Category Archives: Practice & Learning

Reading Feedback

This is the follow up and feedback from:

Casting & Reading for a Client (Feb 2013)

Feel free to share all the feedback I give! I am an open book :) This is super long, apologies.

1. As I said, the first note (about the poison path being utterly wrong) really startled me with its immediate accuracy. I had been going back and forth with the idea of buying some of Sarah Lawless’ Aves Ointment from the Poisoner’s Apothecary for ages, and a post on her Facebook about being low in stock made me decide to order it. But as soon as it arrived, I was TERRIFIED to even touch the container – it is currently in my room, still wrapped up in the packaging, because I don’t know what to do with it (do you want some Aves Ointment…?) The fear is completely inexplicable but makes me 100% certain that this isn’t the right way for me.

2. I’ve been part of a group for a long time now that teaches a mixture of traditional Wicca, new-agey Law of Attraction/manifestation type stuff and Native American spirituality. It was a good way to start off learning some of the basics – the basics you mentioned, like calling the corners, elemental work, crystals and spells, associations, and all that. I’ve stayed part of the group because of the lovely friendships I’ve made. But the sweetness-and-light attitude leaves me feeling bogged down and guilty. I am not a sweetness-and-light person. I am a bones and dirt and mess and smoke and blood person. It isn’t fair on the group nor on myself to be there. I have no real passion for the work they do. So everything you’ve said about lack of drive, about committing, about the trappings that don’t fit anymore, all of that came at the perfect time and verbalised things I already knew but hadn’t had the heart to face.

3. I do a lot of hands-on arty things, but I always neglect to make things for my spirits. I do tend to compare myself to others and put things off because of it – I’ve wanted to make a crow fetish for ages but let myself get intimidated by other people’s talents and the expectations I’ve placed on myself.

4. Fear is a big inhibitor of my practice. Fear of saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, being unworthy or unacceptable. It’s bollocks and it prevents me from doing the things I need to do. “Pick a line and commit” says it all really.

All in all, the reading was better than I could have hoped for in every way – not overly mystical, more like being bitch-slapped by a really good friend who knows me well and knows all the ways I tend to bullshit myself. Thank you so, so much.

-

UPDATE:

Everything I said here still holds true – I have started the process of paring down what I do and the way I do it, what I use and what I say, and finding a way to smash more of myself into my practice. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be! But I can truly feel that it is what needs to be done. And I have been gifted with some important and very clear responses from my spirits since I’ve been doing so. Right now there is water and tequila on my altar for the ancestors and spirits, there is dirt on my feet, and there is a new crow fetish made and waiting to be consecrated and offered as a home. And all of these things have been helped along by the advice you gave me.

To Answer a Question: Why Share?

Hi Juniper,

So please excuse me for asking this I know that this is none of my business.  I really enjoy reading your posts and I don’t want no bad blood.  But my curiosity is going to get the better of me and I have to ask.  This last post of the reading for your client, why did you post it?  I am sure you had consent and you have every right to; I am not trying to imply anything.  But I am sure you have done many readings, what made this one special enough to post?  I apologize in advance if I have crossed a line by asking.  It was really interesting and if you wouldn’t mind I would love to know.

Thank you, M

Hi M,

Very, very rarely do I get permission to share a reading on my blog or at a workshop etc. In fact I’ve only shared a few readings on my blog, because those are the ones that I was given permission to share. I ask for permission, and have been looking for folks willing to allow me to record a reading for them on my podcast, because I share. Sharing is a big part of my … deal, with certain spirits and one god in particular.

I also share readings because folks find my casting collection interesting. While I am not the first person to use a system like this, there haven’t been many people who do use something like this or who share info about it. I like the system, especially it’s adaptability and how it can be personalized. I think other people should try it out, because it’s awesome.
There are people who are working on/with their own sets having been inspired by mine and that sort of thing makes my spirits, and particular god, very happy with me.
I’ve taught a workshop on the system twice now, and in fact other people have even taken up their own versions and have taught workshops on it.
And that’s all just kinda cool.

As well, working with my bag of bits is a big part of my practice practice now and if I’m going to blog about my practice, I ought to blog about my bits and what they do.

Cheers,

Juni

To Answer a Question: Shaman

http://achangingaltar.tumblr.com/post/42758954945/shamanism-vs-spirit-work

One of the reasons why I hate Tumbler (and also to a degree, Twitter) is the fact that there are word limits imposed upon me. I can’t answer a question like this in just a handful of characters!

The word shaman comes originally from the Turkic (Tungus or Evenki) word “šamán” and translates as “one who knows”, or possibly more accurately as “priest”. This word has been used by peoples of the Turkic-Mongol and Tungus cultures of Siberia for many centuries. It was introduced to Europe from Siberia to Russia and then into Germany. The word was brought to Western Europe in 1692, that’s a long time ago. Also in it’s anglicized form, it is not spelled or pronounced that same and the original “šamán”.

White colonists coming to the New World and Africa applied the words “medicine man” and “witch doctor” to the healers and holy people of tribal cultures. These titles were eventually replaced by “shaman”. This is why people of European decent are often told by “shamans”” of other races and cultures they should not call themselves “medicine men” or “shamans”.

In our modern times, the word “shaman” is often used by anthropologists, making it an academic word, if not scientific. Though as Ronald Hutton points out, there are at least four different typical definitions of the word. Which definition is being used can depend on who you are talking to, though the most common definition would be something like “anybody who contacts a spirit world while in an altered state of consciousness.”

The term shaman is about as white as any other word in the English language. Meaning that we stumbled upon a word being used in another language, bastardized it and now use that bastardization in our common (and possibly academic) language. Using it in a way that is simular, but not same, to it’s origin.

english

The entire English language is a mish-mash of other languages. The hard part of avoiding cultural appropriation is this:

Where do I draw the line?

I suppose it’s easy to say that I should never use a word stolen from another language that comes from a culture that another culture had mistreated. Or something along those lines. But to perfectly blunt: I CAN’T DO THAT.

My name (the name my mother gave me) is Jennifer. Jennifer is an anglicized (Cornish) version of the Welsh Gwenhwyfar. Gwenhwyfar is a sacred ancient name, some might even say it is one of the titles for the Goddess of Sovereignty. That’s kind of a big deal. This why Arthur’s wife is Guinevere. Do you know your history? Do you know how the English have treated the Welsh throughout history? Even in modern history? I’ll give you a moment to read the Wikipedia page on the history of Wales as well as the history of the Welsh language.

Jennifer is a bastardization of an ancient and holy name, stolen from a language and culture that has been subjugated and treated like shit by the people who stole the name and changed it into Jennifer.  And Jennifer is among the most common and popular woman’s names in my age group, especially among the Celtic and British diaspora.

If I were to completely avoid any cultural appropriation, especially when using language, I would not be able to introduce myself. If you think I am exaggerating allow me to share a tradition in my family. My step-father’s father was a Welshman, before he passed away he had this tradition…at the start of every meal he would raise his glass and say a toast, the words of that toast were in Welsh and translated to “Fuck the English.”

My very name is a product of cultural appropriation. My fucking name.

So where do I draw the line? If it’s okay to use “Jennifer”, why is wrong to use “Shaman”? What’s the difference? Both are variations of sacred words that come from other cultures and languages. Both of the anglicized variations have been used for hundreds of years. Same shit, same pile.

This isn’t really the reason why I tend to use the word shaman and shamanism in conversation. I use those terms because of the higher likelihood that whomever I am speaking to will know what I’m talking about. I call myself a Hedgewitch, not a Shaman, because maybe that would be crossing the line. But when somebody asks me what is a Hedgewitch, and I don’t have three hours to explain it to them, I might simply say it’s a form of shamanic witchcraft. Because otherwise I might very well spend three hours tiptoeing my way through a verbal minefield, trying to explain what it is that I do without using stolen terminology.

Yup, I’ll be honest. I will use shaman for the sake of convenience. And also clarity and common understanding.

Maybe those of us who have white skin need not borrow words from other cultures for such practices. For we do have our own traditions and words, and names, for such people, and we can (and should) use them with pride. So, maybe we shouldn’t use the word “shaman”.

I do think that maybe the usage of shaman will shift much like the usage of “totem”. 10-15 years ago I seem to recall everyone used “totem”. Totem and power animal, often interchangeably. But more and more within the pagan and witchcraft communities we are using other terms instead. Familiar, spirit, wight, fetch. All good white people words.

I like to joke that witchcraft means that white people can have their mojo back, without having to steal words like mojo. It’s true, “magic” comes from French and Latin, as does “charm”.

So, for now I will encourage people to learn alternate terms to shaman. But I will still use it when I don’t have the time, or the energy, or an intelligent enough audience to walk the minefield.

Sorry about that, but my name is Jennifer after all.

Alternate terminology to shaman that are somewhat better for us white folk to use:

Hedgewitch, hedgerider, haegtessa

Spirit worker (meh, close enough?)

Seiðr worker. Volur, volva, seiðkonur, vísendakona, seiðmenn.

Cunning man/woman

Spae wife

Fairy doctor

Wise woman/man

Conjuror

Night Traveler, Myrk-Rider

Gandreidh

That’s plenty of options.

Cheers!