Monday, June 27, 2016

Living simple – simply living happy

 In our society it is the norm to always strive for more. Not just more money and more possessions, but more adventures, more experiences and more love as well, even more spirituality and personal development.
We have been educated in a way that makes us think that whatever we have, whatever we do, whatever we are, it is never good enough. Everything has to be improved. 

Our house, our garden, our job, our partner, our children, our body, our personality, if only it would be a little better, we could be happy.

So we are running around all the time gathering stuff, gathering experiences and trying to change everything about ourselves and around us, so that we might be content and happy one day.

The only problem is, that once we got one aspect of our lives just right, there's another thing that pops up to stand in between us and complete happiness.
Yes, we've got the big house, but now we're arguing all day about who has to clean all those rooms.
Yes, we have the beautiful garden, but the neighbours are too noisy and snails are eating the plants.
Yes, we did marry the one we love, but (s)he has some irritating habits.
Yes, the spiritual festival was great, but this one friend will never talk to us again and our favourite clothes are ruined in the mud.
Etc. etc.

We keep running around, chasing new goals all the time, because we always feel there is just one more thing missing. We watch videos about the 'law of attraction' and, if we are modern witches, we work magic to get what we feel will make our life – us - complete.

This is what keeps a lot of businesses running and what makes new age gurus very, very rich.

What is this complete happiness that seems to be so impossible to reach?
Sages in India have pondered on this question and came up with an answer thousands of years ago. And also in modern times there are people who find this answer, all by themselves, or with some guidance of a teacher.

They found that happiness is feeling whole and complete. And that you are already whole and complete, but daily life makes you forget.

Some of us remember parts of this sometimes. For instance many modern pagans who say things like: “We are all related, we are all one”. They are on to something, without yet deeply understanding the true implication of this statement.

What does it mean that we are all one? It means that there is really nothing else but One!

This is something mind blowing, that needs time to sink in. Years, lifetimes ...
Not just people are One, all is One. Not just the Divine is One, we are One ourselves.
And if we are One, we are complete. There is nothing else to want or strive for, because we already are everything.

But we are caught up in daily life, which seems to be divided into opposites like light – dark, high - low, fast – slow, nice – bad, and so on and on...
So we all forget that we already are everything – One. We are the sky, but we can't see ourselves because the clouds of daily life block the view.

All our life we are chasing goals that will make us feel complete. The house, the lover, the job, the book, the workshop, the festival, …. And indeed if we reach the goal, the chasing stops for a moment and the clouds have disappeared.
We feel complete, we are happy. For a moment …... new clouds are gathering quickly!

If you really understand that you truly are One, the chasing stops.
Nothing can make you more whole and complete than you already are.
You are already perfect, beautiful, whole and happy and nothing, really nothing, can change that.

You can be happy while living all alone in a wooden hut, eating nothing but brussel sprouts.
But you don't have to live in such way to be happy. All you have to do is enjoy the wonders of life and to appreciate the beauty and perfection that surrounds you in whatever circumstances you are.

Don't believe the lies of society that tell you that you have to improve everything.
Just live your life following the golden rule:'Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you.' 
And be what you truly are: whole, complete and happy.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Asia - Europe

Traditional Korean gentleman's hat from the Joseon era

 Inspired by my contact with a very knowledgable, powerful , interesting and friendly Korean spirit, I've immersed myself in Far Eastern culture for the last few months ….. uh ….. maybe not just a few ...

Learning all about tea and tea ceremonies. Listening almost exclusively to Korean and Chinese music. Studying a little Chinese and Chinese calligraphy. Reading Mencius and Confucius. Learning to make dumplings (with not much success yet)

Very, very interesting to gain a little more understanding of this refined, very ancient culture!

This is a beautiful side of working with spirits. Learning new things, while bridging time and space.
Learning new old things that is, things that were once probably not so alien in this region either. This whole journey started when I discovered some striking similarities between Korean royal funerary customs and European bronze age burial mounts …

This morning my honourable spirit friend told me he really appreciates all my efforts to learn to understand his culture. But now it's time to do my own thing again as well, because our friendship was meant to be a two way bridge between cultures and he is also interested in the things that I do and know.
A true gentleman indeed :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rules. People just love them, though they will never admit it.


On Facebook I blocked all the posts on the miraculous, or dangerous qualities of food. It's driving me nuts to read about yet another super food, or how the things I eat daily are bad, bad, bad for me. I know people who try to avoid gluten, while they don't have coeliac disease. Or they hear about lactoses intolerance and immediately cut dairy products from their diet. And of course you have to drink 2 litres of clear water a day. And that should be clear water, not tea or fruit juice, mind you!

It reminds me of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of orthodox Judaism that make relaxed normal living virtually impossible. Or all the rules invented by the Muslim youths that follow the selefi sect. Like: if you notice a hole in your sock after praying, your prayer is invalid and you have to do it again, after you took off your socks. Ridiculous isn't it?

But is it not just as ridiculous to measure the amount of water you drink every day? Or to never eat cooked food anymore? Why do people do this to themselves?!
I guess there is some comfort in following strict rules. Follow the rules and you're doing it right. You don't have to choose, you don't have to doubt, you know what you have to do.

At first I thought that all these fashionable foody rules would have something to do with the overload of choices in modern society. If you are vegan and don't eat sugar, you can skip 95% of the shelves in the supermarket. Hurray!
But there must be more to it, because people have been inventing arbitrary rules for millennia.
Especially religious rules of course: go to church on Sundays, no meat on Fridays, no work on Sabbath, pray 5 times a day, or else something really bad might happen!
Don't eat wheat or sugar, drink your water, eat your goji berries, or something really bad might happen!

Is the modern health food rage a substitute for religion maybe? To avoid disaster there is a given set of rules. Follow those and you keep things under control, you won't get cancer.

People just love rules, as long as they feel it is their own choice to follow them.
Let's take a look at our neo pagan community. Modern witches love to think of themselves as free spirited, independent thinkers, who broke free from the cage of organized religion. But in fact the majority is clinging to a rather fixed set of customs, that were written down in some books during the last half century. The wheel of the year with 8 festivals, a ritual has to start with the casting of a circle, Air is in the east and there are 3 grades of initiation, etc. And everyone works with lists of correspondences, that are most of the time invented by just one person.

These rules give structure to your practice and create a common ground for collaboration.
But they are completely arbitrary in fact, isn't that funny?
Gardner, Crowley, Buckland, the Farrars and others have written down their ideas and no one is hardly ever questioning them now. Just follow the rules and you do it right. Even in the non hierarchical, almost anarchistic, Reclaiming I met someone who told me, that if I did not do things a certain way, I could not call myself a Reclaimer. (which was bullocks btw)

In this way modern witchcraft has also become a kind of organized religion. With above mentioned writers at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the initiated, or self proclaimed, high priestesses, who will teach others how things should be done. Whole branches of modern witchcraft only know how to follow the rules laid down in books and on websites. Which leads to rituals that only follow form, but have no content, because people never thought about WHY they do certain things in a certain way. They are just stressing about details like finding the right colour candles and altar cloth.

As long as you wear your pentagram, as long as you have all the right tools on your altar, as long as you can read the invocation from a book, without mistake, you must be doing it right. Right?
Put the altar in the North, celebrate harvest in August, dance naked in the moonlight and for goodness sake don't mess up any correspondences, or something really bad might happen. You might not be a real witch! :)

I guess rules are just a way for people to deal with their insecurities. If you're not sure who or what you are, you can stick to a set of noble rules and know that you must be a good person. A better person than those who don't follow the rules. Which explains the smirk on the face of the lady in the health food store, who told me it was impossible to not like soy milk.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Wheel of the Year

Ever since I encountered the first neo pagans in my life, I have felt ambivalent about the 8 festivals they celebrate every year. I'm not a farmer, but a city girl and I know nothing about sowing and harvesting. And anyway the growing of our food has very little to do with the seasons nowadays. So I find it difficult to relate to the neo pagan wheel of the year.

The beginning of summer and summer itself, and the beginning of winter and winter itself are what I can notice in my daily life. Times of harvest can vary in different places in the world and in different eras, but the solstices and equinoxes are the same everywhere and always.
I never really liked to celebrate midsummer though, because all it means to me is that there will be less light soon.

So it's only 3 festivals I have been celebrating consistently over the years. Oh yes I tried all the other festivals too, but only the beginning of summer- spring, the beginning of winter – autumn and midwinter are always honoured with special celebrations and at least a seasonal altar. This is how I feel it and this is what, in a very natural way, became my practise over the years.

This happens to coincide with how the ancient heathens of Northern Europe did it :)
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that Scandinavian pagans only knew 2 seasons: summer and winter. Hence the names MIDsummer and MIDwinter for the solstices. And they celebrated only 3 large seasonal festivals: the beginning of summer, the beginning of winter and midwinter. But the exact dates could vary.

That these three festivals were also celebrated around where I live, in the province of Noord Holland in the Netherlands, is proved by some very interesting archaeological finds. Sacrificial pits were found around iron age farms at different locations. Analysis of the content of these pits shows, that the sacrifices took place three times a year: at spring, autumn and winter.

It is not just coincidence that these three festivals became prominent in the Roman Catholic calendar: Easter, All Saints and Christmas. Of course minor agricultural festivals were celebrated also, but those festivals had a wide variation, depending on climate and soil. There was never a thing like one big harvest festival all over Europe. That's just impossible in practice! When harvest is done, you celebrate and give thanks. And this can never be on a set date, for it depends on sunshine and rain. This city girl understands that much about farming.

So whenever I read yet another invitation to one of the 8 neo pagan festivals, it all feels a little forced to me. City folks driving their cars to a place in a park or wood, to re-enact a farmers festival that never took place in pagan times. Connecting with Mother Nature, while polluting the air on their way back home …

Of course, of course I know about the deeper spiritual meanings of the wheel of the year, how it reflects the seasons in our lives, etc. I also know about different myths, old and new, giving more meaning to it all. And I understand it is a perfect structure for the work in a coven and it's a lovely excuse for regular social meetings. So if you feel like it, please continue to celebrate all of them. Please do!

But please also know your history. Know that Gerald Gardner, the founding father of Wicca, started with only 4 seasonal celebrations, based on some festivals found in different locations in Great Britain: Imbolc, Beltaine, Lammas and Samhain. Only later he added the 4 festivals celebrated by the English Druids: the equinoxes and solstices. And so the 8 spokes of the wheel of the year were born, about just half a century ago.

For me the number 3 has my preference.
It is my UPG (unverified personal gnosis) that this number, together with triangles, were immensely important to the ancient ancestors.
3 x 3 = 9 And the significance of the sacred number 9 can hardly be over estimated. I think many will agree with me on at least this.

I do realize that just 3 festivals do not cover all the traditions of our ancestors.
- There is the first of May, when annual salaries were paid (and debts collected!). What might explain the tradition of celebrating and getting married on that day. Or was it the other way round and were servants paid because it was a special day?
- And what about carnival? The feast of the reversal of roles, when villages and cities were ruled by a fool. In a highly hierarchical society like pre Christian Europe, with it's sacred kingship and slavery, there was a need for a few days like that.
- Another is the day of Saint Nicolas, with a kind of re-enactment of the wild hunt.
- etc. etc. etc.

But I know for sure that these traditional celebrations never neatly fitted into a schedule with periods of 6 weeks. Our ancestors feasted when the time was there and only when the important work was done.

Hail to the Ancient Ones!

Friday, January 30, 2015


   I think I should start with writing something about my personal view on shamanism.

In short: Shamanism is the art of controlled trance journeying and communing with helping Spirits in order to build bridges between the different worlds and to restore balance as much as possible. 
A shamanic practitioner can switch between different states of conciousness at will and maintains good relationships with different kinds of helping Spirits. He or she is able to ask specific questions in the other world and come back with accurate, helpful answers. 

This takes training and discipline and it's a way of life, with daily little rituals, offerings and communication with spirits (among other things).

   Over the years I have met many people claiming to be a shaman. In some circles it's fashionable and very cool to have a title like that. And most of the time there are no questions asked. It is not only cool to be a shaman, it's also cool to be able to say you know one.

After meeting a score of these wannabes online, I met my first in real life when I had just finished my 6 years of training and felt a little lost. All of a sudden there were no other shamanic practitioners at hand to work and share with.
So when I was told I could meet another 'shaman', I had to go to satisfy my curiosity. He would be performing – drumming and singing at a meeting of poets and it was all very special, I was promised.

And there he was, a young guy with a large drum. He was high as a kite. He drummed somewhat arrhythmic and sang “heya heya” slightly out of tune. Everyone present thought it was wonderful shamanic song. Except for me. There was nothing happening. He did nothing but drum and sing a little, there was no purpose, no spirit, no energy, there was nothing but a stoned guy singing a song about nothing.

   While writing this, the memory of another experience pops up in my mind, which was quite the opposite. A concert of shamanic music, with different musicians from Mongolia. There was a lot of overtone singing and elaborate costumes, even a little on stage ritual to call in the spirits, but not much was happening. Until this little frail lady took the stage.

She started by saying that she was a little out of place there, for she did not consider herself to be a shaman. Then she showed of an amazing mastery of her voice ranging 5 octaves. But when she took her drum and started improvising, I could clearly SEE what she was singing. I felt the energy waves go through me, for a moment it was as if she was singing just for me. It was only her and me in that concert hall, together with a Divine presence.

After the concert I went over to her and thanked her for that song. She looked me in the eyes, put her hand on my knee and just said “yes”. No more words needed.
This was Sainko Namtchilak.

   So I tend to take those who explicitly DON'T claim to be a shaman a lot more seriously than those who need to throw in the title to identify themselves. When I encounter a self proclaimed shaman, I smile to myself and - but only if I feel like it - I will ask some questions.
- What do you exactly do?
- What do you know about the different trance states?
- Can you control them?
- How do you maintain your relationships in the other worlds?
- Do you come back from the other worlds, with accurate, helpful information?
Most of the time I get back a blank stare, or some online scolding.

   The word shaman is not patented. Anyone is free to use it.
Just buy a drum as large as possible, put some feathers in your hair and there you are.
Take all kinds of natural or chemical substances, so you can loose yourself in other worlds.
Talk to all kinds of spirits, who will gladly talk back, if you have the talent to invite them.
And you can call yourself a shaman, just like the guy who has been to a sweat lodge once or twice.

You can call yourself anything you like, but don't expect me to take you seriously. You may have a talent, but without proper training, without knowing exactly what you're doing and why, you're a danger to yourself and others. Or just a person with identity problems. And in my humble opinion not a shamanic practitioner, let alone a shaman.

   Why do I care, why can't I just let it be?
Because of all the haziness created by people claiming undeserved titles. And because of the implicit disrespect toward the real shamans: those medicine people of indigenous peoples, who went through all the ordeals of traditional training and initiation.
My training and 12 years experience don't even come close to that.
So how could someone with no training at all claim to be just like them? And how can practitioners who don't even believe in the actual existence of Spirits claim to be one of them? Or those who only met their 'Spirit helpers' through a card deck?

   I do know some Westerners I would call shaman though.
My teacher's teacher is one of them. And another is a guy I worked with for some years, who can raise powerful energy, together with his Spirit helpers and who has helped countless people with their healing. And I'm sure there are more out there.
But they are the proverbial exception to the rule, in this culture where people just love to escape reality with romantic fantasies about being different and special, wearing fancy costumes and claiming vague titles. And where genuine ancient knowledge goes unrecognised.

Please note that all examples mentioned are based on real encounters with different people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Shamanism in modern society

This is the follow up to the blog I posted yesterday

For more than 10 years I have trained in shamanic techniques. Apparently I am highly sensitive and have a talent for contacting spirits and working with them. So it was great fun for me to explore the different worlds, in various ritual settings. What I was looking for most of all was to learn, to know and to understand. And along the way I made some friends in the non-daily realities, who showed and taught me some amazing, some frightening and some beautiful things.

I gave up on my shamanic expeditions when the Goddess – The Lady with 10 000 Names – demanded more and more of my time and energy. So for the last 2 or 3 years I just offered my stone readings and some healing with the help of my otherworldly friends, without hardly ever travelling over to them. I simply maintained these friendships with greeting them regularly and giving little presents at their altar in my house temple.

So I've gathered a lot of knowledge and expertise, and I have ancient, faithful friends who come to me whenever I invite them. And that's it. This is all at the moment.
I worked so hard to get there, but now I'm here, I hardly use anything of all the things I learned.

On Facebook I'm member of some groups discussing shamanism and I meet other shamanic practitioners now and then, IRL or online, but I seldom feel a connection.
Western neo shamanism seems to be all about personal experience. Wonderful trance journeys, amazing mushroom/ayahuasca trips, awesome sweat lodges, hugging power animals, personal healing and a lot of big drums (size does seem to matter here) and feathery accessories. Ah, I forget to mention the drum circles, drumming for Mother Earth, while having a good time getting high. I'm sorry to go a little overboard with sarcasm, but I want to make a point here.

Neo shamanism is about the individual, who wants to feel good, who wants to have a special experience, who wants to work through some personal shit, or who just wants a little ego boost by feeling different and special. When I browse websites of shamanic practitioners here in Holland, all I find, boils down to personal development and healing, mostly through costly workshops and trainings.

Traditionally shamanism is not about “me! me! me! I like it, give me more, cause it feels so good!”
Traditional shamans have their place in a community, not necessarily a comfortable place, but it is an important one. They negotiate with the Spirit world for the well being of the whole community and the land, they restore balance where needed and they are keepers of the places that are sacred to their people.

But where is my community?!
Who wants me to appease the Spirits, or to ask advise from the ancestors?
Who is waiting for me to restore the energetic balance in the land? Who is waiting for a sacred place in this overcrowded country, where every square meter has economical purpose?
The only place where I really, really tried ,is now a shop, selling vintage soccer gear.

When I watch, for instance, videos about Korean shamans, doing large public ceremonies in the middle of Seoul, my whole being is stirred. This is what I have to do! The things I learned are not (just) for healing individual people and they are for sure not to make me feel good. (Although communing with my Spirit helpers does feel good, most of the time.) I have to do something useful with my knowledge, I feel my helpers are waiting to finally get to work with me.

But what and where remains to be seen. As long as there is no community to work with or for, I feel there is not much I can do.
All I can do is ask for guidance and give a shout out to the shamanic community, hoping there are some others like me, who want to take their shamanic work up a level.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

And what am I supposed to do now?

Over the years I got acquainted with with quite a few Spirit helpers. Most of them people who pasted away a long, long time ago. And with a long time I mean more than a 1000 or even 2000 years. A few of them I know by name and they were the ones who gave me my name.

 I met them during seidhr trances, singing while holding my staff. And I met them during utisetta trances, meditating on neolithic burial mounts.
I called them and asked them to teach me, which some of them did. I learned some useful techniques and some other things, way out of my comfort zone.

So, yes I can call Spirits and talk with them, learn from them. I did it out of curiosity, to train myself and because I started liking it. It's a special energy that feels good and comfortable to me.

Some years ago I could make good use of all this knowledge, when I worked daily with an ancient energy spot in the old centre of Amsterdam. It was a weird, spooky place and at the same time beautiful and wonderful. I created an energetic tunnel for all the wandering souls who passed there in an endless parade towards the Summer land and I made a truce with those who wanted to stay. This made it possible for the lovely energy of the leycentre to flow more freely and grow stronger and stronger. It was a truly wonderful work.

I didn't do all this work by myself. I got help from another shaman who summoned some powerful helping spirits for me. He was, at that time, the caretaker of the Stonehenge Skull, a skull carved from a piece of sarson stone, left behind after the restoration of Stonehenge in the '50.
In a powerful ceremony 4 guardians stepped forward to hold the energy in the 4 directions. I made them a place to stay and fed them regularly.

It only lasted for a few months. When the energies were all nicely balanced, the affairs of living humans, a bankruptcy to be precise, spoiled everything. We had to leave in a hurry and my shaman friend called back the guardians, who were connected to the Stonehenge Skull.
I admit I was very disappointed and a little angry, but on the other hand I knew very well that nothing happens without a reason. Even though I would have loved to continue this work, apparently what had to be done at that time, was done.

To me it all seems like ages ago now. So many things happened since then.
Some of my Spirit helpers are with me when I do readings, or they work through me when I give healing. And I keep an altar for them in my house temple. But over the years I started to neglect them more and more. Specially this last year, after I took up the study of Vedanta, I hardly ever contacted them. Until some weeks ago.

All of a sudden I felt the urge to test my abilities. Don't ask me why, I can't really explain, but I wanted to make contact with the Spirit of a historical figure, from another time, another culture and a place on the other side of the globe.
After proper preparation I build an appropriate altar. And because this spirit has the potential to be very powerful and rather nasty, I asked for support from all my trusted friends in the Spirit world.

Usually when I cast a circle I greet and invite the powers of the quarters, but I only ask for the protection of Thor. This time I heard myself call for the protection of the Guardians in all 4 directions.
And there they were! I recognized their energy with tears in my eyes.
They came walking towards me from afar, just like they used to years ago. And they stood guard, protecting silly me.
All my Spirit helpers were there, greeting, watching, circling around me. I never felt so save, so comfortable, so loved, so grateful.

And yes, I did contact the foreign king. And, a few days later, I apologised for bothering him for no good reason. He said it amused him, so no real harm was done there.

What I have to figure out now is:
Why I do have this talent?
Why do these spirits keep hanging around and support me, while I neglect them?
What are they waiting for?
What on earth am I supposed to do with all the things I learned?


The follow up to this blog you can find here