Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Website

My new website Barking is now up and running. For the moment I am going to continue to keep Notes From a Barking Shaman active here at blogger since I like the amount of graphic and layout control Blogger offers. For bios, class descriptions, selected writing (mostly from NFABS) and more, come check it out!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Waves of Fate

It has been a dizzying past several days. Across the world, humankind has trembled in awe as the extent of devastation wrought by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Pacific has been revealed in in piecemeal reports on our television and internet, as if each garish report by the 24hr news stations, always in glorious technicolor, were pellets being dispensed to waiting lab rats. With the addition of the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, each time I turn to CNN to get my pellet of news, the metallic tang of fear creeps up the back of my throat. With every loading of a webpage I wonder if this is the time the picture will display an innocuous white cloud blanketing northern Japan, carrying with it the brutal death so associated with sibling cities in the distant Southwest of that same nation.

For those of us aware of the flows of wyrd, it has been a particularly bewildering time. Rarely have such great shifts in the path of our whole planet's wyrd been so bound up in so many concentrated variables and so few puny humans battling such terrific and incomprehensible demons. As I write this evening, only fifty or so people remain on station at Fukushima Daiichi. Fifty champions of their nation pitted in battle against a demon who once wreaked such devastation on their land that it shaped their culture for more than half a century. One who even as I type is threatening to break the man-made bindings that have chained it to human ends for forty years.

Unit 01 breaking free of her armor, the Akira Explosion, Vash the Stampede's barren world, the Japanese have been preparing their culture and children for the possibility that they might fight and loose this battle for decades.

I am not Japanese. I am not in death's path if those bindings are broken. And yet, it may be that the wyrd of our entire world rests on the outcome of this struggle. With every new variable, fuel tank left unfilled for too long, or on the reverse, a cooling pump restored with moments to spare, the wyrd shifts and eddies. Unlike my sister, the wyrd does not come to me as a great branching tree. The flows of fate carry me along and from my place in the deep and swift river, I can feel the oncoming turns and forks of fate. But these last few days, as if to echo the catalyst of catastrophe (for surely it is already that, even if no further harm is done) the flows of wyrd have tossed and built, only to settle momentarily before resuming their chaotic dance.

As a wyrd worker, all I can do is struggle to keep my head above water and ride the waves that crash through time and space as the battle at Fukushima Daiichi wages into its seventh day.

Why though does this endeavor so bind the whole world's fate? Humankind has chained many demons throughout our history. The one engaged at Fukushima Daiichi is impatient, and when it slips the wards of steel, concrete, water, and technology that we have used to constrain it, it takes its revenge swiftly and brutally.

However, even as the eyes of the world are turned to Northern Japan, we have become aware of a far more patient sibling pressed into humanity's service long earlier, whose own retribution crept up on us slowly. In our quest for swift transportation, heat, and power, we allied ourselves with one who poisons the air we breath and the water we drink, not to mention ensnaring those that benefit from its bounty in deadly internecine conflict. This demon may be far more deadly in the long run than the one struggling to break free at Fukushima Daiichi.

Idealists who have been forced to view the world through pragmatic eyes, believe that until we can discover a whole new way to survive, perhaps a new demon bound in undreamt of bindings, our best hope for beating back the slow and patient poisoner may very well be to rely far more heavily on the bounty of the impatient and brutal demon that even now threatens to destroy its tamers.

Alas, we are mortal and given the choice, slow and uncertain poison is often given preferential treatment over a swift and deadly blow. If the beast at Fukushima Daiichi breaks free, it is unlikely that we will embrace it as an ally against the slow poisoner, even if no other strong allies can be found. Shortsighted though that may be, it is also very human, and the decades delay before those events fade into distant memory may bring far greater harm upon us as the poisoner gains ground.

And so, it may be that the wyrd of a species rests of the shoulders of fifty brave souls. Or, it may not. As I strive to sift understanding from the tumultuous currents of the wyrd, I can not be sure of where the river flows.

As in counterpoise I go again, rat-like, for the pellets of information passed out by the news, it occurs to me how very like the turbulent wyrd their meager scraps are. The truth is that we are all caught up in the waves of fate that waves of water have unleashed upon our world.

We hold our breath together and wait for sun.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Exploring Privacy Through a Torture(d) Metaphor

Fair Warning: This post will contain graphic descriptions of practices that may be disturbing to some people. Reader discretion is most definitely advised!

Why are some things “private” in our lives and not others? This is question of particular interest to me of late because of my work in the sexuality field. More than once I have found myself inadvertently making someone uncomfortable by sharing details of my life or work that, while not areas I considered private or taboo, in retrospect were not things this person wanted to know in that moment. While I find spiritual and personal value in pushing people's comfort zones when appropriate, I also take pride in not being a jerk. Hence my recent ruminations on the subject of “private areas” in our personal and public lives.

I actually consider myself to be a relatively private person. If you have been reading BarkingShaman or my other writings, or have attended my classes in the past, there is a good chance that you are chuckling a bit right about now. However, I am being completely serious. From where I sit, I don't share that much that I consider to be “private.” Sure I talk about sex, including my own sex life. My spiritual life is a pretty open book too, my gods like it that way. And despite my issues around my body, which I have written about on BarkingShaman in the past, I have demonstrated BDSM techniques on myself in many classes and was even been filmed naked for British prime time television.

However, there are whole chapters of my life I have spoken and written little about. As open as I am about my life as Wintersong, writing about who I was before I recieved that name is virtually nonexistent. Likewise, few people have heard me talk about what makes me cry, or what old dreams hold sway over me. Outside of my sexual explorations, few people know anything of my childhood. Details of my education and professional training, or my financial situation are likewise rarely shared beyond the broad strokes.

It is an interesting phenomena, this process by which certain topics or even body parts become designated in our society and our minds as “private.” I understand that by the nature of what I do as someone who talks publicly about sex and spirituality, that I transgress this taboo on a regular basis. Howver, I often feel like it is a taboo that even those who abide by it do not entirely understand.

Warning: if you have a delicate constitution, now might be a good time to stop reading this post!

Allow me to paint a picture for you. The picture is of a man's genital area. His flaccid penis is held to a shaved pubic mound with a piece of medical tape. Dangling between his legs, one testicle has been freed from his scrotum through an incision. He's holding it carefully between his forefinger and thumb, though it is still attached via the spermatic cords. The picture is in perfect focus and rather well framed at that. However, the glans of his penis has been digitally blurred, presumably for modesty reasons.

This isn't a scene from a medical training manual. The photo was part of a series on, a body modification community, and the man in question was engaging in “ball exposure play.” Over the course of the photo shoot he did eventually return the testicle to its regular location and stitch himself back up. It was not the first time he'd done such a scene.

If you were wondering, that was most assuredly not me.

So why describe this little tableau, and what could it possibly have to do with the topic of privacy?

What struck me when I first saw this shoot was what seemed to me the total absurdity of censoring out the head of his cock while showing us, the viewer at home, one of his testicles. When I mentioned this to a few friends however, several seemed to understand the desire to maintain some modesty by hiding his “private parts,” which in the end weren't relevant to the scene anyway. This was incomprehensible to me. What part of one's body could be more private than an internal organ? There really are few circumstances in which anyone would be seeing your testicle, which from my perspective, made it about as private a part as one could have. What thought process made it ok to show me, the viewer, that intimate a part of oneself, but still leaves one feeling it necessary to blur out a penis?

I realize this example raises the issues of modesty vs. privacy. The argument that could be made that rather than being private, this man was being modest. I can intellectually understand the accuracy there, in the context of modest as “Dressing or behaving so as to avoid impropriety or indecency, esp. to avoid attracting sexual attention” (Google word search March 2011). However, I still struggle to grok the rationale or value in the behavior.

Yet, in a way this man's actions are not all that different from my own. As I said before, I am very open about all manner of things that most people would generally classify as part of their “private” lives and I am quite comfortable with that. But there are areas of my life that I choose not discuss outside of a small and select group of people. Graphic stories of sexual experimentation gone awry not only come out among friends, they feature prominently as cautionary tales in my workshops. But other subjects are off the table, or at the least are heavily censored for public consumption, just like a certain gentleman's gentleman.

I had a conversation a while back with my friend Lee, a fabulous performer, educator and fellow traveler on the shamanic road, about the way our sense of what “normal” is shifts off of the societal baseline when we spend a lot of time in the kink/BDSM world, spiritual space, or any other specialized community. There are people in my life that I have seen naked, seen fucking, maybe played with personally, but could not tell you the first thing about. In my world that is not unusual, but I sometimes have to remind myself that it means that I am “off-normal” by society's standards.

I think that people in the kink/sexuality and other subculture communities compensate for this shift by re-prioritizing what we consider to be private. As humans, we seem to have a need to have some parts of our lives belong just to us and our intimates. If we yield one area, another takes its place. Perhaps what matters is that we have something to be private, what that is may not be all that relevant.

There is a delightful science fiction writer named Spider Robinson whose work I am fond of. Many years ago he wrote a series of books, which I enjoyed called the “Stardance Trillogy.” Despite my enjoyment however, the fundamental belief of the series was that the best outcome for the advancement of humanity would be for us all to enter into a hive-mind of shared consciousness. I reject this idea, as I think many people do. We define ourselves in part as we relate to other people. What we choose not to share or share only selectively, helps to give us that definition that we need to have a sense of self.

Sometimes people who take my classes or read my online writing comment that they admire how open I am. Truthfully, this is largely an illusion. I doubt that I am any more open than most people. Like the man showing us his balls but hiding his “regular” bits, I simply keep different things “private” than most people. Not better things and hopefully not worse, just different.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

In the Land of My Birth

The light and water that make up my soul reflect the image of this place...

I'm home tonight, in the land of my birth. As I step out of the odd round building I am staying in this evening and look a short distance away, I can just make out the lights of the place where I knelt and swore my life to my goddess. The place where I was given my Name. Just outside these poorly insulated walls, the winter wind from whence I got that name whistles through the first woods I called my own. This is not where I first encountered power and spirit, but it is where I learned control and took my first faltering steps towards becoming who I am today.

Echos and memories greet me everywhere I turn. There I drilled with wooden practice swords, overcoming a lifetime of ingrained belief that I was clumsy and uncoordinated. Down that path is the place where I first held a regular full-moon circle. This place is where I learned to shield, and that where I first heard of “pattern magic.” My whole apprenticeship and the first years of my journeyman period took place in these scant four hundred acres.

But I am not solely the sum of my magic and spirituality. In that building yonder I trained in the ways of design and seeing things not as they are, but as they could be. And in a building identical to the one I am in now, I experience the challenges and joys of living with friends and family and of having to cook your my meals and clean my own space. And back that way again is the place I feel in love, and learned the lessons of love and loss, of passion and dedication.

I am in the place of my birth and I feel the spirits of this land reaching for me, hear reports whispered in my ears by faithful spirits who've long waited for someone they can tell of the passage of time and the goings on of territory once claimed by my Clan. Power sings in my veins with the unbridled freedom of old familiarity as I feel myself connected to this place with an ease that boarders on the involuntary.

It is the nature of the Vreschtik that we leave a connection to everyplace we have held. Every land where we once built a vrescht will still answer to our call. But the way we do that is by leaving a bit of ourselves behind each and every time we move on. And we were young and new to our power when this land was ours. With the passion and temerity of youth, we poured ourselves into this place, which in return made us over into what the Land and the gods wanted us to be. I am a child of woman, god, and earth. My mother, my Lady, and this place each share stake in my being.

This place the still sings to my heart and tells me that I'm home. But alas I am not. This is not a place for men like me. Here I am old, even as land and memory sing sweet, seductive songs of my youth in my ear. This is a place for the young, for those whose path is to find themselves and their place in the world and while I can sojourn here for a brief time, I must always leave it to them. This place is as lost to me as my mother's womb.

It is after all, the land of my birth.