Parts and Polytheism

My spirituality and religious allegiances have wavered and evolved through the decades. Often this has bothered me. I feel as though I should settle for one path, whether broadly Pagan, Christian, or any other path. Yet I cant.

Christ calls me. Brighid calls me. The path of the Sufi, the mystical paths of Islam, call me. The way of the Druid calls me. Other Gods and Goddesses call to me.

Now I have a different light on this. It is the light shed by a deeper understanding of the various parts within, parts previously completely dissociated by trauma who are now emerging from the shadows. They have their trauma stories to tell. They also have their own religious/spiritual paths.

To force myself into one path is to deny the myriad paths formed within at different times. To deny those parts of me their own unique voice, their own unique relationship with the Divine. In a sense, to follow one path, worship one deity, is to deny the other parts of me their existence.  They have been ignored by me for decades. A way of survival maybe, but to the detriment of the whole.

Dissociation is a brilliant survival tool. A survival tool of the whole being, body, mind and soul. When those parts come together a beautiful – albeit highly complex – mosaic is formed. I will honour myself. I will honour the mosaic of deities that have made themselves known to me.

Blessed Be.

Ogham Ngetal

Ogham-Ngetal, Broom, Reed.

My harvesting of this essence tonight was blessed with two strong images.

Firstly the Cailleach came to me, broom in hand. Broom to cleanse, to sweep away all that no longer serves me. All that is no longer helpful in my life. You do not argue with Her. She is strong, dark, powerful – yet not to be feared if you are brave enough to embrace her.  In the darkest depths of winter she will cleanse with her power, sweep away all that stagnates within. In the spring, when Brighid returns, broom will be there in all her lightness to carry us forward into spring.

The second sensing I had was that the broom she showed me was made up of all the individual  reeds of my dissociated parts, fragmented through trauma, yet integrated by the power of the Cailleach. United they serve a purpose. Right now I do not know what she has planned, but there is true hope in this image.  

As we are pulled forwards into the depths of winter, may the strength of the Cailleach and the cleansing of Ngetal bring you blessings of hope. 

Ogham-Quert

Quert (Apple) is traditionally about love, healing, cleansing, the underworld. Some of these came through as I harvested the essence from my Quert Ogham stave tonight. She came to me with a beautiful lightness and grace, dancing through my body. I could smell her, sense her sweet juice washing me inside and out.

Rather than taking me to the underworld, she took me back in time to younger me – a me in shame, feeeling defiled by years of  sexual abuse. Her cleansing reached back in time – unprocessed trauma memories continue to live within us until they are processed, placed in the past where they belong. She is a gentle yet powerful ally.

I send her out now as a blessing to all who particularly need her cleansing from shame.

Be Blessed.

A Carmelite Soul

Tomorrow my stay in a Carmelite convent for this week comes to a close.  In some ways these few days have been an abbreviated version of my five years living as a Carmelite. First, something of Carmel.

Carmel is a desert landscape, yet a desert that blossoms.

Carmel is a mountain to be climbed, yet full of ravines, crevices, overhanging rock. The path is never straight, and rarely can you see the summit. For those who do reach it, the vista (I am told) surpasses all words.

Carmel is of Elijah, that fiery prophet, yet who prayed for G-d to end his life. Instead he woke up the next morning, and the ravens came to feed him, ready for his journey to Horeb. Being a fiery soul, he waited for G-d to come in the dramatic natural events. Instead He came in a whisper, that still, small voice. Carmelites of today trace their spiritual origin to him. I chose the reading of this event in his life for my first profession.

Teresa of Avila followed in the uncompromising footsteps of Elijah. In the times of the inquisition (1500s), she dared teach that women were perfectly capable of mental prayer, capable of a personal relationship with God. A heretic of her times. She reformed the Carmelite nuns. She also had the audacity to take Jesus to task, saying that she was not surprised he had so few friends when he treated them so badly. Somehow she escaped punishment in prison, escaped the inquisitors. She had no time for gloomy saints. Quite a character.

John of the Cross, who reformed the friars, was less lucky – except it was his own friars who beat him up for asking so much of them. He escaped, and his escape gave rise to some of his greatest spiritual poetry. He it is who wrote of the Dark Night of the Soul. An image which continues to speak deeply to me.

So Carmel is uncompromising. It asks everything, because God asks everything. Therein lies the paradox. We can only give ourselves (to anyone) if we first possess ourselves. We cannot give what we do not own. If we do not own all the mucky bits, the dissociated fragments, we can only give a part of ourselves.

Another paradox: Carmel is both utterly safe and utterly terrifying to be in, whether literally or figuratively. Tomorrow I must leave here, traverse 2.5 hours of holiday traffic to get home. I am screaming inside: because leaving Carmel 25 years ago was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life – along with living as a Carmelite for 5 years. Why? Because Carmel is a place which tears down every last fibre of false or incomplete self. It asks everything. There is truly nowhere to hide from that abiding Presence. Yet it is also utterly safe to be stripped spiritually naked here.

Prayer is complex for me. I am a spiritual wanderer, meandering down various spiritual paths. Yet yesterday and today I decided to take every one of the inner child parts of me which are slowly coming out of hiding and present them to Jesus – the image of him welcoming little children prompted that. They were two terrifying prayer times – yet it also felt completely safe to do that.

In Carmel all those years ago my sisters saw all the triggered parts of me in action, I suspect. Somehow I was still loved. I know I was very challenging to live with at times, especially for my fellow novices…

Tomorrow I must leave….Then I remember the note that the lay extern (outside the enclosure) passed in to me the night before I left, in which she said ‘you can take the girl out of Carmel, but you cant take Carmel out of the girl’. I guess that is still true, 25 years later, although generally expressed in more diverse ways. The language of the desert, the dark night, Presence in Silence, still speaks so deeply to me.

Life remains a desert. Life remains the challenge of climbing that mountain, falling down crevices, navigating overhangs. Somehow all this happens without crampons either. I guess I will just keep climbing (I hate heights and climbing…), with a Presence who is beyond all names, indeed is unnameable, but who reveals themselves in different, ever unexpected ways.

 

 

Childhood Trauma and Dissociation

Yesterday a link on Facebook sent me here https://lucidwitness.com/2015/09/25/peek-inside-a-classroom-jose/ – A poignant, powerful account of a young child’s dissociation during lessons on account of traumatic events unfolding in their life.

It reminded me of my own childhood in class, the ultra-quiet one, the spacey one. Working in education now, these are the children I am mindful of, the ones who are just too quiet. They may be the joy of their teachers in the midst of an otherwise unruly bunch of young people, but the extremes of withdrawal are not normal, and should be flagged up.

Children experiencing abuse at home may not even know what they are being subjected to, due to stronger depths of dissociation; one self functioning at school and in the outside world generally, while another part tries as best as a child can do to survive the abuse.

Thank you, Daun Koffman, for writing about – and caring about – traumatised children.

 

 

 

Ogham-Tinne (Holly)

Harvesting the essence from my Tinne ogham stave earlier was a powerful experience. Tinne is Unconditional Love, Balance.

Tinne  can be experienced as the love of a mother, or a very masculine love. For me today, it was a strong masculine love which came through, a warm and all-enveloping love.

The Holly King of the darker half of the year, but also the love of Jesus came through as well, totally unexpectedly. This love brooks no compromise. This love is pure. This love will strip away all that poses as pseudo love. Pretend love. Sugary love. This love is raw, is real.

As soon as I held my ogham stave for harvesting, I knew this was an essence I stand greatly in need of right now. Gaslighting from one direction as to the ‘happy times’ we had on holiday when I was growing up; another person betraying my trust in other ways, yet who would claim love for me; these are not love. Not the Love the Holly King and the Christ bring us.

Abuse can pose as love. The Holly King and the Christ offer true love, unconditional love – and ask that we grow in this in how we in turn love.

Tonight I send this essence out to all those who need this Love, and who are tired of behaviour posing as love.

Blessed Be. 

Ogham-Huathe (Hawthorn)

Huathe. As the May blossom cascades from the Hawthorn, there is protection and sanctuary to be found for those brave enough to draw close to her thorns.

Traditionally associated with healing of the physical heart, she reaches out too with a potent balm for healing of the inner heart, the emotional core of our being. She may pierce us with her thorns, but it is in order that she might draw us in for healing.  

A safe place when we are in need of refuge.

A place where we can learn her boundaries.

Are you brave enough to embrace her thorns for healing? She would like to offer you her balm, too.

Balm for your heart. Your soul.

Bear & Gratitude

This post is in gratitude to Bear, who has walked with me longer than I knew.

Bear came to me around 5 years ago in a shamanic journey/meditation. When I trained in Reiki Drum a couple of years ago 2 male black Bear came to me.  

Today in therapy I faced up to some truly sadistic behaviour from my parents as a child. Bear came and flanked me on either side as I worked through this, leading me gently away and above a body in extreme pain.

Bear communicated he had been with me then, had been with me throughout my life. My sense of gratitude to Bear is deeper than any words can express. Thank you Bear.

Prayer and Dissociation

Repeated early trauma will frequently lead to dissociation, a separation of the self from the body in order to survive the reality of what the body is being subjected to. Structural Dissociation in some degree may occur (for more on this, I found http://www.complex-trauma.eu/?p=307 to be of great help).

In indigenous shamanic cultures dissociation is seen as soul loss, where a part of the soul takes flight. This fragmented soul-part can be brought back through practices such as soul retrieval.

In prayer, I have always struggled with the sense that there is a veil between myself and God/divinity; a veil I would now term a dissociative veil.

In my 20s I spent five years as a Carmelite nun, five immensely rich years, intending to dedicate myself to God for the rest of my life. What I did not realise at the time was just how devastating the trauma I had experienced as a child through abuse had been,  and the impact that had had on me as an adult.  Living in community was highly triggering, but I had little idea of what it was triggering back to; what the emotional flashbacks were all pointing to. It became clear that I could not continue my life as a Carmelite, as I had been too damaged by my childhood; left too unstable for community life.

Now I know just how traumatised I was, and am grateful indeed for the trauma therapy (EMDR) I am now going for. I would liken this to the process of soul retrival, placed within a modern psychological framework. Fragmented parts of the soul are brought back. Yes, they are the dissociated emotional parts which carry traumatic memories, but specialist trauma therapy is able to put these in the past, where they belong.

Today I spent an hour in prayer in another Carmelite monastery chapel. A place of deep Healing, of Light, of Peace, and of Hope. Carmel stands as a witness to the Eternal, the Absolute, the One. It is uncompromising; asking that we give ourselves totally to that One. Yet that Eternal One does not want a mere sliver of who we are, a tiny fragment of who we are, a superficial persona. What that One calls us to be is the fullness of ourselves – because how can we relate to any B/being if we are splintered into dissociative fragments? The relationship will only be with a tiny part of who we are.

Called into the fullness of Life by that One, I know that One will also give me the strength to continue in this path of recovery, no matter how tough it is.

Amen.