Alright, so this used to be a big, long FAQ with lots of Q&A, and it was a pain to try and keep updated as I changed and evolved in my path over time. Plus it was just damned unwieldy. So here’s a shorter version; you’re welcome to ask me questions, too.
I started this blog in 2007 to document my efforts in taking the best of the things I’d learned and practiced over the previous decade and change and integrate it into a more formal neoshamanic path. And hey, if you read back through those early posts, you can see just how earnest I was about it at the time. I was developing new god-forms to embody the forces I was working with, and trying to make new ritual traditions, and so forth. A lot of this was because I knew a lot of people into devotional work at the time (well, I still do, to be honest) and I admired the structure and inspiration these practices gave them, and so I wanted to see if that would work for me as well.
It kind of did. What I learned was that I didn’t need more structure. I needed more connection. I was so focused on trying to make something deliberately from scratch that I was neglecting the connections I was trying to make–classic example of mistaking the map for the territory. But amid the “construction mess” I was getting valuable experiences, most importantly the sacred act of going outside. I was trying to connect with my bioregion and its various denizens, and I found that actually going out into it was more effective for me personally than sitting in my ritual room in the home I shared with my now-ex-husband, and drumming and journeying to the places I often visited physically anyway.
Additionally, while I’ve been happily pagan for over fifteen years, and I do feel that things like drumming do have a place in my greater society, I found myself more and more attracted to embodying (neo)shamanism in this culture through more integrated roles. This post from 2011 was a turning point; it was written when I was most of the way done with earning my MA in counseling psychology, and I’d been working in my internship as a counselor for the better part of a year, serving a community and finding my place within it. While drumming and healing rituals are valuable in their own right, there are a lot of people in this culture for whom these are not comfortable or desirable practices. So I’ve found myself moving more toward embodying the role of shaman-as-intermediary in ways that are more accessible to the general population I serve, rather than trying to convince them that what they really need is to have the bad spirits sucked out of them with a straw.
So these days my practices don’t resemble what I was doing five and a half years ago all that much. I don’t really drum or journey very much any more, though I do have times when I bring out my drum or dance my wolf. And I do still do my skin spirits work with hides and bones and the like, in art and in personal spiritual practices. But overall, I’m less concerned with exploring the spirit worlds, and more with engaging this one, spirits and all. I especially want to help people reform and renew their connections with this world, not just the nonhuman environment, but their own communities–and themselves. That means helping people recapture their wonder at the world in all its parts, helping them learn that it can be okay to be vulnerable and open sometimes when the setting is safe, and if all goes well to live a better life than before, whatever that looks like for them.
And I’ve become a much more naturalistic pagan. I’m really not concerned any more with things like an afterlife or the literal existence of spirits. I’m drawing more and more on the sciences and the understandings gained thereof, and letting myself be utterly awestruck by evolution, atoms, and the cosmos as a whole, among others. I’m starting work as a counselor again soon, after a year and a half off to focus on my art and writing and personal development. I’m working with animal, plant, and fungus totems, among other beings of the spiritual bioregion, to offer a nature-spiritual path that’s less about symbols and abstracts, and more about getting people in direct contact with the world around them for the benefit of all concerned. And I’m continuing my service to that world through not only the counseling, but direct volunteer work like adopting a stretch of the Columbia River to keep clean and monitor.
When I started all this years ago, I really wanted greater connection–and I got it. It didn’t turn out the way I expected. But it was much more effective than I’d ever hoped. There’s more to write in this narrative, but suffice it to say that once I let my path develop more organically than intentionally, I found exactly what I’d been looking for all along.