making elbow room amid spiritual internal organs or whatnot–more like floating/flying up the trail, but feeling surrounding by the energy I associate with him). Then he set me down on the ground, and we began to talk about why I hadn’t journeyed in four months–or, rather, he began snarling at me about it. In fact, he ended up turning into a significantly larger wolf, bared fangs and all. This served primarily to put me on the defensive, rather than listening to what he had to say.

So he ended up turning into a mouse instead, which relaxed me quite a bit. We discussed the need for me to be journeying much more often–short version is, no more four month absences. This being the first week of school, I didn’t do the best job of increasing the amount of journeying I do, but now that I have a better idea of what my time commitments and schedule will be like, I have a better idea of where I can fit it in.

After this, he asked me how my progress on getting to the Upper world was, since I’d been trying to figure out that conundrum. I told him I was still stuck, and he suggested talking to the resident Owl, one of the totems specific to the area I start my journeys in. So he called hir to show up, and we were joined by Great Grey Owl (totems, for me, are species-specific). S/he and I had a conversation about the Upper world, and why I was having trouble accessing it.

The main thing s/he asked me, and which I puzzled over afterwards, was “Why do you need to get up there, anyway?” And I honestly couldn’t give hir a good answer beyond “To find information”. Owl told me to come back when I had a better answer for hir, and flew away. For my part, I ran back down the mountain with this question burning in my mind. Scrub Jay (the totem this time, not just a scrub jay spirit) and Red Fox both showed up. They offered their help in navigating this world, and Scrub Jay additionally told me s/he could help with the Upper World when the time came. I noted this, thanked them for the offer, and ended up needing to head back home.

For a few days, I couldn’t really come up with a decent answer for Owl’s question. Then one day, as I was on a walk, it hit me–why did I need to get to the Upper World, anyway? I didn’t have a specific reason, a particular piece of information to seek out. The only reason I could think of was “Because it’s part of what shamans are supposed to do–right?” Same thing with the Lower World. And here we get to one of the downsides to not being a part of an established shamanic paradigm–there’s no one to explain why, specifically, I might need to go to one or the other, or neither for that matter. I could read books, but even there the material is limited. I can talk to other practitioners, but how much of what they experience will be relevant to me?

To be sure, journeying is intensely personal, and I think there’s more subjectivity to it than a lot of practitioners want to admit. This means I can potentially look at the different worlds in the shamanisms of other cultures. But would these motifs and experiences be relevant to me, in my cultural context? And how much standardization is there, really? After all, there are other things that are “supposed” to happen in shamanism that haven’t quite matched my experiences. For example, according to most texts on neoshamanism, you’re “supposed” to climb up and down a tree to travel to the various worlds. I climb a mountain instead, one that I’ve visited frequently in waking time. And what I am practicing isn’t necessarily what other people are practicing; I am developing my relationships with the spirits from scratch, not following someone else’s template of expectations. In fact, most of the examples of neoshamanism I’ve seen have a lot of fundamental differences compared to what I’m doing.

This still left me with the problem: if I don’t know what’s in the Upper World or what to expect there, how do I know why I would want to go there? And then it hit me, as I was walking–right after I was presented with that problem, Scrub Jay and Red Fox offered me a solution: Don’t worry about the Upper World right now. Look for answers and explorations in this world first. It’s the closest, and the one I’m most familiar with. Where better to get more practice with journeying than the layer of reality that I’m most accustomed to? Not that everything will be a cakewalk, of course. But it makes a lot of sense.

I’m willing to bet that I’m not the first novice (neo)shaman to get caught up in the “Oooooh, I get to explore the Other worlds!” thing, to the point of neglecting this world. Now, I do tend to be a fairly pragmatic person. I’m the kind who will take mundane solutions before leaping into magical practice. So it’s not surprising to me, this concept of checking around the spiritual portions of this world first, before travelling further afield. I think I just got caught up in that whole “Shamans travel to the Upper and Lower worlds” concept a little too much.

Some of the Middle world stuff will no doubt be “mundane” things–like my venturing into psychology as a profession, for example, or finding other “everyday” solutions. However, I would imagine that journeying, as with various forms of divination, will help expand my perception of possible solutions (altered states of consciousness are good for that). I won’t make too many assumptions, but I think for now my journeys are going to be focusing on what Jay and Fox have to show me. They’ve offered, and I’ll follow. I should probably go to Owl and let hir know my current answer (“I actually don’t have a need to go there yet”) as well.