Interview by Sonja Sadovsky, author of The Priestess and the Pen
Welcome to the second installment of my fascinating interview with Jo Carson, author of Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path. Today’s article explores concepts related to sacred sexuality and embodied experience from a Feraferian perspective. Jo continues to describe techniques of ecstatic dance and trance techniques unique to the Feraferian tradition. We begin by discussing the importance of connecting with the Divine through our physical bodies, and how our senses are a sacred connection and guide toward wisdom while on Earth. Jo describes how memory and dream work are the building blocks of strengthening psychic awareness and increasing one’s ability to do lucid dreaming. We will conclude by examining the Western tradition of courtly love, and how these practices relate in Part 3.
Sonja: Ecstatic dance and trance are mentioned several times as sacred ways of connecting with nature and intrinsic to Feraferian worship. Could you speak a bit about this practice, and how it works?
Jo: The idea of ecstatic dance is that you continue dancing a long time in a somewhat predictable way, so that you're not constantly having to figure out what you're going to do next; you teach your body how you're going to be dancing and you let your body take over, and then you dance beyond your normal point of saying "Oh, I feel tired." You keep on dancing and dancing; there's usually music or drumming that are going on too. If you are dancing in a circle around the Henge, as we almost always do with Feraferian ritual, this will put you directly into a trance. It helps us to open to the presence of the Faerie Folk and the Goddess.
Our other method of trance is the guided journey type trance which has become very popular lately. What is unique to Feraferia is how we use our guided journeys. We make what we call a Faerie flight to connect us to Fey places in land that we have visited in the sacred directions around our Henge. First we visit the specific wild spaces, so we already know exactly what they look like. When we are there we can have a relationship with the Faerie beings in that place; we can give them offerings, we can sing for them and with them, listen to what they have to say in the way of advice or oracles—these are things that strengthen your relationship with the Faerie beings and also with that sacred place in the land. You do this with all the different lands in the different directions around your circle, so you have this strong network or web in all the directions.
Then, when you gather later in your henge, you go into trance as a group and revisit astrally that place you have gone to. Over time this builds up a lot of power and beauty and a sort of almost electrical charge within the central Henge itself. One thing that is usually part of our Faerie flights is that we will in imagination dress the spot with the epiphanies of the Goddess. So in the group imagination there are temples and alters and statues or living Goddesses in that sacred place that we can see on the astral; we are seeing more than just the physically visible parts of the place we are visiting; we are experiencing spiritual aspects of it while we are there.
Sonja: Dream work and lucid dreaming are mentioned as a means to open the mind's perception and create a bridge to other dimensions. Are there any methods you would recommend to strengthen these abilities?
Jo: Almost everybody dreams but many people do not remember it; the reason is literally a lack of attention over time. This is described in some detail in the film I made called Dancing with Gaia: Earth Energies, Sacred Sexuality and the Return of the Goddess. One of the people I interviewed was Dr. Serena Roney Dougal PhD in Glastonbury. She gave these instructions: You keep a journal and a working pen under your pillow, so that it's right there where you can our reach for it before you completely wake up, while you're still in that hypnagogic place. You don't wake up with a alarm clock, because that would shock you out of the reverie where the dream is still available. It's important to stay in the same physical pose as you were when you were last asleep. It is like the dream is partly stored in your body, at least that is how it feels. This is the place from which you can most easily recall bits of a dream.
It may be that you only remember a few details, like a pattern, some colors, or just a feeling of some kind, but you write down whatever tiny detail it is that you remember. As you write down that detail you will probably remember a few more. Write down as many as you can. And then when you feel like you've got that down, rest for a few minutes and just feel a bit, loosely focusing on what you were writing about. You may get more details. Go ahead and review what you wrote at some point, either immediately or later that day, and you may remember more about that dream. You do the same thing the next day, and you keep at it for at least a couple of weeks; the more you do it the more you will see that the details of the dreams are coming into your conscious waking life.
It can become time-consuming to write down all these dreams and review them; but the times in my life when I've written down my dreams a lot stand out in my life as being more important, more vivid, and more deeply felt than those periods of time when I've gone without recording my dreams. It's almost like those periods of times just evaporate into nothingness.
As you review your dreams, you will see patterns and motifs that repeat. As you identify these they can become your personal iconography. You are making your interior world visible to yourself, which can be a tremendous wellspring of creativity and it can give you keys for understanding yourself. Also your dreams can show you answers to problems you are wrestling with, and ways of healing on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. You can use your Faerie Ring Henge like the old Aesclepions, which were temples of healing in ancient Greece, where they did dream incubation for healing. You have to honor your dreams with recall and attention to uncover their secrets.
Sonja: It sounds like you think memory is pretty useful then?
Jo: Memory is a magical tool, and I think that that memory is not given its due importance. The importance of memory has been almost forgotten. If you can, review your day at the end of the day briefly, without getting caught up in every detail or having opinions and judgments, just recall those events and then if you can remember the prior day, recall that. Remember several days back if you can, recall those even if only briefly, and you will find over time the sense of who you are becomes much more focused and deeply felt. You sense yourself becoming more conscious, and what you are doing with your precious time on earth becomes more clear.
These approaches to dream work and memory contribute to the ability to do lucid dreaming. With lucid dreaming, it can be very entertaining, but it can also be quite superficial, since it is up to the dreamer to determine the content. Not necessarily with those who are experienced 'dream-walkers'. But for most people, if you want to experience something more meaningful with lucid dreaming, you need to basically choose, in your dream, to be respectful and to honor the Gods or the Faerie Folk, just as you would in life. Especially if you want to if you want to consult with them or get an oracle.
Sonja: Are there other techniques that you're willing to talk about now?
Jo: Yes, there is a technique for strengthening your will and your magical efficacy. Say you are outdoors and your are relating yourself to the land; for instance there might be a mountain with a very specific shape, such as two humps and a canyon between them; and you extend your arm as far out as you can in front of you; you may start on the left-hand side of the horizon of that mountain and you trace with your fingers, very delicately and with great attention to detail, the horizon of the mountain as it goes up and then down into the canyon and then as it goes up again over the other peak and down all the way to the base of the mountain. You do that several more times, noticing exactly how it feels to do it each time, and then you do the same thing with your eyes closed. So you're not seeing it but you are still tracing the same mountain with your hand. Next you open your eyes and you imagine that you are tracing the mountain again with your hand, but you are not actually tracing it, you're just looking at that bit of horizon as you recall exactly how it felt with your arm and hand as it was tracing the mountain. And then you close your eyes and carefully imagine that you are again tracing that mountain.
Now you have a kinesthetic feeling that you are tracing the mountain even though you this is completely in your mind, it's not physical anymore in any way that anybody else could see, but you are doing it now in such a way that you are still having the experience of tracing the mountain. This method will strengthen your ability to recall things and to do things in other dimensions or realms, because you know how it feels to move your body in other dimensions. Regardless of whether anybody can else can see that you are moving, you are in fact moving in a different dimension. You can amplify this with breathing into the shapes. So this is another technique which you can use to increase the amount of perception you have and create a bridge to other dimensions.
Sonja: One concept that intrigued me was the idea of a fourfold division of elemental goddesses. Would you elaborate on this?
Jo: Our approach is based on the division of the elements that was common in ancient Greece. For instance Empedocles, Hippocrates and Pythagoras all believed there was kind of this basic yin-yang division of active and passive; one could say male and female if you wish. The active element is Fire, in the South, and the opposite to that in the North is Water, which is cool and very powerful; it is called the universal solvent for a reason. Having Water in the North is not something that we usually think of here on the west coast of California; we usually think Water has to be in the West, at least for us, because we're next to the Pacific Ocean. However, with Feraferia we honor Fire in the South and Water in the North as the primary polarity; which means we have Air in the East with the sunrise, and opposite that is Earth in the West. This forms a perfect balance because if you're standing on the earth, and you look up, there's air, and then down, and there is earth; they're obviously opposite each other. And if you look at the alchemical symbols for Fire and Water, they are the same but inverted, and so opposite; and if you look at the symbols for Air and Earth, they too are the same but inverted, so they too have to be opposite each other.
We do usually assign one element to each member of the Holy Family; this is a group of four, unlike the Christian Trinity. The Son is in the East, the Father in the South, the Daughter in the West, and the Mother in the North. There are many compatible ways to think about four-foldedness. Birth, sex, death and "the search for God" (merging with the larger cosmos is one).
At the heart of the cosmos we honor Arretos Koura, the Nameless Maiden, the dancing Black Virgin creatress of all. She has to be black since she was and is before the light. And she has to be virgin since the universe is born out of her. I believe this powerful, rarely discussed but intuitively known reality is why there are so many "Black Virgins" in cathedrals all over Europe.
As to why Feraferia has our four elemental Goddesses, we feel that the feminine encompasses the male and female both; especially Kore, the divine Daughter. She makes room for all in her space of love and play.