Path of the Wolf, Pt II
The Priestess Path
To be a priestess in the modern world is to exist in a liminal space. Not just in the workings of spirit and magic, but in embracing an ancient, archetypal role which is viewed in equal parts with romanticism, intrigue, skepticism and often scorn. It is a role which is simultaneously elevated and shrouded in the shadows of doubt, especially in such polarizing times as we live in now. But spirit work is a path of deep learning, transformation, and healing...and why so many of us are called to this path for the greatest good.
Part of the healing that spirit work must offer (which has historically been steeped in colonialism, cultural appropriation, and greed) is to cultivate respect, reverence, and honor for the indigenous cultures from which so many of our tools and practices are derived. It is crucial to acknowledge this ourselves and to instill it in those who seek our counsel.
We heal together, or not at all. We are, none of us, an island.
Much of what I have learned and practiced as a priestess would be considered “shamanic” work. But many people do not know that the term “Shamanism” specifically represents the indigenous Siberian religion and its ceremonies. Since its introduction to Western culture, the study and transmission of Shamanic teachings resulted in the term being widely coined as a descriptor for any kind of ceremonial work involving journeying, channeling, or spirit communication.
Though I have respectfully studied indigenous Shamanic concepts and ceremonies, I feel it’s better to describe my practice as spirit work, with an emphasis on exploring my ancestral lineages. Spirit work has existed in every known culture in various forms since the beginning of human consciousness, including those steeped in Christianity.
My spirit work is informed by a reverence for and love of the Goddess, in her many forms and appearances. A good part of my training in the Mount Shasta Goddess Temple involved studying goddesses from cultures very different from my own. Some of these resonated strongly for me and drew me deeper into their realms, and some remained distant and difficult to relate with. In time I embraced specific deities and ancestors of spirit (women of historical significance who share my principles and passions) that have been incorporated in the structure of my personal Goddess temple. I anticipate new emanations of Goddesshood and ancestral connections will arise as I continue on the path.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the goddess Hekate was the first to emerge for me. In my younger years of exploring magic, witchcraft and paganism, I narrowly understood Her to be a dark Underworld goddess…perhaps even a crone. A distant entity. Fast forward a couple decades and suddenly Hekate was trending for me. I was seeing Her symbols all over my social media, blog posts about Her, groups dedicated to studying Her. I took notice of this trend with some interest, but filed it away.
2017 was a blur of depression, outrage and denial, as I’m sure it was for many people after the 2016 election. One afternoon that summer, in one of my depressive episodes, I picked up a pencil and large sheet of paper and began rendering the figure of a woman rising up through a tangle of roots and snakes. I didn’t know who she was, but I gathered she was a chthonic spirit of some kind. I put away the sketch half finished and didn’t pick it up again for months. I’d had a sense for almost a decade that a goddess was rising to meet these dark and difficult times, though I’d never quite been able to articulate her in words or art. (I’ve since learned that I was not alone in sensing this, far from it.) This was part of what compelled me to be part of Woman Shaman Priestess.
A year after the Trump administration took control of America, the socio-political climate was sinking further into depravity. I (like so many of us) had outrage fatigue. Even with the study and support of the Priestess program, 2018 was an incredibly dark year for me. In addition to hemorrhaging money for several consecutive months in our business: our husky Helena had TPLO surgery on her leg, I fell and broke my wrist requiring surgery, and we were in a 3-car accident on the freeway which totaled our vehicle. Thankfully none of us were seriously injured, but these three events all happened within a three-week period, right around this time, actually, in 2018...the Spring equinox. And I was left physically and emotionally gutted for months.
About 4 weeks after the terrible trilogy, I ran across my drawing again and immediately recognized Her as Hekate. This was the moment of breakthrough for me. A torch was lit in my mind and heart, and I set myself to learn everything I could about this mysterious and ancient goddess. I began to remember certain signs and symbols and hints that she had been in my consciousness for years; I just hadn’t recognized them—or hadn’t been ready. Hekate had been calling and calling, and I just hadn’t picked up the phone. She now had my full attention.
Unsurprisingly, I learned that dogs and wolves are among her most well known companion spirits. (I will write more about Hekate, Her qualities, and my experience of Her in future posts. She deserves far more than a footnote in this one.)
It occurred to me not long after my breakthrough that the rose tattoo I’d been imagining for my forearm for years but could never quite manifest, was calling for a black wolf-dog...Hekate’s hound. I reclaimed the “black dog of depression” for myself: a protector rather than a tormentor, a companion, and a reminder that the beauty of life is found everywhere, even in darkness. The Black Wolf has become one of my four Wolf guides, ruling over the West and the element of water in my personal cosmology.
I committed myself to the tattoo as a symbol of stepping up to work as a devotée of Hekate, and to the Path of the Wolf.
Giving back to the Wolf
As part of my Priestess practice, I have been offering gift tarot readings for people. I’ve given readings to several dozen people over the past 6 months, and will continue to do 2-4 gift readings per month as my schedule allows. I’m now asking that anyone receiving a gift reading from me consider offering a donation to one of the Wolf Sanctuaries that I follow below (all are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations and donations are tax-deductible). This is not a requirement by any means, nor do I ask any specific dollar amount. But I hope that the service I offer from my heart will also benefit my companion of Spirit in the landscape of this world.
If you know of a Wolf Sanctuary or Conservation Center that I have not listed here, please share. It is my goal to visit each of these Sanctuaries in my future travels.
*To learn more about the mysterious Black Dog legends, I highly recommend Mark Norman’s Black Dog Folklore.