Celtic lore contains a series of stories about mystical journeys into the West, which was for the Celts, the great Atlantic. Maelduin was the ancient pre-Christian hero who was famous for his sea voyages. In the 7th century, it was St. Brendan, an abbott and his monks, who became the subjects of these immrama.
Immrama were spiritual stories. The word itself means “mystical voyage.” In these stories, the hero and his companions would voyage out into the sea and encounter a series of mysterious islands that seemed familiar and “real” in some ways, but always had some enchanted, unexpected twist–an island where there was laughter and no tears, an island where everyone was in mourning, an island where everything was black and white, and so on. Each island presented the travelers with some circumstance or formidable beast that needed to be overcome or understood. Each island seemed to carry a moral or lesson for the travelers.
It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that these stories may have been based on a series of shamanic journeys. Each “island in the sea” is a metaphor for a particular insight into the human experience. Recently, I decided to use this immram paradigm to gain insight into a relationship issue. I journeyed as usual to my guides and asked to be taken to an enchanted island that would shed some light into the dynamic of this relationship. I was taken to the edge of the sea, where I was met by a whale. I climbed aboard and was carried to an island. Here is my immram:
Island of the Tall Trees
I land on an island where there is nothing but tall trees. The branches and leaves are almost too far up for me to see. The trees seem impossible to climb. I ask my power animal for climbing tools, and he gives me pegs I can nail into the trunk. I climb up to the top of one of the trees. When I get to the top, I see that all the trees grow together at this point and form a kind of webbing that I can walk on from tree to tree. A man joins me and we spar playfully from tree to tree (like that great scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). After a time, I climb down and ask my power animal what the lesson is. To achieve new heights, to go to the “rare air” you wish to live in, you must draw on everything you know and even what you don’t yet know. This is new territory. You cannot base this experience on anything you have done or known before. You must conduct yourself with grace and unusual skill or you will fall far. (Yipes!)
If you like to journey, try this one yourself. You can repeat this journey and write a series of these stories. Collectively, that is known as an immrama. The collection may reveal an overarching theme or lesson that is of great value to you.