I’m as tall as a cow. I found this out as I walked through the cow fields and one came up and eye-balled me. Cows today must be GM-cows because I’m sure they never used to be that tall, and at 1.75m I’m not short either.
Short. I wish that was the excuse for why I struggle so much with the stiles. Predominantly a British phenomenon:
Doesn’t look too tricky to clamber over, does it? But is it left foot first or right? Which leg do I swing over and when? Usually I get stuck half-way across and sit with a blasé expression, pretending to admire the view while I consider whether to just throw myself off the thing or tackle it limb by limb.
I encountered similar difficulties when getting into the jeeps and pick-up trucks of my family in New Mexico. They live in the mountain desert so it’s high off-roaders only for them. I tried reversing in, but my legs are two short. I tried launching myself in front first and army-crawling my way on elbows over the back seat. Nothing but nothing was elegant. My family found it hilarious. I pursued different options like an alchemist seeking a way to transmute base metal into gold; but my elegance remained tin.
This evening I sat down by the river, watching fish jumping for the evening flies. Four swans floated past, each raising up out of the water to stretch and flap their wings, not together or randomly but one after the other. I saw flowers floating past and thought about garlands of flowers offered on the Ganges. A flock of ravens hiding in a tree was disturbed and raised a great racket as they flew off – I have never seen so many in one group. The pinky-orange sun slipped behind a cloud and I headed home.
On my walk I thought about art group today. There was only me, Woman and Beta Psych, so we just sat and talked. Woman narrowly avoided having her eyes jabbed out with paintbrushes when she TOLD me that I wouldn’t self-harm if I had a boyfriend. I coughed up a fur ball and said, “Cutting is not about being single.” She said other stupid, facile things and contradicted herself, or damned me to hell as irredeemable, by saying that men would be scared off by the intensity of my scars. I’m fucked either way, or not as the case may be. I said, that such people could “jog on” as far as I was concerned, that I didn’t need namby-pamby people who cringed at the sight of my scars around me. Life is too short and there are plenty of people who accept all aspects of me, or who have indeed been there themselves. As an LHP-er I don’t think that I have to surround myself with the twee people to feel good. No I don’t have to be nice about people’s beliefs in angels because that will make me a good person. Angelly-Wangelly stuff does my head in as much as therapy-werapy stuff dressed up under the abhorrent term “life coaching” – both run the triple knife edge of doing nothing, being childish make-believe or doing harm to fragile psyches. In any case you might as well imagine a smurf on your shoulder and listen to what the smurfing hell it has to say to you … you will make just as much progress by channeling your own subconscious that way. You do not invoke an archangel for a cuddle, FFS.
I said, I missed TMIWTM. Woman asked, “What does he give you that you can’t get from us?” I replied, “Everything! I have told him things I haven’t said here, and he knows things about me that no one else here knows or will ever know.” She looked shocked. Beta Psych appeased her with, “One-to-one is very different to a group working environment.” You bet your bejeezes it is. I said that I had never been so emotionally close to a man before. I heard her jaw hit the floor. She doesn’t like TMIWTM. She saw him for a couple of sessions 15 years ago and he told her she needed marriage counselling. 15 years later, she still needs marriage counselling… today she admitted to violence in the marriage on both parts.
Nobody’s perfect. But I do get tired of people trying to heal others when their own lives are fucked; or people in bad relationships telling you that a relationship will sort all your problems; or when people pretend to be open-minded but have surprisingly narrow and sudden limitations. I’m fucked in the head. I know that and admit it freely. You literally read my heart on my sleeve and the state of mind in the scars on my arms; but at least I am honest about it. I don’t bullshit and I don’t play around with other people, pretending to be something I’m not.
If I’m tin, then I’m tin but I keep trying to be gold. And somethings will never change: I will always be as tall as a cow.
My German family emigrated to America in the 1950s. My Oma (grandmother) became an educator (assessor of children’s learning levels and needs) on the Navajo Reservation, where my family also lived for a while.
In my late teens and early twenties I travelled from the UK to spend time living with my grandmother in an area called the Checkerboard because squares of land belong to the Navajo Nation (a dependent state existing within the independent state of America) and some squares belong to the Federal Government of the US.
While there I took up Navajo language classes and met a Navajo woman who worked for the Navajo Nation Government. Her work involved travelling hundreds of miles daily over the Reservation. She invited me to travel with her for four months and during that time she adopted me as her daughter, introducing me to Navajo or Hopi Native Americans as her daughter.
Native Americans are NOT Indians
Native Americans are NOT American Indians
Native Americans are NOT North American Indians
They are Native Americans because they are the original people native to that continent; any other name carries with it a shed load of political hegemony and implicit colonial abuse.
I learned a lot from my Navajo mother and her friends about what was considered acceptable to Native Americans, what were sore points, how their history affected them … how thousands were deliberately wiped out by white Europeans distributing plague-ridden blankets among them; how some native peoples have been completely exterminated. Their history is no less painful, political and rife for misunderstanding than the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Holocaust, to name but two.
After my time on the Reservation, I went to Germany where I spent a year beginning my translation career. There I encountered a heavily sunbedded female with a suede, fringed jacket, plaits and feathers in her hair. She “identified” with “Indians” [sic]. I felt sick to my stomach at her ignorance. No. Don’t give me any bullshit about naive enthusiasm: if you are truly interested in a Native Path then do your research, learn the history, the current politics and the current discussions around the misappropriation of native culture and spirituality, which continues to this day, and is felt by so many NAs to be a continuation of the colonial hegemony they have had to suffer for centuries.
Following on from this: the word “shaman” has become a word bandied around as easily as “witch” (I will deal with that another day). Banging a drum, chanting and speaking to imaginary spirits does not make you a shaman. Pretending that you “journey” every time you touch a rock does not make you a shaman, nor does it make your experience “shamanic.” The concept of “journeying” has also been watered down to be meaningless half the time.
There is no documentation of shamanic culture per se in the British Isles. If you refer to Celtic shamanism, the same point applies as there is no documented proof of exactly what the Celts did except for tales told by Roman historians, and the Romans defeated the Celts … we all know what history is like when written by the victors (blood sacrifice, baby-eating, water poisoning, with the odd truth thrown in – who can say what is true and what isn’t?).
I met two shamans/medicine men on the Reservation and they gave me none of the “foot in both worlds” bullshit, none of the “hang on, I’m just speaking to my spirit guide, Jack”.
If you look at shamanism as practised amongst Native peoples in America (there are many different peoples – different languages, different religious practices, although most will have a name for themselves that translates as “The people” – consider the Navajo word for themselves “Diné”), and if you look in particular at the shamanic practices still found in Siberia you will see a very different picture from the neo-Shamanic practices of British/European wannabes.
As a knowledgeable friend concurred, calling yourself a “traditional shaman” is a tautology shouting “fluff” because true shamanism is by definition “traditional”. However, the word “traditional” sells more books, doesn’t it? Kerching! $££$$£
Shamans are known for communicating with spirits, but again, this is not a running conversation with an ancestor sitting on your knee, your hand up its spiritual backside as you channel its wisdom. No. Communication with spirits is usually within the context of an ecstatic ritual, or within a ritual context that will suspend the natural (or more apparent) senses.
Be warned that not all is what it seems. I have met two shamans. One I had more contact with than the other. But they were not bullshitters.
If you are interested in Native American spirituality – remember that there are many, many different Native American peoples and that not all are the same. Have the courtesy to research their history and their current politics. Read authors such as Ward Churchill – academic historians; don’t just read people with fake names like Starhawk (who is a respectable neo-pagan but NOT a Native American).
And if you come across someone calling themselves a “shaman”, add “neo” in front plus a large pinch of salt. Don’t part with money. Trust your gut. And read around the subject.
I get so fed up of people play-acting a persona or bigging themselves up to be something they only aspire to be. Yes, my cynic may be coming into play here and also my natural English propensity for understatement, but still…!
I hit against a similar frustration when I was on that dating website and I meet it again and again in the pagan/occult world. Perhaps it’s a lack of humour on their part, or an excess of humour on mine… or a lack of humour on mine…
Seshat: Hello, who are you?
Other: I’m a man who walks the paths that others fear to tread.
Seshat: Oh. Really? Sounds lovely. And what do you do when you’re not walking the paths that others fear to tread?
Other: I’m breaking the rules, pushing the boundaries, living life on the edge.
Seshat: Sounds a bit samey to me.
Such stupid, empty statements are the greatest shield against intimacy. So when does a man (or woman) practising detachment become just a man (or woman) with intimacy issues??!
The cooler the man, the sexier he believes himself to be, the more the empty-headed women flock around and believe the myth of stud-ness he weaves around himself, the more I laugh and can’t take him seriously in any respect.
Other: You’re laughing… at least you’re pleased to see me.
Seshat: Trust me, it’s only my top half that’s pleased to see you.
It is impossible to have any kind of meaningful conversation with someone who is more interested in their own appeal than in being appealing to you:
Seshat: I like your accent.
Other: Yes, I do have a nice voice, don’t I? Nice and deep. Sexy, isn’t it?
Seshat: Um. Yes.
Other: I saw you looking at my arse. I have a good arse, don’t I? Loads of people have said that.
Seshat (who had actually been looking at a squirrel): Um. Yes.
Sure, confidence is attractive. Even confidence verging on a quiet arrogance can be sexy. Maybe that’s the key word – quiet. I just wish some of these people would shut up! Yes, I know you are amazing, handsome, sexy, desirable to all of female flesh; I know you are the darkest, darker-of-the-darkest-darkier-dark-darkness I will ever have the pleasure to meet… So cut the crap and get real.
I thought walking the Left-Hand Path was about a brutal self-honesty and a desire to cut through the egotistical bullshit, to pare away the excess and get to the pure white bones of Self. So why does it have to come with the LHP™ commercialised pantomime pony-arsed prancing of a bunch of teenagers high on their first sip of absinthe? But that’s unfair to teenagers, especially as most of the people are older and should know better.
But even apart from the LHP “I’m so dark my own mother couldn’t find me in a coal shed” crew, there are still those, for example, amongst the pagan crowd for whom every floorboard creak is a ghost trying to communicate, and every poorly developed photo is a sign from the other side. I recently had to bite my tongue while I was shown a “ghost photo” which was actually just a “crap photo”. As my friends know, I am not a “social” person. I don’t do airs and graces very well. I once had a very well-heeled boyfriend (son of wealthy family, royal associations) who was just about to embark on a political career in London working for Lord S. We broke up when he moved to London because he couldn’t trust me not to leap on the tables and talk about the redistribution of wealth to his cronies … and yes, he actually said that to me. Prat… although he does have a point.
Oh, I’m just sick of all the bullshitting. I’ve seen women acting the “I’m a sultry whore” who use the adjective “orgasmic” like teenagers use the word “awesome” – and both sound like idiots to me. And I’ve seen men acting the “I’m a dark stud machine”. They are welcome to each other. At a Year 2000 party I attended in Israel, I saw a couple dancing: she stood on the spot twiddling her hands and wiggling her hips looking abashedly at the floor; he circled her making enormous thrusting gestures with his hips. It’s easy to fall into stereotypes, to hide behind the image of being whatever you happen to think is safest… because I do think that this insistence on image is about staying safe and not showing who you really are. As such you do yourself the biggest disservice IF you are actually serious about internal spiritual progress as opposed to group acceptance, getting laid and being cool.
Anyway, that’s some of my rant-urge exorcised tonight. My sub-conscious is bubbling with a restless fury, even though consciously I am feeling quite chilled and amicable (believe it or not!). Might as well end in the vein that I started: