19 February 2013
The Ritual Map
Transforming Place & Energy Through Form
For Therapists & Individual Practicioners
Ritual Map is a form of therapy through transformation, adjustment, purification of places which directly influences people living there or connected with the given space. In 2009 I worked in Warsaw (as practice/training) on the technique of creating ritual maps. This presentation is based on the material collected at that time and it is shown as an example of making ritual maps and working with them. In the second part I am introducing and describing crucial elements of Ritual Map technique. The second part is a summary of conclusions of 3 year work with consecutive places and people.
The technique of Ritual Map consists in transformation and diagnosing energy (places, people, psyche) through active expression, the idea of fetish during the ceremony and ritual practices but also in a therapy and personal, spiritual and mental transformation.
Dobra 8 Street – Good Place1
After 4 months of searching the space suitable to run the training I finally found a few places. One of them was a flat situated in Dobra 8 Street, in an old pre-war tenement-house. In fact, that place found me. Except for the history connected with that place, I would like to focus on the very technique, which appeared or was born in that place and time. The location was strongly related to the element of Water. It used to be the backwater of the Vistula River and the very Dobra Street used to be a road among swamps (which I learned later). The work-room was located close the bank of the Vistula (around 5 minute walk). The ceremonies usually ended with the ritual pouring out of water to the Vistula River – symbolic release of accumulated energy in the form of water which used to occur in the central moment of the ceremony. The monument of the Mermaid was a kind of zest just by the Świętokrzyski Bridge. The very Mermaid as water spirit came along in a dream-vision experienced by one of the participants while day-dreaming in a ritual room as well as a picture on one of the walls. The energy of this water spirit of half-woman - half-fish was manifested distinctly not only in dreams but also symbols occurring in the course of the transformation.
We also found out that the wing of the house where the flat was located had been the only wing destroyed in all the house during the war. The energy of the flat was very dark and depressing. Little light, darkness, damp and chill. Diuk Skusikula (who lived there before me), freak, director, traveller, mage and psychonaut in one who in the course of the ritual and personal work activated that venue by opening the gate, passage. He contributed much to the transformation process of that place. In February 2009, there was a ceremony with the participation of the American shaman, who then conducted peyotl ceremonies. For one month (after Diuk moved out and before I moved in) the flat was occupied by a known musician, whose name will not be provided here as that person is linked to my professional practice.
The work with the wall, which I am going to discuss, started with calling in the said musician who was in a serious psychotic state. During the ritual and the trip, I drew up a map on the wall, which became the centre of the whole flat later on.
After that episode and the contact with the spirit I made a deal with Genius Loci. Through the series of ‘coincidences’, I moved into the flat and I began hard but very fruitful practice.
Working with Energy
The practice consisted mainly in work with the emotions via the initiation of Water. In people who ‘ went through’ the ceremonial room was negative energy like: fear, paranoia, psychosis, etc. The negative emotions hidden in those people were released by that place that was manifested by means of the maps made automatically by their hands. During the ceremonies ran by me in that flat in the ceremonial room meant for the rituals only, the transformation of that place, its stabilization and purification was connected to working with people who appeared in the course of the ceremonies or in that place in general. The range of people was really wide, however, the emotions that often occurred resounded with the very place.
At the same time, the main wall which was a gate just like the other walls in the ceremonial room was changing along with the transformation of the place and the people.
The purification of the place lasted 3 months. I worked mainly with the element of Water during that time. I learned new techniques and rituals connected with that element which was a kind of completion to the previous practices with the Fire.
Projection of Emotional and Ritual Maps
The very technique of projecting the energy on the wall was a new thing for me. The wall was covered by the washable paint and the drawings were made by chalk or coal (the latter occasionally because it was much harder to wash it off). When I finished the work I cleaned the place and around new moon and full moon I washed off all the space, except for the ceiling.Ablution was simultaneously catharsis of the ceremony participants taking part in making the maps.
Observation of the wall changing gave a clearer picture of what was happening and it allowed channelling the very energy. Anybody who got into that room could participate in making the drawings. The symbols and motives which often appeared were connected with one another, although the given person did not know about it. The most often symbols were: the Gate (door), snake, spiral, fire, water, tree, eye, white-black, woman, man.
The first drawing was a character in the centre and 2 snakes next to it.
Before the first ceremony there was a gate around it:
Ritualized practices of catharsis and release through the map transformation
Ritualizing the transformation process in case of Ritual Map technique is of great importance. Contrary to the guide, the participants do not have to know the principles of the ritual practice. However, they intuitively understand the symbolic influence of the ritual gestures on their psyche. The guide also introduces them into understanding it without the explanation of the meaning of the symbols. The explanation may, but is not limited to the stage of the process analysis before the final destruction of the map – ‘ look, it is all you and your problem. Now, the catharsis will come’. The decision on bringing the participant into details is up to the guide. The traveller does not even have to know the significance of the very map. It may be a free form of expression for the traveller.
During the first ceremony in Dobra Street that I ran in March before Easter, negative energy came through the gate – energy of fear and paranoia which was present in that place. I came across that problem for the first time in my practice. The participant sensed it most and he liberated from the very fear through catharsis. It comes as curiosity, that person is a painter although he/she did not participate in making the map.
I managed to release that energy through ritual purification. In the picture, you do not see the form which appeared earlier – higher open ‘mouth’ filled with sharp teeth which I washed off with holy water during the ceremony by opening the mouth to scream. That transformed auto-aggression by relieving it outside, changing it into a form of catharsis. It was one of not too many of my (as a guide) direct changes of the map. The other forms that occurred were much cleaner and harmonized although not to the end.
The next stage was splitting of the central character into 2 – male and female. This time I did not project the shadow of the ill, as I did at the beginning, but my wife and myself.
In the place of the central character there was a tree with the inscription: Gate (the inscription had been made by a person who was unaware of the fact that there used to be a gate). The elements of the characters were completed, inter alia, by a couple of a woman and a man. The woman was drawing on the male side and the man on the female side. After that, both of them took part in the ceremony of Sweat Lodge which by ‘coincidence’ split into a female lodge and a male lodge. Interesting elements that emerged on the wall included; key, feather, flower, snake, spiral, rhombus, triangle, door.
The elements from the world of spirit began to come up in dreams too, particularly those that had been released. The flat became a passage. Mirrors and doors played an important role in this process. The emerging dreams were often placed in the times of the II World War. An often theme of the dreams (not only my dreams) was taking the group across, open door and finding the path.
The tree showed up again after washing off the map. The eyes came forward in the place of heads of the previous characters ( spiral on the left, eye on the right). The first author of the picture was a fellow who had come from Ireland and who, just like his predecessors, knew nothing about former incarnations of the wall. That unawareness was quite significant, so that the spirit which ‘spoke’ through the medium of pictures would make a speech in a clear voice, not faked by suggestion or ego.
In the picture dualism (except for the stick and the cobra in the crown) was symbolised by 2 streams flowing out from among the tree roots. The streams which combined at the bottom surrounding the circle. The door with black and white wings was also a vital element as well as the fire in the central circle at the bottom.
The transformation of the place
At that time there was more light and warmth in the flat. We were wondering together with Skusila who new would move into here. The next ‘coincidence’ happened and R., a therapist and the author of the book on shamanism moved in. He was forced (like me) to change a flat and by ‘accident’ found the one in Dobra Street. Based on my experience with the continuous contact with the power place, I treated that as the next step in my work with that place. I also realized, like my predecessors, that R. would undergo a test but I did not warn him about it not to interfere with the process. That place chose the occupants itself. I did not tell him either that place was very demanding, however, for a therapist or a shaman it would repay with interest. My work came to an end and I was slowly getting ready for a trip to the Ukraine which was the next stage of my practice, this time with the element of Earth.
The last opening of the gate was the image below.
My wife and me were the authors of that image ( exceptionally) in this case. Previously, as a leader (guide) I limited my participation in creation of the images to minimum. My role was more of a guard and a person who took care of the whole transformation process. The last drawing was a map during one week Sun Ceremony which reached the climax on the day of the summer solstice. The ceremony was open and it had a nature of a Magic Theatre. I also placed the invitation to that ceremony on the website of Taraka. That was the end of my educational work in the field of runic divination. 19 people took part in it. In my opinion, the very image did not have such power any as earlier. Two doors showed up (like previously: black and white and the other door by the floor), as well as the character of a hanged man, that announced the cease, hibernation of work for the period necessary to balance the whole transformation process. The key to the Gate, which was supposed to have been handed to R., surprisingly stayed with me. The place was put to sleep again. I closed it by ending the work.
The elements of the transformation technique of the Ritual Map
Making maps from the astral, magical trips has been known in traditional spiritual practices (shamanism) for ages. The maps are drawn up as images (tools ornament and fetishes), sounds (songs) and designs (for example: on the fabric). The technique of projecting the map in the ceremony is very useful in therapeutical and ritual practice, both in professional and personal spiritual practice. Linear notes move the participants away from the process of healing thereby the leader (guide) automatically cuts the patient off from his natural self-healing abilities. In such a case, all the burden of the transformation is on the shoulders of the therapist. Applying maps activates creative processes, it is self-updating reflection of the actual state of the journey, which is the transformation and healing process. Moreover, the principle of feedback allows to heal by very drawing up the notes in the form of maps that classic therapeutic notes are unable to do, they are just the collection of the patient’s account and the therapist’s conclusions.
That technique enables us to have a greater insight into the current energetic situation, as the map is changing along with the change of the spiritual and mental state. All the participants of the ritual or the ceremony take part in the process of making a map. To my mind, the real author of the maps is the spirit – both, the one filling the internal space of the participants and the one that lives or goes through the very place where the Magic Theatre is taking place.
Forms of Maps
The forms of maps may be different, however, enabling free expression, contemplation and destruction (similar to drawing mandalas of sand). Applied elements may be of any form, yet, there is one rule – the deeper they are applied in the unconsciousness, the better. The archetypal form (tree, mountain, river, spiral) will be more meaningful and will have greater effect than the tangible form (‘this is me and this is my dog Lassie’).
Wall. The whole wall or its fragment may constitute the space to make a map. In such a case you cover it with paint (not oil one – you should choose the paint before painting the wall checking in a shop if you can use chalk to draw on it or it may be washed off repeatedly, for example: acrylic of good quality) or smooth washable wallpaper without texture (you draw with chalk and/or coal).
Blackboard. A map may also be drawn on a blackboard (the bigger in size the better) that can be bought in a shop. Such a blackboard may be put or hung in a room by an individual traveler. The frame may be painted and decorated (for example: title: ‘the map of my world’) to stress its importance. Other householders may be, but do not need to be introduced into the details of its use. Then, each unintentional interference from their side will also influence the transformation process. This form can also be regularly and easily cleaned by water.
Sheet of paper. Paper map may also be applied. In this case a wider range of tools may be used - paints, crayons, chalk, pictures, etc. The images are made by hand. It is of the essence that the space of the map is as big as possible so that projecting energy by the form would not be restricted by the frames of the image.
Altar and Magic Fetish Theater. It is also one of the forms of Ritual Maps, yet 3D as a Magic Theater (Magic Fetish Theater) in which participants do not directly incorporate into the role, but they make the plot by means of objects to which they give a magical meaning, consciously or unconsciously. In such a case, the scene is made by the altar, for example, in the form: of a circle on the floor, table, shelf, etc.
The role of the altar is to divide the sacrum space, in which every action impacts the transformation process (like the space of the blackboard or the wall). Personal objects having significant meaning may be magic fetishes, a set, that is managed by the guide (traveler in case of individual practice) or objects that temporarily symbolize particular energies: key, dish, knife, string, doll, etc. When the traveler has his own set of fetishes, then, the functionality is combined with the magic power through the application of , for example: special magic key, mirror, etc. In a traditional approach to the altar, each tool has its own defined place on it. In a dynamic transformation process, the altar turns into a kind of stage and the tools become the actors ( some may think that the operator is an actor – nothing more misleading). You may, obviously , develop that technique by giving specific meaning to the particular parts of the altar. For instance: if clearing plays the role of the altar, then, everything that is its permanent element is a kind of scenography. Energy purification collected in that form of a Map happens in a similar ways as in case of a common map or mandala of sand – by washing or burning ( the development of ‘releasing’ the energy is also the use of Earth or air). The very destruction of the fetishes in this form of a map is not necessary. For example; the purification of a wedding ring in a fire means the same as washing off the image showing the same energy as the ring from the wall.
In practice I combine all the forms of the map depending on the needs and conditions.
The map may be treated as a ritual or therapeutic form. The intention of making a map may be clear, for example: purification of the place or a person, healing, solving some particular problem, etc. The map may be created without any intention – observing the process of internal and external changes for the very observation. The spiritual experience may be an intention. And here, the map serves us like a real map – we examine the process of life changes and if we want to, using the principle of feedback, we influence the course of events (magical thinking)
Ritualization and magical thinking
As the very name suggests, an important part of the Ritual Map technique is ritualization of the transformation process. We give specific, unusual meaning to the gestures, forms emerging during the process by ritualization. Magical thinking which is generally perceived as illogical and absurd, classified in every day life as delusions, plays a key role here, things we believe in are real for our sub-consciousness . Imaginary threat may have the same effect on us and our body as an actual one (psychosomatic symptoms, stigmatization, phobias, etc.). We transform the psyche of the traveler and consequently his reality by applying that quality of our mind together with the principle of feedback.
The participants may be divided in 2 groups. The firs type includes extraverts who do not need to be encouraged to draw on the wall. It is enough to tell them: here is the wall and you are free to draw on it at any time of the meeting and just give them the chalk. It is often great fun for them, it awakens a child who is forbidden to draw on walls. The second type includes introverts, shy, withdrawn. They may, timidly, but with curiosity watch the wall and they will not open immediately to the active participation in the transformation. You may encourage them by drawing something or introduce them together with other people open to expression. You need to give some time to such people and clearly show them the purpose of making a map. You also need to warn them about territorial impulses (‘Oh dear, somebody has painted over my tree. I will do the same to his tree’), explaining that the map is a real territory where they may freely express their emotions, not imposing the form at the same time. Images and shapes should come from deep within them, at ease, like series of associations in psychoanalysis. They may stop drawing at any time and come back to it again. You must not force the traveler to make a map ( ‘draw something finally’).
The second criterion of classification of travelers is ritual experience or spiritual insight. People without ritual experience must rely on intuition and the experience of the leader. Experienced ritualists understand the language of their gestures, therefore, they have a greater impact on the transformation process and the access to the symbolic possibilities hence they may use the set of archetypes and symbols more freely. However, even here there is a principle of intuitive acting. It is better to subject to the leadership of the Spirit ( see: ‘The role of the Spirit’), than logical thinking (as Skusikula said: ‘Surprise Me!’).
The Role of the Guide
The guide should be an experienced therapist or a healer having experience in working with people. He should also become acquainted with the technique through his own experience. The leader ought to interfere with the process of creation the least, through suggestion (‘draw it’), ceasing the process (‘wait a while’, ‘don’t draw on it), or direct map transformation. The interference of the guide is needed only in difficult cases, when the patient/participant is not able to go through the given stage himself (the example of the mouth and removing sharp teeth). It is standard practice to enhance and relieve the personal power of the transformation of the traveler, to arouse his faith and the strength to changes. The role of the guide is confined mainly to purification, if the right time has come. The authors of the map may also be invited to the purification. Thanks to that, they participate actively in the release process and purification of their own energy and others.
Likewise, the map interpretation is not necessary unlike classic methods of psychoanalysis. The very transformation process takes place beyond the awareness area. Through ritualizing the form, which is very close to the language of dreams, we affect the place and people directly and without the participation of consciousness. Obviously, part of the things may be transferred to the conscious level, yet, it is not the condition of a successful transformation.
In case of individual sessions, when the guide and the participant are the same person, it is crucial to pay attention to periodical purification of the map by washing it off entirely or burning it in fire. Do not get attached to the map. I also want to point out that purification by means of fire has a different nature than purification by water. If the map constitutes part of the workshop or a study of the leader (therapist, shaman, healer, psychologist), its purification should take place more regularly. The map may concern one time session or it may be associated with a single person. It may also be a collective existence. The guide makes the wall or tools available to the travelers in especially separated place. The travelers create a map at the same time or one at a time in a given period of time. Then, the map combines all the elements. Particular travelers may transform it by adding things to the elements drawn by the predecessors or completing the drawings. The purification of such a map is collective purification of all travelers of the journey.
The Role of the Spirit
Beings or energies arising during the process of a map projection are treated as separate individuals. It does not matter if the guide and/or the journey participant believes in their practicability (Animism) or if they treat them as projections of sub-consciousness (Daimons). For the needs of the technique, they are treated as separate beings. It is vital for the leader to get acquainted with that type of energy manifestation before through previous personal practice of Ritual Map. It matters because the Spirit that appears in his personal practice (in my case it was, inter alia: A Raven and The Spirit of Water in the form of a Mermaid) later becomes his assistant. The former exploration of your own maps allows the guide to gain experience and get in touch with the Assistants who are willing to help him in a later practice. The person who is not familiar with animistic cosmology or whose world outlook does not allow to accept such a point of view may treat the Spirit as part of his own psyche. The very technique assumes that internal changes happen through transformation of what is outside, thus, maps and what is on them in this case.
Shamanism and Psychotherapy
Ritual Map technique is a development of art-therapy in the direction of the Spirit world that takes part in the transformation process. It combines traditional spiritual practices like shamanism or witchcraft, along with the contemporary therapy. The analytical element is limited to minimum, giving the lead to expressiveness. Thanks to that, it may be included into both: classic psychotherapy, occupational therapy and shamanic practices. I personally included that technique permanently into my practice by projecting the maps not only onto the surface of walls or altars (they constitute the sacrum space during the ceremony) but also transferring it to the virtual world. Ritual Map may be a completion of the healing process or a separate, fully functional transformation technique.
Dobra (Good) transformation
Coming back to Dobra 8 (Street). Was the work with the flat in Dobra Street fruitful? Let two images be the answer to that question, one image made before the work and the other one after finishing it.
To say nothing of the state of the very flat, here is the drawing which I found on the other side of the Gate moving to the flat in Dobra 8 Street:
And this is the last drawing of Sally Moon (who also contributed to the transformation of that unique place) which appeared in the flat on the opposite wall at the end of my work:
As in case of majority of drawings, I did not have any physical influence on the form and content of both drawings. I will leave the assessment to the reader...
I give absolute freedom to practice and develop Ritual Map. I would be grateful for any possible accounts and remarks (resulting from a personal practice) relating to the very technique.
I would like to stress personal practice again. Before a possible practitioner of Ritual Map (therapist or a guide) is willing to introduce that technique as a form of work with other people, he’d better test it on himself. Thereby, he will avoid any mistakes in the future and he will adopt it to his own path, personality and style of work.
The Raven is the guard and the guardian of the technique.
I wish to thank all the people who participated actively in the transformation process. These include:
Agnieszka K., who supported me in my work;
Diuk Skusikula, who kept guard and took part in all greater actions;
Sally full of light power;
Rober ‘Revers’ Sieklucki who became the messenger of the spirit and the people;
Tomek Czyż, who put in full energy of Earth – support in more difficult stages of my work.
 In Polish, the word dobra means 'good'.
 The name of the Author, Kruk, means 'Raven'.
Translated: Anna Ferenc