Why I Blog Here

I originally wrote this up on Monday, but wanted to take a little more time to chew on what I was saying. So here, slightly belated, is my post.

Over at the Wild Hunt blog, Jason Pitzl-Waters has been taking a much-deserved vacation. In his place he’s invited a group of other pagan bloggers to guest blog. Monday’s guest blog is by Cat Chapin-Bishop of Quaker Pagan Reflections. She brought up a good point:

So why is nearly everything we write in the form of a recipe book? Why so little in the way of lived experience? For a religion of direct, personal gnosis, we have remarkably little writing about what happens when we set out to practice rather than preach.

Now, let me say this first and foremost. Every person has hir own comfort zone when it comes to talking about spiritual experiences. Even I have things that I won’t talk about publicly, or even to anyone save my husband (and even then there are still things that are for my ears only). So I’m not going to say “YOU MUST ALL TELL EVERYTHING!!!!”

However, I think Ms. Chapin-Bishop makes a really good point in regards to what’s actually been written down, whether in print or online, regarding neopagan and related practices. There’s a lot of protocol, and formality, and “Do this this way because that’s the way it’s supposed to be done”, and there are also scads of pre-crafted spells and rituals. Granted, there are also personal accounts, but they’re not as common. The books and sites I like the most are the ones that have a good balance of theory and practice–they explain the theory in good detail, but then use personal anecdotes to further illustrate the points made, and follow up with exercises (not precrafted spells and rituals) to help the readers put the ideas into action for themselves.

I don’t talk a lot about myself-as-author or myself-as-editor here. I save that mostly for my Livejournal, which is more of a catch-all blog where I share links, keep in touch with people I know scattered around the world, and do the bulk of my promotional stuff. This blog here, on the other hand, is more focused, and with rare exception is meant for recording and sharing what of my shamanic work I’m willing to let others read about.

However, one thing I particularly look for as an editor (and as a reader) is people showing their work. Part of that is on the theoretical end, citing sources, etc. However, I want to see practical work. I want to see anecdotes that show that the writer actually did what they talk about. I want to get some idea of what I may be getting myself into. And as an author, that’s something I try to convey in my own writings. Some of what I write is pure theory, and that’s fine. But that’s also why I tell the stories of what’s happened to me here.

Would this blog be as interesting if I didn’t share the stories of myself? If I just rambled on and on about shamanism as a theoretical practice, but without ever sharing anecdotes, either my own or others’? Would you have as good a sense of what’s going on in my corner of the woods? Probably not. I know that for some of you being able to read them has helped you, either by showing you that you aren’t the only one having such experiences, or by inspiring you to do more with your own path. And I know that that’s been true for when I’ve read the works of others, including folks who have commented here.

So while I’ll continue to keep some things to myself, things that are just between the spirits and me, I’ll continue to share the stories I’m willing to tell.

On a little different note, one line in particular from the essay really struck home for me:

Tell me about how hot your sweat lodge was and how thirsty you emerged from it, when you explore whether or not Pagan sweat lodges are cultural appropriation.

I’ve changed a good bit in my perspectives on cultural appropriation, especially since accepting the call to shamanism. When I first started thinking about it, I was more of a hardass than I am now. Not to the extent where I called all white shamans “wannabes”, but I tended to put a lot more emphasis on “doing it right”. My ultimate decision at the time was still “You need to make your own educated choices”, but there was still more judgement on my part than probably was healthy.

I can look at this article from two years ago and see where I was beginning to question the more hardline opinions I had. However, starting shamanic work last September contributed to a further chipping away of my stubbornness that anyone who did X was obviously Y. What really clinched the deal was my experience in Arizona, where going through two of the ecoshamanic initiations with James Endredy, as well as my own personal rite of passage on my “day off”, demonstrated just how overcerebral I was being about the whole situation. I was so concerned about doing it “by the books” and trying so hard not to offend people who might *gasp* assume I was a plastic shaman that I wasn’t really letting myself sink into the experience itself.

And that’s been a really valuable lesson. These days, I still don’t look favorably on people who claim to be of an indigenous culture that they aren’t really affiliated with at all as a way to get money and power. However, I’m less critical of people who may be more on the New Agey end, just because they’re, well, New Agey. I’m learning more and more that what really matters, as far as I can see, is what the person is actually accomplishing with their works.

The way I see it, it’s getting tougher and tougher for people to deny that as a species–hell, as a world–we’re in deep trouble and sinking fast. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, it’s hard to pretend that there aren’t numerous species being negatively affected by our actions. Every day in the news it seems I see articles and reports about some chemical being linked to cancer, or another species on (or over) the edge of extinction, or another wild place devastated by pollution.

And that’s just the environmental end of things. That doesn’t even get into issues that often tie into the environment–famine and wars caused by short resources; crime perpetrated by desperate people raised and living in unhealthy environments, or with serious psychological issues that go untreated due to a lack of health insurance or social support; increasingly poor public education and more expensive higher education, as well as education that continues to promote the division between humanity and the rest of Nature.

I am less inclined to judge someone just because they live in suburbia and call themselves a shaman. In a situation where we can use all the help we can get, healers of all sorts, people who act as intermediaries between the spirit world and this one in part to help find solutions to our problems (as well as placate those we’ve royally pissed off), and those who teach a healthier way of living are all welcome as far as I’m concerned. Sure, there are probably some folks who are more motivated by their egos than anything resembling altruism. But what criteria can Some Random Person On the Internet really use to judge someone they’ve never met in their lives, and whom they’re mainly assessing via personal or professional web site? Just because someone charges for services doesn’t mean they’re in it for the money. Is my mechanic who charges fifty bucks an hour in labor costs in order to pay for rent and other costs an egotist just because s/he doesn’t give it to me free out of the goodness of hir own heart?

Can we really afford time wasted bitching about who’s not doing things in a perfectly acceptable way? One, unless someone is making a claim about themselves that is verifiably false (such as tribal affiliation or Wiccan lineage or some other such thing), in the end it’s really none of my business. Two, even if I think someone’s methods are on the fluffy side, if they’re actually DOING something constructive, then that gets them points in their favor. I’ll be honest; my tolerance for what other people do went way up once I started spending less time fussing around on the internet, and more time actually doing what needs to be done. And as the signal-to-noise ratio continues to get skewed on the ‘net, I’m going to continue putting more weight towards those who are making constructive things happen, even if I don’t happen to agree with them entirely. We may not be in as dire straits as the creator of the Gaia hypothesis recently opined, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be rolling our sleeves up to get the work done.

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Sing-along With Small Wolf!

Tonight I made it back upstairs, after spending the past couple of weeks doing some serious cleaning up there. It was time for me to make a song for Small Wolf, my wolf skin. Apparently my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to create a song for every skin spirit I have for dancing (which at this point is over fifteen) and their corresponding totems. So I definitely have my work cut out for me! This will take a while, but nobody seems to be rushing me. The fact that I’ve been more consistent than in the past had contented them for the time being.

Part of the reason I’m being a bit flippant in this post is because Small Wolf was formal in a way I’d never seen him before. I’m used to him being eager to dance and happy to see me, but this was a side of him I’d not experienced. He wasn’t angry, but he was definitely in Serious Teacher Mode (TM). I sat down with him, and he instructed me to fold him up in a very particular way. Then he had me create words, then a melody, and then an accompanying drum beat.

This was tougher than last time, since with Wolf (the totem) I had already created the lyrics and song a while back, and the drum beat was easy to match with it. Small Wolf had me sing the song over and over and over again, having me memorize the words as perfectly as possible before tossing in the added attention-grabber of the drum. Of course, when I began drumming the song sort of fell apart–I sang the wrong words, switched lines, occasionally sang complete gibberish. However, Small Wolf kept me going, and wouldn’t let me quit until I’d smoothed things out for the most part. He said that I’d have to be flawless with the song and drumming before he’d let me dance with him and the song at the same time.

I wrote down the lyrics and an approximation of the drumbeat. I’ll go back tomorrow night and practice more. However, I am seriously considering recording all these songs for my own benefit; I have a bit of a memory lapse because of long-term sleep deprivation, and while I’ve recovered somewhat, my memory isn’t what it used to be. This will be a good exercise in rebuilding it, but just as a backup, I may take a cassette recorder upstairs–or maybe even my laptop–and record the songs. Over time they’ll lodge themselves more firmly in my long-term memory, but better safe than sorry.

Small Wolf also explained to me a bit more about formal ritual structure according to what the spirits I work with would like me to do. I do feel a lot more confident in myself, and I feel like I’m making some progress. A lot of it is because I’m gaining a better balance among the various parts of my life, and I’m able to give my shamanic practice more attention. However, it’s also because I’m not feeling pressured to do more, more, MORE. I was actually talking to Wolf the other night about when the next time I’d head upstairs would be, and s/he asked me whether my shamanism was a priority. I told hir yes–but I also told hir that so was work, and my social life, and creative endeavors. And s/he said, “Good.” I think that really went a long way in helping me realize that I’m doing just fine, and that I don’t need to push myself to superhuman levels of achievement.

Incidentally, I managed to track down a copy of Weather Shamanism by Nan Moss and David Corbin while at Powell’s Books today. I’ve had my eye on it ever since I first heard about it last year. It was only appropriate, then, that Portland was visited by the first decent thunderstorm I’ve seen in a while. I grew up in the Midwest, where thunderstorms are a major occurrence in Spring, but they’re a lot less frequent here (we mostly just get rain, and lots of it). As I was drumming tonight, the thunder suddenly became more frequent and loud, which startled me. While I’m more comfortable with storms than I was as a kid, they still scare me a bit. Small Wolf told me to keep drumming, and that the spirits in the Storm just wanted to drum along with me as they passed by! So I kept drumming and singing, with the accompaniment of the Storm spirits as they traveled through my neighborhood.

I’m glad I’m opening up to spirits besides the animals. It’s nice to be able to take the things I’ve learned with them and use those concepts to branch out more. It gives me a greater sense of connection, and also gives me a fuller picture of what the Land needs from me.

So. Back to drumming and singing and all that good stuff.

Today’s Hike

This past Saturday Taylor and I went with our friends innowen and Kender to Mt. Hood, where they showed us a couple of trails we hadn’t yet been introduced to. While one was still remarkably covered in about 5-6 feet of snow(!), the other was mostly clear, at least up the first half mile or so. If people and places can have relationships, then I think I seriously have a crush on Mt. Hood. There was some reciprocal interest, though that mountain strikes me as rather aloof at first encounter. S/he’d like me to get to know hir better, physically (rough terrain, more remote) and spiritually, before I try anything even remotely shamanic there. Which is fine by me; while I won’t go out there as often since it’s a decent drive out, an hour and change, I do want to spend more time getting to know Mt. Hood, who may end up being a good place to go when I want to get away from people and into more secluded areas.

The trip to Mt. Hood got me craving a solo hike, something that I’d been feeling a subtle pull towards for the past few weeks, ever since Taylor and I went out to the Multnomah/Wahkeena trails for the first time since last November. Now that’s a place that I have formed a good relationship with; we’ve adopted each other, as it were. Today was a great day for a visit–perfect weather, and though there were more people than I would have expected on a week day, once I hiked past Multnomah Falls themselves, it was pretty quiet traffic-wise. I saw all sorts of critters–ravens, shiny black millipedes with yellow spots down the sides, tons of butterflies, robins, and a hummingbird, among others. The plants are going crazy, too–it’s green as can be, and everything’s rebounding from winter just fine, other than a patch of conifers that seem to have been hit by some sort of disease.

I spent a good deal of the hike in an ongoing, mostly nonverbal conversation with the Land there at Multnomah/Wahkeena. While they feel like two separate places–I can tell a decided shift in energy on the trail connecting the two–they’re very close, so I usually just refer to them as one. I also spoke a good bit with the Water as s/he sang and danced down the mountainside; s/he gave me a blessing, telling me to cool myself off by splashing myself with cold icemelt on this warm day.

At first, I found myself getting cranky with the tourists there, especially since I’d been expecting fewer people. However, I remember the lessons I learned the last time I was there, with Taylor and worked on accepting that everyone else had as much right as I did to be there, and that they weren’t automatically going to go uprooting plants and stomping on bugs.

Then three things happened, all within the space of a mile:

–A group of four people, a few years younger than I, were coming down the trail above me on a set of switchbacks. One of them threw a rock down the mountainside and nearly hit me by accident, because they hadn’t seen me. They apologized when we met. Instead of getting angry, I just told them “Yeah, it’s a really bad idea to throw rocks here, because it’s really hard to see people on the trail”. They seemed to have learned their lesson pretty well, so I went on in good spirits, trusting that they wouldn’t do anything else foolish.

–Another guy, about the same age, had been following me for a ways. I let him pass me, and was a bit annoyed by him, particularly his shirt which said “Don’t like my attitude? Then stop talking to me”. (I tend to think that the trend in “cute and fashionable rudeness”, typified by such things as Happy Bunny and the aforementioned t-shirt is not something we really need to be encouraging in this culture. But maybe I’m just an old fogie or something–most of the people I see sporting such things are in their teens to early twenties, and I’m *gasp* pushing thirty…but I digress.) Not too much later, he came back down the trail as I was heading further on, and very politely asked me if I’d seen the party he’d been separated from. I told him everyone I’d seen matching their description had been going the way he was going, and asked him if he had their cell phone numbers. He didn’t, so I told him his best plan of action would be to head all the way back down to the parking lot and wait at the car. He thanked me, and also incidentally apologized for mistaking me for male, as I was wearing relatively gender-neutral clothing with my hair pulled back and my hat on, and I am not the most curvy XX-chromosome person in the world. I assured him that it was in no way an insult, and continued on my merry way.

–Maybe five minutes later, I rounded a bend and greeted a couple of middle-aged folks who were enjoying the day. They stopped me and asked if I had any food. Just their luck, I happened to have a couple of extra granola bars I wasn’t going to need. I tried to just give them to them, but they insisted on paying me, and the man pressed five ones into my hand despite my protestations. Normally I’d think $2.50 was pretty damned steep for a granola bar, but having been in a similar, very hungry situation, in their place I’d have been that grateful, too! I checked to make sure they knew where they were going, and that they had enough water, and we parted ways with a smile.

I didn’t really think about the first incident in any meaningful way. However, when the second one happened, I started to make the connection between my lessons of tolerance from that Land, and what had been happening. The third incident was just the clue-by-four whapping me in the head. so I asked the Land what was up. S/he told me that s/he wanted me to help her help the people. We’d already established that s/he didn’t mind people being there, and made it hir task to educate them as much as possible about the need to preserve wild places like hir. S/he told me that I wasn’t particularly special, and that she talked to everybody there–I just happened to be one of the folks who noticed it on a conscious level. However, as our relationship has deepened, there’s been a greater need for me to make more of a commitment to hir, and s/he finally was able to get through to me what s/he needs me to do.

Today was an object lesson in some of the basics of what I can do for Multnomah/Wahkeena–pick up trash along the trail as usual, bring along some extra food and water, give people directions, offer a cell phone in case of need, bring a first aid kit, etc. In addition, I think I’m going to go ahead and go through first aid and CPR training as I’ve been meaning to for a while. And I picked up some volunteering information for the Multnomah Falls trail system in general; they need some help with general maintenance as well as information, so I may add that into my volunteering (along with my unofficial guide/guardian/etc. work that has been initiated today).

To finish up my hike, I went down the western part of loop around Wahkeena, my favorite part of that trail. And I got a few more affirmations that I was on the right path, figuratively and literally! First, at the crossroads where the connecting trail meets the Wahkeena loop, where I always sit and take a break, the Animal Father poked me and told me that next time I came alone, he wanted me to hike up to the place further up the mountain where I’d met him back last fall and where I’d heard him speaking through the owl’s hoot last time I visited with Taylor, and that he wanted me to bring my drum.

Then the very next people I met as I came down the mountain had a very friendly German shepherd, my favorite kind of dog, who came right up and said “Hi!” with a big slurp across my face (I don’t mind dog “kisses” at all–cleaner mouths than people, and I can always go and wash my face afterwards). After that I gave a few more people directions, and also showed another couple of folks where a Stellar’s Jay was hopping through the tree branches.

So overall it was a really inspiring day. I feel like I’ve made a major step forward in my shamanic path, since one thing I’ve known I’ve needed to do is care for the Land and maintain a good relationship with hir. I feel like I’ve been given a certain amount of responsibility that I’ve never been given before by the spirits, and I want to honor and respect that. I know there’s room for me to be, well, me, with all my mistakes and so forth, but I’m very much honored by what happened today.

This is What’s Important

I had this wonderful idea that when I start telecommuting that I’d all of a sudden have lots of free time, and could do shamanic work to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, I’m all too good at sabotaging my own efforts. As a recovering workaholic, I’m very good at finding ways to fill up my time, and even though I’m not even working full time hours yet at my freelancing gig, I still find that I don’t really have enough time to do everything I want.

This has been a good challenge for me, though. Already I’ve managed to cut down a lot on my internet time; I’ve been staying almost entirely off of Livejournal for almost a week now, just to see how it frees up my time. And I’m trying to get better about managing free time, and not getting stressed when I find that it’s time to go to bed and there are still so many things left to do.

Historically, my spiritual life has been one of the first things to suffer when I’m overloaded. When I have physical deadlines to meet, and physical people yammering at me to get such and such done, and other physical projects to be completed, nonphysical concerns get put on the back burner. It’s not that I don’t want to be tending to spiritual matters, but my priorities have often been canted towards the material plane.

I think on some level I keep waiting for the spiritual smackdown that so many seemingly more serious practitioners speak of. It’s the idea that you can’t ignore your spiritual functions, and if you do, horrible things will happen to you. I don’t doubt that horrible things may indeed happen. However, I haven’t had things happen that I’d call horrible; I haven’t had all “my” spirits abandon me, or get in the way of things that are getting in the way of my spiritual life.

What I have had is pretty consistent pressure, both from within and without. It’s harder and harder to ignore the spirits, though on my end I’m also trying harder to stay “tuned in”. This means that I’ve slowly been increasing my reliability in my forays upstairs, as well as other things that need to be done.

Tonight I went upstairs, even though I was tired, just to touch base. I spoke with Small Wolf (the skin spirit–I am going to use these naming conventions to differentiate between totems and skin spirits of the same species). He noticed I was feeling frustrated about not doing more, not being up there dancing every night and working magic and making more connections–basically not taking advantage of every free moment I have. And you know what he told me? The same thing he’s told me several times since I started working with him more regularly: “You’re here, right now. That’s all that matters.”

And he’s right. I know that by some standards, my schedule is sloppy. I have never been able to handle a daily schedule, beyond saying prayers every night–and even then occasionally I fall asleep before I remember to say them. Despite the fact that I’ve managed to do a lot on my spiritual path, creating my own magical systems, I still sometimes feel a twinge of shame that I haven’t yet defeated my lack of a scheduled practice. It’s not that what I’ve done hasn’t been fruitful; however, I’m well aware of how much better my practice could be if I put something into it every day. It’s not about what I try–yoga stretching, various meditations, nature walks–but about my own tendencies and habits.

But I am making progress. The very fact that I am still committed to this path almost eight months after I started it says a lot for me. I’ve walked other paths for longer, but this is the most intense one I’ve had. I can look at my path since accepting the call to shamanism, though, and see that I have become better, relatively speaking. Despite my too-full life, I have managed to work with Small Wolf three to four times a week for the past couple of weeks, which is more than before. And I’m still focused on continuing this path, even though I sometimes get flustered because I see so many potential things I could be working on with it, so many tasks I could be taking on.

A lot of what I’ve been doing has been my usual manner of doing things–not on a schedule, but merely taking opportunities as they come up. Things like connecting to the Land when I go outside (or when I travel), and talking to the spirits of the plants in my garden, or remembering not to buy chemical-laden products because the Land protests at the potential effect, or my recent experiences with Water and Squirrel. However, I still make it upstairs some nights each week, and I haven’t forgotten. And each time, Small Wolf is right–each time I go up there is one more time than before. It all counts.

Glub glub glub…eeek!

First off, a quick note of potential interest to some readers/friends of readers/etc. I don’t talk a whole lot about the writing end of my life here, since it’s primarily a spiritually focused blog. However, I’ve put out a call for writers for a new anthology–“Engaging with the Spirit World: Shamanism, Totemism and Other Animistic Practices”. The deadline is 1 August, 2008, which gives me plenty of time to finish up a couple of other projects. Click the link for more details.

Recently I’ve been doing some work with my wolfskin, amid reorganizing and decluttering my ritual/artwork space (it’s kind of hard for me to separate the two, and not just because of apartment living!). It’s the beginning of my more regular work with the skin spirits, and though I haven’t quite managed the every-single-night goal I have, I have managed to stay mostly on track. It’s been a good experience so far. As always, Wolf the totem has been a patient teacher, and the wolf skin spirit* has been similarly so. The focus has primarily been on teaching and learning–teaching things that I’m prepared for (I’ve scheduled a series of animal magic workshops at a local pagan bookstore), and learning things that still need to be learned (which is a long list indeed!).

One thing that has been suggested is that my work with the totems, at least to some degree, will be concentrated more on working with/through the skin spirits, allowing them to help me make stronger connections with the corresponding totems. It’s not a new concept to me; I’ve been doing that with the wolf skin for years. And while I can work with the totems just fine without “intermediaries”, having some help along the way does make things easier, and helps me to concentrate on tasks beyond the initial connection. I’m not sure what will happen if I need to do some in-depth work with a totem whose skin/etc. is inaccessible, either through legalities or other limitations. I may simply end up doing a substitution of some sort, faux fur or other costumery with an animal spirit invited to reside inside. But it will help me to bring together the totemic and skin spirit works I do; I don’t think it will be all the skin spirit work will be limited to, but it’s a good starting place for more complex tasks.

Speaking of spirits, someone in a locked LJ post made a great observation. S/he made the comment that if a shaman were to question the validity of another person claiming to be a shaman, s/he would do best by consulting hir own spirits about the person. This makes a good deal of sense to me. Granted, it could be abused by those wanting to meet their own aims, but then again, what doesn’t face that particular potential fate? Still, it’s a good bit of food for thought.

Finally, I recently had the opportunity to stay in a hotel in Florida with an outdoor swimming pool while on a business trip for my day job. Now, I don’t swim all that often; my parents had an aboveground pool when I was growing up that came with the house they bought, but after I moved out after college my opportunities for swimming have been few and far between. I’m not a big fan of public pools; I want to swim, not dodge screaming children and beach balls. So my chances for swimming have been quite sporadic.

When I went out to swim on my last evening at the hotel, it was quiet; there was no one else in the pool, and the moon shone overhead. I had a chance to just enjoy being in the water without distraction. It was lovely. I allowed myself some time to simply commune with Water, feeling how buoyant I was in her embrace, and giving myself some time to play with her. I bounced against the bottom of the pool, letting the water carry me higher and higher, and cushioning my landing. I lay on my back and spun in circles. I splashed air under the surface to let the bubbles rise up and tickle my skin. I played as I haven’t in a good long while.

But then I got scared. I thought about diving under the surface like I used to do a lot. I loved pretending I was flying, not swimming, seeing the water not from above, but within, a matrix to move through. But tonight I balked. At first I told myself it was just that I didn’t want chlorine in my eyes, stinging and burning.

Then I stopped and really thought about it. I wasn’t really scared of the chlorine. I was letting a fear in the back of my head get to me–an unlikely, but visceral, fear of drowning. Now, I’ve never had a situation where I came close to drowning, though I’m not a fan of closed spaces–makes it tough to breathe. Still, I sometimes have an overactive imagination–reading about someone drowning (or otherwise dying badly) tends to make me cringe, and don’t even ask about violence in movies! (If you want to watch it, go for it–I’ll have my eyes closed, thanks.) I’ve even been known to have nightmares. I’m probably too squeamish for my own good, but more on that in a minute.

So I started to leave, but Water said no. She told me to wait, to come back, and face my irrational fears. So I waded back in. I’m not the world’s best swimmer, but I can swim. I submerged myself in the shallow end, and came back up quickly. Then I went under a little longer, and looked up at the surface. After a few more tries, I swam down to the bottom of the deep end, and touched the floor before coming back up.

And I wasn’t afraid any more. I knew no one was going to come along and drown me just because I was in the water. I knew I wasn’t going to black out for no reason while in the water. And all the irrational fears drifted off, washed away by my experiences with Water.

It’s a good reminder to me, to not let my fears get in the way–especially fears that have little founding. And it’s a good reminder to stop and think about fear before allowing it to dictate my actions. It’s not an easy thing to do; all my life there have been people’s voices saying “Fear this; be afraid of that–it’s the unknown, you shouldn’t go into it!” Sometimes I’ve been told that there are things that are known to be dangerous, and therefore I shouldn’t even learn about them, or even speak of them. Therefore they remain unknown, and terrifying. Yet when I approach them for myself, to see what the fuss is all about, I find that while they may be worrisome, knowing more about them make the fear less overwhelming. In other cases, the fear goes away entirely. And it’s not uncommon to find there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.

Fear is a deep emotion; and Water can be both terrifying and delightful. Learning to gauge the right reaction to emotions–and to Water–is something that I may have to keep learning the rest of this life, but it’s a worthy endeavor.

*I really need to come up with a good nickname for the skin spirits, other than the private ritual names for them. If I started referring to the wolf skin spirit as Small Wolf, and the wolf totem as Wolf, would that make sense to you, dear readers?

Squirrel Brings Things Home

Oh, the joys of living in an old house. Double that with the high number of trees we have in the neigborhood. We are Squirrel Central, especially now that they’re all coming out of hibernation. And, more specifically to Taylor and me, we have a stowaway in our attic.

This is the second year we’ve unwillingly hosted squirrels. There are gaps under the eaves in the unfinished part of the attic, perfect for little fuzzy acrobats to come crawling into. Last year we called the rental agency, who had a humane exterminator come in, trap the family that had taken up residence in a pile of shredded insulation, and release them elsewhere. Unfortunately, they neglected to patch the hole where the mama had originally gotten in, and guess what? She (or another very much like her) is back!

It’s not that she’s really hurting anything; I haven’t noticed any chewing on the wires and things we have stashed up there (mostly cardboard boxes). However, every morning around 7 or 8 she starts running around, right above our bedroom ceiling. I’ve chased her out a few times, but she’s tough–I threw a few lightweight objects at her and she just dodged. Finally I had to charge (okay, stumble, hunched-over) at her with a flashlight and a stick to get her to leave. She was back that afternoon. Plugging the main passageway didn’t help; there are entirely too many gaps that she can get into.

After a week of this, I was about ready to snap. Yes, she needs shelter. No, she’s not harming anyone. But just because she isn’t chewing wires now doesn’t mean she or her progeny won’t down the line–and that’s a great way to start a fire. Plus squirrel poo isn’t exactly hygienic. And it’s only a matter of time before a crawlspace door blows open or gets left open by accident and we end up with a wild squirrel in our apartment. And there’s the fact that she’s a damned noisy neighbor!

So the other morning I talked to Squirrel. He wasn’t about to tell her to leave, since he thought she was pretty cozy up there. However, he did insist that I not cause her any direct harm (which negated any chance of me picking up a cheap BB pistol and doing a little impromptu hunting. Or baiting rat traps with peanut butter. Or otherwise bringing her life to a premature end.). And what good would it do anyway? Another squirrel would just come along and take up her place.

Finally, after calming down a bit, I was convinced by my husband to call the rental agency again, who is supposed to be sending out an exterminator again (hopefully before she has a litter!). Beyond that, that’s about all I can do at this point. I’m just going to have to live with a noisy, squirrely neighbor for a little while longer.

Today, I came to a realization with Squirrel’s help. A lot of the people in life who can be downright irritating are, for the most part, just squirrels in the attic. Generally they aren’t causing any actual damage, just some annoyance (and maybe shredding a little insulation). And for the most part there’s not really much you can do. Do what you can, and then wait for things to calm down. If nothing else, when Autumn hits, the squirrels will go back to hibernating–and then you can murder them in their beds!

Okay, maybe not that. But there is a good lesson in this. Unless the wires are getting chewed or the squirrels are nesting in the lingerie drawer, don’t worry overmuch. Do what you can, then get on with your day. if they’re causing damage, then act on it; otherwise, relax. In the grand scheme of things, are the squirrels in the attic really worth that much attention?

A Song For Wolf

I went up tonight to work on my drum rhythm and song for Wolf. One thing I’m finding that’s already characteristic of my drumming is that it tells a story. Granted, I am far, far away from being unique in this regard. However, my main exposure to drumming has been A) core shamanism with the 180-220 bpm rhythm, and B) neopagan festival drumming, which is less about telling a specific story, and more about a group of people getting together and getting a good rhythm on all night. There are, of course, exceptions to the latter, such as the Dragon Ritual Drummers (whose work I absolutely love and recommend to anyone who thinks percussion can’t be music on its own). I am pretty sure there are other people in various cultures who use specific drumbeats to signify/evoke certain beings or phenomena, though I couldn’t give you specifics; drumming isn’t yet an area I’ve done a ton of research into. (Research leads are appreciated, as always!)

I sort of had it easy tonight, since way back last Autumn I actually wrote a repeating verse for Wolf, partly inspired by reading Primitive Song by C.M. Bowra. So the words and basic rhythm were already there; I just had to match them to Wolf’s energy and refine them further. Next, though, I need to come up with one for my wolf skin spirit.

Now, I’m not a gifted poet by any stretch of the means. My talent lies more with prose, and not particularly poetic prose. So dipping into the well of inspiration may prove to be a challenge. Fortunately these songs will be for personal use–don’t expect Therioshamanism: The CD! any time soon. On the other hand, I may take advantage of modern technology and record the songs and drumming for my own benefit, since it’s been almost two decades since I last actually used sheet music, and my sheet music skills are, well, rusty to say the very least. And while I’ll be doing my best to improve my memory by remembering as many of the songs as possible, sadly between modern technology (didn’t I just say something good about it earlier in this paragraph?) and long-term sleep deprivation, my memory isn’t quite what it could be. On the other hand, this could prove to be a healthy exercise for that, among many other reasons!