Category Archives: Omens

In the Eyes of the Beholder

Hummingbird © Olechka

When we ask for help, the challenge is in recognizing the answer when it shows up and then knowing what to do with it.

I recently had a visual field test to explore the cause of a bizarre optical episode. Stationed in front of a humming machine in a darkened room, chin in cup, I’m instructed to focus on a bright pinpoint of light in the center of a black screen and to click a mouse-like apparatus every time I see a flash of light. The flashes appear to be random in size, placement and frequency. One has to concentate. A lot. At first it seems easy. A flash here, a flash there. Click, click, click. Then I begin to wonder if I’m really seeing the flashes of light, or if I’m just imagining them. I don’t want to miss any, but I don’t want to compromise the test with random clicks either. As I try to focus, my mind starts to wander: What am I making for dinner? What if there’s nothing wrong with my eyesight? Could I have a brain tumor? I hear the test administrator say, “You’re doing great. You’re halfway through–only 3 more minutes.” Three more minutes?! It feels like I’ve been sitting hunched over with my head in a vice for an hour. And there will be another six minutes to test my other eye. Believe me when I say that it was the longest 12 minutes of my life.

When the test was over at last, I started thinking about perception. And attention. Our experience of reality is determined by our beliefs. We see what we believe is real, what we believe is possible. And we need to pay attention to everything around us because the answer to our query may not show up in a way that we expect it.

Last month I was awarded 2nd place in the Hay House Vision Fiction Writing Contest and received  a self-publishing package from Balboa Press. But after thoroughly researching Author Solutions, Inc., the parent company of Balboa Press, I decided that I wanted to go the traditional route after all. So now I’m driving myself crazy researching the ups, downs, ins and outs of legacy publishing wondering if it’s possible to keep pace with all the mind-boggling changes in what was once considered a ‘gentleman’s industry’ and actually get my book published.

Yesterday I was standing at the bird bath having just flushed it out and filled it with fresh water pondering my future as an author. When I started my novel, a friend who teaches writing at Stanford told me that she would never have the stamina to write a novel. Stamina. That’s what I needed.

Lost in my reverie, I felt a rush of air against my face and heard a whir that sounded like the idling engine of a city bus. And there right in front of me, staring intently into my eyes was a hummingbird. I stood frozen, not wanting to frighten him, but then I remembered that nothing frightens these fierce little creatures. I told him to go ahead and take a bath, but he ignored my suggestion and continued hovering. After another moment or two, he zipped straight up into the sky and was gone.

I knew that Hummingbird is a harbinger of joy, but I wanted to consult Steven Farmer’s book, Power Animals, to see what the appearance of this guide meant for me at this moment.

“Know that the only true prison you have is your belief in your limitations. Let them go, and experience the abundance of love and opportunity that’s all around. It only takes a willingness to see it, taste it, and feel it.”

Thank you, Hummingbird! Now, it’s back to those queries.


A Walk on the Dark Side

I’ve been wrestling with my unconscious – or maybe it’s the other way around.

Ishtar vase

Ishtar vase

Several weeks ago, the names ISHTAR and ISAIAH appeared to me in the middle of the night. By morning, I had no memory of a dream nor any visual clues – just the names. And neither of the them meant anything to me. All I could conjure up for Ishtar was the movie of the same name starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. As for Isaiah, I remembered him as a prophet, but that was it. But I felt strongly that these names held an important message for me.

I’ve since learned that Ishtar was the Babylonian goddess of love, sex, fertility, and war – the perfect embodiment of the opposing forces of life and death. Often described as bad-tempered, vengeful and cruel, her love was a curse to mortals and gods alike. In one myth, she descends to the underworld. After demanding admittance and threatening the gatekeeper with unimaginable horrors, she’s imprisoned. It’s not clear why Ishtar chose to take this journey, but a week later  when I discovered Carl Jung’s recently-published opus, The Red Book, things began to fall into place. For Jung, too, took a trip to the underworld.

Jung’s journey to the depths began in 1913 with an uninvited, two-hour vision in broad daylight of a massive flood that covered land from the North Sea to the Alps. Two weeks later, he had a similar vision and then another and another that finally ended with a horrifying vision of a sea of blood. Unaware that the Great War was coming, Jung feared that he had lost his mind. What he came to realize was that he had lost his soul.

The Red Book: Liber Novus by C. G. Jung

The Red Book: Liber Novus by C. G. Jung

Instead of turning away from these terrifying experiences, Jung embraced them. For the next 16 years, he induced what he called “active imaginations” by visualizing himself digging a hole and descending to the underworld to explore his unconscious mind. In his expeditions, he traveled the land of the dead where he met up with God, experienced the death of Christ, and engaged in dialogue with the prophet Elijah and his daughter, Salome, with the devil, monsters, and demons. He also met up with his soul in the form of a female figure who advised him not to fear madness, but to accept it and use it as a source of creativity.

These excursions, detailed in runic Latin and German calligraphy and illustrated with Jung’s own paintings, resulted in a 205-page red leather bound folio. And much to my amazement, I found that the very first page begins with quotes from ISAIAH.

I’ve been possessed by all of this for weeks. It seems obvious that my subconscious is trying to get me to look at my shadow self. But having grown up in the Midwest, I was taught to run away from the bogeyman, to repress my anger and my fears, to ‘put on a happy face’ and soldier on.

Dr. Stephen Diamond, a clinical and forensic psychologist and the author of Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: the Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity, believes that we all cast shadows and that repression of anger and rage can result in violence. Only by unconditionally accepting ourselves as we are with our human imperfections can we let go of self-defeating attitudes and destructive behavior patterns. Further, he suggests that if we acknowledge and respect our daimonic impulses, we can make constructive use of their energy.

Before his encounter with ‘the spirit of the depths’, Jung had denied aspects of his personality. By age 40, he had accomplished everything he’d set out to do; he had a fulfilling family life and a successful career. But life had lost its meaning. With his singular focus on the cerebral, he had neglected his emotions. And of his soul, he said, “I had judged her and turned her into a scientific object.”

Jung’s walk on the dark side not only showed him the importance of nurturing the soul, but also convinced him that the shadow self was an integral part of life and needed to be affirmed. Ultimately, it led him to ‘the supreme meaning’ – “the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come.” For Jung, that turned out to be a new chapter in analytical psychology born from his experiences moving between the light and the dark. And in the end, he regained his soul.

It’s taken me decades to recognize and to accept my demons, but clearly, something’s up. My ‘spirit of the depths’ seems to be telling me that I’ve left a few stones unturned. Or maybe it’s saying that the time has come to transform my fears and unleash my creative impulses. I’m going with that.


Extraordinary Occurrences in Ordinary Reality

©2010 Charlene Nevill

©2010 Charlene Nevill

A few weeks after I returned from Greece, I found a box of books in front of my house. Now this in itself isn’t unusual; people dump clothes, food (remember the artichokes?), computers, furniture and all manner of unmentionables on the sidewalks in my neighborhood on a daily basis. But this box was directly in front of my house. And inside I found the following: seven of Carlos Castaneda’s twelve books; the Individual Reference File of Extracts From the Edgar Cayce Readings; The Art & Practice of Caballa Magic; The Magic of Incense, Oils & Brews: A Guide to their Preparation and Use; Beyond Hypnosis: A Program for Developing Your Psychic & Healing Powers; and Communion: A True Story (in which award-winning author Whitley Strieber describes his abduction by aliens).

What are the chances? Shaminism . . . Psychic readings . . . Magic . . . Aliens . . . It was as if the Universe had gathered up all the knowledge I was meant to absorb at this moment in time and placed it in my hands. At least that was my first thought. But after reading up on Castaneda and looking over each of the other books, I’m not so sure.

Years ago, I read two or three of Castaneda’s books about his training in traditional shamanism with don Juan Matus, an old Yaqui Indian. At the time, I was vaguely aware that there were questions about the authenticity of his experiences, but I had no idea the extent of the controversy nor that don Juan probably didn’t exist.

In 1973 after the publication of his first three books, Time published an article, Don Juan and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which called attention to inconsistencies in Castaneda’s background. And in an exhaustive article that appeared on in 2007, The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda, Robert Marshall calls Castaneda ” . . . the 20th century’s most successful literary trickster . . . ” and exposes a lifestyle that can only be described as a cult.

Shortly after the Time article appeared, Castanda disappeared from public view. Inspired by L. Rob Hubbard’s Scientology, he developed a movement he called Tensegrity, a kind of “Kung Fu Sorcery” supposedly based on a group of movements passed down by Toltec shamans. Three main female devotees known as ‘the Witches’ who were required to break off all ties with family and friends, were used to recruit new members – specifically “women with a combination of brains, beauty and vulnerability” –  into the ‘family’. After Castaneda passed into the great unknown ten years later, the remains of one of the Witches was found in the desert and the other two disappeared but were presumed to have committed suicide.

Despite criticism of Castaneda’s writings, he’s been acknowledged by such luminaries as George Lucas and Deepak Chopra for inviting readers to examine the nature of reality and for opening the doors to perception. And even after academia discredited Castaneda, his editor, Michael Korda, insisted on the authenticity of his experiences, and Simon & Schuster still classify his books as nonfiction.

In his article Shamanic Personal Transformation, shamanistic practitioner Hank Wesselman talks about the trap of equating ‘ideas’ about the nature of reality with true, face-to-face encounters with transpersonal forces in the deep psychic and subtle realms. He also points out the importance of intention. ” . . . as you do journey work and start to enter into relationship with transpersonal forces . . . are you seeking connection to ‘get something’ material? Or are you doing work from a place of service for the highest good for yourself, those around you and those you are connecting with?”

I can’t help but question Castaneda’s actual experiences in the realms of nonordinary reality. Were they nothing more than imaginings fueled by psychotropic drugs? According to author Amy Wallace, one of Castaneda’s numerous lovers, “He became more and more hypnotized by his own reveries. I firmly believe Carlos brainwashed himself.”

And what of his intentions? It seems clear that his editor and publisher were intent on one thing only, and that was to keep the money machine going. And if, as Wallace contends, Castaneda had lost touch with reality we can assume he also lost his ability to control it.

So I’m left wondering about the reappearance of Castaneda in my life. As one who has always been a tad too trusting, for the first time in my life I’m looking at things with a more critical eye. You might even say I’m becoming a bit of a skeptic. And it’s with this new perspective that I intend to revisit Edgar Cayce and to examine the other offerings from my mysterious benefactor.


Is an Artichoke Just an Artichoke?


Four Artichokes © 2009 Charlene Nevill

Answers to our questions come to us in many ways, but most of the time we aren’t listening and we don’t see what’s right in front of us. But lately, I’ve been paying attention to everything that crosses my path looking for signs and omens. So when I opened my front door one morning recently and saw four big artichokes laid out neatly on a piece of newspaper at the base of a street lamp, I had to wonder if Spirit was trying to tell me something. If it had been just one artichoke in the middle of the street or at the edge of the sidewalk, I wouldn’t have noticed. But this was unusual. And it’s the oddity – the thing out of place – that’s meant to grab us and wake us up.

So what could this possibly mean? The edible flower bud of a thistle-like plant in the sunflower family, the artichoke was considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac by ancient Greeks and Romans and was thought to be effective in securing the birth of boy babies. Other than the Greek connection, I wasn’t feeling that the artichokes had a message for me.

But how about the number four? In many cultures, ceremonies and ritual acts are repeated in fours. In Hinduism, four represents totality, plenitude, and perfection. In Greek mythology, four is the sacred number of Hermes, messenger of the gods. And Hermes is the patron saint of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, helping them have a safe and easy journey. This was beginning to look like a good omen after all! It is believed that the ancient Greeks would sacrifice to Hermes before traveling. Maybe I could sacrifice some artichokes.


All Roads Lead to Greece

It all started with the oracle cookies. I was Googling around and stumbled upon a chapter from Colette Baron-Reid’s book, Messages From Spirit: The Extraordinary Power of Oracles, Omens, and Signs, in which she describes Aleuromancy, or divination by flour. Intrigued, I read on and learned that the ancient Greeks wrote symbols on pieces of cloth or papyrus and rolled them into dough balls and baked them. The balls were then passed around and questions were asked of the Divine.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the cookies. Colette includes instructions for making a modern version of these confections using a big white bowl, a wooden spoon and a few very specific ingredients. I went back to look over the recipe and a sentence about Apollo and the Delphic Oracle caught my eye. I felt compelled to look up the Oracle immediately, and when I saw the image of the Pythia, I saw myself. I was transfixed.

Priestess of Delphi (1891) John Collier

Priestess of Delphi (1891) John Collier

I immediately did a screen grab of John Collier’s painting and sent it around to five of my closest friends asking them to tell me if they ‘got’ anything from looking at the image. That’s all I said; nothing more. Todd wrote back within five minutes with this: “It’s you, isn’t it?” And a week later when my trusted friend and mentor Angelika finally looked at the image, she started shrieking, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”, and she told me I must go to Delphi, I must go soon, and I must go alone. And as if that wasn’t enough, Dr. Stephanie, a natural clairvoyant and healer, wrote: “Wow! This is a powerful image. I can see you in there––aspects of your strength that were still intact before there was a distortion. Reconnecting with this aspect of yourself will begin to heal the distortion that occurred between then and now.”

I never made the cookies. But I did book my trip to Greece.