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Some Differences Between Priestesses and Witches: Duties and Trials
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What Guardian Spirit?
Article ID: 13156
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Janice Van Cleve
Posted: February 22nd. 2009
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David Spangler – noted author, lecturer, theosophist, and thinker – spoke recently about what he called the “Second Ecology.” By this he meant the spirit world that together with our physical world makes up the total being we call Gaia. He said that this second ecology is inhabited by species of spirits, which are interactive and collaborative states of consciousness.
Our human language cannot really define them, yet they reflect the energies projected onto them. It’s like the Goethe quote about making a commitment and the universe seems to respond to it. Spangler’s goal is to create harmonious mindfulness between the two ecologies. Interesting stuff, until he said he had achieved interaction with one of these spirits and he calls him “John.”
That’s where I decided to get off the train.
Lots of people talk about guardian angels, totem animals, benevolent spirit guides and the like and I am sure they are quite sincere. It’s none of my business to question their beliefs but the notion of spirits with personalities just doesn’t fly for me. If I ever did have a guardian angel, she sped off in leather chaps on her Harley a long time ago.
I have not had much luck with totem animals, either. I remember once at a Hecate Sickle festival sponsored by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, we were assigned to clan families. Each family had a totem animal. I was assigned to salamander clan. I really tried to get into salamander. I wondered what a salamander thought about or if it had feelings. I even made “squiggle, squiggle, squiggle” noises with the rest of my clan. It didn’t work. I knew then that salamander was not my guardian spirit.
Butterflies offered a possibility. I am a Gemini and I do flit and flutter from one thing to another. I like pretty flowers and I can leave a very light footprint when I want. I am also a warrior type and in the legends of the Maya and the Aztecs, the souls of warriors who died in battle returned as butterflies. But I am much more solid and permanent than a butterfly and I like the gray and cold. So butterflies didn’t work either.
Some folks look to ancestors for their guardian spirits. Ancestors have the advantage of blood relationship and past experience. They have lived life and they have the t-shirt to prove it. This was no help to me, though, because I broke with my FOO (Family Of Origin) a thousand years ago, or so it seems. I have no connections with that past nor am I attached to ideas of ghosts, reincarnation, or an afterlife. So much for ancestors.
Many of my witch friends have a familiar, usually a cat. I don’t have any pets. All I’ve got are these geraniums. They seem happy enough, as geraniums go, but I can’t say I have any spiritual connection to them and I certainly don’t think I could count on them to help me in a pinch. So where’s a girl to turn for a guardian spirit?
I went to a women’s conference where a series of workshops was being offered. One workshop was a trance journey into the Other World to find our guardian spirits. I wasn’t having much luck finding one in this world, so I decided to give it a try. Maybe on a non-intellectual level I could find a guardian spirit to whom I could feel a genuine connection. This is what happened, exactly as I wrote it right after the experience:
There I sat on the carpet, my back up against the concrete block wall. It was too warm in the art room but it is always too warm in the art room. To my left was a woman I had met before, although exactly where I could not recall. To my right was a young woman who seemed very into this trance stuff and who talked in husky whispers. There were other women in the room, maybe twenty in all, sitting up or lying on the floor. The trance leader had asked us to get comfortable and there were few inhibitions in this crowd about doing just that.
The leader started a slow, rhythmic drumbeat. The drum was a djembe, an hourglass shaped form with a taut membrane over one end and a hole in the other end. It hung by a strap from her shoulder. She walked around the room, telling us to breathe in and breath out, keeping time on the djembe. We closed our eyes and I took the hand of the woman to my right.
“We are going on a journey, ” she said. Yeah, right, I said silently to myself. I’d been to sessions like this before. The only journeys I go on are through the Internet or out to meetings. “We are crossing the street to enter the park. We come to a large, old gnarled tree with an ancient wound in its side. The wound is now grown over by bark to create two vertical lips, not unlike a yoni.” My mental conversation continued. I said I’d give this a try, so I guess I can stay here until the featured speaker comes in tonight.
The woman I am holding hands with is really very attractive. Maybe we can go out for coffee together afterwards. “We hug the tree and send it our love. The tree groans and opens its lips. We step inside and climb down the ladder to a large room in the tree’s base. It opens to a dirt path through a sunlit forest.” I say to myself that I hope nobody saw me hugging that tree in the park. They’d think I’m nuts. This ladder is muddy with footprints, too. I reach the chamber at the bottom and see the others are already starting down the path.
“Hey, wait for me!”, I cry out, and suddenly some brain cell in my head tells me that I must have entered the trance a couple of drumbeats back there. Sun flows easily through the alder canopy to the rhododendrons that line the path. We come to a grassy clearing through which twines a bubbling brook.
“As you stand on the bank, ” the trance leader’s voice murmurs far off but yet in steady rhythm with the djembe, “you see guardian spirits emerge from the forest beyond. Some are animals and some are ancestors. When yours comes for you, take its hand and step over the brook. They will guide you and protect you on your journey.”
One by one I see mountain lions, bears, snakes, owls, grandmothers, fairies, and crones emerge from the dark woods beyond the clearing and find the woman for whom they had come. One by one I see my sisters from the art room take the helping hands, or paws, step over the brook, and go together with their guardians into the dark woods. I wait.
No guardian comes for me. I wait some more. Finally I am the only one left.
I realize then, with a bit of sadness, that no one would ever come for me. So I jump across the brook and walk into the forbidding woods alone.
The trees here are black and bare. What few leaves cling to their ragged branches are a cold gray-green metallic shade and the only light that penetrates at all is a pale olive color which casts a pallid hue over everything. The trail twists over and around gnarly roots and muddy puddles. More than once I think of Bilbo and the dwarves creeping through the matted tangles of Mirkwood. I try to catch up with the others, but always I trip and fall or, frightened, hesitate before pushing on. “You have come to the lair of Spider Woman, ” intones the trance leader. Obviously she is talking to those ahead of me but already I begin to see silky filaments stringing from tree to tree.
I round a corner and fall backward in shock. There before my eyes is the hungry maw of the Spider Woman’s whorl. A huge nest of densely woven gauze gobbles up the trail in its funnel. The sticky tunnel is anything but inanimate. It pulses and sucks. Its cold breath chills me even as its magnetic attraction draws me in. I am scared and totally alone, but I surrender. I let go my fears and allow myself to be pulled into the black void.
It seems to have no end, yet, just as I get to the part where the passage is so tight that I have to stoop to pass through, it opens to a chamber – and there she is! Spider Woman. Arachnid Queen. Before I can squeal or run, she freezes me to the spot with her multi-eyed gaze. How long I remain transfixed there I cannot say. What I can say is that I felt an overwhelming warmth and love coming from her. Not only does it come from her, but it is directed solely to me and is meant for me. Whatever emptiness I felt alone on the trail outside is more than filled by the pure, fully satisfying love that is pouring into me in that dark queen’s nest.
When or how I emerged from that place I do not know, but I do know it is not by the route I took to get in. The first thing I recognize is the field with the brook running through it and I hear the trance leader tell us to bid our guardian spirits farewell. The other women are hugging their guardians and waving goodbye. I am in a magical fog all my own and I notice them only peripherally.
I slog through the water by myself and march my way back to the rhododendrons. The ladder inside the old tree’s trunk is still muddy. I am the last one up and the groaning tree seals its opening behind us as we cross the street. “Breathe in, ” coaches the trance leader, “and breathe out. You may open your eyes when you are ready.”
We came back into our bodies with tears rolling down our cheeks. First the woman on the left hugged me and then the one whose hand was still in mine. Obviously all of us had been very much moved by this experience. Even now as I recall it many years later it is as vivid as if it had just happened.
I’ve often seen that old tree in the park and patted its scabby trunk. It does indeed have a large yoni shaped wound on one side. I thank it for being part of that subliminal exercise so long ago. If that was a spiritual experience – if I did walk in the second ecology for a time – so be it. Yet I walked there alone with no guardian spirit to assist me and I found no personality to which I could attach a name.
Janice Van Cleve is a writer who walks alone. Spider Woman loves her just the way she is. Copyright 2009.
Janice Van Cleve
Location: Seattle, Washington
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