A Roman Polytheist Looks At Core Shamanism

My experiences with Core Shamanism (Note 1) started with people I met, who had studied under Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman. They opened their own schools of shamanism and added their own “twists” to the basic teachings. I also encountered it in various books published by New Age and Alternative Publishers such as Inner Journeys/Bear Company and Sounds True, whose authors included neo-shamanists (Note 2) such as Itzhak Berry, Evelyn Rysdyk, and Linda Star Wolf. Finally, I read articles from the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner. (Note 3)

Core Shamanism began to bother me, but I could not figure out why. Then I heard about the attendance of Ereshkigal, the Babylonian Goddess of the Underworld, at a ritual to call upon the Goddesses to end the patriarchy. I could not believe that Ereshkigal, Who demands that the other Gods have to come to Her, had left her domain. Not only that but She also attended a ritual given by humans, who believed that the Gods are archetypes created by humans. What was reason for Her doing this? Why did this Great Goddess respond to these Core Shamans’ requests to attend their ritual? They neither had offerings nor did divination for Her or the other Goddesses.

In “Wyrdwalkers,” Raven Kaldera, Northern Tradition Shaman, compares and contrasts Core Shamanism and Classic Shamanism. He notes that Core Shamanism will downplay the “literal existence” of spirits. Moreover, it will encourage an equal relationship or total mastery over the spirits. Because Gods are not a part of Core Shamanism, practitioners can devise their own Gods. They usually “create” Gods, which are archetypes arising from the collective unconscious of humanity.

Kaldera discusses Classic Shamanism in terms of suffering a “traumatic death and rebirth experience” which results in being dismembered and rebuilt. In contrast, Core Shamanism is something that a lay person can dabble in. Sandra Ingerman says, “The purpose of initiation is to carve away what is on the surface of our ego and personality, so that the depth of spirit can shine through.” (Note 4).

Without any structure and with emphasis on helpful spirits and animals, Core Shamanism encourages people to construct moralistic therapeutic deities (Note 5). These deities look out for people but do not require anything such as offerings from them. They are the “nice guy Gods.” In addition, Nature becomes a helpful ally that teaches people how to heal and live a healthy life.

With all this power at their fingertips, why did the people, who held the Goddess ritual, still feel that they were victims of the patriarchy? One answer is that Core Shamanism itself is rooted in the ego or self. Rather than being a structured belief system, Core Shamanism stresses “here are some tools to help you in this friendly universe.” I think that rather than empower people to overcome their fears, it enables them to remain where they are. They can believe themselves to be powerful and victims at the same time i.e. “heroic victims.”

Instead of confronting the shadow self, Core Shamanism allows for spiritual by-passing. (Note 6). It encourages people to find spiritual solutions to physical and mental difficulties, rather working in concert with the physical world. After all we are physical beings rooted in this world. Meanwhile, Core Shamanism allows people to continue having spiritual activities without penetrating the darkness.

Acceptance of the darker side of human behavior is required for emotional maturity. It entails rigorous and honest self-awareness. I found a prejudice amongst these Core Shamans against seeking mental health professionals, claiming that they only reinforce society’s norms. My experience with mental illness is that the physical aspects of a malfunctioning brain have to be addressed. Without doing that, there can be no spiritual nor mental solutions.

Core Shamanism is safe because a person does not have to change their lives in any concrete way. A person can experience the fire without feeling the heat, since they remain in control. They do not have to face their true shadows.

As for the people who conducted the ritual, I believe that the Ereshkigal who did attend was not the Babylonian Goddess. Perhaps She was a construct of their hopes and desires. Perhaps, She was an archetype of the “Dark Goddess.”

Notes:
Note 1: According to the Foundation for Shamanic Studies: https://www.shamanism.org/workshops/coreshamanism.html
“Core shamanism consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. As originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner, the principles of core shamanism are not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective.”

Note 2: Neo-shamanism dilutes Classic Shamanism into a set of techniques for Westerners. The difference from Core Shamanism, is that they have a particular focus from what they learned from an “indigenous” shaman.

Note 3: The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, https://www.shamanism.org/articles/index.html

Note 4. Sandra Ingerman, “Walking in the Light,” page 90.

Note 5: Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton coined this term in 2005 to describe the beliefs of American teenagers. They define Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as:
1. A God exists who created, ordered the world, and watches over human life on earth.
2. The God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in The Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. The God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life, except when this God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Note 6: Psychologist John Welwood first coined this term to describe what he saw occurring amongst American Buddhists in the 1980s. Welwood said that the people whom he observed were using spiritual practices to avoid confronting their wounds. Psychologist Robert August Masters refined Welwood’s concept by adding that it disconnects people from their authentic spiritual-emotive selves.

Works Used:
Foundation for Shamanic Studies. https://www.shamanism.org/index.php. 2017.

Ingerman, Sandra, “Walking in Light.” Boulder (CO): Sounds True. 2014.

Kaldera, Raven, “Wyrdwalkers.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2007.

Masters, Robert August, “Spiritual Bypassing.” Website. http://robertmasters.com/writings/spiritual-bypassing/. 2013.

Gods of the Month: Neptune and Furrina

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During the hot, dry month of July, Romans hold festivals for two Water Gods – Neptune on July 23, and Furrina, two days later. Both these Gods are petitioned for adequate water supplies – Neptune for watering crops and Furrina for drinking water. (Earlier in the month, Jupiter Pluvius is petitioned for rainfall.) Water is important for sustaining life.

Neptune

Often regarded as the Roman Poseidon, Neptune (Neptunus) is actually an old Italian God. Originally, He was the God of Springs, Streams, and Rivers. Because Neptune was (and is) the God of Fresh Water, his consort Salacia was (and is) the Goddess of the Surging Sea. In his oceanic form, Neptune is addressed as Neptunus Oceanus.

One thing that Neptune does have in common with Poseidon of the Greeks is that He also the God of Earthquakes. It seems for the Greek and Romans that the Water Gods causes earthquakes. Meanwhile, Volcanus (Vulcan), who has his forge in Mt. Etna, creates raging fires instead.

Furrina
Not much is known about the Goddess Furrina. She is connected to wells and underground cisterns. Therefore, Furrina can be considered the Goddess of Adequate Drinking Supplies or simply of Drinking Water. Say a prayer to Her when you drink from a public water fountain.

Salve Neptunus!                                Salve Furrina!
God of Waters                                   Goddess of Waters
Sustainer of Life                               Sustainer of Life
We pray for fresh water                 Teach us to protect the water
We pray for abundant water         Teach us to care for the water
We thank You, Neptunus!               We thank You, Furrina!

Shadow Patrons (Gods)

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In a prior post, I mentioned that Apollo is my “Shadow Patron.” (Note 1). In Polytheism, a Patron (Matron) is a God who forms a favorable relationship with a person. Not every Polytheist has a Patron, since each God chooses the level of connection with humans. Therefore, a Shadow Patron would be a God who chooses to have an adversarial relationship with a human.

Why would a God have an antagonistic affiliation with someone? For me, it is because I do two things that Apollo is particular about – divination and prayers. Since in Roman Polytheism, both sacred activities are associated with Apollo, He wants them done correctly. Moreover, He wants me to prove myself worthy to do each.

Since this God is well-known to force Himself on unwilling females, I actively disliked Him. When I was a teenager, I was the victim of unwanted male attention. Hence, I avoided Apollo as much as possible. When I began writing rituals and prayers, Apollo came and refused to leave. Then I started practicing Roman-style divination. At that point, Apollo instructed me on how He wanted these acts conducted. A hard taskmaster, he drove me to hone my craft for both.

As I worked through this difficult relationship, I came to realize that Apollo is my Shadow Patron. Because He wants what I do to be true, Apollo takes me places that I refuse to go. He does not allow me to “spiritually bypass.” (Note 2). That means I have to do deep sacrifices for Him, which usually involve things that my injured brain balks at.

It is ironic that the God of the Sun and of Logic would have me focus on the unconscious realm. Apollo rules the Day, which is consciousness. By doing so, He defines the Night, which is unconsciousness. By standing in the blinding Light, one can see the deepest Night. Why is this important? In divination and in prayer, the force of the hurt, the grief, and resentment is released. This turns Day into Night.

In Polytheism, divination and prayers are sacred acts. To perform each, the human communicates directly with the Holy Powers. The Pax Deorum (The Peace of the Gods) has to be maintained between the people and the Gods. The Dark and the Light must be in balance for the Dark holds the Light as the Light holds the Dark. This seeming binary of Dark/Light is not Bad/Good, but a nonduality (Note 3) with shades of Grey between the Two.

In my perspective, a Shadow Patron forces you to handle the psychic energy of the hurt or grief. You are forced to cope with your wounds in order to do what They require of you. Since this energy is a form of impurity, it needs to be cleansed. You need to be spiritually ready to do various sacred acts for this God.

Notes:

Note 1. Shadow Gods are traditionally the archetypes of the darker aspects of life such as the Underworld.

Note 2. “Spiritual bypassing is a mistaken belief that if we pray enough…eat right, and only think positive thoughts, our life will ascend finally reaching enlightenment.” Linda Star Wolf, “Soul Whispering,” Page 154.

Note 3. “Nonduality” means “non-separation and fundamental wholeness.” It comes from Eastern Religious thought.

Works Used:
Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities.”
Galina Krasskova, “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands.”
Linda Star Wolf, “Soul Whispering.”

Each-Uisge (Water-Horse): Be Cautious, Be Aware

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More tales of European lake monsters.

Throughout the lands surrounding the North Sea, stories abound of dreaded lake monsters who lurk below the surface. These tales describe many of the monsters as “water-horses.” This beast resembles a seal with two sets of flippers, a long neck and a small head. People usually divide “water-horses” into two types – the long-necked Nessie and the maned Each-Uisge. While Nessie of Loch Ness is more benign, the Each-Uisge, also of Scotland, is more sinister. Haunting lakes and lochs, this shapeshifter kills and eats unwary humans (leaving only the liver). The Each-Uisge usually lures people by pretending to be a docile horse.

From ancient times, the Each-Uisge has filled people with dread and fear. The Picts depicted Him in all his ferocity their pictographs. The Romans recorded deadly sightings of this beast during their time in Britain. Described as a glistening black horse with a greenish patina, the Each-Uisge would appear on the roadside as a tame horse. Seeing relief, the weary traveler would mount Him, only to find themselves firmly affixed to the beast’s back. After that, the “horse” would quickly trot off. When the Each-Uisge smelled water nearby, He would race into the lake drowning the unfortunate victim.

One blood-curdling account tells the killing of several children by the Each-Uisge. This creature had appeared to several children as a pretty pony. As each child sat on his back, the “pony” would lengthen it to fit more children. When commanded by the Each-Uisge mount, a frightened boy ran away. As the boy escaped, he heard his friends scream as they were drowned in the lake. The next day, the sorrowful villagers only found the children’s livers floating in the water.

The Each-Uisge is called by many names throughout the North Sea region. In Norway, this beast is Backahasten or Nokken, the “brook-horse.” In The Faroes, He is known as Nukur, and Nuggle in the Orkeys. The Irish call Him, the Capall-uisce, and the Manx, the Cabbyl-Ushtey.

In Wales, the Each-Uisge is known as the Ceffyl Dwr. This small beautiful “horse” lived in mountain pools. Once someone mounted Him, the Ceffyl Dwr would fly over the water and, then melt into a mist. After the victim drops into the water, He would reform and eat the body. At other times, this beast would transform into a frog and leap on the victim’s back.

No one is quite sure what the Each-Uisge is. Is this creature, an undiscovered mammal such as a new species of otter or seal? Or are the stories too fantastic for an ordinary animal? Whatever the Each-Uisge is, everyone will agree that He is deadly and vicious.

The Each-Uisge is real to those who believe the old myths. Something lives in those lakes, pools, and lochs; Something that will kill and eat you. Ignore the myths at your own peril. Be cautious and aware that not everything you encounter is benign.
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Note: The Kelpie is similar to the Each-Uisge, except that She dwells in rivers and waterfalls.

Lake Monsters: Expect the Unexpected

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Along with Water Gods are other Beings that dwell in lakes and rivers.

Throughout the world, mysterious “monsters” are often sighted in deep water lakes. Known as “Lake Monsters,” these freshwater beasts both frighten and intrigue people. Nessie of Loch Ness is the most famous representative of these animals.

Worldwide, there are about 1,000 lakes where Lake Monsters are often seen. Most of these lakes lie in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from the northern boreal forests to the southern hardwood forests. In contrast, sightings in the Southern Hemisphere have only been in Argentina and Bolivia.

Cryptozoologists have classifications for Lake Monsters, which they consider to be undiscovered or unknown animals. The most prevalent species of Lake Monsters is the “water horse.” Nessie is a typical long-necked water horse. This type has a small head on a long neck, with a rounded body and two sets of flippers. The water-kelpie (Each-Uisge) who drowns people is an example of a maned water horse. Other famous water horses include Champie of Lake Champlain (US), Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan (CA) and Storsie (Storsjoodjuret) of Storsjon Lake (SD). Rarer species of Lake Monsters include the giant beaver of Utah, the giant shark seen in Alaska, the giant turtle of Vietnam, and the mystery dinosaur seen in China. No one is sure what They are but scientists keep investigating to determine whether They exist or are only a myth.

Often sighted but never found, Lake Monsters exist just beyond human science. Various theories as to what They are range from prehistoric plesiosaurs to primitive whales. These beasts could be new species, unknown species, or simply mutated animals. Nobody knows for sure.

Whatever Lake Monsters are, They inspire fear and curiosity in people. Fear because of They attack and drown people. Many are vicious monsters who attack unsuspecting victims in the water. Curiosity since people want to know more about Lake Monsters. These elusive beasts pop up when people least expect them. Before anyone can react, these mysterious animals disappear from sight. Learn to expect the unexpected teach Lake Monsters. Just remember to be on guard lest They attack you.

God of the Month: Apollo

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Apollo, a well-known Greek God, is also a member of the Di Consentes (the Twelve Great Gods) of the Romans. For the Romans, Apollo is first a God of Healing. When Augustus became Emperor in 27 BCE, he promoted the worship of Apollo further. Augustus claimed that he was conceived by this God. After that, Apollo’s Roman attributes expanded to include his Greek ones, including God of the Sun. (Sol Indiges is the traditional God of the Sun for the Romans.)

When a devastating plague hit Rome in the Fifth Century BCE, the Duumvirs (Governors) consulted the Sibylline Books. Acting on the advice of the Books, they built a temple to Apollo Medicus (Apollo the Physician). Since He is Greek, the Romans built this temple outside the city. Then the priests invoked Him to come to the temple when He visited Rome. Later, families would go to the temple to seek medical attention.

To the Romans, Apollo is also the God of Divination and of Poetry. To invoke Him, poets would “drink from the waters of Castalia.” In Greek mythology, Castalia was a nymph who was pursued by Apollo. To elude Him, she threw herself into a spring. Afterwards, Apollo consecrated her and the spring to the Muses.

Personally for me, Apollo is a difficult God. I regard Him to be my “Shadow Patron.” He forces me to go places I don’t want to. Since I do write prayers and do divination, Apollo is always there. His hardness makes me into a better poet and diviner.

Gods of the Month: July

Hot and dry July (Julius) has Romans focusing on the Gods of Water. The major festival for Neptune, the God of the Waters, is held in July. Also, Apollo, as the God of Healing, has games held in his honor. (Before the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, July was Quinctilis, the fifth month. Later it was renamed for Caesar, himself.)

Apollo
On the advice of the Sibylline Books, Romans held games for Apollo for to ask for help in the Second Punic War (212 BCE). They had just experienced several major defeats. Then later, the games became yearly to thank Him for his help in ending a city wide plague. The Ludi Apollinares (Apolline Games) are held from July 6 to 13. They include theater performances, games, and fairs. People would wear garlands and feast at the entrances of their homes.

Apollo was first considered to be a God of Healing by the Romans. Since He was a Greek God, his temples were built outside of the official boundary of Rome. During the Empire, the Romans also considered Him to be a God of Bards and Diviners. (Sol Indiges is the Roman Sun God.)

Pales
The second Parilia is held on July 7. (The April Parilia is for small livestock. God of the Month: Pales.) The July Parilia is for sheep and cattle. Animals and their pens are cleaned out and smudged with sulfur. Pales are/is the God/s of Livestock.

Neptune and Furrina
Coming into the driest part of the summer, the Romans were concerned about their water supplies. Held on July 23, the Neptunalia celebrates Neptune in his role as the God of Irrigation. Neptune (Neptunus) is the God of Fresh Water, and Salacia, the Goddess of Salt Walter, is regarded to be His Wife. (Neptunus Oceanus is Neptune of the Oceans.) On July 25, the Furrinalia was held for the Goddess Furrina, who watched over wells and other underground water sources. Modern Roman polytheists hold ceremonies to thank both Gods for water.