I am not one who feels compelled to know the Why or How behind every mystery. I am not quick to label, designate, or categorize. But I do recognize patterns and I make associations through experiences. I pick up on similarities, threads of potential, and unseen streams of feeling. Sometimes I'll follow them through to articulation and hope it lands somewhere helpful.
These past weeks I have been observing the various ways people have been moving through our current global experience. Some are stepping into high gear productivity and creativity. Some diving into ceremony and prayer. Some crumbling under overwhelm or simply maintaining and existing. There is calm. There is tension. There is violence and acts of incredible beauty. The parallel that I can sense, no matter how our situations are affecting us, is with that of an Initiatory Experience. More precisely, the sort of initiation that was unexpected and goes largely unrecognized. This is not the community supported, planned and prepared for sort. Rites of Passage, Vision Quests, profound Healing Ceremonies, Warrior Homecomings, or the culmination of an intense period of Spiritual Apprenticeship, ideally, are supported by wise medicine keepers, elders, or the already initiated, and tend to be witnessed by close community. Necessarily unaware of what challenges it entails, the initiate often feels it coming and prepares, strengthens and readies, but they certainly may not always. If fortunate, those surrounding them are aware and have watched their slow unfolding, and quietly are preparing in their roles for what lies ahead. They know the protocols, hold the space, and set the pace. We see it naturally when experienced parents pass wisdom to expectant mothers and the midwife and doula arrive. It is there when an Uncle brings a boy on his first hunting trip. When a young girl enters the tent for the first time after menarche or as the family gathers to the bedside of a passing elder. Significant times of change that leave a very clear sense of life Before as being distinct from life After.
Unfortunately, unrecognized initiations occur in individuals and groups quite often. These are times when we move through life altering events that shake us to our core, without guidance of a medicine person or wise elder facilitating a conscious process, without knowledge of what is afoot, and without even a sense of preparation. It might be a near death experience through illness or accident, coming of age without stories of foretelling, becoming lost alone overnight in the woods, or even the untangling from a toxic relative or abusive spouse. If we are lucky, we at least have a quiet witness to the magnitude of a profound shift within us.
Previously I wrote an article on the 3 Stages of an Initiatory Experience describing the phases as I know them to be. It paints a picture of a full and complete process from the initial stages of severance or removal from all that we know, into the discombobulating challenge of an intensity that brings us to the brink - be it facing fear, maxing out our physical strength and endurance, testing our faith, or near breaking of determination and will power - and into the final integration of the knowledge we gained from such challenge, where life is reassembled in a new, course corrected, improved, and harmonious way. Which is far from how light and easy that might sound.
The trouble comes when one begins this process, intentionally or not, and stalls or stops partway through. Usually when the going gets roughest, and most often when without recognition either from the initiate themselves or from a network or facilitator to help push through to completion. It feels like the bottom has dropped out from under our feet, circumstances become intolerable, but we don't make it to the other side with newfound resilience and instead stay in a painful place where the emotional wounds don't seem to heal, dysfunctional patterns continue, and the shit just keeps getting kicked up without true resolution. We end up not knowing how to fully return from our challenge. We don't know how to process what we experienced or what to do with the thoughts that we walked away with. For some, it might even result in a chronic trauma response.
The sneakiest pitfall that I have seen many times over, is when the challenge itself runs its course, the initiate(s) complete their hardship in whatever form it took, the sigh of relief is breathed - and everything goes right back to the way it was when it all started. There is a false sense of completion. A lull into complacency just before the actual finish line. The wisdoms gained during the ultimate "moment of truth" is not applied to life After after all.
All becomes for nought.
There was no integration and we might not even know it.
The big game is talked, didactic pontification ensues, wounds are declared healed, and blindspots are cultivated and sidestepped.
Until the next initiatory experience brings another chance.
What I have had brewing on the back burner of my awareness, is no matter how easily or painfully we might be moving through these pandemic days, regardless of "enlightened" or conspiracy concepts as to the Whys of it all, despite any desire for or knowledge of potentially being in the midst of an initiatory experience - both individually and collectively - there is possibility of inadvertently missing those 3 key steps.
Severance. Threshold. Integration.
We have clearly said goodbye to life as we knew it. We appear to be at the threshold. How it looks and what we learn here is deeply personal and widely varied. If it is right, that these times are indeed following this ancient structure, integration will look differently for everyone. Some will actively work at it. Some will not even realize it. Let there be no sidestepping. Let us be guided by innate wisdom and latent medicines if not by Initiated knowledge keepers. Sometimes they seem far and few between. But at least if we get lost, we know these 3 steps.
There are many times we might feel called to pick up a stone, feather, shell, or stick while walking in nature. These little friends might catch our eye or even seem to "call out" to us. We might feel a pull or even seem to audibly hear them. This is especially the case during meditation walks when seeking items for certain ceremonial working such as creating a spirit arrow or staff, when in need of a particular energetic or elemental medicine, gathering for a devotional offering practice, re-stocking Burlá Ghuí/Despacho kits, when creating medicine pouches, or simply wildcrafting herbal medicines, but we may also feel this urge spontaneously. Some of us may even develop a habit of collecting a particular item, heart shaped rocks or feathers are a common favourite.
There are a few important aspects to consider when gathering from Nature to ensure that we are doing so in a good way.
How to cultivate a relationship with plant, stone, or crystal medicine - article full of easy methods
Stone Spirit Medicine - online course for those drawn to stones in personal healing and spiritual practice
Today's podcast guest, Juliette Woods, is an incredible mix of mystic, mother, spiritual guide, creative, and earth spiritualist.
In our conversation we talk about...
We cover a lot of ground in this long-form conversation that feels like a lengthy stroll down the beach on a drizzly day...picking up wise little stones...giving the selkies a wave hello and wink or two...remembering the seal skin tucked away in our own closets.
To support this podcast :
You can engage in reciprocity with this show by supporting me - Amber Samaya - on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ambersamaya
I'll Have What She's Having! is a visionary interview-based podcast highlighting the real-life experiences, embodied wisdom, life path stories, and inspirational creative offerings of WONDROUS women. This podcast invites women from all walks of life (and men too!) to meet at the beautiful intersections of our unique lived experiences. Joining together in a quantum circle for laid back, fireside, magic-at-the-kitchen-table, no-holds-barred JUICY conversations about everything from creative projects, community innovations, business, sex, intimacy, relationships, motherhood, grand adventures, dark nights of the soul, self care, intentional life ways, sacred practice, necessary rebellion, and those hilarious *this-legit-happened* stories that will have you laughing. We hope you'll feel at home. That you'll laugh enough that it'll count as an ab workout. That you'll heal and soften a little bit. That you'll feel deeply connected. And certainly, that you'll celebrate each other. Welcome to a podcast where conversation becomes medicine.
For more episodes:
You can connect with Juliette in the following ways:
Stepping into Ceremony
When we are well prepared and present to intention,
we set the stage to safely step back and allow healing to move through us
without trying to control or struggle toward a perceived goal;
opportunities unfold to perceive medicines and divine wisdom
greater than we can imagine.
An Initiatory Experience
An initiation marks a distinct time of "before" and "after". The kind of experience that, at its extreme, will feel like a complete life over-haul, almost like we have been reborn or achieved a new level of depth/height in awareness. Everything is somehow different or has shifted in a fundamental or cellular way.
Often it is a rite of passage, deep ceremony, intense personal medicine work, vision quest, or healing event that creates a significant shift in the way we relate to and experience the world. It steps us into a new phase of life or welcomes us into a community previously unavailable to us. It applies also to unplanned events like serious illness, accident, or tragedy, as well as natural life stages such as birth, puberty, menarche, labour/birth/parenthood, coupling/uncoupling, menopause, eldership, and death.
As I have learned it, there are 3 distinct phases to an Initiation.
Severance. Threshold. Integration.
Others may have different names or words to describe them, but the essence seems consistent in my experiences and observances so far.
The preparation phase. This is the lead up to the experience, and is when the healing work actualy begins. Sometimes as early as the moment when we commit to the opportunity. We go through a phase, consciously or not, of acts of letting go of our life as we know it, saying Goodbye to all that is familiar, releasing our grip on the anchors that make us feel stable - patterns, beliefs, relationships, perceived goals and desires, daily constructs, ways of relating, ways of being, ways of thinking - and cutting all ties to the way things are.
If you recognize you are in the Severance stage, you can support and deepen this process by:
This is where we cross over from the "before" to the "after". It is the Experience that changes us or the culmination of experiences that leads us to a pivotal threshold or doorway to step through. It may be marked by ceremony, ritual, vision quest, dark night(s) of the soul, a period of deep healing, or it may not even be fully recognized while in the thick of it - particularly when without the witnessing of community or when the experience(s) are viewed as trauma without resulting gifts.
When in this stage, you might support and deepen the experience by:
Often considered the hardest part, and sadly too often overlooked - integration occurs when we are able to Return to our usual life and keep the gifts we have acquired intact. We are challenged with bringing our internal shifts outward to affect change in our day-to-day living and resist falling back into old ways of thinking, reacting, and being. Many times this transition isn't easy, might be messy, and perhaps feels a bit chaotic as things shake up in order to fall into more harmonious places. Touching in with any community, elders, or teachers that held us through the Threshold phase can be a wellspring of anchoring resources.
When in this stage, you might support and deepen the experience by:
A few years ago I wrote some practical, hands-on, tips and suggestions for integrating the medicines from the Threshold, and bringing all of the unseen, personal, inner work Out into our mundane living experience. If you would like more on the Integration phase, find yourself post-ceremony or have recently undergone a personal healing session, please read "Integration ~ the often overlooked time after soul-work".
If you would like personal and direct support as you move through any of these stages, you are welcome to send me an email at email@example.com or book a consultation.
One aspect that I have noticed is that when we do not fully immerse ourselves in the season at hand, we can begin to fall out of alignment, or out of step, with the natural cycle of energy present all around us. This will contribute to S.A.D., lead to frustrations, longing, and have us either scrambling or working against the natural flow of life. Returning to synchronicity and reverence is perhaps easier than one might think! June's Return to Reverence column in the PRL magazine offers up some simple practices that can be incorporated into even the busiest day seamlessly ...
There are many ways to “be of service” to our communities that don’t involve extensive training, one-to-one healing sessions, or even a full-time dedicated practice, that are incredibly powerful and very supportive. One of these methods is by tending to a Community Altar. This way of holding space for others on their journey through life and healing is easily integrated into even the busiest lifestyles and from what I have experienced, can become a highly requested form of support.
7 Steps to building a Community Altar practice:
1.) Consider where your Altar will be and the length of time it will remain active. Helpful questions might be; Will your Altar be indoors or outside? Are you ready for a permanent feature in your home or will it be created only for a short gathering? An Altar is created with careful energetic intention on a designated surface - so choose a location that is easy to access and encouraging for you to tend to. Perhaps more than one person will actively tend to the Altar on behalf of the community - you get to cultivate this practice to suit your needs as well as those seeking to be included!
2.) Ponder the essential quality the Altar will be designed to represent and radiate. One might choose to support people’s hearts, invoke the sense of being held in the hands of divinity, promote their safety, clear ancestral wounds, encourage physical health, or tend to a need in the community that you identify with and relate to from your lived experience.
3.) Every item that makes up the Altar will be carefully selected and geared to contribute to the chosen energy and purpose. Consider them as energetic or spiritual ‘power houses’ such as specific crystals, images of deities or photos of deceased relatives, stones from significant and relevant places, plant medicines or dried herbs, all of which carry or support the chosen intention. An Altar brings together the individual energies of the objects with your aim to create a unified energy source that continues to “work for you” once set.
4.) Decide how you will represent people who want to be included. You might light a candle on their behalf and speak their name for long distance support or if they will be physically present you might ask them to bring a stone, photo, or personal item that resonates with their individual energetic imprint.
5.) When you have spent some time becoming familiar with the energy of the Altar, are clear on its intention and comfortable with tending to it; extend the invitation to your community to be included. One might offer to individuals who are already asking for support, post a general invitation on social media, or verbally encourage participants at a gathering you are offering.
6.) Be sure to hold the work your Altar is doing with utmost respect. Do not allow others to put random objects on it, keep it clean and organized, spend time in quiet reverence there, and perhaps move things around or change up the items to keep the energy fresh. You might sing devotional songs, make offerings, or speak invocations and prayers while tending.
7.) It is important to remember that as a working energy source, there are also times of rest needed. We can provide this rest by periodically laying a cloth over it and by dismantling it when no longer active. Blessing and cleansing the items with sacred smoke is also something to be mindful to do when the energy begins to feel “stale”. If out-of-doors in a public area, be sure to thank and close the Altar by removing personal items after each time of tending.
Tips to remember:
An example of a simple yet powerful Altar as an inspiration for your own might be to dedicate it to the "Good Neighbours", and include a central rose quartz sphere representing your love and appreciation for house sprites. Perhaps a fairy quartz in included with the points radiating outward and interlaced with small images of Fairies that are particularly attractive to you. You might decide to work with the creative, impish energy of this space by reciting a daily invocation stating your desire to connect with the Fae, Brownies, House Elves etc on a more reciprocal level. This could be helpful in homes where items regularly, and inexplicably, go missing or when it feels like your house is "playing tricks" with you. Visitors to your home who would like the same intention could be welcomed to leave shiny coins, milk, oats, or chocolate as gifts on the altar when they come for tea with you.
Another example might be an altar for our Grandmothers, perhaps created on a piece of lace at a Samhain gathering. Adorned with an inherited favourite tea cup, some black and white photos, and a brooch your Great Great Grandmother wore. These would establish the connection to matriarchal lines and brings in their energy. If the intention is to heal a history of abuse for our Ancestors, including crystals that transmute dense energy, repair heartache, and impart strength placed with the intention of safely surrounding the Grandmothers creates a powerful healing purpose. Guests could then bring their own photos, heirlooms, and written prayers for healing their lineages.
You might be surprised how many people ask to be included and share with you a real, felt sense of being supported. The simple act of someone caring is a profound sentiment let alone the supportive medicines included with, and invoked by, your Altar practice. It's free, takes little time, creates a strong feeling of community, and isn’t impeded by distance. I invite you to begin and have fun!
If you would like more in-depth wisdom to explore about Altars & Shrines, the differences between the two, their purpose, nuances, and best practices, it is a topic we cover during the first month of the Return to Reverence immersion program and continue to work with throughout.
Registration opens each June and we begin each October.
Do you have Altars ALL over the house? Here is something to consider that is often overlooked.
April's Powell River Living edition of Return to Reverence encourages us to dive into the realm of sound. For those who know I like to time such things with the seasonal wheel of the year might pick up on the correlation between the element of Air, Spring, sound waves ;)
When I wrote this article the air was full of Robin song and the increasing outdoor joyful activities of uncharacteristically warm and dry days, at this moment of posting however, I definitely am comforted by constant soft rain. There is a quality to it that brings me to many times and places all at once that have the same strong vibration of feeling cozy, small in the world, and somehow more connected to mother earth.
I am inside digging deep for the gumption to tackle much needed projects - and the sounds outside and that of my tea kettle boiling suggest I tackle slowly and mindfully. My outer world reflecting my inner.
Regarding climate change and the despair many of us feel, Pieta Woolley asked if I would share a quote of Hope for us this Spring. Here is a lovely collection of inspiration during these challenging times of renewal and new beginnings...
Marj from Basmati.com interviewed Juliette along with invitation to begin writing for their website. Below are the written and telephone interviews that touch on Juliette's personal path, her private practice, and a summary taking us from her introduction to the shamanic way to where she is now.
5 Questions, Answered from Juliette
Basmati: Describe yourself in three words:
Juliette: Wayshower of Remembering
Basmati: What is the greatest challenge you have overcome/are overcoming?
Juliette: Learning to navigate an over stimulated society as a highly sensitive creature.
That is what I see when I look to the root of all of the more surface layer challenges. I have come to learn my nature is very much like the ocean tide; flowing in fully and bringing up treasures from the deep unknown, then ebbing back into myself, retreating into that mysterious unknown before returning once again.
I am always learning more about how “extra sensory” I am, how to preserve that in a good way and to transform it from burden to medicine. Learning how to embrace this sensitivity and still function efficiently without becoming overwhelmed or burned out, that is at the root no matter what form it is presenting me with.
Basmati: What is unique to you about your work?
Juliette: I think there are 2 things that set my work apart from what I see around me.
In my teaching programs I aim to support the reclamation of a person’s heritage traditions, ones that resonate with each individual rather than give over a set lineage to follow. My aim is to offer a comprehensive structure with room to tailor and fit into day-to-day living, recover forgotten cultural practices, and encourage strong “best practices” for safety.
Another aspect is my background in neurofeedback. I draw on my knowledge of brainwave patterns, “trauma imprints”, and how they both manifest as behaviours or nervous system imbalances. This gives me an additional layer of information and ways of working when receiving clients.
Basmati: How do you guide clients into their own healing/inner freedom?
Juliette: My intention is to always empower my clients by facilitating their connection to personal practices of direct revelation while cultivating a greater knowing of their own medicine ways and innate wisdoms. When someone comes to me for healing sessions, I generally invite them to also attend regular gatherings or teachings as opportunities for experiential learning and offer them free online supports or discussion groups. High encouragement is given to establish personalized spiritual practices that fit into their lifestyle and are informed by an individual’s own cultural heritage. It is my belief these are key supports for self soul tending.
Basmati: What tools have you found least/most effective in your work?
Juliette: The natural world and compassionate listening are strong supportive tools for efficacy in my work. They both create connection, provide a wealth of information, and are soul healing balms.
Least effective - I would say easy access to “too much” information. This ease of such a massive volume of teachings available right now come with the pit fall of not allowing oneself to fully integrate before moving into deeper work. It also provides temptation to seek advanced methods without a proper foundation or with inappropriate timing. If a student’s teacher advices one to wait until they are more suitably ready, a current temptation for many is to find another teacher, or book, or article to tell them anyway. This can create anything from confusion to harmful practices.
Here is the March edition of the Return to Reverence column in the Powell River Living magazine; full of easy to do practices to help align us with the balancing forces of the Equinox to recalibrate our nervous systems. From now through to Summer Solstice we have an increasing amount of vitality available to us - keep checking in for different methods anyone can do for connecting more deeply to the natural world!
A bean feasa of Celtic lineage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.