Monthly Archives: July 2016
I’ve claimed whale as my totem animal for as long as I can remember. I spent a good portion of my childhood yearning for the sea, making plans to work with sea life and live near the ocean as soon as I grew up. I felt like I belonged there. I felt at home by the sea. I know the ocean is a healing place for almost everyone, but my feeling of belonging was stronger than a momentary feeling of comfort. Most people eventually feel homesick after a vacation, no matter how lovely the location. There are places I love to visit multiple times, but I could never imagine living in any of them forever. The ocean was not one of them. Although I had a slight preference for the American west coast, any costal location felt equally inviting as home.
Then I grew up. I’ve lived just about everywhere except by the sea. And as time passed, my desire for it lessened. The feeling of homesickness for a home I never had (by the sea) began to feel like a memory that wasn’t my own. I remember yearning for it. I remember it being home in a weird deja-vu kind of way. Eventually, after having experienced this same deja-vu homesickness feeling for a couple different times and places, I began to consider that maybe these were past life memories. But while my past-life memories of other places were very specific in time and place, my ocean home was not so specific. Perhaps my past life by the sea was as a migratory animal living ~in~ it rather than by it. Who knows. Maybe this is all madness and none of it means anything.
What I do know is that after I married, I desired nothing more than to return to my home of this lifetime in Montana. I contemplate the possibility of owning a vacation home by the sea, but Montana is where I want my forever home. When I visit Montana on holidays, I feel like I am home in realtime, not in a deja vu kind of way. All this while, however, I’ve continued to claim whale as my totem.
About a year ago, another animal spirit came into my life. I didn’t pay it much mind at first. I have a bad habit of ignoring messenger totems. But this one has been persistent for almost a year. I finally decided to pay attention. Is it just a message? Is it a new animal guide? I am aware that messenger animals tend to show up in real life wheres guides and totems show up in meditations and dreams. But since I wasn’t doing journey-type meditations, there was no opportunity to meet a guide in that way. I decided to change that. My first attempts at journeying were quite lovely, but I didn’t meet any spirit guides. Then I attempted to journey using shamanistic drumming tracks from youtube. With the addition of the drumming, my journey visualizations became much more detailed. I finally saw spirit animals. The first time, I was very disoriented. I saw owl, but the encounter was weird. It seemed like Owl was trying to get something from me but I was too guarded to open myself to him/her. I also saw unicorn in an abstract form – an outline like a drawing, with a black interior.
Usually, when I go on journey meditations, my starting point is the opening of a dense thicket of greenery leading to a beautiful meadow. On my most recent journey, however, the meadow transformed into a costal landscape. It was overcast and hinted at an oncoming storm. I wasn’t afraid. On the contrary, I was really excited. I thought whale was finally going to show itself to me and claim me once again. I walked towards the sea, I started to descend into the underworld via the sea, but something told me to turn back, that this wasn’t the right direction for me. I looked around for an alternative, confused about why I was on the coast if I wasn’t supposed to go to the sea. I saw a tree near by and entered at a hole near its base. I discovered the most beautiful place in the underworld and I saw unicorn again. But the most significant moment was when I shape-shifted into a bird. I did not expect this, but it was an amazing experience. I could see my wings only, but I could sense that I was Owl.
I suppose this experience was the sea telling me farewell. It is time for me to shed my past life and become who I am supposed to be in my current life. It was an amazingly powerful experience, but a sad one. Farewells are always sad. But I am happy to have finally embraced my new life totem. I suppose unicorn will be my journey guide, but I wish it would show to me in a more realistic form.
Our Own Druidry defines perseverance as,
drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult.
Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as,
continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
When I think of perseverance, this quote from Norman Vincent immediately comes to mind:
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
It is almost ironic to think that the benefits of perseverance do not lie exclusively in acquisition of the goal, especially since the work done reaching it is assumed to be unpleasant. If we persevere to complete a college degree or win a marathon, for example, what benefit is there to those who fail? And what even constitutes failure in terms of perseverance? Is the student who willfully drops out of school more guilty of lacking perseverance than the runner who loses despite his or her best efforts? Do either of them “land among the stars?”
To persevere is to reach for a goal for as long as that goal is important to the one reaching. Much like the oath-keeping component of integrity, perseverance loses its quality as a virtue when a goal is sought out of stubbornness rather than for the right reasons. The student who sets out to earn a college degree may discover a better opportunity that does not require a college education.
To “land among the stars” is to recognize the benefits of work completed on the way to a goal never met. The marathon runner may have lost the race, but they are stronger both mentally and physically for having undergone the experience. The student’s education may not be necessary for their new opportunity, but it may prove useful nonetheless. Time spent reaching a goal is time wasted only if we chose to see it as such.
The Two Powers meditation is the grounding and centering exercise that ADF recommends precede all ritual and magical workings. ADF recognizes the Two as being the primal powers of Earth and Sky, though there are other complementary powers that can work in place of these. Some ADF druids opt to work with powers more closely attuned to their hearth cultures. Followers of the Norse hearth culture, for example, might chose to work with Fire and Ice instead of Earth and Sky. Although my Anglo Saxon (AS) hearth culture is closely related to the Norse, there is no link between AS and Norse cosmology reliable enough to turn me towards a Fire and Ice combination for my own meditation.
Fortunately, the Earth and Sky combination resonates with me strongly enough that I do not mind the lack of a hearth-culture specific option. Working with Earth and Sky powers places me conveniently in sync with ADF’s triple hallows: fire (via Sky), well (via Earth), and tree (myself). After a Two Powers mediation, I am grounded via my connection with the Earth, centered via my alignment with the sacred center, and in an ideal position to open the gates for ritual.
Although the Earth and Sky powers resonated strongly with me in theory from the beginning, it took me a few months to work out the details of the meditation to my satisfaction. I experimented with several different postures, visualizations, and scripts, all based on the Earth and Sky duo, until I finally settled on a slightly modified version of Ian Corrigan’s Two Powers meditation from his text, The Book of Visions. As is often suggested, I envision the Sky Power as warm and ordering, while the Earth Power is cool and chaotic. I do not adhere to such strict associations outside of meditation, but it makes sense to simplify them in this context less I clutter my mind and counteract the intended effects of a grounding and centering activity.