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.