Tuesday, April 26, 2005

...Lived By The Sea: PUF, Part II, In Which The Lunatic Fringe is Annoying and We All Share Water

CDHSarah says I'm not giving y'all the half of it. Tell her ass to write about it too if she has something to say. ;)


At Oh-my-God o'clock in the morning, when BellyDancingShamanismLady and I were just settling down to a nice long discussion about...stuff...I honestly don't remember what...when out of the darkness wanders a crazy drunken person of the female variety.

ZebraShadows the Nutbar had arrived.

She drank Bailey's. She was loud. She lost her keys in the field. She demanded that we look every time she saw something different in the clouds. We got to hear about her husbands and her drug life and her hookerdom. We didn't get much talking done ourselves. We did manage to talk about a few things, but most of them are lost in intoxication. The psychic vampirism of this woman would not be denied; it was practically palpable. I did manage to get a lot of validation from BDSL on the pathwork I've done this year -- one of the first people I talked through the whole thing who didn't already know me, and that was valuable, but I finally went to bed just to get away from the Nutbar, which I regret, as BDSL ended up leaving before dark and not having a lot of time to talk later, but I have her email, and ZStN doesn't have mine.

There's something distinctly unsatisfying about being pointed in your opinions on introducing yourself by your spirit name or spiritual name when the person it's directed at is too clueless to get that you are, indeed, talking about her. I do think it's a silly practice, generally. I don't usually laugh at the people who do, even behind their backs (except the authors Silver Ravenwolf and Shakti Gawain, because girls, please) because they're all on their own Path, but when your Path is the path of Annoying, I may help you further down it by bolstering the aggravation energy. Or something. Fnord. I managed to stay calm. I actually sat next to her in ritual later that night (albeit not by choice), and it was OK. I just knew not to engage her in conversation after that, because there wasn't conversation, just monologue.

I went to bed and slept beautifully, and woke up just in time for BDSL's first class, "Celtic Shamanism?" I only went because she had given me a heads-up that it was a discussion of the phrase (hence the question mark) rather than a workshop on it, because I have very little interest in that direction. I'm not ready for shamanism just yet, I'm still getting good at being a pantheist and just barely recognizing my potential as a healer.

BDSL traced the origin of the term "Celtic shamanism" back to its verrrrry recent roots, in one of Caitlin Matthews' books. Her objection to the term itself is twofold -- first, "Celtic" refers to a group of languages common among a diverse people. It's a linguistic term that has very little relevance. The Bretons, Manx, Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic, and the rest were in no way monolithic; they're distinct cultures with similar customs. Calling them "Celtic" is kind of like referring to Asians as "Orientals". Not politic.

Second, while there are shamanistic and estatic practices in those cultures, there is no "shaman" figure. It's an example of one of the major downfalls of writers in the field -- and I know this is a logical fallacy, but I don't have my symbolic logic text to check which one -- that they will take a model from one culture and interpret another to fit that model as if it has historical significance, instead of studying and judging each path individually. You can be a shaman who practices "Celtic" in terms of your pantheon or field of study, but that does not mean there was a previous history of that which somehow "validates" you. You have not rediscovered some lost art or joined some great tradition. Which is OK. Look at me, I don't have a tradition to fall back on. But then, I don't claim to, or feel I need one. I know the Principia was written less than 50 years ago and that Robert Heinlein never intended to start a religion. Doesn't make the things I've incorporated less valid because there's not history backing them up.

Shamanism incorporates four distinct practices: possession by spirits, spirit journeys, faith healing, and estatic practices. In a true shamanic tradtion (Native American, for instance), these four practices will be the province of an individual or group of individuals, in toto. "Celtic" societies were too stratified for that; some of these were available to everyone, some not. You cannot equate a Druid to a Native American shaman, it's just silly. Were there shamanistic practices? Yes. Were there shamans qua shamans? No. There were not. Not until Caitlyn Matthews decided she wanted to sell more books. Go ahead, be a shamanistic practictioner in a "Celtic" pantheon, but don't tell me in all earnestness that you're in the "Celtic shamanic tradition", because there ain't one. There's barely a second generation yet.

Now, what were these shamanistic practices, and why weren't there shamans? Society was too stratified for that. Each role was usually filled by one group, with little overlap.

You do find all four elements. On the spirit possession side, there were the felidh, or vision poets, who were Divinely inspired, it was believed, when they spoke poetry. The spoken word being so important in terms of its power, those who could extemperaneously compose in the torturous forms of Gaelic poetry, for instance, were considered to be doing a holy thing and imbued with a holy power. There is evidence of rituals inviting Gods to assist in this inspirational process, but the historical record isn't definitive on whether or not it was considered or followed the standards of what is considered true possession.

Tarbhfeis, imbas forosna, and dichetal di chennalb were the main estatic practice-type things; these were vision quests which one couldn't be a felidh without first grounding in, but they weren't limited to that. (We ran out of time on this topic, but I have the name Nora Chadwick in my notes out to the side, so I'll have to check that out. The Artist has the bibliography for that class, and I have to cadge a copy.)

Spirit journeying was an all-invited affair for those peoples, however; anyone was considered to be able to step into the spirit world due to its extreme proximity, and these things often happened purely by accident. The stories of people who went under the hill and emerged hundreds of years later are innumerable. Specific rituals existed to help someone control going in and coming out of the shadow world. The three types of spirit journeying known to them were aishling, prophetic dreams where people ventured out-of-body in sleep; eachtra, the spiritual journey to the underworld, and immrama, the physical journey to Tir Na Nog (one name for the Otherworld, the Summerlands part). Since they believed for the most part that Tir Na Nog was both across and under the ocean, periodically people would take a journey onto the ocean and come back with tales that seem to eerily mimic the practices of some of the islanders on this side of the globe. (Insert Twilight Zone music here). There was also animal metamorphosis, which everyone had the potential to do, but was mostly the province of the Fianna (think Finn McCool). For those who don't know that story, think of the Rangers in Tolkien -- spent all their time in the woods until winter came, then found a tribe to take them in for the winter. They often told stories of becoming deer or other creatures.

Of the healing and faith healing information, almost none remains. The Church historically disapproved of herbalists and healers, preferring people to get their healing from Church-approved sources, but there are veiled references to spirit healers and people who got killed later for it whose stories are recorded in monastic texts, as well as the odd tale of a Christian who had to resort to using the herbwife for healing.

After that invigorating discussion, we decided to venture into town, thinking we were going to get all-you-can-eat quail. When that turned out to be Tuesdays only, we elected for Cheeseburger Charley's instead. Only problem was, the Artist was navigating, with PerryfromtheArmy and the Champion following.

We got through a light and there was a black car following us, but it was the wrong one. And we were on the wrong street. We found our way there, and then they found us there (They had turned off behind another red Cavalier, one that was, curiously, going the right way). We had a good lunch, and headed back, them to Ritual Prep, me to children who were logy from the drizzle and basically just wanted to watch Shrek until they decided to fingerpaint. A birthday party and attendant cake for one of the teens broke up THAT activity, Eris be thanked. Without a table, it's not really a good idea. Shortly after that we got littluns matched up with parents and went to the feast.

The feast, the feast. Like the church dinners of my youth, with less macaroni and casserole dishes. I ate a lot of roast and a shitload of the Artist's famous potatoes sans meat and some of my favorite Jello salad that my mom makes for me with the pistachios and marshmallows. Yummy, and excellent. (Can I mention how cool it is to go to an event like this and, say, accidentally leave your REALLY REALLY COOL pint glass in the great hall, for hours, and have NO ONE touch it, much less stroll off with it?)

After dinner, the people from Adventure Wicca did their Flower Power/Give Peace our Chants ritual.

Now, I will confess. For all my hippie-dippie tolerance crap, I actually have very little patience with Wicca, generally because the practictioners are all so earnest and gung-ho and...eh. It just leaves me cold, Wicca does. I like Wiccans, but I rarely feel at ease in their rituals the way I did at, for instance, the blót. Perhaps it's because myself, I am not terribly ritualistic. I rarely need to cast a circle, because I carry my circle and my sacred space with me everywhere I go. I rarely use ritual tools, preferring literal representations of the elements to athames and chalices. A really earnest, overly memorized Wiccan rite feels to me about like how I used to feel when the Artist and I had to go to church with his mother and people would "get the Spirit" and start speaking in tongues; I don't doubt their faith, or the reality they create therewith, but generally it just makes me kind of fidgety. But the whole approach of Adventure Wicca is kind of Church Camp Wicca -- lots of singing and fellowship and good stuff, lots of laughing, nothing too terribly ridiculous and a healthy sense of humor. I approve of this approach to Wicca.

The Artist, CDHSarah, LokiKabbalist, and the God of Starfucks (that better, CDHSarah?) were all working in the ritual; the Artist cleansed the space with salt and water, and each of the others called a corner. (I hung out with the girl who called the other corner, who was also one of the horn maidens at the blót, but I don't remember her name or really anything descriptive about her, so she is now IvoryDressChica.) The folks leading the ritual, O'Gaea and Canyondancer (see what I mean about sacred names? They always sound SILLY to me. The people were perfectly nice, but I don't even think I could call CDHSarah "CDHSarah" all the time without laughing my ass off at myself because it sounded silly) called the Lord and Lady. By the point where we were all repeating "We are between the worlds," I was wondering if I needed to leave the circle, because with my somewhat elitist dislike of the hippy-dippy Wiccans, I wasn't sure I was adding anything positive, and that's pretty close to a sin, for me, personally.

Before the ritual, fake daisies had been passed out, and Patrick came in his ritual garb like the worlds' oldest male flower girl, throwing the extras, which was worth seeing. (I think this ritual may be going up at the AdWicca site at some point on video, but no promises.) We sang Waltzing Godzilla, then passed flowers. Campfire songs rule, y'all. I was OK after that. I was raised on Church Camp, and PUF is like that, only with more smoking and swearing and sex, because it's mostly grownups. And I do love to sing. There were a couple more songs, these more serious; we did a three-part Goddess chant consisting of Goddess is Alive, Magic is Afoot/We all Come From the Goddess/Isis, Astarte (all semi-well known simple chants), and then their Jubilate, Gaea, which is a rewrite of a Lutheran tune, I believe, in a round, passing flowers on between each song. I was feeling pretty good by then -- and then when the Artist came and presented me with cakes and ale (gingersnaps and apple juice, since this was a family ritual) while telling us all "Never hunger, never thirst", I was beyond OK (and pretty wowed that that had been in the ritual as written and wasn't his suggestion during ritual construction, when I found the fact out later), and even managed to give the friendly embrace to ZStN that was required by politeness, with much more friendly love for Bethums and ThomaswiththeFang(Earring). We were instructed to keep our flowers (hence the use of fake ones) until the time came to pass on the peace and community with which we had infused them.

After ritual, Skinny White Chick was playing, but we didn't listen to a lot of her show because we were all really, really tired, and as the weather had gotten bitter, we had been instructed to move our things down to the main hall for sleeping -- BitchGoddessTysh's brother apparently died of hypothermia complications, so she's super bitchy (in a good way) about we tenters who think we're immortal -- and, since the dance for the evening had been cancelled due to extreme freezing -- the Artist, king of the shirtless ones, was wearing 2 shirts and a blanket -- we knew we had a drum circle to prep for.

When we came down for the drum circle, SWC and her manager, who also taught the Poi Spinning class this weekend, were doing their fire-spinning outside to the tune of the drums inside. The Artist, fire sign that he is, went into active trance almost immediately. It's rare that we hear him speak tongues. This did it. He's going home and making poi, because he saw in his trance the rituals he could do with fire-spinning (the Artist is shamanic, and a dancer), and saw that they were good. Since he'd been nigh-on pissing everyone off with his attitude for most of the day and not-quite-right even after ritual, this was a goodness. He was raised Charismatic and (lucky bastard) goes into trance easier than any of us because of it, even though sometimes it's scary when you realize how far out he's gone. (He was speaking fluent Japanese at one point, or I'm a monkey. Wait, I am a monkey, I was born in 1980. But trust me. That was Japanese I heard.)

Once the fire-spinning was over, I went in and warmed up and talked to EphiWitch while gumming up the heat from the oven until I was sufficiently thawed to drum and dance. And drum and dance we did, from 10 at night 'til 4 in the morning. The Artist stayed in active trance, and I went there...drummed blisters on my fingers without feeling it, feeling all my anger drain away into the drum and become happiness in the circle.

It's weird about a drum circle. Even when you're in a hurry to get out of the way because you need water/a cigarette/another pair of spoons, you dance as you're hurrying, and you keep dancing until you leave the circle. I didn't see a single person walk straight out of that circle all night.

So I danced with the beautiful CDHSarah, and the beautiful bellydancers (not BDSL, but another), and LovelyGeorgiaGirlFromTribe, and everyone else. Even though my throat was sore, I ululated and howled and chanted until I couldn't any more. I kept trying to sit down, then dragging my body back onto the floor and dancing frenentically again until I reached the other side. As soon as drums were through, we all sacked out next to the fire, and I slept so deeply and well that the next morning I was poked by an interested party who claimed people had been walking around me for 2 hours without my so much as turning over, and they wanted to make sure that I wasn't dead. I wasn't happy about being woken up, but I was hella all right, even with blisters and aches and pains of various sorts. I just didn't give a damn.


Nothing worth talking about really happens on the last day of camp. It's a "Where's my...Where did she go...Whose is this?" sort of thing and always is. There was a bit of personal drama from the high-stress occupation of getting out of camp by noon, which, again, there always is. We all said goodbye, those of us that hadn't already, and rescued the Chihuahuas from the rafters.

Let me explain the Chihuahuas. Every year at PUF there is apparently a different animal mascot, and in recent years it has become a tradition that, over the course of the weekend, the "mascots" (dolls and toys) end up "dead". This year a Chihuahua ended up in the microwave, duct-taped and drowned in a sink, and all the remaining Chihuahuas got hung from the rafters during the group sleep-in. It's pretty fucking hilarious, actually; whoever finds it gets on the staff channel and lets them know about the "casualty". The Artist and I were packed and on the road before noon, home shortly after with just enough time for raucous listening of mix CD on the way home, and I went to work at six croaking, but still dancing slightly. Today I was too croaky (edge-of-voice-loss croaky) to go in, so went to the clinic and got a Z-pack (Z-pack=My Hero) and spent the entire rest of the day hanging with Elf, BGTysh's son, at her shop. Also, I have a line on a used drum! Woo!

Other than suspecting that I have Australian Huntingdon's Chorea (where one cannot stop either listening to Waltzing Matilda or dancing), I am just great. And I have been saying the words "jumbuck", "coolibah" and "billabong" for days as a result. (Doesn't having "a jolly jumbuck in your tucker bag" sound horrendously dirty?)

When I told ParceDaddy (who is, shall we say, not all about his daughter's "heathen" tendencies -- he called me that jokingly when I was 17, I don't actually practice heathenry -- that I had drummed for six hours and chanted and that's why I sounded like a frog, he asked me if my daddy's Cherokee blood had anything to do with that. And, you know, it just might...although the thought of my cracker-ass daddy at the drum circle is just funny to me, I could totally see my granny there if she weren't Church of Christ.

PUF is through, and now I'm so pumped for Beltane it's not even funny. If I have a drum, I might not even care about being celibate.

Hope Pesach was happy for the Pesach-celebrators. I know I'm happy, and I'm running a slight fever, so everyone else ought to be gravy. Feel free to ask for elaboration if you have additional questions -- some of these posts are a bit jargony and I'm not trying to alienate, but educate...especially since CDHSarah and I are both plotting how we might get to teach next year instead of doing the children's cabin activities all weekend.

Hope I did it justice. Questions? Answers? Comments?


At 8:01 AM, Blogger Gothamimage said...

Very interesting.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Simply wow...
How did PUF get started?
What's Poi Spinning?
What does it mean to be raised Charismatic? And how did you learn to go into a trance and speak all those languages?

At 9:50 AM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

PUF is BitchGoddessTysh and Patrick's baby, and I don't know exactly how it got started, but they're two of the best known people in the local Pagan community (and the local community at large, in Patrick's case), so I think it just happened -- hey, let's rent a campground and get some speakers and advertise. There may be a history on the website.

Poi spinning is spinning balls on chains, which you can eventually do while they are on fire once you've gotten really good at not hitting yourself. It can be meditative or just fun, but I am farrr too clumsy for it to work for me. The Artist, being a dancer, could do amazing things with poi.

Charismatic describes a type of Christian church -- the Assemblies of God, for one -- which usually has belief in the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" -- healing by laying on of hands and speaking in tongues, to name the two best known. As I was not raised Charismatic Christian, I don't have quite the skills the Artist does in that direction; it's hard for me to feel it, or to grasp intellectually that I can heal by hands -- which I can, albeit not as well as he can, because he's been encouraged to do it since childhood, and the church I attended didn't recognize that some people have that power naturally, I just knew I could "see" my mother's pain in her back, and stop it, but only now am I learning to harness and focus that energy to greater power -- and I've never spoken tongues in trance to my knowledge. That's something that's part of his particular Christian heritage. Many people don't speak recognizable languages in trance, and a lot of his was incomprehensible to me, but his sister is Shinto and I think he channeled her with the Japanese. We are both supposed to take our Reiki certifications this year and then we will be faith healers like you aint ever seen.

Trance is like hypnosis, there are lots of ways to induce it. Drum circle nearly always puts me into an active trance, where I'm moving and aware, yet not entirely "in" my body -- a consciousness-spreading effect where I am aware of my body, but it is pretty much moving on its own, because my mind is hanging out and watching things from every angle.

But I don't really know how to tell you HOW that happens or how you could induce it, as there are as many ways are there are cultures. Drumming, dancing, spinning, smoke inhalation, deep relaxation, chanting...there are lots of different ways to end up at the same point. Tongues, I dunno at all. If you know anyone studying Kabbalah, they could give you more info than me on your own tradition. Hit me up on email for a longer discussion; most of what I can tell you will be either secondhand or entirely personal. No two people come to God in exactly the same way. CDHSarah may have something to add....

That link, btw, was here. That better?

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Thank you for all that info... It sounds so interesting... Not the type of thing that's generally discussed, unfortunately.

The site is indeed working. You know, I found that picture of Bush and Abdullah just weird. I mean, I never though of political leaders (or political losers, as in Abdullah's case) as the type of people to hold hands like that, especially if they are guys. Oh well. Anyway, that's definitely not right, but that's what happens when you're willingly or unwillingly dependent on somebody for something. You're in their power, and can't criticize them without incurring even more damage for yourself. I don't think we'll be able to develop an alternative to oil for a while yet, so meanwhile we'll have to bear with these humiliating circumstances.

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous CDHSarah said...

First a few tiny corrections Elizabeth, because I am anal..it wasn't apple juice at the last ritual, it was ginger beer-nonalcaholic, but what a spicy drink! the Gaea chant stemmed from the catholics, not the lutherans...i remember that because Kevin flinches when he sings the song...
And thank you for using trance to explain the drum circle. it is exactly what I have been trying to explain. In my perspective...trance is when I finished casting the circle for drum circle, and all of the sudden I'm not shy...I can play drums I can dance, let alone the bellydancing stuff I was doing...out of trance I am completely incompetent at those things...I guess what I am trying to say is...in trance I am not myself... in trance I become part of the divine...and what a feeling it is!
EmoA, I will continue my personal discussion of PUF on my blog. When it is posted I will leave the address here for anyone interested.

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous CDHSarah said...

P.S. The whole rant about your "craft" name...I rarely use mine, and mostly find them all silly. But when I want to distinguish the witch in me from the CDHSarah, I find it to be useful...

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous CDHSarah said...

"...waltzing godzilla...waltzing godzilla....you'll come a waltzing godzilla with me................and they sang as they stomped through the flattened streets of Tokyo....you'll come a waltzing godzilla with meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee............."

At 11:33 AM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

You can totally have a Craft name. I'm not judging you. I know you have one.

You don't walk up to strangers and say, "I'm CraftName CDH Wiccastar", so I don't have to resist the urge to laugh at you (on that point).

You're right, it was ginger beer. Thanks. FYI, It's "E Moet", thanks. And I've seen you dance outside trance, and you're not incompetent, just self-conscious. Me too, so hey.

Irina, I just wish he'd own up that faith is less of a concern for him when it's not politically convenient. I'm big on owning up, and politicians don't do it enough. I probably am a threat to some people of faith, simply because I'm me and I can't be threatened. But I'm not killing the country or conspiring against Christians, and he loves to talk about how "they" (which includes me) are against faith.

Which, obviously, I am not.

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous ladyalambil said...

Ahhh...so much info, so much fun. Yay for Divine experiences!

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

I can't wait till CDH Sarah puts up the discussion on her blog. I'm eager to continue and learn more, whether or not I have the Shadow of Abdullah the Creep over me! ; )

At 11:35 PM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

No shadow here. That you work out between yourself and the most high, and no one here is going to try and do it for you, least of all me. My own karma is too confusing without trying to dip into other people's fnord.

And CDHSarah's blog is up. (She posted right before she left for work and told me at dinner she hadn't copyedited it at all in her hurry to meet me before Tysh's place closed, so the spelling in the first post may be a bit fucked up.)


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