Happy Halloween/Samhain to those who celebrate.
My plans for the day have been cut very short due to a bacterial-related illness, so I will be spending it home on antibiotics, and thinking about a few things. October 31st leads us into November, a month of bringing in the harvest and gathering together, and remembering the dead. It is also a time of slaughter, when food-animals are harvested, generally a community affair. It, to me, really kind of brings the whole “remembering the dead”-thing to a new level, when you sit down to the table to enjoy the flesh of your favorite critter. With our stockyards and factory farming and soulless killing procedures, you figure the older traditions probably operated with far more respect with the animals that were consumed than we do today. There was a sense of community, of soul. As postmodern pagans and magical folk, it would do us good to perhaps reflect on those old traditions, and figure out our own ways to inject soul back into some of our eating habits.
Tonight I’ll be reflecting on these and other things. October was the month of my grandfather’s death, as well as the death of a beloved cat. From now and throughout November, ancestors will be remembered, stories will be told, the dead of various forms will be remembered and honored. I will also be working on a few magical projects, one of which involves a little experimental geomancy (or I should say, GEODEMANCY). More on that later.
Description of the title above from Buy.com:
Primal Ancient Egyptian Magic Restored From the dawn of Magic, there was a primal form of magic which was ancient before the Pyramids were born. But unlike many religions, where belief and worship of the forces of nature were persecuted until they died out, Egypt built its new religions upon them. It is possible to find a golden thread of shamanic practice that can be recreated and still remain relevant and useful today. Nick Farrell presents this system for the first time in his easy to approach and relaxed style. It is a complete system in which a practitioner can experiment with at their own pace.
I actually found out about this book while surfing through Amazon.com. You can preorder it here, or go through Buy.com which has its publication date listed at 10/30/08. Nick Farrell is also the fellow who wrote Gathering the Magic: Creating 21st Century Esoteric Groups, a good book to read if you’re ever considering joining an esoteric group or creating one of your own.
Good books on Egyptian magic and paganism are very hard to come by. Most of the ones I’ve picked up have made me cringe with all the sappy newage or conspiracy-theory bullcrap, so I tend to stick to more egyptological texts. This one, however sounds promising, and there are a few good books floating around out there as well if you know where to look. I am currently waiting for the arrival of Storm Constantine’s Sekhem Heka, and I look forward to seeing how it turns out. She was previously the author of Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra, another book I’d like to get ahold of.
There are actually quite a few good books I’ve read recently that I’d like to write reviews on here. I also should update my LibraryThing account with more recent (and even not-so-recent) books in my collection.
The beach I was standing on was dry, sandy and very white. The sun was high up in the sky and shining brightly, and the ocean was somewhere in the distance, I could hear it sighing softly. I heard seagulls calling too, and somehow they made me feel melancholy, reminded me of a time I was spending with my partner, probably in Ocean City or thereabouts. I look all around me and half-buried in the sand are gigantic, dried-out skeletons. I look down and see a skull laying on its side, half-buried. It looks almost like the skull of some sort of gigantic seafaring creature, like a prehistoric whale. I see conical teeth, and molars in the back. The skull is huge, and I’m thinking I could climb down inside of it, through the eye-socket maybe, and have enough room to spare to make it into a little dwelling in the ground. As I was peering through the eye-socket, I began to hear a voice. It was a very loud voice, and it didn’t seem to issue from anywhere in particular–in fact, it seemed to issue from all over, from the huge primal skeletons themselves. The voice sounded very masculine, and very very old. It also echoed, as if reverberating from some vast cavern underground. The voice echoed, simply and yet powerfully: “We are the Cathedrals of the Dead.”
The voice continued to echo and reverberate in my mind as I slowly began to wake up. I checked the time on the alarm, about 45 minutes before it was supposed to go off. I switched the timer off and got up to put on a pot of coffee. The echoing voice gave me chills, and also a profound sense of sheer antiquity that it seemed to carry along, an age that goes beyond my understanding. This was one of those dreams that aren’t easily forgotten, ones that grip you firmly and stay with you long after you enter the waking world, and continue to haunt you when you least expect it.
I am now left with a profound sense of awe, and in a state of deep contemplation.
This essay was written by a close friend of mine, in response to some rather unhealthy trends that have been popping up in neoshamanic discussions, primarily on LiveJournal, though I’m willing to bet this trend extends much further, and just so happens to manifest itself in this one particular format.
Essay reposted with permission, original link for commenting and credit can be found here: http://jarandhel.livejournal.com/259928.html
Spiritually On-Call, by Jarandhel Dreamsinger
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the subject of Shamanism recently. Particularly the question of how a Shaman relates to the gods/spirits they work with. I have to say, I completely agree with mitsukami‘s statement that completely giving oneself over to the dictates of the spirit world to point where it eclipses your work, your relationships, and even your responsibilities to your children sounds extremely unhealthy. Some people have suggested that this attitude is what distinguishes the Shaman, in service to the spirits/gods, from the Shamanist. So far, I’m not really convinced by that line of reasoning.
Shamans in the modern world do not generally get paid by the tribes they serve for their service. Certainly they are rarely, if ever, paid a sufficient amount to support themselves wholly on their income as Shamans. They are also rarely independently wealthy. This means in order to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves properly they need to work for a living at a mundane job. If their Shamanism interferes with that mundane work, it directly interferes with their ability to meet their most basic human needs. A Shaman who is left constantly struggling to meet the most basic elements of survival is not going to have much energy left to serve others, let alone be in the proper state of mind to journey to the otherworld and deal with the beings and dangers there.
Human needs are an important point. Shamans, whatever gifts they may have which set them apart, are not immune to basic human needs. And one of the most basic is love and companionship. And while relationships with nonphysical entities are certainly possible, they are not generally as fulfilling as those in which you can touch your partner, hear their voice, hold them or be held by them at night. A Shaman who is denied the fulfillment of a relationship outside of their Shamanic work may have all of their physical needs met, but they are being starved emotionally. Would you want someone who is mentally and emotionally off-balance, for whatever reason, mediating between you and the spirit world?
The same point holds true when it comes to one’s children. There are very few emotional bonds stronger than those between parent and child. Interfering with that bond necessarily creates distress and interferes with the emotional stability of both parent and child. And interfering with the parent’s ability to meet their responsibilities to their child creates an even more obvious threat to the child’s well-being. I can’t help but wonder if any god or spirit which essentially demands one’s child be sacrificed (either by forcing the parent to give them up, or by denying the child proper care to their physical and mental detriment) is actually worthy of service.
Service. That is another important point: to what extent are Shamans in service to the gods and spirits they work with? There is a word in the English language for someone who is in service to another being so completely that the being they serve controls their work, their ability to meet their basic needs, their relationships, and even their custody of their children. That word is slave. So the question must be: Are Shamans the slaves of the gods and spirits they work with? I don’t think so, and for a very simple reason: it is not possible to truly serve two masters. The nature of a Shaman’s work is to be in service to the tribe. They mediate with the spirit world on behalf of the tribe. They go before the gods on behalf of the tribe, to plead the tribe’s case and ask for aid for the tribe. They are the advocates of their tribe in the spirit world, not the advocates of the gods in the physical world.
Advocates… that may actually be a good model with which to look at it. It is possible there are people who engage in shamanistic practices who are in service to the gods in this manner, who act as their hands in the physical world. But can they really be in service to the tribe if their loyalties are to the spirit world? I tend to think confusing the two is rather like confusing a prosecutor and a defense attorney. They may both be lawyers, but their roles as advocates are very different. Similarly, both the person who advocates for his people before the gods and the person who advocates for the gods to his people may serve as mediators between the two realms, but their focus is very different.
I believe it is the Shaman’s job to advocate on behalf of his tribe when he journeys to the spirit realm. To bargain with the gods, spirits, ancestors, etc on behalf of his people. Even to fight with them on his people’s behalf, if he must. To be Prometheus, stealing fire. To be Raven, stealing the sun and the moon and the stars. To be Loki, descending into the realm of the dwarves and bargaining with them for the greatest treasures of his adopted tribe. The Shaman, acting in this role, only obeys the gods and spirits to the extent which it is in his tribe’s best interest to do so. They work with them, they may build alliances with them for the benefit of the tribe, but their primary concern is the tribe’s benefit rather than the gods.
Taking the opposite role of advocating for the gods to man, especially to the point where one is giving control of one’s life over to them to the point where one could be considered their slave, requires a fundamentally different understanding of the relationship between man and the spirit world. It requires the shaman to see the gods as fundamentally superior beings to man, beings which have a divine right to command the lives of men, beings which are infallible in their instructions, and beings which are always good. It requires a belief that the gods have a right to be lawgivers and judges, juries and executioners, over man. In short, it requires the tribe to submit to the gods in much the same manner as the spiritual advocate who considers himself the slave of the gods.
This is a position which is fundamentally incompatible with much of pagan theology. Historically, pagan myths are full of tales of gods with just as many flaws as human beings themselves. They are full of jealous gods, lustful gods, angry gods, petulant gods, kind gods, gentle gods, and above all fallible gods. They are full of tales of the gods warring with one another, tricking one another, interfering in the lives of man to their benefit and their detriment, of being tricked and challenged and aided by man. From Orpheus to Maui, from Coyote to Ama-no-Uzume, the myths of the world are full of such tales. And if you accept that as an accurate depiction of the gods… if the gods are not perfect, not infallible, not all-knowing, not eternally benevolent… then the only way it really makes sense for the Shaman to work with them is as consultants, co-workers, friends, or adversaries as the situation warrants. Just like they would any living being.
For my part, I join my brothers in their defiance of any god or spirit which would make such demands. I will take care of my physical, emotional, and mental well-being. I will work a mundane job, maintain my relationships, and live my life. I will do anything I can to help those I consider Family, both mundanely and through my work with the otherworld, but in order to do that I need to be in a position to help. And I will not be in that position if I am incapable of caring for my own needs. The best way I can get to a position where I can take care of my Family, my chosen “tribe,” is to take care of myself first. And my life-partners and children, should I ever have any, are part of that tribe rather than separate from it, and I will fight to keep them with no less devotion than I will fight on behalf of the rest of my Family. To do any less would be a betrayal of both my Family and myself.
It’s part of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and it is now out, you can get your copy right here. Mine arrived in the mail yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to go through it in depth yet, but it looks good. I hope to do a more in-depth review of it once I’m finished!