So this weekend marked a pretty significant shift for me (no pun intended). I went to Sunfest on the coast with my husband, Taylor. It was an excellent festival, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Pacific Northwest. Anyway, it’s one of the few places in the Northwest that I’ve found where I can do fire dancing, which means it’s also one of the few places where I can do wolf dancing.
I’ve been dancing with Small Wolf, my wolf skin, since 2002. Folks who went to Sirius Rising from 2002 through 2006 may remember me as “the skinny chick in the wolf skin”. Since moving to the Northwest, I’ve spent more time getting settled in than getting out and about; I didn’t really do much while in Seattle, and now that we’ve been in Portland a year we’ve been working on finding more stuff in the area. I haven’t heard much about drum circles in Portland proper (gas prices prohibit regular attendance anywhere else, though occasional visits aren’t out of the question). So if any of my readers know of any options, feel free to let me know.
At any rate, I’ve been dancing with Small Wolf, the whole time. It’s generally been for the fun of it, both for Small Wolf and for me. I like getting a chance to see the world through his eyes, and he enjoys being able to move again, borrowing my body as I wear his skin. However, since starting on this shamanic path, the dancing has been moving towards something deeper and more complex than that. A lot of the threads of my practice over the years are beginning to come together into something more cohesive–which is exactly what I’ve been working towards in this endeavor.
This weekend, I had an experience that brought a lot of this purpose into sharp focus. I had brought Small Wolf with me expecting to get some dancing in, since Sunfest has a good group of drummers and a fire pit. I also brought my drum, since it wanted to come along as well. Saturday afternoon I had some time to sit and drum, practicing my songs for both Wolf and Small Wolf. I had a couple of folks come and share the drumming with me, which was nice. While most of my songs right now are still private, Small Wolf has always been a very public critter, and enjoys sharing with others (to an extent–not just anyone is allowed to touch him, and never without my permission unless you want to get yelled at). This was a good exercise for me, too, because while I’m fine with public speaking, I’m nervous about public singing. I’m not looking at huge concert tours and things of that nature, thankfully, but I will eventually need to at least be able to do the songs and drumming and such in front of other people as I take what I’m learning and use it to help others.
Last night it began to rain. Well, not really rain, so much as drizzle and spit. However, I generally don’t wolf dance outdoors in the rain because it’s really bad for Small Wolf–tanned furs are nowhere near as waterproof as the live deal. It’s tough to dry out the skin while camping, too, especially in a damp area. So I had originally figured I probably wasn’t going to get to dance. I had danced Friday night, and there were a number of people who had missed out on it. Apparently last year Small Wolf and I made quite an impression at our first Sunfest, and there were folks who were really looking forward to seeing us dance again (or who had heard about it but not seen it).
Our tent ended up being leaky, Taylor was recovering from a twenty-four hour bug, and I was wiped out from a busy weekend of vending, dancing, and socializing. So we decided to head home last night. This was perfect, because it meant that I could get a dance in before we left, and since home was only a couple of hours away I could get Small Wolf dried out since it was still only drizzling, not pouring. I made arrangements to get the folks who wanted to see the wolf dancing at the fire at an appointed time, asked a few of the drummers if they would be willing to show up, and managed to pull everything together in a short time.
The time came, and people were there at the circle, a couple dozen including the drummers. I had just intended to dance and be done with it. However, both Wolf and Small wolf had something else in mind. As I stepped into the circle, they made it very clear they wanted it to be a ritual. Small Wolf and I already have a bit of a rite we go through when we first get to the fire. First I walk around the fire a few times, greet it, and exchange energy with it to connect with it. Then as I prepare myself for the rite, I continue circling. After that I will carry Small Wolf over my shoulder and hold his head towards the fire so he may greet it. After that I put him on, binding his legs to my arms and legs, and tying his head over mine like a hood. I may then sit on the ground for a few moments, getting a really strong connection with him, and then we dance.
However, this time, after I connected with the fire and before I connected with Small Wolf, I called on the totems of the directions as well as various entities of Nature I work with, including the Animal Father. I don’t consider it evoking them, since they’re already there–the Green Mother is in the plant life, the Animal Father in critters great and small, the Wind and Water in the storm, etc. I don’t see a need to banish them, either, at the end–where would they go? I do acknowledge their presence, though, and ask them to witness the ritual if they will.
Only then did I ask Small Wolf to dance with me. I don’t just assume; I always ask. He’s generally enthusiastic–he enjoys it at least as much as I do. So I draped him over me, and we began to dance as the drummers drummed–they were so wonderful, those drummers! And the people watching were incredibly respectful and focused, sharing in the experience. A few had rattles and bells that they played with the drummers, and others I could see the wolf energy touch them. Small Wolf and I danced, and we danced, and the energy rose, and I began to show my teeth in the happy wolf-grin….
And then at the height of it, we invited those who would to come join us, to dance with us, to share in the wolf energy. Only a few did, but they settled into the current so easily, so smoothly. We’ve been able to share that current at more informal drum circles, and had people follow us in a line as we danced around the fire, but this was the first time that this was the sole focus of the dancing and drumming, and being able to feel that without distractions really showed me just what it was that Small Wolf and I have been building together for over half a decade.
I wish I hadn’t been so worn out; while I can channel energy with the best of them, I do allow my body to remind me of its limits. It had been a busy weekend, I’d done most of the setup when we arrived on site because Taylor was still sick, and I was potentially fighting off the bug as well. Plus cold rain will sap my strength more than just about anything. So I wish I’d had more strength, but when I reached my limit, Wolf backed off, and Small Wolf helped me to wind down. We left the wolf “flavor” in the drum circle–enough to let people keep the spirit of the ritual with them, but nothing that wouldn’t dissipate as the night wore on and other elements and spirits came in to dance with the people. I thanked all the spirits and beings who had witnessed the ritual, though they, like Wolf, had already begun to back off to their usual places as I began to tire. I think I wish I could have held out longer, danced more with the people who had been there; one person earlier in the day had been talking to me about how she and other people often felt intimidated by the fire dancing, too self-conscious to go out there and dance–and that sometimes what was needed was an invitation. I tried that, but I think if I’d had more energy I could have gotten people more involved in the ritual.
But I think we made an impression on the folks who were there, and this was definitely a good start. It gives me more focus of where my work with Wolf and Small Wolf will go. While I don’t tend to believe everything I read in the dictionaries, the theme of Wolf energy as teacher energy makes a lot of sense here. One thing Small Wolf and I have always been able to do with our dancing has been inspire people; Wolf and Small Wolf have been good at teaching me to lead through example. Part of why I blog here is to show other people what I’m doing and to hopefully inspire them to walk their own paths more fully and without fear. There are too many problems in the world these days to waste time letting the naysayers scare you into not doing what you need to do for fear of being told you’re wrong–we need more constructive actions, not destructive ones. (And there are better ways to remind someone of their impact than to insult them and point out only their mistakes.)
So the role I seem to be moving into with Wolf and Small Wolf is that which will be the most public aspects of my practice–giving people something they can participate in not just as spectators, but as active participants in the ritual. Time will tell as to whether any of the other totems or skin spirits want to be that involved with people beyond private ceremonies. However, Wolf and Small Wolf have always been happy to accompany me in public dances at pagan gathers. This is a great opportunity, because just being able to watch seems to really get people thinking about the Wild. If I can take that wonder and joy and roll it over into more interactive rituals that have a theme of Wolf = Wild = Respecting the Wild, so much the better.
It’s also good for me for personal reasons. One thing that can be considered, I suppose, a personality flaw is that I love attention. Okay, I love good attention, not the kind of attention one gets when punched in the nose, let me clarify! While most people like attention, I sometimes go overboard, and it’s something I’ve had to struggle with for years. The shamanic work has been great for teaching me how to shove my ego out of the way when needed. However, the enjoyment of attention is actually coming in handy here, because I’m able to get over my self-consciousness and instead consciously attract attention for a specific purpose. Therefore I’m able to take a personality trait that could potentially be a problem (attention whoring, anyone) and instead channel it into something more positive and constructive. Not that it completely solves all problems; I do still have to remember that when I dance, it’s not all about me. But Small Wolf in particular has been a great teacher for working through that particular bit of conditioning, and instead of completely squelching the desire for
attention, I’ve instead been learning to use it for the Powers of Good (TM)!
It’ll be interesting to see how this Wolf/Small Wolf work progresses. They’ve already been strongly involved in the ecological aspects of my life and practice; it’s no coincidence that wolves have often been equated with the wilderness, and the need to preserve both. Wolf taught me to appreciate Nature from an early age, and Small Wolf has continued with that through our dancing. I’m going to find some ways to maybe do more regular rituals where others can participate, since there are a lot of things Wolf and Small Wolf would like me to pass on to other people, and this is a great way to do so.
Wolf, the teacher and my guide into the Wild, and Small Wolf, my dance partner and willing conspirator in impromptu inspiration, are definitely taking me in some good directions.
ETA: Here’s a brief addendum to this post that I added after the feeds picked up on it.