So It’s Been About a Year…

This week marks a year since I started developing therioshamanism. I made the first posts here on September 20, but the idea was percolating for a few days beforehand, along with a few experiences that pushed me in this direction. I look back at those first posts, and holy cripes–there’s been a lot of change in the past year on many levels. For one thing, my practice is a lot less neopagan-y, and while I still value the input of books, I’m much more aware of just how important practice is in comparison. Books can give ideas, but unless I put those ideas to work, what am I really doing at all?

My first six months saw a lot of restructuring and cosmology-building, as well as figuring out what from my past practices was really useful, and what I could leave behind. After that things got a lot less linearly organized, and as I’ve evolved into actual practice beyond meditation, with activities ranging from writing songs for my guides to taking some exploratory journeys, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t about “Your first year should mean the accomplishment of this, and then the second year will bring that”. There aren’t degrees, and I’ve evolved at the rate I needed to. I think the structure of the first six months was exceptionally helpful in getting me started, but it fell away afterwards, and I think things went better for that.

I look back, and I see a lot of time spent working on figuring things out for myself. I see a lot of useful comments that helped me when I was trying to bounce ideas off others for feedback, and I see times when the spirits I work with nudged things into place just at the right time. I see some times of frustration, of doubt, and of insecurity, but I also see times of learning and victory and states of flow. I see where I fell flat on my face (usually due to my own actions), and I see where my spirituality contributed to my going back to graduate school. I’ve been to numerous places, physically and otherwise, and I’ve learned so much–not the least of which being the knowledge that I still have so much left to learn.

It’s been a good year overall. There’s so much potential before me, and while I’m not under the misapprehension that everything will be a cakewalk, there’s a lot of potential to create good things out of this.

So how did I celebrate? By hiking, of course. This was something more instigated by me and my need to mark the occasion, than by the spirits, who are working more along a “Okay, the time is right for this” “schedule”. I wanted to do a bit of a dedication ceremony for my new drum, and also wanted to make offerings to a few particular local guides associated with my sacred place in the Gorge (which is mirrored as my starting place when I journey in the spirit world).

So, having prepared the offerings, basic hiking supplies, and also having strapped my drum to the back of my pack, I hiked on up the mountain. I had just gone hiking with Taylor a few days before, so I was still a bit tired, and the temperature was in the nineties. I ended up taking a lot of short breaks on the way up. But I made it with no major complications.

A couple of auspicious occurrences happened on the way up. First, I found a deer leg bone. This is unprecedented, as I have never found anything more than a few stray feathers at this place, let alone bones. However, there was a slightly dirty but intact deer bone right in the middle of the trail in front of me. “Pick me up!” its spirit said. I did, and got an instant mental image of the bone as the handle for a drum beater. Now, the beater that I got with my new drum was well-made, but the stick that was the handle just didn’t really connect with me. So I resolved that once I got to the top of the mountain and to my place that I’d do a quick replacement.

The other occurrence traces back to some of my recent journeying. There’s a particular place I haven’t been able to get past due to certain spirits blocking it. I know I need to get up there, and I never have a problem getting up there in the physical world. As I sat resting near this place, Stellar’s Jay came swooping across, shrieking loudly as if to say “Clear the way!” I decided that next time I journeying I’d ask for Stellar’s Jay to help me get past these spirits.

Once at my sacred place, specifically the location that is the home of the Animal Father, I rested and refreshed myself. I then went around and placed the offerings in their proper places; these were not food, but rather small shiny objects that I made over the weekend. One was for the Land itself, and contained some of my hair. The others were for local guides: Stellar’s Jay, whose presence in the wilderness resembles (but isn’t identical to) Scrub Jay in the city; Northern Harrier Hawk, who is the raptor closest to me in this area, replacing Redtail back east; Great Horned Owl, who is a particular guardian of this place, and for whom the offering was less about me and more about the place; Raven, whose quorks have often accompanied me here; Douglas Squirrel, bold and brash, but with caution when it’s necessary; and Red Fox, who is rarely ever seen, but is a silent shadow here, and wanted to make hir presence known to me.

After the offerings were made, I redid the drum beater with the deer leg. Then I did my first journey with the new drum. I warmed the drum up with my hand, raising the energy of it and waking it up. Then I drummed slowly, gradually speeding up in a pattern that I’ve found to be effective for me. I saw the horse spirit in the drum, and learned her name (though I’ll refer to her from here on out as Small Horse, as with other skin spirits I work with). Then I began the formal journey.

Every time I’ve journeyed so far, I’ve found myself in the form of a white wolf, and this time was no exception. The Animal Father approached, as numerous spirits of the Land surrounded us. He led me down a trail, then into the woods. He showed me an opening in the trees that he told me was the entrance to the Upper World. While he could go there, he couldn’t take me with him, and told me I’d have to find a guide to help me with that.

Next he took me to a small trickling stream across the path I had walked. He told me to start following the River Dragon down the mountain, starting at that stream. I bounded down along the stream as it joined others and got larger, until the River Dragon finally arrived at a specific point where s/he could go to the Lower World, but I couldn’t, same as with the Upper World. S/he suggested that I try talking to some of the fish about getting help.

Before I could do more, though, I heard a Douglas squirrel making an alarm call in the physical world, and was told I needed to go. The Animal Father told me as I began to head back that Douglas Squirrel would always tell me if I needed to go back, or if there was a threat. In this case it was good that I left when I did. While the place I was at is pretty secluded, and populated only by more serious hikers, there was relatively heavy traffic today. I managed to not be bothered during the journey, but after packing up and heading out, I ran into a pair of women not 100 yards away from where I’d been.

All in all, it was a good day. And it’s been a good year, too. I have accomplished more, spiritually and magically, this year than any other. It’s been intense, but overall positive. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.

Journeying vs. Guided Meditation

I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately. I have been journeying, though, primarily exploratory journeys to get used to the practice of it, and to also get an idea of the “geography” of the Otherworld, so to speak. I don’t really want to talk about a lot of the details, since this is part of the more private end of the path. However, here are a few highlights:

–I have a consistent starting point where I begin all my journeys. Physically, it’s a place I have a good connection to, though not what I expected. I’ve found myself starting here every time, so I think it’s a good sign.

–My “world tree” is actually a mountain. I’ve located the general vicinities of the entrances to the Upper and Lower worlds, but I can’t actually get to them yet (I’ve been presented with them as puzzles). None of this is at all what I expected, but it works.

–I have at least one, possibly two local-to-the-Northwest totems who want to work with me. One I was pretty sure about; the other one was a big surprise.

–I’ve encountered both totems and individual animal spirits while journeying. The totems are definitely more powerful; however, the spirits should not be ignored or dismissed easily.

Journeying is definitely not the same as guided meditation, IME. Guided meditation, from what I can tell, takes me into a “neutral zone”, where neither the spirits nor I have a distinct advantage. I have a lot more control over what happens, what my form is, what I do, etc. and it’s a lot easier to enter and exit.

Journeying, on the other hand, has turned out to be a lot more intense, and I am definitely out of my element there. I’m on the spirits’ turf, so to speak. I find that I tend to take one particular form there, and shapeshifting is much harder. Also, traveling is more difficult. Whereas with guided meditations I’ve been able to easily bypass blockages and manipulate the landscape, there’s no doing that with journeying. If someone says I’m not going past them, then there won’t be any sneaking, or flying up and past–at least at this point. Things that were feasible in guided meditations, aren’t so easy with journeying.

The other thing that I noticed is that the totems in particular are “more themselves” when I journey, especially when compared either to evocation rituals here on the physical plane of reality, or even guided meditation. I’m trying to figure out how to describe this…it’s not just that they’re bigger and stronger. It’s that when I journey, I can observe more of who and what they are, because this is where they’re native to. Conversely, I am more limited; only part of me travels, leaving my body behind. I never realized just how much of myself is wrapped up into my body. I wonder if there’s a spiritual counterpart, something that gets left behind when a totem or other spirit leaves to go to a neutral place, or to visit here through evocation/etc.?

Aside from the journeying, I’ll still be practicing songs; I still need to do songs for Bear and Small Bear. The songs and journeying are creating a nice variety for me that’s keeping me more engaged, especially as I’ve been getting busier.

A Slight Change in Plans

One thing about not being a part of a culture that has an ingrained shamanic path is that would-be shamanic practitioners don’t have much of a standard framework to go on, relatively speaking. A lot has to be done from scratch, including things like cosmology, relationships with spirits, ritual practices, and so forth. On the one hand, this can make it frustrating if you tend to worry “Am I doing this correctly? Should I maybe do it like those people over there? Or do I just read another book and keep listening to the spirits?” However, it can be advantageous in that it offers a decent amount of flexibility.

I did a drum journey to meet with the Animal Father tonight to try to confirm some murmurings I’d overheard from a few of the totems in the past several days. I first found myself clinging to the trunk of my tree, unsure whether to climb up into the branches, or down into the roots. However, I was told to simply drop off onto the grass, and start walking. I found myself in a forest that eventually led to a place here that is very special to me as well as to the Animal Father, but whose exact location is to be kept secret. I proceeded to a particular place, and made myself comfortable.

As I did, numerous animals came out of the trees. Some were native to the area, some were not. As they congregated, the Animal Father appeared as well, and approached me. He was smaller than I sometimes see him, maybe the size of a small black bear. He sat across from me and held my head in his paws and gave me a gift. Then he told me to stop drumming, and to lay back. I did, and he sat behind my head and held it in his forepaws again.

The short version of our conversation involved my work for the next several months. While I’m to continue creating songs and dances for the various skin spirits and corresponding totems I’ll be working with, I also am supposed to start doing more formal work with the totems and skin spirits who already have songs–Wolf and Small Wolf, Badger and Small Badger, Deer and Small Deer, and Coyote and Small Coyote. Additionally, I need to create songs for Bear and Small Bear as soon as possible.

Of these five, only Coyote and Small Coyote are of a species that I haven’t had much experience with. The others are ones I’m quite comfortable working with. In addition, I’ll be working with Horse, and my Small Horse will be my next drum. I’ve been pondering what sort of skin I’ll have on my full ritual drum (as opposed to the small practice drum I have right now), and last week I went to a drum circle where I had a chance to play drums of various sorts. The one that really stood out to me, both in sound quality and in spirit, was a 20″ horsehide with a cedar frame. I’ve had a relationship with Horse since I was a young teenager; it hasn’t always been a good relationship on my end, but Horse has been steadily, patiently there. Add in that Horse has historically stepped in on matters of travel, as well as crucial periods of growth, and it’s not surprising that I’d be drawn to a horsehide drum for journeying.

So, back to the journey at hand with the Animal Father. Once he said what he had to say, he went back into the woods, and the animals began to depart as well. I did stop Badger, though, to ask hir if she would be willing to work with me in a formal ritual. S/he asked me, “What will you offer me?” I replied “What do you want?” S/he stopped then, and looked very pointedly at me, then said “That’s a dangerous response at this level of the game. You’d be wiser to come in to such a situation with something already in mind to drive your bargain with. Come back when you have something to offer me”. Then s/he shuffled off into the woods.

This startled me momentarily, but in retrospect it doesn’t surprise me. While in the past the totems and other spirits I’ve worked with have been relatively lenient with me, shamanism is much more…hmmm…intense than my previous work, relatively speaking. There’s less room for errors (though I wouldn’t say no room for errors). And it was a good reminder to me to take care, that what worked before may not be the parameters I’ll be working with from here on out.

I drummed myself back home, as it were, and got myself grounded with some good food. I’m going to have to think of something significant that I can offer; what I’ll be asking for will be bigger than what I usually do, and more will be asked in return. I’ve had a lot of leeway in the past with regards to offerings, but if I’m going to be stepping up to do more serious shamanic work, I’m also going to have to accept the changes in how things work.

Which is fine; I expected this would happen. Am I worried? Some. As I said, there’s less room for errors. But I wouldn’t be going forward if I didn’t feel confident in my ability to adapt and grow. And the timing isn’t surprising. Next month it’ll have been a year since I started on this path; before that I’d been working with totems and animal spirits for a good decade from a neopagan (and sometimes Chaos magic) perspective. So it’s probably to be expected, at least to an extent.

I’m still here, amazingly enough, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s what’s most important.

Shamanic Performances

One thing that’s interested me since I started reading about shamanisms worldwide is the concept of a shamanic performance. It varies from culture to culture, of course, and not all indigenous cultures have this feature, but it’s pretty common. In a nutshell, the community (or a family, or other group) comes together and primarily watches as the shaman does hir thing on their behalf. It may be part storytelling, with the shaman narrating what s/he is experiencing during hir journey, or the shaman may not express what happened until after the fact. And while there may be elements of showmanship and sleight of hand, the process is quite serious when it comes down to it.

With the exception of seithr/seidr, I haven’t seen much information on shamanic performance in non-indigenous shamanisms (while seithr/seidr is Norse in origin, the majority of people practicing it are not native to Norway). Neoshamans who practice on behalf of others very often will do so on a one-on-one basis with individual clients. While this certainly isn’t unprecedented, since shamanic figures in indigenous cultures would generally work with people individually, the one-on-one structure predominates in neoshamanism.

While I don’t see anything wrong, per se, with the one-on-one ritual structure, I do think the more semi-public/public shamanic performance structure deserves more attention. One of the things that really fascinates me is how the element of performance can aid in the audience’s suspension of disbelief in a manner that is different from experiential rituals (wherein everyone participates in an active manner) or an individual client (in which the client is generally acted upon in some manner by the shaman, whose focus is solely on that person). I see shamanic performance as potentially drawing on some of the same elements of theatre–something that enthralls and engages the audience, and moves them in deep ways. With the addition of the esoteric elements of magical practice, the potential for group altered states of consciousness is even greater.

I’ve always been fond of Homo ludens as described by Joseph Campbell in The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (and yes, I do need to hunt down a copy of Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens (Man the Player)). In the modern U.S., play in adults is largely forgotten outside of sports and the bedroom–and even then it can still often be stunted in both settings. The beauty of a well-crafted ritual, even as a spectator, is that it fulfills the need for play in our lives. It allows us to really let go of our inhibitions–not in harmful ways like getting smashed and having unprotected sex with someone whose name (and sexual health) you’re unaware of–but in healthy, aware, albeit often catalytic manners. It allows us to exercise our Imagination-with-a-big-I, the one we often stuff down into Being An Adult and which we mistake for shallower, relegated-to-childhood imagination. (Understand, of course, that children and grown-ups alike are quite capable of exercising Imagination as well as imagination.) The Imagination is not just daydreams that are limited to our brains and minds, but are a connection to Something More, whether you want to call it the Collective Unconscious, the Anima Mundi, etc. (For a really good treatise on these concepts, I would highly recommend Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality. Dense, but a delicious read with every bite.)

This is not to say that other ritual formats can’t exercise the Imagination and allow us to play; quite the opposite. However, something about the shamanic performance, in which there are tricks as well as journeys, sleight of hand as well as theurgy, and where the shaman gets to play a part as much as be hirself–this really appeals to me.

I see a couple of issues with actually bringing this into reality as my practice progresses. One is that there’s a definite stigma against deliberate showmanship in spiritual and religious practices in this culture. It’s assumed that any sort of chicanery will automatically be a lie, that it can’t be a vehicle for something greater. If I were to carry beads under my tongue, and suck out the illness from a person and put it in the bead, then display the bead as proof of my work, most people would say “That bead was in her mouth the whole time–what a sham!” Only a few would understand that the bead was a vehicle for the act, that it absorbed the illness and gave people a physical focus for seeing that illness leave the person’s body. In an age where many put faith only in the five physical senses and call that objectivity (regardless of how subjective our senses are!) any ambiguity is cause for suspicion. We’re not taught how to consider more than one form of reality simultaneously and with equal truth–we’re raised with either/or, not both/and.

Another problem is that the shamanic performance originated in relatively small communities of people who spent significant portions of their lives together. While I advocate bringing one’s shamanic practice (and other ways to aid) into the local community, even in the most liberal areas you can’t turn your neighborhood into a village and expect people to come out for rituals. I know there are pagans who are neotribalists, who want to artificially create communities and villages–but you’re not going to get the same infrastructure; this culture is just too different. I applaud efforts to bring people together, but I also believe in having a realistic expectation of the parameters you’re working within.

Somewhat related to that is that a lot of people, especially in the pagan/etc. communities, are more geared towards being practitioners than spectators. Neopagan rituals are very commonly interactive so that no one gets bored “just watching”. There are groups who may rehearse seasonal rituals to the point where they have a good theatrical element to them, but even then there’s still focus on making sure everybody gets to participate at least a little bit (again, more than “just watching”). And I’ll lay odds that the majority of pagans who say they’re interested in shamanism are interested in being practitioners, not spectators. In the pagan community, we generally intercede with the spirit world on our own behalf a good deal of the time (some of us, all the time!). Too many cooks, not enough diners.

I wonder, if my practice develops the way that it would, if there would be an interest in shamanic performances–rituals that people don’t necessarily have an active hand in beyond perhaps drumming, or (as in seithr/seidr, asking questions), but where people come prepared to appreciate the performance as well as the actual reason for it (healing, fertility, divination, etc.). I’m perfectly happy creating more interactive rites where appropriate, as well as one-on-one work, but there’s also a mutual attraction for me and the spirits I work with for the shamanic performance, where we do our thing on behalf of others, and the others are primarily witnesses to what happens.

I also wonder if there are (nonindigenous) groups/individuals who do this sort of shamanizing outside of seithr/seidr in any significant form. And if I have any misunderstandings about this ritual format, I’m always open for more information! This is something that’s still very raw in my conception of it, and a lot of it won’t fall into place until I move beyond the theory and into the practice.

Sunday’s Journey

I had intended to head out to Forest Park here in Portland this past weekend to connect with the Animal Father. Unfortunately, as those of you in the Pacific Northwest know, the weather was cold, wet, and windy–not a good combination for getting me out of the house. Still, I wanted to be able to spend some time with the god. Given that he’s not fond of visiting me at home in the middle of a city, I decided I’d go to him.

I decided to drum, since I need more practice with it. Per usual, I lost track of time, though this was longer than previous journeys. I allowed myself to relax into the trance. I found myself in a forest, somewhat like one I grew up near; however, as I walked down the path, I found myself going into a deeper, more primordial forest. I also noticed that I had taken the form of a red stag, the sacred animal of the Animal Father that represents the Autumn. Apparently, when in his domain, I take the form of whatever animal is strongest at that time of the year, or so I understood the explanation.

I came out of the woods onto a wide, open rolling plain. The grass was dry, as would be normal this time of year, and the sky was overcast. I wandered across the plain seeking the Animal Father. Suddenly, from behind me came a cave lion (the Summer aspect of the god); he acted as though he was going to attack me, so I lowered my antlers at him in a threat. Finally, he charged me and I kicked him, then I flew away in two enormous bounds that took me a mile away from him in seconds.

I ended up in a gully, and then looked up and saw Dire Wolf and Cave Bear peering over the edge at me, with no threat. Then they ran off, and I followed them. (I still haven’t figured out why Lion was chasing me.) When I made it to the top, I saw the Animal Father, and went up to him. He was enormous, filling the sky, but he made himself small so he could talk to me.

Some of what we talked about was private. However, he did ask me to start praying at both morning and bedtime (I’d just been doing bedtime) and to meditate once a day to touch base with the spirits. Then he sent me back home, the drumming gently easing me back, slowing down as I awoke. So far I’ve managed the prayers, though I got a little too busy for the meditation yesterday. I’m going to shoot for lunch hour as a good time to take a break.

I knew this request would come at some point, though it’s earlier than I expected. Still, I’m willing to work on it. I need more discipline, and this is a good start. The Air month has taught me some tough lessons already, and doing a daily practice will be quite a challenge for this spontaneous person! But for once I actually feel like I can do it. This whole therioshamanism thing has brought out an unprecedented level of commitment in me. Granted, there are things I’ve done longer, but not this intensely. I am feeling more confident in myself for this, and I’m really pleased with how my six months have been proceeding thus far. I feel like I’m gaining an even better understanding of what it is I’ve been working with over the past decade and change. Which just goes to show that even though you’ve done some more advanced magical/spiritual work, you can still benefit from the basics!

If I am going to end up teaching this to others down the line, though, it’s a really good thing I’m going through it myself. While the curriculum shouldn’t be cookie-cutter, it’s a good idea to teach things you have experienced yourself. While I haven’t run into any major snags so far, I have been through some difficult personal lessons as the spirits have helped me to become a better vessel for the tasks ahead. Better this way, than to expect that everyone will learn the material in the exact same way!

As for the month by month structure, I’m finding that the lessons from Earth are still reverberating through my life. This isn’t surprising; it’s not as though the spirits said “Oops, it’s the full moon, no more Earth for you!” The Earth lessons dovetail right into the Air lessons, and by the time I’m done I should have a really good basis to work from as I progress beyond the six months.

Earth…

Tonight was the last night of my Earth month, or so it worked out, at any rate. Tomorrow I’ll be calling on Hawk for help initiating my Air month.

Tonight I went upstairs and drummed again. I went up a little later because the upstairs was cold, and I needed to give the heaters a little time to get it to a comfortable point (I get cold incredibly easily, especially if I’m sitting still). This meant that I was a little tired by the time I went up (about 11pm). I was a bit concerned that I might have to postpone the ritual due to getting getting grounded again. However, I got the green light due to not being as tired, and having the opportunity to sleep in again tomorrow morning.

I’m not sure how long I drummed; I lost track of time after the first few minutes. Judging from the clock afterward, I’d say I probably had at least twenty minutes. It was plenty of time, though, since I tend to drop into altered states pretty quickly, and I’m still going relatively lightly here–my arms aren’t up to an hour or more of straight drumming yet.

I turned into a wolf, and found myself in a desert with the moon shining overhead. This confused me–I’ve never really been all that connected to deserts, and I was wondering what I was doing there. So I ran around a bit until I saw Wolf ahead of me, shining like silver-blue moonlight. I chased after hir, and s/he continued to run, leading me through dry rocks and thorny plants in the silver light (though I could see no moon above).

Finally, s/he let me catch hir. S/he would look down at the ground, scratching at the rocks and pebbles, then run a short way and repeat the action. Finally, I caught on–the dry, flat desert landscape was the complete antithesis of my ideal terrain, mountains heavy with temperate rain forests and mossy rocks.

The message that was imparted at that point is rather personal, so I’ll be keeping that to myself. But s/he took me to the mountains, my ideal situation, and took me deep into the Earth beneath. There s/he showed me the root of my problem, a small, acid-green plant that was creating the problem, turning what should be lush forests into desert. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with desert; it simply was chosen to represent the antithesis of where I needed to be in the situation that we were discussing. I took the plant in my teeth and uprooted it, tearing it away. At that point, Wolf sent me back to my body, telling me to do the same in my waking life with the situation at hand.

Needless to say, this was an incredibly effective journey. There’s a lot of growth that needs to occur during my six months, and even beyond. The Earth work won’t stop just because the Earth month is over; however, starting tomorrow I’ll be learning what it is I need to do to work with Air in a more focused manner.

A Journey With Wolf

Last night I had my first journey, albeit not a very long or intense one. But it was a definite success.

I was practicing drumming last night upstairs in the ritual room. I had had to stop after a bit as the rawhide that I’d used to tie the goatskin onto the drum frame apparently still had tiny cow hair stubble all over it. The vibrations of the drum and my generally sensitive skin meant that my hand got irritated too quickly. So I took time out to wrap the cords in yarn; I wanted to use something not-animal, spiritually neutral as it were, since I already had a nice balance with the cow, goat and deer skins, and they didn’t seem to want another one added in. This made for a much softer grip, and the drum still sounds good.

I began drumming again, and managed about 10 minutes before I got into a decent trance, a bit deeper than what I normally get with guided meditation, though not as deep as what I can achieve with trance dancing. This was a rather nice victory, since although I’m pretty good with altered states of consciousness in meditation and dancing with someone else drumming, I wasn’t sure how I’d do as my own drummer. Not surprisingly, the rhythm worked similarly to that in drum circles, and the fact that I was drumming didn’t change that. In fact, it allowed my body a rhythm even as I was sitting down.

I wasn’t really planning on journeying, but I ended up there anyway. I’ve been intending to talk to Wolf for a couple of days about something private, and she* decided to take the opportunity to plop me down and talk already! I saw her quite clearly, though I wasn’t sure whether we were in a cave or a tent; it wasn’t very well lit and my visuals during meditation aren’t always as clear as what I hear. She told me to stop drumming as I’d hit the right level of trance and she wanted me to concentrate on her.

She told me what she wanted to tell me, then made it clear that I needed to go back downstairs and implement what I’d been told when and as I could. So I did, and oddly enough I didn’t get that woozy feeling I sometimes get from coming out of a trance too quickly.

I am rather pleased; I was a little concerned, to be honest, that I wouldn’t be able to hit a deep trance while sitting still. However, for having drummed for no longer than a quarter of an hour, and given that my arm wasn’t even beginning to get tired, I’m pretty hopeful, and I’m looking forward to honing my skills with this particular method of journeying. It’s nice, because it allows me to go places that I’ve been before, but it puts more of the variables in my own hands, literally. I don’t have to worry about having the drumming stop too soon, as happens with in-person drummers and drum CDs. I also don’t need to be aware of people running into me as occasionally occurs dancing at drum circles. I can control the temperature and the general ambiance, the drumbeats distract me from any outside sounds, and I can pretty much go uninterrupted. I’m glad I’ve been able to recreate alone the same essential experience that I’ve used so many times before in a group setting.

* Usually I refer to totems and other spirits with gender-neutral pronouns. However, if they show decided preferences, I use the appropriate pronouns. Some have been known to shift sex from visit to visit, as well as color and even subspecies. This isn’t surprising, given that I see totems as archetypal beings that are comprised, among other things, of all the biological information about an animal. So Wolf may show up as a male grey wolf one day, and a female black wolf the next.