During the exploration session on Spirit Animals, presented during The Silent Eye (a modern mystery school) “Leaf and Flame: the Foliate Man” weekend in 2016, one of the companions enquired about “Shape-shifting”. Since this was outside the scope of the discussion, the concept was briefly addressed without going into any real detail. It was, therefore, with some surprise, that I found myself agreeing to present an exploration session on the topic during “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017.
As April approached, the usual buzz of anticipation built towards the day that the work-book was released, and roles revealed. Most surprised, therefore, when an email arrived indicating the “costume” arrangements for the weekend. Other than the, at this stage, mysterious “Weaver” and “Spinner”, only I would be required to be costumed: in the role of Shaman. This made it easy, as I probably had a few things lying around which would foot the bill.
As it turned out, this was a double blessing, as neither Robe, nor Shell were to be found. Ironically, both would make a reappearance, pretty much where they were always believed to reside, before the weekend was out!
The work-book, when it arrived, proved to be a masterful crafting of ritual movement, wrapped in a touching storyline; at once intimately personal, and, ultimately, Universal. I wasn’t entirely sure that I was fully “ready” to experience the Temple energies that the unfolding of such a story was likely to unleash, particularly when viewed from the perspective of the Shaman of the Raven Clan.
The exploration session I’d outlined focussed on the reasons why shape-shifting appears so difficult. It isn’t that we cannot do it, indeed we do a form of shape-shifting on a daily basis, without ever really thinking about it. It is only when we come to consider shifting into a form other than human that we become stuck: in a variety of fears, ultimately centred on the persistent illusion which we fear most. The weekend, unknown to me, would approach an inspection of the root, and illusory nature, of these very same fears.
It took much longer than usual to find a motel, and it was with some relief that I managed to secure a room around midnight. In hindsight, it was probably just as well; allowing regalia to be “smuggled” from car to room (and back, in the morning) with few observers. By the time I finally lay down, I expected to be out like a light… that’s when the “itch” started. Something wasn’t right. It wasn’t till around 3am that I finally caught on… and with no idea how I was to explain this odd “change to the plan” to the Directors of the School, I promptly fell asleep.
Wandering into the Queen Anne, Friday lunchtime, of a Silent Eye weekend pretty much guarantees finding “the usual suspects”. Hugs, helloes, and “Oh, by the way, I might be about to completely mess up everything, but I need to make a change to the script…” They accepted this news much more readily than I could have imagined possible.
What had come the night before was the realisation that the Clan would not rely on a single individual, the Shaman, to Cense the Sacred Space. Indeed, opening and cleansing the Space would have been, very much, a community activity. Prior to Ritual 1, then, I found myself teaching the basic steps required for the Companions to perform a round dance. Not only that, but directing them to be aware of the possibility of “recollecting the Song of the Raven Clan” seemed rather fantastical, even as I was saying it.
With some trepidation, I then explained their new role to the “Weaver” and the “Spinner”. Handing over your most sacred object, in complete trust, is a big ask. I shouldn’t have worried. Both executed their new duties with such reverence for the Drum, that it was only a matter of time before a snippet of the Song would be revealed in all its unexpected glory.
The Shaman was to “stand, off” for the first three rituals. Thankfully, one of the Companions would be unable to arrive until Ritual 3. I say thankfully, as only in Ritual 3 was I required to “stand, off”, playing the missing Companion’s part in the first two. I say thankfully, as the energies raised in the round dancing, to the Mother’s Heartbeat, filled the Space so completely that they were all but palpable. As the Companions passed the Light, and themselves, along the ritual pathways of the Hexaflow, it became all but impossible to maintain any sense of equilibrium as “Watcher”.
It was only to get worse, of course, in Ritual 4. It seemed simple enough on paper. Take the assembled Companions on a guided meditation, preparing to take them on a physical journey to “face their fears”. What transpired, was most unexpected, as I found myself walking: first the circuit of the Temple, the triangle, another circuit, then the Hexaflow, followed by a final circuit, at the end of which I found myself, Staff now in hand, completely shaken, disassembled and brought together in a new Octave…
How my fading, ever-shifting voice affected the Companions, I can only guess. That the text was such perfect length to allow that journey, depositing me in the exact place required, and prepared, in full regalia, to accompany the first of the Companions on their own journey through the Veil, remains a mystery. If I tried it now, out of the Space, and the combined Energies thereof, I really don’t believe it entirely possible.
Nor do I believe that it is possible to attend such a weekend and return unchanged. It usually takes several weeks to fully recover a sense of equilibrium in the “everyday”, and for the “lessons” to merge, and become “part” of the “re-newed” you. Those to whom we return, in the “real” world, may even look on us with a different eye, trying to figure out what is “different”, what has “changed”. Yet, ironically, it is not us, but they, who have been changed by our experience of it…
The exploration? Ah. Yes. That went… well(?) Or as well as might have been expected when you get lost in “What it is to be human…” [Coming soon…]