August 2018 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times
It has been unusually hot this year, and me, the cats, and my husband are melting! We are thankful for our air conditioner, and we venture out early in the morning or later at night.
The dog is not thrilled, as she likes longer walks, and is immune to extreme weather.
Maybe I will come back as a dog in the next life!
The garden, however, is absolutely thriving. The new rose I planted has tiny red sprouts on it, the cherry tomato is producing abundantly, the marigolds are showing their golden manes proudly, and the zinnias, dear gods, the zinnias are the stars of the garden!
The Wheel of the Year is quickly moving towards first harvest. Already, the days are noticeably shorter, and we are even having a few cool nights. Blackberries, mint, and lavender have already been harvested here, and my cat has diligently been munching on the poor nasturtiums!
Depending on your tradition, you may celebrate Lammas or Lughnassadh. Both celebrate harvests, and celebrate harvest of different things.
In years past, I have written in detail about these ancient harvest celebrations, but this year I am going to focus on a different aspect of the blessings of the Sabbat-respect, and balance.
As we celebrate the things we have begun, and give thanks for the beginnings of what we reap from these sowings, we respectfully acknowledge we did not do it all on our own.
At times, the gods, the spirits, and the ancestors helped, and we give the credit that is due to them. In our rituals, we partake of the powers of these spirits, and also of the land where we draw resources to provide what we need to meet our goals.
In North America, many of us are immigrants from other Nations, and we touch the earth that has been sacred to countless generations of tribal people we do not share genetics with. As Pagans, and magical workers, we pick up on the power of the sacred spaces, and communicate with the spirits, and work with the existing energies.
On one hand, it is very American for non-indigenous people to be fascinated with the indigenous, and have romanticized ideas of their splendor, as if they are a mythical race of beauties. On the other hand, we are still actively benefiting from the forced assimilation, and the Reservation system that keeps indigenous people in poverty today. We do not MEAN such harm, but it is happening.
Then, many in our communities cherry pick what they consider Native American spiritual practices, take Indian names, and declare themselves Indians when they have no proof of ancestry, have had zero exposure to, or participation in Native American communities, and even go so far as to ordain themselves leaders in modern “Native American” groups, and assume they can become instant Indians.
This is called cultural misappropriation, and it is one topic I will pick up later in the article.
Healing, and prayers for good health are also part of harvest celebrations. In days past, prayers for enough food were constant, as that was how to ensure survival. Prayers to keep pests off crops, and to keep crops and animals producing were included. Now, we pray for good jobs so we can hit the stores to buy what we need instead of growing our own.
Prayers for good health could be translated as prayers to hold off aging and death- one word for this is rejuvenation.
One of the daily ways we rejuvenate the body is by eating. It is very true that we are what we eat. Food is the first source of medicine for the body, and it either adds or detracts years from our lives.
Pharmaceuticals also can be used to heal the body. We have become more and more aware of the fact that doctors and companies are for-profit, and the side effects from drugs aggressively marketed to the public can cause more harm than good. Furthermore, as we are human beings, and not gods, we are imperfect, and doctors sometimes make mistakes. It is no wonder than many seek out alternative medicine, and mind over matter techniques in hopes the body can heal itself.
Members of our Pagan and New Age communities understand all too well what the medical world refers to as “the placebo affect”. We understand the power of faith to heal. Some even go so far as to believe that if they break their neck, they don’t need to see a doctor, and that all they need to do is order their body to repair itself. We have seen a plethora of news stories where very conservative Xtian parents went to jail for allowing their child to die out of belief medicine is sinful, and their god would heal them if only their faith was strong enough. While we laugh or shake our heads, condemning these Xtians for this, we have plenty of people within our own communities guilty of this same mindset. Many of us fail to see this.
I cannot tell you how many people have asked me to do a tarot reading to diagnose illness, and I flat out refuse. I am of the mind that prayers, faith, meditation, proper diet and exercise are good for the body, but they do not replace medical intervention when it is necessary. All these things work together, and must be balanced for our health and wellbeing.
As a Wiccan, one of the Tenets I follow is the Tennent of The Balanced Life.
This tenet was written about by the illustrious Sybil Leek in her publication The Complete Art of Witchcraft from 1971. If you do not own a copy of this book, you should run right out and get it. I am 75% finished with it, and I am so glad I am reading it. In her chapter “Leading a Balanced Life”, Leek writes how mental, spiritual, and physical well-being are linked. She wrote of the insane pace of life in modern times, and the push to do more, faster, and better, and how it takes a toll on human beings. This impossibly unhealthy lifestyle exhausts, and stresses human beings to the point of physical ailments. Finding peace within oneself in this hectic lifestyle is very crucial. Work leisure, and rest have to be balanced, or the body is thrown off, and gets sick.
One thing I will add to that, is many folk do not touch the earth. Many live in concrete boxes, and operate in asphalt jungles. Going into nature is considered “getting away from things”, or a vacation. Nature should surround us daily. Science has proven that when you touch the earth, it lowers blood pressure, and walks in the woods clear the lungs of the polluted air from cars and smog. Trees eat the carbon dioxide cars and factories emit. The earth breaks down bodies that are decomposing, and uses them to grow plants. The body benefits from fruits and veggies, and some people (not me), swear they feel better consuming only a plant-based diet.
What I am saying is, one of the ills that plagues modern man, and unbalances us is the disconnection we have from the earth.
One of the memes that makes me very angry is the one that shows a photo of a bottle of pills, and says “This is poison” and shows a photo of a nature trail, and says “This is medicine.”
This shows complete lack of compassion for people who need pharmaceuticals, and also shows the individual who has this belief has never experienced a serious illness.
Medical intervention is required for the human body, but is not a substitute for a balanced life. In the same way, the human body, even if balanced, sometimes needs the help of pharmaceuticals to heal, and rejuvenate itself. Leading a Balanced Life allows us to accept the human body is not an entity that can completely restructure itself. Without proper amounts of water, food, medicine, sunlight, exercise, love, industriousness, rest, or oxygen, the body will die. Combining these things perfectly is key, and neglecting any of them, and doing MORE of one other thing fixes nothing.
The One That Got Away
Recently, I was asked to review a film, and I flat out refused to, because it asserted their psychic counselors and meditation coaches completely replaced medical care. This is a dangerous, and unethical claim. These people do not accept medical insurance, and all counseling sessions and classes have to be paid out of pocket. One hour sessions range from $150-$250 each person. A lot of people simply cannot afford that.
To be fair, some attend groups like this because it makes them happy, which reduces stress, and improves immune functioning. This is healing.
However, if you are having a heart attack, don’t just schedule a meditation appointment. You need a doctor.
If you have a contagious infection which is airbourne, and that can kill people, don’t put up a shield to “protect” people. Stay away from people while you are contagious, and take your medication.
Just because you are unaware of something does not mean it does not exist.
Balance of mental tranquility with taking proper care of the human body’s needs must be maintained, or you aren’t healthy.
Now, you do not HAVE to be healthy. I could stand to lose more than a few pounds, myself, so I am not condemning anybody whose health is not perfect. But to be ignorant, and spread that ignorance to gain customers, and endanger their health, by pulling them away from the medical care they need causes so much harm. It is beyond unethical, and I flat out refused to promote the film. I can’t even remember what it is called at this point.
Calling All Earthlings
Having spoken of these things, I was asked to review another film, and I decided to, although I disliked this film greatly. This is a necessary film for those of us in Pagan and New Age communities, as well as those who seek out alternative medicine, because it demonstrates how gullible we truly are when we allow our fantasies to get the better of us.
It is a Carpe Stella Production, and here is the website for the film.
It was cast as a documentary by director Jonathan Berman, and I appreciate the fact nothing is held back. It touches on the topics of government conspiracy, aliens, the system vs. the individual citizen, cultural misappropriation, modern spirituality, and the spectacular natural scenery will make you want to jump in the car and head out for a road trip in the Mojave Desert.
It is shown how one man’s claim that an alien, who he said was over 700 years old taught him rejuvenation techniques for the body, were so well received that the site is still in use today, many years after his death.
Today, you can visit the site, and the team who operate there will book your event, and you can pay $100 plus per person to have a sound bath therapy, which is lying comfortably and enjoying a nice concert of various singing bowls being played. The building is called the Integretron, and the acoustics in the place are awesome. If you can’t make the trip or afford the fee, you can purchase a CD for $15 plus shipping and handling fees.
Various individuals claiming UFO sightings and encounters are also interviewed.
A grandiose story is presented by some of George Van Tassel’s friends and followers of his valiant attempts to create a sanctuary of healing, as ascribed by said alien. They also allege that his attempts to generate wireless electricity were thwarted by the government, and it is suggested the government killed him in the process.
A couple of professors speaking of history and social patterns of alien enthusiasts are interviewed as well, so it’s not like the documentary is 100% one sided. We get to hear from people who say it’s complete balderdash, although almost every speaker is very convinced it’s all true.
The longer we exist, the larger we find out the universe actually is, and we discover more galaxies we previously had not known about. It’s clear we are not the only lifeforms in the solar systems. However, the probability of an alien appearing only to a few select “chosen few” is highly unlikely, and it is asserted in the film by a couple of “Futurists” that aliens appear only to a select few because humanity is not ready yet for contact.
It is also to be noted the site the Integratron is near, Giant Rock, is close by Fort Irwin National Training Center which is a major training facility for the US military. Yes, they have air craft, and it is said they do experiments with new technology there. I wonder how many so-called UFO sightings were actually people observing military aircraft, and exercises? How much of it was actually illusions caused by the crippling desert heat? How much of this is belief creating illusions, and makes some ascribe mundane things to fantastical occurrences?
The thing that stood out to me most of all was how many people kept insisting Giant Rock is positioned on a vortex of great power, and the ancient Native Americans held the place very sacred.
An elder and tribal historian of the Morongo Indians, Ernest Siva, was interviewed for a very short time, disappointingly short- after all- this is supposedly an ancient sacred indigenous site. I strongly feel that he, and other indigenous people, as opposed to New Age business people, and alien enthusiasts should have been given more importance in this. As my hearing is not great, and the website that had the link I reviewed has no subtitles, I was unable to hear much of what he said. He spoke of a tribal story that his people came from another place. I was not sure where the filmmakers were going with that.
I decided to reach out to Mr. Siva, and see what I could learn from him. After a few e-mails, communication completely stopped before deadline, and I was unable to complete the interview.
Cultural Misappropriation Versus Cultural Exchange
One huge issue in our Pagan and New Age communities is misappropriation of Native American culture. How many groups, shops, or New Age or Pagan businesses have we all visited where non Native Americans are selling services based on what was sacred to ancient Native Americans?
I wonder how indigenous people feel about the fact the Reservation system both physically removed indigenous people from their sacred spaces, but also assimilated them into a completely different religion that does not hold such things scared.
Generations of their families journeyed to places like Giant Rock for sacred observances, and very distinctive ways of communicating with the spirits and divinities there were developed over long periods of time. The spirits and divinities got used to that communication at places like Giant Rock, and when places of commerce for the conquerors moves in and takes over, this communication ceases. As noted before, some people are still awake and aware of the voices of those spirits, however, we do not belong to the cultures of people who venerated them, and while we may benefit an adrenaline rush from communication, our methods and intentions are not always respectful.
One individual interviewed for the documentary turned out to be a “medicine woman” who is a blonde haired, blue eyed individual, so I did a bit of research. While I have met plenty of tribal people who are not dark skinned, or are not 100% this or that tribe, I am always suspicious of a very bohemian behaving New Agey white person who claims they are some form of shaman or medicine person. Most especially when I see all their followers are paying clients, and/or their website lists no tribal affiliations, and they list fees for services. It’s not tribal medicine, it’s a business.
She calls herself Valerie Brightheart, and she, like any clergy person facilitates weddings, but also something called snuggle parties.
While I do not know if it was Valerie and her business shown in this video clip from An Idiot Abroad, you can watch it as an example of cuddle/snuggle parties. I have no knowledge of this being a Native American practice.
Valerie’s church is the Oklevueha Native American Church of Soncco Wasi Home of the Heart. To be a member, all you have to do is fill out and send them a form, pay the fee, and you too can belong to this church. You have to commit to use only Native American medicines like Marijuana, peyote, and ayahuasca. I don’t know if that means onsite, or in general. You can pay a $200 lifetime membership fee if you are not Native American. If you are actually Native American, your lifetime fee is $30. If you are a Veteran and are Native American, your lifetime fee is a mere $20.
One thing I will point out is the people practicing on these so-called sacred Native American spaces are non-Native Americans. That is okay in many instances, because tribe does not necessarily go by just birth and race. People marry into tribes, and very few people today can boast 100% ancestry to one single race. Even within Native American families who claim to be all one tribe, over time, tribes have combined, and different families had babies together. So, to assert you can only have a certain DNA to be tribal is ludicrous. The issue is the fascination many non-tribal people have with actual tribal people, and the desire to play Indian for fun outside of the childhood playground is highly disrespectful.
To further make money by impersonating an Indian, or to move into a sacred space using it for income, and drum up public interest because “It was sacred to ancient Indians” is unethical.
Communication with Other People’s Ancestors
On one hand, who owns the ancient power places? Who owns the spirits, and who has the right to speak with them, and tell people what they say back? Does race and ancestry decide that, or do the spirits just want their voices heard, and connection with the living, even if it is not their own descendants?
A Heathen man I once spoke to was perplexed by the idea of churches and sanctuaries. “All the earth is sacred”, he told me. There is great truth in this. But has Giant Rock, and the Integratron become a place that is being poached by white business owners, and like the Black Hills, has it been taken from the indigenous who ought to have it back immediately?
The filmmakers don’t seem to think so. They cast this as a sacred place of healing, where you may contact with other lifeforms, as a place of love, healing, peace, and a place that is greatly misunderstood by the mainstream.
This film is very important for those in the Pagan and New Age communities to watch to remind us that magic is not supernatural, but natural. It harmonizes with the laws of the Universe, science being one reality. We cannot fly on brooms. We cannot turn into cats. We cannot live forever.
We can, however, fly in airplanes, have pet cats, or dress up as a cat in a costume, and we can improve our health, and increase our life expectancy by living a balanced life.
I am blessed to live next door to some good earth loving folks. It’s a mother and father, and two adorable boys. The mother and her mom are Shawnee. I was able to reach out to them and discuss topics this film raised.
The mother’s mother, Kossia said Native American practices developed in distinctive ways, and it is necessary to use them properly if you want them to work. My Priest has said this same thing many times.
Her daughter, Speaks with Trees, said her concern is not so much that somebody who is not racially Native American sells things used in Native American practices. She said sometimes it is actually easier to go through non-Native business owners to get the herbs and stones she needs to practice. The issue is the fact that Native American people are struggling to have decent places to be together. Many Reservations are not ideal.
On Reservations, households are significantly more likely to have no electricity, no running water, improper sewage removal, incomplete kitchens, and no phones. The public high school graduation rate for Native Americans is lower than any other racial group in the US. The suicide rate of Native American youths is higher than for any other racial group in the US. The unemployment rates are higher. This is devastating poverty.
Speaks with Trees said an issue is that Native American people, who have been forced off land, are struggling to even survive. She said, “If you steal something from somebody, do you give it back? If you harm somebody, and it causes harm to generations of their family, how do you rectify that?”
The Dakota Pipeline is just one sign it’s not being rectified.
Kossia pointed out that intent matters. There are a lot of sacred places where Native Americans don’t have the capacity to use as such anymore. HOW you use the site, and WHY you are there matters.
She also pointed out that there are over 500 distinct Native American groups known, and that does not even include the groups who were not identified by whoever identified the other 500 some. This reminds us that when discussing “Native American spirituality”, the differences are so diverse, we cannot in any way lump them all into one set of practices.
All of these things both ladies said are important to keep in mind when visiting a site sacred to the ancient indigenous Americans. It is also important to keep in mind when attending pow wows, and learning spiritual practices ascribed to Americas indigenous tribal people.
While spirit transcends race, some of us are not Indians. We should find out about who the people we buy goods and services actually are, and check their credentials. Non-Indians impersonating Indians are plentiful, and we don’t need to enable that.
We need not segregate or do only what our ancestors did. Traditions in, and of themselves are living things, which change. Talks with Trees pointed out most of us have lots of different kinds of ancestry, and almost nobody has just one kind. Kossia spoke of the importance of working together, and learning from each other. She also said intent matters. To want to learn is called cultural exchange. We have always migrated, and we learn new things from our new friends who we move in near. We share knowledge and wisdom. Respect is the key.
This Month’s Working
Instead of a traditional Lammas or Lughnassadh working, I’d like to talk about what to do when you detect energy or sacred power at a site you are unfamiliar with, and want to do a working there.
Some people would say to completely avoid working with energy you do not know of. Just because you feel something does not mean you should connect with it.
Many magicians will tell you that spirits can lie, and do, and I have spoken with more than one individual that warns of spirit parasites that possess human beings.
If you are like me, and you are going to communicate despite what people think might go wrong, I can’t criticize you for that.
Technically, to be a witch, or any form of magician, you have to be able to move energy, and some would say, ANY energy you come across. This does not mean you don’t reach out to somebody else for help sometimes. This just means you need to practice reading energies so you can feel what they are, what they do, and whether or not they are best avoided.
There are going to be times you hit the park, find a nice, secluded area, and want to cast circle or do a working, and there are already energies there. Typically, you either banish them, and set up your own energies, or work with and experience what is already there.
I have a different suggestion.
Move them aside temporarily. It is almost like saying “Excuse me for a minute, and let me borrow this space, and then I will go on my way.”
This is the working I will include here. This can be used at any time, and anyplace. Members of all traditions can use this, and it does not entail veneration of any deity. This is respectful of the energies and spirits of a place, but allow you a clean slate to work with before your working begins.
Setting Energy Aside
Stop and ground yourself for a moment before you begin. Then quietly walk around the area you intend to clear. Open your mind to what energies and spirits are there, and pay attention to any messages you get.
Have you got a very string spirit who does not want its space tampered with? Is the whole energy of the place off, and it would take many sessions of clearing to clean it? Did something traumatic happen here, and the imprinting from it will overwhelm you, compromising the possible success of your working? You may decide to move elsewhere. That is okay. Always gauge the space first to see what it is you are moving aside.
If you do, indeed decide to use this space, you don’t need any tools like incense or magic words.
You just need to take deep breaths, and move your hands from the ground up to the sky, as if you are pulling energy, and sending it upward, and gently away.
You will feel with your own energy when you nab the end piece of the energy, and you just gather it up, and release it, with the intent it will stay gone until you finish. Walk the whole space in a circle, doing this same operation. You will be able to feel when it is done. Ensure the whole time, you keep your own energy to yourself, and do not absorb any of the energy you are moving from the site.
You don’t need to call the energies back after you finish. If the energy wants to, it will settle back into place on its own.
Simple, isn’t it?
This can be used anytime you go someplace where you want to lift some energy out. Say you are about to have a meeting in the board room where there was just a heated exchange, and you want the tone light, and stress-free. You can take that energy from previous meeting, and send it off.
If your kids have been spastic all day, and you have sent them off with an auntie for the evening, to have an adult cocktail party in the living area, you can use this operation to send that ty energy off for a more relaxing atmosphere.
If you cried your eyes out in your car after being stood up by a date, use this to get all that sadness out of the car.
The sky is the limit to what this technique can be used for.
Blessed energy working.
Blessed First Harvest.
About the Author:
Saoirse is a recovered Catholic. I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.