A Walk in the Wisconsin Spirit Woods:

Hera Claims Me as Her Own

Donald L. Engstrom-Reese

(from notes written in 1995)

© November 2007

    It was a glorious sunny afternoon in the autumn of 1987. The maples were bright orange. The ash were butter yellow. The mums were in the height of their autumn splendor. The sky shone deep blue as the cold breezes sang songs of contentment.

    Two summers before, I had met the Queer Ones on a fever journey while very sick with hepatitis. This experience had opened many gates for me. I had learned that there was more in the world than meets the eye. I had learned that the universe was more than simply weights and measures. The Cosmos was a place filled with mystery. My experiences were leading me quickly into a multiversal world view. My life was changing as quickly and as unpredictably as the weather.

    Early in the summer of 1987, I had taught myself to be my own reliable deep trance journey. Over the last few months, I had visited worlds that seemed to be what other Witches called the ‘Other Realms’. I had visited the Nine Realms. I had gone deep into the Underworlds, the Upper Worlds, and to places with no names that I knew of. I had met animal spirits and plant spirits. I had walked through landscapes with singing rivers and talking winds. I had drunk from a few wyrd wells and tasted many strange fruits. But, I had yet to meet any of the beings that I had been taught to call Goddesses and Gods. I was determined to meet one of these elusive beings on this sunny autumn afternoon.

    I made myself comfortable on our old Art Deco lawn lounge with the huge gardenia print pillows in the middle of our sheltered back lawn. I remember spending an inordinate amount of time arranging the pillows and blankets, and then carefully grounding, relaxing every cubic inch of myself; flesh, bone, and spirit. Slowly I took myself through the Seven Gardens to the Gate and stepping through the Gate in the Hedge into one of the Other Realms.

    I found myself dressed in traveling gear (blue jeans, a black flannel shirt, a heavy black hooded sweatshirt, a blue denim barn jacket and black hiking boots) standing in a meadow in the heart of an old growth deciduous forest.  A small winding river ran through the meadow I was standing in singing a water song of simple joy. I knew many of the green-bloods that surrounded me: prairie grasses, sumac, New England asters, oaks, maples, gooseberries, ash, walnuts, sycamores, willows, goldenrods, birches, milk weeds, viburnums, etc. I also saw cardinals, red tailed hawks, white tailed deer and crows simply living their lives. I suddenly recognized where I stood. I was in the the North Woods of Wisconsin! Well, this was not exactly where I expected to be. Where were the grand ancient sacred sites of power? Where were the marble temples? Where were the ancient crumbling Halls of the Gods? Could this ancient Midwestern woodland be a home to one of the Gods of old? I didn’t think so.”Oh well”, I remember disappointedly thinking, “I might as well follow this riverside path and see where it leads.”

    It was a beautiful walking day. The song of the waters and winds filled me with a bittersweet joy. The dancing autumn leaves against the bright blue autumnal sky delighted my heart and mind. The deep purple asters and shinning goldenrod formed beds of color that stirred my consciousness into remembering the sacredness of living beauty. Each breath I took restored every cell of my being. “Am I actually in the Wisconsin North Woods?” I asked myself.

    I was drawn to continue to follow the path as it lead me deeper into the forest. I wandered up and down hills. I came across far vistas of old rivers in their grand valleys. I noticed beautiful mounds of red mushrooms growing beside the path. It was a lovely fertile landscape. Yet, I saw nothing that I thought would mark this land as an abode of the Gods.

    As I came over the crest of a low hill, I noticed a house nestled half way up the neighboring hill. It was obviously a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. ‘How odd,’ I thought. “I am sure this house was never built. I wonder who lives here?”

    I felt excitement grow in me as I walked down the hill to a little bridge made of a single slab of white marble which spanned the small rapid stream at the base of the two hills. I stood for a moment in the middle of the bridge; shy, uncertain, unsure. Should I just go and knock on the door? Should I call out,  “Anybody home?” What should I do? I felt drawn, I would even say compelled, to meet whoever lived in this house. I let my feet continue taking me towards the house.

    It was a beautiful house. It appeared to be made entirely of white marble slabs and sheets of pale green glass. the house had long low elegant roofs, large stone decks cantilevering out over the stream below, and glass walls which merged with perfect harmony into the lands and plants it dwelt amongst. On the white crushed stone driveway stood a perfect 1957 turquoise Thunderbird convertible with white leather interior and gleaming whitewalls. Large, low, broad white marble urns filled with bright red geraniums accented with some kind of tall black grass lined the drive leading the eye to the entrance stairs. I was half way up the drive when a exquisitely beautiful woman, perhaps in her mid 50’s, her black hair piled high, her lips a dark burgundy red,¸ dressed in a lovely turquoise cocktail dress and  shining red jeweled necklaces and earrings, came out onto one of the decks. She stood tall in her deep blood red spiked heels holding a cocktail in each hand while still managing to hold a smoking unfiltered cigarette. She looked me directly in the eye. I shivered.

    “Your mine, boy.” she stated plainly, as if it was simply a statement of fact.

    “Come on up here, Honey. Let’s have a drink.”

    I knew instantly, without a doubt who this was. This was the Great Goddess Hera, Queen of Heaven, Daughter of Rhea, Keeper of the Flame of Choice.

    I made my way slowly up the steps that lead to the deck on which Hera was standing. She was waiting for me at the landing holding out a cocktail that She had made just for me. I took the drink and tasted something that was beyond anything I had ever known before. Was it an ambrosia/gin mix? What kind of olive was that floating in my drink? Hera lit another cigarette with her own and handed it to me. We stood there just

looking out into the woods as we drank and smoked comfortably side by side.

    “You know who I am, Donald,” Hera said. “I have been waiting a long time for you to join me again. I am so happy you are finally here.”

    Hera lead me through large glass doors into a living room. The sofas were low and very comfortable. They were arranged into conversational square centered on a deep rich brown area rug. The sofas were upholstered in a heavy pale beige raw silk printed with dark red, green and brown spirals. A large blond oak coffee table sat in the middle of the arraignment. The bronze floor lamps were 50’s space aged rocket designs with the palest pink silk shades painted with faded red and golden comets and stars. One wall was covered with books. A stone fireplace burned with a small sweet-apple wood fire in the middle of the wall of books. The other walls were solid white marble panels or large panes of pale green glass. Heavy deep blood red silk drapes were pulled back to the sides of the windows. The floor, ceiling and wood trim were also blond oak. An ancient red patterned pile rug formed an island upon which the sofas sat.

    “Come sit with me, Donald,” Hera said as she placed Her cigarette in a large shallow marble ash tray next to Her drink on the coffee table.

    As I sat next to Hera, She pulled a large brown leather album from the middle of the table towards Her.

    “I want to show you a few pictures from the old days.”

    Hera took a deep draw on Her cigarette as She opened the book. I took another sip from my seemly bottomless cocktail glass and then lit another cigarette for myself.

    “Let’s start with a few when you were just a baby,” Hera said as She smoothed out of the first picture page in the album.”Look at you dancing in the wind with your friend. You were both such a cutie pies!”

    I looked down into what seemed to be a small shinning movie screen (9 x 11 inches) bordered with black outline drawings of flowers, fruits, animals, fish, birds, human faces, lightning bolts, stars, comets and such. It was what appeared to be a living image of a grand prairie valley with cold new born snow covered mountains far in the distance. In the center of the image, up on a small knoll, I saw two naked toddlers dancing and twirling with their arms swinging in the air. Off to the far left side, a small herd of woolly mammoths grazed calmly on the tall grasses as they walked out of the picture frame. When I focused on the two dancing children the image zoomed in, focusing more closely on them. I could now plainly see the winds whipped through the individual tall grass blades and the boys long dark hair. I could clearly see their smiling brown eyes, white teeth and full lips. I began to hear their voices laughing and singing songs in a strange language.

    I knew who these two boys were! It was an image of myself and my dear friend playing on top of our favorite hill many millennia ago. I knew that my friend was now know as the ‘Dalai Lama’.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

   I saw dark children dressed in leather leggings and shirts playing hide and seek in primeval woods somewhere in the northern hemisphere. I spotted myself running behind the trunk of a gigantic oak.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

    I saw a group of hunters in heavy winter furs quietly and slowly moving through the deep snow with bone tipped spears in hand. I heard the wind howling. Or was it some large animal? I saw myself as a teenage boy having just earned my right to be an active participant in the hunt.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

    I saw myself as a young girl sitting on a beach in Thera. There was a volcanic mountain gently steaming behind me. I appeared to be waiting patiently for someone. I stand as a group of women appeared from the left, walking right toward me.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

    I saw a group of farmers tending green and growing barley fields. I saw myself as a middle aged woman wiping sweat from my face and taking a break to drink something from a jug and eat a few small yellow fruits.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

    I saw my self as a young third-gendered bee priestess dressed in pale linen embroidered with golden bees, covered from head to knee in a protective veil. I was working in a circle of sacred hives deep in the heart of a holy orchard in Crete. I suddenly recognized the priestesses working with me at the hives and in the orchard, to be Witches whom I already knew or would meet later in my current life.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

    I saw myself as an old man (in traditional Sami garb) working with my family/clan herding reindeer in the far north.

    Hera turned the page to another image.

    I saw myself as a young fancy woman working the streets of late 19th century Paris.

   ‘That’s enough for now,’ Hera quietly said closing the album. ‘We will be spending much more time together over the years. It’s time for you to go back home.’

    We stood up and walked back to the deck hand in hand. I felt such a love for Her well up from deep within me. I felt like my heart was glowing. I looked down to see a golden glow shining from my chest. I could also feel Hera’s deep love for me. I could feel Her deep joy at simply being with me.

    Hera reached out to me, took me in Her arms and kissed my cheek. She whispered into my ear, “Yes, I love you. My love for you sustains me as I choose to reenter the world you now call Earth.”

    Hera stood back and smiled at me, “Good bye, for now dear Donald.”

    All I remember saying is, “Good bye.” I also remember tears of joy, relief and wonder falling down my face.

    I suddenly found myself standing in the middle of the marble bridge looking back at Hera’s house. I remember wondering if I would remember how to get back to this amazing place. I remember hearing Hera’s voice in my head saying, “Don’t worry. You will never forget how to get to my house.”

    I slowly made my way through the woods back to the meadow and it’s singing river. I found a beautiful white marble bench on the bank over looking the river. I decided to sit down and rest for a minute. I closed my eyes and just listened. After a while, I began to hear the sounds of modern life. I heard a jet fly over head. I heard car traffic in the distance. I heard someone’s phone ringing. I opened my eyes to find myself still laying on the lounge in the middle of my back lawn.

    I was back. And I realized that my life had completely changed. Again.