7th May 1988
Before we get on to the subject of creating rituals, there is one final trance which I want to describe to you. It is about discovering your true self, the answer to the question, ’Who am I?’
Of course, the self has many aspects: shadow self, higher self, inner child, conscious ego, super-ego, and so on and so forth. These are classifiable according to many different systems from both psychotherapy and occult lore. Each system of classification has validity, but it is not wise to use any of them to define yourself analytically, until you know what kind of whole being all these parts belong to. The result would only be confusion.
Let us imagine that you are a plant. On your search for self-knowledge and thus self-integration, you may easily discover that you have sepals, calyx, petals, roots, sap, leaves, stem, etc. But until you have also found out that you are, say, a lavender bush, or a bulrush, this is of limited use. In the same way, you can learn that you have an id, ego and super-ego, or a shadow self, personality and higher self. You will also know that you are a human, just as the plant knows that it is a plant. But do you know about your self, what kind of human being you actually are, what kind of plant? Only when this question has been answered do other pieces of self-knowledge fall into place.
To the Pagans of the ancient world, the words ’Know thyself’ said it all. The self is endless, because it partakes of life and is therefore part of the boundlessness of the Goddess’s creation (from which it can hardly be separated, any more than a drop of sea water can be said to have meaning outside the sea). And yet, paradoxically, the individuality of self is essential to the diversity of creation, to manifest life. Individuality exists, and we experience it. Unless we understand our own, we are at a disadvantage in a world where holly trees and hazels are quite separate and distinct from each other, and meant to be.
The trance I am about to describe could be called ’Identifying the Self’. Why do we need to do this? Why don’t we already know who we are? The answer is probably that, as very small children, we do know, but lack the concepts and language with which to describe ourselves, or to translate transrational information. By the time that we have developed these skills, as adults, we have long since ceased to trust our intuitions, and have been talked out of any true perceptions for the purpose of being more easily fitted into the mould that our parents, teachers and any other authorities believe to be best for us. In other words, by the time we reach the age of so-called discretion, and are expected to make choices about our lives, most of us haven’t the faintest idea who we are. We may have known as small children, and will certainly have known before birth. But when we get to the point where we need to know, we don’t. And without that knowledge, ’destiny’ can seem like an incomprehensible opponent.
The old Pagans meant ’Know thyself’ completely: not just your creative self, but also your ’shadow’, the dark and destructive bits. These must be owned and admitted; for example, a potential for violence if pushed too far, or a tendency to call something ’diplomacy’ if it is, in fact, a downright lie. With guidance, you will discover your own shadow, whatever that might be, and all its traits. It is an essential aspect of self-knowledge and self-integration, the discovery and owning of the shadow self. A rose, for example, has thorns, and some plants are poisonous. A denial of these facts will not help any rose (or foxglove) towards a beautiful or useful life.
But first discover the true nature of the whole plant.
I want you to begin in the usual way, by invoking protection and finding yourself in the clearing, then summoning your familiar. Explain that you want to discover your true self, to find out who you are. Ask to be taken to the place where your kind of being is most at home. You are asking to see the psychic equivalent of the plant’s natural habitat. There are certain places where you are not at home, just as you wouldn’t expect to see harebells in a jungle. And there is one kind of place where you are especially at home.
Your familiar will now lead you into the cave, down the usual passage and into the inner place of peace and beauty. After that, you may go anywhere at all. A door may open into the side of a hill. Within, you may find a whole country, some elven realm. Or a winged horse may take you to some other land, away across many seas and mountain ranges. You may travel to the past or to the future and you may even visit some remote planet. As in dreams, anything may now happen. And who is to say where your true spiritual home is? Perhaps on your own doorstep, some favoured sanctuary or place of pilgrimage. Perhaps not. Your familiar will guide you.
When you have reached the place, you must check out your familiar again, and ask, ’Is this my true home?’ This must be done to make sure there has been no confusion. If there has, then you must move on again, until you are quite sure you have reached the right place.
Then look around you, wherever it is. And see what it is like there. What does this place suggest to you?
When you are ready, tell your familiar that you want to talk with the Spirit of the Place. This is a being, sometimes known as the genius loci, who is the place’s essence. It will be a thought-form, an astral spirit, perhaps created by you, perhaps perceived as an already existing thought-form, created by others. It will be ensouled with the place’s atmosphere, which is not created by you, but exists of itself. It may be a male or a female spirit, or may be androgynous. Your familiar will tell you where you should go for this, and how you may invoke him or her. Most probably you will only need to request aloud that the Spirit of the Place now appear before you. Do not forget to check that this being is genuine.
Greet the Spirit of the Place and explain why he or she has been called upon. Say that you understand that this is your true home, the place that gives rise to your type of being, and that you want to know your role within it, how you fit in. You want an answer to the question ’Who am I?’ By now, you may already be beginning to have some idea, and thus may hear the answer spoken to you quite clearly. Or you may be shown some special item of clothing, or object, with clear association. For example, if the true nature of yourself were that of priestess, then you might be shown a robe you could associate with that role. Or if your true self were a traveller, some kind of explorer in mind or body, you might see a caravan or boat. Supposing you were truly some kind of seer, then you might see a crystal. A peacemaker? You might see doves. A scholar? Books may be held out towards you. There are endless possibilities. And the Spirit of the Place will explain to you the connection between the place and yourself.
You may be wondering why you need to ask who you are. Surely, in your essential self, you must be a witch? Perhaps. But it is equally possible that you are a healer, or guardian-of-Mother-Earth, but that you are called upon to play the role of witch, in this life. The self is constructed of many layers or facets. For example, a priestess may be called upon to play the role of witch in this incarnation. That may be what the Goddess wants of her, now. But in a former life, she may have been High Priestess in a temple of Isis. She may also have been a sybil at the Delphic oracle. She may even have been the woman who swept the floor in an Egyptian temple. But whatever the role, the common thread running through all her lives is that her nature is that of priestess. Of course, I have just used classic, even quite corny, examples. But the principle is the same, for priestess, scholar, healer or teacher. Whatever it is that you may be, the way in which you play it out changes, from life to life. I can almost hear you asking, ’What if I am really something quite ordinary? No healer, teacher or priestess, nothing elevated at all?’ My answer is that no one is ordinary. We all have to do ordinary things, like housework, or play ordinary roles sometimes, like sister, schoolchild, employee, hospital patient, or ’member of the voting public.’ But no one in a Goddess-orientated, non-hierarchical society would ever be regarded as some ordinary person, some ’nobody’. We are each and every one a hero or heroine on some kind of quest. And we each have some special kind of ability, whether it is healing, teaching, working magic, or nursing, tending plants, clowning or singing songs, or something else.
It is not our mundane tasks, but the quality that we bring to them, that shows the nature of the true self. And however oppressive the system under which we may be living in any particular incarnation, that self is constant and potentially creative, whoever we are.
When you have asked every question that you need to ask, in order to understand yourself, fully, you can request the Spirit of the Place to point out the plant which is your special emblem. For ever after, you will be able to call your true self, and your true home, to mind by visualizing this plant.
The knowledge of your self will have many implications. It may explain to you why you are at odds with your present life. Or it may tell you, instead, that though you had thought you were on the wrong path, you are actually not. Self-understanding will bring you to self-affirmation, and thus to a sense of your own worth. You will then be much stronger in pursuit of your true goals, being free of self-doubt (or as free as anyone open to change and discovery can ever be).
Ask the Spirit of the Place any further questions which you may now have. Then thank him or her. Retrace your route back to the lower cave, going by whatever means you came, for example the winged horse. Travel through the passageway to the usual upper cave, and then return to the clearing. Thank your familiar, return to the blue sphere, thank the Guardian Spirits and seal your aura.
Remember that the place you have just visited is your home, your true spiritual home. Wherever you go in the world, you can always return there. And you will always take some of its atmosphere and meaning with you, as emissary. If you have a need to recharge or reaffirm yourself, you can always go back there.
Of course, it could be argued that an emphasis on ’one true home’ is not the best way to achieve a one-world (or one-universe) consciousness. I do not agree with this view. For it is not by denying our spiritual roots that we come to feel part of the All. The only real way to peace lies in accepting differences and then celebrating them, for diversity means life. (Mono-culture is no more to be recommended for souls than it is for plants.)
In the anonymity of modern society, a true awareness of one’s essential self is beyond price. And that self can shine through the mundane tasks and the everyday roles, centring you and colouring your presence in all situations. This is the inner strength a witch needs, if she or he is to counsel or heal others, and work all kinds of magic, without feeling fragmented and off balance.