This will be rather stream-of-consciousness. Well, my blogging has been getting that way lately. No, I don’t plan on fixing that. I have to seize my thoughts as they come, otherwise I’ll never get around to really expressing them or writing them down.
More thoughts from my last post, re shamanism. I really am beginning to hairy eyeball people who are calling themselves such. Add extra points for online classes, presentations at conventions, and other such things. Spirituality has really become commercialized within various pagan social circles–what would take an entire lifetime to learn through tradition, family lineage and etc, and with a great many hardships (such as difficult initiations and including racial/ethnic prejudice), is now being sanitized, summed up, and sold to the audiences. Really, it’s one of the reasons why attending pagan conventions is something I have absolutely no interest in, but really that is one big example of a series of turnoffs I have for such venues (I’m sorry, but public spiritual exhibitionism simply isn’t my thing). That is probably another rant for another time, though.
To be blunt: if you call yourself a shaman, you are appropriating. Full stop, end of story. You are no more a shaman than I am a Jewish rabbi, and about as qualified. Check out Origin of the Word ‘Shaman’ for more information. Yes, I used to use ‘shaman’ as a sort of catch-all term, though gradually I’ve developed my misgivings about doing so, and now I don’t plan on using such at all. Please note that from now on, if I use the word ‘shaman’ or ‘shamanism’ on this blog, it will be a specific reference (again, see the links I’ve provided).
Right, now that that’s out of the way.
I’ve finally shaken the dust off of my old site Cynanthropy and made an update. For those of you just tuning in, I have very strong association (spiritual, psychological, or mythical) to canids (wolves, dogs, jackals, coyotes, and etc.). So, I ended up creating an entire site devoted to the topic. I’ll be writing posts on the use of animal parts more specific to cynanthropy and my own personal experiences, as well as essays, rants, links, and whatever else I can come up with. Granted, my blogging will still be highly sporadic, but I promised myself I would try to step up my writing more.
That said, my online presence is still very touch-and-go. If you post a comment here and it does not show up immediately, don’t assume that I have censored you or deleted your comment. Nine times out of ten I’m just not online to approve it, or haven’t gotten around to checking my mail, or otherwise preoccupied with things that don’t involve the internet. This happens frequently, in fact.
Well, on that note, I’m off. I have things I need to do, now that I’ve shaken these thoughts out of my head for the moment.
You know, I used to use ‘shamanism’ as a sort of catch-all term. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of that in the past. But at some point I realized: hey now, you dumb old dog. Intellectual laziness is unbecoming of you. Yes indeed.
In fact, the more I observe, the more I find that quite a variety of abuses and appropriations are occurring all in the name of ‘shamanism’. It seems as if people do not truly know what this word is and where it came from, or they just don’t care. One quaint little excuse is that it has become part of the common parlance, therefore, that makes it right. Except, it doesn’t.
I probably have a lot more to say on this issue…in fact, I know I do. But, I have enough irons in the fire at present (most of which are happening offline), so I will have to revisit this topic later.
Most people don’t know who Anupet is. Or if they do, they don’t know anything beyond either her being the consort of Anubis, or some sort of feminine “aspect” of him. I’ve always seen her as something more, of course. Then again, I’m a hard polytheist, so you know where my opinions lie in that department.
Anupet is an independent, living and powerful goddess. She has long remained hidden–no one knows much about her, her myths or her cultus. Everything I know about this goddess is strictly UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis). Or was. That veil is gradually being torn back. But before I thrust my head straight on through and disperse the mystery entirely, I should write down my experiences of her, what I know of her.
She first came to me a few years ago, in the form of a black dog or jackal (or some hybrid of the above–not an uncommon occurrence then or now). She had pendulous breasts, as if she had been nursing. That became my primary association with her. The archetypal nursing bitch. The Sacred Bitch. She had a definite motherly feel to her, but it was the sensation of the Feral Mother, ever watchful, sharp of tooth, cunning and quick to defend her pups. People stereotype mother goddesses often. But mothers come in all stripes, and so too do Mothers. She would nurse you one moment, and have your neck in her jaws the next, with full motherly intentions. Pure, primal, feral mother.
Earlier last year I received a pull from my Gods to take my work with animal remains one step further. I work with tooth, bone and claw and hide. But most of what I had seen were finished products, sanitized and ready for use. I had handled raw, dead animals before in previous jobs. I had aided in surgeries, as well as in euthanizations. I am familiar with death, and blood, and guts. But would I be able to dig right in, prepare a specimen myself? I would be put to the test. Around the same time I was put in contact with someone who had a coyote that had been shot due to predator control in the area. This was a rare, black coyote. Coyotes aren’t normally black. They don’t get black, except by the infusion of dog ancestry. It is from a specific gene mutation that domestic dogs carry, beta-defensin 3, which regulates melanism in dogs. Coyotes and wolves naturally do not have this mutation unless it had been introduced into their ancestral bloodline from dogs. The colors of Anupet and Anubis both–black, the color of the fertile Nile–though perhaps, could their color symbolism, and association with dogs, also have something to do with this? Or perhaps their temporal children mirror them somehow, the beta-defensin 3 a sort of divine genetic marker, painting various canids in the likeness of these Divine Dogs.
Anyway, so I get in contact with the guy, expressing interest in the raw skull for cleaning. I’ve never cleaned a skull before. It’s a female coyote. He mentions that the hide is in undesirable shape for taxidermy due to her having had mange. He shows me a photo, and I agree to take the hide and the skull (the hide would otherwise been thrown out or cut for pieces). I had the hide sent to a taxidermist, and I got the head. And I do mean the head. Meat, muscle, eyes, tongue, everything.
It was a very intimate process. I meditated hard on the photos of her corpse. This is a very similar process to the Buddhist corpse meditations that certain sects perform. When I was ready, I took out my buck knife, razor-sharp and ready to go. And I did it. I couldn’t believe myself, but I did. I sliced the muscle from her head and jaws. I reached inside her mouth and cut her tongue out. I gouged out her clouded, sightless eyes, I swizzled the brain from her foramen magnum. The whole time I prayed to Anupet with every slice. Somehow I thought the actions of the knife would be pleasing to her–the cutting, the intentional wielding. Every slice was an offering to the Sacred Bitch, and an offering to my Patron, and his Brother, her Husband. The smell of her blood was sharp and tangy on my nose. Then I had a pot prepared for boiling the remainder of the meat and gristle from her head. I sat at that pot for hours. When she was finally done, I collected her skull, two jawbones (which had come apart) and all her teeth, and placed them into a small cooler filled with peroxide. Weeks later, I removed her, and carefully glued each tooth back in. With the exception of one tiny premolar, I didn’t lose or break any teeth. Soon, her hide came back from the tannery, and putting them together, it was a sight to behold. My offering to Anupet was complete, and I even ended up naming the black coyote “Anupet” after the goddess.
When working with animal remains, especially from a Pagan and animist or shamanist (most especially this one) angle, it is absolutely imperative that you understand the importance and the reality of where your remains come from, and how they get to you. Like the modern food industry, most of the bones and other items people get are already processed, chemically treated and prepared beforehand. There is very little actual “work” involved. People claim to do a lot of “work” involving animal parts, but the real work is also in understanding and respecting that these parts once had a life, a face, blood and guts. It took me cutting directly into that face to really have that lesson hit home for me. Now I’m graduating to work onto other things, and I have Anupet really to thank for that. I can only hope she finds my offering a worthy one. In time, I hope to have the skin mounted in some way (I did not tackle handling the skin, as I do not know proper tanning techniques and would probably ruin the skin) and have the skull similarly adorned as a votive piece for her.
I hope to write more on this amazing Lady as time goes on, but right now I have a murderous headache, and must retire for now..
You know, I’m not big on the Internet. I much prefer doing what I normally do, aside from work: hike through the woods, clean animal heads, go fossil-hunting, hang out with a couple close friends of mine. Above all else–communicate with my spirits and my gods. They take up a huge amount of time. My presence on the Internet takes last place. My Divine Employers keep me very, very busy. This weekend, I have wood to clear in the back, altar-spaces to set up. I have to go on my yearly cleanup-walk along the powerline-trail behind my house. I have a long and very close relationship with the land-spirits in my area. They’ve protected me when I was a child. I’ve grown with them, even suffered with them.
Cultivating an active relationship with land-spirits, be it nymphs, daemons, landvaettir, yokai, or whatever you wish to call them as pertinent to your tradition, are a very important part of my spiritual practice. They should be of anyone’s. Personally, I don’t think you can be a proper spirit-worker without that sort of thing (hoisting the “strong opinion flag” here!). You can even do it in the dead middle of the city. They exist there, too. Anyone who claims they don’t aren’t looking hard enough, or just not paying attention. I’ve cultivated some very strong bonds with land-spirits smack in the middle of cities, both here and abroad in Germany (I’m partial to Hamburg and Frankfurt myself).
However, when I do long online and bother to go onto some of these websites with pagan writings, I see some writings on this and similar topics and scratch my head. It makes me wonder if the pagans writing these things actually get outside and do anything in nature, other than step out their front doors and leave the prerequisite human offerings (food and a libation). Now, leaving offerings is all well and good–I do that as well. But here now we get into the “orthopraxy” versus “orthodoxy” thing. I hear a lot of talk about what people believe, but really, what the fuck do you do? How do you put those beliefs into action?
I notice too a lot of those pagans who talk much about what they believe and not what they do are notorious at anthropomorphizing spirits of nature and the land. Why? Because they don’t take the effort to get up close and dirty with it. Really learn lessons from it. They’ll pray, and they’ll leave offerings, and they’ll donate money, but they won’t do much beyond that. Leaving the comfort of civilization is a bit too much for them, but it’s the only way to really get up close and personal, the only way to really understand the truly wild spirits that are out there in nature.
Pagans always come at the attitude of Nature as the ultimate victim, and we humans as the primary aggressors. They fail to realize that Nature and nature-spirits can be cruel, random, selfish (both towards us as well as within itself–within other nature spirits), and even stupid at times. Just as I complain that so many spirit-workers and pagans will only believe in spirits and the gods until it comes to a point where it is no longer convenient or comfortable for them to do so, so does this also work in the reverse–that Pagans and spirit-workers will resort to religious fun-duh-mentalism when rationalism and/or science becomes too uncomfortable for them (like the idea that Nature/nature-spirits aren’t omipotent, omniscient, or equally destructive to and within itself. I mean think about it, humans are a part of nature, too).
It’s also best to actually…get out. And get to know the land-spirits, before making lofty claims about what they want, need, or even think. The sheer number of pagans who will harp on this, but hardly leave their computers and comfortable homes to actually experience this for themselves, astounds me.
Thankfully, there are a small number of folk out there who do get out. They pour their sweat and blood into the land. They live with the spirits in the land every day in mutual cooperation. Their stories inspire me. There are those who go out into the wilds to learn and love and worship. I encourage this. This needs to happen more often. This is where true fellowship, true cooperation and, above all else, true understanding, can occur.
I’ve recently re-opened my little shop on the net, The Relic Hound, a place where I can sell some of my animist wares and such (more on that later). I’ve fairly recently started working on a sales project to benefit Breidablik Temple, a Northern Tradition Sacred Space and sanctuary for abused horses and other sacred animals. I made a number of polytheist-friendly devotional jewelry with an equine theme–profits will go to the temple and its animals. They operate on a shoestring budget, and could use all the help they can get as they work towards nonprofit status. Here are the themed pieces:
These horse teeth are sourced from American Paint horses that were humanely put down due to health complications. When making anything to sell made from animal bits, I always try to give back. Profits from the sales of these pieces will go to the temple, so consider making a purchase and helping out.
Yes yes, it’s me. It’s been a very long time since my last update–many things have sprung up in my life, not all of which have been easy. Most prominent at the moment has been matters of health, which have been laying me low and causing me some concern. But enough of that for now, onto the main topic at hand, which I don’t think has really been addressed enough in these circles…
Multiples and shamanism/spirit-work. For those of you who aren’t precisely shabby on what a multiple is, a reasonably good resource can be found here. Even those of you who think you have a reasonable idea on what one is, may not really grasp the whole thing entirely, and therein lies the trouble.
I find it quite interesting that there are so many folk within the shamanist/spirit-working crowd who address multiplicity with such a hairy eyeball. For those who are in frequent contact with spirits and Divinities, up to and including more intimate activities such as ritual horsing, you’d think such a phenomenon wouldn’t be so troubling. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
At the most mundane level multiples are treated as if they have a psychological disorder. That these are mere “personalities”, or characters out of control, or sockpuppets, or any number of the like. They are easily dismissed, their humanity discounted, discredited. That isn’t to say that there aren’t those out there who’s imaginations get the better of them–certainly I’ve encountered my fair share–but those rotten apples very frequently spoil it for everyone else who seeks just the same understanding as anyone else who is “singlet” (that is, doesn’t share their body or brain with anyone else).
Then you have the psychic or spiritual level (the two overlap enough), where one will claim that the person was simply sloppy enough to go traveling about out of body and, obviously not practicing proper psychic hygiene, brought home some hangers-on. Same with those who, having a natural talent for such things as horsing and not realizing it, or practicing sloppy psychic habits such as grounding, shielding and proper screening, end up with a ‘revolving door policy’ in their own heads. Again, although I’ve witnessed such things myself, I’ve also witnessed others where this is simply not the case. Sometimes these things happen completely willingly, in that spirits and entities who have an established long-term relationship with the “host” are invited to stay. Sometimes people are just born that way, and that is the way things are.
Just as a deity or spirit wouldn’t want to be treated as a thoughtform when being addressed or interacted with (and especially when asked a favor!), the same is said of those who have more than one mind/spirit within them. The attitude of, “I don’t know if you are real but I’m going to treat you as if you are” can be very dehumanizing. If it doesn’t get one very far in the spirit-working world, it won’t get one very far in any sort of interaction with a multiple, either. There are many people out there who are very dysfunctional, yes. The enthusiastic roleplayers with their sockpuppets, the attention-seekers, the sloppy psychic hygiene people. But usually with enough practice, they become easy to pick out. Tarring every multi-souled body with the same brush doesn’t help. For those who are spiritworkers of any stripe, that should be an important thing to keep in mind when dealing with a multiple-system.
The plural mind is something that is inherently sacred. There are many shamanic cultures in which the shaman or spirit-worker shares her or his mind, either temporarily or permanently, with other people. They develop a symbiotic relationship with which spiritwork and shamanizing, let alone day-to-day activities, can be optimized to the greatest potential, if all parties involved work together to a healthy end. Even people with different spiritual orientations can live peacefully together in one body, just as they could live peacefully together in one apartment. It’s all a matter of respect and mutual cooperation. All too often the “multiplicity” tag has been too often lumped in with dysfunction, when this simply isn’t the case.
I know, because–and although some may know this, but many probably won’t (I don’t hide it, but I don’t advertise everywhere either)–I happen to be a member of a multiple-system. One of a triad of independent, autonomous people sharing a single body. Some of you may seem shocked by this information, though I cannot write about some of the aspects of my spiritwork (which, I keep telling myself, I’ve been meaning to do!) without pointing this fact out. And we are thankful in that we do know, and are friends with, spiritworkers and other groovy folk who understand the many different levels an mediums a soul can embody. In fact, I would say there needs to be more people out there like them, because even still, multiplicity isn’t all that well understood, and all too often stereotyped. As a result, many people are keeping quiet, and not seeking help when they may need it.
This is a topic I will probably expound on later. I realize I may potentially get a skeptical, even negative response to this post. In the end, it is really no skin off my back. Especially given the struggles I’m experiencing at present, the opinion of others matters little to me right now given the bigger scope of things in my life. But this is part of how I live, and partly affects my life as a polytheist and spiritworker.