Conchomancy: Scotch bonnet, the Pioneer

The Scotch bonnet shell came to me unexpectedly this past summer, in a little bundle of shells that I bought from, of all places, Michael’s craft store. I had chosen this particular bag of shells because it had several perfect moon snail shells, along with a few other good specimens I recognized and wanted to add to my collection.

It wasn’t until I got home and got them all out that this lovely, bleached-white Scotch bonnet came to my attention. I could see that it resembled helmet shells I had already studied in Michelle Hanson’s Ocean Oracle, and so wasn’t hard to then identify as Semicassis granulata, a gastropod that indeed belongs to the subfamily of helmet and bonnet shells.

It is so named for the resemblance it bears to a tam o’shanter, a traditional Scottish cap. It might seem a vague resemblance based on the shape alone, but it is also the consistent pattern of colored patches, which look like plaid or tartan, that makes this an appropriate comparison.

tam o'shanter

The Scotch bonnet is a pioneer in the shell world because it was the first ever to be chosen as a state’s official seashell. That state just happens North Carolina, where I was born and where I currently live.

It is not currently included among the 200 shells of the Ocean Oracle, so I suppose I get to be something of a pioneer myself in attributing and describing the meaning of this shell. Though, to be fair, the Scotch bonnet quite plainly shares its very apt meaning, in my opinion, and I just happen to be lucky enough to have additional personal associations with this meaning as well.

It was chosen as North Carolina’s official shell in 1965 to honor the numerous Scottish settlers who founded the state, and obviously it is common to the state’s shores. Scots have been in North Carolina since the earliest permanent settlements, the first significant group being the Argyll Colony in 1739. By the 1780s, it had been estimated that some 20,000 Highlanders had migrated to America in a second wave, most of these settling in the Upper Cape Fear region.

Cape_Fear_Sunset by Sarunas Burdulis

Cape Fear Sunset, photo by Sarunas Burdulis

I have proudly known my whole life that our family is of predominantly Scottish (along with English and Irish) stock on my father’s side, through his mother who was a McClung. However, but a couple of months before the Scotch bonnet shell came to me, I had learned that we are in fact direct descendants of the famed Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland.

Granted, many people are descendants of King Robert and his various children, particularly in America where tens of thousands of Scots settled. Yet I can’t help but feel even more proud and happy to have discovered this lineage. And it was very shortly after discovering this that I first read about the movie Outlaw King, which is all about Robert the Bruce and is actually now on Netflix.

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce

Talk about synchronicity! I had even thought to myself, “Never mind Braveheart, why hasn’t anyone made an epic about Robert? You know, the one who survived and became the most famous king of Scotland!” Well, they finally have! I sadly have yet to see it but hope to very soon.

So, not only do I derive the meaning of “Being a pioneer or forerunner” to the Scotch bonnet shell, but due to the connection to Scottish settlers and heritage in particular, I also attribute energies and meanings of “Ancestry, descent and inheritance”.

The “ancestry and descent” meanings might more fairly apply to those of Scottish persuasion, but it is still a great reminder that we all come from somewhere and that many people from many different places are the reason why any of us live in this country.

However, the more widely applicable “inheritance” meaning comes not only through the obvious ancestral connotations, but from the fact that this shell is a very common choice for hermit crabs to inherit and inhabit. Studies have shown that this is not a random choice, but that the Scotch bonnet shell is ideal due to its weight, size, shape and internal volume, as well as its resistance to predation.

War_of_Independence_figures_by_William Hole

Notable figures in the first Scottish War of Independence, by William Hole

The Scots are renowned as being rather resistant to predation themselves, having long fought English domination in earlier centuries. They are a hardy, brave and patriotic people. They are also brilliant inventors and scientists, and we owe many creations and discoveries to Scotsmen such as penicillin, malaria treatment, the television and telephone, radar, threshing and reaping machines, and even the raincoat!

We also owe some of the most beautiful art, poetry and famous fiction to the likes of John Duncan, Robert Burns and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Let us not forget some remarkable Scottish women who were pioneers and leaders, such as Victoria Drummond, the first female marine engineer who was awarded an MBE for bravery at sea during WWII when she single-handedly kept the engines of the SS Bonita running during a German attack. Also, Katharine Marjory was the first female Scottish MP, elected to the House of Commons in 1923, a very impressive accomplishment for a woman of such a time.

the-turn-of-the-tide John Duncan

Turn of the Tide by John Duncan

We can’t talk about Robert the Bruce without mentioning that he was even crowned by a brave, rebellious woman named Isabella MacDuff (traditionally, the crowning of the Scottish monarch was performed by a member of the MacDuff clan), a countess who defied and left her husband after he sided with the English. As a result, she was imprisoned by Edward I in an iron cell in Berwick Castle for four years.

So, my Scotch bonnet shell now holds a special place with my best and favorite shells on my mermaid altar, reminding me of the brave and legendary king I descended from, as well as all the other Scottish ancestors who settled the state of my birth.

scotch bonnet

My Scotch bonnet shell

This reminds me of a quote I once read from some great and famous thinker or other: “There is no king that does not have a slave among his ancestors, nor a slave that does not have a king among his.”

This is a both an encouraging and a humbling thought. No matter where we descend from, we all have something and someone important and impressive in our ancestral past and genealogy can be a very helpful and empowering tool. Knowing where we come from can tell us about who we are and help us decide where we want to go.

It can also remind us that sometimes we have to start over. We have to be brave, we have to sail into uncharted waters and create something brand new for ourselves and for future generations, or even contemporaries who can learn from our pioneering example.

But we never have to give up who we are, we need only to improve who and what we are. Our past does not have to equal our future. And sometimes overcoming a painful, challenging past and even present can lead to the glorious dawn of an unimaginably better future.

This brings one final, inspiring quote to mind, from the French author André Gide: “You cannot discover new oceans until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” A fun side note to add to my amazement of other synchronous events of my day, I looked up Gide just now, right after typing the quote from memory, and saw that his birthday was November 22, the day I am writing this! Which also happens to be the Full Moon in my Ascendant sign, and the day the Sun entered Sagittarius. Isn’t it amazing how many wonderful things magically come together the more you pursue wonders and magic..?

Be a pioneer, never stop pursuing new shores and wonders will never cease! And get a Scotch bonnet to remind you to, especially if you have any Scottish blood.

Alba gu brath! (Scotland forever!)

royal scottish flag

 


References:
https://www.ncpedia.org/scottish-settlers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch_bonnet_(sea_snail)

© 2018 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

 

2018 Samhain New Moon Oracle of the Waters

October 31st may be Halloween, but it is not Samhain. It is but an arbitrary date and day like any other in a modern, man-contrived and Vatican-imposed calendar. The cross-quarter days – the days halfway between the Solstices and Equinoxes – astronomically and astrologically occur at 15° of the sign of the season. Tomorrow, November 7, is when the real Samhain energy wells and flows, and when the floodgates between this world and the Other are truly open.

Water is the element that has all dominion over this powerful time. On this true Samhain day, the Sun reaches 15° of Scorpio and is joined by the Moon; the invisible, submerged New Moon. It is also Jupiter’s final moment at the critical degree of Scorpio before moving into its second home of Sagittarius.

The Moon forms a favorable, creative trine to Neptune, that supreme ocean lord whose power is currently enhanced by retrograde motion his own home, shared with Jupiter, of Pisces. This Moon also creates opportunities being sextile to the chthonic water-dweller, and younger ruler of Scorpio, Pluto.

Water is my path and my deity. My way is the flow of the Daughter River to the Mother Sea, where the sweet, fresh waters that quench us mingle with the salty womb that bore us; the way of the falling rain, the fleeting morning dew and mists. I listen to the Water and I speak for Her.

This Samhain’s message and lesson comes from both the sweet waters and the salted.

The energy and power of Water reaches its darkest, deepest fathoms in the fixed water sign, the sign of upheaval and transformation, secrecy, deception and death. The salt of the benthic womb of She who is both Mother and Destroyer – Tiamat, Thalassa, Yemaya, Ran – gathers into eerie brine pools at the bottom of the oceans, into the most intense concentration of that essential substance.

These dense pools are like submerged salt lakes, existing at the edge of comprehension where underwater shores form one of the most mind-bending between spaces on Earth.

 

brine_pool_1.still006

Life at brine pool, image courtesy of the EV Nautilus

It is from this realm that the first message comes, from the primeval matrix best represented by the dragon goddess and coiled serpent, Tiamat, the Sea Herself.

In the somewhat Lovecraftian, so-named Grimoire of Tiamat, Asenath Masen states that “…the salty waters of seas and oceans can hardly be considered a nourishing substance. They do not quench the thirst of living beings and they do not make the crops grow. The waters of Tiamat are dissolving, corroding, poisonous and deadly.”

While an understandable point in context, to an extent, this is not altogether true. There are some living things that do not have thirst to quench. There are some living things that are indeed nourished by the deep salt of the sea. The waters of Tiamat are not poisonous and deadly to everything.

Much life is to be found at the sweltering mouths of hydrothermal vents, as well as at the shores of the staggeringly saline brine pools, even though they can be toxic to some marine animals. These few creatures to whom they are not toxic, however, exist and are called extremophiles. It is from these submarine shores and these extreme creatures that we receive a powerful message…

You are all living in extreme times. Many of you are living in extreme conditions, be they literal, physical surroundings and circumstances, or intense, extreme emotional states. These are likely the most burdensome and noxious emotions that are running highest and burning you out – fear, anger, hatred, depression, anxiety, regret, sorrow, loneliness, and all manner of loss that is the result of unwanted change.

But not all that is corroded and dissolved by change need be mourned or missed. There is much to be learned and to be gained from extreme states. Some of you will be poisoned and defeated by them and others will grow through them.

You must learn to adapt and to navigate the harshest conditions with confidence and self-control. Be present in all that you are experiencing and feeling, and find the balance between embracing and understanding those feelings – even the most painful and uncomfortable ones – and thriving in spite of them. Or because of them.

Rise above and beyond what you think simple society or any pretender is expecting of you. Look at yourself and ask what you expect of yourself, and why, and learn to be true no matter who may end up judging or shunning you. Know that those who do so are not worth your time as long as you stand in truth.

Transformation has nothing to do pleasing others, or with lowering or weakening yourself. It is for, by, through and because of the Self. Transformation is a choice, but one that may be made for you if you don’t find that balance.

the-depths-of-the-sea.jpg!Large

The Depths of the Sea by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

 

But there is a light overhead. There is peace and passionate renewal to be found after enduring and rising above the turmoil. In the second part of the message, the fresh rivers, lakes and the falling autumn rains ask us to then surrender, to simply…

Rise up.
Let go.
Breathe.
Flow. 

You have been like the monkey who got his open, slender hand into the narrow trap but will not release the petty prize in his closed fist which is now too large to let him escape. It is time to release your death grip on all that is trapping you in your pain, your sorrow, your anger, your illusion, your delusion. Give up the game. Relax and let go.

Sometimes your best laid plans and intentions are simply not meant to be. It is time to drift with the currents of life and trust that the cosmic rivers will carry you to safer, sweeter shores.

Perhaps you have been obsessing over everyone else and what they are doing. You may be worrying about everyone but yourself. You cannot control them. You can only control yourself, your reactions and your choices.

Soon you will heal and you will dwell by the waters of life that glisten in the Sun, no longer toiling or sorrowing deep in the stinging, extreme crucibles of Fire and Water that are forming you into the diamond you are meant to become.

Thekelpie_large

“The Kelpie” by Herbert James Draper

May you bravely dive down deep into the sea of transformation during this Samhain time, and in so doing rise up and connect to your higher self and the higher truths that are ever reflected in and carried by the primordial, cosmic waters that flow all around us here on Earth.

 

© 2018  Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

Mermaid Medicine: The Sacred Conch Mudra

In recent months I have revisited my interest in mudras, spiritual hand gestures within the practice of yoga. Of the mudras I was researching, one in particular caught my eye and made me laugh with surprise and delight when I read about its meaning and use.

It is called the Shankh Mudra; Shankha meaning “divine conch”. I was soon after only more delighted to get to the lesson in Michelle Hanson’s Ocean Oracle which included the Indian Chank shell (Turbinella pyrum).

The mudra is made by encircling your left thumb with the four fingers of your right hand, and touching the tip of your right thumb to the tip of your left middle finger.

shankh-mudra2.jpg

This shape resembles a conch shell, which is very sacred within Hinduism and Buddhism, and is one of the Ashtamangala – eight sacred symbols and teaching tools of enlightenment. The conch represents the sound of dharma, the “right way of living”.

The Shankh Mudra benefits the throat chakra and is intended to drive away all problems associated with the throat. This, combined with its association with a shell, is what made me laugh and associate it with mermaids and what then presented itself to me specifically as “Mermaid Medicine” – methods of spiritual and emotional (and physical) healing that resonate with watery, mermaid energies.

mermaid-circle-graphic-sheet-1-5-in.jpg

Mermaids are famous for their beautiful voices and songs. At some point in our lives, we may experience pains and challenges that rob us of our ability to communicate effectively, to speak our truths, or to use our creativity to express ourselves. These hindrances are likely to manifest as blocks or illnesses of the throat or the throat chakra.

Practicing the Shankh Mudra regularly, especially while chanting “OM”, is said to improve the voice, as well as heal and strengthen the throat chakra.

throat chakra

Visualizing and/or evoking mermaid energies or even a specific mermaid goddess while practicing this mudra can further enhance its effectiveness and give it a personalized focus and intention, if mermaid energy resonates with you as it does with me.

In the Ocean Oracle, the Indian Chank shell represents “Something or someone held sacred or dear”, drawing from the shell’s intense spiritual significance to Hinduism (and other Eastern practices).

I think, in the context of using this mudra, this meaning can be extended to valuing your own voice and expression, holding your personal truth as sacred and dear as any deity or other spiritual belief. Meditating on this shell and its meaning while performing the mudra can also enhance its power and give it further personal meaning, as well as teach you to be true to yourself and to have the courage to speak your truth, and to speak it righteously.

The Hindu god Vishnu is often depicted holding the Shankha, and is therefore another appropriate evocation.

Vishnu

Here is an affirmation that you may use, or customize, before or during use of the Shankh Mudra…

My voice is sacred as the holy shell.
Shankha Mudra, heal and clear my throat
So that I may speak and share it well!

Namaste!


© 2018 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

Resources: Ocean Oracle by Michelle Hanson
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtamangala
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbinella_pyrum

A Misty Autumn Morning

While lying in a sadness deep
I was awoken from that sleep
by sweetest purrs and softest fur
She gently bade me rise and see
the magical mist that called to me

With all haste I made my way
out into the newborn day
And to my heavy eyes it seemed
that still I wandered in the veil of dreams
where trees whispered within their shrouds
as I walked along in forested clouds.

Am I lost in this foggy Fall?
Is there no one to hear my heart’s call?
So much is now past, I know it well
Now long gone, simple memories
in countless tears that fell and fell.
Still they fall, still they fall…

 

 

Deirdre of the Sorrows by John Duncan

Deirdre of the Sorrows by John Duncan

 


“Celtic people, at their very core, are a water people. Within the various expressions of Celtic culture and spirituality there are hill people, shore people, and island people, but in each expression there is a deep and abiding orientation to the holiness of water. Something of the spirit of water has gotten right down into our souls, into our bones. Water has shaped us….In contemplating my own ancestors, I have arrived at the conclusion that Celtic people are not only a people of the water but also, and even more so, we are the consummate children of the mist.” – Frank MacEowen, “The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers and Seekers” New World Library 2002


© 2018 Meredith Everwhite (poem and featured image) All Rights Reserved

Welcome, Blessed and Watery Autumn!

Now we have entered autumn, the latter, darker half of the year. The Western Quarter, the Quarter of Water where endings begin. Days grow chillier, nights grow longer, and deep, aqueous contemplation pulls us into reflective silence. Or so it should. Don’t fight it. It is time to slow down, to breathe deep and to float and drift along the cycling currents of the seasons. The Western setting sun glows in the turning and falling leaves, reminding us all things end and transform. So sacred and vital is the West, to which wise ones from Paracelsus to Native American tribes assign the element of water. There dwells the Thunderbird, sending rains and thunder, indeed all water, from this darkening direction. Water reminds us that the only constant is change, and water itself, though ever welling and flowing, rising and falling, never dies but only continually moves and transforms. We are water, we are change, we are growth and transformation. We evolve, we grow, we must always learn to let go.

the-autumn-1896 Mucha

The Autumn by Alphonse Mucha 1896

The sacred trees into hues of golden fire now turn
past tears to dry, old woes and dross to burn.
While the wise Tiger of the West
Leads us into well-deserved rest
With his long-awaited and joyous return.

The cool and crisp air awakens and stirs,
The Goddess reminding me that we are all hers.
Even with thoughts of ends and death
I take in all nature with a hopeful breath,
As the line ‘tween this world and the Other steadily blurs…

 

 

see also last year’s: The White Tiger of the West: Autumn Equinox Oracle


featured image: Autumn Effect at Argenteuil by Claude Monet, 1873

© 2018 Meredith Everwhite (all original material including poem) – All Rights Reserved