Shamanic Illness as Initiation

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Diary of Drawings

This is a drawing I made in the mid 1980′s.

During the two and half years that Saturn transited my Eighth House of love and death, I went a little mad you might say.

It wasn’t insanity or anything, it was because of psychic attack.

I had been in a deep relationship with a man who was separated from his wife. If there is such a thing as a Soul Mate, we were it. We openly talked about ourselves that way. I had a vision of him shortly before we met. During my daily meditation practice, I saw him falling out of the sun towards me. When we met, it was an instant attraction. Numerologist Tania Gabrielle would probably look at my 44-8 birth numbers and call it Fate.

But the estranged  wife wasn’t having any of it.  When she found out he was seeing me, she decided wanted him back and went on the warpath with me.

There was a point at which she got really aggressive and started to play games. I was a pretty otherworldly and therefore naive in the way that otherworldly, ungrounded people are. I had nothing against her anyway — this guy and I were Soul Mates. What was I supposed to do?

When the fallout started, I was kicked out of the apartment by my room mate. I moved into a house closer to where my boyfriend lived and spent most of my time at his place. She started coming around. Next thing I knew, I fell into such a deep depression that my personality actually changed. I even looked weird to myself surrounded in this horrible dark vortex.

I always drew pictures and started doing that for hours at a time instead of studying — I was in University then. I mostly drew images of this guy and me in boats and in towers. I began a series of myself with antlers on my head. The drawing at the top is one of the survivors.

Its me looking into a mirror and seeing  antlers on my head.  Before that, my boyfriend had told me I looked like a deer. Maybe it was auto-suggestion, but I do have a Capricorn Moon and associate this self image with that.

Dreamtime

selkie_2

At one point I became very ill and had to go to the hospital with anemia. I was a vegetarian, but also very depleted in other ways.

I became obsessive compulsive, especially with the drawings. I just didn’t stop. Drawing is a wonderful thing, but I felt like I had a motor in my head — maybe I had become autistic or something. It was just weird.

I had been a regular meditator since I was seventeen, and with this boyfriend, had gotten into Tibetan Buddhism and had been initiated into a few saints whose names I can’t remember any more. One was a purification saint. I have always been a great visualizer, and had built up images of these saints in my mind that were very powerful. I was really good at meditation.

So imagine how it felt when I couldn’t do it any more. All I saw was a swirling black energy that made me sea sick. I even went back to Massachusetts to visit my family and it was still just as bad. I was always nauseous and a light- headed, and very confused.

My dreams were  violent. I was always being chopped up into pieces. My body parts were scattered all over the place. I had a series of these  dreams and I drew pictures of those and burned them because I was afraid I might be murdered or something.

Then one night, I dreamed my body parts were scattered over the snow and it was very bloody. Some Inuits came up the slope and wrapped all my body parts in a seal skin. Then they put me inside a sweat house — I can still remember lying on a bench near a wonderful steamy rock pile. I stayed there for a long time.

When I was healed, I dreamed all the time that I swam under the sea with the seals. I was a kind of mermaid.  I drew the seal under the boat that my boyfriend and I were on all the time in my drawings. I let the seal guide me through my emotional turmoil and show me what I needed to know.

Psychic Attack

612789_SadAngel

Our relationship suffered because my boyfriend  just wouldn’t deal with what was going on. He was too weak, and they had a six year old daughter that he felt guilty about.

I began to isolate. I was not a fighter. I still hate to fight, but have learned since that sometimes I have to stand up for myself. But I do hate conflict.

One day I was in my room and took a break from drawing. I wanted to meditate. I remember so clearly sitting in front of my altar and seeing the black vortex spinning all around me. I also saw all these spirits, very flat with triangular heads — a bit dog-like and cartoonish. There were hundreds of then all over the room. I felt sick as one of them stood behind and was tying something around my neck. Seeing them, I said to myself, “I am going to push them away with my light.”

I focused really hard on the light inside of me and sent it out until it was all around me. I continued to expand, obliterating all those little dog things, intending to fill the entire room.  Suddenly there was a kind of explosion, and it was as if the sun had come into the room!  Golden light was streaming everywhere and in the midst of the light were these eyes, black rimmed and compassionate, and face like Christ, though I am not if it was He or some older God. The golden light kept pulsating all around me, erasing all of the spirits, filling the room and healing me.

Deer Lady

It was after that I began to draw the deer lady pictures.

My relationship bit the dust. She was a lawyer and he didn’t stand a chance. Exhausted  ( and I haven’t even told you the half of it) I bowed out and concentrated on school.

This was the 80′s. Lots of books and courses were being given on the West Coast especially. I was also living near some of the most powerful Indian Tribes in North America. Powerful for magic that is. Gradually I learned about Shamanism and was told by one of the Salish Elders here that I had had a Shamanic sickness. All the dismemberment dreams were about taking me apart so I would be put back together in a certain way. The Seal medicine was help me to flow in the sea of the emotions — I also say the unconscious.  The Inuits are at the North Pole where me spirit came into the earth’s atmosphere before birth. They  still have a very strong Shamanic culture.

I see the Capricorn Moon at work as well. The fish-goat who climbs to the top of the mountain and dives deep into the ocean, is very much like the selkie seal lady and the deer lady I became. The Indian gave me a name: Whiteswan, a spirit  bird who transits sea and sky. I also believe that the psychic attack forced me  to strengthen my power, strengthen my light, because that was all it took to make the attack stop and fill me with a vision of golden light and the presence of God.

Two years later I was drafted into the healing profession and have been doing that ever since. Though the seal medicine healed me, it is the deer that I feel is the most like me and images of people with horns and antlers cast a kind of spell over me. I suppose I am more sure-footed that way.

Chesca Potter

Chesca Potter

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Are Past Life Memories Real?

A history of recurring dreams

Every winter, from 1986-1990, I relived a past life  so vividly, I cannot doubt that my prior existence as another version of myself was real.

The theme of these memories had played a role in my life since childhood.

I was killed in the Wounded Knee Massacre of December, 1890.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown, was published in  1970. I first saw this book on display on the front desk at the Leicester Public  Library and instantly reached for it and checked  it out. I was suddenly immersed in the story of Western Tribes and their terrible fate at the hands of the U.S. government. Since part of my family were Indians, it took hold of my imagination and never let go.

Time magazine reviewed the book saying:
“In the last decade or so, after almost a century of saloon art and horse operas that romanticized Indian fighters and white settlers, Americans have been developing a reasonably acute sense of the injustices and humiliations suffered by the Indians. But the details of how the West was won are not really part of the American consciousness … Dee Brown, Western historian and head librarian at the University of Illinois, now attempts to balance the account. With the zeal of an IRS investigator, he audits U.S. history’s forgotten set of books. Compiled from old but rarely exploited sources plus a fresh look at dusty Government documents, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee tallies the broken promises and treaties, the provocations, massacres, discriminatory policies and condescending diplomacy.”

Dreams

I began to have recurring dreams that I was a white woman with very pale blond hair. I am looking at a large rock with a dry, twisted tree growing out of it. I scream and start crying. I know that behind that rock is a dead Indian man who had just been shot. I wake up.

Of course, Westerns were all over the television when I was growing up, and a young girl’s fantasies could easily run in the direction but of this dream. But this had no element of wish fulfillment. It was tragic. And it wasn’t the end.

Shamanic Illness

My Saturn Return was bearable, even though it is in the 7th House. But my 8th House Saturn Transit was from Hell. It is a Scorpio House for me and Venus, my chart ruler, is in there in Sagittarius. OUCH!

This was the most intense, darkly Scorpionic time I have lived through yet. I won’t say why,  (except that it involved a man — what else?) but I was subjected to terrible, unrelenting  psychic attack.
I was shocked and horrified that my one reliable defense, my powerful abilities in meditation were useless. I could not still my mind, but was surrounded with a black vortex that swirled around me and made me feel oppressed and ill. I still remember an entity putting something around my neck as if to strangle me from behind. The person who was doing this was indulging in some pretty nasty thought forms!

That obvious attempt to kill me on the astral plane woke me up to the kind of danger I was in, so  I sat down and said “I am going to push this darkness away with my light.” I began to focus on the golden  light in my heart, and willed it to  grow and grow  until all the entities, and the vortex were pushed away. Suddenly I was immersed in a sea of streaming golden light. It was as if I had gone into the sun! And in the midst of this molten light were two eyes and face like Christ, ( or Albrecht Durer lol! )

Afterwards, the attack energies were gone, and I began to have Shamanic dreams.

The recurring dream from my childhood  began again.  The same rock, the tree. my screams and the knowledge that an Indian man had been shot and lay behind the rock. It wasn’t because of the book this time. Maybe it was because I had Indian friends and was around them and on the reservations a lot. But the dream coming in the midst of visions and spiritual visitations, gave it it more significance for me. And the fact that I remembered it from so long ago.

One Who Was Lost Returns

In 1986, I began to work with a spiritual healer as a form of therapy. I had a terrible family life as a child and have had to periodically clear stuff away to be free of them and move on. The healing involved very deep kundalini yoga practices and I took to it like a fish to water.

It was about six months into this work, in December,  that I was meditating in the living room, when a man appeared before me. He was so real, I could touch him! He was a Plains Indian man with very long, thick chestnut brown hair and big, doe eyes. Weird part was, was that the lower part of his face was sealed over with a kind of filmy bandage  as if to erase his mouth. He was lanky, and brown, and wore skins — very 19th century looking. Telepathically, he sent me a message. “Stop trying to find me. I am not in a body. But I look after you.”

Words cannot convey how weird this was.  What he said hit me like a club, for I knew that he was the dead Indian man behind the rock in my recurring dreams.

Four Years of Memories

After that,  every December, I got one more piece of the story.
The second year told me I had been captured by the Lakota Tribe and had married this man. I had a feeling he was Cheyenne for some reason. I can’t explain that.  We were very happy together. White men didn’t like captured white women being happy with Indians, so they killed him.

The third year,  I found out that one of my clients had been in the cavalry unit that was at Wounded Knee and had seen me being killed. We made eye contact at that moment, and out of that we had some karma (for want of a better word.) to work out.  When I told him this, he said he knew it was true. It was like something fell into place about our relationship and his perception of me.

The last year was  in December, 1990.

As a person with Iroquois heritage, I was a subscriber to Akwesasne Notes, a tribal newspaper printed on the reservation in upstate New York. I came home one day and found it on my doorstep. For some reason, I didn’t want to touch it. I picked it up like  a dead mouse and threw in into a corner of the kitchen counter.

Later that day, I sat meditation and had a vision of men and horses riding to the mass grave  on Pine Ridge where the bodies of those slain in the Wounded Knee massacre were buried. They did  a ceremony during which I saw a ghost come out of the grave and come back to me. My spirit  had been trapped there, and had been returned to me.

Later on, I was able to finally able to open that edition of Akwesasne Notes. It was all about the Wounded Knee massacre with its classic photo of Big Foot dead in the snow. There was an article about several spiritual leaders from Pine Ridge riding on horseback to the mass grave of the victims to do a  healing ceremony for those who were buried there. It was the one-hundred year anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre.

I wrote to them about what had happened to me but they never responded. The next year I went to South Dakota to visit the grave and place a tobacco tie on the fence that surrounds it. I realized I had been afraid to go there before that. I still don’t really like to talk about this, but I think the information about past life memories might be of value , rather than what the memories are about.

As part of that trip, my friend and I drove to Pine Ridge to bring clothes and shoes to the people on the reservation, for winters are terrible there. I was shocked to know how much the whites hated the Indians and how much they exploited Lakota culture to make money. Hypocrisy or cynicism? Probably both.

Driving through the Dakotas caused me physical pain — psychic, physical pain, and heaviness.

Echoes

In 1992, I was at meeting in support of Leonard Peltier. There was a chance him might be let of prison on parole. Of course that was sabotaged in the most horrible way.  I connected with an Indian guy who so resembled the man who visited me from beyond the veil that I had to speak with him.
He was part of the Peace and Dignity Run. Native people  from Alaska to  Argentina to Mexico City running through Indian lands, collecting feathers on the way that were  attached to long staffs, to meet for four nights of ceremonies at Tenochtihuacan ( Pyramids of the Moon) on Columbus Day. It was five hundred years since Columbus invaded the Americas looking for slaves and gold, and this was an empowering way for Native people to protest its celebration.

I was there at the Pyramids of the Moon  as, under a full moon, tribal members from many lands and cultures, worked their ancient rites together in that place. It was an amazing experience to be there.

I find I still question the idea of past lives in the sense that  a discreet and singular personality goes on for several lives. But I shouldn’t. I think these experiences are a good indication that Past lives are real.

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My Magical Timeline: North

My blog mentor, Yaro Starak says we should tell our life story as is relevant to our blog topic. So here it begins. I intend to use  the four seasons and then the Center to organize my Magical Timeline.

Magical Childhood

I think childhood is a magical time for most people. Most lose their sense of wonder early, others later. I never lost mine. So for what its worth here are my beginnings. I intend the progression of my spiritual path to unfold in these posts, much like the Fool’s journey in Tarot.  Much like the Fool, the first magical person I ever met was a Tarot reader in a carnival.

I begin in the North because I always had a sense that my soul came to Earth from the North Pole. later on I was told by a Blackfoot  medicine woman that, unlike most people who are born in the South, I was born in the North. This explains why I spent so much time out of my body went I entered the airy East at adolescence. People born in the North tend to feel that they are living their life backwards.

My Grandparents Ernest and Pearl Hebert

My Grandparents Ernest and Pearl Hebert

(If I had a scanner that worked I would have a better picture. They came from Quebec after WWI. My grandfather fought in the trenches at Normandy.)

Born in the North

I was born on January 23, 19– (LOL)  in Worcester, Massachusetts. My brother, James, was born on January 22, one year later. We were like twins.
We lived in a tenement on Plantation Street for three years. I have many vivid memories from that time, including a dream.
In trying to escape from my crib, I climbed over the bar and fell down, spraining my arm. I had to go to the doctor’s and get an x-ray. My Grandmother brought me a Bride doll that had waist that turned. This was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. That night I dreamed that the doll was a woman dancing naked in the starry sky and the top of her body went to the right, while the lower half went to the left. It always makes me think of the World card in the Tarot when I remember this dream.

House in the Woods

When I was three, we moved to 4 Lexington Avenue, Leicester, Massachusetts. This house was at the bottom of a hill, one of a string of new houses built into the woods on the former farmlands of Peter Salem, a free black man who had received those acres as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. All the streets were named after the Revolution. We lived on Lexington Ave that swept around a bend and down a little hill named Bunker Hill. At the bottom of Bunker Hill were our mailboxes as we were and RFD route in those days. Peter Salem Road swept along from Pleasant Street to the Four Corners where Henshaw Street going up to the left. I think it looped back to Pitcairn Ave which joined Bunker Hill at the top. There was a huge chestnut tree around there where we collected horse cobblers and a bridge over a stream where the ‘bad boys’ used to go to sniff glue.
Most beautifully there was a hill that used to be Peter Salem’s blueberry orchard, The bushes were large and, in summer, loaded with huge, juicy berries. On hot summer days the air was fragrant with the smell of ripe blueberries.

Being New Englanders, these little bits of history were important to us, gave us a sense of place.  Behind our houses ran an old sawmill road. It wound through the stands of trees and mountain laurel, opening out to a sand pit and the ruined saw mill long gone to decay. Along with the woods, this was a fantastic playground; our home away from home. There were lots of kids in that neighborhood around the same age. I was an excellent tree climber and could even scale the pine trees with all their needles. Scratches and sappy hands were worth it because the pine smelled so good and the view at the top was superb.

There were clearings off to the side of the sawmill road where logs had been piled  very long ago. They made a pleasant hang out in the summer. The woods always smelled of pine, made more resinous and fragrant by the heat. One day I was there alone wondering about a circle that had been worn into the ground, when suddenly I heard bells coming down the sawmill road, and before I knew it, a tribe of Indians in full regalia including face paint, feathers, moccasins — the whole works, were filing into the clearing. They entered the area with high ceremony, ignoring me completely, and began to dance around the circle. The dance involved throwing out bad spirits. I watched them totally mesmerized and still remember what they did and how they moved. When they finished the dance, they turned and left with the same concentration as when they came. Even though I learned later that were a group of Boy Scouts, that was a strange and magical moment for me.

We were part Indian, Iroquois. My mother used to bring me to what was left of an Indian reservation in the city of Worcester, An old lady lived there alone called Princess White Flower. She dressed in white buckskin and had long white braids. Some days she held barbecues, called Free For Alls that my other took us to.

Iroquois Indians

Iroquois Indians

I will skip a lot now because some of this stuff will be detailed in my blog.

Catholic Mass and Ceremonial Magic

I will mention my Roman Catholic upbringing though as I feel my initiation to ceremonial magic began in church.
My family is predominantly French Canadian and Indian. There is some Irish thrown in for good luck. My father’s side, the Heberts, Roys, LeDoux, Borrassas, etc, are very French to the point of Medievalism. When me and Jim slept over at Meme and Pepe’s house on the weekend, we were up Sunday morning saying rosary beads on our knees before going to church.
Church was Bleeding Heart of Jesus, if I recall, Sacre Couer. The whole Mass was said in Latin and French. I didn’t understand a word of it. It was an incense filled cathedral, lit by candle branches, with a huge Baroque altar from which a life sized crucifix loomed, angled so that Jesus hovered over the congregation like a giant bird. The ceiling was painted with clouds and it seems to me some of them were detached and suspended by chains. The nuns were voluminous black habits and used castanets to direct us when to sit, stand, and kneel. The Priest wore fantastic robes; the choir of monks sang like angels. For a kid like me, it was as if I had entered another dimension full of magic and mystery. I loved not understanding what they said. It increased my sense of having left the mundane world behind.

Avignon Cathedral

Avignon Cathedral

(I can’t find a picture of the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus Church, but it felt something like this.)

Civil Rights Movement: We Knew Abby Hoffman

When I was ten, my mother got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. For a whole summer we went to the poor neighborhoods in Worcester so my mother could teach the black ladies how to knit. All my friends that summer were black and our playground was the street. Instead of climbing trees, we climbed stairs and railings and chain link fences. My mother worked very closely with Sheila Hoffman, Abby Hoffman’s first wife. I played with their kids Elia and Andy.  Once I saw a sign in front of a house that said “Dr.Hoffman”. I asked my mother if Mr. Hoffman was a doctor? She said, “No. He’s a kook.”

Folk music was all the rage: Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, The Kingston Trio. I was especially drawn to the English and Scottish folk ballads and the Appalachian ones that stemmed from them. They were like Grimm’s Fairy Tales put to music. It may have these influences that caused me to populate the woods with spirits, but it seemed that there was a difference between and fairies I saw in my head and the figures I saw in the woods — some of whom were Indians that were not in Grimm’s nor from the Child ballads.

It was also in my tenth year that I first read the hugely influential, The Lord of the Rings.

Vatican II

1966: Vatican II made my father crazy. My parents fought all the time. My sister, Susan was born. My mother went mad, and my world turned upside down.
My mother went on ‘retreat’ to a convent in Lancaster Massachusetts called the Cenacle.
She stayed there for a week or two, and we went to see her one weekend. This was the most beautiful place on earth! Not only was the Convent house a splendid mansion with shiny banisters and stained glass windows, but there wee several large gardens designed in European styles. There was a shady English garden full of green shrubberies, trees, and lush grass surrounded by a high stone wall, and an Italian garden with broad steps, classical urns filled with bright flowers, sculptures, and carved stone benches, bounded by a wall that let in the light. There was a Spanish Garden, a Topiary, and a French formal garden. I explored them all and the memories have stayed with me all this time finding their way into my novel The Golden Stair about a witch and her magical gardens.
Then at night the nuns sang the sun down, and at dawn they sang the sun up, with the most celestial voices, layering over each other like far away bells, and gongs deep under the sea.

Leaving My Sacred Land

A year later we moved “ closer to town”. “Town” was Main Street with its gas station, grocery store, convenience store, Italian restaurant, and the library.  There were woods all around our house, a lake across the street that used to be a beach until the Castle Restaurant was built. A stream ran from the lake, under the road, and came out through our back yard. The stream wound through what was then bushes, and eventually pooled around a ruined mill where a big brick chimney stood on its own like a tower.

I was deeply miserable for a long time. Not just because I was separated from all of my friends, but because I was separated from the land. The trees and swamps, frogs, fireflies, birds, little stone walls running through the woods, the clearings, the sawmill road, were my friends too. I didn’t know if I would find the same magic in the new place.

To be continued…

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