Friday at sundown is the beginning of the Sabbath for those who practice the Jewish faith. Sabbath originates in the ancient Hebrew language as Shabbat: to rest. And in the 9th century, Jews living in diaspora Europe developed a language of their own – Yiddish. It combined German, Hebrew and Aramaic, and as the Jews migrated and acclimated to other cultures, they also brought in and integrated those languages. So Shabbat was transformed to Shabbos, a term that I prefer. And all this is a super long way of explaining why I used the word “Shabbos” for today’s reading.
Whatever your faith may be – religious, spiritual, scientific, ethical or some combination of them all and more – we could all use a bit more of a Shabbos for ourselves. To take the time away from the daily busy-ness, from the never-ending commitments, from the hustle and bustle of expectations – yours and others. To stop. To rest.
Rest does not necessarily mean sleep. It doesn’t mean checking out by zoning out. Imagine you are holding a small bird in your hand – that you are both yourself and the bird – and you need both attentiveness as the holder and trust as the one being held. It’s an active state; when both are committed to their perfect ways of being – awareness and trust – and both are willing to let go of everything else in those moments, there is a sense of trust. Of relaxation. The shoulders drop and you can exhale deeply before you take in a fresh, new breath.
I pulled a card this evening from the Angels and Ancestors oracle deck.
The Shapeshifter: Transform and Unveil Your Gifts. The message for this card is: take your time and focus on developing your gifts and strengths.
Shapeshifting is a shamanic practice common to many indigenous cultures in the present and the past, including those from the area currently known as Europe. My mother’s mother’s family name was Farkas when they lived in Hungary. When they sailed to America in the early 1900s, it was translated on Ellis Island into English – Wolf. So my maternal clan is the Wolf clan and even before I knew the story of the name change, I had an affinity for wolves. I wrote my master’s thesis on how people think and talk about wolves. I live not too far from a wolf sanctuary, and I dream of wolves at night.
The ancient tradition of shapeshifting was to become the other entity while in trance – through drumming, dancing, chanting or plant medicines. Those who were called to shapeshift were able to experience the world through that ally – whether the wolf, the raven, the salmon, the fox, the butterfly, or even rocks, wind or fire. All have consciousness and each consciousness allows us to expand our knowledge of ourselves and the world we live in.
But shapeshifting isn’t just something practiced for mystical reasons. We all practice shapeshifting.
- The Jews who wanted to both keep their culture and yet be accepted into the European cultures had to shift their inner and outer shapes and acculturate to some extent.
- Women who are bright and curious and capable have had to shift our inner and outer shapes to accommodate those who have power over us – whether father, husband, brother – priest, rabbi, imam – police, soldier, warrior. You know these stories.
- Men are required to shapeshift and put on their suits and ties that hamper and strangle the parts of them that want to be softer, more colorful, to move and breathe more freely.
Shapeshifting has become a powerful tool for those who are oppressed.
And yet, there are tales of those shamans who shifted their shapes and wandered through the world slowly losing their humanity, finally become fully and only animal. And we see that in our own lives as well – the angry young men and the flower children of the 60s and 70s shifted into the corporate sharks and stepford wives. They thought they could change things from the inside but instead, lost their values and their way. We have to be careful to know what we are shifting toward and keep the door open to come back to our true selves.
This oracle card says: transform; then reveal your gift. In light of what I’ve been channeling tonight, in a light trance, I would say: transform back to who you are. As you enter a period of Shabbos – which could be an afternoon, a formal Sabbath, a 30 day retreat, or half an hour in the tub – intend to shapeshift your way back to your original self. Gently hold that self in the palm of your hand and remind yourself that you can trust yourself not to crush or drop this gentle creature that you truly are. And once you feel grounded back in your body, back in your soul – ask for your gift to be revealed.
Spirit is there, waiting on your request. That’s the deal with the Spirit world. Ask and it is given. But you must ask. In faith. In confidence. In trust. With the knowing that it is already given as you ask.
Your task then is to remain open enough to recognize, accept, and receive it.
A blessed Shabbos to all.