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Overlooking El Matador beach

I drove an hour to Malibu for my Spring Equinox ritual. The location was a secluded, public beach called “El Matador.” The site opened at 8, and I arrived just a few minutes after the top of the hour.

I followed the dirt trail down the edge of the cliff side, wearing jeans and work boots and too many layers. I’d overdressed, fearing that the ocean would bring a chill to my skin, but the sun was already up and it was plenty warm.

 

Once at the bottom, I started searching out a spot for my ritual. There were several coves and nooks that traced the edge of the beach, and I wanted to make sure I was far enough from the path that I’d have some privacy. I wasn’t exactly certain how this was going to go, and I didn’t want an audience.

 

I climbed over and around a few large crags, timing my stride with the crashing of the tide. I waited until it moved back, and then ran to the next high clearing. The sand was saturated and sinking, and it swallowed my boots with every step.

I came upon a clearing. This would be where I performed my first solo, High Day ritual.

My offerings, my boots, and my army bag

I brought with me a loaf of locally baked wheat bread and a bottle of locally brewed beer as my offerings. Something about bringing offerings made in the area felt right. I carried the beer and bread in my hunter green backpack, along with my tarot cards, my travel altar, and my two Pagan prayer books. I didn’t know if I’d use the books, but it seemed like I should have them nearby in the event that I needed to find words to speak.

I set down my bag, took out the bread and the beer, and began to take off my clothes. I’d leave on my jeans, but nothing else. I removed all of the ritual items from my backpack and laid them on dry reeds.

I tried to twist off the beer top, but it wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t the kind, and I had no opener with me. I put the edge of my key along the bottle cap and tried to pry it open, but it slipped and my finger dragged across the sharp lip, slicing two small gashes near my knuckle. I sucked off the blood and continued to try to open the beer by dragging the bottle top along the edge of the rocks, being careful not to break the glass. It budged a little; enough to allow a trickle of alcohol to pour out.

That would have to do.

I set my ritual items at what seemed like a good distance away from the water, placed my new hand-made stole over my naked shoulders, and walked barefoot towards the sea.

I lifted my hands and began.

The ocean crashed louder.

I thanked and praised the Earth Mother, and I found that the words came fast and easy. There is something qualitatively different about outdoor ritual, especially in the moments where you acknowledge the power of the land. I noticed this right away.

I called on my Gatekeeper, Arawn. I invited the Kindred: first the Nature Spirits (which needed no invitation, really), then the Ancestors, then the Shining Ones. I called upon Brighid, for I have a deep connection with her, and it seemed right that I praise her. I’d never before made offerings to a God that I didn’t already have some sort of relationship with. That is…until the next moment.

I called on Manannán mac Lir.

Then, things changed.

I spoke of the greatness of the ocean, of the power and strength of the water, and I gave him praise. I said that I had offerings of beer that I would give to him, and I turned to retrieve the bottle. Once I had it in my hand, I knelt down and began to allow a trickle of alcohol to pour onto the sand. Just then, the tide rushed in — a good twenty feet higher than it had at any moment prior — and pushed me off-balance! The water rushed up towards my tiny, portable altar and consumed it, putting out my little candle and filling my tin with sand. I laughed out loud, amazed at what had happened, and rushed to grab my belongings before the water swept them away.

It took me a moment to recompose myself. I felt small, and slightly shaken. Keeping the form of my ritual, I turned over three cards to get a message or omen from the Kindred, and the cards were sobering. They affirmed my feeling that I did not realize how very real all of this was.

I felt humbled in that moment.

I gave thanks to Manannán, Brighid, and the Kindred, called on Arawn to close the gates, gave thanks to the Earth Mother, and was finished. I staggered back to my wet pile of possessions, gathered them up, and began the journey back to the beginning.

My Equinox ritual was not a heady experience. In fact, I’m not even sure what to think about it. I encountered something much greater than I’d imagined. I can only describe this feeling as a visceral reverence.

It is a new season, indeed.

Have you ever had a ritual experience that shook you to the core; one that took you out of your head and brought you into deeper communion with the world around you? If so, how did it change you? Did it affect the way you think about yourself, about the mysteries of the universe, about the nature of the Gods?

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  • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

    I think one of the reasons Dionysus is calling me right now is that I’ve come to the point where NOT having had a true religious experience is probably hurting me spiritually.  I am a creature of rigid control – I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so it often feels to me like my brain is a thing of tangled yarn and wide-spun netting.  Nothing is organized and things just fall through the cracks constantly and randomly, and I am constantly flailing around trying to enforce some kind of consistency and discipline on my own brain.  I’m not medicated at the moment.  If I want to go back to school in the fall, I’ll probably have to be – I’ve already dropped out of college twice because of the difficulties ADD causes in doing things like turning assignments in on time.

    I can’t be hypnotized even if I want to be.  I can’t meditate.  I can’t trance.  I can’t astral project.  I’ve never drawn down the moon or been ridden by a deity.  I am simply too immanent to relinquish control to anyone or anything.  The only time any of this can occur is when I’m nearly-asleep… or when I’m drunk.

    Enter Dionysus, who seems to think it’s high time I had a genuinely transcendent experience, even if it kills me.

    I’ve had a lot of experiences like what you describe – the natural responses, the small movements of my environment, grazing touches of the gods, the sense of enough Presence that I know Something is out there.  I know the feeling of connection, reaching out and touching – that’s very real to me.  But there’s a level of it I don’t understand because I’ve never actually felt it, so I’m on board with this project of His to take me for a walk on the Wild Side.

    Of course, I also have prodigious alcohol tolerance for someone who rarely drinks.  So I think Mr. Wild Side has his work cut out for him, but I’m sure he’s cracked tougher nuts than me. 

    • A_Luloff

      I don’t live with add, but I have experienced profound experience that came from a mind of chaos. I read up on trance states and found that you can have trance with out quieting your mind, but rather just letting it go on  and doing something repetitive like walking.  You might check it out, it has been a while so I no longer remember the sources.

      • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

        Where I come from they call that daydreaming, and it seems to be really offensive to people, because they’re always snapping their fingers in front of my face when I do it.  XD

        My problem with trancing that way is that it’s an undisciplined trance.  Yes, it’s true, I can get utterly lost and lose hours fantasizing about a conversation between two of my fictional characters and the emotional havok they wreak on each other, but trancing that way doesn’t accomplish anything except furthering the underlying narration that’s always going on in my brain.  I’ve had the most success relating to gods by putting them in the same position, but since they’re not mine, it’s an awkward fit at best.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you, Sonneillon, for being so transparent about your experience. I hope that your connection with Dionysus allows to you to attain for the kinds of religious experiences that you’re longing for.

      I’m curious – are you working with Him in the context of group ritual, or is this a solitary process for you?

      • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

        It’s always a solitary process for me.  I don’t have a group.  I vacillate between whether I want one or not – usually around holidays I feel lonely and I want one, but the rest of the time I’m just as happy not to have anybody looking over my shoulder.  This is one of those situations in which I think it might be helpful to have a human guide, but since I don’t have one, I’m sort of just putting my game face on and stumbling along where He beckons me.  I get the strong impression that this cracks Him up, but let it never be said that I’m not bull-headed enough to forge my own path (deity puns ftw!).

  • Ibyogi

    I’ve had several. But I will share one, if only because it was so vastly different than yours in setting. It was at PantheaCon several years ago, indoors, amidst 200+ people. Lon DuQuette was doing a presentation on his Enochian Vision Magick book. The group was divided, given parts of the chant, we continued for several minutes and then I closed my eyes in silence while Lon did his call and then the room fell silent for several minutes. Almost immediately my feet began to rise up, pulling my legs with them. When they were straight out I was thinking it was pretty cool. When it pulled my butt off the chair I had to actually peek to make sure I was still physically in the room and seated next to my friends. With my eyes closed every sense that I had told me I was rising up, my body continued to extend out to where I was laying flat out. I felt like one of those people in a magic show that float in midair. I didn’t want to open my eyes again in case I broke out of whatever was happening. I continued to tilt up until I was completely vertical with my feet straight up in the air. The top of my head was the only thing that was where it started as I had pivoted up from that point. I came back to where I was when the presentation continued.

    I cannot tell you what exactly happened. The message I took was I could fly if I’d just get out of my head, but who/what was sending me a message I don’t know. Was it angels, gods or demons I cannot say. All I can say is it happened, it was a real experience, and to say I was shaken is an understatement. I don’t see evidence that the Gods get involved in our every day lives. I don’t see where bad people are punished or good people are rewarded. But, when you call them, they will come.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      This is a brilliant story, Ibyogi. Thank you for sharing it here, and thank you for being a part of this conversation.

      “I could fly if I’d just get out of my head…”

      This is an important message, indeed, but they way it was conveyed to you sounds surreal. I wonder – were you at all afraid from the experience?

  • Ywendragoneye

    What a wonderful story, thank you so much for sharing. Every now and then, just when I am starting to think it’s all in my head, something physical happens to remind me that it is real. I will never forget a Beltane ritual we held a few years ago. I have always put out a bowl of cream for the Fae on Beltane, but this particular evening, I forgot it in the house when we went out for circle. After the ceremony, as we were winding our way out of the labyrinth, the glass chalice that the celebrant was carrying leaped out of her hands and broke on the rocks. We were all taken aback at this, and did not, at first, understand why this happened. Then we got back in the house and I saw the bowl of cream. The Fae, apparently, wanted their cream and were none too pleased that we had forgotten it! Needless to say, I brought it out for them with sincere apologies! Although this story is a bit humorous, it served to show me that the Nature Spirits are actually there, actually care what we do, how we act, and absolutely do not want to be forgotten or left out of our lives. They are as real as we are, and we’d best not forget it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for sharing this story, Ywendragoneye! What an interesting experience. Did you experience any kind of confirmation that your offerings has been received once you brought them out again?

      • Ywendragoneye

        No, the cream is always still there the next day (unless I let the dog out first!). But I don’t think it is so much the consumption or use of the offering that is important to whatever entity you are working with, I think it is the idea that you are willing to make the offering, that you take the time to think of it, to put it together, that really matters. As the adage goes, “it’s the thought that counts”. But I have had a couple of interesting things happen after asking to find something, yielding something physical. Once, on Trencrom Hill everyone was finding little crystals along the Athena Leyline. Feeling a bit left out, I asked to find a crystal as well. Soon, I did not find a crystal, but a worked flint. This was much more exciting to me, as a “stones & bones” girl. This is my most treasured keepsake. Then again, while at a Gorsedd in central California (hi John Beckett!), in preparation for a Lughnassadh ritual, we were all working in silence to make a small spear. I had my pocket knife to clean the stick, but thought how wonderful it would be if I could find a sharp rock to use instead. After not much looking, I came across what turned out to be an obsidian thumb scraper laying partially buried in the grass. It cleaned the bark off the stick like shaving butter. So, yes, be careful what you ask for as you may just get it! And isn’t that wonderful?  

  • Anonymous

    Teo - 

    ha!  Caveat emptor, good sir – be careful what you ask for! :-D

    I’ve got two instances like this – the first was actually a friend on mine, helping me with some spellwork, drew down a Goddess.  When I spoke with the Goddess, Her voice came through, not my friend’s, and She spoke in a language that I knew for certain my friend did not know.  We spoke about several things that no one else could possibly know of, and it was surreal, being in the Presence of that kind of Power.

    Afterwards, my friend didn’t remember any of it (she thought we were still just starting when we finished), and when I asked her a question in the language we had conversed in, she looked at me blankly.

    The second instance was when I was struck by lightning (the first time – the second time was a lot more mundane).  THAT is a religious experience in and of itself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Wow! Twice struck by lightening?! I’m glad you’re still here to participate in the dialogue, Eran!

      Thank you for sharing these stories. Your experience with Drawing Down is amazing. I love that there’s a religious context for this kind of channeling. I’ve never participated in it, myself, but I would like to.

      And yes — I will be careful what I ask for! I’ve no regrets, though. I’m happy I was knocked down by the water. :)

      • Anonymous

        Teo - 

        It is the only time that I’ve done such a thing – my rituals do not generally consist of channeling of any sort, but my friend is quite good at it.

        And as to the lightning, yeah, the first time was, well, intense :).  I was hiking up Mt. Jefferson, in the White Mountains of NH, and when we broke the treeline, we could see a storm coming.  We decided (rather foolishly) that we could reach the top before the storm hit – needless to say, this was a very poor decision.  I (or rather, my walking stick) got hit when we were about 200 feet from the summit.  It blasted my stick to pieces, knocked me out & gave me a concussion, and damaged my hearing in my right ear.

        When I woke up a moment or two later, I was flat on my back a few feet from where I had been standing, and all of my senses were going berserk – flashes of light in my eyes, pain all throughout my body (esp. on my right side, where the lightning went through my hand & foot, and also where most of the splinters were embedded), I could hardly hear, etc.  But the trek down was one of the most profoundly surreal experiences I’ve ever had – I imagine my body must have been overloaded with endorphins, because I felt like I could’ve taken on anyone right then.  I felt like I was floating, or dancing, or not even on the mountain as we walked back down.

        The second time, as I said, was far more mundane – I was working in a drug store when a freak storm popped up.  I had just picked up the phone to call my manager to ask if I could close the store (due to reports of damaging winds & hail), when lightning struck the building.  It blew out every light in the store, and then zapped me in the side of the head through the phone.   Needless to say, I closed the store that day.  

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    Yay you posted about your ritual :) I remember you saying you would, I just didn’t expect it so soon after the equinox. It sounds like it was lovely and quite powerful! The pictures are just stunning.

    As for your question about whether or not I’ve had a ritual experience that shook to the core, if you had asked me 3 weeks ago the answer would have been a resounding no. I like to joke I’m as receptive as Fried Dough and I have the magical mojo of a can of cherry coke. However I did group ritual a couple of weeks ago and something happened because damned if I remember any of it. I apparently said some stuff, I vaguely remember having a conversation with someone who decidedly was NOT part of my circle and apparently my whole demeanor changed and it was pretty obvious that I had checked out. Where? No blooming clue. I suppose I should start processing this but I’m actually scared to death of doing so. I’m a baaaad Pagan I guess.

    • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

      I don’t think you’re a bad pagan, Vermillion.  I think you have the good sense to respect things that should be respected.

      • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

        Thank you, that really is nice to hear :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for the comment, Vermillion. It felt like the right thing to post about my experience soon. I will probably continue to process it in the weeks to come. There’s a way in which my whole concept of ritual has been challenged by this experience.

      I wonder if you would also benefit from open, transparent processing about your experience. I don’t think you’re a “baaaad Pagan” for not doing so, but I think it could help. Do you feel like you could do that anyone from your ritual group? Were they able to provide you with any context for what you experienced?

      • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

         Hi Teo,

        Hmm, I talked about it a bit with my group after it happened, but they were so worried about me they concentrated more on helping me ground and getting some food in my system. I had accidentally fasted in the hours leading up to the ritual (never again!) so the consensus was that was part of the reason it happened, all my cylinders were more open and receptive then normal.   The advice I got was to not endlessly try to analyze it (I started to but ended up way more frustrated and frightened) that whatever I was supposed to remember I eventually would.

        My only issue with that logic is, I haven’t remembered anything. To be fair, I’ve been under undue amounts of stress with my great-aunt (whom I was very close to) dying and my grandmother going in the hospital right after, plus just general life stress. Haven’t really had a good moment (or four!) to process it. Plus if I’m completely honest, I AM SCARED WITLESS. Never been that close to Deity before. It’s one thing to know in your heart that They’re out there, another to have Them very very profoundly announce their presence, use you for messaging and then go away.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K5GAIWNKWCTL4NPB7JBQKYUUD4 Brenda D

    You’re not the first I’ve known of to speak to Manannan and get Him to show up that firmly. He is my patron, so I’m giggling with great pleasure to see Him up to His usual. As for my own profound moments, one far smaller but with a deep sense of meaning to me was when I first lit Brigid’s flame from Kildare on my own altar. I’m not usually one to get this kind of odd sense of a deity, but She kissed my cheek as I sat in meditation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Hi Brenda – thanks for posting your comment here. I’m glad you’re a part of the conversation.

      Thank you, also, for cluing me in on Mánannan’s disposition. Without hearing the accounts of others it is hard to discern what might have been behind these actions. I’m wondering after having had this experience if I am being called into some kind of relationship with Him. In truth, we are now in relationship in a way that we weren’t before. I just wonder if I’m being called into an even more committed, devoted relationship.

      How did He come to be your patron?

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Question for you, Teo:  how close are you to Arawn?  I suspect that Manannán’s reaction to you in this situation, through the waves, might have been a signal to you that a more appropriate gatekeeper may be Manannán himself–if not permanently, then at least when you’re doing oceanside rituals and offerings into the waves.  (As you also mentioned Brigid, and she’s also Irish, it would make more sense perhaps to stick with other Irish figures, rather than bringing in one from Welsh culture.)  Manannan’s cloak of mists is what separates humans from the otherworld, and when he shows up in myth, he’s usually the one to signify that one is passing over or passing through into another state, another realm, etc.

        You might consider doing a particular ritual for him on June 25th, the “paying rent to Manannán” ritual that is traditionally done on the Isle of Man for him on that day.  However, make it your own, and make him a part of your own local geography and landscape (which he is already!) explicitly in what you do on that day if you offer him rent and praises.

        If you like, I can tell you a rather funny (but entirely appropriate!) way to do the latter…

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K5GAIWNKWCTL4NPB7JBQKYUUD4 Brenda D

        My path to Manannán as my patron would take too long to discuss in a blog comment. The short form is I started working with Him directly after being aware of him for some years in a course on possessory trance work that required me to reach out to a deity I wasn’t as familiar with but still felt an interest in working with. That set off a course of events which led to the realization that He was the deity to whom I should devote myself in the deepest possible ways. Between the two events are two long rituals, a lot of prayer and meditation, and consultations with people both inside and outside my primary Celtic reconstructionist practice to verify the messages I was receiving. My relationship to Him is perhaps more than patronage (not denigrating that, but the term both fits and is incomplete for my situation in itself), but some of that is even harder to discuss in a blog comment. *laughs* I am His priestess by His own words and confirmation from elsewhere, so patron is good enough.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          Thank you for sharing this, Brenda. I appreciate that your story is more complicated and colorful than could be explained in a blog comment, but I’m glad that you’ve given us a little insight into your discernment process.

          Bright blessings to you.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    Beautiful pictures and a beautiful story, Teo.  Thanks for sharing. 

    Sometimes we get a little too used to speaking of myth and metaphor and meaning and all the intellectualisms we use to reconcile our religious experiences with the ordinary world and its definition of reality.  I know I do.

    And then the gods remind us they are not some academic abstraction. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you, John. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      No, they are not an academic abstraction, and yes, I need that reminder from time to time. Clearly. This was certainly one of those moments.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Teo, that’s quite a ritual. I’m still waiting for a moment on that scale, but I’m excited to read about yours and hopeful for what awaits me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for the comment, WhiteBirch. I’m curious (and I asked this question to Wes as well) — do you typically do ritual alone or in group? I’m wondering if there’s a way in which solitude in nature can lead to a deeper and more visceral interaction with the Divine. It’s just a theory.

      • Anonymous

        I typically do ritual alone. I’m affiliated with a tradition, but not out of the student stage yet where I would be practicing with the group, and I’ve made a geographical move since I started, so I’ll likely be a solitary “satellite” member indefinitely. 

        I do, however, do most of my ritual indoors for practical reasons. While I have access to quite a lot of land it’s all very exposed (flat open fields, occasional trees, bordered by roads and other houses), and I would need privacy to be comfortable enough to truly engage with ritual. Which is currently only attainable inside for me. Being outside might make a difference. Certainly my profoundest moments in meditation occur outside, usually at night. But nothing like what you’ve described.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127101530 Alan J Sheridan

    Beautiful! 

    I have worked ritual outdoors and had a small whirlwind appear briefly after casting circle.

    I have been to an outdoor ritual and invoked Water and had it rain.

    I have been lucky enough to invoke the Horned God in circle and have a buck show up for a few minutes outside the circle.

    All of these things, plus experiences like yours, reaffirm that it isn’t Faith as much as it is Fact that the gods, spirits, etc. exist and are listening to us.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for the comment, Alan. I feel very grateful to have had this experience. I love the accounts of your elemental and nature-spirit interactions during ritual. I do agree that these sorts of experiences provide a certain kind of validation that we are, indeed, in direct communion with the Kindred. We are all in relationship.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127101530 Alan J Sheridan

         (of course, there was that one time in ritual when someone invoked Air and someone else farted, but that was a less-than-holy moment, we laughed so hard we fell down and had to start over)

  • Wes Isley

    Sounds like a wonderful experience. I don’t know that I’ve felt a ritual in quite the same way, and that probably has to  do with mental barriers/skepticism/self-consciousness–but I’m working on it! And reading your experience inspires me to keep at it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      I hope you do, Wes. There’s a way that the doing of this ritual has affected the way that I conceive of ritual altogether. I don’t think I could have thought my way around something like this, if that makes sense.

      Do you ever engage in private, solo ritual, or do most of your work in group?

  • http://profiles.google.com/emkatcreations Kat Emralde

    I love it when the show up and let you know.

  • Kilmrnock

    I too share a major reverence for the sea . One of the coolest , most powerful events iv’e had at the ocean was a few years ago  at the beach , as we southerners call it at night . That night we had a just rising full moon over the surf was gorgeous and wonderful. I was so taken aback by the glory and power of what i was seeing i had to go down to the waters edge and stay there awhile, besides sitting on a bench and watching it rise. To much shagrin of my then soon to be ex wife .And i also had a quite interesting event this past year. Late spring last year i had a heart attack. While in the throws and pain , i called for comfort and help . while they were working on me , putting in a stent, clearing a clogged vein, i got a reply to my call. Danu, Bridghid, and Mannon Mac Lir came to me for comfort and aid , was wonderful . I truely believe i am here to tell this tale b/c of them . Just for the info that type of proceedure is done under local anesthesia.I was wide alwake altho a bit groggy .i have also felt a gods presence many times in ritual , at my ADF grove and other times as well.Also i can say be wise in what spirits you call in ritual as well , if not careful , that too can be overwelming . The one example i can site is  …..the same year as the 9/11 attacks someone in cirlce called the victims for a blessing at samhaim. The power of that call actualy physically knocked us all down ,was majorly over powering , took us all a while to recover from it .So yes be quite careful of who and what you call in ritual , you may just get what you ask for . Not to even mention those who delve into the dark stuff.    Kilm

  • http://humanisticpaganism.com/ B. T. Newberg

    What a powerful and meaningful experience, Teo.

    I have had similar experiences in ritual.  Once, when I was doing an ADF ritual near a river and I called upon Demeter, at that moment a duck that was apparently floating by bolted out of the water like something scared the bejeezus out of it.  Another time, it was raining moderately, so I went out on my balcony and offered some incense to Zeus, and not a minute later the rain started to blast down like mad.  A third time, this one not a ritual per se but still relevant perhaps: on the morning of my wedding, as I went outside to take the trash out just before we left for the ceremony, I saw a hawk swoop down and land on a telephone line above me.  Now, hawks are similar to kites, which are sacred to my patron Isis.  Hawks are a fairly rare sight in Minneapolis.  Then a second hawk landed next to it.  That was really rare!  They could only have been mates.  So it seemed symbolic of how I was about to join my life to another’s that day (I wrote about this last experience in a post called “Symbols in the Sky” over at HumanisticPaganism.com, if any are interested).

    My interpretation of these events (naturalistic interpretation) may be different than others’ here at this site, but suffice to say I do believe they can be incredibly meaningful experiences.  :-)

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    In my early pagan days, when I was out doing things in nature quite a bit (and exploring nature for the first time, really), these sorts of things happened a lot.  The first time I went out to sit in a ritual mode (after a day-long fast) and tried to get in touch with a horned god of some description, there were a huge number of deer in the field I ended up going to–and, it was a field at a school in a suburb of New York, not a place that was too terribly close to “wild” nature as we think of it!  There was another time in those early days when I took some friends out to a field that was a clearing within a forest, and we each took turns to honor the elements.  When I honored the air, suddenly a huge gust of wind came up, when it had been totally clear and non-windy earlier/up until then.

    In the Ekklesía Antínoou, we have often paid close attention to the constellation Aquila, which used to have the constellation Antinous/Ganymede beneath it until prudish astronomers removed his name from their star-maps.  The star of Antinous first appeared in the constellation Aquila not long after his death, and it has been determined that there was a major celestial phenomenon in late January of 131 (three months after his death) via consulting Chinese astrological records, even though it had been utterly dismissed as a fable previous to that research nearly twenty years ago.  I took a three-day pilgrimage to various sites and such associated with Hadrian (Antinous’ lover) in July of 2003, and on the last day of it, I did a ritual in the ruins of a temple that I personally connect to Antinous in various ways.  On that day, on which I innovated a practice that we still do now, there were three novae in Aquila, and there were an additional three over the course of the days I was on the pilgrimage.  Now, granted, there are novae across the galaxy all the time; but, in that particular set of significant stars, on those days, when I was doing those things…!?!

    There have certainly been other such experiences in my practices over the years, but these are ones that manifested in nature entirely exterior to me and the spiritual perceptions of myself and other people present–in other words, these were embodied theophanies, as it were.

  • DruidMedb

    A few years ago our Grove  was camping near our old Nemeton in the Feather River area. We were a new Grove and had been discussing various possible patrons. My partner and I had moved here from Tucson’s Sonoran Sunrise Grove and were familiar with Taranus so we had all decided to do a Summer Solstice rite in honor of him to see what our connection to him in Northern CA would be like.

    It had been threatening to rain but we didn’t anticipate a big storm.

    One of our members had made a pottery bowl with lightning and 8-spoked wheels on it to use as an offering bowl and just as we were invoking him and offering to the bowl, lightning stuck on three surrounding mountain tops all around us.

    We quickly completed the rite and then built up  a large campfire to keep warm. Some of our members decided to go home just in case but we were way down in the valley and unlikely to be struck with so many high peaks around. The next morning we were evacuated, the 2008 CA lighting fires had begun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_2008_California_wildfires).

    Now, I’m not saying we caused these fires. The storm would have likely happened anyway but the manner in which the lighting struck as we were making the offerings was powerful.

    We have never offered to Taranus since. He’s too volatile in this area but we do honor Tishtrya, the Persian god of the gentle healing rains every year. We invoked him a few months later, at Pagan Pride, asking him to bring the gentle rains so that the land could be healed.

    We had feared that after the fires there would be terrible mud slides and erosion with the fall and winter rains. The next day the light rains began and the new plants began to take hold before the onslaught of winter. Our experiences with Tishtrya have been excellent, he never fails to produce gentle rains when we call on him.

  • Kelley

    *Have you ever had a ritual experience that shook you to the core; one that took you out of your head and brought you into deeper communion with the world around you?*

    Nearly every time, our experience is one that takes us out of our head and brings into deeper communion with the world around us.

    Part of it is focus; what we are seeking out of our celebrations is just such deep communion with the world and with our Gods and the spirits. We often say that we don’t cast a circle because we wish to be in the world, be with our Gods. We don’t shut out or wall in. We go to extra lengths to ensure that our senses are open and we are paying attention, fully aware of the world around us.

    Part of it is, as you say, that the Gods and spirits are _real_ and this is not a game. We _want_ them to show up; expect them to show up (but not in a presumptuous way). When they do, they effect us deeply.

    Sometimes the communication is through natural means: the wind kicks up and clouds form just as we invite An Cailleach or a light rain falls on us out of blue skies as we distribute the blessing at Lughnassadh. Sometimes it seems to come through emotional avenues:a sense of calmness falls over you like a warm comforter as Bride arrives or a sudden urge to be active when calling to Ogma. Sometimes, unexplainable things happen, too.

    *If so, how did it change you? Did it affect the way you think about yourself, about the mysteries of the universe, about the nature of the Gods?*

    The first time it happened, it changed us greatly; definitely core shaking! We went from philosophical believers to faith believers. From that point forward, we could no longer be anything else but what we are. It is still a profound moment in our memories, something that still makes us tear up when we think of it.

    Over time, the changes become less drastic and more chronic, but no less profound. We can now walk through life knowing that the Gods and spirits are real and, for some reason, some of then are interested in our life. Every celebration reinforces that, even if just a tiny bit. The deepest parts of us are always effected, but not often destabilized, anymore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Valerie-LaVay/1197846504 Valerie LaVay

    What an enjoyable read! Thank you for sharing. Your pictures were beautiful as well. It takes me back to my first ever full moon ritual on the beach at night in del Mar CA. The water rushed in and surprised us as well. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you, Valerie! I’m happy that it resonated with you. I’m so glad I took pictures — it really was beautiful there. I bet your full moon ritual was amazing!

  • Adrian Tremayne

    oh my! moments:

     when I realized that every time I sing a particular song I wrote, it rains.

    when a white feather fell out of a birdless clear blue sky onto me as I stood in a temple to Zeus in Athens

    Coming back to Greece from Crete on an overnight crossing, the ferry I was on ran into a very powerful wind and wave storm. I was wearing a pair of quartz crystal point earrings I’d made, and took them out and put them in the pocket of my skirt because they were in danger of blowing out of my ears, and I was enjoying being on deck. When we went below to eat dinner, we found out one set of stabilizers on the ferry had gone out, which was contributing to the violent motion of the ship, and most of the crew was seasick as well, that’s what kind of storm it was. I reached into my pocket to put my earrings back on, and found only one. The pocket was deep enough there was no way it could have fallen or blown out, but I went back and looked for it anyway. No luck.  The storm didn’t seem quite as severe as it had, and after we ate, we went to bed. We got up the next morning docking in Greece, and heard that a couple of other ferry boats had swamped or gone down in the storm, and I turned to my spouse and said, “I guess Poseidon took an earring as payment for getting through the storm.”

    sitting in a Samhain circle where the working was to speak of someone who had crossed to make peace with either them or their crossing, and having a dog (whom I trusted completely) ask to speak through me about the loss of his life-mate. I said ok, don’t remember all of what he said, but it brought most of the group to tears.

    A friend of mine said, sort of tongue-in-cheek but not completely, that since the world has changed so much, many of the jobs of the Old Gods have become irrelevant to modern society, so they’ve taken on similar, but new, jobs and that Isis is now the God of Parking Spaces.  If you need a place to park, and there isn’t one, She will get you one if you ask. Needless to say, I was skeptical and thought it a bit frivolous. She offered to demonstrate one time when I was in her car and we were going somewhere that parking is always a problem. She said out loud, “Isis, I need a parking place, please” and two cars pulled out from in front of the place just as we arrived. I’ve tried it myself on occasion when I’ve really needed a spot, both aloud and silently, and it’s never failed me. I also make sure to light a candle or incense to Her when I get home, for politeness.

    And then there are the cautionary “be careful” stories:

    have an acquaintance who had a friend who got terrible headaches, and the acquaintance said she could “cure” them. Did energy work, and headache cleared up. It became a habit for them. 6 months later, the friend died of a brain tumor, found on autopsy. Doctors said it must have caused her terrible pain and wondered why she’d never gotten medical attention. If she had, it could have been removed and she’d probably still be alive today.

    large (9-10K) public 2 week camping event with about 500 “weather witches” in attendance. A few days in, scattered thunderstorms are predicted. “witches” decide to do rituals to prevent T-storms, and it doesn’t rain. Repeat scenario for 4 days, with T-storms becoming more frequent and stronger, and a squall line actually splitting and one half going one way around the campground, while the other half went the other way. (Saw it myself, and predicted ‘Mom’ is getting tired of these people) Next day, they tried to divert the T-storm with the tornado, and didn’t manage it. 5 people were killed BY THAT TORNADO in a state park downwind. Would there have been a tornado if some people hadn’t been pushing so much energy at the storm? Would there have been such a violent series of storms if the first one (or ones) had just been allowed to rain themselves out? And there was some pretty severe damage to campsites and the campground itself where the “witches” were working. Electric power was out for over 24 hours.

    In my personal world-view, the ‘weather witches” are responsible for those 5 deaths. They might have happened without the interference in the weather of the ‘weather witches’, but the ‘witches’ were interfering when the deaths did happen, so they carry at least part of the responsibility, in my opinion. They didn’t have adequate information to ensure they would “do no harm” by not wanting to be inconvenienced by a little, possible, occasional rain. If their lives had been at stake (if it rains the crop will be ruined and we’ll starve to death this winter), it would have been a different matter and they’d have been working their tails off to get the crops so the interference would be as minimal as possible since the Gods do sometimes demand their price, but just because they didn’t want to get wet? Really?   (stepping off soapbox now)

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