December 25, 2022

 An interesting journey on this Christmas Day. It wasn’t Christian at all, definitely pagan, but you’ll see there were some common elements as well as some very stark differences.

I was meditating and found myself in a winter wood. I was on a cliff overlooking an evergreen forest. It was night, cloudy but with a hazy moon shining through the clouds. Everything was blue, gray and silver. Very beautiful.



Above: The forest god looked sort of like this, only more radiant and less threatening. The little frightened guy is most definitely not me!


I found myself gliding over the wood until I alighted in a glade. Immense, straight tree trunks rose around me. It didn’t feel cold here, being sheltered from the wind. At first, I thought the silvery white light was coming from the moon but soon realized a creature was approaching me from within the wood. This creature was softly radiant. It was a giant stag, much like the God of the Forest in the Japanese anime film, Princess Mononoke. This was a northern variant of the god, though. This god was slightly different, mostly because he was glowing white, yellow and silver. As he approached, he was almost blinding. 


I bowed deeply to him for he was clearly divine, a being of great compassion and tender mercy. He inclined his great head, so laden with horns I wondered how he could lift it. I knew that I should make an offering and, like the days previously, the only thing I could offer was my heart. I held out my hands, cupped upward, and made the offering, surprised that my hands were filled with deep black light. (Before, as you’ll recall, the color of my heart has been gold, blue-white, and silver. This was the first time the offering was black.)


The creature lowered his muzzle into my hands and drank deeply. As he did so, the veil split apart between us and a vast, black chasm opened up. Inside the blackness, the creature now appeared like a deathly corpse of a giant elk. His eyes were smoky white and I could see his bones poking through his hide. Nonetheless, I could plainly see that he was the same creature as before, no less full of compassion and grace and I reached out and hugged his neck, burying my face in his patchy fur. You might think this would have been kind of a gross experience, hugging a zombie elk, but it wasn’t.


He lowered his head, indicating that I should climb upon his bony shoulders. I heaved myself upon his back and we were off, traveling through the depthless black. Everything was black, black, black. The only light came, strangely enough, from within me, from my heart. The light was soft silvery blue-white.


We traveled through the blackness for a long time until finally I perceived a small hut. It reminded me of pictures of Viking huts I’ve seen: A basic house with a long, carved support beam at the peak and a steep, sloping roof. It wasn’t very big, being modest, but it was clearly Nordic. I dismounted the deathly elk and approached the house. It’s funny how each time I have these Imaginal experiences, I’m worried that I won’t know what to do. A calm, clear voice in the back of my mind always says the same thing and yet I never seem to remember, “Just be. There is nothing to do. The greatest gift you can give is to simply be who you are.”


Inside the hut was a woman, or rather a skeletal woman. In her bony arms, she held a baby. The baby, unlike the woman, was soft and plump. Its body glowed with golden light. I observed them, knowing immediately their story: Both mother and baby had died in childbirth. The woman, devastated by the loss, had become frozen in this place, this deathly Bardo. The soul of the child had stayed with her. It was so young and tender that it had no way of going anywhere.


I knelt down and touched the baby, crying soft tears. Then I looked at the woman’s corpse. She was little more than a skeleton wrapped in a gray cloak. I knew what to do; an offering was called for here and, like always, I only had one thing to give. I held out my cupped hands; they were overflowing with blue-white light. Bowing my head to her, I extended my hands. She lowered her face and drank deeply from the watery light.


When she was done, she was no longer a corpse but a soft, tender, fully enfleshed woman. I stood and offered her my hand. Hugging the babe against her, she took my hand and allowed me to lead them over to the waiting elk. She climbed up and I led them forth into the blackness.


After a while, we reached a deep, deep, deep black river. Its currents were strong and pulled me in. I held on tightly to the reins, tugging the beast and woman and baby. They followed me into the current. The river was so deep that it swallowed us, washing us down into its depths. It was like the River Styx, completely annihilating. Its black waters dissolved us completely, erasing everything. All memories were gone. Everything was gone. There was nothing left. Only black.


Finally, we emerged on the other bank. We were back in the winter wood, in the midst of the clearing. Tall tree trunks rose up around us. The elk was once again radiantly glowing, as were the woman and child upon its back. I bowed to them and they bowed back before turning and leaving me behind.


I watched them go and then went back to my sitting practice.


***


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