Posted in divine magic, Shamanism

Sacred Clown

I wrote about the healing power of creativity and play recently and that got me thinking about the shamanic role of the sacred clown.

In certain tribal cultures, there’s a community role for sacred clowns. They are called by different names in different tribes, one commonly known name is heyoka, so I’ll use that term here.

The role of the sacred clown is not so much to make people laugh but to make them think. They do that by absurd and often backwards behaviour; they may be nice to an unpleasant person and mean to a kind person. This would mirror what each needs to learn. The unpleasant person would usually be treated dismissively but rarely receive any kindness. The kind person would expect to be treated pleasantly, so being treated badly for no reason presents a challenge to their ego. The heyoka is very tuned in to what people need and intuitively provides it.

In the West, clowns in circuses throw custard pies, mime slapstick entertainment that may also involve the kind of unexpected ‘backward’ behaviour used by the heyoka. We also have comedians whose words may get us thinking about things in a different way. Neither are seen as spiritual roles like heyoka, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything spiritual going on.

Most tribal societies that are healthy, balanced and not adversely impacted by the Western world, naturally thrive on laughter. Every activity can produce humour and fun, even spiritual ceremonies and sacred events are often light-hearted and full of laughter. Laughter is reverence, whereas to us, being serious and not ‘playing about’ is reverence.

Heyoka act as role models for the community, reminding people to turn things around, what we might term thinking outside the box. They mimic and tease a person to help them see differently and challenge the ego. They use the ridiculous and surreal to jolt people out of a complacent mindset. They are powerful and highly respected members of the community who can break taboos that nobody else would dare.

In Europe, we used to have jesters in medieval times. That’s where the term ‘playing the fool’ came from. Jesters were usually close to the throne and could get away with more than most. They were free to insult and name-call by means of japes. Perhaps they once had a similar role to heyoka.

A special skill of the Celtic druids was a form of poetry called satire. In the past, satire was akin to making a curse, a powerful act intended to cause injury. Once a person was satirised, they were stripped of their legendary Celtic pride and could no longer show their face, they were effectively ostracised and banished afar. Today, satire is a kind of humour but to the Celts, it was a powerful weapon. Satire was executed by a well trained bard who understood how to use the profound magical power of words.

Have you heard about the ancient totem poles discovered at Stonehenge, predating the stones? If so, you may realise there are spiritual artefacts shared between prehistoric British culture and native American tribal societies. Despite being separated geographically and by thousands of years, shamanic societies across the world had common understandings and similar ways of expressing their relationship with the land and each other. And some practices are as relevant today as ever they were, like the sacred clowns.

(Image: “Shamanic Sacred Clown Heyoka” art by Amenet Drago)

Posted in Celtic festival, Goddess, Mother Earth, mythology, nature

The Goddess and The Wheel

The Goddess is complex and has many faces.  The ones most talked about are Maiden, Mother and Crone.  Personally, I see the Goddess in the turning of the Wheel of the Year and assign three moons to each Goddess aspect on the cycle, making four.  Maiden, Mother, Crone and one more.  I call this fourth face Bride, sometimes, she is the Sorceress.  The energy feels like this:

The first face is the Maiden, the story of divine feminine starts with her. 
She is Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. 
She’s a Winter’s landscape, like the land beneath snow.
She is waiting to grow into her power.
The acorn waits in the dark earth for the Spring sun to kiss it awake.
The acorn grows into the oak just as the Maiden grows into Bride, Mother and Crone.
Her womb is waiting to bleed.
The Maiden sits in the season of Winter on the Wheel of the Year, for she is first.
 And the Celtic New Year begins at Samhain, last day of October.
Winter precedes all other seasons, just as the dark void gave birth to light.
Everything starts in the dark, as the baby is born from the dark womb.
The elemental energy of the Maiden is Air, for hers is the first breath.  
She is assigned the moons of November, December and January.

We are now at Imbolc, last day of January. 
The season when light returns and the earth wakes from slumber.
Powerful season of Fire and renewal.  
The sun has kissed the Maiden and she has woken up.
Everything is stirring in nature, in her season.
The birds and beasts are mating and trees and plants are thrusting out their leaves.
Here sits the Bride, assigned three moons of February, March and April. 
She is the May Queen whose potent, fiery blood brings transformation at Beltane.
Just as Spring transforms the land.
She is red and white, purity and blood, for her womb is fertile and not yet pierced.
She is the Enchantress.

The Goddess energy passes on at Beltane.
When the womb of the May Queen is pricked.
Life is growing within her dark womb.
The season of the Great Mother Goddess is here.
Divine Mother rules the moons of May, June and July. 
She reigns through Summer, season of abundance and blessings. 
She is the cornucopia of plenty. 
She births the land as the magical child, the seed of humanity.  
She reigns until July’s end, whence comes the festival of Lughnasadh.
Festival of the Child of Light, which is us, dear listener.
For we, and all beings upon the Earth are her children.
The earth is rich with flowers, corn and fruit during the season of the Great Mother.
The element of Earth is her gift to us.

At August’s start, power passes to the Crone.
Wise Woman, she is Elder. 
She, who is Keeper of the Wheel of the Year.
Turner of the wheel.
She oversees the process of change.
She sits at the spinning wheel with the silver thread in her fingers. 
Her element is Water, for water is a record keeper, as is the Crone. 
To her are assigned three moons of August, September and October. 
Her womb is not barren, it is the void.
Cave of inconceivable power.
It is the gaping gash of Sheela Na Gig.
She beckons us to enter.
To go inside ourselves and know who we are.
She sits in the season of the ancestors.
At Samhain, the ancestors are honoured. 
And the Crone passes her power back to the Maiden.
The wheel begins again, not a circle but a spiral.  

For this reason, as a woman in her Crone stage, it is mine to gift my power to the Maiden, imparting wisdom and teaching skills to one who is starting on the same journey I have travelled.  Already, the honour and opportunity has befallen me, more than once, in teaching my shamanic craft.  I hope that all women in their crone-years, the years we call peri-menopause, menopause and beyond, will gift some of their power to the Maiden, for she is a Bride-, a Mother-, a Crone-in-becoming. 

We Crones are the ones who have travelled the full stretch of the road and passed through all four stations.  We are in our full power.  And if we don’t value that, if we don’t honour ourselves for all we are, who will? 

The Wheel of the Year

    

Posted in Celtic festival, Goddess, nature, Personal Story, Storytelling

Beltane Story

Today is Beltane and here is a rare Saturday post.  When I was a child, I began to receive glimpses of one of my past lives, the one that I learned about first.  I remembered being a young woman living on an island off the coast of present-day Wales, called Ynys Mon, otherwise known as Anglesey.  I was there in 60AD. I will try to recount a little of what I remember. 

I didn’t grow up on Ynys Mon but nearby Snowdonia, travelling to Ynys Mon for sanctuary because things were unstable in Britain.  There was no England, Scotland or Wales at the time, only Britain, we called the land Pryd or Bryd back then.  There were Romans in Britain, they had come to claim our lands. It was said they traded British people as slaves throughout their empire, as well as British dogs and horses, which were highly prized throughout the continent.  I could go on about all the horrible things they did but I won’t, suffice it to say, they were the enemy to me and mine.  British tribes, across the lands were making individual decisions whether to go in with them, try to keep their heads down or downright resist.  I lived in an area that resisted and, luckily, the mountainous landscape made things difficult for the Romans. So, a fighting resistance was created. My brothers, mother and father left to fight and support the resistance.  Only I stayed to tend the homestead.  But the day came when I had to pack up and leave.  I travelled with my animals and others of my tribe to Ynys Mon, for that was the safest place we knew. 

I already knew the island, my mother had taken me many times since childhood to visit the Temple of the Goddess cradled below what is now called Holy Mountain. I made my way to the head Priestess who knew me well.  Soon, I was immersed again in the wisdom, mysteries and blessings of the Goddess.  I loved it there.  Ynys Mon was known as the stronghold of the Druids.  There were a number of Druid strongholds throughout Britain but this was the main headquarters.

It is believed today that British people were Celtic then.  I must explain, people in Britain were, for the most part, British, and belonged to an ancestry that led back to the oldest days in the island.  What was Celtic was the new culture, fashion and style that people adopted.  It came from the continent, brought in by traders, travellers and a handful of wealthy settlers.  Clothes, artefacts, attitudes and behaviours had taken on a continental flavour but we didn’t know the word ‘Celtic’ back then.  

We celebrated the yearly festivals, more than the four we know today, my favourite was Beltane.  The sacred festival fell from dusk, when fires were lit to ignite the dark, to the next dusk when fires were quenched to invite back the night, safe in the knowledge that light and heat had been kindled for another year.  There were fires everywhere throughout the land, big and small.  They were often built in avenues and everyone drove their animals along the middle as they invoked the fire spirits to purify the animals. 

The festival atmosphere started a moon earlier and lasted the entire moon’s turning, since many came from far and wide and stayed long with friends over the festival.  It was a joyous, raucous time of celebration and passion.  It was also the time of hand-fasting and twelve-month bonding when couples entered into a trial marriage of a year and sealed or broke the bond at the year’s end. One Beltane, I entered into a hand-fasting with a man who was a Druid of the island. We had a strong soul connection and our union was destined. He died in the carnage when the Romans attacked in 60AD, as did all but a few. I was one of the few. I lived to be old in that lifetime and through many more lives, holding inside that terrible trauma, clearing it at last in this life time.   

Back to the Beltane fires. There were several people in those days who could still perceive the little people, they were the spirits who looked after nature and water and fire and some folks could talk with them.  During the festival, I saw the fire spirits dancing in the flames and amongst us in our dancing circles.  At Beltane in the season of Spring, we honoured the living fires.  We asked the fire consciousness to protect, purify and bless us.  As we left, we each took a piece of Beltane fire home to restart our hearths. Taken from the main fire, it had been circled and blessed by the Druids and Priestesses.  Beltane was the only time we put out our hearth fires, so we could light it again with the blessed Beltane flames. And that fire was kept alive in our hearths and hearts throughout the coming year, until the next festival of fire.     

Beltane Blessings to you, my dear reader.  May you kindle fire in your life today and invite the fire spirits to keep the passions ignited in your heart.