Is It My Intuition? 5 Ways To Tell

One of the most challenging and important lessons I’ve had on my path as a Witch is deciphering whether messages are coming from my intuition vs something else- like my emotions, ego, or personal bias. In my early days of exploration, it was hard to find any information on this, but thankfully now more folks are sharing what has worked and what hasn’t from their experiences. I don’t feel there are hard and fast rules on this, so no matter what it will take some practice and learning about yourself. But I can share some things I’ve learned for myself along the way that may help you on your journey!

  1. Know Yourself

This is probably the most important, but it takes time. We are all unique in our experiences, personal history and socio-cultural conditioning. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. We can learn from others, but we ultimately need to put our learning into practice and figure out what is true for us.

Some folks are more visual, others physical, others auditory. Intuition can come through different channels. Also, how we process information can help us understand how we might experience our intuition. Some folks are quick to sense information through instinct and shoot from the hip with confidence. Some folks distrust their emotional and intuitive instincts and try to keep a more logical point of view. Some folks are sensitive and sponge-like, easily overwhelmed by the impressions they get and may have a hard time verbally expressing themselves or discerning what’s what.

The confident person may jump too quickly to assume the message they are getting is intuition rather than emotion or ego. They are quick to trust their instincts but may not notice where the instinct is coming from. They may need to slow down and get more curious- where did this message come from?  Does it sound tinted with my own personal feelings, biases or desires? Or does it sound like a different voice than my own? Taking a step back to sense the bigger picture can be helpful.

Someone who prefers to take an objective point of view may be too much in their head and override their intuition for fear of sounding too subjective or emotional. They may question or analyse their intuitive feelings to the point where it becomes diluted or they lose their grasp on it altogether. They need to practice getting out of their head and trusting their ability to feel and sense a message knowing that feeling something doesn’t necessarily mean it is emotional.

Someone who is quite sensitive and sponge-like may get overwhelmed by all the information they are receiving- intuition, emotion, the energy of others, etc. They may get lost in all they are feeling and need to work on grounding themselves in their body and the tangible world in order to decipher what’s what. Boundaries are key.

We can experience all of these scenarios at some point. I have!

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Remember being a child. Did you receive any premonitions or a sense of what was really going on with someone or something? Remember how that felt or showed up for you.   
  • Think of a past experience as an adult of receiving an intuitive hunch about something or someone that turned out to be true- One of those ‘I knew it!’ times. What state were you in when you received the hunch? How/where did you feel it in your body?
  • Think about a time when you kicked yourself because you felt an intuitive hunch about something but instead followed the logical choice or someone else’s opinion and regretted it.  What happened between the intuitive feeling and the regretted action?

The more you understand how your intuition speaks to you, and what tends to stand in its way, the more you’ll be able to tell if what you’re feeling is your intuition or not.

2. Create a Grounding & Centering Ritual

Our intuition does not tend to come through clearly when we are in a heightened emotional state.

This is one thing I have found to be true for me and others on this path.

When I’ve been feeling really down, angry, or anxious, I’ve wanted to figure out what my intuition was saying about the situation. However, when I tried to do this, it always felt like my intuition was garbled or simply not available, because my emotions were in the foreground.  My messages felt like they were what I wanted to hear and the ‘voice’ I was listening to sounded too much like my own thoughts and feelings in that moment.

In a heightened emotional state, it is better to simply be with our feelings and let them flow. Cry, talk to a friend, clean, write, paint, exercise, or cuddle with a pet. Our feelings are always valid. They need to be heard and expressed. However, they aren’t necessarily the best drivers of action. I don’t feel this means we can’t seek solace in our Tarot cards or other intuitive tools, it just means that our ability to interpret their messages may be off, so it may be best to follow the meanings from a book or let a friend read them for us, which only works if we are open to what they have to say.   

When we are in a less emotional state- still feeling and thinking things, but not overwhelmed, it can be a great time to practice a ritual that grounds and centers us. We can go back to this ritual when our emotions are heightened to help calm us down. If we practice it regularly, it can become the foundation for getting us into a deeper, more receptive state for accessing our intuition.

Here are some suggestions for creating a grounding & centering ritual:

  • Doing some yoga and/or breathing exercises
  • A nature walk
  • Meditation
  • Burning some herbs while saying a prayer or invocation to the divine
  • Playing an instrument, singing, dancing, writing or other form of expression
  • Making a cup of tea and sitting in your favourite chair while gazing out the window
  • Taking a salt bath
  • Lighting a candle while setting an intention

Repeating an action like the above examples becomes a ritual when you do it regularly. It becomes a practice when you use the ritual to deepen your ability to be in a clear, receptive state in which your mind, body and emotions are in harmony. If you practice asking your intuition for insight while in this state, it is more trustworthy and can come through more clearly.

You may feel messages coming through without an emotional reaction or attachment. It might come ‘out of the blue’ or feel like it is coming from outside of you, even if it is felt in your body. This can be a sign that it is intuition.

3. Listen to the Body

The body never lies, as they say. However, the body can give us messages from different parts of ourselves. Bodies are complex beings that hold past trauma, ancestral wounds, cultural conditioning, our emotions and more. Deciphering its messages takes time and practice.

The body however, is a valuable tool in understanding how our intuition speaks through us by knowing what our intuition vs emotions feel like. This is why grounding and centering rituals as discussed above are so important. Being in our body helps us feel the difference between our intuition, hunger, desire, or emotions.

Next time you are hungry, tired, in pain or low energy, notice what these states feel like in your body. Where do you feel it? Does your beathing change? How do your muscles react? How does this sensation affect your thoughts and feelings?

I have noticed that when my intuition speaks, there is a feeling of ‘rightness’ and ‘yes’ experienced in my body as expansion and lightness in my heart and sometimes a little flutter in my solar plexus or sacral centre. My breathing slows and I feel at peace and in tune with the universe. This feeling tells me I am on the right track.

When I am in an emotionally anxious state, my solar plexus tightens, my shoulders rise and my breathing shortens. My thoughts start to race and I feel alone. This feeling tells me there is a personal issue to sort through.

When I am feeling hungry, my stomach growls and I become mentally fixated on food. If I try to ignore it for too long, I can become agitated and tense. Everything feels tainted with irritability. This is getting hangry, and it purely physically driven.

Your intuition will probably not feel the same as a bodily need or emotion. But it takes time to decipher the difference and how that feels for you in your unique body.

4. Trust Yourself!

This has been the hardest one for me. I am one of those people who second guesses herself, who kicks herself later for listening to logic or popular opinion instead of what I felt was right.

With time and practice, I discovered that when I followed what I thought I ‘should’ do, things turned out badly and when I followed what I intuitively felt was right, even when it went against the grain, things ultimately turned out well.

I always thought that others must know better than me and my own feelings couldn’t be trusted. But over time, my experience showed me otherwise.

Countless times in life, when it came to the little things such as taking a certain route somewhere, eating a certain food or finding a gift for someone- my inner guidance led me in the right direction. Every time I failed to listen, I would experience a negative consequence. Every time I listened, I experienced a positive one.

In life’s bigger decisions, like deciding on the best ways to parent my daughter, buying a house, continuing or ending a relationship- I listened deeply to my intuition. I took the time to ground and centre, listen to my body, and followed the same feeling I had with the smaller decisions. No regrets so far. (Except the times I didn’t listen!)

If you’re a self-doubter or second-guesser like me, it can be helpful to go back into your memory to figure out when or how you started to doubt yourself. What did peers or authorities tell you that left you feeling inadequate? Are these things true or relevant now?

Trusting ourselves is takes practice, like working a muscle over and over.

The more you practice trusting yourself instead of doubting yourself, the easier it will be to make intuitive decisions.

5. Practice, practice, practice.

As stated above, hearing our intuition is a bit like working a muscle. We need to practice. It is not an overnight feat. Sometimes it works instantly, in a flash. But being able to rely on it takes time.

So, start small. Take time to reflect on each of these 5 suggestions. Do some self-reflection. Get a grounding and centering practice going. Notice what gets you into a receptive, intuitive state. Start becoming more aware of your body’s signals and what they mean. If you have already done those things, then begin to practice with smaller, less consequential decisions- finding a parking spot, choosing a gift for someone, finding an approach for a situation at work, then try it out.

Over time it will get more obvious.

It is also helpful to value your intuition more. We are conditioned to devalue the less logical aspects of ourselves. Remember your dreams and write them down. Let yourself play and wonder like you did as a child. Entertain the idea that mermaids and unicorns might exist. What possibilities lie just outside of our usual frame of reality? How can we open more to all life is offering us?

We are more than our physical reality. We are connected by the web of life. The more we practice sensing and experiencing our interconnectedness with all life, the easier it is to tap into the wisdom of our intuition.

Do you practice listening to your intuition? Do you trust it? What helps you get into a calm and receptive state in order to hear it?

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

9 Healing Rituals For the Womb Space

The collective womb is on fire right now. Since Roe vs Wade being overturned, plus the plethora of patriarchal horrors happening in the US and around the world, womb-bearers, women, 2SLGBTQIA+ and IBPOC are holding alot right now. We’re holding rage, fear, anger, grief.

Our rights and boundaries are being violated.

Collectively, partriarchy has wounded generations upon generations of us for millennia now. The trauma adds up. It reverberates and echoes through us, in our hearts and bodies, never to be forgotten. It arises as pain through families, through women, through all of us. It can never be silenced, for it seeks to be transmuted and healed. Thankfully, this can be done, in many small and powerful ways.

We all have our own ways of healing and challenging the patriarchy. It is all valid and needed- whether it is sharing our stories, protesting, signing petitions, voting, healing our mother wounds, making different choices than our foremothers, parenting our children differently, or reclaiming our body, our voice, our power in various ways. All of this helps. Every little thing helps. There are witchy ways of doing this, too, through simple healing rituals which I will share in this post.

For many of us, especially those who are empathic, we process collective feminine pain as well as matrilineal ancestral pain physically in the womb and pelvic bowl.

Over the years, due to struggling with endometriosis (and its cousin, adenomyosis), I’ve discovered how my womb is a powerful barometer of my emotional and creative health, as well as that of the collective and my family tree. I know that many other womb bearers have had similar experiences.

I’ve had the pleasure of learning a plethora of ways to heal the womb space and I’d like to share some of these with you during this challenging time. To keep things succinct for a single blog post focused on witchcraft and healing, I’d like to share my most effective, accessible and simple ways of healing the womb space. These are through connecting with the element of water, movement, and creative expression.

Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong, Manitoulin Island

All of the rituals I mention are free and mostly accessible. You can add your own personal beliefs or embellishments as you see fit!

Empathy & Collective Womb Trauma

When I heard the news about the overturning of Roe vs Wade, my womb started to cramp, twist and tighten as it normally did with menstrual cramps. This happens to me sometimes when I hear stories about sexual abuse, human trafficking, forced sterilisation, femicide or anything related to assault on vulnerable people, women, girls or womb bearers. Even if the incident isn’t happening to me directly, my womb ‘remembers’, knows and feels this pain on a deep level.

My womb hurt for those who feel trapped, who will no longer have the right to safe, accessible healthcare.  It hurt for those who miscarry, for those who’ve lost babies, for those who’ve been harmed sexually, for those who’s wombs are in chronic pain, for those who’ve suffered through abuse and trauma to this area physically and energetically.

As an empath, I am used to carrying my own issues in my tissues as well as others’ pain in my body. This is why taking care of my health as well as cleansing, protection and boundaries are necessary. 

I spent several days moving through my own feelings that were triggered by the collective, which helped to release the physical pain. I did this through several methods, but the most powerful one was through connecting with water.

Lake Ontario- my home

I sat by the lake and told her my feelings. As the waves crept up onto the shore, they stroked my heart into releasing its grief, sadness and anger. Grief over the children killed in mass shootings, grief over gender based violence, the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, grief as I move into a new stage as mother to an increasingly independent teen, grief for the babies I couldn’t have, grief for the ways I needed to be mothered but couldn’t be. Anger at the patriarchal powers that oppress us, anger at the constant assault on the feminine, on the earth, anger at all who betray us. The lake witnessed it all, held space for it all, reminded me that She is always there for me, for all of us, supporting us through it all.

The water helped my tears to flow, and the emotional energy left my body, relieving the physical pain.

Sometimes healing is as simple as letting something bigger hold us tenderly for a moment.

Healing with the Water Element

Kagawong, Manitoulin Island

The waters of our mother’s womb was our first home, and the oceans are our source of life on earth. Water is the element of the Great Mother, the womb, our Source of Life.

Have you ever just sat on a beach, lake, river or ocean and just felt that overwhelming sense of love, that maternal whisper that it is ok to let go? Have you ever sat by water and just cried for no apparent reason?  

I have, several times. Myself and many folks I know soften when they are by water. Lives run by patriarchy discourage softness and feeling. Softness is equated to weakness. Softness is equated to vulnerability and emotionality. Patriarchy deems these negative things. Yet our emotions must flow regularly or they become toxic and come out in harmful ways.

We need regular softening in order to feel and release our emotions. This is necessary to stay healthy in mind, body and heart. It is necessary for healing the womb space and healing the world.  

Here are some simple rituals for womb space healing with water:

  • Soak in a bath or take a cleansing shower. In the bath, fully relax and allow the water to melt away tension. Notice the feelings that come up. Allow yourself to feel them. Cry if you need to. Exhale and voice your frustration or exhaustion. Let it all go into the bath. Let it all go down the drain when you are done. Use some Epsom salts or sea salts to enhance the water’s ability to cleanse and absorb negative energy.

If you don’t have a bathtub, take a shower and feel the cleansing properties of the stream of water flow down your back. Imagine you are under a beautiful waterfall. Let it cleanse negative energy from your aura and soften your muscles. Let all the negative energy flow down the drain.

  • Visit a lake, pond, stream or ocean. Relax, either sitting or lying down near the waters edge or with your entire body in the water if that is feasible. Imagine the Great Mother energy is present in this body of water. Each wave or ripple is her love being sent out to you. She extends her heart to you. Receive her love. Surrender your cares and worries to her. Let her support you. Let her take care of you. You can imagine the waves taking your cares, worries, grief or fear away. You can remember that you are held by the Great Mother through all of this. Let any feelings that come up to flow freely.
  • Make Full Moon Water. On the night of the full moon (or the night before or after), leave out a clear jar of drinking water to be charged with moonlight. Make sure it has a lid so bugs and critters don’t get in it. Leave it out overnight to absorb the lunar energies, then bring it in in the morning. Drink your water slowly over the next few days, as a little daily ritual. Thank the Great Mother or Goddess or Source of Life as you call it. Imagine you are drinking in pure maternal love, nourishment and healing. Ask that the water nourish your cells, cleanse and heal your womb space.

Healing Through Movement & Sounding

Yoni Mudra with movement

In Yoga, the womb space is energetically connected to the Sacral Chakra, or Svadhisthana (meaning ‘one’s own abode’ in Sanskrit). One of the functions of this centre is to receive pleasure. Pleasure can come from following one’s instincts through movement or consensual or solo sexual activity. It can be accessed through a variety of sensual pleasures. Simply moving in ways that feel good to our body can be very healing to the womb space. This might be as simple as rocking back and forth, gently stretching or curling up in a fetal position. Making sounds that come naturally to us without filtering them is also helpful. Sighing, growling, yelling, releasing our emotions through sound is a powerful way to clear any stagnant emotional energies in the womb space. The womb and throat chakras are connected. The health of one influences the other.

Here are some simple rituals for womb space healing through movement & sounding:

  • Put on some music and move instinctually. Use music that helps you to relax and drop into the sensations of your body, at a tempo that feels good for you. You can begin the exercise either lying down, seated or standing. Focus on one area of the body at a time, allowing it to move how it wants to. Follow what feels good. Start with your head and neck. Then move to the shoulders and arms. Then hands. Then upper back and chest. Then your spine. Then your belly and hips. Make your way down the body, one area at a time. Move in pleasurable ways. If something doesn’t feel good, change what you’re doing. Go slower, make it smaller or shift to another area. It’s not about looking a certain way, its about following your instincts, flowing with curiosity and comfort.
  • Get vocal. Inhale for 4 counts, and exhale for 6 counts. Repeat 2 more times. Now, instead of simply exhaling, allow sound to come out naturally. This may sound like a sigh, growl, or any combination of sounds. The point is that it is authentic and unfiltered. It doesn’t need to sound pretty! It’s not for anybody else, just for you to release. The womb and throat are connected, which is why we can’t help but make sound when orgasming or giving birth. Making sound helps to create a clearer pathway between the womb and throat.
  • Release anger with movement & sound. You can do a sort of combination of the two rituals above by playing some music that reflects or activates your anger. I sometimes like to bang a drum instead of using recorded music. Once you feel the anger rising, move instinctively to release it. I do a lot of jumping up and down and intentionally shaking out the anger from my body. I shake my hands, my head, my hips. While doing all of this, make sounds! Scream, yell growl, swear! Be mindful of your surroundings, however and make sure you are safe. Be aware of any hazards in the area that could hurt you or others before you begin. Once your anger hits a peak, let yourself slow down and follow your body’s instincts towards pleasure again.

Healing Through Creative Expression

Intuitive drawing

As mentioned above, the womb and throat are the channels for our creative expression. The womb not only nourishes its creation, but births it into the world. The womb space knows how to create, nourish, release and let go. It houses the cycles of life, death and rebirth. This energy can manifest in many ways in our lives, as it is not limited to the creation and nourishment of children. It is present in all creative acts.

When we think of creativity we often think of the fine arts, music, singing, dancing, poetry, etc. However, any activity that includes manifestation of one’s authentic feelings, passion or desire is a form of creative expression. This may include gardening, cooking, creating a home, birthing and raising children, sex, building a business, making magick, creating community, etc.

Here are some simple rituals for womb space healing through creative expression:

  • Write from the womb space. I used to do this a lot with my womb healing clients and called it ‘womb writing’. Take a moment to sit quietly and do a few calming breaths. Drop into your body. Place your non-dominant hand on your lower belly and hold a pen with the other hand. Rest a notepad or journal on your lap or nearby table. Keep following your breath and relaxing your body with each exhale. Draw your awareness to your womb space. Feel the warmth of your hand on your belly. Let your womb space connect with your hand. Once you feel a connection between the two, like they can talk to each other, begin to listen.

Ask your womb space ‘How do you feel?’ and wait for an answer. Write it down with your other hand. Then ask ‘what do you need?’ Wait for the answer, then write it down. You can also just do some automatic writing while your non-dominant hand is on your lower belly. Don’t over analyse or think about it. Just write! Read it to yourself later.  Notice how it makes you feel.

  • Draw from the womb space. This is another activity I did a lot with clients. Similar to the womb writing above, except, instead of a pen, have some coloured pastels or crayons or pencils nearby. Take your time to slow your breathing and drop into your body. With one hand on your womb, wait until you feel a connection. Once you do, ask your womb ‘What do you wish to create?’ Then, follow your instincts and choose a color and begin to draw. It doesn’t have to look like anything in particular, it can be completely abstract. Again, this is not for anyone else but you. Look at it later and notice what feelings are evoked from your image.
  • Create through other mediums. What is your favourite way to express yourself? It may not be writing or drawing. Maybe it’s dance, or gardening, scrapbooking or something else? Choose whatever medium you feel drawn to, and practice the same exercises as above, linking your awareness with the womb space. Many of us more visual and perfectionistic folks can get caught up in how things look and need to remember that in these exercises, it’s the feeling behind it that matters most. But do look at it afterward- what is the essence of what is trying to come through? How does this manifest in your life?
Womb healing altar

Our womb space is a very powerful centre, with the ability to create, nourish, destroy and heal. Like this centre in our bodies, we are capable of constant transformation and rebirth. We can rise again and again from the ashes, never to be defeated.

I hope at least one of these rituals resonated with you. Do you have your own womb space healing rituals that would be helpful to others? If so, please share in the comments!

May the love of the Great Mother hold us all through these times.

Xo

Serena

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

Summer Solstice Reading: Step Into the Light

As we arrive at the year’s peak of light, the Earth Mother blooms and pours her cup of abundance our way. The sun radiates its healing light upon us too, illuminating the dark recesses of our psyche and heart, urging us to release our burdens and receive the gift of love available to us now.

We are asked at this time of year to remember how to lighten up, to listen to our childlike wisdom and let ourselves receive the nourishment the Earth Mother offers us.

It’s been a heavy past two years, which can perhaps make some of us a bit slow or unsure of how to embrace lightness at this time. It’s ok to not feel celebratory, super social or ready to shine just yet. On the solstice, the sun moves into the sign of Cancer. This sentimental water sign urges us to embrace all the feels, to be gentle with ourselves and practice receptivity. We can allow ourselves to receive the nourishment we need now, in order to shine our light once Leo season comes.

Generally, this part of summer lends itself to emotional cleansing and renewal, caring for ourselves and loved ones, exploring our past, family, lineage and creating a sense of being at home within ourselves and around us.

Once the sun moves into Leo, later in July, we will be invigorated with some extra bold, confident fire energy to help us shine. Even though we have more hours of sunlight now, Leo season will likely turn up the heat and make us feel more expressive in a few weeks. We can use this time to explore what aspects of ourselves wish to come into the light and remove blocks to their expression.

As we enter this potent time, you may find that anything that was hidden or unclear becomes illuminated. This is a wonderful time to getting to the truth of things. To uncover your own truth, to align with your authenticity, to see in others that which you maybe turned away from or chose not to see before. Illumination can be challenging. But it is only when we are willing to see, that we can move forward in alignment with who we truly are.

Is there an aspect of yourself that you normally keep hidden that is wanting to step out into the light, even just a little bit? Are you dealing with some fears or past traumas that are blocking you from fully being who you are? Do you often feel insecure around expressing yourself? Then you may wish to check out my summer solstice reading below- Step Into the Light.

This is a short reading to help illuminate an aspect of you that is wanting to shine or come out into expression. You can use this spread with your own chosen deck, or see if my reading for you below resonates!

Here is my summer solstice ‘Step into the Light’ reading for you below, dear reader! I used the Gentle Tarot by Mariza Ryce Aparicio-Tovar. The interpretations are by me with some quotes by the author.

Here is the spread:

Step Into the Light Spread with The Gentle Tarot
  1. Self: This position describes an aspect of you that wishes to come into greater expression.
  2. Inner Truth: This position describes something that influences this part of you and is only known to you, and not necessarily to others. It relates to the Self card.
  3. Outer Truth: This position describes the expression of the Self card. It shows what influence hinders its expression, or how this part of yourself is coming out.
  4. Light: This position is the gateway towards shining your light. It gives advice on how to bring the Self card into expression in a healthy way.  It relates to the Outer Truth card, and gives insight on how to shift into healthy expression.
Self: Four of Wands

Self- Four of Wands: You have been working hard on your vision and set the foundation- good work! At this point in your journey, you deserve to relax and enjoy life a bit more! This card is about celebration, harmony and reveling in the beauty within and all around you. It is also associated with coming home to oneself and being with family and friends. Yes, this is a very summer solstice-y card, and invites you to shed the weight of the last 2 years and acknowledge all you’ve been through. You are ready to let go of striving and to get into a more relaxed mode of being. Take your shoes off, untuck your shirt and let your hair down. Be confident in the foundation you’ve laid. Allow yourself to coast, to keep things a little lighter, simpler and more enjoyable from now on. No need to be anything but your comfy, satisfied self.

“Spread your wings. There is celebration and excitement in the air! Break free of whatever is holding you back and reclaim your resolve. The four of wands invites you to take a moment to enjoy the satisfaction of new feats in your life.”

Inner Truth: The Hierophant

Inner Truth- The Hierophant: Spiritual wisdom, your spiritual practice and learning are very important to you. You may keep this part of yourself hidden sometimes, for fear of perhaps not being knowledgeable or acceptable enough in the eyes of society or because you don’t feel you can be an authority on spiritual matters. You may feel called to explore the spiritual practices of your lineage, or ancient knowledge that you keep privately to yourself. Your spiritual life nourishes and supports you and will help you to relax into your authentic self. Letting go of striving can become a spiritual practice for you. Giving yourself some space to rest and receive can support your spiritual studies. Honour your ancestors, elders or teachers that have brought you to where you are today.  Your inner wisdom and spirituality strengthens you and wants to come out.

“Seabirds are ancient. The wisdom in their movement and in their eyes feels older than the millennia countable on our fingertips. Only until we honor our ancients, can we truly know who we are and live a life we love.”

Outer Truth: Nine of Thunder

Outer Truth- Nine of Thunder: The full moon depicted in this card is much like the summer solstice in that is illuminates the hidden and brings things to light. You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed at this time- your mind may be racing, you may feel anxious or having trouble sleeping. This is because a lot is coming up at once and demanding to be released or expressed. Events from the past and fears of the future may be affecting your ability to relax and express yourself. Take your time and calm your mind. You may be thinking the worst, making things appear worse than they truly are. You don’t have to express everything you wish to right now- you can take some time to slow down and process. Write down your thoughts and feelings. Sort through what is true and what is simply fear. Write down all the ‘what ifs’ and then with a clear mind, release the ones that hold no real weight (which could be all of them!).

There are things that we may never fully understand and ultimately we need to accept what is and reconcile things with ourselves. Feel the feelings and cry the tears, but come back home when you are done. Those hard feelings need tending to.”

Light: Flower of Thunder

Light- Flower of Thunder: Another thunder card! This card shows us the way forward towards healthy expression of the Self and reminds us that the way through the overwhelm and anxiety is through strength, objective clarity and sound judgement. The beautiful eagle encourages us to take an objective point of view- pull back from the details for a moment and see the big picture. She balances her mind and heart and expresses herself with clarity and authority. Your fears of expressing yourself must be evaluated rationally and compassionately- are they based in fact? Do you need to perhaps set some boundaries with others in order to be yourself fully and enjoy life? This card says to express yourself truthfully and unapologetically. Remain true to who you are and express the wisdom and depth you’ve been developing behind the scenes. Others will take you seriously if you do. Carry yourself with conviction and others will respect you.

“She embodies truth, honesty and surviving through life’s heartaches and headaches. The energy of this card in one of bold, clear communication coming from an experienced, loving, powerful heart.”

Conclusion:

You are fully supported by the ancient ones, the ancestors and the Earth Mother. Relax and let your hair down. Honour the tender feelings that hold you back from simply enjoying life and let them go. It is safe for you to simply be, to honour how far you’ve come at this point. Relinquish the need to be perfect or let your fears and anxieties prevent you from expressing your truth. Your spiritual wisdom flows through you. Express yourself with conviction and authority. You are enough. Simply being is enough.

Summer Solstice blessings my friends!

I look forward to seeing you at our Summer Solstice Circle, for a reading or 1 on 1 session soon!

Xo

Serena

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

What is a Healing Ally? Connecting With the Spirits of Nature for Wellbeing

I am not only a witch, but an animist, which means I believe that all the beings around us have a spirit.

Rocks, plants, trees, animals, the elements- to me they are not resources to be consumed, but beings in their own right. They live alongside us, and yet as humans we can often be oblivious to their whisperings and invitations to cultivate an actual relationship. This is in part because we are conditioned to dismiss our own innate ability to feel their energies through our heart wisdom.

For many folks, connecting with the spirits of nature came easily to us as children, but as adults, we feel it’s weird or silly to talk to trees, dance like animals or pray to the elements to bring healing or transformation.

For animists, however, it is part of our practice and lifestyle to activate that childlike wonder, to communicate with nature through our heart-wisdom and to awaken our ancestral memories of living in deeper relationship with the spirits of the land.

Since ancient times, animism has been part of many belief systems all over the globe. Beliefs vary from culture to culture, however traditions and folklore around animals, trees and rocks that acknowledge the unique spirits of these beings are common pretty much everywhere. 

Since we are no longer living in such intimacy with the land and each other as we may have in the past, It’s easy to feel alone in this modern world. We forget that we are never truly alone, that we are surrounded by the spirits of nature, just waiting for us to remember our kinship with them.

Reclaiming our childlike wisdom

My daughter running through the Scottish Highlands

We can cultivate our childlike wisdom and remember our kinship, if we choose to.

But why would we want to do this? Well, life can get pretty small and dull as we get older if we don’t. But we aren’t doing it to revert to some childlike state or to escape reality.

In cultivating a relationship with the spirits of nature, we can better understand and manage our human experience. We can see ourselves and our place in the whole. We gain perspective and reconnect to the great web of life again. A sense of meaning and purpose is restored. We can heal old wounds, feel more accepting of ourselves and regain a sense of power-with rather than power-over that our colonial paradigm encourages.

Did you have an ‘imaginary friend’ as a child? Did you believe in faeries, mermaids, dragons or other creatures? Did you ever talk to plants and animals as friends, wish upon a star, or feel awe every time you looked up at the sky?

I know I did. I still do. But sometimes I’ve had to de-condition myself out of the adult mind that dismisses my heartfelt truths and judges my intuitive perceptions.

Take a moment to remember being a child and feeling that awe, that magick. What does it feel like to remember?

We adults like to think we have this world figured out if we can name, describe and identify things on a physical level. This is useful and valuable, yet, this level of understanding is only one level. When we were children, we were more open and receptive to what is beyond the visible. In order to feel it, we need to be open to it. It is kind of like that in connecting to the spirits of nature. Receptivity and openness is key.

What makes a tree, an animal or a flower a ‘healing ally’? What wounds are we healing?

I feel we know deep down that we are not meant to live in a chronic state of anxiety, competition, insecurity and fear, which modern life encourages. We know we’re meant to feel a sense of love and belonging in life, not loneliness and struggle.

I feel we collectively carry a wound of isolation. Healing this comes from remembering. Remembering our true nature, of being at one with existence. This state is sought by spiritual seekers in many ways- some healthy and some unhealthy or escapist. However, in cultivating a meaningful relationship with the spirits of nature, with the land we live on, we can stay grounded, healthy and present in this world and are less likely to want to escape it.

The beings of nature are healing allies, because they help us heal from the feeling of isolation and disconnection modern life creates.

This is the healing in a general sense, however, allies all carry their unique energies and can help us with unique issues. In Indigenous cultures the term ‘medicine’ is often used in recognition of the unique healing energies plants and animals carry. A plant does not have to be made into a tincture or capsule to be considered medicinal.

For instance, a certain rock or crystal can ground us and help with anxiety, like a local beach rock, jasper or tourmaline, while others facilitate communication with other realms, such as labradorite or celestite.

Spending time near water can help us process grief or help restore a sense of trust in the flow of life, while spending time with trees can help us stand strong in our power and provide stability.

Herbs each carry their unique energies and personalities. Lavender may come to us when we need to cultivate peace of mind, Mugwort may show up when we need to navigate the wisdom of our dreams or receive guidance from our intuition.

Animals are also amazing allies to work with. You might find your own pets to be a balm to your soul when you’re stressed. You may find working with a specific bird, like Crow can help you heal wounds around speaking your truth, or the Mountain Lion can help you heal wounds around confidence or self-assertion.

How can we discover our healing allies? How can we connect with them?

There are many ways to begin this journey. Take into consideration your own cultural beliefs and practices when connecting with healing allies. There are many ways of perceiving and practicing connection, so keep in mind that my example may not necessarily align with everyone, and your relationship with an ally may be different than someone else’s.

Allies may show up in our dreams, visions, through repeated symbols popping up in our daily life, or we may seek out a relationship more consciously.

An ally may be meant to work with you for only a short time, while others may become long-time friends that continue to provide support for you for decades!

Here is a step-by-step example of how to intentionally find and begin a relationship with a healing ally:

  • Visit a favourite spot outside, like a forest, garden, park, hill or shore where you feel your energy restored and like you can simply ‘be’. This is a clue that it is a place you may find a healing ally.
  • Ask your spirit guides/deity to lead you to a healing ally. Think about what is troubling you. Open your heart, speak your truth to the land and ask for support.
  • Go for a walk in your favourite place. Be open and receptive. Notice if you are drawn to certain trees, plants, rocks or just an area to sit and be. Trust your instincts and don’t force anything.
  • An ally could be a bird or other creature you see. It could be water, land, sky or the sun. It could be a tree, rock, plant or flower. When you find what you feel is an ally, spend some time with it. It is customary in many traditions to give the beings of the land an offering as way of saying hello and inviting it into relationship. An offering could be animal-friendly food or herbs. It may be tobacco, if you reside on Turtle Island (North America) and this is part of your practice. I also sometimes offer a prayer, kind words or a song. There are many types of offerings, just be aware of the safety of your offering in the environment.
  • Take time to simply receive and listen to the wisdom of this being. If it is a tree, sitting with your back up against it or placing a hand or even hugging it are ways to feel its energy. See it as a living being with a personality and a soul. Listening is more important than speaking, especially at first.
  • Notice what you are receiving. Take your time. Notice how you feel in your body in the presence of this being. What sensations do you feel? Have your emotions shifted? Did a new idea or vision pop into your mind? You can then converse with it- ask it a question about itself. Ask it something about your life. Feel for its answer. Or perhaps you feel silence is sufficient.
  • When you feel your energy shift from being with this ally, you can decide when it is time to say goodbye and go on with your day. Give thanks, maybe tell it when you’ll be back and send it some love, or give an offering.
  • I feel it is very important to be respectful, just like you would with a human friend in terms of taking anything. If your ally is a tree or plant and it offers something to you, and you take it- always give thanks, whether energetically or through an offering.

*Remember that while our heart wisdom is very important, it is also important for safety reasons to balance this with scientific knowledge, because some things are meant to be worked with energetically, but not physically. For instance, do not attempt to ingest herbs without first finding out about its safety and whether it is appropriate for your body. Some plants are meant to be connected with energetically, but not ingested! Same goes for crystals- don’t put them in water and drink the water before researching whether they are toxic. It is a good idea to do some research on your ally alongside connecting with it through your heart wisdom.

Nature rests through most of the harsh Canadian winters

The above is an example that works well especially during the warmer months of the year, but it can be a bit challenging over the long, harsh Canadian winters. If nature is sleeping or inaccessible, we can still access the spirits of the land, plants and animals through a guided meditation journey, or another form of inner travel.

I provide this form of connection in my Reclaim Your Magick sessions, alongside physical connection with the ally in different forms- such as dried, essential oil, energetic remedies or symbolic representation, which are accessible all year round.

Beings we cannot access physically + Cultivating a reciprocal relationship over time

Our healing allies may come and go during different phases of our life. They may be beings that do not live on the land we live on, or even in our physical world. They may only be accessible through meditation journeys, dreams, photos or other symbolic representations.

For instance, I had a mermaid ally for a long time, and still feel very connected to merfolk. I have never met one in person, of course, but I have spent lots of time with them in my journeys. Over time, my relationship with the merfolk has faded into the background, however they are always there if I wish to reconnect. I am often reminded our relationship during the summer months while swimming, or when someone notices my mermaid tattoo, which I got to support my healing process with them. Being with mermaids enhanced my relationship with the water element and deepened my respect for it which will last a lifetime.

my mermaid tattoo by Jenn Liles

An ally that is not physically available to us does not diminish its healing power or importance in our life. It is also normal for our relationships with allies to shift over time. Old ones fade, new ones come. This means we are growing!

Cultivating relationships with the spirits of nature is probably the most healing thing I have ever done for myself. It not only helps me feel supported, loved and connected, but has helped me to make big shifts in my mental, emotional and physical health. Working with healing allies have healed everything from stomach aches, extremely severe menstrual cramps, depression, anxiety, heartbreak, ancestral trauma, and more. I am forever changed and enriched by these relationships.  

Do you have any healing allies in your life? How do you connect with them? How have they helped you?

Thank-you for reading,

xo

Serena

Receive first dibs on events, new products & my FREE ebook- The Witches’ Wheelby signing up for my newsletter below!

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

Your Magick Lies Within You- Walking the Solitary Path

“…Know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: For if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

 -Charge of the Goddess adapted by Starhawk.

I’ve always been a spiritual seeker. Always wanting to understand more about human nature, the universe, how we’re all linked and what makes it all work. I love that life is truly an eternal mystery that one can never fully figure out and yet it’s so fun to try.

I’ve explored the traditions of many cultures and sought the wisdom of many spiritual teachers. Yet, my path keeps leading me- painfully and patiently, towards myself. Through many difficult experiences, I am repeatedly guided to my own inner compass to lead me down a path that is authentically my own and doesn’t look like anyone else’s or fit neatly into any one tradition. It has only been through following my instincts and doing my inner work that I have found the peace and acceptance I once sought outside of me.

Perhaps you are also on a solitary journey, or maybe you dream of being in a coven or communal situation. Each of us has our unique path and I am not here to say one is better than the other, only to share a bit about my experience and journey, knowing that yours will be unique to you.  

Issues in Spiritual Communities

I used to love the feeling of ‘belonging’ that being part of a spiritual community brought. It felt like I was part of something meaningful, and it somehow validated my spiritual beliefs in a world without churches for my pagan beliefs. I often felt that I needed to belong to a spiritual community to validate myself as a spiritual person. I thought belonging was the necessary foundation for my growth. That magick had greater power in a group. I learned over time that this was an illusion. My participation in groups often came with a price. Over time, I was gradually less willing to pay this price.

Always seeking to belong to a spiritual community came to a point where I was sacrificing important parts of myself to belong to the group. In order to stay in it, I would have to give up my own values or authentic soul needs for growth. I would struggle to find a compromise, to preserve the illusion that the group was supporting me spiritually, even when in reality, it wasn’t. I just longed to belong.

Many of us drawn to living a spiritual path have a strong sense of devotion, combined with wounding and trauma that makes us long to belong and feel loved- making it easy for us to give our power away to others. We often need to work on cultivating better boundaries.

My fave astrologer, Jessica Lanyadoo recently said- ‘devotion without boundaries is martyrdom’. This rang true for me, as my shadow work has shown me this is something I’ve had to work on. Catholicism runs strong in my lineage, which formed a tendency to put my personal power in the hands of the Divine or the middle-person who represents them. To place servitude and faith above all, to the point of sacrificing one’s own independence can cause resentment deep inside. This also runs through the fabric of society itself in many ways since these values are embedded within dominant culture due to colonization, which forced not only Christianity, but patriarchal, capitalistic structures on Indigenous peoples.

In the past, I have given some of my spiritual power away to those I felt must know better than I, must be more spiritual somehow or hold some mystical powers that I don’t have. Because that’s what I was conditioned to do.

Sabrina’s ‘dark baptism’ where she attempts to join the Church of Night on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Over time, I felt my integrity being compromised more and more in spiritual groups because they weren’t in alignment with my personal ethics and boundaries. I tried to keep better boundaries within myself and still participate in the group, but in certain settings, this was either impossible or a deal-breaker in being part of the group, because of the lack of boundaries and respect for individuality within the group itself. 

It doesn’t help when spiritual teachers fall into the common ego traps that humans tend to do when in a position of power. Some lead with the belief that they are spiritually superior to others and some wish to be treated as though they are deity rather than human. Some lead with over-confident bravado, but in my experience, its more common to find teachers expressing false modesty, using deception and manipulation to keep up a humble facade.

Spiritual bypassing is another very common issue in spiritual communities. Our idealized version of what it means to be spiritual is often non-human and pain-avoidant. Social inequities and individual realities are easily glossed over with platitudes, performative gestures and glamour to distract from a lack of accountability and willingness to do the deeper work.

I like when teachers remember that they are simply human and don’t have to become some idealised image of what they think a spiritual leader needs to be. I like when a teacher owns their own shit and does their shadow work. This is something I keep reminding myself to avoid falling into the same trap.

My challenging experiences with spiritual groups and leadership clarified the essence of my own core values, ethics and showed me that I needed to forge my own path.

Individuation & the Solitary Path

In many ways, choosing the solitary path mimics the healthy individualization process one undergoes when growing up and becoming a separate person from their family of origin.

Anyone who’s been in a spiritual community may notice patterns of family dynamics that are transferred onto the group. In Christian faith it is tradition to call the priest ‘Father’ and the congregation ‘brothers and sisters’. A similar familial structure is reflected in pagan groups as well. This replication of a family dynamic can bring a sense of camaraderie and spiritual family, but it can also bring up all kinds of challenges.

It can be interesting to get curious about correlations between our spiritual community and our family of origin. Are we hoping for a childhood wound to be healed through this new ‘family’? Are we experiencing the same toxic behaviour from our spiritual ‘sister’ that we experienced with a sibling? Or the same patterns from our teacher or high priest/ess as we have with our parents or other authorities? Can we learn and grow through these relationships, or are they stifling our growth?

Spiritual community can be fertile ground for patterns from our childhood to arise and the roles we fall into to be repeated. This can make it a great place to heal and transform these dynamics. However, it can be rare to find a community that is actually capable of holding space for this or modelling healthy behaviour. It is for this reason that I’ve worked with my own therapist over the last decade to sort these issues out within myself and am learning that a solitary path is more conducive to my growth.

My experiences haven’t all been negative, however. Though sometimes painful, I have grown through unhealthy group dynamics and have also experienced the joy of spiritually growing in safe space and humble teaching.

Some of the best support I received was from my teacher Daniel, who empowered me to find my own direct connection with Spirit and to trust my own intuition. He modeled ways of being in community and leadership with personal integrity. He helped me connect to my innate wisdom, held space for all of who I am and listened intently to my concerns or issues. He was willing to be human, lead from the heart and learn from his mistakes, which is something I respect and admire.

Taking our Power Back with Self-Trust

You see, I’m a bit of an eternal student. I love the learning process, meeting new people and feel empowered by knowledge and skills. I also feel learning from others and gaining knowledge is an important part of our spiritual path.

However, my habit of constant learning came to a point where I realized it’s been a way for me to escape living my own truth and avoid trusting my own intuition.

It’s taken me decades to fully trust my innate wisdom, passed down through my DNA, my spirit guides and dreams, which proves to be very accurate. I have strong gut instincts about people, places and things, but for the longest time I would override those instincts and question everything too much. It can be hard to distinguish between healthy discernment and self-doubt sometimes.

The divine flows through all of us, and we can all have a direct relationship with the divine, without an intermediary. Sure, a teacher or facilitator can help us access our inner wisdom, and it is often necessary to connect with a guide at some point on our path.

But we don’t necessarily need a teacher, group, a priest/ess, a temple or church, or a coven to grow spiritually or make powerful magick or validate who we are or what we believe.

All we need is the willingness to discover and live our spiritual values. To walk our own path as it authentically unfolds. To become receptive to the wisdom within us and discover the magick that flows within our veins. To take our dreams and intuitive hunches more seriously. Connect with nature and remember that we are nature too. Pray and serve from the heart, with feet on the ground. Remember that we are surrounded by helpful beings in the spirit world and natural world that are simply waiting for us to tune in.

If you are thinking about a solitary path, I’d say:

  • Remember that you are never truly alone. We are surrounded by the divine all around us and it flows within us as well. There are other solitaries out there who may wish to connect. (Me!)
  • You don’t need to follow an established path to validate your spirituality. You can trailblaze, and create a path that feels authentic to you.
  • You don’t need to be part of an established group or spiritual community for validation, either.
  • Learn what you’re drawn to. Educate yourself on the traditions and wisdom you’re interested in and follow your inner compass towards your ethics and integrity.
  • Knowledge doesn’t equal wisdom. A balance of knowledge, deep inner work and experience creates wisdom, and this takes time.
  • Not all that glitters is gold. Use discernment when navigating spiritual offerings and remember there’s a lot of gloss, glamour and deception out there! Especially on social media.
  • I highly recommend therapy of some kind to compliment the spiritual path. It is good to have an objective, outside party to help keep us grounded in our emotional work and able to discern what is ours and what is not, someone to hold us accountable. Spiritual bypassing is all too easy and common, which encourages our shadow or inner child to run the show, instead of our integrated, healthy adult self.
A collective of rocks, each one’s uniqueness makes the whole more beautiful

If you’re part of a spiritual community or group that you feel happy in and are growing through, then that’s great! If you’ve found a teacher who you resonate with and enjoy- amazing! If you prefer a traditional route over trailblazing- that’s awesome! Do what works for you. It’s not about one path being better than the other, but finding our own way towards growth, whether that is alone, in a group or a combination of both.

Even though I am a solitary witch, I also have community I share my witchy lifestyle with, in small doses. At every sabbat, I hold Hearthfire Circles, which are open to the public and encompassing of diverse beliefs. I’m not part of a coven and my circles are open to all genders, paths and levels of witchy experience. They are a great way to connect with other magickally-inclined folks without a major investment of time or energy. We strive to hold safe and inclusive space and enjoy ourselves very much!

Xo

Serena

Receive first dibs on events, new products & my FREE ebook- The Witches’ Wheelby signing up for my newsletter below!

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

What is an Animal Ally? Relating to Our Animal Kin…

I remember being a little girl, at my grandparents’ trailer home in rural Manitoba, obsessed with the deer head mounted on the wall. I would stare at it, look into its eyes, and swear it was alive, that it still held a spirit of some kind.

I would ask to be lifted up so I could pet the deer. I could feel its power, grace and nobility. Admiring this amazing creature, I wondered how or why it had to be killed. I felt that maybe it was watching over me.

Years later, when my grandparents moved into a house, I remember they had a large tapestry of deer in the snow in the basement where I would sleep. It brought me so much peace and comfort, to stare at the tapestry, watching the deer, imagining I was with them in the snow. It helped me fall asleep, as I would lay on a mattress right across from the tapestry.  

I don’t know if these memories were the beginnings of my long-time connection with Deer as an animal ally, but I think they stick with me for a reason.

The Circle of Life

My grandparents on their farm in Manitoba in the 1940s & 1950s. Upper left photo is of my grandma hand-feeding a deer.

My grandpa was a hunter, butcher and farmer, yet he loved animals more than anyone I knew. He would always take the time to teach me about the animals around us, getting me to slow down and take the time to really observe the behaviour of a bird or squirrel, in a way I never did on my own.

My grandparents relied on the land to survive, and in rural Manitoba that isn’t an easy feat. Their relationship with nature was much more intimate than mine. They understood the cycles of life and death. They simultaneously loved and adored animals, while having no qualms about taking their lives if needed.

This is an ability I was spared from learning in my life, having grown up in the city of Winnipeg, I never relied on hunting or farming to survive. I had the privilege to eat according to my ideals and sentiments, choosing to be a vegetarian and vegan for over 14 years. Now, I’m a flexitarian, as my chronic health issues have shown me that my body requires me to eat a certain amount of meat. I do so in humility and gratitude.

I think about my grandparents and my mother growing up on the farm and I feel lucky to have been given the chance to live a different life. But I also feel maybe I missed out on some important wisdom their lifestyle carried.  I am not sure how I would handle a lifestyle of raising and killing animals so we and others could eat. I am so grateful for those who do this so I can survive and be healthy.  

Me and my grandpa (pepere), 1982.

I don’t judge anyone for their dietary choices or lifestyle, as I feel there’s no room for that in this world of inequities, diverse religious and cultural traditions and health complexities. I’ve done all the diets, for all the reasons. I’ve been in a lot of different shoes. I see all the sides.

 I do, however, feel there is much to learn from our animal kin. Cultivating a relationship with them is something special and sacred and reminds us that we too are part of the same family.

When we are strongly drawn to an animal, or if one keeps showing up in our lives, it can be worth getting curious about them. Research their eating habits, survival instincts, how they approach relating and family, and see if they perhaps carry qualities we need to cultivate within ourselves or learn to access or express in our lives. Getting to know them can help us get to know ourselves better. They can help us embody our animal self and deepen our connection to the natural world.

Deer in my Life

Deer are very common here in Canada, especially white-tailed deer. Yet, despite how common they are, it always feels like such a blessing to actually see one.

As the quiet, gentle spirits of the forest, seeing a deer always brings me a sense of humility and honour. I feel one of deer’s messages to me is to embrace my sensitivity. Deer are always keenly aware- able to sense even the slightest movement or faintest smell of predators.

I also feel the symbolism of the antlers reaching up and out are like antennae to the spirit world, giving deer a special attunement to frequencies that we are not aware of in our usual daily consciousness. When deer shows up, I take it as a reminder to attune to the subtle realms more consciously. Take the time to be silent, still and listen. Pay attention to my surroundings.

Pretty much every time we venture up north to camp or stay at a cottage, we see deer. Often, we see 3 at a time, which makes sense as my husband and daughter and I all feel a special connection to them and travel together. We have often felt an intuitive sense of where and when they are nearby, and then they show up!

I remember a beautiful workshop where my daughter and I made our own deerskin drums. Myself and a few others were struggling to cut the hide. My daughter was a natural, however. The teacher mentioned that cutting the hide required a special gentleness and attunement to the deer spirit in order for it to be cut properly. I was gripping too tight, applying too much force, so it wouldn’t cut. One of deer’s messages to me is always to be gentle, lighten up. I eventually got it.

My daughter cutting the deer hide with ease.

The drum making process overall was a good experience in aligning with deer energy. Now every time I drum, I honor the deer spirit. I see her in pretty much all of my journeys, songs and meditations, guiding me between the worlds.

Deer Goddess- Elen of the Ways

One aspect of deer that I’ve experienced in my journeys is myself as a woman with deer antlers, like some sort of deer priestess or deer lady of the woods, spending time with a herd of deer. I also often see a female deer with antlers showing me where to go.

At first I thought, how can a female deer have antlers? I later found out that female elk/reindeer have antlers. But it felt like something more than elk. It felt like it was something bigger. This curiosity led me to discovering an ancient European/British antlered goddess named in modern times as Elen of the Ways.

My Deer/Elen of the Ways altar. Statue by Philippa Bowers.

Apparently countless women have seen this female antlered deer/ female deer goddess show up in their meditations and journeys too. Elen is still quite enigmatic, her history found in bits and pieces here and there. However despite the lack of strong documented history, she remains in the consciousness of many. She is often seen as representing the Earth Mother and is a guide of pathways and ley lines. I have been slowly connecting more to her and understanding her role in my life.

Often seen as ‘fairy cattle’ in Scottish mythology, deer are often considered a connection to the Otherworld. The Celtic Lord of the Wild Hunt, Cernunnos is often depicted as a man with antlers, surrounded by animals. He is the spirit of the forest, of fertility and the wilderness, a guide between worlds.

Deer in many ways are a bridge for me. They are a connection to my family here and their history on these lands, as I mentioned in the beginning with my grandparents. They are also connected to the traditions of my British and Celtic ancestors across the ocean. They also bridge this world and the spirit world.

Deer, being a traveling animal, helps me to feel comfortable traveling– in spirit as well as in life to create these bridges in my spiritual practice, mind and body. Sometimes they are simply a reminder to get out and walk more often.

Deer is a long time friend who I feel is an ally- a spirit that helps me align with my soul’s growth, healing and renewal, who helps me to navigate life’s challenges.

‘Spirit Animals’, ‘Totems’ & Cultural Appropriation

From The Gentle Tarot- by Indigenous artist Mariza Ryce Aparicio-Trovar

I feel it is important to recognize that while animistic practices and animal reverence exists globally, beliefs vary from culture to culture and tradition to tradition.

Due to colonization on Turtle Island, Indigenous beliefs and practices were illegal until 1978 in the US and until 1951 in Canada, and therefore out of reach for many Indigenous folks. Many are only just beginning to reclaim these ways, which is necessary for healing.  

Sacred practices regarding animal medicine and family clan traditions managed to survive and still exist today in Indigenous communities. Unfortunately however, mainstream colonial culture has appropriated and distorted these traditions.

The word ‘totem’ is an anglicised word for ‘doodem’ in Annishinaabemowin, which speaks to the family clans symbolised by an animal and holding deep meaning and tradition. The term ‘spirit animal’ is often associated with Indigenous culture, however seems to have emerged as a modern term stemming from 1990’s Wicca and pagan circles.

Quizzes, memes and t-shirts in mainstream culture using the words ‘spirit animal’ and ‘totem’ are usually fluffy and disrespectful- saying ‘Justin Bieber is my spirit animal’ or ‘pizza is my spirit animal’ and nonsense that depicts a spirit animal as simply something you resonate with, identify with, think is cute or appealing. The use of the word ‘totem’ gets thrown around, meaning anything from an animal persona (I have heard of the term ‘fursona’ or even ‘Patronus’ as a replacement), to an animal you happen to really like or resonate with- but none of these are the same as a doodem.

You can learn more about this here and here.

It is important to be aware of your own relationship with animals- the symbolism and context of the traditions you follow, your own lineage and personal experience, and not co-opt or make light of  Indigenous sacred traditions!

It is also important that as we connect to these animals in our own environment, we are aware of the laws and customs where we reside. Carrying an eagle feather- and even keeping found feathers of most common bird species is actually illegal in the US and Canada if you are not Indigenous. Using feathers in ways that mimic Indigenous customs you know nothing about (like headdresses, smudge fans, prayer fans, dreamcatchers, etc) is disrespectful and appropriative.

As part of the natural world, we must recognise our place in the ecosystem, and be aware of our privilege, power and relation to others. This can be hard for us humans, because, well, we act more like animals than we like to admit most of the time! Yet, we have the capability to tap into empathy and compassion in a way animals don’t.

I feel that honouring our animal kin by becoming aware of our own ‘animal instincts’ can help us become more accepting of ourselves and each other, in a way that can prevent us from acting from a place of repressed or distorted instincts. It is up to us to find the balance between our inner animal and our human self.

What animals hold spiritual significance for you in your life?

What traditions or beliefs do you have regarding animal allies or messengers?

How do you honor animals in your practice?

Thank-you for reading,

xo

Serena

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.