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on becoming human

This was my final working draft of an article to be edited and added to by Helix for publication on the Anderson Faery website.  The final version can be read there, and I recommend you click that link.

———-draft —————-

so you want to learn faery, but you can’t find a teacher?

Faery/Feri is an ecstatic tradition of witchcraft.  That means it’s an embodied tradition, it’s also a lineage passed physically.  By its very nature it requires in-person transmittal. But many of us, for various reasons, will never live near an initiate or be able to travel to visit one.  What do we do if this flavor of the craft speaks to us and we find ourselves without access to a teacher?

The first big thing we must do is let go of expectation. A sure way to get ourselves into the weeds is by trying to compel something to happen.  To learn any esoteric system, but especially one that is left-hand, a trustworthy, responsible teacher with integrity is paramount. If you try to force your access to a teacher you will end up settling for any situation.  That would be a bad and potentially dangerous idea. So, just take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of your expectation around Anderson Faery. Let’s do it together. Ready? Deep breath…and let go. Now let’s chat about some things you *can* do.

A key tenant of Anderson Faery is the divine nature of the human self in its multi-part form.  The self can be developed and explored through many systems and practices. This is not dependent on Faery.  Start here. Begin the task of self-reflection, personal development and resiliency training. You might find an established meditation group nearby, search for a good therapist to explore with, or ask like-minded friends to form a regular sitting group with you.  There are many resources available for personal growth. A healthy, balanced Self is the cornerstone for any human, Faery witch or otherwise.

Another foundational practice within Anderson Faery is the dismantling of cultural world-view and the intentional cultivation of an enchanted worldview.  A good way to go about this is through study. There are several good books available that will help you begin to see a little more sideways, and question aspects of culture you may not hitherto have done.  A list of reading material that might be helpful is below. Don’t rush these books. Instead go slowly, contemplatively, making notes as thoughts arise. It’s by spending time with mind expanding concepts that transformation occurs.  Maybe that sitting group you formed could read through these together?

  • The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a more-than-human world by David Abram
  • Dancing in the Streets: a history of collective joy by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Joy Diet: Ten daily practices for a happier life by Martha Beck
  • Radical Acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a buddha by Tara Brach
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind and Body in the healing of trauma by Bessell van der Kolk
  • Sapiens, a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman

Like many ecstatic traditions, Anderson Faery has a strong thread of Ancestral veneration.  We stand on the shoulders of giants. Whether you have a nurturing or harmful relationship with ancestors of blood, their genetic heritage is still yours.  The work of a witch is to explore those threads, heal them so He Hirself is healed, and strengthen their resiliency for the benefit of our descendants. Yet this is not purely imaginal. If you aren’t up to date on the new science of heritability, you might look at It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are And How To End The Cycle by Mark Wolynn.  A practical first step in this process is to create a dedicated space for ancestral offerings. This can be as simple as a clean surface with a little cup for water. Pour fresh water in the cup, and say a little blessing over it, such as, “May my ancestors be blessed, may my descendents be blessed.” There is more elaborate and complex work that can be done but this small step will take you far.

If this all sounds very heady thus far, it has been.  An educated witch is a prepared witch, but the body is included in that. Get out of your box – out of your car, your room, your apartment, your house  – and get your feet, limbs, elbows in the grass. Explore the land around you. This may be a city park, a strip of wild grasses along a curb, or rambling lanes in the deep countryside.  You don’t need to do anything out there, just observe. Be polite, and pick up rubbish if you see it. Say hello to other living beings you meet – in your out loud voice. Witches are uncannily quirky, and psychic, but we rarely read each other’s minds, so don’t expect other-than-human persons (big or small) to read yours.  

Observe the clouds and the winds where you live. Which direction do they predominantly blow from? What does the wind from those different directions feel like on your skin, what sensations do you get, is there a taste?  Write this all down, or make art about it. Record your observations in some way. It doesn’t have to be with words. It can be with movement, poetry, painting, clay or music.  Continue these observations for other living beings, like animals, rivers, birds, insects, trees, flowers.  Be polite, say hello, pick-up rubbish (as an offering) and spend time with them. You’d be surprised at the strong friendships you build by just showing up and sitting with someone, whether they are human or not.

Speaking of art, explore yours.  How do you express your creativity?  Do you move your body, perhaps through ecstatic dance, yoga, line-dancing or ballet?  Do you paint, draw, sew or knit? Dedicate time to the cultivation and expression of your creativity.  This is life force, and Anderson Faery focuses strongly on feeding and expressing this part of our Self. You don’t need to spend money on this pursuit, but it should be something you create a regular practice around.  Allowing our creative expression to flow keeps our channels open and clear.

So does healthy sexuality.  This is a sex positive tradition because Sex is Life.  Not for procreative purposes but for pleasure. We value pleasure.  We value personal responsibility. We value knowing and owning our choices, behavior, and actions.  Hopefully part of your study on dismantling worldview has led you to question cultural norms around sexuality, and to ask yourself what your own inherent views are.  What is your sexuality and how can you nurture it and express it in healthy responsible ways? Another simple practice for exploring sexuality in its many subtle forms is to take a bath or shower and feel the water moving over your skin. Simple huh?  But really experience it. What does the water trickling over your ankle bone feel like, or the small of your back, or your shoulder? Try laying on the ground under the full sun. Spread your body out, expose a bit of skin, and feel the rays of the sun absorbing into the flesh of your bicep, your thigh, your stomach.  The fleshy parts.

You might not know it, but you have just learned some of the mysteries of Anderson Faery.  Hold them with care, cherish them, and let them unfold in your life.

May it be so.

 

Near Enemies

A series by Christopher Wallis and well worth reading:

Near Enemy #1: Everything Happens for a Reason

Near Enemy #2: Everything Happens for the Best

Near Enemy #3: Listen to Your Heart

Near Enemy #4: Negative Energy

Near Enemy #5: Love Yourself

Near Enemy #6: You Create Your Own Reality

Near Enemy #7: I Want To Be My Best Self

Near Enemy #8: Speaking Your Truth

Near Enemy #9: Be In The Present Moment

Becoming Animal

As we humans are spending more and more time entranced by our artefacts, caught up in the dazzle of the digital screen, it enables us not to notice, not to feel what’s really going on in the body’s world.

If we were to really turn our gaze toward the real and its wonder, open our senses back up, it would be too painful. So we hang out in those more virtual spaces and really lock the doors, and close ourselves in ever more thoroughly into that circuit of exchange with these mirrors of our own invention.

Becoming Animal

the North American premiere

Time of Vulture

In Central Texas Vulture arrives on the North Wind.  We felt the first fluttering a week ago. In the Tejas Faery Working Group vulture is associated with the ancestors, the Llano uplift, bone, and is a stellar person of power.239px-Vega_in_lyra.svg.png

Circles & Cycles; Guardian & Gateway

Esoteric associations with vulture go back into human prehistory.  The celestial pole figured as an early conception of the divine, at least in the northern hemisphere.  In fact, many of our Elder Gods were stellar. Around 12,000 BCE the northern pole star was Vega, the falling vulture.

Watcher & Transformer; Earth & Sky

vulture_stone.jpg

Vulture stone from Gobekli Tepe ~10,000 BCE

In Egypt the predynastic (6000-3150 BCE) vulture goddess Nekhbet is one of the oldest deities and is connected to the dead, as well as birth.  In fact, her city was one of the earliest necropoli.  Vulture, soaring high overhead, was among the first raptor type birds to be associated with the “eye of god.”   In Egypt, the goddess Nuit swallowed the sun each evening, it traveled through her body, and was reborn from her vulva each morning. The dead also became stars along the body of Nuit, the Milky Way, as she nourished them..

Beak & Talons; Sun & Wings

Many cultures have a history of defleshing the dead so their bones can be used for sacred purpose.  This was often accomplished via what we call sky-burial. The bones could then be transported by family members, placed in the floor of a dwelling, or worn by a person as an amulet. It has been argued that metempsychosis was accomplished during, or at least aided by, the defleshing process, specifically as the bird of prey consumed the flesh, taking the dead into their own body then flying into the sky – the vault of heaven.

IMG_5635

Crux, an important vulva constellation, disappeared below the horizon in the northern hemisphere ~2,000 BCE;  Nuit arched

Above & Below

fig-1-boiiRoman writers associated vulture with the bird of prey that devoured dead bodies on continental Celtic battlefields.  Even Dhumavati, the Hindu goddess, is considered to be a vulture goddess, known as the Smokey One.  She is the remnants left over from the destruction of the universe. These remnants are themselves (or Hir self) the sub-basis of the elements that create the next universe.

 

 until we buried them, Vulture ate all our ancestors

Vulva and Vulture

Egtved-Girl-burial-reconstruction-Edit.png

Egtved Girl

In  ancient Japan the goddess of dawn, Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto, jumped up on an overturned tub near the cave where the sun goddess was hiding and danced on it lifting her dress to reveal her vulva.  The gathered gods found this very funny and the laughter brought the sun goddess from her hiding place. In ancient Greek stories, the fertility goddess Demeter was in mourning following the loss of her child. Nobody could cheer her, so Baubo lifted her skirt showing her vulva to Demeter,  helping the goddess to laugh again. In ancient Ireland, after the Dagda escaped the Fomoire by eating a lot of food, he drug his large penis along the ground, had to empty his swollen belly into a pit, and then had sex with the daughter of Indech, who had been taunting him this whole time, after she jumped on his back and her pubic hair tickled him.

The Egtved girl, a young woman buried in Denmark in 1370 BCE, was found wearing a revealing fringe skirt with a solar disk over her belly.

There is a beautiful connection between the star constellations association with vulva imagery such as Vega and  Crux, vulture, the dead, the Milky Way, and rebirth — the Starry Vulva which the ancestors enter to travel through the otherworld to be reborn.

 

References

http://www.rigelatin.net/vulture/

https://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/nekhbet.html

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/catubodua-queen-of-death/

http://www.tsubakishrine.org/history/ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto.html

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/cmt/cmteng.htm

 

Naturalizing

I’ve written elsewhere about bringing our practice home, and with the help of my current working group (D, C, D, K, H, J), building on the work of the New Moon group (S, B, C, D) I’ve been doing just that.

Welcome to the beginnings of the Central Texas Wheel of the Year:

In central Texas our year is divided into two halves: the Long-Hot (May – September) and the not-as-Hot (November – March).  Moisture flows during the two liminal periods of May and October – the time between,  the dance of the twins.

The Long-Hot brings southeasterly winds and rare gift-of-life thunderstorms.  The not-as-Hot is normally dry.  But this story, like so many others, depends….

It depends on Little Sister and Little Brother. When Little Brother (el niño) comes to visit the not-as-Hot turns cold, as well as wet. Some say this is because the Hag of the North swoops down to steal him away from his sister, and as he is carried away his tears fall frozen.  But when Little Sister (la niña) raises her fiery head searching for her brother we are dry as a bone and our throats are parched by her anger.  Little Sister often brings with her The Wild Mother whose winds push all things down and whose wetness drowns cities.

Life here begins in the dark, with the stirring of the winds; The North Wind.

Blood; blackland prairie
Bone; llano uplift
Ash; edwards plateau

The Guardian of Bone arrives on the North Wind.  Vulture, wings spread soaring high.  The eye of god.  The Starry Gate of transformation and rebirth. Guardian and Gateway, we enter the womb of the Milky Way through the starry vulva. You know, until we buried our dead Vulture ate all our Ancestors.

The point of balance between the hottest and the coldest temperatures of the year  (October 31/November 1) is the Autumn Equitherm.  Our first harvest begins now…all things in pairs.  Pecans fall and we remember those who have fallen. We remember what has been sown and harvested. What is remembered lives …along the starry path.

The longest night, Winter Solstice (Dec 20-23), we dream; dream the Guardian of Ash who emerges from the Starry Mother, God Hirself.

At the Winter Thermistice ( January 6), the peak climatic temperature for the colder time of the year, we begin to smell change, the rising of life, the stirring of loins, and the arrival of the Guardian of Ash.

Some years that may be Gray Fox (January 6 through May 1), with their full body environmental awareness, their relaxed effervescence and curiosity, some years it may be someone else.

At the Spring Equinox (March 20) we cross the celestial equator, no longer stirring we now roar full force into our first Time of Planting. Bluebonnets, Mountain Laurel, Mexican Plum run riot.

The balance of the temperatures at the Spring Equitherm (May 1) whispers the approach of the Long-Hot.  Dread, even as rain soaks us, stirs in our heart.  Second harvest begins; peaches, blackberries and tomatoes are ripening.

With the dread of the Long-Hot on our minds, the Guardian of Blood – Snake – arrives. It’s time to digest, absorb and integrate. The egg with the Golden Yolk inside.

Summer Solstice (June 20-22) – the Sun is ready, eat it. Open wide. Become whole and complete unto yourself.

And as we burn, as we digest, as we integrate under the sweltering malefic sun, the peak of the climatic temperature, the pinnacle of the Long-Hot, approaches.

Summer Thermistice (August 6), the Dying Time.  All fields are withered and bare, the grass is brown, leaves crisp, the land is ripe for wildfire. We propitiate the fire, call the water and digest the sun into night along the cosmic path to the Starry Gate. But….what if it’s too much? Did we bite off more than we can swallow?

The time of The Knife’s Edge (mid-August to mid-September) is the “danger” time.  We have ingested the Sun but are still integrating, absorbing.  It could go either way.  Tricky, Dangerous.  Wildfires or Hurricane.  We balance and wait….

Then hope arrives, the sun slants, it crosses the celestial equator again and Autumn Equinox arrives (September 22) bringing the second Time of Planting.  We sow our seeds. It is the turning time, the liminal gateway, and rains come.

As we await the beginning of all things, which rides on the North Wind…..

Enchanted Rock

Trauma and Witchcraft

During a recent conversation I said that the Anderson Faery/Feri lineage of witchcraft is helpful for trauma survivors  because it is an embodied lineage with a focus on ecstatic experience – all things that steer us out of over intellectualizing and into body awareness – but only insofar as we work to heal our trauma, else it will retraumatize us.  I’ve been pondering that statement ever since, because while I feel it to be true I have never upacked it.  I’m going to try and do that a bit here.

What is trauma, and what does it mean to be retraumatized?  We often think of trauma as tied to emotional, physical or sexual abuse, war, or natural disasters, but there are a whole range of life experiences that can be traumatizing, like surgery, the loss of a loved one, etc.  Trauma happens when our nervous system is overwhelmed and our coping strategies don’t work.  If the trauma is not processed or if we aren’t able to fight, flee, or in some way manage what is “attacking” us, then we freeze in a way that the unprocessed fear gets locked into our body.

A way some of us deal with the trauma locked in our body is by dissociating –  we try to get away from our body, and thus the traumatic situation — but other expressions of trauma are anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, avoidant behaviors, and addiction.  These expressions of trauma are almost always enveloped by  a sense of shame.  Something happens, we get traumatized and we cope the best we can, then hate ourselves for it because it doesn’t look or feel good.  It’s the shame that binds the entire process together.

Effects of early trauma are a laundry list:  a disrupted sense of self in relation to others, emotional instability, social dysfunction, difficulty recovering from stress, disorganized thinking, a limited window of tolerance, a limited capacity for relationships, poor impulse control, low self-worth, core shame, inability to recognize one’s own needs, a sense of isolation…. Oh, so much!  And oh so many of the very reasons we seek out spirituality, even witchcraft; we are searching for healing.

If that search leads a person to the Anderson Faery/Feri lineage of witchcraft before therapeutic work with a qualified therapist has been done to address past trauma the very tools of the tradition could be dangerously retraumatizing.  In this lineage we are asked to be present in our bodies, to be fully present for Sex, Self, Passion, Pride and Power.  Meditators are now realizing that mindfulness meditation is retraumatizing for the same reason; in mindfulness practice we are asked to be present with the feelings and sensations of the body.  If we have unprocessed trauma fear locked in our body, our own breath and body awareness can be jarring, flooding us and popping us right out of the body.  We feel the trauma all over again and dissociate.  In fact, we will happily watch our body sit and breathe on the cushion – we are well used to dissociating –  thinking we are engaged with the practice, when in actuality we are not experiencing embodiment at all.

Retraumatization is a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in re-experiencing of the initial trauma itself.   It can be triggered by a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics (loss of power/control/safety) of the original trauma. – by Patricia Shelly, MSW, Shelley Hitzel, MSW, and Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, Preventing Retraumatization: A Macro Social Work Approach to Trauma-Informed Practices & Policies

For those of us who dissociate, clearing the mind and entering stillness is a familiar state of numbness.  It can be a blissful state, and hard to distinguish from altered states of consciousness.  Yet, it is not the mindfulness taught in yoga, and it is not the embodiment required to engage Faery witchcraft safely.  Embodiment is the beginning and foundation for more advanced practices in Faery.

Dissociation vs presence?
Table
Meditation instructors and health care professionals who work with trauma survivors are taught to use trauma informed practices which focus on a sense of safety and stabilization (it is not in most of our scope of practice to offer trauma-specific work that focuses on processing trauma).  One thing Faery witchcraft is not is safe, and its tools are notoriously destabilizing.  Some do survive the crash course of a Faery induced healing crisis, others do not.  With so many qualified therapists who specialize in integrating trauma, and so many excellent protocols, like EMDR, there is no reason to risk a student, or risk ourselves.

If you are drawn to Faery, but come from a trauma background, seek out a skilled EMDR therapist first.  Give yourself a year of calming the central nervous system and finding safety within your body.  You will be grateful you did.

*I am not a professional therapist.  My insights come from my own experience and what I have found effective. 

incantation

Incantation; Francisco Goya

Can I be your student?

Can I be your student?This video resembles me, and my views regarding passing Faery.