Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Embarcation

Well into my second year of Public Priest/ess training with CAYA Coven, I have now begun a second two-year spiritual course— The Ministerial Training Program offered by the Center for Sacred Studies. My main attraction to this program is the direct access to the wisdom and practices of The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, as well as deeper studies into Indigenous traditions from around the world. The classes are mostly remote, with conference calls, one-on-one calls, and an annual retreat peppered throughout an enormous amount of personal time reading and writing and practicing the assignments given by each module's instructor.

At the Grandmother's gathering in Montana last year, I spoke with several students in various points of the program, from just starting to just graduated. I discerned that this was a challenging journey—more than one likened it to graduate school—and well worth the effort. When it is completed, I will be ordained as a Minister of Walking Prayer, a title that intrigues and delights me.

Last week, the class of 2015 had our first conference calls with the CSS administrators. I'd never been on the phone with dozens of people before! After a beautiful opening prayer by the spiritual director, we introduced ourselves, one by one. It took almost two hours over the course of two seperate calls, even with a two-minute time limit. What an ecclectic group, with members from Alaska to Switzerland, ages ranging from twenties to sixties and up, many spiritual backgrounds and reasons for joining the program. Some had to fundraise for tuition, some are raising babies, some are enjoying grandchildren, some are running businesses. We are mostly strangers now, yet are assured by the instructors that by the time we meet for our first retreat in May, we will feel like family.

I am hoping that these two training programs will complement one another, rather than detract or distract. Currently, I am in a position to devote most of my time to studying and practicing and devoting myself to service in my communities. I have long wondered what would be the most benefical endeavor to pursue in my oddball life, and as soon as I put my trust in pursuing a spiritual path, everything has been flowing gracefully. Gifts and opportunities meet me at every turn, and when I say yes, the lessons and rewards have been most decidedly phenomenal. In the most delightful way!

So keep a lookout for further posts in this track, to be labeled "MTP." I am eager to discover the wonders, myself.

Two Times Become One

As our first of our four required reading books, my Hive read Chosen By The Spirits by Mongolian Shaman, teacher, and activist Sarangerel. During the class discussion, our teacher told us she'd wanted to show us the roots of our pagan practice through an unfamiliar lense so that we might observe it in a fresh way. And though the words for the tools and practices and deities are unpronouncable, I recognized the drum and incense, the casting of the circle, calling of the directions, and a relationship with a panthean quite familiar to my own experiences as a Witch.

Since the delightful book was so attractive to my best friend, who absconded with it last week, I don't have the copy in front of me. So I shall have to review it from my scattered memory. Which is a good practice for understanding what was an oral tradition— until the persecution and decimation of shamanic cultures forced people to preserve some of the wisdom in written form.

What impressed me immediately about the writing was its plainspoken and encouraging voice. Sarangerel—who was born to a Mongolian family in the US—shares with the ease and generosity of an Auntie teaching you how to bake cookies. "Of course you can do it! Just pour in the milk and stir with a wooden spoon three times clockwise," could just as easily have been a line in the book as any others in there. She doesn't pretend it doesn't take years to master the skills, yet she doesn't withold the practice as mysterious and off-limits. She believes that if you're curious enough to be reading the book, you probably have a Shamanic calling.

The book offers practical descriptions of rituals, trance journeys, and divination methods—just enough to get you going, and always with the reminder that every Shaman has a unique experience, so don't worry if it doesn't match what anyone else reports. Like so many of my favorite teachers, Sarangerel asks the student to seek and try and learn and know from their own personal experience, rather than the swallow-and-regurgitate methods so popular these days.

I think the most fascinating section was about several traditional divination techniques. I am inspired to create my own sets of tools, especially one method that involves assembling an assortment of little rocks into three clusters that represent the person and the spirits affecting her. I love the idea of making magickal tools out of found objects, of recognizing spirit in something one encounters while wandering through life. I've been collecting little doodads for decades, and perhaps a Shaman's kit is already in my possession, just needing to be recognized as such!