It was not lost on me that, over the past eight months, something wasn’t right.
I didn’t have the same vibrancy that I had carried with me across Europe during the summer of 2016. I kept looking at myself in photographs (selfies) I had taken in Invergarry in the last days of August, during the beginning of my extended two week stay in the Highlands. I kept wondering where that person had gone, the me that was so full of life and vitality. What happened?
Invergarry is one of my few known ancestral hometowns. It is where the MacDonnell’s of Glengarry, my family line, once had a stronghold along Loch Oich. Invergarry is the town that joins the road to the much beloved and picturesque Isle of Skye with the road north to Inverness and the road south to Fort William.
On September 2nd, I found a tick just above my left breast while I was showering (more on this here). I mistook it for dirt and when it wouldn’t come off, I simply plucked it off. Wriggling and pinched between my thumb and index finger, the small black tick found its demise down the shower drain.
And then everything started to change.
I worried about Lyme Disease. I felt listless and angry even - that I would come so far, quite literally - only to find myself floundering in sudden unquenchable anxiety. Photos I took after this time find me pale and uneasy. Weary. “I’m so tired,” became my mantra for the following eight months.
In Invergarry, there are many hiking trails in and around Loch Oich and the River Garry. I would return again and again to both the Ciste Dubh Trail and Allt na Cailliche Trail. The Ciste Dubh Trail meanders along the River Garry for awhile, a great rushing river that I’ve seen kayakers and river rafters take to. It also goes through a clear cut area, a meadow of stillness that feels like a cemetery for spirits, human and fae alike. It is eerie and haunting. The trail connects with the Allt na Cailliche Trail which meanders through a pine forest, crisscrossing stream beds, until reaching a waterfall. The Goddess herself is ever-present here.
This land is not for the faint-hearted. It is shrouded in death and mystery, in a constant merging and swirling of the seen reality and the unseen reality. The MacDonald Castle on Loch Oich has long since fallen, and its remains are hollowed out and desolate: so eerie to me that I only visited the remains once.
All of this I knew before making this journey. All of this I knew and loved about this homeland; I longed for Invergarry. It was the most sacred place I could have asked to visit. Beautiful and glorious, remote yet connected to centuries of ancestral history, it was where I wanted my ashes to be scattered one day.
Despite my tick scare, I still traveled for two months across North America following my three months in Europe. In early 2017, I applied to and was accepted into an MFA program in Brooklyn. I applied to and received job offers.
And all the while, my health continued to deteriorate.
I didn’t take one of the jobs. I deferred enrollment for graduate school until Fall 2018. While I was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus early this spring, something still wasn’t right.
I still wasn’t getting better.
I felt like I was wasting away. And I didn’t understand why. My vitality and vibrancy peaked last year, I had an abundance of self-love and acceptance - a first for me. And then it all slowly started trickling away.
So in late May, I saw a shamanic practitioner in Seattle and I had a Compassionate Depossession session.
I didn’t see that coming.
When someone mentions Compassionate Depossession, I find myself simultaneously upset by the boundary-crossing and also overcome with a feeling of compassion, wanting to offer relief to the human being who is experiencing distress and unease, this lack of self and vitality as well relief to the suffering being that has taken up space in the person.
During the summer between 7th and 8th grade, while I had been visiting extended family in Gig Harbor, Washington, The Exorcist was, for some reason, brought up in conversation. I was standing in the kitchen with my aunt, my cousin and his wife. My cousin’s wife looked at all of us seriously. “My priest knew the priest involved in that. That really happened.” I felt sheer terror, not wanting to believe that could be the case. No way could the devil really possess someone. No way could someone just suddenly become a demonic, head spinning, levitating monster. No way...
That night, I kept the bedside light on, keenly attuned to the creaking of the old wood floors in the century-old house, keenly aware of the tiny night noises that come when we are waiting for something - anything - to happen. My heart raced and my mind swirled. I didn’t want to be “taken.” I prayed with adolescent fervor that night. “Please God, protect me. Keep me safe. I don’t want to be possessed. I love you. I believe in Jesus.” I waited until the birds started chirping and the sun started stretching across the fading night sky before I let my droopy eyes sink into sleep.
But I have been overshadowed. More than once. But possession doesn’t necessarily take the form of a very shadowy being. This is not to say that The Exorcist level possessions don’t occur. Fellow practitioners have told me of times when they’ve witnessed people walking up walls, demonstrating extraordinary strength, speaking in tongues, levitating, and more. It’s disturbing and frightening and while it remains out of the view of mainstream culture (other than in the movies, mostly) it happens. It also happens on a different scale such as what I encountered, in ways that we just chalk up to being tired or “off.”
I have been trained in Compassionate Depossession or “CD” as we call it in shorthand. As one of my teachers in this work says, energies moving through our bodies is “natural but not preferred.” Sometimes overshadowing happens because we consciously or unconsciously make agreements with spirits or energies. Sometimes it happens because we have been emotionally, spiritually, mentally or physically vulnerable. Perhaps we were going through a sickness, a divorce, or a crisis of faith. Something or someone got in.
Sometimes it happens because it’s simply a “destiny date,” as the practitioner said to me in late May. I went in telling her about my fatigue and my extraordinary need to sleep for at least ten hours a day. I told her about the unusual and persistent migraines. I explained how these symptoms seemed to intensify over the last eight months. Then I told her that I felt “like I was dying.”
“Let yourself go into the state of dying,” she said after she called in a sacred container, a prayer to hold the space.
I immediately began to feel something in my body move. I began to cry. Not just cry. I started to weep. I could feel an old sorrow, an old loss moving through me, but the loss and the sorrow wasn't mine.
The practitioner asked me a few more questions and, having been trained in CD work, I knew. I knew someone else was with me.
And so it was that the practitioner and I both came to understand what had happened, not just to me eight months ago in Invergarry, but to a young woman many years ago. Centuries ago.
We met or rather, fate intervened, along one of those hauntingly beautiful Invergarry trails in early September 2016. And on May 22, 2017 she was set free; she crossed over into the light, no longer a wanderer in this world looking for her family. (There is more the story, but this is all I feel comfortable sharing here in this way.)
I know she is ancestral for me too, and perhaps it is even more complex than that. She was with me for eight months, so firmly bound and tied up in my core that in some way, she felt uncanny. But her death and ‘dying’ were causing me to lose my vitality in the here and now. And in her crossing, her departure, full and complete, I returned to myself; a homecoming all over again of me, to me, for me, with the vibrancy and fullness that I hadn’t felt in so many months.
When the session was over, I looked up at the practitioner sitting across from me.
“I feel like I’m just meeting you now,” I said, tears in my eyes. “Hi. I’m Erin. It’s nice to meet you.”
The wise woman sitting across from me smiled warmly. “It’s nice to meet you too,” she said.
I feel myself home again. Food tastes better. Things look clearer. I feel more empowered, more at peace. My sleep is restful. I don’t wake up with nightmares every night as I had been two weeks prior to the session. I have more color in my face. I can go for a walk without needing to sleep afterward.
There were clues, I suppose, these past few months. I don’t understand fully why it happened nor why it “took so long” for me to find the relief that I (and this suffering being) needed. But as the practitioner said in so many words, this is what some of us are called to. We do this work to heal. The spirit received a healing and I did too.
I also dedicated myself to this work and to this spiritual path. It is up to me to ask for a different agreement, should I want one. But I don’t. That’s not to say I want to find myself being overshadowed in this way again. Not at all. But I do want to help facilitate healings, in all of the ways I know how, through ceremony and writing, through conversation and prayer, for the seen and unseen among us. There is so much suffering in this world; why should humans (corporeal humans for that matter) be the only ones to whom we give our attention and our compassion?
I cannot say that I understand this dance between our seen reality and the unseen reality. Of spirits and energies or why one thing happens and another thing doesn't. I just know that the work has changed me for the better and that's all I can speak to. The extraordinary and ordinary both have had an impact on my life in positive ways, and I have witnessed transformation and beauty and healing in myself and in others that is unmistakable, that is remarkable.
After the session, I realized that my current Facebook profile picture was taken the day (or the day before) the encounter happened; that the photos I had been drawn to look at so many times, as I mentioned earlier, were of my time in Edinburgh or Invergarry. Before the tick bite, before the ‘caught energy.’ I had burst out crying looking at these images of myself. I miss her, I would think. I love her. Where did she go? I want her back. It was like I loved someone else; someone who was far away, who I didn’t know if I would meet again but desperately wanted to see and spend time with. She was someone I didn’t have access to.
I am so relieved that she is home again, always, with me. I am home.
And we say, sovereignty always. I am a sovereign being. You are a sovereign being. And this is true across all space and time. And so it is.
While I wrote the majority of this post soon after my session, sometime in early June, I am glad I waited to post it. I saw the practitioner again and also my naturopath a couple of times. Both the energy and the Epstein Virus have cleared from my body (and no Lyme). What a wonder!
I'm still baffled by the experience and I think about my time in Invergarry frequently. I'm trying to remain open about why not grad school this fall, and why I've decided to stay in Kitsap County. But I am exploring new avenues for opportunities to write and craft and dream and learn. Such is the journey.
Please note: Compassionate Depossession (or any other shamanic healing modality) is NOT a substitute for medical, emotional, and physical routine care and wellbeing. Any good shamanic practitioner who is doing their due diligence will tell you to continue regular visits with your doctor, therapist/counselor, and other members of your health care team. My “core team” has included regular monthly or bi-monthly appoints with my naturopath, counselor, acupuncturist, and a spiritual mentor or shamanic practitioner. It is important to make sure that we are tending to all aspects of our being: our physical body, our mental/emotional body, and our spiritual/energy body.
If you are wondering if Compassionate Depossession work is right for you and for recommendations on shamanic practitioners who are trained in CD work, please email me below. Many practitioners can work remotely as well, if you are not located in the Seattle area.
Blessings & Peace, Erin