Kristin Madden's website
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Magick, Mystery & Medicine: Advanced Shamanic Healing
Mabon: Pagan Thanksgiving
The Book of
Mabon: Celebrating the
Guide to Death and Dying
Talks to Kristin Madden
Tell me about being
raised in a Shamanic home
and how that influenced you as you began to sort out a spiritual path of your
KM: My mother always said that Nature is our
religion and that having one foot in each world is just part of who we
are. My grandfather taught me that the
spirit world is not something separate from
our world and that Divinity enlivens all things. My great-aunt used to
say that power does not belong to us, it moves
through us from deep within the earth and from
beyond the stars.
I grew up hearing the stories of our ancestors and learning to interact
respectfully with beings in both this world and the world of spirit. We
used dreaming and conscious journeying as well
as energy work and other healing methods.
Our home was always filled with spirit
beings. Living with the family
deathwalker, the spirits of the dead were always showing up too. It's
kind of difficult to describe because it was such an integral part of everyday
My current path is very similar to what I grew
up with. That early recognition that the shamanic
experience is as natural as breathing has stayed with me
to this day. The simple beauties of a
deep and abiding connection to Nature and the spirit world continue to play a major
role in my spiritual path.
TWPT: Were you encouraged to explore other spiritual paths besides what you saw in
KM: In an indirect way, I was. My mother has
been a great explorer since the 1970s and she always took me
along on her adventures. Even today, I try some
new things because my mom
has developed an interest in them. When
I was a child, we explored several Eastern paths and she allowed me
to go with friends to explore a couple of Christian paths and Judaism.
We also explored a wide variety of New Age practices. As I got older, we
explored more together and she was always
supportive of my interests.
TWPT: What kinds of spiritual practices would make
up a Shamanic home?
KM: Much of our practice was very simple and
practical. We did healings, divination, and house cleansings when they
were necessary. We worked for the dead when they showed up and for the
grieving when they were in need. Communication
with spirit allies was an everyday occurrence and occurred on many
levels. Each of us had a personal altar both inside and outside.
Other altars were family altars. Meditation
and shamanic journeying were common.
Dream work was a big part of our practice
too. We worked with power places in this reality and on the astral level
to gain knowledge and healing. Shapeshifting in a variety of ways was
also important. Some
of our magic was equally simple
but there were specific, and more elaborate,
techniques for certain issues. This describes our home
today as well.
TWPT: Was writing something that you started to
do early on or did that come later?
KM: I won a school poetry contest in second grade, so I guess it is safe to say I
started young. I used to write a lot of poetry and songs. As a
teenager, I wrote a book on crystal healing and stone energies but never sent
it in to a publisher. After college, my
writing was focused on scientific reports and standard operating procedures so
it wasn't until I decided to leave environmental
chemistry that I returned to other forms
TWPT: Your bio says that you have been a writer and editor since about 1995, was
there something in particular that convinced
you that your writing should move into the
professional realm around this time?
KM: In 1994, we had a wave of deaths in the family:
three human family
animals, and 2 friends of the family. I
had always kept a journal but with the deathwalking I was doing, there was too much
to keep in the book so I started typing it into the computer.
I also started to attract people that were in need of assistance with
near-death experiences and dying or recently departed loved ones. I
discovered that there was a real need for a book to help people understand and
with the death process. The words kept flowing through so I decided to
try to organize it all into a book and took a chance on sending it to a
TWPT: Were there any special authors that you had read
up to this point that inspired you in your own writing or that were motivating
to your spiritual path?
KM: I have always loved authors that write passionately about their own experiences
and beliefs. I also really enjoy anyone that makes
me think. Whether I agree with them
or not, if they can make their case with honor
and inspire me to reevaluate my
beliefs, I appreciate their writing. As a teenager, I loved Sybil Leek
and Ayn Rand. More recent favorites are Layne Redmond,
David Rockwell, Patrick Jasper Lee, Malidoma
Some, Fred Alan Wolf, John Gribbin, and Brian
TWPT: Tell me about your introduction to Druidism.
What was it that initially drew you to this path?
KM: When I was a teenager, my mother
and I had a series of dreams at the same
time about past-lives as druids. Many
years later, I met a hereditary Celtic shaman
that had memories
of some very specific places and objects that matched
my own. This made
me do some
vision questing on this and I was led to investigate the Order of Bards,
Ovates, and Druids(OBOD). Over the last ten years, my
connections to OBOD have deepened considerably as I passed through each Grade
and became a tutor.
TWPT: What correlations are there between your Shamanism
and Druidism? Do you view this as following
two spiritual paths. Why or why not?
KM: Shamanism was
very likely a large part of early druidry. Even today, most
people agree that the Ovate phase or Grade is a highly shamanic
experience. While the shamanism
I was raised with was not Celtic in nature, I perceive these to be two
interconnected aspects of one spiritual path.
TWPT: Tell me a little bit about your work as an
and a wildlife rehabilitator.
KM: I started as a lab tech in the mid-late 1980s
with no intention of remaining in the chemistry
field. I planned to go to grad school for marine
biology but found that I enjoyed it so much
that I ended up staying in the field for eight years. I've done work in
simple analysis as well as remediation
and research. I did do a stint as a
field biologist for a few years but went back into chemistry
last year. Now I am part-time
in a lab with very flexible hours for our homeschooling
Wildlife rehab grew out of my involvement
with the raptor education and research
organization I worked for. They were also tremendously
flexible so our son accompanied me
to the office and into the field. I began housing educational raptors for
them and it all flowed naturally into avian
TWPT: Do you find that your work as an environmental
chemist and wildlife rehabilitator complements
your spiritual path?
KM: The wildlife rehabilitation most definitely
does. That is my way of giving back a small
bit of what I have received from
animal guides and guardians. Birds have
acted as messengers for me
in a myriad of ways since childhood.
This is my service to the physical manifestations
of my spirit allies. It is also my
service to the planet and all of us as well, for we are all
interconnected. This is why I founded the EarthSpirit Institute, which
offers spiritual naturalist training.
I do believe that environmental chemistry
is a service to Mother Earth and Her creatures, including us. In light of
what I see at work, I am even more
convinced that we need more financing and
education on ecologically-sound living. But that is a whole other soapbox
that I won't jump on here.
TWPT: People have heard the terms Pagan
Parenting and Pagan Homeschooling before but
as a Pagan how do you integrate your spiritual path into being a parent and
educating your children at home?
KM: Spirituality is an integral part of all that we do. It is inherent in the
way that we live. Parents teach their children every day by example.
If we model a living, honorable spirituality,
that is what our children will learn. Being a parent demands
that we examine our actions and motivations
more closely so that we can be the best
parents possible. Parenting can be an incredible spiritual journey.
Spiritual education starts very young. Our son observes our actions and
often asks questions. We include him in
the appropriate ceremonies and other
activities while explaining why we do what we do. He is learning to
consciously control breathing and use both the shamanic
journey and guided meditation. These are
important in developing self-discipline,
spirit connections, and magical
With academics, spirituality plays a part in
nearly every subject. Religion, politics, and history go hand-in-hand
with geography, social studies, music, and
art. We aren’t quite to the sacred mathematics
or linguistics point but science and spirituality complement
each other perfectly. Our son is also learning the techniques I learned
as a child to assist with memory
retrieval, understanding, and focus.
TWPT: Why do you feel that homeschooling is important
for your children in particular and Pagan children in general?
KM: Home education offers children the best of all
worlds and encourages them to think
freely. In a homeschooling family,
learning flows naturally all the time.
We work with children’s unique learning styles and guarantee that the
“teacher-student” ratio is very small.
This creates the most effective learning
environment and one that supports the whole
child. Learning is not compartmentalized
into unique subjects at certain times
throughout a specific time period after which
learning ends. For pagan children, the most important
element is probably the ability to incorporate
spirituality into all aspects of life. However, it is true that homeschooling
is not for everyone.
Our son thrives as a homeschooler. Our
curriculum is largely child-led, meaning
that we structure our studies based on his interests. An interest in
NASA, the Middle Ages, or even rocks can become
the basis for science, social studies, history, art, music,
math, and more.
In this way, the motivation to learn is
already present. He loves learning and is able to be himself
without concern for being cool or tough. He also finds it easier to be
TWPT: Tell me about your first published
book and how you went about taking it from
idea to final draft?
My first book was Shamanic Guide to Death and
Dying. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t
really have a great deal of choice about it. The material
was coming through whether I published it or
not and I had a very strong spirit push to make
it available to those that needed it.
I began by looking at what I had already written and considering the needs I
perceived in the people I was attracting. I crafted an outline that was
revised a few times and transferred the
relevant material to the appropriate
chapters. I did quite a lot of research to add to my
own experience. My husband graciously read it over and over. I revised it
until I felt it was sufficiently in-depth and accessible.
TWPT: Did you find your experience with your first publisher to be a pleasant
one? What did you learn about being an author from
this initial outing?
KM: We had a few bumps but in general, it was
pleasant. I had a great editor and the process flowed fairly smoothly.
things I learned were how a publishing house works, how to read a publishing
contract, and the many steps between manuscript
and printed book.
TWPT: Let's jump ahead a little bit to one of
your more recent titles, Mabon: Celebrating
the Autumn Equinox.
curious as to how you chose to write about Mabon instead of Beltane or the
Winter Solstice or any of the other celebrations. Was there something
special about Mabon that you felt you would like to communicate
to your readers?
KM: I always loved that time of year but this
project reminded me
of the sensual pleasures of this time of
year. As I sit here in May in the hot desert, just thinking of it evokes
the feeling of crisp autumn air, the smell
of apples and red wine, the beauty of the
changing light, and the colors of plant life. In the desert Southwest,
even the grasses turn to reds, blues, and purples.
There is much more
folklore associated with this festival than many
people realize. I was amazed to discover
how many other festivals around the world
share this time frame.
This book provided a great deal of homeschool
information, activities, and ideas.
Writing Mabon also allowed me to include a
great deal of the natural magic and science
that is so important to me.
migration season, it is an ideal time
to consider wildlife ecology, animal spirit
guides, Nature walks, divining through the natural world, and other outdoor
activities. Because it is an astronomical
event, I was able to include some sections on
archeology and astronomy. Of course, my
family’s favorite parts were all the wonderful
foods and drinks they had to try as I was working out the recipes.
TWPT: Do you feel more comfortable
as an author now that you have some experience
behind you? Do the words come easier with time
or is each book a unique writing challenge of its own?
KM: The process of writing and teaching has really helped me
what I was raised with and what I have learned. It took much
more effort early on to use enough words just
to fill an article. Being raised as I was, most
of my spiritual understandings were not the
result of reading or formal teaching so
finding ways to explain what I did was a little like explaining how we
breathe. Now I find it a challenge to fit everything I want to communicate
into something shorter than a book.
Words do come more
easily now but it really depends on the book. Each one is unique. I
know that I’m writing the right book when it
just flows through me. It often feels as
though I have stepped aside and the books write themselves.
Personally, I need to write about something I
deeply believe in or find to be great fun. Topics that I am
passionate about provide an energy that
me. My belief that I am
contributing something of value to the community
carries me through the process in a nearly
TWPT: Your latest title is The Book
Of Shamanic Healing, as you sent
this title out into the world what were your hopes for what it might
KM: That one took me five years to
write and was incredibly therapeutic for me.
It forced me to live what I taught and dig
very deeply into my own shadows. This
was another book that seemed to have a spirit
“push” behind it. My intent for it was twofold.
First, I wanted to provide a guide for healers. I hoped to assist them
in creating their practices, exploring new techniques, and handling some
of the things that inevitably arise in a healing practice. I also wanted
to support and encourage healers to continue to work on themselves
and consider some of the issues I
My other intent was to give those that were seeking healing an in-depth look
into the healer's world. I hoped that they might
be empowered by the book and use some
of the exercises included to begin their own journeys to self-healing.
TWPT: What difficulties do you face in trying to put into words the ideas and
concepts that comprise Shamanic
Healing? Can everything be effectively communicated
in words or should the reader who's interest has been piqued seek out a more
personal form of learning to continue their
journey into this subject?
KM: Writing on the direct experience of shamanism
has always been a challenge for me. Shamanism
and all forms of healing are so complex
and personal that it is impossible to cover
all the possibilities. I do my best to
encourage readers to think for themselves,
experiment, and gain a hands-on experience
rather than simply accepting my
words at face value. A more personal form
of learning takes readers from being passive
observers, engaging in a largely mental
exercise, to being active participants in the creation of their own
lives. That is an important distinction.
TWPT: What are some of the highlights of
what a reader will be introduced to when they purchase this book for their
KM: It contains first-hand accounts and recommendations
based in solid experience. The book takes you from
training and setting up a healing practice (personal or professional) through
techniques, ceremonies, personal work, and how
to handle things like money exchange and
working with friends. I also included a glossary and plenty of resources
as well as photos of ritual tools, pendulum
graphs, and sample pages from
a healer’s journal.
(thanks to Don Two Eagles Waterhawk)
Some of the highlights in my
- entire chapters devoted to the shadow side and working with the drum
- ceremonies for purification, journeying,
soul/power retrieval, extraction, depossession
- creating a physical anchor for faster grounding and centering
- working with the breath, dreaming, colors,
stones, animal energies, and spirit guides
- therapeutic creativity and finding your voice
- using spells and incantations in healing
- healing through the natural world
- ethics of healing
TWPT: Tell me about your involvement
with the Ardantane School of Shamanic Studies.
Would this be a resource for the student who wants to go deeper than what a
book will take them?
KM: Absolutely. That is the reason I created the School
of Shamanic Studies.
As someone that was trained mainly
through an apprentice process, I feel responsible to offer training to complement
the books and guide interested readers to a
new level of ability. I am very careful
about the faculty for this school so students get the best possible
We offer certificates for each class completed
as well as for each program of study (ie/
Grief Counselor, Shamanic Divination
Specialist, etc) We also have apprenticeships, including teaching
apprenticeships, available for a limited number
Ardantane was founded by Amber K and several
others almost ten years ago. We now have
25 acres in the beautiful Jemez
Mountains of New
Mexico where we are building a campus.
In addition to the School of Shamanic
Studies, we also have the Schools of Advanced
Theurgy &Thaumaturgy, Liturgy and
Ritualcraft, and Religious Leadership. Our plan is to develop these
additional Schools in the future: Alternative Healing, Bardic Arts, and Environmental
TWPT: Boudica and I ran into you at the Craftwise festival this year but how much
time do you spend out on the road teaching at
functions like Craftwise? How is it that you manage
to find time for all of the activities that
you seem to be involved with and still find time
to write your books and be a parent?
KM: I am in absolute denial about the confines of
time and space in physical reality.
Seriously, I limit my
time away from
home to a relative minimum
compared to some
other authors. My family absolutely comes
first so if I need to take a break
teaching or writing to focus on them, I
do. My family is also incredibly
supportive of my work. Like any family,
we have a continual give and take based in love and respect
that makes all things possible.
I normally spend 2-3 weekends away teaching
for Ardantane. I teach a basic survival class for EarthSpirit Institute
one more weekend each year and I travel
another 2-3 times for other events.
Every other year, my husband and son accompany
on trips like this last one. We did a book tour combined
with vacation through Connecticut,
New York City, and New
Jersey. Fortunately, as a homeschooler,
our son is not limited by a school year and
frequently joins me on trips. He really
enjoys the friends he makes while we are away.
With three planets in Virgo in my house of
work, I am highly organized about work and
that is probably the only way it all gets done. With a first-house Sag
sun that just wants to play, that Virgo is a real blessing.
TWPT: What is it about getting to meet your
readers and others within the Pagan community
at one of these festivals that makes it
worthwhile? What kind of feedback to you get during these face to face
encounters as to what your writing is accomplishing?
KM: Readers and students are why we do what we do. I write because I believe
I am offering something
of value to the
I love to meet readers and others to share
ideas, experiences, and fun. Each person teaches me
something new about paganism,
I also make it a point to try to be of
additional service when I meet people.
Whenever possible, I network to help people find community,
ethical healers, training programs, and more.
I feel it is my responsibility to answer
questions that my books
couldn’t fully cover.
I’ve received wonderful feedback and that really makes
the business of writing and the challenges of being a public pagan
worthwhile. Some people enjoy the fun
stuff that is included in books like Mabon, Pagan Parenting, and Pagan Homeschooling.
Other people have found deep healing, powerful connections, and new ideas
through the parenting, homeschooling, healing,
and death and dying books. One of the best things I hear is that people
thought they were the only ones thinking a certain way or having an experience
until they read one of my books and suddenly
they realized they were not alone.
TWPT: Is there anything else as far as new books or articles that we might
be watching for from Kristin Madden in the
KM: Writing is what I love so I am always working
on something, usually several things at a time.
I write as often as possible for Circle magazine.
I have an article coming out in either the
Sept/Oct or Nov/Dec issue of Home Education
Magazine called "Tracking the Wild Homeschooler"
on wilderness skills and home education.
I'm updating Shamanic
Guide to Death and Dying and am seriously
working on two other books of my own. In
addition, I am organizing, editing, and
writing for a compilation project to benefit
Ardantane. Eighteen other authors and I are currently writing “Beginning
the Pagan Path: Wisdom from
TWPT: As a closing question what is it that you wish for the Pagan community
in the coming years?
KM: Like most pagans, I hope that the day we no
longer need to worry about religious differences and intolerance comes
soon - for people of all paths. I pray for the day when our children can
be openly pagan in any situation without even needing to consider the
possibility of intolerance. I wish for each of us to find greater joy and
connection through self-knowledge and attunement
to the Divine.