Of Shamans, Toads, Frogs, and Witches

Yesterday’s post took a good bit of work to finalize, both in practical and spiritual terms. I have no idea how it will look from the outside, but the process of bringing it to completion has left me feeling a little tender, pleasantly rough. With the new moon having yielded the sky to the stars, it felt like a good occasion to get outside at night and walk with the stars a little bit.

I could hear the frogs and toads singing as soon as I walked out the door. Walking up the steps and following the road that runs along the parking lot, I crossed the edge of our building and crested the hill that descended directly to the pond. Without the building’s walls between me and the pond, their croaking formed a thrumming soundscape.

I walked down, out onto the bridge that crosses the pond, closed my eyes, listened. Opened my eyes, looked up the cloud streaked sky, listened. It is intense enough that I have to resist the urge to shut it out. It buffets me, but as I relax into it, it’s hot, cleansing, a little dizzying. The dark water is faintly lit, bits of leaf and pollen suspended in a stillness that is almost as intense as the song.

I don’t know how long I stood on the bridge exactly; I don’t think it was long. After a spell, I felt the release that usually indicates it is time to leave a place or a spirit in peace. I straightened myself and took the short stroll back to the apartment. I slept like a log last night.

This morning, I have been thinking about the quality of the experience and it reminds me of nothing so much as the experience of listening to some of Phurpa’s Bon material. This set me to thinking about the association of the toad with shamanic power that comes out of England. This is hardly a deep insight, but it brings home just how potent a source the natural world is for the alteration and transformation of consciousness and how many of the elaborate techniques have their roots in attending to the natural world and clarifying the results found into streamlined practices.

And how many streamlined practices are not so much better than their natural inspiration, but more accessible and portable than them. A shamanic band, for example, doesn’t need to head out to the pond at just the right time of season to share in the magic of the toads and frogs, but can deploy a piece of it wherever they can make the music. How much, too, are things like the toad bone a way to pack this magic down into the silence of our being so we can make use of it more efficiently ourselves?

It’s good to be reminded of the headwaters and watershed of these practices, from whence they come and with which they interact. Good to have a visceral kick about how the natural world in which our human one is embedded provides a lot more than just raw materials, but is a refreshing source and destination all its own, one we can only with self-delusion separate ourselves from.

Here, the first result for a search for toad song. I like it a lot. It may not be ceremonial per se, but there is still a bit of the toad magic in it, too.

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