Tag Archives: Shamanism

Why We are Here…

Hello there folks,

I’ll start with a few updates. I’ve been real busy lately; writing, editing, and getting ready for my first vending event this fall! As such, I haven’t had a lot of time to keep this blog going. I am also starting another book manuscript soon, so this blog my go into “low power” mode so I can focus on other things. I have a whole series of topics I still want to write about, so I’ll try to get something up here monthly at least. But that is besides the point for today.

For those of you that don’t follow me on Facebook, I often use it as a testing ground to develop my own ideas. Yesterday I turned out some thoughts that have gotten a fair bit of attention, so I wanted to share those with you here. The edited post appears below;

We live in interesting times, times in which existential crises lie seemingly around every corner. These are challenges that will test the very nature of the human spirit. Challenges that not only question who we are, but who we will be. If we survive at all.

The climate is changing. That is a fact. Centuries of cutting down forests and polluting our water and air is coming home to roost. Centuries of exploitation and oppression have come back to haunt us.

I think some very old beings once dwelled in those ancient forests. We cut them down, and we killed them. Those we didn’t, we broke all ties with and exiled. We built an ideological wall between “nature” and “society” so tall and thick that we have all but divorced ourselves from all those old relationships.

Worse still, in this country (USA), we have treated the people (Native Americans, and others) the ones that knew these beings best, the exact same way. We took their lands, killed them, and have perpetuated those cycles ever since.

We destroyed other peoples, and we destroyed ourselves. We became “white”, devoid of any spirit of our own. We died in the process.

I am not the first to say these things, and surely the credit does not belong to me alone.

The amount of work ahead is greater than any one individual, greater than even a single generation. We have to deal with our shit now.

And we are poorly prepared for this. We need allies and the strength of community to face what lies ahead. We have done a fine job of isolating ourselves in the name of “individualism”. We have killed the old gods that were once our allies. Those that are left have no reason to love us. They know what we did, they remember. Why should they help us?

In this country, we cannot assume they are on our side. That is not the case. The land is not on our side.

But, I don’t want you to give up hope. Another world is possible, and it lies on the other side of the horizon. We need all the help we can get, and the amount of work we have to do is tremendous. We will not live to see the end of that work, but it must be done all the same.

I find it no coincidence that there has been a rise in spiritual specialists recently. We were made for this work. We are here to tear down the walls we have built, and to rebuild relationships we have severed. To save what can be saved, and to change what must be changed.

We are here at this time, because our skills are required. Everything we know hangs in the balance.

Advertisements

Spiritual Engineering

Hello again folks!

Now that things have calmed down just a little bit, I have had the time to sit down and knock out another post. As far as updates are concerned, we are about a month away from opening the shop back up, and I am finishing up proofing on the fifth book of the Elder Blood Saga. It really has been a hell of a ride, and I am sad to see that series come to an end. But all things come to an end, so now I move on to other projects.

Just what are we talking about today? You might have noticed the title of this post is “Spiritual Engineering.” You are probably wondering what exactly I am getting at?

Naturally, I will be happy to explain. But first, some context. As some of may know, I have recently started the coursework for two year shamanic intensive. It has been rather fantastic so far! I am still in the introductory work, and there is already so much to think and write about! Of course, that is good news for you, my readers, as you get to come along for the ride.

In the intensive, I recently went through a course in which we talked a great deal about neurology, and our own set of spiritual “wiring” in the context of shamanism. What we are really going to be talking about is energy work, and the “hardware and software” we use to make that work.

However, first I want to be clear about how I am using terms. When I refer to energy work, I restrict that usage to the “self”. You have probably heard the adage that “everything is energy”, and I certainly don’t disagree with that. However, I would add that in an animistic context, every is not just energy. Once you move into the world external to yourself, you are no longer dealing with just energy. You are dealing with persons; each of which has their own will, awareness and most importantly, boundaries. I learned this the hard way. I’ll tell you that story sometime, as it has taken me a while to make sense of that.

While it may be true that trees and rocks are made up of energy, they are more than JUST energy. The point being, once you move beyond the self, we are talking more about “spiritual social work” than mere “energy work.” Beyond the self, in an animistic context, you are now interacting with the social world of other-than-human persons. I hope the distinction makes sense.

So, for this post we are only talking about individual energy work. The work you do with your own personal spirit. Now, I have a pretty complicated view of the spirit. That is because the singular individual “self” we conceive is anything but singular. We are made up of countless number of individual cells, all of which form to together to make this collective individual we refer to as “me.”

In an animistic context, all of those cells have their own spirits; but in the grand scheme of things the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Still, the point is that all of these cells exist in great vast network. It is those connections and networks that make all of systems work together, and from the connections in our brain that allow us to conceive of ourselves in the singular.

In addition, it is my working theory that the spirit is in many ways analogous to our physical body. Just like neurons in the brain, all those little connections and networks are part of our spirit, and constitute our “spiritual wiring.” You with me so far?

Now, you get at least two camps when you talk about spiritual wiring, especially in regards to shamanism.

On the one side, you get what I might call the hard-wired camp. These are the people that claim that shamanism is only for those with a certain “energetic circuitry”. Basically, if you don’t have the right make up, you can’t be a shaman.

On the other side, there are those that think it is more of a universal thing. That in short, any one can be a shaman. If the calling is there, and the spirits have come forward, the “wiring” is a work in progress. It might be worked and reworked over and over again over the process.

Which is where the spiritual engineering comes in. For me it is certainly not an “either/or” type of thing. We are pretty adaptable as organisms, and even our brains have a noted plasticity in their connections. However, I also take more of a moderate view. Some parts of our “wiring” might be hard-wired, and it places limits on what we can do and what we can’t do. Yet, it can be rearranged and adapted as well. Weak circuits can be bypassed, and new augmentations can be added. They can also be removed and stripped out too. That is spiritual engineering. Tailoring the “wiring” for the job at hand.

Are there limits, sure. Some might even be built into my “core structure”, or whatever you would like to call my predetermined wiring. But that doesn’t stop me from doing a redesign either. I little rewiring here, a little bypass there. I plug this plasma conduit into that warp core, and bam! Ready to go!

(From Google images. I think it makes the point.)

Let me use shielding as an example. I am just going to assume you all know what I am talking about. Shielding is one of those things I really enjoy to play with, because it is only limited by your imagination. I am sure none of my regular readers would be surprised if I said I have played with sci-fi inspired shielding, fantasy shielding, and pretty much anything else I have been able to imagine.

For example, say I want to wade into some kind of spiritual nightmare. Maybe I have to deal with a spiritual nasty at the boss level. As such, I want to engineer a shield that can hold up to some punishment. So I take a good hard look at my spiritual wiring, and realize it can’t handle what I need to do. I’d be pretty SOL if I couldn’t do some adaptive redesign.

So I build myself an armor suit straight out of Mass Effect, all N7 and such. But I find that one of my spiritual circuits just can’t handle the load I want to run through it. It would be the analogy of running 100 volts through a 12 volt wire. Obviously, if I don’t do something about that, my circuitry is going to fry.

I also find out that this given circuit is one of my “hard-wired” bits. It is required for something else to work, so I can’t really cut it out and replace it. It’s required equipment. I CAN however bypass it. So I install a bypass that can carry the spiritual current I need, and never have to worry about burning the little 12 volt out.

That way I can run the power I need to, and be good to go in the ass-kickery department.

However, just like real life engineering, I wouldn’t recommend just jumping into this kind of thing. The example above is for illustration purposes only. Just like I wouldn’t recommend Joe-Unskilled from the street take over Scotty’s position on the Enterprise, I wouldn’t advise messing with your wiring without the expertise to do so. Or at least without “adult” supervision.

Realize, that this kind of energy work has taken me many years of training and study to even guess at. Just like real world engineering, it takes expertise, experience and study to become proficient at it.

As such, the “don’t try this at home” caveat applies.

As always, thanks for reading!


Walking with the Ancestors Part 5-B

The boy sat by the edge of the river, gently poking at the small fish near the shore with a stick. His mother was nearby, keeping a watchful eye on him. That did not concern the boy at all, because his attention was elsewhere. He watched the young woman as she talked among the fishers.

She was tall, and wore an old-tattered black wolf pelt over her right shoulder. The boy did not know what exactly they were talking about, but she fascinated him. There was something about her that drew the attention of others.

As a boy of only four, he didn’t really understand why she drew his attention, and he certainly did not have the vocabulary to put his questions in the worlds, so he just watched and tried his best to understand.

He watched the woman turn away from the fishers, and make her way up the river bank towards where the boy was sitting. He felt very excited as she drew closer, and started to squirm in anticipation. He rose to his feet to meet her, and she smiled at him and pat him on the head.

“Where are you going in such a hurry?” The wolf woman smiled down at him. He couldn’t help but return the smile in turn.

“To see you.” The boy said, with a huge smile on his face, and he reached his arms up towards her. The wolf woman turned towards the boy’s mother, and she nodded her approval.

The young woman swept the boy up into her arms, and spun him around. He laughed the whole time, and he imagined he was flying just like the Bird People.

When she finally set him back down, he was struggling to catch his breath. His laughter had taken all the wind from his lungs.

The wolf woman continued to smile down at him, and he looked back up at her.

“Can I be a hunter too?” The boy asked. The wolf woman flashed a smile at him, but as she looked down at the boy her smile grew cold.

While the boy could not see it, one of the Shadow people had appeared by her side.

“His ancestors are already calling him home. He will leave this world come the next winter.” The Shadow said.

The wolf woman continued the conversation in her mind.

“No! You cannot take him. We have lost too many of the young already.” The wolf woman said.

“I wish I could help you, but this has already been decided. There is much more he can do with ancestors of your people. There is little I can do to change that.” The Shadow said.

“But he is so young.” The woman protested.

“That cannot be helped. For what little comfort I can offer, know that he will be a great man in another world.” The Shadow said, and then turned and vanished.

“Why are you sad?” The boy asked. The woman panicked for a moment, and then reached up to touch her check. Her hand was wet when she pulled it away.

“I am not sad! I am happy that you are so beautiful in the sun!” The woman said. She had lied, and she knew it.

The boy didn’t know it though, and he beamed with pride.

“Momma, I am bu..tiuful.” The boy struggled to say the long word. Both of the older women laughed.

“Would you like to hear a story, little one?” The wolf woman said. She had learned many stories over the years, as many as her father could teach her.

She had learned more from the People.

“Yes!” The little boy beamed, as he sat down by the river, and the woman sat next to him.

“Do you know where the fish come from?” The woman said. She chuckled as the boy’s eyebrows wrinkled as he tried to figure it out.

“From the water!” The boy exclaimed,

“Yes, but where do the waters come from?” The woman said. She hoped he would get this one too.

“Ummm. From the ground?” The boy said. She knew that some of it did, but it wasn’t the answer she wanted.

“Where does the rain come from?” The woman asked. The boy caught on immediately.

“From the sky!” The boy continued to beam. The woman thought he was a smart little boy. She was pained by the sadness in her heart, knowing that this boy would not grow to ask all the questions that filled his young mind.

At least, not in this world.

“That is right, the water comes from the sky. In days long past, the world was hot and not a good place to live for anyone except the Fire People.

As others wanted to live here too, they had to find a way to cool the world. That is why the Water People came down from the sky. They came in great numbers, and fell like sheets on the hot world. This made the Fire People a little unhappy, and so they went underground to escape the rain.

But the world was cooled all the same, and the air and the earth formed up as the Water People came down upon the world. So many of the Water People came to the world that they covered most of it. The came down from the mountains in mighty rivers, and made their way all the way to the Great Waters.” The woman said.

“Fish! Look a fish!” The boy said, having turned his attention to the river. The woman smiled.

“That’s right. The Water People loved the Fish People, and they decided to give them a home in all the waters. That is why there are fish in the water.” The woman said.

Commentary;

This is another short one, as I really wasn’t sure where to go with this one. It is another version of the origin story that I first created at the beginning of this series. More than that though, it is also a story of otherworldly things, and the concept of Death, here represented by some formless Shadow person. In truth in my animistic worldview death can be a pretty complicated thing. I have touched upon this a little in my piece here.

In addition, it is also a continuation of my last story. The wolf woman is the young girl in the last story, and she now wears the tattered Old Wolf fur. She is still young in this story, but has already gained a reputation among her people. In no small way, she is the shamaness in this tale, the story-teller. I felt it was fitting since I drew upon the Mal’ta-Buryet Culture for my last story, and since that is the rightful place of the Mal’ta boy, I felt it was fitting to continue that arc.

All that being said, I think I will take this story in a little bit of a different direction as we move on in this series. One thing I don’t want it to become is just a rehash of the same kind of story line over and over again. Though, I am not sure quite how I will do that just yet.

Thanks for reading!


Walking with the Spirits Part 3-A

For this one, I want to talk for a bit of what we know about the “origins” of religion. How did it begin? Where did it begin? Why did it begin? In reality, these are huge questions, and there are no real clear cut answers in regards to these questions. There are many difficulties with dealing with the past, and in no small amount there is a degree of interpretation involved.

For purposes of this discussion, religion will be taken to mean really any form of spirituality or spiritual beliefs. I will be using it in a very wide context, in order to help navigate the vagueness of this all.

In short, we just don’t know the answers to these questions with any real degree of certainty. Part of this has to do with the very nature of prehistory and archaeology in general. Prehistory means just that, before written records. As such, we don’t have any writings to help us nail down the specifics. There is no prehistoric text that clearly says “religions begins here.”

In addition, archaeology is an interpretive science. The data and artifacts are collected for countless sites, and then debated and compared. It can really tell us a great deal about the past, but it is important to keep in mind that there are very real limits when dealing with prehistory. The questions of “how” and “where” are easier to answer than the “why?” I will do my best to explore all this in a coherent matter.

So let’s look at the how’s, where’s and why’s to the best of our ability.

85acb7827abdbd83b2580f173ee2e784

This is a good map by Simon Davies, showing how many of our contemporary religions developed over time.

I think this map is a great starting point for this discussion. I want to draw your attention to its lowest branch for the moment. The base of this tree is labeled as “animism” at ca. 100,000 BCE. I will be getting into the nuance a little later on in this post, but I wanted to start here.

In chapter one of this series, I talked a fair bit about the ideology of animism, and how it has changed over time. I am not going to recap all that here, but suffice to say that animism is often cited as the oldest of all spiritual beliefs. It often serves as a foundation for the later diversification of numerous branches of religion.

Now I would like to draw your attention to the second branch from the bottom; which includes the categories such as “European Animism” and “Fosna Shamanism.” Shamanism is the another important part to this. I have not spent much time talking about shamanism yet in this series, and that may have to wait for another post. That being said, there is a deep interconnection between shamanism and animism. As I mentioned in chapter 1 of this series, (new) animism is the idea that the world is full of persons, most of which are not human, and that life is lived in relation with one another.

Shamanism as such, is the ideas, concepts and methods of dealing with these other-than-humans persons. A shaman is a specialist in these regards. I have wrote a lot about this subject, and the reader is invited to Google the topic if they want to know more.

We will not be moving any higher on the tree with this post, and so the later polytheisms, monotheisms and others will not be covered here. Sorry folks.

So we have established both animism and shamanism as the two ideological foundations for religion, but there is one more piece of this puzzle that we have not yet covered. In a chapter by Matt Rossano, he talks about the three elements of early religion. Animism, shamanism and ancestor worship. As he rightly points out, it is impossible to tell if these “constitute religion’s original traits”; but that they are so commonly present in the oldest religions that they might be considered “universal”, and have deep evolutionary roots.

Animism, shamanism, and ancestor worship. These are the big three, and will be the core focus of this series going. In addition, as I explored in chapter 2, so will be totemism as it is strongly interrelated to all these concepts.

So, with our ideological focus in mind, let’s explore some of the early archaeological evidence for these religious ideas.

Ancestor Worship

As Rossano and many other scholars have pointed out, the evidence for ancestor worship is more prominent in burial finds and grave goods. There are countless numbers of sites that could be brought in as evidence, and that would be far too exhaustive for this post. That being said, we can focus for a brief moment on Shanidar Cave in modern day Iraq.

The remains of ten Neanderthals were found in Shanidar Cave, and are dated between 65 and 35 kya. One of these skeletons was found to be buried with a flower, which can be argued to be evidence of not only intentional burial, but can also be pointed to as evidence of some form of burial ritual to the dead. It is important to note that this find has been recently disputed.

However, a less disputed site is present at Qafzeh Cave in modern day Israel. At this site was found the burial of two modern humans dated to about 100 kya. They are thought to be a mother and a child, and both bodies were found to be stained with red ochre. This is thought to be evidence of a ritualized burial.

There are countless other sites that could be mentioned that provide much more detail and specifics to this line of thinking, and we will explore them more going forward in this series. But for now, generalities will have to suffice.

Shamanism

As Rossano points out; “in traditional societies the shaman’s role is to enter altered states of consciousness wherein he/she connects with spiritual forces in order to gain knowledge or effect cures. The shaman is the community’s spiritual emissary…”

Naturally, Rossano points to several Upper Paleolithic cave art sites in support of early forms of shamanism, from the caves at Chauvet and Lacaux which date from about 30 kya and 17 kya respectivetly. The notable traits of the cave sites, such as shapeshifting and theriomorphic and anthropomorphic images on many of the cave walls.

Some sites even push evidence of shamanism and animism back until the Middle Paleolithic (ca. 300Kya – 45 kya), such as this excerpt from Wikipedia;

“Likewise a number of archaeologists propose that Middle Paleolithic societies — such as that of the Neanderthals — may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship in addition to their (presumably religious) burial of the dead. Emil Bächler in particular suggests (based on archaeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a widespread Neanderthal bear-cult existed” (Paleolithic Religion)

In addition, another source at Britannica adds, in the context of animal worship;

“This phenomenon is similar to what is still known today as animalism (or nagualism or theriocentrism). It is characterized by close magical and religious ties of humans with animals, especially with wild animals. It is also characterized in terms of otherworldly and superworldly realms and practices, such as placating and begging for forgiveness of the game killed, performing oracles with animal bones, and performing mimic animal dances and fertility rites for animals. Animals were thought to be manlike, to have souls, or to be equipped with magical powers. Animalism thus expresses itself in various conceptions of how animals are regarded as guardian spirits and “alter egos,” of the facile and frequent interchangeability between human and animal forms, and also of a theriomorphically (animal-formed) envisioned higher being—one who changes between human and animal forms and unifies them. Higher, often theriomorphic, beings are gods who rule over the animals, the hunters, and the hunting territory, or spirits in the bushland and with the animals.”

We can see some of these aspects in the archaeology of numerous sites, which as mentioned before, will be examined in more depth later. However, the idea of animal worship brings grants a bridge back to animism in general

Animals and Natural Spirits

From Rossano’s text, we can see the evidence of many of the animal worship that was just discussed above in the context of animism. Rossano points to many of theriothropic images in Chauvet and other caves from the Upper Paleolithic.

He even highlights how there appear to be certain chambers that are dedicated to certain animals, or their spirits.

For example; “The ‘Lion Chamber’ at Les Trois-Freres contains a large feline mural along with the remains of a fire surrounded by apparently deliberately place bones.” – Rossano

Or another one; “In the ‘bear chamber’ at Chauvet Cave, there is a bear skull carefully placed atop a large limestone block. Below the block are the remains of fire and more than 30 other bear skulls that seem to be intentionally place.” – Rossano

So where does this all leave us? I think I will give Rossano the final world here, in his section aply called;

Ancestor Worship, Shamanism and Animism:

Supernaturalizing Social Life.

In which Rossano says;

“The critical point about religion’s primitive traits – ancestor worship, shamanism, and animism – is that they represent the addition of a supernatural layer to human social life. For example, the ancestors are typically thought of as fully participating members of the social community who play a critical role in the health, prosperity, fertility, and future fortune of their earth-bound tribe.

Ancestors are the ever-watchful, “interested parties” whose goals and concerns… must be considered in the everyday affairs of the living.

Likewise, the shaman is the spiritual world’s earthly messenger, relaying critical information about the spirits’ desires and demands…

Finally, an animistic view of the natural world incorporates nature into the human social world. There is considerable evidence that this sacred orientation toward the land and its resources can curb exploitation and enhance human cooperation over the sharing of scare resources.”

I could not have said it better myself. With this kind of framework in mind, we can move forward to exploring some of the beliefs of our ancestors.

Thanks for reading!

References/Sources;

 Map of Religions

Walking with the Spirits Part 1-A

(I find that Wikipedia is good for general survey, and has a useful bibliography for finding other sources)

Wikipedia (Evolution of Religions)

Wikipedia (Paleolithic Religion)

Wikipedia (Prehistoric Religion)

Wikipedia (Shanidar Cave)

Wikipedia (Atapuerca Cave)

Wikipedia (Qafzeh Cave)

Rossano, Matt

Britannica


Walking with the Ancestors Part 4-B

Usti strode along the bank of the ancient river, known from the earliest times as the home to his people. Here, for ages long past, and far beyond the memory of the living, his ancestors and their ancestors had made their camps.

He looked around, and pulled his furs tighter around him. He knew well that the cold winds would be coming soon, and the snows of winter. He walked up river, towards the source of the waters, because that was the way that would lead him back home, and to his mate and children.

As he rounded a bend in the river, the camp came into sight. Several of his friends and relatives were busy working on their homes. The nearest of these was erected from the bones of a mammoth, which had been taken during the last hunt. The large, heavy bones made up the walls, and the woman of the house was busy lacing together reindeer antlers, which would be used as part of the roof. Their son was helping too, busy pulling new furs and hides over their home. Everyone in his village knew the cold would be coming soon.

Smoke rose from several of the houses, but he was heading towards the one he shared with his family. He passed by several other houses as he walked, and many people greeted him from around their outdoor fires. As he passed by another house, a man with a shirt of wolf skin caught his eye. Usti nodded, because the man was one of great honor. He was the one who Spoke with the People.

The two men held their gaze for a moment, and then the Old Wolf came over to Usti.

“Have you been walking the river again?” The Old Wolf asked.

Usti nodded.

“I watched the fish as they swam down the river. I came upon a group of deer farther down, and they ran once they saw me.” Usti said. The Old Wolf nodded.

“That is the way of these things. Is your mate well?” The Old Wolf said, and Usti saw something in his eyes. He knew that look well, and he knew that the Old Wolf had knowledge that Usti did not.

“She was well when I set out this morning. She is heavy with child, and has trouble walking.” Usti said, with a laugh. The Old Wolf nodded.

“She will be having a girl.” The Old Wolf said. Usti felt the smile cross his face.

“A girl?! It will be my first daughter!” Usti exclaimed.

“It will be. And she will be a fine hunter, among the finest.” The Old Wolf said.

“The People have told you this?” Usti said. The shaman nodded.

Usti could barely contain the joy that he felt. He would have a daughter, and she would be a fine hunter. He filled with pride, but still he saw the look that lingered in the Old Wolf’s eyes.

“Is there more?” Usti asked.

“Would you walk with me?” The Old Wolf said.

Usti nodded, and the two of them set out of the village towards the west. He walked in silence by the old man, because he knew it was rude to break the silence just for the sake of talking. The Old Wolf was wise beyond any man, and when he spoke others listened. The Old Wolf was not the kind to speak of trivial things, and he was also the kind that kept much knowledge to himself. Usti had only spoken with the man a handful of times.

“There are things you should know, because my time among our people is short.” The Old Wolf said.

“You have many winters ahead of you.” Usti said. The Old Wolf shook his head.

“No, that is not what the People have in store for me. I fear the People may call to me before the coming one has ended. Or maybe the one after next, if they are willing.” The Old Wolf said.

“Why do you tell me these things?” Usti said.

“Because they must be said before I am called away. It is about your daughter.” The Old Wolf said.

“You said she will be a great hunter. What more could a father want?” Usti said.

“She will be more than a great hunter, Usti. In time, she will grow to be much more than that.” The Old Wolf said, as he started to undue the lacing of the old black wolf who kept watch over his shoulder.

“What are you doing?!” Usti exclaimed. The Old Wolf slowly folded the black fur, and muttered to himself all the while. Usti stood staring at him speechless.

At last, the old man held out the fur to Usti. Usti stepped back several paces.

“I can not take this…” Usti said.

“It is not for you. In time it will be for your daughter.” The Old Wolf said.

Usti felt like he was going to faint.

“You will have to give it to her, because I fear I will not linger long enough to give it to her myself.” The old man said.

The Old Wolf pushed the black wolf skin into Usti’s hands, making it clear that he had no choice but to take it.

Commentary;

This one is a little bit shorter. I worried about it getting too long if I kept it going. Admittedly, I had to take some liberties with this one. Give or take 10,00 years worth of liberties. This is because that all we have of the Ust Ishim man is a femur, and while the genome it has given us is nothing short of amazing; there is still a lot we do not know about the time when the Ust Ishim (uncreatively called Usti here) lived.

His femur was not found in the context of a village, and as far as I know, not even in the context of other bones. Aside from the genome sequence from the bone itself, it has little else to tell us about archaeologically. As such, I used inspiration from other similar sites scattered across the Upper Paleolithic. The inspiration for village was from the Malta-Buret Culture, which will appear again in this series. Other inspirations include several years worth of research and study, and I cannot detail them all here.

Join me next time as I take the next step in this journey.

And as always, thank you for reading!

Sources, References;

Malta-Buret Culture

Wikipedia – Upper Paleolithic


Hamr – The Northern Spirit Part 4

For this post I wanted to explore the concept of the northern spirit in more depth. This time around, I will be exploring the concept of the hamr. According to Raven Kaldera, the hamr or hame, is; “Your astral body. Not your aura; the part of you that lies within your physical body and is (sometimes) twin to it. Some people’s hames are less like their physical bodies than you might think…”

We will come back to the second part later, because we need to explore the basic idea in more detail before moving into the specifics. According to Stromback; “But we also have other good and ancient words in Swedish dialects for the same fylgja or vård, names that have an obvious connection with the Old Norse terminology, namely hamn or hamm (in the provinces of Norrbotten and Dalarna, where they are genuine), and droug or dräug in the province of Jämtland, also genuine. In form and sense these words correspond to Old Norse draugr and hamr, although draugr in Old Norse has a more special sense of ‘ghost’, ‘spirit’ (of a dead person), or ‘animated corpse’.”

There is a lot to unpack in this short quote. The amount of overlap between various concepts is immense, and that overlap will be an ongoing theme in this series of posts. Fylgja and vord will be covered in later posts, and we will likely return to to this in future posts. Last time I wrote about the hugr, which is the closest thing we have in the northern spirit to the “I” spirit, or personal soul.

By contrast, the hamr is the second self, a kind of free soul that can leave the body, either in sleep, dreaming, or sent from the body is some form of magic flight. As Stromback points out; “Generally speaking you could activate your hugr, leading it in different directions and using it for certain intentions. Here in fact lies the germ of the idea of changing shape, the ability to go out from yourself and let your hugr take hamr, that is to say take the form of your second self.”

In addition, he adds; “We have already heard that according to folk-belief in Setesdal the hug from a person could be so strong that it came with ham, that is to say with something that was more or less materialized and reflected the owner of the hug, a kind of harbinger or companion but in shape only vaguely specified”

Hamr also overlaps heavily with the idea of the fylgja and vordr, and actually could be sometimes conceived as an independent entity, either partially dependent or fully independent being in its own right. To strengthen the connection, Stromback has this to say in regards to the vordr; “”The vård (literally: the guardian) is a being attached to the individual, a spirit who accompanies a person wherever he goes, and sometimes reveals itself either as a glimmer or in the form of the person as a second self (hamn)…”

The implication here is that even the vordr could sometimes take the form of the hamm (hamr), the second self. The second self is the real core of the hamr, a kind of double, that may or may not resemble your physical self. Also, this leads into the idea of shapeshifting, as Kaldera points out; “The hame is the part of your soul that can be shapeshifted into another form, with work and training.”

So, we have explored the idea of the hamr as a second self, and the “astral” part of the self that can be shapeshifted. As such, let’s explore some of the folklore associated with some of the ideas raised here.

First off, the dream soul. The Kvideland book has this to say; “It leaves the body, usually takes the shape of a small animal, and explores the world. Its experiences are then remembered by the sleeper as a dream.”

This is the experience of working with the hamr, but in addition to dreams, the hamr can be sent out as a magical/shamanic skill. Also, it is the part that can be shapeshifted, and this is illustrated perfectly by topic “The Finn Messenger” category in the Kvideland book;  “The folk tradition about the Finn (Sami) who sends his hug on a journey while his body lays in trance has its origins in Lappish (Sami) shamanism.”

As such, I will relay the story of the Skipper and the Finn. This is my own retelling, and not a direct quote from the book.

A skipper sailed to Norway, and there was trapped by the winter and forced to lodge with some other people in Finnmark. While in Finnmark, his host asked the Skipper if he would like to know how his family was doing. “Of course!” The Skipper said. After all, it was Christmas Eve and he had been away from home for several months. The host called forth a Finn, a man native to the area. The Skipper offered a pint of brandy in exchange, and so the Finn drank half the pint and then lay down on the floor. The Finn’s wife covered him with a quilt, and he lay there shaking for about half an hour. When he awoke, the Finn told the Skipper what his family was having for Christmas Eve dinner, and handed the Skipper a knife and a fork, which he recognized as his own cutlery.

Also, since shapeshifting is part of the hamr, here I also present a story about shapeshifting. This is also based on the folklore in the Kvideland book.

There once was Finn that was good friends with a farmer. One day, the Finn showed the farmer his wolfskin. The Finn pulled on one of the sleeves to show the farmer how it worked. The farmer wanted to see more, but the Finn refused.

“If I put on the whole of the skin, I will become a wolf, not only in body, but also deep in my hug. Then I would not be able to control myself.” The Finn said.

That is where I will leave this post, though there is a lot more to say on these topics. Sadly, that will have to wait until next time.

Sources/References:

Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. Pgs 41 – 64

Kaldera, Raven http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

Strömbäck, Dag., from the book “Sejd” (2000 edition), pages 220-236. The Concept of the Soul in Nordic Tradition http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=84650

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela

 

 


Finnish Folklore Atlas Part 6

The first whiffs of spring are in the air. The snow is melting at a rapid rate, and I have felt a lift in my mood I have not felt all winter. Over the weekend I went on a five mile hike. It certainly helped to lift the weight I have been feeling. It was refreshing, cleansing.

As we continue to work our way through the Finnish Folklore Atlas, Sarmela introduces us to an curious overlap of the shaman and narration. In his own words;

” The soul was also an instrument of narration, a monitor to the invisible. The shaman described his journeys through the eyes of his soul or his soul characters; this made the description plausible and credible. Among Palearctic peoples, evidently also in early Finland, the shamanistic rite – the soul journey – was often performed as a dramatic play, with the shaman or his assistant recounting in song the course of the journey, the difficulties, dangers and battles the shaman’s soul had encountered.”

In no small way, shamanism is also a method for narration. In many stories, the shaman is often a singer, chanter, or some other type of story teller. The story is told through a variety of characters, spirits and those the shaman meets along his (or her) journey. The shaman as well, will take on many different roles, and the story will unfold through the narrative.

A lot of this links back into things I have said in other places, such as here and here. The quote by Geertz especially comes in mind, because we are suspended in webs of meaning, webs we ourselves have created. That is one role of the shaman, to weave people together through narrative. And by people, I mean more than just humans. The shaman connects people with spirits of the land, the ancestors, and the gods. The shaman crafts stories in which everyone is a character, and from that emerges a community. Everyone takes part in the creation of a communal narratives, which then serves to shape experience in a dynamic, and adaptive way.

“The shaman’s dress, his role costume, mostly symbolized the animals in whose habitus he was believed to go about. Entering a state of trance, the fast tempo of drumming or the rite technique were not so much designed to affect the forces on the other side, but the audience. The shaman also manipulated his listeners, endeavored to whisk them away with him to the stage of the souls, and to strengthen the concepts held by the community on the constantly regenerating natural order, the world on the other side, and the causal relationships of the environment.”

Everything about the shaman and his performance served to reinforce the narrative, as well as the cosmology in which the narrative took place. This was not a one sided narrative, but one in which the audience was a part. The bonds of the society were strengthened, and the community brought together in shared stories.

When I think about the modern pagan communities, I can see a fair amount of this going on. People are reconnecting, rebuilding old bridges that were left to decay long ago. All sorts of beings are being reshaped into a meaningful web, spirits, ancestors, gods, and those of us among the living.

This reminds me of the article over at the Wild Hunt, that asked if pagan bloggers shape pagan culture. As a blogger, obviously I am invested in this question. Be that as it may, I think we are threads in that web of meaning. We are part of that web, building and shaping the meaning and narratives that surround us all. Whether or not these narratives all agree, we are part of the process.

And that is certainly worth pondering.

Sources;

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela. Pg 310

http://wildhunt.org/2015/02/culture-and-community-do-pagan-bloggers-help-to-shape-pagan-culture.html