Travelling Between the Worlds
Our shamanistic forebears, the tribal ’ancestors’ of every witch, travelled up and down the world tree, or between the three levels, in the course of their healing work. There are several traditional methods by which such travel can be undertaken, and I will describe one.
Naturally, such journeys are made in our spirits. There is little point in attempting to reach the upperworld by standing on a hilltop, unless we grow wings inside ourselves! The three realms are states of being — or of consciousness — rather than physical locations. Having said that, it is easier to reach the underworld psychically, when you are actually on a beach, in a cave or by a holy well — or to talk with middle Earth’s nature spirits in a beautiful garden or in a wood — or to commune with Shining Ones of the upperworld on hills or mountains. As for stone circles or other sacred sites, these are often places where the spirits and deities of any realm can be met with easily, which is why people go to them. When wishing to travel ’between the worlds’, whether at home or at a chosen place of pilgrimage, prayers can be said to begin the process. You can say something like this.
Prayer to Travel Between the Worlds
Great Goddess and God of all Realms of Existence, here in this sacred place, I invoke you. I ask that the veils be parted, allowing me to enter the land of spirit and to travel freely between the worlds.
Now sit or lie comfortably, with your eyes closed. You can then say, May the spirits of middle Earth/the underworld/ the upperworld hear me now and draw near. I approach your realm seeking guidance/healing/assistance. I ask for safe passage.
Now imagine that you are sitting or lying beneath a tall tree. This may be a silver birch, or a splendid oak, or an ash or apple, or, indeed, any tree which feels right to you.
Call to your familiar spirit and ask them to meet you here, beside the tree. When he or she has arrived or you can hear their voice, explain to them what you want to achieve now, and ask them to show you how to travel to the right realm. A number of things may then happen. Remember, you will be seeing all this in your ’mind’s eye’ like an extra bright daydream, if you have the Sight. If not, simply say the prayer and remind yourself of the world tree and then, inwardly, ask your familiar spirit to take you to the upperworld, middle Earth or the underworld. Trust that it is happening and see if you can sense any change in the atmosphere around you. If you do this kind of thing often enough, you will begin to develop the Sight anyway.
If it is the upperworld you wish to reach, your familiar may then lead you, in your mind’s eye, to a nearby hill. Upon the summit, there waits a magnificent, winged, white horse. Visualize all these things as clearly as you can. Staring in awe, you begin to realize why our ancestors carved white chalk horses upon hillsides in Southern Britain. This creature is the land personified, and something more. It is the transcendent beauty of the land’s spirit, implying (paradoxically) other worlds, other ways. Mount the horse with your familiar, or ask them to travel alongside, and you will then be taken up, flying high up in the sky. You pass through clouds and then clear blue height, miles and miles of it. Finally, leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, you enter space. Planets and stars rush along past you, for the horse goes at the speed of thought.
You ask to be taken to the place where you most need to be, for the guidance that you seek, or the healing for yourself or for another. Landing upon the Moon or Sun, or upon a star or another planet, you find not a barren place or ball of burning gas, but a golden or silver sea of light. Gradually, this clears and you find yourself in a lovely landscape. . . . As you ride along through it, observe what is around you. Eventually, the horse stops and it is here that you must dismount. What is the place like? What do you see? There comes towards you an upperworld spirit, one of the tall Shining Ones, who appear as large beings made entirely of light. They may be winged, or they may not, but they are always very beautiful as presences (though their features may be concealed from you, veiled in light). Ask for a blessing, and for advice about any healing which is required. You may be shown an object or a creature of some kind. This will be important in the healing you seek, for yourself or a friend, for its particular upperworld symbolism.
To take a simple example, you may be shown a rose. Its upperworld, ideal or spiritual meaning, as most people know, is love. The message would be that love is the power of healing that is most needed. But if you had been shown this symbol in middle Earth, then it could have meant that the physical properties of the rose were wanted, as an aromatherapy oil or an incense. If you had been shown it in the underworld, the faeries could have said that an actual romance, as opposed to a generalized spiritual love for all beings, was what you needed — or were about to have!
If shown a symbol which you do not understand, ask to be shown or told more, until you understand better. In the end, simply take what is offered, and thank the high elf for giving it.
Ask any more questions that spring to mind. If you do not hear or see the answers at once, remember they may come to you when you least expect it (following a spirit journey like this, the right inspiration can come when you’re cleaning your teeth, or waiting for a bus). At times, you may be taken, by a Shining One, to meet other beings or to have further adventures. When all is complete, thank them for the meeting. Get back on the horse and ask to be taken home. Once again, you will rise up and fly through space, then descend through the Earth’s atmosphere, to land on the hilltop. Thank the horse and walk back to the tree, with your familiar spirit. Ask her or him to put a sphere of silver light around you, as psychic protection upon your return to the mundane world. And open your eyes.
As I said, it is still perfectly possible to do this work, even if your mind’s eye stays firmly shut. You can talk yourself through the stages of it, describing them in your mind. At the crux of the story, you say to yourself something like, ’Now I meet with a Shining One. This is a being of great purity and wisdom. I ask the following questions. “What is the healing most needed by myself/my friend? What form could this healing take?” They put the answers into my mind — where I shall be able to perceive them in a dream or as a sudden realization in my daily life.’ All you have to do then is to trust that this will happen.
If you talk yourself through a trance journey, like the one above, you may find it changes. The story may start to develop in unexpected ways. It may go off, seemingly at a tangent, to describe a rather more complex adventure. If this happens, it is a very good sign! It means that your psychism is developing as clairaudience (what you hear with your ’mind’s ear’) rather than as clairvoyance. Do not strive to make this happen. To do so actually blocks it, because you become tense. Just be relaxed and let things happen naturally.
If you are shown, or hear of, an unpleasant symbol when you have asked about healing, this may mean that health will ensue on getting rid of what is causing an illness. For example, when talking with middle Earth spirits, you may be shown what looks like a lot of black mould. This could mean, ’your house is damp and this is undermining your health’.
It is not always easy to interpret symbols when we are fraught with anxiety about the possible meaning. Sometimes, a familiar spirit can explain it for us. At other times, it is best to keep an open mind, while exploring various options for remedial action. We can also ask ’What would be the best means of banishing or dealing with this cause of illness?’ and should then be shown a more positive symbol.
The same kind of work can be done if you want to journey in middle Earth or in the underworld. To be in middle Earth, stand under the world tree and imagine that you call to the horse to meet you there. Then mount and go for a ride across open country. After a while, you are taken to (or visualize) an immense forest. Entering it, you travel along paths until you reach a green glade where you can speak with nature spirits. These may be the spirits of trees, or you may talk to a fox, badger or bird, or many different creatures. As with the upperworld, if you visit this place enough, your adventures will change. You may be taken from the forest to somewhere quite unexpected. You may see scenes out of history. All this will have a symbolic meaning, or a psychic one. For example, if seeing historical events in middle Earth, you may be being advised that your home or workplace is haunted. Alternatively, you may be watching a scenario which describes certain psychological pressures or political worries, in your own or your friend’s mind. If in doubt, ask your familiar spirit for an explanation, and ask to be advised of the right remedy. In fact, you should always ask your familiar spirit for advice or psychic assistance if you are stuck, confused, overwhelmed or in any way disturbed or disempowered.
When you are shown some physical treatment for an illness, like a particular herb, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified herbalist for confirmation, and to be told if it should be in tablet or tincture form, and in what dosage. Of course, this does not apply if the guidance has been very simple, like ’Drink more peppermint tea’.
Herbs of all kinds can be an important aspect of magical work, whether as incenses, medicine, essential oils or in other ways. But, unless we are medical herbalists, it is right to use them only as first aid treatments — or else magically, rather than medically — without ingesting them. For example, you could be shown a sprig from a yew tree, and advised that it is a healing remedy. Yew, as most of us know, is poisonous, and any attempt to make a herbal tea from it would be quite insane. However, as a magical substance, it means regeneration and immortality (which is why our Pagan ancestors often planted yew at burial places, a tradition carried on by the Christians. Physically, biologically, the yew has a miraculous, phoenix-like ability to resurrect itself when apparently dead. Small slips of it can therefore be used in a spell to regenerate someone’s artistic inspiration, to bring back hope for someone in despair or to make a new start when someone has lost what they most valued e.g. a relationship, loved home or fulfilling job. This can be done very simply by placing the evergreen yew twigs in a vase, to be left in the room where they sleep. These should be consecrated to the regeneration of the named person, as a link between them and the living energy of yew trees, in their aspect of rebirth.
This kind of work, done magically with the essences and spirits of natural objects or plants or creatures, is what witches and our forebears, the tribal healers, have always done. It is a skill that develops with practice and is based in wildwood mysticism. Although it can be done very easily, as with spells like the one I have just described, it is also a lifetime’s study — or many lifetimes.
To travel to the underworld, you may ask the horse to take you down into a cave. At the back of it, there is a passageway, along which you ride deeper into the Earth. Down winding tunnels the horse walks, the route lit only by candles that are set into niches along the rock walls. At the bottom of the slope, there is a wide underground river. The horse wades across it. On the far side, you are in a faerie landscape. There is no longer a rock roof above you, just open sky. You can see apple trees that are in fruit, leaf and blossom all at once. The horse may lead you to a lake within the faerie realm. In the middle of it, there is an island. Dismount from the horse, for a boatman waits for you. When he has ferried you across, you will meet faerie beings upon the lake shores or amongst the trees. These may not be people. You may meet a faerie wild cat, or a hound or blackbird or, indeed, anything. Ask the first creature you see to take you to the faerie queen or one of her representatives. You may then enter a walled garden. It is abundant with wild roses, rowan trees, blackberries, all kinds of wild flowers and there are more apple trees. This garden also has a sacred well from which, if you drink, you will be purified of something that is obstructing your development as a person, or as a witch. You will be purified at whatever cost (in terms of how your life will then change), so do not drink unless you are prepared for this.
After a while, you will see somebody coming towards you. It may not be she whom you have asked to see, for she may not judge that you are ready; but someone will come, faerie woman or man, who can help you. Ask any question you want to ask. This may concern health, changes in the pattern of fate, techniques for magic, or whatever is important to you at the time.
It is often good to ask for a blessing from any faerie creature or person whom you may meet, as you would with the nature spirits or Shining Ones. All are messengers of the Great Goddess or God, they are their representatives, as are we, ourselves, in our most profound, creative or divine aspect. You may also want to give blessings, as this is always a kindly act.
When you are ready, give thanks and return to the boatman. On reaching the shore where the horse waits, mount and ask to return to middle Earth. You will then recross the river, go back up the rock passageway and emerge from the cave. On reaching the world tree, dismount and thank the horse. Then ask your familiar to put the silver protective sphere round you, so that you may not be too disturbed by harsh atmospheres in the everyday world. You should, of course, also ask for protection after returning from the forest on your middle Earth journey, but I think that I forgot to say so.
If you get stuck on a trance journey — that is, if you cannot shift into altered consciousness nor make any headway — always resort to prayer. Call upon the Goddess and God of whichever realm you are trying to enter, and ask them to help you. It is also always worth asking your familiar spirit to open your psychic senses, and to transmit to you the psychic energy you require to achieve your goal. These things almost always work. If they do not, it may mean you are just simply too tired, since psychic work can be exhausting when we are already low on energy. It can also be revitalizing but, as with physical exercise, this only helps if there is something to draw upon in the first place. Whatever the reason, if it’s not working out, pray to be shown the right time and place for a trance journey later. And, as always, end with a request to your familiar spirit for a sphere of protection. Many people would actually recommend that you begin inner work by asking for the silver sphere. Ideally, you should, but somehow I never seem to remember to do that myself. I suppose that is because I feel safer in Pagan spirit realms than in the human world! In the event of meeting some unpleasant and destructive spirit (and this can happen, partly because there are astral entities created by human psychic activity), I always ask my familiar spirit to remove it. I instruct them to take it to a place where it will be transformed, until it is in harmony with the Lady and Lord, and with all creation. This always works.
I hope that this chapter has given some kind of glimpse of the fabulous possibilities for psychic experience available to a wildwood mystic. These practices will not unfold for you immediately, unless you have had previous psychic experience. But if you persevere, in a relaxed way, in a spirit of adventure, then I promise you will have results. By combining prayer and visualization (or by telling yourself the story), and with the help of your familiar spirit, you can part the veils inside yourself, and so enter realms where encounters with faeries, nature spirits and Shining Ones can be experienced. These encounters are real, they are not merely meetings with aspects of your own self. You will be able to know this. It is a matter of experience.
We are all learning. No one can claim to know everything there is to know about the three realms, which are infinite, nor always to get it right — not unless they have achieved ultimate wisdom. But, on the winged horse, we can travel hopefully.
Other methods of moving between the realms include visualizing that you are flying on a broomstick, or moving upstairs or downstairs inside a crystal tower. In time, you may discover which works best for you.
Start with just one journey in whichever realm most appeals (though, in time, you may travel freely between them all in one session). Keep it brief and simple for a first attempt and do not worry if the results seem undramatic. These things only develop with practice. You would not expect to play a concerto the first time you picked up a flute. If you never ’see’ anything, just describe events inside your own mind, intuitively following twists in the plot until you know that you can hear spirit voices. Once they begin to give accurate predictions and useful advice, you will know that it has ceased to be ’just’ your own imagination.