Wednesday, October 9, 2019

What Is a Ghost?




I knew the ghost was there - just as I have felt the presence of many ghosts since I moved to Virginia. And I knew what the ghost was going through. She was thinking of her childhood, and the pain it brought.

I always thought that the painful separation from the real world, the fall from grace, and the suffocating roles that followed, only smothered me alone. Others seemed to adapt miraculously. So, I tried to ignore it, almost managed to, numbing myself in all ways I could think of. And dared to. Because, different from this ghost, whose name was Lou-Ann and who killed herself of an overdose of heroin in the seventies, I have always been chicken-shit when it comes to hard drugs, knowing well I would end up in a psychiatric ward just by looking at them. There are many ways to strive towards oblivion, however. Most are sanctioned by society.

To grow up is a hellish thing. If I believed in hell. Which I don't. No other than the man-made one anyway. Sometimes it seems that the loss of innocence is an accepted thing, only seen as a crime if it can be blamed on abuse. As if your free roaming spirit has to be beaten out of your body by angry hands.

I was never abused. I was a loved child in a grand family. Being the youngest I was sometimes almost forgotten, left to my own adventures. Which suited me fine. Sometimes I was also spoiled rotten. I didn’t mind that either. The abuse was the world crashing in, those dark entangled webs created to hold you in place. I fought with all the might my skinny being could muster up. As it turned out, that was not enough.
           
"It's part of growing up," they say.
           
But it shouldn't be.
           
It wasn't only me. It was also her. The ghost whose name is Lou-Ann. Who turned to drugs because growing up was too hard. I'm pretty sure she never meant to die. Her death was a mistake. A horrible moment of misjudgment with lethal consequences.

Me, I can still re-model myself with time. Perhaps have a near-death experience and see it all anew. Something broken, something gained. Lou-Ann never had the time to set things right. Never had the time to reclaim her innocence, her real self, her strength to live the way she wanted to.

What is a ghost, if not an unlived life?

I had to restore her. Give her what she needed. I decided to do a journey to the Underworld. It was a long time ago since I did that. But the Underworld is the place where lost pieces of self can be found. And Lou-Ann needed those pieces right now.

There should be a word when the terrain has changed shape but is emotionally, absolutely familiar. There should be a word for traveling in the world some call the astral but seeing almost the same thing as you do with your physical eyes, only seeing … a bit more. There should be words, and maybe there are, in some language.

I did not know. I dove down in the muddy waters of the creek and followed the roots of the southwest guardian tree - the tree with the giant branch-arm. Here I found a landscape I already knew, though I never saw it like this. There was a river, wide and still, and trees old with wisdom. A canoe was waiting for me: light and smooth. Stepping into it was like stepping into a well-known secret; a secret of soft movements. The canoe glided effortlessly on the water surface.

I looked for a power animal for Lou-Ann, though I had never heard of journeying for a power animal for a ghost. I didn't know what to expect: something wild and strong perhaps, a ferocious protector. Instead I found a hedgehog, the sweetest thing you can imagine, with squinting eyes. He opened and closed his little hands, making me remember the hedgehogs in my childhood, curious but cautious, hiding behind raised spikes if threat was near. I carried him to the canoe and carefully put him in my lap. Then I headed back through the dreamy landscape, that was as real as any landscape, one water-dripping paddle stroke at the time.

Lou-Ann greeted me unexpectedly on the shore. I left her there, hedgehog in arms, with talking trees and healing grounds all around. For a while she would remain at the corner of my unconscious, in the Underworld, where she could grow stronger. I felt her. Part of her wanted to crawl back into the folds of oblivion. But that was not an option anymore.

"Bring them to the light!" they said. "Bring them to heaven." But Lou-Ann didn't want to go to heaven. She wanted to find a dusty ghost truck and drive from state to state, picking up lost-soul-hitchhikers along the way, and to make friends. She wanted to experience the world, on her own terms, and do everything she longed to do when she was still alive, until one day the truck becomes a spaceship ready to fly over the starry skies.

By Sofia Karin Axelsson
           
This story was first published in The October edition of The Echo World. More Ghost stories to come ...            

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The First Ghost Named George




Foreword: This story is part of a collection, tentatively called “Ghost Whisperer: Stories from a Nordic Witch Stranded in the South.” They were mainly written during my first year in the Appalachian Mountains, having moved from Sweden, living at the end of a road, with no green card to allow me to work and my husband, Michael, working at the Monroe Institute. Being a stranger in a strange land those days, ghosts started to talk to me. I hope you enjoy it. 


It was Michael who found George, but George then found Michael something Michael needed. It was a shell, a great shell: seven inches long, with a cosmic spiral and a generous, oval opening.

Michael had talked to me again over Skype, of the white beaches of Progreso  in Mexico, about our long walks and early swims in warm water: bodies tumbling around each other. And, of course, about shells: shells of all kinds, one more beautiful than the other. We mused over the shell altars we had built in the sand, as well as all over the small rental above the restaurant - sun-feathered, spiky, rosy, bluish, closed, open, round, shining, with stripes and sometimes leopard spots - as pleasurable to look at and touch as our love had been in Progreso.

Now, I was in the considerably colder Sweden, and Michael in the Blue Ridge mountains in the company of bugs and snakes.
           
So, he much needed a shell. But first he had to find George.
           
What he found first was George's cabin, though he didn't know anything about the previous owner of the place at the time. He had followed the creek right into the green forest for thirty minutes when he stumbled over the long-abandoned house. What he saw was a simple, wooden house with cracked windows, so small it made his two-room cabin look like a mansion, nestled in the middle of the greenery, and the remaining boards of a fallen down shed close by. Inside the cabin floor was rotting away, leaving dangerous holes, half covered by falling apart rugs. Michael was mostly curious, but he was also lacking most material things due to the last years of change and travels and thought he might find some treasures. Which he did: some unbroken plates and bowls, and a wooden bar stool with forest green, slender legs. He carried them home, cleaned them up and eventually went to bed.
           
It wasn't exactly a noise that woke him, more a memory of a noise, the fading sound of somebody mumbling in the background. Michael went into the kitchen and drank some milk. The sensation didn't go away though. It was as if something was pushing against his mind, just out of reach for conscious thought to pick up the signal.
           
"Maybe you brought something back with you," I suggested during our Skype session the next day, "or someone."
"Like a ghost?"
"Yes, like a ghost," I said, not totally comfortable with the concept.
"I think you might be right," said Michael, much to my dismay. And then he continued, in the sudden bursts of knowing unseen things that are so typical of him, "He lived there by himself at the end. But there was a woman once, and a child. He is trying to talk to me. I think his name is George."
           
To be separated from the one you love is hard, and the technology we have at hand is both a blessing and a curse. The flat, cold screen sending images of Michael’s face was so insufficient to my needs. The thought of him without me in the cabin, the place filled with bugs and snakes, and now perhaps also a ghost, was worse.
"Just make sure he means no harm," I said cautiously. "If he seems angry you took those things, do bring them back."
           
It took Michael days to hear George's voice, and it seemed muffled and far away.
"It takes great effort for me to keep the connection to you," said George.
"Do you want me to bring your things back?" Michael asked quickly.
"No!" said George with emphasis. "I want to wake up. Please go back to my cabin. I will show you something."
           
So, Michael went back the next day. At the fallen shed he felt George push his arm.
"Down there," said George, as if speaking through a tube. "There is something you will like there."
           
And it was. Under boards and rubble Michael found the perfect shell. A memory of another man's happy times, by another beach, with another love. Michael brought the shell back home, and put it on his cabin altar, and George's voice suddenly became clear. As if the years between the two men were gone. The shell a telephone through time, if not space.
           

Photograph: "George's shell," by Sofia Karin Axelsson.
           





Frida Kahlo in My Heart (and on My Porch)




Foreword: This story is part of a collection, tentatively called “Ghost Whisperer: Stories from a Nordic Witch Stranded in the South.” They were mainly written during my first year in the Appalachian Mountains, having moved from Sweden, living at the end of a road, with no green card to allow me to work and my husband, Michael, working at the Monroe Institute. Being a stranger in a strange land those days, ghosts started to talk to me, and so did the spirit of Frida Kahlo. I hope you enjoy it.


I lit candles on the porch, reflecting themselves in the crystal globes hanging in the window, and I was speaking to my Patroness of Protection and Creativity: the spirit of Frida Kahlo.
           
At this point in my life, I listened more to the Earth fairies and the song of the wind than to anything human. It seemed a step in the right direction then, to speak to an unmistakably and very spirited, human voice, even though it belonged to a ghost.
           
In exile from my birth country, out of the inevitable necessity of love, in the land between: in-between nation and nation, lawfully married and not exactly lawfully married, employable but not allowed to work, human and alien; all in the hands of slow-working, bureaucratic U.S. immigration officers.

I was more than this in-between state of nature and civilization, having chosen solitude in spite of the world-renowned southern hospitality.

"We all need people," purred Frida, leaning back on the pillows propped on the second-hand, wooden chair.
           
Virginia, shamelessly claimed by its inhabitants to be the greatest place on earth, ran thick with blood. Maybe that was why the vines grew so fiercely and bugs found their way through every crack in the thin walls. Wars, deportations, accusations, hangings, Native Americans, black slaves, poor people, the wrong-sayers, the truth-sayers - it was a place difficult to take to heart, had it not been for its lavishly, in-your-face beauty, with lifeforce leaking out of the very pours of fast growing plants and the plentiful animal kingdom.
           
"I don't know Miss Kahlo,” I said, already knowing that the woman was right. "People make so much noise and have needs that never seem to end."
           
Frida laughed and opened her colorful skirts, revealing her broken body, sorrowfully patched together with spikes and leather bands.
           
"They will crave more of you than that, little sister," said Frida and shrugged her shoulders. "But that is how art is created."
           
Frida’s gesture made me feel invalid. As if my suffering, a cold on a sunny day, was fake. Insufficient as the basis for creation.
           
"All separation is sufficient," smiled Frida, unexpectedly kind, "If your soul is broken in two in your childhood, when you come of age, to mend it is your creation for life. Just as knowing that all lands run thick with blood - my Mexico, Virginia, even your cold North."
           
This made me feel a bit better, somewhat worthy, but Frida would not give me time for self-celebrating respite. Her delicate face came closer, earrings clanging like windchimes,
"But now," Frida whispered, "you must go further."

First published in the August edition of The Echo World.
Photograph "Frida Kahlo on mural in Tijuana" by Sofia Karin Axelsson.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Thank You Powers - or Green Prayer



The green heals me and nourishes me,
and from the green, and the heart, stems the whole rainbow.
Freja protect me, Sunna shine on me, and ancient Skadi
lend me the teeth and bone of Thurisaz.
Odin give me of your wisdom,
Loki lend me your cunning,
So, I may shapeshift through the day.
Sweet Idun, goddess of youth,
grant me of your golden apples,
So I may live as long as I choose.
Powers of old, powers of new,
together we can sail right through.

And with that I wish you the most prosperous August.



Friday, June 21, 2019

Magic of the Mighty Oak Tree

All through my childhood, and most of my adult life, the mighty oak has been a silent but powerful friend. From childhood pastures filled with giant oaks where screeching cat owls loved to live in their hollows, and slow-moving clumsy stag beetles staggered around their roots (in Swedish, stag beetle is directly translated as “oak ox,”) to the protective oak forest surrounding my parent’s houses, the acorns falling in the autumn attracting wild boars that sometimes have scared me half to death if I startled them at night (anyone who heard the growl of a wild boar up close knows exactly what I’m talking about.)
Both practically and symbolically, the oak lends itself to protection and safety. It is the very image of strength, abundance and endurance. A mature oak can be host to over a thousand species, some of which are dependent on the oak exclusively as their living environment. The oak may reach an age of a thousand years. There’s no wonder the Celtic Druids associated oak with immortality, among many other things. In the Old Norse mythology, oak is associated with Thor, well known as the thunder-god, always ready to throw his axe in any battle he found righteous.





As a magical ally, the oak tree can help you cultivate traits such as strength, endurance, abundance and help protect you when needed. If you want to work with the oak magically, here are some things you can do:

If you feel your home needs to be more of a safe haven for you and your loved ones, go out and pick evenly long branches, preferably between one to two feet long. Bind these together with red thread, either in the shape of the five pointed pentagram, or as a solar cross. Let some of the threads hang loose from your creation so they can flow in the wind. Hang this talisman on your front door, asking the oak spirit for protection of your home.

If you are starting a new project that you want to have deep-seated, long-term positive outcome, work with – depending on season – oak leaves and/or acorns. While theses contain all the positive symbolic and energetic signatures mentioned above, in the leaves and the acorns specifically lays the potential for “all possibility.” Change up your flower vases with branches of dark green oak leaves and decorate them with red yarn, and symbols of your choice. Fill bowls of acorns, add whatever stones or little symbols that represent your wants, and if your goal involves money – as they often do – roll bills and stick them in between the acorns. Ask for the blessings of the spirits specifically attached to the oak leaves and acorns (if you’re really lucky, you may see a glimpse of them.)

If you need to be more "in the eye in the storm,” try meditating with the oak tree. This can of course be done sitting under an oak tree, but this is not necessary. Sit comfortably and envision the stem of a giant oak growing around you, “feel” the coarse bark, and know that this tree has been home to thousands and thousands of creatures without getting hurt. Envision its mighty roots going far into the ground, its massive branches spreading far above your head. Borrow some of its ancient power. Know you can be an oak anytime you like.

Enjoy your mighty ally the oak.


This piece was first published in the newsletter Magic, Writing and Marketing. It is a mid-monthly newsletter sent out by the publishers of The Echo World.  You can sign up on the website www.theechoworld.com/

Monday, April 29, 2019

Magic of Apple, Tree of Life and Death





From the sweet white and pink blossoms, to the rich fruits that nourishes us come fall, the apple tree is a source and symbol of richness, fertility and re-generation.

The most famous apple tree in the world was not an apple tree at all. Nevertheless, the story of Paradise, Adam and Eve, the fatal bite into the apple and all that followed is deeply embedded into the collective unconscious of humanity, at least in the Western world. Echoed in fairytales such as Snow White, the apple symbolizes both life and death. Death of innocence that is, and the awakening to a world of both richness and dangers. And most importantly, to the awakening of the world of sex.



As a magical ally, you can work with the apple tree to invoke richness, fertility, sensuality, sexuality and much more. The apple is a close friend of humankind, and its powers are usually easy to access. Here are some things you can try out:


Pick branches with apple blossoms, put them in a clear glass jar so you can also see the roots, and ask the apple tree to bless you with a deeper appreciation of your home, and the now.

Cut slices of an apple right across the fruit and take a moment to meditate on the five-pointed star that is shaped from the seed pods. This is a symbol of the Goddess. Fill a pitcher with spring water, add the apple sizes. Put the pitcher where it can be reached by moonlight overnight, preferably on a full moon night. The next day or days, drink the water respectfully, asking with each sip for health to be ingrained into your body.

Make a wand from an apple branch. Decorate it with anything that for you represents richness, sweetness and sensuality. Use the wand to bless any project, situation, or challenge that needs softening and ease.

Enjoy your ally the apple tree. May you play well all year round.




This text was first published in the newsletter Writing, Magic and Marketing. Sign up at www.theechoworld.com

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Magic - The Brilliance of Birch




Tree magic is powerful and readily available to anyone. From images of the world tree, to walks in the woods, to picking their fruits and nuts; our root and branch friends are everywhere, ready to communicate, support and nourish.

Different species of trees appear in different myths and folklore. Though these may vary between cultures, somehow, a certain kind of tree usually represent a certain energy signature. If we want to work magically with trees, knowing these energy signatures can help us make the magical work strong and efficient.

Here follows one example of a tree ally we can work with. I chose the birch tree simply because its qualities are so in harmony with the very early spring.

Sometimes called The White Lady of the Forest, birch is a very important tree in North Native American lore, as well as that of Celtic, Old Norse, and Siberian lore. Its slender white stems, with mysterious blackish cracks, and almost fluorescent green leaves, has inspired our ancestors of the northern hemisphere since time immemorial and continues to inspire us today.

Greening early, branches with tiny leaf-ears, can be brought indoors to bring new life to a home, or to symbolically sweep out winter and staleness. Or, why not join into the living tradition of the Finish – use them to whip your body clean in a sauna. “Out with the old, in with the new,” is a saying that goes well with the magic of birch.

Though well known for its beauty, birch is a real fighter – sturdy and strong. It was the first tree to grow in the hardy climates where the glaciers of the ice age had receded. Its bark can be used to make protection spells, and its sap is still used to make spring tonics.

If you want to work with the birch as your magical ally, it will lend you strength for renewal, spring energies, hardiness, protection and much more. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and hug a White Lady of the Forest!





First published in our mid-monthly newsletter "Writing, Magic, and Marketing." If you want to sign up, go to: www.theechoworld.com Images with courtesy of Pixabay free download.