A variety of old wolf bones. Vertebrae, jaw section, ulna. Sourced from AK First Nations subsistence hunts.
Bones play a big role in my practice, and take up a significant part of my collection.
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.
Personally I find there to be a pointed difference between cross-cultural assimilation and syncretism, and cultural appropriation. Where to draw the lines in this case is an important (and hotly debated) issue, something I should probably write on at some point.
I have been slow with everything lately, after having just weathered a car accident I damn near didn’t walk away from. But I am gradually getting my ass screwed back on, as it were. The support I’ve gotten has been truly overwhelming, and I am very grateful. I’ll write more 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.