Thursday, May 31, 2012


This last weekend we went larping. I was very excited because we brought our daughter along for her first larp! For those of you who don't know, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. People go to a location that is rented for the event, usually held over a weekend, dress up in costume, and act out the characters they have created. The larp I went to over the weekend, Finger Lakes Adventure Gaming (FLAG), is a fantasy setting where players dressed in armor and carrying foam weapons battle mythical monsters.

Yes, that's real chain mail and it's heavy

I just started larping last year. Counting this past weekend, I have only larped at four events, so I consider myself a newbie. What was different about this event for me was that it was the first time I have played an NPC. An NPC is a non player character. They are created by the gamemasters to interact with the player characters to move the story along. Being new to this larp, I decided to only play an NPC and was assigned various monsters to portray. There weren't opportunities to role-play, but there was quite a bit of fighting.

Avalon's First Boffer Weapon

I got to see larp behind the scenes, as the gamemasters tested out a new system of rules. That was pretty cool. We dressed up as different monsters. I also got to play with the face paint, which fascinated Avalon. For me, the most difficult thing about being an NPC was having to memorize a new set of stats for every different monster I played. There was one module that I played three different monsters, each with different special abilities.

Overall, I had a blast. It was a lot of fun, and I hope I helped those who paid to be at the event to have a fun and exciting time. Avalon really enjoyed herself too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Journey: Part 2

This part is late because I was house sitting over the weekend. Last week I wrote about the reasons to do a journey and some general tips. Today I will write about how to journey.

Before doing any journey work, you should have a goal or question in mind. During the process of entering the spirit world, you should keep this at the forefront of your mind. If this is your first journey, your goal should be to meet a spirit guide. This guide can come in any form, so try to not hold any preconceived ideas about what form your guide should take. I have helping spirits that appear as animals, plants, and human forms. You can learn a lot about your guide and yourself by what form it takes.

The reason you search for a guide first, is because your guide will help you with all other journeys. The guide knows all the paths of the spirit world and the locations of other spirits you want to meet. If you want to talk to a specific god or goddess, your guide can take you there. If you need help with a problem, your guide knows the best spirit or spirits to help you.

Once you have a goal, the next thing you need is a way to exit your body and enter the spirit world. Creating a ritual is a great way to approach this if you have no prior experience with the journey process. Set it up as you would any other ritual. Take a ritual bath, wear special clothing, clear the space and call a circle. These things tell your mind that you are about to do something special. After you have experience journeying, going through the whole ritual won't be necessary, but it will still make it easier.

There are many different methods of detaching your mind from your body. Some physically push your body to extremes. Examples of these are dancing (very energetic tribal), fasting, pain, sleep deprivation, and anything that would cause exhaustion. Others affect your mind more directly. These include entheogens, meditation, drumming, rattling, binaural beats, chanting, and other forms of brain entrainment. You should use the method that is most appropriate for you. Entheogens are commonly classified as hallucinogens and are illegal in many countries. If you are not physically capable of handling the rigors of the more physical methods, you should try less stressful means. The most commonly used method is the steady beat found in shamanic drumming. There are many good CD's out there. Sandra Ingerman's book "Awakening to the Spirit World" comes with one that I use frequently.

So you have your goal in mind, you started the journey ritual, called the circle, and put on your drumming music. Now what? This is the tricky part. Sometimes you have to help things along. You can start with a guided meditation.

Picture yourself entering a cave. The cave extends deep underground, yet there is enough light for you to make your way down into the earth. the cool moist air envelopes you as you do deeper into the cave. You hear the sound of running water and soon come to an underground river. A small boat is tied to the bank. You step into it and it floats out into the river and the current carries it downstream. The gentle rocking of the boat calms you, and you release all your cares and worries, focused only on the task at hand. Soon, the river carries you out of the cave. At this point, let the images come to you instead of creating them yourself. What kind of landscape are you in? Do you hear anything? If you feel drawn to do so, land your boat and walk around.

That was the guided imagery used when I first journeyed. Feel free to personalize it. Anything involving going into the ground to come out in a new land will get you to the Underworld. Climbing down the roots of a tree, going through a cave or other hole in the ground, descending a stairway, etc will all work. If you feel you should search in the Upperworld, choose ways that take you up. Climb into the branches of the world tree, take a balloon, ride a broomstick, or just fly up into the clouds to the lands beyond.

Once you are in the spirit world, speak your intention. Someone or something should come to you. Ask if it is your guide. If it is your guide, get to know it. Ask questions, talk, build a relationship. This being is going to be by your side for a long time.

If at first you don't succeed, don't worry. Try again later. I was once told that all someone else can do is show you the door. They can't help you step through it. I've found this to be true. There was a man who joined the journey circle I attended. He had read about shamanism in his spiritual searching and was very enthusiastic. But for the last couple of months that I was there before I moved, he was unable to leave his body and mind to travel the other worlds.

I think I covered the basics. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Friday, May 18, 2012

1000th page view

I'd like to thank everyone who reads my blog for helping me get my 1000th page view today!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Journey: Part 1

When I started this project I had every intention of posting every week. That hasn't happened. But I was not going to let J week pass me by. For me J is for journey and it's so important that I am doing two posts about it.

As a shaman, journeying is at the core of what I do. What is a "journey"? A journey is a type of out of body experience. The shaman leaves his/her body and journeys to the spirit realm. While there, he/she meets and communicates with various spirits. The reasons for journeying are as varied as the reasons for magick. Journeys can be done for divination, healing, blessing, learning, etc. I've even done journeys to receive spells direct from the spirits I partner with.

A disclaimer. Journeying, like magick, can be dangerous. It is recommended that you are trained by someone who knows what they are doing before trying it on your own. I was once in a journey circle with a girl who almost didn't come back. Not that I ever had what you would call formal training. If you haven't noticed, there is a distinct lack of traditional shamans of European descent. Something about most of them being killed by Christians. I did have someone help me with my very first journey, but most of it after that was self taught from books and direct from the spirits themselves. Luckily, I managed to not screw anything up. I always come back and I don't leave pieces of myself scattered from here to the Underworld.

Second big piece of advice. And this one isn't optional. BE POLITE. You ever read fairy tales? Magickal beings get down right hostile when people are rude to them. If you are polite and show them common courtesy they will at the very least not attempt to smite you. They may even help you. Rudeness always results in cursing. During a journey, you are in their world. Which is not to say that you have no power there. Far from it. But until you learn enough to take the training wheels off you probably won't be able to stop them if they decide to have their way with you. Remember, they've been spirits for centuries longer than you've been human.

Don't worry. The bad news is also the good news. Every single person has spirits who take an interest in their well being. Guardian angels, totems, guides, what ever you want to call them, they're just waiting on the other side to help you along. As long as you don't grievously insult them in some way and manage to piss them off, they will make it their job to try to keep you out of trouble. They won't do everything for you and they can't stop you from being an idiot, but they'll do their best.

Spirits are the allies of the shaman. It is from them that the shaman receives the bulk of his or her training. Some are generalists, others specialize. There is a spirit that I only ever see in divinatory journeys. Over the years, shamans build up a network of spiritual allies. They are his/her greatest strength. They guide the shaman on his/her journeys, ensuring the shaman does not become lost in the shifting realities of the spirit world. They help with healing, give advice, and if it ever comes to a fight with another spirit, they have your back.

Unlike the physical world, the spirit world is a subjective reality. If you take ten people and show them a big oak tree, they will all agree that they see a big tree. Some of them might even know it is an oak. But, send ten people on a journey to the Underworld, and they will come back with ten different descriptions on what it looks like and what they found there.

Once, the shaman leading the journey circle I was in had us divide into pairs and journey for our partner. The person that journeyed for the shaman returned shaken. She said she had gone to a place that was pitch black. The shaman encouraged her, "Yes, that is the place that I go when I journey." Then she said she was approached by something that looked like a glowing triangle. The shaman said it was one of the spirits that she often worked with. "What did he say?" asked the shaman. The woman was almost afraid to answer, but finally said, "He said you have to die." "Don't worry", the shaman laughed. "They tell me that all the time."

Which brings me to another good point. Things are not always what they seem. The woman from the journey circle thought the spirit meant the shaman was going to have a literal physical death. The shaman explained that the spirit was actually talking about a type of spiritual death and rebirth. It is a very positive experience. It cleanses away negative energies and often accompanies initiatory journeys. I myself have experienced several of these "deaths".

Lastly, you are the best person to interpret your own journeys. Your consciousness filters the spirit world into something you can more easily understand, assigning symbols to meanings. The message is customized to the journeyer. Your symbols are different from mine.

That's all for this week. Until next time.