I sit here, with rum in my glass as my mind is filled with thoughts. I have been reading, and hearing about how mental, social, or physical illness is so harshly judged by Western Civilization – the Pagan community being no different. It’s been going on for years.
I’ve battled with my own emotional issues, a rotten knee to give me a limp, as well as severe mental ones – and it’s been a six-year+ road. I’m at a place where even my Gods and spirits are referring to me by a title I still do not feel I qualify for – but in the humility I sit and think.
I think it’s more than unfair, and it’s ignorant. If you look at truly Shamanic cultures – the shaman is odd, weird, creepy, and has many mental, sometimes physical, and emotional scars which separate him/her from the community. It’s that ‘otherness,’ which was/is a mark of being picked as a Shaman. While I do understand the worry now that I’ve accepted the bizarre picking of me to heal and to craft (who picks an asshole to heal people?) I see things from the other side as well.
You know, what a Shaman is supposed to do. See both worlds at once. Travel to them and through them, and come back in.. Well – a sort of one piece.
I do understand the worry of the unstable mind, and in a ritual setting it can be dangerous, and permanently scarring – not just emotionally or mentally but physically as well. I’ve tried to work in group rituals with those in denial, or those who simply didn’t know – and some who did know but didn’t have a full understanding or grip on themselves… And the results were horrifying. I avoided group ritual for years because I knew I wasn’t ready. But that’s one amongst many. I highly doubt I’m alone in that.
I use an example in which I’ll call him ‘Bill.’ Bill, had anger and social issues stemming from his childhood. He held down a steady job, was married, and had three children. He was the leader of a local group near me. He also had control issues and ruled the group with an iron fist. He spurned a bi-polar woman, calling her unhinged and untrustworthy in ritual. I look at both sides and think about this from an outsider’s perspective. Who is more unhealthy for the group? This is a sad conglomerated example of the stories I hear/read about online and offline.
I’m not saying just let them into ritual – sometimes for those of us, we need a slower approach (I didn’t get that, but I hope you know what I mean). There is healing in that, that too many miss from both sides. Sometimes, we need to start with meditations and smaller partnered or solitary rituals, before we’re good to go. And that can take months/years. Understanding the issues of all members is a hallmark of being a good group leader in my book.
I’m not saying that all who have issues are marked to be a Shaman. No, I’ve been in an environment where I got to see raw insanity whole-handed. No, it’s not the case. There are some people that even I would advise that ritual would not be a good road at all. Some people have a Pandora’s box already – they don’t need to go to the spirit world to open another one.
To become a shaman it’s a grueling road. I’m not talking having a bad day at the office or going through a hard time with finances or relationships – I’m talking about events that will haunt you, keep you up at night, trigger your scars when you least expect it in public, make your family avoid you, kind of events. It’s not nice, it’s not fair – and it can’t be mimicked (not that I’ve seen, but I leave room for human err) except by real-life itself.
I don’t judge those who call themselves Shamans – because I’ve seen it before; you say it often enough and the right spirit hears you… You asked for it. The last thing I should do is be an asshole from the get-go. You might need my company to help you through it, or someone like me. Hopefully, they aren’t an asshole. I’ll pour you a stiff drink, and if your medication can’t allow that – then you can watch me drink, and giggle at me.
No, what didn’t kill me may have made me stronger; however it did certainly made me drink stronger liquor.
I don’t think we should oust people because they have issues. Rather, as a community we should be open to them and helpful – they who need community more than most. I know I certainly did, but I never received it until I had a handle on my own scars. You never know – that weirdo you avoided at WitchFest might be the most insightful and loyal friend you ever had. Then again – maybe they need the solitude to show them a bigger picture.
I wish I had some wise words to end this post with, as my mind swirls with thoughts. I really wish I did. It’s a tricky issue, and one that isn’t readily solved. Some really cannot handle trance or ritual – while some just need a community hand and all the patience that goes with it. How do you solve such a tangled puzzle such at the mind and spirit of the human being?