Sunday, June 07, 2009

It's Finally Time

I created Barking Shaman to write about the odd experiences and perspectives that go hand in hand with the atypical life that I lead. It was supposed to be a place where I could express my insights and views in a way that people could find interesting and enjoyable. Essays have ranged from purely funny (the Nexium commercial you'll never see) to ones that maybe made a difference, such as the one about the Southern Poverty Law Center which actually led to a dialog with the SPLC.

But life is about unintended consequences. If you go back to the beginning of this blog a read the essays in order you'll find that my writing gets steadily better for a time, levels out, and then gets steadily worse. The essays get more and more stilted, and the humor bleeds away like blood from a wound.

Notes From a Barking Shaman has, quite by accident, chronicled my worsening pain, and steadily increased dependence on narcotic pain meds, all through the changes that those meds have made in my personality. There is little humor in my essays now, not because I find the world to be a bleak place due to my situation (although if I did, few would blame me at this point) but because I quite literally don't feel all that much in the way of emotions, a common side effect of regular narcotic usage. More importantly, the cognitive side effects make stringing my thoughts together and writing them down quite difficult right now, and this blog is not at the top of my priority list for writing. Typing itself has also become agonizingly painful, and I typically write via voice dictation, which (for a number of reasons at the moment) is a clumsy and time consuming method.

I am a contributing writer at the spirit worker blog Gods' Mouths, and the ordeal worker blog Blood for the Divine. I don't contribute there as often as I would like for the above reasons, but when I look at my limited resources, they take priority over Barking Shaman.

I am embroiled in a quixotic fight with my insurance company to get approval for a radically different pain management system, a computerized implant. I had a 30 day trial implant last year and it eliminated %80 of my pain, allowing me to go off of my narcotics entirely. However, while the insurance company was happy to pay for the trial procedure, they won't pay for the actually implantation surgery.

If the situation changes, and through this or another means I can go off of my pain drugs, I will resume writing here. Silly as it may sound, I loved writing here and I miss it.

In the meantime, please look through the old essays. With few exceptions they aren't time or date sensitive. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Wintersong Tashlin
June, 7 2009
New Hampshire
New Hampshire

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New GM Post

Still fucking sick, but starting to get better. I've got a new post up at Gods' Mouths, you can find it here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

End of the Beginning up at Gods' Mouths

I do have some writing in the works for BarkingShaman but my throat is still giving me trouble which reduces the amount of writing I can do since I've had to switch to voice-recognition.

However, I do have a new short essay up at Gods' Mouths.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

interesting filler article

I've been sick for a while which is why there haven't been any new BS or GM articles for a few weeks. Keep an eye out for a new BarkingShaman essay on how, thanks to my supportive family, I can't relate to over %50 of the GLBT books at Barnes and Noble. Also in the next week or so we'll have the next installment of "Marking a Journey in Flesh" over at Gods' Mouths. Speaking of Gods' Mouths, there's a brand new advice colum for people with spirit work questions over there and I'm one of the responders.

In the meantime, I thought this article from the Chicago Tribune was quite interesting.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Listening in the Dark

This is an essay of mine republished from God's Mouths, a blog I write for aimed at the spirit work community.

Nearly every night for over a year I have found myself sitting at my computer in the hours after midnight, scouring the World Wide Web, looking for something. I have to confess, I don't really know what it is I'm looking for. I scan article after article from various news sources trying to build a picture in my mind of what is happening to our world.

Nearly any time you get together a gathering of spirit workers you will find that there is a big elephant in the room that doesn't get talked about. More of us then I can count have been told by our respective gods to "Get really. Get ready faster, you need to be prepared in time. Something's coming." Pressed for details, the gods get reticent. Many of us have been told "we can't tell you what is coming; things are still too much in the air for even us to know for sure."

For some of us this is a bigger deal than for others. My Lady is a deity of productive destruction. I am a diviner, who also has a strong pre-cognitive gift. That combination means that this question is always in the back of my mind, like a song you can't quite remember, but you still have stuck in your head.

The Lady and Var, her not -quite -servant, have told us several things that would happen over the course of the years. I am ashamed to say that we ignored many of her predictions because so many people were telling us that they were simply wrong. Per Var's instructions for instance, we had converted much of our savings into silver. My relatives, who are commodities traders, finally convinced us that this was foolish and that hard metal would never increase in value and in fact could only go down. Today the price of silver is four times what it was then. The spectacular collapse of the stock market was also something we were informed of ahead of time, but again we ignored what they had to say because people who were considered to be greater experts were assuring us that it couldn't happen. We also ignored the Lady's ever increasing insistence that we learn how to use and own firearms, an issue that gained immediacy when a neighbour started shooting at us.

While the Lady can't or won't tell us exactly what is coming down the line, there have been specific times where she has said "Look at this thing, this is a piece of the puzzle." Changes in historic weather patterns, Global warming, the world's financial crisis, political instability in the former USSR, these are a few things that I've been told are pieces of that puzzle. I have many others, but far too few to know what the picture looks like.

And this is how I end up sitting here at my desk at four in the morning, scanning the immensity of the Internet and trying to feel for shifting patterns in the wyrd. MRSA infections are on the rise among children, and it's clear even through the technical jargon, that doctors are terrified of what's going to happen once the last of their antibiotics stop working. Is this relevant? Does this matter? Several former Soviet nations have decided to form a unified military. Puzzle piece, or not? How about China landing a lunar probe?

There are times when I feel like we as a people are standing in a tunnel. We know there's a train coming because we've been told, and those of us with really good hearing have heard its rumble for some time. But now we are starting to see the glimmer of its headlight, and I worry that by the time we can see the body of the train itself it'll be too late to jump out of the way for any of us.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cheating on BS

I've got a new essay up at Gods' Mouths a blog/ezine by spirit workers written for other spirit workers. It's part I in my four part series Marking A Journey In Flesh.

Find it here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fucking Scary

"Extreme" Porn Becomes Illegal in the UK


I asked the (really) cute guy who works at the local metaphysical shop out on a date the other evening. This was a bit out of character as I have never in my life asked someone out on a date. I've told friends (and let's be honest, acquaintances too) I was interested in playing, but not actually asked a relative stranger out. Still, he'd been real flirtatious and neither Fire nor I had any doubts about his sexual orientation (stereotyping yes, but we were still right).

Not that I had what you'd call high hopes. To be honest, I am pushing thirty and not in the shape I was in before my injury and the eight years of reduced activity that followed it. I think I do pretty well with what I've got, but pretty well isn't a lot if you're asking a twenty year old model out (seriously, modeling is his other job).

He said "no" of course. He is seeing someone (20yr old model, I wasn't shocked to find him taken) and not only are they not poly, he'd never heard of it, which almost certainly means us dating would have been a horrible idea. Introducing a poly-virgin to the idea of being in a secondary relationship seems challenging in a not-so-good way. I absolutely wouldn't attempt it in someone already involved with someone else.

What was interesting was that although I was real nervous about how to ask him without coming across as an ass, which I think I managed, I wasn't too worried about being turned down. I used to be terrified about what would happen if I asked someone out and they said "no." I used to think it would fuck me up, and maybe it would have. Fire certainly thinks that I've changed and grown.

Those of you who are involved in the spirit work side of things know that in many ways being a spirit worker sucks serious ass. I've had a number of people recently comment that it sucks big time and there ain't a lot of perks. It's true. I for one wouldn't mind if serving my Boss came with free home heating oil and HD Cable.

But I know the person that I was, I know the person that I am now, and I know the path that led from A to B. I know that most people have no problem asking for dates and the like without serving the gods on a personal basis. But without the Work, I don't know if I ever would have gotten to that point. My physical body is a map of my journey, in tattooing, branding, and scaring primarily. Each representing an important event along the way. I can point to a great many ways in which the Work has changed my mental, emotional and spiritual being as well. To be honest, some of those changes I have ambivalence about.

However, if this path has led me to a place where I can do something I (and others) never imagined I'd be able to do, like ask someone out for a date and be alright when I'm rejected, well I'll guess I can manage to provide the cable tv on my own.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Making an Ass Out of You and Umption

Our background and upbringing inevitably leaves us with blind-spots in our interactions with other people. I firmly believe that one of the challenges and requirements of adult life is learning to move beyond the assumption that other peoples' understanding of the world will mirror our own. A great example of where this process began for many of my peers growing up was summer camp. Namely the horrific realization that in different parts of the United States carbonated high-fructose corn syrup bases drinks were referred to in different ways (growing up in the northeast it was "soda").

Of course that example immediately paints a picture of where I was coming from, at least in my pre-adolescence. While the norm for my fellow upper-middle class peers, spending the summer at camp is certainly not the standard summer for most children in this country.

My own experience as a young adult was rather the reverse of the aforementioned process however. Rather than have my worldview stretched bit by bit as I aged and prepared to leave home, I was often the one doing the stretching. The perfect storm of the onset of severe Tourette Syndrome (as opposed to the minor symptoms I'd likely had for years prior) and my coming out as queer conspired to both brutally shred my ideas of where my life was going and expose me to the worlds of people I would never had encountered otherwise.

Because of the severity of the Tourette symptoms there was never any real chance that I would attend public high school (for the record my family didn't "agitate" for an alternative placement, my home district rightly made the decision on their own). Both of the alternative high schools I attended were good experiences and I believe that with one exception I received an excellent education. As you might imagine however, none of us at my high school were "typical."

I had three social groups in my high school years. The first was my small high school, located an hour's commute from home, which I was driven to and from each day by a district provided car. The second was the young adult GLBT youth support and social group that met once a week in my home town. Until I was old enough to drive myself, my parents dropped me off every Wednesday, even if it meant rearranging their own schedules to do so. The third group was my local synagogue's youth group, which was made up of kids I'd grown up with since I was in first grade.

One of these things is not like the others. Perhaps foreshadowing my future spiritual work, I didn't hide any of who I was, with the exception that I didn't tell the synagogue youth group that I was already identifying as pagan. I was open about my sexuality from the time I came out (at 13) and when people talked about what was going on in school I shared along with them. Once you are at the point of involuntarily screaming out graphic obscenities, further opening up isn't all that challenging. I distinctly remember once answering someone in the temple youth group's funny story about something that happened in class with a humorous story from my school about a friend of mine's ongoing recovery from heroin addiction (really it was pretty funny). I also thought nothing of going to a temple costume fund raiser in drag, where it should be noted that, as with the Tourette, I was perfectly accepted. The rabbi (a woman) gave me lipstick pointers.

As I mentioned, I was often a catalyst for expanding my peers' sense of the world. I distinctly remember an argument with a childhood friend about prostitution that sums it up. At 17 he was convinced that prostitution was an urban legend and that even if maybe it did happen sometimes it certainly didn't happen in the city we grew up in. I on the other hand knew guys who had turned tricks after being kicked out of home for being gay. I also knew more than one fellow student in high school who was the victim of domestic or sexual abuse, also things he believed to be urban legends.

All this is on my mind recently because I recently found out that while all this was happening I was developing at least one assumption of how the world worked that until recently I had not been disabused of. Last week I went in for my twice yearly HIV test (clear) and had my eyes opened.

If you were involved in gay culture in the mid 1990's the thing you know better than anything else is what HIV is, how it's spread (and not spread), and that it kills you. By the early 90's there were treatments that kept it from killing us as quickly and there was the dawning understanding that it was possible to live with HIV not just die from it, but it seemed like everyone realized that it wasn't something to mess around with. My sexual partners over the years have largely backed up this perspective.

As I came into my late 20's and became involved in the Kink/BDSM/Poly scene, especially as a needle top, I found that with some exceptions, most people seemed to take blood safety just as importantly as I'd been taught back in the GLBT youth group.

My recent newsflash was that GLBT people who grew up in the 80's and 90's and kinky people aren't necessarily representative of mainstream views. I know, no shit. I had just assumed that when it comes to HIV, everyone was on the same page and it isn't true. As I waited for my test results (it was the rapid oral HIV test) I had a great chat with the director of the local AIDS services organization and one of the outreach people.

Some of their stories chilled me. College students believing that their oral contraceptives protected them from HIV and other STIs was bad. Worse was a recently infected person who was worried that casual touch could infect people that they came into contact with. Call me naive but I thought that as a country we had moved passed touching as an HIV vector before Clinton took office.

And I guess that's the point I have been driving at. I am naive. I am much more comfortable on the outskirts of society than the mainstream and I think that there is just as much of a tendency towards an attitude of superiority among those on the edges as those in the center. I had believed that HIV awareness and prevention was a universal priority because it was such an important one in my world. I imagine it is much the way many conservatives feel when faced with people who are happy being queer and don't feel the need of a "cure."

Our world as it is now has really only been around since the middle of the 19th century. That's when steam locomotives made inter-regional travel feasible. Before that it was a lot harder for people who use the term "soda" and those who call it "pop" to mingle. In the span of human history that's not a whole lot of time. It is not longer enough to passively allow our experiences of the world to develop. We need to make a conscious effort to expand our own concept of reality, even, or especially when it's hard to do.

That all said, for fuck's sake let's get rid of abstinence-only sex ed and teach kids how to avoid the gods-damned plague.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


A great deal has been going on since I last posted an essay here. I do comment about every other day on my livejournal, but almost all posts are restricted to my friends list. The difference between my livejournal and BarkingShaman is that I tend to post somewhat meaningful essays here, as opposed to the "here's what's happening in my life" posts that livejournal gets.

However, there are a few things I would like to talk about today.

First off, my and Galina Krasscova's article on firearms and pagan spirituality did finally run in NewWitch magazine. They changed the title sadly (from my "Boomsticks and Broomsticks") but the formatting is beautiful. I know that there is some real fear that the article will generate angry letters and complaints to the editors, but I feel strongly in the subject matter, and I know that there are many other pagans who do too.

There have been some major changes in my life. I had a trial run of an occipital neuromodulator installed in the back of my head (so yes, I spent five weeks with wires running out of the back of my head to a control box I had to carry/wear at all times). The results were incredible. I experienced about an %80 reduction in my pain levels and could function in ways that I had believed gone forever. Then, although happy to approve the trial to see if I was a canidate for implant surgery, the insurance company rejected me for implant surgery on the grounds that they no longer were interested in paying for the implant for any patients. It's one of the reasons it's been so long since I posted here. I sort of lost interest in living for a while after the rejection. We intend to fight it with the insurance commisioner for New Hampshire, but I'm just out of energy.

My home situation is not much better. Summer has decided that while he can't really leave, because the Boss Lady would seriously fuck him up, he will end/suspend his and my relationship. He's recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and his sexual identity shifts with his place in his bipolar cycle. He desperately wants to be heterosexual, and some times he can feel that way and others times he can't.

Since my Prop-8 posting I have had little to say about the current state of the world (since the neuromodulator came out I haven't been getting out much) that other bloggers and pundits aren't saying. Everyone sugested writing about my experiences with the neuromodulator in detail, but it is far too painful.

But now I've got some new things to say. Look for a new post before this Wednsday (1/21/09), and no, as of now I have no intention whatsoever to write about the inagural.

As an aside, I will be teaching two classes at Dark Odysey WinterFire, one magical class and one sexual techniques class.