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.