Ten inches fell in 24 hours. Ten inches that weigh down the cedar trees, coat the mossy earth, and bury the dead. Even the hemlocks look heavy, more than they used to.
Curiously, in Western culture we celebrate the birth of a new year just ten days into this season of darkness and survival. I wondered about this from a young age dabbling in astrology. My elder sister is a solstice-portal Aries, making her birthday one of welcoming spring and a new, warm world. She, like many other Aries folks, lives her life like each day is a fresh start and an exciting new challenge. That springtime energy is echoed in the depths of winter with December 31st; New Year’s Eve resolutions and diet plans. It’s an energy so out of place with nature that something else – some other energy – must be missing from the equation.
Shortly into my magical studies I read that winter was the power season of the water witches. Winter, too, was the domain of the water zodiac signs (and, to some extent, their mutable companions). Intrigued, I swam in a very Piscean way through this concept and aimed to consciously experience this affinity. Year after year, I’ve found that my most consistent days and weeks of physical confidence, optimum mental health, general self esteem, and desire to be creative reside in the winter months. Of the water zodiac signs or not, anyone with a particular pull towards the water – holy wells, deep oceans, long seashores, river deltas, lotus ponds, thunderous rain – may find a deep sense of comfort and companionship with the waters of winter.
In some ways, the anticipation of spring pulls our hearts too quickly over this cold, dark sea, and our Oneness with winter – and all the opportunities hidden therein – are put aside for next year. And the next.
What are those lessons, anyway? Patience, for one, I’d guess. Winter feels long because it is deeply still. When temperatures are low, there is less energy on the move – less room for mistakes. Stripped bare down to her most basic of energy needs, the earth mother holds us in deep silence and witnesses the cycle of life and death. Water, an element essential to that life, also drowns, erodes, cascades, and evaporates. Water can leave a desert to die, or be present in such abundance as to create the inconceivable biodiversity of the trench.
This leads to the other lesson: presence in what is witnessed. In our case, that simply means presence in the tale of life – and it’s counterpart.
Outside are ten inches of snow and a cold wind of 26 degrees. Trees have fallen, trapping people on the highway, closing off neighborhoods, and leaving others without power. This is the third time in my lifetime of living here that we have had a weather event like this. In the beauty of this snowstorm there is danger, suffering, and material loss. Yet, where there is death there is life.
Washington State in recent years has seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in our forests caused, in major part, by the lack of snowpack from winter, high up in the mountains. In our short but hot summers, that snow from autumn through spring melts. This slow melt is what has nourished our creek beds and forests while dampening the landscape, protecting it from fires. This year, we may see a less wildfire devastation here – that is, less crazed, uncontrollable heat and energy due to the nourishment of a cold, dark winter.
Ice and snow is water in solid form. Like water, it carries the energetics of remembrance, but more like an archive or library rather than the flow of memory. Ice is water’s way of standing still. The elemental spirit of ice simply asks us to do the same.
In winter, the stillness makes us vulnerable. Though we’ve adapted to physical stillness from our evolutionary legacy of migratory hunting and gathering, it would be disingenuous to imply that our mental and spiritual experience is anything but still. This is why working with the seasons in the Wheel of the Year can be such a revitalizing practice pathwalkers, as the seasons offer the most present experience we have in modern life to the natural world. Of course our ancestors venerated this cycle and presence too, but they also regularly faced the other aspects of nature on an intimate plane, like the buffalo hunt, collective grief, large predators, natural birth, poisonous snakes, and sleeping under the stars.
Especially sleeping under the stars on cold winter nights.
I felt the wells of energy in my being today. The root well released first; something unknown cleared away as I relaxed, as I felt safe.
I’m home now in a windstorm with autumn scented candles burning in the window. And I felt all of myself. Something released within my hips, my thighs and back. I felt a relief and relaxation wash over me, lighting something up from the tips to depths of my being.
As I gazed at the passing clouds and felt the warmth of the candles on my cheeks, everything cleared away. I felt the path of the sacral open, then the way to the solar plexus, which opened up my heart, then my voice, then my mind and – finally – my soulness. Stillness. Oneness. Quiet.
Breath on the window.
I felt the parts of my energetic system illuminate the whole of my light body, and when it did I was suddenly deeply aware of how it – I – am part of the system that makes up the whole of the body of the Goddess. What are Her energy centers? As I felt this connection, I felt too the gods of ancient ways begin to spin. They were the sephirot of Her lightbody. I felt my own light emanate brighter, like a line of communication had been formed.
Ascension is talked about as a shift in consciousness, as if anyone really knows what that actually means. States of being such as “Ascended” or “Awakened” can only be pointed to, not shared. Even when pointed to the image isn’t clear. We rely on parables, practices, pretenses, or the occasional poem. Ascension lies behind the taste of that feeling I get when I connect with Spirit, with the lightbody, with the network of spiritual beings which make up the whole of the universe: Goddess. When I sense her energy grid. When I sense her in others. Something endless is behind that unified feeling; perhaps Oneness, perhaps Source.
I suspect that the key to pulling back the curtain on the Ascension experience is creativity. So much of nature and experience is rhythmic. Like the parts of an ecosystem’s whole, all does as it shall in accordance with pattern. The ants in a line, the decay of underbrush, the seasons, the hunger of a hyena, the waves, the thorns of a bush. All is as it shall be. But the human spirit doesn’t operate exclusively in a formula. We are indeed predictable, but not entirely knowable; there’s a depth of will and desire in our hearts. We’re a species apart, one bent on doing not “as it shall,” but as it will.
This human strength has been garnered from our previous incarnations into advanced consciousness, from trees, to dolphins, orangutans, homo erectus, and homo sapien. Us. The builders. The tinkerers. The philosophers, questioners, artists, and healers. Meanwhile, the gods of ancient ways watch us; they’re curious, anxious, to see their creation gain such self awareness, hope, and willpower.
“Maybe,” they wonder, “just maybe, these souls in homo sapien’s body will show the power to create, too. Create so well they can join the next realm, the realm of creators.”
Winter is beginning to bite at the forests. This morning, I watched as the sun lifted the fog from the valley, and revealed the glitter of the first frost. That was the indication I needed that it was time, right there in the haze of sunrise, to read the Tarot for Sagittarius season.
Typically I draw and place cards on intuition, and this was no different. It was easy to connect with the Archer. I saw in my mind’s eye a hunter pressed against a birch tree and hidden by ferns, his breath a cloud in the cold air, waiting for the moment to strike. I drew a simple two card spread for the Archer: 9 of Cups and The World.
The Archer Sagittarius has us cradled in his rough, calloused hands. We are being held in a scared magnetic space between two polarities, and where we fall will determine the work we must do in the season of Capricorn. As we dance between the polarities we can appeal to the deep wisdom and experience of Sagittarius, and have the added benefit of our own wisdom peering back at us.
What polarities are guiding us?
Each of us have years of experience of life on Earth. We have danced, cried, hidden, been seen, felt heartbreak and loss, dreamed, and worked. This experiential intelligence, gained from our perseverance, is guiding us each towards something unique and special to our self development. Meanwhile, the other end offers comfort, familiarity, and risks stagnation of our growth.
Sagittarius has a sense of humor, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the area in which we are being challenged to apply our experiential intelligence and grow is actually the exact same part of our lives where we are, indeed, the most comfortable. Perhaps it’s our relationship with a partner, a steady job, a daily routine, or a lifestyle choice. Maybe it’s how we communicate, make excuses, or self-soothe. Wherever it may be, Sagittarius is asking us to think bigger.
A ritual for working with Sagittarius Season 2019
This is my Passion Path ritual; it helps me understand my inner desires and what excites me most about my life and future endeavors. Feel free to adapt as you see fit: you may want to call the quarters, craft sacred space, or cleanse your space. Anointment with oil is recommended, though not necessary.
You will need:
Pen or pencil
A candle, preferably red
Draw 9 cups or chalices on a sheet of paper. In each, write an aspect of your life in which you find the most comfort and happiness. Challenge yourself to consider unhealthy or destructive behaviors that you may be latching on to for escape and ease.
Then ideate around each cup. How could this area of your life be even more extravagant, rewarding, fulfilling, or exciting? What more do you want to learn? Are there any challenges you would like to tackle? Or is there a characteristic, trait, or habit that you desire to develop?
Each cup offers you a secret door to a garden of even more abundant and renewed bounties. Visualize what might be found there.
When you’re ready, light the candle. Appeal to Sagittarius for the Archer’s wisdom; you may want to offer cedar or cedar incense. State any amount of your cups – one, two, maybe all nine – and your vision for enriching each. Close your eyes and listen for the Archer.
You may want to enlist the help of Goddess in order to see and visualize your path. Some Goddesses who are appropriate for this ritual working include:
Parvati, Isis, Inanna, Psyche, Cerridwen, Juno, Frigga, Lakshmi, Artemis, Bronwen, and Kali Ma.
A short word of Jupiterian caution
Though Sagittarius can bring us to a place where the path to abundance is illuminated, its ruling planet Jupiter has a reputation for promising more than it can deliver. For this reason, any manifestation of the visions acquired with the help of Sagittarius or spellwork to achieve your ends should be put on hold until Capricorn season.
A divine life-force energy permeates the natural world. In some cultures this is called chi, others prana or awen; in ancient Japan, that energy was given definition with kami.
The indigenous faith of Japan, Shinto, is not unlike other shamanic traditions found among human cultures. Expression of faith typically takes the form of showing honor and reverence for ancestors as familial and individual guardians, as well as showing deep respect for the abundance of kami, or gods, that occupy the islands.
Modern paganism typically tries to fit kami into the concept of the pantheon that has been defined by classical studies rather than a spiritual experience. Kami are often described by scholars as having been derived by nature. I would argue that kami are emergent rather than derivative; they are a natural phenomenon resulting from the cosmic mix of this sphere in the same way the Gulf Stream or glaciers are. Kami are found within all elements of nature, which includes human beings. Philosophy in the modern world places the Human being below the gods and above the natural world; in Shinto philosophy, much like most animistic systems around the globe, the Human being occupies the same definition of nature that the sea, a rock, or a flower does.
Kami may be worshiped anywhere at any time and with any intention and prayer, or lack of one. Many people choose to make a pilgrimage to large, sacred Shinto shrines while others may not. Worship is characterized by an act of cleansing the body, mind, and soul. This is often done through washing the hands and mouth at the entrance to a shrine, bathing before paying homage to ancestors at a home shrine, or showing general respect for cleanliness and tidiness. The emphasis on cleansing permeates into the expected character of a person, where honesty and purity are regarded as virtues of the most value.
So, where did kami and Shinto come from? The answer is, quite fittingly, lost to a time unreachable to our contemporary lenses. There is no founder nor origin of Shinto, nor are there any specifically divine texts, dogmas, or doctrines. Shinto, the way of the kami, is a legacy of how the ancient Japanese experienced the natural world of their lands, and the kami that emerged from those natural forces.
There are a few kami of particular importance. Izanagi and Izanami who birthed the islands of Japan are well known, but Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and Inari are likely the most widely worshiped. Amaterasu’s shrine, Ise-Jingu, is a must for any pilgrim. She is the thread that unites the Human world with the kami as an ancestor of the Japanese people, the royal lineage, and the one who bestowed grain cultivation to the people. Then, it is Inari who keeps watch over agriculture. Shrines to Inari are dotted throughout the landscape, on mountaintops, edges of rice fields, or alleyways in the city.
Like Loki or Set, a kami that often plays a trickster or even antagonistic role in Shinto folklore is Susano’o, kami of the seas. As anyone living near a body of water knows, those natural forces from which kami are emerged are not committed to keeping human comfort on this planet in mind. Nature is severe. Tides rise, rivers flood and destroy crops, lightning sets ablaze a sun-baked forest. Even nature’s creatures, from small insects to wolves, can cause havoc to our homes and livestock, devastate our crops, or bring illness to our families. While the Human being is meant to strive for purity and honesty, they’re also meant to seek the blessing of kami in control of nature, as well as tolerate the hardships they might bring.
Much like the druids of Celtic lands, the ancient Japanese would gather in sacred spaces deep in nature to commune with the kami and seek these blessings of safety, bountiful harvest, and prosperity. These spaces could be a sacred river or waterfall, a boulder, or an ancient tree. Today, of Japan’s 80,000 shrines are surrounded by woodland. While visiting, you may notice a few boulders or tree stumps roped off in the gravel pathways. These are relics of power spots or places where the kami themselves descended. Holding your hands out to the aura of these objects – but not touching them physically – is a common method to directly connect with the power of kami and sacred space.
Of all the elements that make up the folklore and power of kami, what I have found the most interesting is the relationship Shinto has with wood. The islands of Japan are thick with forest, so it isn’t hard to see why, in a practical sense, this renewable and sustainable resource became a favorite for both Human civilization and creation of sacred shrines. The architecture is a stark contrast to what is typically associated with ancient religious belief, where stonework and grand megalithic structures come to mind. In Japan, it is wood; and that wood is thoughtfully and routinely replaced, beam for beam when it ages. Why?
Because, in modern terms, wood is sustainable. The trees that are selected to create the beams of Ise-Jingu are renewable; this is, in essence, an expression of the eternity that the kami symbolize. Permanence has never been a staple of Shinto, or even Eastern, philosophy. Though the design of Ise-Jingu is the same with each passing generation, the physical wood witnessed has changed, signifying the passing of things within a grander scale of eternal time.
This is perhaps the greatest lesson that we in contemporary times can take from the kami. We build cities and extract resources with such ferocity, such speed and disregard for the future, that we’ve severed our connection to eternal time. Rather than participating in the natural sphere of eternal time, we’ve removed ourselves from it; by considering ourselves outside of nature, we’ve not doomed nature – but doomed ourselves.
Nature will find a way. Life will always grow. But if we are going to be the ancestors of tomorrow, we need to earn that through working with the flow of kami, of awen, to create it.
My plans for pilgrimage have crumbled. I’ve booked a trip to somewhere other than I had planned – again.
In six weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane bound for the United Kingdom. I’ve never been to Europe nor the British Isles, and the opportunity to go has come about through a complicated web of fates at work. It’s interesting to me that I have been journaling and planning for a visit to the United Kingdom in 2019 for years, but was unable to make it happen myself. The plan was to apply for graduate school in Scotland, spend as much of the year as possible in the Highlands, and return home. Unfortunately, other things worked against me that made this dream, this goal, crumble away. Yet, a month ago at the height of summer, I was given an opportunity to visit the United Kingdom for work and extend my trip to travel freely. That, to me, felt like a blessing of the Goddess – or that I had written down autumn 2019 as my first time to Europe so many times that the universe was compelled to make it true.
I have a very romantic view of ancestry. I’m Jew-ish and Scott-ish on my mother’s side and have felt a great pull to the landscape that fed the human beings whose lives ultimately created mine. Beyond a love for classic English literature, Welsh folklore, and Irish poetry, I’ve never been particularly invested in the idea of traveling to any country; my aim with the Isles has always been Scotland’s Highlands where my grandfather claimed heritage.
So you can imagine my surprise at myself when I, once again, have chosen to go somewhere completely different than my original goal. Last night I booked stays in Brighton, Glastonbury, and London – and that will be all.
I did this before, in 2017. After my two years in Japan came to a close, I shipped all my belongings to America, purchased a backpack, filled it with journaling materials and t-shirts, and planned to stay in a Cambodian village. The idea was that I would have two weeks to write, take a few yoga classes in town, volunteer on a farm, and recover from the drama from my life in Japan before going home.
When I sat down at my computer in my emptied bedroom to book a ticket, my mind and memory is blank. It was as if some unseen force descended on my body, took control and, within a few minutes, I had a nonrefundable one-way ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal. I was beside myself. I knew nothing about Nepal – quite literally – except that Annapurna was there.
Yet that one-way ticket turned into a month-long stay in a village in the valley, where I didn’t take yoga classes nor do all that much in the way of writing. I spent a lot of time with people, volunteering, taking photographs and, most importantly, experiencing the presence of God.
I firmly believe that the reason I was overcome with the intent to go to a country I knew nothing about against all plans was part of a Divine plan. The village I stayed in was actually named for Vishnu and housed the oldest temple in all of South Asia to Him. Vishnu plagued my dreams and I was, at first, afraid. Over the course of a month, I became a new person; that experience with Vishnu’s energy was the defining time that led me on an authentic spiritual path. I guess it could be thought of as my first true, life-altering Spiritual Awakening.
As a polytheist, I’ve done as much research as I possibly can on the pre-Christian religion of the Scottish Highlands in an effort to incorporate the same Divine patronage of my ancestors into my current spiritual life. For anyone familiar with Celtic, Brythonic, and Gaelic paganism, you probably know just how near-impossible this is. I felt a great aversion to settling for the Irish pantheon. Though I knew from a scholastic sense that these Gods and Goddesses were very likely worshiped in Scotland, the general lack of temple proof frustrated me. Though Brigid and the Morrigan felt on some level to be a spiritual match for me, I decided to put off the whole idea until an experience of some sort came through. Well, I have that experience on the horizon. It’s already begun.
There is one reason I booked a stay in Brighton: colorful queer culture.
There is one reason I booked a stay in Glastonbury: I remembered a YouTuber I respect, Kelly-Ann Maddox, mentioning it was her favorite spiritual place in England.
That’s it. I knew nothing else yet felt compelled to go; to skip Stonehenge, to skip Scotland or Wales, to skip London or Manchester or Cornwall. Just Glastonbury. It may not come as new information to others but for me, when I learned that there is an active temple to Brigid there, that Mary Magdalene – one of my favorite Jewish women from history – is said to have lived and died there, that the Earth’s heart chakra Anahata resides there… I was dumbfounded. My journey to Nepal had turned into a sort of cosmic guidance to the arms of Vishnu at the location of Earth’s crown chakra. Now that I think about it, my first experience in Japan was actually a visit to Mt. Fuji – the 9th Gate – with my new host family. That experience, too, was a spur of the moment. I had one month off from school and took out a loan to visit Japan.
I’m starting to wonder if my world travels should simply follow leylines! More curious, though, is the timing of these trips and shifts. Thinking back to my journals and planners filled with the goal of autumn 2019 in Great Britain, my first journey to Japan, or how Japan pushed me out of it with such force that I landed in Nepal…. I wonder if these weren’t manifestations at all, but a kind of foresight of the course of my life. Indeed, if we plan our lives before birth there must be echoes of those decisions dancing within us from the very beginning.
With the Lion’s Gate today, each of us will receive information regarding the situations around these avatars we occupy. This is a time of Divine and ruthless guidance; it is clarity in the roadmap for the events we have set up for ourselves in this lifetime. Whether or not we listen is up to us.
A few days ago, I was walking to the supermarket down the road from my home and out of nowhere felt lifted off the ground. That particular afternoon, I left my headphones at home. I opted to listen to traffic and the rumbling of the river, now quite full from typhoon season. On my right was the great blue expanse of Osaka Bay, and on my left was the towering green of Mt. Rokko. A warm breeze came off the mountains and twisted around my legs and arms. As I walked, I felt as if it were holding me.
Summer is such a sacred season to me because I can feel the Sun, our beautiful star, generating something tangible. There’s an energy, as thick as a pool to swim in, of leading up to something. And every year, I’m convinced that moment – that special anticipated thing – is the Lion’s Gate.
The Lammas Energy Flow of Lion’s Gate
Like many modern pagans, I utilize the Wheel of the Year to honor and sanctify these times of the year. It’s convenient for anyone living in a standard climate of four seasons. As I’m in Japan at this time, it works – but it’s also a little tricky. My practice is Kemetic, which means I’m honoring gods born of the desert landscape. And, though my spiritual life is a blend of Ancient Egyptian gods, Canaanite imagery, and South Asian transcendental methods and philosophy, I’m also Jewish. Often, sacred days or Beings can feel a little at odds with one another. But this specific day invites all to the table: all traditions, all Beings, all practices, all ancestors; occultists, your yoga instructor, kitchen witches, pagans, and crystal healers.
Lion’s Gate is a crux of harmonious energy that seeks to uplift, renew, and shift what is within us. Though it’s an astrological time of year that tends to usher in great change, it is also a celebration of a syncretic life – and lives. We are given an opportunity to connect directly with our Higher Selves and evaluate our avatar, our current incarnation, from the lens of our soul’s infinite existence. Our mistakes are valid, our shortcomings planned, our successes honored, and the work to be done is celebrated as more opportunities for deep learning.
Lions are a near-universal symbol. The spirit of Lion lies in the Torah, in Sekhmet, in Vishnu, in Celtic faiths, and is standing guard in front of the shrines of Japan.
Over the years, I’ve adapted the Wheel of the Year to my needs. I want my experience of time and the seasons to represent not only my spiritual practice, but my ancestral background and active experience of climate, ecology, and local wildlife. In Hebrew, Lammas could be referred to as “Et ha-Katsir,” meaning the time of harvest. Lion’s Gate opens during this time. Harvest season is more than reaping the rewards of our hard work; it’s also a deeply metaphysical, honored experience of life eating life. Just as the lion works with her pride to capture, kill, and harvest their prey, we come together to eat of the Earth.
By eating of life, we create an absence. The fields are empty. Our minds and hearts are filled to their peak while we go with the Earth into a slow descent into the Underworld, to winter, to darkness and hibernation.
Chapter 57 of the Tehillim, or Psalms, reads:
” 5 My soul is among lions; I lie among men who are aflame; their teeth are [like] spears and arrows, and their tongue is [like] a sharp sword.”
The chapter deals with David’s steadfast trust in the Divine, that all adversity, pain, and suffering has – at its core – purpose. Lion’s Gate is exactly this. It is an astrological and magikal opening through which we eat of our successes and failures, and are presented with a new set of challenges.
As we go into the Underworld over these next months, we will sit with what Lion’s Gate brings us. We will wrestle with it as if we were among flames. And, when spring and the time for planting seeds comes around, we will know exactly what our garden should contain in the following year.
Atum, the self-created god of Before-Time, came into my life by reaching out to me in a dream.
This is by no means uncommon; many pagans experience the divine or Spirit communication through dreams, and that often leads us to question and wonder at what we witnessed. Very often, we can sense that the Being in our dream is a deity – but Who?
I’m of the opinion that the gods find us in sleep because dreams are limitless. It is only there that our consciousness is willing to defy the laws of physics or storytelling and visit the familiar and unfamiliar, all in favor of gaining a lucid experience. When we wake, we’re left to interpret symbols; but with Divine dreams comes the challenge of interpreting the Divine.
I want to walk through this process by exploring how I uncovered my patron, Atum. It began with a lucid dream from a mysterious Egyptian God. I devoted hours to research the details of my dream in order to narrow down who it had come from – and what I did once I had a couple guesses on their identity.
I’m grocery shopping with my partner at our usual market when, at check-out, I’m suddenly convinced that it would be silly of us to go home and cook. There were a few hours left to the evening, I told him. Instead, we should get on the last ferry to Jamaica, or Costa Rica, or wherever it takes us.
We arrive on an island somewhere in the sea. My partner is present but I don’t know where. The island is a large, round, and pure sand with tufts of grass on its borders. We’ve arrived with a dozen other seekers, here to witness the Man wake-up. This happens once every 30 years.
The sun is setting, and I see stars. A bright constellation in the shape of an arrow catches my eye first, followed by one that looks like a cave art drawing of a human being.
As darkness falls, we gather in the sand and begin to spread out. The Man wakes up.
In the dark, he pulls liquid light from beneath the sands and fashions them into the souls of animals. A cheetah spirit, tall and boundless, pounces on me; I felt the weight of her paws on my shoulders. When we touched, she became briefly material; when we broke away, she returned to liquid light form. I laughed at her nuzzle.
I made eye contact with a lion. It was a brief moment steeped in profound, deep love.
There were other animals. In addition to lions and cheetahs, I saw orangutans, gorillas, a bear, crocodiles, and vague beasts I didn’t fixate on. Indeed, these are some of my favorite creatures of the Earth – with the exception of a crocodile.
Then I see the Man.
He appears in front of me, almost floating above the sands. He’s older, dark-skinned, with small patches of white in his hair. His eyes are shut but I can sense that he sees me through the lids. He carries a staff made of wood, but it’s strong like metal, with a hook on its end. It emanated a creative power.
The cloak he wears shifts in color from dark green, deep blue, to brown.
I gaze up at him for a moment, smile, and bow my head. Tears in my eyes, I thank him for this gift of “the most beautiful experience of my life,” and I return to interacting with the light-being animals.
But time is short. The sun begins to rise, and they all collapse back into the sands. The Man disappears with them for another 30 years. Tears finally spill from my eyes, and I call out to him as “Jupiter.” The crocodiles, however, do not disappear. As the sun hits their bodies, material snakes emerge. I run from them back to the boats and realize only then that I am alone.
Who is this God? This mysterious Man wouldn’t leave my mind’s eye, but luckily the dream was extremely lucid and provided a good stack of details to use in research.
Step 1: Isolate the Concrete Details
I knew He must be an older man associated with arrows, wild animals, and perhaps blindness if I’m to guess from his shut eyes. I received a sense from Him that He had a need for darkness in order to create – a very common archetype – and I sensed ethereality in Him too. What stumps me most is the Jupiter calling card, as I’m confident he was not a Greek or Roman deity. The number 30 is also notable.
My first thought was for this to be a call for working with Amen-Ra/Amun-Ra, but some part of my intuition told me it could’ve been a dream from Khnum to begin worship of him. At first, I was hung up on animal associations. What Egyptian God is associated with cheetahs, lions, and apes?
Later, as I sat at my pottery table, it occurred to me that in the dream I specifically thanked him for the “gift” of the experience to connect so deeply with these animals. Indeed, big cats, apes, and bears are all part of my animal totem spiritual work. They’re my favorites since childhood. So, perhaps the animals had more to do with me than him.
Step 2: Divine
I was able to perform a little divination late at night, underneath the Sagittarius Waning Moon and the planet Jupiter shining brightly beside it. The only reason I was up and noticed that the Moon was positioned so perfectly in my living room window was that my cat, Zhu Li, had been running in circles meowing like a fire had started.
I reluctantly got out of bed, half expecting to find a rodent in the garden. Instead, it was quickly obvious that it was the Moon and Jupiter she was meowing at. Both were perfectly positioned in the garden window as if peering in at us. I was beyond giddy at the synchronicity of arrow imagery and Jupiter from my dream earlier in the afternoon and resisted the urge to shake my partner awake. I quickly found and lit a fresh pillar candle, burned frankincense, and sat at the window. I tied a blindfold around my eyes while facing Jupiter.
I asked: What was this dream gift’s deeper message? The answer was short, but hit me to my core: “Show respect for all things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
That was the divined answer I needed, the founding philosophy upon which I could figure out who the dream had come from.
Step 3: Gratitude
This mysterious Egyptian God didn’t appear out of nowhere. He arrived through a plea I had put out into the universe, asking for a masculine energy to come into my feminine-dominant life. I requested the Goddesses I work with, Aset/Isis, Bast, and Asherah, for assistance in finding a male patron God, because my own research and worship wasn’t leading anywhere that fit.
Step 4: Interpretation and Research
I was offered some very specific hints at His identity: the number 30, the planet Jupiter, arrows, specific animals, and the short divined message: “Show respect for things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
The Planet Jupiter
Modern planetary correspondences to ancient gods is a tricky business. I’ve seen more than a dozen sources relate Osiris to Pluto, for example, when we know that the Ancient Egyptians had no knowledge of Pluto in the first place. I like to make some room for these correspondences, though. Pluto is related to Hades, God of the Underworld. Osiris is an Egyptian counterpart. So, naturally, we would attach the planet to both gods. I don’t see anything too wrong with this.
Which leaves me with this: what does the planet Jupiter symbolize on a spiritual and mythological plane?
In Greek and Roman myth, Jupiter/Zeus is the Father of the Gods, the Sky Father, and a King. In astrology, Jupiter represents expansion, spiritual enlightenment, travel, fortune, and is associated with Sagittarius’ arrow and the fish of Pisces.
From this, I can deduce that I’m probably looking for a King of the Gods type figure. Someone who is likely self-created or, at least, someone transcendentally spiritual in tone. This doesn’t narrow down my list of potential Gods much, but it does cross a few off like Thoth/Djehuty.
The Number 30
In my dream, I was told that the God woke up every 30 years to perform what I saw. In numerology, the number 30 is reduced to 3. This happens to be my personal lucky number, but it’s also associated with creative expression in both numerology and Tarot. In Hebrew Gematria, 30 is associated with 3/Lamed, another personal favorite of mine. Lamed and Qof are the only two Hebrew letters to rise above or below the written line of text, something I’ve always found funky and attractive. The Hebrew term “Father in Goodness” shares a 30 value.
So far, so good. I can assume he’s creative (which, honestly, was pretty obvious from him literally creating souls in the dream).
But what of the 30-year cycles related to Saturn? I’m big on researching Saturn returns, and am anxious for my own. Could this God share characteristics of Saturn as a Lord of Karma, maker of bones, or one who brings order from chaos?
With this idea, I’m tempted to add Set to my list with a little question mark. Perhaps he’s related to the God of this dream somehow.
The most obvious answer to arrows is Neith, the Goddess of war and hunting. Interestingly, her consort is Khnum, one of the Gods on my list. Her son, Tutu, is a curious mix of snake, lion, human, and crocodile with his symbol being arrows.
Speaking of animals, let’s look at those.
As I stated in my previous post, some of the animal symbolism in the dream felt gifted to me as an encounter with my spirit guides rather than an expression of this God. But, I could be wrong. The primarily interesting animals were the crocodiles and snakes, who did not disappear with the sun rising, and the big cats who I interacted with physically.
Cheetahs are associated with Mafdet, a Goddess who protects Ra and is sometimes depicted with a head of snakes rather than that of a cheetah. As Sekhmet and Bast, two lioness goddesses, are also protectors of Ra, I could deduce that the cheetah who pounced on me and the lion who observed me were protecting the God in my dream. In this case, that could be Ra or one of Ra’s many synchronized forms. Maahes, a male lion God of war, doesn’t fit the vibe of the dream, so he’s crossed off the list.
As for crocodiles, Sobek is another protection God. His other qualities of military victory, virility, and safety don’t match the dream, but his relationships to Set and Khnum keep both of them on the list. Set is thought to be his father, while Khnum either his father or son.
Finally, the crocodiles turning into snakes. Snakes are infamously associated with Apep, the enemy of Ra. It is curious that I ran from the snakes left behind with the God’s departure from the island, and Set is the God who assists Ra in fighting off Apep.
Step 5: Deduction
Based on these, the most obvious answer could be Ra. He takes the form of a lion or a snake and is the creative force behind all life. But the dream began with dusk, centered on stars, and lacked any blazing sun of inspiration.
The most likely candidates were two: Atum, God of the Evening Sun and an Elder. He is the first father, fathering Shu and Tefnut from the waters of Nun, and all things are said to be made of his Ka. The liquid light of the spirits in the dream would match this. His tears created the first human beings and, though a solar deity, lifts the dead to the starry heavens. When in animal form, Atum appears as a snake, a lion, mongoose, ape, bull, or lizard. Secondly, Khnum, God of the Nile and Pottery. Khnum is an interesting God because he makes the bodies and Ka of human beings on his pottery wheel. The clay he uses comes from the Nile that he himself inundates with water. In the dream, the God I encountered lifted up the liquid light of these animals from the sand. I myself am a ceramicist, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he came to me. The arrow in the sky could be accounted for as his consort, Neith. His animal association is simply a crocodile.
In the writings at Esna, Khnum is said to be the father of Ra with Neith. That’s a fun detail, but I’m going to exclude it since this seems to be a Roman influence.
Step 6: Reaching Out
My process going forward was quite simple. At my altar, I created a candle and offering plate for both Atum and Khnum. Beer, water, and bread are traditional and simple if you’re Kemetic, but there are a plethora of ideas for offerings. For Atum, I included a labradorite crystal because I associate them with the Before-Time; for Khnum, I made a clay figure of Him. From there, I will meditate, pray, and wait patiently for a sign.
Because I focused exclusively on the Egyptian Gods for this search, I included those prayers. What I found through meditation and ritual was not only confirmation that the dream, in fact, came from Atum (woo!) but that Khnum was more than happy to receive worship from me.
Now, they both have a prominent place on my altar.
I hope this write up of my research process is helpful for you in your own search for God or Goddess. If you’d like any pointers on interpreting dream messages from the Divine, leave a comment or shoot me a private email. I’m always happy to help with dreamwork.
I frequent pagan forums and social media circles, and often see the same question repeated again and again – often desperately: Is (x) a sign from (y)?
Opening ourselves up to metaphysical spiritual belief in the age of science is hard. It’s easy to explain to someone that you walked away from organized religion, even praised in mixed company, but to share that you walked into paganism or polytheism renders all kinds of weird questions.
“You don’t really believe in that, do you?”
“I mean, you just see them as archetypes, right?”
Or, my favorite: “Do you have any proof?”
I think our obsession with understanding dream symbols or thirst for a “sign” is an inner battle to reconcile these questions. It’s enough to get them from others, but often we have them within ourselves. Even after years into a pagan practice and countless journal entries detailing sublime experience, once can still fall into doubt. I do.
The important part is that we show up for our spiritual wellbeing and choose practices that enhance our minds, hearts, and health. Choosing to work with a god or goddess can be more religious for some, but psychospiritual for others.
Wherever you are on the spectrum of belief, I want to offer you a list of organic and everyday connections that exist to help us find deity and approach Spirit. Within yourself are already a multitude of organic threads just waiting to be sewn into a spiritual fabric.
If you feel called toward connecting with deity, here’s my advice: write down your responses to this list. Writing forces you to slow your thinking down and truly consider your ideas, thoughts, and desires with depth and care. Writing pieces of yourself down puts them into the universe; out of the mind and into physical reality.
Take these ideas into a journal, ideally one that you’ve chosen to be a place for spiritual work. It can be a Book of Shadows or something else.
If you’re interested in numerology, you can use numbers like your Soul Path number and find deities or spiritual practices connected to those numbers. Lucky numbers work too. My lucky numbers are 3 and 8, and in my case, 3 is incredibly powerful in all aspects of my life. I’ve found Vishnu and Auset to be my focal points and recognize 3 in them. Vishnu has had 9 incarnations (3×3) and Auset recovered Ausar from the dead to become pregnant and give birth to their child, creating a sacred triad.
What about you? Are there numbers you’ve felt drawn to? Do you have any lucky numbers? Do things always work out the first time you try them, or does it seem to always take three – or seven? Do your relationships with others come in twos or fives? Does your birthday mean anything to you? What about your birth time, or place? If there’s a number you feel at home with, explore it! What deities are related to it? What direction?
Not long ago, I had a profound dream from Atum. In it, he rose spirit bodies from the soil – bright blue energy beings – and they were all the animals that I loved and connected to the most. In the dream, he guided me to them and when I reach out to touch them, they became material. There were gorillas, lions and tigers, crocodiles and elephants.
Everyone has some sort of animal connection within them. My personal belief is that these can be representative of past lives before we incarnated as humans, but perhaps you have a more shamanic perspective that animals are guides and offer us spiritual medicine.
Were you obsessed with wolves as a child? Do you find yourself watching spiders closely rather than jumping away? Does seeing a falcon take your breath away?
Maybe you found yourself getting a dragonfly tattoo out of nowhere, or there’s something about the octopus that gets your heart swelling with intrigue. Write these down. Check the World Wildlife Foundations adoptable endangered species. Which would you choose? What element or directions do you associate these animals with? Which ones do you want to experiment calling upon? And, finally, what deities hold the same animals sacred that you do?
My partner swears by music. That’s the number one way he feels that Spirit communicates with him, and he will stop everything to honor those moments. Sometimes it’s a song that comes on in the grocery store, other times it’s the both of us having a tune stuck in our heads.
Of course, it doesn’t have to just be the radio.
Think about the music you go to when you’re emotionally well; not full of happiness, not in a valley of sadness or pain. What do you like to study to, meditate to? What songs come on when you’re out at restaurants? Is there a song that just pops up at the strangest or most needed of times? Look at the words, the genre, the meaning of these songs or these types of music. If you’re into soundscapes, seek out elemental or nature deities. If you like hip-hop, seek out deities who are playful or assertive. Classical could lead you to deities of balance or justice. Try making music, just with your hands on the table. What rhythms do you find yourself producing? What’s your vibration?
4. Joyous Moments
What makes you happy? I know, loaded question; but it’s true. If you find joy in painting or the arts, you might want a deity who can spend time with you while you pursue that. If you’re really into bath bombs and other luxurious self care routines, that sounds a lot like a good offering to Aphrodite!
Maybe bath bombs aren’t your thing, but tea in the morning is. Do you like being surrounded by friends, family, or strangers? Write down the moments of your life where you felt the most blissful. Write down what moments you want to collect before this life has ended. What deities reflect similar habits or goals? If you want to backpack along the Ganges or in Europe, think about the deities of travel and movement. If you’re passionate about building a family, ask yourself why you want one and look at the many Mother Goddesses you might have something in common with.
This might be the most important and will require slowly opening your inner eye. Look! For! Weirdness!
These are not coincidences, these are communications. Track your moods, your feelings, your interactions. Did a friend mention a film or historical figure that’s been in the back of your mind lately? Did that license plate you read have the initials of someone you care about? What imagery or feelings keep appearing in your dreams? Do you keep finding pennies everywhere you go?
If you’re not experiencing weirdnesses in your life, throw yourself into a new situation, new people, hobby, or activity. Breaking routine is an excellent way to invite the universe to have a hand in authoring your day.
Patience is True Magic
These are simple journaling activities to help you place yourself in the greater world we occupy. Spiritual journeys are deep, personal, and a long-term commitment. Don’t choose a deity just because they’re popular, or you feel like you need one.
Your own divinity and power to manifest does not reduce because you’re not throwing food at your altar for a “patron deity” every week. In fact, patron deities are a lot rarer than social media might have you believe. Allow this process to be what it is – a process. Allow time to discover your spiritual home. There’s no rush. You’ve lived lifetimes and you will live more.
Spirit guides are already here, waiting for you to listen. The more you reflect on the inner workings of your mind and heart, the more you’re saying YES to magic and saying YES to ascension.
Her name literally means “Queen of the Great Earth.” Maybe you’ve come across her before as Allat or Irkalla, the latter of which is the literal name for the Underworld.
Ereshkigal is the dark sister of much more popular goddess Inanna. While Inanna is associated with the planet Venus and rules over love, sex, beauty, art, and joy, Ereshkigal rules the dead in the underworld and all that lies in shadow. She is passionately in love and married to Nergal, the god of war, plague, and pestilence. Together, they had three children.
In contemporary comparative mythology, Ereshkigal is considered to have equivalency with the Goddess Hecate of the Greek pantheon. Though they are both goddesses of darkness, the underworld, and — of course — magic, the similarities stop there. Hecate had an active role in mythology, was an unwed crone, and traveled to and from the underworld at will. Ereshkigal was, like many ancient deities of Mesopotamia, more mysterious.
Personally, I fall into a school of thought which paints Ereshkigal as a goddess similar to Persephone. In a theoretical perspective, too, Ereshkigal and Inanna could be seen as two halves of the same woman — just as Persephone is split between the upper and lower worlds with Demeter or Hades.
Many versions of Ereshkigal’s myths survive, but I want to focus on one particular myth that opened me up to shadow work for the first time. I came across the story and devoured it again and again. Gradually, it helped me understand the duality inherent in womanhood, the importance of death to life, and how to accept and utilize the dark feminine.
Fear of the Dark Feminine
The myth in question is actually Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld. While Inanna initially seems to be the protagonist — she’s venturing to the Underworld to attend the funeral of Nergal, Ereshkigal’s husband — it becomes clear that she is more of a student in the domain of her sister.
Though Inanna is aware of the dangers in entering the great below, her heart aches to mourn with her sister; indeed, Ereshkigal is a dangerous woman, but Inanna’s love for her sets her on the quest anyway. Inanna takes a few precautions by alerting her confidants of her journey and asks them to fetch her from the underworld if her sister does not allow her to return.
From our modern perspective, the tale can seem strange. Why fear your own sister? But, as anyone walking the path of women’s spirituality has probably learned, there is a lot to fear about ourselves and our nature.
Within us are traumas, sins, dark desires, and ugly inclinations. Shadow work itself is dedicated to unearthing the roots of what poisons us from the inside. For Inanna to take precautions in visiting her dark sister is not unlike someone beside you when in a lucid dream, drunkenness, or delirium from migraine pain. If anything goes wrong or is too intense, someone is there to comfort and soothe the spirit.
The Seven Bolted Gates
In Ereshkigal’s Underworld, there are seven gates which lead to her throne room or palace. When Ereshkigal learns of Inanna’s arrival at the first of the seven gates, she orders them sealed and bolted. For Inanna to reach her, Ereshkigal demands that her sister Inanna unlock the gates through a series of sacrifices.
Essentially, Ereshkigal has closed her domain off from the goddess of love. Yet, she’s given her a choice to enter through sacrifice. These are a series of choices Inanna must make at each gate.
The symbolism of the sacrifice comes in the form of clothing. Inanna must remove an article of clothing at each of the bolted gates to unlock it, but this is decidedly exoteric. Ereshkigal’s seven gates interestingly correspond quite well to the chakra system and, although these two spiritual beliefs are of different cultures, I think placing them side by side can help us analyze the myth in a holistic way so we may analyze ourselves.
For Inanna to pass through her sister’s gates, she sacrifices pieces of herself. I like to think of each gate as the process of chakra and its symbol shutting down; as Inanna descended to the underworld, she is slowly dying. If we begin life from the root chakra upward, it makes sense that as we return to the underworld we would descend from the crown.
And so, at the first gate, the Gate of Authority, Inanna is asked to remove her royal crown. We can understand this as both spiritually and literally symbolic: she is entering the domain of Ereshkigal’s kingdom, and her authority has no place there.
The second gate is the Gate of Perception, corresponding to the brow chakra. Inanna loses her staff, a symbol of wisdom; Ereshkigal’s staff, a snake, is the source of perception in shadow.
The third gate corresponds to the throat chakra. I’ve written before about how the Dark Goddess is particularly potent with the throat chakra. In this legend, at the Gate of Communication Inanna loses her necklace. It is not until the fourth gate, the Gate of Compassion (corresponding to the heart chakra) that Inanna begins to become truly exposed and naked in removing her breastplate.
Further descending into the underworld, Inanna crosses the fifth Gate of Personal Power and removes her ring of power. While the idea of enhanced objects is nothing new, I particularly like the symbolism here. The solar plexus chakra associated with the fifth gate is a swirl of golden light. For her to lose her ring of power, which I would assume to be gold based on both the era and culture, begins to truly give the visual of her chakra system’s lights going out. Inanna is slowly evaporating at the gates of her sister’s kingdom of the below.
The sixth and seventh gates, the Gate of Creativity and the Gate of Manifestation, correspond to the sacral chakra or womb space and the root chakra from which our survival instincts emanate. Inanna first removes her ankle bracelets, a symbol of her sensuality and sexual power, before removing her royal robe.
Ereshkigal has stripped her sister of her power and vestments through a series of choices. At each gate, Inanna could have turned back, but she persisted. Within Ereshkigal’s kingdom, all that is of the Above world does not matter; none of the objects nor the chakras of the living body hold power in Irkalla.
Ereshkigal Kills Inanna
Finally, in the presence of her sister, Inanna is naked, vulnerable, and emptied. There, in the palace, Ereshkigal kills Inanna. She then leaves her sister’s corpse on a hook for three days.
As the third day passes, two beings sent by Enki arrive to rescue Inanna. Ereshkigal possesses the water of life, a magical substance which can resurrect the dead, and uses it to bring her sister back to life.
Inanna departs from the Underworld, returning to her own domain above.
Ereshkigal as Woman and the Legend of Persephone
Though this may seem brutal, Ereshkigal has, through this act, initiated her sister into the mysteries of the dark feminine. Inanna persisted through each gate and, which each of her lights of earthly and heavenly vitality (the chakras) gone, all that remains is life itself.
Through striking her sister down, Ereshkigal delivers unto Inanna deep feminine wisdom and a psychological opportunity for Inanna to meet her own shadow, her own death.
For me, the descent Inanna experiences could be thought of as her gradually becoming Ereshkigal. The idea of this duality and process reminds me of Persephone and her dual nature. Persephone, too, is a goddess who represents the initiation of a maiden through terror and extremes — but learning to hone them, grasp the experiences, and emerge forth with deep wisdom and Queenliness.
Ultimately, Inanna is reborn because of her sister, and is only given the experience of rebirth because she died in the first place.
We as women embody the goddess. Our bodies themselves are reflective blueprints of nature, and the myths we have passed down for thousands of years reflect those very patterns. Just as the planet Venus goes retrograde, dipping below the horizon into the underworld, Inanna descends to meet her sister.
Women do that too. We have the opportunity to descend and meet our inner shadow, our dark sister, our underworld self. We have high pain tolerance, create and destroy, and bleed to make life. We can see ourselves naked, dead, powerless, and in this way recognize all that we are in rebirth.
What is our menses, the cycle of the moon, but a process of death and rebirth? Of coming to know the shadow and, through that process, living the fullness of life with more joy and beauty?
This piece was originally published to Medium. You can read it here.