Therioshamanism To Be Archived

greenwolf-new (1)smallAfter six and a half years at this spot, I’ve decided to pull up stakes and move to a new location. Why? Well, I finally gave my primary website, the Green Wolf, the first major overhaul it’s had in about a decade. Among many other reconfigurations, I opted for a built-in blog as a way to consolidate my online stuff and things. So please change your bookmarks and other links to, and title is A Sense of Natural Wonder.

As for Therioshamanism? It’ll stay up, archived and available as always. I know there are some posts that I’d like to keep referencing, and I bet some of you have favorites, too. So Therioshamanism isn’t going away completely; it’s just going to enjoy a much-needed retirement while A Sense of Natural Wonder picks up where it left off. You can find out more about the changeover here.

And finally, thank you to everyone who has supported my blogging and other efforts over the years, for the comments and discussions and likes and so forth. It’s good to know that someone’s getting something out of my writing here, and I hope I can continue to offer up worthwhile words.

For People Who Are Following This Blog…

Hi, all!

Despite the fact that I closed this blog years ago and the top post reflects this, there are still new people following it. I’m afraid you aren’t going to get much content here. However! If you follow my current blog, A Sense of Natural Wonder, you’ll get to read my current writings. Just click on any individual post in the blog, and then on the right hand side there’ll be a place to subscribe to the entire blog.

You can also read my writing over at my shared blog at Paths Through the Forests. You’ll also be treated to the writings of my co-blogger, Rua Lupa! Again, on the right side of the blog, there’s a form to subscribe by email.

Thank you, and see you on my new blogs 🙂

Just One More Check-In With My Blog Followers Here At Therioshamanism

Hi, all,

So it’s been a month since I switched over to the new blogging platform at my website, A Sense of Natural Wonder. I wanted to make sure those of you who wanted to keep following my posts there were able to do so.

I’ve had some people tell me that they can still follow using their accounts. Anyone having any limitations there? For those for whom it works, would you mind describing briefly what you did since following a blog seems to work a little differently from a one?

Also, for those who prefer email subscriptions, if you go to any page at A Sense of Natural Wonder, there’s a simple subscription form on the right sidebar–just plug in your email address. (Assuming you’re not using the mobile version of the site, that is.)

And if you want to add my blog to an RSS feed, here’s the info.

I do hope you’ll keep reading my writing; I’ve enjoyed sharing my ideas here for the past six and a half years, and I’ve love to keep engaging with you through writing and comments and the like. Please let me know if I can help in that endeavor!

Important Addendum If You Want to Subscribe to the New Blog

I had several people who were disappointed that they wouldn’t be able to subscribe to my new blog because doesn’t work quite the same way as I have, however, found a decent substitute plugin that will allow you to subscribe to posts at the new blog via email! It’ll be on the right sidebar of A Sense of Natural Wonder, as well as each individual blog post (I just posted one today, BTW).

I’m still looking for a workaround that will let you subscribe to the blog via your account; if anyone has any good ideas there, please do let me know. And thank you!

Green Burial at No Unsacred Place

Over at No Unsacred Place, I talk about green burial as a “best last gift”, endangered vultures in Asia, and how you can build houses out of cemeteries. From the post:

“I am decidedly agnostic when it comes to the idea of an afterlife of any sort. If there is one, great! The adventure continues. If there isn’t, though, then I would spend my last moment of awareness horrified if I felt I hadn’t made the most of this life. This includes the responsible disposition of my remains once I’m gone. I have no guarantee that there’s any life other than this one, but I know for sure that what I do in this moment can have reverberations in this world well beyond my own departure. I am not motivated by fear of a horrible punishment after I die. I am motivated by the care of the beings I share this life with right now. And I feel that the best last act I can do for this world is to responsibly return the resources I used to build my body back to their source once I’m done walking around in the flesh.”

Read more here.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Admit I Need the Wild

I spent this past weekend at PantheaCon in San Jose, CA. It’s been one of the highlights of my year since moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2006, and as always it was a wonderfully executed convention wherein my interaction with others was mainly in five and ten minute conversations in passing. I got to speak on plant and fungus totems (and got some preorders for my upcoming book on the topic) and still feel like an utter dumbass for missing the Llewellyn ancestors panel because I thought it was at 1:30pm instead of 11:00am.

But that mix-up was part of a personal theme for this year’s PCon. February’s been a challenging month for me; after the burst of positive energy that resulted in my event Curious Gallery, I found myself drooping and tired afterward, not at all surprising given that it was a LOT of work, and because I’m enough of an introvert to need some recharge time after big social events. The time that I thought I’d have to recover before PCon, though, was taken up instead by one of the freak snowstorms that Portland gets about every five years or so. It was only a few inches, but given that we have a dearth of plows and sand/cinders, only the highways were getting plowed for the first couple of days, and I was NOT about to go sliding around messy streets with a bunch of people not used to snow driving, chains or no chains. I more or less spent the better part of four days apartment-bound, minus a walk to the grocery store for rations. And once the snow melted, I had to start getting prepared to head south.

Sycamore bark, Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA. Lupa, 2014.

Sycamore bark, Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA. Lupa, 2014.

Which means that I haven’t gone hiking all month, and barely did last month due to Curious Gallery prep. Even before we hit the road, I was cranky and travel-anxious and generally out of sorts. Throughout the weekend I kept finding myself running short on energy and social tolerance, and while I very much enjoyed my time at the convention, I felt I wasn’t as present as I’ve been in previous years. I kept finding myself looking forward to getting outside at some point soon.

So because my Saturday schedule at PCon was almost entirely open, I decided to go hiking, and ended up at Alum Rock Park east of San Jose proper. It was an incredibly refreshing break, quiet other than occasional families with loudly excited children, and some amazing views from the South Rim Trail. I was surrounded by Steller’s jays, a lovely reminder of one of my “home” totems back in Oregon, and broad-shouldered sycamore trees, and uplifted ridges covered in scrub, with Penitencia Creek meandering throuugh it all in spite of drought. And then on our way home, my friend who I was traveling with and I stopped off at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It was just at dusk, so the birds and jackrabbits were out in force; I traded calls with great horned owls, and we enjoyed a lovely sunset on the water.

So I got my wild time and I felt much better for it. But I admit I felt some guilt. I’ve long been an advocate for green cities, partly as a way to free up more space for wildlife without humans interfering, and partly to make cities more habitable, especially for those who are unable to leave them. Granted, San Jose isn’t exactly overflowing with sustainability (though I’m sure it has more resources than meet the eye, mixed in the confluence of interstates and the airport and such). But I spend most of my time in Portland in a neighborhood with lots of green space and yards. Shouldn’t that tide me over?

South Rim Trail, Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA. By Lupa, 2014.

South Rim Trail, Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA. By Lupa, 2014.

It’s good for maintenance, to be sure. But I always need regular trips to wilderness areas, whether forest or desert or coastline. Nothing refreshes me quite like the quiet and soft fascination, and I don’t think it’s just my introversion. Something deep inside me needs those open areas to roam, perhaps even more than most people around me who may enjoy and benefit from it, but don’t necessarily have a deep, soul-sprung craving for wilderness.

I suppose the conundrum I’m left with is: does this need for wilderness negate the concept of green cities? Is a more sustainable metropolis only a temporary solution to a problem that can only be cured with the sort of setting we evolved in–open, untamed, populated by all the wild beings we grew up with? Maybe the sorts of people who reblog pictures of wilderness settings with sayings like Thoreau’s “in Wildness is the preservation of the world” and the anonymous “nature, not cities” are right.

But wait–that’s falling right into the false dilemma fallacy. Surely there’s some middle ground in between “stuck in a depressing, dirty city” and “a perfectly clean idyllic life deep in the wilderness, insulated from all other humans”. My need for wilderness on a regular basis is not proof that city life is wholly unsuitable for me. I can survive in a rural area much better than my urban-born partner could, and there are days I long for a life in a place with deer in the back yard and quiet, star-filled nights. But cities are where my work is, by and large, and they’re generally more friendly to those of us of alternative subcultures. There are benefits to Portland, to be sure.

Mineral spring grotto at Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA. By Lupa, 2014.

Mineral spring grotto at Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA. By Lupa, 2014.

When I feel that deep longing for wilderness, it’s not a sign that I need to abandon the city for good. In fact, at the end of my hike or camping trip, I feel energized and ready to return to the busy-ness of my everyday urban life. (Plus the traditional hot shower upon my return home is a definite perk.) I love the quiet of small towns, but right now I need the resources and opportunities and diversity of cities. Furthermore, there are plenty of restorative environments within Portland proper, the largest being Forest Park. There’s no need to abandon urban life; I just sometimes need to tilt the scale more toward “get out into the woods more and don’t work so hard!”

Like most potential answers to a complex problem, my solution is likely to be an ongoing balancing act comprised in part of reflection sessions like this one. And a challenge to a strongly-held conviction is not cause for worry; instead, as always, it’s an invitation to recalibrate that conviction. As my younger self would have said, “Stagnation is death!” (Some of the time, anyway.)

How Coyote Imitated Snake

Coyote was loping through the grass one day when she heard a voice off in the distance. “Ah, me!” it said. “Ah, me!” Being a curious sort, Coyote decided it was her duty to investigate this voice on the wind. So she trotted off toward it.

Soon she came to a tiny clearing in the grass, barely round enough for her to plant all four paws. In the center of this clearing she saw Snake. Snake was not looking well; she was pale and coated in dust, her eyes were cloudy, and she writhed about as though she had lost all control of herself. She wound around the bunches of grass and scattered stones, all the while calling out “Ah, me!”

whiteyote4Coyote was taken aback by this sight, and she moved to help Snake. But Snake struck out at her with her sharp fangs, and Coyote skittered back into the grass to save herself a snout full of venom. Still, she couldn’t quell her curiosity, and so she cautiously peeked back out into the clearing, where Snake was continuing her strange rolling and twisting struggle.

Just when Coyote was prepared to brave Snake’s fangs once again to either give aid or claim a midday snack, Snake let out a particularly loud cry. As she did so, the skin on her back split wide open, all the way from her head to her tail. The skin fell away and beneath it Snake was covered in the most beautiful shining scales in a thousand colors, from the red of sandstone cliffs to the turquoise of the perfect sky. She shone so much Coyote thought the Sun might strike her down in envy.

Snake curled up in her new skin, and she spied Coyote watching. Before Coyote could run away, Snake wound herself around Coyote’s leg as fast as lightning. She raised her head and the twin forks of her tongue pointed at her visitor. “Did you wish to devour me, Coyote? Is that why I had to break my dance in order to show you my fangs? Know that you have witnessed something very few are privileged enough to observe. I should strike you down now for it.”

Coyote thought for a moment, but then decided that such a magical creature must know the truth. “For a moment I did think to eat you, but now that I gaze upon your beauty after having come to life again, I now know I must have been mistaken.” Snake preened at Coyote’s words, and twitched the end of her tail in excitement. But still she held on to Coyote’s leg.

For another day and night Coyote told Snake how lovely she was, how many colors were in her scales, and every beautiful thing each scale reminded her of. She praised Snake’s ability to be reborn, and said her powers must be great indeed.

At the next sunrise, Snake finally spoke again. “You have lavished many kind words upon me, and you have suspected my great power over death. Therefore I will share a piece of it with you. You have watched my dance and heard my cry. You have seen me split my skin and come forth from it. I do these things to renew myself. Once every three moons this happens, and I cast off my old self. I discover who I will be these next three moons. If I ever miss this dance, I will die.”

“Forgive me, Snake, but I cannot split my skin, for I know I would die then. What do I do?” Snake replied, “In order to create yourself anew, you must first have something to shed. You must have your offering to death ready before you cheat it.” Before Coyote could speak again, Snake unwound herself and glided wordlessly into the grass, not to be found again.

whiteyote2Coyote felt even more confusion than before, and wished just a little that Snake had bitten her to relieve her of her not-knowing. But looking at Snake’s old skin in the dust, she came upon a grand idea. She ran across the grassland and into the forest and up into the hills until she came to her den. She ran inside and sniffed around until she found a pile of old clothing she had meant to throw out. She put it on, and remembered all the things she had done while wearing it, and who she had been at those times.

Then she ran back to the clearing where Snake had been. She began to writhe and tumble as Snake had done, but something wasn’t quite right. Where Snake’s skin had crackled dry and crinkly, the clothing merely swooshed and flopped. So Coyote grabbed some of the dry grass and stuck it in her clothing and it crackled and crinkled just like Snake’s old skin.

So Coyote danced like Snake. She wrapped herself around the bunches of grass and she bruised herself on the stones. She rolled in the dust until her coat was as pale as the moonlight. And she cried out “Ah, me!” every time she hit the ground, or whenever the mood to cry out took her. She danced and stretched and crawled until the old clothing tore apart into strips that hung about her like moss. She had grass in her toes and burrs on her tail. She was rather a shambles. And she still had no idea what Snake had been up to at all.

Frustrated, she howled at the sky, teeth bared and tongue red. The Sun, who just happened to be passing by then, looked down and asked “What on Earth are you wailing about, Coyote? Is it your matted pelt that’s more wounded than your pride?”

Coyote glared at the Sun, though only for a moment (even Coyote has the sense to not stare at the Sun). “Surely you have seen Snake rebirth herself. Surely you know the power she has over death. She almost killed me, and that made me want to not die. So I tried to dance like her, and it did nothing. I even started off by thinking about who I used to be, and who I am now, and I made my own skin and everything! What did I do wrong?”

“Silly dog,” the Sun said. “I watch Snake and her kin do this dance all the time. They die, too, after a while. Snake was just telling you stories, like you know she does. Snake sheds death with her skin no more than you shed it with your fur every spring. She needs to grow bigger, and you need to be cool for the summer. There’s no magic in it, just the normal things you animals do each year.”

Coyote sat for a full quarter hour silently, something she almost never did. Then, as the Sun looked on, she shook off the old fabric and the grass and the dust. She left them in a pile around the old snake skin. Then she said, “Well, I know one thing about myself, and that is that I am not Snake. And I know another thing about myself and that is that I am less foolish than I was yesterday. And if that older, more foolish self has passed away, then that is enough death for me today”.

And with that, Coyote shook herself one more time and bounded out into the sunny grass toward home.


The Compassionate Hunter’s Guidebook

hunterSo, I recently preordered this book; while I am not a hunter myself (not yet, anyway), I still really want to read it, since a lot of the hides and bones I work with in my art and spirituality are from hunted animals, and because I’m very interested in showing people there’s a lot of room between NEVER KILL ANIMALS EVER and KILL ALL THE ANIMALS ALWAYS. Here’s the back cover blurb to entice you further:

The act of harvesting wild meat directly from the land demands that one enter a world of awareness, wildness, life and death that as a culture we have lost our connection to.

The Compassionate Hunter’s Guidebook is a guide for those that come to the act of hunting with pure intentions, motivated by a desire for healthy food that comes directly and humanely from the earth where they live. This practical guide suggests that hunting is not a ‘sport’ and the animals whose lives are taken are not ‘game’. It combines a deep, honest exploration of the ethics of killing with detailed practical instructions geared toward the beginning hunter, including:

  • Understanding your prey;
  • Tools, techniques and preparation;
  • The act of the hunt;
  • From forest to table – processing, preserving and preparing your kill.

A unique and comprehensive, fully-illustrated guide to the complexity, ethics, and spirit of the hunt, The Compassionate Hunter is a must-read for beginning and experienced hunters alike. It will appeal to anyone who wishes to delve more deeply into the complex, humbling and ultimately profound reality of our relationship with the food that nourishes us.

If you want to preorder your own copy from the author, here’s the relevant page. It’s also on Amazon and Powell’s for preorder, but I strongly recommend supporting authors as much as possible, and ordering from his site will get him the biggest percentage of the cover price.

There will, of course, be a review in the future once it’s out and I have my copy in my hot little hands.

Some Recent Writings of Mine From No Unsacred Place

If you aren’t a reader of No Unsacred Place, for which I am both writer and admin, you may have missed my most recent writings there. Here’s a summary with relevant links:

I Carry the Ocean In My Blood – Water reminds me of my evolutionary history; here’s where I trace that ancestry.

The Art of Taking as an Offering– We often think of offerings as something you give–but how do you take an offering away?

A Call to Hope – Why guilt isn’t good for us, especially in our relationships with the rest of nature.

Return of the Green Shopping List: Stuff You Don’t Need Edition – Here are a few things you can cut out of your shopping list (and save both the earth and some money!)

Being a Part of Something Bigger Than Ourselves – I continue to explore my path as a naturalistic pagan , and why connection is at the heart of my spirituality.

Forest Fire Dreams and Nightmare Tornadoes – I don’t talk about my dreams much, but these two motifs of my bad dreams were worth mentioning.

Saving Our Water – This is a discussion of some simple ways to cut down on household water use.

A Call for Urban Greening – We shouldn’t abandon our cities. We should green them!

United Watersheds of America? – A brief piece on a potential redrawing of U.S. state lines based on watersheds.

Inspired by David Douglas – My most recent piece, part musing and part book review, discusses the kinship I feel with this early naturalist and his enthusiasm for the world around him.

Activism, Apathy, and the Antidote to Burnout (Or, A Healthy Dose of Feel-Good-ism)

I’ve been mulling over some of the things we talked about in that interview I did earlier this month. The one that’s really standing out to me right now is burnout in activism, whether that’s environmentalism or human rights or spiritual freedom. Let’s focus on environmentalism in specific, just for simplicity’s sake.

The prevailing theme in environmental activism for the past several decades has been one of urgency, bordering (or crossing over into) doom and gloom. How much of ecological rhetoric is based on “This thing is horribly wrong, and if we don’t fix it WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE”? I don’t have exact statistics, but I’m on the mailing list of a number of environmental groups, and I try to keep tabs on ecological topics in the news. Most of what I see in my inbox and the headlines is negative, problem-focused.

There’s good reason for this: we do face some pretty serious challenges environmentally speaking. From pollution in the water, land and air, to the endangerment and extinction of species due to habitat loss and other factors, to climate change brought on by carbon production–each of these is a massive, complex problem incorporating many smaller, still serious problems, and there are no easy solutions. So it’s certainly not all sunshine and bunnies on the environmental front.

The media is another really significant contributor to this phenomenon. The fact is, bad news sells. So the headlines in the papers, on the nightly news, and on the news sites online tend toward the negative (and even the sensational). This includes news about the environment and our effects on it; when’s the last time you saw a front page headline about advances in solar power or the creation of a national park (did you know we got our newest national park just this year?) Most of what we get is pushed further back in the paper or lower down the page, and it’s usually bad news. So we get a constant stream of primarily negative messages from the media making us feel even worse about the situation.

Consider that this has been the prevailing theme of environmentalism for the past four decades. Individually and socially it gets really exhausting hearing bad news all the time, and when we don’t have good news to balance it out, we can start to feel hopeless, like nothing we do matters. It’s not that people don’t care about the environment; many people have varied concerns related to ecological issues (whether they label them as such or not). But when you feel like you’re facing the problem of “a billion cars in the world, all contributing to air pollution and climate change” or “poachers in countries on the other side of the world killed the last Western black rhinos” what do you feel you can do? Apathy starts to seem like a refuge from all the pain and grief over constant environmental losses.

Well, here’s the point where I yell “HEY, KNOCK IT OFF!!!!” at the media, and the doomsayers, and their ilk.

You’re perfectly validated in being upset and sad and angry and having all sorts of other feelings about ecological destruction in its many forms. And we shouldn’t stop pointing out the issues that need addressing. But for pity’s sake, can we amp up the positive news and feel-goodness some?

No, really. I mean it. We need more fluffy, kind-hearted, bring-on-the-light reminders that things aren’t 100% horrible. They’re not just Band-aids that make people feel good about, for example, recycling their aluminum cans. I mean, yes, okay, there are low-pressure environmental efforts that go no further than encourage people to do lightweight things like recycle or take public transit more or eat one meat-free diet per week, and to an extent they are only meant to help people feel good about taking that small action. But there’s nothing wrong with that! Making people feel good is a great plan!

Why? Well, for one thing, a lot of people respond better to positive ideas than negative ones. We need good news, especially at a time when we are bombarded with so much bad news. Good news keeps us motivated and engaged. We need opportunities to celebrate even the smallest victories, an important part of activism on any scale.

Also, praise goes over better than punishment. Yelling at someone and telling them what they’re doing wrong is more likely to make them resentful and defensive, and we’ve had a lot of yelling the past few decades. On the other hand, if you tell people what they’re doing right, it’s more likely to encourage them to keep up that behavior and potentially adopt other eco-friendly choices.

This means that instead of being problem-focused, we need to start being more solution-focused. Don’t just tell people what’s wrong–give them clear strategies for making the problem better. Use the constructive criticism sandwich: start off with a victory, then bring up a related problem, and follow up with constructive ways your audience can address that problem.

Make the solutions accessible, too–not everyone can convert to solar, for example, but their utility company might offer a green option, or they can find ways to cut down on household energy use. Be open to the possibility that not every proposed solution will work for every person, or that someone might not agree with you on the efficacy of a given solution even if they agree with you otherwise. Remember that you’re working for a common goal, even if the way by which you each do it may be different.

Now, as I’m writing this, I’m hearing in my head the voices of several cynical activists I’ve met in person or online over the years. “These people aren’t doing enough!” they’d say. “They’re just recycling because it makes them feel good, they don’t really care about the Earth, and [insert rant about a dozen other, often more complicated or inconvenient things they think people should be doing but aren’t]. WE NEED REAL CHANGE!!! We have to TELL THEM WHAT THEY’RE DOING WRONG BECAUSE IT’S URGENT!!!” and then proceed to yell about it to anyone they think is the problem. However, the number of people who respond favorably to this sort of aggressive activism is a lot smaller than the number of people who don’t.

Part of what we activists need to do is to accept that we can’t control other people and let go of the idea that we must make them behave a certain way. Let’s say I have (just throwing hypothetical numbers out there) ten people who have listened to me talk aboutrecycling. Let’s say maybe half of them do start recycling, and then the other half go back to their usual ways. But let’s say one of those ten not only recycles carefully, but also is inspired to find out other ways to reduce waste in their home, like making sure they use food before it goes bad, and then goes on to try other sustainable efforts which help them make a bigger positive impact.

But that one person has to come to that decision themselves. If I try too hard to make others do what I want them to, they’ll turn away and stop listening. If I insist that my way is the only way and they have no room to disagree or find their own solution, the result is the same. A person has to have their free will emphasized if they’re going to feel that the decision they make is truly theirs. And if they do indeed feel they made a personally empowered decision, then it’s more likely to stick and perhaps inspire them to try more if they’re so inclined. 

That’s why I feel it’s important to leave people feeling empowered as well as energized and enthusiastic about activism. It does involve some feel-good-ism. And it does need to be balanced out with some of the harder realities; if all you’re doing is some ego-stroking, you’re not going to give people goals to work toward. But we’ve spent so much time erring on the side of serious doom and gloom that I think we can afford to go a little overboard on the positives with a healthy dose of feel-good-ism.

So since I’ve been talking about making more positive themes in environmental discourse, and in giving people some concrete solutions to work with, here are a few suggestions lifted from a more rough draft of these ideas I posted on Tumblr a little while ago:

—Model good behavior. People are creatures of imitation. In the worst cases this turns out social pressure to act in negative ways, but you can also use the tendency to imitate in good ways. And it’s not just “monkey see, monkey do”. When I started gardening a few years ago, I had some friends give it a try as well, because if I could do it, hey, why couldn’t they? 

—Support the victories. Too often the rhetoric surrounding environmentalism is one of doom and gloom and panic. Being informed is crucial, but after a while all the bad news can wear down on even the most dedicated of activists. Part of the problem, too, is that the media tends to focus only on the worst possible spin as a way to get attention and sales; good news simply doesn’t make money. But it IS crucial when keeping people engaged in making the world a better place. So when an environmental org puts out an article on something they (we) managed to accomplish, spread the word!

—Make use of the constructive criticism sandwich. Studies show that if you praise someone and then criticize them, they’ll only remember the criticism—and again, not everyone responds favorably if they feel they’ve screwed up. So round out the constructive crit with another positive which can help give them the energy to go out and improve the thing you were critiquing.