Tag Archives: experience

Muscle Memory

I have been calling myself a pagan for a little over 20 years. For around a third of that I was very enthusiastically Wiccan. I then practiced Druidry for a couple of years while studying the Bardic grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. For the past five or six years I have been a Heathen (Germanic paganism, where my initial interest had lain), but at times it has been a challenge. I would like to share something that is helping me see it in a different light.

I recently visited an exceptional massage therapist, hoping for relief from shoulder pain I’ve had for years. My massage therapist explained – in terms I could understand – that I have layers of scar tissue over my muscles. This is usually the result of an untreated injury or over working yourself. It means my muscles can’t expand and contract properly. The scar tissue also prevents blood from adequately reaching my muscles, so they can’t heal properly. Without treatment first, exercise often builds more scar tissue rather than fixing anything. I have the same problem with my neck, back, chest, arms, and legs. She even believes my hands were broken at some point, which was news to me.

Even after just a couple of sessions with her, the change has been dramatic. While moving an unused door to the shed, I realized in mid-stride that I was feeling no pain or tightness in my neck or shoulders. I immediately had flashes of a time when physical activity came so easily. Through the years, I have been slowing down. Exercise feels different and the results aren’t the same. I thought it was age or I wasn’t trying hard enough, and I practically gave up… but what if the massage therapist is right? What if untreated injuries building up over time is partially to blame? The happy ending to this story is that with her help, I am at the start of a road to health.

This physical realization brought with it a spiritual epiphany. I had flashes of a time when my budding pagan spirituality seemed to flow so easily. A few years ago I was involved in some serious spiritual drama, and everything has been more challenging since. I even considered returning to those paths where things had felt smoother – Wicca and Druidry – but I found they were no longer so easy. I think it’s because it isn’t that path that’s the challenge. It’s the spiritual scarring, making everything more difficult and preventing proper healing. I have been hobbled on this stretch of my spiritual journey.

The best news is that this story can also have a happy ending. Now that I have identified the problem, I can find solutions. Just like with the massage therapist, part of it will include asking for help from people I trust. Another part will be getting back into the routine of strengthening myself, and without the barriers it’s a pleasant responsibility. If the comparison holds true, confronting some of these things will be painful… but in the end, worth it all.

page-breakMike CMike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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A Tragic Tale and a Noble Sacrifice

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So many times we read of distant heroes and beautiful places that are brimming with history and tragedy and fascinating events. It is easily forgotten that the land we live on is also full of stories.

Middle Island is located on the southern bank of the Miramichi River just outside of Chatham, NB. It stretches roughly 350 meters long and 100 meters wide. On the South Eastern side there are sandy beaches and calm shallow water. The opposite side faces out into the middle of the Miramichi River. The shoreline is rocky, with much deeper water and docks.

Perhaps just as interesting as the island itself is the fact that a mile or so inland, there is a lake that is roughly the same size and shape as Middle Island. This has lead to local stories about the two being related. Some people credit leprechauns magic with the creation of Middle Island, and thereby the large hole which was left to fill with water and become the Lake.

Middle Island has a fascinating and tragic history. From roughly 1827 to 1850 the island was used sometimes as a quarantine station. Often ships full of immigrants would arrive in the New World containing passengers who were ill or who had died during the voyage. Diseases such as cholera, typhus, small pox and dysentery were common. One infected passenger could carry a disease aboard that would spread throughout the ship affecting passengers and crew alike. Weeks spent in cramped and unsanitary conditions made illness almost unavoidable once it was present.

In 1847 at the height of the Irish potato famine, immigrants were pouring in from Ireland, in search of food for hungry bellies and a way, ANY way to provide for their families. Cargo ships often sailed with a hold full of people rather than goods during this time. One such ship was the Looshtauk, which carried 462 passengers. Of these, it is estimated that 117 and possibly as many as 146 died at sea. Conditions were so bad that the captain was forced to head for the nearest port, which was Miramichi.

Port authorities in Miramichi did not know what to do with the Looshtauk. It was decided that Middle Island would be put to use once again as a quarantine station. Some temporary wooden buildings were erected, and three days after their arrival, the passengers and crew were finally allowed to land on the island.

Within a week two other ships also arrived and were directed there. Between the three ships over a hundred more people died on the island.

It is difficult in this day and age to imagine the conditions that these immigrants faced in 1847. Middle island had a couple of wooden buildings, and as people arrived and grew ill, makeshift shelters and canvas open air tents were set up to accommodate the sick. These very rough shelters were not comfortable, and they were definitely not sanitary. They would offer slight protection from the elements but no shelter at all from the mosquitoes and temperatures.

Supplies were dropped off on the mainland opposite the island and those who were healthy were able to row across and pick them up. A doctor was badly needed, to treat the suffering and dying immigrants. Some sources state that port medical officers had refused to travel to the island.

A young doctor named John Vondy volunteered to help. He was 28 years old. He agreed, knowing that once there, he must remain until the illness had passed. He was aware that this could take weeks or months.

When Vondy arrived at the island he found himself faced with over 300 patients. It is said that he worked tirelessly to relieve the suffering he found there, until finally falling ill himself. In the ultimate sacrifice, John Vondy died on Middle Island.

Today, the island is a recognized historical park. A stone cairn marks the place as an Irish burial ground, and a fifteen foot Celtic cross monument bears the words “bron bron mo bron.” (Sorrow sorrow my sorrow.) There is a walking path that circles the island and an interpretive center where visitors can learn more about the history of the place.

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kpKatie P is writer, reader, drummer and certifiable nature nut. She lives rural New Brunswick, where she spends far too much time frolicking in the bulrushes. She also blogs at Wyldwomyn.ca

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Hopes and Impressions

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I don’t know what it is (maybe the fact that I’ve been too busy to think about writing recently), but I had an incredibly hard time getting a piece finished for this week! After scrapping several drafts, and finding myself unhappy with everything I was writing, Doug kindly encouraged me to restart and write about something simple. He said, “Why don’t you write about OBOD?”

The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) is a Neo-Druid order founded in the UK about 50 years ago by Ross Nichols (and revived in the 1980’s by the current chief Philip Carr-Gomm). The OBOD offers a correspondence course divided into three grades: Bard, Ovate and Druid. Each of these encourages students to fulfill their creative potential, commune with the powers of nature, and seek out spiritual wisdom.

As a modern nature spirituality, Druidry has always been attractive to me. Lack of time, money or both had prevented me from taking the course until recently. I haven’t yet progressed beyond the first few lessons, but I already feel more at peace and spiritually grounded. One complaint some people make about the course is that it isn’t focused on an academic understanding of Druidry or Celtic paganism, and some think its ritual and symbolism is too close to Wicca. I admit that I was concerned about this as well – but I find OBOD’s approach is refreshing and appropriate. Rather than being overly concerned with historical authenticity, OBOD balances inspiration from the past with relevance for the present and innovation for the future. Having been so put off by rigid reconstructionism in Heathenry of late, this is a very welcome change for me.

My hope for the Bardic course is that it will help me discover myself, be more creative and connected with the world around me, and deepen my connection with my ancestral past and with Nature.  My goal for myself and my family is to bring Druidry’s focus on peace, healing, creativity, wisdom, and connection with the great web of life into our daily lives.

Last week, Mike wrote about prayer, and I wish to leave you with another:

The Druid’s Prayer

Grant, O Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences
the love of Earth our mother and all goodness.

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Natasha DNatasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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The Bubble Barrier Stigma

It’s amazing to think how important context is and how easily and often we disregard it.

As an example, any person who has truly felt overwhelmed knows how all encompassing it can be. In that raw state, reason often abandons us. We can’t concentrate on the thing in front of our nose, never mind focus enough to find ourselves an exit. It is a true feeling of helplessness, with no solutions in sight. In this vulnerable state, what a person needs most is a tool to help them get their feet back under them. One of the simplest ways to do this is to picture yourself in a bubble. Being inside a bubble creates a distance between you and whatever is overwhelming you. It allows you time to catch your breath, or for a moment remove yourself from the situation. Visualizing yourself inside a bubble is a very popular New Age technique to deal with stress, and therein lies the rub.

What was old becomes new again, and many New Age tricks and techniques are variations on spiritual or religious trappings. It’s perfectly normal for these practices to continuously change – or evolve, if you’re a “glass is half full” type – to suit the needs of the people of the time. Look at meditation, which has been practices for thousands of years by the wisest and most profound thinkers of all time…and which you can now learn at a local community centre for $5 a session. For many people, that simple half hour of quiet contemplation can change their entire outlook on life.

One challenge in the resurgence of Earth-based spirituality is how we are perceived by people outside our own circles. To be fair, not all of their criticisms are unfounded. Taken out of context, a lot of what we do would seem foolish. I think the same is true if you think of the ceremonies of any main stream religion. In our case, I think part of the blame lies in the commercialization of our spirituality – from false self proclaimed gurus to energy bending witches in television and movies. There is also a naive over-sharing enthusiasm in our community, as the exposure to our religion exceeds it’s maturity. These things don’t invalidate our choices, but the spotlight we are sometimes hit with can take them out of context. It can make others doubt us, and more dangerously it can make us doubt ourselves.

I have an old pagan friend, that in fact is among the first group of pagans I ever met. We haven’t celebrated much together lately, but we still sometimes talk about that first study group we belonged to. My friend often brings up that he misses the secrecy and privacy that used to surround Paganism. It’s great that a person in need can readily find a book that tells them to envision themselves inside a bubble to protect themselves, or encourages them to look for a local meditation class. What maybe is missing is a firm suggestion to keep these things to yourself. We all have vulnerable moments, and we are choosing our own spiritual tools to help us get through them…but perhaps we should save a piece of the strength we gain from them to keep our private lives private, so it can’t be taken from us when we need it again.

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Mike C

Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

 

 

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Hope on Solstice Night

Imagine it’s a cold and clear Winter’s night on Canada’s East Coast, and two friends are walking down a dimly lit and snow covered street. A biting wind pushes down the lane and steals their breath, carrying the sound of a mournful howl. Looking up to the heavens, they watch a falling star burn slowly across the sky. One of the friends buries his face in the scarf around his neck while he trudges along, the experience already forgotten. The other stops in his tracks and stares up at the night sky. Years later he remembers the night vividly, including the something it stirred inside him.

Neither of these friends have to follow a specific spiritual path. It isn’t as though these inspirations are only intended for one religion or culture. Sacred or magical events simply happen, and hopefully our spirituality has given us a vocabulary and a set of tools to do something with them. Even a person that wouldn’t call themselves spiritual might be moved by a falling star. In the above story, what really separates these two friends is that one of them was open to the experience.

There has been a lot of media attention concerning the end of the Mayan calendar on the 2012 Winter Solstice. Even if most of the hype is misinformation and propaganda, it may be giving the world an opportunity. If people have it in their mind that things could change, then that improves the chances that things might change. With no cataclysmic event, some will reflect on what it all could have been leading up to…and hopefully it shows them something personal and spiritual.

From tarot cards to Ragnarok, our symbolism reminds us that when a cycle ends it is not the end of everything. It’s letting one thing go, to allow another to begin. Most pagans are familiar with the cycles of days, weeks, and years. These aren’t just measurements of time, but times of awakening and growth followed by decay eventually leading again to awakening. What if everything around the 2012 hype is just one more cycle, thousands of years in the making? What if the spiritual challenges of our recent past are a necessary decline, to allow for the opportunity for something greater to grow? Whatever may come, will we bury our faces in our scarves and trudge on…or do we raise our eyes to the sky made clearer for the cold and dare to hope?

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Mike C Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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