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Archive for March, 2009

Pariah Dog

March 26, 2009 Leave a comment

pariah

Domestic dog tooth strung on 1mm dark brown leather cord with Indian camel-bead choker. Made in the spirit of the desert pariah dog. $15 shipping included.

Drop a line here, or at cynanthropos(at)gmail.com if interested.

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Sirius

March 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Sirius

Made with 1mm black leather cord, two domestic dog teeth, and six authentic ancient Egyptian faience beads from 716-30 B.C. (yes, the beads have provenance–feel free to inquire). The two dog teeth represent the binary star-system Sirius. The pendant itself is made in dedication to Wepwawet and Yinepu. On sale for $25 shipping included, proceeds to go to a nonprofit.

Drop a line here, or at cynanthropos(at)gmail.com if interested.

The photo really doesn’t do it justice. I had to take photos from my iPhone, my digital camera is currently out of commission pending new software. I’m hoping to get that fixed soon.

I think I’m going to post more of my artwork. Some people are beginning to show interest in it, and I’m beginning to develop my own style. I think I might just roll with it, maybe set up a little shop here or something. I’m not as good as some artisans out there, but I’ve been enjoying what I’ve put together so far.

The Ponies of Assateague, and Connecting With Totems

March 25, 2009 2 comments

On Sunday I had a close encounter with the ponies of Assateague Island National Seashore. In one incident, a palomino pony came very close to the car, and I was able to stroke its mane briefly. The second incident occurred near the island’s visitor center, were my fiancee and I were able to watch a small family unit of a brown male, female and a male foal graze on the lawn outside the parking lot. The foal came up real close to me, and I was able to stroke his forehead briefly. We spent some time sitting on the lawn observing them. They seemed very unconcerned with our presence, at peace with the land and with the naked apes watching them. One could say I’m an ass in that I shouldn’t be touching wild animals–and to be honest, that’s the big rule I keep that I ended up breaking. If it wasn’t for the ponies initiating the contact, I probably would have (and still should have?) kept my hands to myself.

This got me thinking about a couple of things, though. First was the meaning and message behind these ponies. I’ve seen them off and on for most of my life, ever since I started traveling to the coast with my family as a small child and could consciously remember doing so. They seemed to me to be like the mythical hippocampus, a union between land and sea. They were also elusive. Some days you’d visit the island and travel the whole length of it, not seeing a pony in sight. Another time you’d see several, and they would sit on the side of the road, some of them waiting for cars to slow down, habituated by unscrupulous visitors trying to feed them. They were trusting, sometimes to a fault. They also reminded me of endurance, perseverance. They’ve adapted to that island since they came there in the 1600s, most likely from a sunken Spanish vessel off the coast. Marooned on foreign land, they’ve made the best of the situation, and flourished.

The other thing that got me thinking was that I had always taken the island for granted, with the easy access I’ve had to it. In fact, I’ve had many experiences in my life were I could have direct interaction with many different types of animals in many settings. My totemic work reflects this strongly, and generally I can’t seem to understand, nor relate with, people who write long and intricate totem dictionaries of animals they’ve had no personal interaction with. There is the issue of globalization, but there is also the issue of old school. The animistic cultures and societies of the past built their totemic view of animals by direct personal experience, interaction, and sharing the environment with these animals. This seems to be a very different tack from many of the totemists of today, who base most of their views on wildlife books and programs, and UPG. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with that in itself, but it really opens up a whole new world when you take that extra effort to see the animal in person, even if it’s just in a zoo (although zoo animals tend to display atypical behavior, you can still learn a lot about an animal by observing even the abnormal behaviors.)

I’m a bit spoiled in that I’ve had the opportunity to work in veterinary clinics, pet retail, wildlife centers, parks, in addition to living close to numerous parks, refuges, zoos, museums and other places were one can seek a more personal connection with the natural world. Not everyone has this sort of access. It’s something I need to remember, and maybe have patience with, when interacting with fellow totemists. The thing I have a problem with is those who write totem dictionaries disseminating information about an animal that is incorrect from a biological standpoint, and from a symbolic standpoint it completely flies in the face of what is otherwise known about the animal. That is something I have a problem with. To spread misinformation, even unintentionally, just isn’t cool. People need to be more mindful.

I think what needs to be done is to call attention to these errors, and encourage people to seek more direct experience with the wilderness around them. Even if you live in the middle of the city, nature survives somewhere.

I guess it’s something I’m still rolling around in my head.

Shells, and other things

March 23, 2009 Leave a comment

The Symbolism of the Cowrie Shell

I visited the coast this weekend, trying to get away from some of the stress of home. Amidst the tacky, tourist-trap gift shops, one could find many stores selling a wide variety of seashells and other related things from the ocean. I developed an intense attraction and desire to pick up cowry shells, and ended up coming home with a whole big bag of them, mostly cypraea moneta and cypraea annulus. Now, I aware of the basic nature by which cowries were appreciated by the Egyptians, and I had planned on picking up a few for my practices. As it turns out, I find that cowries have so many other meanings, associations and uses–some of which I find rather synchronistic and fortuitous to parts of my current situation.

Ah, the interesting things in life.

In any case, I plan on updating a little more on my trip, because a close encounter with feral ponies has served to remind me of certain thoughts on totemism I wish to express. I’d also like to address some good points and some thoughts that a few others made in my last post at some point.

Falling Apart, Coming Back Together

March 20, 2009 6 comments

Last weekend I had a very nice conversation with Lyssa, Bryce, and my fiancee about the shamanic path and the issue of trauma. Mainly this would refer to the propensity I’ve seen of some shamanists to be very loud and open about their traumatic pasts and experiences–as if that very thing is an automatic badge for being a shaman or taking on the shamanic path. Bryce hit the nail right on the head when he mentioned that, in order to function, one needs to be able to put oneself back together again. Or, be allowed to be put together again. This sort of thing has been evidenced time and time again across numerous traditions and mythologies.

Being put back together indicates being able to be a contributing member of society. If you cannot interact with people in your own society, how do you expect to interact socially with the peoples and beings of other realms? Also–if you cannot fix yourself or are broken and are unable or unwilling to fix yourself or be fixed, how do you expect to help or heal others on your shamanic path? This only reinforces my view that not everyone who takes on the shamanic path really should, or is able or capable of doing so. Not everyone who has suffered severe trauma in their lives are able to handle this sort of thing. They may even have the energy or power, but no knowledge on how to control or use it. Think a gun in the hands of a toddler. Now granted, some of them may grow up (aka, pull their heads out of their asses) to be skilled sharpshooters, but more often than not all they’ll end up doing is blowing someone else’s head off, or their own.

To some degree this can be blamed on the culture and society we live in–that we don’t have the elders or the people around to address the psychological as well as the spiritual needs of these people, to teach them how to handle the power they’ve been given. To follow a shamanic path is to be in the realm of the psychological as well as the spiritual. But, to another degree this can also largely be blamed on the ignorance of people who are unable or unwilling to take that much-needed step after experiencing the proverbial bitchslap. They do not wish to go beyond the finely-woven comfort zones they have built for themselves. It would be much easier to sit on your online journal and collect *hugs* and sympathy, for example.

Now, before people blast me for being an insensitive prick (which, I do admit, I’ve been guilty of before), allow me to say this. When I mention ‘being fixed’, that does not mean that there are no scars, no seams, no pain of the past lingering. I myself get fairly pissed off when people tell me I just need to “get over it”. Some things you never get over. Some things just stay with you, even fuck you up on occasion. And that’s okay. But what do you do with that pain? That’s the big question. When the shaman is dismembered by the spirits, he or she is usually given extra parts or modified parts in the process of being pieced back together. What are the special gifts you’ve been given as a result of these experiences? How do you adapt to the hand that was dealt you? What was given to you to help you compensate or cope? How about helping others?

I know I posted this before, but Jarandhel’s post Spiritually On-Call is another good rant to look at relating to this topic. I actually have much more to say in relation to this, but it may have to wait for further posts, as I need to run off soon and deal with a work-related crisis. Oof.

The Rat King

March 19, 2009 3 comments

To me, New York means rats.

I first visited New York back in 2001, just a month prior to the events of September 11th. Rats have been visiting me symbolically and most heavily in my dreams many months before. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve experienced both in the same year, or maybe it’s because NYC is considered the rat mecca of the country that I associated the two together in the first place.

The curious thing about it all is that I have never once seen a wild rat, the primary focus of my obsession, before my most recent trip to the Big Apple. Since ’01 I began keeping domestic specimens of R. Norvegicus, an animal that is as different from the wild rat as a dog is from a wolf, but like the two, still possessing numerous similarities in trait and character. The pitter-patter of little rodent feet traveled from the realm of my dreams into my physical habitat. Somehow it wasn’t quite enough though. Something continued to gnaw incessantly on the periphery of my consciousness.

My most recent trip to NYC happened in mid-February of this year, roughly ten days after the death of my four-year old rat Mina, and roughly a week after the arrival of my fiancee from Germany. Throughout the trip I recounted the long legacy of rats (mostly all female), and the lessons they’ve taught me. I can say with the utmost confidence that any animal, however small, that comes into your life can change it forever. Mina certainly did. But in their own way they all did.

We stood on the subway platform, my fiancee and my parents and younger brother, killing time and waiting for the next train to arrive after a brief delay. I was zoning out, staring into the rails below. It was a long day with lots of walking, and I was exhausted. Suddenly, a portion of the sludgy grayness below jumped to life and began to move, darting suddenly across my vision. I blinked once, then twice, until I realized what I was looking at. It was a wild rat. I took off running down the platform alongside it, snapping pictures on my iPhone, and watching as a second and then a third appeared, prancing along the rails.

The Rat King finally decided to reveal himself.

The mythical Rat King has one of two origins. The first and more folkloric origin of a ‘rat king’ is when a bunch of rats become connected by their tails, and end up growing together. These mostly involve black rats.

There is yet a more contemporary and postmodern take on the rat king, one reported by municipal workers, police officers, exterminators, and many others. The Rat King in the postmodern age is an exceptionally large male rat, one commonly seen leading a pack of other rats.

From a postmodern shamanistic perspective, to me the Rat King represents the all-encompassing rat totem. The Big Rat.

To work with the Rat King is to work with an agent of balance and in-betweenness. In the West, poverty, the slums and misfortune are associated with rats. Poor housing. Disease–the rat was considered the main transmitter of the plague in Europe in the Middle Ages. In the East, when the rice harvest was good and the stores were full, people found rats. They symbolized abundance, wealth and plenty. While visiting the Chinatown district of NYC, my fiancee gifted me with a statue featuring a golden rat, seated upon a bed of coins, and surrounded by baby rats. A very classic and common figure of the rat in Eastern symbolism.

Two sides of the same coin. Balance and rhythm. Family, community, survival and persistence. Knowing and appreciating your origins. Where you are and where you are going.

This will be a first in a series of posts on my dealings with the Rat King, as well as rat symbolism and other related totemic and animistic information on things rat.

Post-Saint Patrick’s Day Thoughts.

March 18, 2009 2 comments

Unless you’re completely stupid, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m not Christian. But yet, I have no trouble celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. I don’t celebrate it for the same reason Catholics do–in fact, even before I walked away from the church, the primary gripe in the church was that St. Patty’s day had lost it’s original purpose, instead devolving into a day of decadence and partying.

Then again, even as a kid, I always thought Saint Patrick was a pooper. I mean c’mon. What’s there not to love about serpents? Later on, when I figured out that the serpent-thing was a metaphor, it didn’t really change my opinion of him much.

But really, why all the Pagan outrage?

For one thing, it’s a fact of life that religions subjugate each other all the time. The conquering religion forms a festival around it. Ancient Pagan festivals were rife with that sort of thing. You could argue that St. Patrick’s Day shouldn’t be celebrated because it recognizes the subjugation of one religion over another, but really. Nowadays people who celebrate that holiday aren’t even Christian, let alone Irish. All they care about is luck, shamrocks, green food dye, Irish heritage and Boondock Saints. And really, what’s not to love about that?

On the other hand, I don’t go around yelling at Muslims for celebrating Ramadan, for instance. So, let the Catholics have their holidays. As long as they don’t go out of the way to put a stinker on my festivals, then I’m not too concerned. Of course, one could say they would like to try–but I’m typing from a America-centric perspective here. America is ass-backwards when it comes to quite a lot of things, but in the end, we are relatively free to do as we please. The Religious Right doesn’t just go around trying to ruin a pagan’s good time.

Just the other day, I had someone add me on Twitter who listed “spiritual tolerance” as an interest, and yet updated for the day that she was “Busy pissing the non-pagans off”. How this classified “spiritual tolerance” was beyond me. And yet this is a prime example of quite possibly why we aren’t taken as seriously, and why we need to work on mutual tolerance and respect. My fiancee, who is European, frequently reminds me on how shocked he is that people in this country are allowed to be so openly rude to each other on the basis of religious affiliation. No, I’m not just talking about the Christians here. Everyone.

Now granted, there are religious groups I, quite simply, do not agree with. But for the most part I ignore them, choosing the “live-and-let-live” principle. Unless of course someone openly comes out to harass me or compel me to convert (Jehova’s Witnesses at my door, for example). I don’t busy myself with pissing anyone off simply because I do not agree with their way of thinking. To be honest, I have better ways to spend my time.

This is precisely why I don’t choose to get upset about St. Patrick’s Day. I simply choose to reclaim it for myself–a celebration of my Irish ancestry, good beer, good movies and friendship. I do not agree with the Catholic spin on it, so I simply choose to ignore it, and reroute it for my own uses. When the Catholics celebrate St. Patrick’s Day they aren’t beating us out with sticks or preaching at us–they’re probably at church, waiting for the priest to finish the homily so they can spill out into the bars (well, if they’re Irish at least). Pretty harmless, in my book.

I’m also not saying we shouldn’t forget the past, or what happened. But what you make of it is a choice. People can choose to be offended by it, or people can redirect it and turn it into a celebration. Paganism isn’t one religion but a conglomeration of many religions. If everyone stopped to focus and be offended by every religion that suffered a blow in the past by every other religion, we’d just spend the whole time sitting around being pissed off at each other. Remember the past, but learn from it. Don’t repeat it. Talk to a Catholic friend, get their perspective. Donate your time to a Celtic Reconstructionist group. Know what it is, and why you’re getting passionate about a thing.

Personally, my day was spent running around like a chicken with my head lopped off at work, followed by a fun evening with my fiancee watching the Boondock Saints and listening to the Dropkick Murphys. Good stuff.