Dance As Ritual

I am a dancer by nature. I have been dancing since childhood. Dancing is what I do when I am happy, sad, stressed, anxious, chipper—its also what I do when I am feeling a need for a deep spiritual connection. Dancing has been used for thousands of years as a means of communication to Deity or in reverence of a higher power.

There are many various styles of “ritualistic” dance: the Middle Eastern “zar” dance, Morris dance, Long Sword dance, Circle dance and most notably, the Sema or “Whirling Dervish” in which dancers whose continuous spin forms a deep spiritual mind set much like the peaceful state induced during meditation.

As a dancer, my dance has always had spiritual roots. I fell in love with gypsy dance as a child because of the passionate and magickal sound of the violin-the music invoked a sense of magickal mysticism and my body moved with the violin as if I were apart of it. I fell in love with belly dance because of its complex earthy rhythms and the ability to connect to the Mother Goddess. My new love of African and Aboriginal dance has come from the primal earthbound roots I feel when performing it. When I am performing, some aspect of my spirituality is invoked. To me, dancing is magick–a spell. If I want to banish something I will do a sword or fire dance. When I want to manifest something I perform with my snakes. Like the symbols of the Tarot, I am connecting to the elements via dance.

Zehara as PAN

Zehara as PAN

One aspect of dancing that I love is when I feel inspired–or more like-taken over-by the spirit of a Deity or Higher Being. I feel inspired to create and perform either a number dedicated to them or as them. Its form of invocation. For the past three months I have felt strongly connected to Pan. His playful mischievous energy kept popping up around me and I would feel constant urges to want to frolick. He also invoked a deep emotional feeling of happiness and joy, that I would call upon whenever I felt down or anxious. Over the past month I began forming a dance around His energy and eventually performed as Pan at the Samhain Festival hosted by Laurie Cabot and the Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple in Salem. It was for me, a magickal moment. Throughout the performance, I felt Pan’s energy flow through me, and when Laurie exclaimed, “we had Pan here among us!” after my performance, I think I did a good job invoking the ancient God of the woods.

I have invoked many Gods and Godesses over the course of my dance career–including Mami Wata, Pythia and a few fairies, demons, angels and sprites. Its deeply moving when I am able to transmit their energy through my performances–its almost like being an acolyte to their mysteries and having them coach me along the way. Its more meaningful for me. Its also a lot more work–costuming, music and make up all have to be just perfect. Its a lot more powerful to when the audience understands who I am without me having to even announce it!

Zehara performing as a Fallen Angel Photo by Peter Paradise

Zehara performing as a Fallen Angel
Photo by Peter Paradise

Using dance as a magick is an ancient and hold power. It can be as simple as turning on music and dancing around your room to create high levels of energy before spell or ritual work. Sometimes invoking that primal energy can help release any anxiety that you are feeling prior to spell work and ritual–help cleanse your mind. It can also help to induce a meditative trance inducing state. Dance in itself is cathartic. Creating an atompshere where you can dance out your feelings. During ritual, one can even create a small performance as the particular Deity to help call Their power into the circle (hmm, now I am thinking Brigid dancing with a candle tray for Candelmas!).

Dance is a powerful form of energy work. Its why its been used as a form of ritual for thousands of years. Besides, the Gods and Goddesses love when you sing and dance and be merry in their name!

Zehara performing as PAN

 

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I have been a practicing Witch and Shaman for 18 years. I was lucky enough to live in an open minded household that while religious, allowed me the opportunity to explore my spirituality without the fear of being punished. My mother made it clear that as long as I wasn’t in a cult or sacrificing animals, I was free to explore my spiritual nature.

After studying several religions, I found a “coming home” among the Wiccan and Pagan community. I would often visit a local book store with my father and explore their small “New Age” section for books on witchcraft, shamanism, magick and the like. When I was going to school, I had to cover my books with brown paper bags and tell everyone I was reading a book for English class. While my home was free of persecution, the outside was ready to crack the whip when the chance arose. I spent most of my high school years in “seclusion,” save for the two friends I had who were also Pagan with whom I could chat with. When I started wearing my pentagram to school, I became known as the “freak” and “weird girl with strange jewelry.” Retrospectively I find the terms endearing, but then they were cruel and harsh.

After high school I took several classes in college on World Religions and began avid study in various religions including Judiasm, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and early Christian theology such as Gnosticism. This broad understanding of various religions, their beliefs, and, most importantly-their history, gave me a deeper understanding the mystical and diverse society we lived in. I made it point, while following my own religious path, that I understood everyone else’s.

It doesn’t make you less spiritual if you open your mind to what others believe.

I was very blessed to have an amazing professor who I could speak with before and after class on various religious ideology and who, as an assignment  made the class attend a service different from their own. I went to a Jewish temple and loved it the service! I loved the people and symbolism during the Friday night Sabbat. It was beautiful and moving. And while I am not Jewish, I appreciated their religious service.

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Yet with all that said, it amazes that in 2012, we still face religious prosecution. In 2005 while coming home from work, someone made a point to write a nasty letter and stuff it in my wield shield, “You evil pagan-you will burn in hell for your sins-go to church.” They knew I was a pagan from the bumper stickers on my car. I was a bit frightened, but that passed into anger. The fact that they went so far as to write me a nasty letter to make a point was just proved how ignorant they were. And by the way, how very “Godly” of them.

Spewing bigotry of any kind does not make you religious. Nor does trying to foce your own religious beliefs on to another person. It makes you an idiot.

I recently was told that I need to “go to church and pray for my soul.” My reply was that I do not go to church. My religion tells me that Deity is all around me and within me. And besides, I prefer worshiping my Gods in the woods!

I also was told that my belief in smudging as a use of cleansing is “stupid”–that a priest from a church should be doing that. Again, my response was, “I dont think your beliefs are stupid, so why would you think mine are?”

Its amazes me how some people often feel this insatiable need to push their own religious beliefs into someones face. I think its great people go to Church or temple to worship. I think its great that people allow their spirituality into their lives. Just because I don’t follow the same religious path as you doesn’t make me wrong..it doesn’t make what I believe stupid or less “real,”–it means that I did the same thing you did–I found something that made me feel closer to Deity -to a coming home. It may not wear the same face as your religion-but its not less credible. So why attack? Why get defensive? Actually–why even bring religion up in a daily conversation? Who cares what someone believes? What they do at home to “worship”?

Ignorance is what got people burned at the stake! And lets not forget, almost every religion on this planet at some point faced strong religious persecution…even Catholics and Muslims.

It surprises me that throughout all this, so called “religious” people look more and more like “less religious” people. I personally feel that those who feel that they need to enforce their religious belief are insecure in their own.

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The point of this rant is that people need to be more consciously aware that there is not only one way to “GOD” (a term I don’t like because I feel “God” is to much of a box term). That going to church is not the only way to reach Deity  That by pushing your religious beliefs on someone else is not going to make them want to follow your path. There is no one way to another. There is no right or wrong way to express your spirituality  There is however, a right and wrong way in stating your beliefs. It doesn’t make you more moral if you to church, read the bible, preach or attempt to convert.

When I spend time drumming or walking the woods-that’s my relationship to Diety. When I light incense and say a chant-that’s my prayer. When I place flowers on my altar before the statues of the God and Goddess-its the same as standing before a crucifix and lighting a candle for Jesus. Its all in perspective.

Freedom of religion means ANY religion. And being a religious and spiritual person means accepting EVERYONE and EVERY belief system.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”~ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Opening The Book of Shadows: Religious Persecution in 2012

Power of Animal Communication

I have been blessed since childhood with the ability to communicate with the spirit realm around me. Whether its human spirit or animal spirit, I have ability to speak with spirit and listen to their messages.

For the past 10 years, I have worked closely with animal Spirit guides. All of the wonderful animals who have chosen to live in my home (I do not own my animals-their spirits chose to be here) have all communicated with me in some way. They all provide me with wisdom and insight. They all told me their names and what energies and guidance they could provide me with.

Over time, people have commented to me how my performances with snakes seems transcendent  I am communicating with my serpentine dance partners – on stage and off.  My ability to communicate with them on a higher spiritual level is what allows me to take my performances a step further. An African Shaman who attended one of my performances told me that he could see swirling serpentine energy surrounding me during my dance–and a classical Indian dancer who is one of the few dancers in the world to perform the “Naga Dance” (Dance of the Snakes) told me she could feel the power flowing through me on stage (I performed for her 80th birthday-an honor beyond words).

Snake Kiss

Kaala and Zehara performing at Fall Frolics. Photo by Dreamers Realm

 

Animal communication is part telepathic, part claresentient. And anyone with an open heart and mind can communicate with animals. Let me state that the animal does not need to be physically present. For example, one of my power animals (I have four-snake, spider, fox and hawk) is a hawk. I obviously don’t have a hawk living in my house. But its presence surrounds me and is present within my soul. During Shamanic Journey’s or Soul Retrieval, I am often visiting by Fox and Snake. Their spirit energy is what guides me and gives the ability and knowledge necessary to take forth their messages into the physical world. Telecommunication is by the far the most used way of communication. By receiving messages through telepathy, or speaking without physical communication, is how I most often receive messages.

I also see spirit animals, usually in a holographic form, or in actual physical form. They usually appear to me when I am meant to receive a message–either for myself or another person. During animal card readings I may get one animal pushing through to communicate or I will receive several. Dependent upon the person I am reading for, their own spirit animal may make itself present, or  I may get several animals who need to communicate.

Spirit Animals are very much like Guardian Angels. Though I am not a Christian, I believe that there are beings unseen who guide us on our souls journey through life. Coming from a Shamanic/Native American and Pagan/Wiccan belief system, my guides are usually animals.

 

Bella The Burmese

Bella, one of my beautiful dance partners.

I have been blessed to have spirit animals come to me when I am to learn a life lesson. Three years ago I wouldn’t be caught dead near a spider. I despised them. I thought they were disgusting little bugs and they gave me the creeps. Over and over again I would find myself destroying the life of spiders if they ever crossed by path. Just their very presence was unnerving. Just by chance, my inlaws, who were visiting my sister in law in TX, captured a Rose Hair Tarantula with the idea that it would be dead by the time they arrived home so my husband could use it for his natural history art class. When they arrived home after a 4 month vacation, they brought out the spider who was in a mason jar. She was crumpled at the bottom. Alive and…via claresentience (the ability to feel spirit), was suffering. My heart ached at the hurt from this poor creature, and despite my fear and dislike for these 8 legged creatures, I couldn’t bare to see it suffer. I went out and purchased a tank and food for her. I revived her soul and three years later she lives in my home–fat, happy and loved. She allowed me to get over my fear of spiders. I never thought in a million years I would let a daddy long legs walk across me! Her spirit has allowed the Spider energy to enter my life as a magickal creative entity. Spinning its web of creative energy in and out of my life. Providing the me the tools necessary to weave my spiritual chapters of my life together.

Always listen with your spirit and heart when seeking to communicate with animal spirits. They are around you and are willing to share their knowledge with you if you only listen. Who knows what message they will send you!

The Path of Darkness

Yesterday we learned that a beautiful young spirit was extinguished from the earth. While we didn’t know Lizzi Marriott personally, we are friends with her Aunt, Uncle and Grandparents. Our hearts grieve for their pain–and the heart ache that they are feeling. 

To learn that a loved one has died so young – so unexpectedly -is painfully unbearable. But to learn that another human being – another person with a family, friends, and life – is the reason that that loved one no longer is physically present on the earth- makes the pain so much worse. Its something so unbelievably hard to wrap your head around–and the ripple effect that that single evil action created-affects more than just the victim and the criminal. It effects the families and friends of both parties.

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I have lost two friends at the hands of another. One in 1999 and another in 2005. My friends death is 2005 affected me the most. Her shining spirit was extinguished so fast and so suddenly–all for reasons unknown to everyone. I remember the feelings I had.The initial shock. Once it settled, the questions began. How could she be gone? And why would someone do this to her? Was she in pain? Did she suffer? What was the trigger? Truthfully, these are the unanswerable questions. I struggled for months trying to accept that not only was my friend suddenly taken away from me–but how she was taken away from me. I went through the anger phase. Where I was not only angry with the person who took her life, but also at her…why did she allow it? Why didn’t she fight back?  What could I have done? Why didn’t she leave when she could?

I would find myself thinking of her at the strangest times. Or always feeling the need to just talk about her…as if talking to her would make me not forget her, make the memories last a little longer. I remember shortly after her passing I would be somewhere and expect to see her-or see someone with similar hair and eyes and think for a brief moment it was her. 

The pain I felt at her passing was the worst pain I have ever felt in my soul. It was as though someone had emptied my heart of all feeling–and left me raw and vulnerable. While I had friends to talk to, as well as her family and mutual friends–I still felt alone. I am sure we all were feeling the same–or different. But we all felt the pain and absorbed it differently. I was so overwhelmed by her loss that it took all my strength to visit her grave site after her passing. The pain was so real and so evident inside that just seeing her name on a stone was like cutting open the wound.

Seven years later, I still feel the pain, though its gone from the sharp pain to a dull pain-its still there. And it always will be. However, I couldn’t let her death be in vane. Her death forced me to look at myself. She taught me to be strong—learn resilience–not take crap from anyone, to stand up for myself, who I am and what I want to become. Her spirit also gave me the gift to go forward and help those who needed it most. Offer guidance when I can help and most of all, she taught me not to take life for granted. Not to take those around me for granted. Because life is so precious and so unexpected. At any moment and at any time, all of that can change–in an instant, and in a second. 

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However, despite the sudden feelings of loss and grief, in the end there is a bigger picture. Whatever the special gift was that she was supposed create-perhaps, was through her death. She had given me the gift of friendship while on Earth, and in death, she has given me deeper wisdom, kindness and vision of the deeper meaning of life. It took me 5 years to really be able to accept and let go. Her beautiful spirit left and indelible mark on my heart–and my soul. She lives through me, every day, in what I do. Despite her no longer being on the physical plane, her friendship on the astral spiritual plane is the most precious. She allowed me to walk the path of darkness and understand the passion of the light. All of that is stronger than the coward who decided to take her life. He may have taken away her body from the this earth, but he never killed her spirit. She brought together the ability to create community and reach out to strangers who never knew her, but now hold her memory close to their hearts as well. I was and am blessed to have her as friend, even though she has not been on this world for 7 years.

The path of darkness is long, hard and painful….but the acceptance and the beauty of the soul extinguished on this world will burn brightly and forever in the hearts and souls of those who loved them and cherished them forever and always.