Tag Archives: shamanism

New Dates! Online Trance, Mediumship, & Divination Class

13 Sep
A Hamatsa shaman in a state of trance.

A First Nations Hamatsa medicine person photographed in a trance state.

If you were considering joining the 6-week online webinar series on Trance, Mediumship, & Divination, it’s not too late!

Some late summer technical difficulties and unexpected inquiries about the class resulted in its postponement to its definite new start date of Tuesday, October 6th @ 8:30pm EST (and as the webinars will be recorded, attendance at the live class is not necessary for participation).

However, a number of great things happen from this:

  1. The class completely misses Mercury Retrograde, which can take a toll through unexpected technical and communication mishaps.
  2. The class will take place during the time of year famous for the Veil being thin between our world and the spiritworld (hence holidays like Samhain, All Saint’s Day, and Dia de Los Muertos). It’s the perfect time to deepen skills in psychism and divination.
  3. I got to do a whole episode of On Sacred Ground on cultivating skills in trance and mediumship!

So, the details are as follows (registration ends September 25th):

Tuesdays, October 6th – November 10th, 2015 @ 8:30pm EST
 
Since ancient times, magicians, diviners, witches, root doctors, and spiritworkers in every culture have been able to skillfully work with non-ordinary states of consciousness – trance states – to receive information, explore different planes of existence, communicate with unseen helping spirits, and re-weave the threads of fate.
 
This class is especially helpful for:
  • people who are ready to go deeper on their personal healing paths,
  • tarot readers, palm readers, astrologers, and other types of diviners who are ready to sharpen and expand their skills,
  • healers, mediums, spiritworkers, magicians, and root doctors eager to engage their helping spirits and the Spirit world more fully in their practices,
  • and artists, visionaries, and other creatives ready to plumb the depths of their internal landscapes toward inspiration and creative expansion.
 
In this 6-week immersion, participants will:
  • gain applicable skills in multiple forms of trance including dreaming, mediumship, embodiment, shamanic journeywork, and visualization,
  • deepen intuitive divining skills across multiple platforms,
  • meet and develop relationships with personal helping spirits and learn to interpret their symbolic language,
  • learn how to troubleshoot and resolve energetic patterns in our lives and environments,
  • and explore ways of incorporating skillful trancework into their current spiritual practices.
 
Classes will be held weekly via online video webinar and outside resources (readings, online videos, etc.) will be provided weekly. There will also be a group forum. As the subject matter is broad and deeply transformative, active participation through completion of weekly homework assignments and regular exercises is expected.
 
Register early (limited slots available) and register here!

Shaman Sickness, Part II: Obeah Woman

14 Nov

He laughed and told me that I wouldn’t be the first to run like hell from my initiatory helping spirit. It’s par for the course.

This is Part II in a four-part series on shaman sickness and initiation.
Part I can be found here.

It was shortly after suddenly splitting into multiple personalities but shortly before the nightmares about the devouring tiger that I journeyed to find answers about what was happening. Night after night unseen hands groped around inside me, pulling things out and putting things in, agonizingly stretching my sense of what it means to be human – or, whatever it was I was finding myself to be.

I hoped my helping spirit Maria would have some answers, but she was nowhere to be found.

An ocean’s surface.

Delve beneath. 

A cave.

Inside, a woman draped in jewels and fine cloths.

“Obeah Woman,” I found myself exclaiming.

She let out a hearty laugh.

Such words had never come out of my mouth, nor had I ever heard them. And while I knew next to nothing about the tradition of Jamaican Obeah, there was something West Indian about her. I also knew that she loved molasses. She didn’t tell me that – I just knew it.

This was my initiatory helping spirit. This was the spirit that was causing my death.

Obeah Woman

Both spirit-induced and human-led initiations into spiritual traditions often involve a tutelary helping spirit whose medicine the initiate will spend at least some portion of their lives bringing into the world. This helping spirit might also carry traits that are a reflection of the initiate’s own personality, whether those traits are on display or hidden in the sub/unconscious.

The relationship between the initiate and the helping spirit is sometimes intimate enough that its boundaries can be blurry. In the Yoruba tradition of Ifa and its African-diasporic offshoot Lucumí / Santería, children of a particular Orisha (who is said to “crown” them or “have their head”) in some ways represent that spirit here on earth, and even their relationships with children of other Orishas can mimic their crowning spirits’ relationships with one another as found in sacred lore. Similarly, Odin’s wives – women in god-spouse relationships with the All-Father of Norse tradition – often happen to be rivals of one another. In short, the veil between the worlds is nearly thin enough as to be non-existent.

One medicine person I know in the Lakota tradition was told by their primary helping spirit that their work with them – a certain set of teachings they were delivering to a group of people – would be complete in a couple of years. On the other hand, I know of more than one shaman who is a lifelong god-slave to a spirit due to past-life debts – for them, even romantic relationships with other humans requires permission and appeasement through divination and sacrifices.

Initiatory and tutelary helping spirit relationships come in many varieties from different origin points but are always deeply intimate teacher-student relationships centered around healing the parts of yourself standing in the way of being able to fully carry that spirit’s medicine in the world – and then carrying it for the greater good of a community.

RW-Tower

The idea of a spirit having the ability to up-end someone’s life without warning may be foreign or uncomfortable in magickal traditions in which gods, saints, and other entities are primarily seen as working spirits helping with requests put forth by the practitioner in exchange for offerings and devotion. Even modern American Neo-Pagan traditions maintain a narrative that posits the agency of the practitioner above all else. A deity or other spirit may make themselves known to someone through signs and visitations, but whether or not a real relationship develops is in the hands of the human being.

When refusal of the spirit’s advances isn’t an option and the practitioner’s life inevitably begins to crumble, our collective ignorance about such processes often results in such individuals being shunned and seen as unstable — the latter of which is not entirely untrue given the liminality of any initiatory process. But in a shamanic or indigenous community, there’s a greater chance that someone will understand what is going on and community resources can be put toward helping the individual make it through the trial.

In our contemporary animistic communities, writings about spirit-induced initiations by individuals like Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova have resulted in controversy and public denouncements as contemporary American practitioners prefer their gods relegated to mythology, working spirit roles, and as excuses to buy pretty things rather than seeing them as the forces of agency that they are, sometimes demanding sacrifices of some individuals in exchange for gifts that they are not allowed to refuse.

Every contemporary shaman and dead-man-walking spiritworker I know has experienced homelessness during at least one of their spirit-induced initiations. I also know of a Mambo in Haitian Vodou who was a nurse before she fell and broke her leg, taking it as a sign that patience had run out on her starting her sosyete. And I once performed a reading with a Protestant Christian black American woman whose son had been stricken with an undiagnosable illness and she was sure that his girlfriend had put roots on him despite her staying by his bedside. My reading indicated that this wasn’t the first time this had happened and if he didn’t change his ways and heed the call to ministry that he knew was on his life, it would end. She knew exactly what I meant. I prescribed bathing his eyes in a weak tea of Eyebright to bring clarity and suggested she call a trustworthy Pastor or other official from her church to her son’s bedside too so that he could begin taking the necessary actions in alignment with his destiny.

Spiritual callings are cross-cultural and even the term “shaman sickness” fails to encompass the wide breadth of these kinds of sudden life emergencies that trigger a death and rebirth within the individual. But if we, as a culture, can learn to recognize the signs, we’ll all be the better for it.

Fail a lot. Don’t consider yourself an expert until you have collapsed your life as a side effect of practicing magic because that’s what it does. Ask any shaman ever. – Gordon White of Rune Soup

Obeah Woman 2

Throughout the sickness, I searched endlessly for Obeah Woman’s true name – something that I recognized from a tradition familiar to me. Was she really Olokun of the Yoruba people? She displayed gender-variant traits like them. Or maybe she was La Sirene, the mermaid lwa of Vodou. Many initiatory helping spirits don’t reveal their names early on so as to avoid confusion about their true natures, wanting their initiates to get to know them first before turning to their myths or the accounts of others.

But not in my case.

It wouldn’t be too long before I came across Nina Simone’s ecstatic live track in which she exclaims “I’m the Obeah Woman / From beneath the sea / To get to Satan / You have to pass through me.”

I also found her embodied in character of Addaperle the Feel Good Girl and her motion picture counterpart Miss One, the Good Witch of the North, in the 1970s film adaptation of the Broadway play The Wiz, carrying a chalkboard etched with lucky numbers for winning policy games and oozing that “eccentric aunt” feeling that’s so particularly electric.

Miss One

Then I found her in the theme song from the 1990s sitcom Living Single as the silhouetted woman with dance moves both warrior- and river-like shortly after realizing that she reminded me precisely of how the ocean feels along the beaches I grew up on in Far Rockaway, Queens.

But this was before I’d seen her other aspects. During the more grueling months of my trials with her, particularly while being forced to resolve my childhood wounds around gender expression, she often appeared as a short large-breasted huge-dicked hermaphrodite Pygmy witch.

Then, as a pipe-smoking Plains American Indian woman.

And then in what I consider to be her original form – a young gender/role-variant African woman with child in one arm, weapon in the other. Both fierce warrior and loving mother. Something akin to how my own energy runs, I discovered. But then again, what is gender except how our energy runs?

Karin Miller, “African Mermaid,” ca. 2011, from the series Sea Changes.

Karin Miller, “African Mermaid,” ca. 2011, from the series Sea Changes.

It was another friend of mine who introduced me to Mami Wata, a pantheon of female African water spirits, and it was there that I found the closest match. Apart from the obvious, Mami Wata’s ties to symbols of prosperity and divinatory gifts are keenly similar to Obeah Woman’s regal presence, and anthropological records of black and indigenous West Indian adherents speaking of “Mammy-Water” help account for Obeah Woman’s unmistakably New World essence.

“The prevailing literature [on Mami Wata] tends to exclude African-Americans without realizing that they are even more connected to African spirits because of the devastation of slavery in which Mami also suffered. Far too many young black men are suffering mental disorders especially schizophrenia, starting as young as 13 yrs., because the source of their problem is Mami.”

Overt “shamanic” initiation aside, our culture’s relentless narrative that the value of young black American men lies especially in their ability to forsake all vestiges of beauty, compassion, depth, and receptivity is entirely at odds with such an entity’s gifts, and perhaps even her demands if the genealogical timing is such that a young American brother has fallen under her gaze. These cultural pressures are in no way absent for queer and gender-variant black men, often resulting in internalized homo- and transphobia as absence of full and authentic personal expression is seen as the epitome of masculinity and is the precursor for its erotic consumption in our current age.

“Black men who are traditionally initiated to Mami as a balance of their masculine force, are often unaware of their ancestral matrilineal heritage, and pressure is often forced on them to conform to a false machismo not characteristics of ancient African philosophy or culture. In America, when black men are born to Mami Wata, they are often at a loss to explain their spiritual sufferings, and some tend to self-medicate with illicit drugs, alcohol or other dissociative means. Some even resort to crime, or exhibit such psychotic behavior that they are eventually institutionalized.”

Such observations provide powerful commentary on the active power of ancestral lineage in the lives of contemporary Americans, and as a spirit who is as much Woman as she is the total defiance of gender norms, Obeah Woman’s medicine as a re-balancer of the scales is sorely needed in our age. May She be hailed.

She is a goddess of prosperity. She is a goddess of death and of truth-telling. She is the storm that clears the air and makes way for a new day when what has been collectively forgotten is remembered, and we mourn. We mourn for our hearts. We mourn for those lost. We mourn for the Great Forgetting.

And then we remember.

And then, we dance.

(to the tune of “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree”)

Obeah Woman laughs far beneath the sea

Draped in jewels and gold, laughing “ke ke ke”

Laugh! Obeah Woman, laugh!

Lead us to our authenticity!

Khi Armand is an NYC-based psychic intuitive, shamanic healer, and folk magician. He is the proprietor of Conjure in the City and author of Deliverance! Hoodoo Spells of Uncrossing, Healing, & Protection.

Hiring Khi Armand On Retainer

8 Feb

Khi Armand, Hoodoo SpellsSince ancient times, spiritual advisors have supported the endeavors and livelihoods of the most prominent and successful individuals on earth, guiding their affairs with a knowledge of astrology and the cycles of nature, and winning their battles with the help of occult skills in magick, sorcery, rootwork, witchcraft, and shamanism.
 
Indeed, many modern triumphs in the entertainment industry, arts, areas of science and innovation, politics, and media can be attributed in part to trusted spiritual guides working behind the scenes to ensure their clients’ protection, victory over circumstance and competitors, enhanced creativity and good fortune, and for providing advanced planning tools based on sacred timekeeping modalities.
 
Khi Armand is available for long-term retainer contracts (3+ months) and has been hired by clients internationally for ongoing guidance and spiritual conjuration, including artists, celebrities, politicians, CEOs, business owners, and individuals employed in private affairs.
Hiring Khi Armand on retainer is the right choice for clients who:
  • want to significantly boost their profits over 1-6 months or more.
  • need regular psychic mediumship to navigate social and business matters.
  • work in dangerous fields and need regular cleansing and protection.
  • work in high-stress environments and need balancing, grounding, & peace.
  • have a new business and want long-term rootwork to aid its success.
  • have an established business and want an edge over their competitors.
  • need motivation and inspiration toward completing a goal or project.
Hiring Khi Armand on retainer means having consistent, personal, VIP access to a world-renowned medium, magus, and ordained shamanic priest skilled in the arts of divination and conjuration, and able to petition some of the most powerful spirits and energies on earth to work on your behalf.
 
To schedule an appointment to discuss your needs and the terms of a potential retainer arrangement, contact khi@conjureinthecity.com.

 

On Spiritual Medicine

21 Jan

Winter Tree

She slept soundly in my passenger seat as I drove around the East Bay. Emotions repeatedly crept and crumbled from her chest to her throat and then back again as her anger over the unexpected circumstances that had just pummeled her sent her into overdrive. Spirit-induced rites of passage make you chronically tired from the stresses added to day-to-day life and the unrelenting merry-go-round of questions that populate your mind. “What did I do to deserve this?” “Where will my cat and I live now?” “Will the divinations prove themselves wrong?” “Am I going to be OK?” For now, she slumbered, with the feedback loop of uncertainty sinking beneath the waves of her conscious mind, tamed by the low hum of the vehicle that cradled her as it cruised beneath a fiery sunset. My fingers flip, switch, click, and guide the iPhone to the bottom of the playlist – Watson & Company. Album: Catharis Infinity. Loop. Play. The most healing instrumentals I know. Good medicine.

When she awakes from her slumber – a minor refreshment in the cataclysm – I tell her that we’ve arrived at our destination, having parked on a side street in a neighborhood only vaguely familiar to either of us. Night has fallen.

“But, where are we?”, she yawns and stretches sleepily, a babe at the whim of fate’s itinerary.

“I was told to come here,” I tell her assuredly. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what I was told. “They have good medicine.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s first definition for the word is as such:

med·i·cine  noun \ˈme-də-sən, British usuallyˈmed-sən\

a : a substance or preparation used in treating disease

b : something that affects well-being

I use the term daily; a reminder that there are consequences to everything I choose to consume. Food, movies, media, Facebook, a friend’s advice on a particular situation. Even fleeting thoughts that I choose to further engage and entertain are a kind of medicine. What I take internally and make a part of myself – my own being – is medicine. I don’t remember when the term took such a prominent place in my vocabulary, but it’s become a vital verbal cue in my decolonization and my adoption of an animistic worldview. Just as I have a million opportunities everyday to choose good medicine – narratives, magick, and comestibles – that boost my well-being, so do I have medicine to share with others. My talents, my gifts, and my worldview all contribute to the flow – the circle – of life itself.

Evening. Central Park. Her eyes open to blinking as she stands up at the triple crossroads, holding the dirt she’d just collected in a piece of leftover tin foil. She approaches me, apprehensively relaying the message she feels she received from Her while kneeling in prayer: “I was told that I am to use this dirt for women’s work only.” I nod in agreement, not surprised in the least. Her vibration, life’s journey, and the obstacles she’s overcome are all evidence of her innate and cultivated women’s healing medicine. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s fourth definition for medicine reads:

: an object held in traditional American Indian belief to give control over natural or magical forces;

also : magical power or a magical rite

It is most likely from within an American Indian context (or an appropriated version of it) that the word “medicine” first crept into my consciousness, but the definition above is more appropriate for the term “medicine bag” while still failing to capture the essence of such an object. I use the term medicine in a way that’s most related to the word “perspective” – the point of view offered by a person, entity, or experience. This comes from my long-time practice of imbibing herbal tinctures of those herbal allies that have shown up in my life from dreams, healer friends, and by “coincidence,” including Catnip, Hawthorn, and Fennel. Each of these has taught (and continue to teach me) lessons in places where my own soul might have been lacking toward greater personal wholeness and fulfillment of my potential.

The deified entities I work with function similarly in my life, their medicines partly evident in their characteristics, associated prayers, and symbolisms. Regular devotion and conversation with them makes them friends whose perspectives I can call upon at anytime. I can, as well, call on them for help with one-time magick spells, but their long-term alliance with me and my fulfillment of our terms of reciprocity might mean that I can do less magick regarding their realm – their medicine has become a part of me.

When I sit at their altars listening for guidance in the form of advice, a working, or just the peace and calm derived from basking in their presence – these are medicine too.

But not all medicine is intentional – every magazine article we believe, every media image we consume, and every encouraging word from a friend that we receive is a perspective we take in and make a part of ourselves. It is whatever shifts us, seats us, and adds to our completion. The wisdom rests in not only seeking out and assimilating the medicine that we need, but in being vigilant about all of the things that we incorporate into the story of our personhood.

Eagle Feather

In Loren Cruden’s Medicine Grove: A Shamanic Herbal, she writes:

“Modern Western herbalism talks about a plant’s properties. Chinese and Ayurvedic systems refer to a plant’s energetic characteristics. Shamanism orients to a plant’s medicine – it’s particular truth of being. Truth of being, in plants, is explicit – there is no confusion of identity. Each plant is like an embodied idea: its medicine is a state of mind, a perspective of pervasive consciousness. When you partake of that medicine, you recall that perspective; you include, in yourself, that state of mind, which is then mirrored in your state of being.”

As discussed above, Cruden’s definition of medicine and the process of assimilation isn’t limited to plants. Both short- and long-term alliances with the spirits of botanicals, minerals, animal species, and others shift us and take us from point A to point B, and sometimes back again if we haven’t learned what was needed the first time around. Life itself is a medicine journey, better walked consciously than unconsciously.

Thus are the meanings of terms like “medicine lodge” and “medicine person” (my preferred term for my role and the work I do) at least partially illuminated – places to go to and people to seek out to gain clarity regarding what medicine might be best for you at this time in your life. Often, the insight and wisdom gained in the search is medicine in and of itself.

He opened the door and welcomed us into his kitchen. We nodded in resonance as he sat us down and spoke of Saturn in Scorpio, becoming a disciple of our own consciousness, and the need to fulfill soul contracts made before our current incarnations. Passing the pipe to us, we smoked our prayers, grateful for the wisdom imparted. Our anxious hungers of the day now satisfied, we had indeed been led to good medicine.

When thought about this way, Hoodoo, Rootwork, and Conjure become a shamanic praxis – every working intentionally calls forth the medicine of botanicals, minerals, spirits of the dead, and / or land spirits (amongst others) to accompany us toward a fulfillment of our intentions. Be it the outlook of Lovage Root on stable, uniting love, or a river’s shifting thrusts as it carries away an abusive relationship embodied in the wax remains of a Cut & Clear candle ritual, we are surrounded by perspectives that lead us to the place our heart desires most. Employing the graveyard dirt of your grandmother in a protection ritual around your home invokes a different perspective on safety than that of a police officer – likewise, the difference between Angelica Root and Basil. In listening to the wisdom of your spirits, and the spirits of the medicines themselves, you gain discernment as to which is in greatest alignment toward your goal.

No person is an island unto themselves, and the medicine that we need is often right outside our front doors (if not in our own pantries). Some of these perspectives might be called on only once (for a one-time spell vs. a daily tincture dosage) while others will be incorporated into our way of life as we become more knowledgeable about our gifts and specialties as spiritual practitioners, and as the elements themselves help us understand their applicability to a range of different conditions and experiences of dis-ease.

What medicine made its way into your life today unconsciously? What medicines (perspectives, plant, animal, entity, or other) are you intentionally working with at this time? Do these latter medicines speak at all to your experience of the former ones? Journal it out – become a disciple of your own consciousness.

Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations),
Khi Armand