Now, my skull is pounding, and I perhaps should be hibernating in a dark hole while this passes. However, there are some things I feel I must share.
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, in his Patheos column Queer I Stand, has written a really good article regarding the whole “indigeny” trend among (mostly white, socially privileged) Pagans. I could point specific people out on this, but…I won’t, because that’s not my focus here, and I have better things to do with my time. They’re not hard to find. Anyway, I’m really glad he wrote this, because I really think there is a significant lack of criticism and critical thinking going on that really needs to be addressed and focused on.
This overlaps with my conflicting problem over the use of the word “shaman,” but this sort of thing seems far more socially accepted and not much challenged among pagan and polytheist circles, even though the use of the word can have really strong appropriative undertones. To call myself a shaman would be like calling myself a Buddhist rabbi. See what I did there? I think people need to do more thorough research, and really think about the words they are using, and how they are being used. I just don’t think people discuss this sort of thing enough. And when some try to, they are too easily demonized and silenced. I think this needs to change, and everyone would benefit more from a hearty dose of critical thinking.
To help me begin, I’m going to bring up Phil’s comment in the former post, in which he brings up some very good points. In order to help me compile just what I’m trying to say however, I’ll start off by saying that I too have chronic illness–in fact it was the onset of this chronic illness that tipped the scales when it came to my shamanic practice. I had leanings most of my life, but it was in 2005 when this thing hit, that the dam really burst open for me. I still have it. No amount of discipline, praying or “mind over matter” will ever make it go away. It’s here, and here to stay for the rest of my life. This doesn’t make me weak, or inadequate, and certainly not incapable of performing the duties in the path I walk. I walk a more ordeal-oriented path as a result–but this wasn’t my choice. Psychological scars also are present, and there are things, mentally and physically, that I will never “get over”.
Or, to put it this way: Certain things never will be gotten over–and no one should ever expect you to.
Sometimes it is only in the presence of injury, disease and related hardship that true knowledge can fully blossom.
In fact, this is one of the reasons why I always detested and despised the New Age drek The Secret or the Christian Purpose Driven Life, or otherwise related ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ philosophies. No matter how skilled a magician you are, or how hard you pray or how disciplined you are…shit happens. It just happens. It’s what you do with that shit, what you transmute it into, that matters.
Phil’s quote in his one reply was quite handy in this:
This is where the idea of lycanthropy as a disease can be useful. If you let it control you, and it is the master, that’s the bad situation where you have amnesiac werewolves who go on killing sprees. If you can control it, and use it most productively, let the beast out when it needs to get out and so forth, then that’s a position of true power and mastery, and it doesn’t involve squelching it or conquering it, or getting rid of that disease either (which is something one rarely sees in films and such…).
Of course you can apply this to a wide variety of ailments, but the general idea is there. And I think, for the moment, I’ll leave you all to ruminate over that, because my ability to form intelligent words right now is drastically flagging at the moment.
Something I’ve been kicking around in my head lately, and was recently reminded of. Kind of rambling, disjointed and off-the-cuff, so bear with me here.
In my experience, the shamanic spiritual worldscapes are much similar to our tangible, physical one. They aren’t safe. You don’t always have control over things. This is a fact of life. No matter how one would like to think otherwise. No matter what world you’re in, there is always someone or something out there bigger, wiser and nastier than you. There are also always going to be places you don’t know how to navigate. Take an average inner city guy out of his apartment and stick him in a yurt in the middle of Mongolia. Chances are, it would at the very least take him some time to figure out his asshole from his shoe-sole.
People approach shamanism and these worlds with their own preconceived notions, their own insecurities, assumptions, attitudes and beliefs. These affect not only how they see the worlds they traverse, but if they access them at all, let alone the entities and beings they interact with. If you lack social skills in the “real world”, chances are, your interactions in other worlds may not go as swimmingly either. There is also certain cultural bounds to consider in this, too. Mileage may vary to a degree–but granted, if you have poor social skills in one country, chances are your behaviors will offend someone else in another country, too.
Just like any other aspect in life, learning is about taking risks. Some people take more risks than others. Some people were subjected to more risks and dangers outside of their control. Some are more sheltered than others. In the end however, dealing with more than the physical world you interact in has its risks, burdens and responsibilities–and isn’t for everybody. But this is my personal opinion on the matter. Not everyone can, or should take, the shamanistic path. But that’s me.
The animistic world of shamanism, and the tangible world of matter should be handled in balance. The verified and the unverified. The subjective and the objective. Too much leaning on any one side, you lose the big picture. You either sit in your own fantasy-world, or you cut yourself off from the bigger picture.
Shamanistic practice, in my experience, is all about balance. And it’s easy to fall flat on your face if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m by far no expert, merely one that’s taken a few falls in the past myself.