Journeying Tips From A Cosmic Diplomat
by Lydia Helasdottir
excerpt from Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism
Leaving my body started with a strange experience I had during a progressive body relaxation thing. I was doing the classic Monroe Institute thing - “The toes, the toes are relaxed, I relax the toes. The feet, the feet are relaxed, I relax the feet.” I got up to the throat and suddenly I couldn't breathe any more, and I got this really weird sensation, so I stopped doing it. I went back to it, and it happened again. This was very early on - age 15 or 16 or so. So what I actually learned to do was to travel out of the body. I think people misunderstand this part of it; they think that they have to feel their vehicle literally leaving their body, seeing themselves under themselves and floating through the room and all that stuff. Well, that's handy and all, but it isn't actually necessary for doing it, I don't find. And it's really unhelpful if you're traveling in a car and trying to do that at the same time.
For me, I have a variety of levels, from 90% here and 10% journeying, to 10% here and 90% journeying. I sit down, I punch in the coordinates of where I want to go on my intergalactic navigating machine, and press “Go!” That's something that many of us do, making the interface look like technology we're familiar with. I started traveling a lot with the twelve directional kings. I had to figure out how to go and meet them; my teachers were saying, “You have to go see this King and talk to him.” Well, how do I do that, then? She said, “Well, just intend to meet him, and go, and the rest will get taken care of.” So I closed my eyes and intended to meet him, and suddenly I was face to face with this ebony-skinned man on a blasted desert landscape.
Some people can speak or communicate while they're away; their mouth will move and words will come out and describe what's going on, to whoever is there or onto a tape. That works for me sometimes, and sometimes I have to go through the whole experience and remember it all when I come back. Or I might bop in and out and back and forth. How do you know if it's real? If it's really important stuff, we have a three-level verification. First you test them. You say, “Who are you?” and they'll say something or other, and then you can test them further. Working in the northern tradition, I would tend to do an Os at them, or Isa, or Ken. You can do that with Ogham as well.
The second level is to check with divination. Is this what I really thought it was? Do the divvy. Did we get all the information we needed to get? Did we ask all the questions that we were supposed to ask? Is there anything that we need to be worried about? Is it all right? We always do a divination session after being sent to talk to things, just to be sure. If it's something really important, then we want two confirmations. We call on somebody else in our network to confirm it without us telling them what we were doing, and then we also ask for some sort of physical manifestation. For instance, let's say we got some information from some bogey about something or other. Then your mother-in-law starts telling you about some sort of strange dream that she had and this stuff comes up, and you go to the store and some truck drives past you that says “Welcome to Bogeyville” or whatever. You ask for a physical, non-journeying, non-suggestion thing to show up in the physical world. Like an omen. We always ask for that if it's something really serious, like “You should sell the house and move to Kamchatka,” or some such thing of great import.
The other thing that you need to take into account is speed. Sometimes you have to really slow yourself down a lot to talk to certain entities. Things like boggarts and tree spirits don't have the same time cycles. I expect that our speech sounds to them something like “blblbllbl”, and we have to really slow down to communicate with them. We can do full-on 90% out of the body journeying, but I don't find that it's all that necessary. It's a lot more dangerous and tiring. Once you get used to traveling places, you can travel with more and more of you here.
How not to get in trouble while journeying: Research beforehand. Always know exactly where you're going. What is the person that you're meeting supposed to look like? Have we met them before? And if you can't find it in the lore anywhere, or in faery tales, do divinations. You can ask people who have been there or done that - “So what does this look like, then?” - but if you can't even find that, then knowing that you have some reason for being there, you can ask the source of the information that said you had to be there - what are they supposed to look like, and how to get there safely.
When it comes to someone who's read in a book that So-and-so helps with something, and might be a good person to ask about a question...Do 20 questions with your divination method - if I knew more about him, what would he look like? You can move fairly smoothly from meditation to journeying. Meditate on his being and presence, and why exactly you think that he might have a good answer for you. But the next question is why he would bother, though. There has to be something in it for him. Go bearing gifts. The best gift is to be willing to pick up tasks that they can't do down here.
Afterwards, do a divination to see if it was really them, if you got there. We like to be sure that we know what the space is like, and is it near something that we already know. Are there landmarks? We'll ask divination beforehand to find out if there are particular dangers in going to meet this entity; if so, what is the nature of that; can we do anything to allay those dangers; if so, what; and so forth. But it's invariably worth it to not go in like a complete idiot. The entity will be pleased to know that you've taken the time to read the guidebook and learn a few phrases and see the map. Even though it's obvious that you're a tourist, you're not a complete schmuck. You've at least tried a little bit.
There's also that people can mimic deities on the subtle plane if they're powerful enough. You can test them all you like, and it won't help. That's why the divinations afterwards are important. Of course, if you've worked with a particular deity enough, you can just sort of know if it's not them. Them acting in uncharacteristic ways is a tipoff.
There are certain spaces that are time-sensitive, and if you go into them, going back into your body can be a bit weird. Most of the time when one journeys out, when you come back your subtle body juts fits right back into your physical vehicle, but if you visit places that are quite close to the manifested plane, then the movement of the earth affects your subtle body still, because you're quite close to it and its influence, so when you come back after 20 minutes or whatever, your body is slightly rotated from where your subtle body was, and you can come in feeling funky. In the beginning, I would come in and feel like “Eew! Something feels really gross and wrong and out of place and twitchy.” I would have to go out of the body again and realign and come back in again. You can definitely have a bad landing.
Then I was taught to immediately write down everything, and make sure you're thoroughly back in your body - especially before you have to go and drive or something, and make sure to close the door after you, because things will want to come in after you, into the material plane. Things will attach themselves to you, or wander in after you - just little bottom feeders, usually, but occasionally something bigger. I imagine the biofilter that they use in Star Trek when they teleport people, to make sure that nothing comes in that shouldn't be there. Remember that Chi follows Zi - energy follows intentions, so you can use that to make a little magical tool. You put it around your physical body when you leave, like a little glowing mesh, and it filters out anything that wasn't supposed to be there. And if you end up feeling kind of flu-like for a couple of days after traveling it could be that you've caught something. That's something that they don't talk about - the bugs. You can burn them off doing a chi exercise of something pantheon-appropriate. Some kind of “light from the Source burning out stupid beasties that came through the portal with me and shouldn't be here.” Or you can ask one of the deities to burn them off for you. Just being alert that it can happen at all is more than most people ever do. Most people don't contemplate such things.
You can come back from these things very much out of sorts, and then you have to spend a lot of time doing elemental rebalancing stuff, or purifying baths or whatever exercise it is that you do to have a physical or mental or emotional reboot. If I have to go places that are really harsh, I just don't put as much of me there. I only send maybe ten or fifteen percent. I don't generally pathwalk, because it's harder on the body, but sometimes you have to go fully there. Also, it's harder to get fooled when you're fully there. A lot harder to get fooled. And it's harder to get lost.
Getting lost: I got lost in the space between here and the directional kings. How did I get back? “Mommeee!” Which is very embarrassing. You can take a rock in your hand, or something else that you can home back in on. This sort of “GPS thinking” goes like this: Here's the waypoint, the blinking beacon, the homing beacon. There seems to be a kind of “idiot's autopilot” that brings you back safely, but also limits where you can go, and it's like a locking collar, and until you've logged a certain number of hours of journeying successfully without getting lost, and without having to use the blinking light or the return button or what-have-you, you have to wear the collar. And it also tells boogies to “hands-off”. So people start thinking that they are invulnerable, because nothing bad ever happens to them and they can always find their way back... until you pass certain ring-pass-nots in your magical attainment, and then that doesn't work any more, and you really can get lost or burnt to a crisp by the radiation.
But when I get lost I tend to just cry for Mommy, meaning Hela, and She'll drag me back and berate me, and I feel really ill and get a migraine for five or six days. That's so humiliating. And, even if you don't have a patron deity, there's always a Mom there, a Mother Goddess of some sort who will help you when you yell. The Universal Distress Beacon, like the toddler in the supermarket. If not your mom, some nice lady will come by and help you out.
But to avoid getting lost in the first place, really good knowledge of where you're going is important, and don't be going into places where you're not planning to go, and don't travel to places you don't know yet, then. Get a tour guide, or stick to places that do have a lot of lore written about them while you learn your navigational skills. It's like mountaineering - you first go to mountains that have marked trails, and then you go to the mountains that might not have marked trails but there's written guidebooks and maps, and then you go to the mountains that have no guidebooks but you go with a local guide, and then - and only then - do you go exploring into remote aspects of the Urals that nobody's ever been to before, that aren't even on the map. To go there by helicopter and decide to walk around is just dumb.
The Disney ride - the archetypal veil - is a good way to get an idea of what the place you're going looks like. The only unsafe thing about the Disney ride is that you can believe that the real thing is that safe. On the Disney ride, you can throw popcorn at the video Gods and all that happens is that you get ejected. In real life, one of ‘em will tear your liver out. “Mommee! He tore my liver out!” And She says, “Uh-huh. That's because you pestered him. Don't do that, then.”
First, before you even think about traveling in Otherworlds, I would try to build up your astral stamina. Our people take six to nine months of building up their astral vehicles with breathing and meditative exercises to the point where they are actually quite strong. In the northern tradition, such exercises might be sitting with the trees and breathing up and down them and generating a heartwood and really firm bark, if you're a tree kind of person; meditating upon and working with Thorn and Nyth...but especially breathing and guiding energy around your system so that it becomes strong, so that you subtle body is full and strong and powerful and solid, and that you can move around without leaking everywhere. Then we test them - we feed on them, and batter them around, and see if they're still set up. So spend a good couple of months doing really basic grounding and purification exercises.
Then, when traveling, making sure that you have got some armor, or at least protective clothing before you go. But make sure that any armor and weapons are hidden, so that you look harmless. Armor does not necessarily mean “armed”; it means appropriately dressed for the conditions. So if you're going into a high-radiation environment, you need to wear a rad suit. If you're going to go into a very cold place, you need to wear something, or else go in a bubble, or a magicked-up robe that you always wear when you're doing something like this. It could be just a lightly-flowing-outward expression of energy all the time, a slight positive pressure from your being floating outwards, so that the little sucking bottom-feeding things won't latch onto you so easily.
And if you're traveling to places where you're likely to get hit heavily, wear armor, even if you wear it under your T-shirt so that it doesn't show. You can wear armor that doesn't show up. It doesn't have to be big aggressive “I Am Looking For A Fight” armor. You should not overdo the heroic knight valiant thing. Even in “Lord of the Rings”, consider Aragorn in his traveling gear versus Aragorn in his battle gear. It's very different, being a Ranger versus being a Paladin.
But being wounded....mostly for beginners it's just bottom feeders that have suckered onto them. "Boogies", as we call them; undifferentiated beings sort of swooping around. They will come and feed on your energy. If those things attach themselves to you....whenever you come back, just check. We refer to it as putting the scanning goggles on and scanning your body for parasites. Then take them off, or burn them up, and put some energy into your hand and just patch the hole, or take some healing herbs, or go talk to a tree, or whatever it is you do. You can also travel in other forms - something that's less likely to get damaged. So for example, maybe you decide to travel as a tortoise or something.
Sometimes I've been damaged by other people who were territorial about the fact that I was there, or just didn't like me. You don't always know that you've been hit when you're still traveling, assuming that you didn't actually go into battle and take damage that you couldn't see, so you might come back and feel a bit weird or logy or headachey or tired inexplicably for days. You might not be able to get rid of a cold, or whatever. In this case, it's quite likely that you did take some damage out there. You can either do some divination to find out if that's the case, and if so what to do about it; or you can go to your local friendly neighborhood shaman and ask them to have a look at you. You can go to standard energy-ish healers with a great deal of care, and say, “I'm feeling a bit tired and ill; maybe you can just rebalance everything and make sure that it's OK.” They'll do a standard cleansing reboot program, which may interfere with modifications, but if you're just a beginner you won't have too many mods anyway. Go to an acupuncturist or something and just get fixed. Eat lots of really healthy food, and take cleansing baths, and such. It'll fix itself, generally. If you've gotten into a fight with something that's gotten you and it doesn't heal, you need to talk to somebody who handles serious spirit-work and have them fix you up.