‘Here at my altar, I’ve just done my healing journeying, with no plan of what would happen, I just knew I needed to go to my Healing Grove…. And as usual I entered the space and before I went round to each of the elements I sat with the waters of the healing spring for a while. It helped me to be present and sit with myself after the crash. It helped me acknowledge the emotions coming up instead of suppressing them. Thoughts and feelings bubbled up like the water in the spring, before I rose and walked round as I usually do, within the stone Celtic cross at my feet with its small spring at the centre. I went to each element, seeking balance, asking for balance, to redress the balance of my body and mind and receive the gifts each element offers. And they all gave me a gift, each element, and I offered them peace in return, sent peace out from my body and thanks – reciprocity. In particular the element of Water helped me, taking me down into the depths of my feelings and moving through them in my body, bring them into my body, acknowledging them. I flowed into the calming depths, flowed through the water of my tears. And then Fire! Fire was a gentle, nourishing and comforting flame, that warmed and held me. I had thought that this element would have the least part to play, but the Stag of the South, Cernunnos at this time, bowed their deer head to me, touched their head to mine, and gave me their strength. As I surrendered, they allowed me to physically lean into them, and drop all of the tension in my body, and they held me and I clung onto them. They held my weight, took all of it on their head, their antlers, on their neck. They held me up so I could release all the tension, deep within my body, all the fear I still held from the crash. All my other guides were there too by that point. Danu cradled me, Brighid comforted me and woke my inner flame. My ancestors gathered close, Wolf was there for me. All this meant I could totally let go, be held and supported, and just allowed to be, for whatever came up. Afterwards, still there in the Healing Grove, as I gave my blessings to each of the elements, the quarters, I stood and (laughs) just ran around and around the grass area in front of the Celtic cross where the trees are with their banners hanging. I ran, I jumped, I span, the rain gentle on my face, mixing with my drying tears…. And now I feel lighter, so much lighter, I hadn’t realised what a weight I was carrying. I feel hollowed out now, but in a fresh way, cleansed. What a gift! What a huge, huge gift!’
Recently I was involved in a mild car crash where, thankfully, neither myself or the other driver was really injured. I was alone at the time and just wanted to get out of the road as quickly as possible. I checked they were ok, we exchanged details and I drove on and got on with my day. Later that evening I was aching, but by the next morning I thought I was fine to go to work after some very gentle stretches.
At work my body hurt more and more and I realised I was struggling emotionally. It all seemed to catch up with me and I started to realise I could have died. I went to speak with my manager and, to my surprise, I burst into tears. I had thought I was coping with this but in that moment realised I really wasn’t. I’m fortunate to have a great manager who sent me home straight away and said I could take the next day off too if I needed it.
So, why am I telling you these less-than-thrilling details? The next morning after more gentle stretching (everything hurt by then), I felt called to meditate at my altar and it turned into the full on journeying described above. The crash and my varying responses and feelings from it have taught me allot.
Firstly, in the moment, I was proud of how I dealt with the crash, thinking how strong I was, how responsible, taking charge. I see this now is part of my self-narrative, that I’m strong and capable. But actually, holding onto this too tightly did not help me. It meant I didn’t acknowledge emotions and brushed off what a dramatic (and painful) thing I’d gone through. This reminded me that my inner-narrative has to be flexible. I’ll be the first to tell you how multifaceted we all are, how many different versions of ourselves we truly inhabit, so why didn’t I allow the tender, soft, vulnerable me to express my feelings too?
Now it may sound silly to say, but I’m a typical Libra, and I really feel like I had the response of a typical air sign. Honestly, I do know that astrology is far more complex than that, but I closely relate to many Libran traits and symbolically it represents my response pretty well. Not following? Here’s what I mean; I realised after I had my beautiful altar experience above, that I tend to process events and feelings very much mentally, rationally. Of course we all do to a degree, but in more recent years I’m beginning to increase my embodied awareness and, as a result I’m realising the response of my body doesn’t always tally with the response of mind. I need to be multifaceted in my processings and healing as well as my sense of self-narrative.
How does this all relate to my altar experience you may be wondering? I realised after the impacts of my altar time started to sink in, that this Otherworldly healing allows me to process on a symbolic level, to use a very different thinking system from the problem solving way I had dealt with the crash in the moment (and most crises). To experience thoughts and feelings through symbolism gives me a distance that allows the emotional impact to become clearer in ways my rational thinking mind doesn’t always allow for.
Expanding on the impact of the symbolic over the material, spiritual over the rational, it has helped me see that many of us also need or benefit from a support system that includes spiritual support. The relationships we can build to place, to guides, deity, ancestors, tradition etc in the Otherworld, are not only constantly accessible, but offer us very different means of support from our friends and family. It’s such a joy to realise the multitude of ways I can be held, witnessed, moved, inspired and healed by my spiritual practices, and this is a joy I would wish for any spiritual practitioner.
My Gods and guides are there for me, something it’s taken me many years of Pagan practice to truly realise and feel. But it’s not all giving devotionals to deity and then receiving healing and insights, it’s a true relationship with all the complexities of what we give and receive from our loved ones, it’s not transactional. So please don’t enter into Otherworldy relationships with guides with the goal of upskilling. Healing isn’t a bargaining chip from our Gods for ‘good behaviour’ or reverence such as seen in some other faiths.
Lastly, if the experiences and connections to guides that I describe above sound like something you wish to work towards, my number one tip is to get out of your own way! What I mean by that is, that I, like many other spiritual seekers, spent far too many years doubting my own experiences and the meanings they carried for me. We are culturally moulded to be perpetually sceptical. Of course for much of life this makes perfect sense, but I see far too many people shutting down or minimising truly beautiful spiritual experiences because of doubt. Not only will this stop you from moving into a richer spiritual path, but it could be seen as insulting to your Otherworldly guides. For me this meant learning to acknowledge the extent to which my spiritual experiences were effecting me, and not to explain away what they may have been caused by. Think of it like this; we have found ways to explain what causes dreams, but we also can’t deny that occasionally our dreams can have great and lasting impacts on us.
As long as I know I feel stable with my mental health and that I’m not handing over my sovereignty to anyone or anything else, what do I have to lose from believing in my Otherworldy experiences and acknowledging the profound ways they impact my thoughts, feelings and healing? Don’t close yourself off to the beautiful healing potency the Otherworld, symbolism and ritual can offer you because of doubt. You are the only one who knows what happens during such experiences and how it impacts you. Such events don’t ever need to be held up for scrutiny by anyone else (unless you share it in a blog post!) so let your guides and your intuition do their job and bring you deep and profound healing as I was lucky enough to receive. Don’t turn down such gifts, whatever their perceived source, build Otherworldy relationships and seek healing in ways as multifaceted as you are.