Jumping off the cliff…

Ten years or so ago, I was very active on a number of closed forums. I was lucky to be part of that moment when they were active and the energy was vibrant. I made a good many friends, people with whom I became close and some of my dearest and most enduring friendships were born online and within those forums. Other friendships have grown online since then and I have often wondered about the process.

When you meet someone in the virtual world, you have no idea at all who they really are. There may well be clues in where you come across them or what they write, but you do not know…not for sure.  A good con man is always plausible and there are plenty of those out there. Yet there are people with whom you just seem to ‘click’ regardless. They become friends. Should you meet, there is always the worry that the online persona will not be the same and the friendship will be overshadowed by the new and less acceptable reality. Yet, having met very many of my ‘online friends’ in person, I have yet to meet one who was substantially different from their online presence.

There are a number of reasons for that; many people find it easier to reveal themselves through the relative anonymity of the written word. If you are half a world away, you can open your heart to a friend without embarrassment. You already know that you are never likely to meet… except, that quite often you do, regardless of the distance. It may take years, you may have become very close, but often those friendships are ‘tested’ by an encounter in ‘real life’ and once that happens, the bonds grow ever closer.

Whether you meet or not, some online friendships go deep. It is as if, having created this virtual world for ourselves, we have developed a sixth sense that can assess and understand more than appears on the surface. Perhaps we have learned to read between the lines in a more literal sense, picking up emotive cues from the choice of words and phrases in a similar manner to our ability to read the subtle, unspoken signs of body language face to face.

Once the friendship is established, we learn to trust our online friends, just as we would if we met them in person. We may share our joys with them, our sorrows and troubles. We may ask, listen and even take their advice. Yet, unless we have met them face to face, we still have no real idea who they truly are. We simply accept that the disembodied ‘voice’ at the other end of the line exists and is what we believe it to be. In many ways, an online friendship is an act of faith.

Angel, Devil, Female, Guardian, Human

When I was a child and got into the inevitable scrapes with friends, my mother would always come out with the classic, “… and if he told you to jump off a cliff, would you?” We would not act upon any advice we were given by that unseen voice if it went against our own perception of reality, nor against our deepest beliefs or principles. We would listen to a friend, but any subsequent actions that we took would be filtered through our own personality, understanding and common sense. We would be far more careful with that advice if it came from a new ‘friend’ that were it to be given by an old and trusted companion. When you have known someone for years, online and off, looked into their eyes and hearts and know you can trust them, you will value their opinion, knowing they have your best interests at heart…but those same filters will still be applied before you act.

There is another disembodied voice, an unseen friend, to which we all have a direct line. It is the voice of something that always has our best interests at heart and knows us better than we think we know ourselves. It sees beyond the masks we wear to face the world or assume for our roles within it. It knows every moment we have ever lived, how we have felt and what we have done. You can call it intuition or ‘gut feeling’, you might think of it as the guardian angel at your shoulder or see it as the voice of the soul. It doesn’t really matter what label you give it… it will whisper anyway. It is the voice of a closer friend than any and we very often fail to hear it, let alone listen, until it takes on the role of ‘conscience’…that one we all hear, whether we listen or not.

We are capable of developing a sixth sense about our online contacts, whose face, life story and personality could all be fabricated for all we know, yet we seem to often fail to use the senses we already have and listen to the advice from within.  If we can find the courage to take a leap of faith online… we should be able to have just as much faith in ourselves.

Above and beyond…

Over the past few years, the Silent Eye’s weekend workshops have covered many scenarios, from the gilded glories of ancient Egypt, to the medieval grandeur of the court of King Arthur. The themes and stories are no more than a vehicle through which we can explore facets of the human journey into awareness, just as the costumes and colour are no more than psychological window-dressing. By creating a visual illusion, we are fostering that ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ that allows a reader to invest themselves in a book, a film star immerse themselves in a role or our Companions to set aside their everyday self and explore deeper aspects of being.

Steve, Stuart and I go to some lengths with the costume in order to create that illusion. We would never expect the Companions to go to the expense of providing authentically detailed costumes. In fact, the requirement is simply for a symbolic shawl to mark the entry into another mindset and intent. Even so, every year, the Companions get creative and the illusion is complete.

Land of the Exiles

This year, we had a bit of a problem in that department. Stuart and I would be dead for most of the weekend. We would be the Ancestors; robed in black and, with veiled faces, we would haunt the shadows. Not much colour there, then. Steve would have a central role as Guide, but even that was not going to provide much ‘window-dressing’.

Normally the characters are familiar in some way… archetypes presented as Egyptian gods, Knights of the Round Table or something similar with which the Companions can identify. This year, there was only one named character and almost everyone was asked to wear plain white robes. Somehow, we needed to ‘set the scene’ with colour and life… and we had three Companions to whom we turned for that… the Shaman, the Lore Weaver and the Lore Spinner. Their roles would be ‘outside’ the circle, allowing them to act upon the single soul represented by the majority of the Companions and so they could be different and wear all the colours of life.

We didn’t ask for much specifically…we left it up to them… but somehow all three of them exceeded our wildest hopes. Running Elk was our Shaman. We had no idea how much of himself he would bring to the task, nor how deeply his presence would enrich what we had planned. We could not have known…he didn’t himself….and much of it simply unfolded as the weekend went along.   Running Elk is a Shaman, trained in the Zuni tradition and his own accounts of the weekend tell the story through his eyes. Even so, I would have given much to see his huge, dark-cloaked form shielding the temple Veil during the fourth ritual.

Alienora and Dean were our Lore Keepers… and their costumes were utter genius, adding all the colour and life that we needed. With Running Elk, they formed a triangle of Life and Light that could not be ignored and with our Shaman, they held the heartbeat of the temple.

Leaf and Flame

But we had another problem too. When Steve writes the workshops, Stuart and I have always added something extra, something a little different. Last year, Stuart had the helm and instead, we had the Foxes dance with flames and dragons. That was going to be a tough thing to follow. We turned to the Lore Keepers and asked them to tell a pair of interwoven stories on the Saturday evening. I have mentioned it before, but have not done justice to the sheer spectacle they provided.

Lore Keepers

Dressed in multi-coloured tatters, they were already whirling and spinning as we entered the room. It is impossible to capture in words the incredible energy the pair of them brought to the tale. For perhaps forty minutes, they never paused for breath. Taking one of the entwined stories each, they read and acted out the script while the other mimed, hammed, acted and clowned a silent counterpoint. There were highlights… Dean as a dog and a little old woman nearly brought the house down. Alienora’s dramatic death-fall landed her with a bang on the floor…and flat on her back, script to nose, she never missed a single beat, but continued declaiming. Ali’s aside, to ‘stop upstaging me’ when Dean had everyone in stitches with his antics… And yet, in spite or perhaps because of the comedic capers, the truly tragic tales they shared brought real tears as well as laughter. I do not have enough superlatives, but we are agreed that it was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best live, improvised performance art we have ever experienced.

Not only did we learn the tales of Giant Hulac and the massacre at Fin Cop without being traumatised by the horror of the stories, but we also got a genuine trip in a time machine, seeing and feeling how storytellers have taught through entertainment for millennia. It was a rare privilege.

These three, Shaman, Lore Weaver and Lore Spinner went above and beyond the call of both duty and friendship.

They were not alone though. Alethea, at only her second workshop with us, stepped up and embodied the central character with grace. Our technician had volunteered to help instead of taking a role. And when every person present brings their whole self to the moment, with intent and belief, that is when magic happens.

A Gift for the Seer

Shamanic Paths

“Inner Oracle”
Copyright: Carlos-Quevedo (on DeviantArt)

The Clan has gathered. The Seer has returned. Mother to many, yet mother to none. She appears tired. A lifetime of mundane query has taken a toll.

The Lights process, following a sacred path to the Seeing Stone.

The Guide stands, Portal Guardian, as the Seer prepares; awakening the stones, one by one; calling the Sentinels, and opening the Portals of Hope, Strength, and Truth.

The Ancestors gather.

The Guide collects each Light in turn, “Do you have a question, for the Seer?”

The question, heard only by the Guide, is carried, with the Light, into the Sanctuary. The Seer awaits.

The Temple falls away. Infinite circle of darkness. A star. The Seer awaits.

The Eye in the open Heart. Stone upon stone. The Seer awaits.

Sinking into the light. Ancestors whisper.

Gems of Truth cast into the void. Ancestors whisper.

The Seer gathers…

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Flight of the Seer IX…

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Shortly after the ‘Leaf and Flame’ event in 2016, the outline for, The Feathered Seer, workshop took shape for us on the edge of an ancient necropolis overlooking Big Moor.

The seeing that day, be it courtesy of the seasonal sun light, or more esoteric manifestations, allowed us to work out one possible function of the Barbrook 1 stone circle.

And this ‘rudimentary ritual’ was replayed in original situ later that year for the group of Companions who attended our Living Land workshop, ‘Circles Beyond Time’, in September.

Naturally, it also formed the basis of R3 of The Feathered Seer and its working proved to be one of the most intense undertakings we have ever experienced.

What the ancients knew was that only the querent holds the answer to the question, but that the clues to those questions are everywhere played out in living experience.

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Exploring the Inner and the Outer…

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The symbolism employed by our forebears was both simple and profound.

Rock sculptures designating ‘living lands’, stand and face the horizon.

Rock sculptures designating ‘dead lands’, lie and face the sky.

The earthen monuments of the dead are linked by sky paths.

Wisdom is found within and only then utilised to shape those without, not vice versa.

Our modern cultures, it seems, still have an awful lot to learn.

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Sky-walking…

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Raven Song: DP

Chronicles of an Orange-Haired Woman!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/catapult/

My posts are weaving in and out of the brightly-coloured ribbons of other writers who attended the recent Feathered Seer weekend. We touch upon common themes; we inspire one another; we anticipate the next ball of thread upon the loom.

We, the Clan of the Raven held tight in Hexagram, yet face outwards, a catapult of spinning lore, deep bone rhythm and Corvid cries whirling out from the centre.

In my silence, I connect. My sexual wounds from this lifetime chime deeply with the great bells of past ripping and wrenching of female limbs, of harsh mistreatment of hidden soft parts, of taking that which was not offered. My blood flows with theirs, meets in a river of Maiden, Mother, Crone abuse.

I am not man. Not this time around. And, therefore, despite empathy, I cannot be male; nor can I understand the urge, by no means universal, that…

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The Feathered Seer – Part 3 (No. Really. The Feathered Seer!) by Running Elk

Nine Ladies Stone Circle, Stanton Moor
Copyright: Graham Dunn

During the exploration session on Spirit Animals, presented during The Silent Eye (a modern mystery school) “Leaf and Flame: the Foliate Man” weekend in 2016, one of the companions enquired about “Shape-shifting”. Since this was outside the scope of the discussion, the concept was briefly addressed without going into any real detail. It was, therefore, with some surprise, that I found myself agreeing to present an exploration session on the topic during “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017.

As April approached, the usual buzz of anticipation built towards the day that the work-book was released, and roles revealed. Most surprised, therefore, when an email arrived indicating the “costume” arrangements for the weekend. Other than the, at this stage, mysterious “Weaver” and “Spinner”, only I would be required to be costumed: in the role of Shaman. This made it easy, as I probably had a few things lying around which would foot the bill.

As it turned out, this was a double blessing, as neither Robe, nor Shell were to be found. Ironically, both would make a reappearance, pretty much where they were always believed to reside, before the weekend was out!

The work-book, when it arrived, proved to be a masterful crafting of ritual movement, wrapped in a touching storyline; at once intimately personal, and, ultimately, Universal. I wasn’t entirely sure that I was fully “ready” to experience the Temple energies that the unfolding of such a story was likely to unleash, particularly when viewed from the perspective of the Shaman of the Raven Clan.

Did I mention synchronicity?

The exploration session I’d outlined focussed on the reasons why shape-shifting appears so difficult. It isn’t that we cannot do it, indeed we do a form of shape-shifting on a daily basis, without ever really thinking about it. It is only when we come to consider shifting into a form other than human that we become stuck: in a variety of fears, ultimately centred on the persistent illusion which we fear most. The weekend, unknown to me, would approach an inspection of the root, and illusory nature, of these very same fears.

Continue reading here

Unexpected Shaman (7, End) – King of Jaguar – Child of Sun

They placed him on a bier and tended his bruises and the flow of blood from his elbow. Bandaged and victorious, he was carried into the Temple of the Jaguars from where, elevated high above the level of the Ball Court, he  was invited to watch the start of the new game, below.

He wondered if this was just for him; wondered if his presence in this harvest of spirituality was an extension of the grace as witness… or whether the difference in time and place didn’t matter, that condition and readiness were everything, and, once fulfilled, the dawning horizon’s fingers of purpose would weave their anciently-spun magic, no matter what the era in which they were invoked.

They gave him water for his parched body, then a sweet liquid that contained a contrasting brew of bitter herbs.

In trust he drained the cup…

When he woke, it was much later, and very dark. He relieved his body and removed the plain, white robe in which they had dressed him. He bathed and put on the laid-out robes of the Warrior, the single human priest that the process of Chichen Itza was designed to create – or, rather, recreate.

Chac MoolAA 300

He became aware of the light from outside the portals to the Ball-Court below. Passing to the window he looked out on a sea of candlelight. In total silence and shared light, his fellow priests waited for him…

When he descended the steps, there came a hissing noise, like that of a snake. Listening and smiling, he realised that it came only from the priests’ natural breathing and a narrowed throat, They were greeting him in the most revered way they knew.

They directed him to sit on a ceremonial chair placed on the bier and garlanded with flowers. The candles they set around him made a light greater, even, than theirs. In silence he was led from the Temple of the Jaguar, a master now of his lower nature, and opened to the higher. They carried him past the Temple of Venus, stopping to acknowledge it to the left and the pyramid of Kukulcan, waiting unlit, to the right. There was a sense of return in that gesture, though his mind could not grasp it, yet. The unvisited western stairway, with its ninety-one steps, sat like the world’s biggest jaguar in the darkness, watching him.

The giant building ahead was the Temple of the Warrior. He knew it to be so without asking. The Sun had come through the stone circle to claim the ball struck by the accurate elbow of the Newfound. What followed must reflect that on a more cosmic scale… Three of the priests flanked him with large candles as he climbed the many steps to the platform of the Chac Mool – a stone figure lying on its back with shoulders and knees raised, its hands supporting an unseen object with upraised palms.

The Feathered One whispered into his vision… and he understood. He smiled away the tears and returned to the embrace of his fellow priests who broke their silence and carried him – this time without the bier – into the heart of the Warrior Temple, beneath the Chac Mool.

There was drinking and feasting, but most of all, there was rejoicing. The air would be clean, the waters would fall from the sky – Chac, the God of Rain would bring it. Only the seed of life, itself, now needed to come down from the sky.

At the end of the seventh day, they embraced him, again, then presented him with the feathered robes of the ascent. Alone, he climbed the Warrior Temple’s steps and gazed down at the Chac Mool. The dark sky was paling. It was the dawn of the eighth day, the start of the new cycle…

The dawn came fully, bright and fruitful in the spring sky. It rose cleanly between the twin giant serpents that flanked his body, lying behind the stone figure of the Chac Mool, nearer the sunrise. As the sun cleared the upper stone surface, his hands were offered and steady, and a huge sigh came from the thousands below who saw him hold the solar disc, if only for the duration of a heartbeat.

His eyes shone, now, this Child of the Sun. No longer human but not yet a god. The Newfound had gone, his atoms scattered by the Sun’s energy as petals of hope among the crowd. Those who watched him descend from the Warrior Temple would see his feet barely touch the smooth stone. As he strode across the brightening plaza all made way, many frightened of the depth of the light before them. To all of them he radiated love, only love.

Still alone, he climbed the steps of the small Temple of Venus. The bier was there; once more garlanded with flowers and surrounded by an ocean of candles – candles that were now unnecessary. The temple held only one more object – a stone chalice of dark liquid. For hours, he watched the Sun climb along its course. When it was nearly overhead, he stood and raised the drink to Kukulcan waiting in the centre of the temple complex.

In trust he drained the cup…

They watched, weeping with both joy and sorrow, as he refused the bier and dragged his dying body up the south stairway of Kukulcan. At the top, he staggered the final step into the cube and sat down on the stone throne reserved only for the ascending Warrior, the man of perfection.

His body died then. But his eyes shone through the stone and up to the giant feathered serpent that had come for him. With claws that passed through the stone he was lifted beyond the heavy and carried down the stairway in a time behind time. To those below, the spring solstice made the pattern of the snake as the day progressed, sliding its segments down the pyramid to greet its carved likeness, below.

In the fields around the temple, snake skins – shed and left behind – would be found this day to mark the return of fertility to the land. The year would be fruitful.

But the Newfound, now the Newborn, was long gone… though his reality remained.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Steve Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye school of Consciousness. His personal blog is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

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Other posts in this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six

Space for error

For five years, it was Steve who was the principal writer of the annual workshops. I don’t think any of us had really considered that it would ever be otherwise. We contributed, both ideas and certain sections of the weekend, but he had established a format and set a standard. All who attended knew they could trust him to deliver.

The morning of the first meeting after the River of the Sun workshop, Stuart and I had been talking about an idea he’d had for a workshop long ago…something he had been thinking about, on and off, for years. The Green Man had been coming up a lot in our lives…perhaps that was what had brought the idea to mind once more. We tend to trust the synchronicities that lead us along these odd pathways…especially when they go all ‘bells and whistles’.  You never know where they might lead, and so far, they have not led us astray.

“I think you should write the next one,” said Steve, settling himself at the pub table where we had just met. At any other moment, the only answer would have been that we could not possibly do that…he writes the workshops! Except, we’d been talking about the Green Knight/Green Man idea all morning so…

“Well, actually…” Which is how Leaf and Flame came into being, taking us all by surprise. We followed a year after that with The Feathered Seer, which we had also begun to mull over. Neither Stuart nor I had undertaken the writing of a workshop on that scale before, and Companions come from across the world to attend… even so, Steve left us to it, trusting that we would rise to the occasion. We, on the other hand, trusted that we would be given what was needed by way of inspiration as we worked. And we were…even though some of it came in its own good time.

Trust was a major facet of the Leaf and Flame workshop. Not only did we ask two of the Companions to ad-lib a whole section, trusting that they would bring what was needed to the moment, but we also asked the Gawain character, played by Steve, to place his trust in unseen forces, represented by …us. As we were by this time, being referred to as the Terrible Twins, this was a leap into the unknown. These ritual dramas go far beyond mere playacting and can have a deep and abiding effect on those who take part… and the trust required was real.

In previous years, the ‘knowledge sessions’ in which we explore various concepts, had all been carefully themed and designed to fit neatly with the story we were using and, for the most part, we had presented them ourselves. With Leaf and Flame and the Feathered Seer, we invited our Companions to share aspects of their own paths instead. We gave no more than a few words to guide their choice of subject and left them to it because we have the utmost faith in them. And every time, that faith has been repaid… not just with the quality of what has been shared, but through the strangely synchronous way in which their presentations have dovetailed far too neatly with the workshop.

That trust extends to all the Companions at the workshop… we ask them to open themselves to the moment …and they do. Every time. They are there when there is a need, they pick up the errors that inevitably occur, step in where there is a space, and each of them adds their own essence to the ‘cauldron of inspiration’ we brew together.

Some are asked to fill demanding roles. Last year, we beheaded one of our American friends in the first ritual. Okay, he did get to pick up his head and challenge the Companions to choose oracle cards from the severed head…and I think he enjoyed that… but even so, the axe was heavy and the trust needed to be mutual. This year, we asked our Shaman to work almost entirely unscripted for a large part of the weekend… which he did… and our Lore Keepers to enact two interwoven tales that they had yet to see, in whatever way they saw fit. Not only did they agree, but they delivered an incredible piece of performance art that had us all laughing and crying by turns and brought the historical role of the storyteller to vivid life for all of us.

The trust is unspoken, but always there. I believe it is stronger for being implicit, rather than explicit. It is simply accepted… and in that simplicity there is space.

When we dictate, step by step, every move that should be made, attempting to retain control of the vision we hold of ‘how things should be’, we are implying a lack of trust in others, even though we may not feel that to be so. Leaving space for error is also leaving space for trust…and that space allows those around us to grow into their own possibilities, challenging themselves in ways they may not otherwise have attempted.

When trust is misplaced, either things will not go according to plan or we will feel the shadow of betrayal. Either way, that space that we prepared will allow us room to grow as we face the challenges of the moment.

Living in the moment also requires our trust; that moment is the space in which we are…it can have neither past nor future, nor is it the present as it is past before we are aware of it. We can only trust as time and space moves through and around us. That trust must be in our selves, in the design of existence and the forces that are the matrix of being.

I wonder if that Free Will with which mankind is endowed, is also a manifestation of Trust? And is life, perhaps, the ‘space for error’ that we are given? Does it then matter whether we get things right or wrong… or does it matter more that we grow, through both success and error, for both can teach in their own way if we are prepared to learn. Is life our ‘space for error’, because we are trusted, rather than condemned… a space that allows each of us to grow into our own possibilities, challenging ourselves in ways we may not otherwise have attempted. Maybe we just have to trust that the Cosmos knows what It is doing… and trust ourselves to know It.