I’m thrilled to have Pagan leader and author, Shauna Aura Knight, sharing insight into her teen years
Also, don’t miss her awesome giveaway. Comment to enter!
My parents were both into hippy woo-woo mysticism, so I was sort of raised with a lot of this type of work. My parents had friends who read auras, aligned chakras, did past life regressions and channeling, and other psychic phenomena. However, I found myself called to spiritual work, and particularly toward spiritual service, about the time I was 12 or 13.
In the following years a lot happened. I had been reading a lot of epic fantasy novels that planted the idea in my head of priestesses serving the gods and their community—in other words, the idea that there could be clergy that wasn’t male-only. I had also begun reading old Celtic myths and those resonated with me. Artistically, I became obsessed with Celtic knotwork. I had some intense dreams of being a priestess serving a community or a temple, and those dreams began to shape both my own spiritual seeking as well as my calling to spiritual leadership.
Keep in mind, this was before there was much in the way of Internet. So even though there were big Pagan festivals out there, I didn’t know about any of them.
When I was 15 I had a specific vision of the divine that was more specific and potent than the dreams and visions I’d had before. This was also the age when I really put a name to what I was—Pagan. I kept reading, kept learning. I bought some books on Celtic Paganism, and at that time the best name I had for what I wanted to be was a Druid.
I got to college, I found my first Pagan shop, and I found some other Pagans. I went to my first public ritual, though it sort of sucked. It wasn’t until I was in my early/mid 20’s that I tried to actually attend another public ritual in Chicago. It wasn’t until I started attending Reclaiming Tradition rituals that I found a ritual style that really worked for me.
In the past, I had found more spiritual connection from trance-dancing to Goth or Techno music in a club or at a rave, or even at a drum jam. The ecstatic style of the Reclaiming rituals worked for me. It was in my late 20’s when I discovered Diana’s Grove, the retreat center and mystery school where I did my ritual facilitation and leadership training. I can’t even express how relieved I was that there were other people out there called to this work, and that they could teach me some of what I wanted to learn in order to step into spiritual service. I had felt alone for so many years.
How would you describe your work/path/art to a beginner?
There are two facets to my work and my path. One is my own personal spiritual path, and one is my work as a Pagan leader. Neither is a straight path, and neither is easy to describe—but, that’s kind of the way it goes for the deeper mysteries. By mystery I mean, those experiences that ultimately you have to live and experience to really understand.
My own personal path could probably be best articulated as Celtic Shamanic, but I don’t practice that work with a group, largely as I don’t know anyone local to me who does work like I do. But a lot of that internal spiritual work anyways. It’s dreamwork—writing down my dreams and exploring the dream symbols to better understand myself and explore my own shadows. It’s also creativity work—writing poetry, painting, and other creative work that I do with a spiritual intention. It’s trancework—which, for me, rarely means a stillness meditation, and instead usually involves some kind of singing or dancing work or other work to get into a trance state and commune with the divine, with the deep. It’s also a just a lot of how I live my life, trying to live my spiritual values in how I treat people.
My leadership work comes out of that–out of trying to live my spiritual values—particularly in the area of service. I teach workshops on leadership and on how to facilitate rituals for spiritual groups, and I lead public rituals at some events, as well as for the broader Chicagoland Pagan community. There are different types of spiritual leaders, different skillsets we are good at, and part of leadership is figuring out what you’re good at and what you aren’t. Some people are really good at being administrators, others are good at being the visionary. Some are good pastoral counselors. Others are good teachers or good ritualists. Some are good public speakers, others aren’t. Some people are naturally talented in the ways of working with the spirit world or doing trance possession, others aren’t.
For instance, I’m good at organizing events, and I’m good at teaching workshops on leadership and ritual facilitation. I’m a good public speaker, a good ritualist. I’m really good at facilitating rituals that get the entire group into a deep trance state, though I myself have a hard time getting into that type of a trance state. In other words, I’m not really the person who gets ridden by a spirit in ritual, but I can help support someone else in doing that. I worked over time to build up those skills—I didn’t start out being able to lead workshops, but I was called to do it and I learned over time.
Describe your experience of spirituality as a teen/young adult. Discuss your blessings and challenges of that era.
As I mentioned, I was brought up with a lot of woo-woo. So when I had various experiences of psychic phenomena I considered that fairly normal. I occasionally dreamed the future. I experienced empathy and the occasional telepathy. I didn’t really see auras—despite Aura being my middle name—but I could sense energy. I don’t know that I’d have called it that at the time.
The challenges I had as a kid and as a teenager were in the area of bullying. I was the fat kid with bad skin, I was the nerd, so I was pretty easy pickings. As a kid I was oversensitive and cried at the drop of a hat, but I learned to go cold and to not give away my emotions. And there are benefits to that, but there’s also a pretty big downside.
All that being said, it was sometimes my experiences of connecting to the larger divine, and to sensing the psychic energies that my classmates couldn’t, that helped me to keep it together when the bullying got bad. I had to believe that I was having these experiences, these divine connections, for a reason. That I was meant to do something with it. The more I felt called to spiritual service, the more it seemed to make sense.
I began paying attention to my dreams, and I began having stronger visions of the divine. I felt a connection especially with a goddess/angel/being connected to moonlight and to water. I felt so strongly that she loved me, that she wanted me to succeed despite all the bullying and abuse, that she had a job for me. And so I survived even though there are days when I didn’t know how I was going to take another day of bullying, another day of abuse.
How does that experience speak through your work, today?
There’s a phrase that’s been used in the GLBTQ community, and I think it’s really appropriate for anyone who’s been bullied and abused. “It gets better.” Somehow, I held on to the dream—to the hope—to the idea—that it would get better. That it wouldn’t always be like this. That there would be a day when I wouldn’t have to be abused like that. Where my work would matter.
Through dreamwork, trancework, rituals, and self reflection, I’ve healed a lot of the wounds of my past. And, having done that work—and having been through what I went through as a teenager—I’ve helped others to heal from their own wounds of the past.
Ultimately I think that’s one of the jobs of the shaman, the witch, the druid—whatever you call your path, if you are in the role of spiritual leader, spiritual servant, your job is to help people. There are different ways that this is done. Soul retrieval, therapy, ritual, dreamwork, energy healing, massage…and in fact, there’s no reason why you only have to do one of them. Just because therapy comes from psychology and is modern doesn’t mean it doesn’t have benefit to the modern spiritual seeker. In fact, Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychology, was a shaman and an alchemist if ever there was one.
A lot of my work as a spiritual leader and teacher is to help people become their best selves. To heal the wounds that keep us from being as effective as we could be. Because, if each of us can break the curse that holds us back…and that curse is all our wounds of the past, it’s our negative self-talk, our poor self esteem…if we can break that spell and step into our limitless potential, we can not only heal ourselves but we can heal our communities, we can begin to heal the world around us. Only if we ourselves heal can we build the type of world that we might actually want to live in.
I think a lot of spiritual seekers who step into leadership think they are somehow exempt or above doing personal growth work, and it’s the opposite. Those of us who lead, who serve others through spiritual work—we’re the foundation. If we don’t do our work, the foundation is rotten.
And my work is certainly not done. Healing the wounds of my past doesn’t mean they are gone. It means they don’t rule my life. I’m always working to become a better, stronger, healthier person, and to help others do the same.
Because of what I’ve been through in my life, I know what kind of pain is out there. I know the horrific things people can do to one another. I still don’t understand why…I don’t understand how one person can hurt another like that. But I know it happens, and I know there are a lot of people out there who need healing. That is the source of a lot of my work in one way or another, even though it often comes via me writing and teaching about leadership.
Shauna Aura Knight
An artist, author, community leader, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally speaking on the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. She is the author of the The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path, and Spiritual Scents. She’s a columnist on ritual techniques for Circle Magazine, and her writing also appears in several anthologies on spirituality and leadership.
She’s also a fantasy artist and author of several Urban Fantasies and Paranormal Romances. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces. She lives in the Chicagoland area.
Find her on:
- Web Site: http://www.shaunaauraknight.com
- Leadership Blog: https://shaunaaura.wordpress.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShaunaAuraKnightRitualist
- Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/shaunaaknight
Shauna has graciously offered to a random commenter on this post an eBook copy of either Ritual Facilitation or Awakening the Leader Within (winner’s choice) , to readers 13 and over. Don’t forget to include your email!
Available worldwide, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism.