poisoning water to heal the earth: ‘Medicine for the Earth’ musings, part 2

the culmination of Sandra Ingerman’s book was a thing of demented beauty. to recap: the premise of the book is that we have the power to heal (via vaguely shamanistic and mostly namby-pamby new age techniques) personal and environmental toxins. most of the book focuses on the personal toxin angle; the weapon of mass destruction is apparently thinking happy thoughts.

it’s in the epilogue that Ingerman waxes in her full glory to prove her thesis. she and several new age shamans decide to hold an intensive days-long ceremony to heal polluted water. (i agree with this overall goal; a very good thing to do indeed.) and, what’s more, they will scientifically test the results via a lab.

    and so … Ingerman starts by deliberately polluting the water. yes, she puts gasoline and ammonium hydroxide into potable water to prove that she and her group can transmute toxins. as always, when the thoughts whirl, i will make use of the bulleted list.

  • she did what? sorry, honey, if you want to piss off the nature spirits, you’ve found an opportune way. how the hell is pouring gasoline into water a spiritual act?
  • throughout the book, she discusses how you cannot do workings (she refuses to call them magick) with the ego as the driving force; the spirits will take your power if you do. but by poisoning water to prove your healing ability, aren’t you being driven by ego?
  • the “scientific” method she uses is laughable, with the exception of the guy at the water testing company. kinesthesiology isn’t a scientific technique. so-called muscle testing relies on fluctuations in one of your bodies weakest joints — the shoulder — being held straight out for long periods of time. it’s no more scientific than reading the bumps on one’s head. there was also no control water, polluted or otherwise.
  • the PH of the ammonium hydroxide water changes slightly after the working, but that could be a natural phenomena — something she poo-poos. she says the spirits send her a message that the PH of the gasoline water won’t change, but the water’s essence was changed anyway so as to be benign. how … convenient, those spirits.
  • if it’s so benign — if the transmutation into holy water was so wildly successful as claimed, then drink it, honey. that’s right — take a gulp. wait … you won’t do that? why?
  • other gems: claiming that she only works rain magick when there are cloudy skies so as to avoid the appearance of ego. no, honey, you do rain magick when there are clouds because it increases the chance of success. magick is a gentle tug, not a forcing of will; we, as small beings, cannot change the entire weather pattern of the earth. we can only nudge. refusing to admit this is, in fact, an expression of ego.
  • the very final exercise of the book involves imagining someone or something you love, and then saying that you hate it so as to differentiate right from wrong. perhaps i’m wimpy, but that seems, well, violent to me. there’s enough hate in the world; isn’t that part of the premise, the personal toxins bit?

so there you have it. i’d give it negative stars in anything other than amusement value.

Medicine for the Earth review, part 1

Written while I was reading Sandra Ingerman’s “Medicine for the Earth” a few months ago….

 i’ve started reading Sandra Ingerman’s “Medicine for the Earth,” ostensibly about healing “personal and environmental toxins.” it seemed like an interesting topic, and i rather enjoyed her “Shamanic Journeying” book. the latter was small and rather introductory, but included good ideas for journeying (activities, reasons, techniques, etc.). the drumming CD it came with also is quite good; we used it on the equinox as the background for our Warrior Women Dance.

“Medicine for the Earth,” though, is getting on my nerves. on one hand, it’s common sense: you can clear personal negativity by thinking happy thoughts. yes, folks, you can — bet you didn’t think of that before! yes, in the depths of despair, feel the connection to your gods and spirits.

can we say “no-brainer”?

granted, there are folks who don’t get that — the fact that while you do not always choose your circumstances (New Age claptrap to the contrary), you do have somewhat of a voice in how you react. (i saw “somewhat” because there are instinctual reactions: e.g., jumping from the window of a burning building without thinking. mental illness can also circumvent choice in reaction as well; if you are in the midst of a schizophrenic or manic episode, for example, your ability to choose your course of action is severely limited).

i run into the “black holes” who don’t get the above in the world every day. sadly, they are the last people on earth who would read Sandra Ingerman’s book — and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t get the premise. i have a nagging suspicion that some of those folks likely have psychological or intellectual issues, but i digress.

“Medicine for the Earth” irks me partly because one of its initial exercises is coming up with your own creation myth. understanding creation, it argues, is the crux of spiritual wholeness. and so, the author demonstrates by supplying her own: an account of the White Light creating all, with humans as a special “experiment.”

first off, i disagree with creation myths as being central to spirituality. frankly, i don’t have one (and none survived intact in Celtic myth, although the varied invasions of Ireland seem to suggest one). i don’t want one, either. i have no idea how the universe was created, outside of the Big Bang and various scientific theories — and i don’t think it’s my place to know. i am a small being in a vast universe; why should i be privy to such information? and it seems — at least to me — like hubris to write one of my own, as if i knew the mind of the Gods.

i have my own beliefs about the composition of the Otherworld and spirit(s), but they are just that: beliefs, not capital-T Truth. i am okay with not knowing anything with certainty. when asked, i will offer my beliefs, but will present them as such and not Truth. frankly, i think Truth isn’t some holy, unchanging concept; it, too, depends on the subject and the position of the observer.

Ingerman’s own myth bothers me also in that it assumes a special place/role for humans. quite frankly, i don’t think we’re any different — spiritually speaking — than any other animal. granted, we believe we are and view the Gods as anthropomorphic — but if horses have Gods, they’d view them in horse-shape and consider themselves the highest beings of creation, as Herodotus aptly noted.

interesting question i’d love to ask Ingerman: if humans have animal helpers to aid them on their spiritual journeys, do animals have human helpers in the Otherworld?

i’m hoping the book gets better and will stick it out. it seems to me, however, that its version of shamanism is the byproduct of a human-centered modernity divorced from nature. true shamanic traditions accord animals equal agency, from everything i’ve seen. part of me wants to sit in on an Ingerman workshop and say to the participants: “no, honey, it’s not all about you.

refusing to pass on personal negativity is a valuable practice, both spiritual and otherwise. i’d consider it a form of civility, something we’ve lost in a disconnected culture. in that regard, perhaps Ingerman’s presentation is apt; culturally speaking, many of us do need a basic course in not passing on our shit.

meditation: Brighid as the hearth fire

 Sit. Feel your bones, your flesh, resting upon the ground, the Great Mother who stirs now in her winter sleep. Breathe – in and out, in and out, in and out. Each breath takes you deeper into the Otherworld, into the heart of things.

Feel the heat of the fire before you – feel it play on your skin, the light dancing on your eyelids. The tree is a gate, the well is a gate and so is the fire – the hearth fire, the heart-fire, the fire of life and need.

Brighid is, first and foremost, the Lady of the Hearth-fire – fire at its most useful, its most comforting. The fire that cooks our food, that heats our home. And indeed, it is fire that makes a home from a place. We gather around fire. It attracts us.

Brighid is the useful fire – the fire of the smith that shapes metal, the fire of making as well as the fire of nourishment.

And she is more. Breathe – in and out, breathing in the scent of the oak, the wood of the sacred tree, the tree of strength, the door. Fire is a gate to the Otherworld. Flame links us to the beginning-place, what the Buryats call the “gol” — the place where all possibility begins. It is a place of magick, of creation.

Breathe – in and out. And now you will gaze in the flames or follow your own path to the Otherworld for a message from Brighid or her brother, Aonghus Og, who too is flame – the flame of the heart. Seek your message, your wisdom, in the shape of flames or smoke, or the images that arise in your minds. When my drum stops, we shall return.

Brighid’s white mantle brings the spring, goes an old saying. When all seems lifeless, the trees silently bud. The groundhog stirs from sleep, and the snake leaves the mound on a warming day. There is darkness, but it is lightening. There is cold, but that, too, shall end.

Musings on the fey

one of my holiday gifts was a glossy copy of the British magazine Fae, one of the many fairy-themed publications to spring into creation these past several years. as with many such publications, it seems to center on fashion and artwork (which is okay by me, by the way).

but reading it, i muse about the concept of fairies…

“fairy” is a garbage term — it simply means “spirit.” as such, it can denote any one of the three Kindreds (Gods, nature spirits, ancestors); fairy lore also has instances that identify fairies with all three.

For example, the Tuatha De Danann are described as fairies, although they are undoubtedly the Celtic pantheon. Spirits of water, forests and the like may also be included within the realm of divine beings normally considered fey.

Fairy tales often include stories in which people believed dead are found among them, or they inhabit ancient burial mounds. Eddie Lenihan’s Meeting the Other Crowd contains several examples of fairies as spirits of the dead, although (alas) i no longer have the book to ferret out the references directly.

today, we often associate fairies with Nature Spirits and Druidic rites can (whether it’s often depends on the practitioner) include the Sidhe in the nature spirits invocation. in this form, they are what the New Age community often calls “devas” — the inhabiting spirits of plants (trees, flowers, etc.), particular places, stones and the like. there are also tribes of spirit-beings that don’t have any truck with the incarnate world, or who are generally not friendly with its denizens. (think of the Fomhoire, for example.)

but what they aren’t are winged sprites in neo-medieval garb, hate to say.

as spirits, they can take any form they like, as they are “non-physical” in the sense of fleshly being.

i’ve certainly sensed spirits for much of my life, starting in childhood. i’ve never seen them as winged sprites. rather, i’ve seen the Gods in varied forms, nagas (“snakes with people heads,” which i drew from the time i was three or so), occasionally sphinxes and many-armed women (which i had seen in elementary school, leading me to believe one of my previous incarnations must have been in India). i’ve seen spirits of the dead as light, as men and women in period costumes, as glowing skeletons dancing. spirits of nature i generally just sense rather than see.

personally, i’m not sure what spirits people are seeing when they claim to see little creatures with gossamer wings. something that wants attention and acknowledgment, and is using a familiar form, most likely.

in my experience, however, spirits ar enothing like the benevolent, glitter-scattering, gift-giving fairies of popular media. the Kindreds are full of depth, majesty, beauty and terrible power. (so are we, as it happens.)

Invocation at the Western Gate

Remember. Sew together the edges of what was lost for a shroud, a bridal veil, a blanket for a newborn.

Old prayers blow in gray boughs by the well-edge, clooties, banners of causes unremembered. The Old Mother sews them together into a quilt of the unspoken. The figures of broken clay she knits together under the wave.

Remember. Sew together the edges of what was lost for a shroud, a bridal veil, a blanket for a newborn.

Bubbling forth, the spring from the deep, the tear from the eye, the blood from the wound. Salt on the tongue, it gathers to itself, flows forth, flows forth, rivulet and wave.

The voices of the dead are our voices. They echo from that sea isle, as the cattle of Tethra leap from the wave. They wait on that far isle, arms reaching and whole, in the sunset that is sunrise, the harvest that is a sowing.

Remember. Sew together the edges of what was lost for a shroud, a bridal veil, a blanket for a newborn.

a gray dusk and the wind stirs the dunes. gulls dance wave-side as a bobbing child collects shells. an old man writes with his feet on the shore as he remembers Niamh, the white horse, the breaking saddle.

unseen, the lights of Murias glitter through the gloom on the farthest shore. a coracle climbs the waves, in reaching toward and forward, betwixt and beyond. a song waits, a cauldron, a full belly, a cup of truth.

The voices of the dead are our voices.

Remember. Sew together the edges of what was lost for a shroud, a bridal veil, a blanket for a newborn.

Nauthiz: a meditation

Need.

two fire-sticks in numbed hands, wind-bitten, the light dancing from the snow’s crystal edge. rubbing in the dark. nothing — then a spark.

will it die? what have you to feed it?

Little Match Girl, we’re told as a lesson. which one? that sulfur and friction fire? or that hunger kills — a light, a life?

or that both require choices, the knife of sacrifice, the magician’s wand. to eat, something must die. bonds of energy released, dancing and kinetic, separating force from ash. dry moss to the flint, the bull’s taut throat to the blade.

sacrifice: to make sacred, to feed the fire of the holy.

Need.

it feeds: flames and arms reach for the sacrifice. reach as a forest fire, as a hunger-panged man beating a child with a stick for the last bit. a mindless grasp, the infant’s hand for the breast, the candle for the curtains, the wolves for winter’s wanderer.

the wise wall stones for a hearth and keep the fire fed. they pull in the wanderer from the dark, leave a carcass for the wolves. the magician’s wand: the stick that feeds the fire.

forge and cook-fire, light in the dark: she begins from the spark of need and satiation shared.

a brief invocation

Brighid, lady of poetry, bless this space where the mind flows free, where the words trickle, a stream over stones. Let our words meander through the land, shaping our path as they are shaped by it in turn. Bless our words.

Brighid, lady of the hearthfire, bless this space where we may warm ourselves with the fires of community, the heat of shared hearts around the hearth of the soul.

Imbolc is a time of beginnings, when the buds defy the Cailleach’s white grip. It is your day, Brighid, and so we begin.

Bitheadh e mar sin.