Tag: animism

The Weekly Rune – Mannaz

Mannaz - Weekly Rune on Intentional Insights, by S. Kelley HarrellMannaz – human– Again we have another reversed Rune presenting us with an opportunity to go deeper within. As Mannaz reminds us of the strength in human connection, the power of acting with All That Is, so it’s merkstave position calls us to be aware of when we are not connected, when we don’t feel part of the greater flow. Note that Mannaz is pictured upright, or bright-stave.

Last week, Eihwaz encouraged us to change, and Mannaz may be asking us to sit with the effects of that change.  It calls us to put down rational thinking and go with gut feeling, which for some may be frightening to do.

Likewise, as this Rune is about connecting with other people, its reversed position gives caution to the way in which we socialize this holiday season. Calling to mind community concerns, it may be helpful to tend the web, itself. It may not necessarily be about any personal need, but to be aware of our interconnectedness, and perhaps give a little extra to the care of our bonds.

Also, Mannaz  illuminates the human in balance with itself. Take time this week to address Mind/Body/Soul/Emotional needs. Just as you draw on support around you, truly, deeply support yourself. This act of self love is your calling, your gift, and your greatest secret potential.

As you come to terms with your own challenges in connecting, know that you’re not alone. Even through our isolation, we are joined. Everyone you know is going through something that leaves them feeling separate.

Mannaz isn’t without bright notes, regardless of position. Just as merkstave, it indicates feeling outside the web of All Things, so it portends our rejoining.

Samhain Sentiments – Compassionate Work with the Dead

Real Wyrd - A Modern Shaman's Roots in the Middle World by S. Kelley HarrellFor several years I’ve made effort to talk openly paranormal experiences from the perspective of someone who views them not as Nature’s side shows or intrusive investigation into the spirit world, rather as an honest look into times that the unseen pokes back in startling ways. Ultimately, creepy experiences are still about spiritual imbalance and restoring balance where possible, and where wanted.

It’s that last bit that gets many psychics and intuitives who work with the dead, discarnate souls, and general bump-in-the-nightness into personal trouble. Many contemporary empaths bring to their work a good/evil dichotomy that implies where imbalance is observed, balance/healing must be done. My experience has been more along the lines of open dialogue, which implies listening to the distressed being’s story, as well as compassionate companionship in facilitating them to what they need. That may be total release, to move on to their next destiny. It may be a kind gesture that affirms them in some way. It may be realization that the dynamic is note mine to affect at the time.

Ultimately, my experience has been that healing can’t be forced on beings in the unseen, any more than it can be forced on those of us in the formed realm. That bit of insight, along with a few others came a a few years ago, in a blog post called, Six Things the Dead Want Us to Know About Life.

Thursday Betwixt – After the Journey

Herbert's Soul by Joe Poole @ flickr“Then he began to think of all the things Christopher Robin would want to tell him when he came back from wherever he was going to, and how muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain to try and get them right in his mind. ‘So, perhaps,’ he said sadly to himself, ‘Christopher Robin won’t tell me anymore,’ and he wondered if being a faithful Knight meant that you just went on being faithful without being told things” ~A. A. Milne, The Wonderful World of Pooh

I’ve been re-thinking the format of my blog, and in doing so would like to create a more open dialogue around modern shamanism and animism.

“That’s not so different from what you’ve been doing,” you say.

Well, yes, but after spending some time clarifying what I need to do on my personal path and in my work, I realize this blog isn’t doing enough. I’m still open to the reader Q&A format, so feel free to shoot me inquiries. The thing is,  it’s hard to ask a question when you don’t know the subject well. While we have come a long way, culturally, in the twenty-five years of my study of shamanism, we still don’t talk about the lifestyle around a shamanistic or animistic lifestyle, which frankly, has a lot to do with the problems that arise when learning to journey. To identify my entries on this theme, I will be posting them under the category “Thursday Betwixt,” dedicated space in my blog to address a topic with a foot in both worlds.

And before you say it, I know I’ve always said there’s no veil. There’s no line that says here’s Here, and———-there’s conveniently, separately located There, the official Other Side. Nonetheless, the need to articulate how that between experience feels and works in daily life requires some kind of identifier, and I’m not going to reinvent the conceptual wheel. Rather, I’ll just go with what we’ve got.

So here’s where this new direction starts: life after shamanic journeying. When I first discovered there were classes that taught shamanic techniques, that collection of techniques was put forward as shamanism. Well, they’re not =) What is even harder to process is that many are still presenting journeying and shamanism in that synonymous way–as if the ability to slide into trance makes one a shaman. Without celebration of our natural inclination toward trance states. Without discussion of what to do with the information stirred by the mere process of journeying. Without discussion of how life after that point changes–even if you have no plans to become a shaman.  Without plans for how to carry the ecstatic experience into daily life–back to the foot in both worlds thing. Without provisions for how to recreate that ecstasy on your own.

Many present the technique of journeying as the feature distinguishing shamanism from other intuitive/psychic arts. It is. But that’s not all. I’ve said from day one of deciding–and it is a decision–to be a modern shaman, that anyone can see. We’re all seers, all intuitive. Going into trance doesn’t make you a shaman, it makes you human. It’s not a special skill reserved for certain people. But knowing what to do with intuition, how to respond to it, how to incorporate its wisdom into everyday life is a very special skill, that can–and should–be learned, for your own journeys, and especially if you want to work with others. Otherwise, dipping into journeying can make a huge mess, a spiritual crisis bigger than what brought you to learning the technique to start with.

To that end, a lot of people come to me, after a crash weekend course in journeying, needing to sort it all out, because that’s the part that can’t be taught in two days. Apart from the emotional fallout–which spans absolute ecstasy to horror, depression to joy, and everything between–that often occurs after learning to journey, the thing I hear most is how they can’t hold the ecstatic experience. They can’t recreate it the way they felt it in those early soul adventures.

The very first introductions we make, actively engaging the unseen, blow our socks off. Most definitely they alter our sense of self and Life, on a dime.  Even people who consider their initial soul travels “unsuccessful,” with regard to meeting allies recognize the innate power of the altered state.  In fact, often those with least expectation are the most deeply affected. Without fail, though, eventually the colors fade, the messages obscure. Sometimes communication stops short, and guides don’t even show up. Why?

Sure,  part of that can be chalked up to dynamics. There’s something magickal about group sacred space, particularly when it’s created with the intention to facilitate and support shamanic journeying. Creating space in isolation doesn’t always get the same results, though if done with the intention of bringing in the totems in your familiar to help you hold the space, it can be even more personal, more transcendent.  Another culprit is not observing ritual for journeying. The key thing to know about not being able to sustain the thrilling, vivid journeys of fledgling soul travel is… no one can recreate it that way, without manifesting through the rest of life what each journey teaches.  Journeys become rote because shamanism isn’t just journeying.

It’s not a personal fault; it’s a deep component of our individualistic culture. We aren’t steeped in honoring the unseen through ordinary, commonplace gestures. Our standard mode of operation is one or the other–Here or There. We don’t recognize both at once. Even those of us on religious paths generally aren’t that thorough in bringing those spiritual tenets through all the days we’re not in earshot of the congregation. We are not known for walking our talk.

Without consistent observation of the unseen  when we’re not in trance, it’s really hard to sustain exhilarating journeys into the Dreamtime. Journeying is all or nothing, in that to continue having life-altering experiences in trance, you have to manifest what you glean in them, in day-to-day life. What we do Here, directly impacts what we can achieve There. It’s all connected. When we water our houseplants, we have to consider our relationship to them, how our care affects them. When we walk through a space, we have to realize we aren’t just moving through it, but are engaging with it.  When we encounter conflict, we mustn’t just rush to heal it, but consider its role in our story.

As seekers on a shamanistic path it’s not just suggested that we root into the unseen as deeply as possible, it’s expected. We don’t just roll up on the Other Side to learn things and heal ourselves or others. Relationships with Guides and totems need reciprocity as much as other relationships in our lives. Also, shamanic journeying isn’t just the formation of relationships to the spiritual allies you encounter in that state, it’s a relationship to journeying, itself.

Journeying is a lifestyle change. It gives you the seeds to grow what you need in your life. Unplanted, nothing can grow, Here or There. Planted, you grow everywhere.

Weekly Rune – Uruz

Weekly Rune - UruzUruz – Auroch – Anytime the wild things show up, it’s about to go big.  An initiation is upon us. When we encounter this Rune, we are not only engaging base primal forces, we embody them.

Part of the mystery and responsibility of being human–soul in form–is realizing our power. New Age culture has put great emphasis on honoring the soul, somewhat the mind, though significantly less the sacred nature of the body.

In reality, because we are in bodies, we have the greatest possibility to create impact as a soul.  After all, we chose to come here. We chose to engage in this frustrating, amazing, beautiful, intense way, and that creative tension is no better presented than in Uruz. We can circle personal life purpose from every direction, probe it from all vantage points, and core truth will always be the same, every incarnation, every being, every path: we exist to create ourselves as we truly want to be.

The work is only in figuring out who, perhaps what, that is. Therein lies our greatest responsibility.

How we imagine ourselves determines perhaps everything we do. What we do impacts everything, every thing. Such is the truth of animism, karma, the Law of Attraction, All Things. This is the level of power of Uruz.

Give deep consideration to how you create yourself this week. Are you who you want to be? What are your other options? Are the obstacles to being who you want to be limitations of your own imagination, or are they fear that the people around you won’t permit you to change? Whatever challenge impedes how you manifest yourself, this week universal forces collude to inspire Everything That You Are.

Contact Kelley for a personalized Rune Reading.

Weekly Rune – Nauthiz

Nauthiz - Intentional Insight's Weekly Rune by S. Kelley Harrell, Soul Intent Arts


Nauthiz – Need – Anytime this Rune comes up in a cast, I think it’s appropriate to examine where we are standing in our own way. We interpret it commonly as need, though Nauthiz provokes thought of what holds us back, what little irritation do we complain and fret over, yet we cling to for some unconscious reason. What we say we don’t want is often the one thing we refuse to change. In that light, this Rune becomes more about constraint, what holds us back.

Nauthiz is related to the youngest of the Norns, Skuld, who is the keeper of what “should” be, which many interpret as the future. However, wordsmiths among us recognize ‘should’ as a modal auxiliary, indicating that outcomes manifest based on conditions met. In other words, we can set the dominoes up any way we like, and based on our knowledge, skill, and perhaps wisdom, they should fall the way we’ve planned. Yet there are always variables we can’t foresee. The dominoes will fall the way they fall, and we have only to react in the best way that we can.

Futhark_RSSx150Keep this relationship between need and fate in mind this week. So often what we think we need is connected to what we think should happen, what we should get. The appearance of Nauthiz isn’t suggesting that we will or won’t meet our need, but that we be positively certain we can handle what comes.  By that I mean, this Rune carries the ability to assist us in finding peace, regardless.

When we meet resistance in fulfilling our needs, do we respond compulsively just to make the tension stop? Do we buckle down and address the core issue?  Do we risk the reality of learning that our needs are really wants?  How we deal with this kind of stress is the heart of Nauthiz, as in learning to move through that stress, the need is either released or met.

Hold Self carefully this week. Test the confines in the places of strongest resistance and be honest about who’s really holding the reins.

Contact Kelley for a personalized Rune Reading.

Weekly Rune – Laguz

Weekly Rune - Laguz, by S. Kelley Harrell, Intentional InsightsLaguz – Water –  Fascinating that Laguz visits as mere miles from me Chapel Hill is flooded with more rain to come, while across the country in Arizona, wild fires blaze out of control. In that light some greater bid for balance comes to mind, and the ever-humbling knowledge that humanity is but one tiny component of Nature.

Weather shamanism  is all about balance–not controlling rain or shine, but coming into concert with Nature in a way that the atmosphere isn’t just predictable, but the inner scape healthily adapts to it. Thus, when the inner being is tamed, surrounding elements rally in support. Balance is attained. Indeed, Laguz reminds us of the fact that it is our nature to go with the flow, a feat more challenging than just ego surrender.

In order to go with the flow we must be in balance internally, as well as externally. We must be able to release and trust the elements to carry us, without controlling where we go. How many times can we reinvent ourselves along the passage to faith? How many shadows, insecurities, and fears can we confront in the narrow gap between the realization that change is needed and the acceptance of it? A whole lot more than most of us would care to admit, I’m certain.

The surrender Laguz brings isn’t in masterminding a needed outcome or reaching a coveted conclusion, but in letting go in order for it to find us. Laguz reminds us keenly that it isn’t about the destination, but the journey, that when we let go, what we need is already there.

This week consider your relationship to Nature, and honestly assess how well your inner processes surrender to those seeking to provide support around you. Stop fighting the current. Whatever the circumstances, regardless of the weather, let go of what does not serve you and let it carry you.

Honoring Cycles

S. Kelley Harrell's Gift of the Dreamtime - Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma For years I thought I had reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I never felt particularly down in the gloom of winter, but in the overwhelming bright sunlight of summer. Funny acronym, SAD. I knew deep down, though, that’s not what it was. This time of year for me is a collusion of cycles ending and beginning, by which I specifically mean birthdays, anniversaries.

Just as there are the micro cycles we see and know throughout our lives all the time, also are bigger ones we aren’t so familiar with, until something happens, until something demands that we respect them.

However sad or appropriate it may be, the last time I was abused was the night before my 7th birthday, which is to say that I remember it vividly. There were candles, a pool party that wasn’t, rallying of troops, and a dire negotiation with the Multiverse–which for whatever reason worked out on my behalf. The juxtaposition of that event with my birthday, the most hallowed of holidays any of us can ever have–the opportunity to stand in the presence of the Multiverse and say, “I’m Still Here…” Well, let’s just say that for a very long time, I wasn’t convinced of that, and even when I was, it wasn’t easy.

I reached a point of quiet on that front some years ago, in my mid-thirties. The sting was gone, though a dull nothingness took up its place. Then something truly miraculous happened, again. On my birthday in 2001, I first held in my hands my memoir, Gift of the Dreamtime. The irony wasn’t lost on me, though I didn’t shrink to that. I realized as I thumbed through those crisp new pages that a new era was beginning. I had to bless the old, take up its weary bones, and let new being take form.

So it has. This year I celebrate my birthday, honor the child who brought me to it, and the support of people from around the world who first read about the crossroads of my birthday in Gift of the Dreamtime. It has become more than my memoir. In the true sense of the ancient healing story, it has inspired many others to listen to their own, to tell them, to share their truths.

This ninth year of its being, you can download the ebook from Amazon for free 28-29 June.

Thanks so much for giving it your blessing on its amazing journey around the world!

Engaging the Spirit World, Edited by Lupa, featuring the essay "Remembering the Tradition: Timeless Heritage, Curious Fate," by Kelley.

Engaging the Spirit World

Engaging the Spirit World, Edited by Lupa, featuring the essay “Remembering the Tradition: Timeless Heritage, Curious Fate,” by Kelley.

Available on:

Animism–the belief in spirits–is considered to be an integral part of many pagans’ paths. We call on these beings when we create our rituals, when we work magic, and even in our everyday lives. For some, though, spirits are the very center of their practices. This book collects writings from a variety of practitioners, exploring animism in nature, in technology, and even within the human psyche. Speaking from both theory and practice, the authors present personal experiences to demonstrate concepts, and provide ideas and tools for the reader to work with. Featuring essays from Dawn M. Allenbach, Kali Black, Vronica Cummer, Kenn Day, jaymi elford, Taylor Ellwood, S. Kelley Harrell, Raven Kaldera, Erynn Rowan Laurie, Rhiannon Louve, Lupa, Bari Mandelbaum, Paleo, Pia Van Ravestein, Andrieh Vitimus and Mel White.

Weekly Rune – Othala

Othala - Intentional Insight's Weekly RuneOthala – property – Remember that journey we took with Raidho last week? Well, we did it right!  Over the last few weeks the story of the Runes has been interesting. Three weeks ago we had Dagaz, second to the last Rune – complete connection. Following it was Othala, the “last” Rune, bringing the inspiration to share within that connection. Raidho came along, a celebration of wild cowboy skills in how we move forward, not just to share the connection, but devise how we can take it deeper. So here we are, right back at that very opportunity!  This is why I love the Runes. Such a clear oracle: the story they tell is our own.

This week’s Destination Othala is telling us to look no further than our own backyard for how we can deepen our connection with All Things. Othala is about all things clan, which goes far beyond being related, shared resources, and protection in numbers. To our forebearers, Othala represented a unified spirituality, a community of soul that transcended corporeal boundaries, like time and space. The ancestors remained alive and active, informants of every facet of life. They maintained a voice in the direction of how their descendants carried the line forward.

The memo here is we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, in focusing our life force. We don’t have to feel alone or isolated on our journey deeper into All Things. Take time to explore ancestral roots this week. This could be the literal family tree, or it could be connecting with the nature of  immediate surroundings. It could mean now is the time to be active in determining what roots are put down, how we stretch into manifestation.

Because if we can’t find our connection with All Things in our own backyard, we never really had it to begin with…

Weekly Rune – Raidho

Weekly Rune - Raidho, Intentional Insights, Soul Intent ArtsRaidho – travel – In the almost-year that I’ve written the Weekly Runes column, this is the first time we’ve cast Raidho. This Rune has always been special to me as a writer, because it directly addresses how we tell our story.

Many people read Raidho in a very literal context, meaning, a journey between two points, emphasizing the mode of transportation involved, movement across space and time, and everything that occurs between origin and destination. Indeed, the stuff of our most compelling stories.  What is important to understand about Raidho is that it’s about holding a focus over duration, associating a starting point and result with every choice, decision, thought, and deed committed along the way. Are we acting in support of our intention? Are we really making the choices that align us with what we say we want, where we say we want to go? Are we fixed on a precise destination with blinders to the journey, or are we easily taken off course, dazzled by every glittering crossroad?

With Raidho we begin to understand how our choices affect All Things, and how our ability to gently hold focus while changing coordinates on-the-fly informs the story we tell of ourselves, of our lives.

Take some time this week to consider movement, origin, destination, and purpose. Not only is each of these a vital navigational tool in life, they are also allies in how we craft ourselves.