Bear Tracks

First Tracking: Seeing Through the Veils
The Art and Practice of Divination

(for a workshop given, May 31 - June 4, 1996)

I am seeking, I am seeking
in the drum, the water, the sky,
I am seeking, I am seeking
In the Earth, the air, the chaos and the starry sky
In the seas, the fields, the rocks and mountains high
The truth is coming, the Way revealed..

Invocation for Divining

We stand around in a Circle and suppose
While in the middle the Mystery sits and knows.

Robert Frost

Whence and Why Cometh this Quest of Divining

From the dawn of Homo Sapiens emerging from this planet Earth, people have asked themselves questions of meaning, questions of intention, questions related to their survival, and to their flourishing as another species amongst other beings and elemental forces. They sought to understand the elemental forces of earth, air, fire, water, ether, and how these elemental forces influenced and penetrated their own lives both individually and collectively. As hunters, they sought for ways to stalk, track, and obtain food. They sought to know the Ways of the Animal Beings who were the source of nourishment. They sought to know what provisions were offered them from the Plant Beings and how to use these Plants for both food and healing. They sought to know what secrets, what knowledge dwelled within Stones, the Mountains. They sought patterns revealed in the configurations of the landscape within which they lived, moved, and became themselves. They perceived these very configurations as aspects of themselves, being there to mirror to them the nature of themselves.

In these early searchings, they discovered and it was shown to them many, many wisdom ways which were continually being revealed, and passed on from generation to generation. No one person had neither the time or skill to know all these wisdom ways and thus various clans, societies, and what later became know as “secret cults” arose so that the knowledge could be held by various groups of people within the village, related villages, the greater country, and now the global village.

Through hundreds of thousands of years, we continued questing for understanding. The questions and the wisdom sought may change as new cultures rise, new events occur, new dis-eases seem to enter the world and new planets, stars or constellations are perceived in the celestial sky.

Yet the search to understand and live in balance within the cycles of our lives is an eternal quest. Some people know themselves as part of some greater Whole or as one species within some greater Pattern both present and unfolding. They consciously aware themselves of this knowing and must quest because this necessity to live with balance is an active knowing that lives deep in their bones, bellies, heart and spirit. They must quest and search, both for themselves, their people, and all other beings, else they shrivel and die.

Others intuitively know that they are part of some larger Whole but do not consciously aware themselves of this. It is for their benefit, that the knowing ones seek and then share, in various forms, the treasures revealed and found.

Those who know and seek to live within this Patterning, this Greater Dream Dreaming us, understand that the questions, the information and wisdom needed, must be sought from Powers that hold and govern this greater Whole. They also know that the whole creation surrounding them, and the universes living within them are aspects of this Great Whole. They learn to work with all beings and to source within themselves. They recognize themselves as having both the choice and necessity of participating actively in this Mysterious Unfolding Dreaming. They seek to penetrate the seemingly “hidden realms”, consult with these Powers, learn from these Elemental Forces, learn from all Beings in the Universe, and the term “Divination” or the verb “Divining” (which I prefer) is an ancient word for naming this sacred questing.

Another ancient naming, which carries a different, significant, connotation, is “Alchemy.” I prefer to use both these terms in conjunction and sometimes interchangeably.

Alchemy, like divination, is an ancient art and, like divination, often misunderstood. Imagine a difficult situation (some natural disaster, some personal misfortune, some hidden treasured covered with detritus for various reasons) and know that alchemy is the process whereby these occasions are transformed, changed, metabolized so that what seems misfortune actually is gold itself, and thus, very, very precious. During the Dark Ages, a wonderful term for understanding our historical passages as humans, the true purpose of Alchemy was hidden from the “uninitiated,” who were considered not ready for its knowledge. Just like shamanism, oracle practices, divination and other ancient ‘sourcing’ methods, alchemy became known as an “occult” science. “Occult” means “darkened, hidden, or obscured.”

Yet alchemy, along with these other ancient practices, and various so-called “pagan” ways, has as its true purpose understanding the nature of the soul, its development and its relationship to the natural world. What we now call science, astronomy, medicine, religion, and psychology all have their ancient roots in alchemy, shamanism, astrology, and paganism. All these practices and wisdom ways were born from the study and reverence accorded to ourselves and the natural world of which we were not inseparable. We are nature; nature is us. We partake in all the rhythms and beings in the Universe; the Universe partakes in Us.

Pagan is a word derived from the Latin “pagus” meaning “country.” Those who lived in the country, within the Powers of the Land and whose daily experiences were boundaried within the rhythms, cycles and teachings of the Land, had little use for theories and dogmas that separated them from Earth and Sky, and all the permutations that occur from the commingling of Earth and Sky.

Somewhere along the way, the true purpose of alchemy, shamanism, pagan practices, and the traditions of most indigenous cultures throughout Europe, and later, parts of the Americas, was lost. And the loss was great.

To our profound benefit, there were those who “hid” their drums, practiced in secrecy, and kept the Ways alive through oral tradition (because drums, books, and manuscripts were burned, temples razed, sacred groves destroyed). In places where people knew sacred Spirits dwelled (whether those Spirits dwelled in groves, in stone and land configurations, in wells, or within and underneath various areas of Earth herself), churches were built, institutions of heavy masonry “weighted” to obscure, smash, and destroy the Spirits dwelling there whom the people of that place and that land loved and treasured as the source of knowing how to live and flourish. So it is quite appropriate to call these the “Dark Ages” for, indeed, we “darkened the Light” at that time.

Alchemists, shamans, and other spiritual practitioners found that they could escape persecution and death by using the “trickster” powers available to them. Some “pretended” (wittingly or unwittingly) to adopt institutionalized religion and incorporated certain aspects of their own practices under the institution’s umbrella. Thus we have the Christmas Tree, derived from ancient reverential practices within the sacred evergreen groves during the long Winter, when all seemed dark yet the evergreens spoke of hope, of the “greening” time which follows the darkness. There are many such examples found within Christian and Judaic practices. Without their knowing, these people continue to honor the ancient wisdom. It is my suspicion that occasionally, with even the most materialistically minded people, the Spirits sneak through these practices and leave blessings like stardust.

And following our human soul prints across time, we entered the period that came to be called the “Age of Enlightenment” which gave us gifts for our development yet also left another shadow, another “endarkening” over the treasures from these ancient ways.

I share these ancient connections with you because as the Voice that is helping me heal right now said that whenever I express myself that: “whatever I have to say, to leave the roots on, and let them dangle in the dirt, just to make clear where they came from”. We are wiser when knowing the roots from where our current work grows.

Great separations began to be made from the “roots” of our ancestors’ carefully searched for wisdom and the resulting new methods which rose from these roots. We developed the science of chemistry, separating it from alchemy. We developed the science of astronomy, separating it from astrology. We developed pharmaceutical methods separating these from plant spirit medicine ways. We turned the sacred art of tracking, stalking and nourishing ourselves from the animals provided us into trophy hunting, separating and taking their parts without thought to the Whole, without consideration to the complete Being whose parts are inseparable. We separated ourselves from the Rivers that runs in veins both within ourselves and the Planet, and we damned the Rivers, blocked their passings, and thus we damned ourselves. Where there was water, now there is desert. Where there was desert, there is too much water. The enormity of these “separatings, these dividings” of the Whole into parts merely for our human benefit has scarred the Planet and dis-figured our own beings.

Yet still these ancient methods managed to persist in the nooks and crannies of our hidden consciousness; and in some cultures, simply practiced “underground” or incorporated into institutionalized religions practice and used in ways not known by the official clerics.

They persisted because they have value. They persisted because they are, indeed, methods for obtaining “hidden wisdom” which is needed for our own safety, our own health, and the health of our planet. And perhaps, one might speculate, they persisted because the Spirits desired this to be so even while “testing severely” the ability of people within various cultures to carry and pass on these methods.

And, of course, new methods emerged. Some of these methods were found more acceptable because they could also be viewed as simple parlor games, games of amusement. Such divinations methods as “crystal ball gazing,” “fortune telling,” palmistry, reading tea leaves. These and other methods were tolerated and sometimes even supported because they provided amusement for many people. And for some, of course, they provided information that was used and known to be sacred wisdom, essential knowledge for one’s life.

Other methods became highly corrupted in their passing from generation to generation. For example, we have astrology, an ancient systems based on the observance of events in the sky and their correlation with events on earth. This most ancient method was developed over thousands and thousands of years by humans carefully observing, recording, and making correspondence maps. Imagine the years upon years of such observing. Imagine the attention to detail both in the sky and on earth; imagine people passing this on, for one life time or many life times, were not sufficient to develop these correlations. Then we move from this wonderful gift bestowed by generations upon generations of ancestors to the four sentence paragraph in the newspaper describing a person’s daily destiny based on where the Sun was in the sky at the time of birth of that particular person. The diminishment and corruption of such a system is astounding. The fact that people read these daily “horoscopes” and even believe them to have meaning is even more astounding. At least I find it to be so.

We have been lost for a long, long time. We have divided and split and disfigured ourselves over many generations. Earth herself has partaken in our disfigurement. In some deep, profound way, we have “monstered and demonized ourselves” and now we grow afraid of our own Shadows which we see before us in the Land, in the Sky, in each other, and within. In our great excitement with the benefits of the scientific method, a gift from the Spirits, we forgot that without paying equal attention to the study, understanding and unfolding of our interior universe, all attempt at trying to study and understand the outer universe and to use this knowledge to make our lives better are doomed to failure. We now live within that “doomed understanding” and our hearts open wide in alarm for our children, their children, the future generations of all beings, this planet and the planets, constellations, and galaxies which are Her relatives and which She needs for her own prospering.

Endless speeches, books, articles, and conferences are brought forth every hour of every day somewhere on this planet. They are focused on the problems which have arisen from our own separating within ourselves, forgetting ourselves, and separating ourselves from within this larger Whole. In separating ourselves, we have lost such precious experiences of delight, joy, beauty, harmony. Perhaps some of us individually have not lost these but they are lost in massive ways among the masses of humanity. And for these losses, we must care. That is why we do this work and this purposefulness must be held always, always, always. To lose delight, joy, beauty, harmony is reason for mourning. But the loss of these comes with separating ourselves both within and without. For as we take delight in “nature”, so does nature delight in our existence when we are in harmony with her laws. And just as the immeasurable forces of the Elemental Powers of Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Ether can often overcome us, our human capacities can and do overcome or transform these challenges into gold when we are respectfully attentive to “all that is happening below, around, above, and within us.”

So divining, this work and play we do together, is to help in whatever measure we can to restore the balance between what we call Mother Nature and our human nature. This is our task. We must find the way, building upon wisdom from the far distant past, taking up the wisdom from the more immediate past, and, gathering them us as treasures, in this very Moment learn how to “source” for HERE and NOW. We need to learn alchemical ways of metabolizing a new paradigm, a new pattern that will support ourselves, future generations, and all our relatives, which include Mother Earth and Father Sky’s relatives.

To do this work requires an open, curious, non-judging heart, mind, and spirit. It requires attention to one’s physical vessel, keeping one’s self strong, as healthy as possible, and using any processes that occur within one’s self as opportunities for transformation for one’s self and for the Collective Whole.

Those who have done this questing since Sun Light first touched the foreheads of the first humans, know that it is an experimental and experiential process. To unlock the secrets, to cross the threshold into other worlds, to quest and bring back the treasures found, and to create something that has never been done before requires that we keep our goal in mind, be persistent, patient, disciplined, remain alert and awaring ourselves always, and stick with our process until we find what we seek.

One of the most profound challenges in doing this, is to live HERE and NOW, for the natural world unfolding lives only in the Moment and yet the Moment is all there is or was or will be for us. We must realize the Present Moment is the only point where we have the Power to change our lives and the world we live in. So we must “show up”, receive, metabolize, and manifest: Here and Now.

And as we do this work together, we act for the Collective Whole. Yet as the ancient ones have always known and told us, in working for the Greater Whole, we work with ourselves, transform our own lives to gold, share the knowledge and methods we learn, pass them on to others, sending threads of gold through many hands which send them on to other many hands, and restore the golden webbing that is both our birth right and now we must reclaim.

Ancient Ways of Seeing and Moving Through the Veils, across the Thresholds,
and Returning with the Gold

Just as the quest for meaning and understanding is as ancient as humans themselves, so too are there ancient systems that people developed, tested, passed onto the next generation. Some of these methods survive and are used today. Some we know from studying ancient texts. Some we learn from contacting Ancestors who live as Teachers beyond the Veils. And there are many others we can learn from working with, being open to the inhabitants with which we share this planet. They will assist us if we approach them in the proper way. Remember this process is both experiential and experimental, requires discipline, patience, and we must develop ways of testing, of proving but these ways of testing and proving may not satisfy the “scientific mind” that is now part of our internal history and often the legislator of what is “true” in our cultural consensual mind set. Our job is to keep searching and looking for results. This requires “tracking” our work because, with any questing, the results may not appear immediately, and even if results occur, we want to continue using and see if these methods are trustworthy over many experiments. The way we think of results and testings will differ from the “scientific method” yet we must bring equal discipline and strength of mind to the work we do.

People are continually seeking to know the answers to such questions as: what does the future hold for me? How shall I handle a particular situation? where shall I go or move now? what is the cause of some specific difficulty or illness? what is the meaning of my dream? how can I prosper my spiritual practice? what is “out of balance” on the land in which I live? how can I bring food, water, and nourishment to my people? how can I take care of my child? how can I be of help for my beloved one who is dying? These and countless other questions have been raised by us humans over and over and over again for they are fundamental issues related to living with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment of our own destinies. They are but a minimal range of the eternal questions we ask as we seek to live our passage through planet earth.

I think the Spirits are now seeking actively to assist us in recovering ways of “divining.” My premise is that the Spirits want to help us and will help us if we come with serious intention, open hearts and minds, and leave lots of room for the unexpected to occur. We have to leave room for the unexpected. If most of our focus is on “what’s expected”, then we are not moving into the hidden realms but simply living out what we have already decided is the Way, is our Destiny.

We as humans are out of balance with Earth, with her other inhabitants, and with her relatives that circle round and round her. These relatives we call Sun, Moon, stars and planets. We have extended our litter beyond Earth’s surface and now litter the outer realms. We know this - at least most of us know this. Knowing this is not enough. We must take action and move into balance. We must see this Planet as our beloved Home and take care of our Beloved Home’s relatives. This is analogous to taking care of one’s own extended family. We must also carry our tending with the awareness that “others” are on their way to this planet home. What will they find generations from now?

I am assuming the reason we do this work, which can also be full of play and joy as well as sorrow and tears, is because we care about this Homeland and her relatives; we care about future generations; we care about those living in the time in which we are living; we care about ourselves. With all this caring, we have powerful impulses to learn, educate, and practice ways of living that will make a difference even if we don’t see that difference in our life time. Still, we will have left a shadow that holds the light of caring within it and each shadow lives on and becomes the source of support for the next generation of people who choose to be servants, stewards, and tenders for all those living and those to come.

Selective Commentaries on Divining and Correspondingly Selective Divination Methods

The less one thinks about the theory of the I Ching,
the more soundly one sleeps

(from C. G. Jung's foreword to the I Ching)

Time is a moving image of eternity
from Plato's essay on “The Cave”

According to the Grollier’s CD ROM Encyclopedia
(of which some is correct and nearly all of it needs rewriting):

"Divination is the practice of foretelling the future by means of alleged preternatural powers. It is based on the belief that the future is predetermined, that all things, however casual or accidental they might appear, have significance, and that the pattern of coming events can be read from them. The practice has been common to all peoples from earliest times, often through the medium of a PROPHET, SHAMAN, SIBYL, or person temperamentally equipped to go into a state of trance."

Ancient diviners foretold the outcome of great undertakings, advised whether war should be declared, and worked out auspicious times for constructing temples, electing public officials, or passing important laws. The Egyptians and Babylonians held special classes of priestly diviners; the Greeks consulted ORACLES, especially at DELPHI; and the Romans had a state-sponsored college of augurs, a select group that read the future by studying the behavior of birds or the markings on the liver or entrails of sacrificed animals.

Divination includes all methods of fortune-telling: card reading, crystal gazing, palmistry. In ASTROLOGY the general direction of a person’s life is read from the position of the stars at the time of his or her birth. Dream interpretation was once a popular form of divination.

According to the old shamanic ways and understanding:

Divining is the practice of determining the unknown by the manipulation and observation of tools and objects recognized by their users as possessing the ability to provide such information. Divining is the practice of understanding past events because of their influence in the moment (from whence cometh this illness, this misfortune) and reading signs in the present Moment on behalf of the people. The ability to divine, interpret omens and signs, and see where lies the sources of health and prosperity for all who are living within the Land is essential wisdom.

According to CarolBear while dangling her roots and mingling with ancestors:

In divining in the ancient way and gathering ourselves for learning how to source wisdom, we must put aside such weighty topics as whether life is foreordained and predestined or at least if some freedom of choice is possible. Pondering such matters and the nature of time, gives one headaches. We must learn from our own results how to source and how to benefit ourselves, others, and the Greater Whole. The insoluble mysteries of foretelling, of time, one can save for coffee or tea time conversations if one so wishes.

However, there are some aspects of divining which I need to stress selectively. These I have be worthy considerations as we work.

Everything must mean something, or else nothing would mean anything. Think about this deeply, and let us aware ourselves accordingly. Another way to phrase this: Everything that happens, whether we perceive it or not, but especially fortunate are we if we perceive, is an inconceivably improbably coincidence. I am learning this continually. Even as I know this, I surprise and delight myself by coming upon these “improbably coincidences.”

Here we sit, Bearsisters, women together. Here you are-and no other person-reading this material-and no other material-just at this moment - and no other moment. How did this come about? How did you “happen” to be doing just this and nothing else but this? Had the events of the last hours, last months, last year gone ever so slightly different, you would not be reading this sentence now. Now consider all the factors stretching back into all eternity which have contributed, each in its precise degree, to bringing you to this very place with this unlikely Bear Tracks material in your hands. What a fantastic, strange improbability!! And here you are moving soon, most likely, to join with other BearSisters drumming and singing together, or reading the signs in some driftwood from the ocean, or painting patterns with colored sand, sand which is the Oceans “leavings” as Ocean move away from Land.

Yet here we are. Viewed from this perspective, every phenomenon is equally improbable - and infinitely so! There’s nothing mere about coincidence - the universe is nothing but coincidence.

We humans are part of a seamless web, the continuous whole of Reality, or Reality Realizing. For those who don’t realize this continuous “realizing”, they can be carrying an unbalancing mind, be walking in an unbalancing way, trapped in the picket fence of a their particular notion of time and cut off from the underlying patterns of existence that give life its own meaning.

Patterning

Our explorations, uncoverings, and discoverings are profoundly searching to both know and live within patterning. If we were able to slice through our present Moment, like slicing through a hologram or like magnetic imaging machines, and study the cross sections of any Moment, we would see elements presently coinciding and the Pattern formed by their immediate relationships to one another. Evaluating, discerning, and discovering present patterns amongst disparate, apparently meaningless, things allows us to divine what to expect in the future. I believe this is why the most common, ancient and contemporary methods of seeking wisdom, involves the inspection of some sort of pattern - whether in the shape of clouds, the flight of birds, the fall of bones and yarrow stalks, the toss of the dice, the movement of an object on a drum, the lay of the cards in any deck, the movement of pendulum and dowsing rods, the leaves in the bottom of a teacup, the markings left on drift wood, the trails left in rock and stones, and the configurations of the landscape itself.

Knowing that this patterning is always present does not make the procedures for divining or the outcome any less mysterious. Whatever is happening at the moment inevitably possesses the quality peculiar to that moment and no other. Yet Moments leave long-lasting traces...and from prior Moments in past time, we can see how we arrive to Now just as other future generations will see, from the tracings we leave in this Moment, how they arrived to the where they are.

Finally, I do assume that these accidents or coincidences are linked in some way with what we have come to call the collective unconscious mind. However, some people mistakenly, I think, approach divining and sourcing with the assumption that the unconscious mind already knows the answer to the question. For some divining work this may be the case. Clearly there are Powers of exchange beyond the senses and the muscles, but our ordinary conscious mind has developed such a thick skin; it is powerful but insensitive. With our thick skin we separate ourselves from a sense of connection with the rest of the seamless Webbing and may be inclined to spend most of our lives trapped in the picket fence we build in this one, conscious, area of our mind.

Certain divining methods, like reading stones, driftwood, and being attentive to the shape of plants, can serve to restore circulation to other countries, other universes of our mind and enable us to walk through to, what heretofore, was our own hidden awareness.

To cross these thresholds, which are natural regions of ourselves, involves allowing ourselves, through awaring ourselves, of being both purposeful yet passive, relaxed. Practitioners who do divining have developed this capacity of “purposefulness yet passive, relaxing;” yet all of us possess this capacity. It’s really quite simple once you practice and get the knack to it. You use the pattern formed through these various objects as your departure point for your imagination, liberating yourself to entering the other universes dwelling within you and within which we are held.

While knowing the Universe partakes in us and we partake in it, we can thus work with patterns presented to us from all objects presented to and perceived by us. Remember, however, the aspect of synchronicity and correspondences. These objects, these shapes come to You, and to no Other, at this particular Moment and in this way the Powers, Spirits of the Universe are assisting you.

Process

When we are working and attending to patterns throughout our time together aware yourself of the

  • HERE and NOW
  • This MOMENT
  • Being Purposeful while Passive Relaxing Yourself
  • Give caring attention to all the shapings and figures you are perceiving; view them from different directions; sometimes this allows their meaning to becoming clearer for you are working with relationship, elements together forming patterns.
  • Learn to find fairly close resemblances between shapes, clusters, or figured groups formed in whatever you are observing and perceiving.
  • In order to do this observing and “seering”, be patient, do not be in a hurry.
  • If you find yourself distracting yourself with other matters, pause, rattle, drum, wash the cloudy landscape of your mind.

Difficulties in sourcing or perceiving patterns can be caused by the obscuring of our own abilities to see by occupying the countries of our mind with matters unessential to the task of the MOMENT.

© Copyright, Carol Proudfoot-Edgar, June, 1996

This page was posted on March 1, 2000