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The Author's Corner

 

Kristin Madden

Visit Kristin Madden's website

Kristin's MySpace page

 

Festival Feasts

 

Magick, Mystery & Medicine: Advanced Shamanic Healing

 

Mabon: Pagan Thanksgiving

 

The Book of
Shamanic Healing

 

Mabon: Celebrating the Atumn Equinox

 

 
Pagan Homeschooling

 


Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying

 

Pagan Parenting

 

Shamanic Healing:

TWPT Talks to Kristin Madden
©2002-2003TWPT


TWPT:  Tell me about being raised in a Shamanic home and how that influenced you as you began to sort out a spiritual path of your own.  

KM:  My mother always said that Nature is our religion and that having one foot in each world is just part of who we are.  My grandfather taught me that the spirit world is not something separate from our world and that Divinity enlivens all things.  My great-aunt used to say that power does not belong to us, it moves through us from deep within the earth and from beyond the stars.

I grew up hearing the stories of our ancestors and learning to interact respectfully with beings in both this world and the world of spirit.  We used dreaming and conscious journeying as well as energy work and other healing methods.  Our home was always filled with spirit beings.  Living with the family deathwalker, the spirits of the dead were always showing up too.  It's kind of difficult to describe because it was such an integral part of everyday life. 

My current path is very similar to what I grew up with.  That early recognition that the shamanic experience is as natural as breathing has stayed with me to this day.  The simple beauties of a deep and abiding connection to Nature and the spirit world continue to play a major role in my spiritual path.

TWPT:   Were you encouraged to explore other spiritual paths besides what you saw in your home?  

KM:  In an indirect way, I was. My mother has been a great explorer since the 1970s and she always took me along on her adventures.  Even today, I try some new things because my mom has developed an interest in them.  When I was a child, we explored several Eastern paths and she allowed me to go with friends to explore a couple of Christian paths and Judaism.   We also explored a wide variety of New Age practices. As I got older, we explored more together and she was always supportive of my interests.

TWPT:  What kinds of spiritual practices would make up a Shamanic home?  

KM:  Much of our practice was very simple and practical.  We did healings, divination, and house cleansings when they were necessary.  We worked for the dead when they showed up and for the grieving when they were in need.  Communication with spirit allies was an everyday occurrence and occurred on many levels.  Each of us had a personal altar both inside and outside.  Other altars were family altars. Meditation and shamanic journeying were common.  Dream work was a big part of our practice too.  We worked with power places in this reality and on the astral level to gain knowledge and healing.  Shapeshifting in a variety of ways was also important.  Some of our magic was equally simple but there were specific, and more elaborate, techniques for certain issues.  This describes our home today as well.

TWPT:  Was writing something that you started to do early on or did that come later?

KM:  I won a school poetry contest in second grade, so I guess it is safe to say I started young.  I used to write a lot of poetry and songs.  As a teenager, I wrote a book on crystal healing and stone energies but never sent it in to a publisher.  After college, my writing was focused on scientific reports and standard operating procedures so it wasn't until I decided to leave environmental chemistry that I returned to other forms of writing.

TWPT:  Your bio says that you have been a writer and editor since about 1995, was there something in particular that convinced you that your writing should move into the professional realm around this time?  

KM:  In 1994, we had a wave of deaths in the family: three human family members, 2 animals, and 2 friends of the family. I had always kept a journal but with the deathwalking I was doing, there was too much to keep in the book so I started typing it into the computer.  I also started to attract people that were in need of assistance with near-death experiences and dying or recently departed loved ones.  I discovered that there was a real need for a book to help people understand and be more
comfortable with the death process.  The words kept flowing through so I decided to try to organize it all into a book and took a chance on sending it to a publisher.

TWPT:  Were there any special authors that you had read up to this point that inspired you in your own writing or that were motivating to your spiritual path?  

KM:  I have always loved authors that write passionately about their own experiences and beliefs.   I also really enjoy anyone that makes me think. Whether I agree with them or not, if they can make their case with honor and inspire me to reevaluate my beliefs, I appreciate their writing.  As a teenager, I loved Sybil Leek and Ayn Rand.  More recent favorites are Layne Redmond, David Rockwell, Patrick Jasper Lee, Malidoma Some, Fred Alan Wolf, John Gribbin, and Brian Greene.   

TWPT:  Tell me about your introduction to Druidism.  What was it that initially drew you to this path?  

KM:  When I was a teenager, my mother and I had a series of dreams at the same time about past-lives as druids.  Many years later, I met a hereditary Celtic shaman that had memories of some very specific places and objects that matched my own.  This made me do some vision questing on this and I was led to investigate the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids(OBOD).  Over the last ten years, my connections to OBOD have deepened considerably as I passed through each Grade and became a tutor.

TWPT:  What correlations are there between your Shamanism and Druidism? Do you view this as following two spiritual paths. Why or why not?  

KM:  Shamanism was very likely a large part of early druidry.  Even today, most people agree that the Ovate phase or Grade is a highly shamanic experience.  While the shamanism I was raised with was not Celtic in nature, I perceive these to be two interconnected aspects of one spiritual path.

TWPT:  Tell me a little bit about your work as an environmental chemist and a wildlife rehabilitator.  

KM:  I started as a lab tech in the mid-late 1980s with no intention of remaining in the chemistry field. I planned to go to grad school for marine biology but found that I enjoyed it so much that I ended up staying in the field for eight years.  I've done work in simple analysis as well as remediation and research.  I did do a stint as a field biologist for a few years but went back into chemistry last year.  Now I am part-time in a lab with very flexible hours for our homeschooling needs.

Wildlife rehab grew out of my involvement with the raptor education and research organization I worked for.  They were also tremendously flexible so our son accompanied me to the office and into the field.  I began housing educational raptors for them and it all flowed naturally into avian rehabilitation.   

TWPT:  Do you find that your work as an environmental chemist and wildlife rehabilitator complements your spiritual path?  

KM:  The wildlife rehabilitation most definitely does.  That is my way of giving back a small bit of what I have received from
my animal guides and guardians.  Birds have acted as messengers for me in a myriad of ways since childhood.  This is my service to the physical manifestations of my spirit allies.  It is also my service to the planet and all of us as well, for we are all interconnected. This is why I founded the EarthSpirit Institute, which offers spiritual naturalist training.

I do believe that environmental chemistry is a service to Mother Earth and Her creatures, including us. In light of what I see at work, I am even more convinced that we need more financing and education on ecologically-sound living.  But that is a whole other soapbox that I won't jump on here.

TWPT:  People have heard the terms Pagan Parenting and Pagan Homeschooling before but as a Pagan how do you integrate your spiritual path into being a parent and educating your children at home?  

KM:  Spirituality is an integral part of all that we do.  It is inherent in the way that we live.  Parents teach their children every day by example.  If we model a living, honorable spirituality, that is what our children will learn.  Being a parent demands that we examine our actions and motivations more closely so that we can be the best parents possible.  Parenting can be an incredible spiritual journey.

Spiritual education starts very young.  Our son observes our actions and often asks questions. We include him in the appropriate ceremonies and other activities while explaining why we do what we do.  He is learning to consciously control breathing and use both the shamanic journey and guided meditation.  These are important in developing self-discipline, spirit connections, and magical abilities.   

With academics, spirituality plays a part in nearly every subject.  Religion, politics, and history go hand-in-hand with geography, social studies, music, and art.  We aren’t quite to the sacred mathematics or linguistics point but science and spirituality complement each other perfectly.  Our son is also learning the techniques I learned as a child to assist with memory retrieval, understanding, and focus.

TWPT:  Why do you feel that homeschooling is important for your children in particular and Pagan children in general?  

KM:  Home education offers children the best of all worlds and encourages them to think freely.  In a homeschooling family, learning flows naturally all the time.  We work with children’s unique learning styles and guarantee that the “teacher-student” ratio is very small.  This creates the most effective learning environment and one that supports the whole child. Learning is not compartmentalized into unique subjects at certain times throughout a specific time period after which learning ends. For pagan children, the most important element is probably the ability to incorporate spirituality into all aspects of life.  However, it is true that homeschooling is not for everyone.   

Our son thrives as a homeschooler.  Our curriculum is largely child-led, meaning that we structure our studies based on his interests.  An interest in NASA, the Middle Ages, or even rocks can become the basis for science, social studies, history, art, music, math, and more.  In this way, the motivation to learn is already present.  He loves learning and is able to be himself without concern for being cool or tough.  He also finds it easier to be openly pagan.  

TWPT:   Tell me about your first published book and how you went about taking it from idea to final draft?  

My first book was Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying.  As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really have a great deal of choice about it.  The material was coming through whether I published it or not and I had a very strong spirit push to make it available to those that needed it. 

I began by looking at what I had already written and considering the needs I perceived in the people I was attracting.  I crafted an outline that was revised a few times and transferred the relevant material to the appropriate chapters.  I did quite a lot of research to add to my own experience. My husband graciously read it over and over. I revised it until I felt it was sufficiently in-depth and accessible. 

TWPT:  Did you find your experience with your first publisher to be a pleasant one? What did you learn about being an author from this initial outing?  

KM:  We had a few bumps but in general, it was pleasant.  I had a great editor and the process flowed fairly smoothly.  The
most  important things I learned were how a publishing house works, how to read a publishing contract, and the many steps between manuscript and printed book.

TWPT:  Let's jump ahead a little bit to one of your more recent titles, Mabon: Celebrating the Autumn Equinox.
I'm curious as to how you chose to write about Mabon instead of Beltane or the Winter Solstice or any of the other celebrations. Was there something special about Mabon that you felt you would like to communicate to your readers?  

KM:  I always loved that time of year but this project reminded me of the sensual pleasures of this time of year.  As I sit here in May in the hot desert, just thinking of it evokes the feeling of  crisp autumn air, the smell of apples and red wine, the beauty of the changing light, and the colors of plant life.  In the desert Southwest, even the grasses turn to reds, blues, and purples. 

There is much more symbolism and folklore associated with this festival than many people realize. I was amazed to discover how many other festivals around the world share this time frame.  This book provided a great deal of homeschool information, activities, and ideas.

Writing Mabon also allowed me to include a great deal of the natural magic and science that is so important to me.  As a
migration season, it is an ideal time to consider wildlife ecology, animal spirit guides, Nature walks, divining through the natural world, and other outdoor activities. Because it is an astronomical event, I was able to include some sections on archeology and astronomy.  Of course, my family’s favorite parts were all the wonderful foods and drinks they had to try as I was working out the recipes.

TWPT:   Do you feel more comfortable as an author now that you have some experience behind you? Do the words come easier with time or is each book a unique writing challenge of its own?  

KM:  The process of writing and teaching has really helped me to communicate what I was raised with and what I have learned.  It took much more effort early on to use enough words just to fill an article.  Being raised as I was, most of my spiritual understandings were not the result of reading or formal teaching so finding ways to explain what I did was a little like explaining how we breathe.  Now I find it a challenge to fit everything I want to communicate into something shorter than a book.

Words do come more easily now but it really depends on the book.  Each one is unique.  I know that I’m writing the right book when it just flows through me.  It often feels as though I have stepped aside and the books write themselves. Personally, I need to write about something I deeply believe in or find to be great fun.  Topics that I am passionate about provide an energy that
motivates me.  My belief that I am contributing something of value to the community carries me through the process in a nearly effortless way.

TWPT:  Your latest title is The Book Of Shamanic Healing, as you sent this title out into the world what were your hopes for what it might accomplish?  

KM:  That one took me five years to write and was incredibly therapeutic for me.  It forced me to live what I taught and dig very deeply into my own shadows.  This was another book that seemed to have a spirit “push” behind it.  My intent for it was twofold.   

First, I wanted to provide a guide for healers.  I hoped to assist them in creating their practices, exploring new techniques, and handling some of the things that inevitably arise in a healing practice. I also wanted to support and encourage healers to continue to work on themselves and consider some of the issues I discussed.   

My other intent was to give those that were seeking healing an in-depth look into the healer's world. I hoped that they might be empowered by the book and use some of the exercises included to begin their own journeys to self-healing.

TWPT:  What difficulties do you face in trying to put into words the ideas and concepts that comprise Shamanic Healing? Can everything be effectively communicated in words or should  the reader who's interest has been piqued seek out a more personal form of learning to continue their journey into this subject?  

KM:  Writing on the direct experience of shamanism has always been a challenge for me.  Shamanism and all forms of healing are so complex and personal that it is impossible to cover all the possibilities.  I do my best to encourage readers to think for themselves, experiment, and gain a hands-on experience rather than simply accepting my words at face value.  A more personal form of learning takes readers from being passive observers, engaging in a largely mental exercise, to being active participants in the creation of their own lives.  That is an important distinction.

TWPT:  What are some of the highlights of what a reader will be introduced to when they purchase this book for their library?  

KM:  It contains first-hand accounts and recommendations based in solid experience.  The book takes you from training and setting up a healing practice (personal or professional) through techniques, ceremonies, personal work, and how to handle things like money exchange and working with friends. I also included a glossary and plenty of resources as well as photos of ritual tools, pendulum graphs, and sample pages from a healer’s journal.
(thanks to Don Two Eagles Waterhawk)


Some of the highlights in my opinion are:
- entire chapters devoted to the shadow side and working with the drum
- ceremonies for purification, journeying, soul/power retrieval, extraction, depossession
- creating a physical anchor for faster grounding and centering
- working with the breath, dreaming, colors, stones, animal energies, and spirit guides
- therapeutic creativity and finding your voice
- using spells and incantations in healing
- healing through the natural world
- ethics of healing

TWPT:  Tell me about your involvement with the Ardantane School of Shamanic Studies. Would this be a resource for the student who wants to go deeper than what a book will take them?  

KM:  Absolutely.  That is the reason I created the School of Shamanic Studies.  As someone that was trained mainly through an apprentice process, I feel responsible to offer training to complement the books and guide interested readers to a new level of ability. I am very careful about the faculty for this school so students get the best possible training. 

We offer certificates for each class completed as well as for each program of study (ie/ Grief Counselor, Shamanic Divination Specialist, etc)  We also have apprenticeships, including teaching apprenticeships, available for a limited number of students. 

Ardantane was founded by Amber K and several others almost ten years ago.  We now have 25 acres in the beautiful Jemez Mountains of New Mexico where we are building a campus.  In addition to the School of Shamanic Studies, we also have the Schools of Advanced Theurgy &Thaumaturgy, Liturgy and Ritualcraft, and Religious Leadership.  Our plan is to develop these additional Schools in the future: Alternative Healing, Bardic Arts, and Environmental Sustainability.

TWPT:  Boudica and I ran into you at the Craftwise festival this year but how much time do you spend out on the road teaching at functions like Craftwise? How is it that you manage to find time for all of the activities that you seem to be involved with and still find time to write your books and be a parent?  

KM:  I am in absolute denial about the confines of time and space in physical reality.  Seriously, I limit my time away from
home to a relative minimum compared to some other authors.  My family absolutely comes first so if I need to take a break
from teaching or writing to focus on them, I do.  My family is also incredibly supportive of my work.  Like any family, we have a continual give and take based in love and respect that makes all things possible.

I normally spend 2-3 weekends away teaching for Ardantane.  I teach a basic survival class for EarthSpirit Institute one more weekend each year and I travel another 2-3 times for other events.  Every other year, my husband and son accompany me on trips like this last one.  We did a book tour combined with vacation through Connecticut, New York City, and New
Jersey
. Fortunately, as a homeschooler, our son is not limited by a school year and frequently joins me on trips.  He really enjoys the friends he makes while we are away.  

With three planets in Virgo in my house of work, I am highly organized about work and that is probably the only way it all gets done.  With a first-house Sag sun that just wants to play, that Virgo is a real blessing. 

TWPT:  What is it about getting to meet your readers and others within the Pagan community at one of these festivals that makes it worthwhile?  What kind of feedback to you get during these face to face encounters as to what your writing is accomplishing?  

KM:  Readers and students are why we do what we do.  I write because I believe I am offering something of value to the
community.  I love to meet readers and others to share ideas, experiences, and fun.  Each person teaches me something new about paganism, the community, and myself. 

I also make it a point to try to be of additional service when I meet people.  Whenever possible, I network to help people find community, ethical healers, training programs, and more.  I feel it is my responsibility to answer questions that my books
couldn’t fully cover.

I’ve received wonderful feedback and that really makes the business of writing and the challenges of being a public pagan worthwhile.  Some people enjoy the fun stuff that is included in books like Mabon, Pagan Parenting, and Pagan Homeschooling.  Other people have found deep healing, powerful connections, and new ideas through the parenting, homeschooling, healing, and death and dying books.  One of the best things I hear is that people thought they were the only ones thinking a certain way or having an experience until they read one of my books and suddenly they realized they were not alone.   

TWPT:   Is there anything else as far as new books or articles that we might be watching for from Kristin Madden in the near future?  

KM:  Writing is what I love so I am always working on something, usually several things at a time.  I write as often as possible for Circle magazine.  I have an article coming out in either the Sept/Oct or Nov/Dec issue of Home Education Magazine called "Tracking the Wild Homeschooler" on wilderness skills and home education.  I'm updating Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying and am seriously working on two other books of my own.  In addition, I am organizing, editing, and writing for a compilation project to benefit Ardantane. Eighteen other authors and I are currently writing “Beginning the Pagan Path: Wisdom from
Elders”.   

TWPT:  As a closing question what is it that you wish for the Pagan community in the coming years?  

KM:  Like most pagans, I hope that the day we no longer need to worry about religious differences and intolerance comes soon - for people of all paths.  I pray for the day when our children can be openly pagan in any situation without even needing to consider the possibility of intolerance. I wish for each of us to find greater joy and connection through self-knowledge and attunement to the Divine.