On Not Keeping Up With the “Ravens”

I do not own a drum.

Ok, that’s not really a fair statement. I actually own two very nice drums, they just don’t do me any good. Part of my plethora of neurological issues is an automaticity and fine-motor control delay that makes it impossible for me to maintain a drum beat. I start off fine, but the processing delay means that each strike of the drumhead takes place little bit later than it should, sending me out of rythm within a short time.

For most people, not being able to use a drum would be a tiny footnote in life. However, for someone who publicly identifies as a shaman (or more properly, a shaman-magician) and spirit worker, not using a drum is a bit like being an accountant who’s bad at math.

Of course, the drum issue is just one of a raft of ways in which my Work differs from the common archetype of what it looks like to be a shaman, spirit worker, or magician.

Tashrisketlin’s Lady and Her greater servant Var are strikingly worldly. This is hardly unique to Them by the way, there are quite a number of spirits and deities whose connection to our modern world is deep and powerful, sometimes more powerful than Their connections to the world of our ancestors. Because above all else I am Her servant, shaman-magician and spirit worker, my own Work is influenced by Her worldliness, as are all Her servants in Tashrisketlin to one degree or another.

My typical way of addressing/interacting with my Patron would be more at home on a drilling rig than in a house of worship. Lacking the ability to create music myself, I have an intimate working relationship with my digital music player. And I get legitimate spiritual fulfillment from working on antique machinery.

Because my magic, spirit work, and shamanism doesn’t look like that of many of my friends and colleagues, it is easy for me to get a bit “lost” in terms of what I’m supposed to be doing with my Work. This was an issue I addressed just a couple of weeks ago in my post “Adrift and Looking for a Clue.”

We talk a lot in the spirit work world about getting outside confirmation of our Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG), and one way to accomplish that is to look at what other people are doing in their own practices. This is not a strategy that often brings success for me, in part because the circle of spirit workers I interact with has been a narrow one, and shrinking rather than growing.

Tashrisketlin has traditions, beliefs, and practices of our own. Unfortunately, rather than being proud of who we are as a Clan, and who I am as a magical and spiritual person, I’ve allowed myself to be, if not ashamed, certainly reticent to embrace our/my unique perspective and Work precisely because it didn’t “look” right. In this more than anything else, I feel that I’ve failed my Lady, my Clan, and myself.

It is desperately dangerous to look too deeply within oneself for direction. Down that road lies the hubris and madness that is a constant danger to people who do this kind of work. However, I’ve certainly gone too far down the opposite road, castigating myself into uselessness for not following a model that was never meant to be mine (or Tashriksetlin’s for that matter) to begin with.

Much of that desire springs from a need to be more “acceptable” in the eyes of other people, be them pagan or otherwise. As I mentioned in “Adrift…” my public spiritual and magical identity is a ceiling to how far I can take my professional work in the LGBT world, not to mention in my paying work (although in my current employment it’s actually an asset).

And I know that there are potential clients and students who are looking for a specific experience and aesthetic from a teacher, diviner, or shaman, that I can’t offer. Being someone with a tendency towards pessimism and depression, I’ve overly focused on those people, rather than the ones who’ve sought me out specifically because my perspective and skills are unlike those of anyone else I know who does this Work.

So over the next few months, I’ll be looking with new focus on just what I can and should be doing. And to start with I’ll be working hard to hear my gods without letting preconceptions clutter the signal.

Hey, if this shit was easy, anyone could do it.

3 thoughts on “On Not Keeping Up With the “Ravens”

  1. It’s better to be who you are than who you think you ought to be. I’ve had to go through that experience, too, and am finally comfortable with the fact that I’m not going to be like anybody else I know, in terms of what my strengths are and what my gods want of me. And, for me, there’s also the acceptance that this might seem less “cool” or impressive to some people than banging a drum and galdoring at the top of my voice in front of an audience. *shrug*

    I think it’s also important that those of us who aren’t “Ravens” speak as openly and plainly as we can about our individual paths, so that there is more diversity of experience being talked about, rather than, say, the ideas that “godtouched” = “is going to become a spiritworker” or “not having a ‘godphone'” = “not as worthy as those who do.” I’m seeing a lot of unrealistic expectations solidifying about what subjective, individual experience of the sacred is “supposed” to mean, and a lot of it’s not healthy, IMO.

  2. Reblogged this on Sex, Gods, and Rock Stars and commented:
    This is my second attempt to reblog this entry, so I apologize if you’re getting this twice.

    This is a great essay from Wintersong Tashlin on his struggle; his shamanic and magical practice does not always look like some of the stereotypical aesthetics that people expect when they think of ‘shamans’ or ‘magicians’. Obviously, this fits many of the posts I’ve made in the past few months – emphasizing the point that your personal spiritual practice should work for YOU, whether or not it looks like anyone else’s practice.

    This brings up two points that I’ve been musing on; I can’t promise I won’t elaborate on them down the road in their own posts. The first is about relating to Gods in a way that does not match how others may talk/write about their experiences. I was blessed this weekend to be a part of a ritual for a friend; he revealed that he has been working with Odin in a spiritual context. He had kept it close to the chest because his experiences of and with Ol’ One Eye did not always mirror most of the published experiences between the Old Bastard and his devotees. He also wanted to explore Odin without the preconceptions that both the Lore, as well as the blogs and books written by other devotees, would have given him. I applaud him on this, because honestly I think it creates a stronger and more personal foundation for one’s devotional relationship/practice, which will be easier and more enjoyable to continue long-term. It may seem counterintutive, but there can be a very powerful and important reason to throw away all the academic writings, the blogs and the books, and even the Lore itself; and just listen to your heart, to the wind, the pulse of the earth, and look for the messages/omens/signs that come from those you are praying to. Develop your *own* relationship with the Holy Ones, because nothing can replace devotional activities that come from the heart.

    The second thing that relates to Winter’s thoughts is my musings on male/male (M/M) God spouse/consort relationships. I get emails and comments asking if Loki ever takes male-identified mortal lovers/spouses. Part of the problem is that the majority of the blogs are not only written by female-identified mortals in sacred relationship with male-identified Deities (www.rockofeye.wordpress.com being one of the exceptions), but the things they write and conversations they have have this assumptive heterosexuality to it. It goes even deeper, when Wiccan and other Pagan initiates are frequently asked/required to choose two Patrons deities – one male, one female. The reasons could be legion, but I find it interesting that although most covens are open to LGBT persons, they are so stuck on this idea that male/female represents divergent energies, or fertility (of which, can’t a genderqueer female and a pre-op MtF person make a baby? We’ve already had transgender male “mothers” in the media…when can we get past this idea of assumptive heterosexuality as the only representation of Patronage? It’s okay to choose two Patrons from different pantheons, but not two Patrons from the same gender. I think for someone who was raised by two moms/dads might find same sexed Patrons to mirror the parental aspects of Patronage.

    In summation, Wintersong’s essay is another welcome voice in the growing choir of reclaiming the P in UPG – PERSONAL. At the end of the day, if you’re dissatisfied with your spiritual journey, it’s a good time to strip everything away and get back to what sings to your heart, what inspires you to kinds of worship that fulfills you and makes you feel more enervated and alive, and stop worrying about how some stranger(s) on the Internet or in the Kindred/coven, or even just people who worship the same Deities, or use the same descriptive terms for their spiritual Work. Just follow your bliss, as Joseph Cambell said, and if you are living strong in your personal spiritual expression, the rest will flow like water.

    So stop reading my blather and go read Winter’s post. It’s awesome, and moving, and important.

  3. Reblogged this on The Infinite Battle and commented:
    I know this is a bit old, now, but this touched on a particular problem of mine: the difference of my practice regarding others and how lost I am. I’ve been reading Raven Kaldera’s Pathwalker’s Guide to the Nine Worlds and yet he does not discuss the things I am looking for–Huginn & Muninn, specific barrow lands and never-ending battlefields. It’s honestly not a fault of Raven Kaldera. I don’t even know how common the lands I’m talking about are. The problem is not with the book, but more that apparently the information I am looking for purely cannot be found–either in a guide book or perhaps in general. There is much, right now, that I do not know how to do, or where to look for more information, or where to start in general. H&M appear to me constantly, often as Odin’s calling cards. Likewise, I have found a sad lack of modern topics on fylgja or the Norns. I also have problems finding what I want/need to know regarding Mani (I’ve found some, but not what I’m looking for), or generally Loki’s children. I have my odd orders from Fenrir and Hel, and both are difficult to understand on where/how to start. (Especially Hel’s orders, but I think I’m getting there.) Even the way I work with the runes seems so unusual to me. The fact that I am learning them by combining them into the bread that I bake, or the way I formed my set. On the whole? I have no idea what I’m doing… Because it’s not just “worship your fulltrui and ta da!” It’s pretty annoyingly complicated, and perhaps even worse: I am without a leader. I have a mentor, yes, but ze cannot help me in my specific matters. I think, now, I’ve started to figure out that I need to do things by myself, figure them out by myself, because what I’ve seen and read so far hasn’t had me pegged. Everything I’ve read and am reading is immensely useful, but there are some things I need to learn by myself.

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