The Otherworld is Bleeding Through

The Otherworld is Bleeding Through June 9, 2016

different bird, different place
different bird, different place

I saw a green glowing bird this morning. I don’t think it belongs in this world, but there it was.

It wasn’t a parakeet or other tropical bird. It was an ordinary bird: a sparrow, I think. But it was glowing green, in a way that animals just don’t do. It wasn’t a dream – I had been up for over an hour and I was outside on my morning walk. The bird didn’t talk to me, or look at me, or do anything other than mind its own business and then fly away, as birds do. Except it was glowing green… unlike the other birds in the immediate area, which were normal bird colors.

I’m sure there’s some obscure but perfectly mundane explanation for this, involving multiple sources of light, the pigment of the bird’s feathers, and the fact that it was 6:30 AM and I hadn’t had any tea yet.

Do you see what I just did there? The Druid, who constantly emphasizes the need to accept our experiences at face value, reached for any explanation that would rationalize away the fact that he saw something our mainstream culture says is impossible.

Except that this is about the tenth such incident I’ve heard about over the past couple of weeks, and the second one I’ve been involved with personally.

Those stories aren’t mine to tell, but they involve ghosts, spirits, and demons; unexpected appearances of Gods and ancestors; accidents with no good explanations; missing items turning up in impossible places… and a green glowing bird.

Several people whose experience and judgment I trust have all said pretty much the same thing: the Otherworld is bleeding over into the ordinary world in a way nobody alive has ever seen. Midsummer is traditionally a time when the Veil Between the Worlds is thin, but Midsummer is almost two weeks away and this started several weeks ago. Or at least, we started noticing this several weeks ago. I get the impression it’s been going on for quite some time.

Lest you think this is some glorious wonder to celebrate, I’m not talking about “the Summerlands,” some Paganized version of the Christian heaven where a smiling Mother Goddess pours the sweetest mead from an endless bottle and all your ancestors dance merrily around a fire because death cleansed them of whatever made them so ornery in life. No, I’m talking about Gods with their own agendas for this world. I’m talking about angry ghosts, restless spirits, and meddlesome demons. I’m talking about dead who are just as much assholes as they were in life. I’m talking about fae that bear no resemblance to Tinkerbell, who view humans as annoying invaders and tasty snacks.

As though climate change, resource depletion, corporate kleptocracy, and the prospects of a Donald Trump presidency weren’t enough to deal with.

Asgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Image via Wikimedia Commons
Asgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Christian worldview is linear, from creation to apocalypse, alpha to omega. The atheist worldview is similar, from primitive superstition to modern science to the nirvana that will supposedly come when everyone abandons religion and starts behaving rationally. The Pagan worldview, on the other hand, is cyclical. The moon cycles from dark to waxing crescent to full to waning crescent and back to dark. The Wheel of the Year moves from Beltane to Samhain and back to Beltane again. Birth leads to death, which brings us to rebirth.

A simple reading of the stories of our ancestors tells us that the Otherworld used to be much closer to the ordinary world. Gods and Goddesses frequently walked the Earth in physical form. Chase a deer deep into the woods and you may find yourself in Annwyn. Encounters with the Good Neighbors were commonplace, and while they decreased over time they never really stopped.

But as humans occupied more and more of the world, as the edges of the maps were filled in, and perhaps, as suggested by Damh the Bard, we made iron from stone, the Otherworld became more distant. The Gods and ancestors have always been here, but we stopped listening to them. The fae went underhill and occasionally scared children, but they stopped carrying them off and replacing them with changelings. And our Christian and atheist friends told us that once something went away it was never coming back. That’s progress, you know.

But the Myth of Progress is being exposed for the lie it is – what goes up must come down. The sun and the moon remind us of the cyclical nature of life. The Otherworld is bleeding over into the ordinary world once again, and it’s bringing things a lot more troublesome than green glowing birds, things they don’t teach you how to deal with in high school… or for that matter, in Sunday school.

How long until our GPS apps start to warn us “here be dragons”?

So what do we do? I wish I knew. “What to do when worlds collide” wasn’t part of the OBOD coursework. But a few things seem like reasonable approaches.

Recommit to daily spiritual practice. If you’ve been meditating, praying, studying, making offerings, or anything else on an irregular basis, make it regular. Find something you can do every day. Regular spiritual practice is what grounds us, feeds us, and supports us through good times and bad.

Firm up your spiritual relationships. Has a God been tapping you on the shoulder? It’s time to say “yes.” Has Someone been calling you to deeper work, to a more committed relationship? It’s time to say “yes.” The Gods are our strongest allies – we need Them at our sides. Have you been neglecting your ancestors? They’re our most accessible allies – honor them all, and find the ones who will support you in your work and in your life.

Firm up your this-world relationships. Whatever is coming, whether from this world or the Otherworld, you aren’t going to get through it by yourself. You need friends and relatives you can count on – and who can count on you. Been too busy to go to your Pagan group’s circles? Make time. Not part of a group? Find one. Not one around you? Start one.

Even if you’re part of a healthy Pagan group and a strong family of blood and of choice, you still need wider relationships. I’m content to take that green glowing bird as a sign the Otherworld is bleeding through and not as anything personal, but if it had been a red hound that stared me down I would feel rather differently. Fortunately, I have friends who are more knowledgeable about these things than I am. I suspect we’re going to be talking regularly in the coming months.

Pay attention. If there’s one thing worse than ignoring the intrusions of the Otherworld, it’s assuming everything you encounter has your best interests at heart. Gods are by definition virtuous, but being virtuous doesn’t mean making things nice and easy for you. Gods have their own goals and desires, and while I have found working with and for Them to be deeply meaningful, it hasn’t been easy.

Our ancestors can be helpful, and they may have information we don’t, but they’re not infallible. In the words of Diana Paxson, “just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they’re smart.” And if they were difficult or mean-spirited in life, they’re not likely to be substantially better in death, particularly in their first few years.

As for demons, fae, and other spirits, proceed with caution. The old saying “never summon what you’re not sure you can banish” comes to mind. Make sure your agreements are clear and tight, and be impeccable with your word.

Some of us are more sensitive to magic and the Otherworld than others. For some, this isn’t a curiosity to be viewed from a distance or a sea-change to be studied academically – it’s an assault on their daily lives. If you know someone like this, listen to them carefully and help them out any way you can, even if it’s just bringing them a pie or a bottle of wine every now and then. If you are one of these people, good luck. You almost certainly know more about this than I do so I won’t attempt to offer advice, but I will listen if you’d like.

Part of me remains skeptical, but I can’t unsee what I saw this morning. I saw a green glowing bird that did not belong in this world, but it was there anyway. The Otherworld is bleeding over into this world, and I don’t think it’s a short-term thing.

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I welcome comments from all religious and spiritual perspectives, so long as they contribute to a polite and helpful conversation. Comments that include sarcasm, ridicule, religious proselytizing, or personal attacks will be deleted without warning. Play nice or don’t play at all.

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