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Posts Tagged ‘german’

Question 11: Life Skills and Being a Shaman Part 1

July 10, 2014 4 comments

From Andrew:

I know in my own practice that increasingly my work has turned to mastering skills of various sorts: I’ve been building pop-up books and working on my sewing machine, practicing calligraphy and geometry, and doing a fair bit of graphic design; the carpentry/cabinetmaking is rarer, but it’s there. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes the work is phenomenally dull, other times it’s deeply interesting — but then the artwork and the mental acuity that comes from artisanship kicks in when I’m working for someone else. I find I solve problems better, sort out potential solutions more quickly, and settle on one faster. So, the topic I’d suggest is… write a series of posts about how your shamanic practice informs other specific parts or your life, or how skills like cooking or driving inform your experience as a shaman?

First off, thank you Andrew.  This is a great question.

There are skills I have connected back to and brought into my religious life, like cooking, woodworking, leatherworking, pyrography, and drawing.  There are others which were part of it to begin with, such as raising my son, teaching, listening, and divining.  Where I saw raising my son as part of my duties not only as a parent, but especially as a Northern Tradition Pagan, shaman, and priest, I had to work a little bit to bring cooking into my religious life.

I am not a great cook.  When I first went off to college and lived in a dorm I managed to burn ramen quite well.  I have learned a bit since then.  I at least don’t set food on fire much anymore, and can make something halfway decent when I have good instructions and stay on target.  I was looking around at one point last year for recipes to connect with my Ancestors.  I had not made a full-on meal on Their behalf, and wanted to have a go at a recipe from on the places my blood relatives came from.

So I looked around online for traditional German recipes.  That was when I found a potato leek soup with mushroom recipe.  I wanted to pair it with something else, but by the time I got around to cooking it, it seemed it would be enough on its own.

Here is what it looked like step-by-step:

Step 1 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 2 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 3 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 4 Potato Leek Soup

When it was finished I took some of the soup out to the tree outside to share with the Ancestors.  Doing this not only put a good recipe into my hands and a good offering before the Ancestors.  Cooking pushed me to connect to my Ancestors in a very straightforward and simple way.  This process of cooking for my Ancestors also taught me something else: don’t forget one group of Ancestors or favor Them so strongly above one another.  I had done so much research looking for a recipe for my German Ancestors that I neglected my French Ancestors. They got my attention and let me know in no uncertain terms They were not pleased with this.  Mercifully, They were pleased and much happier when I made Them an omelette using the same kind of mushrooms as I had for the leek soup above.  I thought perhaps I needed to make a more complex dish, like on the order of the leek soup, but sometimes the Ancestors just want a simple staple that They would have had in life.

This life skill is a powerful way of connecting to our Ancestors, and the Dead in general.  Family cookbooks and recipes are, to me, precious heirlooms we pass on to our loved ones whether we have children or not.  It is one more link in the chain between one’s family members and its descendants, and can be as strong as family stories, genealogy, and history.  Above and beyond being a necessary life skill, one which I am grateful my Ancestors have pushed me to cultivate, cooking is a powerful way of keeping the connections with Them alive for all of those who come to our table.

To be continued in part 2.

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Limits of Language: Hooks and Fish

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

I am a hard polytheist and animist.  The Gods are real, individual beings.  The world is populated by spirits.  My Ancestors are as close as my blood relatives, reaching into the World itself, into Yggdrasil, the Elements and raw power of the Void, into the Gap Itself, if I look back far enough.  Many Gods are imminent, and some transcendent.  Some are local Gods, some with names and some with names we do not know, and more with names we may never speak.  The Gods can be our friends, our family, our lovers, distant acquaintances, terse partners, employers, and/or master/mistress, among roles and ways of being I am sure I have missed.  So can a great many spirits.  As for the spirits, They are part and parcel of everything around us.  We might call some spirits Gods , and some Gods might be called spirits, depending on how we view Them, and Their place in the world, universe, etc.  We may not even have terribly solid boundaries where one God ends and another begins, or on the other hand, may have very defined ones between Goddesses.

We all exist within the fabric of Wyrd, within Ma’at from the most infinitesimal piece of sand to the Gods, to the Universe Itself (which, in some religions is a God/dess/Being).

Is this monist?

Perhaps, at its core, I suppose it is.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines Monist as:

a : a view that there is only one kind of ultimate substance and b : the view that reality is one unitary organic whole with no independent parts.

I much prefer the b definition.  This idea is not that we are somehow one mass, blob, etc., but that we are threads of a great tapestry, and each of us is but a thread.  That while being individual, we are not independent.  That we are organically whole, together.

Really, though, what am I capturing by saying things this way?

Language is tricky.  When it comes to describing the Gods, spirits, and Ancestors, They are much like a fish wriggling in your hands: even as you take out the hook from a well-fought catch, it struggles to go back in the water where you must find it yet again¹.  In many ways language is insufficient, even in the hands of a poet, a writer, a lyricist, or a bard, to describe in full or even in part what it is to experience the Gods.  Language is the hook that gives us one fish, and it may fill us awhile with good food, but while that hook is bare it is an unused tool, and there are far more times where the fish fights us off or fools us that it has been hooked, when it merely eats the bait and swims off.  Language alone, whether written on a page, sung in front of a crowd, or whispered before an altar will not sustain.  It is the fish, not the hook, that provides the nourishment.  After all, sometimes we lose the hook, and sometimes the whole line, and sometimes the whole damned pole!

I still feel as I did in August with A Useful Teacup.  Boundaries are useful and necessary.  A hook is not a fish, after all, and no matter how many hooks one eats they will not provide nourishment.  Yet I find that monism is not wholly opposed to polytheism, but rather, it is part and parcel of it.

Monism within polytheism is nothing new, nor is animism.  Recognizing we are all part of an interdependent whole does not deny our Gods, our spirits, or our Ancestors, but puts us into our proper place within the Worlds.  The Worlds hang on Yggdrasil, and Yggdrasil came from the Gap.  All at first came from Atum who came from Nun.  We all come from a source, and it is often represented by, referred to, and is the Void, Darkness, Nothing, etc.  If anything, monism within polytheism is a challenge for us to live more in tune with the Worlds around us.  If we are all interdependent, are we doing our part in Wyrd, in Ma’at?

Bringing this idea into the current discussion on Paganism, I do not want to find another boat when so many will do.  I may not board the good ship Reconstructionist but I count myself as a hard polytheist and animist, a Northern Tradition Pagan, a Heathen, and a worshiper of many Gods beyond the Norse and German.  So, I am also very eclectic.  Yet, I look at it this way: salmon has sure been good to me in filling my belly, and so has tilapia and tuna.  I fish in many waters, but with the proper pole and bait for each.  The fish still come.  Sometimes I come back with nothing, and sometimes I come back with a fish story, and an accompanying fish.

Boundaries are still useful and necessary; it is hard going trying to salmon fish with a leaky boat.  Likewise, it is impossible to fish without risking getting wet.

 

 

¹Small wonder that Loki is associated with a salmon: a hardy fish that is hard to catch and a powerful swimmer who often outsmarts or outright beats the fisherman.  As with language, the understanding of Loki is evolving inside and outside of academic circles.  He is one God among many who are being discovered, thought about, and reexamined, and yet, consistently escapes consensus.

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