Shaman Sickness, Part I: Enter the Madness

This so needed to be out there. Writing such an article takes guts. It’s super personal and a very delicate matter subject to judging and all kinds of shit. A must read. Mythical initiations and identification, road to madness, shaman sickness.


Shaman Sickness, Part I: Enter the Madness.



Hail Dionysos !

I heard you !

For now I know. After… let me see, six or seven months, I now got a flash of light. I understand why he’s here ! And I know that he definitely is here, I only wasn’t able to see. Things are suddenly all so clear, and it looks weird than even two months before I hadn’t got any clue ! If I try to make short my overwhelming thoughts of the moment, here it goes :

Why Dionysos came

First, the most evident thing I couldn’t see, is that Dionysos is the changing and multiple God by excellence – they all are in a way, except for Gods of constancy and stability, but he’s the very incarnation and principle.  And so he is the God of the unexpected : unexpected words, situations, events… and places. He seems to have this disturbing quality of being constantly where and what you wouldn’t expect. And indeed, I didn’t expect his coming at all, not even talking about a lasting presence and his help !

I had some intuitions about the second reason but was totally unable to formulate it in my consciousness until I caught a clue thanks to someone following Sannion’s blog. I read a piece this person wrote for either the introduction or the appendix of Sannion’s new coming book, and I found this idea : Dionysos as a liminal God, and a God of transition and passage. And Hell yes he is!  I thought it was more relevant to Hermes, and yet I found it particularly enlightening, illustrating perfectly my own experience. It has to do with one’s personal crisis and in-between states. If you go out of your way, it seems that Dionysos will definitely be there, to help you through the passage toward the next stage. He will give you insights, very intense revelations, to foster the transition. At least he was for me, and he keeps being just beside my path, following me, being my “garde-fou” : if I lose myself, he’s there and he guides me with overwhelming accuracy. He helped me dealing with many of my deepest issues of the moment : spiritual duties, the dead, transe & shamanism, music…. and I even think he’s also there to help me in my very personal life, the development of my self, personality, and potential : being able to accept what others can’t, stepping up for my self, healing my self and voice…

The third reason that came, and which is the most amazing to me, is that he seems to correspond exactly to my ‘medicine’, my very personal essential spiritual ‘quality’ (and duties). It has to do with what I experienced myself as I said, empowerment and personality, but also with the Dead, which I’m going to develop just after.

Because that’s my second part, the most striking revelation of these days :

Dionysos is Morrigan’s cousin, that’s why he came and helped me in my relationship with her

It’s so obvious now, they are so alike (not the same, but alike).

First, the most arguable part, my very personal feeling is the following : I experienced a face of Dionysos which is exactly like that of Morrigan (and which surprised me compared to his wild “reputation”) : he has a very intense character, which is very calm, quiet (silence) and direct. He is a “piercing” God, not speaking much, but telling things bluntly and showing them with an almost painful lucidity, as is Morrigan (Goddess of prophecy and truth). I never thought I could have such a calm relationship to him, he was totally placid & lucid, everything was too obvious. He is a bringer of light in darkness, of intense revelation, which is exactly what Morrigan is. And yet, like her, he is absolutely remote, distant in his relatioship (to me at least).

But let’s see the deepest connexions, the resemblances. Morrigan and Dionysos are both apart from the rest of the World and Gods for me. They share this quality that all chthonian Gods have, Gods of the World Below (like Hel, Hades, Persephone etc). They are not like other Gods and living creatures, and so they do not live in the same places. They have specific places like the lower world(s), and the liminal places (as told).  On the one hand, as being Gods of the Great Below, they “rule” over life and death, the principle of life even when it’s hidden, and over the dead people. It never struck me before, it was really out my mind’s possibilities, but since the beginning Dionysos presented himself to me as a dark God (dark energy and literaly dark face). I think it was the mask of the Lord of the Dead (and repressed impulses), and that’s why I didn’t recognised him at first since I wasn’t aware of this aspect. – So it is that it’s precisely what I have to work on both for my polytheist and shamanic path. – On the other hand, if they are Gods of the Great Below, set apart, it’s because they embody all the impulses that are judged to be dark and/or scary, and thus rejected. Morrigan is more on the side of the inconscious, what we don’t see, where Dionysos is more along the line of what we deliberately reject (the non-normal, the marginal etc). That’s what we can put under his label “god of the wild“. So both are set apart because related to what we don’t want to see and deal with (either consciously or not). And along with the cycle of life and death, the underworld, it grants them a very profond quality of mystery, both in the common and literal sense (spiritual mystery, initiation). Furthermore (!) they have the same link to masks and illusions. They both appeared to me as masked Gods : Morrigan with the faceless Goddess with a hole face, a blank face, so a masked face (to conceive either the emptiness or her true face) ; Dionysos as the dark-faced God, God of the wild and mystery. He truly appeared as a God of Shadow and Earth, in its really material aspect, the soil, the dirt. For which aspect I tend to call him “the God of unease” (exactly like the essence of Morrigan).

So he was not just here for a month or two. I guess he’s concerned by a long-term transition, and even more : for all that I have mentioned, I think he’s a long-term guide. He corresponds to many of my deepest interest fields (my medicine), and so he’ll be precisely what I’ll need along the way.

I hope it will be clear for others, since it really is the object of my currently reflexions. It’s huge for me, I wonder if anybody worked on such aspects before. As usual, feel free to share with anybody you know who could be interested.

the God of the unexpected.

First step towards Morrigan initiation

Here we are.

I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t practice, I was in doubt, maybe even shameful. I thought I was unable and unworthy of this so powerful Goddess, Morrigan. But after the trial, she showed me that she can have great patience and indulgence. She reassured me, showed me she trusts me. It’s a huge gift, it’s even more humbling than anything. It took me many signs to see, many crow messengers, sharing experience with other people, even, an oracle from Dionysos, but now I see very clearly. And I do not only see ; I took the part of action and experienced, faced her.

During a rather short ritual, a Full Moon ritual, I chose to express and show that I had acknowledge her message. And in order to be able to go on down the road to her, I wanted to purify myself. So did I, physically and spiritually… But then came the vision, the unexpected event, little event, but which has a depth I can’t share through words. I went through the first step of my initiation I guess. I learned many things, crucial “tools” to be her servant and work with her. She purified me herself, and tested me. So that I can learn to trust her blindfully, saving me from death ; plus I learned to handle my fear. It must not be rejected or suppressed. It must be there, integrated in your being, being one with yourself. And so did I, ‘accidentally’. It’s a weird state because on the one hand you can still feel you fear (but muffled), and on the other hand it creates peace and energy (ecstasy?) which drives you forward. It’s the strength of the Warrior. Maybe now I’m a Warrior of the Great Queen. I can feel it… I feel so humble she taught me those things, and affirmed to me that I’m worthy, that she trusts me.

The details can be seen on the Temple’s page.

Inside the Cave

My encounter with Morrigan was one of the most stunning and disturbing experiences I ever had. And I finally managed to translate this huge piece !

At the Fall Equinox (Mabon) 2009 I went far away from y home in France to meet pagan friends and practice together. It was my first group ritual by the way. The story is VERY long. In the night we performed to guided meditation which tends to be chamanic travels (but I don’t know yet what we did exactly). The second was on a theme to fit the part of the year, the “dark” one, and we were supposed to go down in a cave and meet a Goddess and our other (dark) self.


The circumstances : Night in a public garden (park? square?). Huge cloth on the ground with all sorts of stones, candles, incense… Each one have an obsidienne stone to guide us. Two people are guiding with a tibetan bowl and a drum.  I prefer to travel on y back, I keep the stone in my hands (on my belly as I remember).

What happened : A round door appears on the soil before us and Louve (the drummer feminine guide) opens the way, beginning the descent through the hole. In turn I step into it, and I see a spiral staircaise, with a very raw/rough earthy wall. I put my hand on it to go down more easily, and it beats like a pulse, like a heart other from mine – that of the Earth itself ? The descent is long and uneasy, but I see the person who came before me. Once downstairs, we come upon a great cave (cavern), with a mirror like lake in the middle. It’s very impressive because of the complete quietness, the emptyness and the silence that dwell. We come closer, we get into line and sit down. “Louve” asks us to close our eyes and to empty our minds, then to look into the water once it’s done. It happens very suddenly. The other have disappeared, I am alone on the edge, and I look at my reflection on the smooth surface, barely disturbed by my breath. All of a sudden it changes form : my reflection turns into brown-haired man ! I can’t recognised him, I think I don’t even know him. It’s weird because I can’t “freeze” the moving features, it’s too elusive, too quick. but “Louve” reassures us, tell us that is it all about seeing one’s Other Self. And so is my reflection, which from man turned into my own again. I look much closer, to try to go again, but then I transforms again, becoming a black shape, then figure : I identify as “Darth Vador”, with the little humor I’ve got left in this awe-inspiring situation. Once again, the features are very blurred…. I concentrate a lot, and I can only see a completely black figure with a black  cloak which hides every possible body part and especially the face – like the traditional Reaper. I think She talks to me, but I can hear nothing but silence, I cannot distinguish her words, or I cannot understand. Am I afraid ? Deep in my soul I’m disturbed… At first that Man and now this black Figure. Everything happens very fast, everything is blurred, and I can’t hear ! I try to relax, to calm down, to tell myself that even if I can’t see my fellows there are here as well. So I look at the figure, the reflection, and I ask for her help. But once again, I can’t hear anything : no face then no lips moving, no sounds or vibrations, only silence and eerie quietness. Maybe it’s normal, maybe I’m not ready to listen, maybe I have to wait. Then I hear “Louve” telling us that time has come : we must stand up and cross the lake. I’m able to see the girls again, but only for a short while as I come closer to the edge again. I conjure up a small wooden boat (bark) with paddles : I embark carefully and I begin the crossing. It’s seems easy, I move forward with ease. The water it’s totally impressive, being from the most deep black I’ve ever seen, completely opaque, but really flowing/fluent, like any other water I’ve seen. We are supposed to see things during the crossing, maybe visions, beings, everything is possible. But I, I can’t see anything, on the contrary, the void is hard to bear. I feel terribly alone, the other are still invisible. And yet I have the feeling that there is something alive all around… – or maybe it’s the Cave itself which is alive ? or the lake ? Suddenly something happens : I can see waves on the surface. No ripples, but something that is above the surface, which “flies”… I can hear them, I hear sounds, voices, murmurings… I believe there is something below the surface, so I don’t paddle any longer, I simply observe. I’m around the middle of the lake, but there is nothing. Nothing more happens. I see nothing above as below, and I’m unable to distinguish precisely the voices or the words they say. I want to move again, to finish the crossing, but I now can’t manage to : the paddling don’t make the boat progress, I even have the impression that the other side’s edge is getting far : I’m stuck. I hear “Louve” saying that now we must be at the end of the journey, on the shore, and that we are going to meet a Goddess (depending on each one), that we should already be seen her, and also a cauldron… I can’t ! I can’t ! I’m freaking out : I’m on the water and so far away from the shore ! I cannot move forwards or even backwards.  I try to go on sides, to do “bord à bord” (navigation technique when you’re against the wind), but it’s useless as well, my boat seems to move but I’m always at the same distance. I tell myself then that maybe I should swim, so I go off the boat without knocking it over and I try to swin forwards. But the water is icy cold, penetrating, and it is “inhibiting” (moving uneasy), I’m not at ease – and I also have the weird feeling that the lake has no bottom and can swallow me. I still hear the voices which, now that I’m in the water, are very close to me, all around, and I get the feeling there’s something under me. I think I’m scrared… my arms’ movements are totally vain, I don’t move any closer to the shore. So I come back to the boat and I get inside with much effort, and I try to paddle intensely… My eyes staring at the shore,  I then see a cauldron waiting for me. This is the right step, I have to go there. Then I suddenly notice, just behind the cauldron, the black shape which looks like a reaper looking with insistance in my direction (even if she has no face). I know this is very important, and I think there is a deep meaning in all this, but I cannot understand. I’m crying. Am I talking to her ? Am I asking for help ? Maybe in my head… Staring is not helping, and there is still this profound silence, my total incomprehension, the inaccessible shore. I cannot do it, I know it, I feel it. I’m crying. So I turn back, making the boat turn round to cross towards the entrance. It is so frightening since this backward-crossing is all so hard ! I have the impression that the water is more dense : I have to paddle twice more to progress at a normal speed. And the shore sometimes seems to be very far, sometimes it even draws back.  I can feel that some of the fellow girls are already upstairs, “Louve” is waiting for us all to come up again. All of a sudden, the boat disappears and I see myself on the other (beginning) shore, on the edge. So I come the stairs and go. Something has changed : the stairs are harder to climb and less reassuring than for the descent (with the warmth and pulse), and it seems so high ! I have the sensation that I will not be able to come out… And I have this burden on my shoulders, or behind me. The end of the tunnel is rendered surreal/unreal by the efforts it has cost to reach it. It’s very hard for me to close the round door, it’s so heavy and uneasy to handle. It’s even darker than when we depart. I feel like the cave deep under me feet is full of… things. All those things that I didn’t understand, and many that I didn’t see. Maybe the door is no sufficient to put them at distance. I go back to my place in the circle, to my body, but I need A LOT of time to calm down… I’m totally disturbed and I think tears pours on my cheeks.

As I wake up I shiver with cold, and I’m on the verge of tears because of the traumatising experience. I think I’m the last one to come back (except for another). We talk about what we saw, but shyly, my mouth is tight closed as the vision inhabits me (and I am in a deep transe). It’s to damp to stay and we made offerings and come back home.


It’s only months after that I understand what happened. First, my Other Self is really disturbed and I cannot access it. That’s why it has so many forms. Both the man, my normal reflection and the dark shape. Second, in fact Morrigan is an absolut shifter, without a proper face, always wearing masks. She got me there because She took the form of my Dark Side, and then revealed Herself but I couldn’t make the difference.

New Year to come, New step

The thing with mysteries is that you can’t predict them, you can’t force it, it’s not a procedure where if you do W, X and Y Z will necessarily happen. There are things we can do to help set the stage, but in the end it’s really up to the gods and whether they are willing to grant a particular revelation. One of the things that I consider absolutely essential is having a strong, personal relationship with a deity beforehand, based on lots of previous ritual work with them. Before you can become an initiate you’ve got to be a devotee, and a particularly dedicated one at that. Only once you’ve lived with the god for a while, been able to listen and speak with them on their own, will you be in a position to ask for that sort of revelation.

At least that’s my thought on the subject. But since it’s entirely up to the gods they can always just spring something like that on a person without any sort of warning. That way brings it’s own problems, however, as the person is rarely prepared to deal with the aftermath.

Once again, Sannion’s words triggered off my mind and I finally understood where I’m heading. I wanted to follow the mysteries of a few of my Gods, and only one (Morrigan) to begin with, but I couldn’t link my different thoughts. Now I understand. Despite one year of awareness, it’s not sufficient because I went through Hell in my personal life, I need more work, more connexion. So this step that I identified months ago without knowing precisely “what” it was, is now clear : it will be the “anniversary” date, one year till I met Morrigan at Mabon (Sep 21)… And  I’m not going to engage into an initiation, a mystery like I thought, no, first I’m going to officialise my devotee position and my will to go further, to mark that I’m her sincere follower. She’ll do of me what She desires, now I’m ready, I’m willing. And I’m really excited about what is to come ! – With much awe of course.