Meditations in Iron: Sacred Leadership in a Chaotic World

by Ravyn Stanfield

The time has come to dream the beginning of the world instead of the end. Many progressive humans yearn for a world where we are living sustainably on the planet in peaceful relationship with other species. Many of us are actively creating that world in some form. Some of us are dismantling the policies and resisting the destruction of the dominant culture that we have inherited from Western European colonization. Others are trying to change the system from within, healing the damage that has already been done or holding the vision of a different way of living together even when it seems impossible. Leaders and changers are often drawn to healing, teaching, service, social justice work, the arts, growing things, caring for others, and parenting children who will carry on the legacy of changing the world.

If it were easy to shift our culture into a life giving social ecosystem, we would have done it already. Unfortunately, there are many places where we lose our way, or at the very least, lose our temper. Most of us have outdated beliefs about our power, our voice and worth. We inherit these limiting beliefs from being raised and educated by people who were raised and educated in this culture.

Many of us do not have the kind of bond with our landbase that native people have had, so on some level, we battle with alienation. When you add a disconnection from indigenous ancestry /practices to that alienation, it is a recipe for dispossession trauma. This kind of trauma plays out in many ways, including stealing from cultures of which we have little connection with or understanding and a feeling of not belonging anywhere or to anything. When this gets too painful, we often seek connection in places that do not support our health or happiness.

Collaboration is more difficult than it looks. We battle with interpersonal conflict and dysfunctional dynamics with other humans who are trying to help create the world that we all want. In the midst of these battles, there is a war being waged on the natural world so we struggle with the knowledge that so many things we love are being destroyed and the depression, rage and exhaustion that comes from that. There is great abuse and poverty wherever we look. There are intense injustices happening right in our hometowns. Our attention spans are also being challenged with more and more flashy technology that can do impressive things but distracts us from being present in our bodies and in our lives.

It can sometimes feel very, very hard to accomplish anything that feels like success in the face of all that needs to be done.

The work is cut out for us and sometimes it feels as if we are not up to the task. We could tell ourselves that leadership is impossible or something that someone else with more confidence or charisma should do. It can seem narcissistic or selfish to even consider working on our leadership skills in the midst of everything that must be done. And certainly, personal work is not a place where we can rest for eternity, but it is an important part of breaking our slave training from the dominant paradigm. We have to believe first that we can do it, and that means, US, not someone else! We are the ones we are waiting for.

A culture of people who loved themselves, each other and the planet would be unstoppable and very hard to enslave! Within our self doubt, there is a web of lies that is related to the giant web of oppression that keeps us bound and unable to act. When we are busy hating ourselves, we are powerless to do anything else. A culture of self love will not support mass consumption or sit by and watch the loss of the natural world. It is no accident that we often feel that we are worthless and unlovable, there is a lot of money spent to keep us feeling that way so we buy more things. Remember that.

In my own body of work, I often refer to this web of lies as the Hex. As a practitioner of healing and magic, I know what to do with a hex. I name the negative patterns and addictions of the dominant culture as a spell that has been cast to take my power from me. I reclaim my power again and again, restoring my soul and my motivation.

Enter the Iron Pentacle. This is a living meditation and embodiment tool of the Reclaiming and Feri traditions. Starhawk touched on it in The Spiral Dance and Thorn Coyle talks more about it in Evolutionary Witchcraft. Jane Meredith and Gede Parma have written an entire book to explore this tool called Magic of the Iron Pentacle.

This pentacle is made of iron, shining and strong, the same material in the center of the earth and in the stars, the same material flowing in our human animal blood. We allow it to stream through our bodies, starting with Sex in our heads, sending the energy down to Pride in the right foot, up and diagonal to Self in the left hand, across the heart to Power in the right hand, down to Passion in the left foot and back to Sex. We are made of earth and stars, divine human animals. We are not separate from other species, the planet or each other.

The points of the Iron Pentacle are: Sex, Pride, Self, Power and Passion. These are energies that we claim as birthrights, not to dominate others, but to fall in love with ourselves and our charge to live fully and actively in this world. Taking leadership with confidence and breaking the Hex of self loathing requires that we remember these energies. Then we can *do something* with this confidence. Because I feel more connected to verbs sometimes than nouns/concepts, I have also added verbs that I develop that help plug me into the points and their energy in a slightly different way.

SEX is the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, surfaces caressing surfaces. Sex is the dance of life force, qi, prana, electricity, raw energy coupling, the kiss between heaven and earth. This is the source of our being. I CONNECT.

We use this sexual energy in leadership in many ways. When we have access to our life force energy, we remind others that they can access theirs as well. When we are flowing with life, we have more than enough energy to give to our healing work. We can stop giving life force to the television, the computer, traffic, our anxiety about the future and all of the other traps.

Victor Anderson, co-founder of the Feri tradition, said that every magical act is sexual. When we use this energy well, we are shifting the larger consciousness and reviving ways of living that have been eradicated from modern culture, like ecstatic practices, sensuality, and desire. Sex energy is for waking up the world, for reminding people of what we are creating and why we are fighting to reconnect.

In leadership, our sexual energy will attract people to us; people who have life pouring through them are sexy! Because sex has been so twisted in the dominant culture, we have a lot of responsibility to be gentle with people, to show them their own beauty, to do our own work to feel sexy without needing the people we are leading to boost our self esteem. It is vital for leaders to be aware of their own rejection stories from the past and present so that we can avoid misuse of sexual power.

The kind of sexual energy that we talk about running in the Iron Pentacle work is about connecting ourselves to the energies of above, below and all around us. We can ‘plug in’ and run the energy up and down, feeding ourselves with it and using it to feed each other. In leadership, we can allow our energy to course through us and in fact, it may even be our responsibility to bring more life force into the world so that people can understand what has been stolen.

PRIDE is the true measure of my worth when I compare myself to no one. Pride is my unique abilities and contributions and the confidence I build around what I have to offer. Pride is my trust in my gifts and my commitment to develop them in service to my community of humans and other beings. Pride is the belief that we belong here on the earth, that we have a place here. I CAN.

This is a place where the Hex hits us hard. “Not good enough” or “not as good as” is a story that many of us carry. I know that I am in true pride when I stop measuring myself against another person. For instance, if I say to myself, “I am not as good of a drummer as RhythmDancer”, I can spiral down into a projection of power and render myself very ineffective. That shame spiral may keep me small and safe and then, I don’t have to do very much in the world. But in the long run, it doesn’t serve me or the places that I can affect others and it leaves RhythmDancer and others I compare myself to very lonely out there doing the work all by themselves.

If my self talk moves into comparison, it is time to reclaim my pride. I can say to myself, “I do good drumming work with the training and experience that I have. This amazing drummer is an inspiration to me and I would like to further develop my drumming skills so that I too can be more influential in this area. Perhaps I will practice my drumming this year.” Suddenly, I have not only a goal but more access to all of my skills, at whatever level they currently are. I am able to lead from my strengths.

In leadership, we will often be asked to receive feedback. When we learn to run our right sized Pride energy, we can accept feedback and suggestions for our improvement more gracefully. This is also a good tool to help us lose discomfort with making mistakes, and be accountable to others without being fragile ourselves when we don’t get it right. When we can find our own self confidence, we can also help others find what they are really good at and help them put it to use to solve the large problems we are facing.

SELF is the sum of all that I am, my core essence, my energy signature, the blend of my secret and public faces. The better I know myself in all of my parts, the better equipped I am to manage myself when I lead others. Who am I really? The dominant culture asks us to wear so many masks that this work of self knowledge can be endless. However, leaders should definitely be familiar with their own gifts, pet peeves and triggers. The energy of Self gives us this awareness. People can become enchanted by the infinite realms of soul-searching personal work to the point where they are not active in the world. It’s important that we do this exploration alongside our service and our resistance, not instead of it. I AM.

The knowledge of our hidden shadow selves, the parts that we don’t readily reveal, aids us in situations with other people. The person who irritates us the most is often acting as a mirror to show us an unwanted part of our personality. Our work with Self can help us find compassion for the people with whom we are working and keep our communication kind and effective. We don’t have to excuse people’s harmful behavior, but we will be asked repeatedly to cooperate with others on solving the huge problems before us. The energy of Self can keep us honest and connected to the best parts of us so that we can collectively create in the best ways available.

The better I know myself, the more likely I am to care for myself. Self care is a big responsibility that leaders have and one that we often ignore. When I do not care for myself with good food, down time, sleep, recreation, love and healing, I am exhausted, cranky and sharp tongued. I might tell myself that I am doing this because a cause or project is more important than my personal needs, but if I neglect myself long enough, I am actually reducing my ability to be useful and I become self-destructive. My influence on others decreases and I am much more likely to misuse my power or engage in interpersonal conflict. Martyrdom is not sustainable! Make sure and check out Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown for more brilliant words on this topic. When good leaders burn out or fade away, we do the planet a disservice. Knowing ourselves helps us take breaks and recharge when necessary. Leaders are an important resource.

POWER is life force in motion, action, strength, fuel, my impact on all the worlds, how I am accountable. Power is in my choice of how I use my energy, the direction I go. I AFFECT.

Angeles Arrien, a spiritual author, discusses three kinds of power recognized by native people all over the world.

1. Power of position

2. Power of presence

3. Power of communication

These are all ways that we can have influence as leaders. Sometimes power comes from taking a certain position, for instance, in ritual, if someone is leading a trance or casting a circle. There are positions of power that we may take such as priestess, healer, teacher, therapist, council member, evaluator, elder. The power is inherent in the role. Sometimes power comes from our very presence, our charisma or our life experience. There are people whose power we can feel even if we do not know them or what their position is; they have developed power of presence. Power of communication comes from the ability to articulate or write thoughts and ideas in an influential way. Our writing and speaking skills as well as our ability to use other mediums of communication can be persuasive and this is quite powerful. Our work on these kinds of power can help us increase our influence; the other points of the pentacle can help us trust ourselves to wield that influence wisely in our communities.

Starhawk writes about power over, power with and power from within in her book, Truth or Dare. There is external power in the world that hold dominant “power over” people, landbases and ecosystems. There are corporations and religions and government/military complexes who do not value what we value and systems of hatred that teach that some people or species are inherently more precious than others. We are dedicated to standing up to that power in a multitude of ways throughout our lives. As leaders, we can learn techniques to resist the destruction of these huge interrelated systems of oppression but we must stay connected to our own power and community ties.

We become intimate with the source of our individual “power from within” so we can return to it and remember to use it wisely. As humans in connection with land, we develop relationships with the elemental forces of life. When we call the water into our circle, we want to feel the energy as it comes. This is immense power because we know water is not just the raindrop, it is the torrential flood. We all would like to believe of ourselves that we would not call a flood, but it’s good to remember that by practicing earth based spirituality, we already have agreed to engagement with forces that potent. It is dangerous to have people with so much power at our disposal feeling helpless and disconnected. If I am far from my own power, I find it helpful to revisit the elements, practice calling the water, the fire, the earth, the air, the spirit into my body and my leadership. We have very large friends, what are the terms of our friendships?

It is often said that responsibility increases with power. The more power we have, the greater our influence on others. The greater our effect, the more problematic it may be when the impact of our actions or words on a group does not match our very good intentions. Holding “power with” is a skill that we practice a great deal in community. We co-teach and co-lead rituals because we value the richness of working collaboratively and it helps us build loyalty to each other. It also gives us some checks and balances to measure our impact and check our impressions of how things went. Sharing responsibility can be a great relief when we are feeling overwhelmed about all that needs to be accomplished. There is more than enough power to go around, more than enough attention and influence to share. There are millions of stars in the sky and when we share power, we form constellations shining together.

PASSION is the song in my blood, what drives me, motivation, my longing, what feeds me, what makes me care. My passions evoke my emotions and keep me connected to the web of life around me. Following my passions wherever they lead often brings me life experience and later, the gift of wisdom. I CARE.

Passion in leadership is often what draws people to our projects and causes. We can learn to channel our passions into inclusive invitations rather than using our emotions to bludgeon people into following us. This can be very tricky if we feel so strongly about issues and causes that we will do anything to motivate people. A common dysfunctional cycle is when our passion falls out of balance and leads us to urgency and then to obsession. From obsession we find exhaustion, and then to recover, we often isolate ourselves in despair and become numb. We can also fall into the trap of manipulating people with guilt, or becoming dictators in our own right, telling everyone how they ‘should’ be living and shaming them for not doing ‘the right thing’. There is no doubt that there are immediate changes that need to be made, but people are motivated through inspiration, example and consistent vision, not shame and blame.

In leadership, we must develop a sense of joy. No matter how bad things get, we are tasked with the responsibility to hold a reliable vision for the future and talk each other into coming back there together. Passion can help us do this. We can return to our true passion again and again, reclaiming our energy from apathy and obsession. We can remind each other to offer thanks for what we still have, to celebrate what has been saved, do magic for what can possibly return even as we mourn what is lost. We have to believe that magic works. We can call energy back from the story of hopeless apocalypse even as we are pulling valuable things out of the fires of destruction. In order to shift the world, we have to keep going. As Scott Nearing, a radical social and peace activist said: “It is our opportunity, our destiny and our responsibility to keep on living, constructing, creating. We must live, not die. We must not stop. We must go on.”

This is how we return to Sex, the force that moves life through everything. We also run the Iron energy around the outside of the circle deocil, from Sex to Self to Passion to Pride to Power, and joining again with Sex. This seals the pentacle and breaks the Hex.

Our planet needs us to take leadership more now than ever before. However, we don’t have to do everything at once and we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. We have more allies than we can imagine in an interconnected web of life that is conspiring to help us do this work. Developing fluency with the Iron Pentacle gives us a tool to stay connected to our Sex, Pride, Self, Power and Passion, our divine human animal birthrights. These energies help us build integrity in our leadership. We each have unique abilities that we can use in service to our communities in order to lead with more skill and influence. We become more and more able to choose the web of life over the web of lies.

Author Bio:

Ravyn Stanfield

I am a healer of body, mind and spirit; an inventive author and international educator; dedicated to liberating the sacred leadership abilities and super powers within each of us. I practice acupuncture and herbal medicine in Portland, Oregon with a focus on helping people survive cancer, chronic pain and traumatic experiences while fulfilling their commitment to being embodied during these interesting times.  I use my background in the realms of social justice, Taoist, Chinese and other traditional medicines, Jungian psychology, environmental activism, earth based spirituality, creative writing and theatre arts to coax more of the extraordinary into the world through the cracks in Western civilization.

I am an aspiring cultural alchemist, seeking to transform the heartbreak of living in our industrialized modern world, revealing the gold in all that may seem worthless.  I create ceremony and ritual art, weaving poetry, music and performance into contemporary offerings of the human imagination.  Many of my original songs and chants show up in rituals and songbooks worldwide.  I facilitate retreats, workshops and intensives all over the globe with my own unique curriculum that blends healing techniques, mythology, expressive arts, social activism, musical improvisation, conflict resolution and intuitive leadership skills.  I have developed trainings for universities and non-profits and taught within the Oregon prison system.  I design apprenticeship programs for emerging leaders and healers in various communities throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Australia and offer year long trainings in Portland and San Francisco with Suzanne Sterling.

My nonfiction has been published in magazines, newsletters and anthologies. I support a number of Portland based non- profits committed to awakening new writers in the community, including Write Around Portland and the VoiceCatcher.  I have had the opportunity to work with critically acclaimed author, Martha Gies and publish a blog called Revolution of the Spirit at  I have been writing stories, poems and plays since I could pick up a pencil and won a Young Authors award at age 10 and the Creative Writing Award for my high school in 1992.  Art saved my life.

I pursued acupuncture training at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received my Masters of Oriental Medicine in 2002.  I have been highly privileged to work with exceptional teachers like Sean Tuten, LAc., Peter Levine PhD. and Lorie Dechar, LAc. for continuing education in the arts of healing and Chinese medicine.  I specialize in the treatment of pain, trauma and stress disorders including anxiety, insomnia and depression. I also work with sexual health disorders and reproductive health issues such as menstrual difficulties, pregnancy, and menopause.  I use a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Five Elements Acupuncture and Hari, a Japanese style of acupuncture, mixing  herbs and massage with principles of Neidan (Taoist alchemy) and Jungian psychology to facilitate transformation on a holistic level.

I am the Executive Director of Acupuncturists Without Borders, a non-profit that teaches acupuncturists to create healing centers in response to traumatic events and natural disasters.  In 2013, I participated in a World Healing Exchange trip with AWB and traveled to Nepal to provide acupuncture to women and children who had been rescued from sex trafficking.  Now, I help create clinics in Nepal that continue to support local healers in offering time-honored and sustainable medicine to their communities.

I have always been a lover of the sacred, those sublime truths and experiences which inspire human potential to exceed all expectations of ourselves and others. I am a lifelong student of earth based traditions.  I have been deeply influenced by the work of Starhawk, Joanna Macy,  Marshall Rosenberg, Terry Tempest Williams, Jeremy Taylor, Jalaja Bonheim, Thorn Coyle, David Abrams, Charles Eisenstein, Anne Lamott and others who are inviting the world to use a visionary and unifying lens through which to view our healing.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in biological psychology from the University of Kentucky.  I worked as a medical social worker serving adults and children with disabilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico both before and during attendance of graduate school.  I directed the Office of Accessibility and Disability Services at Marylhurst University in Portland from 2005-2009 with a passionate emphasis on creating access to education for all people.

I began my involvement with the theatre at an early age.  I won an audition for the Children’s Museum Drama Club in Indianapolis at age 11 and created performances as part of this in-house troupe for several years as a young adult.  I was also part of a multicultural theatre company called Omniroots in Albuquerque for eight years, acting, directing and stage managing a wide variety of shows that challenged racial oppression and offered alternate visions for peace and justice across cultures.  I have  trained in the work of Augusto Boal and regularly use tools from Theatre of the Oppressed in workshops.

I live in community within the temperate rain forest of Portland, Oregon amidst loved ones, amazing food and the seasonal dances of rain and sun.  This is an ideal location to plot the delightful alchemical transformation of modern culture into a life giving renaissance and a divinely inspired way of inhabiting this planet.