Spirits open to the thrust of grace

Alec and the plants are getting along cheerfully, if non-dramatically. He’s not holding conversations with plant spirits or anything like that, but he’s drawn to the lau mafiafia in the sunroom. There are obvious enough reasons for that — it’s a beautiful plant, the flowers smell wonderful, and the sunroom is a pleasant place at this time of year — but when I pointed out that he makes an effort to sit by that particular plant when he’s out there, he looked a little surprised and embarrassed, shrugged, and said he just likes it. Relationships with spirits have started from less, and I can see an energy flow has already begun between them.

I regret all the more that the government says I’m too incompetent to use ‘ava safely, and they’ll deport me for having it. The reasons are so incredibly stupid, and based on crap science. I think ‘Ava-spirit would absolutely love Alec. But the warrior dead say he knows and will provide the path — and he certainly responded as if that’s true — so as much as I’d like him to get to know the plant spirits in the ways I know and understand best, this one is out of my hands.

And yeah, I did have that conversation with him. Sort of. But he still understood.

me: “This is the first time in my life I regret not having more time ahead of me.”

Alec: “Well, I love you, too.”

You know, because something Virgo in me isn’t capable of this, no matter how much I feel it:

I haven’t forgotten that I was told to enjoy all this, too. It’s easy to do. Tam and Alec are determined to deconstruct my orderly life a little when I’m in Glasgow — a lot of food eaten out of takeaway containers in bed, a multi-chapter ongoing failed attempt to explain the rules of cricket to me (leading directly to Tam’s existential cry — “Fucksake, you understand baseball!”), a tendency to send me home wearing one or the other of their shirts. I’m happy around them, simple as that.

Alec gave me a serious case of fuzzies by asking if the spirits’ rejection of pain work as a gate to them meant they were also going to be angry if we go on doing it for our own pleasure and exploration. I’ve had no sense of that, and I wouldn’t expect them to interfere in our relationship that way to start with. Not wanting to be contacted that way is one thing; telling us how to live would be another entirely. More people really should take hold of that concept.

And with the subject of people who try to force others to live by their rules firmly in mind, I decided it was time to go and see Louis and/or go see if the London-spirit wanted my help.

In spite of the situations that triggered the journey, I went into the Middleworld rather than the Lowerworld for it because the spirit of an existing city is alive, current, and very connected to the flesh world. That meant walking along the river when I reached the bottom of the levee, rather than crossing. I didn’t see Louis, but it’s very likely given his nature and what he does that I won’t see him anywhere other than the Lowerworld unless he also journeys and meets me elsewhere.

I started walking north along the river (in orientation to the flesh-world version of the place), but before I got far, north became south. That’s always been a Middleworld thing for me; the rules of this world often apply in odd or modified forms, and are just as often broken as the journey requires. I’d go north in the flesh-world place; but I need to go south from Inverness to get to London, so south I went, and never mind that the river I was walking along is in Colorado to start with.

I started out looking for the city’s skyline, but I quickly realized that was the wrong approach; I was looking for the spirit of the city, not for spirits that had left it. Almost the moment I realized that, I saw him sitting on a bench next to the river (which, I assume, was now the Thames as it appears in the Middleworld).

He looked younger than I expected, and was wearing a shirt that reminded me of a patchwork quilt. I’ve seen dress of that nature a few times on city-spirits, always on those of larger cities with clearly defined neighborhoods or districts; as a symbolic representation of a whole made of diverse parts, it’s lovely and effective. He looked like someone in the midst of hard grieving, which was hardly a surprise. He did notice me, though.

You aren’t one of mine.

No, but I come as a friend, to help if you’d like. May I do what I can?


I really wasn’t sure what to do beyond expressing sympathy. Can you do a soul retrieval for a spirit? That was a thought to think more about at another time, though. I was here, now, and this wasn’t the time for experimentation. I sat with him and did what I know works: I held my hands over his heart (or where it would be) and opened up to energy flow.

Not surprisingly, it works about a million times more easily and effectively on the other side of the veil. I was surprised when he took my hands and put them down on his chest. (I was holding them slightly away, as I do with anyone I don’t know well.) Had this been a human being I was working with, I’d have picked my hands up again; with him, I didn’t. Different rules of conduct, and safe space to make different assumptions (such as that he was doing what would make the work more effective, not setting me up for a lawsuit). We stayed there for a while — it’s also the nature of the Middleworld, where you can travel through time very freely, that time is wonky, so I don’t know how long — and then he picked up one of my hands and gently kissed it. I took that as a signal to move the other hand, too.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. If you know other things that would help, we can talk about them. Just tell me.

You’ll come back?

Whenever I sense I’m needed. You can call me over, too. It might not always work, but it usually does. I’m good at bird messages.

He actually smiled, which did my heart good. It was a little wavery, but it was there. I’m very good at pigeons.

That would be good. I don’t see many around my house. I have lots of other doves around, but feral city pigeons, rarely if at all.

My impulse was to hug him, but I thought even with the willingness to be touched, this was still London. A hug would probably be just a bit too American on first meeting. When he rose to help me up, he kept my hand a few moments longer than necessary, and gave it a gentle squeeze before he let it go and I went on my way.

I can send energy from this side, as well, through meditation and healing grids, and I’ll do that. I’ll also be looking out for unusual encounters with pigeons. For some reason, I smile like a goof every time I think of I’m very good at pigeons. I need to stitch that as the caption on a cross-stitch of the London skyline…which, actually, I have one of in my to-do stash.

When I first got involved with the guys, I was told through divination that one of the things they would give me (other than lots of happy orgasms) was a community to be part of and to serve, something I haven’t had for any real time my adult life. I thought that meant the two of them, but they quickly showed me there was a lot more to it. They’re part of a somewhat shifting group of a dozen or so friends who are a lot more like a family, or a tribe. Most of them (that I’ve met, at least) are artists. There’s a lot of shared living space, fluid and open poly relationships, pooled resources, and some very Uranian attitudes toward all of the above and about art’s place in society. In other words, I love being around them. That I’ve met so far, there’s two painters, a metal sculptor, a photographer, a potter, and Tam’s cousin who makes jewelry. (Tam’s a tattoo and body-mod artist; to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Alec does. I suggested drug dealer because nothing ever seems to interfere with or have to be rescheduled because of work; Tam fell over laughing and said no.)

When I first started meeting them all, they made me feel really welcome, as a poet and as a healer. There was a lot of interest in what I do as a healer, and even some in learning it. I’ve started finding my way back in among them — the easiest way, through Tam’s bearhugging Viking metalsmith cousin, who said the interest is still there. And then he squished me and gave me a beautiful, teeny dragonfly earring I haven’t taken out since other than to sleep. It’s a lovely way to call on my oldest energy-focused ally, and a lovely welcome back.

(photo: everywhere there’s internet, apparently)

Brighid/Maman Brigitte: On Justice, Healing, and Transgression

Not all Vodou traditions believe it — and to some, it’s deeply offensive — but those that do believe sing a song: “Maman Brijit, li soti nan anglet.”

Maman Brigitte, she comes from England. Technically, she doesn’t; but if you take England as being a catch-all word for that whole region (as “the Americas” is for North, Central, and South America), the picture becomes a little clearer.

Maybe they saw one another as a kind of strangely kindred spirits, the slaves and the indentured servants thrown together on their separate journeys. Where language was less of a barrier, they would have shared stories, as people do when they’re trying to bridge an enormous gap of understanding. By telling our stories, we tell who we are. Someone — a young woman destined to be someone’s maid, or a blacksmith’s apprentice — told the stories of Brighid. And they were heard.

When those thrown together were again forced apart, each carried with them the other’s stories. And something more. Faced with two peoples who needed her, Brighid made a decision: She went with both.

The Brighid who went with her adopted people didn’t stay the same one who continued on with her original people. She took a new name, Maman Brigitte, and a husband from among the new pantheon she found herself a part of — Barón, lwa, king, and father of the dead. Queen and mother were familiar roles to her; lwa, she settled into readily enough, both changing and staying fundamentally the same.

Maybe she simply remembered and honored the way she was taken in by her new people, and embraced the way in which she could return that hospitality, so important to her original nature. She and Barón are the parents of unnumbered dead, but she gives birth to none of them. Instead, the two reclaim the unremembered and unhonored dead and bring them into their family, the Ghede. There, they are remembered and honored by all the faithful on their holy day, the Fete Ghede.

Maman Brigitte is first and always queen and mother of the dead, but she touches the living as well, where they walk the borders of her land; that’s why she and Barón are rulers of the graveyard, keeping a foot in each world. Those who are gravely ill petition Barón for his mercy; it is said that until he digs the grave, no human being dies, and if he can be convinced to stay his hand, the illness will not be fatal. He is interested in justice rather than mercy, though. If the death comes through malice, or at the wrong time, he will not dig the grave; if it is natural and just, in the proper order of things, he digs, no matter how piteous the petition.

But not dying is not the same as being healed, and it is here that Maman may step in, bringing those who Barón spares back to health; one song strongly suggests that she will take the illness of the person who has been spared into herself in order to heal it. However it’s done, healing is certainly familiar ground to her as Brighid, one way she has found to be both of her selves.

Her family are all known for being rowdy, raunchy, and transgressive, and faced with that enormous difference, the quite staunchly gracious Brighid embraced rowdiness — perhaps because she recognized the wisdom of their behavior. She understands transgression; recall the story of the king who meant to shortchange her by telling her she could have as much land as her mantle could cover. She transgressed, bent the unfair rules to her benefit; when she spread her mantle, it was suddenly large enough to cover what would become Ireland.

Death is inevitable, the Ghede tell us, but instead of mourning that, embrace and celebrate life instead. You will die, but why waste your life fearing that when you can live instead? And, they slyly tell us, death isn’t so bad, really; there are no more rules, not for them. So they come to us and demand rum and cigars and money (pocket change will do; the point is the giving, not the amount), curse and make crude jokes, and dance wildly with the living, doing the lascivious-looking (and incredibly skilled) banda, which directly mimics sexual intercourse. To be offended is to miss the point — both points — of their outrageousness. They want us to live, and they have a definite way of turning a Vodou ceremony into a party for as long as they remain. And if things are getting too serious for their taste, they’ll crash a ceremony, a very great transgression indeed. You don’t have to be one of their claimed ones to find yourself in an encounter with them; we all meet death eventually.

And overseeing it all — joining in, too, make no mistake about that — are Barón and Maman, reminding us as well that love survives death. Do they not stand before us as proof of it? And maybe as proof that love can overcome any other obstacle, as well. Where they arrive together, their affection for each other is usually very evident, but it couldn’t have been easy, not in the beginning, to find common ground. Maybe they began by telling their stories, bringing it all back to where it started.


In the personal, I have a strange relationship with Brighid/Maman. I know her in both forms, maybe because I have Irish and Welsh roots not all that far back, but I am American-born and have spent a considerable amount of my life in Louisiana, and in New Orleans in particular. It was there she came to me, as Maman Brigitte, and watched over me. My boss in my only steady job there, who was a mambo, identified her as standing near me, and was the one who told me about her origins. When I later moved to the UK, eventually putting down roots in Scotland, I met her as Brighid.

The strangest thing to me is that each has colored the other, at least as I know them. Maman is a good bit less rowdy with me than is her usual way, though her bluntness with me when I need it knows no bounds. Brighid is a good bit less formal, and shares Maman’s intense interest in how satisfactory my love life is (oh, all right…my sex life).

There’s also been some alteration on the spiritual level. Brighid is a natural ally of shamans; smiths have long held the reputation, often rightly earned, of being shamans. Meanwhile, as I’m not formally initiated (which she’s never asked of me), Maman doesn’t take possession of me. While it is impossible for the living to enter the place where the lwa reside, she has been willing to meet me on different ground through journeywork and shamanic dreaming.

In either guise, they take a strong interest in both of my guys, especially in Alec. Maman just loves him. Maybe she sees a story she knows well: He and I have struggled with our differences, which are many. We were born thousands of miles apart, and sometimes it seems like the only thing we share culturally is a language — and only barely that; a Scot in full roar is a thing of beauty and incomprehension. There’s also a considerable age difference between us, and socioeconomic ones, as well. We’re very different people from very different places, learning to weave some strange and strong new cloth from all those disparate threads.

Yeah, I think she knows that story by heart.

(image: The cross-stitch project I’ll tackle as soon as I’ve gathered all the materials I need)

Build a bed out of oak and pine

I probably should have expected it with Spider’s return, but I really wasn’t ready for it: Seeing auras, energy bodies, and energy connective lines and cords has moved from being something I can do with a little effort to being something I can stop doing with a little effort. And I do have to stop; it’s unspeakably beautiful and completely distracting, not to mention that it makes me stare at people, and the blast of information I get is pretty overwhelming. I’m a hazard to myself walking down the street that way. I see people who could use the help of what I do, and sometimes it’s nearly unbearable to not run up to them and offer. I see a lot of things I don’t really want to know, but I see even more good things. Happiness is breathtaking, especially when it’s shared. We’re all light, only barely contained in our skins, and it’s the nature of that light to reach out toward other light.

I can’t wander the city in that state and expect to not get hit by a car, but I can and do sit in my favorite park and soak it in. Hold a book, and no one notices a blank stare. When I go out to feed the hoodies in the garden, I see the connections among them, the loose hierarchy led by the bold guy I feed from hand, all the interconnections. I can pick out mated pairs and follow how the hierarchy weaves through and among them. They’re teaching me by being there for me to observe and learn from. I’m feeling — and seeing now — the presence of the archangels again as well, something that hasn’t happened since I left New Orleans. I missed them more than I knew, and they always come when healing is about to become my focus.

I see them everywhere I go if I don’t have the awareness consciously dampened down. Being everywhere is kind of their deal, and I’ve always known them as beings of pure energy that accept forms as we envision them, to make connection easier for us. Now I’m clearly seeing them that way. Something very much like this:

I’ve restarted a guided meditation (found here, for free; I follow it up with this music, also free, to give me a little time to rest in the meditative state after) before I go to sleep. The immediate effect is remarkable: I normally sleep well, but it can take me an hour or so to get to sleep initially. After the meditation, I take out the earbuds, turn over, and go straight to sleep. I’ve been wearing my Louisiana opal (which contains all their colors), and a similar sense of calm and security falls over me when I put it on, minus the falling asleep.

I believe it’s a combination of forces that have stirred this seeing ability in such abundance — returning to shamanic work, the energy balancing being with Alec and Tam again gives me, the archangels’ return, and Spider’s re-entering my life. The usefulness of this to my work is already obvious. The limiting factor there has been not having work to do.

I asked if I’m needed to aid the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, then sat in waiting for a sense or a direct response, but there’s been none so far. I’m still listening; conditions change, and if they do, I’m willing. As things pile up one after the next — add Finsbury Park to the growing stack — I’m starting to be more certain that helping London’s wounded city-spirit as I spoke with Louis about is going to be the work I can do. I’ve worked with city-spirits a few times before; it’s always a powerful experience, in part because our spirits — and our physical beings as well — are so deeply intertwined with city-spirits. They welcome love from us. I’ll need to go back soon and see if he wants to do some work together, or if I should just set out and introduce myself on my own.

Trips to Glasgow are going to be kind of mini-vacations for me — time to shed the serious stuff, good and stressful alike. Tam and Alec have what I need to get me out of my own brain for a while — beer and leftover takeaway for breakfast in bed, rolling around naked, some more-intense stress release, cheerful offers to find a Tory and spraypaint him/her/it bright yellow just for me. A day to get my head right, two days to enjoy it being that way. A good mix, and it quiets that skittery, time-to-pack-up-and-go feeling that has plagued my entire adult life.

Alec came back with me this time, and I decided it was time to up the ante with a trip to Culloden together. If he’s going exploring with me, he needs to not be freaked out by this stuff. I wasn’t expecting him to be, but assumptions are a bad idea where we’re going. I have a strong sense that what we’re capable of is a gateway to the ancestors and warrior dead, and they need to know him, to understand that he’s my partner in this, and to hear his voice from this side. It could make all the difference if I need help getting back.

He was a lot more excited than freaked out. His first question was if he’d see them.

Anything’s possible with him, but it wasn’t likely. “I’m not sure. But they’ll definitely see you, and that’s important.”

He didn’t see anything, but he seemed like he was feeling something. I left him to wander as he was called to while I did my silent work: That’s Alec. He’s the man I think is going to help me reach you. I trust him, so anything you see is all right and agreed to between us already. I decided to skip the part where he’s been gleefully referring to himself as my spirit ned. I honestly wasn’t sure I could explain that one.

The message came so clearly — and so loudly to my inner ear — that I literally staggered. Fortunately, no one including Alec was nearby, or it might have been interrupted.

Not that way. We’ll not have it. There are other ways. He knows them. Ask him.

He’d made his way back around to me by the time I was done. “My mum’s always said there were people on her side who died here. I don’t know if that’s so or not. But it feels like it just now.”

Nothing would surprise me any more these days. I told him what they’d said. It took him about five seconds of pondering before he lit up and informed me that he does indeed know another way. When we got home, he made a beeline for the sunroom, and I felt a little dumb. Of course. The plant spirits are likely to be pretty friendly to him. For reasons.

Hee. :)

(art: Artwork by Daniel B. Holeman)

Once a language geek, always a language geek….

Word order matters:

“She told him that she loved him.” + “only” =

“Only she told him that she loved him.”
(No one but her ever declared love to him.)

“She only told him that she loved him.”
(She told him that she loved him, but didn’t do anything else about it.)

“She told only him that she loved him.”
(She told him that she loved him, but kept it a secret from everyone else.)

“She told him only that she loved him.”
(She told him that she loved him, but didn’t tell him anything else.)

“She told him that only she loved him.”
(She told him that no one in the world but her loved him.)

“She told him that she only loved him.”
(She told him that she loved him, but she didn’t feel anything else for him.)

“She told him that she loved only him.”
(She told him that she loved him and no one else.)

“She told him that she loved him only.”
(She told him that she loved him and no one else. She was probably a poet or a songwriter.)