Archive for the tag “healing”

Tarot Journeys: The High Priestess

Recently I have been spending time with the High Priestess card from the Major Arcana of the tarot again. I love the tarot, though have generally leaned towards engaging with it from the perspective of personal development. I use shamanic journeys, path-workings and journaling to work with the archetypes rather than focussing on ‘reading’ in the sense most people think of it.

In August last year I completed a full cycle of giving a day to each of the Major Arcana cards. I carried each of them with me either as a card or a picture on my phone, paying attention to what happened each day and how I responded to it, looking at how this might relate to some of the main themes of the card. I spent time reflecting on how my experiences might help me look more deeply at what lessons that card had for me.

It was an extraordinary 22 days that grew progressively more intensive and challenging as it went on. Each card seemed to become a little more assertive, a little more present, a little more demanding. So much was pouring up from my subconscious that I journalled as if my life depended on it! By the end I was exhausted but felt emotionally picked clean (for the time being!)…utterly spent, but oh so internally charged, so released.

In the course of that cycle, the High Priestess was Day 3 and an interesting day for me. Several things happened that drew me into that energy. During the day I was confronted by somebody’s reaction to a piece I had written which (as a side point) acknowledged the existence of shadow within the Otherworld as it relates to shamanic journeying. I was surprised but respected their position and wished them well. However, it drew my attention to the ideas of light and shadow as necessary parts of the whole that we see in the High Priestess.

The High Priestess card from (Left to Right) The Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Losche, Hanson-Roberts Tarot by Mary Hanson-Roberts and Arthurian Tarot by Catlin & John Matthews illustrated by Miranda Gray

That evening I was facilitating a journeying group and found the High Priestess present once again as I spontaneously abandoned my prepared structure and simply allowed the space to unfold intuitively from moment to moment. Something magical happened as a result of that and I felt things…myself…shift into a much more deeply heart centred space. This was the lasting impression that the High Priestess made on me that day. She showed me what was possible when I surrendered control in that way and listened to, trusted, my inner guidance and instincts. It was an important experience for me.

This year I am working with the tarot again through music and poetry. I had just finished writing a song for the High Priestess when Northern Tamarisk posted a lovely article about her experiences with Persephone and the pomegranate (both are associated with the High Priestess archetype and the pomegranate often appears in the imagery on her card). It was a piece of synchronicity that was not lost on me, especially in the challenges of the coming days as we launched a crowdfunder campaign and I came up against the internal backwash of emotions that went with it. I found myself returning to the lyrics of my song and to the sense of moving between those worlds of light and shadow as part of an integrated whole.

High Priestesslyrics.jpg

 

The vibrant outer shell of the fruit, the pomegranate, splits to reveal hidden, fleshy innards filled with seeds…the secrets and deep knowledge held safely in the internal, silent, dark spaces within. It is this inner space that we must touch and find the courage to enter if we want to truly know ourselves.

“For in shadow you are truly revealed…” I have found those words comforting in recent days. So often it is only when we are challenged that we see our shadow, experience our buttons being pressed as the old wounds resurface. At these times our fears and resistance make themselves known, ask to be released so that we can live more fully. We can suppress it, project it, fear it, embrace it, endure it…but The High priestess I think, invites us to simply see it, to learn to look upon it with the eyes of the owl, our attention focussed beneath the surface to perceive the lesson, the undercurrent, the truth, the shadow within the light and the light within the shadow and to move with it rather than resist. She coaxes us towards balance, peace and self knowledge where we are not afraid to be explorers of our own soul and inner workings…eating the seeds of awareness that awaken us to growth and the possibility of healing.

Voice of the Moor

Last weekend I was at Woodend Mill Studios in Mossley to participate in their Open Studios & Art Fair event. However, I was there to share my music and play some songs in the studio of Jude Gidney Photography rather than display artwork. I hadn’t performed for a while due to a long term health issue that had affected my voice, so there was a certain amount of nervous trepidation! As it turned out it was a gloriously relaxed couple of days with people dropping in and out of the studio, stopping to listen, to chat and enjoy…and to my relief, my voice held out, despite an impending fluey cold!

Part of the reason we were there was to raise awareness of our upcoming crowd-funder campaign for my debut album called Voice of the Moor – a collection of my original songs inspired by the voices of the hills and moors here in the UK Peak District where I have lived for the past 10 years. Many of those songs are very personal, born out of experiences with specific places and locations such as Bleaklow Moor, the Derwent Valley, Mam Tor, Nine Ladies Stone Circle. Others have been inspired by the broader experience of living on this land, being a part of it through the turning of the seasons and through relationship with the plants, trees and wildlife that I share it with.

Filming on Bleaklow Moor for our crowd funder video

This particular collection of songs is very important to me because of my history with this area. I arrived here feeling quite broken having left behind a life that had slowly but surely imploded until I consented to uproot and walk away. I didn’t know where I was going when I left, until I found myself here on the edge of the Dark Peak and knew that I was exactly where I needed to be…

In the course of house hunting I boarded a rickety Northern Rail train that took me out of Manchester towards Hadfield and Glossop. The scenery was much as expected for the first part of the journey…rows of terraces and chimney stacks, factories, urban road layouts, trees that looked greyed and overburdened by exhaust fumes.  As we crossed the motorway things started to feel calmer.  Trees looked greener and more vital.  Suburbia stretched out around me in the form of clean bricked semis and tended gardens.  I wasn’t paying much attention until we reached Broadbottom though, where things seemed to change dramatically…

We pulled into Broadbottom station and suddenly were surrounded by woodland and mature trees draped with ivy.  The intensity of the greenery woke me up.  I wondered what would come next as my journey continued.  Within moments of leaving Broadbottom station, the train emerged from the trees and I gasped as I took in the incredible vista of the hills and moors stretching across my view.  Something inside me rose up in sheer awe at what I was looking at.

I alighted at the next stop and stepped off the train onto a deserted platform. It was a tiny station and the track was lined with banks of bracken and foxgloves. Silver Birch, Ash and Willow let their graceful branches hang in swooping arcs over the undergrowth.  The air smelled of greenery and damp soil. Silence was broken only by the calls of birds and the rustling of leaves. The feeling of peace was almost tangible and I lingered in this sensation for some moments.  As I stood there, something seemed to wrap around me like a warm blanket.  It filled me with a sense that if I opened my heart to the heather moorland and the gritstone hills, to the calls of the corvids and the wild berries, to the bracken and the mist and what I would come to know as the relentless rain, then I would learn to live again.

Path Through The Heather On Bleaklow Moor

I moved into the house I had come to see that day and as I started a life there I looked more closely around me. I saw a land that had been split apart by ancient ice, that endures deep snows and wild winds that can tear trees up by the roots. This land is tough and resilient. It’s a survivor, an adaptor. For all of my fragility at that time, I knew this was true of me too. It was a powerful mirror that reminded me of my own ability to dig deep for inner resources, to endure and recover. I watched as the snow lingered in the high rock crevices till May while the spirit of regeneration worked with such determination to move life around it’s cycle, coaxing out the bees and the buds of flowers and leaves. It taught me to trust that however long this internal winter lasted, however hard and cold and dark…spring must eventually come.

Over the years spring did indeed awaken in me and brought with it a surge of creativity. The otherworldly whispers of the hills, the moors, the rocks, trees, plants and wildlife that had befriended me started to be expressed through song, through clay, through paintings and drawings, through poetry and storytelling. I found them mingling with my own inner voice in conversation…sometimes serious and wise, sometimes smiling and laughing, sometimes silent and simply present. I felt these voices embrace me as a part of their diverse circle of life, giving me a sense of belonging when I felt lost and afraid of what was ahead.

Lyrics to ‘Voice of the Moor’

At some point I had become that bee, allowing myself to be coaxed from the shadows of winter to feed on the nectar. I felt these strong hills supporting me like benevolent giants. They shored up my wounds and encouraged me to unfold, to know myself as a creature of the earth. I found myself opening to the light of spring and allowing it to move me into a fuller expression of myself. This process happened over many years and over time led to the creation of the songs that I am intending to record. For me, many of these songs are really love songs and offerings of gratitude for that journey of healing and transformation that this land has made possible.

This is a video of the title track…Voice of the Moor…set to images of the beautiful landscape that I fell in love with…

We invite you to join us on Facebook as we work on this exciting new project…you can follow our progress from the crowd funder through to the recording and beyond.  I am so happy to finally be able to share these songs with others and to honour the magic and beauty of this awe-inspiring place 🙂

UPDATE: Our crowdfunder is now live!  Come and take a look!

Transitions

I went for a walk the other day. It was one of those days we sometimes get at this time of year that fool us into thinking that we have shaken off the winter and that spring is finally here. The sun was shining with that fresh kind of warmth, the birds were singing joyfully, the squirrels were chasing each other up and down tall conifers, while the deciduous trees were busy adorning their branches in tiny green leaf buds. The whole place had that feeling of life renewing, vitality streaming in as everything rejoiced in the return of the light. I bathed in it for some time before wandering at which point I noticed that despite the appearance of the small leaf buds, there were also small clumps of brown leaves dotted amongst the branches. Leaves from the previous cycle that hadn’t quite managed to fall to earth and join their fellows on the carpet of faded russets and ambers that spread out before me.

This sight started me thinking about the way in which we as human beings tend to like things to be clear cut. In general we like structure, for things to be one thing or another. For those of us who follow an earth spiritual path, we mark out the year with designated points that help us to understand the turning of the seasons, the rise and fall of the earth and sun. All this is a tried and true way for us to form a relationship with this cycle in a meaningful way. However, when we venture out into nature, it is often considerably more messy.

It is not uncommon for us to see two or more points of a cycle in evidence at any one time. Some things are exactly where we expect them to be, but others will be a bit ahead, others lagging behind. This is often a much more accurate representation of what we experience as human beings when we consciously engage in any kind of personal growth, healing or transformation. It’s not clear cut and things can often feel as though they are swaying back and forth between one state and another. Not all of our being moves at the same pace and it can be easy to get demoralised and feel that we are not making progress.

The traditions around New Year gives a good example of how many of us might experience this. Every year, lots of people get fired up about new resolutions, identifying things in their lives that aren’t working for them and making a commitment to change. That might be small shifts in thinking or behavioural habits, or it could be major changes to lifestyle. The psychological marker of the new year is a wonderful way to receive a big blast of momentum to get us going as one cycle ends and we enter a new one with a sense of a clean slate and a chance for a new start. That initial boost to our intentions is a powerful one and can carry us quite some way. However, as we reach the end of February and into the beginning of March we may find ourselves faltering in our resolve.

This is often the time when the first flash of novelty has started to fade. Perhaps we are becoming aware of just how much sustained effort is involved in creating lasting change. Perhaps we are finding that old habits, behaviours and ways of thinking are trying to reassert themselves. Despite the fact that we may be seeing those small buds of change in our life, that growth has not yet had a chance to establish itself. All too often we continue to see the clump of brown leaves on the branch that reminds us of where we have been and the previous choices we have made.  Whenever we start our process of change or creation, this is a stage that we must all go through and it’s a time when our dreams become vulnerable.

For me this year, I have experienced this with a resolve to lose weight. I have laid out my plans for change and implemented them with some enthusiasm. I have spent time with the inner work, looking at why I have been making certain choices over the last few years. I am seeing some buds appearing: I’ve lost a few pounds; I have more energy; I am feeling empowered to make choices that serve my new vision rather than those that sabotage it. However, every time I look in the mirror or get on the scales, I am confronted by the clump of brown leaves on the branch, the evidence of all those past choices that have manifested through my physical body and have not quite moved on yet.

I was so grateful to the trees on my woodland walk for reminding me that I am in a process of transition, that this stage is necessary in any kind of growth or transformation…this feeling of being in between two states that is shifting into the new without having quite managed to fully let go of the old. And that that’s okay. Along with that came a reminder about the importance of where we invest our energy.

Looking at those trees that were so graceful in carrying the old and the new alongside each other, I was struck by the awareness that the trees were no longer feeding those old leaves. All their energy, all their life force was directed into the new growth, the new vision. They can allow the old dead leaves to remain as long as they need to, to let them fall when they are ready, because those leaves are not holding them back from new growth. So it is for us humans.

If we truly want change then we need to stop feeding the old habits, behaviours, thinking or choices and trust them to fall away in their own time instead of investing in them or allowing feelings of failure or self-reprimand to creep in. Even if we have to go back into our past to understand and come to terms with our previous choices, this is still moving us forwards, it is new growth.

When we commit our energy and our focus to what we want to create, to change, to grow, to heal or transform – when we act and make choices that are aligned with the new cycle rather than the old – then we have what we need to carry us through to the spring that supports us in establishing the changes we have longed for. The trees have understood something we so often do not…that the choices we make in the present about what we give our energy and attention to, are so often crucial to the future we will create.  Do our current choices support us in stepping into that bigger picture and flow of life, encouraging us to unfold and become fuller, brighter versions of ourselves? Or do they keep us stuck in a place that no longer nourishes us or fulfils our needs?

Most of us will stumble many times along the way but each day, each moment, is an opportunity to reassert our direction, to review and change the choices we make in our lives and what they orientate us towards. We are part of nature’s endless cycles and they move through our lives whether we engage with them consciously or not. How much more joyful to be an active participant than to stand on the sidelines as an onlooker!

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