Last weekend I did my first divinatory reading for compensation. The client was referred by a friend and seemed awfully satisfied by the responses. Not happy, mind you, but satisfied. I have found that the news I bring people in readings is often not what they would like to hear. Asking to have a reading done can be code for “So there is this thing I know I need to do (or not do) and I really don’t want to so please tell me I’m wrong.”
Divination is one of the things that the Boss Lady is pretty insistent that I be doing for other people. I was honored recently in fact to be contacted by another spirit worker who needed a reading done in a hurry with regards to a pretty urgent situation they are dealing with. It was the first time I had done serious divination without the subject a reading present (or even anywhere vaguely near) and they were apparently satisfied with the quality of the information I delivered.
Readings are something I am *supposed* to be doing. They are a part of who I am now that I am doing this whole shaman shtick. In keeping with that theme, the way I was compensated for my first officially compensated reading was in six boxes (300rounds) of 9mm FMJ ammunition. Money for food would probably have been more useful but not as appropriate, especially since compensation for shaman work should although doesn’t have to, contribute to the betterment of either Clan Tashlin or the Tashlin family (and yes there is a clear difference).
This leads us into today’s subject, identity. I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been having some troubles since the conclusion of my last ordeal ritual with regards to knowing what exactly I should be doing. Lately I have been having something of an identity issue also. This is unusually acute at the moment since I haven’t shaved my head or cut my beard in just under two weeks. I had waist length hair before the whole ordeal cycle started and since undergoing it I have had to keep my head shaved. Right now I am not doing so because I am filling the role of Hades in the Asphodel Samhain ritual and Hades has facial hair. I am strongly discouraged from cutting only my beard or head without doing both.
My hair cut (or lack thereof) is only a part of my issues though. The blog is called Notes from a Barking Shaman, and I have failed to address the whole “barking” thing in anything more than a roundabout way. This is because for the past several years my Tourette has actually been a pretty big issue for me. For reference, it should be strongly noted that the symptoms of my TS were very severe when I was younger and in truth are still pretty significant. For a significant portion of my time living with TS I coped well with the symptoms. It helped that I had a supportive family (the people I lived with at least) and a supportive religious community. At that time I was still active in the Jewish community, although my personal faith was already strongly moving towards paganism.
In recent years though, I have found myself coping more and more poorly with my TS when it comes to social situations. Thanks in no small part to my extensive work with meditation, self-hypnosis, and later magic, I have an unusual degree of ability to temporarily suppress my most visible symptoms, and namely my vocal (usually barking) tics. This is not always a good thing however. Tic suppression causes fatigue, extreme mental and emotional stress, much worsened tics later, and in my case, pretty severe physical damage. The physical damage is a consequence of the relatively harmless vocal tics being suppressed in such a way that much more painful and damaging physical tics occur far more frequently. When I broke the spinal process of my C-7 vertebra it was a direct consequence of overuse of tic suppression. While the risks of suppression are unusual in my case, they are certainly not unheard of. I have personally know one individual and heard of others who have seizure disorders as well as Tourette and for whom suppression can directly and adversely effect said seizure conditions.
Why then would I be willing to take such risks? I have a hard time answering the question myself. I use to tell myself that it had to do with standing out in public. Barking or yelling out obscenities (actually pretty rare in someone with TS but a kind of tic I have copped with on and off for a long time) is certainly socially stigmatizing. However, I am a shaman. We generally stand out in public. Being visible and visibly different plays an important role in the kind of work we do. For one thing, it helps people who need our services find us. For another, the kind of shamanic path that I am on can make me unhealthy to be around for many folk, especially those who are trying to avoid some heavy karmic stuff. There is after all a reason that the shaman is typically found living on the very edge of the village.
To give you an idea of what I mean about visibility: I have a runic tattoo on my wrist that is a bind rune meaning “shaman”, which I am forbidden to lie about if asked. I always have two small token knives hanging from my belt loops to represent that I work with the tools of life and of death. Again, this draws questions, and again I may not lie. The same goes for if people ask why I shaved my head, or why I keep it so. Not to mention the whole publicly offering readings or running workshops at public gatherings like NH pagan pride.
The truth is that I am not entirely sure why I have such a hard time letting go of suppressing even though it causes me spiritual, emotional, relationship, and physical harm. Not to mention that the Lady and Var both made their feelings on the matter known many years ago, including counteracting an effective spell which had greatly lessened the Tourette’s impact on me. I am learning that I am extremely good at coming up with internally consistent reasons why I should suppress right now while telling myself that this is some special case but that I’ll not continue to suppress in other situations. You do not live to get to where I am in my spiritual life without having to develop the self honesty to recognize your own bullshit. And I do.
I know what I should be doing. I even have a pretty fair role model, myself several years ago. I am unsure why I continue to have such internal issues. Oh, I have a list of plausible and truthful reasons. I am just not sure that any of them are any more or less relevant than not wanting to stand out in a crowd.
What I do know is that there is some seriously heavy shit coming down the way in the next months and years. It would be ridiculous for me to come through an incredibly suck-y, painful and fulfilling ordeal cycle to be rendered useless by a mental issue I had licked when I was fourteen years old. I’ve got too damn much else to do and too many other people who rely on me to wallow in that crap.