Today is Veteran’s Day. Right now my old man is away on vacation. In February he enters into his fourth deployment, this time to Iraq (the others were Afghanistan, but before that he’s traveled to Qatar and a variety of other places). This year is going to be strange for the whole family, but above all else I worry for my dad.
Telling someone “Happy Veteran’s Day” has always seemed queer for me. Vets have gone through a lot of shit. They’ve also taken a lot of shit. Sometimes this day isn’t happy for them. Many times, it’s just bad reminders, dug up by people who haven’t quite had the experiences they’ve had. As opposed to wishing anyone a “happy Veteran’s Day” I tend to just do something else. Buy my old man a cake or something. Donate to an organization that helps veterans and deployed. Or both. Something. Action means a lot. There are other ways to honor veterans today than just wishing them a “happy Veteran’s Day”. Well, I also think Veterans Day and Memorial Day shouldn’t be the only days we remember our veterans and war dead. I’ll probably write more on this later. I tend to have to address this particular topic in stages.
Also yes I’m revisiting this topic again, from my last post. I think I’ve come on a bit strong (which I don’t apologize for) and have not done a very good job (in my opinion) of explaining my position properly. I’m not here to say that every pagan gathering or what have you is wrong. That would be incorrect. Public ritual and celebration is an important aspect of any spiritual practice or religion. However–and I think this was the point I was trying to make before–I feel there is a decided difference between that particular thing (which is well and good) and spiritual exhibitionism. Or, to put it more succinctly, a nice hardy ego circle-jerk, using gods and spirits as an excuse for such. You must also remember that this is being written by someone with a notorious habit for misanthropy. I admit this may be a detriment for me at times.
And on that note, the halftime show is over, and so I must sign off for now. There is more I wanted to write on, but that will have to wait for another time.
I had planned on making this a full review–and I still do–but this is probably going to turn into a series of posts of thoughts and ramblings. Mainly because, well, this is such an excellent book, and I just have to talk about it.
The Syncretisms of Antinous is written by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, who runs Aedicula Antinoi. I was very happy to get a copy of this book (and signed!), and be able to read it probably in a time when this sort of what I like to dub “bibliotherapy” (more on that later!) is much needed.
Anyway, I do want to do a full review on it. In short, it is an excellent resource for people who want to learn more about queer history and queer divinity (something that is sorely in need of more attention in various polytheist circles!), and it sets up a skeleton basis for people who want to learn the various different routes for connecting to this deity–or rather even, allowing him to connect with you even. One of the things I do enjoy about Lupus’s work is that he covers both the academic and spiritual aspects of the topic at hand and combines them rather nicely.
Another thing I greatly enjoyed was putting syncretism in its proper place. I’ve seen syncretism all too often conflated with eclecticism–the two are not the same thing and it all too often irritated me the poor scholarship and extreme ignorance by which many recon polytheists will write off or broadbrush its validity. In doing so it also ignores the very dynamic idea that yes–the deities we experience are also people too. They aren’t just figures written down in books, myths or on papyrus. If we are polytheists and if we believe that our gods have ontological status in the universe, and in our own lives, then we cannot say that they are merely static, two-dimensional beings that will remain within set parameters as dictated in a myth, period in history, or holy book.
Lupus in fact, articulates this much more efficiently than I did in the postscript of his book on creative syncretism itself. This particular quote really hits it home for me:
“Gods of the classical world certainly don’t seem to have any difficulty contacting people here, and gods of elsewhere in the world (India, Japan, Africa, etc.) seem to have done likewise. This being the case, the idea that any pantheon of deities is, somehow, existing in closed corridors or in a divine conclave that just hovers above their own devotees and never even has a window open on its divine neighbors is, in my mind at least, ludicrous.
I definitely concur with this statement. I’ll even get out my own UPG flag for a moment and declare that, in my personal experience, I have seen this to be the case. But more on that later. For now, I’m going to log back offline and lay low. I am currently going through a very severe withdrawal from antidepressants. My body is now remembering what serotonin feels like, and it is actually rather unhappy with the feeling right now. I’ve also been experiencing a crazy streak of bad luck with regards to health and sanity in general. I think this is very much in the department of Ordeal(TM) and Divine Wake Up Call, the details of which are probably not going to be related too much here on this public forum, as they are a personal nature. They are, however, par for the course for a critter such as myself, doing the things that I do.
Anyway, more on this book, and more on Antinous I hope, very soon.
This is a follow-up to my original post on the issue. This was mainly brought about by a number of thoughtful questions that Dver brought up. Multiplicity is a huge issue, and not every group or system functions in quite the same manner. Rather than exhausting my time in reinventing the wheel and addressing every single subcategory and such, I’ll simply be writing from my perspective, as a spirit-worker and as someone who is a member of a multiple-system. For context, the original comments where I’m lifting Dver’s questions from can be found here.
Is this similar to concepts in therianthropy, and possibly also like people who are intersexed?
In the sense that there can be certain members who do not identify as the sex of the body, or who may identify as a therianthrope. In my own system, there are two who are female-to-male transgender, and the third who identifies as asexual and nongendered/null/neuter. Since the three of us identify all as separate people, our experiences vary, as do our interactions with our physical body in which we share. We are not “multiple sides” so much as multiple people, each with our own attendant multiple sides, or facets.
(Though then again, some would argue that, depending on the situation, being intersexed or being a therianthrope isn’t a facet, but an integral part of who you are! I know that, although I’m very androgynous, I am all male, and there’s no other facet of me that’s anything else–but that’s probably a side-tangent!)
Do you feel that it is a spectrum, from those who might feel somewhat distinct personas within themselves but not necessarily identify as multiple, to those who are absolutely autonomous entities occupying one body – or is the former situation not really the same thing?
I’m not ruling out the idea that personas can become autonomous over time, so I suppose it can be a spectrum in that sense. I don’t think that one automatically leads into the other in every case. I’d say the former situation overall isn’t really the same thing. For example, in our case–each of us, as people, have our own “personas” and moods and other such things, just like everyone else. But they’re not separate people. We wear them like masks to get by and cope with certain situations and things, but it’s really the same thing that everyone does. For example, the you at work isn’t always the same as the you out partying with friends, and so on and so forth. The same goes for those of us here. We have our “work-masks” and our “out-with-friends” masks (and yes, most of our local friends do know, and have known for years, and interact with each of us in turn as individuals and such). But it’s not the same thing. It’s not a separate person, just a persona or mask that’s worn to adapt to a certain situation. But we don’t wear the same “work-mask” for example, each has their own, just like mine wouldn’t be the same as my supervisor’s. Am I making sense?
If I understand you, you’re saying it’s *not* a situation of there being one core or original, human personality, and perhaps some others that are more like spirits that permanently possess that body simultaneously?
Yes, you’ve pretty much got it. At least, that’s how it is in my particular, ah, “living situation”. To add a little more clarity, myself and my twin brother were born together within this body. This isn’t an unheard of condition–we’d be called a “natural multiple” in this case. Then we picked up a walk-in on the way, who permanently established himself in here. Essentially, he grounded himself within the body on a permanent basis. We do have others that hop in and hop out, they are equivalent to our friends and family, and they always remain very close. They also interact with a select few other folk here, through our body.
To explain it in metaphor, it’s like having three admins on a protected network of sorts, while certain others having established “user accounts” they can log into and make use of if needed. We definitely don’t do an “open door” policy sort of thing–these fellows we’ve been working and dealing with for years and we’ve developed a real close relationship. Interestingly, this phenomenon isn’t unheard of–Mircea Eliade documented numerous instances of shamans and other spirit-worker types with spirit-spouses, families, and many other different types of relationships–some of which interacted with the physical world by use of the shaman’s body.
I think there is a big reason why some spirits and entities, namely Gods and greater beings like certain Elemental spirits and such, cannot be horsed (or channeled, borrowing the newage term) on a permanent basis. And well, I’m probably stating the bloody obvious here, but anyway. This is mainly because, well, they are so much bigger than us. Any horse will tell you that channeling a deity can and will fry your brain. Same could be said for varying other situations where people have such close interactions with these great entities, many of which have consciousnesses which are far greater, or even alien, than our brains can fathom or meatware can even process (I think it’s one of the reasons why “shamanism” and “insanity” tend to walk hand-in-hand at times).
Anyway, thank you again for your questions, and I hope I managed to address them properly. I’m always open to thoughtful and intelligent discussion on this. I know some people have approached me curious about my life in a multiple-system, and were worried about asking questions which may be offensive. Please put your thoughts at rest on this, I’d be more offended if people didn’t ask and simply assumed certain things about me and those other folk I share a mind and body with, than those who ask out of genuine desire to learn more and expand their knowledge base. There is quite a lot that is assumed and stigmatized about multiplicity, and I think the only way to dispel those myths is intelligent, honest discourse. Thanks again to those that ask and give me that opportunity.
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.
First off for the morning, The Red Lotus Library is now live, with its first book, The Syncretisms of Antinous. Go click the link and grab it! I’m going to do so as soon as I am able. I must admit I don’t know enough about this deity as I should, so I am greatly looking forward to cracking it open once I have it in my hands.
There are also some great discussions in the comments regarding Lupus’ follow-up post on Spirit Day. Well worth taking a look, as well as some of the links provided by Phil Hine, such as this one, this one, as well as this, which offers an alternative view. Then there is also mention of “ostentatious caring”–something that really does happen quite often within the Pagan “community”, as was pointed out. I think I may have to pick up this book for further reading.
It is also today that I am introducing my “Sacred Scavenging” category. As some of you readers may know–but many may not–I collect and work with a wide variety of animal remains, old relics and other assorted objects. I also plan to be taking up taxidermy, especially now that I’ve acquired my own separate workroom/ritual space for such things. I will also be taking classes for my hunting license this fall, if all goes well. I understand that such things aren’t for everyone–but I expect that people reading this journal will conduct themselves in a mature manner with regards to expressing their opinions and thoughts. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but inflammatory comments about my practice will not be approved, and you will not be offered the satisfaction of a response.
In any case, I look forward to introducing such things to this blog. I plan on stepping up posting here. I am vastly behind on the writing I told myself I was going to do, and this must change.
Richard Fortey really nailed it on this one, and also helps me to bring up a very good point on just exactly why I consider visiting a museum a deep spiritual experience.
If the source of the word “museum” is a house of the muses, then the original museum might have harboured all the arts and sciences, corresponding to the nine muses. The first building to carry the name was probably the university in Alexandria about 300 B.C. Only one of the muses, Urania, Muse of Astronomy–she who is portrayed in a mural in Herculaneum pointing at the heavens with a staff–would have personified the scientific endeavor remotely in the modern sense. From the early days of the British Museum the display of classical archaeology and art was an important part of the function of this new public space. This was a nod of recognition of the new civilization towards the old, a kind of acknowledgement of mutually shared culture.
~Richard Fortey, Dry Storeroom No.1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum
To muse over something. To contemplate. To be inspired. To go to a place like a natural history museum, or a museum of the arts, is to allow oneself to be touched through the vast reaches of time, by the great machinations and workings of Nature, and the fantastic workings of gods and men rendered in stone and bone, canvas and clay. To go to a museum is to open oneself up to the Muses, to be inspired, to hear the whispering voices spoken in ancient tongues, languages spoken in color, movement and pose. In the attitudes of death are the great expressions of life shining through.
Go to a museum. Quiet your mind. Allow yourself to be still. Listen to them speak. They are eager to tell their stories, and the Muses are ever willing to bless you in the process.
In other news, today is Spirit Day. I’ve written plenty, mostly in private, on this topic. When I’m feeling more able, I’ll relate more at a later time. However, I’d like to recommend Aedicula Antinoi, for thoughtful and inspiring words relating to this day and what’s really behind it.