For me spirit guides form part of my spirit family or community. On Yggdrasil’s Path we work with the concept of ‘soul clan’; the spirits and energies we work with are bonded to us through the workings of Wyrd and the laws of orlog. Guides, companions and protective spirits don’t just turn up out of the blue, they choose to work with us because they see us as kin, or because our intentions chime with theirs. Family and community is formed through pre-existing ties of kinship, place and culture and this is the same for spirit family and community. When we do power retrieval or soul retrieval we are re-connecting not just with that part of ourselves – but often with a whole new raft of spirit family who were connected with us through that lost aspect. Often when people are preparing for retrieval work they will get dreams and visions that are strange and difficult to understand; it is only in retrospect that we recognise these premonitions as our lost spirit family reaching out to touch us – preparing the way for wholeness to be restored.
Power animals and guides do not just bring companionship, they also bring us wisdom, power and teachings to help us become strong and powerful in our own lives. It is easy to assume that these beings are ‘higher’ than us in some way and, indeed, they will often have access to wisdom beyond our kenning. However, my own experience has taught me that spirit guides do not choose people to work with indiscriminately, nor do they work completely altruistically. Your spirit guides are with you because they want to be – so what sort of person is it that they have chosen to work with?
Your teacher will come when you are ready…
This is a phrase frequently used within shamanic practice, as well as within other magical traditions. It is easy to assume that our teachers are watching us, waiting for us to reach the ‘level’ required in order to work with them; but perhaps this is a flawed way of viewing the teacher/ pupil relationship. My most admired teachers have always told me that they learn huge amounts from their work with their students and Kay and I definitely find at StarFire Alchemy that the phrase ‘Your pupil will come to you when you are ready…’ is equally true.
What I have come to realise in my work is that, as I get to know my teachers, I see that they have chosen to work with me not just because I have so much to learn from them – but because we have so much in common. This can be a very daunting thought when your hand is being guided by your Master Shaman, or when a deity is speaking through you, but I would invite you to consider what qualities your own spirit guides, power animals, deities and companions have in common with you. My own Master Shaman comes from a very different tradition to my own, he teaches me techniques beyond what I have been taught by my ‘living’ teachers. He is in all ways awesome and it took me a huge amount of time to recognise that the combination of enormous gentleness and utter ruthlessness in doing what was necessary for healing, was something that he also saw in me. It is, I believe now, these shared qualities that brought him to work with me – far more than the techniques he identified I was lacking – for he wasn’t the only one who could have come forward to show me these.
Often it is hard to see ourselves in the spirit beings who we work with, indeed, it might feel presumptuous and big headed to assume you have much in common at all – but I promise you those share qualities will be there.
Connection through soul
I work with the concept of the ‘soul tapestry’ and this has been very helpful to me in understanding how connections come about between people and their soul clan. When I was preparing for the channeling for Shadow Sister on The Shamanic Voice I was having a really hard time understanding how to help the spirit of such a strange, silent and dark being communicate through me. She seemed totally alien to me and, in many ways, utterly scary. I wasn’t certain that I would be able to do the channeling at all and sought advice from the northern circle of ancestors (the patron spirits of the show) on how to proceed. I was shown that the channeling could only take place because their were parts of me that resonated with her essence, threads within my being that could connect with hers – once these were found we were able to connect and her energy flowed into me so that I could speak her message. Shadow Sister represented an energy that felt very alien to me and, indeed, one that I might not want to draw on too often. The experience of working with her was one of recognising that the dark mysteries of the death goddess flowed through my blood and cannot be denied. Despite my trepidation the work with her was very valuable both for the show and, personally, for me.
Most of the time, however, the spirit guides we work with speak to aspects of ourselves which we are keen to embrace. They make our hearts beat faster, expand our vision of ourselves and the world around us, and show us how to shed limiting beliefs, overcome our fears, and evolve beyond what we thought was possible. My own healing work, and the work I do with my clients, often involves finding the part of me that is willing and able to connect with the troubling parts of myself I am having difficulty understanding and coping with. I have learned that my soul clan are able to provide me with the support I need to work with the parts of myself I would rather reject – they know the value of these suppressed bits, even if I have yet to recognise it. Most people will have times in their lives where they feel misunderstood, isolated and at odds with the world; at these times spirit guides provide the comfort and wisdom unavailable to us from other sources. The reason we feel safe, accepted and ‘right’ with our guides is because they resonate with us, they ‘speak our language’, share our dreams, and understand our thoughts and emotions without us having to explain ourselves.
When you start out on the shamanic path the guides and companions who come forward in your earliest journeys will often be those that have been with you from the beginning; their nature is kin to yours and your re-union is more like a recognition of a piece of yourself that you had always known was there.
For me, dreams and visions I had as a child now make perfect sense, the ‘imaginary’ friends I had in childhood have returned to me. I didn’t recognise this for a long time because the way they present themselves to me as an adult is quite different to what they looked like to me as a child; but once I made the leap I couldn’t beleieve I hadn’t seen it sooner. Four guides in particular are worth mentioning. In my adult life they appear as two adult women (who are different to each other but ‘sisters’ in spirit), a dragon, and a dinosaur (who I originally thought was also a dragon until I saw her depicted in perfect detail on a BBC documentary). As a child my closest imaginary friends were a pair of twin girls and a family of cuddly dinosaurs who looked distinctly like Barney but with polka dots. It wasn’t until I was reading back over an old diary that I realised that the colouring of my poka-dotted pals was identical to the very beautiful, reptilian skins of my companions today! At that point I reviewed my colourful collection of spirit guides and realised that many of them had made themselves known to me much earlier than I had originally thought…
Each of these beings has brought me a greater understanding of my own nature. I would highly recommend journeying with your own spirits and simply asking ‘What can you tell my about myself? and ‘How are we related?’.
Meeting your spirit guides
You don’t have to be a shamanic practitioner to meet and work with your own spirit guides. There are plenty of books and journeying CDs out there to help you and you can also work with an individual practitioner or in a group to help find these connections. Those in the London area might like to join the Greenwich shamanic spirit circle and you can also contact me for a one-to-one session.
Runes for work with spirit guides and soul clan
On Saturday we moved into the half-month of Ehwaz, the rune of partnership. Ehwaz is said to symbolise the horse and rider, its powers are often linked in with that of the shape shifter or journeying spirit who ‘fares forth’ riding upon or within their spirit companion. The shape of the Ehwaz rune is sometimes likened to that of two horses facing each other and ‘twin’ deities are strongly associated with Ehwaz. Our spirit companions might be thought of as ‘twin’ spirits to us; a fruitful relationship with spirit guides will be one of closeness, giving, and receiving. A spirit guide can also act as a mirror for us, showing us what we need to know about ourselves, reflecting back our strengths and helping us recognise and embrace our weaknesses.
The ‘gifting’ rune of Gebo is also an excellent rune to work with for spirit guides. It is the rune of balanced and fair exchange, it is the kisses at the end of a birthday card and the sign of a promise. When a spirit guide shows you the Gebo rune you know that a gift or promise is being offered or demanded. The word ‘sacrifice’ is a useful one to bear in mind here; it can feel like giving something up, but its real meaning is ‘to make sacred’. When we make offerings to our spirit guides we acknowledge the sacredness of our relationship, when we ignore them, reject them or take them for granted we show them that the relationship is of little value to us.
Othala is the rune of homeland and inheritance. It can be used to call in our ancestors as well as the spirits of hearth, home and land. It is an excellent ‘connector’ rune and the image of the great hearth fire that calls the soul clan to assembly resonates with this rune which completes the rune row of the Elder Futhark. You are the sum of your past, of the connections you have made, experiences you have shared, gifts you have given and blessings you have received. Othala pays honour to that which has shaped and formed us, and it is testimony to our continued devotion to the land we live on and the spirits we share our lives with. Sing Othala to bring them home.