dancing

GoodGod!

June, 2018

Meet the Gods: Bes

 

 

Merry meet.

Bes was an Egyptian god who brought comfort and protection to mothers and children. The somewhat comical, somewhat sinister-looking bearded dwarf looks human but is often also portrayed as part animal – generally a lion with a mane and tail, or with wings. He has a plump body, bow legs, prominent genitals and is sticking out his tongue. He is always shown facing forwards, unlike most Egyptian Gods who are shown in profile. On occasion, Bes is wearing a plumed headdress or a crown, and carrying a rattle, drum, tambourine or knife.

 

 

Also known as Bisu and Aha, he was a deity and a demonic fighter. A god of war, “he was also a patron of childbirth and the home, and was associated with sexuality, humour, music and dancing,” according to ancientegyptonline.co.uk. “Although he began as a protector of the pharaoh, he became very popular with every day Egyptian people because he protected women and children above all others. He had no temples and there were no priests ordained in his name. However, he was one of the most popular gods of ancient Egypt and was often depicted on household items such as furniture, mirrors and cosmetics containers and applicators as well as magical wands and knives.”

Apparently, he got the name Aha, meaning fighter, because he could kill lions, bears and snakes with his hands. Although labeled a demon, there he was not considered evil, but rather, drove evil spirits away.

Laboring mothers would call on Bes for help. It is said he would stay on after birth to protect and entertain the child, and that when a baby smiled for no apparent reason, it was because Bes was making funny faces for them.

 

 

Using dance and music, he would also chase away bad spirits during sex and sleep. That’s why he could be found carved into the legs of beds – to protect people during the night when they were most vulnerable.

Egyptians would put a statue of him near the door to protect their home from evil spirits wanting to cause harm. He appeared on the walls of temples and homes, and was on thousands of amulets and charms, protecting people from the dangers of everyday life such as menacing animals and food going bad.

 

 

Bes is the first subject to be identified in early Egyptian tattoos, according to “Tattoo: Symbol and Meanings,” by Jack Watkins.

Performers often had tattoos of Bes because of his association with dancing and music. It is also thought that sacred prostitutes may have had a tattoo of Bes placed near their pubic area in order to prevent venereal diseases, but it is also possible that the tattoos related to fertility,” Watkins wrote.

Bes’ wife, Beset, was the female version of himself. Images of them naked were painted on walls.

Merry part. And merry meet again

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

 

Dance as Catharsis

May, 2018

(Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash)

 

Do you know what I’ve learned? That although ecstasy is the ability to stand outside yourself, dance is a way of rising up into space, of discovering new dimensions while still remaining in touch with your body.  When you dance, the spiritual world and the [physical] world manage to coexist quite happily.”

-From “The Witch of Portabello” by Paulo Coelho

 

I was fortunate to grow up in a culture that valued dance. Every weekend, the whole extended family would get together at a relative’s house, eat together, socialize, and dance. After everyone had had time to chat and digest their food, we’d all pitch in to help move the furniture to the outskirts of the room, thereby creating a dance floor. The record player belted out Top 40 hits, world music, dance music, and all sorts of other eclectic beats and sounds; we’d easily go from Michael Jackson to Julio Iglesias in an evening! Although I confess, I was never much of a Julio fan, the adults in the group certainly loved him. And that leads me to the other brilliant thing about these evenings: they were multi-generational. The kids danced with the adults, teens, and elders. Everyone was included.

This went on until I was about twelve years old. I knew that something was wrong in my extended family when people stopped gathering as often. But I knew that something deep was at work when my family stopped dancing altogether. Internal family conflicts divided people and they simply did not know how to utilize the dance for anything other than celebration and personal expression. They didn’t know that dance was therapy and that they could dance through anything and come out the other side of it more balanced than before. I often wonder what might have been different and if communication would have improved if they had had this knowledge at the time.

It took me about sixteen years to recover my love of dance after that. I found myself attracted to non-choreographed dance modalities such as belly dance, rave, and trance dance. I’ve been dancing 5Rhythms (www.5rhythms.com) for almost two decades now and it is a practice that has supported and moved me through some serious transitions in my life. I’ve danced through tremendous grief, exhaustion, fear, sadness, joy, rocky love relationships, moving away from my family, and healing an addiction. I dance because my body doesn’t lie to me like my mind does. It is utterly honest. When I come to dance an issue in my life, my body tells me exactly what is going on as I move the way it wants me to. My body tells the story of what is out of balance and gives me clues for what I need to do to regain my centre. It does not use words so I’ve learned to uncover the messages of the somatic language of feeling throughout years of practice.

Going to class isn’t a “So You Think You Can Dance” sort of atmosphere. It is the polar opposite of competition, showing off my steps, or learning rigid dance moves. It is a spiritual experience where my body literally moves and heals me. All I have to do is follow my feet and my instincts. Often, I can feel burdens lifting off my shoulders and emotions leaving the hidden caves they’ve been trapped in- sometimes for years. I never know what is going to happen and that unpredictability is a part of the attraction for me. The unknown is where we heal, learn, and grow. They body knows how to move us in that direction if we surrender to its non-linear intelligence.

Dance, rhythm, and music have been used since the beginning of time by shamanic cultures throughout the world for healing and celebratory purposes.  These elements were and are often entwined in ceremony and guided by the culture’s medicine person.  Shamanic cultures the world over weave these three practices into their daily lives because they know of the increased health and well-being they bring into the lives of the people.  These creative modalities give the body and the psyche expression without words. In short, they take the ego mind out of the equation so we have a chance to experience our true selves.

It is fair to say that most people in the Western world are disconnected from these readily available healing tools.  One need not have extensive formal training in any of these modalities to receive healing benefit from practice.  This is intended as an invitation into a spiritual experience that has no dogma and is not affiliated with any religion.  Everyone can practice it.  It is through the experience of it that healing naturally occurs and since no two people are exactly alike, each person will have a different experience.

When in the midst of dance, we can heal without words by learning to tap into the body and spirit wisdom that is lying dormant inside of us.  Along with patterns that don’t serve us any longer, we have a chance to witness those that do.  The beauty is that it is never too late to heal pain or celebrate victories from the past.  Indeed, engaging in this ceremony takes courage and willingness to show your true self; that is a huge victory in and of itself! Dancing within a ceremonial context is very different than a class; however, practicing in dancing meditation classes is a good way to connect with our bodies if this is a foreign concept!

These days, I lead Soul Vine Dancing Ceremonies, which are done in a spiritual container of safety with a very specific alchemy. Folks come and dance at their own pace in a way that works for them, their bodies, their hearts, and their psyches.  Most of all, I encourage folks to be gentle and to forgive themselves through the practice.  They can allow what’s there to be there: joy, grief, sorrow, anger, boredom, exhaustion, resistance, or sadness.  This includes negative inner dialogue.  We can keep moving through all these; they are indicators that something is shifting!  We can talk to our High Selves while we dance for guidance.  It’s safe to let go of the past and move that healing right through our beings.  We dance for and with ourselves because we are all worth it.

*Part of this article originally appeared on the author’s blog in August 2014 (https://jenniferengracio.wordpress.com/). The author has added content to the original for PaganPagesOrg Magazine.

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

Click Image for Amazon Information

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide

May, 2018

 

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Beltane

 

I love Beltane. The flowers are just blooming. The green is just covering the hedgerows. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary!

There are huge celebrations all over the place, though not nearby it’s just that this year I am craving something quieter. Something a bit more romantic and I can’t quite put my finger on it. One of the best things we ever did was to do the Hastings East hill drumming and dancing in the dawn. On a hill in the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea we watched the light, a sliver of silver light creep, and turn red, then gold.

I’ve never done anything like that before or since. We were all done and dusted by 5.30 a.m. It was magickal. There were Morris dancers dressed in white. Pagan folks in regalia. Folks walking their dogs and people to watching the people.

After some food and a really good nap it was time for the huge parade. More Morris dancers and figures dressed as green men and women and Horned Gods drummed and danced through the streets. Dabbing people with green sponges. It really felt timeless. It felt like the whole town was magickally awake. The whole county!

A lot of pagans I know do camps from about this time of year. Where I had been busy, camping is not an option for me right now. Yet the pull of the wild still draws me. There is something utterly pagan about my island this time of year. Just under the skin of it.

Formal Beltane rituals can seem a bit hetro-centric but at its core Beltane is about the warmth of attraction. About reception and giving of energy. It is, at its core a ritual about balancing energy and understanding; within and in the world around us. It is the internal anima and animus finding momentum to create. It is about harnessing rather than repressing our wildness and turning it into something alive, be it art or science or poetry or an offspring. It is about the power of being alive and being grateful. Grateful for another year, another sunrise, a new day. It is a celebration of life.

It is not about what is in your pants, or whom you want to have sex with (if you want to have sex). That is a very limited view of self, sex, gender and identity. It is about the ritual. The receiving of energy, the channelling of energy, the using of energy to create something new. Ritual is a dream language, a psychological and social tool for healing and re-balancing a group and the self. When we exclude ourselves from the group or ritual we lose out on much of its power and deeper understandings.

As with all things this is a celebration of life has a touch of death with it too. Within Beltane’s warmth is the chill tingle of Samhain’s death. Acknowledging life means accepting death too. This roots you into and puts you out of time. You can see and feel the echo of your actions. Of course the bonfire was made of bone as well as wood. The death in the life as well as the life in the death.

For the May-pole and ribbons are only half of Beltane. The other part is about cleansing, warding off disease and illness through the power of death and fire. Cattle were driven through the ashes of bonfires, or between two large fires to do just that. People would dance around the fires and even jump over them. It was about dousing the hearth fires and re-lighting them from a group, a community fire. It was about re-igniting the heart within the home and community. Within the home. Within the self. It is to be in the dark, to be outside the usual bounds of social norms and to return changed for the better.

I recommend, if you are lucky and privileged enough to have folks nearby, to have get some folks together dance naked around a bonfire with at dawn. If that is not your bag, go and find a high spot. Climb a hill or go to a bridge or ancient ruined castle in the dark. Stand and wait in the darkness facing the east. Drum if you can. Or just be in the silence. Light a candle, or a fire if you can too. Watch the sunrise. Dance if you can. Or just stretch. Be at the mercy of the weather. No-one is outside the circle of life and death. After all it is the impulses and desire and joys that make us fully human.

 

GoodGod!

February, 2018

Meet the Gods: Pan

(art by Samantha Sullivan)

 

Merry meet.

A man with the legs and horns of a goat, Pan was the Greek god of the wild and of hunting. He looks after shepherds, their flocks and the woods. He stirs up panic – a word derived from his name –because, one story goes, if his secluded afternoon naps were disturbed, his angry shout inspired panic.

Pan is also associated with sexuality. He chases nymphs, dancing with them in an effort to seduce them, but is always turned down.

One legend tells that he tried to seduce a beautiful wood nymph named Syrinx, daughter of the river god. To avoid him, she ran away, seeking refuge among her sisters. Pan followed, so her sisters turned her into a reed. When the wind blew, there was an enchanting melody. Not knowing which reed was Syrinx, he took seven (or nine) and placed them side by side in decreasing length to make the instrument named Syrinx for his beloved. Pan is typically seen playing them. The flute-like instrument is also known as panpipes.

Stories were told about other nymphs he pursued: Pitys, who was turned into a pine tree to escape him, and Echo who scorned the love of any man. There are different stories about her, one being that Pan had his followers kill her and scatter pieces of her on the earth. Gaia, the goddess of the earth, is said to have absorbed those pieces and now, Echo’s voice remains, repeating the last words of others. In another versions, Echo and Pan had two children.

Pan’s father is thought to be Zeus, Dionysus, Hermes, or Apollo while his mother may have been Aphrodite, Dryope, Hybris or a nymph named Dryope. Whomever his parents were, there is agreement that he was born in Arcadia, a rustic mountain district that was culturally different from the rest of Greece. It was because he was from that area that he became recognized as the god of fields, pastures, groves and wooded glens, and it is because of this that Pan is associated with spring and fertility.

He is notorious for his sexual powers and is often depicted with a phallus.

The Greeks also considered him to be the god of theatrical criticism and impromptus. His greatest conquest was Selene, the goddess of the moon. He hid his goat features by wrapping himself in a sheepskin so he was able to lure her down from the sky and into the forest where he seduced her.

Pan was worshiped in the woods, caves, grottoes and the wild. With two exceptions, no temples were built to honor him.

Pan could be a god you call for help with matters of fertility or to connect to the wild. It would be best to call him from a wooded area, or somewhere outdoors. Call to him with a wind instrument – be it a flute or a whistle – or by singing a series of notes known as the Lydian mode. Offer him milk and honey.

I would advise you only summon him for a genuine need and never for the fun of it.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.