Today we talk with Ramon Castellanos, the founder of ‘The Ancestral Now‘, an individual with a fascinating background coming from his Grandma, early awakening of Kundalini and further advancement brought on by some very interesting mentors. I hope you find this interview interesting, if so then head over to Ramons site to learn more. Huge thanks to Ramon for agreeing to an interview with us and sharing so much of his life.
PAA: How do you balance honoring and respecting the traditions and cultures that you come from with your own individual experiences and perspectives?
Ramon: This is a very interesting question. In many ways, it comes down to knowing yourself, and understanding what aspects of traditions resonate with you, and then making sure it all stays in context. For example, some people are very drawn to being traditionalist. They are suited to becoming a node for that tradition.
Embodying the essence of it and becoming generational receivers and transmitters for it. Quite literally, the living practitioners of a tradition are often the life blood of the tradition.
While other people are simply generalist who can learn from a draw from traditions in a manner that fosters syncretic mixing and/or idiosyncratic practices. This is how new traditions are born and how innovations occurs; as practices, beliefs, cosmologies mix and breed…creating new ones. Others can inhabit a space where they exhibit both qualities, having very traditional practices, and also have aspects of their practice that are unique to them, though I find this to be rarer.
The key is to know who you are. I know that I am not a traditionalist, and have little interest in becoming a node for a tradition. I need to be creative and continuously exploring, changing, and mixing outside the context of a single tradition. So, with that understanding, I draw from the traditions in a way that maintains their context and also lends itself to being respectful.
As Magician Jason Miller likes to say: there is a difference between technology and symbol set. Meditation, chanting, sigils etc… are technologies, and symbol sets are their particular expression in a unique tradition. I do my best to understand principles and technologies, and allow myself to mix those freely, if they resonate with me and each-other. I keep symbol sets largely separate, except in places whee they make sense. If I am mixing symbol sets, I largely keep that to myself, and do not transmit it. If I transmit it to others, I make sure they know it is not traditional.
PAA: How has your upbringing and your grandmother’s influence shaped your approach to medicine and healing?
Ramon: Though I know that you may asking a different type of question, the idea of honoring my grandmothers influence felt appropriate. My grandmother was an amazing magician, Santera and practitioner of Palo.
She was a power house in some ways, and had a very innate capacity to learn directly from spirits. The degree and breath of her practice with the spirits she worked with, was so large in scope, that it was hard to believe that 80% of it was transmitted to her directly by spirits. Yet it was. She did a lot of powerful work with people and helped many. Her funeral was participated in by nearly a hundred people. And yet, like all humans, she had blind spots. She was not a very healthy person in many ways, and died from health challenges that she was largely apathetic about.
Watching her and taking care of her in illness was a primary inspiration for me in learning about health. I started seriously exploring health and ancestral living at age 16-17.
I do not currently mix health and magical practice directly, though having a magical practice in general, is good from my health because it feeds into my wholeness, and because deep ancestral lineage repair can actually ease and or remove genetic health challenges in some situations. However, I find that health requires intelligent eating, movement practice, trauma release, stress modulation, easeful energetic flow, and a neutral/harmonious psyche.
Many a magician are very unhealthy people. Many a traditional “shaman”, die young from the stress of their life and practices. Which is not a criticism. People make their choices and pursue what they think is important. But health, requires it’s own tool set. While magic can be worked with to heal serious illness, and or facilitate healthy pregnancy, transitions, and ways of being, those acute applications are not what build true health over the long term.
I personally do not have the skill set to work with magical technology as a “curandero” or “healer”. I have a very different and very effective skill set for doing that. That said, the one place there is overlap is in my prayers. I do pray for solutions, actions, trajectories that will improve my health. I may divine around blind spots around health. I may enchant for internal and or external changes that may facilitate healing. But I do not try to directly modulate health with magic. It is absolutely possible, and yet, it is not what I do.
PAA: How do you stay disciplined while also maintaining variety in your work?
Ramon: This can be complex for many people, but honestly, I find it to be quite simple. Create systems, establish baselines and learn to cycle. In some ways, it is about choosing what to consciously neglect and feed.
Creating systems means setting things in place that are in some senses are consistent. So, that means I show up to “practice” everyday at more or less the same time. Though I do not hold too strongly to what will happened that day. My goal is to move my self towards greater wholeness, synchronization and synergy on that day, and also, to listen to what my being is saying will do that on that day. The practice must serve you, and not the other-way around. This often requires an eclectic skill set (obviously). So I modulate intensity, volume, and type of stimulus as needed.
By establishing baselines, I have touchstones that always happen. For me this might be devotional practice with the ancestors, Ayurvedic self care practices, a 5-10 bare minimum of physical work, testicular massage, and internal alchemy daily regardless of what cycle I am in. These anchor me. All shifting in response to my capacity on that day.
And finally I cycle in out of different focuses on multiple levels. Some times magical practice is growing and alchemy goes to maintenance. Sometimes physical practice is heavy and magical practice slows to basic devotion. Sometimes I am having deeply ecstatic sex more often and physical practice and alchemy slow down. There are infinite variations of this. Then, in the context of each individual practice, I cycle as well. So for example, in regards to physical practice I may work through cycles of Bioenergetic therapy, self defense, flow state training or explosive resistance training. Sometimes I am consecrating a lot in magic, and others I am just flowing with daily devotion. This creates a very adaptable, and ongoing practice where something is always improving.
And it is not for everyone. Some people do not need tons of variety and are better served by doing the same things for 2-3 months and then changing. It depends on you.
PAA: Can you discuss any ongoing spiritual or magical research or projects that you’re currently working on?
Ramon: There are a wide variety of projects I am currently working. But two big ones I am working on are:
1. Ancestral Alchemy…. which would be a fusion of internal alchemy, shamanic work, ancestral lineage repair, African spiritual practice and destiny alignment. A pretty deep dive requiring a pretty profound whole person shift working in multiple worlds at once. Certain processes would be facilitated on purely energetic and awareness based levels, mirrored and or aided by working with materia, and vice versa. The objectives are many, but one might say…ancestral lineage repair, magical skills and living in alignment with destiny are big ones. The impact of doing this work seems to be “rhizomatic” in that the impact really does diffuse out into transpersonal channels affecting many. This is still a few years out however.
2. The other is a book on wildness called “In Praise of The Wild Spirit”. It is an ode or devotional work to wildness and incorporates lessons learned at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, directly from the animals and wilderness. It explores what “wildness” means to me, especially as a 21st century human being who seeks to fully live within the confines of the modern civilization. A core feature of this, is the recognition that wildness is a state of being, not necessarily something external. It will draw from a wide variety of topics and be more narrative focused than my last book.
PAA: How do you incorporate the concept of “liberation” into your spiritual and magical practices?
Ramon: I love this question, and I can say that liberation is core feature of what I help people do in one way or another, especially liberation from the imposed stories and expectations of others that lead to what one might call a “false self” and the impositions of civilization.
One might extend this to liberation from the narrow confines of the “personal self”, though I do not like discussing that excessively because it often leads down pathways that can only be understood through direct experience. However from a personal level perspective, most people are drowned in the value structure of other people and shielded in protective armor that has been crystallized over their psyche and soma, preventing them from being themselves. This is insidious.
Conditioning that prevents you from being the authentic you is not just mental, but physical too. Conditioning preventing you from being fully human is layered into culture and society. Thus many forces are “confining” your expression of self. It here where I do my best work with people. Unlocking and liberating the true you from all this layering. It is my view that your divine purpose is to be fully yourself. The liberation I often speak of is this. For we are all cells inside the organism of the world, and to find true fulfillment, we must love the cell we were born to be. To become uneducated in being a different cell is a special brand of liberation I think needs more of.
There are at-least two parts of my life. That is life before and life after Kundalini.
PAA: How did your Kundalini awakening experience shape your spiritual journey and personal growth?
Ramon: There are at-least two parts of my life. That is life before and life after Kundalini. Kundalini came in like a lighting bolt, and although I will not say this felt sense is “literal”… it felt as if a god a laid a scepter of fire and electricity within the core of my being initiating a permanent irreversible process. The initial stages of it were characterized by unmanageable energy flow, spinal convulsions, dissociation and crying.
For weeks on end I cried for 4-6 hours day it seems. My whole personality as shattered, I dropped out of pre-med (with a 4.0 GPA), I became obsessed with research, and practices. Kundalini brought me to the brink of death. The challenge though was that my system became (and still is) insanely responsive to most types of practices. I pick up some things really quickly and my system adapts (and peaks really quickly).
If I over do it, or have some new major break through, the Kundalini fire lights up leading to some very intense electrical surges and bodily convulsions. Yet…if I do not seek deeper practice things are even worse. In some ways, Kundalini has made my process one in which I cannot help but pursue spirituality/practice, it is as if I have no choice in some ways. My Kundalini is active that I do not seek to open all the channels of my totality, things get very uncomfortable. Unbearable.
It is has asked to understand many of the principles taught by older traditional cultures and yet also honor my own system. Nothing cookie cutter works for me, regardless of how much I may try. Only highly adaptable systems allow me to find balance and continue to open my system to more energetic capacity. The skilled I become, the less of a challenge I deal with. It sounds hard, and it has been in some ways. Yet I am deeply grateful for it, because I was heading down a somewhat destructive path despite doing well in school. I would probably be dead if it were not for Kundalini.
PAA: Can you share with us some of your spiritual and magical practices, and how they inform your work as a healer?
Ramon: Well, I would like to start off by saying I do not identify as a “healer” in all honesty. Not as this stage anyway. That of-course could change. I am a “health ally”, or at least that is what I think of it. I aid people in taking control of their own health on every level. But yes, my practices are:
Internal alchemy from a bio-dynamic osteopathic and animist perspective, which is difficult to give a whole lot of detail about in an article, but suffice to say that it’s power resides in aligning yourself with natural forces moving through nature, and learning to “surf” with them to accomplish nearly any goal what might imagine from that “type” of work.
I have a very engaged physical practice focused around flow training, Bioenergetic therapy, mobility training, internal martial arts and some strength training centered around increasing testosterone. I also engage in a variety practices focused around increasing health. What may “look like hacks”, but I do not relate to them as hacks…simply practices.
I have a deep magical and shamanic practice focused around The Ancestors, Familiars, Land Spirits and the Ifa concept of Ori (consciousness). A part of this is devotion to get in nature as often as I can, and especially the ocean.
Lastly, I would say I have a very lively and engaged sexual practice with myself and my partner. Which is about deepening my capacity to allow ecstasy and the life force to flow unhindered, while also expanding my capacity for connection, pleasure, bliss and liberation. They inform my work in a variety of ways. The first is that no single health intervention leads to “true whole person health” and health is not about the absence of disease. Health is a force of nature that can even be found in a disease. We can die with health. We can relate to the world, spirits, enemies, and even curses with health.
Once we understand that health is a force, that force can direct our life. More so however, is the understanding that what it takes to drastically shift health, usually requires the whole person and then must extend beyond the person. The primary pillars I work with are restoring flow, increasing the capacity for pleasure and realigning with ancestral life-ways.
PAA: How did you manage to restore your health and sense of aliveness after experiencing such severe physical and emotional challenges?
Ramon: A simple way to say it might be that it was through the relinquishment of who I thought I was, over and over again, and to devote myself to a consistent set of practices to facilitate that process. More so however, it was also to devote myself to health above all else and make it a priority. To do that required me to step outside many conventional notions about health. Health is a spiritual practice that points me towards the places where I am not being authentic, and living life the way life itself wants to move through me. In some ways, it became a matter of becoming fully alive or die trying. In that way, to find meaning, and messages inside of your health challenges was key for me. To know they were pointing me in a particular direction and trying to “serve me”, became a driving feature.
PAA: What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with their health and facing similar challenges?
Ramon: It depends on severity, but if we are referring to people with similar challenges as me…Take full ownership of your own health. Even if you need health allies (which you probably do)…you have to own it, and let health itself be a guide. You will have learn a lot, fail a lot and keep going. It will take the shedding of old identity structures on deeply physical levels, as well as shift in how you relate to life itself. The old ways of being got you where you are. They will not take you where you want to go next.
The key though is to know that what you have to let go of simply the “false self”. For the more you unlock your authentic nature across every domain of your life, the more you unlock health. It will take action across nutrition, movement, energy, mind, emotion, spirit, sexuality, and service to the whole to get you there. It may seem like a lot, but extreme chemistry requires extreme adaption.
PAA: Who were your most significant teachers or mentors in your journey of magic and spirituality?
Ramon: I have had the honor and privilege of working closely with a variety of incredible teachers. I would not be where I am at without them. My grandmother was my first magic teacher, and she was a powerhouse who had a unique gift of learning directly from spirits as I mentioned earlier.
However, my first formal teacher to whom I am eternally grateful is Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari a world class Sufi and Tantric teacher, as well as a swordsmen and martial artist of significant skill. I worked really closely with him for years, and I owe a foundational self ownership to his instruction. He also taught me much about wildness, human adulthood (from animal based perspective), and how to not lie to myself. I become his protege, and I carry what we focused on appreciation. Honestly, in some ways the best thing he did for me, was just be a friend when I needed one.
Tao Semko (with whom I am cleared to teach a variety of qi-gong systems), was instrumental in helping me get a better handle on Kundalini. His nuanced knowledge of energetic somatics, magic, cross cultural principle based teaching and sheer compassion were life saving. His system called “The Kundalini Awakening Process” provided skill set for balancing the flow of energy in my body that was really needed at the time.
Next is Fabeku Fatunmise an elder in the Ifa and Orisa tradition who is also another magical powerhouse and one of the most generous human beings I have ever met. He brought me into his orbit, and with him I took a 2 year long deep dive into “becoming magic”, as it were. We also worked one one in regards to my relationship with the Ifa and Orisa tradition. It was from him that I learned about real animist practice, “shamanism”, and how to “be magic”. I gained a certain level of fearlessness from him in experimenting, mixing, and approaching magic with freedom. I can pretty much walk into a house, and create beautiful magic from whatever is in it, without needing anything special.
Finally Dr. Craig Wells who is an internal alchemist extraordinaire, and a gifted osteopath. In order to respect his privacy I will say that my degree of energetic skill, cultivation and my nuanced understanding of a variety of layers of energy would not be possible without him.
PAA: Huge thanks to Ramon for his time and generous sharing.