30 March, 2013

How I learned that I was a "Lonely Coyote"...

The lessons from Sacred Space Conference continue to percolate in my head, but this morning, I wanted to write about the name given to me out of pure inspiration (or perhaps remembered? <-- Coyote winks), Lonely Coyote.

One of the few classes that I attended included a Past Life Regression workshop, given by a dear friend, Elmdea Bean (the last experience I had with past life regressions involved a group of friends from Ohio State's Pagan Student Association, and although I enjoyed the experience, I have forgotten just about everything I was trying to learn!).

There were many of us that arrived for this class, and my inner "Hermione Granger" was very appreciative of the folders with notes, blank papers, and business cards! With all of the Journey Work that I do in shamanism, I figured it would be really easy and simple to just lay back, relax, and float towards different periods in my life. Ha ha ha-- I was wrong! I kept trying to rebel against the format that she provided, and I had to wrestle with my Coyote-nature and allow myself to be led along by her voice.

Elmdea has structured her Guided Meditations perfectly; each word resonated deeply in my brain, and opened the pathways inside my Soul at a very deep level. I noted that she combined aspects of progressive muscle relaxation, as well as certain verbal triggers that allowed all who participated in the group to feel safe, secure, and blessed by the experience. I also appreciated the specific cues that allowed us to remember our Journeys, so that we could process the information in the next few months.

Because I had lots of different ideas of where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to learn about myself, I found that it took a very focused amount of concentration in order to release my preconceptions, and allow the Journey to grow organically. As a shaman, I am very adept at working with my Spirits on the issues brought to me by clients (sometimes working very quickly in group healings!). But as this was a healing Journey of information for me, I needed a bit of extra Grounding & Centering. Eventually, Coyote popped in, laughed at my attempts to not "race ahead of the meditation" , and said "You are all  over the place! Come, I'm gonna take you to the first time we met."

I remember stepping out of a creekbed, after washing up, and that I was barefoot and naked underneath a brown shift-dress. I was a young girl, slim but not very strong (but I was fast!), perhaps in my pre-teen years. I had long, silky black hair, and I could actually feel its texture as I ran my fingers through it. I felt myself walking along dirty, grassy paths from the creekbed towards a small central area with a long community table. It was warm, with a bit of a wet chill on the air (spring?). I remember sitting down at the table, with other children my age, and laughing while eating food (some sort of corn mush? It tasted delicious). Emotionally, I felt a sense of belonging, of community, and of love within a family/tribe. I heard someone call my name, "Esa" or "Esat" (hmm, will have to research that later).

The Journey then switched to my first significant event in that life: a Shamanic Challenge. I remember being alone, in the woods, in a clearing on top of a small hill. It was dark (middle of the night?), and I was being torn apart by wild animals. In shamanism, it is called "Dismemberment", and I remember that my arms and legs were being torn off my body by a Wolf, a Bear, and a Coyote (and possibly another animal, but I couldn't see it). It was incredibly terrifying, and very realistic. I could feel my flesh tear, my throat scream, and the tears run down my face. In fact, I can remember the body-memories as I type this! Finally, I realized that I was not dead, and that I had survived, and heard Coyote howl as he slowly walked on all fours up to me. I was sitting on a blanket, hugging my knees to my chest, and he sat on his haunches next to me. We both stared at the full moon rising over the horizon, and then I very suddenly plunged my hand into Coyote's chest, and took out his bleeding, pumping, glorious heart. At that moment, when he chose me and I chose him, we became joined, and apart from my community.

(I remember feeling quite ecstatic after Coyote showed me this, and sweaty, too. But the memory resonated so deeply in me, that I knew it to be true.)

As Elmdea guided our class into different significant events, I noted that I was always alone. I lived alone at the edge of the community/tribe, I gave birth to a son alone (no husband, no father to care for him, and the son left me soon after he reached the age of manhood), and I died alone. The themes of loneliness, of being apart, of being misunderstood and perhaps feared by my community, and of being separate from others was a part of my soul's Journey, and there are specific lessons and energies that go along with the name, "Lonely Coyote". 

Of course, I've barely scratched the surface of my Soul's journey, and this workshop has helped me to understand some of my personality quirks and preferences (i.e., "hiding in my den" when I'm overwhelmed, desperately needing alone-time to process spiritual messages, etc.). I look forward to learning more of my work in this life, and continuing my own Soul's healing journey.

Aaaaoooooooooooooooo!

24 March, 2013

Sacred Space Conference: a Review of Coyote's influence

This past Sacred Space Conference was a complicated jumble of spiritual headspace and social headspace.

Usually, at most pagan workshops/gatherings, I attend each class I can, trying to stuff as much information into my brain as possible (before I have to rejoin the regular world). I find that each conference has a "theme" that is apropos to my life at that moment... This year's theme seemed to be "understanding the 'Lonely' in 'Lonely Coyote'!"

I found that I had very little socialization with others, and seemed to prefer small snippets of interaction, combined with lots of rest and reflection.

I was blessed to be the Travel Hostess to one of the featured presenters, Christopher Penczak, and found him to be a wonderfully grounded and compassionate Soul! Of course, my Kojote car began playing tricks on us as soon as we left the airport (Kojote = "coyote" in German)... I kept getting turned around in DC, not trusting my GPS, and generally being embarrassed as to the silly driving shenanigans (Christopher was a very good sport).

Once we finally arrived at the hotel, we were able to join the Opening Ritual. I found this ritual to be very powerful and compelling, in large part due to the excellent ritual skills of Gwendolyn Reese and Michael Smith. The Patrons of the conference were Athena and Thoth, and were asked to watch over and protect the attendees, presenters, and all those traveling to the conference.

Most of the time, I am able to "plug in" to the egregore of a pagan gathering, but I found that I still couldn't shake off the workweek. I went upstairs to my hotel room and tried to Ground, Center myself, and relax away the tension. Sadly, my mind was racing too fast, and didn't attend any other workshops until late that night.

Thursday evening, I attended the Oracular Seidh ritual, run by Diana Paxson, Laurel Mendes, and students. I always enjoy attending this ritual, as it is a powerful combination of Pathworking, group/community healing, and seeking information from the gods. The previous year, Laurel worked with the spirit of a beloved family ancestor (recently passed), which brought me so much healing and closure. During the ritual this year, I spoke with Diana as oracle, and received some needed guidance for my own pagan/shamanic path.

On Friday, I stayed in my room almost the entire day. Part of it was due to procrastination regarding my own presentation, and part of it was my own inability to fully let go of my own shadow issues in my head (working with mentally ill clients, difficult interpersonal relationships, Saturn in Scorpio (my own issues of Power, Sex, and Death), etc.). As a true coyote, I stayed in my "den" until my self-healing and knowledge was done (or at least more balanced)!

I prepared myself for the highlight of the conference, the Conjure Dance. Caroline has helped to enlarge this phenomenon, as well as UToS, and it is simply incredible. All gods, goddesses, spirits, ancestors, Kindred, etc. are honored with either a statue, a plaque, or a section of a GIGANTIC altar that covers over 5 tables. Music is played while everyone in attendance honors the Spirits that they know, love, or heard about (friend of a friend!) with drink, candies, and peeps (chicken sacrifices)! The dancing gets rather ecstatic, and different Spirits are invited to party, and they join as They See Fit (sometimes with funny synchronicities, sometimes will possessions). Coyote was put in the Dog House, as he broke my jewelry last year, but I think He really enjoyed being last on the list. We danced together, and encouraged everyone to howl with laughter, joy, and energy, and nothing beats the image of Diana dancing with my Coyote pelt, shaking her tail!

After the Conjure Dance, Coyote was Everywhere. He sneakily got people to howl during my presentation on Mental Illness and Spiritual Experience (will discuss in upcoming blog post). He intrigued attendees who had no idea who He was (they will soon). He reminded people of his Awesomeness (those who had forgotten how to work with him). He rekindled relationships with those who missed him. And He began new friendships with those who fell in love with his humor, his eyes full of the star-field, and his Sexy Tail.

I enjoyed watching his influence in different parts of the conference, and giggled at the Joy he inspired. However, his greatest lesson for me involved the first meeting of our Souls (will discuss in another upcoming blog post).

During the evening on Saturday, I found that I had a difficult time socializing with other attendees. I couldn't make sense when talking, I had a hard time keeping track of my thoughts, and I felt I was still not "plugged in" to Sacred Space as a whole. It was not due to any one thing, but I was in such a certain type of headspace, that I felt most comfortable being alone, being outside, and floating on the outskirts of the Party. Eventually, I made my way to the Trance Possession ritual down the hall, and felt much more comfortable in my skin.

Finally, it hit me: I talk to lots of different spirits in my head during Shamanic Healing appointments, and so sometimes, they talk with me in regular, everyday life. I have a hard time explaining what that is like, and sometimes I can't translate what is in my head into English for others (I have many moments like that, and felt a bit embarrassed trying to explain it eloquently). So, when I'm feeling that type of energy, it's just easier hanging out with those same Spirits during celebratory rituals! Once I realized that, the last of my social awkwardness melted away, and I was able to better balance my social-time with my alone-time.

Sunday morning arrived very quickly, and very painfully. The clocks had jumped forward an hour, and I had lost much-need sleep! But, I asked the gods for strength, and was able to facilitate a really powerful, educational, long (~3 hours!) and joyful Shamanic Healing Ceremony. I was incredibly grateful for my dear friend Xtian (Rune), who taught me a lot about his own healing methods, and we worked together to facilitate healing for all who attended.

After that, I was pretty wiped. I returned Christopher Penczak to the airport, and really loved hearing about his own Sacred Space experience. Of course, the Kojote car had a few final tricks (who drives all the way around DC's baseball field for NO REASON?!), but we safely made it on time.

I have many more blog entries to come, as I try to reflect on the very specific and profound lessons of this conference-- stay tuned!

06 March, 2013

A story of how Coyote tricked the Moon (guest post)



In the ancient past, when earth and spirit were one, the moon was always full.  Luna, for that is what she called herself then, would keep her face fully turned towards the earth because she enjoyed watching Brother Wolf and his pack hunting at night.  His pack’s hunting skills always amazed her, and she enjoyed the new tactics they came up with to hunt their prey.  Wolf knew that she watched and blessed them with her full face each night, so at the end of each hunt they would leave an offering for her, as she sunk past the horizon each night. 
Some nights the hunt was harder than others, as if the prey seemed to stay one step of them.  What he did not know was that Younger Brother Coyote, the Trickster, would hide in the shadows that Luna’s light provided and warn the prey of the pack’s arrival.  He would sneak ahead and tell them from which direction the hunters were coming, and which areas were safe.  Luna enjoyed watching this game from the sky above, though she only caught glimpses of Coyote in her light between the shadows.  One night, she saw that Wolf’s pack was going to pass very close to a shadow in which Coyote hid.  So she altered her path just a tiny bit, so that her light shined on a small bit of his tail.  Coyote was so intent on the night’s mischief that he failed to notice the light on his tail--but the pack did not miss it.  Wolf sent his pack to chase Coyote away from their hunting grounds; now he understood the cleverness of the prey.
Luna was truly entertained!
Each night after, Wolf split his pack in half--to hunt dinner, and to keep a watchful eye on Coyote. Coyote worked hard to avoid his Wolf cousins, and continued to manipulate and trick the hunters every night.  Luna’s delighted laughter did not escape Coyote’s large ears… that night a mighty Trick was being born.
At the end of the next day, before Luna rose in the sky, Coyote hid behind a large stone so that her light would not see him.  He knew that she could not see into the shadows as he could, with his sharp eyes.  That night he used every trick he knew; not to disrupt the Wolf pack’s hunt, or even to hunt his own dinner-- the moon was his prey that night.  He tracked Luna for hours and saw, for the first time, the offering Wolf laid out for her. 
The hunt had been very good for the wolves, for they did not have to chase Coyote while hunting, and so the pack feasted on deer.  For Luna, they offered the eyes of all the deer, so that she may look through them and witness the hunt from the deer’s point of view.  Coyote appeared pensive as he looked at the eyes, and his Trick began to take form in his mind.
He waited for Luna to take the offering, and as she descended towards the horizon to accept the offering, he followed her further. 
He followed her past the horizon and into the Celestial realm of Spirit, for in those days you could cross the boundary as easily as putting one foot in front of the other.  He watched as she deposited the offering in her Altar Room, near the other offerings that Wolf and his pack had given her.  He followed her still, always staying in her shadow, as she spoke to the Spirits of the Planets.  She spoke to them of Wolf and his pack, how their hunting prowess amazed her, and how she delighted as they hunted within her light.  Luna then fell asleep, resting for that night’s trip across the sky. Coyote watched her. When she woke and prepared to leave for the horizon, he waited for her at the entrance to the moon’s pathway.
Startled, she asked, “Younger Brother Coyote, is there a problem? Why do you wait for me at the horizon?”
He kneaded his tail; “I have come to give you a gift, Big Sister.  Many nights I have seen the wolves leave an offering for you, and I realize that I have never left you one myself”.  She saw his eyes begin to shine with tears, and bent down to place both hands under his jaw. “To leave an offering is not your way, I do not blame you--” “But still,” Coyote interrupted, “I wish to give you a gift, for I have played in the shadows you create during the night.”
As soon as the sentence left his lips, he plucked out his eyes and offered them to her. With a grin, he said, “Please take my eyes for the night--with them, you’ll be able to see into the shadows your Light creates.” Luna was stunned; “Oh Coyote, that is a mighty gift! But how would I be able to see my moon’s pathways if I am wearing your eyes? Only my eyes can see the paths…” She saw disappointment on his face, though his eyes were still in his outstretched paws.
Coyote turned his eyes around and around in his paws, thinking of how to solve this obstacle. Suddenly, he jumped up on his hind legs and exclaimed, “Sister, I have it! How about you take my eyes for tonight, and I’ll take yours. This way, I can walk your paths while you hold my tail and we will travel across the sky together!” Luna began to feel apprehensive, for she knew Coyote was a great trickster, and she did not want to be played a fool this night.
“Coyote, my tricksy brother, your cunning is known around the earth and even here in the celestial realms.  How do I know you are not planning on tricking me this night?” 
“Luna, I only wish to give you a gift.” He stood up as straight as he could, looking at Luna with sincerity; “If it would put your mind at ease, then let me say this; I promise on my eyes that I will not trick you this night.”   Luna saw the earnestness in his eyes (still on his paws) and made her decision.  She plucked out her eyes and handed them to Coyote while scooping his eyes up and put them in her sockets.  At that moment she looked around and did not see the stars and planets as the friends she knew, but as the beautiful and awesome display for the creatures of the earth.  She saw her great shining grey eyes in the sockets of Coyote, and laughed in delight at the sight of him.
Coyote lifted his tail, allowing her to grip tightly, and slowly followed her pathways across the sky.  Coyote led her faithfully, and noticed that as he walked along the path, it seemed to disappear from view for a moment, but recreate itself behind him. In this knowledge he knew his scheme would work, but tonight he enjoyed just leading Luna across the sky.  Luna for her part was thoroughly enjoying the experience.  She could see into the shadows as if they were not there, and she could see the fear in the prey as it ran from the wolves.  When the pack brought down the beast she could not contain her excitement anymore and laughed with glee across the night, “Yip. Yip. Yipeeeeeee!”  Wolf looked up at Luna with confusion for he had never heard her make that sound before, and then looked at the woods around him in suspicion; this was the second night in a row that Coyote had not been spotted.
When they reached the horizon and crossed through into the Celestial realm, they returned their eyes to each other. Luna picked up Coyote in a great embrace, “Thank you so much! That was the greatest time I have ever had, that was a mighty gift!”  They parted ways and Luna raced to tell the other Planets of her adventures that night.  Coyote returned to his den to sleep, for he had not slept in two days and needed to be rested to trick the wolves this coming night.
The normal patterns of life continued throughout the weeks and months that followed.  Wolf and his pack would split in order to hunt at night, and keep Coyote away from the prey, while Luna watched their games from her paths in the sky.  But soon Luna began to miss the adventure she and Coyote shared, and she asked him one night as she was about pass below the horizon:
“Coyote, it has been awhile since we shared time together, and I do miss the excitement of that night.  Would you lead me across the sky again this coming night?” 
Coyote yipped in excitement, “It would be my pleasure to meet you at the horizon! So we can dance together across the sky!”
That coming night they met at the horizon and once more traded eyes.  Luna grabbed onto Coyote’s tail and was immediately guided across the sky.  Again she was amazed by what she saw, heard, and smelled in the forest below…which is why she did not notice how Coyote was changing her path. He erased her old path with his footsteps, and began to lead her in slow spirals across the sky.  Because she now wore his eyes (eyes that could see into the shadows as if they were lit), she did not notice the change. Coyote was leading her in great spirals, and her light did not always shine fully towards the earth. 
Luna thanked him, as they dipped below the horizon and exchanged eyes. Both slept during the day, eagerly dreaming of the next night’s entertainment.
 As Luna stepped across the threshold at the horizon, she stepped onto her paths and came to an abrupt stop. She saw what Coyote had done, and began to despair. Finally, she loosed a long howl of grief and frustration, because she did not remember the lines of her pathways.  When Coyote heard her, he smiled and began to mimic her previous laughter; “Yip. Yip. Yipeeeee”, so that all who heard it knew it was He that Tricked Luna.  Wolf howled with her, to help her mourn her loss, and understood that Luna’s light would now be ever-changing. 

(c) David Tyrsson, Spring 2011  (do not take without crediting/permission)