Tag Archives: spirituality

Awakening the Elementals

 

by Angela Raincatcher

Awakening the Elementals, 2012

Often my inspiration spring boards from a snippet of song, some overheard words, or a found image. This piece was inspired from a vision that my husband M had and related during a Espiritismo misa (a rite for communicating with the spirits and ancestors). He saw a “wavy cross with an eye at its center.”

Over the following days, this image seed planted itself into my inner vision. I asked M if the cross in his vision was one like the Crucifixion or an equal-armed cross. Equal-armed it was, and I immediately associated with the symbol of an equal-armed cross in a circle, which is the ancient elements coming together to form the world.

I began with a textured layer of black, white, and gray — chaos and cosmos and everything in between bursting from the center of the canvas. Then I layered the colors I associate with the elements (Yellow for Air, Red for Fire, Blue for Water, and Green for Earth) in the four quadrants, so that each contained parts of all peeking from underneath the surface.

The eyes were the most surprising part of this painting for me. Originally I had planned for just the center eye, but I felt that each element wanted its own eye in addition to that of Spirit in the center.

On a canvas this small, I paint leaning over quite closely to the piece. (My eyesight is not so good and I need a new prescription.) As I put the finishing touches on the eyes, I felt a CLICK and a WHOOSH of energy sweep up from the canvas and into my body. YES, the elementals had definitely woken up!

I gifted this piece to M to remind him that his visions (when he lets himeself acknowledge them) are strong and true.

Blessings from a full and open heart,
Angela

Tarot Blessing

One of my spiritual groups, Becoming, is undergoing a time of transitions. I am stepping down as the Presiding Celebrant after eight and a half years of service, and handing the responsibility over to my dear spirit sister Ketzirah and her vision. We have also been struggling with the continual search for a permanent home and the ongoing dance of delegation and decentralization through a new leadership framework. We have also lost some long-term, dearly loved members over the last couple years, while gaining a few new ones. It has been bumpy, but we each have faith that we will move through it and out the other side stronger.

With the upcoming transition of Celebrants on my mind, I offered a working experiment at our monthly Circle of Connection yesterday. It was an experiment that was quite elegant in my head, but I wanted to see how it would play out. The Becoming folks are nothing if not adventurous when it comes to such experiments. Some of our members are familiar with tarot; others not so much. We used the Gaian Tarot (the fan-girl edition as I call it) because they are nature based (like our group) and work well with people who are unfamiliar with tradition tarot meanings but willing to be open to the images.

Our intent was to use the cards as a way to ask and listen for a blessing from the Heart of the Universe, the core energy of Becoming, and our individual Divine Sparks.

I shuffled the cards and explained the steps in the working. Each person in the circle drew a card and held it face down until all cards were drawn. We then looked at our cards to examine the visual image. What drew the eye? What colors, shapes, animals, plants, people were present? What were they doing? How did the card feel?

We then closed our eyes and recreated the image of the card around ourselves. What did we notice now? What sounds, tastes, textures, smells? What was hooked our attention? What were people, plants, animals doing or saying? Where were we in the scene?

Opening our eyes and looking at the card again, we noticed what was absent in our imagination that was present in the card. And what was absent in the card but present in our imagination? What message was the card telling us? What blessings was the card giving us?

I asked everyone to use the phrase “May we…” to begin the blessing from their card. I said a short intro to the prayer and then we went around the circle, showing our card, and giving the blessing.  Here’s what came up for Becoming this day.

We call to the Heart of the Universe, the core of Becoming, and the divine spark within each of us to give us a blessing.

[Canoe] May we have the vision to see our destination clearly and the discipline and strength to get there.

[Elder of Fire] May we honor the diverse paths and perspectives that we all bring to Becoming and that contribute to the spirit of Becoming.

[Explorer of Water] May we fearlessly meet the challenges and adventures along our path.

[Elder of Earth] May we continue to spin the threads of connection between us and other people, between us and Nature, between us and the Divine.

[Bindweed] May the ears of Becoming never be closed to the song.

[Ace of Air] May we receive the blessing of the root of the powers of air, the mediator of fire and water, the balance which cannot exist without both. As the butterfly’s life depends on the flowers, the flowers are sustained by the butterfly—so Becoming is blessed by its members and its members are blessed by Becoming.

[Child of Air] May we be filled with grace and peace. Although we have our own paths, may we remember that we all fly together.

[Ten of Fire] May we be able to burn away the things we no longer need so that new growth may arise in their place.

[Elder of Air] May we always hear the simple music in the melody of the wind. Even if the birthplace of Becoming is beyond the horizon, together we will always have a home.

[Four of Air]May we bring all the needed pieces together to create a home to nurture us in growth.

[Five of Air] May Becoming be blessed with leadership that inspires us to connect with one another and the outside world.

[Child of Water] May we be like children before the universe, willing to wade into it and explore it, willing to stand in it and experience it.

[Guardian of Earth] may we all be good stewards of the earth. May we have the serenity to recognize the small thing that helps us achieve that task. May we also recognize those whose loyalty we have engendered to help us along this path.

Heart of the Universe, hear our prayers.
Core of Becoming, hear our prayers.
Divine Spark with Us, hear our prayers.
Blessed be. So Mote It Be.

I noticed a few things about the cards we pulled. Five out of thirteen were Air, which is the element we started studying on Sunday for the next three months. We pulled three Elder cards and two Child cards. All our numbered cards speak to beginnings and transitions. And the two Major Arcana cards speak to freedom of movement and displine, and the lack thereof.

Once again, I am in awe of the inspiration and beauty that Becoming members find in themselves when we connect to that rich source of divinity in circle together.

Blessings be to the journeyer; blessings on the journey.

Shrine for the Guardian of Life and Death

 Shrine to the Guardian of LIfe and Death

I’ve been working on this piece for two and a half years. It was supposed to take only two months. The vision from the Baron was so clear. I felt all I had to do was gather the pieces and put them together. And yet it took so long.

If I have learned anything in creating art work for the gods is that the work happens on their time frame, not mine. They guide my process, spurring me to climb the stairs to my alternately freezing cold or sweltering hot studio on the third floor, when it suits them. They show me what they want and are loud and clear when I put something in the piece that they do not want — even if it “should” work.

Today is Memorial Day. My plan was to work on some writing projects. But no, the Baron had other plans. I had sweated for hours working on his shrine yesterday — surely that was enough. I wanted to work on my other projects coming due (or overdue). About an hour of stop-and-start writing, I was antsy and couldn’t concentrate. I need to move and do something with my hands. So, it was up to the studio to put the finishing touches on the shrine. And three hours and a damp shirt later, it was proclaimed done. I ate lunch and then decided where to hang it downstairs.

Somehow I am not surprised, now that I actually think about it, that the Baron wanted his shrine finished on Memorial Day — a day we are directed to remember the men and women who joined the Ancestors in defense of our nation.

Both Sides Now?

Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. You’ve been stoney for too many years. Try something different. Surrender. ~Rumi

I spent this weekend living a past experience from the other side.

Much like hosting a surprise birthday party for a dear friend after having enjoyed being the birthday girl yourself.  There is something so fresh and unadulterated about opening the door, not knowing what is on the other side, being shocked at first, and then overwhelmed with love. The experience can carry you away, make you giddy with awareness that you are special enough for people to do this for you.
And then there is the experience of throwing the party. The mindful planning, the mature preparation of details, the pacing to get everything set up for just the right effect. If we pay attention to the energy flow, we can sense the gradual shifts and rises that lead to the outpouring of that “overwhelming” love, but we are not ourselves overwhelmed or giddy.

Reflecting on my weekend, I realize that all exchanges need to be felt from these different perspectives before we can even begin to understand the meaning of relationship. There is a giving and a receiving — and I’m beginning to see that we have to experience them both to have a sense of wholeness.

Our hearts are broken. We break hearts. We give of ourselves to people we love. We receive the precious gift of self that other choose to offer us. We betray and are betrayed. We sing out our life’s experience, and we listen to the song of the universe. And we don’t even begin to understand wholeness until we experience fully both sides of the ebb and flow, in and out, of these relational experiences.

What I got an inkling of this weekend is that I have been holding on to my pain from an early betrayal for far too long. That instead of trying desparately to keep the barriers up, instead of scrambling to keep myself together and strong, that sometimes, how about right now, I need to open further. I need to run out to face the storm that threatens to break above me and yell out the the gods:

“I AM HERE! I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE! COME TALK TO ME AND I WILL LISTEN! I WILL NOT STOPPER MY EARS! I AM YOURS IF YOU WILL TAKE ME AND GROW IN ME!”

(Just typing that set my crown chakra tingling! Uh-oh!).
Photo: Exhileration by Chloe Grayson

Breathing Our Prayers

 Sacred Dove Mandala

About a month ago, I wrote about the magick of our breath. In our tradition, the season of Spring (early February through end of April) is the season of the element of Air and of the archetype of the Artist. We focus on our breath as the mover of life force, the meeting of spirit and body that is life triumphant. The breath is our spirit’s way of enlivening and animating the matter of the body. Attending to the breath links the conscious self to the other parts of our self, including our Divine Self, or our personal God/Goddess.

Our breath is our prayer to this Divine Self. Communing with that Spark is as natural as breathing in and out, filling ourselves with life and spirit. In Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition, Cora Anderson, one of the founders of the Feri Tradition and an influence in our tradition, tells us:

“The more natural and intimate your contact with the [Godself], the more sure you will be with the results of your prayer. You should pray first to your personal God before trying to contact other Gods. When this kind of prayer becomes as automatic as speaking to your loved ones, it is then possible to commune with the Gods in a loving wholesome way.”

And so, we practice the Ha Prayer, a prayer of breath and life force.  There are several variations of this prayer, each tailored to a particular path or need within the individual. This is how I practice this prayer.

Bring your attention to the energy all around you. Bring your attention to your breath. Begin to beathe comfortably and deeply.  Say “May all my souls be straight within me.”

Ask your Younger Self (or Fetch, Child Self, Lower Self, Wild Self, Unconscious) to store the energy you are about to take in.

Begin a four-count breath. For example, inhale to a count of three (or four or five or seven…), hold for a count of three, exhale fully to a count of three, and hold again for a count of three. 

Breath in sets of 4 breaths until your body begins to tingle and you fill yourself full of life energy. I find it helpful to dedicate the first breath to my body, the second to my Younger Self, the third to my Conscious Self, and the fourth to my God Self. This round repeats for 8, 12, or 16 breaths.

When you are well charged, ask your Younger Self to direct the energy where it is most needed to align your souls and create a clear channel of energy within you. Trust your Younger Self to know what to do.

On the last breath, tilt your head back as you breathe out and blow a breath of air upwards. Send the energized breath to your God Self, which you visualize as a ball of blue fire floating above your head.

By “feeding” your God Self in this manner, you are stepping on the path of connecting and communing directly with that part of you that is eternal, which is our link to the gods. As my teacher, Katrina Messenger, says, “our acceptance of the blessings of the gods is our greatest gift to them.”  The Ha Prayer is both an offering and an acceptance of the love and life of the universe.

May you be ever so blessed.

Sacred Dove Mandala (c) 2010

Drawing What Makes Us Unconfortable

I’m linking this post to the one right before. I think they make sense together, but what do I know.

This last weekend, I participated in a workshop, Awakening Creativity Through Spiritual Practice, taught by Sylvan at Reflections Mystery School. You know you’re in trouble when your response to a trance is, “Whoa! Deep! F**k!” The big message I took away for my artistic work is to draw the pictures that I am afraid to draw, that I am afraid to be seen by others.

I even committed–outloud and in front of others–to do just that.  I have experienced a tremendous amount of anxiety over this for years and kept myself to positive, beautiful, uplifting, and safe subjects. But that doesn’t seem to be what I need to draw and paint. The thought terrifies me, and yet there is so much energy here, which usually means there is much power waiting to be released and used. That is one of the lessons I have learned in working to integrate my Shadows. That, and “to attend to where the energy is”–a corollary of “energy follows attention.”

Today’s post over at Seth Godin’s blog deals with the resistance to actively and successfully moving toward our dreams. He talks about the lizard brain, or amygdala. From scholarpedia, I learned that the amygdala has been implicated in the processing and memory of emotional states, such as fear, aggression, maternal feelings, sexual urges, and ingestive (eating and drinking) behaviors. And yes, all of those are subject matter for the images that are bumping up against the surface of my conscious wanting out.

Last night I took the first steps by looking for stock photos for reference, taking some of my own with my little digital camera, and doing some sketches. It wasn’t as bad as I feared. The anxiety is lessened but not gone.

How does this relate to my last post? Perhaps this is a boundary I must cross to follow the holy man on fire. Perhaps that is just one aspect of my animus. Perhaps this crossing and expanding of my personal boundaries is necessary to grow both in my art and my spirituality.

I don’t know exactly. Maybe it doesn’t make rational sense. But as the BlissChick wrote today, I will follow the breadcrumbs.

Following the Man on Fire

I have delayed posting this as I tracked down the “perfect” image to illustrate it. I’m not finding it, which may be a clue that I need to create it, or that finding that image is not the point.

Last week, I had a dream. Actually, I usually dream, but every once in a while the dream image is very clear, clear enough to remember, clear enough to stick with me. This is one such dream.

I am walking through a marketplace that looks much like a medieval fair, but dirtier. People all around me are sick and dying. I am slowly walking and watching them. My heart goes out to them as they shuffle in the shadows of alleys and doorways. Occasionally, one will cross my path and make me stop in my tracks. There is a moment of awkwardness before the other shuffles off, and I continue.

At the center of the marketplace, I find my teacher elder, a wizened old woman with a round face and eyes. She is tiny, wrapped in cloth to stay warm by a small fire. She may be old, but she is not one of the sick. She is timeless. I sit across from her, and we talk.

A man about my age comes and sits around the fire between us. He is wearing a roughly woven, brown robe, much like a monk’s. He has dark brown, curling hair and a kind, yet compelling eyes. I feel a flash of connection when our eyes meet. We don’t speak much to each other, but both listen to the elder.  A spark from the fire flies out and lands on his sleeve. A small fire spreads over his arm and hand, but doesn’t seem to burn him. He reaches over and taps out or covers the fire with his other hand. He gives me an embarrassed look, as if I have seen something that he usually tries to hide. He is surprised that I have seen it.

Unhurriedly, he rises to leave and walks away. I follow him. I know in that moment that I will always follow him, no matter at what cost–to my life or my reputation. And I know that it will be OK.

Early in December I made the intent to begin a conscious relationship with my animus. I believe this dream is saying that I am on the right track, but that I will have to take risks. My life is pretty “safe” right now, but sometimes I feel that I am on a knife’s edge, that I want to play with fire.

Yet, I am afraid. Afraid of losing control of my mind. Afraid of losing the respect of others, of losing my good name. Afraid that my work (especially my artwork) will make people seriously question my sanity or good spirit. So, I am usually “good” or “pleasing” and sometimes “inspiring,” or so I’ve been told.

But I think that may be changing, which I’ll talk about in my next post.

Winter’s Daily Practice

At Reflections Mystery School, we have seasonal daily practices that correspond to the element of the season: Earth in Winter, Air in Spring, Fire in Summer, and Water in Autumn.  These daily practices are meant to connect us in a physical and energetic way to the element of the season.

In the Winter, we ground energetically and we massage our feet.

Our Feet Touching Means We're Married

Grounding brings us back to the present, back to our bodies. Here and now, we are effective agents of our Work. We are only able to answer the call of our vocation by being fully present. When our minds and our energy is scattered this way and that, like tangled yarn batted about by a small kitten, nothing makes sense. Threads that look like they lead somewhere double back on themselves and leave us feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Taking the time to bring our awareness back  and finding that still point inside of us gives us the space to listen and move with intent and purpose.

Massaging our feet further focuses our attention to the parts of ourselves that actually move us around this physical plane. When we practice an embodied spirituality, being aware of and taking care of our bodies is a holy act. Our bodies have a great deal to teach us, if we take the time to learn. Our bodies have a great dealt to tell us, if we take the time to listen. Massaging the feet communicates to the body that we do value its messages, that we consider it sacred and worthy of our attention.

Every year, someone asks of our teacher “how is massaging my feet a spiritual or magical practice?” She has her own answer, and mine may be quite similar. There is a saying about magic that energy follows attention. When we pay attention to our feet (our bodies) and care of them as holy, then the energy of healing and love flow to them and to all they do and represent to us: mobility, foundation, support, strength.

Our feet are the foundation of our bodies much as daily practice is a foundation of our spirituality.

Related posts that inspired me to write today:
Katrina Messenger on Radical Self-Care
Ketzirah on Sustainable Spirituality
Christine Valters Paintner on The Exquisite Tenderness of Bodies

Photo of my feet and my husband’s feet on vacation at the Delaware seashore, 2008.