As shamanic practitioners, our work is ever-evolving. Relationships with spirit allies grow and change as we develop and nurture our personal medicine. Perhaps a few spirit allies from our initial years in shamanism have come and gone, or perhaps the ones who have stayed the course now show us a new version of themselves or a new version of us. Just as we sometimes outgrow relationships in our personal lives, the same can be true with our spirit allies. As we evolve, so does our tribe.
Six years ago, the Irish goddess Macha came to me in a journey. Admittedly, I was first intimidated by her presence and by her extremely direct communications. Macha is a sovereignty goddess and a sister to Anand and Badb, known as the triple Morrigan.
Macha is associated with war, horses, crows, agriculture, and fertility. Like many Irish deities, there are multiple versions of her in mythology. In one story, she was a woman of the Fae who lost her life when she was forced to race against the king’s horses after her mortal husband bragged of her supernatural abilities. In this story, she was pregnant with twins at the time of the race. After crossing the finish line in victory, she gave birth to the twins and then cursed the men of Ulster, just before dying. In other stories, she dies on the battlefield as a warrior, her sword possibly connected to beheadings. As the daughter of a king in one tale, she wins the right to rule after his death, taking a position of power typically held by a man. In an early story, Macha dies as a result of clearing the land for farming, thus associating her with agriculture and being a goddess of the land. It would take six years for me to discover how all of the aspects of this complex deity would play out in my life and in my shamanic work.
Macha found me during a time when I was floundering in my personal life and she was dead set on setting me straight. I spent two years with her as a personal guide, getting to know her in my journey space, seeking out her guidance and support, as uncomfortable as that sometimes was. While much of my personal journey work was with her, my client sessions continued to be guided by my trusted, long-time spirit allies. My relationship with Macha began to develop into that of student and teacher. She would often bring me to her time, to her life with the Tuatha Dé Danann, the race of Irish deities to which she belonged. Glimpses into this time and space, and into the way the world was viewed, would change me and my medicine forever. Ultimately, this personal work with Macha led to the end of a thirteen year relationship with a man who so overtly compromised my sovereignty. I found myself, for the first time in my life, fiercely independent and self-sufficient. I still stand in this place today and as empowering as this is, it is by no means, easy.
Eventually, Macha began showing up in client sessions. At first, she would appear for only the toughest of cases like depossessions and curse unraveling. Her sword always at the ready and battle crows circling above, I had never felt so protected whilst engaging in this type of work. Feelings of unease when clients presented with matters of darkness were slowly replaced with faith in Macha’s presence. I then noticed an influx of client sessions for women who were dealing with matters of safety: estranged spouses, stalkers, and relationships turned dangerous. Macha was there for every one of them, her plan in place to help reclaim what was compromised. I would be in awe during every session—the way in which she could bring the client from a place of fear to a place of power. As fierce as she is, she is the embodiment of the Divine Feminine, emanating compassion and deep love. One moment she would be a fierce warrior and the next a loving goddess of the land, often planting new seeds in the heart of the client, whispering wise words of nourishment. Over time, she was there from the start for every client, no matter the situation. I saw every aspect of her in my journey space and she brought whatever was needed on behalf of the client across from me.
As the years rolled forward, my personal relationship with Macha and my reverence for her grew even stronger. I became a very different person than I was five years before, a person who was learning to stand as a sovereign being. Earlier, before Macha, most people would describe me as demure and gentle, always putting others before myself. Now, though I remain my introverted-self, there is a confidence within that some do not recognize as the person they knew me to be. My shamanic work had also shifted and grown, and it would be difficult to imagine my sessions without Macha there to facilitate much of the work. It became quite clear that in the end, every client is navigating the waters of reclaiming their sovereignty. Whether it be reclaiming one’s personal power after a relationship has gone sour, detaching a possessing being, or freeing someone of a curse—it all boils down to sovereignty. That is Macha’s work.
During the years I have been working with Macha, I have also kept her a bit of a secret. Although my home and work space are decorated with paintings, altars, and offerings for Macha, I made it a point to never disclose the identities of my guides to clients. Clients generally know that I work primarily with Irish deities and the Othercrowd, but specific names would not be shared. I would find myself saying, The goddess with whom I work… or simply my guides. This is partly due to the teaching that a shamanic practitioner can lose his or her power when spirit ally identities are freely given away. It is also, and more likely the case, that I felt a sense of secrecy and selfishness with Macha. I did not wish to share her, for fear that it would somehow lessen the very personal relationship I had with her.
Just a few months ago, I was visiting with Macha in my personal journey space. I asked her, “How else would you like to be honored?” Her answer, as direct as ever, was, “Say my name.” I questioned this and balked at the idea, but she insisted. She laughed and said that I can’t keep her to myself. More importantly, she explained, saying her name affirms our relationship. “This is our work. You must stand in your power. Say my name.”
I admit that I still pause during client sessions when I am about to reveal the identity of my beloved goddess. Just when I stammer, I go back to her words and to her stern gaze. One does not question a battle goddess wielding a sharp sword and looking at you like you should know better. My pause is a needed reminder that, like all of us, I have much personal work yet to do. No doubt, I have a fierce yet loving ally who will surely guide me through it.
I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead, the ways in which my work, our work, will continue to evolve. This past year has been a test of sovereignty for so many people. I think back to the clients I saw in 2020 who came to me for the very reason of struggling through perceived lack of control over their own life. The news and media challenged the sovereignty of our own thoughts, the virus challenged the sovereignty of our actions, and for many of us, fear challenged the ability to be sovereign over our own emotional state. With client after client, Macha’s work was grounded in taking back the power of our own soul. This is seldom easy or comfortable, but it is essential in the world we live in today, just as it was in Macha’s time. As shamanic practitioners, we might not know where our work or our personal lives are headed, but my journey with Macha affirms that our spirit allies most definitely do.
Working with such a formidable deity is not for the faint of heart and should be met with all of the respect one would give a Goddess of such magnitude. I have never met a spiritual being or human being who has challenged me as much as she has, both personally and in my work. I smile when I think back to my first encounters with her, thinking that our common affinity for crows and horses was what connected us. The helping spirits find us when we are ready. They meet us where we are, and the extraordinary ones push us to where they know we can go.
Note: For further perspectives on Macha, see “Running for Macha: Championing the Goddess, the Earth, and Lady Sovereignty” by Jennifer Lynn, April 10, 2019.