My New Book

It is small. It took me over a year. But it is done!

Grave Spirits contains a collection of my writing (some published some not) pertaining to death, ancestors, death rites, voodoo and more!

It also contains a bunch of my photography of various cemeteries that I have visited over the years.

If anything! I hope this book makes you a death positive person!

You can purchase it here!

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The Dark Side of the Moon: When the Light Fades

There is always a light and dark side to everything in life. And for those of us with depression, the dark side tends to be the most prominent. I have battled depression most of my life, with an attempted suicide at age 14 followed by panic attacks later in life and then several shrinks. I finally found a therapist I liked and from 2009-2013 I saw her and a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner during the darkest hours. I am very open about having clinical depression because I have to be the voice for the thousands out there afraid to talk about because they are afraid of being judged. In 2014 I was doing great—so great my social worker decided that she only needed to see me on as needed basis and my NP tapered my meds. I was feeling on top of the world.

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Then, I recently, and abruptly had a life change. Within two weeks, my boyfriend and I were packed up and heading to Arizona. There we were on a Saturday night enjoying some wine and sake listening to some old school tunes in an apartment I lived in for 15 years to suddenly packing boxes on Sunday, renting a U-Haul and driving 2300 miles away from the only place I had called home. It happened so fast I had no time to comprehend what the hell just happened. The whole cliché of having the carpet pulled out from under you—is serious shit.

Here we are in Arizona and the adjustment has been difficult. We went from a major city to a new town. We know no one. Have np physical support system here and are basically fending for ourselves. I have to find a job pronto to make sure we can pay rent which means finding meaningless work to pay the bills.

And what happens but that the dark side appears. I woke up one day in tears. I was crying to the point where I couldn’t stop. My depression had returned. YES—the move was the TRIGGER—but not the reason.

People who don’t have depression don’t understand what it’s like. Imagine that you are just moving along a bright sunny day when suddenly someone throws a pitch black can’t see shit bag over your face and never ever takes it off. It’s like that. A dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. And thoughts-bad thoughts come in your mind. And YOU CAN’T HELP IT. It’s just there.

I have had so many people tell me it’s the move. To give it time. To find joy in the things around me. Believe me…I am trying. We have gone to canyons, creeks, walked, enjoyed the beauty of the place—but my lack of happiness isn’t with where I live…it’s chemically going on in my brain.

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I think that’s hardest thing about depression–people think it’s an external thing that can be “fixed”–when it’s a chemical thing that can’t be fixed just “adjusted”….and I appreciate everyone’s helping…. but depression can’t be fixed with a walk or giving my move time…if it were…I would be walking all day every day and loving every bit of Flagstaff. It’s hard for people who don’t have a clinical diagnosis to understand that depression is not always due to outside circumstances. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and offerings of advice during times like this, but want I everyone to understand that it’s not going to “fix” what’s happening inside my head. I can’t just flip a switch and “be happy”—nor can I flip a switch and decide that all the chemical mishaps in my brain will fix themselves.

Being supportive is awesome. Being able to just be there—and listen—is even more awesome.

The Dark Side of the Shaman

Shamanism is not for the weak. Nor is it something one dabbles in. Shamanism is a spiritual path that one takes because they are called. And once called, and you accept, it’s not always a bright shining path. People see me now and they think “wow you have such great energy” ~ but it took awhile for me to get there. And a LOT of darkness and loss along the way.

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For a very long part of my life, I suffered from severe anxiety and deep depression.  I struggled to “fit in” ~ and not on a social level. On an every day I live level. I always liken it to feeling like I was a visitor on Earth, someone on the outside looking in. An observer. It wasnt until I was in my twenties and started meeting people of like mind that I started to feel “normal.”  In any case, meeting like-minded people, continuing my spiritual studies and finally finding Shamanism….I started to…..unravel.

From December 2011 to March 2014, my depression and anxiety got worse. In fact, I was having frequent panic attacks and my depression was so bad that I would spend days on end sleeping, crying and not eating. Sometimes not going to work for days. I found little joy in things, though I was able to put on a smile when I had to. I eventually ended up seeing a therapist and going on medication. IT was the ONLY way I could function. I am not, against medication when needed to HELP you see clearer. While digging my shoes deeper into the path of the Shaman, I began to loosen the strings and ties that had held me down for so long. It was a dark and scary. I had to acknowledge deep pain — emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. Barriers I set up a long time ago to protect myself. Pain I didn’t want to acknowledge. Past hurts. Present hurts. Things about myself that made me not a good person. It was like standing in front of a bunch of fun house mirrors and seeing myself warp into different people–yet remaining the same. So many layers of skin shed away. Things I thought I wanted and needed—I realized were a lie.

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As the weights slowly came off, the depression lifted. And while there was still a fog around me, I was able to see a bit clearer…..I was finding out WHO I was and WHAT I wanted….Because of that, I started losing people close to me….Phone calls stopped. Emails stopped. Chats stopped. People I considered family simply vanished from my life. I  was okay with that. They were there for whatever time they were meant to be there. I know that now, though at the time, it felt like my world was shattering. I got divorced and realized the things I needed in a relationship were not just things based purely on the idea of love. My perceptions of relationships, love and friendship changed.

I quite literally, became a whole new person.

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Shamanism is not an easy path. It’s a path that forces you to accommodate the LIGHT and THE DARK. I always explain to those interested in the Shamanic path…that you are like an ocean: you have your deep dark parts and your clear sparkling parts–the catch is being able to allow the two parts to flow together not apart–they are not separate. These two worlds, the dark and light, must be constantly fluid. Moving together.

As I began my career as a Shamanic Reiki Practitioner, more things came to “light” — more gifts opened up that once again forced me to look at myself. I had to learn how to deal with my new abilities and deepening intuition. I had to again, deal with the light and darkness that resides not only in the world around me, but in myself. Friends came and went, relationships changed…..But I went with the flow.

Being a Shaman is about becoming a master of the balance of light and dark.

The “M” Word

I am an intuitive empath—-and a sensitive…

No I am not “sensitive” in the sense that I take things personally. I use the word sensitive instead of the word “medium.”

There is a lot of misconceptions around mediums and I don’t like using the word. And its a part of my job that I do not participate in.

Why? I have a gift to communicate with the dead? I always have. Since I was a teenager, when I was really able to “tap” into the other side, I was always able to communicate with people who crossed over. And I was always able to prove it. Like when a an who died in Salem in the 1600’s came to me (and my family members in attendance). Not only did we later find his stone in Salem, MA….but we also discovered his death records in the library archive and were able to prove that he did, in fact, communicate. He is now one of my spirit guides (yes Nathaniel that is for you!)–or he always was but wanted to prove to me he existed!

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Later,  I developed a gift for automatic writing. Where you allow a spirit to enter you and communicate through writing. I did of course–“dabble”— with the Quija board–which I do not recommend–EVER..After several scary incidents,including one in which a spirit or spirits managed to knock a bird cage over, knocked candles on the ground and the bird died the next day..all witnessed by others…..my 1965 Quija board is now locked away  But, with a ll that said, I could always tell when someone wanted to communicate. My mother, grandmother and aunts all have the ability. Dreams, feelings. They all know when someone from the other side wants to talk.

When I was 17, my cousin and my mother were in one room using the Quija board, while I was in the other doing automatic writing. Something did not feel right–at all. The spirit was writing a mile a minute and I felt like he was grabbing my arm so damn hard it took all I could to make him get out….At the same time, he was communicating via the board and my cousin pulled back and said enough. We both got the same message from the same spirit. He died violently and was PISSED. That was when I decided to not ever do that kind of work again.

But as a sensitive, you don’t just “stop” ~ spirits come to you in dreams, in the middle of the day, before they cross over…I see and feel them–and occasionally hear them. Orbs appear in my home on a frequent basis. I feel energy shifts around people who have lost someone. I stay clear away from funerals. While I have been able to hone my ability better—and tell them to leave me alone–there are always those that like to know I “see” them.

In 2005 when a friend died, I saw and communicated with her…and I told her mother. Her mother’s response was “why you and not me.” And that broke my heart.

I dont know why. Things just happen. When a friend commited suicide, I communicated with him..but who could I tell? No one. I let it be.

When I do reiki sessions on clients, relatives will show up. Friends show up. But II tell them I can not pass on messages for them. Its not that I don’t want to give the client the message–to let them know their loved one is ok. Sometimes, I will just say “does so and so mean anything to you,” and leave it at that.

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Its because being a sensitive brings on  A LOT more responsibility — you are now the “medium” between the living and the dead. And it breaks my heart when I see grieving person who desperately wants to hear those words form their loved one who or wants to see what I see but cant.  Some see that as blessing. I know, without a doubt, this world is not the end all….Being a shaman — a “walker between worlds” I know this. I knew that before I could journey or astral travel.

Its a part of my job I do not allow myself to actively participate in. When the dead come through, I tell them, nicely, to go away.

And sometimes its painful for me to do so because I feel that it is part of my duty–but I cant bear to see more heart break on those who have lost someone.

Rather, I empower them. Speak to your loved one. They hear you. They see you. They feel you. You don’t need people like me to tell you they love you and care. Nor do you need people like me to be the “m word” — you have the ability to have that direct contact. It just takes and open heart and the ability to listen.

I use my intuition for other things…..the spirits are welcome, they just have their boundaries.

A Road For the Spirit to Pass Over

As most of you know, I consider all people with mental illness part of my Tribe. Suffering from a major depressive disorder and anxiety–I know the pain of the darkness. With love, support, therapy and psychiatric assistance–I have been able to move past those dark days. But some in my Tribe cant. And while its not always the case, most people in our Tribe have suicidal ideations….We think about the “S” word—often–but doesn’t mean we would do it….Some people have no idea what that’s like. During my last bout in the dark, when my meds stopped working, I was thinking about what it would feel like to just not wake up. I am open about my illness. I don’t pretend and I refuse to hide it. I am open to everyone about my battle. I am not ashamed. Now I am new meds and starting that fun roller coaster ride again……..

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Sadly, while the majority *think* about suicide in our veil of darkness–some in our Tribe find it the only way out of the shadows. When a member of our Tribe dies—whether it be by their own hand, natural causes or whatever else–it hurts us all. When a member of our Tribe, whether we knew them personally, whether they were famous or our neighbor, departs this realm, all of us in the Tribe feel it differently than those who don’t suffer. We get it. We really get it. We have been there.

I will say this though, I do not believe suicide is a selfish act.  I believe its an act of desperation. When you cant see beyond the veil. Nothing forward. Nothing back. Just a wall. I never blame the person who commits suicide.

In 2011 a coworker, who seemed so happy, left work early, went home, and shot himself. I remember the grief counselor coming in to talk to us. My coworkers all sat around the conference table and everyone had to talk about how his suicide made them feel. I was the only person who said I was angry. While everyone said how selfish he was, how he did not matter anymore.  I was angry–I said it was because it did not need to happen if people were not so afraid to talk about mental illness to begin with. If my coworker didn’t feel ashamed–if when you asked him, “how are you” — and he gave a real answer–not just one to end the conversation–he may never have made that choice.  My other coworkers didn’t quite get that. When I said that I had tried to kill myself when I was 14, they all gave me that judgmental “she’s a crazy” look.

I am going to state these statements–and they are based purely on my own feelings and thoughts towards suicide and mental illness:

1. Suicide is not selfish: Nor can it be ignored. People who take their own lives do so because they see no other option. Suicide is part of a much larger picture. Suicide isn’t something somebody does because “so and so” needed attention. Actually suicide doesn’t need to even occur. If the stigma about talking about your feelings wasn’t so blatantly destroyed in this society, less people would feel the only way out was taking their own life.

2. Suicidal talk is not just talk: If someone says, “I am thinking about ending my life,” the WRONG response is “well don’t talk about it, just do it.” When I told friends when I was in high school that I wanted to end it all–that was the response I got. Looking back-they were not my friends. The CORRECT response would be, “lets go and talk.”

3. Don’t blame the person: Blame the society we live in. Back in the 1800’s, people in my tribe were locked up in asylums and never spoken about. Why? Simple. Self preservation. How horrible would it be if Mrs. Smith divulged that her daughter was locked away in a “looney bin”? What a shame it would bring about on the family! So in the act of self preservation, our Tribe has to be made to feel like outcasts. Keep our feelings in less be judged. If a person decides to take their own life—its because they felt there was no one or no place to turn to. Imagine what that loneliness feels like.

4. No one dies in vain: I truly and honestly believe that death–any death–happens for a reason. Whether a still born baby–an elderly person from natural causes–a murder victim–and a suicide victim. The Universe does not take away without giving back--even if that giving back is hard lesson. And with suicide, most times, the lesson is about the stigma surrounding mental illness.

5. Don’t scurry around the issue: Nothing pisses me off more than when I hear: “X was going through a divorce so X was feeling really depressed,” “X had a severe drinking problem and went to rehab because X was depressed,” “X’s friend is in therapy so X just wants attention,” “X just moved to a new school so X didn’t feel like they fit in.” Lets not skip around the issue. All of those “things” X was going through—-the key word is X was DEPRESSED. It has nothing to do with mommy and daddy issues, the wife bailing and taking the dog, the asshole boss. Depression, believe it or not, typically has NOTHING to do with what is outside the person. Being put in a new situation, life stress, drinking, divorce–those can exacerbate the depression–but major depression, just like most mental illnesses are biological. People in my tribe cant help what they feel. Its like your happy as hell–your life is amazing–but your brain is telling you the opposite. Imagine a constant tug of war between your brain and your heart. Rationalism and non-rationalism. All the time. Non-stop. We cant rationalize what our brain is telling us otherwise because somewhere–our brain chemistry is on overdrive.

6. (I am going to take heat for this) There is no cure for mental illness: We can have studies up the wall. We can make members of our tribe human lab rats. But the truth is, Big Pharma knows it racking in the dollars–hell I am participating in their gas guzzling pill creating industry every time I pick up my Celexa, Valium, Ativan and Wellbutrin. Just like AIDS and cancer–if there is a cure—we will never know. Big Pharma likes the money they can make from our tribe. Whether we want to admit it or not. And Big Pharma’s know, that every drug they make–if it works–at some point people will be desperate enough to drop thousands of dollars on a medicine their insurance will not cover because its “experimental” ~ so what is the CURE. TALK. OPENNESS. When someone asks “how are you feeling”—REALLY give them an answer. Not just “I am fine.” No. Say, “I am depressed and I need to talk.” And if they really care, and if they really want to help break the stigma…….then they will listen.

No one needs to be the next Freud or Jung. All they need to do is LISTEN. Break the stigma by learning how to ACTIVELY LISTEN to how someone is feeling–don’t jump in and tell them “get over it, its ok,” or “your life is perfect.” No. 

Just Listen.

I am writing this post obviously, because of the passing of Robin Williams…a member of my Tribe. May he open the roads for the spirits to pass over……

Time for change is NOW.

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To A Great Friend

I lost a very dear and sweet friend today. Her name was Kaala. She was a snake. Not just any snake. She was an extension of my soul. Kaala blessed me the day she was given to me. She had this presence about her. I know people believe that snakes don’t have feelings. That they cant reciprocate human love and affection. I can tell you, they are wrong. Kaala’s energy was warm, loving, tender and wise. She was my spirit partner. We danced together. Worked together. Healed together.

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She would sleep with me sometimes. Curl up in a ball next to me under the covers, and stay there till morning when I would have to put her back in the tank to go to work. She had this pure loving energy. Our souls were entwined. She awoke in me a Divine power that only few will ever experience in their lifetimes. She was my spirit animal. My totem. My spiritual teacher.

When we performed together, there was a connection that was so deep that people always thought I had choreographed my numbers with her. We could read each others moves-know what the other was thinking. We adopted this sort of psychic connection. She loved people. After every show, when people wanted to take pictures with her she would remain calm for hours, be held by strangers and have her photo taken over and over. Its funny to think how many people out there have a photo with her and will never realize just how special she was. She loved the company of people. We went every where together. Performed at concerts, night clubs, parties, in million dollar mansions, at someone’s wedding, birthday parties, holiday events, and she even got her chance to shine in a music video! We were at our best when we did our “Snake Tango.” She had this magnetic way about her. She graced my business cards, website, and even became part of my logo for my show, “Kalliopes Karavan.” Its her around my neck for this very blog. We did a lot of fun things together. And all this from a snake! Now that she is gone, people have been sharing memories. She was that much of a presence. Strong and powerful.

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When I would teach workshops on Serpentine Mythology, she was always there.  When I would teach workshops on moving past phobias, on the power of serpentine energy as a catalyst for healing, she was there. She was by my side. A serpentine version of a human teacher. She touched so many lives. She made people change their ideas about what they thought about snakes. In fact, she was the first snake some people ever held. I remember we did a workshop together, and a woman in the room had such bad memories about snakes. I had her hold Kaala, and through tears, this woman was able to openly discuss a traumatic life event she had as a child where snakes were prominent. She was able to let go of the pain and move forward. All because this beautiful creature allowed her to heal. Just by this woman holding Kaala, she was able to have closure on her past and begin the healing process.

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I know it sounds strange, but she had a humanistic quality about her. I have had many animals in my life, but she was special. I have never had such a deep bonding connection with an animal as much as I had it with her. I cant think of a time when I was with out her. Now I find myself experiencing just that. I literally feel like a piece of my soul went with her to the Summerlands. I cant believe she is gone from this earth. Its hard thinking of performing without her. Its hard imagining what it will be like in the summer, when I sit in my garden in the sun and have her slithering on me. It will be difficult to imagine healing work without her physically here.

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I believe in souls and life after death. I have seen people cross over. Can hear and see spirit. I know she is safe. Even now as I type this, I can see and feel her spirit and energy around me. In a strange way, she has become a part of my essence. A mingling of spirit and earthly body. But knowing that doesn’t make the grief any easier. It doesn’t take away the pain my heart feels. Nothing in my life will ever be the same, especially dancing. She gave to me what no human has yet to do. She became purely one with me–completely a part of me-mind, body and soul. I never doubted her, never lost trust in her, never felt angry with her. I never felt abandoned with her, never felt sadness or fear. I only felt one hundred percent pure Divine love. I felt such a healing warmth from her. I felt such a deep connection with her, that even in death, I know she is with me. 

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Some connections never cease to exist. Even when the physical body is no longer here. Rest in peace my beautiful friend. Guide me and protect me. Continue your teachings through your soul and know that you are forever a part of me.

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