Spirit of Restoration

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The American Bison, to my knowledge, was the first animal in the United States whose numbers were purposefully sought to be restored.  I took these pictures in Iowa at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, a refuge that restored the tall grass prairie, bison, and elk to a significant patch of the Iowa landscape.   Visiting the refuge figures into my own personal restoration, my Medicine Walk to the South, and my observance of the Earth’s high holy day, the Summer Solstice.

 

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This land had originally been purchased from farmers by a power company that planned to build a nuclear power plant on it.  How utterly fantastic that those plans were scrapped and the land subsequently dedicated to its present purpose – the restoration of an ecosystem that was all but obliterated from the face of the earth, the tall grass prairie.  Pre-white settlement, the land that is now Iowa was about 85% prairie and was part of an ecosystem that has been called the “American Serengeti”.  Today, 1/10th of 1% of Iowa is prairie, and the animals that evolved to thrive there are long gone.  But this refuge, that now has over 8,000 acres, has sought to restore a piece of what once was.

 

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To see buffalo, (while they’re not technically buffalo, to my mind this name  much better connotes the animal’s wooly head and shaggy mane than ‘bison’ does), I could have visited buffalo ranches  in Minnesota or taken a trip to one of the Dakotas.  But to travel to Iowa, of all places, to see these animals restored to some of the best and most costly farmland in the world, this resonated with me deeply. For two reasons. One,  I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, on what once was the wide open prairie. So I have a kinship with this land and, even as a young boy,  I frequently dreamt about, and felt, what the land once was.   Second, I have been going through my own restoration process.   So to visit such a recent and ambitious restoration undertaking in a land not so far removed from my homeland, well this struck a chord.

When I entered the refuge for the first time, these gentlemen greeted me:

 

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This one in the picture below, which limped across the road, I later found out had been struck by lightning last fall. The bolt entered his shoulder and traveled to the ground through his leg.  He is a survivor.  It brought to mind my Stormwalk post from a couple of days ago.

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I had four close encounters with the buffalo herd.  Which was exceedingly fortunate, for they so readily disappear in landscape…So I feel inspired to add the buffalo to the South position in my personal medicine wheel.

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A Variegated Fritillary butterfly on a purple cone flower….
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A wild rose – I did a simple communion ritual using a rose petal ~ a communion wafer never tasted so fragrant!
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Bindweed…
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A storm moved in across the prairie Sunday morning…
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I saw the elk only once, from a distance, and this was as I was leaving the refuge for the last time, as the rain fell:

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The refuge is a couple of hundred miles and practically due south from “Bdote”, which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is my point of departure for my medicine walk to the sacred directions.

For those who have read my posts, this trip on the Summer Solstice marked the culmination of Zenith Arc, my Sunrise Sadhana and journey to the solstice. It also marks the beginning of my Walk Through the Wheel of the Seasons ~ doing medicine walks to the sacred directions on the holy days of the Earth.

To observe the solstice, in addition to making this pilgrimage, I watched the sun rise in the east, I meditated under the sun at its zenith in “the Grail pose”, and watched the sun set in the west.   So I took in the energy of the day as best as possible, observing and participating in the three key moments of the earth’s relationship with the sun: sunrise, zenith, sunset.

There are countless details I could share about my brief journey, but one last one:   When I awoke this morning, sat up in my sleeping bag and looked out through the screen door of my  tent, there, across a broad valley, was the sun rising in the east.  I had no idea when I pitched my tent the day before that it would be perfectly oriented toward the rising of the sun.  So this morning (Sunday) my sunrise vigil continued, from the comfort of my sleeping bag.

 

 

 

 

 

Stormwalk

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A traveler in the storm
Massaged by the buffeting wind
Laved by the pouring rain
Dazzled by the blinding lightning
Pulsated by the drumming thunder
Enveloped in the passion
Of elemental forces
Transfigured from flesh to essence.

What ecstasy passes between
biosphere and atmosphere
in these blazing lightning bolts
that riven the bounded sky
and break the barrier of sound,
sending shockwaves
of percussive thunder
that resonate to our bones?

Each climatic day
across the weathered globe
fly clouds of thundering rumbling
numbering forty thousand strong
spawning flashes of brightening lightning
three million blitzing strikes
Arcs of eerie energy and synergy
Measuring two hundred million volts.

Mother Earth and Father Sky
Negative yin and positive yang
engaged in eternal cycles
of endlessly offering and endlessly accepting.
Ever gentle upwellings from ground to cloud
precipitate ecstatic discharge from yang to yin ~
Vapors of water waft to the sky
plunging back to earth in raindrops
restoring the balance of waters.
Electrons of yin rise to the heavens
surging back to earth in lightning bolts
restoring the balance electric.

And in this atmospheric marvel
they execute esoteric incantations ~
‘Split not ye aught atomus nucula
though sunder ye nitrum genium molecula
that it might cleave and bind to oxys genos.
And with this alchemical formula
generate the nutrientem vitalis
to form homo sapiens’ genesis codex.’

What ecstasy passes between
biosphere and atmosphere
in these blazing lightning bolts
that riven the bounded sky
and break the barrier of sound,
sending shockwaves
of percussive thunder
that resonate to our bones?

A traveler in the storm
Massaged by the buffeting wind
Laved by the pouring rain
Dazzled by the blinding lightning
Pulsated by the drumming thunder
Enveloped in the passion
Of elemental forces
Transfigured from flesh to essence.

 

 

Of the 76 mornings I have done my sunrise walk, it has rained upon me very few times.    There were a couple of days in which there was a light sprinkle or an intermittent dripping.  On several or many mornings on which it rained, there was a lull during the time of my walk.  Yesterday I walked in the thick of the storm, immersed in the wind and the rain and the lightning and the thunder. Perhaps I was finally ready for this baptism as my sadhana is drawing to a close.

The poem above …sigh…is a bit over-wrought, well, maybe more than a bit…but this was my “assignment”.

 

Here are some explanatory links:  

https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/lightning/faq/

How does the Earth benefit from lightning?
The earth benefits from lightning in several ways. First, lightning helps the Earth maintain electrical balance. The Earth is recharged by thunderstorms. The Earth’s surface and the atmosphere conduct electricity easily—the Earth is charged negatively and the atmosphere, positively. There is always a steady current of electrons flowing upwards from the entire surface of the Earth. Thunderstorms help transfer the negative charges back to Earth (lightning is generally negatively charged). Without thunderstorms and lightning, the earth-atmosphere electrical balance would disappear in 5 minutes.

What causes thunder?
Thunder is caused by lightning. The bright light of the lightning flash caused by the return stroke mentioned above represents a great deal of energy. This energy heats the air in the channel to above 50,000 degrees F in only a few millionths of a second! The air that is now heated to such a high temperature had no time to expand, so it is now at a very high pressure. The high pressure air then expands outward into the surrounding air compressing it and causing a disturbance that propagates in all directions away from the stroke. The disturbance is a shock wave for the first 10 yards, after which it becomes an ordinary sound wave, or thunder. Thunder can seem like it goes on and on because each point along the channel produces a shock wave and sound wave.

 

Video that explains the “esoteric incantations”
http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/nves.sci.earth.nitrate/lightning-produces-nitrates

 

From Jamie Sams ~ her prose is more lyrical than my poem: 

http://spiritlodge.yuku.com/topic/836

The Thunder-beings make up the love call of the Sky Nation. The Fire Sticks, or lightning bolts, are a rare gift from the Sky Father to the Earth Mother. The Thunderers who accompany a storm carry the mating call that announces the Divine Union of Earth and Sky. The Thunder-beings are the host of lovers who give energy to the Earth Mother. The Thunder chief proclaims the beauty of the love between Father Sky and Mother Earth. The Fire Sticks create a bridge between the two lovers and are a physical expression of their love for one another. The Cloud People gather where the dance of union is to be held and house the Thunder Chief and Fire Sticks within their bodies awaiting the joyous time.

As the cloak of Father Sky covers the Earth Mother in a mantle of blue each day, we Two-leggeds see the beauty of his love for her when the Cloud People form and the thoughts of their combined ideas take physical shape. In our Seneca tongue, Hail-lo-way-ain is the Language of Love. This Language of Love is at work between Father Sky and Mother Earth.

When Mother Earth needs the love and warmth of Grandfather Sun to support the needs of all of her children, we see thunderstorms, lightning, and rain as their bodies dance the Sacred Dance of Divine Union. The Thunder Chief calls out in Hail-lo-way-ain, the ancient Language of Love, for the Earth Mother to prepare herself for her bridegroom. The Fire Medicine that comes between them is lightning (Fire Sticks), which is directed along the lines of energy that form a grid system over her body.

If a Fire Stick touches Mother Earth in one area, the electricity may travel great distances to reenergize those places that need the male energy that Father Sky supplies. The individual needs of all parts of her body are assisted by the Thunder-beings since they are Father Sky’s Medicine Allies, or Helpers.

This act of love between Mother Earth and Father Sky can be tender and gentle or torrid and passionate. This lovemaking is experienced as weather changes and climatic shifts by the Children of the Earth. Floods and fires, hailstorms and tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons are the freedom of nature. In every case, the end result is the fulfillment of our Earth Mother’s needs and must be looked at from the viewpoint of the greatest good for all living creatures. Great Mystery has a hand in all acts of the Uniworld and each act supports the need for growth and change.

The lovemaking of Mother Earth and Father Sky bring renewal to the whole of Creation. Our personal renewal, which Nature reflects, can be brought about by cleansing our fears, cultivating new growth, releasing old habits, or allowing ourselves to be loved and protected. The Thunder-beings bring us the raw energy we need to change and renew our lives. We humans are Catalyzers who have electromagnetic, giving and receiving, bodies. We are the bridge that connects Earth and Sky when we are in harmony. Like Mother Earth and Father Sky we are male and female in nature. The command of usable energy comes when male and female are in balance within us.

The Application:
The Thunder-beings card is telling you that you are a Catalyzer and may now command the usable energy at hand. You are being funded with the energy needed to complete any task you have in mind. If you have been trying without results or just couldn’t get enough steam going, this card signals relief. You can drop the frustration and get on with it. The energy is now yours. Call it to you and use it.

Usable energy comes in many forms. See which kind of energy applies to your present situation and then command it. Your body is the lightning rod and will conduct all the energy you need. Shout your intention to the Sky Nation. The Thunder-beings remind you to replenish yourself equally to the amount of energy you spend.

 

picture at top from:
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/sjt/?n=svrwx_awareness

Medicine Walks ~ Journeys from the Center of the Earth

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At the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers there is an island that has been a sacred site to the Mdewakanton Dakotas for many generations; it has been a gathering place for their important meetings and rituals.
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Today it is called Pike Island, after Lt. Zebulon Pike who made a treaty with the Dakota on the island in 1805.  The Dakota called it Wita Tanka, or “Big Island”, and they called the confluence of these rivers “Bdote”, meaning “the meeting of waters”.

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It was here, at Bdote, they believed that life originally began and that their people emerged from the earth.  With this is mind, it is difficult to not take notice of the distinctive phallic shape of the island and of the yonic form of the surrounding terrain that enfolds the island….

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Moreover, in the Dakota’s world view, Bdote lay directly over the center of the Earth and immediately below the center of the Heavens.  Thus, it was their axis mundi…

 

Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Nordic myth

Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Nordic myth

 

Another such Center of the Earth was experienced by the Dakota visionary, Black Elk.  Here are some excerpts from his extraordinary vision, as recounted in the book, Black Elk Speaks:

“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy….Then when he had been still a little while to hear the birds sing, he spoke again: “Behold the earth!” So I looked down and saw it lying yonder like a hoop of peoples. and in the center bloomed the holy stick that was a tree, and where it stood there crossed two roads, a red one and a black….And now the fourth Grandfather spoke, he of the place where you are always facing (the south), whence comes the power to grow. “Younger brother,” he said, “with the powers of the four quarters you shall walk, a relative….. four ascents you shall walk the earth with Power.”

Of this, Joseph Campbell says in The Power of Myth:

“That is the real mythological realization. It distinguishes between the local cult image, Harney Peak, and its connotation as the center of the world.  The center of the world is the axis mundi, the central point the pole around which all revolves.  The central point of the world is the point where stillness and movement are together. Movement is time, but stillness is eternity.  Realizing how this moment of your life is actually a moment  of eternity, and the experiencing the eternal aspect of what you’re doing in the  experiences – this the mythological experience.”

In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Campbell writes about The World Navel:

“The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world….

The torrent pours from an invisible source, the point of entry being the center of the symbolic circle of the universe… around which the world may be said to revolve. Beneath this spot is the earth-supporting head of the cosmic serpent, the dragon, symbolical of the waters of the abyss, which are the divine life-creative energy and substance of the demiurge, the world-generative aspect of immortal being.  The tree of life, i.e., the universe itself, grows from this point.  It is rooted in the supporting darkness; the golden sun bird perches on its peak; a spring, the inexhaustible well, bubbles at its foot. Or the figure may be of a cosmic mountain, with the city of the gods, like a lotus of light, upon its summit….Thus the World Navel is the symbol of the continuous creation: the mystery of the maintenance of the world through that continuous miracle of the vivification which wells within all things.”

 

As my Sunrise Sadhana is about to come to a climax on the Summer Solstice, I have decided to revive an old practice of mine, that of making Medicine Walks into each of the sacred directions.  I will embark upon my first Medicine Walk on the Solstice, the final day of my sadhana, which feels like a wonderful point of departure and the perfect means for establishing a continuity, to carry forward all that I’ve experienced in this daily ritual practice.

But if I am to make these journeys into the directions, I will need a central reference point from which to determine the direction I am heading.    I suppose I could use the home where I live to orient these walks, but, like many others, I feel that the spirit of this land continues to speak to us just as it spoke to its native inhabitants, and so I will honor their tradition by using Bdote, which lies directly above the center of the Earth, and immediately below the center of the Heavens, as the center of my sacred hoop.  Nothing could be more fitting, nor auspicious.

A brief description of Medicine Walk:

“A medicine walk is like a short vision quest, [or walkabout] during which you pay attention to the omens in nature in order to find your medicine, which in the Native American sense is anything that is healing and positive to body and mind. During a medicine walk, you find a place where you can spend at least a half a day alone, walking, sitting and meditating in nature with as few distractions from civilization as possible. You focus on an important personal issue and seek wisdom and guidance in nature by looking for symbolic meaning from the things you observe.”

To this I would only add that I will not be going to random locales for these intentional walks, but will make pilgrimages to wilderness or natural destinations situated in the sacred directions, to learn what specific lessons and Medicine each of these directions holds for me and my individual growth.

Since the Summer Solstice is about the power of the South, I will be making my first journey to the South, to immerse myself into this energy and to honor this direction.

Procreation & Co-Creation ~ An Adult Conversation…

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There are many positions from which to explore the relationship of sexual ecstasy and spiritual ecstasy; though, for this tryst, I’d like to expand upon just one angle ~  how the act of procreation gives us insight into the act of co-creation.

The impulse that gives rise to this intimate discourse is the coupling of two subjects from my recent posts:  “Peace to the 3rd Power” and the climax from the article that I reblogged, “The World is like a Divine language.”

In my post, I told of my serendipitous encounters with three peace signs, each one bringing peace to a deeper level of my being.   In the other  post, the conclusion reached is that:   ” … if the world is the result of the Divine Word offered at the beginning of time, then nature in its entirety can be taken as a symbol of supernatural reality.”

Looking at these two thoughts together, perhaps it is no accident that many incantations and invocations are done in repetitions of three. Likewise, perhaps it is no accident that we say “the third time’s a charm”. For these both mirror the thrice-fold nature of procreation.

In procreation there are three instances of penetration, and three corresponding instances of enfoldment, that take place: the phallus penetrates the vagina, the semen penetrates the cervix, and the sperm penetrates the egg.   In this final phenomenon there is a consummate merging that results in the miracle of conception.

Looking at this aspect of nature as “a symbol of supernatural reality”, for us to bring our intentions to fruition, the same must occur.  Our awareness must penetrate 3 layers of being, to that place where there is a consummate merging of our Individual Soul and the Absolute Soul.  Of the many intentions that we carry with us, for those to which we have given the greatest energy there will a final phenomenon in which there is a merging or our seminal desire and the Creatrix that results in the miracle of inception.

 

 

Peace to the 3rd Power

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When the mind is troubled, how does one successfully shift to a place of peace?   Perhaps the magical number 3 offers a hint.

On my walk this morning I was brooding over angry thoughts.  I’d push them away, turn my attention to the world around me, and very quickly the thoughts would return.  There was nothing that could be done in the moment to address the issue that was causing the anger, so it was a matter of dealing with the emotions and not the situation.

Since I was so uninspired I decided to make it a short walk and returned to my door.  But, second-thoughts stalled me in the entryway.  I was giving up too soon, I realized; a longer walk, not shorter one, was what I needed.

Not much changed in my mood, as I stared at my feet walking down the sidewalk, lost in my thoughts.  But, as frequently happens, I lifted my head just in time; the sight I found before me was this wonderful peace sign embedded in someone’s lawn:

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Struck by its beauty and the intention of those who created it, I was immediately uplifted.  With my mood lightened, my head no long bowed in thought, and my pace quickened, I turned the corner.   A few houses down that block I encountered – another peace sign…

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So, now I’m laughing.  I love how the universe works.

But, I say to myself, “the third time’s a charm – let’s see if I encounter a third peace sign” – rather playfully challenging the universe to bring me another one.

A bit further down the street  I stopped to admire this bit of landscaping.   As I gazed upon it I realized that, intentional or not, the plantings within the brick circle took the form of the peace sign. The picture doesn’t capture it, (and I didn’t want to step into their yard to get a better shot) but the tall plants to the left form the top spoke and the feathery plants to the right fanned out like the bottom spokes of the peace sign, encircled by the bricks:

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Now, I’m no longer laughing, but feeling a reverent gratitude, and a deep sense of peace.

The three peace signs caused me to consider the three layers of the mind, the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious.  Briefly defined, these are 1) one’s awareness at the present moment, 2) stored memories that are readily accessible, and 3) instinctual drives, buried memories, psychological conditioning, and emotional wounds that can drive our behaviors.

To intentionally quell a turbulent mind and attain a state of equanimity requires more than just working on the first level.  If necessary, we can push away or replace thoughts to stay present with other matters, but we are essentially suppressing what’s churning underneath. And as long as it’s still churning, it can repeatedly bubble up into to our thoughts, no matter how many times we try to put them on the back burner.

Through one technique or another, one can bring peace to each of these levels, until it resonates at the core of one’s being.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Re-assembling Osiris

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Continuing with the Egyptian theme from yesterday’s post, the story of Isis searching the land of Egypt for the dismembered parts of her slain husband, Osiris, gives form to some thoughts that I’ve been having about my experience since I began my Sunrise Sadhana.

Through the experiences that I’ve written about, and other encounters that I haven’t, I have often felt that I was in the process of re-collecting parts of myself that I had for various reasons left behind or neglected or forgotten.  My experience yesterday with the sun and moon and the resulting re-animation of my past experiences with Horus brought that sensation into exceptionally high relief, again, appropriate relative to the myth of Osiris.

My experience also brings to mind the short story by Margret Atwood, “Isis in Darkness”,  in which an aging poetry professor who has lost his way makes it his life’s purpose to search out and assemble the life and works of one of his former students, Selena, whose poetry he admired.  Selena lived her life as a poet but became disillusioned, succumbs to alcoholism, and dies before her time.

While the story movingly reverses the male-female roles of the myth, it is also clear that in reconstructing Selena’s life, he is also redeeming, and reconnecting with, his own soul.  This student’s paper puts it very well:

http://uwf.edu/bookclub/Wilderness%20Tips%20Student%20Article%201.html

By undertaking this project, he accomplishes two things: First, he takes on the role of Isis, transforming Selena into an immortal author by bringing together the pieces of her life, and second, he transforms himself into an author in his own right. Just as Isis reconstructs herself while she reconstructs Osiris, Richard builds himself into the author he has always wanted to be as he pieces together the note cards that contain the facts he has learned about Selena.

Both the original myth and Atwood’s story hint at this profound process that we are all capable of doing for ourselves.  While the process is always poignant, whether one’s story ends in tragedy or beatitude depends upon the undertaking.

 

 

 

Left Eye Moon ~ Right Eye Sun

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For the third month in a row, as part of my Sunrise Sadhana, I made a brief sojourn to an undisclosed hilltop location this morning to watch the full moon set in the west as the sun rose in the east. I did not at all expect that this morning’s observance would revivify my past experiences with the Egyptian God Horus…

The sun and moon are frequently in the sky together, but it is only for a moment each month that the full moon (from our earthly perspective)  is in the sky with the sun.  For only a moment each month our two orbs balance each other, poised in opposite directions, one rising in the east as the other sets in the west.

Yesterday evening I was sharing this at a small gathering and as I described this celestial event I was going to observe in the morning, I unconsciously outstretched my arms, palms facing upward, to gesture their antipodal positions.  To which someone quipped, “And you’ll be holding one in each hand.”  I responded with an unabashed “Yes!” and we all shared a good-natured laugh at the prospect.

So this morning, standing on my hilltop as a fulcrum between the two orbs, I decided to do just as my friend had teased.  Without thinking, I turned toward the north, and stretched my right hand out to the sun and my left hand out to the moon.  As I imagined holding these two heavenly spheres, a couple of things happened. On the one hand (pun intended), I was flooded with a wonderful sensation of these two energies flowing into me, converging within me, uplifting me.

On the other hand (pun also intended), I was flooded with memories that brought a deeper meaning to the experience…which requires briefly recounting a couple of stories…

First ~ Years ago, when I was still a relative newcomer to the spiritual quest, I was asked to help lead a meditation service at the interfaith church I was attending.  Just before the service the main facilitator and I closed our eyes in silent prayer, asking for some divine assistance with the information we were about to deliver. When I opened my eyes –  and I want to stress that, with my eyes open, what I next saw was not something I saw in my imagination, it was something I saw with my  eyes –  there was an apparition of the Egyptian God Horus across the room from me.  At the time, I had no idea who he was –  a muscular male figure with the head of a falcon, wearing a loin cloth that was clearly Egyptian.  Once I described what I had seen to others, they quickly surmised that it was Horus, and subsequent research and experience proved this to be so.

Second ~ Some months later, while sitting in the sanctuary of that same church, this time with eyes closed in meditation, another completely unbidden image came to me.   In my mind’s eye I saw an Eagle swoop out of the sky and land on my right shoulder while at the same time an Owl swooped out of the sky and landed on my left shoulder.   They both perched for but a moment and then simultaneously reached over and plucked out my eyes, the Eagle taking the right eye and the Owl taking the left.   I remember my body tensing in shock as this unsettling image played out. Without pausing however, the two birds then replaced my old eyes with new ones – the eye of the Eagle in the right and the eye of Owl in the left.

Once again, I could write at length some explanatory and interpretive notes, but, for the moment, I will just provide a few details and allow the reader’s mind to flesh out the significance…

Those familiar with Egyptian lore know that the right eye of Horus is associated with the sun and his left eye is associated with the moon.   For those not familiar with Horus, his story is well worth researching – you’ll find a fuller account quite fascinating.

As for the Owl and the Eagle, the Owl is of course a lunar animal and the Eagle is its solar counterpart.

So in my unconscious gesture last night, which elicited an intuitive response from a friend, and in my following that leading through assuming an unconscious posture (turning north rather than south) this morning, holding the sun in my right hand and holding the moon in my left, quite a profound event was activated.  It is striking how there is a perfect congruency between these three experiences of the sun and moon, the yang and yin, the masculine and feminine, the intellect and intuition, of Horus, and of the Eagle and the Owl.