moonvoice: (Default)
[personal profile] moonvoice
...I have very little life at all.

Welcome to another ramble on shamanism and my footsteps upon this path!

It took me a little while to understand the statement: 'no spirits, no shaman.' I thought 'but I can do it without them!' And I am grateful that I know differently these days.

I have a few spirit helpers who are willing to walk with me on my spiritual journeys, a few gods that I visit, or who visit me, and a few 'acquaintances' in the otherworlds who, for trade (usually), will offer a wealth of knowledge, access, wisdom, growth or simply offer of themselves so that I may learn, grow, move, and so forth.

We live in a world where independence, at least in many of the circles I walk, is praised almost above healthy interdependence within a community/communities, friends, family, and the friends and family that the spirits can be. And so I feel an offshoot of this is a proliferation of solitary pagan paths that are praised almost above group and community-based faiths. Solitary paganism, Solitary Wicca, Solitary shamanists, and so forth. And many proponents of solitary paths will state 'I can do what I want, I like the independence it gives me.'

But is any path truly solitary, if you are walking with spirits and gods in your life? If you say 'yes,' then how much substance are you awarding these spirits and gods? How 'real' are they to you? If one accords spirits and gods with the respect I feel they rightfully deserve, then any path that involves these spirits and gods can never be 'solitary' truly. Unless of course you believe all spirits and gods are archetypes, and have no more substance than that. But this is not the sort of spiritual practices I'm personally referring to. It is difficult to practice shamanism with archetypal spirits. ;)

Can any person on a solitary or community-based pathway truly do 'what they want,' when it is balanced against the wisdom of the spirits, the gods, their own conscience and their will when it comes up against the will of others?

The spirits and gods in my life inform me, and therefore inform my path. Just as my friends, my family, my 'fremily' (...I think I hate that term), any therapists, co-workers, colleagues and acquaintances inform me, and therefore inform my path. I am no shamanist without the spirits and gods. I am no shamanist without the community around me, the people in my life, my animal companion, the plants, the land, my clients, the rocks that bear my weight as tiny grains of sand in the structure of this house.

I used to think it was a sign of weakness to essentially say that I was nothing without the spirits, but now I see it as a sign of strength. I do not have to surrender my will, my ability to discern, decide, and see the truth of a matter, in the recognition of my interdependence on the spirits around me. They enrich my existence, my perspective, bring me to greater state of health, just as the people around me - through their support, and love - also do.

What are the spirits and gods to you? Are they archetypes? Are they integral to your practice? Are they an afterthought? Have they helped you to grow as a person in all aspects of your life? Can you apply wisdom or knowledge that spirits and/or gods offer you in the 'real world'? And have you applied the wisdom or knowledge of friends and/or family in places like the otherworlds?

Right now I am mostly all about gratitude, and the gentle warmth that comes from knowing that if these spirits and gods, friends and family, choose to walk in my life, maybe they get something out of my existence, just as I very much get something out of theirs.

Date: 2009-05-06 02:21 pm (UTC)
witchchild: (White Stag)
From: [personal profile] witchchild
I do not have to surrender my will, my ability to discern, decide, and see the truth of a matter, in the recognition of my interdependence on the spirits around me.

Hear HEAR!

In my case I was an animist when I was a small child. I saw ghosts. At 18 spirits started playing a big role in my life. At 23 I swore that if a God wished to speak to me, I'd listen (the point where I really became a Pagan of some sort). They've all had a big impact on my life, they're quite real and I've seen some awesome proof, and my life would be a shadow without T/them.

Date: 2009-05-07 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
In my case I was an animist when I was a small child.

I believe it's an innate state for almost all children to be animistic. It is for this reason, actually, that some philosophers define animistic spiritualities as being 'primitive' or 'childish' in nature, as far as orientations towards spiritualities go.

Which is a shame eh? Since animism is so amazing.

Date: 2009-05-07 03:43 pm (UTC)
witchchild: (Unicorn totem)
From: [personal profile] witchchild
and in my case, I never lost it. Thank Gods. :)

Date: 2009-05-06 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] earthguardian.livejournal.com
I wish I had more experience with the spirits in a more influential way. I'm aware they exist, but I think I lack the spiritual awareness to really "sense" them or truthfully acknowledge them. So I definitely don't think that they play a huge part in my life now but I look forward to a point when the spirits/Selket will play a much more interactive role in my life.

But I have no idea how long THAT will take. I don't consider myself particularly spiritually aware - just an itnellectual acknowledgement. So we shall see.

Date: 2009-05-07 10:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
I think it'll happen when it happens, but you seem pretty grounded and insightful in general, even if you don't know who's watching over you, you do a pretty awesome job of watching over yourself. :)

Date: 2009-05-07 03:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] earthguardian.livejournal.com
you seem pretty grounded and insightful in general

Really!? Aw thanks!! Sometimes I feel really up in the air, and like I dont know what I'm doing with my life T.T

you do a pretty awesome job of watching over yourself. :)

Thanks ^^

Date: 2009-05-06 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nachtrabe.livejournal.com


I used to think it was a sign of weakness to essentially say that I was nothing without the spirits, but now I see it as a sign of strength. I do not have to surrender my will, my ability to discern, decide, and see the truth of a matter, in the recognition of my interdependence on the spirits around me. They enrich my existence, my perspective, bring me to greater state of health, just as the people around me - through their support, and love - also do.


I really really like this passage, and really the general thrust of this entire essay.

Date: 2009-05-07 10:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Thank you very much.
*smiles*

Date: 2009-05-06 04:49 pm (UTC)
ext_98696: steampunk (Firebird - wings spread)
From: [identity profile] mutantenemy.livejournal.com
What are the spirits and gods to you? Are they archetypes? Are they integral to your practice? Are they an afterthought?

All my life I have seen animal / nature spirits and gods as Real. Not archetypes. They each have their own personality, their own strengths, and their own weaknesses. Some get offended easily or are more "gruffy"; others can be very forgiving and nurturing.

Seeing them as Real is not a leap for me because when I was a child, I talked to inanimate objects (stuffed animals) because I felt they had deep within a substance of identity...a personality. I still have this habit as an adult. I "talk" to my stuffed animal killer whale who makes a great cuddler when I sleep. I "talk" to the printer when it begin malfunctioning: soothing it, listening to it, telling it I appreciate all the hard work it's done, and promise to get a repair guy in soon. And then it will work perfectly for me. I "talk" to my car all the time. Tell her how awesome she is and thank her for drudging me up to Beltane and back safely. I "talk" to my computer. The list goes on.

Of course I'm NOT saying my gods / animal guides are inanimate objects. LOL! Eee-gads no! But you get where I'm coming from. They are very integral in my practice.

HOWEVER, as I have recently learned, what has been an afterthought for quite a few years to me are the ELEMENTS. When one studies Wicca 101, they are instructed as to what each element represents. Every circle I cast, I call upon them, but I never truly KNEW them. It was like throwing a big party and inviting them, but only letting them reach the door because they weren't "cool" enough like the Gods to come on in. So one would shove plates of hours'dourves to them under the front door before being dismissed.

I never gave them proper credit. I unintentionally saw the Elements as tools, not proper spirits. So now when I call upon my Elemental Totems, I acknowledge their power and their place in my life.
Edited Date: 2009-05-06 04:51 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-05-07 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
I talk to my computer, and implements and stuff like that as well. Heh. I do indeed get where you're coming from.

Elements, elementals, are pretty amazing. I did element work... um, back when I practiced Wicca, so some time ago, and I still take time out to value elementals. I'd say I had a 'favourite,' but it really depends. Lately it's been water though. :)

Date: 2009-05-06 05:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleia-kali.livejournal.com
Interesting to read, thank you for sharing your thoughts *hugs*

Date: 2009-05-07 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading. :)

Date: 2009-05-06 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deathofone.livejournal.com
Spirits used to be more of a definite presence, but without necessarily being significant to my spirituality. I was more involved with spellwork and rituals. Then I started exploring spirits/animal energies more and suddenly a lot of things began clicking. Interacting with them, learning from their lessons, and exploring myself through them became the dominant element of my spirituality.

Definitely integral, and of course the lessons I go through with those spirits affects my life beyond my spirituality, because I'm growing as a person and in what I do with life, how I interact with others, etc.

Date: 2009-05-07 10:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Interacting with them, learning from their lessons, and exploring myself through them became the dominant element of my spirituality.

I feel very much the same way about my own practices.

Date: 2009-05-06 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dynxsilverwolf.livejournal.com
In terms of interdependence, I try to remember that no one exists in a vacuum. None of us are truly alone; we are all influenced by what we read, watch, hear, etc., whatever it is that we are surrounded by. What I see and hear and experience in the woods impacts me and how I approach the world, just as what I am experiencing in the city impacts me.

Spirits themselves...I don't know if what I feel when I go into the woods is a spirit. It definitely could be, but I just don't know. I know there's a presence in my home woods that is very different from the presence at the Marmot woods that is very different from the presence on the Oxbow floodplain. These are all places I have a relationship with, and they and their energy definitely impact me. The terminology is just a little fuzzy at the moment. It's the same with animals. I don't know what exactly I'd call them, but there's history particularly with me and a few specific animal energies/spirits/archetypes. I definitely take the lessons they've taught me into my life.

Date: 2009-05-07 10:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
What you describe as different 'presences' and feelings from place to place, is to me - different land wights and spirits adding different flavours and textures to the land they inhabit.

I find the same thing, from place to place, and sometimes - even - from street to street and hill to hill, the feel of a place can be very different.

Date: 2009-05-06 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cloversix.livejournal.com
Gods and spirits are... hard to define for me. They're integral to my practice but I'm still learning how to treat them right. Most of the time, when they help me, it's extremely useful and something that helps me in the real world, so to speak, and there have been plenty of times when either I have abandoned them or they have abandoned me, and it is made very clear that that is not how it's supposed to be.

Date: 2009-05-07 10:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
They're integral to my practice but I'm still learning how to treat them right.

Me too. I sometimes wonder if this a 'rest of your life' type deal. Just as, as we change, how we want to be treated can change...

Or something. That's just some wild speculation there. Lol.

Date: 2009-05-06 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darakat-ewr.livejournal.com
As a child I used to talk to the spirits of the trees, I liked to talk to particular trees, I liked Kurrjong, Stringy bark, Scribally gum, and the local wattles but there was something about the local Kasurina that just made them "not likable" I didn't want to be near them they always seemed like they were whispering things and teasing me (which I didn't like one bit). Now I still have no strong feelings to Kasurinas but they hold more a sense of mystery then a sense of dislikeness.

I have no idea if thats relevant but it felt like it as at the point I wrote it.

Date: 2009-05-07 10:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Now I still have no strong feelings to Kasurinas but they hold more a sense of mystery then a sense of dislikeness.

Yeah, they can have pretty austere and standoffish personalities, depending. Dwarf casuarina can be really really 'prickly' even though they're not actually prickly in real life.

What's scribbly gum like?

Date: 2009-05-07 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darakat-ewr.livejournal.com
The local tree called scribbly gum I think is (Eucalyptus haemastoma? correct me if I am wrong) which I think has been partly introduced here (it belongs closer to the Coast and Jevis Bay etc). Its really a bit hard to say as most of my memory of trees and their energy comes from my teenage and or childhood years, not when I knew what I was experiencing or have some level of understanding on how it could be interpreted. I mostly find them sort of like a onion, in that like Shrek they have layers but almost like layers of creative being, they are a very creative force but also quite welcoming to those who just like to be near them or touch them, so they enjoy inspiring, creativity and sharing but are very protective of this and don't like negativity about such things (at least thats what I remember).

Date: 2009-05-06 11:30 pm (UTC)
ext_112014: (wild hunt)
From: [identity profile] skitty-kitty.livejournal.com
I want to say thanks for these posts and for sharing your experiences. They make me think and focus on shamanism, something I can neglect in all of the day-to-day craziness that fills my life. And a lot of my guides at the moment, save one who gets pissed at me, are understanding enough not to jump my ass about it. But reading these remind me to not forget them, and they also direct my mind to paths I may not have even thought to start on.

Thank you! :D

I'm still fairly new to shamanism. I've only been learning and practicing it for 5-6 years, and while that seems like a lot, I've not been disciplined about it. It's only been in the past few years that I've felt like I've really started to connect to my guides.

I think why I'm drawn to shamanism, and have been so slow about really taking it up, is that it demands a sort of loss of control/trust in someone or thing other than myself. I couldn't get into a even a decent trance state because I'd worry too much about what could happen. I think dipping my toes into the water and not getting anything ripped off, plus feeling the protection my guides are kind enough to give me if something does get hairy, has helped me loosen up and not be so wary, both in RL and the otherworlds, and it's a lesson I will probably spend all of my life working on. That, and the discipline thing. ;)

So I don't think shamanism is a lone path. Even if you were to think of spirits are archetypes, a real shaman (imo) and not someone like me who's still learning, is someone who helps work with other people in spiritual ways, healing work, soul retrieval, etc., so even then you're still a part of the community. And if you believe they're probably something separate, then it's no different then having people in the RL help you learn and drag your ass out of the fire when things blow up in your face. And you try to do the same for them if you can. The relationships there are so intricate and varied in my limited experience, just like the RL.

I'm forever grateful for what they give me, and in a way they feel like a part of family. You get the good, the bad, and the really weird and learn from them all.

/really long-ass comment

Date: 2009-05-07 10:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading!

it demands a sort of loss of control/trust in someone or thing other than myself.

Yes, in some ways this is true. The irony is, or the gift perhaps, is that it leads to even more self-control, willpower, and awareness of personal strengths. It certainly has done so for me. I may serve the spirits and gods, but I am not their slave.

That said, a lot of people are scared of putting their trust in someone else. People who avoid relationships for commitment issues are one. People who avoid going to the doctor because they don't trust them. Who avoid getting to know their friends.

The potential for hurt is always there. In the otherworlds as well as here. It's a choice we make.

And yeah, they totally are like family. heh.

Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 01:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tsukikokoro.livejournal.com
I was first introduced to shamanism through bits of various native american folk tales. The shaman was never a solitary practitioner, but a pillar in the community. I've had difficulty taking the concept of a solitary shaman seriously; I'm fine with solitary witches and magicians, but shamans...? But I'm not familiar with neo-shamanism, and I'm not sure where I stand on shaman initiates/"in training"/etc.

Being at the extremes of independence, where you have little connection to friends/family/environment, has been a good red-flag indicator of illness in my experience. It could be a sign of intense paranoia, or narcissism, or other significant problem. I think a lot of people with mental illness who isolate end up having a "grateful stage" on the way towards functionality, where they can finally recognize the importance/significance/meaningfulness of connecting with the world around them. It strikes me as unhealthy to approach any religious practice with that "am on my own in all of this" mindset.

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 02:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
The shaman was never a solitary practitioner, but a pillar in the community. I've had difficulty taking the concept of a solitary shaman seriously

There are cultures where solitary shamans are acceptable. Shamans who become not so much the custodians of a human community, but a community of spirits instead.

There are also, of course, accounts of shamans who - in using their powers to curse and harm others - are ostracised from their community. As they generally still have the spirits around them, and 'serve' a community (in a fairly harmful way), I think they remain shamans even once they have been ostracised. Especially if the community keeps giving them power by calling them a 'bad shaman*,' instead of a 'bad person.' I believe this was true in some areas of Siberia, and Neil Whitehead writes about feared, and yet solitary/ostracised shamans (Kanaima) in Guyana.

So it does happen, in Indigenous culture at that.

And I agree, extreme independence is a flag for mental illness for me too, imho. Just as over-dependence is.

* Or whatever term is accurate in their dialect.

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tsukikokoro.livejournal.com
> Shamans who become not so much the custodians of a human community, but a community of spirits instead.
Ah yes, but that's still a community; it's not one person using the spirits for his/her own benefit.

> So it does happen, in Indigenous culture at that.
I tried to make sure to include that I was only vaguely familiar with some native american stories, because the term shaman is so unspecific (was the common ground around the world being able to enter an ecstatic state to travel to a different world?).

I think I've also heard of shamans that have been ostracised, but then usually their spirit/body/powers warp as a result if my awful memory serves.

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Ah yes, but that's still a community; it's not one person using the spirits for his/her own benefit.

I suppose in that sense, no one who works with spirits is outside of a community, even if they're completely antisocial.

Even working for gain with spirits who help you do that, is still being a part of a community. After all, a corporate boss who is ruthless in his company and gets them to essentially work to make him richer... is still part of the community within his working environment. It's probably not a healthy community, it probably isn't very sustainable or nurturing, but... I'd hazard that it's still a community.

I think I've also heard of shamans that have been ostracised, but then usually their spirit/body/powers warp as a result if my awful memory serves.

Do you remember what cultures this is from? I'd be interested in looking that up. Whitehead says this isn't true for Kanaima in Guyana, and I believe this isn't true for Indigenous folk in at least one culture in Australia, but I'd be really interested in learning what sort of power a shaman would have that it would warp, post-ostracism (i.e. if they get a lot of their help or assistance from 'community' spirits over say land spirits or wights).

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tsukikokoro.livejournal.com
> I'd hazard that it's still a community.
I guess I'd have to concede to that. Perhaps my fucktardedness in communication lately has completely compromised my ability to make a simple statement that I have no idea how to piece together anymore.

> Do you remember what cultures this is from?
Off the top of my head, I remember "skin walkers" as being evil, ostracised magic users. I was looking forward to watching the documentary made a few years ago; still am. Should probably get around to that at some point. ^^;;
http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=skin+walkers&gwp=13

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Thank you for the link! I'll look into it, I'm really interested about things like that - since it possibly indicates a difference in how and where the shaman got their 'powers' from in the first place.

As for communication, you'll get it back. If you're examining meaning closely, everything falls apart for a while. And then as you choose what means what, it all will come back together again. *hugs*

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 02:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tsukikokoro.livejournal.com
I've been struggling with meaning since I was eight. :( It's just so frustrating the past five months. If someone says something unexpected, I have to ask them to repeat themselves two or three times. I can't make sentences mean what I want them too; whenever I speak, I have to settle for the unnerving tip-of-the-tongue sensation and expect to be misinterpreted. I should have my own translator - it takes me three or more sentences to say what a few words should convey.

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
I've been struggling with meaning since I was eight. :(

That blows. *hugs*

Do you think this change has a lot to do with therapy? Or things that your therapist is asking you to consider thinking about?

As for misinterpretation, it happens a lot eh? I don't like it much either.

Re: Rambling

Date: 2009-05-07 03:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tsukikokoro.livejournal.com
I think the change is largely the result of going off of medication. It all fucked with my cognitive processing.

> As for misinterpretation, it happens a lot eh?
There are rare occasions online when it doesn't happen. ;)

Date: 2009-05-07 08:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cypherwulf.livejournal.com
I've never been the kind of person to kneel to a god, so I don't think they care much about me, which is fine, the feeling is mutual. I am drawn toward chaos gods like Eris since I'm attracted to that sort of energy, but my dealings with those gods have been minimal, and as friendly acquaintances.
Whenever I have asked directly for help (rather than a general cry to the cosmos), it's always ended badly, so I try to resolve my problems on my own. Gods are too much like us, fallible, particular, riddled with their own issues...and I'm not good enough at hearing what they have to say to make sure I'm not stepping on any toes.
That isn't to say I don't have someone or someones watching over me. I can't even count how many times I've been saved from the edge of a precipice. IMO, my luck is pretty much extraordinary, even if I do have my slip ups. I think it helps that I generally don't ask for much, I just try my best and things typically work themselves out. So long as I never ask, just run full tilt at the world, careening off obstacles and problems, never slowing down, I'll be ok.
I'd certainly express my gratitude toward the spirits that pulled me through if I only knew for sure I wasn't talking to dead air. If you ever somehow meet them while journeying, say thanks for me :).

Date: 2009-05-07 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
I'd certainly express my gratitude toward the spirits that pulled me through if I only knew for sure I wasn't talking to dead air.

This isn't something anyone can know for sure, I think. No one can factually prove the existence of a god (unless of course you're an animist and your god is a rock or a mountain, and even then you can't prove its divinity).

In that sense, no one is obligated to be thankful or offer gratitude.

Then again, I can never be factually sure beyond a doubt that the person I live with, loves me. I'll give him my love anyway, because I think the commitment enriches me, and I hope it enriches him.

Really, a lot of this stuff can't be proven. It's up to you whether you want to do it or not. :)

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