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Column: Pagan Practices for Healing from Trauma

Column: Pagan Practices for Healing from Trauma

Pagan Views

Immediately’s column is a visitor submission by Tahni Nikitins, a long-time Pagan and author in a number of genres. Tahni’s work has appeared at Gods & Radicals, Everlasting Haunted Summer time, and Nomad.

Our weekend part is all the time open for submissions. Please ship queries to [email protected]

Writer’s word: Religious and magical practices shouldn’t be used as an alternative to looking for skilled psychological well being help, however quite ought to be used as a complement to skilled help to create holistic psychological and religious therapeutic course of.

Views on Trauma, half two: Pagan Practices for Therapeutic from Trauma

In my earlier article, I mentioned what trauma seems to be like by way of a Pagan lens. At this time I need to discover some choices for follow which Paganism can supply survivors on their therapeutic paths. Please observe that that is removed from an exhaustive listing of practices —consider it relatively as a starter pack of practices that may be tailored to suit no matter path an individual might discover themselves on, adaptable to no matter wants they could have. Each particular person is absolutely inside their rights to create their very own therapeutic practices so as to add to this listing.

Most significantly, keep in mind that not one of the following practices are substitutes for seeing a professional psychological well being skilled they usually shouldn’t be handled as such. Some individuals draw back from doing the heavy lifting of psychological work, however therapeutic just isn’t straightforward and with out doing that a part of the work will probably be incomplete. In addition to, when therapeutic from trauma, we’d like all of the instruments we will match into our toolbox. Ideally, religious apply will assist to complement the therapeutic work accomplished in remedy and thereby supply a holistic therapeutic expertise, however religious work ought to not at all supplant remedy.
With that stated, let’s get into it!

Mugwort [Pixabay].

Lighting incense is probably probably the most recognizable type of clearing out or neutralizing dangerous energies, one intently tied to the component of air. The idea goes that the smoke will get into all of the nooks and crannies to attract out these dangerous energies and push them out — consider previous fox hunters smoking foxes out of their dens. Incense smoke might be fanned onto an individual, onto gadgets that carry unfavorable associations, and on locations which maintain dangerous reminiscences and damaging energies; it’s a purifying and cleaning act. Burning incense is a follow that may be noticed in cultures the world over, however most recognizable is probably going the First Nations follow, typically referred to as “smudging,” which usually includes sage or candy grass. I want to make use of to mugwort, each to attenuate cultural appropriation and since it’s the herb that was used (partially) for this function by my very own ancestors. I discover burning mugwort to be a simple however efficient approach to eliminate lingering dangerous energies.

Ritual baths are an exquisite beginning place for creating an on-going however easy therapeutic apply. Consider it as self-care, however with a bit dose of magic thrown in. Ritual baths traditionally are used for cleaning, particularly previous to or after a higher ritual working. In my very own apply, nevertheless, I’ve discovered that they are often simply as efficient for cleaning the self of persistent unfavorable energies. I discover ritual baths to be only in therapeutic as an ongoing follow — the bathtub is just not a one-and-done occasion, and it’s only when used with different practices. If, like me, an individual suffers from melancholy, this apply can doubly serve in caring for hygiene which may typically fall to the wayside.

My ritual baths make the most of locally-sourced quartz crystals in addition to lavender oil and sea salt. The recent water and soothing scents assist to chill out the muscular tissues, loosen stiff joints, and may help to ease nervousness. Salt has lengthy been thought-about to have purifying and protecting qualities, and the warmth opens the pores and causes sweating, clearing out the pores and skin a bit. The crystals are believed to soak up the unfavorable power that’s drawn out by way of all of those processes, and I wish to both boil them in salt water or place them in direct daylight to “clear” them afterwards.

Burning issues can also be a favourite amongst many Pagans. Whereas ritual baths faucet primarily into the cleaning properties of water, this one faucets into the cleaning properties of fireside. Hearth has lengthy been seen as each a cleaning factor (blades and needles traditionally have been handed via flame to sterilize them) and as a approach to commune with the divine (choices and sacrifices the world over have typically been burnt). Most frequently I’ve noticed, and personally utilized, hearth for each cleaning and catharsis. Gadgets which are related not directly with trauma may be ritually burned, as a symbolic burning away of that power. Alternatively, one can endow a impartial object corresponding to a poppet or a bone with one’s unfavourable emotions and associations after which toss this merchandise into the hearth. (Please ensure that no matter is burnt doesn’t include rubber, plastic, or different issues that may launch poison into the air!) It may additionally present an incredible feeling of catharsis to observe the flames eat that merchandise and its related unfavorable energies, rendering the merchandise to ash and neutralizing the energies inside. A extra earth-based model of that is burying gadgets that carry associations of the trauma or destructive energies, giving these unfavourable issues over to the earth in a symbolic funeral. One might moreover do a water-based model, involving expelling the unfavorable power into an object resembling a stone and casting it right into a pure physique of water (once more, simply be certain that the merchandise isn’t damaging to the setting).

Visualization is one thing that is useful in all kinds of Pagan practices, and can be utilized as a software for dealing with trauma results, melancholy, and nervousness. Many survivors might wrestle with intrusive ideas, unfavorable self-talk or beliefs, and even flashbacks. As soon as the practitioner is ready to determine this stuff occurring, visualization might act as one software to disrupt these ideas and emotions. It may be troublesome to get to the purpose the place one is ready to determine these destructive intrusions, not to mention identify them (there actually is one thing to the facility of with the ability to name one thing by its true identify.) With remedy, one can develop the instruments to determine and identify this stuff as they come up, and maybe additionally the issues which set off them. As soon as that’s finished, it’s a lot simpler to implement a comparatively fast and straightforward visualization to calm, soothe, floor, and convey peace.
Many Pagan practitioners have reported a easy visualization of white mild illuminating or engulfing them being fairly highly effective. Typically the white mild visualized is known to hold peace, love, and therapeutic. Some report visualizing the white mild scrubbing away the “black spots” left by traumatic occasions, which characterize intrusive ideas and unfavourable self-talk/beliefs.
A apply which can be complementary, which I discovered from a earlier therapist of mine (additionally a Pagan), was referred to as “the 5 by 5 by 5.” This can be a grounding meditation which roots the practitioner again into the current second and again into their physique. The thought is to work by means of all 5 senses, naming quietly 5 issues that these senses are choosing up, and to repeat that course of 5 occasions, making an attempt to call new issues every time. It may be exhausting, nevertheless it very successfully disrupts damaging thought varieties, and I take pleasure in it because it turns into one thing of a recreation! This may be accomplished anyplace, and I’ve had success with breaking out of some critically dangerous thought spirals with it. One might feasibly make the most of this technique to disrupt the adverse ideas and comply with it up with a visualization to switch these destructive emotions with extra constructive ones.

Being in nature may be an particularly highly effective therapeutic apply for Pagans, as many Pagan paths are nature religions in a method or one other. This could be a fantastic method to faucet into the therapeutic powers of the earth factor, maybe by mountaineering and meditating on the rhythmic pounding of 1’s ft on the earth, or getting out within the backyard and placing one’s arms within the soil. Many Pagans converse of the calming, soothing follow of getting away from the bustle and noise of city areas and mountaineering, or just sitting within the forest to floor to the earth and take heed to the sounds of the woods — wind shifting by way of the boughs, chook calls, animals rooting by way of the undergrowth. Gardening is usually a fantastic approach to refocus one’s power towards one thing constructive and productive, and could be extremely grounding, given the bodily interplay with the earth and the crops rising from it. It brings us again to our our bodies, and may help us “get out” of our heads.

Any of those actions present an outlet for a number of the bodily manifestations of trauma as properly, whether or not it’s climbing to work out the strain and soreness constructed up in muscular tissues from nervousness or melancholy, or working off that built-up power by way of a gardening session. (Don’t underestimate what a exercise gardening might be!) Others have talked about visiting the ocean and discovering an remoted place to reconnect with that primal life supply, sticking arms or ft into the waves and visualizing the water washing away unfavorable energies.

One follower of Cernnunos, Taran Destingr, described the effectiveness of this technique for her, and stated it higher than I might: “Letting go of the trauma, even for a second, is sweet for you. It’s like a therapeutic massage. It lets you loosen up so the work can start. It doesn’t imply the work to heal utterly will probably be painless, however it is going to be potential, the place it won’t be when you have been nonetheless tense from dwelling on it continuous.”

Physique modification is a surprisingly efficient option to work out trauma constructed up within the physique. This could possibly be so simple as chopping one’s hair, a symbolic shedding of the previous to make room for brand spanking new progress, or it might be as intense as tattooing or physique piercing. I take pleasure in mixing ritual hair-cutting with ritual burning or burying — chopping the hair symbolically sheds the previous, whereas burning or burying it symbolically places it to relaxation.

I’ve additionally used tattoos as a method of of marking a troublesome time in my life and serving as a logo of my survival. The primary such tattoo was an ouroboros, which I affiliate with Jörmungandr, a reminder to myself that I survived, that I used to be not destroyed, however that I walked out of my trauma alive and powerful. On this means, tattooing could also be used to symbolically mark the top of a troublesome journey. Piercings could also be utilized in the identical approach. All of those types of physique modification serve to re-empower the survivor with management of their very own physique and management over how they challenge themselves to the world. In a means, that’s its personal type of magic.

A further bonus I’ve discovered with physique modification is that it allows me to actually put on symbols of my story on my pores and skin with out giving into the urge to self-harm. Self-harm is one thing I wrestle with so much, and utilizing managed, sanitary types of physique modification has been an assist in that wrestle. The discharge of endorphins brought on by the ache of a tattoo or a piercing is an additional, if brief lived, perk.

Shadow work or shadow journeying and soul retrieval are the heaviest of Pagan therapeutic practices. They’re each shamanic practices which entail instantly dealing with trauma and its results to metaphorically “overcome” the darkness of what has been executed to the spirit. Shadow work typically includes a variety of troublesome reflection on what occurred, the way it got here to be, and how you can transfer ahead. In polling the Pagan communities I frequent, I discovered that many, many Pagans determine remedy as a type of shadow work, and I’ve equally heard Pagans discuss therapists as trendy shamans specializing within the workings of the internal world.

As a result of shadow work could be so psychologically making an attempt, I don’t advocate doing it on one’s personal, and I don’t advocate enterprise it with out additionally enterprise remedy. Shadow work might entail meditative practices, shamanic journeying, consulting with spirits/archetypes/gods (relying on one’s follow and beliefs) and it might even contain withdrawing from a traditional sphere of existence for some time and going someplace impartial and quiet. This will likely imply a tenting journey or a go to to a liked one’s residence.

Within the strategy of a shadow journey, the practitioner will possible want help in going into that darkness and in search of to know it, and they’ll possible want somebody to assist them course of it. This individual may be one other Pagan practitioner who can act as a information, or just an understanding beloved one. Remedy continues to be extremely really helpful, as one can greatest course of the darkness with the assistance of a educated skilled.

Soul retrieval equally shouldn’t be undertaken alone. It might be useful to have a shamanic information to steer the method or a beloved one close by to assist floor and course of the expertise as soon as it’s carried out. Sometimes this includes a shamanic journey, so one ought to have some expertise with journeying earlier than trying to undertake a soul retrieval. Many Pagans discuss needing to proceed the work to reintegrate the retrieved soul fragment, and — I feel you recognize the place I’m going with this by now — top-of-the-line methods of doing that is by way of a sustained therapeutic apply with a educated skilled. Partaking in routine self-care can also be extremely necessary for following up a soul retrieval, to assist with the on-going therapeutic apply. Most of the gadgets on this listing would serve nicely for that function.


That is only a brief listing of choices at a survivor’s disposal within the context of Paganism. Many different instruments for therapeutic exist, within the type of ritualized chanting, all kinds of meditative practices, dance, and lots of, many others. As I’m positive you gathered, I’m an enormous proponent of remedy. It feels value acknowledging right here that for some individuals remedy may be troublesome to entry, both as a result of monetary limitations similar to dangerous insurance coverage, or as a consequence of societal pressures and stigmas (although I consider we Pagans have all the power on the earth to beat such stigmas.) Even simply discovering an excellent and accessible therapist is usually a trial – some buying round could also be required.

One other factor I actually consider can’t be harassed sufficient: each particular person’s path to therapeutic will look totally different. Not solely will all paths look totally different, however all people have the facility inside them to create their very own therapeutic rituals and practices, or to adapt present ones as wanted. Maybe the most effective factor Paganism has to supply survivors is the empowerment to take management of their very own therapeutic.

Better of luck to everybody present process the exhausting means of therapeutic within the wake of trauma, no matter that trauma could also be. Your experiences and emotions surrounding them are legitimate, and although it might not all the time really feel prefer it, you completely have the potential to heal from this. Be variety to your self.

Editor’s notice: As Tahni mentions all through this collection, religious apply can present nice instruments for therapeutic from trauma, however it’s necessary, particularly in pressing conditions, to utilize different practices as properly. There are lots of hotlines and providers set as much as assist survivors of trauma, and we encourage any reader coping with these points to utilize these assets. In an emergency state of affairs, the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Hotline is on the market 24 hours a day, seven days every week: 1-800-273-8255 (US-English)/1-888-628-9454 (US-Spanish); 1-833-456-4566 (Canada); +44 (zero) 8457 90 90 90 (UK).

The views and opinions expressed by our numerous panel of columnists and visitor writers symbolize the various diverging views held inside the international Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, however don’t essentially mirror the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its administration.

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