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She Radiates Like the Sun

by Melanie Fire Salamander

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interview (originally published in Widdershins 1997) (vol3iss3)

For Lammas, I interviewed one of Widdershins' favorite Sun God devotees, the local psychic counselor and healer Erika Ginnis, who also sometimes writes for the paper. She's been studying and practicing psychic and spiritual work all her adult life, and she currently makes her living doing psychic counseling, readings, healings and classes through her business Inspiration is the In-Breath of Spirit.

M: You're a practicing psychic counselor and healer, and also a pagan. How do those two parts of your life interact?

E: The way I look at things, everything comes from the same source. It just has different manifestations. In the case of my work and paganism, they are simply two different ways that I express and contact the deep parts of myself and the universe. There are things in my classes that come from my experiences in paganism, as well as many other traditions and schools of thought. My practice is quite eclectic.

One of the things that has been important to me as a pagan that I also access in my work I would call "Goddess energy." This is a support and a foundation for me personally. In my mediations and in my seeking for ways to assist and express, I communicate with what I experience as the Divine Feminine. In my opinion, this is an energy that is reemerging from and through the planet, and I find it extremely powerful and supporting in this kind of work.

My paganism is also one of the ways that I get spiritually filled. My altar and my personal rituals help to keep me in touch with my direction and focus. The group rituals that I attend are one of the things that "lift" me. This is extremely important as a healer and teacher. If I do not take care of myself in this way, it's like trying to pour water out of a dry pitcher. Nothing comes out. That's no fun! As a teacher, healer, and counselor, it is important to identify and maintain the areas of life that put the "water" back in the pitcher so that there continues to be something to give. It's a little easier as a reader, because the very act of reading itself (in the way that I was taught) is an exercise in self-clearing. As I read someone, I am continuously clearing similar energy from my own energy field so that I can maintain my spiritual sight.

M: You participate in both the pagan and New Age communities. Do you find a lot of overlap between these two communities? How are they similar? How are they different?

E: If I stop to think about it, there is a great deal of overlap in these communities, at least in my experience. They are similar in that they are filled with humans looking for some inner resource and spiritual experience. They are different in the words and avenues that are used, although as you dig a bit deeper you may find that under the surface there isn't as much difference as many people might like to believe. I, however, find that to be true about a lot of things that many people find divergent, and it may simply be a function of the way that I personally view the world.

The thing is, I don't really think of the "pagan community" or the "New Age community," or even other "alternative lifestyle communities" that I may interact with. I'm not saying that they aren't communities; what I am saying is that it isn't what I usually put my attention on.

The things that I teach certainly aren't new in any real sense of the word. They are techniques and ideas that have been around for a long time, and it feels much more like I am reminding people of what they already know, and what many of them have been doing in a number of lifetimes that span centuries. It is possible that the information is being presented in a new way, something that works better in the present time than in the distant past. The bottom line is that I still believe that time is this major illusion that we agree upon as spirit in order to have a process of learning, and that, at a deeper level, this is all happening at once, so past and present aren't so clearly defined. Confused yet? (Grins.)

To be honest, I'm not always sure what the term "New Age" really means. It, I suppose, is handy, and it can feel nice to have someplace to fit into, but many of the people and places considered by others to be "New Age" don't even consider themselves to be, and many of them have "fellow pagans" in them. And vice versa. I sometimes wonder if the term isn't something someone got a hold of and decided to create a fad out of, so as to drain off some of the power of what is happening, creating a schism between people so that things don't change "too" much. Or someone decided to overuse the term enough so that people stop hearing what's being said, get tired of it and go on to something else.

Basically, I spend my time with people. I find that there are spiritually interesting things happening with these people. I teach and am taught by these people. I find them everywhere in all different "communities." In my work, I have taught and read people that identified as Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, Islamic, Jewish, pagan, New Age, gay, bi, straight, kinky, male, female, transgendered.

The problem I have with labels isn't so much that they exist, but that they become less and less useful as you have more that apply to you. For instance: I am a practicing pagan and a member of a working coven; I am a minister, ordained 15 years ago in a church that identifies as Christian, and I still teach many of the very useful techniques I learned there; I spend time at a completely different church that is "new thought" and sing in the choir; I practice yoga; I was trained in hypnosis and also shamanic work (although at the time it wasn't called shamanism); I meditate daily; I work with Tantra; I work with astrology; I do psychic reading; I teach personal empowerment. On and on and on. (Grins.)

M: What prejudices, if any, have you encountered, within the groups in which you work or in the outside world? What's the biggest problem, if any, you encounter in doing your psychic and pagan work?

E: It would have to be, having people not understand the work. Sometimes that can be frustrating. I have had some people have a real problem with the word "psychic" because of associations that they have or what it "means" to them, although if I use the word "spiritual" it is fine. Or the reverse: that the word "spiritual," or my being a minister is too "New Agey" and would I please use psychic.... Sigh....

I have to point out that, according to Webster's, the word psychic means "1. Of or pertaining to the human soul or mind" and "3. Outside of natural and scientific knowledge: spiritual." It comes from the Greek psychikos, which means "of the soul" or psyche, meaning "the human soul or mind," or "breath". The word spiritual is also defined as: "1. Pertaining to the spirit or soul." The words all essentially have to do with the same thing. My practice is called "Inspiration Is the In-Breath of Spirit," which is in fact simply a definition having to do with inspiration being the act and recognition of the human soul or mind (psychic/spiritual nature) flowing into and through our physical experience.

Something else that sometimes comes up is the idea either that it is "essential" that you charge for your services and if you don't you aren't really committed to your work, or that it is "essential" that you give your services away for free and if you don't you aren't really committed to your work. (Grins.) Being a Pisces, I of course do both. My Web page is completely free, and there is a great deal of information on it, and I add to it all the time. It also lists things that I offer for a fee. I continue to do trades and have offered free healings and readings at workshops over the years. I also have the goal of supporting myself exclusively from my practice and the things that spring from it. So I normally charge for my readings and classes and counseling and so on. It is my main business, and oddly enough I find that people rarely value something they didn't have to pay for.

I thank the Powers that Be that the prejudices I have encountered have been relatively few. One thing that has changed a great deal since I started to actively do this kind of work is that, in 1979 when I told people about my spiritual/psychic work, I would be rewarded by this incredibly blank look, and then a nervous mumble, or they would run screaming from the room. Now, there is simply a greater awareness of this kind of work across the board. The funny thing is that these days the rush is to label you so that they can have a handle of what "kind" of work you do.

I do get some prejudice from people in certain groupings that aren't comfortable with another grouping. They assume that I am a member of their grouping only, and so that they can speak badly of whomever else. Being the basic brat I am, I will let them know that indeed I also spend time with "them," whoever that is. That's hard sometimes, because the lure of belonging is very strong, and this tendency can threaten that considerably. I mark my true friends by those who know me in my myriad hats, and it doesn't phase them.

M: What was your first contact with pagans/paganism/witchcraft/so on? Had you practiced on your own first?

E: I think my first contact was that I had a crush on Angelique from a series called Dark Shadows. This was on when I was in elementary school (I realize that this dates me). She was a witch, and I thought she was incredible beautiful. Or perhaps it was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, or Glinda, or the Wicked Witch of the West that were some of my first images. I know that this probably shouldn't count, but these things had a lot of power for me as a child. I read all the books I could get a hold of, but it was probably The Spiral Dance, which I read in college, that really hit me.

In 1979 or so, I was nearing the end of a sort of training that I had been involved in for a year with someone who was a medicine man and also well versed in Eastern teachings (does that count as paganism?). When I started to delve into more Craft stuff, I was warned by some of my mentors that these were "old gods" and to be wary. So of course I continued to read more and did some things myself.

But I would have to say that my real introduction was through a Goddess class that a woman in Bellingham taught. My best friend and I took it and were both really, really into it. It was hard, and there was a lot of meditation to it and papers to write. We were both asked to be in a coven as a result of the class. It was Dianic, which for me at that time was just perfect. I hadn't connected with the Goddess energy in my past before in the way that I did then, as a result of that study and work. I am still very thankful that the Goddess found me, or I found Her, through that avenue.

M: What's it like working with the god form Bel and the goddess Yemaya ?

E: I work with the god form Bel mostly in dreams. I have an essay on that, which I will eventually add to my Web page. He is a wonderful presence and is assisting me to balance my male and female energy work. He is a sun god and as such is amazingly warm and bright.

My experience of him has been of getting back in touch with the aspect of male energy that has to do with healing, hearth, home, providing and abundance. These provide a much-needed balance and have been of great assistance in allowing myself to embrace my own male energy, and expanding my concepts of "male" in general.

The goddess I currently am dedicated to is Quan Yin, the goddess of compassion. This is an energy that I knew I needed more of in my life. My connection with her continues to assist me with my work and my own inner practice. I also have an affinity with the Goddess expressing as the form of Mary. This isn't probably P.C., but the energy is much different than some of my own stereotypes of this being. I have statues of Mary, Quan Yin and Yemaya all on my altar.

Yemaya is the goddess about Whom I wrote an article a while back. I was dedicated to Her exclusively as the goddess I worked with for three years. She is another very powerful presence in my life and work, because I am a Pisces, I have a particular affinity for La Diosa del Mar (The Goddess of the Sea.)

M: What rituals speak to you most at this harvest time of the year?

E: I have to say that generally the times of the year that hold the most for me are the winter and summer solstices. However, I wanted to relay something from my dream journal that has to do with Lammas and also the god form Bel. It's from last year; it was and still is a very powerful set of symbols and messages for me.

Dream Aug. 2, 1996, Lammas

Dream within dream, met this man/god. He said he was from my father's line, had to do with my bloodline. He was dark, with a short beard and dark close curly hair, amazing eyes. He was of royal bloodline, European, had a castle, was independently wealthy; we were related.

He was also a god/god form. He explained these things to me about who I was and what I was doing: "bringing the symbols back to this world," he said, and he was showing me the rituals for this, what to do and when. I was with a family, his family that were my relatives or ancestors - ? There were children too; they all showed me parts of rituals, incense, small containers made of polished stone, like the chalice I have made of stone but small, about 1 inch and light green.

He was in front of a huge banquet, tables laden with food and drink, with total prosperity and abundance and a sense of being able to manifest. He was in front of this with open arms welcoming me to it, indicating it was mine as well.

He was showing me this symbol that was gold and straight like a dagger but wasn't one. It kind of reminded me of part of the Kabala Tree of Life for some reason. He said it was old, pre-"cross", that it did have to do with the person Jesus but was very early, from before the whole Christian cross thing. It had to do with lightning and bringing divine revelation down to earth. This was related to the sixth part of the Kabala (which by the way is the position of the Sun or Sun God, the gold energy aspect). The thing was very ornate and carved gold and had a big round eye-like section on it.

He explained that this was a symbol that was an integral part of the work. I went through the ritual with them. So this was an intense ritual/communication; it was kind of like being found and recognized after a long time, claiming my father bloodline. I could see my other family members going through this ritual line before and after me in succession.

So then there is a second part, when I awaken in the dream (still dreaming, of course) and remember the original dream with this god/man/relative, and so I seek him out, because I know where he lives. I find him and explain the dream to him in great detail, and he is all excited because I have gotten and remembered the information. I tell him about the bringing in of symbols back to earth from the spirit plane, and he says "Yes! Yes!" and I mention that it seems like there are pairs of symbols and that you only need to bring one here and leave the other one there. He says "Yes! Otherwise it would be unbalanced, and the circuit or polarity wouldn't work."

M: What do ritual and magick give back to you?

E: I have loved ritual as long as I can remember. I was raised going to three of the most ritual kind of churches: Greek Orthodox, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic. I love ritual in its many forms. One of my friends has said that my decorating style is "shrine- and altar-based." I am always making altars everywhere. I love sacred space.

The solitary ritual that I do gives me focus. It puts me in a place that increases my experience of faith and connection to all that is. I also create from this place and put changes into motion. The ritual I do within a group gives me something I've never found elsewhere. The energy of a group working together feels like the building blocks of the universe. It's the synergy of the whole being greater than the parts, the actual experience of that. It also creates a family in many ways, and those bonds are extremely important to me.

What magick gives back to me is a reverence and respect for the immense power in the universe. It gives form to my thoughts. It is a medium in which to work, and a reminder of what is and is yet to be. Magick is also one way that I can give back to the planet. I have always had a strong connection and affinity for Mother Earth, Gaia. She gives so much, and in my opinion She isn't currently given the love and care she deserves.

M: What do you think have been your most significant personal accomplishments to date?

E: My most significant accomplishments to date would be continuing to do my work even during the times when it's not understood, or when it's not financially making ends meet. I would also have to say that I am honored to have assisted some amazing individuals to create some incredible healing. I have seen people face things and release things that I am in awe of. It is one of the things that makes this so worthwhile.

I am also very pleased with my Web page; it feels like something that is an accomplishment to me. I have people write me from all over the world, people I will never see who stop to tell me that something I have written has made a difference to them, has helped in some way. This means a lot to me.

M: Tell us a little about your psychic counseling and healing work, and tell us a little about your classes.

E: In my practice, I do psychic readings in which I give past-life information, and then look at the auric field surrounding the body and then answer questions. One of the symbols that I work with a lot is the rose. I use it as a symbol to get information about the individual that I am reading, as well as using it within a clearing method for myself as I read. In past-life reading, what I find most interesting is the incorporation of the past information into "this" life.

The aura, as I read it, is not static but ideally flowing. It changes as I read it, and I am giving information to assist with increased awareness of what is happening and how it is affecting the person. It has a variety of vibrations. For me, these aren't so much broken down into "good" colors or "bad" colors; I read more about what the person is using the colors for, what they represent and whether the energy is moving or blocked, clear or dense.

My readings are a bit different than some "psychic" readings, as I don't read the future, as in doing predictions. I am reading what is just coming into being, which is an aspect of the future (as it isn't quite in form yet), but it doesn't get into the "what should I do" aspects that some readings do. I like to give information and do healing that assists the person to get in touch with their own power and ability to make choices, so that they can create their own future in the way that they would like.

I also have the intention as I read to give the information in as clear and neutral a fashion as I am able. Being judgmental doesn't assist me as a reader or the person who has come to me. Sometimes I help people get in touch with beneficial "guides" as well as assisting to release nonbeneficial ones. I do clairvoyant healing, and astral body healing, as well as a simple energy cleansing called an "energetic healing."

I also provide psychic or "pastoral/spiritual" counseling. These are personalized sessions that are a combination of what one might think of as "talk counseling" and in-depth spiritual work. The idea is that first we discuss the issue, question or problem to get feedback and insight. Then we work over time on the spiritual foundation of what's happening, by personal instruction, guided inner journey work, journaling and dream work, reading, healing and continued conversations. In this way, the change comes from a very deep place with lasting results. I have had various people who have seen me over the years work on a variety of things such as: clearing lack of direction or motivation, releasing fear, increasing self-esteem, making career changes, working with relationship questions, healing emotional and physical trauma, following a desire to know themselves in a deeper way and learning to read clairvoyantly.

I also offer classes and individual training in inner journey work, meditation, healing, reading, personal transformation and stress management. I am always adding new classes (usually right after I print a new brochure!). I offer my work to people of all religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, ethnicity and gender. What is required is commitment, teachability and a willingness to experience oneself as spirit. The classes are really fun and also tend to instigate change in your life. I work from a belief that we are each spirit and an expression of the Divine Energy whether you call it God, Goddess, Tao, the Universe, the Great Spirit, whatever. Similarly, I work from a belief that we are here to grow and teach and love, and to learn to balance our spiritual nature with our physical expression, and shrine to though in our uniqueness.

M: What would you most like to be remembered for?

E: What would I like to be remembered for? My sparkling wit. Just kidding! I would actually be honored if at the end of my life I had made enough of a difference that I was remembered as a successful spiritual teacher, healer and writer who was a vital force in assisting spiritual evolution. Also, I would like to be remembered as someone who was able to love and be loved, and that I maintained my own focus and integrity while compassionately teaching people ways to recognize and have a lasting experience that they were spirit and part of everything.

Erika Ginnis offers Spiritual Counseling and Coaching, Psychic Reading, Healing , and Classes though her practice
"Inspiration is the Inbreath of Spirit"




Big Island of Hawai'i

Seattle, WA

Tacoma, WA