“Life is demanding, without understanding.” Those immortal and some would argue, incomprehensible, words lead us into tonight’s topic, signs. Or more accurately, Signs.
Superstition is an inevitable professional hazard when one is a shaman, spirit worker, or magician. Knowing when something is coincidence or fate, a sign from the gods or just a freak occurrence, or even a sign of something but maybe not something spooky, is one of the hardest and most constant challenges in such a profession. There are obviously tools available to us to help make these sorts of distinctions. Divination, prayer, watching for omens, cross-checking our experiences with those of our colleagues and friends, even keeping an eye on the news, can all help us differentiate the likely possibilities.
The entire process of looking for Signs of Significant Things is complicated greatly when the Bosses tell you that you should be looking for Signs (for convenience and not sounding like a wanker that is the last time I am going to capitalize that word unless it is necessary for differentiation) but not necessarily what those signs will indicate or when you should expect them.
Of course, there is a second part to the question of recognizing something as a sign vs. just something that happened, and that is what, if anything, should I do about it? We’ll look at that question in a bit.
One issue that seems to have gripped many people both in and out of the pagan/spirit worker world is that of the weather. I live in New Hampshire which is not all that far from where I grew up in central Massachusetts. So even though I have recently moved, I still have a pretty good idea of what typical weather has been over my lifetime. This hasn’t been it.
This point was driven home especially hard as I was, well driving to Cauldron Farm for the Asphodel Yule ritual. My new car has a little outside temperature readout at the bottom of the speedometer that has proven to be surprisingly accurate to within a few degrees of other thermometers. Granted we left for the farm in the middle of the day but the temperature on our drive held steady at just about 52F. Hard to get into the Yuletide spirit when one can walk around comfortably in short sleeves. At least I can when it is that warm outside. This was not terribly out of synch with the year so far. We have yet to have a snow storm with more than an inch of accumulation on the ground which is ridiculous for New England.
While this has been going on here in New England, the Pacific Northwest has gotten slammed with several unusually severe storms, one of which dropped two feet of snow on Seattle, Washington, which is unheard of.
Has this been an anomalous year brought about by an unusual El Nino pattern, or is this a sign of something more significant? Perhaps related to global warming?More importantly for those of us in Clan Tashlin, what does this mean from a magical perspective? In the records of Clan Tashlin we have notations of severe storms or unusual weather making it much easier for different things to pass between the worlds (this year kids it’s like Samhain, only everyday!). Actually, this year hasn’t been that bad, but we’ve certainly seen periods when it has been in especially in areas where the barrier between the worlds is already weak. Unusual weather patterns can screw with a lot of natural cycles; there was just a report that in Scandinavia they are noticing that several species of migratory birds aren’t migrating. At the Farm I noticed that there was fresh green growth on the ground.
As land magicians we see many ramifications of this sort of thing. Certain kinds of energy flows and patterns are greatly impacted by weather abnormalities, not to mention disrupted growth patterns like non-migrating birds or fresh undergrowth in the wintertime.
Let’s get back to the discussion of signs though. Our Bosses have told us repeatedly that there are a lot of changes coming down the pike. Many of which will greatly impact people, sometimes in ways we might not like so very much. Should we look at the disrupted weather patterns, whether caused by global warming or not, as a harbinger of that phenomena? Or should we write it all of as sometimes the weather does wonky stuff?
I believe strongly in global warming and doing whatever we can to minimize it. I also believe that changes have been set in motion, including certain aspects of global warming, that will be beyond our ability to change. Part of Clan Tashlin’s job is to work on adapting to the changes coming over the world. This is why I operate a design company that does sustainable design and personal defense technology as aspects of its business focus. It is also why the Lady and Var trained us so extensively in understanding the energy and magics of the land.
Part of my job in Clan Tashlin is to monitor world events, political, social, economic, and geologic/meteorological. I also try to maintain connections with people who have demonstrated accuracy in precognition and divination. I have to work hard to try to avoid falling into the trap of believing that everything is a sign of something else. At the same time, too much skepticism can blind us.
Of course superstition or a tendency to regard “coincidence” as significant generally applies even more strongly in the everyday lives of spirit workers. In fact, I have heard it argued that the more one does this kind of work the less one believes in coincidences at all. In fairness, I have most often heard that argued by me. Lore is filled with omens and portents and they often play a major role in our lives as spirit workers.
Some spirit workers cope with this question by assuming that everything that happens has some deeper meaning. Others reject the notion of omens and signs entirely and ignore spooky indicator that are staring them right in the face. I like to think that most of us choose some middle road. As I mentioned earlier, divination and a connection to the gods and the universe are tools that help us differentiate the signs from just stuff that happens. Some spirit workers talk about a “feeling” that they get when something is a sign vs. just a duck crossing the sidewalk in front of a porn shop. Everyone has their system, but no matter what it is, superstition is an undeniable part of this life.
While most spirit workers have their own system for determining if something is a sign or not, one thing that is often not as simple is the question of “what do I do with this info?” Some schools of thought hold that it is best to ignore omens or signs because the universe has its way of doing thing and you shouldn’t get involved. Others hold the opposite view; if you have noticed or gotten the sign then it is your job to do something with the information. The same question applies in matters of precognition.
Back to what prompted me to think about signs and spirit work, the abnormal weather. Very few people in the spirit work world think that the weather changes mean nothing. When hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans last year there was a feeling that something serious was coming. As I mentioned earlier, many of our gods have been telling their servants that shit is coming down. Is the weather a part of that? And if it is, then what?
As a land magician, I consider weather magic in all but the most select circumstances to be dangerous, irresponsible, and an expression of hubris. Asking the gods for a favor with the weather I don’t see as such a big deal, but a magician influencing the weather themselves tends to be a bad idea. So what I am asking has nothing to do with the weather itself. But should we be taking the strange patterns as a sign of things to come? And if it is, should we be putting in place contingency plans that our Bosses may have given us? How long is too long to wait?
“How long is too long to wait?” Like the question of the signs themselves, it is a question that applies to far more than the current unusual weather. In monitoring world events for Clan Tashlin I am seeing far more worrying things about in the world than some strange weather patterns. Signs? Or maybe the world is just working that way. When is something a sign? When is something just a happening, a duck walking in front of a porn shop, so to speak? Like the discussion of signs and what to do with them, it may be the most difficult, and perhaps the most important question that almost no one is asking.
I promise the next post won’t be as intense as the last few.