This introductory article is divided into the following sections:
- 3 Sacred Spheres & 7 Directions
- The Centre & The Spheres
- North & South / Healer & Protector / Martyr & Destroyer
- East & West / Seeker & Visionary / Fugitive & Hermit
- Upperworld & Underworld / Leader & Wise Child (Trickster) / Tyrant & Adversary
- Image Description
These teachings came to me in a vision this summer while currently in the middle of attending online training at the Hilot Academy of Binabaylan founded by Apu Adman Aghama (Reverend Rolando G. Comon) and also currently in the middle of attending the online Play & Pray course facilitated by Larissa Kaul (of Liberatory Animist Healing) and Dare Sohei (of the Body Altar and the Ritual as Justice School for Cultural Somatics co-founded with Tada Hozumi at the Selfish Activist). My background in Somatic Experiencing, the classes I’ve taken in Generative Somatics, the brilliant infographical creations of Kai Cheng Thom, and the astrological bodywork of Luka Roderique also have deeply influenced my understanding of Pagliwanag. These teachings are made up of my life experiences and healing journey to date, but they also manifested at a particular time in my life and in these historic moments for the communities I serve, and so it’s important for me to acknowledge the context and influences of those teachers and healers near and dear to me.
I consider these teachings a healing justice sacred tool that guides me in my own healing journey, and in the journeys of community members who come to me for guidance. My intention in sharing them is for the benefit of folks who would like to know some of my framework but may not have the time, resources, or alignment with me to do this work with me, but they can do it within their own communities when everyone is ready. I also wanted to provide another commentary and entry point to working with soul wounds and/or trauma that acknowledged Western trauma and attachment theory without using academic and technical jargon that can be alienating to some (though, of course, the spiritualist language I use can also be alienating for a different audience). I am writing for the social justice witches, and the trauma-informed sorcerers. I am writing for oppression exorcists and transformative justice healers. I’m writing for you, if this resonates within your body-mind-soul.
Pagliwanag, or Homecoming Teachings, is meant to be understood and practiced within the context of community ritual and spiritual transformation. I would encourage you to read my articles on “Soul Wounds & Personal Demons”, “Community Demons”, and “Oppression Demons” so that you can have the larger context of how these teachings can work with your Healing Altar and communal activities. This article is also an introduction– there will be at least three more articles fleshing out what Homecoming Ceremonies can look like.
A note on “Pagliwanag”: There is a version of this infographic that only uses Bikol and Tagalog words and concepts, that I intend to share mostly with those who have ancestry in the islands colonially known as the Philippines. However, I still wanted to emphasize how much of my understanding of these teachings are influenced by my Bikol diasporic spirit, and so I shared the alternate title in this article. In Google Translate’s version of a Filipino language, “pagliwanag” is translated into English as “enlightenment”, but in the Bikol dictionary, the English meaning is defined as “directions” and “instructions”, while the root word “liwanag” is defined as “light” and “clarity”.
3 Sacred Spheres & 7 Directions
The 10 components to Pagliwanag or Homecoming Teachings are the Sphere of Self, the Sphere of Community, the Sphere of Society, Centre, North, South, East, West, Above (Upperworld), and Below (Underworld).
The Spheres are not just nested within each other, but also merged with each other, like parallel planes of existence that are happening together simultaneously. The Directions are specific experiences of moving through those three Spheres either away from or towards the Centre as part of our body-mind-soul’s process of exploring and responding to the world around us. Imagine that the Spheres are like the elements and sensations of air, earth/water, and light/heat around us while the Directions are specific paths that have landmarks made up of those elements. When we explore how to journey on these paths and not get lost, we’re always mindful of the context of the Spheres.
The Centre & The Spheres
The Centre is, ideally, where we start from, and where we return– the “home” in the homecoming teachings. It holds our purpose and values; a purpose that is recognized by and values that are shared by our community and at least parts of our society. This is because the Centre is also the 4th Sphere, and can only be understood as intertwined with the Self, with Community, and with Society.
The Self, in regards to the Centre, is not just the mind-soul of a person that thinks about and holds the purpose and values of an individual being, but it also includes the body. The Centre in the body is represented as the torso, specifically the region that holds the heart, the stomach and the back of the stomach, and the nether regions that have the processes of reproduction and waste removal. The body is part of our home, but also part of how we navigate the world, and is as central to these teachings as the mind and soul.
In this teaching, I define Community as a group of beings that recognize each other’s purpose and move together based on their shared values. I define Society as a collection of Communities that have at least some common values together so that they can work together and acknowledge each other’s purposes. This, of course, is based on my own individual values that everything has a purpose and inherent value, so my community shares in those values, and I see the world through that lens.
Non-human and/or non-living beings are also very important to this teaching, as they all have a purpose and can recognize an individual living human’s purpose, and have the possibility of sharing the same values with living humans. These beings can make up part of one’s Self (as in spirit companions that are with a soul all the time), one’s Community (such as the land, the building in which one resides, and one’s Ancestors), and one’s Society (for example, another people’s Ancestors who preside over closed traditions or lineages but share similar values to one’s Ancestors).
Another way to understand the Centre would be to look at the writings of Grace Nono and Elder Malidoma Somé. In the stories of the different spiritualists from the Philippines that Grace Nono compiled in “Song of the Babaylan”, the spiritualists each grow up with their community’s values and share in them even as they come into contact with other communities, and their understanding of their purpose both comes from an inner knowing as well as external events that are validated by their community– i.e. dreams from the Ancestors, spirit possession, acknowledgement from Elders. In Elder Malidoma Somé’s writings, especially in his memoirs “Of Water and Spirit”, he ran away from the residential school he had been kidnapped to, his inner knowing realizing that he didn’t share in the values of that place and that the purpose they had for him was not right. Through the guidance of the Ancestors and spirits, he managed to return to his village, and underwent an initiation with a group of younger boys, where he re-learned his values from teachings by living human beings and non-human ones, as well as re-connected with the spiritual and ancestral realms to remember and retrieve his purpose, which involves serving his community by being an ambassador to other communities in the larger society of the world. My own life parallels some of these stories, for I grew up in Canada with the inner knowing that my purpose wasn’t recognized and my values weren’t fully shared. As I grew older, I began to interact with different communities who shared my values, until I found the community that recognized my purpose, and thus, I was able to reach the Centre. The above examples, to me, illustrate how the Centre holds the crucial interplay of Self, Community, and Society in regards to purpose and values.
North & South / Healer & Protector / Martyr & Destroyer
This is the axis, or line, of Needs, which also encompass boundaries and feelings. When we move from the Centre along this line with an acceptance of the cycles of change that is part of reality, as well as in service to our community, we value a good life and a good death. Our boundaries explain ways that our needs can be met and respected or protected, moving us towards a good life and a good death. Our feelings are the energy and information that flows between our mind-body-soul to signal to us when our needs are being met, harmed, or neglected.
When we move North towards the role of the Healer, we recognize the purpose and value of the system of living parts that make up the body, i.e. what the body needs. This same approach happens in the other Spheres as well; we seek to understand communal and societal needs by recognizing the purpose and value of the beings that make up our community and our society. As the Healer, we learn to keep these different parts of our Self, Community, and Society in balance with each other and in alignment with their purpose so as to create the state we call wellness or health. Healers support the movement of parts and beings to what they need.
When we move South towards the role of the Protector, we protect needs, purpose, and values through the creation and activity of boundaries. Protection in general is also a form of showing that something has value. Protection in the form of preventive care, or setting boundaries and making protocols, conveys the need ahead of time, and how to respond to the need appropriately. Protection in the form of interventive care, or enacting boundaries, are the consequences when other beings do not respond to a need appropriately by respecting boundaries and protocol. Protectors, because they are in tune with their Self, Community, and Society, work to ensure that the protocols and boundaries created are in service to shared values and recognized purposes, while the consequences for disrespect still honour both a good life and a good death.
The North and South, or Healer and Protector, are represented by the right and left side of the body. Though I have the North as Right and the South as Left in my infographic, for those who want to follow these teachings, it’s not necessary to strictly follow that correspondence. Perhaps the Right side of your body is more active in protection while the Left side of your body is more about alignment and repair. In this specific teaching around needs and the body, the point is the balance between having needs met and protecting those needs in a constant shifting or simultaneous coordination of your left and right sides.
When we get lost in the North or in the South, we run the risk of becoming a Martyr or a Destroyer. What that means in relation to these teachings is that we lose sight of the cycles of change and are obsessed with controlling everything around us, or we lose sight of service to our community and become irresponsible towards our relationships, or both.
The Martyr, intentionally or involuntarily, ends up controlling others through sacrificing their Self, and their purpose and contribution to their Community is lost. The Martyr may believe they are being very responsible towards their relationships, but they have become over-responsible for some of the needs and purposes of Community while being irresponsible to their Self. The Martyr can be understood in Western theories of trauma and attachment, via the stuck fawn response or anxious attachment styles.
The Destroyer, intentionally or involuntarily, ends up controlling others through fear– other people are afraid that they will be destroyed by the Destroyer. This is also irresponsible to other people’s purpose, and their right to a good life and a good death, but Destroyers are consumed by their feelings and want to punish people for disrespecting boundaries instead of offering consequences that will re-align the Community to purpose and values. The Destroyer can be understood in Western theories of trauma and attachment, via the stuck fight response or a specific kind of avoidant style, or anxious-avoidance styles.
East & West / Seeker & Visionary / Fugitive & Hermit
This is the axis, or line, of Knowledge, which encompasses our experiences of the world through our body-mind-soul, our inner knowing, intuition, and our wisdom. When we move from the Centre along this line with an acceptance of the cycles of change that is part of reality, as well as in service to our community, we value and participate in the cycles of activity and rest. Beyond just being awake and being asleep, activity and rest is how we transmute our experiences into knowledge and wisdom. At every moment of our living existence, we are experiencing something, whether actively or receptively. Active experience can be understood as dialogue, creating something, or reacting to stimulation. Receptive experience can be receiving dreams, allowing thoughts to arise in the mind, or meditating so that we become one with our own consciousness and present in the moment.
When we move East towards the role of the Seeker, we seek out experience, and we actively participate in the world around us as our Self with our Community, or as part of our Community within Society, or as a part of Society in relation to our Self. This is the Direction of the rising sun, and so Seekers look for something new on the horizon, either that is based on purpose or values, or that can be brought back and tested against the purpose and values of their Self and Community. Seekers understand that in the cycles of change, activity is essential for growth in the Self, Community, and Society.
When we move West towards the role of the Visionary, we receive and/or process experience from our Self, Community, and Society. This is the Direction of the setting sun, and so Visionaries are often in retreat as they process or integrate their experiences based on purpose and values. A retreat doesn’t just mean something like a meditation retreat; it can look like receiving messages from our Ancestors in dreams, or spending time ruminating on an important change that has happened in our life, or lying down and visiting the spirit world. Visionaries understand that in the cycles of change, rest is essential for integration within the Self, Community, and Society, for when experience is integrated, it can be transmuted into wisdom, which can lead to a death or transformation of how things used to be. Through death and transformation, another cycle of activity and growth can begin, in deeper alignment with purpose and values.
The East and West, or Seeker and Visionary, are represented by the front and back of the body. For many of us, it is our front that faces the new day, like the rising sun, while we lie down on our backs to rest as the sun sets. If you are nocturnal, perhaps it will be the reverse for you. Regardless, this teaching is pointing out that we need to care for the front and back of our body, ensuring we spend a balanced amount of time engaging in both as we actively participate in life and rest from it.
When we get lost in the East or in the West, we run the risk of becoming a Fugitive or a Hermit. What that means in relation to these teachings is that we lose sight of the cycles of change and are obsessed with controlling everything around us, or we lose sight of service to our community and become irresponsible towards our relationships, or both.
The Fugitive, intentionally or involuntarily, seeks to control their experience of the world by constantly searching for a specific, new (often euphoric) experience or some kind of knowledge that will finally feel safe enough for them. Fugitives have forgotten about the Centre and are in an endless flight because nowhere feels safe, and thus the ways they take knowledge or pursue experience can be irresponsible to their Self, to their Community, or to other Communities in Society. The Fugitive can be understood in Western theories of trauma and attachment, via the stuck flight response or anxious attachment styles, or anxious-avoidant styles.
The Hermit, intentionally or involuntarily, seeks to control their experience of the world by being in retreat from it as much as possible. The Hermit, even if they receive the most amazing insights or have a vivid imagination that can be inspiring, cannot or will not share it with their Self or with Community and Society, and so that knowledge becomes lost. The Hermit is irresponsible to their relationships because they refuse to acknowledge the potential that being vulnerable through sharing can also bring joy and beauty, and not just possible rejection or loss that is part of the cycles of change. The Hermit does not align their behaviour in regards to purpose or values, and instead to feeling in control. The Hermit can be understood in Western theories of trauma and attachment, via the stuck freeze response or avoidant attachment styles.
Upperworld & Underworld / Leader & Wise Child (Trickster) / Tyrant & Adversary
This is the axis, or line, of Expression, which encompasses and connects the lines of Needs and Knowledge, either towards being in Service or towards the wildness of the cycles of Change. When we move from the Centre along this line, we are balancing the work of the Healer, Protector, Seeker, and Visionary. The expression of who we are as individual Selves, or as a part of a Community or Society, will involve some form of all four roles, even if one or two are stronger than the rest.
When we journey to the Upperworld towards the role of the Leader, we understand the responsibility of being connected, through purpose, with Self, Community, and Society. Our responsibility manifests as Service. When we practice alignment/healing, protection, rest/contemplation, and activity/adventure, we are in service to communal/societal purpose and shared values. Leaders continuously check-in with their own personal purpose and values as well as their Community’s and Society’s, to ensure that their expression is responsible.
When we journey to the Underworld towards the role of the Wise Child or Trickster, we become wild; we understand the cycles of Change, of life and death, of activity and rest. The Wise Child understands that change cannot be controlled, and instead, must be integrated as part of the flow of reality. Wise Children flow through the alignment and protection of a good life and a good death, as well as the experiences of activity and rest, without trying to completely control the process. They also understand that there is a purpose to all life and all death, that there is a purpose to Self, Community, and Society, and that all are connected together in the flow of change.
Above and Below, or the Leader and Wise Child (Trickster), are represented by the upper half and lower half of our bodies. Our upper half, from our chest and hands to our head, is the part of our body that can express our Service to Community and Society. Our lower half, from our hips to our feet, is the part of our body that connects to the Earth, to our wildness, and the cycles of life and death. Even if someone did not have hips, or legs, or feet, they can still connect by the part of their body closest to the ground, or their own inner connection to the Earth.
When we get lost in the Upperworld or in the Underworld, we run the risk of becoming a Tyrant or an Adversary. What that means in relation to these teachings is that we lose sight of the cycles of change and are obsessed with controlling everything around us, or we lose sight of service to our community and become irresponsible towards our relationships, or both. The Tyrant is particularly focused on controlling others and our own experiences in our refusal to yield to the cycles of change, while the Adversary is focused on answering only to our impulses or feelings, without regard or responsibility to the Service Community gives to us or that we can give to Community.
In addition, Tyrants and Adversaries also can be a combination or a mix of the Martyr, Destroyer, Hermit, and Fugitive. As a Tyrant or an Adversary, we may have a specific pattern where we swing towards Martyr until triggered into Destroyer, or Hermit and Fugitive. If we feel dismembered downwards in all four directions, we may be the type of Adversary that is unable to respond to our needs or our experiences in a consistent way, just lashing out or withdrawing, consumed by a project or drug or relationship because it feels less bad in the moment. If we are dismembered upwards, every tactic we employ as a Tyrant is meant to ensure we seem powerful and everyone else is beneath us. The Adversary or Tyrant can be understood in Western theories of trauma and attachment, via any of the stuck fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses or anxious-avoidant attachment styles.
For me, the main usefulness of these teachings is in the Homecoming– how the Self and Community can return to the Centre if we get lost in one or more Directions. If we get lost in one Direction, for example, then the Service & Change teachings of the opposite Direction can generate enough pull to create a Homecoming. So the Martyr can learn to be a Protector so that they can transform into a Healer, and a Destroyer can learn to be a Healer so that they can transform into a Protector. If we swing to extremes, such as escaping into an activity or substance as a Fugitive while also withdrawing from Community like a Hermit, then we would need to learn the teachings of both the Visionary and the Seeker, as well as the Leader if our actions tend towards irresponsibility, or the Trickster if we tend towards control (even both if we swing between those two as well).
Homecoming can be divided into three sections: Revelation, Embodiment, and Practice. Depending on which Direction we’re lost in, Revelation consists of developing an understanding of Service, Change, Needs, Knowledge, and/or Expression. This understanding isn’t just about reading about these concepts or learning from a teacher, but also can consist of going into trance or a spirit journey, journaling, creating an altar, or creating visual art, song, or dance. Embodiment is the use of awareness, touch, dance, and/or play to attune to the body — whether it’s the front, back, left, right, upper half, or lower half, before rooting deeper into the torso or core. Embodiment activities can involve guided meditation, energy work, prayer, plant and mineral medicines, drawing games, and orienting to pleasure. Lastly, the Practice part of Homecoming involves the activities of whichever Directional role is needed to balance out and guide us back to Centre. These activities can be taught to us by mentors and teachers recognized by Community who embody the role of Healer, Protector, Visionary, and Seeker, but they can also be taught to us by the Community’s stories of these roles, embodying our shared values.
I’ll be writing the following articles to elaborate more on what these activities are in relation to Self, Community, and Society:
- Homecoming to the Healer & Protector
- Homecoming to the Seeker & Visionary
- Homecoming to the Leader & Trickster
A purple circle in the centre has white text inside, which reads: “The Centre. (Recognized) Purpose. (Shared) Values. Heart, Stomache, Back, Privates.”
There are six arrows pointing out from the centre purple circle. The blue arrows opposite each other are labeled “Needs”. The yellow arrows opposite each other are labeled “Knowledge”. The green arrows opposite to each other are labeled “Expression.”
The blue and yellow arrows point to white circles that have black text inside them and hot pink text outside them. The green arrows point to white and pink text.
One blue arrow points to a white circle with the following text: “North. Healer. (Service & Change). Right.” The pink text outside it reads: “Martyr. (Control & Irresponsibility). Fawn Response & Anxious Attachment.” The opposite blue arrow points to a white circle with the following text: “South. Protector. (Service & Change). Left.” The pink text outside it reads: “Destroyer. Control & Irresponsibility. Fight Response & Avoidant Attachment.”
One yellow arrow points to a white circle with the following text: “East. Seeker. (Service & Change). Front.” The pink text outside it reads: “Fugitive. (Control & Irresponsibility). Flight Response & Anxious Attachment.” The opposite yellow arrow points to a white circle with the following text: “West. Visionary. (Service & Change). Back.” The pink text outside it reads: “Hermit. Control & Irresponsibility. Freeze Response & Avoidant Attachment.”
One green arrow points to white and pink text that reads: “The Upperworld. Leader / Tyrant. Service / Control. Head, Neck, Chest, Shoulders, Arms, Hands.” The opposite green arrow points to white and pink text that reads: “The Underworld. Wise Child (Tricksters) / Adversary. Change / Irresponsibility. Hips, Thighs, Knees, Legs, Feet.”
The arrows are intertwined with three circles. The light teal inner circle reads: “Self”. The medium teal middle circle reads: “Community.” The dark teal outer circle reads: “Society.” A white arrow points to the circle, and the white text at the beginning of it reads: “3 Sacred Spheres That Connect All 7 Directions.”
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