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Interview with Author & Artist Lupa

March 1st, 2018

Lupa is an author, artist, ecopsychologist, and naturalist in the Pacific Northwest.  She creates ritual tools and other sacred art from hides and bones, and is a prolific author of pagan nonfiction books.

The Tarot of Bones is a tarot deck that is inspired by natural history, and combines Lupa’s art and writing skills with her knowledge and appreciation of the natural world, adding the traits and habits of animals to the symbolism of the tarot.  

After reviewing Tarot of Bones last month, I was excited to catch up with Lupa and find out a bit more about this tarot deck and its companion book.

 

Raushanna: I know the natural world and the life and death of the creatures living within it have been a large focus for you for many years.   Your creative connection to the natural world has evolved in wonderful ways.  I admit to reading your Therioshamanism blog years ago, and was amazed at that time at the depth and breadth of your focus on the natural world, and your creativity within your field has blossomed since then. What circumstance made you first aware of this visceral connection between yourself and the natural world and its inhabitants?

Lupa: Honestly, it was early childhood when I first started exploring our yard and the various tiny beings in it. My love affair with nature has been a lifelong pursuit, and has taken many forms over the years. I discovered paganism in my teens, and the idea that there were other people who saw nature as sacred had me hooked from the start. Over the past two decades I’ve been a Wicca-flavored neopagan, a Chaos magician, and a neoshaman, though these days I refer to myself as a naturalist pagan. I don’t believe in supernatural things any more, and my path is firmly rooted in the physical world and ecology. I find my inspiration in the wonder and awe I feel at being privileged enough to be a part of this amazing universe for a few short years.

 

Raushanna: Tarot of Bones is a unique deck.  What were you hoping to offer to those using your deck for personal exploration?  What message or method were you trying to bring to a reader? 

Lupa: Honestly, I wanted to help people get out of the very human-centered approach we have to the tarot. Most decks, including the Rider-Waite-Smith, are almost entirely made of human figures and pursuits. Any animals, plants and other beings are there primarily as symbols for human meanings. The Tarot of Bones, on the other hand, has no humans whatsoever. The Major Arcana and Court cards all have very specific animal species associated with them, and while these have meaning to us, they are based on the animals’ behavior, not the values we associate with them as “good” or “bad”. It is especially important for those who claim to follow nature-based pagan paths to get their heads out of the human sphere and away from human priorities, and to see ourselves as just one of many equal species on a complex, life-supporting planet. The Tarot of Bones is one gentle nudge in that direction.

 

Raushanna: As a follow-up to the previous question, I would like to share how your Tarot of Bones affected my own Tarot practice.  These days, I tend to use the Tarot only for my own personal growth, and I only do readings through word-of-mouth requests.  I usually work with the Tree of Life, astrology and elemental dignities when working with the Tarot and its messages to me.  You have opened a new awareness within me of energy flows and entanglements occurring all around me that I knew existed, but never included in my divination interpretations before reading your companion book.  Because of your deck and book, I’m looking around at my surroundings and my Tarot cards with a new awareness, an awareness that is based on a combination of pure intuition and of “listening” to the plants, animals, people, and non-physical entities around me.  Thank you for that!

Lupa: That’s really cool—thank you for sharing your story! I hope you are able to continue deepening those relationships and understandings.

 

Raushanna: Your deck approaches the Tarot in a non-traditional way, particularly in the card images, and the companion book includes lots of useful information not usually found in a “LWB,” including your lists of inspirations for the assemblages.  The deck and the companion book in many ways reveal your inner self to the public (you state, rightly so, in the Introduction that this is a very personal deck) perhaps in some ways more so than your art because you explain to us all in writing why you chose the items in the images of the cards.  You created and self-published all this in a little over two years, not long at all!  Did you ever feel overwhelmed during the process of creating this unique deck and the companion book?  What kept you motivated to continue?

Lupa: Oh, so many times I asked myself “What have I gotten myself into?” It’s a hell of a lot of work, and I’m grateful that so many people hung in there with me, both in person and online. Being able to post the assemblages the deck was based on as I completed them helped me to stay connected with everyone, and motivated to keep going. Sometimes it seems absolutely unreal that I did all that, but I can look at the pieces hanging up in my home, and the boxes of decks and books, and think “Wow, I really did do all that!”

I have always been good at keeping myself on a task, even if things don’t always go according to schedule, and I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older. Now instead of one single project that I struggle to complete, I have a huge list of books and other projects I want to work on, and it’s just a matter of pacing myself as I work through each one.

 

Raushanna: You shared which card was created first, the card that led you into the process of creating and self-publishing the Tarot of Bones deck and its companion book.  Which card image was the easiest to create?  Which was the most challenging to get right?

Lupa: Honestly, they were all easy to some extent, because I was deeply in a creative flow for that year of 2015 when I actually made all the assemblages. The ones that were the most challenging were those that required more structural creativity; for example, trying to attach a full-sized bison skull to a small wooden door as its backboard took some manual labor that I wasn’t expecting. But in working with the spirits of the skulls and bones, and the tarot itself, I found it surprisingly easy to weave those threads of spirit and my own creativity together.

 

Raushanna: You have mentioned you worked with the Tarot before.  You offer some detailed card meanings in the companion book.  Has the process of creating the card image and/or writing the entry in the companion book that describes the meaning of the assemblage and the card itself caused you to re-write your own understanding of a particular card?

Lupa: Absolutely. My understanding of the tarot when I first started using it in the 90s was very much “by the book”. I revisited all that when I began the Tarot of Bones, combining traditional tarot meanings with more nature-based interpretations of the archetypes and concepts in the cards. So really I had to re-learn each card individually, especially as I hadn’t used a proper tarot deck in over a decade when I started the project. But that’s also why I wrote each card’s book entry as soon as I completed its assemblage, because the meaning was still fresh and raw in my mind.

 

Raushanna: Creating a Tarot deck is, I am sure, a transformative process.  What unexpected and surprising result(s) did you experience as you worked with both the natural world and the symbolism attached to the Tarot?

Lupa: I think I was surprised at how much of myself was still in the deck as I created it. I wanted to allow nature to speak for itself as much as possible, but it’s necessarily biased because I am the person communicating those messages. We all have to experience the world through a human filter because each of us is working in a brain formed by millions of years of primate evolution, and a mind that is influenced by the society and culture each of us comes from. So there’s probably a lot that gets lost in the translation when I try to speak what I learned from nature, and that’s why it’s so important to experience nature firsthand, without an agenda, for yourself. Don’t go into the woods expecting to find fairies and spirits or to have a vision quest or other journey. Instead, just quiet your mind and open yourself to the land itself, without overlaying it with human meaning. It will tell you what’s most important.

 

Raushanna: What role, if any, does this deck play in your life now that it is completed?  Do you have any other favorite decks?  Are there other divination tools or systems that resonate for you?

Lupa: Well, it’s the deck I do daily one-card draws for the public with, as well as one of my main decks for professional readings. The only other one I use on a regular basis is the Ted Andrews Animal-Wise deck, which I got when it first came out in 1999 and which I’ve been using for totem readings ever since then. I, also, like bone-casting, and there’s a simple set I’m working on getting ready for release, hopefully this spring. Really, any divination system is just a tool to help me focus my thoughts and intuition, and since I created the Tarot of Bones it’s a pretty tight fit.

 

Raushanna: You have a recommended reading list in the Tarot of Bones companion book that is Tarot-focused, and you mentioned that, at least in part, through your creation process for this deck you have reinitiated your connection to Tarot as a divination tool.  What processes and/or exercises do you recommend for a novice reader who is drawn to your deck?

Lupa: I like the idea of working with each card individually to really get to understand your relationship to it and understanding of it. That’s basically what I did as I created each assemblage. Study each card, both my version of it and other artists’; read the book, and other tarot books; study the animals that I profile in each of the cards, and the meanings and roles of each bone I use for the Minor Arcana suits; and create your own meaning and understanding of each card based on those things.

 

Raushanna: Your website, thegreenwolf.com, lists your own books; which of your book(s) would you recommend to a Tarot enthusiast who has become enamored with your natural world inspirations shared in the Tarot of Bones companion book, and who wishes to learn more about combining divination and nature?

Lupa: Well, right now the only other book I have specifically on divination is Skull Scrying: Animal Skulls in Divinatory Trance, which is a booklet on using a real animal skull for scrying. Beyond that, I recommend my book Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems in Your Ecosystem as a book for helping you deepen your connection with nature itself. I really feel that a lot of people are lacking in their nature literacy, even those who know a lot about tarot and other divination, and so boosting your experiences and knowledge of nature is important. And I don’t just mean things like “I know the four Wiccan elements”. I’m talking about knowing your bioregion in detail, where your watershed is, where your drinking water comes from, what sorts of fungi are in mycorrhizal relationships with the trees in your area, etc. Take away the supernatural and symbolic, and just get your nose in the dirt.

 

Raushanna: What is next for you?  Any plans for an Oracle of Bones as a companion to the Tarot of Bones?

Lupa: Again, I have a bone-casting set I need to put the finishing details on. I’d also love to do a Lenormand of Bones someday, maybe as a limited run since it’s not as popular as tarot. But right now my big project is Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things. It’s a book about collecting hides, bones and other animal remains, including how-tos, advice, and other resources. I’m currently in the middle of the IndieGoGo to crowdfund printing and other costs, looking at a Summer 2018 release. That IndieGoGo can be backed at http://igg.me/at/vultureculture101.

 

I’d like to thank Lupa, very much, for this interview; it was nice to be able chat in more depth about her work!

For more about Lupa you can visit her site at: http://www.thegreenwolf.com/

For Amazon Information Click Images

 

 

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About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot reader and teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

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Yvonne Ryves: Weaving the Web

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Yvonne Ryves is a practicing shamanic healer, shamanic drum maker, holistic therapist and trainer. Living and working in West Cork, Ireland, she runs courses on energy healing and shamanic work. She has recently contributed to the Shaman Pathways series with the book Web of Life, cited as a new approach to using ancient ways in contemporary times. I caught up with Yvonne to find out a bit more about the book.

Mabh: What inspired you to write Web of Life?

Yvonne: For some time before I wrote Web of Life, I had been aware of how often I came across ways of working which were powerful and useful but which did not really fit me, and so caused me to adjust either them or myself accordingly. For example I had been struggling on and off for about four years with working with a medicine wheel and not being able to hold on to any of it enough to work with it. A healing blanket made for me, which contained the spirit animals I work with, really highlighted that I actually work within an amalgamation of cultures; some Celtic, some Native American, some Andean and that this was completely right for me. This got me thinking and made sense of why the medicine wheel as such didn’t fit me. Alongside this I had become increasingly aware of how other cultures have guidance e.g. in the form of medicine wheels, wheels of life and the wheel of the year, for example, but those of us who are not from such cultures or backgrounds have nothing to guide and support us. Out of this thinking came the need to create something that could be taken by anyone regardless of culture or beliefs and be developed by them to create something unique to them and with which they could work. This turned out to be the Web of Life.

MS: Who do you think will get the most out of this book?

YR: Everyone! And I really do mean that. I think we all benefit from opening to the connection we have with all that exists, learning to listen to the guidance and knowledge that is around us and using it to assist us in moving through our lives with greater awareness of what we are choosing to create as we do.

MS: So, would you say the ideas within this book could be adapted by those not on a specifically shamanic path?

YR: Undoubtedly. My aim was to create something that was accessible and adaptable by everyone regardless of their culture or belief. Web of Life is not specifically shamanic; rather, it is based on the belief that everything that exists is alive and communicates with everything else that exists, a belief that is shared by Pagans, Shamans, Buddhists, Wiccans and also some scientists to name but a few.

MS: Tell us a bit about the Shaman Pathways series this book is a part of.

YR: The Shaman Pathways series is a collection of short books by a range of authors and published by Moon Books, which look at different aspects of shamanism. There is a parallel series Pagan Portals also published by Moon Books.

MS: Shamanism is often regarded as a South American or native American idea; how well does shamanism translate into our western culture?

YR: The origins of the word shaman actually come from the Tungus people of Siberian rather than South American or Native American. It has though grown in use as a general term used to describe tribal cultures which work in similar ways to those seen within the Tungus people. There are many aspects of shamanic practice but the one thing that makes it different from everything else is the ability to walk between worlds and work with spirit helpers or guides.

Shamanism in some form was probably used by every culture that existed and not restricted to any one culture. Although the names that were used were different (e.g. Witch, medicine man or woman, sin eater) they were all forms of what we now would term as shaman.

In the West we have always had a shamanic culture even if there is little evidence of it having existed. I think that the world needs shamanism and that in the current climate people are seeking a way to reconnect with this element of their lives. Shamanism here is not necessarily tribal shamanism, nor does it need to be. As everything adapts, so has shamanism so it is very relevant and translates easily into our western culture.

MS: How did you first become interested in shamanic ways?

YR: While I was doing my apprenticeship as a Reiki Master I had some spontaneous past life recall one of which was as a young Native American child being shown how to identify and work with the plants in the woods by my Grandfather. He has lead me ever onwards since that time although it was a few years since I had a name for what I was being taught and a name for shamanic journeying. By the time I had these names it was just something that was part of me and what I did.

MS: You do many aspects of magical work including Reiki and holistic therapy as well as shamanic healing; would you say, overall, that you are a healer?

YR: Mmm that’s a difficult on [laughs]. I had an argument with one of my students years ago about just this. I denied that I was a healer, instead holding onto the belief that it was the energy that did the work and that I was just a channel for the energy. I could also add to that, that it is my spirit helpers that do the healing when I do shamanic work but this really negates what I do and my role within the process of healing. Overall though I would now say that yes, I am a healer.

MS: Web of Life is quite a slim volume; any plans to expand upon it?

YR: Not specifically. I could so easily have made it a much bigger book and included more background on Medicine Wheels, more theory behind the idea of a web of life for example, but I wanted it to be immediately accessible to people including those who might never have picked up a book like it before. I made a conscious decision therefore not to do this. I really wanted to give readers their freedom to create something that works for them rather than have to adapt a way someone else has created. I believe therefore that people, once they have worked with Web of Life, will create their own unique ways to expand their work with their webs.

MS: And what other projects do you have on the horizon?

YR: I am in the process of writing a book about shamanism and labyrinths which is something I am very interested in and have another idea for a book lurking but nothing firm yet.

I have also been contacted recently about shamanic training and this is something that I would like to look at in the future, both in person and distance training if I can find a practical way to make it work.

MS: A few of us with family in Ireland have observed that talking about life as an alternative practitioner or Pagan doesn’t have to be so ‘hush hush’ anymore. Living in Ireland, do you feel as if Paganism is on the rise there?

YR: Yes I do. There are still those who see anything alternative as being the work of the devil of course but in general people here, even older generations, are much more open than in the past and there is a growing interest in returning to the roots of our ancestors. I have really noticed an upsurge in those offering access to courses relating to all forms of paganism including shamanism. I actually find it very easy to be authentic here and never feel I have to hide what I do or what I am.

MS: Do you feel a connection to the land where you work and does this help with your healing?

YR: Yes very definitely. The land, and my connection to it, is vital for the type of healing I do. I rely a lot on being in contact with the energies around me and being able to call upon their assistance when I need to. I am blessed with living in a place that has amazing energy.

MS: Your academic qualifications are in teaching and education. Is this still a big part of your life?

YR: Not teaching in the traditional sense but passing on what I know and what I have learnt to others is still a big part of what I do whether this is in person or through my writing. I have tried many times to walk away from teaching but it is such an intrinsic part of me and my path here that I have now just accepted that. I do love seeing others grow, develop and find their own paths and it now feels like a gift to be able to be part of this.

MS: Does the teaching experience spill over into your spiritual endeavours; do you use the same skills when passing on your knowledge of shamanic skills, for example?

YR: Yes very much so. I have always been a facilitator rather than someone who is didactic and this is still how I work. I myself learn best by doing, through experiential learning and this really is how I pass on skills and knowledge now.

MS: You have a diverse range of experience and your bio tells us that you are now studying with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. What is the common theme in all your endeavours; what drives you to learn these skills?

YR: I think the common theme of all of it is going where I am led. I rarely know why I am drawn to do something, but trust that somewhere in it all is something I need. It’s a way of being that has taken me to some interesting places now but I can honestly say that none of it has ever been wasted. It might be several days, weeks, or even years before I understand why I did something but in the end it does all make sense. Sometimes my guides take pity on me and I am given some insight before I start but this is rare and to be honest makes it all so much more fun.

I think that whatever I do I learn more about myself and the more I learn the more I can help others.

MS: And finally, where do you see yourself in your own Web of Life 5 years from now?

YR: Oh that really is an impossible question for me to answer and always has been. I have never been able to visualise where I will be in 1/5/10 years’ time for some reason. I can remember during some training being asked to do this and honestly not being able to. I think it’s linked to my going where I’m led, going with the flow as it were. If I live this way, if I trust I am being looked after and guided then I only need to know about the now. When I plan my life path within my own Web of Life it is only to connect with the energies/teachers who are going to help me with what is ahead. I know if I work with them I stand a much better chance of learning the lessons that are there for me, understanding what is going on and not missing something important. With every path I weave in my Web of Life I weave it in the knowledge that it will take the time it needs, so I never know whether the part of the path I have woven is a short path or a long one.

Yvonne’s book Shaman Pathways: Web of Life is out now via Amazon and all other good book retailers.

Luke Eastwood: A Druid’s Journey

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Luke is a musician, poet, painter, photographer and the author of The Journey and A Druid’s Primer, as well as numerous articles on subjects ranging from politics to horticulture. He currently writes a blog for Moon Books on Druidry and Celtic belief. I caught up with Luke to quiz him on his many projects.

Mabh: What inspired your original interest in Celtic culture?

Luke: It has been so much part of my life for so long that I can’t remember where it started. My father sometimes enthused about Bonnie Prince Charlie and King Arthur, which left a deep impression; my Granny bought me fairy tales – I remember being read ‘Peronique’ (a Breton tale I still have) in a picture book version before I could read myself. I had a set of Ancient Briton and Roman soldiers about 1 inch high that often fought for hours on my bedroom floor, the Romans usually won as they had all the sexy weaponry!

MS: And how did this lead to your involvement with Paganism?

LE: I had been a Roman Catholic but found myself dissatisfied with it, although I did feel attracted to the teachings of both Jesus and St. Francis. I could see that the true roots of Christianity had become obliterated by the Romans and in looking through the dark history of the Church I discovered that much of R.C. ritualism is derived from European and Middle-Eastern paganism. At this point in time I had come to regard Jesus as a prophet, like Moses or Muhammad, so it was not much of a leap for me to abandon Christianity completely and become a Pagan. Being strongly connected to nature, Druidry/Druidism seemed the obvious best fit, although I did investigate Buddhism, Hindu pantheism, Hermeticism and Wicca on the way to choosing this path.

MS: I know from experience that studying Celtic history and mythology can be arduous and time consuming, although always rewarding. What have been your finest resources, and what source do you return to again and again?

LE: Yes it is extremely time-consuming but ultimately rewarding as you say. Apart from the many people I’ve learned from (often informally) I’ve found many books to be incredibly useful and/or insightful. To name just three I’d suggest – ‘The Religion Of The Ancient Celts’ by J.A. McCulloch, ‘Irish Trees – Myths, Legends & Folklore’ by Niall Mac Coitir and ‘The Celtic Heroic Age’ by John T. Koch & John Carey. Books can be wonderful but book knowledge alone is useless in my opinion. Experience of living and working spiritually is far more important but at times the ‘knowledge’ accumulated suddenly elucidates an experience or gives some frame of reference that completes the picture. Without the living and breathing experiences, the sum of all I’ve read is just so many pages in a dusty old tome, as dead as the wood from which the pages came!

MS: You paint, write poetry, books and articles, make music and take some beautiful photos as well. Is there any particular medium in all this creativity that you connect to more than the others, and why?

LE: No, there isn’t a preference I’m aware of. It has occurred to me that I’ve gone through several creative phases in my life, some overlapping slightly. In the last few years writing has been my main focus and it will probably continue to be so until my intuition draws me elsewhere. I am unable to work to order creatively for myself, I do only what feels right, so I’d be hopeless if I had to rely on it for an income. I suspect I’ll return to playing music fairly soon, it’s something that has always been part of my life in some form.

MS: What drew you to Druidry initially?

LE: I can’t really explain it. I think it appealed on a subconscious level. I had great difficulty in finding out about it, most of the books I found were very shallow and uninformative, which lead me to explore other less obscured areas, such as Hindu Culture. However, I remember walking past a bookshop in Swiss Cottage, London in 1996 and seeing ‘The Book Of Druidry’ by Ross Nichols in the window. I rushed in and bought it, even though it was £20 or something ridiculous like that. This was the first book I’d come across that was written by a real Druid as opposed to some academic or historian.

MS: And now, what is the most vital part of being a Druid for you?

LE: For me, being able to go outside and watch the world happening seems more vital than anything. If I were unable to do that I think I’d be incredibly unhappy.

MS: Was this part of what inspired you to write The Druid’s Primer?

LE: I didn’t feel that any one single Druid 101 book was sufficiently in-depth or comprehensive to provide a useful guide in one volume. I’m not sure that TDP is either, but it is my attempt to compile all the basics from all of the Celtic traditions I could find. In particular I was keen to promote the Irish traditions and knowledge which has been neglected, as well of that of the other Celtic/ex-Celtic nations.

MS: What advice would you give to someone with an interest in pursuing Druidry?

LE: Try to find the fine line between experiential, intuitive practice and academic, knowledge acquisition. Knowledge was always an important aspect of Druidry but so too was creative, empathic and intuitive skill. To be balanced I think we need to try to develop both sides of ourselves in a harmonious way so that what we do and what we know become integrated completely into who we are.

MS: Can someone be a Druid without worshiping any particular deity, or perhaps without honouring a deity at all?

LE: Not everyone would agree with me, but I would say yes to both. I would say that it is essential to have some understanding of the Celtic concept of deity and the mythology associated with it. However, many people have a nebulous sense of deity or even regard nature itself as the source of divinity or perhaps even just the source of life. I don’t see why such theological differences would stop someone from being able to live a Druidic life; I’d say that sincerely walking the path is more important than points of dogma.

MS: Tell us a bit about your recently republished book, The Journey. What was the key message you wanted to convey?

LE: In truth the way that we live is more important than what we profess to believe. Our deepest beliefs and concerns are demonstrated and manifested by the choices we make in how we live in the world. Much of the truths about human experience and the universe (from a human perspective) seem to me to be independent of the religion from which they originated. It strikes me (using a crude analogy) that many religious people are obsessed with the colour of the car they are driving or that other people are driving, when what is really important is keeping your own car on the road!

MS: You play an astonishing range of musical instruments; do you think this talent ties back to Celtic ancestry at all?

LE: I really can’t give a definite answer. I can say that my recent ancestors and relatives, including my father and grandfather have been very musical. I’ve been listening to music since I was born so it’s almost part of me at this stage. My siblings and my daughter all play instruments too, I guess it’s a minor compulsion in my family!

MS: And do you have a favourite instrument?

LE: I suppose guitar is my most played instrument but recently I’ve an urge to get back to playing the cello. I’m very rusty right now, but it has such a wonderful sound I really think I should make more time for it.

MS: Your bio says you are currently working on a novel; can you tell us a bit about that?

LE: It’s a sci-fi with a spiritual element to it. I’ve projected some of the current concerns relating to secularism and religious strife into the future surrounding one particular character who experiences a momentous, life-changing event. That’s about all I want to say, any more might reveal too much.

MS: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

LE: I’d very much like to write a book on sacred sites, cross referenced with some of the most ancient writings related to each of them. Although I love photography it might be interesting to work on this in conjunction with a photographer with a different view of such places.

MS: Do you still write poetry? What themes inspire you?

LE: Yes I do, but only when I feel inspired. That might happen three times in one week or once in a year. I appear to have no control over when I write poems. Nature, love and modern society are three themes that seem to crop up over and over again; usually something that has happened or something I’ve seen will inspire me and the words will just come flooding out.

MS: You write on many socio-political themes. What currently has you fired up?

LE: Injustice is something that makes me very angry – injustice to the weak and impoverished of the world and also injustice to the natural world. I think that inequality is a perennial problem and in some countries it seems to be getting worse not better. As the human population grows the stresses on the planet and on human society are growing, I really think that we need to collectively find creative and fair solutions fast if there is going to be any kind of future worth having.

MS: Tell us a bit about Éigse Spiriod Ceilteach. [Gathering of Celtic Spirituality]

LE: I was very inspired by Féile Draoíchta (Festival of Magic & Spirituality) in Dublin, which is run by Barbara Lee and Lora O’Brien. Basically I decided to copy their idea and move it outside into a rural setting, but focusing more specifically on the Celtic end of magic/spirituality. Both ladies have been very supportive with advice and Lora also gave us a talk in August just gone. 2014 was our 5th year and I’m delighted by how it has gradually grown since the first one. For me being outside is the main plank of my spiritual practice and I’m keen to provide others the opportunity to share that kind of experience with other like-minded people.

MS: You’ve had a very interesting spiritual journey it seems; from being raised Catholic to an interest in Buddhism, to studying Wicca and eventually becoming a Druid. Do you feel that where you are now is where you are meant to be, or is there still a further journey ahead for you?

LE: Yes I suppose it is a bit strange, I guess I’ve wandered like a stray dog until I found a comfortable spot to rest! I’ve learned a great deal from exploring these different paths and I’d be a different person than I am today if I had not done so. I do feel that I am where I am meant to be right now but of course there is still more to come. We are always learning every day, there is always something new to learn. I think that the day that I feel I have nothing further to learn from life is the time for me to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Luke’s books are available through Moon books, from Amazon and other retailers, and you can find his other projects on his website. Éigse Spiriod Ceilteach has its own Facebook page and more info can be found on the Irish Druid Network.

Kenn Day: Body and Soul

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Author of Post Tribal Shamanism and Dance of Stones, Kenn has been a working Shaman and healer for many years, with his own practice since 1989. He now also offers workshops for those wanting to understand and experience his practice. Kenn was kind enough to chat to me about his work.

 

Mabh Savage: What does the term Post-Tribal Shaman mean?

 

Kenn Day: I coined the therm “post-tribal shamanism” many years ago, specifically to differentiate from the many rich and varied tribal traditions. I did this because, on the one hand, I knew that the modern, Western, post-industrial and post-TRIBAL world that I live in, still requires the presence, gifts and skills of shamans, offered in service to a rather different client base than that of a traditional tribal shaman. It was clear to me that there are important differences in how we can work, effectively and appropriately, with folks in this culture as compared to those raised in a tribal setting. In some cases, techniques which are completely appropriate and effective for the tribal shaman, working the tribal culture, would be not as effective, and even potentially damaging when applied to people living in our modern setting.

Further, and equally important, I wished to be absolutely sure that I was not committing cultural appropriation. Respecting those cultures which still have active and thriving shamanic traditions is essential to the post-tribal path.

 

MS: You’ve been ‘delving into the mysteries of the human spirit’ for over 30 years; what prompted you to write this book, Post-Tribal Shamanism, when you did?

 

KD: I actually avoided writing this book for many years, before finally realizing that it would be a valuable resource — both for my own students, as well as others with an interest in exploring how shamanism emerges into our lives as modern humans.

 

MS: What was your biggest challenge during the production of the book?

 

KD: The biggest challenge was clearly the movement from the spontaneous, conversational way of speaking that I use when teaching, into the necessary rigidity of the written word.

 

MS: Who do you think this book will appeal to the most? What kind of person will get the most out of it?

 

KD: First and foremost, it was written for my students; for all of those who attend my workshops and work with me, either in person or at a distance. But secondly, I wrote it to respond to those who have a soul-level hunger to connect with their ancestors, the Earth, Spirit and all the other aspects of the world that we have become so disconnected from.

 

MS: Would you say this is a follow up to your previous book, Dance of Stones, or is it an entirely separate volume?

 

KD: Well, Dance of Stones was my most effective tool of procrastination. I literally wrote that book in order to avoid writing this one. At the time, back in the late 90’s, I was concerned that I would come out with “just another book on shamanism,” which would quickly fade into the background of all the other books on shamanism that had been popping out like mushrooms after a rain. Dance of Stones was (I believed it would be) more interesting, in that it is a narrative rather than a textbook.

It helps that Dance of Stones is also based on my own experience. I was trying to decide what I could do about writing a book, when a new friend invited me for a road trip in Europe. Soon after starting off on that trip, it became clear to me that it would form a good basis for a book on shamanism — and it has!

 

MS: Shamanism is very ‘in’ at the moment. Why do you think this is?

 

KD: My spirit ally and mentor, Grandfather likes to say, “The nature of the soul is to awaken. The nature of the ego is to avoid that!” At every moment in history, there has been a tension between those parts of us that want to awaken to see everything as it is, and the parts of us that want to remain in the trance of ego — pretending that the world is exactly as it appears to be. Sometimes the soul nudges us toward wakefulness and we find ourselves looking for something beyond the superficial answers of ordinary “reality”. This search for deeper reality eventually transforms the ego into more of a reflection of the soul, rather than its adversary.

Another answer for that question is simply that, the world has always needed shamans, and it needs them now more than ever. We have become very disconnected from some of the most important elements of what it means to be fully human. The response of our collective soul is to put out a call to those who might be able to help us move back into relationship with our humanity. This means connecting to our ancestors, to the Earth, to Spirit and so much more!

 

MS: Do you consider yourself a Shaman, or do you avoid labels and simply see Shamanism as one aspect of your identity?

 

KD: I do call myself a shaman, and have done so ever since Grandfather got it through my head that it was more ego-driven to refuse to call myself a shaman, when I was clearly filling that role, than it was to just let it be. After all, shaman is just a word. We use it because it conveys a certain Mystery more effectually than any other word. It connects us with the ancestors and the traditions that come before us and it allows us to work deeply, at a soul level, with those who we are in service to.

 

MS: Tell us a bit about the training courses that you do.

 

KD: The training course has always been an expression of my need to share these teachings with others, who might also put them to use in the world.

I began with just a couple of workshops, which have gradually evolved into a foundation series covering 8 weekends, with a variety of advanced coursework for those who are still interested after completing the initial series.

One thing that became clear early on is that I am incapable of teaching the same workshop twice. I can cover the same material, but somehow it comes out very differently with each new class, and of course it evolves over time as well. My intention with the workshops is to provide opportunities for the students to directly encounter the teachings and the Mysteries, in a way that gives them some practical skills to take home with them. Very little of that can be communicated by me talking, or by the handouts I pass around at the beginning of the class. Rather it is done by gradually introducing, one layer at a time, a complex pattern of practical exercises, discussion, trance and direct experience of those elements of the human experience that lay outside of what most of us have learned to think of as “reality”. In other words, the workshops are designed to gently and gradually blow your mind, making room for expanded awareness and deepening connection.

 

MS: As well as Shamanism, you are versed in shiatsu and qi gong. Do you find that generally a healthy body leads to a healthy spirit? Do you look at fully holistic healing- mind, body and spirit?

 

KD: Focusing on just one part of the pattern — Body, mind, soul or anything — is counter to the shamanic perspective. In shamanism — at least in post-tribal shamanism — attention is always being directed toward deepening integration, awareness and transformation. Getting too caught up just in the health of the physical can be a very effective way to avoid looking at the whole. That said, if one part of the whole is unhealthy, it generally indicates that all the parts are unhealthy. The challenge is often in determining how that shows up in each part, and what can be done about it.

Going back to your mention of Qi Gong though, the Chinese have been practicing shamanism continuously for thousands of years, and have a well-developed language to describe the various processes we encounter. Since I am versed in Chinese medicine, which in turn is based on those earlier shamanic practices, I often use terms derived from the Chinese traditions. I also regularly teach my clients and students Qi Gong exercises or Tai Chi forms, in order to help them embody principals of shamanic practice.

 

MS: Have you ever had any clients that were not open to the healing process? How do you deal with this?

 

KD: This all depends on the individual. What works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone. I try to be open to allowing the client to drive the process as much as possible. If they need to leave and work with someone else in order to move forward, I need to support that. If they need to be challenged to do work that is uncomfortable for them, I will do that. If they need to have appropriate boundaries clarified so that the work is safe for them (and me) I do that as well.

Going back to the idea that the soul and the ego are often at odds over which direction we are taking in our lives, I try to acknowledge and respect the ego, while continuing in service to the soul.

 

MS: What’s the most common ailment, malady or condition you are asked to help with?

 

KD: I would describe it as the “invisible wound” of disconnection; the deep trauma that arises from feeling a lack of belonging. I go into this in great depth elsewhere. I even have an entire weekend workshop and a chapter in my book about it. It can show up as anything from addiction and depression to chronic pain and fatigue.

 

MS: What are the challenges with remote healing?

 

KD: The biggest challenge for me is pretty easy to overcome, rather surprisingly. That is the simple shift of two people in very different places into a space where we can work together. I do this by extending Medicine Body around both of us and rooting into the land spirit in both locations.

 

MS: Tell me about your role as a Spiritual Technologist.

 

KD: I borrow the term from my mentor and dear friend, Elisheva Nesher. Essentially, I use it to refer to ritual, ceremony, rites of passage and related practices. I have served as ritual director for pagan gatherings, officiated weddings and funerals, as well as many rites of passage in between those two. These are powerful tools that allow us to recognize the important shifts. For instance, a lot of people go through their adult lives feeling like they are still teenagers or children. Having some effective rites of passage into adulthood can make a big difference with this.

 

MS: And also a bit about Soul Solutions?

 

KD: Soul Solutions is the name of the Systemic Constellation Work practice that I have with my wife Patricia Sheerin. We both went through a two year training with Heinz Stark (http://starkinstitute.org/) in what is essentially a form of group shamanism. It is powerful work, and can often cause healing movement in areas where nothing else seems to work. www.soulsolutionshome.com

 

MS: Are you currently working on any other books?

 

KD: I am working on two different books, on and off these days. One is on a set of teachings I received through terma transmission back in the early 80’s. I still have very mixed feelings about publishing anything on those, but I’m closer to it now than I have been in the past. The other book I’m working on is called Grandfather Tales and is simply a series of stories about and from my spirit ally, who I address as Grandfather. And to answer your question, no, he is not my biological ancestor.

 

MS: What do you hope the coming year holds for you?

 

KD: More opportunity to teach — to pass these teachings on to receptive students, and to continue to learn more myself through at process. That has always been what draws me forward.

However, more and more, my attention is focused on being the best husband and papa I can be. With a wonderful wife and six year old daughter, that is the most important part of my life right now. I am enjoying life and all the blessings of my ancestors more now than ever before. I would like to continue that for many years to come.

Before I forget though, we are taking another group over to Ireland next year, which is always a lot of fun! We still have a few places open, if you know anyone who might be interested. They can find out more on the event page at https://www.facebook.com/ events/1468464340140809/1488264091494167/

 

Kenn’s books are available through Amazon and all good retailers. Keep up to date with him at www.shamanstouch.com.

Raven Grimassi: Communing with the Ancestors

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I was sent a copy of Raven Grimassi’s latest book, Communing with the Ancestors: Your Spirit Guides, Bloodline Allies and the Cycle of Reincarnation, and was immediately intrigued by the beautiful style of writing and the inclusive nature that encompasses people of all paths. A full review of the book will be available on Pagan Pages next month, but in the meantime, I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Raven some questions about this fascinating volume.

Mabh Savage: Tell us about Communing with the Ancestors. What was your main aim with the book, and what type of reader will get the most out of it?

Raven Grimassi: The primary purpose was in deepening the work of connecting with the Ancestors.    It’s important that we enlist the aid of the Ancestors.  I feel that the readership for this book is anyone who wonders about the purpose of Life and about the role of reincarnation.

MS: You say that in your book you avoided focusing on any one particular cultural view or practice, which makes this book very accessible. What culture so you most identify with though, when communing with your own ancestors?

RG: If I had to focus on just one, then I relate most to my Italian heritage.  However, I am also German and Scot and I do not ignore this lineage.

MS: Is everybody capable of making a connection with their ancestors, or the ancestors?

RG: Yes, definitely.  The Ancestors are part of our DNA, they reside within us to the cellular level.  Even adopted people who don’t know their lineage can connect deeply with their bloodline heritage.  The Ancestors have never lost track of them for they reside within them.

MS: You speak of ‘getting out of the way’ during the writing process. Can you tell me more about that?

RG: When I struggled with writing this book, I head the inner Ancestral voices say “Stop trying to write this book and let this book be written.  I had to stop forging and directing the work, which meant I had to let things come through me as opposed to from me.   The hands on the keyboard were mine, but the material was coming from some other source.

MS: How did you first come across the concept of the Spirit Rider?

RG: Like so much else in the book, it was passed to me from the Ancestral voices. At the core was a concept I found in studying the Mayan Vision Serpent, an entity intimately connected with the Ancestors. I had also run across some material on the Hawaiian Huna concept of connecting with the Ancestors through a Shamanic technique that requires projecting consciousness outward from the tailbone of the spine. The purpose was to meet the Ancestors. From this two concepts, something formed and was passed to me. I was given the imagery of the Spirit Rider as a serpent form in which the Ancestors can connect with us through our spines.

MS: You write in a beautiful, metaphorical style. Do you think there is magic in poetry?

RG: I think that the essence of magic can be conveyed through poetry.  Poetry can also initiate a magical consciousness that can open inner portals that lead to visions and enlightenment.

MS: You mention that in writing the book you became a student to it. What further lessons have been imparted since the completion of this volume?

RG: It’s been an ongoing process.  The most activity has been around trying to firmly grasp where the persona worn by the soul comes from, and what exactly is the “pool of consciousness” that legends suggest was the original of the human consciousness.

MS: The ancestral realm you speak of; is this what lies beyond what many Pagans refer to as ‘the veil’?

RG: I’ve come to see the Ancestral Realm as the residing place of those who came before us.  It is connected to the Earth Plane and the Elemental Plane, even though technically it is in the Otherworld or Inner Dimensions.  That being said, I think that what is found on the other side of the veil is the Afterlife Realm, a temporary realm in which the Dead dwell for a time.  This is different from the Ancestral Realm.

MS: What part of the landscape gives you the closest connection to the ancestors?

RG: In general, areas with distinct rock formations seem to hold memory best.  This includes manmade formations such as Stonehenge.  Caves are excellent gateways to the Ancestors, and lakes and wells are also good points of access. 

MS: Are you working on any more books at the moment?

RG: I always have at least two books going at one time.  My primary focus at present is to complete a book I started over 30 years ago.  It is an examination of the Witch Lore contained in the writings of folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland.  In the book I will also present new findings about his “Witch informant” and the authentic tradition that she revealed to Leland.

MS: The writings in Communing with the Ancestors sound like quite an intense process. How did you relax or take time away from it?

RG: I actually don’t take time away from a manuscript that I am submitting to a Publisher. I work every day on it, and the process takes months to finish (anywhere from 3 to 6). I often take my meals while writing, and there are no days off.

MS: And finally, what are you most looking forward to over the next few seasons?

RG: Reconnecting with family and with old friends. Too much time has passed while pursuing my work.

Raven’s latest volume can be purchased here and more information about his previous words can be found at his website http://www.ravengrimassi.net/.

Author Leah Guy: The Modern Sage

 

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I was recently sent a copy of a book called The Fearless Path, and was immediately drawn to the ideas within the pages. The book addresses very real and modern concerns about healing in practical ways, but instead of telling us, as so many other sources do, to let go of our pain and past, it leads us down the more rewarding path of putting ourselves back together. Leah was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and herself for Pagan Pages.

Mabh Savage: Thanks for talking to us Leah. To start us off, can you describe yourself in three words?

Leah Guy: Sensitive. Determined. Sassy.

MS: Your book, The Fearless Path, is tagged as a ‘radical awakening to emotional healing and inner peace’. What prompted you to write this book at the time you did; what made you feel ‘now’ was the time to share your approach to healing?

LG: Honestly, there are two reasons. One is my personal timing. When I felt grounded enough, emotionally mature enough and ready to extend this part of my world with the masses. Secondly, and this sounds like cosmic fluff, but I was told to write the book, once by a voice in a dream that woke me and the other by a voice in a meditation. I don’t often hear voices, nor do I act on them, but this was something different. It was like a charge, a torch that was handed over to me to run with and I felt it was the right thing to do. It felt like the right time and my next step and almost a ‘duty’ or ‘calling’ if you will.

MS: Who would you say your book is primarily aimed towards?

LG: I used the dedication to reach out to all who suffer, yet have the courage to love. There is not one person that couldn’t benefit from the principles in the book because we all know pain, fear, heartache, guilt. We need to learn how to have a better relationship with suffering as it is a part of life. So I aimed the book at those, like me, who have had addictions, eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, low self-worth or other kinds of deep wounds.

MS: What was the biggest challenge in putting the book together?

LG: Starting! After I got started, the biggest challenge was allowing myself the freedom to speak openly about my experiences, many of which I’ve never spoken about publicly at all, and relating those in an honest way so that others can benefit.

MS: And what did you enjoy most about the writing process?

LG: Every step of the way I felt very supported. It felt as if I was supposed to be doing it and there was no time to wait. Although I practice what I write and teach, there’s a good deal of guidance in the book that was inspired and channeled, meaning that I had to get my own agenda out of the way and just listen. Before each writing session I gave myself 5 minutes to sit in meditation and listen, then trust that when I got to the computer I’d have something to say.

MS: How did you become introduced to the idea of chakras and energies within the body?

LG: When I was on my own healing journey, a couple of years after the sexual assault, I was encouraged to go to a metaphysical “school” in California. There is where I immersed myself in energy healing, meditation and learning about the chakras. Since then I’ve continued to work with energy and the chakras as a way to guide me to information within the body system, the emotional bodies and spiritual energies. I don’t base all of my work on the chakras, but they do offer information and guidance and I believe should be better understood in the scope of our overall wellness.

 

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MS: During the introduction to the book, you tell us of your own traumatic experiences, and one of the questions you asked yourself at the time was ‘Is this my fault?’. Do you think this is common of many victims, to question their own culpability first and foremost?

LG: I believe one of the first thoughts that comes to a person who has been victimized is the self-inquiry ‘Is this my fault?’ Once the initial shock and fear of an incident has worn off, we immediately go to the programming and patterning that we know, which often results in kicking way back to the shame or guilt pattern of our youth. Because each of us has experienced shame to some degree, the ones of us that have had a moderate to severe imprint of shame will almost always consider how or what we did to cause any kind of suffering in our life. Even those with a mild shame imprint will have the fleeting thought of guilt because it is hard for our brains and emotional bodies to rationalize how something so painful could happen for no reason, or for a reason we can’t justify, therefore it must have something to do with my actions, looks, self-worth, or whatever the reason we conjure.

MS: Do the healing principals work for those who perhaps haven’t had an emotional trauma? For example, someone may suffer from chronic depression, caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, not a particular event in their past. Would they and others like them benefit from The Fearless Path?

LG: Yes, very much so. The Emotional Workouts, meditations and other exercises and philosophies are usable and impactful for any person who is experiencing imbalance, pain or trauma. Not to say that these concepts should be used exclusively, there is certainly room for medical care and other approaches to wellness. But the ideas are deep and profound in some instances, yet the very base root of their meaning is applicable and usable for all. Chemical imbalances can be helped by medicinal approaches for sure, but also, we know that diet, emotional stability and a connection to our true selves help to create balance as well. They should all be used together.

MS: Obviously, and as your books states, there are no quick fixes, but are there simple, everyday things that everyone can do to stay connected to their Self and Soul?

LG: I included the Emotional Workouts in the book for this very purpose; to give people ways to daily and simply stay connected to their Self and Soul. Gardening, journaling, meditation, helping a stranger, chanting or any of the others are wonderful examples of ways that we can get stronger and more connected day by day. We don’t turn fear or shame around with a simple decision. We have to solidify a stronger framework from which we operate and we do that by small acts of self-care and Emotional Workouts.

MS: Who is your biggest inspiration?

LG: I’ve never put any single person on a pedestal. There are so many people who inspire me for different reasons. The truth is I don’t know the names of most of the people who impact me the greatest. Yesterday I passed a man on the street who was struggling to walk. He had very worn and tattered clothes on and teeth that were never cared for. He was carrying two heavy grocery bags for what seemed like blocks and the look on his face stopped me in my tracks. His eyes and the lines on his face were saying that his experience alive had been hard but his determination, pride and his purpose was so very much worth living for. I walked by that man and was struck with humility and inspiration and the desire to have half of the strength that he showed.

MS: Do you have a favorite place to relax, or a place where you feel most connected to yourself?

LG: I love being in nature of any sorts. I love paths… walking paths, bike paths, beach paths. I’m a very purpose-oriented purpose, meaning I enjoy time and space when I’m creating ideas or art, gaining new perspectives, helping others or purposefully taking time to connect to nature or myself. A path is very symbolic to me. I feel inspired to keep going forward and seeing what new there is to discover.

MS: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

LG: I just recorded my first meditation CD, Guided Chakra Meditations for Emotional Healing. It’s inspired from the meditations in the book, but with music, visualizations and even a walking meditation practice. I’m in awe of this project as me and the musicians got together, without rehearsal, and flowed with the energy of the meditations without flaw. The CD is raw and uncut! I’m also planning some online webinars and private teachings, which I’m excited about also!

MS: Should we expect more books in the future?

LG: Yes! I’m already working to expound on a couple of topics from The Fearless Path. Some of the key ideas in that book are the PTED, or Post Traumatic Emotional Disorder, and Spiritual Mapping to name a couple.

MS: And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2017?

LG: I’m looking forward to broadening my horizons. The past several years I have been hunkered down building a healing center and writing the book. I’m beginning to experience the many opportunities that are arising from those things and I’m eager to get back on the road, meet new people and hear their stories, as well create more stories in my own life.

Leah’s book The Fearless Path is out on 15th May 2017 and is available for pre-order now. You can follow Leah on Facebook, Twitter or her website.

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author and musician, as well as a freelance journalist. She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

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