Lupa Does the Bunny Hop

I was a little late in doing my skin spirit work this month, but today I managed to spend some time with my rabbit skin, a rather small brown pelt from a domesticated rabbit. Right before I went to choose a skin to dance, I kept thinking about El-Ahrairah from Watership Down, who is somewhat of a pop culture version of the totemic Rabbit, as well as a useful depiction thereof. So I chose the rabbit skin to dance today.

He was a little unsure before we went into things; he’s the first skin from a domesticated animal I’ve danced, and he told me that as he’d spent his life in a hutch, he really wasn’t sure how much like a wild rabbit he was. I told him, “Well, I’ve not worked with Rabbit much myself, so maybe he’ll give us a little help and we can figure this one out together”. Indeed, El-Ahrairah gave us the boost we needed!

I draped the skin over my shoulders like a cape, tied with two leather cords around my neck. Then I got down on my hands and knees and attempted to lollop like a rabbit–and got about two inches ahead of where I’d been before. I’m used to large, striding animals, or at least those that walk in a four-beat pace. The two-beat lollop of the rabbit is another story entirely. It probably took me a good ten minutes at least to figure out how to get more than a few inches forward at a time. I ended up with a rather ungainly, probably ridiculous-looking quasi-lollop on my hands and balls of my feet. In fact I know it was silly to watch–even the rabbit skin was laughing, though having a good time.

I then got up to try to mimic the lollop in a more bipedal fashion. I really didn’t want to have to rely on the infamous “bunny hop” with two feet together (with or without the “right, right, left, left, jump forward, jump backward, jump forward three times, repeat” pattern!) That would annoy me entirely too much for me to hit a good trance, and it didn’t remind me of the movement I’d done before. I finally ended up with a two-step dance, where I would dip my torso and arms forward when stepping with my lead foot, and come back up when stepping forward with my hind foot. I also kept the characteristic “lub-dup, lub-dup” rhythm from the lollop, which bound the two moves together really well.

Learning to move in an entirely new way was pretty exhausting–not to mention hard on my back. But both I and the rabbit skin had a great time figuring it out together. I didn’t even try approximating a run; I figure I should learn to thoroughly lollop first.

The Animal Father nudged me while we were dancing. He told me that once my six months were up that he wanted me to dance a different skin every night for a week each week until I’d danced them all and gotten to know them. I’m sure the skins will appreciate this; I don’t dance as much as I’d like since my job takes a lot out of me, and they always seem so sad when I get done dancing and they realize that no one else will be dancing that day/night. I am looking forward to it, though.

Shiny objects! (And PRESENCE)

I fully admit that I have magpie syndrome, that tendency found so often among pagans to collect shiny (colorful, has Celtic knotwork, etc.) objects to decorate one’s home, person and ritual area with. While I’ve cut down on a lot of the shinies, I still occasionally get excited over something new.

After I made my post about prayer beads, I ordered the pendant I wanted for my necklace/prayer beads that I described in the post. Well, it arrived in yesterday’s mail, and was sitting at my place at the kitchen table when I got home last night. To be honest, it showed up a lot quicker than I expected–not that I’m complaining!

It looks awesome–shiny, not quite copper colored, and I love the primitive look of the Sorceror/Animal Father image. The tree on the other side came out well, too. Very nice weight, too. I definitely recommend Quicksilver Mint for metal pendants!

The pendant was on a black cord, and nestled in a small plastic ziploc bag. As I was about to take the pendant out, the Animal Father told me not to touch the pendant itself, and to take it up to the ritual room and hang it on the altar. So I did, and I draped the cord over a clay jug at the center of the altar. As I did so, I felt the god ARRIVE in the ritual room, and I felt the distinctive PRESENCE of Something Much Larger Than I Am fill the space and weigh my head down, for lack of a better term.

“Are you ready to welcome me into your life more?” he asked. Well aware of at least some of what’s ahead, and even knowing that it won’t necessarily be easy–but will be worth it–“Oh, yes, definitely”, I replied. With that answer in hand, the Animal Father left, and the room returned to its normal state.

I’m pretty sure that once the six months are up he’ll be a much more frequent presence in my life. As to how that will manifest, well–I’ll find out after the next two months and change!

And the flames went higher….

Oh, come on. You couldn’t seriously expect me to get through my Fire month without invoking that particular song of the late, great, Man in Black, did you? (Bonus cover by Social Distortion!)

I sat down at my meditation today during lunch and talked to Fox again about my Fire month. I’m still trying to figure out exactly where its influences have been in my life as of late. We touched on the pain of being burned, whether in the process of cleaning things out or not, and Fox noted that this was always my first thought of Fire, which was indicative of my uneasy relationship with it. Fire in real life scares me a bit, too. I like fire dancing, but no way will I jump over one–you can’t even get me to put out a candle flame with wet fingertips.

So we worked through finding other meanings for Fire. While I tend to associate emotions with Water for the most part, Fire applied to Water makes the Water boil! I’ve been exploring more intense emotions this month–anger, jealousy, disappointment, etc. However, Fire can also add to joy/elation, excitement/anticipation, and, of course, love. Consistency is another issue related to emotions; while I’m not bipolar, I do get moody, especially this time of year when SAD hits me. Emotions are like fire, sometimes; when we feel down, our fire goes down to embers. Those who are particularly feeling bad, especially those suffering from severe depression, may consider dousing those embers forever. At the other end of the spectrum, when our emotions get the best of us, we lose our temper, or we otherwise go overboard, it can be like a wildfire burning all that we touch. Maintaining balanced emotions is similar to tending a fire. You want to keep the flames well-fed at a steady rate, neither neglecting them too much, or being tempted to toss some lighter fluid on if they aren’t burning high enough.

Another quality of Fire is light. In addition to burning out the underbrush, Fire illuminates what’s left so we can see more clearly. Being more aware of what moves and motivates us helps us to see the circumstances we’re in better. Careful application of Fire, awareness, can help us to illuminate even the darkest corners.

And Fire is spirit, drive, motivation. It is force and energy that moves everything. Inspiration may be of the mind and therefore Air, but Fire is what drives us to put it into motion, like blowing on a flame to make it grow. When I get into creative frenzies, where I’ll spend weeks working on writing or artwork at every spare moment, there’s definitely Fire at play there.

I know this isn’t particularly organized–just tossing down some observations on Fire as I continue through this month.

Walking the Talk However Far We Can

First off, quick note–I think I’ve mentioned a ritual I did in preparing a chicken a few weeks back. At any rate, I wrote an article about the process, and you can see it at Culinary Adventures of an Urban Shaman, via Key64.net. While I don’t hunt or fish for meat (though I’d like to), I do believe it’s important to honor the animals (and plants, etc.) who become our food and preserve our life. The article details the ritual I developed for honoring the spirit of a fre range chicken I prepared for supper one evening.

This ritual is a part of my recent efforts to boost the amount of environmentally friendly actions I take, both mundane and spiritual/magical. Therioshamanism, as I am developing it, is very much an Earth-centered path. When I work with deities, for example, I don’t simply see them as abstract beings, separate from the natural phenomena they “represent”. My patron Goddess, Artemis, with whom I will have been working for a full decade this February, is very much associated with the wilderness and the animals therein, as well as the Moon. To me, that means not only honoring her, but also doing what I can to preserve the wilderness, the animals, and to clear the sky so the Moon may be seen without the haze of pollution. Granted, Artemis is also the Huntress–which means she’s no vegan. (Then again, neither am I.) Between her, and the Animal Father who is also, of course, strongly associated with the wilderness and the creatures in it, you can see where a lot of my emphasis is.

It makes no sense to me, therefore, to turn a blind eye to the degradation of what these deities hold sacred. However, I do not live in ancient Greece, or paleolithic France. I am an urban American in the 21st century, and therefore my relationship to the environment is different from people in other cultures and times. To me, it’s not enough to celebrate Nature, when all around me it’s being destroyed through our actions. Where is the honor in that? If I talk about how amazing and wonderful Nature is for giving me life, and then ignore my impact on the land, water and air, then I’m not walking my talk.

Granted, we each have to come to our own balance. I still drive a car, though I use public transit to get to and from work, even though driving might be faster. I’m omnivorous, and meat takes a certain amount of land and other resources to produce, though I try to go for local, free-range meat when I can, and have been eating more poultry, smaller animals that require fewer resources to raise. I know not everyone can afford to buy organic. However, we can buy with an eye towards reducing packaging, recycle whatever we have the facilities for, make small investments such as a few canvas bags for groceries (guaranteed not to rip no matter how wet they get or how many canned goods you stuff in there!), and other such things. Being an environmentally-friendly pagan (or non-pagan, for that matter) isn’t about worrying about what you can’t do right now–it’s about what you can do, and being aware of the choices you make with regards to the resources and opportunities available to you at any given time.

For me, walking my talk means changing my everyday lifestyle, no matter where I live. I made my own bread for the first time this weekend, so I could have a little more control over what ingredients I used, and what went into my body. The clove of garlic that bravely put forth a bright green shoot was saved from the pizza sauce and is now in its own pot of dirt, growing happily, the start of what I hope will be an excellent garden someday. I want to buy a secondhand hand towel so I don’t have to dry my hands with paper towels at work. I can’t buy solar, can’t buy a hybrid, can’t raise rabbits or chickens for food–but I can do these things, and help make others aware of what they can do, inspire people to take a conscious look at the choices they have before them. And in the end, that’s enough, I think, to do what I can, and look forward to what may be later on as circumstances change.

One More Note on Fire

Lest you think that Fire has been all painful and unlovely to me this month, I’ve also been feeling more impetus to bring about positive change in my life. Fire is inspiration and drive, passion and determination. I’ve actually been raising the amount of changes in my life in an environmentally-friendly way in the past couple of weeks. I put a clean two liter grape juice bottle, full of water, into the toilet tank to lower the amount of water we use. I’ve been paying more attention to packaging in my purchases, and cutting down on packaging where possible. And today, I had a famous first–I made a loaf of bread! This last may seem mind-bogglingly mundane to you, but just a couple of years ago I *hated* cooking. I’ve been more interested in knowing what’s actually in my food, so learning to make more from scratch has really been appealing to me.

So Fire isn’t all bad, and I recognize a crucial role of that element in my life. I still need to get comfortable with it on other levels, but hey–here’s something I can connect with!

Also, on a totally side note, I know what a pain it can be to try to bounce from blog to blog, making daily rounds. I’m not a huge web-savvy person, though I know that this blog has built-in RSS feeds. However, I do like Livejournal, particularly because I can have feeds built right into my f-list. Makes things a lot more convenient. For you folks in LJ land who don’t know about it yet, here is the LJ RSS feed for therioshamanism.com. Wheeee, convenience!

Fire Month Check-in

I’m halfway through my Fire month, and this is the first post I’ve made about it since it began. It’s not surprising; of the four elements, Fire is the one I’m least attuned to and comfortable with. It’s not so much that I’ve been avoiding it; it’s just been harder for me to connect with. Some people would take that as a sign that Fire isn’t “my” element, and I should work with one that I’m more attuned to–which is silly. Elemental work isn’t about picking your favorite element and working with it to the exclusion of all others. It’s about balancing all the elements within and around you. We are not one-trick ponies.

Still, I did feel a bit guilty today when I realized that I’ve done less overt Fire work so far than I had halfway through the Earth and Air months. Maybe part of it is because it’s the least tangible of the four elements. It’s transient, and unless you want to get injured, untouchable, at least in its pure form. It hasn’t helped, either, that all but a couple of days in the past two weeks have been cold, overcast, and rainy, with barely ever a glimpse of the Sun. And, of course, because of my work schedule, I’m stuck in a cube farm for almost the entire time there is any appreciable daylight. Since I’ve come to accept that I’m pretty much a classic case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood hasn’t exactly been sparkly, either.

Still, there’s the fire of metabolism in my cells. And although the overt presence of Fire is lessened right now, there are more subtle ones to work with. For example, I was really struck by Starhawk’s discussing the flow of energy as part of her chapter on Fire in The Earth Path. I’ve been more careful about salvaging kitchen scraps for the compost bin because she makes the excellent point that every bit of energy we take from the Earth and don’t put back weakens it that much more, which is why we have such overfarmed soil in so many places. As I mentioned in my com-post a few days back, whatever you throw into a landfill isn’t going to decay–it’ll just sit there, a toxic welt under the skin of the Earth. So I return everything I don’t use, within acceptable composting limits. The ends of the carrots, the cracker crumbs at the bottom of the box–those are all energy that has been taken from the Earth.

Fire isn’t just energy, either, and it isn’t just the nice warmth of the Sun. Fire can also be painful. In my personal life I’ve had to deal with some really difficult decisions, things that weren’t easy to deal with, where there really was no right or wrong decision, but either way someone was going to get hurt. In these cases, fire is useful for cleaning out the situation. Like a wildfire cleansing a forest of the underbrush so that everything built up gets cleared out, seeds are spread, and the forest has a chance to rejuvenate its floor, so sometimes our tough decisions cause us to burn out the excess and really look at what’s left. And, to use a more cliched example, Fire tempers us. It may be a painful process in the flames, but when we come out, we’re stronger for it, no matter what we become.

And it is change. That’s probably one of the oldest associations I have with it. Of all the directional totems I work with, the totem of South, which I link to Fire, has changed a number of times, and currently is represented by Fox. Change can be painful, but again, like that forest fire, it can clean things out so we can start all over again. Fire helps harden the steel, turn it into something stronger.

I don’t always want to deal with Fire, especially when it comes in its “You need to learn about pain” guise. But I also am not a victim of it. Fire, like any other element, has lessons to teach, and it’s up to the individual to learn how to hear those lessons. Since I’m not as attuned to Fire, sometimes those lessons have been more difficult to appreciate–there are times where I just feel like I’m getting unfairly burned. But even the wild fire leaves the ground bare for new seeds to grow.

So I’ll continue with my Fire month. I may not come out having as strong a connection as I do with Earth and Air, but I’m further along than I was.

Prayer Beads and Correspondences

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do in late March when my six months are done. I had initially thought about getting my tattoo of the Animal Father (or, rather, the cave painting that he used to connect to me), but the spirits told me to hold off until my actual initiation, which will be determined by them as far as timing, etc.–basically, when they feel I’m ready, and I agree. However, rewarding myself with a shiny object for getting through my six months is perfectly acceptable.

So I’ve been planning on making myself a necklace, one that I’ll wear on a permanent basis. I already have a scrimshaw wolf necklace that I wear constantly except for when I shower, which I wear both for my primary totem, Wolf, and for myself, as well as some more private reasons. However, I wanted to come up with something specifically for therioshamanism to serve as a reminder to me of what it is I’ve gotten myself into. (Plus I fully admit that I like meaningful shiny objects.) I wanted a pendant of the Animal Father; there aren’t very many, but I decided on this one in bronze, with the tree on the right on this page on the reverse side (since Quicksilver Mint sells double-sided medallions, and I can tell you from experience they’re quite nice).

I won’t go into too much detail about the necklace itself, as far as my plans go. However, I decided this week that I wanted the necklace to serve as a set of pagan prayer beads. I’ve been thinking about them since reading Pagan Prayer Beads by Greer and Vaughn a few months ago (and enjoying it quite a bit), though Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Circle of Stones was what first turned me on to the idea. So I’ve been messing around with ideas. I generally don’t put that much thought into design, instead letting my inspiration flow unbridled. However, this is something a little different, so I wanted to come up with something particular.

What I will say is that the necklace will focus on the four directional/elemental totems, with the Animal Father as the pendant. There will be two sets of three beads for each totem, mirroring each other. Each set of three will represent Self, Community, and Environment, though the two sets will each have different angles to them.

One thing that struck me as I was thinking about this was that 3 x 4 = 12, and there are twelve months in the year, and I could potentially assign one combination of meanings to a month, twelve of each in all. And then they would fit in perfectly with the idea that North/Wolf = winter, Hawk/East = spring, etc. Which would mean I would focus on the specific meaning (such as Earth-Self-Wolf in January, Earth-Community-Wolf in February, etc.) for each month, and–

–and what? And hope that my life fit whatever parameters the dictates of the correspondence system I’d set up mandated? Ignore anything that didn’t match with the current month’s meaning? Get hopelessly frustrated with the whole thing?

No, thank you.

One of the things that irritates me about neopaganism (guys, I love you, really I do) is that sometimes things get corresponded to death. What I mean by this is that people sometimes spend so much time worrying about whether the correspondences associated with a particular stone, or totem, or herb, or deity, or whathaveyou (gotta love those whathaveyous) match up with the other things they’re working with that it can get pretty damned complicated. And that’s where I found myself when I was thinking about the necklace. I’ve been a little uncertain about where to draw the line on correspondences, especially since my cosmology is still under construction. This made it pretty clear to me–don’t make correspondences just because you see them. Sure, twelve prayer bead meanings and twelve months match up nicely. But do they really have to?

The associations I have with the four totems and their respective elements and directions have worked very well for me for years. The twelves…well…just felt pretty artificial. I’ve introduced some new concepts into my path in recent time, and they meshed just fine. However, the twelve-concept is like the older brother in the story of the Two Hunchbacks, who, seeing his brother’s success, throws too much into the old ladies’ song.

So maybe not everything I try on for size makes sense to me, so I set it aside. But on the bright side, I do have a better idea of what is important in my personal cosmology.