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/control-delay means that each strike of the drumhead takes place little bit later than it should, sending me out of rhythm 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 seen by many an impediment not unlike like 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.

My Lady and Her greater servant are strikingly worldly entities. This is hardly unique to Them, 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, my own Work is influenced by Her worldliness, as are all Her servants in in our small clan, Tashrisketlin, to one degree or another.

One way that the Lady’s worldly nature has carried over to me is that lacking the ability to create music myself, I have an intimate working relationship with my digital music player. I also get legitimate spiritual fulfillment from working on antique machinery, and my typical way of addressing/interacting with my Patron would be more at home on a drilling rig than in a house of worship.

However, 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.

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 in part because my Work simply takes different forms from that of many of my friends and colleagues.

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.

It can be desperately dangerous to look too deeply within oneself for direction. For many, that road has lead to the hubris and madness that is a constant danger to people who do this kind of work. However, I’ve found that it is possible to go 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. My public spiritual and magical identity is a ceiling to how far I can take my mundane professional work in the world of LGBTQ activism, not to mention in terms of most paying careers, although in my current job 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 can get overly focused on those people, rather than the ones who’ve sought me out specifically because my perspective and skills are unlike those of many of the other people who do this Work.

I’ve been working the last few months to look at my Work with a clearer focus on just what I can and should be doing, rather than what those around me are. Starting with the challenging task of hearing my gods without letting preconceptions clutter the signal.

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

  1. That is a tough lesson to learn, both for Spirit Workers, and for those that seek them out. While it is true that you may not be able to give some clients and student the exact experience/presentation they are looking for, the failing (if there is one at all) is not yours. Many times we seek a specific.. we define a parameter on our terms, and are disappointed when it doesn’t happen “just so”. But I would counter, isn’t that *our* hubris? How much can/should we, humans and spirit workers, define what and how our interactions with the Divine are going to be? Still, I know how difficult it can be to try to accept that your brand of shamanism/spirit work doesn’t “look right”, but still *is right*.
    Ultimately, the only one who can say “you’re doin’ it wrong” with any authority is your lady and/or her greater servant.
    There is a lot of truth behind the old saying that “when one is ready, a teacher will appear”. That is meant to address the fact that we who seek are not the final and ultimate authority on what we need to learn/experience/understand. Those who are put in your path to be helped are generally put there because you can help them… even if they don’t recognize the help at the time.
    Seeing without pre-perceptions is a challenging task. I have faith in your ability to do so.

  2. Sometimes we can learn a great deal from watching others and comparing what we do to what they do… other times that is our greatest detriment. You seem to have a good grasp on knowing the difference between the two, and I look forward to reading more of your insights.

    — The Dancer in the Shadows

  3. What works for one person often doesn’t or can’t work for another, as in your drum example. This may make the path temporarily confusing or more difficult, but often it means we just have to take an alternate route to where we need to go.

      • I think so; sometimes when things come easily we don’t value them as much. Also, perhaps people with a more difficult path are there to encourage others by sharing their experiences.

  4. I have been a shaman spirit worker for many a year, without a drum. It is not a handicap. It is only now recently that I have been pushed to make a drum. (and a coyote mask and it wants opal eyes for crying out loud).

    There are other ways of doing things without a drum.

    Wow, this came out grumpier then I intended. I am drinking coffee. I am not grumpy and trying to word this in it’s ok, you aren’t something tone of voice.

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