Thursday, August 30, 2018

Trees – Taking the Friendship Overseas




When I moved from Sweden to USA, Virginia, trees, of all things, became my safety net and extended family. I moved for love, and though I was joyous to be with my love after two years of short term arrangements that included travels and tons of emails, as well as content to live in a beautiful spot out by the end of the road in a valley just at the foot of the Appalachian mountains, I was however, somewhat isolated.  My isolation was partially due to choice. I was finishing off my second book, and had gotten started on my third. It was a luxury to give myself time to delve totally into my writing. The isolation was also a result of practical implications. According to Immigration regulations I was not allowed to work for the first half a year. Neither did I know anybody in the area and even though met with grace and hospitality, there was not many people in the rural surroundings, apart from my husband, that I could relate to. Him supporting us both and being gone most of the day, I was left alone large parts of the day in a small cabin. A stranded witch at the end of the road in a strange land. Magic and nature, as so often, came to the rescue.

Trees have always been special to me, as to so many people. I have done the same amount of admiring them, enjoying their presence and "sitting under the tree and breathing in energy", as the next person. But in Virginia this connection took a deeper and more tangible form. With ticks and jiggers, snakes and spiders, and poison oak all around, I was hesitant to do my usual barefoot strolling and lean my body against the trunks. There was tall young trees surrounding the valley, and older giants stretching towards wilderness, and to relate to them I had to open up my deeper senses. It didn't take long until my relationship with them grew.


Arriving in autumn I went out on the porch stairs every morning with my coffee mug, and said my hellos to the day, the directions and the elements. Soon enough, I started to hear the trees greeting me back. With time I started to see faces in their branches. Not with my inner eye as might have been expected, but with my physical eyes: clear as day they showed themselves as persons created by branches and leaves, sometimes funny looking, sometimes stoic and sometimes serene. I also started to hear what they said. Not only the singing of the wind, but messages. Calming and comforting, urging me to write and telling me things that was about to happen. Things, as it turned out, that always came true. They also spoke of the landscape around me, thereby helping me to relate to everything new. They told me about their own nature, their souls, and how they lived their lives. The trees made me feel welcome to this new home of mine. They simply made it easier for me to adapt.

Perhaps my relationship with trees grew because I had to get to know these sentient beings all over again, through slightly different species, familiar and new at the same time. I have traveled a lot in my life, so it wasn't so much that I was unexposed to many kinds of Eco-systems. But traveling is another thing than moving somewhere. When you move to another place in the world what is alike becomes as enhanced as the differences. It is like interacting with a new culture. We're all humans here, but this is slightly unfamiliar. You're all trees, but this is a bit exotic to me.

I have always loved oaks. In Sweden we have the sturdy kind, with fat trunks: generous giants with housing for thousand of beings, old masters with secret interiors for owls to live, created to sit under and see summer days pass by. In Virginia there are an abundance of oak species, the spiky leaf ones being fascinating to me, and some oaks have leaves bigger than my head. My white birches was
nowhere to be seen. Everybody who has walked in a white birch groove during the moonlight know how they reflect the light in a manner that cleans your soul. So I missed them. But there was other tree magic to delve into. When I realized that the grand tulip trees growing close to the cabin where me and my husband lived - making the cabin appear almost to be a tree house hanging in invisible threads between them - was going to blossom with light green waxy flowers, infused by orange flames, I was beyond excitement.




As the months went by the faces of the trees changed. I have watched them over autumn – then they are rich and humorous, leaf covered smiles tilted my way. I have watched them over winter – with the leaves falling most trees go to sleep, catching me only in my own dreamworld. Instead the evergreens take over, it is their season. I have watched the trees in the valley through spring – sap rising and new life sprouting making them giddy, their faces often showing off as young and childish. When the tulip trees blossomed I literary saw the spirits of the trees dance. I gathered tulip tree branches and placed them in pots all over the porch to have the energy of the house guardians even closer. And during summer – that's when the trees sing.

The trees where I live in Virginia, has now become familiar. And even though I work and have made my way more into the human USA society, they still watch over me. Every morning I go out on the porch and greet them. They greet me back. Some of their botanical names I still don't know. Sometimes I miss my native fat trunked oaks, and slender white birches. But I am thankful to the trees around me. Just when I needed it the most they reached out and let me see their souls, they allowed me to hear them talk, they comforted me and told me things would work out. Things did work out just fine. The trees seem to always be right, rooted in reality, and hearing messages in the wind, unfettered by human limitations. Neither do we have to be. If you don't know where to start, if you feel lost in a strange land - begin a conversation with a tree. They will make you feel safe. They always know just what to say.

 This article was first published in the January issue of ECHO 2016, and subsequently in issue 90 of SageWoman
Photographs by Sofia Karin Axelsson


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Magic with Freja - Goddess of Love and War


In old Norse mythology, Freja is the goddess of love, war and magic. She is the master of sejd (or seidr) the artform of channeling powers for divination and prosperity. She knows how to protect what you love and cherish, and she can stand by your side when you need a strong ally. She is also the closest to the great Mother goddess you can come in Norse mythology, a personification of the Earth itself.

You can work with Freja for many things, but something that many of us need to work with every once in while is to bring in prosperity. Because Freja is a voice of the Earth, she wants all her children to have what they need: safety, food, shelter and comfort. Here follows an exercise that I wrote down many years ago, that truly do make you feel rich and safe. As in all magic work, if you do this exercise regularly, it can change how you think about yourself, about life, and thus, draw more of all those good things you want to you.

Visualization – To Draw Richness to You
Sit comfortably, with your legs a bit apart, feet steady on the ground, and a straight back. Put your hands in your lap with palms open towards the sky. Call on Freja and ask her to show you what it feels like to be prosperity. Breath deep and close your eyes. See with your inner eyes how your right palm contains a burning fire, and your left hand contains a spring of water that gently flows and falls to the Earth. Look with your inner eyes towards your heart chakra and see how it shines in a rich green color that stretches as far as you can imagine. Sit this way as long as you want: the fire is burning, the water is flowing, your heart chakra glowing in the grandest green. Know to the deep of your core that you have everything you need for survival and more. When you feel that you are done, thank Freja for all her gifts, and for her help to show you prosperity and richness. Also thank her for everything she will bring to you.

This visualization is an adaptation from my book about Nordic Goddesses that, so far, is only available in Swedish. A little note for the Swedish readers of this newsletter is that I will have some one-day courses in Sweden on 9-11 of September in the South of Sweden. One of them is about the goddess Freja. If you want to check out the details, go HERE.




This piece is part of the Newsletter Writing. Magic, and Marketing. If you want to sign up for the newsletter got to www.theechoworld.com.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Understanding the Concept of Enlightenment

I have a confession. I never truly understood the concept of “enlightenment,” or the concept of “awakening” either, for that matter. Being the co-publisher of a New Ager oriented magazine, where both terms are used generously by our writers, this may sound like a curious confession. But, bear with me, and I will explain what I myself just started to realize on the subject. I think the lack of understanding is more cultural than spiritual.

In the world of spiritual seekers and explorers that I come from, in my home country Sweden, the words “enlightenment” and “awakening” are rarely used. Having followed for some time how they are used in the States, I might be on the verge of figuring out why this is. Here they seem to mean that you have come to a point where you understand that there is something beyond the material, beyond body, beyond religion, and perhaps even beyond death. Back in Sweden we have other expressions for that - “becoming older” is one of them. This is all well and good. However, in the States there also seems to be a tendency to use the expressions as moving towards the light, the pure, the untouched. This is where the cultural glitch comes in. 




You have to understand that I come from a country where the most popular Christmas tv-show is directed by Ingmar Bergman. And yes, it is just as dark and morose as you would expect it to be. There is a wonderful interview with Bergman that he did many years ago, today available on YouTube, where Bergman casually, even proudly, presents the interviewer with a handwritten note that lists all his inner demons. Reading through the list, Bergman meticulously explains each and every one of his demons, and how they affect his life. “The worst demon is the Disaster Demon,” he says, and continues to explain why. The list goes on. With Bergman’s own words, “There are an enormous amount of them.” There we are. The Swedish psyche on a handwritten note. 

In addition, the concepts of “enlightenment “and “awakening” in the States often seems to be initiated by a dismantling of a fairly sweet world-view. A painful discernment of the world of a sort. This is sometimes referred to as a Kundalini awakening, brushing away all known and true, opening for something larger. In Sweden we call that a nervous breakdown. I am not being cynical. After all, if you grow up in a country with two months of summer on a good year, and a Bergman movie as your Christmas special, a nervous breakdown here and there is not such a big deal. It is expected. To tell you the truth, we take pride in it. When life gets tough we take our best friend for a walk or meet up with our family and get terribly buzzed and pour out all our shortcomings and silliness until we can take no more and either cry sentimentally or laugh our heads off. Next day we go back to work, or life in general, and feel a little better about our place in the world.

Granted, my skepticism towards “enlightenment” and “awakening” is also enhanced by the fact that I’m married to a guy who just happens to have interacted with most teachers, gurus and icons of the New Age arena that you can imagine. Michael’s back-room stories are hilarious. But, not always flattering. Whatever position, the enlightened all have feet of clay. The best-selling author of the-book-on-perfect-relationships cannot hold down an intimate relationship of her own that lasts for more than six months. The harmonious-living-expert is a nasty piece of work that get lawsuits for sexual harassment. The list goes on - just as Bergman’s list of inner demons. My point is not that these teachers’ contributions are not important. They are. My point is that we all have inner demons, and we all have feet of clay. None is more enlightened or awakened than the next person. Frankly, all we can do is stumble along best we can and learn from each other along the way. Which is why I love publishing The Echo World. It is filled with material for the spiritual stumblers … sorry, I mean spiritual seekers or practitioners. 



Speaking of beloved feet-of-clay New Age icons - I hope you haven’t missed Michael’s tell-all-personal story of his interactions with Carlos Castaneda in the previous July issue. This issue contains Part 2. As one of our excellent proofreaders, Susan, put it: “This article is kind of wild.”
So, let’s continue our wild ride of sharing spiritual and alternative knowledge. You, or I, might even get enlightened. If you do, let me know your insights. As an end-note. I may not be part of bringing you enlightenment. But, I am part of bringing you some real good alternative, spiritual information you can find nowhere else.

This is my editorial for the August issue of The Echo World

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Nordic Goddesses, Runes and Magic


Being a Nordic witch living in America is a queer thing. I talk to the goddesses Freja and Hel, cast the runes, and at the same time try to understand what "spirituality" means to the so-called New  Age audience of the USA. I'm still figuring it all out. Meanwhile, I was invited to do an interview with medium Tracey Lockwood. It was fun to talk to someone who came from a very different perspective of spiritual practice, and our conversation was uplifting and ... at least for me ... inspiring. You can find the interview in the link below.



"Witches, Nordic goddesses, and Runes," is the title of a Zoom-interview with Tracey Lockwood. This is a really fun talk with charming and talented medium Tracey.


Several years ago - when writing my book about Nordic goddesses (Nordiska Gudinnor: VarDags magi för Dagen Kvinnor,) I wondered about where they would take me. Little did I know, they would lead me far beyond my beloved home-country Sweden and make me sit and talk about them in a video podcast in the States. Because I have no doubt they made it all happen. Or, at least, were a big part of it.


Here follows a note for my Swedish readers: Boken Nordiska gudinnor: VarDags magi för dagen kvinnor, liksom Vilda runor: magiska tecken i Vardagen, står som "tillfälligt slut" på Adlibris och Bokus. Detta beror på en kort sommarledighet för bokförlaget Livsströmmen. Båda böckerna finns  att beställa hos Häxans Hus under denna tid. Du har väl inte heller missat att jag kommer ha tre kursdagar på Häxans Hus i Skåne då jag är hemma i Sverige i September. Om du är nyfiken - kolla in dem HÄR (En Vild Dag med Runor) och HÄR (En Stark Dag med Freja) och HÄR (Möt Väsen i Häxans Värld.)



Rune -illustration by Sofia Karin Axelsson.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hel - Goddess of Darkness


Sometimes I go dark. Mood-wise that is. I don’t mean getting sad over anything specific, which is totally natural and should be allowed to pass in its own good time. What I mean is brooding dark, chewing on every bitter mind-bone I can dig up with claw like fingers from seemingly abandoned cemeteries of my psyche. This doesn’t sound so attractive, I assume, and perhaps I should stop right there? But I won’t, because for me it is necessary, essential to my overall long-term wellbeing. When I do, I do not want either pharmaceuticals nor positive affirmations as antidotes. There are no antidotes that do the trick, but rather, the trick is to wait it out, to dig a little deeper into that soil and see what I find. I have to do this … until I’m done. The reason, of course, is to know as much about myself as I can so that a part of me doesn’t stab me in the back by pure un-acknowledgment. I probably also need to get it out of my system. I cannot with a good conscience recommend this practice – but if you recognize this – and want to do this as part as your personal and spiritual path – I would like to introduce you to Hel, the Old Norse goddess of Death and Darkness. She is the best company I have ever known for this state of being.

The Old Norse concept of what happens after death – and what death represent – is complex. You can end up a little here and there, according to circumstance. Many Viking diggers have grand visions of Oden’s Valhalla, of Freja’s Folkvagn. I prefer the gloomy underworlds of Helheim, Hel’s queendom. Simply because Hel is assigned to take care of “all the rest.” That is, everybody who didn’t die in war, or at sea. Symbolically, it means she accepts all of us and all our shortcomings and shadows. To invite her, and talk to her, is a strangely soothing and sobering experience. If you want to try – here follows some advice to make her come to you.
Choose a time of the dark hours, or as it is sometimes called, the wolf hour. If you want to wait for the moon to be set right, choose the time of the dark moon, or, as it is often referred to in the States, the new moon, as in “making new.” Suitable colors for altar, candles and clothes are black, blood-red and dark purple. Clear your mind and make sure you prepared a few questions. She may answer, probably in a softer voice than you think. Or, she may give you time to simply contemplate your questions on your own. If she chuckles, don’t get offended. That is just her way.

Here follow some suggestions of questions that I like to use:
What can I understand, if I embrace the darkness?
What are my fears, and how do I deal with them?
Why is life sometimes hard, and is there anything I can do to soften my path?

You get the gist. Fill in whatever questions you like. If you need to – go dark. Hel is waiting to provide you both comfort and answers.


By me from the midmonthly newsletter: Writing, Magic, and Marketing. Sign up for the newsletter made by me, Michael Peter Langevin and friends at www.theechoworld. com 


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Changes and Growth

Photograph "Sunflower Mutant," by Sofia Karin Axelsson

This is a special issue, insofar that Michael and I decided to drop some ongoing sections, such as the Poetry Corner and Reviews of Everything Alternative. As Michael has already mentioned, this is only temporary for this issue, and the reason is that we had so many wonderful articles lined up, some that had been put on hold for months on end, so we just wanted to get them all in there. The upcoming issue will look more like “usual,” if there is any such thing as “usual” for The Echo World.
Michael has also mentioned that a permanent change, however, is that we decided to move our free Calendar listings online. We do this because we feel we can serve the readers better by having an expanded version of the Calendar of Events online. We also do this to free up some space in the magazine, which is always a juggling act in print media.

Some people and self-appointed media experts have kept saying for years that “print media is dead.” 
This is not true, obviously. Rather, print media seems to be very happily alive and kicking to me. To sit down in your favorite arm-chair, or in a café, or on a train or plane, and open a crisp issue of your favorite magazine … is quite a treat indeed. There’s many of us who sigh deep in gratitude when we do and won’t give up that luxury for anything. As a side note, advertising in print media continues to have dependability and create traction. 

Nevertheless, since print has its inherent limitations, a strong online presence is a great complement. Print, however much we may enjoy it, is to a certain degree inflexible, costly and limited in space. Once text and images are set in the printing presses, there is absolutely nothing you can do about the result. Printing costs can be deadly, as seen in the fact that the majority of newly started magazines go out of business within the time-span of one to two years. Print magazines are limited to a certain number of pages that can only contain this and that much text and only so many images.


Cover of July issue of The Echo World.


I like to view the print version of The Echo World and its complementary online presence as two strong workhorses pulling a heavy carriage together. And who doesn’t love a classic double-span? Just take a second and visualize the muscles of two horses working in tandem and feel the power. Every time we come out with a new issue we are excited when people that we have dubbed “the social media queens and kings” help us out and re-post their articles, or reviews and ads, and link to our webpage and The Echo World Facebook and Twitter accounts. We hope you haven’t missed our webpage (www.theechoworld.com), where you can find all issues we have published – as well as the Calendar, Directory, sign-up for our newsletter and much more. These queens and kings use all their social media resources to get their material seen. In the process, they spread the knowledge about The Echo World, print as well as digital versions, and everybody gets more exposure, whether its writers or advertisers. So, I want to say, “Thank you!” to our sweet, techno-savvy collaborators who help spread the word about The Echo World. 

On the other hand, if you don’t feel techno-savvy at all, don’t despair. We’re not leaving anyone behind. If you have 50 friends on your Facebook page and want to share one of your poems we printed, that’s still 50 more people who may not have had the chance to see your accomplishment if you hadn’t shared it. And if you can’t stand social media on any level and think that it brings nothing to your table, you can still pick up an extra issue and give it to a friend who you think would appreciate it. As a matter of fact, occasionally, we get handwritten articles and letters sent to us, and as far as time allows, we print them up and publish them. We don’t mind. Diversity and collaborations of all kinds are very important code-words in our book. We all have to be allowed to move in the world the way that feels comfortable to us. There are many ways to keep moving forward together. If you feel so inclined, do whatever feels right to you to keep getting the words of The Echo World out there. This is how we keep growing and allow for more people to enjoy the alternative voices of Virginia – and as it so happens to be – the alternative voices of the world.
Do enjoy a totally-article-packed July issue, in whatever form you savor it. Share when you can – and everybody wins!

My Editorial from the July issue of The Echo World

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Carlos Castaneda Revisited


This time I want to share not my own writing, but that of my husband Michael Peter Langevin. Simply because ... this article, recently published in the July issue of The Echo World, is great and of big interest to all the people out there fascinated by Carlos Castaneda.



My Personal Experiences with Carlos Castaneda Part 1
By Michael Peter Langevin
When I was in high school in 1968, being sixteen years old, I found a book in my favorite book store called The Teachings of Don Juan; A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, by Carlos Castaneda. I had read books on Native American shamanism. I had experienced my first adventures with mescaline and LSD, and this book put some new meanings into all of that. It offered a whole new way of viewing reality and learning to move in it. I read it multiple times and practiced many of the suggested exercises, from learning how to find my power spots wherever I was, to seeing auras. As the years passed by I read each of Castaneda’s subsequent books as they were released. I also traveled to South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands and studied shamanism, voodoo, sanitaria and a wide range of occult and magical paths.

Eventually I helped found Magical Blend Magazine. The rest of the staff and I would write requests to our favorite famous people requesting articles or interviews. We would write fifty or more for anyone we would get a yes for. One day in 1985, the phone rang in the office. A staff member came to me and said that a guy who says he is Carlos Castaneda wants to talk to you. I was nearly speechless. This was unlikely since Castaneda had more or less removed himself from public view in 1973. But, the man convinced me he was Carlos and said he liked what we were doing with the magazine. He explained he had a magical act he did once a year. He would reach into his mail bag and pull out three letters and try to do what they requested. This month he had pulled out an interview request from Magical Blend Magazine, as well as one from a magazine from Brazil and one from a Latin American journalist. So, if we were OK with the arrangement, he was going to be interviewed in Spanish and send a copy of it to the Brazil magazine to translate into Portuguese and a copy to us to translate into English. We were to print the exclusive English version. This was big. Castaneda had done few interviews since the first book came out and none for many years. I thanked him profusely and we spoke a bit. We got the promised interview. We had it translated and cut it in half to print in two issues in a row to increase sales. It helped establish Magical Blend Magazine as a unique publication. Castaneda called after the second one appeared to basically let us know he thought we had done a good job and to say thanks.


The interview had impact apart from sales. Because we had been able to publish an exclusive interview with Castaneda, we were able to interview Miguel Ruiz, Alberto Villoldo, Victor Sanchez, Ken Eagle Feather, Lynn Andrews, Starhawk, Sun Bear and many other immensely popular spiritual teachers. Who wouldn’t want to be in the same magazine that had featured Carlos Castaneda?
When Castaneda decided to slowly step back into the spotlight in his last years, he lived on a large estate in Los Angeles, which he shared with some people he claimed had been his fellow students of Don Juan Matus. Among those who lived there were Taisha Abelar (formerly Maryann Simko) and Florinda Donner-Grau (formerly Regine Thal). Like Castaneda, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau were students of anthropology at UCLA. Each went on to write books that explored the experience of being students of Don Juan Matus and his world from a more feminist perspective. Living at the estate were also, Carol Tiggs, Amy Wallace, Kylie Lundahl, Bruce Wagner and Patricia Partin.
One day in 1992 we received a call from Florinda Donner-Grau who had just published Being-in-Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerers’ World. We set up an interview and our readers loved it. One year later we received a call from Taisha Abelar who had just published The Sorcerer’s Crossing: A Woman’s Journey, a book on shamanism with a forward by Castaneda. We did an interview and our readers again loved it.

In 1995 Carlos Castaneda and some of his closest companions incorporated a company called Cleargreen and began spreading his new teachings called Tensegrity. This is a term used by Castaneda to refer to a way of being he claimed was taught to him by his teacher Don Juan Matus. It includes some movements called magical passes (positions of body and breath) that Castaneda claimed were developed by indigenous peoples of the Americas who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish conquest, and had been passed down by 25 generations of Toltec shamans. Cleargreen was incorporated as a for-profit corporation founded by Castaneda in order to promote his Tensegrity teachings. The Cleargreen statement of purpose says in part, “Cleargreen is a corporation that has a twofold purpose. First, it sponsors and organizes seminars and workshops on Carlos Castaneda’s Tensegrity, and second, it is a publishing house.”

Castaneda and his people sent us videos and press releases and articles announcing and explaining Tensegrity and we did reviews and ran articles about Tensegrity. I was invited to attend for free at an expensive Tensegrity workshop. I readily agreed to attend and got to spend some time talking with Castaneda and his closest companions. They thanked me for our support over the years and treated me as an honored guest. Unfortunately, the whole experience was a bit of a let-down, and felt mechanical, rather than magical, to me.

Castaneda’s first wife, Margaret Runyan Castaneda, and his son, C.J. Castaneda, came out with a tell-all-book in 1996 called A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda. Margaret had been married to Castaneda for six months when his first book was released. Soon thereafter they were divorced. I contacted Margaret and C.J. and asked if they were up for an interview. However, as it turned out, they were so bitter and hateful of him that we decided not to run it.

PART 2 OF THIS ARTICLE WILL BE PUBLISHED IN THE AUGUST ISSUE OF THE ECHO WORLD.

Michael Peter Langevin is the co-publisher of The Echo World, and former publisher of Magical Blend Magazine. Read more by Michael at www.michelpeterlangevin.com