Monday, October 23, 2017

Introduction to Spiritualist Healing

[NOTE: This post specifically details Spiritual Healing as taught in the religion of Modern Spiritualism. This method is neither the only way, nor the best way, to approach energy work. This is simply an introduction to one particular variety.]

 Energy work is a fundamental part of many spiritual practices. For example, in withcraft when you cast a circle and envision energy coming out of your finger (or wand or athame or staff), you're doing energy work. You're sending "energy" out into the world to do something for you. In this case, to form a protective sphere around your working space.

If, during a spell or ritual you charge your candles or herbs, what you're doing is putting energy, or intention, into those things. You're taking something intangible, and putting it into something physical, so you can work with it.

Energy work takes many different forms and is known by many different names. Spiritualist healing, reiki, feng shui, psionics, telekinesis, and magic can all be considered energy work. All of these examples are about impacting the physical world by way of the nonphysical world. Even if you don't subscribe to "energy," these are still useful ways to transform feelings, emotions, and intentions into physical objects to work with.

Energy is a very broad term that new-age-y-type folks use all the time. It's similar to chi or prana or vibrations in that energy is believed to be flowing all over the Earth all the time, and can hold different properties depending on where it is and what it's doing. For example, if there has been a lot of negativity in your home or life, we might say that there is bad or negative or stagnant energy around you. One way to deal with that is by smudging or physically cleaning your home or body. The act of physically and/or energetically cleansing is believed to wash away negative energy.

I'm being purposefully vague here because there are innumerable systems of energy work and, honestly, it doesn't really matter how your understand energy to work. The important part is finding a system that works for you and jumping into it yourself. As I said, energy work is essential or magic and ritual, and it's important that you're comfortable with it.

So, I'll be posting short introductions to the energy system that I'm familiar with and I'll include resources where you can learn more about them if they interest you. Today we'll be learning about Spiritualist Healing.

The Spiritualist Church is a really fascinating entity, and one that has shaped my own spiritual practice quite a bit. Essentially, it's a religion that places a lot of importance on the idea that spirits, or the souls of people, continue living after "the change called death" and that they are willing and able to communicate to those of us still living. The act of communicating with spirits is called mediumship. Spiritualism teaches that anyone can learn to be a medium and, in fact, we should all do just that.

In 1909 Spiritualists gathered in Rochester, NY, my city, to formally define spiritual healing and to add it to their religion. Today, the National Spiritualist Association of Churches defines a spiritualist healer as such:

A Spiritualist Healer is one who, either through one’s own inherent powers or through mediumship, is able to impart vital, curative force to pathologic conditions.
A Spiritualist Healer works with the spirit, mind, emotions, and the body of the recipient. A Spiritualist Healer is aware that once stress is removed from the mind and emotions, the body will respond naturally. This brings about holistic healing in the patient.
Spiritualist Healers acknowledge the importance of the medical community and work in cooperation with it at all times. Spiritualism recognizes that the medical community is an instrument of healing of the Infinite.

Modern Spiritualists believe that there are two main ways spiritual healing can be accomplished: with and without Spirit intervention. The quoted text in this post is taken directly from the NSAC website.

An endless reservoir of healing is available from the spirit side of life for the use of individuals of the Earth Plane. Various methods can be used to tap into this power: 
Healing with Spirit Intervention 
Absent Healing
Absent Healing is a curative power sent to someone at a distance. The healer first cleanses their mind of doubt, the seed from which failure grows. Knowing that healing is a reality aids the healing in allowing healing power to flow through easily. The word impossible disappears from their vocabulary, and true love for the one in need is expressed. Positive prayer creates a bond with Infinite Intelligence and healing spirit entities. Without this help, the healer is powerless to relieve the recipient’s condition. The NSAC Prayer for Spiritual Healing is more than mere words. It first appeals to the Unseen Healing Force to cleanse the Healer’s mind and body, then asks that it heal others. Finally, it affirms our trust in the Infinite’s power and love. Prayer is a mighty force. When linked with energy from the spirit realms, it expands to embrace the positive, eliminates the negative, and helps perfect health to manifest.
Contact Healing
With contact healing, the actual physical contact assists the healer transfer curative energy to the recipient. The healer’s hand or hands are placed upon the recipient’s head, shoulders, or both; thus becomes a conduit through which this energy flows. The spiritual healer may be acting as a transformer of the spiritual energy to make it more readily absorbed by the recipient.
Many contact healers place one hand upon the recipient’s forehead and another upon the back of the neck. Contact with the head and shoulders is sufficient for the purpose of healing. Touching the recipient any other place on their body is unnecessary, and charges of unprofessional conduct can result from doing so.
Spirit Healing
With spirit healing, spirit doctors work directly upon the recipient to correct, or relieve conditions. With this type of healing the spirit entity, or entities, do not require the use of a healer in a physical body, but are able to work directly upon the etheric, or spirit body of the person in need. 
Healing without Spirit Intervention 
There are other means of bringing about healing without the intervention of spirit doctors or the Infinite.
Magnetic Healing
A superabundance of magnetic energy within the physical being of some persons helps to facilitate the ready transference of the extra healing energy to others. However easily this power flows from the magnetic healer, it can also be depleted if too many healings are given in succession.
Suggestive Healing
Suggestive healing is positive thoughts implanted in the mind to serve as a catalyst to promote healing. The finite mind of a person is part of Infinite Spirit and may take positive or negative directions and affirmations have an important role in this method. Affirmations such as: “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better” find a place here since the Law of Like Attracts Like is also at work since like thoughts in turn create like conditions. 
Absent, spiritual, spirit, magnetic, and suggestive healing are the most common healing practices found in the Spiritualist church.
The results of Spiritual Healing are produced in several ways:
-By spiritual influences working through the body of the medium to transmit curative energies to the diseased parts of the recipient’s body.
-By spiritual influences enlightening the mind of the medium so that the cause, nature and seat of the disease in the recipient is made known to the medium.
-Through the application of absent healing treatments whereby spiritual beings combine their own healing energies with the energies of the medium and cause them to be absorbed by the system of the recipient.

Already we have two types of energy work to play with and to start using right now! Magnetic Healing is something you've probably already done. All you're doing is willing your own energy to move out of your body to perform a specific task. You'll know for sure that you've done magnetic energy work if you're really tired afterward.

Sometime when casting a spell you may be instructed to raise energy within yourself (by chanting or dancing or tensing your muscles). This is magnetic. You are creating an abundance of energy inside yourself and then releasing it. Sex magic (and orgasms, generally) are often magnetic.

The three types of healing with Spirit Intervention are modalities you may not be familiar with. And, listen, I know that the use of the word mediumship might make you feel like you aren't ready to do this type of energy work yet, but let me assure you: you are. You are, at this very moment, already a medium. After time and lots of practice you might be able to communicate with loved ones for clients, but right now you can already talk to Spirit, even if you can't hear the response.

Performing Spiritualist Healing with Spirit Intervention couldn't be easier. Many Spiritualists recite the Prayer for Spiritual Healing:

Prayer for Spiritual Healing
I ask the Great Unseen Healing Force
To remove all obstructions from my mind and body
And to restore me to perfect health.
I ask this in all sincerity and honesty
And I will do my part.
I ask this Great Unseen Healing Force
To help both present and absent ones
Who are in need of help
And to restore them to perfect health.
I put my trust in the love and power of God.

Then, you simply ask Spirit, God, your Spirit Guides, The Universe, Angels, or whoever you like to talk to channel healing energy into your body for the purpose of healing yourself, a person right in front of you, or someone very far away. Then, all you do is quiet your mind and envision healing spiritual energy flowing out of your hands and into yourself, another person, a plant, a pet, etc. There are no required hand positions or symbols or incantations. You just say the prayer, make an intention to provide healing energy, put your hands on yourself or someone else, and think really positive thoughts. You can stop when you feel like you're done (usually 5-10 minutes).

One thing I love about this modality is that it doesn't require an initiation or memorization of a sacred text, or, really anything, expect positive intention. Though, if you'd like to be recognized in a Spiritualist Church as a certified spiritual healer, you may have to go through various testing processes.

For some of you who have never worked with energy or Spirit at all, this might seem deceptively simple. It might feel like there aren't enough steps, or that I'm not telling you all the details. But trust me: It's as easy and accessible as it seems. The energy you are channeling is available in abundance all around you. You're simply asking Spirit to treat your body like a funnel, concentrating that energy for a specific purpose.

If you'd like to give it a try, I'd suggest sitting in a chair and saying the Prayer for Spiritual Healing. Then, close your eyes and place your hands on each side of your face, palms open. Just breathe and visualize a healthy version of yourself, whatever that might mean to you. When you feel like you're done, just stop. Open your eyes and get on with your day. You might consider thanking Spirit for their help, and perhaps washing your hands in cool water. It's said that doing so breaks the energetic connection you've made, helping you to ground excess energy.

You may or may not actually feel anything when you're doing spiritualist healing. If you do, great. If you don't, and the lack of sensation is making it hard for you to concentrate, try visualization. Imagine energy (perhaps beams of light? Smoke? Water? Whatever you're comfortable with. Good colors to start with are white, green, or blue) coming from the divine source (whatever you see that as) and moving into the top of your head (your crown chakra). That energy then flows down your neck, into your arms, and then out through the palms of your hands. It probably won't take you much visualization at all to begin feeling a sensation in your palms. Once you feel it, you're ready to start channeling energy! Have fun :)

Spiritual Healing is very simple, but in my experience, it can be very effective. Once you're comfortable giving yourself healing sessions, try giving healing to others, present or not (only ever with their permission!). Also try sending that energy to other purposes. You can try channeling energy to your car, your bank account, the United States Government, or whatever. The wonderful thing about doing Spiritual Healing is that Spirit makes sure that the energy goes where it's needed, and works for the highest and best good of those involved. You can't do harm with it, since it's God, Spirit, The Universe, that's helping to guide your hand. If you try to do something hurtful or abusive with spiritual energy, it simply won't work.

So why not jump in? Practice channeling energy and get used to how it feels coming out of the palms of your hands :)

For more information on Spiritualist Healing, I recommend checking out your local Spiritualist Church. Visit the NSAC website to see if there is a church near you. Also grab these two books, for sure:
-The Quest of the Radical Spiritualist by Robert Egby
-Buckland's Book of Spirit Communications by Raymond Buckland

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ethical Smudging

Smudging is the act of burning an herb or resin for the purpose of spiritual or energetic cleansing or clearing. It's a practice that people have employed for eons.

However, it's always important to look at the impact our actions have on our planet, and it's important to check the facts! Spirituality inherently is connected to the wonder and magic of nature, and of our planet. It is our responsibility, therefore, to care for our planet. New Age folk frequently use lots of disposable items (like candles, herbs, oils, etc) in their daily spiritual practice as well as in their spell work. I would say, though, that while these items are largely unnecessary, it's completely acceptable to add them to your practice, so long as they are environmentally responsible. Any herbs or candles you use should be biodegradable, vegan, and gathered in a sustainable manner.

The human population is growing and new age practices are becoming more and more popular. With more people every year buying the same herbs we've always used, we need to be more aware of the impact of that demand to the plant population. In this article we'll go over just a couple of the most popular herbs used for smudging. Please check the citations for more information.

The most common substance used for smudging is white sage (Salvia apiana). It may also be called ceremonial white sage. The shrub is indigenous to southern California and you can find it in just about any witchy store tied into tight bundles. You simply light an end of one of these bundles, blow out the flame, and thick smoke will billow from the embers. The scent smells like a campfire; deep, woody, with a almost medicinal twist.

It was widely shared on new age blogs and websites a few years ago that white sage is critically endangered, and that any store that carries it is certainly evil and should be avoided. This is actually a myth I believed until I sat down to write this article! White sage is not listed on the Conservation Status scale (x), and any perceived scarcity has more to do with forest fires in the area than it does with overuse by humans. That being said, many people use white sage because they think it's the only thing they can use to smudge. This isn't true! I highly encourage you to try other herbs and, more importantly, look for something that grows locally that smells nice when burned (also that isn't poisonous obviously).

Sweet Grass is another common herb used to smudge. There are two types grown in the North America that may be used as incense (Hierochloe odorata or Anthoxanthum nitens), and neither one has any conservation concerns to worry about. Sweet grass is typically sold in a braid and can be burned as is (like a white sage bundle, a smudge stick) or you can put a few pieces of the grass on a lit charcoal round. The fresh grass smalls like hay with a hint of vanilla, while the dried grass smells spicy when it burns.

Palo Santo (Bulnesia sarmientoi) is another common smudging material. Small sticks of the fragrant wood are sold all over the place, and to use it you light the end of the stick, and then blow out the flame when it catches. The embers will burn for a minute or two and will release a piercing smoke. Palo Santo (holy wood) smells amazing and is a wonderful smudge to use. However, it's worth knowing that the tree is actually categorized as "conservation dependent." While the tree is at a low risk for becoming endangered, the risk definitely exists and you should purchase palo santo (wood and oil) sparingly (x).

Sandalwood (Santalum album) and Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus indicus) are two woods that were once used very frequently as a ritual incense. Sandalwood has always been one of my favorite aromas and is truly unique among woody oils. However, both trees are categorized as vulnerable (x, x) and, while it may seem impossible to do so, we should all buy as little sandalwood (the wood and essential oil) as we can. This includes buying goods made from sandalwood, such as malas and other religious carvings. The demand for the aromatic wood as far outpaced the ability for the trees to replenish themselves, and instead of seeking out potentially illegal sources of it (exporting sandalwood timber from India is illegal), we should really give it a rest. Try some other burnables instead!

Finally, let's talk about resins. Resins are essentially hardened sap that has been gathered from trees much in the same way maple syrup is drawn from maple trees. The four most popular resins are Frankincense (Boswellia sacra), Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), Copal (Shorea javanica), and Opopanax (Commiphora guidottii). These resins are placed onto a burning charcoal cake and release very aromatic smoke as they burn. Frankincense and copal have bright, almost lemony aromas, while myrrh and opopanax are darker and earthier. Frankincense and myrrh compliment each other beautifully and work well as an all-purpose smudge.

I couldn't find any evidence that myrrh or copal were experiencing any conservation issues. Frankincense and Opopanax, however, are both categorized as "near threatened" (x, x). Again, go easy on these two resins.

As I've said before, you don't actually need to burn anything to cleanse a space or an object. However, if you would like to, for whatever reason, incorporate smudging into your practice, please pick your smudging material thoughtfully and avoid plant material that is endangered or threatened. You can use any plant to smudge, and even if it doesn't smell as amazing as sandalwood, it'll still work.

Please visit the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species to search for any plant material you want to use. The search works best when you search by scientific name, at least using the genus (the first part of the name. For example, Lavandula is the genus of common lavender, Lavandula angustifolia). A lot of companies use many different species of plants under one common name, which is why it's a good idea to investigate the companies you choose to shop from and find out what plants are actually being sold. It's true that it takes a little more effort than simply trusting the shop or what's printed on the package, but environmental stewardship needs to exist in our spirituality. Our Earth and its ecosystems are all we have in this life, at least, and to take care of it is to worship it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Astronomical Holy Days

Many Neopagan religions follow The Wheel of the Year, in which eight total days are celebrated. The Quarter Days (equinoxes and solstices) and the Cross Quarter Days (the midpoint between any given equinox and solstice). Typically, but not always, a mythology concerning The God and Goddess are woven through these days.

In typical minimalist spirit, however, we have pared down the sacred days to solely astronomical events, and they are as follow:

The Solar Events
  • The Perihelion (January 2-5)
    • This is the date that the Earth is closest to the Sun in its yearly orbit
    • This occurrence falls between the dates listed
  • The Spring Equinox (on or around March 20)
    • This events marks the time when the day and night are the same length, due to the days steadily getting longer since the Winter Solstice
  • The Summer Solstice (on or around June 21)
    • The longest day (and shortest night) of the year. Days start getting shorter right after the solstice 
  • The Aphelion (July 3-6)
    • The point when the Earth is farthest away from the Sun in its orbit
  • The Autumn Equinox (on or around September 22)
    • The days have been getting shorter, and this day marks when they are the same length once again
  • The Winter Solstice (on or around December 21)
    • The shortest day (and longest night) of the year. Days start getting longer right after the solstice. 
  • Solar Eclipses (exact times and dates vary widely)
    • An event in which the moon partially or completely obstructs our view of the sun
The Lunar Events
  • Cycles of the Moon (on a regular cycle)
    • While the cycle of the moon exists in a regular cycle, that cycle doesn't line up with our calendar system. Full moons, new moons, and the waxing and waning between the two occur at different times every month. 
  • Lunar Eclipses (exact times and dates vary widely) 
    • An event in which the shadow of the earth obstructs the view of the moon. This only occurs when the sun, earth, and moon are perfectly aligned, in that order. 
All dates are approximate. Make sure to check your local almanac for exact dates and times, but know that the exact time of the events isn't super important. 

Why are these days important?
At its heart, minimalist spirituality is about connecting and understanding All That Is. In an effort to do just that, these days are of note because they illustrate the cyclical nature of life, and the sacred mathematics of The Universe. 

You are encouraged to celebrate any additional holidays that they feel a connection with. These six sacred days are simply reminders that life is a lot less complicated than it seems. Every year the same six solar events happen at almost the same time, and the same lunar events happen again and again cyclically. 

Here are some Wikipedia links I drew information from:
Earth's Orbit