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.
So it’s early morning, and it is Memorial Day. I also have a hangover, and a neck injury (don’t ask). But I figured if there was any day I needed to tie up any loose ends on this topic here, it would be today.
First off, I don’t always have time to individually respond to all comments posted to this blog. The needs of gods, spirits and men–and dead critters–keep me occupied much of the time, and the internet largely takes a backseat. But I do approve all comments, even dissenting ones.
Secondly, while I’m on the topic of Pagans who Get Shit Done (see my last post on highlighting nifty polytheists), Erynn was one of the commenters in my last post, and she had some good things to say that people should consider. I was going to use this post to respond to some other comments, but she already beat me to the punch on a couple issues. She is a disabled veteran and activist in a number of different areas including feminism and veterans issues, so look her up sometime.
Anyway, jumping straight to the meat and bones of the post–something I’m going to touch on very briefly but something I should have mentioned in my first post. Patron Deities. In fact, I’ll just break it down simply.
Having a Patron who is a Warrior Deity does not make you a warrior. It doesn’t make you a warrior anymore than being the son or daughter of a plumber makes you a damn plumber. You can stare at your dad’s asscrack all day long as he works, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to unclog a damn toilet unless you go to school and make the necessary steps to become a plumber. My dad is a veteran, so are both my grandfathers, several uncles, a couple friends, and some people I have volunteered for. I am not a warrior. At best I can be classed the damn water-boy. Even warrior deities need more than just warriors amongst their mortal crew.
Recently I was reading a book written by someone who was calling themselves a warrior (had a Warrior Deity as a Patron, of course), when, to the best of my knowledge, they had not listed military service amongst their many religious and temporal credentials. This isn’t the first time I read such a thing, and every time I do it’s like nails on a damn blackboard to me. When people claim a title which isn’t theirs, it disrespects the people who rightfully earned that title. In my case, it disrespects the many people I know who have earned and sacrificed for that title.
Especially on this day, we should remember the people who are the true warriors, who have made the ultimate sacrifice. If we as Pagans and Polytheists want to harp on at length about “honor” and “duty”, perhaps we need to reflect today on those who really put their money where their mouth is. Who took that ultimate step. If honor goes anywhere, at least on this day, it is to them.
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.