They say that you can hear the call three times before you find the courage to answer it; a call to adventure, a call to destiny and life. Writer and storyteller Joseph Campbell said,
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day, into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
My call was a call to parenthood, but that doesn’t sound very extraordinary, being a gay man means I would need to make some tough decisions, and do something out of the ordinary, other than the usual ins-and-outs of life to produce a child (pun intended).
When is anyone truly ready to be a parent? “When I have X amount of money in savings.” “Once I’ve seen the world.” “Once I’ve grown up.”
Knowing I couldn’t just ‘Fall pregnant’ meant that if I decided to have a child, then the ball will start rolling…Ok…deep breaths…YES! The call was answered.
I need to go back a few steps before I tell you the magic. You see, I had always wanted children, but back when I was young that wasn’t even an option.
I’d like to thank all those who fought for our equality.
In 2011 I took my first step on my shamanic journey, and received the munay ki rites. During a spirit journey, upwards to the Upperworlds, I visited the crystal gardens, a sacred and holy place, where we meet with our celestial parents, those who birthed our souls. And also, the children of the future, golden beings of light, so beautiful, waiting to be incarnated with us. One small boy struck me as extra special, he had the brightest smiling eyes, and was so excited to see me. We had to ask them for a message to bring back to the people of the world, ‘I can’t wait to come down! It’s so beautiful down there!’ that was my message.
Another day, sitting at the chalice well, surrounded by a circle of brave warriors, I looked deep, into the depths of the sacred well and saw a reflection of myself in the future, it was me as an old man, surrounded by my grandchildren. Tears flowed out of my heart and spilled into those waters. I wasn’t even aware (even at this point in time) that I would start the process of parenthood (weird I know.)
Looking back, I can now see that my shamanic journey, was also the path of fatherhood too, I just didn’t see it at the time. I did the medicine wheel a couple of years later, and a lot of the issues that came up personally for me was about my masculinity. Provided, protector, warrior, nurturer, poet, sage, hermit, hunter, king, sovereign, father. There are many architypes of the sacred masculine, and many of them came up, fatherhood was prominent, and it was a discussion at home too.
It just so happened that my partner Tom, AKA Unlikely Dad, worked for an adoption agency at the time. The call felt like a silent bell going off in my heart, I felt like a spider tentatively stepping and sensing his way along a thin thread trying to grasp what was on the other end, the thread was my new path, a heart string had been pulled.
I was due to go on an advanced shamanic class, ‘Working with the Mythic’ with Chris Waters www.spiritoftheinca.com ‘Bring with you a fairy-tale that you feel connected too…’ I couldn’t even think of any, so I called another shaman friend of mine, Charlotte Gush www.shamanicway.co.uk who was given the name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ by Spirit, I listened. It was one of my favourites but I couldn’t see how it related to me. I arrived at misty hills of Avalon, The Glass Isles of Glastonbury, where the world reflects back to you like a mirror.
I sat in a group waiting to tell the tale I brought with me; even the trees listened as I told the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. I told it from the place of ‘I’ the I being the poor nameless girl who was trapped in the dungeon by the King, who demanded an impossible task of her; to spin straw into gold, a lie told by her father.
I could definitely feel the link; I was trapped in a dungeon, a 9-5 office life that was not authentic, and I had the impossible task of creating a family that was biologically not going to happen. But I couldn’t fully connect with the character, she wasn’t my story.
We performed many tasks and beautiful ceremonies within the land of Glastonbury that week. Sat on the altar was a beautiful statue of the horned lord, Gwen Ap Nudd, I longed to be connected to him. For me, his presence represented fatherhood in its purest form. His resplendent horns are the horns of passion, fierce love, protection and guardianship, he is both provider and teacher, all the things needed to be a father; I lost my horns a long time ago. Nothing was spoken about him during the week, yet there he was. Where was he in my story? Where are my horns?
It’s funny, there is a thorn tree in the Chalice Well Gardens. It is said that the tree grew from a sapling from another tree that grew on Wearyall Hill, and this particular tree grew from the staff of Joseph of Aramathea, Jesus’s Uncle. The staff was cut from the same thorn tree that his crown of thorns was made from. A small ceremony we have done before is to walk under this tree, and comb our hair through its thorns, giving back our own crown of thorns that we no longer need, global guilt. I was looking forward to visiting this ancient tree and as I approached, to my horror, it had gone. The previous year, the tree on Wearyall Hill had been vandalised beyond repair and died, a year later the tree in the garden was struck by lightning and split in half. All that is there now is a fairy ring of toadstools. I stood looking at this fairy ring and it dawned on me of a story of the horned lord.
I have heard that there once was a sacred garden, maybe the Garden of Eden? And in that tree stood an ancient tree. For some reason, lightning struck it and it split in half, and out of its centre stepped the horned lord. Had he stepped out of this tree in the Chalice garden?
Once I was back at base camp at the Abbey House, I decided to tell my story from the place of ‘I’ but instead of the young girl, I chose Rumpelstiltskin instead, (after all, it is his story, the only one with a name.) Suddenly it all started to make sense. Rumpelstiltskin did the impossible, he spun old straw into gold, he was promised a child in return, he had a secret name, a secret identity that if anyone found out would cause his demise, he was betrayed and the promise of a child was taken away from him, and he tore himself in two with the pain and rage.
“What if this story came true for you?” I was asked.
“It can’t, I would be devastated.” I replied, it struck me at this moment in time how much I wanted to be a dad.
“But what if this is exactly how things are supposed to be?”
“I feel like my life would be over, I would be in so much pain and rage I wouldn’t know what to do… I’d tear myself in two.”
That night we burnt our stories in a ceremonial fire. In the flaming remains of all that ‘stuff’ I was working on that week, I saw the image of a King.
Simultaneously that night, Tom went into a meeting to official ask to start the adoption process with his agency. Through misty rain I ran back indoors, put on kettle for a hot chocolate and checked my phone for a response from Tom. I called him after reading his text. We weren’t allowed. Rage flared inside my heart. It was purely a conflict of interests, due to Tom working there, but in my head and in my heart, I ached with the loss, the story came true, the promise was taken away. I went to bed.
Something was splitting, my head, my soul, my heart? One of my kuya (healing stone) is a split stone, I call it ‘Emergence’ is this what is happening? It didn’t feel like it.
The next morning, I woke up with a powerful migraine, I stormed about the place swearing and punching walls in rage. I felt like I was splitting in half, I was Rumpelstiltskin tearing myself in half, I had to tell my story! Someone took the words out of my mouth, “Where is the fierce masculine in all of this? Where is the horned lord?” YES! WHERE THE FUCK IS HE?!
I told my story.
“Where do you feel this loss in your body?”
“It’s in my head,” I sobbed, “and in my heart, I feel like I am about to split in half.”
“What would happen if you allowed yourself to split?”
My heart swam in relief, I could finally let go, was it that simple? I stood up, raised my hands to my head and slowly with great intention, I tore myself in two. I felt liberated, peaceful. I was still in pain physically, but I accepted the pain, I accepted my heart just the way it was.
“Can anyone else see his horns?” I heard someone say, ‘I’ stepped out of myself and there instead of the old me was a horned lord, a father, albeit a childless one (for the moment.)
Little did I know that at the same time, my son, the golden child from the Upperworlds, was being born just a few miles away.
I always knew he was on his way, I could feel him. Every time I journeyed to the Upperworlds and visited with the Children of the Future there he was, always a little golden child, full of energy and with big beautiful eyes who couldn’t wait to see me, I resumed it was a piece of myself, but something told me otherwise.
A golden little boy.
One year later.
I was sitting nervously on the floor of a foster carer’s house with my husband. Fear and excitement rumbled within me, I thought I was going to be sick. I heard him in the kitchen banging something on the kitchen floor.
“Do you want to meet him?” the foster carer asked. She called his name and his tiny little face poked around the corner looking sheepish and coy, he gingerly crawled towards us. My heart melted, I was in love.
‘Munay’ is Quechan word that means ‘Sacred Love’ this is what it felt like, sitting on the floor with our son.
He was looking at us, my golden little boy! I picked him up and put him on my lap, I felt like I had just been anointed king!
I am the victor of my hero’s journey, I am the King of my Kingdom, I am the Horned Lord, I am Dadda, with a bag full of boons to share.
The Christmas horns on my head in this picture is pure accident!
Shamanism has been a passion and an inspiration for me for many years now.