When Darkness Descends

February 5, 2023





You may have already seen this image. It’s seems much out there at the moment, especially on social media. As it should be. A powerful statement by Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel about the encroaching darkness facing so many of our sisters. While it’s sobering and horrific, it’s a reminder of why we are called to hold and shine the Light in this world. More than ever. Stronger than ever. 

It’s what we do when darkness descends. 


So. What’s Up With All These Groundhogs?

February 2, 2023


In the murky mists of myth and legend, threads of stories are handed down through time and generations. Sometimes those threads get tangled up a bit.

February 2nd. For some it’s Groundhog Day, for others it’s Candlemass. Yesterday was Brigid’s Day, a festival of light and candles. Of course when the Catholics arrived in Ireland they couldn’t let that stand and so created Candlemass. As I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, this overlaying of Catholic doctrine on ancient ceremonies and sites, especially holy wells, was ubiquitous. On Candlemass, clergy would bless and distribute all the candles needed for winter — and over time the focus of the day became increasingly about predicting how long winter would last because they included this song:

 If Candlemas be fair and bright
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain
Go Winter, and come not again.

Enter the groundhog shadow search, although the groundhog tradition seems to have its origins in Eastern Europe. But back to Ireland. I understand there is another thread tangled in all this. It’s a legend about the Cailleach who needed to gather her stones in fair weather and so if the weather permitted her stone gathering continued and, because she is the goddess of winter, so did winter. The only association I can think of between the groundhogs and the Cailleach is the she was also the guardian of animals. It’s all pretty murky. 

And…speaking of murky. I will add one more thing. Many think yesterday was also Imbolc. However, as Anthony Murphy writes: Imbolc and Brigid’s Day are not the same thing and, in fact, Imbolc as an astronomical cross-quarter date can NEVER fall on 1st February. This year, Imbolc falls on 3rd/4th February depending on where you are in the world. In Ireland, it occurs early on Saturday 4th February.

I suppose the consolation in all this confusion is that all these celebrations are about light, the Light. And however we celebrate the Light is a good thing.


Being The Storm

January 31, 2023


Fate whispers to the warrior,

‘You cannot withstand the storm.’
The warrior whispers back,
‘I am the storm.’


We were standing on the edge of the cliffs near Doolin as the storm came barreling across the Atlantic, a wall of wind and wave. The waves crashed against the cliff face reaching up the hundreds of feet to where we stood. It’s something I would never recommend in person. But we weren’t in person. I was standing with my ancestor in an Otherworld encounter. She is the same ancestor who was present in that stoned in Colorado experience, the ancestor who told me that working with the energies of stone and water was, as she put it, her magic. This was an experience of her water wisdom.

To this point, it had been easy to accept and resonate with her teachings on water. Water is, in most spiritual traditions, associated with emotion, cleansing, healing, change, and the grace of fluidity. Perhaps a reflection of an alliance with the energies of water, the Brehon Laws of ancient Ireland specified that hospitals should be placed by a stream of running water.

Healing, cleansing, and fluid grace. It’s comfortable to commune with a gently flowing stream. And it’s easy to contemplate how a sacred alliance with those energies can be manifest in our lives. Knowing when it’s time to visit a well of wisdom, perhaps one where the nearby hazel trees feed the Salmon of Knowledge. Knowing when it’s time to welcome a gentle cleansing rain. Knowing when the energies of a calm pool are necessary to still and calm turbulent emotions. Knowing when the steady rhythm of ocean on shore reminds us of the ebb and flow of life. All fairly zen, actually.

But today we were clearly exploring another aspect of water energy and this didn’t feel very zen. It was the aspect of storm, an aspect we humans would describe as lashing, violent, and pounding. Descriptions from a vocabulary we humans attribute to the actions and forces of nature, Mother Nature, when things aren’t going as we would like. It’s an attribution of intention when there is no underlying intention. It’s just the way things are. Stepping into an alliance with the natural world calls us to be with, literally and figuratively, what is … all of what is… and glean the wisdom present in it. 

Standing on that cliff, the warrior in me was exhilarated. I threw my head back and opened my arms to embrace the full force of it. My ancestor chuckled. She sensed the lesson was landing. In every aspect of water there is change, but nothing like this. A gentle stream may slowly move sediment, a gentle wave may shift the sand. But storm holds the power to move boulders.

On reflection I’m beginning to understand that it requires a warrior energy to both withstand and be the storm. Not the warrior energy of battle, conquest, and power over but the warrior energy of strength of purpose, of sacred purpose and sacred alliance, of service to our people and the Earth. Storms happen. It’s the power of what we hold and what we do in those storms that matters. 

In this power I am the storm.


Note. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you will remember that I wrote extensively about water and the Seven Nations back in June of 2021. The Seven Nations include Stone, Fire, Water, Air, Creatures, Plants, and the Earth.

Listening & Hearing

January 26, 2023


With my last post I thought I was done teasing out the threads of wisdom from Manchán Magan’s book. Apparently not. Perhaps it’s the synchronicity of currently watching Our Universe, an amazing series on Netflix narrated by Morgan Freeman. The graphics, photography, and message are stunning. I highly recommend it. 

Manchán writes about the HeartMath Institute and their research into the Earth’s magnetic field and the connection to humans. This resonated as did the Institute’s vision when I went to their website to explore their research: A kinder, heart-centered world where we care for one another and live harmoniously in peace.

In 2021, the Institute published an Investigation of Parallels Between Human Basal Metabolic Features and Local Earth Magnetic Field. I know. But hang in there. The study’s conclusion speaks profoundly to our liminal landscape experiences.

The study concludes that all living systems are affected by external and internal environments. One factor in the external environment is the Earth’s magnetic field, which fluctuates over a wide frequency range. A series of studies indicate that low frequency magnetic fields can affect cellular mitochondrial activity and impacts every cell’s metabolism. This frequency band embraces the same frequency bands that are typically used for human brain waves.

About these findings, Manchán writes the following. Indeed, it is well beyond my comprehension as well. But even a glimmer of understanding begs consideration of the implications he suggests. 

The science of this is beyond my comprehension, but their findings appear to show that the earth is continuously emitting information that the human body then responds to. It will take further study and more sophisticated apparatus to reveal whether the great gathering sites of Ireland that have been attracting followers for thousands of years are emitting frequencies that most of us are no longer conscious of, or whether the mysterious solar alignments that were laid out between significant points in prehistory by our Neolithic and Bronze Age forebears are part of an energy or magnetic grid that we have forgotten how to decipher. What does seem clear, though, is that our world and all the beings and plants within it are elements of a biofeedback loop, in which all of us are intermingled in innumerable ways.

Whether earthly or cosmic, it’s all energy. We are all energy. And we are all connected and intermingled through time and space. Manchán’s book is titled Listen to the Land Speak. Listening is important as we wander the sacred and liminal landscapes in Ireland. Yet perhaps as essential is hearing, hearing with every cell of our bodies. In hearing perhaps we can begin to decipher what has been lost and forgotten. 


Liminal Layers

January 24, 2023


Irish mythology is based on the notion that the natural, human and divine worlds
all co-exist, overlapping one another and with different elements
becoming subordinate at different times.
Manchán Magan


Since it was difficult to include their names in creating this graphic… The image of Rhiannon is the artwork of Susan Seddon Boulet. The forest image is the artwork of Mark E. Fisher.

The Liminality Of Legends

January 23, 2023


From Latin limen.
Being on a threshold.
A state of transition.
The quality of ambiguity or disorientation.

I imagine many of us have played the Telephone Game where people sit in a circle and whisper a phrase to the next person until that phrase comes back full circle completely transformed. Apparently there’s an updated version, the Whisperer Challenge, where everyone’s required to wear headphones and listen to loud music, passing the message along through lip reading. One suggested phrase from a long list of possibilities: 
A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse. Feel free to dive down that rabbit hole yourself.

If a word or phrase can get distorted in just a matter of minutes by just a few people, I wonder how legends and stories passed down through millennia survive with any integrity. I appreciate the memorization required in the Druidic, Bardic, and Seanchaí (story teller) traditions in Ireland as an attempt to preserve that integrity. Yet even if the legends and stories remained the same, the cultural context did not. As those legends spiraled down through the course of history, they spiraled through shifting cultural perspectives and beliefs. Legends that at one time may have been considered been entirely plausible are today considered fantastical, well beyond the realm of reason.

Take shape shifting as one example. Myths and legends around the world are filled with stories of shifting between realms and shapes. Wise woman to hare is one of the most popular shape shifting legends in Ireland and even within the last hundred years, folklorists gathered accounts from those who swore this to be true. They had witnessed it. 

Ancient cultures, and apparently not so ancient cultures, held a very different knowing of what was possible within an alliance with natural world and other world energies. Thoughtful speculation aside, we can really only begin to imagine those possibilities. We can only begin to imagine the cultural consciousness present when these stories, myths, and legends came into being. There is indeed both a quality of ambiguity and disorientation in this together with a threshold, an invitation, for more exploration.

When Mary O’Halloran sent me this photo of the Callanish Stone Circle in Scotland, it was just such a threshold moment. One can immediately see the cloaked Druid shapes of the stones. Known as a Druid circle, legend tells us these stones were once people who were cursed by an evil witch. It’s a legend similar to stones of the Long Meg and Her Daughters circle that were once a coven of witches turned to stone by a wizard, the stones in the Nine Ladies Stone Circle who were maidens until they were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath, and the Piper’s Stones who were also a group of dancers and piper musicians turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.

That these circles of stones are millennia older than Sabbath celebrations begs a question of the original legend and lore and offers a glimpse of the many liminal layers within these stories and legends. These are the stories and legends today. What were the stories and legends long ago and how did those come into being? It’s likely we will never know.

But perhaps it’s enough to know, to appreciate, that there is a liminal quality of the myths, legends, and lore. Perhaps it’s enough to stand at the threshold and know there is much more beyond our current understanding.


Anchored In Alliance

January 21, 2023


If you want to awaken all of humanity,
then awaken all of yourself.
If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world,
then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give
is that of your own self-transformation.
Lao Tzu


Perhaps the greatest gift. But not the only gift. For although it may begin here, awakening humanity, eliminating suffering in the world, and other aspirations of peace, compassion, and justice means that it doesn’t end here. Yes, being awakened is important. However  equally essential is living our lives from that place of, dare I say it, being woke. We may meditate to master self-transformation. And then what? Unless you choose to spend your life living in a meditation cave, and I assume if you are reading this blog that you are not, you are also about doing.

Spending my life meditating in a cave would be a challenge just this side of impossible. The challenge I dance with is manifesting my sacred beingness in the world, ensuring that my sacred intention matches my actions, my doing. 

I know that this could never be possible if I weren’t anchored in relationship and alliance with the sacred. For in this alliance I am co-creating with the sacred source of all life and all life. In this alliance, I am mostly able to remember that I’m not in charge. Such is the way of co-creating with Source, the sacred, the divine, the all is one. Some name this energy God. Yet the nomenclature doesn’t really matter for it’s essentially all the same energy, the same divine harmony. This is when and how my self-transformation can support transformation in the world. 

Each of us has our own unique gifts and our own unique way of manifesting that magic in the world. When we embrace those gifts and anchor ourselves in sacred alliance, anything is possible.


Change? Transformation?

January 20, 2023


The juxtaposition was jarring.

Two days ago. A dear friend from my college days came to visit and brought with him some issues of the WSU, Washington State University, campus newspaper. He had saved them all these years. The papers were from 1973, fifty years ago. One featured a front page story and photo of how some of us were  advocating strongly for a budget increase for the BSU, Black Student Union. I was on the ASWSU Finance Committee and the article quoted me as saying the ASWSU “is asking all third world people to do a job we are not doing.” And further, I suggested that third world people were being saddled with the responsibility of ending racism. Amid much shouting, the budget increase was not approved. The white committee chair said he would dedicate himself to more minority representation on the committee. That didn’t happen either. Yes, that’s me in the middle of this photo. Same hair. Somethings don’t change. Yet some things do.

Yesterday. The governor of Florida banned all high schools in the state from teaching an African American Studies advanced placement course. He argued that the course “lacks educational value” and that “the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow.” This ban follows a 2021 state board of education ruling on critical race theory which argued against “this theory that racism is not merely the produce of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”

I wouldn’t even know where to begin unpacking this racist philosophy and fascist action. Others are doing that far more eloquently and powerfully than I could so I will leave them to it. The question that landed for me was about change. Fifty years ago we wanted to change the world. We wanted equity and justice, compassion and understanding, peace and environmental integrity. Fifty years on, has anything changed? 

No, we didn’t achieve our ideal of ending racism and although we may have influenced the end of the Vietnam war, war continues. But yes, things have changed. We just need to look beyond the toxic rhetoric and actions of current political leaders and those who tether themselves to those abhorrent philosophies. They may get the media coverage, but that’s not the complete coverage of what’s happening in our nation. There are stories of equity and justice, compassion and understanding, peace and environmental integrity unfolding every day across this country and around the world. Those stories don’t capture the headlines but those stories reflect a shift in consciousness, a shift much more sustainable and sustainably embedded in our culture. 

Looking back over these past five decades, I see the amplified shift in consciousness. I know this shift comes from those who hold and shine the Light, those who step into relationship and alliance with the sacred. Like ripples in a pond, that light spreads. 

And from that Light, my Light and your Light, change happens. Transformation is possible.

The Light is rising. 


Living In Liminal Landscapes

January 19, 2023


You’re only given one little spark of madness.
You mustn’t lose it.
Robin Williams

Scheduling our monthly sweat lodges was a challenge. We were never sure if they were going to happen as planned and indeed the calendar was very fluid. It was a challenge for those of us participating in the year-long vision quest who had very full and tightly scheduled jobs and lives. Working with the shaman who lead these quests was my first experience with someone who lived most of her life a liminal landscape. It would be years before I would experience that unsettling reality for myself. 

And it is unsettling. I understand why shamans, mystics, and even artists choose to live on the edges of society. It’s where they can nurture their spark.

I’ve currently lost my husband to the liminality of his artwork. Oh, he’s here physically. But the rest of him is out there somewhere. I’m just glad his studio doesn’t have running water because I get to see him when he comes to the house to clean his brushes. For Dennis this is something of a sporadic occurrence. For a dear friend it’s how he lives his life.

I’ve included below a crop of a piece Tim gifted us a few years ago. It gives you a sense of the liminal language he has created. From the catalog for a recent retrospective of his work exhibited at the San Francisco Center for the Book, this was written about him.

American artist Timothy C. Ely has been drawing, painting, and constructing one-of-a-kind manuscript books for 50 years. At last count over 500 of these elaborately bound and illustrated visual narratives, housed in interactive sculptures known as books, have made their way into public, private, and secret collections worldwide, including the New York Public Library, Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Library of Congress, Morgan Library, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I was zooming with his wife last week. Ann has been a friend since childhood. Our families celebrated Thanksgiving together until we left for university. We were discussing Tim’s work and she acknowledged that he lives in a liminal landscape pretty much all the time. It is the landscape of his genius and he is indeed recognized both nationally and internationally as a genius.

Genius. Genius loci is the prevailing character, atmosphere or spirit of a place. This is very much the energy of Otherworld encounters I invite people to experience in Ireland. And in liminal landscapes those can include the human spirits that inhabit those mystical spaces. Human spirits like Tim. Human spirits like us if we are open to it. And if we do, we encounter a liminal language, perhaps not as dramatically artistic as Tim’s but absolutely a language of senses and symbols, sights and sounds. A language that holds profound messages and invites us to a dance of fluency with them, a dance with the genius loci of liminal landscapes.

We do hold the spark of madness for this. And we mustn’t lose it.


The Power Point

January 18, 2023


The Ireland Gatherings I offer now are growing exponentially in the power and potency of liminal connections and Otherworld encounters. It’s pretty amazing. It’s also not really the point. Yes, it’s wonderful to have those experiences but it’s not having them but what we do with them that really matters. Our Irish ancestors understood this. It’s about transformation within and without. Transformation our world needs.

In recent years we have become dissociated from this knowledge and the latent appreciation that our ancestors had of the natural world and the cycles through which it turns, as well as the realms beyond, in both the cosmos and the Otherworld. 

The question now, as the feminine energy is rising once again, is whether we as Irish people – and those of other cultures who connect with us – are ready to take back this mantle and begin the process of awakening and reconnecting with our past, with who we are – our land, language, and culture. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of this land as a force of transformation. The bogs, rivers, mountains and shorelines are more than just preservers of old myths, bones and memories. They are energy banks and time sponges, and what is held within them seeks release.    Manchán Magan

Yes. This image is dramatic. But then the journey within liminal and Otherworld spaces is dramatic. I tried to find the artist but the name seems lost in the world of fantasy on-line gaming, a world of wandering in other worlds they create. However I doubt very much they ever encounter the Otherworld, which is not of human creation. Still, there is a mythic and mystical resonance for me in this image. 

The arrow of light is central to this image just as connecting to the Light is central to a mystical journey. We are called to claim the Light we hold, the Light of love, joy, peace, compassion and justice. We are called to claim this Light and amplify the shining of it in our lives and in the world. This is the point of a spiritual journey. To find, in the power of sacred alliance and the power of transformation, the power to change the world. To find the energy banks and release the wisdom held there.

This is all so fantastical. And I appreciate that for many who wander with spiritual intention, it’s easy to get lost in fantasy worlds of their own creation. But they can miss a true engagement with the Otherworld energies. And they can miss the sacred purpose of it that comes with surrender to a sacred alliance. They can miss the opportunity for meaningful transformation in their lives and for the world. 

For this is the point. This is the power point.


For those who want to purchase Manchán’s book go to his website: https://manchan.com/.  You will actually purchase the book through Mayo Books in Ireland. It’s not available on Amazon or in the US at this point.