understanding the medicine

When we see an animal die before us, what are we supposed to interpret and understand from that medicine?

On the way to our last circle, one of my students hit a deer. She was devastated. The deer most certainly will die, or already had died. She asked me, “What does this mean?” As a circle keeper and an earth medicine walker, I found myself stumbling over my words. Why does this happen to us who walk an earth medicine path? Others chimed in with their thoughts—the deer knew you could hold space for its transition; it was destined to die; better you than someone else.

A few years ago, after a circle, I was driving home. I live in the boonies, as we say, out in the sticks, where I worry about hitting deer. Pennsylvania ranks as the second most deer collisions in the country. So, I drive slowly, cautiously through the fields, and frequently stop for all kinds of wildlife. But I was still in the city, headed home, and bam, a deer ran into my car. It hit my front quarter panel. I pulled over and the deer laid on the side of the road, panting, clearly injured. I called the police and sent Reiki. I envisioned the Reiki energy repairing the deer’s legs and head, and strengthening it. I did this Reiki for almost 15 minutes, and the deer stood up, steady and whole, then ran right out into the street to get demolished and killed by a massive truck.

The truck tore the deer apart. I shook and cried as well.

What does this mean? Is it still medicine for us if we see our medicine dead on the side of the road? And how do we interpret it?

As I meditated on the death of the deer, I could see this interplay between the deer’s medicine and the encroachment of humanity. The medicine of deer resides in its deep vulnerability. When deer interact with humanness and urban environments, we begin to see just how vulnerable these magnificent creatures are.  Humans have disrupted the balance of the predator and the prey. Our ancestors decimated the predators—wolves, mountain lion population, the bears—who would have hunted the sick and weak, keeping populations down. Massive deforestation also affects deer populations. Whitetail deer flourish in edge environments, right where the forest meets the suburbs. Streets and cars encroach on the delicate ecosystems. And hunting is down around the country with the ease of shopping for meat in the supermarket.

So, deer medicine is not only a medicine about the individual deer’s vulnerability to predators but the species. Deer, particularly those with antlers, have a strong connection to Spirit. Their antlers are said to reach high to our guides and angels as antennae for messages. Deer connects with the subtle energy system and has heightened senses from hearing to vision to smell. They are always sensing the disruption in the force.

I could not help thinking as my student told me about the deer and her accident that this was part of the critical message for her. Knowing that she is going through a beautiful spiritual opening, deer medicine can come in this way to remind us of our vulnerability during our spiritual opening. When we experience all this light and love that begins to channel through us from Spirit, we live in a bubble of good vibes. When I started opening, I just was always blissed out and only able to tolerate other lightworkers. When we take all this gentle light and vulnerability into the real world, our first encounters with the sickness of our society, the toxicity and negativity of people, the harshness of the news and the suffering of others, we experience this world just like the deer, hit out of nowhere by real life. This modern world is cruel to the vulnerable. Deer medicine embodies vulnerability, quiet, and gentleness. Nothing is more profoundly indicative of the imbalance then when nature interacts with urban life. Where we see how pollution hurts wildlife, or cars kill deer. 

This grounded, counter energy to very high vibrational work is part of the medicine lightworkers need to carry as much as the light message of our power animals.  When you open in profound ways, you are, of course, more susceptible to those deep wells of grief and compassion. But it goes deeper. There is nothing natural about carrying vulnerability or being an empath in a narcissistic world. We also have to experience and learn about the shadow medicine of our animals. Shamanic work is not always easy or light or fun. It is mostly about challenging ourselves to go beyond the surface, to experience the more profound message, to become stewards of the Earth, spokespeople for the Mother. When all of this starts, we want to live in that amazing Other World of Spirit. When we practice earth medicine, we become intrinsically tied to Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon, and their incredible cycles. Life and death, happiness and grief, masculine and feminine—this delicate balance becomes second sight to us We can see it without trying. Impermanence and suffering of life and of the human condition is part of our medicine and the spiritual experience. We must hold space for both light and darkness, birth and death. As we begin our opening, this can be a harsh reality.

If this happens to you, or you are driving and notice an animal sacred to you, dead on the side of the road, my suggestion is to begin asking what is the medicine for you—both in the animal’s living experience (how does it live, love, eat, hunt, raise its young, etc), then as your medicine interacts with the brutality of this world. 

  The prayer stick I created for the Vulture I harvested in 2016.

The prayer stick I created for the Vulture I harvested in 2016.

We can also show reverence for the medicine of that animal by creating a prayer stick. This is a way of honoring your deer and helping its Spirit make its way upward. You take a stick. I suggest about a foot to a foot and a half long. I would walk in an area where the animal was killed, or an area sacred to you. Do not take a stick off of a living tree. Forage on the earth for it. Remember to sing and leave an offering for found objects. Tobacco is traditional, but lavender, a piece of hair or other offering is proper. Hold the stick, and commune with it. Talk to it.  Take all the bark off of it. Bark represents the ego, and we take the bark off to humble ourselves before Great Spirit. Sanding the stick, and working with it in some way is important to connect your energy to the tree energy. You can decorate it with red leather or red fabric, crystals, feathers or other offerings. You can paint it with colors, or symbols. Attach leather or yarn to float in the wind. Feathers are traditional because they carry the prayers to heaven, also the soul of the deer or animal hurt.  Take some red flannel and make a little offering or prayer tie to Spirit (tobacco or sage is traditional) and tie it to the Stick. Some traditions use a Y shaped stick. Then place it in the earth. This grounds your prayer and gives it a solid foundation. Also it connects Mother Earth and Father Sky. If you want, you can place it where the deer was hit, or you can place it in a sacred place in your yard. Sing a song to offer its soul to heaven/Great Spirit. I did this for the Vulture I harvested last year, and it felt important and honoring of the medicine and nature.

If you are able and feel up to it, take the hair or an item from the animal that was killed (always remembering that if it stinks, it will always stink. If it has bugs, your house will have bugs, so only newly killed animals can be harvested, but that is another post) and use it in ceremony. As medicine keepers, we need to honor the medicine and the allies and giving them a good death is part of this process. You can use that medicine you harvested on your altar or in a medicine bundle.

One thing I know is that none of us aim for the deer or squirrel or bird, so release guilt. Guilt is the illusion of control (if I did something different, it would have changed the outcome). Just be with the profound grief. That is enough suffering. Create a ritual of honoring the medicine of the deer. Sit in the discomfort of your humanness and the ways in which we can mitigate the harshness of our living on the earth. Allow the tears their flow. Fall into ritual and ceremony. 

Remember anything, all of our human experience, can become our medicine. To ignore the death, suffering, and violence inherent in our animal medicine is to ignore the full power of its medicine. May you walk gently on the Earth, friends. 
 

altar creation spread

If you didn't know, one of my passions is altar making. I have an altar 100% of the time on my bookcase in my meditation room. On one side, i always have a crystal grid going, just to raise the vibration of the room and my soul work. On the other side (because the bookcase is long and thin), I place a statue of a goddess or angel, or a picture, or a statue or fetish of the animal medicine I'm working with. Then more crystals, ones that work with the crystal grid or medicine wheel I have on the other side. I change it out depending on the holy day or sabbat, my soul work or journey work, shadow issues that arise, messages I am getting from Spirit, Animal Medicine, health or family crisis...whenever I am facing a new challenge, passion or phase in my life, I look to the altar first. 

I have been facing so many different exciting changes and circumstances. My health journey has been challenging this year. My work life has expanded with hibiscus moon and then my client base in harrisburg is always expanding and changing. My soul work has been on a nice even keel, and then I went to SouLodge Earth Medicine Gathering and uncovered many layers of what I need to do. Where do I even start with all this?

Well, that was my question. Where to start? Where does Spirit want me to start with all that information? Being an intuitive isn't always so clear cut. I get tons of messages. Right now, my dreaming is through the roof (Last night, i dreamed an incredible dream, and then when it was done, I decided to have that dream again, and then reworked it into a new dream with a new ending. Talk about lucid dreaming on steroids!) And sometimes I get that analysis paralysis, or rather information overload!

Because of all this soul work, I have rededicated myself to morning journaling and daily tarot pulls. AND WOWEE! it is awesome. What is awesome is finding a new passion for something I do so often for other people. When you pull tarot for clients, you often don't pull for yourself. Part of it is that i easily dismiss my messages--yeah, yeah, I need to stop being so hard on myself. Okay. Scoop up the cards, and immediately forget the message. So, journaling keeps you accountable, and I decided to play and explore some new decks beyond my beloved Rider-Waite, specifically the Chrysalis deck by Toney Brooks and Holly Sierra as well as Motherpeace by Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble. I've been using the BOOK! (I always joke with my students about getting OFF BOOK! and now I am back ON BOOK [and incidentally loving being on book. I even went on Rachel Pollack's book with the Rider Waite just to keep it going.]) 

All of this is to say, this morning, I tweaked a spread I do for myself for creating altars when I have a short attention span and cannot figure out what to focus on. It incorporates Oracle decks with Tarot; in fact, it incorporated four additional oracle decks--Visions Crystal Oracle, my own oracle deck called Cycles, of which there is only one deck and it is all about ritual, The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck and the Ascended Master deck by Doreen Virtue. Then I used the Chrysalis Tarot deck for my main work, which has guides in and of itself. (Such a fantastic deck. I was at first obsessed with the pips, but now, I cannot get enough of the Majors. Ariadne is stalking me, I swear. And Kali for that matter.)

Anyway, here is the spread as I pulled it:

So much of what this reading said to me was that it was time to allow transformation to happen. The shadow work here is around letting go, surrender and joy. I often struggle with joy. Joy is a bugger for me. So, this work with snake centers around this shedding of control and desire to figure it all out. The ritual card here is one I created called Enso, Imperfection. I used to have a fairly steady and daily enso painting practice. I don't paint ensos anymore--life got complicated with my adventurous two year old. But I decided to paint a rock to remind me of this for my altar, using this enso ritual as a jumping off point to explore an imperfect creative practice to funnel some energy.

Here is the altar and grid that arose from this spread:

You also can play with this spread, as I have compiled a little easy Tarot Layout for you to incorporate into your practice. In fact, I created a few of these for Pinterest, since I use SO MANY pinterest layouts these days, having not so recently discovered that they exist. Enjoy and share, if you can. It is great to have a Tarot community to bounce ideas off of. LOVE to YOU!

vultures and septarian

One of my chickens stepped in front of me on Sunday, panting, wings semi-extended, clearly uncomfortable. Heat exhaustion. We splashed her hearty winter feathers with cold water, and got her into the shade. Energetically, the heat exhausts me too. The summer's long days and humid beauty hang on me like a cloak. I hide behind it, shield myself from the blaring light of July, from the summer people. I love the heat, but only when I am alone, drenched in her, digging deep into her wisdom. I find moments with tea and bathing, but it's not the same as in Winter. My children bicker, and give up on playing outside. The baby began to crawl, tearing through anything not nailed down--exploring, curious, ravenous for extremely tiny things that can kill him. I must be diligent and extroverted in my home. Meh, it is not my nature, but I'm not a monster. I adapt and shine and extrovert.

Midsummer and midwinter feel the same to me. Inward journeys with shadow and light. Introspective, deep. What needs tending? I ask myself. What needs nurturing? What does self-care look like right now? It is different in the different  cycles of the year, month and even day. My evening care is much different than my morning. My winter care is much different than my summer. Right now, my self-care looks like cleaning out closets, sparse meals with juicy sticky fruit, afternoon naps with the baby when I sneak them in, pulling weeds in the early morning, and reading snippets of books I love. I take a moment by the windows watching the butterflies drink from my Echinacea. Five minutes with a cup of tea and Women who Run With Wolves, or 78 Degrees of Wisdom. I refound the General Wolf Rules of Life, one morning, and nodded along. It is my practice to surrender to whatever comes my way. I tend to work less with many stones in the summer, and work more intensely with one or two.

 In June, I dreamt for three consecutive nights about Septarian, the beautiful stone that combines the energies of calcite and aragonite and dead sea creatures. I had no Septarian, but Spirit nudged gently. My Instagram feed showed three Septarians in one day, and an advertisement shows up on every website I click on featuring Septarian. Sure, there are logarithms, and techy bullshit that makes that happen, but I bite. I ordered one from my favorite on-line shop.

Dragon egg.
 
She looks like a dragon egg and I feel blown open by her energy, which is simultaneously grounding and cosmic. Through my work with Pixie's Earth Medicine school, I journey with her to the Lower World, and meet her as a goddess wrapped in black. Her energy came to me just as the energy of the beautiful Turkey Vulture entered as well. I no longer read books written by other people and their experiences with stones, I have been making my own notes and observations. As the Septarian fell into my receptive palm, I saw the shadow of the Great Mother, Turkey Vulture. She could be a black Dragon, I think, as I watch her circle above the cornfield. Could they be intricately tied?  And in the weeks that followed, two large vulture feathers crossed my path, literally sitting in the middle of the road to my house.

Last year, when we moved here, the vultures appeared. Thirty or forty of them resting on the hay bales down the street, wings outstretched like my heat-exhausted hens. It was the first time I ever worked with Vulture Medicine, and I shied away from it. Vulture? Really? I'd rather work with Owl, or Hawk, or Lion, something less, uh, creepy. As I shied away, the vultures stopped congrugating at the dead tree. My teacher Pixie often says, "If you don't honor the medicine, it will go away."
 
I missed the vultures when they left. I searched for them constantly, pointing them out way off in the distance to the children. I told the young ones in our kids meditation circle the story of Vulture.  Personally, I started intensely meditating on Mother Vulture and her role. How valuable, important, and amazing a creature the Vulture is. When she appeared again this summer, I was ready for her energy, dark and powerful as it is. I was ready to release what was not serving. Again and again, as many times as necessary.This time around, I ask Vulture to help me honor, release and transmute, so I don't have to do this particular bloody work again.
 
Releasing. Transmuting. Mothering the self. These are the medicine of Vulture, and now, perhaps, Septarian. As for me, Septarian and Vulture will be intertwined. We get lost, us caregivers, in the mothering of every one and every thing else in our lives. When we ask for our medicine to come, whatever shape that may be, we open to our own truth and comfort. We find self-care through the lessons of that medicine. We must find these moments in extreme heat and extreme cold to search within us for a safe haven, a place to rest our weary spirits and do the work of caring for our souls.