"Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. "
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I Do (the spirit work at least)

I want to begin by apologizing for my recent absence. I have again been quite sick, and since I do most of my writing via voice dictation, bronchitis makes getting this sort of work done nearly impossible.

Fire and I successfully completed the magical working I wrote about in my last post "The End of the Beginning" and already there are significant changes. Adulthood so to speak, brings with it new rights and new requirements. The Lady has declared that our Clan is now legitimate, rather than as she put it "a clan of children." With all this in mind, I feel that it is important to talk a little bit about who we are, what we do, and what we believe.

The first and most important thing that I want to just lay out on the table is this: despite some misconceptions to the contrary, I am not a Northern Tradition shaman, nor are we a Northern Tradition group. It is true that I have horsed or worked with several northern tradition gods, I have many northern tradition friends and colleagues, and my shamanic death was overseen by the Norse lady of Death. However, I have also horsed and worked with many non-northern tradition gods. Our patron and spiritual owner is not of the northern tradition. The system of divination I use is not to be found in northern tradition. Even the kind of shamanism I do is quite different from what I see some of my northern tradition colleagues doing.

So who are we then? I am a shaman-magician of the White Lady of productive destruction and destructive creation. Although to be fair, it is much more accurate to say a Lady of productive destruction rather than the Lady. And no, we don't know who she is. We just call her the Lady, though she has said that we should use The White Lady only when referring to her publicly, and I suspect that it is in some way inaccurate; 10 years on, and She still refuses to tell us her name.

As you might imagine, this has been problematic for quite a long time. Being a spirit worker without a pantheon, without even the name of your patron to tell clients and colleagues, can be very challenging. My magic and my shamanism is spirit taught and god taught. People whose spiritual practice is heavily based in lore and tradition often find this sort of thing very hard to stomach. UPG remains controversial in the spirit work world, and to be honest there are good reasons. But to people for whom UPG is anathema, a shaman or god slave who doesn't know their patrons name, and who's teachings and traditions did not come out of a book can have no place in the community.

Why then do we do things this way? Her Ladyship insists that she has a way she wants us to serve her, and that knowing who she is and how she's worshipped elsewhere would interfere with our ability to do so. But there is another more important reason that we are only now starting to understand. Not having a pantheon can be a real asset as well as a hindrance. I have only one allegiance and that is to Her, and by extension our Clan. I try to approach the work without bias, although I recognize that it's not truly possible. There is no conflict for instance in working with both Odin and Loki; nothing unusual about working with Frey one day, Artemis the next, and Kali or Quetzalcoatl the day after that. It is the very nature of my spiritual work to be eclectic and unfettered; this carries with it a host of unique difficulties. For many people, the very fact that we work with such a range of deities from such a range of pantheons, is in itself disrespectful and even inappropriate.

Despite not having a pantheon, it would be unfair to say that we don't have our own traditions and rules. Some of these rules and customs come from the Lady herself, while others have come about as we have developed as spiritual people or as a Clan. These traditions and ways of practicing inform who we are and who we serve as spirit workers. For instance, much of my own death and growth as a shaman followed the ordeal path, so the people who seek me out for shaman work are often those who need or respond well to that kind of work. The kind of deity that I serve informs my work as well. While I would never presume to attach a value judgment to the process of productive destruction, the fact that that is my lady's purview inevitably has an influence on that not only the work that I do, but also the deities that I work with, and the types of clients that seek me out.

Despite my growing appreciation for the lady's decision not to allow us a pantheon or what would conventionally be considered lore, there obviously remain times when I could wish that things were different. A strong grounding in lore can be the most freeing thing in the world. Having the security of hundreds, if not thousands of years of culture and tradition to point to, to legitimize one's practice is a wonderful thing. Working with UPG or eclectically can be rich and varied and fascinating, but it is also lonely. Because of the kind of work that we do, many of our colleagues and friends who have traditions and pantheons are often at odds with the mainstream of their own cultures. But they have those cultures, they may be black sheep, but they're still part of the flock.

As those of us in Tashrisketlin, our Clan, come into our spiritual adulthood the Lady is requiring that we stand up and say what it is that we believe and what it is that we do even though it is unusual and even unpopular. It might be easier for me in our community to say that I am a northern tradition shaman; I have enough background and experience to pass as one. But it is not who I am, and now more than ever, She requires me to be faithful to her, my Clan, and myself.



  1. oh believe me, having a tradition is often quite the pain in the ass. It doesn't make anything easier.

  2. I know it sounds like a grass is greener thing, but I'm know that it makes certain things easier.

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  4. I'm glad to see you back here. Congrats again on the Clan's passage into 'adulthood.' I know exactly what you mean about new rights as well as responsibilities. I'm going through that process right now.