Swan Blessing is the past life and ancestral healing work that I began 7 years ago to help clear and heal the memories and ancestral trauma of the 'burning times' upon our ancestors and ourselves. The memory or soul loss created by witnessing events where women have been persecuted for simply being healers and connected to the earth and her plants or even carrying these memories from our ancestors in our DNA can create many kinds of problems in our present lives. The most common feeling is anxiety, but it can also manifest as a kind of sensation of being stuck and unable to move because in a way we remember what happened to the women who stood out, were different. The biggest crime of all is that it has conditioned us to believe it is safer to stay on the edge of the 'mystery', to never step back through the veil.
Today I share Alex' Swan Blessing story of the witch's daughter and her vow to remain alone. When I read this story in full it had a profound effect on me because she was speaking from the heart about issues that were so personal and painful for her. I loved her retelling and the honesty, the raw guts and all approach to her life! Thank you Alex for reminding me that this journey with the collective is also personal and individual - we cannot compare it to anyone else's experience and the worst thing we can do is try to 'fit in'. Alex is also speaking honestly about the healing process and how it is often like peeling layers away - good and deep healing takes time. Most importantly I am so happy to see that now Alex is alone when she chooses to be alone and that she is MAGNIFICENT!
With her story also came gifts of healing water gathered at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scotland where she was the only one crazy enough that day to swim in those freezing waters and from the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. When Alex arrived for her session I didn't know that she was about to embark on this journey, but as soon as she chose tarot cards from the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert (an amazing deck that I find perfect for past life work) her destination was right there in front of her in vivid colour. The cards asked Alex 'are you going to always sit on the edge of the mystery daughter? How long can you keep yourself apart, a step away from joy?' Here is her answer.
"This has taken me a while to write. Soon after my Swan Blessing with Julia, I wrote some notes to remember my encounter. But to write it out fully, is to release it. And I haven’t been ready to do that. Until now. I very much enjoy wallowing in my pain and misery, observing it, letting it twist my insides until my anxiety levels peak. It’s quite sadistic, I know. But I learn from it, as long as I acknowledge it. Which takes a while. After I wallow, I ignore all the self-inflicted pain and become destructive until I am ready to face the truth. I am a big advocate of 'ignorance is bliss'. Yet the problem is, this no longer works for me. I know too much, have felt too much to be ignorant to my desires, passions and ultimately the light and dark of my being. Which was why I went to see Julia.
I arrived at Julia's home on the second day of spring, full of promise, hope, doubt and a little worried. Throughout the year, I have been doing a lot of soul searching, trying to understand my nature, patterns I repeat and my shadow aspect which I have a tendency to either deny or let consume me. I was going to Julia to seek answers. When she explained to me that sometimes vows or promises made in past lifetimes have the ability to affect us in this lifetime, my immediate reaction was "shit... I reckon I did some pretty crazy shit in my previous lives". But Julia's calming voice let me break away from my fears and feel the love and energy of my spirit guides and ancestors.
After I selected cards from a tarot deck, Julia was able to explain to me the vow I had made was having a major impact on my relationships in this lifetime. This was very accurate, as I do struggle to connect to others on a higher level as well as letting certain patterns destroy my relationships. However, the next card was the one that really hit me. It was a young girl sitting on the edge of the Chalice Well, a famous spiritual site in Glastonbury, England. Like the girl, spiritually, I had always found myself on the edge. Never delving in, never committing, yet interested and informed. Not being able to let go and experience spirituality had there caused me much sadness throughout my life, contributing to feeling like an outsider. What made this card particularly interesting, was that in approximately a month, I was travelling to the UK, so making the journey to the Chalice Well was at the top of my must see list. The final card was the Sun which showed a girl surrounded by sunflowers, dancing, with a beautiful, happy and knowing smile. I saw myself in that girl and instantly I wanted that version of me. I didn’t want to wallow and pity myself anymore. Nor self-destruct,hurt myself and others or waste my life away in ignorance. I wanted to release the vow I made, one so strong, it hid, forcing me to go deep within. One that I have carried through lifetimes, letting it affect me and even feeding it at times. But not anymore. This time I am going to let it go.
The first thing I see are green eyes. Green eyes peering at me in a pool of clear water. I try to reach to the creature with the engaging green eyes. But they disappear. I call to them again and this time they appear with a nose. But they still will not leave the pool, the safety. They are willing to let me in, but they will not come out. I must go deeper for this journey. As I break through the veil of the pool onto the other side, I find myself in a partially dried river bed, in a beautiful valley surrounded by trees, standing next to a girl of about 8 years old. She has straw coloured hair and is dressed in a filthy white woollen shift. As she turns to look up at me, somewhat defiant yet also grateful, I see that the eyes match the green eyes I saw in the pool. She still will not let me approach her, but she allows me to follow her so she can show me. I follow her along the river bank, watching her as she stops sporadically to pick something up, throwing stones into the river here and there and occasionally checking that I do not get too close to her. I ask her where her family are.
She speaks to me without opening her mouth, in what I can only describe as telepathically. She tells me that she is alone. She is upset but she looks into my third eye and shows me what happened to her family. I am not myself, I am her. I feel all her fear and horror as people surround her house, yelling and shouting, calling out to her mother. I can see my (her) mother standing in the corner shielding my brother, a toddler who is crying. The people around the house are yelling a number of things, directed at my mother such as“Heretic”, “Witch”, “Whore” and“Slut”. The mob burnt the house to the ground. Yet I was not in it. I am not sure how or why, but I was somehow watching the house burn from above.
I feel all her loss, pain and anger at losing her family. As the girl pulled me back to myself, she explained that she had been living in the valley on her own, taking care of herself. I ask her to show me happier times with her family and what it was like before they took them away. Again, I am forced into her consciousness. I see my mother, who radiated love and cared for me so much. The love I felt towards my mother, emanating from my small form was some of the purest, most joyful love I have ever felt. My mother was a medicine woman or hedge witch, who showed me how to make healing poultices, use healing plants and hunt and trap animals for food. I had no father. I played with my little brother and took him to the garden when people would come to see my mother. The same people who would kill her. Young women would come for love or fertility, and men for healing and virulence. To the child and to me she was the absolute embodiment of the divine feminine. The perfect balance of feminine and masculine. She was womanly and gentle with unbleached skin and light auburn hair with big blue eyes like sapphires.While these people used her for her services, they were always wary and scared of her. I could feel my child’s mind unable to understand, because the way I saw her as beautiful, loving and caring. She was pure. The people who used her were troubled and scared of everything including themselves.
I was thrown forward in time and I was still the girl but a little older, around 14 years old. I slept in a large tree at night to keep warm. I was able to hunt for myself and find any herbs, vegetables or plants that I needed. I was ultimately a recluse, withdrawing form human contact as much as I possibly could. She wanted me to see that we could take care of ourselves. That we didn’t need to rely on others. As I acknowledged this fact, I was thrown forward again to a time where I was approximately 20 years old. I was walking through the middle of a small town or village. The people that I walked past, mostly in a market place, stopped what they were doing to gawk at me. Some were whispering, few knew who I was. Others could feel or sense the power that was emanating from me, swirling around me, threatening to consume them if they dare approach. My destination was a hall which sat on a hill just above the village. The only way I can describe my thoughts while I was walking through the village was “NO FUCKS GIVEN.” I did not care what these people thought of me, what they said to me or about me. I was fucking magnificent, powerful and most of all, I knew it. I was there for a purpose.
As I approached the hall and opened the doors to enter, my eyes locked with a man in a large chair, someone who was clearly in charge. He knew who I was and I knew who he was. He was my father. And he had had my mother and brother killed. Whatever his reasons or intentions, I did not care. I stared at him until his gaze fell, possibly in recognition of who I was or in acceptance of what was about to happen. And then I cursed him. I cannot remember the exact words (probably a good thing) but they were similar to “I curse you and all your seed. Your line will begin and end with me. All you love, have ever loved and all you touch will turn to dust and fade. You will be nothing. You are nothing." The pure anger, hatred and vengeance was like nothing I had ever felt. At times I can be a vindictive person who will hurt others because they have hurt me, but this was next level. In this lifetime I was willing to sacrifice myself to hurt another person. To take away everything that mattered to him, because he had taken away the only thing that I cared about. My vow and the sacrifice I made for the curse was to be alone forever. I had lost the only thing that mattered and rather than try to find solace and acceptance, other people to care for, I chose hateful vengeance and a solitary life. I was shown a brief glimpse of the rest of my life, which was not overly long. I had a number of lovers and seduced anyone I could, with no acknowledgement of the pain I caused to people that had never hurt me. I bore children and in a way discarded them, found no joy in them, regarded them as a hindrance. And so I was always alone. I didn’t care for anyone.
Many years later, I went back to the village of my father. They eventually bound me in chains and placed me in a jail of some sort. In some way, I knew that my father was dying or very ill. I was at the end of my journey, the hate and rage had become exhausting and it was nearly over. I knew that to capture and kill me, despite the curse would give my father a measure of peace in his after life. So in my last act of defiance I pulled a vial of poison out from between my breasts, took the dram in one long swig and died with a smile on my lips because I had won. I had sacrificed my own peace to take away someone else’s.
Once again, I was standing in the valley beside the river bed, with the young woman who had placed the curse in front of me. As I looked at her, my eyes filled with tears and my whole body became tense, making me feel like I had been winded. I begged her to embrace me, to release the anger, hatred and the vow that held us both. She refused me. Who was I to tell her what to do? How could I make her release when no one else could? What happened next, was like some telepathic exchange where I explained that I knew how she felt, I had just seen it, I was also bound by her hatred. I pleaded with her once more and hesitantly she embraced me and then collapsed in to my arms. All the sadness, sorrow, hatred and pain left her, filtered into me and she became light as a feather. Before she was beautiful because she was fearsome. Now she beautiful because she was happy. She could be finally be with her mother and brother. They were standing there waiting for her, like they always had been. As she hugged me goodbye, thanked me and went to her family, all her emotions consumed me and bound me in vines from my feet to my neck. As they constricted and suffocated, this was the time I knew I could not wallow in my self-hatred and pity. I searched for anything to break me free from these constricting vines and found a dagger made of bone. As I began to hack away at the vines piece by piece, I could feel the tension in my body begin to ease, the anxiety slip away. I felt the hatred, vengeance and pain fall away with every vine. I cut through the curse and the vow and felt my body release generations of pain. I was free.
A month after I had my Swan Blessing, I journeyed to the UK. I went with a heart and head full of the excitement, knowledge and hope I had gained. And you know what? I was disappointed. I arrived in London expecting to be this amazing, free person, yet I still wasn’t. To be honest, after seeing Julia I did a little bit of work on myself but other than immediately after the blessing I didn’t feel significantly different. I thought it would all make sense when I left, when I escaped from everything I knew. I expected an instant fix. I saw friends in London and Liverpool and travelled to Glasgow on my own, waiting every moment for this 'epiphany' to happen. To let go of all my bullshit, to release my vow, to be as free as that girl in the sun, the one who had cut all the vines. Instead I was homesick. I was in a country I had wanted to travel to virtually my entire life and I was fucking homesick!? What the hell was wrong with me? Where was this magical realisation and cure all for me being a fucked up mess? Feeling quite dejected I continued on. I hired a car and drove through the Scottish Highlands, to the Isle of Skye, Inverness and back down to Edinburgh. I marvelled at the enormity of the highlands, the vast meandering emptiness that also felt so full of life with a sparkle in my eyes and a grin on my face. I forced myself out of my shell, talking to the travellers, asking their advice and picked up a hitchhiker who I travelled to Skye and Inverness with. I climbed mountains, stood on cliffs and swam in the Fairy Pools. I went searching for the Northern Lights of Inverness, driving along winding roads that felt so tiny and foreign. I stood on the banks of Loch Ness, with a song in my heart and picked a thistle for my one true love.
During this time, I forgot that I was waiting for this 'epiphany'. I forgot that I needed a cure for being a mess, for being sensitive and cruel at the same time. It wasn’t until I was back in London and had a little down time that I remembered how important the Chalice Well had been to me. So I hired a car and drove out to Glastonbury, stopping at Stonehenge on the way. After arriving in Glastonbury late, I left early the next morning to drive towards Tintagel Castle and Cornwall. Due to lack of planning, I missed the opportunity to explore Merlins Cave. Pissed off, I hiked up a ridiculous amount of stairs against the tearing wind to look at some bloody rocks that form what was once a castle. I kept going, marvelling at the wildness of the country, avoiding massive slugs and goats that are apt to chase people. When I had reached a peak, I sat down partially from exhaustion, part memory and part sadness. I stood up and looking down at the ferocious sea, I screamed into the wind, yelling at the goddess, at god, at myself, daring the wind to become powerful enough to knock me into the sea and let it consume me. With a raw throat, salt stained face and teary eyes, I walked back to the car.
I had one more stop before I could finally go to the Chalice Well, and that was St. Nectan's Glen which I thought looked like a cool waterfall. Once I arrived, I started to walk along the path hurriedly as I just wanted to get a photo and get back in the car so I could make it to see the Chalice Well before it closed. Yet I kept walking. And walking. And bloody walking! Rather than taking in the beauty around me, I was hurrying. When I finally reached the entrance I walked down to the waterfall and I was on my own in this haunting glen. It felt like there was no one around for miles. Like I was the only soul left alive. I admired the ribbons hanging from trees, small piles of flat stones and the rushing water from the beautiful keyhole waterfall. I sat for a moment and contemplated whatever people contemplate in places such as this and then I stood up, took my clothes off and waded into the water and stuck my head under the freezing waterfall. Because why not?
I finally made it to the Chalice Well gardens that afternoon (after taking forever to find a park in tiny English streets, being yelled at for smoking too close to the gardens and scolded for coming towards closing time). I walked the gardens, took photos and drank the water which apparently has healing properties. By the time I came to the actual Well, I sat and cried. Not from sadness or happinessbut from acknowledgement. Sitting by it, I can’t honestly say if it was 'welling' with the spirits and powers of ancient magicks. I was too consumed in myself and my 'epiphany' moment. The Chalice Well was a reminder of how far I had come since sitting in the room in the forest with Julia and discovering my vow, my strength and my darkness.
Despite making the vow to be alone and being afraid of it all my life, I learned it is okay to be a recluse at times in order to recharge and to do things on your like driving through Scotland. That like the little girl from my Swan Blessing, I can take care of myself, without reliance on others, what they think of me and their opinions on how I conduct my life. I realised that I am FUCKING MAGNIFICENT, even if I don't feel that way all the time and that while being born a woman, a cause of pain and frustration in many ways, is such a blessing that I need to own it and be proud of being this fucking divine. I don't need to constantly test people nor do I have to win all the time, as it is okay to let go sometimes. I acknowledge that I don't need to rush all the time, sometimes the universe is just screaming for you to take your time. Most importantly I realised that I am deserving of love and so much more.
While these might not sound like things worthy of a major realisation, these are issues that I have faced throughout my life. While I visualised cutting away the vines that day in the forest, they were never completely gone. Cutting the vines did not release my vow, but gave me the power to release it. However it doesn't come quickly. You release parts and pieces, acknowledging and bidding farewell. They will try to come back repeatedly (a bit like John Farnham) but you know better now. They're transparent and you are no longer ignorant. You won't let the vines creep up on you again. Whilst I understand not everyone can go on a journey like I did so soon after having their blessing, you don't need to. You have been awoken. You have seen your lightness and possibly your darkness. It won't come as easy as you think or will it come quickly and you will spend a long time keeping those vines at bay. But it's worth it. Because you're no longer happy to sit by in ignorance and bliss. Take the pain and harsh realisations because it is all worth it in the end.
I would like to thank Julia for not only the Swan Blessing but also the help and advice she has given me in the past. I have learnt that I don't need to hold on to things to make them true. I need to release them so that I am able to live."
Alex Walker, 2016
Photos by Alex Walker