Emma-Jayne Saanen

Category: spiritual

Visions and Ashes

My week was pretty standard. The quest for paid work continues, my mood is pretty flat, and I am procrastinating like a fiend.

My weekend, however, was magical.

As some of you might know, I am an aspiring shamanic practitioner. Over the years I have journeyed, struggled to make meaning of the work and of my life, and used various other labels to describe what I am trying to do. But it always comes back to shamanism, as appropriative as that label is.

The problem, I have no formal training.

Emma's prayer tree

Well, it shouldn’t really be a problem. A certificate isn’t going to change what I do, but somehow my practice feels invalid (to me) because I have no lineage, no mentor and no physical ‘proof’ of what is a personal practice. I have looked into training in the past, but it was either prohibitively expensive or involved travelling far from home, something I struggle with.

But a chance came up. There was an “Introduction to Shamanism” course being organised in Glasgow under the auspices of The Three Ravens College of Therapeutic Shamanism. So I signed up and took part.

Although the material covered was all stuff I had learned before in my solitary practice, it was empowering to be able to talk openly about my experiences with a group of real, physical people. It has been a long time since I’ve been amongst spiritually-inclined people.

Over the course of the day, we had the change to do three journeys. I was nervous as I hadn’t journeyed for almost a year, but our instructor took great care to prepare us and ease us into the work. I feel like I have made a real breakthrough, and I am so grateful.

That was my Saturday. My Sunday was spent with family as we scattered my mum’s ashes.

A young oak tree, dedicated to Emma's mum.

Photo by @bekarwar

There was a break in the weather while we gathered at the tree dedicated to mum, and completed the marking of her passing. This time last year was horrible. Mum was in and out of hospitals, and we were trying desperately to find someone to help her. She knew she didn’t have long, but her remaining life goals were modest. The cancer didn’t care. She couldn’t even do the one simple thing anyone in her position would want to do.

This year things are a lot more settled, but for all the wrong reasons.

Mum,I’m so lost without you. It took a long time, but you finally understood me and were my biggest cheerleader even as you lay dying. Life is too hard, too big, and too confusing without you. I miss you so, so much.

A new visitor

This person tapped me on the shoulder on Tuesday evening, and the following day I tried to capture his essence (as it where) in my sketchbook.

Although it doesn’t look like it, my gut feeling tells me he’s a Yew. Red has a Yew vibe about her too. Hopefully, I will have the chance to investigate this over the weekend.

My Shrine (Jan 2010)

As a neo-pagan totemist and aspiring contemporary shamanist, I feel that it is important to dedicate a space in my home for the honour of the spirits who work with me, inspire me and drive my passion for the natural world.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is the current layout of my shrine.

Left side: Didgeridoo (which I do not know how to play), an antique fox tail, a maneki neko, replica coyote skull, polar bear figurine, badger figurine and replica brown bear claw necklace.

Centre top: Portrait of a Maned Wolf (my primary totem and the animal I identify as), my anger jar and my happy jar.

Centre bottom: Tea cup (where I place financial offerings), piece of a Monkey Puzzle, a Pine Cone, a Grove Snail shell, stones (one from inside a potted plant pot, one from some train tracks, and one from the beach at Ardrossan), Wood Pigeon wings, Pigeon offering pouch, blue stones in a jar, and a Leopard sweater guard.

Right side: Roe Deer antlers, Red Deer antlers, Goat figurine and a White-tailed Deer pendant.

My shrine isn’t to/for any one entity in particular, but it functions as a home for gifts with meaning, a place of celebration and a beacon – indicating my home is a place of safety to spirits who cause no harm to me and mine. It isn’t fixed, items come and go from it, but I feel it is a reflection of who I am and where I’m going.

Visiting the Cliff Spirit

My partner and I had another attempt at taking a stroll around the Brucehill Cliffs, this time taking the long path around the shore of the River Clyde.

I have lost track of how long the snow has been lying for. What I can tell you is that it is colder, and lasting longer than my living memory. Which admittedly isn’t that long.

I find long walks like this very humbling – there is so much I don’t know about the world on my doorstep. Heck, I couldn’t even identify the birds by their song! But the song was there. We both stopped now and again, just to listen.

Visiting the Cliff Spirit

On top of the Brucehill Cliffs - 03/01/10

On top of the Brucehill Cliffs – 03/01/10

Yesterday, my other half and I tried to take a stroll around the foot of the Brucehill Cliffs. It was a gloriously crisp and frosty afternoon, perfect for rambling. But we were thwarted. There is only one access point down the Cliff face , and it was dangerously iced over.

We spent some time walking back and forth along the Cliff’s back.

I will need to write about the Cliff properly at some point. But not just now. Over the winter, I feel I have lost my connection to him.

The Urban Animal

I am in the process of re-tagging some of my spiritual posts on my LiveJournal, and I came across this post from January 2009:

“Being an urbanimal is about being an animal person in a practical, real-world way. It’s about getting off your backside to make changes in the real world to benefit the animals you commune with. Practical totemism, rather than magical/spiritual totemism. It’s about admiring pigeons for adopting buildings as cliff faces. It’s about feeling the rhythm of the crowds marching though the city centre during the sales. It’s about seeing a daisy growing in a crack on the kerb, and realising that everything passes, progresses and moves on. And nature exists even in the darkest, piss-stained allyway. The buildings, statues and street furniture have seen it all, and will share their tales if given the chance. It’s about being a capitalist, gaming, internet addicted geek, who sees a sacredness in everything, even hir PC.”

I just thought I’d share it, mostly for my own benefit as I feel I am losing focus.

[spirit] The Energy Civets

energycivet2At this time, I have an incredibly low energy level. After asking my friend Red for advice, she introduced me to her allies the Energy Civets.

The Civets are palm-sized animals that live in the forest. As they climb about the trees, eating the invasive parasites that live in their bark and on their leaves, the trees release small amounts of energy. This energy gathers up between the toes of the Civets and once in a while they pick it out and store it in a pouch in their belly.

The Civets are a natural silver-grey colour, but as their pouches fill they radiate the blue energy they gather.

The energy is later stored in jars hanging from the branches of a dead tree, central to their home forest. They know how precious it is, and guard it fiercely. Only the Civets can approach the tree.

Another important thing to know about the Civets is that they have a collective conscious – if you speak with one, you speak with them all.

I have entered into trade with the Civets – I exchange shiny blue objects for jars of energy. And I am very grateful to them for this.

Spirits: Memory Spirits

memoryspirits2I’d like to apologise to the Spirits for my inability to represent them visually!

The Memory Spirits first made themselves known to me through a series of drawings I created at random, but didn’t really introduce themselves until I encountered them on one of my journeys.

Their appearance is quite intimidating – they are fluid entities, like swift mist, but can manipulate physical objects. Where their face would be, they use decorative masks or animal skulls.

The Spirits had been asking me to visit them, as they had something to teach me. As I wanted to make sure I could give them the time I need, it was a few days after their request before I could go to them.

They live in a grove in the forest. As I entered, they encircled me. One reached out and touched me, declaring that I had to die now.

My body dropped to the forest floor, and my body started decaying. My internal ecosystem devoured me from the inside, the external ecosystem consumed me from the outside. I was stripped of my physical form – nothing left but bones, which the earth greedily ate up.

There was nothing left.

From here, I watched my average day pass by only I wasn’t a part of events. I was aware of all of the people I usually encounter – my family, friends, work colleagues, fellow commuters, shop assistants … everyone in my life. I saw that through each of these interactions, no matter how insignificant, a little fragment of my souls is exchanged and lives on inside these other people long after I am dead. This is living memory.

The Memory Spirits showed me that when a person dies, the living memories they carry become homeless – they cannot go home, nor can they continue living with their previous caregiver. Memory Spirits step in, and offer these soul fragments a home with them, a safe place to carry on existing beyond physical death.

The Memory Spirits very kindly offer me support in my soul fragment work, by offering shelter to fragments that aren’t ready to return “home”. They offer this support in exchange for a small blood sacrifice on the full moon.

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