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Posts Tagged ‘service’

Question 8: Balancing

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

This is the last of the Questions I have in my queue; if you or anyone you know has a question just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer it.  Thank you Dreaming in Smoke and Fire, James Two Snakes, and Lokisbruid for contributing questions!

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

How do you balance being priests of Gods of two widely different pantheons?

It is interesting at times how this works out.  While I was Anubis’ priest first, Odin takes precedence.  Anubis led me to Odin when I had my eyes and ears tight shut regarding the Norse/Germanic Gods.  I was very happy being a priest of Anubis, a ceremonial magician, and helper to the Lost Dead.  Worshiping the Norse really hadn’t come into my head until Anubis drug me over to Odin, said “You’re following Him and we will be in touch” and away He went.  That was about four years ago.

This does not mean that Anubis has totally left my life, that His priesthood is unimportant, or that I have stopped worshiping Him.  Quite the contrary.  I do still work with the Dead, but much closer with Them than what I did while working under Anubis.  When I was working with Him I kept the Dead as best I could at arms length.  I cannot do that anymore.  I am very connected to my Ancestors now, much more so than when I was Anubis’ priest full time, and my Work now includes not just the general Dead and the Lost Dead; it also includes the Military Dead.

Most of the way I balance working with these Gods is that I am careful in my ethics.  Given I am Northern Tradition I tend towards those ethics and values, most of which in some way, shape, or form mesh with the Kemetic ones.  I do my best to follow the Negative Confession, reading it every night and reflecting upon it whenever I am able.  It has proven a good guide for me.  An area I struggle with is “cursing another in thought, word, or deed” as I see this to mean magically cursing a person as well as saying things like “I hope that person fucking crashes” when I get cut off in traffic because words take on power.  To speak and write is to engage heka.  So I make effort to avoid speaking ill, literally or figuratively, of people, places, and things.  To speak is to engage my önd.  Much of the ethics I approached Anubis with translated well into my Work with Odin.

Anubis has given me many blessings in the time I have been His priest, going on six years.  I still pray and give offerings to Him, and He has a place of honor among the Gods on my Gods’ altar.  I still carry a brass wand my former teachers helped me put together in service to Him, and it comes with me when I work with the Lost Dead, or to help direct the Dead where they need to go.  Anubis has been the Opener of Ways not just in my Work with the Dead, but in my life in general.  When things were hard He opened doors for me, though sometimes I refused to walk through them.  Four years ago He opened the door to Odin, and in that alone He has given me no small measure of blessing.  He has never left me, despite my intense Work with Odin and He remains a patient, powerful force in my life.

As far as balancing relationships between these two Gods go, as I wrote in my Question 5 post, being owned by Odin as I am, He is first and foremost above all others.  My Work is with Odin, primarily, and as Anubis desires things, whether it is my attention, Work to be done, or certain offerings, He makes it known to me.  He and Odin have an understanding in this regard.  The balance in my life is inherently skewed toward Odin, but much of my Work with the Dead dovetails nicely with where my Work with Anubis has been, and is evolving.  Anubis introduced me to Working with the Dead, setting boundaries, and giving me hard lessons in that sometimes there is nothing I can do for another as a priest, for the Dead or the Living.  Odin took me into working with my Ancestors and the Military Dead.

In Their own ways Anubis and Odin keep me in Their balance.  Being in that balance requires me to listen, above all else, to Them and those They point me to, and where I am called to act or speak, to do so.  The Work I do with the Dead is Their Work.  Sometimes it is to clean graves for the Dead, sometimes it is to speak prayers, and other times it is to sit while a long-Dead spirit talks about hir trouble in moving on.  Other times it may be to speak to someone’s descendant or to deliver a message.  Sometimes it requires I stop everything I am doing to help bury a forgotten pet.  Whatever the Gods need of me, it is my job to be available for that work as a priest.  The balance I find between these Gods is in the service I give to Them.

Hail Odin and Anubis!

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Credentials

July 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Since the trial for James Arthur Ray has ended in his conviction for negligent homicide, something that has really popped up in my mind a lot is the idea of credentials.  They can keep people safe, establish who has proper training in a discipline, art, science, etc., and who does not, and can communicate professionalism in an instant.  When I think of credentials I think of licensing, such as what happens with counseling, or with medical disciplines.  Having an M.D. or some other recognized credentials communicates a certain trust between the community and you, that you have had the training and experience necessary to qualify in the field you’re practicing.  How do we establish such a thing in Paganism or modern shamanism?

Some places, such as Cherry Hill Seminary for Pagan ministry, and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies for neo-shamans, are trying to fill this requirement by giving classes, workshops, and a variety of training in disciplines and techniques for their path.  I have many criticisms of core shamanism, as well as misgivings regarding the practice of shamanism without a core cosmogony or cosmology.  That said, I find it laudable that someone is helping to set a standard of expectations, that neo-shamans to be answerable to some standard of expertise and training.  Still, there is something that bothers me about the setting of standards regarding shamanism.  I think it is something I was reminded of in this post by Kenaz Filan, that I worry regarding “the desire to reduce everything to one happy nebulous one-size-fits-all Truth.”  I’m not about to say that people should not have standards regarding their spiritual workers; quite the opposite, in fact.  The worry I have, is that we reduce the role of a Pagan priest or a modern shaman to a “one-size-fits-all-Truth”.  Community standards, and standards of practice are one thing.  Expecting the same thing out of every priest or shaman is quite another.  That, perhaps, is my main point of contention with core shamanism itself: that it reduces a good deal of practices, techniques, and so on, down into a distilled form of core shamanism that is billed as shamanism without culture, when it merely replaces a mishmash of cultures’ spiritual tools and practices with its own culture.

This is why I worry about, but am not completely opposed, to credentialed spiritual leaders, mentors, and the like.  That said, I have none.  I am not certified by any body, religious or otherwise, to conduct the rituals I do, or to deliver the services I offer.  I have only the blessings of my Gods, spirits, Ancestors, and those who believe in what I do.  I have only the experiences I have had as a shaman, and priest of Odin and Anubis as my spiritual background.  In a very real sense, it is a leap of faith for people who come to me for spiritual help or advice to trust me.  I have no training from an accredited seminary, nor do I have a certificate from the modern neo-shamanic organizations.  Am I still a priest and a shaman?  I emphatically say “Yes”.

I am of the mind that, while you can go through all the varied and well-made training workshops and classes, the Gods and/or spirits are what designate you as a priest and/or shaman.  Without the Gods and/or spirits, while you may have all the earthly credentials in the world, what does that matter if, when the time comes, you are called on to be a Divine mouthpiece and you cannot perform your function?  When someone needs to hear the guidance of their God/dess, and you cannot communicate it, what did the seminary lessons matter?  When a person is being bothered by spirits or Ancestors, if you cannot intervene and/or guide effectively, what good are all the workshops?  Anyone can screw things up as a matter of simply being human, and no spirit-worker, priest, shaman, or oracle I know of does what they do without screwing up.  I certainly have not.  That, however, is not my point here.  What is, is that the Gods and spirits with whom you work, in my view, are the ones that bestow the meaning, the core, of what it is to be a priest or a shaman.  If you don’t have Them behind you in your function, while you may be a great facilitator or organizer, you are not a priest or shaman.

There is also, to me, a large difference between being a priest or shaman of a community, and being a priest or shaman of specific Gods or spirits.  While the two need not be exclusive, they can be very different in their roles.  Having been a priest for a community for a small time, the role required me to fill a lot of shoes, and do a lot of working with others’ Gods, successes, failures, and times of trial, as well as times of joy.  There was a lot of work on communication, answering questions, writing lessons, and training that was done as part of that work.  A lot of my daily work during this time was community-based, from daily work with people on their relationships with Gods, to working on rituals, classes and presentations.  Being a priest of Odin and a shaman apart from a dedicated community, a lot of my work for the larger Pagan community consists of giving messages from Gods, spirits, and Ancestors, intervening when needed in spiritual crises, and being a go-to for people looking to contact Odin and other Northern Tradition Gods, spirits, and Ancestors.  A lot of my work is individual-based, and I do a lot of more self-focused work, such as taking more time out for relaxation and meditation, and give more personal attention to the Gods and spirits I work with, whether it is working with my Ancestors, or working on deepening my relationships with my Gods.

Are credentials necessary?  In some cases, yes.  If you want to legally marry people, for instance, you need to have credentials that back up your ability to sign the marriage license.  However, I and a very good friend of mine, performed a wedding for a wonderful couple, and though it is not legally recognized due to the laws in my state, it is a strong marriage blessed by the Gods.  Are credentials beyond those for legal reasons a necessity?  I’m still out on this.  As someone who has dedicated his life to serving my Gods, I would say no.  Yet, at the same time, I see how credentials provide comfort, a sense of security, and communicate professionalism.  After all, I’m getting my degree in counseling for that reason, and when I’ve finished with that, I will go for licensing so I can practice what I’ve learned.

At this point I’m taking a middle road because Pagan priesthood and modern shamanism do not, by and large, have the background that professional counseling does, and beyond the two resources I’ve mentioned above, anything resembling professional training in either field is scant, or is specific to certain pathways, i.e. the Aquarian Tabernacle Church’s seminary.  If we want more professionally-trained priests and shamans, whether for the wider Pagan or shamanic communities, or our own little branches in their trees, we will largely have to either a) support what is already there and increase its ability to be used effectively by its adherents, or b) invent these courses and methods of accreditation ourselves.  I find that accreditation can be a powerful, stabilizing force, but it can also be one that can strangle peoples’ ability or willingness to explore, find new ways, be touched by the Gods or spirits, or respond in ways that establishments may find chaotic, destabilizing, or unwelcome.  Here is hoping that as we move forward we can develop courses and accreditation that encourage individual and group responsibility, personal and transcendent experiences of our Gods, spirits, and Ancestors, while also providing a solid structure to build our faiths, roles, and communities on.  Here is hoping that if credentialing gets in the way that we have the bravery and wherewithal to help it evolve with our communities’ growing needs, or if it will not, then to discard it.

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