Small introduction to the area of shamanic essences
Sometimes we get so used to things that we do not even get the idea to question them, not even for fun. One example: Joseph Fischer, the former German foreign minister - once he was a taxi driver, then he made his career, became a member of the government and today he is professor in the United States. A man who made it from the bottom to the top. Start as a dishwasher and become a millionaire? From the bottom to the top, that is how we call it. Underneath lies a clear definition: bottom = bad, top = good.
You can find analogies in spiritual systems and religions. However there is a little different since there is something below the bottom.
In the Greek mythology it was the three macho Gods who devided their influence spheres: Zeus got heaven and earth, Poseidon got the sea and Hades finally could name the underworld his own.
The Christian world is not so far from this: on the ground it is us. Depending of how we behave we can go to heaven or to hell.
In Buddhism a similar principle is demonstrated by the holy flower Lotus. Her roots reach deep under the water‘s surface in the dirty ground, the flowers however reach for the sky. This reflects Samsara, the material, dirty aspect of the world, and Nirvana, the highest, pure aspect.
The germ of the apple tree strives up and down at the same time
Let me take the opportunity to take you with me on a little journey to the underworld, to what is below the bottom. In our minds we associate hell with evil, pain, misery. However the term was used in a somewhat different way long ago. Hell was derived from „Hel“, ther German Goddess of the Underworld, you could say the female equivalent to Greek Hades.
There are uncountable stories, myths and legends about voluntary and unvoluntary trips to hell, and the astonishing about it is how much they all have in common. A typical sign for something archetypal.
Let me start with one of the best known in central Europe, a fairy tale (I have to say) re-written by the Brothers Grimm. Unfortunately they censored many of the populair stories they found in order to adapt them to the taste of the bourgeois people. One example is the bad step-mother. According to them (and many others) a mother simply cannot be bad at all. So when they needed a bad female person they always turned the mother from the original story into the bad step-mother so that the holy picture of the good mother was not besmirched. „Frau Holle“ (Mother Hulda) is an example that supports this, since in her story a mother plays a role who is only good to her own child not to the other. Anyway the reason I mention Mother Hulda is her special role in this fairytale. It is quite obvious that her name was derived from the word „hell“ which in turn comes from Hel, the German Goddess of the underworld. In her story a young girl falls into a well and dies, although the Brothers Grimm do not mention her death. However reincarnation did not belong to their belief system, so they simply denied her death. Now when she wakes up she finds herself in a strange world where a couple of tasks wait for her: the apple tree wants to be shaken, the breads want to be taken out of the oven and at last when she reaches Mother Hulda‘s house she is asked to do some housework. She does not know the meaning of all these tasks, but in fact the way she fullfills them determines her fate after she will have been sent back to the Earth. I doubt whether the Brothers Grimm ever heard about something like „Karma“.
However Marie and her stepsister are not the only ones who found themselves in the underworld unexpectedly and completely out of a sudden. Demeter was the Goddess of fertility in ancient Greece, who you probably have heard of. Her daughter was called Persephone and her story is literally the story of an unvoluntary journey to the underworld. One day she was kidnapped by Hades, the male version of a God of the underworld. He took her to his own kingdom, where he raped her and kept her in the dark. Now this is not so far from what we consider to be hell, a place where we are helpless, powerless, alone and in the hands of evil dark forces. Much effort and help from the Gods is necessary to rescue her (but these aspects will be focussed on in the part that I will write about in the coming bluetenbrief).
A third story is the one of Goddess Inanna from Mesopotamy who travelled voluntarily to the underworld to rescue her twin. Seven doors she had to pass on her way and in order to be let in she had to give up anything she wore every time she wants to go through one. At last she was naked - an analogy to helpless- and powerlessness. Something Marie, Persephone and Psyche, who I will mention later, experienced too, only in different ways.
And finally Jesus. After his crucification he had to go down to hell before he could stand up from the dead (re-incarnate?) and rise to heaven. Obviously there is no Nirvana without Samsara, no heaven without hell. In so many culture they found different names and terms but are they not all the same?
All these stories should be seen within a spiritual and cultural context. Their archetypal similarities make them decodable. Hell may have lost its horror since these ancient times, but still there is a hell today and that is where I was heading to mentioning all these old legends and myths.
Let us say our life is going well, everything is fine, we are in good health and content. Suddenly something happens to us, something unforeseeable, something alarming, something like falling into a well, being kidnapped to hell, something beyond our control: the diagnosis is cancer (or multiple sclerosis, a heavy car accident or whatever).
Suddenly it is no longer up to us te decide what goes on, a bad fate does it for us without asking wheter we like it or not. We find ourselves in a hospital, bereft of our power and self-determination, sometimes even our clothes, put into common hopitalclothes, that hide out individuality, and only the gods (doctors) decide which needles and things are put where and how often into our bodies. Perhaps all that ends successfully - perhaps not. It does not seem as if it were up to us. (But is it really not?)
To cut it short: what happens in the underworld (or in hell or intensive care) determines, what will happen in the ‚real‘ world. It may sound a little childish to you, but if we let the breads burn in the oven and the apples go bad on the tree and do not run the household the way the Goddess of the underworld (Mother Holle) demands, it will have bad consequences for our (next?) life. You could as well say: as long as we do not harvest what is given to us, do not develop what waits within us for being discovered (our skills and talents), do not brings structure to our lives...
When I work with cancer patients I train them to go into trance and later remember what happens there. Very similar to dreamwork indeed. And then I send them to the underworld to find out what is going on and what is to do in order to survive. For that it is necessary that they do not fall asleep and forget their dreams. Bringing the hidden meaning into consciousness is one of the main tasks of trance work.
All who suffer from life threatening diseases have one in common: the archetypal descendence to the underworld. That is one of the reason why I developed the system of archetypal essencs. Myths and legends are not merely stories, they do mean something. Let me give you the example of a young woman I once worked with when she was suffering from lymphoma. After a couple of hours of training she was able to travel consciously to the realm that usually is called the unconscious. One of the tasks I gave her was to find her inner healer and ask for the name. When she returned she reported that she found her (in her case the healer was female, but that is not necessarily so, the inner healer may be of the opposite sex as well). She was a woman of 40 - 50 years from India (at least she looked like that). Her name was Sharon, but not spoken out like the English name but like the one of the former Israelian primeminister. Could there have been an archetypal figure in her archetypal dream? Perhaps, we are not sure, but in the Greek mythology there is a figure called Charon. Charon is the name of the ferryman who brings the ones who died across the river Styx to the underworld.
In contrast to the well-known north American shamanic technique which uses a hole in the ground as entrance to the underworld, in Europe you have to dive into water. In Greece you had to cross a river, in Mother Holle‘s fairy tale it was a well (by the way in my assortment of environmental essences there is one made of an underworld river, that was used for spiritual purposes in the stoneage, but I am losing track, but to Sharon). You may find this a little too associative and wishful thinking, and perhaps you are right. Actually it does not really matter if Sharon, Charon or whoever is a mythological figure. In this case it was most important that it was possible to speak with her, get important information and be guided on the way back to good health. (And of course the ‚real Gods‘ called doctors celebrated the good success of their cancer treatment)
One more story shall highlight the importance of the lesson that lies in a life threatening illness: Eros and Psyche, two more (human) beings from the Greek mythology. At night Eros comes to see Psyche, everything is fine. But then Psyche doubts who Eros may really be since he always appears in the dark, maybe he is a bad guy. To find out she needs two tools: a lamp and a knife. She can light the lamp as soon he is fallen asleep, and in case he were a monster, she could use the knife to kill him. The lamp stands for consciousness, the knife for capacity to act.
And both tools are required when the patients, shocked by the thereatening diagnosis, prepare for their own travel to the underworld: the lamp is the light in the dark, the knife changes them from patients (who have to be patient and do nothing) to actors. A shamanic travel, a mind game (as Jean Houston and Robert Masters call this), a journey through one‘s phantasy, call it as you like, does not mean to be passive. On the contrary you can train the ability to solve your problems by doing something. (Of couse sometimes the ‚hidden‘ lesson is to become patient and to stop being active, but this, too, can be found out this way).
It is very much the same with sleeping and dreaming. People ‚fall‘ asleep - down again. This, too, is an analogy to the descendence to the underworld, this, too, seems not to be actively directed and sometimes full of demons and terror.
For you, who read this and who are hopefully in good health, flower essences can open the door to the unconscious. While sleeping we work on issues and experiences made the day (the year...) before. If we do it successfully we regain our energy and can start into a new day without the burdon of what happened yesterday. Conscious dreaming can help with our everyday life as well as with finding out the deeper meaning of being ill. But before we confront ourselves with the latter let us begin with something less terrifying.
Today I like to introduce four ‚dream flowers‘
Mugwort - Artemisia vulgaris
This is the dreamflower. Mugwort helps to remember dreams and introduces you step by step to the possibility and ability to become aware of your dreams while still dreaming. This flower is the main tool for all those who want to initiate their own healing by using their dreams.
Evening Primrose - Oenothera biennis
The flower essencs that resembles the lamp in Psyche‘s story. Most of us do not even know there is an emergency exit in our nightmares. When the terror rises above a certain level (the killer has almost reached us, while our feet are sticking on the melting ground) we wake up, sweating, our heart heavily beating but happy to notice: Thank God, it is just a dream! On the other hand this mechanism keeps us from facing the evil, we simply got no chance to confront ourselves with our hidden fears. To give way our fear however means to make it stronger. Facing one‘s fear reduces it to its real size. In eastern Asia there is a people called Senoi. They teach their children how to dream consciously as soon as they begin to speak, so that dreaming and remembering the dreams becomes common and simple for them. These children know how to face the tiger, they know how to stand still, turn around and look the tiger in the eye. They speak with the tiger, they know how to make friends with tigers - and the hidden fears turn into strong helpers. If you want to learn this - be aware it is not that easy when you have already grown up, you can compare this to learn a language, which is very easy, while you are a child - you can get some help of the essence with the name Evening Primrose.
Sagebrush - Artemisia absinthum
The flower of authenticity, the essence you need to open your eyes and see yourself as you really are. Sagebrush helps to stop lying to yourself but finding out the essence of your own being. The first steps towards yourself are easiest when dreaming. Need help? Take Sagebrush. Sagebrush by the way is a sister plant of Mugwort.
At last after these three essences that stand for Psyche‘s lamp, now one that serves as the knife - and did you really expect a Bach flower...?
Centaury - Centaurea umbellatum
Centaury provides us with the capability to act, she helps us to not allow the tiger to eat us but defend ourselves. This essence strengthens our back and our spine, our self-worth and self-assertiveness. Centaury makes us strong enough to say „stop“. A lack of self-consciousness in our everyday life is often mirrored in our dreams (and vice versa). Centaury teaches in dreams what encourages us for a better ‚real life‘. (By the way Psyche also travelled to the underworld. She carried cakes to calm Cerberos the dog of hell and let her pass. On her way there she met miserable beings imploring her help - hoever offering a helping hand would mean to loose the cake and be killed by Cerberos herself. To care for yourself and not for others, fight the bad consciousness that comes from not helping the others can be the only way to save your life - and that is what Centaury is for: save your life)
With the help of these four flower essence the first steps in dreamwork should be a little easier than expected.