Deer Songs and a New Path

The Song and Dance Project (as I shall irreverently call it) has been continuing apace. Working with Deer and Small Deer has, in some ways, been a sigh of relief after Badger and Small Badger’s rather complex songs. The Deer songs have been very simple, lyrically speaking, and in fact the vocals are less of a focus than the drumming. Deer’s sing is so vocally simple, in fact, that its lyrics consist of a single word.

Lately, every time I’ve gone up to drum, I’ve run through all the songs I’ve written so far, usually three times for each, before starting on a new one. I’m doing my best to commit these all to memory. However, there will be a few dozen songs just from the totems and skin spirits–and there’s no telling who’ll want a song after them. I do want to sit down at some point with an audio recording program and a good mike and do basic recordings of each song, just so I have them on hand. Even after I finish writing all the totem and skin spirit songs I’ll still be practicing them regularly, in addition to whatever actual ritual use they get. But as my memory is still a bit impaired from years of sleep deprivation, a little technological backup can’t hurt, so long as I don’t let it replace regular practice.

That’s pretty much been my main focus as of late with my practice. This is perfectly fine with me; the first six months were pretty intense, and after that things were a little up in the air. It’s nice to have something resembling a linear set of tasks for a little while, though–it helps to keep me focused. It’s also helping me build a solid foundation for when things refuse to even resemble “linear”.

In other news, life has taken an interesting twist. Dissatisfied with making my living in the field of technical writing and editing, which mainly benefits large corporations and does little to help make the world a better place, a while ago I began seriously questioning what I wanted to do with my life. In reviewing what really interested me, I found myself continually coming back to psychology. While I didn’t have a formal background in it other than a couple of courses in my undergraduate work in college, in my own readings in the years since I graduated I found that psychology was something I kept coming back to. Ecopsychology was a particular interest, not surprisingly.

An added perk was the fact that psychology could easily be applied to real-world efforts to help people–and healthy individuals contribute to healthier communities. So I did some research on local universities and found one that, while it didn’t have a full degree in ecopsychology, the community counseling program did have an ecopsychology track as one possible emphasis.

After going to an open house for the graduate department in May, and finding out there were still openings for the Autumn semester, I rushed around to get everything pulled together in the space of a month to apply. I had never taken my GREs, so I got them scheduled and taken; I also rounded up reference letters, and ordered a transcript from my undergrad university. I got everything in just under the wire.

And…..I got accepted! I’ll be starting in September. If all goes well, in a few years I’ll have a Master’s degree in community counseling, and after 2400 hours of monitored practice I’ll have my license as well.

This bodes well. While psychology doesn’t automatically equal shamanism, and vice versa, counseling is a profession that, besides being something I can see myself committing my life to, I perceive as being quite complementary to my shamanic practice. While I’d most likely keep them as relatively separate parts of my life (i.e., I wouldn’t advertise a private counseling practice as being “genuine modern shamanism!”), I can still see the experiences from one meshing well with the other.

The spirits I work with are pleased about this (just so long as I don’t get so overwhelmed by school that I neglect them, of course). So I’ll take it as a good sign.

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?

And From Fire Into Water

Tonight was the end of my Fire month and the start of my Water month–the last single-element month of my six months. There’ll be the final month which will involve all four of them again, and then the Equinox will be the transition into the next phase of my training. I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous about what’s to come, but also excited. Still, I’ve two months to go before that point.

So, Fire. Fox seemed pleased with my progress, especially over the past couple of weeks after I talked to him about my frustrations with this particular element. He asked me to tell him about what I learned. I started with the fire in the body, metabolism, heat in the cells, and then moved onto the fire of the decay and rebirth cycle, and that change. We talked about changes and transitions (and have barely scratched the surface on that one!). And we talked about passion and creativity and drive, as well as the fear of being burned. He warned me against letting that fear hold me back, and told me Bear could help me with it more. Overall, I did better with Fire than I thought I would, and I feel more comfortable with it than I did at the beginning of the month. This is good, since I believe that it’s the elements we’re least comfortable with that we need to work with the most.

On to Water, then, and Bear. Normally Bear shows up to me as two bears, one male and one female. However, for the purposes of my Water month she chose to appear as the female brown bear rather than the male black bear. I’ll admit I was a little scared when I went to her. She’s always made me a little uneasy, because she’s one of those totems who’s been pretty stern with me at times. However, when I went to her she was incredibly warm and welcoming, which surprised me quite a bit.

Bear told me she only had two things for me to focus on this month–emotions, and healing. Not that this is the sum total of Water’s lessons, but these were the ones she wanted me to concentrate on in particular. I’d definitely agree with that assessment; the work of the past few months has asked a lot of me emotionally, and I’ve been looking forward to a month of healing! While emotions and healing may seem simple, they’re incredibly deep subjects, and Bear said they would be exceptionally important, both for my Water month and for the shamanic practice ahead of me.

I talked to her at length about her demeanor; I think I kept expecting her to lash out at me for some mistake or shortcoming. However, she made it very clear that she was quite pleased with my progress and very happy to see me. I told her I was worried about letting myself feel like I was unique to the point of letting my ego tell me I was this awesome chosen child of the cosmos, etc. You know what she said?

“Yes. You’re special. So is everyone else. Now get over it!” Then she laughed.

She told me to stop comparing myself to other people, and instead compare myself to myself (which isn’t the first time I’ve been told that!). She emphasized the progress I’d made, and told me she was really proud of me for it–which is great praise coming from her and the other elemental totems! She also said she’d been exceptionally worried about me (Mother Bear, indeed!) because the first four months had been really difficult on me, including emotionally. It’s not all things I want to talk about here, since there are a lot of private experiences, but she knows what’s been going on, and she told me she’d been looking forward to her month with me partly so she could “patch me up” after the rigors of the previous months. It’s not that she can’t be a tough beast when she has to be, but she told me not to worry so much about people’s scary stories about what shamanism should be–and instead listen to what she was doing right that moment. Just because Bear wasn’t dismembering me or lashing out didn’t mean she wasn’t being herself. It’s not all about the challenges and the difficulties, after all, and I think I’ve needed that reminder.

In reading the Water chapter of Starhawk’s Earth Path, I’ve been particularly struck by the concept of physical Water as Abundance. I think that may be my environmental focus for this month. I really like some of Starhawk’s observations on the nitty-gritty of the elements in particular, and she’s given me good food for thought with each of the element-specific months.

So here we go into Water!

I’ll Take “Potpourri” For a Thousand, Alex

First off, I would like to thank all of you who have made constructive comments on this blog. It helps to get feedback, and some of the comments have given me some excellent alternate perspectives. Even those that give a bit of moral support or “Yeah, I’ve been there” are appreciated. So just wanted to say thank you 🙂

As for the potpourri, I’ve had a lot of random thoughts since my last post. Rather than bombarding you with a bunch of single paragraphs, I’ll condense and conserve.

I was thinking more about my earlier observation that healing has never been one of my fortes as far as magic goes. And I realized that maybe it doesn’t have to be. It’s not unprecedented for a shaman to be a specialist. While a lot of the traditional roles of shamans have been taken over by specialists in this culture–doctors, priests, psychologists, and grocers (the latter of which are involved in finding food)–that doesn’t mean that all shamans must be generalists. While I see healing as part of the “general curriculum” of shamans, this doesn’t mean that my primary focus has to be on healing arts. If I were to shove myself into a role, I’d say that what it seems like I’m getting nudged towards is a modern approximation of the hunting shaman–the one who contacts the Animal Master/totems/etc. about releasing a few animals for the tribe to eat. Now, granted, there are still people in the U.S. who hunt for food. However, I’m an urban kinda person at this point, so I deal more with grocery stores and farmer’s markets (stalking the wily Cherry Garcia!). So I see that role manifested as a person who deals with the “food totems” and asks them how I may help heal the damage done to them through abuse of their physical children. I also extend it to other species, wildlife that are extremely endangered, to see what I can do to help them. I may not be combing the wounded sea-goddess’ hair in the Arctic, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a task or three for me to do.

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I’ve been exploring the physical air some, observing its qualities. Now I realize even more why the element of Air is so associated with communication. It’s not just breath that counts, or wind–air is integral to our perception of light. While light can certainly pass through empty space with no problem, air often affects how we perceive it, whether through particles in the air, or air moving or otherwise affecting the objects that light bounces off of/illuminates to create our perception of colors. To give a negative view of this, it’s not just light pollution that makes it tougher to see the stars at night, but also air pollution.

Sound is also connected to Air. It travels upon the air, and once again the quality and temperature of that air can affect how we perceive it. The breath, of course, is the most easily observed example. However, humidity, temperature and speed of air can affect how quickly sound travels through it.

We swim through an ocean of air (I think Starhawk actually put it that way in The Earth Path). It is the medium, the matrix, through which we move. Maybe we can’t float (without help, anyway) but it carries so much to us. If I were to characterize just one of the elements as connecting us all, it would be air. The air I breathe as I write this has traveled through the lungs (or stomata, in the case of plants) of my ancestors and neighbors. It has traveled through numerous bodies, and will continue to do so (assuming, of course, that we don’t go and wipe out life on this planet thanks to our environmentally destructive foibles). Air truly is the element of communication for me, though I’d imagine if I were a fish, Water might be more important in that regard.

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One of the issues with being a self-taught neoshaman, as opposed to a traditionally trained shaman, is that there isn’t a previously crafted cosmology presented to me by someone else. This means that it’s up to me to figure all that out, which involves essentially learning both from my experiences and observations, and what the spirits tell me. In one way it’s good because it offers me a lot more flexibility. Part of the reason I’ve never been big on learning under someone else is that I’d have to take on their cosmology to some extent. While I respect that people have different understandings of The Way Things Work, I want to work within my own understanding thereof. However, this also means that along with learning shamanizing, I’m also building a cosomology from scratch, albeit scratch that I’ve collected for over a decade.

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One element of my cosmology that’s recently fallen into place involves the Animal Father. He’s been rather quiet lately; he even sent Stag as his representative for my Autumn Equinox ritual. The only time I spend any significant time with him is when I’m hiking. I finally figured out that he simply does not like “civilized” areas. He stems (if my UPG is accurate) from a time when humans were ensconced in Nature, and his occasional forays into more paved-over areas have not been good. So he prefers to meet with me when I hike, though a park is acceptable if there are no other alternatives. This would explain why I was told to try to get out to hike at least once a month, and why he was quiet for the five weeks when I didn’t go hiking in October and November.

Right now it’s too late in the year to go out to the mountains; the trails were already icy last weekend. But there’s a large park on the west side of Portland that may work well for my purposes until the weather improves again. I just can’t get him to show up for more than a brief moment, even in my ritual room. Therefore, he sends emissaries in the forms of certain totems that are his own; particularly those I celebrate at the solstices and equinoxes–Red Stag, Dire Wolf, Cave Bear, and European Lion.

I may see about seeking out that park this weekend, if the weather doesn’t get too bad. If I can take public transit out there, so much the better.

Taking Back the Soul

It all started with a dream (as such things often do).

I dreamed last night (or this morning, if you prefer) that I was getting ready to go to some sort of party. I was already running late, it was Saturday, and it was already 5:38pm–and I was bemoaning the fact that I’d spent my whole day just getting ready for this party. So there I was in what looked like a bad 80’s prom dress (which just added insult to injury). Then the dream took a weird twist.

All of a sudden, a vampire attacked! Not the modern concept, but a Dracula-style vampire, complete with the ability to control animals. And control them he did–the room I was in was suddenly besieged by an odd assortment of critters, including birds, and a very persistent hedgehog. So, this being a dream, I figured that spiritual techniques would work as well as “physical” ones. Taylor, my husband, happened to be there with me, and we began doing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to banish these beasties.

I got through the initial Qabalistic Cross just fine, but then I forgot the pentagrams, and began mixing up the archangels. To make a long story short, my LBRP fell to pieces. As this was happening, the vampire had somehow defeated Taylor, and was standing behind me, mimicking his voice to make me think Taylor was still there. As soon as I noticed, I began to run. Unfortunately, since I’m very wolf-identified, the vampire was able to use his ability to control animals to control me. The dream ended before he caught me, but it was still a very telling dream.

Every so often I’ll have a dream where I’m attacked (usually, though not always) by a male adversary. Most times I’ve tried fighting back using techniques from the self-defense classes I took back in Pittsburgh, techniques that would drop a person quickly. But in the dreams, I’d end up weak, and my attacks would be so faint as to be useless. Last night’s odd twist on the concept prompted me to meditate on this during my morning commute.

The central theme seems to be powerlessness. I haven’t the strength to fight back in some of these dreams, and I can look at the areas of my life where I do feel like my hands are at least somewhat tied. I admit that I can occasionally be a bit of a control freak, and that if things don’t go exactly the way I want them to, I get bent out of shape. Rationally, I remind myself that while I have little control over the world around me and all its denizens, I do have control over my actions and reactions, the decisions I make. But what happens when I’m in a situation where I don’t know what to do, or where the options are Bad and Worse? (DO NOT WANT.)

Further meditation brought me to the conclusion that, more often than not, when the situation looks bleak, part of it is because somebody, somewhere, has worked to make me feel powerless (whether it was personal or, more likely, not). Something that has been said or done has had the effect of making me feel powerless–and the source of that something has gained in power through what it has taken from me–or, rather, what I have given it. Granted, a person who loses power may be under extreme duress in certain situations, such as someone literally at the business end of a gun. But there are numerous less deadly situations throughout our everyday lives wherein we give up our power to others out of fear.

While there are genuine cases of threat, the majority of the time the perpetrator is a bully, someone who knows that all s/he has to do is apply the right kind of pressure, and s/he’ll get the exact fear-response out of others that provides hir the power s/he feeds on. In truth, if we were to stand up to such people, we would retain our power. Yet from day one many of us are conditioned to give over our power through fear–“Don’t do X, because you’ll get hurt” “Go tell the teacher, because if you get in a fight you’ll get hurt” “Toe the line and be safe, because otherwise you just might get hurt, and what if you get hurt? That would be BAD”. And then if someone does take a chance and happens to fail (even if they end up picking themselves up and moving on), there’s a chorus of “We told you so”, and “That’s why you don’t do X” (never mind that numerous other people may have had success with the same thing, and even most of the “failures” end up surviving to live another day). No wonder bullies find so much easy grazing!

I cannot stop people from trying to feed me fear. Nor can I inoculate people against the insecurity that causes bullies. But what I can do is take control of my own self, my reactions, and my decisions. A good reminder of this came to me last night; I was on the last leg of my commute, the bus that drops me off near where I live, and this guy was handing out handmade bookmarks he’d created with four or five leaf clovers in them, and little sayings and quotes–just to be nice. The one I got was this quote by Charles R. Swindoll:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.

While simply having a good attitude won’t fix all your problems, it does go a long way in what decisions we make. And the attitude I’ve been trying to cultivate has been one that acknowledges dangers and potential problems, but doesn’t get entangled in fear to the point of immobility. This includes being aware of all the ways I can take action, rather than sitting around, bemoaning my fate.

So it was appropriate indeed that I had the dream I did last night, because it reminded me of the stumbling block that (perceived) powerlessness is, and gave me a reason to meditate on how to combat that ill feeling. There is, after all, a difference between healthy fear, and unhealthy fear-obsession.

I gave some thought on how to really take back my power that I’d given up (and/or had been taken from me). While rationally I realize, with my left brain, that I have a lot more control than I sometimes realize, emotionally, the right-brain part of me has absorbed entirely too much negative conditioning, enough that although I’ve been chipping away at it for years, it’s still a major problem in my life. It’s difficult to get to the root of the problem when it feels so enormous and overwhelming–individual facets are easier to deal with, but working through them individually takes a long time.

And for me, “power” isn’t the best word. The negative conditioning I have states the power is bad if you have too much of it, because it can turn you into a bad person. It’s that whole fear-of-pride thing, the idea that if you happen to rise above everyone else, you deserve to get cut down to everyone else’s level again. It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s story, Harrison Bergeron, in which everyone was forced to be equal with everyone else. So there’s a pernicious part of my conditioning that sabotages my efforts to extract it by saying “You don’t deserve to be anything more than what you are now–and you’re already pushing it!”

However, I’ve been reminded, through the formation of therioshamanism, of the concept of the soul–specifically the idea that the soul can fragment and be lost. To me, soul is equated with power; the more of our soul we lose, the weaker we are. And “soul” is much more personal a concept than “power”–I more easily become indignant and angry at the concept that someone has taken a piece of my soul, than taken power from me.

I still don’t feel confident enough in myself to do a soul retrieval, not just yet. But I know exactly whose filets of soul I’ll be going after once I am ready for that point. Granted, therioshamanism is focused on the animals; however, I believe it’s important to learn various, more generalized techniques–to make a parallel with doctors, even a specialist must get a good education in general practice.

I’m not ready just yet, but I have a goal to work towards.

Badger, Badger, Badger, Badger (But No Mushroom)*

A significant part of my practice over the years has been working with skin spirits. This is my term for the spirits (or residual energy, if you prefer) that are in skins, bones and other animal remains. I have found that I can communicate intuitively with these spirits (whee, animism!). Generally I use this to help determine how to incorporate the remains into my artwork. I do this to give these spirits a better afterlife than hanging on someone’s wall, as well as to help them move past the almost invariably traumatic deaths they experience.

While most of the skins and bones end up with other people post-art, I do have some that stay with me. This includes a collection of skins I use for dancing and other forms of invocation and evocation; I have one particular section of my half of the ritual room where they all hang out. The way my altar is set up, the skins are always to my right when I’m facing it, keeping them in nice, close proximity. The walls in the alcove where the altar sits are also covered in animal skulls that have decided to camp out in my home for the time being, and the spirits therein tend to act as general guardians and spiritual company.

This past Sunday I decided to do a ritual for prosperity in conjunction with a particular project I have in the works. So I pulled out a deck of totem cards that I use specifically for determining good totems to ask for help for specific situations. However, before I’d even gotten the cards shuffled, I “heard” (obviously not with my physical ears) two of the skin spirits speak up to my right. “Me! Pick me! I can help!” each one said. So I went over to the lineup of skins, and both the badger and otter skins I have “jumped” out (again, not physically!). I won’t go into the details of how each one would help me, since it’s still a rather personal project. However, needless to say I was quite appreciative that they volunteered.

I decided to use one of my favorite forms of magic–the humble, often taken for granted, candle burning. Out of all of the various types of magic I’ve used, and the numerous objects I’ve charged with energy for a specific purpose, I admit that I have a definite fondness for those little two-hour candles as receptacles for collecting and focusing energy and intent, and subsequent release thereof. With skin spirits, I’ll generally dance with the skin and the spirit in it, and sometimes the corresponding totem will also join in, and then take the energy of the dance and place it in the candle. And that’s exactly what I did. Since I was a bit tired, I opted to just work with one of the skins that day, so I chose Badger–Otter would wait til the following weekend.

When I called on the directional totems, I tried something a little different to tie in with my elemental work as of late–rather than speaking out the evocations, I called up the element corresponding to whatever direction I was in, as well as shifting my energetic body to the form of the corresponding totem, and used that to evoke the totems. I found that this actually produced the strongest evocations I’ve ever had. It also worked for the various spiritual Friends, Family and Guardians that I routinely evoke for ritual attendance. This isn’t surprising, given that I’ve spent the past week and a half attuning myself to the elements on a several-times-per-day basis, and that I’ve been working with these directional totems through energetic shifts for years. Still, it was a nice reminder that my current elemental work does have practical applications beyond reminding me that the elements can be found everywhere, even in downtown Portland.

The “main course” of the ritual involved me laying the candle for badger energy on the floor in the center of my ritual space, draping the badger skin over my right shoulder, and dancing in a circle around the candle, invoking both the skin spirit and Badger the totem. Each species I dance has a distinctive way of dancing, and Badger/badger ended up giving me a sort of scuff-step-scuff-step pattern. As the dance progressed, I danced faster and faster, feeling my energetic body take on a distinctive badger shape. At the height of the dance, I stopped, “grabbed” the column of energy I’d raised, and “pushed” it down into the candle, condensing it into that container, sealing it in. I then placed the candle in a holder on the altar, set the badger skin near it (but far away enough to avoid accidental flaming badger skin) and lit it to release the energy in a more focused manner.

I said farewell to all the beings I’d evoked, again wordlessly, to great success, grounded, and went and ate since I needed it after all that dancing. The ritual itself went wonderfully, and it also gave me a chance to work with a couple of skin spirits I don’t work with as much as I’d like (I’ve set aside the new moon and the time around it specifically for working with skin spirits). Plus the validation of my elemental work was a nice additional perk. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, but I’m confident that the badger skin spirit can help me manifest the prosperity and opportunities I need. I’m looking forward to working with Otter this coming weekend.

On a different note, my hands are feeling better. Since I spend a lot of time on the computer at work and at home, I sometimes end up with sore wrists and hands–not as bad as carpal tunnel, but I’d like to avoid worse complications. Part of this is because I never learned to type correctly, so for years I was a four-finger hunt and peck typist. Plus I tend to push the buttons down hard! So I took my ergonomic keyboard to work (my home laptop doesn’t seem to cause me problems on its own), along with new wrist splints. I’ve also been training myself to use all ten fingers for typing, as well as type more *softly*.

However, in addition to this, I’ve asked my husband, Taylor, to do some healing on me every evening. Taylor is quite the accomplished energy worker, and was one of the main reasons I can still walk after all the damage I did to my knees a couple of years ago. I was working as a meter reader reading utility meters in rural Pennsylvania, and 4-10 miles of walking, plus getting in and out of a truck a couple of hundred times a day, hurt a LOT. I also wasn’t eating all that well, so I’m sure my body was cannibalizing the connective tissues for protein. I didn’t want to go to a doctor because s/he’d just tell me to stop working for a while, and I was out of sick time.

I noticed a distinct difference once Taylor started doing daily healing on me. Along with improving my diet, he did energy work every evening when I got home. Within a couple of weeks I was pretty much off the Tylenol, and after a couple of months I only rarely had any trouble, even though the workload was the same. And once again, I’m noticing a drastic improvement in how quickly my hands are recovering with this combination approach. His healing is definitely one of the better pieces of proof (for me, personally) that magic *works*.

I’m thinking I should ask Taylor to teach me the more subtle uses of energy work. While I can certainly sense and work with energy, I don’t have the fine-tuned ability he does. This would be quite useful for extractions of unwanted entities/energies in healing work.

* If you don’t get the reference for the title of this post, check out this link and make sure your speakers are on.