Ayn Cates SullivanSpiritual intelligence is the key to traversing your consciousness journey smoothly. Ayn Cates Sullivan, prolific author and accomplished steward of Celtic folklore, joins host Tonya Dawn Recla on the Disrupt Reality show to share her expertise regarding the mythological and magical worlds of ancient wisdom. Ayn is an award-winning, best selling author of ten books and has won over thirty literary awards. She brings a deep academic background from places like King’s College London and applies it to assist women in creating their own heroine journeys. Don’t miss this fabulous conversation about the power of symbolism and ancient clues woven throughout all of our ancestral stories.

Hello everyone. This is Tonya Dawn Recla, your Super Power Expert, and I am delighted. You all are in for a super yummy treat here today. We’re talking today… I’m not even going to tell you who we’re talking to. Of course, you know already because it’s in the materials, but right now just go with me on this.

Today we’re going to be talking about finding spiritual intelligence in folklore. The reason we’re talking about this today is that I think it’s so easy for people to kind of feel like they’re walking these two different paths. They’ve got their spiritual existence over here, but then they’ve got real life over here. Real life typically means bills and jobs and responsibilities. The biggest challenge in this work and in these journeys is figuring out how to integrate all of that together and make the magical and the mystical your real life because we’re taught that that’s not possible.

In so many ways we’re taught that and programmed that, and it feels very irresponsible, and we have to be adults, and adults means you have to be miserable and all these other things. So many of us are walking a completely different journey, and we take that seriously. We’re going to show you that it’s possible. We’re going to tell you how it’s possible. We’re going to talk about how we got there and what our journeys led us to and why we think it’s important for the collective and the planet and everything else going on and where all of the magic and the solutions and the miracles lie is on the other side of that integration.

While it’s easy to kind of wipe it away as like, “Oh, la, we’re going to talk about stories.” We are our stories. Our world is crafted by stories, and we’ve been telling some pretty crappy stories. I, for one, am in the mood to tell some better ones. The way that we do that even entertains the notion that there is a different way to go about things and that it is okay to do, and we can be courageous in that. 

This woman we’re speaking to today is single-handedly lighting the way and guiding us all into this space in such a beautiful, beautiful way. Ayn Cates Sullivan, Dr. Ayn Cates Sullivan. She has a Master’s Degree, a Ph.D. She knows this stuff. She’s lived this. She’s walked it. She writes it. She guides others into it. What she’s doing is taking that kind of juxtapose or seemingly juxtapose worlds and saying, “Wait, but look. Look how one informs the other.”

We had a delightful pre-recorded conversation that we probably should’ve just recorded, but we’re going to enlighten that for you all for the audience. She’s won no less than over 30 literary awards for her work in mythology and folklore. So the second piece of your mind wants to chime in and think, “Oh, well, this is just fluffy whatnot,” let’s really let that sink in for a second. In the study of this, in the work of this, we are nothing, but our worlds are shaped by nothing but our stories. If we don’t get that and take some ownership and responsibility for it and start looking at where were there other stories and how were those shaped and why did those come about and what have we forgotten and what are we not carrying forward, then we’re really missing an opportunity for the richness of the world that all of us sense exists, but maybe we’re not seeing right in front of our faces.

I’m really, really excited about this conversation. I invite you to just play with us during this call. Just forget what you think you know about how reality works and how things come together and just sit at this moment with us and say, “What if? What if we can play in the magic and be in that and really use that and work it and be in that here?” I think you find a really rich, rich experience with us today.

So thank you for joining us. Ayn, thank you so much for coming on the show. I’m very, very excited about this new soul sister I found here. I’m excited about the conversation, so thank you.

Thank you for having me on the show. I’m looking forward to it.

I know in my excitement I didn’t mention that you’re the author of 10 books, that you write about Legends of the Grail and The Heroines of Avalon and Other Tales. I probably missed some pretty important details, but I think it will come out as we get talking because you’re such a wealth of information, and you hold and carry so much that as a collective we all need right now, so know that my intention is to get into that.

But, first, we’re going to ask you our question. What are your super powers?

My superpowers come through when I call the swan, and so we're going to just shift for a moment into this realm of the imaginal to start here straight away

My superpowers come through when I call the swan, and so we’re going to just shift for a moment into this realm of the imaginal to start here straight away.

Well, my super powers are in the realm of air. If you think for a moment, I have this very long, thin swan feather with a pointed tip. My superpowers come through when I call the swan, and so we’re going to just shift for a moment into this realm of the imaginal to start here straight away. Because in the Celtic tradition what happens when you call upon the wild swan, you can go down to the edge of the lake. It’s right at sunset, and you call the wild swan to you, and she might give you one of her feathers. If you’re lucky, and if you’re looking for something that might be lost in your soul or in your psyche or something that’s happened, you can board the white swan. You climb upon her back, and she flies between the cracks of the world.

All night long you fly with the swan as she turns black. You gather up all the pieces of your soul from the times that you’ve had a shock, trauma, or upset, whatever’s happened to you. And you gather up all those pieces, and as the sun rises you fly back in, she turns white again, and you have arrived whole, your grail, your true self with your swan feather. That’s my super power, to fly with the white swan.

That is a wonderful lovely superpower. I so honor you and appreciate you for sharing it as generously as you do with the world through your books, through your writing. How did you get drawn into that as your medium?

With your wonderful daughter that you have, you’ll understand this. When I was eight years old I walked upstairs, and I said to my parents, “I’m on earth to be a mystic poet.” They said, “I don’t know you’re going to make money doing that.”

That’s nice to hear. 

Right. That’s why I’m here.


That’s awesome.

And on it went. I mean, it really… I think when we’re on our life purpose and mission when we can really tune into it even if it seems outrageous if we follow it, the red carpet unfolds. I got a fellowship at Columbia, and I got an overseas research award at King’s College London. Then I was given stipends to go collect folklore. I wasn’t even really planning on collecting folklore. It’s just what rolled out. It was fascinating, absolutely fascinating. 

Just the richness in that, I can imagine. I’m laughing because I remember, Neva was about two, maybe three, and she woke up crying in the morning and came to me and demanded to know what soulmate is. I was like, “What?” She goes, “What’s a soulmate?” I was like, “What are you talking about?” She had this vision, this dream of her sister with a mate, and she kept telling me that it was her soulmate, but the Neva sensed that it wasn’t a good fit for her, and she was just fit to be tied. She’s like, “I need to understand what this is.” I’m like, “Of course, you do. Why not?” Our rule in our house is kind of if she asks a question, then she’s ready to hear the information.

Of course, we talked to her about it and everything else. She was just livid. I’m like, “Oh, I think we’re getting an indicator of where this one’s going.” 

I think it’s great!

So I can see that.

And you know what? I think if we can keep not only our own children awake and alive and allow them to ask these questions that might seem really outrageous, but they’re great questions, it keeps our own wondrous inner child alive too. Because in folklore Percival, you have to ask the right questions to get the holy grail even if they seem outrageous. Our culture does like to shut things down, and I think our job is to just bust it right back open. Ask those questions. Let’s ask. We don’t know the questions. Okay.

That’s a good descriptor of at least what my experience with it has been. We’re just going to walk right through this I think. Well, it’s having the courage, speaking exactly to what you just said, I have this living, breathing mini-me mirror every single moment of what I… I’m both healing and rewriting my past through her. I’m watching others do the same. If you allow for it to, you see so much of yourself in everyone but undeniably I think in the ones closest to us we would be fools to not see the synchronicity of the patterns that come forward the words, the curiosities. You and I talked a little bit before the call about a method that we use called the inside out game. Part of the reason why we do that is we train people to use their internal experiences, their internal world, and their external world kind of overlaid on top of each other because it creates this really rich environment for full comprehension of who we are and what we’re experiencing and what we create. When you look to your children, you see the complexities and all of the layers that we exist. And then, of course, you get into concepts like oneness, and you start to play with that. It’s like, “Whoa, but you are me and I am you.” It’s like, “Whoa, what’s happening here? Did I create you? Did you create me?” We have some really interesting dinner conversations because of it.

The wealth of experience, the richness of the experience overrides any fear that we’re all just crazy and drink the same Kool-Aid. At some point, there is this crossover where you’re like, “I wouldn’t go back to living in that kind of more limited fearful space no matter what somebody offered me at this stage.” I can remember in that transition thinking that it was like this life or death, this, “What am I doing?” And “Oh, my gosh. I’m getting ready to jump into this abyss, and I don’t have any idea what I’m doing.” Then you get there and you’re like, “Oh, that wasn’t that big of a deal, and this is pretty natural. This feels kind of cool.”

A lot of you I know listening to the show are facing that exact decision. Are you going to have the courage and invoke the courage to kind of step into it? I think the work that Ayn does in the world around the heroes and the heroines is like what can we pull from that. How do we gain courage and awareness and insight and maybe even instruction, if you will? How do we do this from those stories? They came to our collective consciousness for a reason.

I know you work with folks in terms of integrating some of these concepts into their existence. How did you… To come up and say, “Okay, I’m going to be a mystical poet,” but then to be like, “Oh, and I’m also going to guide others to use this information in a real way here in the world,” how did that unfold for you? 

That’s a big question. There’s one thing I want to bring forward just now. It’s a term. I think it’s important for people to know. It’s called ontological shock. I’ll say it again. It’s an ontological shock. It’s a term we need to know when we’re in the process of awakening, so that would be more from my psychological side. I have a master’s in spiritual psychology. The thing is this when you start to wake up, collectively there hasn’t been away for medicine women and medicine men or people who have visions to really operate well in this culture. We tend to call them crazy.

Part of what I feel the awakening is allowing a lot of the pieces, like we're talking about the white swan, to allow those pieces that might really be very powerful pieces

Part of what I feel the awakening is allowing a lot of the pieces, like we’re talking about the white swan, to allow those pieces that might really be very powerful pieces.

If you go into indigenous cultures, those people are a shaman or they’re druids or they’re something. They hold a vision for the collective. For some reason, we lost that. Part of what I feel the awakening is allowing a lot of the pieces, like we’re talking about the white swan, to allow those pieces that might really be very powerful pieces. Our ability not only to see externally but to see them in the world. We were talking about the world and the external world. When I work with people what I help them do is develop a very strong connection through meditation practices and visualizations and so forth to their inner realms.

Don’t be surprised if you’re in deep meditation and you hear a message. No, you’re not schizophrenic. Nope. There’s actually such a thing as inner guidance. It does come from within. When you’re on a quest when you’re on, I take people on heroine’s quest, which you do actually with your two feet. But you have to be prepared. You have to be prepared and have this… I want people to be 60% and 40% out. Then you can be very creative, very solid who you are.

Yeah. We talk a lot about a lot of people who love the expansion game. They want to go high and out, and they want to discover things. As long as it’s outside of themselves they’re comfortable doing it. We contend that you can only go as far up and out as you’re willing to go down and deep. That inside out game is you’ll always hit a threshold of your ability to comprehend and to live and embody stuff if you’re not willing to go even deeper within yourself and shine light on those shadows and look in the darkness and see what’s there and use the techniques that you’re learning in that expansive space internally also. 

A lot of people aren’t really comfortable with that because we’re trained not to look too closely at ourselves. God only knows what you might find there.

Exactly. In some way, we’ve been a severed tree. In the Celtic tradition, one thing that’s really lovely if you look at it is that there’s the tree of life that they have in that particular tradition. Usually, it’s an oak tree or ash, and it goes all the way up. Then it’s reflected in its roots below. So you have one circle that’s a tree. The roots of the tree are just as important as the branches and the leaves and, of course, also the trunk. When you’re working with developing the inner world, we usually actually start with the roots in the Celtic tradition. They actually have, and this is more Welsh tradition, but they call the underworlds a place called… It’s Annwn in some traditions.

In Arthurian legend, you ride to the underworld to find your hallows. If you think about it more practically in this stage, you’re finding your sort of truth. That’s just basically your ability to be discerning. When you’re with someone, can you trust them? Are they telling you the truth? You need that ability, which is sort of an airy ability to be able to read someone and trust them. 

And you need your spear. Those are both sort of masculine qualities. Your spear is your ability to receive insight but also your ability to act. If you’re a warrior, you really definitely need your spear. You need your fire. Then there are two feminine qualities. My series that I just finished is The Grail and that equality. If you’re working with Grail, it’s about feeling and it’s about intuition and it’s about realizing that your body, you can really trust your body to tell you what’s happening. You can walk into a place and you know if you feel comfortable or you feel uncomfortable. If you can really learn that, if we can learn to listen to ourselves, we know where to walk.

We know not to be in certain places where something’s going to happen. We know to be in other places where good things are going to happen. Really learning to trust ourselves has not been part of what we’ve really been doing in our culture, but it’s something that’s very important especially for our children. The fourth part of that would be the hollow would be the crystal or the stone. If you think about it, it’s just getting your feet on the earth, this lovely earth that we’re on that we really need to learn to walk in harmony with. 

One of the things that I’m sort of doing was collecting folklore, and it surprised me. That’s why I was back to the ontological shock. When I was collecting Folklore in Ireland, first of all, I thought there’d be a ton of people there or at least famous characters. Nobody was there except like sheep and cows.

You’re like winning, right?

Wait a second. I’m walking in these while it’s raining. There’s an occasional crow flying past. You can when you’re alone and you’re in the forest I’m at the edge of the western world, so here it is, the west of Ireland, and you just got the Atlantic on the other side all the way across the United States. The trees kind of creak. You can even see them. They’re twisted and kind of gnarled. I was looking at this one particular turlough, which is a seasonal lake and it’s where W.B. Yeats, it’s a very famous poet, Irish poet. I was looking at the lake going, “I completely understand why the Wild Swans of Coole came from this lake, why that poem arose here. 

It was at that moment that I went, “Ah.” There are stories that are etched into the land, and when we stand in those places we know what’s come before. It’s a very sort of Bardish, Irish thought pattern. I know I came back to my tutor at King’s College London, and I’m talking to her about it, and she’s like, “Don’t put that in your thesis.” We’re going to stick to the fact. It was funny because I did do my academic thesis, but you’ll enjoy this. While it took me ages to get this thesis together, getting a Ph.D. in England at King’s College London is not easy. First of all, you have to use the English language, not Americanisms, but keeping the spelling. You have to prove that you’re an expert in a field. 

Meanwhile, I’m going around with my daughter who was I think two or three at the time, and she’s like your daughter. She’s walking over to the sacred stones, and she’s putting her hands on them and going, “Mom, the stone sings.”

Oh, how funny.

Right? Can you hear what it’s saying to you? I’m meanwhile loving it. When I finally put this series together that I had just finished the Heroines of Avalon & Other Tales, the Arthurian Legend, and then some older Welsh goddesses and then the earlier one Legends of the Grail: Stories of Celtic Goddesses, as I was doing this I loved this play of the child-like quality and the academic sort of merging together. It was giving me some kind of solidity. When I handed it to my tutor I said, “You’re not going to like what I’ve done. I’ve put these together in a fictional form. I’ve done exactly what you’ve told me not to do.” She said, “Oh, it’s fantastic. I love it. Can I write it forward?” 

So I got away with it in the end. 

Oh, how fun. Love it. I want to hear so much more about this. We do need to take a quick break here. Where can people go to find out more about you? 

You can go to my website. Ayncatessullivan.com. I’ve got events. You can look at all my books that are up there and podcasts and contact me through there. And Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

That’s beautiful.

I’m easy to find. 

We’ll have links on the site here folks. We’re talking with Ayn Cates Sullivan about finding spiritual intelligence in folklore. I told   were in for a treat. When we come back from the break, we’re going to dive even more deeply into this work. So stay with us folks. You don’t want to miss it.

To listen to the entire show click on the player above or go to the SuperPower Up! podcast on iTunes.