paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
If you are bipolar or care about anyone who is bipolar, I really encourage you to read this article. It's about researchers who looked into the claims that bipolar disorder comes with positive experiences along with the bad.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503115927.htm

I've confused people when I tell them that I want to *manage* my bipolar, but I would *not* take a cure if it existed. My condition makes me different from non-bipolars in ways that are good as well as bad and I value that. If you took those traits away, I would not be who I am. I wouldn't be the person you (hopefully) respect and like.

I fully agree with the people who report feeling like they experience the world more intensely and through a lens that brings out all the rich color, music, sensations, and nuances in the world.

In just the span of writing these sentences I have been nodding my head to the score to one of my favorite games (Saints Row the Third) practically rolling in its flow. And then thinking how utterly amazing it is that there are people out there who can play with sounds in a way that not only enhances but gives life to movies and games. And those people are super awesome gifts.

And then I realize I'm talking to an audience of my friends and my eyes tear up joyfully when I think about all the beautiful things I associate with you all. Knowledge, creativity, desires to make the world a better place, lives full of hard-earned accomplishments, joys, tragedies, dreams, and desires. And how honored I feel to be allowed a peek into all this.

Then I go back to my music and take a sip of cold water, closing my eyes and thinking how nice it feels on my tongue.

This all probably sounds bizarre to most people. It might even sound like I'm high. Well, hypomania is a kind of high. I've never believed that baseline "normal" brain chemistry should be sought after all the time for one's whole life anyway.

But back to that article (finally, huh?). I do feel like I owe bipolar for a lot of good in my life. I get excited about things most people wouldn't. Like the symmetry of leaves. The different scents of herbs and spices. Making handmade Valentine's cards. Not excited as in "this is nice and meaningful", but excited as in "I can't believe I live in a world that lets me experience this". Being on this planet is such an achingly marvelous thing and I can't understand how most people seem unaware of this.

I also agree with the folks who say that their lows sometimes come with gifts too, such as increased empathy and sensitivity to the suffering of others. Well, for me, that just goes back to the achingly marvelous thing that is life. I hold that humans are both the most beautiful and the most ugly creatures on this planet. We are the most cruel. We are the most compassionate. That paradox is very painful to me. I am well acquainted with great depths of despair and hopelessness. I know that this is mostly caused by chemicals, that it is nothing compared to despair caused by the myriad of horrible experiences fate and humankind can inflict on an individual. But still, I've looked into the kind of despair that held Death out in front of me over and over. When I go through that I don't wish it on anyone, and when I crawl out I desperately want to find ways to keep people as far away from that sort of despair if I can.

Like one of the ladies in that article, I've also considered that my being more witty, humorous and quick of thought (if my friends' descriptions of me are accurate) might be because I'm bipolar and not necessarily a core personality trait.

Maybe bipolar has given me traits that make me a better, more insightful, perhaps more entertaining friend. Is it a bad thing if that is so? If it's true, is it wrong to be grateful to a "disorder" for these traits? I don't think so.

I know I shouldn't use this as an excuse to skip meds, as bipolar people are prone to do (and yes, I have skipped them at times when it felt like I didn't need them). But is it so wrong to not want a cure? Most "normal" people seem horrified at that thought. But I'm glad that there are at least a few researchers out there who care enough to listen to the whole story of bipolar. Who accept that many of us feel blessed and cursed at the same time.
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
Thanks to [personal profile] feralkiss there is a feed for my blog The Totemist. http://the-totemist-feed.dreamwidth.org/profile :-)

I've been putting up old essays, but fairly soon there shall be new ones and this week I'll be able to buy and fully customize its appearance to my liking.
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
(I came to the conclusion that talking about artifact spirits is a *very* complex issue, so I've decided to tackle the topic in separate pieces. Maybe if I ever have my own blog I'll weave all these essays together into one whole, but for now I wish to share my ideas like this. I'm certainly not done with talking about this topic, but for now I give you this. Please do feel free to direct trusted people you think would benefit from reading this to here, but I would prefer it not be linked elsewhere. I'd probably be open to it being posted somewhere with credit, though.)


Animists hold the belief that all things contain individual spirits or souls. Even though this extends beyond the beings scientifically classified as living, most modern animists tend to hone in on animals and plants. Most also work with mineral beings, especially crystals and stones. And probably a majority pay honor to the beings of landscapes and weather. A good number also work with place spirits, even some human-created ones such as houses, temples, cemeteries, stores, and campgrounds.

One class of beings that are widely overlooked are items that were fashioned by human hands or human machines. Two notable exceptions to this rule are sacred tools and the works of crafters and artists. This is due to the fact that both sacred tools and art are used and/or created with specific focus and intent. Thus these objects contain a very strong field of energy that is already used to interacting with humans.

I would like to take a moment to explain a few definitions I use for easier communication. The term I use for the spirits of human-created objects is "artifact spirit". The truest definition of artifact simply means "anything altered or created by humans". I prefer this rather than man-made because, while the objects may be man-made, sometimes the spirits in them aren't (but sometimes they are).

I use the term "awakened" to mean the certain state a spirit can achieve where it is at least somewhat self aware and self determining and able to interact with (and possibly communicate) with humans. All objects are ensouled, but for various reasons they can become dormant or never awaken in the first place. Some objects find a need to enter a dormant state very similar to sleep. They may decide to "sleep" as little as a few hours to as long as a few centuries. Sometimes artifact spirits enter dormancy after a trauma.

It may seem odd to imagine non-organic beings experienced experiencing trauma but, in my experience, they can. Especially if they are used to being surrounded by respect and love and then suddenly encounter callousness or violence. A hypothetical situation would be a cherished wedding ring stolen from the finger of a murder victim and pawned. After being exposed to the fear and death of its owner and going from a status of treasure to junk it may shut down. Hopefully, it will catch the eye of a buyer who will once again turn it into a symbol of love and happy memories which may convince it to awaken again.

Artifacts that were created to be disposable often never awaken. Why would, for example, a plastic spork, wish to awaken when it was created impersonally to be identical to millions, used once, and then sent to a landfill? It is possible to help the spork awaken although it would be hesitant to do so once it begins comprehending its usual life cycle and will probably choose to go back into dormancy. (Please don't awaken disposable objects as an experiment unless you will be keeping them for some period of time. Awakening something and just throwing it away is a very cruel thing to do. I did it to an empty coke bottle and only realized the callousness of the action after I had tossed it in the dumpster, for which I still feel bad about.)

An artifact spirit may awaken on its own or a person may initiate the process. It is completely unnecessary for a person to be an animist or have a belief in ensouled objects for them to cause an artifact spirit to awaken. One of the most common ways for an artifact to awaken is for intent, focus, and strong emotion to be placed on it. It is extremely common for children's plushies and toys to awaken. Many people often name their cars, boats, firearms, and computers. This personification is at least a subconscious acknowledgement of the spirit inside the object and a strong bond often forms between said object and its owner.

Technology is *very* easy to awaken and often they are "born" awakened. This is due to many reasons. Computers, phones, gaming consoles, and other tech are often literally an extension of ourselves. Sometimes we even partially merge together temporarily (or in the case of some technophiles, permanently). Technology is also getting closer and closer to mimicking human intelligence and most of society is anxious for the day this finally happens. Thus, many people are already starting to view computers as children to be taught. Of all of the objects that surround us in our daily lives, technological objects evoke the strongest emotional responses, good and bad.

I've already mentioned artwork, but I feel it is worth expanding on. Artistic objects and tech objects, in my mind, tie as the best artifacts for an animist to work with if they are just starting to explore the idea of communicating with artifact spirits. Art, by its nature, communicates with humans. Artists and artwork reflects the archetypes of Creator and Creation which are two of the most powerful archetypes to evoke. Art is always born out of emotion and meant to be an object of communication (even if the artist keeps the piece of art, it is still a form of communication from themself to themself). Thus, the spirits of objects of art are nearly always born awakened with a sense of purpose and a knowledge of how to communicate to humans (or at least a select group of humans).

A very good way to experience and understand the various ways artifacts may be awakened, what personalities they develop, and how they choose to communicate with (or ignore) humans is to visit various museums. Art museums are obvious choices that tie in with my last example, but don't limit yourself to that. I once challenged myself to open up to the spirits that might be found in a military history museum despite my ambivalence towards the topic. I was very surprised by what I felt and what greeted me. I ended up talking to a tank, a rifle, and even a WWII canteen. I met many more spirits who were kind but not interested in talking. And, yes, I met a few who were snobby or even malicious. I encountered many different personalities among those artifact spirits. Pride, sorrow, victorious joy, weariness, boastfulness, love, and hate. I was especially touched at those who still had a connection to the humans they worked with and wanted their stories to be remembered (the canteen was one of these).

I've also sprit-walked (my term for entering a light trance at a place to communicate with the spirits that might be there) in a few different museums holding Native American artifacts. These artifact spirits, in my experience tend to be more reserved and many of them give a message of "I won't talk, but you're welcome to sit with me quietly". Some do wish to share their stories, but some are resentful both of being in the museum and especially of the fate of the peoples they originally lived with. And sadly, quite a few of those artifact spirits had gone dormant. Perhaps it is a form of mourning. Perhaps through ignorance or malice they had been disrespected. Perhaps some of them felt that being in a museum display is a form of captivity that they don't want to experience. I also feel that some of the objects were completely empty of souls, and my theory is that they left to follow the souls of the people they first lived with.

I wish to leave this section on how artifact spirits awaken with something that ties in very well with the topic, something to contemplate. It is a clip from one of my favorite movies, "American Beauty". In it one of the characters, Ricky, shares with his friend a film he made of a plastic bag being blown around by wind. This moment that he filmed had caused a sort of spiritual understanding in him. Whether that understanding was purely pantheistic or also included animism is up for interpretation. In my opinion, what he says leaves it open enough for both to be argued validly.

The reason why I include it here is because it is a very moving and poignant example of a communication between a person and an object that is normally ignored. The focus Ricky gave the plastic bag, the emotions it stirred in him, and the fact that he felt it important enough to immortalize on film would, in my experience, all but guarantee that either the bag was already awakened for some reason, or that it awakened at the moment both it and Ricky decided to communicate with each other.

The theme of "American Beauty" is about reexamining life on your own terms, and while it is full of amazing moments, this scene especially touched me as an animist. I'm by no means perfect when it comes to recognizing and respecting all the artifact spirits around me, but Ricky and the plastic bag opened me up to become much more receptive to the idea. If you have a moment to watch the clip, perhaps it will do the same for you.

paleo: a beautiful full moon with clouds (moon)
My husband and I are major onion eaters and I just had to share this amazing tip for similar folk.

You'll need:
Crock Pot
4-6 onions, any white or yellow types will do
a whole stick of butter

Cut off the top and bottom of the onions and peel them.

Place them in the crock pot.

Cut up the stick of butter into chunks and place on top of the onions.

Turn crock pot on Low and cook for 15-30 hours.

The onions will fall apart easily and can be used immediately or frozen and stored.


We're going to be using ours on burgers tonight. Noms!
paleo: Grey Wolf as Totem (Grey Wolf)
Anti-stress meds are kicking in making me tired, so this will be short probably.

I called my insurances 24hr nurse hotline asking what my first step to finding help for my panic and recurring suicidal thoughts should be. Even though I told her I felt certain that I wouldn't harm myself anytime soon, just that I was scared that somewhere down the road I would, she strongly urged me to go to the emergency room.

I was terrified at first both because of agoraphobia and because I've never been a hospital patient. I had to make small goals in my head: first get ready, then get in the car, then survive the drive, then walk into the building.... I actually did better than I thought. There was one moment in the waiting room where I was clinging on to Jay's jacket for dear life, but otherwise I stayed brave on the outside (if not the inside).

But I got checked out, and of course they totally grilled me about the suicidal thoughts but eventually concluded I could be safely released back into the wild.

They gave me a good talk about options, gave me a three day prescription so I can gain some immediate relief.

My friend who is visiting has been a HUGE help. I've been brough to happy tears by how non-judgemental and supportive he has been. Sometimes I feel like it's "Me and Jay against the world". It was good he was here to remind me that I have even more support.

I feel more hope than I have in a long time. And that's not just because the drugs have kicked in bringing me calm for the first time in months. I feel like a journey has begun. It might not be always easy, but it has begun.

I should have done this years ago. But nevermind. I did it now.

I hear my husband and friend talking about Skyrim in the living room. My cat is sleeping on my bed. And I feel close to fucking normal, if tired, in my mind right now. I'm not cured, the fight isn't over. But goddamn it feels good to have hope for a change. I actually feel like life is good.

And if you have *ever* given me any words of support or advice, THANK YOU. You added in some way to the momentum I needed to accept my problems and seek help. Thank you.
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
General chit chat mode: Happy Halloween! Here is my humble gift to my friends list. I actually had the idea for this topic in my head for a while but decided to create it for Halloween.

This was a difficult essay to write in terms of avoiding sugar-coating things, scaring people away, and trying not to make these totems seem like the Bad Ass Leather Coat Wearing Bad Boys of all totems.

I was able to get some good talks in with Vampire Bat and Mosquito for this essay. Flea, Leech, and Tick weren't chatty but added some good input. For whatever reason Bedbug and Lamprey put up "Go Away" signs which I respected, even though I was particularly curious about Lamprey.

I really don't envy folks who work with these guys. They are a tough bunch to get to know and they ask hard questions and can teach harsh lessons. Of them all, Vampire Bat was the "nicest", but I strongly suspect that's because she, being a fellow mammal, has a closer worldview to humans than the others.

So long as you give me credit, feel free to copy and send this where you like. Especially if you know someone who works with one of the totems or is thinking of working with them.

And Happy Halloween!


Those who prefer not to read about blood are politely warned to not read on )
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
This is a bad book review of Wild Animus by Rich Shapero. It is a bad review because this book doesn't deserve a good one. This is ranty, silly, and disorganized. But I think I do make a few good points.

Oh my dear, sweet, ever-loving, fucking gods! This book! As much as I loathe the idea of book burning...this book...someone keep me away from the lighter fluid! )
paleo: a beautiful full moon with clouds (moon)
This totem was a challenge (in a good way) to write about. I have the feeling that tree totems are generally very complex beings. The smaller plants often tend to specialize and bring a unique focus to a certain aspect of life but trees come across as "I can teach this, and this, and this, and this...".


Evergreen and ever patient )
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
My first attempt at a full essay on a culinary plant totem. Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are appreciated.


Breath deeply of the stinking rose )
paleo: Grey Wolf as Totem (Grey Wolf)
MIGRATED FROM LIVEJOURNAL

I may send this to WitchVox as I am feeling a slight desire to share this with the neopagan community at large. But it is only a slight desire and I don't know yet if it is enough to do something so non-reclusive.

What tradition do you follow? That question, asked often in the Neopagan community, used to vex me to no end. Or more honestly, my lack of an answer to that question is what vexed me. There really was no word for a person who is not a shaman but still works primarily in the realm most pagans would call “shamanic”.
So, I would give hesitant and unconvincing answers, “Ummm….I’m like a shaman, but not,” or “Well, I work with animal spirits…..” My answers would trail off without finish, without any sense of solidity or purpose.
What pantheon do you work with? Yet another question that used to fill me with inadequacy as, try as I might, no cultural pantheon interested me enough to work full time with. Also, my European ancestry is so mixed and removed from its source that I feel about as French or German as I feel Hopi or Zulu…meaning not at all save for the way in which we are all world citizens. On top of that, I’ve never felt that being American was a flaw to be covered up by slapping (often untrue) identity labels of “Celtic” or “Norse” or “Greek” over it. Like any other peoples, Americans have their own unique situations and history that they must learn to work with and, in my view, seeing Americans as worse than all others is almost as disgustingly self-centered as viewing ourselves as better than all others.
What tradition? What pantheon? These questions tumbled in my head as if in an eternal spin cycle until, one night a flash of realization came over me. My tradition is Totemism! My pantheon is Nature! The solution had always been right in front of me but I had allowed cultural expectations and trends to blind me to the obvious.

In Neopaganism, totemism is very popular. The vast majority of pagans have at least done a little work with animal spirits, and many of these have one to a handful of animals that they claim as their totems or guides. On the other hand, in Neopaganism, totemism is also seen as a supplemental rather than core activity. At most, a pagan will form a strong and vital relationship to one or a few totems to form partnerships that will aid them in their chosen path. The totems are often seen as beloved teachers, friends, and family, but for most neopagans there is little desire to learn from and seek out the wisdom of the multitude of beings beyond those who come forward as primary teachers.
That’s where I differ. I acknowledge my primary animal guides while also looking for and approaching others on a daily basis. In fact, knowledge of a wide range of beings and the ability to compare and contrast their lessons is a key part of my path.

As a modern Totemist, I am seeking to recreate, possibly rediscover, ways of communicating with, partnering, and honoring the vast multitude of entities spiritually connected to the natural world. To help illustrate the importance of this practice, I like to point to the fact that almost every culture, tribal or otherwise, has a myth which speaks of some great fall from grace, a banishment from a time or place where humans were more in harmony with animals and often could speak with them. It is my belief that these myths probably arose to explain the confusion and struggle the first sapiens must have gone through as they dealt with a less instinctual, more learning oriented mind. They no longer could just *know* how live as most other animals do, they had to *learn* it. Primate ingenuity could only get our earliest ancestors so far. To increase their knowledge of the world around them they quickly learned to observe and sometimes imitate the animals around them. There is much anthropological evidence to suggest that birds taught the earliest cultures many things about song and dance. Wolves and bears are often credited for influencing ancient hunting and warrior peoples. Spiders are often recognized as the creators of weaving. Woodpecker is said to have taught various Canadian tribes how to harvest maple sap. The list of practical knowledge and artistic inspiration credited to animals goes on and on. Because so many skills were taught by animals, it seems natural that humans would quickly seek out more esoteric and spiritual lessons from their teachers. While we can only speculate on the origins and meanings of various myths and cosmologies, there is much that can be gleaned from researching and contemplating the relationships between other peoples and animals and animal-spirits.

Working with animal spirits may seem to many to be something that was only applicable to Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures. I couldn’t find this farther from the truth. It is fact that modernity cuts us off from many of the modes and experiences available to tribal peoples. Most humans today are far removed from the “natural world”. Many today never see living, growing examples of the animals and plants they eat. Most only experience contact with domestic pets, the handfuls of native species able to live in diversity-killing urban sprawl, and various “pest” animals attracted to human homes. Any plants they see are as likely to be foreign species chosen for ornamental reasons as native ones. Even the weather-beings are somewhat denied as most folks work in buildings devoid of natural sunlight, wind, or rain.
My defense of modern Totemism comes from the facts of this very deep disconnect with our fellow beings. We may no longer have the option of doing things “old school”, but if animals can teach us anything, it is how to adapt. We still have so very much to learn from animals. We live in a time where people have access to knowledge of far greater species than ever before. For better or worse, each continent has been explored thoroughly (though by no means completely). We have sent mechanical eyes to the bottoms of the seas. Microscopes allow us to peer into once invisible realms of beings. Each year fossils unlock secrets that help us understand the past that made the present possible.
Paradoxically, our species is living in a time where we possess the greatest amount of technical and scientific knowledge of the natural world, yet functionally we are the most ignorant. One of my aims as a modern Totemist is to correct this paradox.
For example, when I see news of polar bears drowning due to their ice fields melting, the message is clear. Polar bears are literally losing ground due to climate change and humans may soon lose ground for the same reasons. This leads to a desire to change my habits in ways that could help humans and bears alike. Or perhaps I read about how deer, rats, and pigs have all been known to shun genetically modified crops. If Rat and Pig are shunning these new species as a source of nutrition, it would perhaps be wise if humans did the same. I feel that we are living in times where valuing what animals teach us is especially important. Our early ancestors learned from animals to increase their chances of surviving and thriving and we may have to do the same. We need to relearn the ways of our fellow beings in hopes of seeing more clearly a path to a way of life that will allow us *all* a better chance to survive and thrive.
There is still much practical and spiritual wisdom to be gained from watching and learning about animals. The lessons can be literal, such as when elephants knew well before humans about an impending tsunami and thus saved the lives of the humans who followed them. The lessons can be more symbolic but still fairly obvious, such as Quail offering teachings to a parent or caretaker of many children. The lesson can also be highly esoteric with the animal spirits offering lore not easily connected in any logical way to the species. Examples of this may include the animal sending a person on a spiritual journey, initiating them into shamanic death and rebirth, or taking on roles more commonly associated with deities.
I won’t say much on my methods for working with animal and other spirits as that is for another essay, but I will boil down the three skills that I feel a modern Totemist needs to work to master. First, one needs the ability to recognize and seek out animal guides. Secondly, one needs to find a way to form a working relationship with the totem where lessons may be transferred (popular options being ritual, meditation, spellwork, and shapeshifting). Lastly, one needs to cultivate an honoring, honest, and often humble attitude and seek ways to thank the totem for its guidance (popular options are creating altars and artwork or donating time or money to animal and environmental charities).
One of the problems I find with the way many neopagans deal with totems is that many often only superficially touch on the honoring and thanking of the animal-spirits. When a totem is treated like a mere wish-granter or status symbol, I began to question the depth of that person’s spirituality. If someone enters into a relationship with an animal-being in a way that is honest, open, and sometimes deep enough to qualify as intimate, they cannot help but feel for the plight of that being’s earthly family. That which hurts the Totem hurts the Totemist. Equally, that which nurtures the Totem nutures the Totemist. This understanding applied on a wider scale could be modern Totemism’s gift to the neopagan community. Totemists know on a deep, deep level that all life is sacred and connected and that much of that life is in danger because of the actions of our species. If we can impart a fraction of that desire to learn from and honor our fellow living beings we will have done a great service for all. There can be no greater gift I can give the animals and animal-spirits I love so dearly than to work to save them and encourage others to do the same. There are times when I believe that Totemists could help us reconsider the concepts of “human” and “animal” in the same way Goddess worshippers and others helped us reconsider the concepts of “man” and “woman”. Totemism could help bring about a more honest look at the way humans view and live with animals.
I know my path and I know my purpose. I feel that what I do is important, perhaps even necessary. I practice Totemism for its own sake and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
Heyya, I'm going to be migrating a bunch of essays from LJ to here in the coming month. Sorry if I post a bunch of stuff you've already read.
paleo: Spotted Hyena as Totem (Spotted Hyena)
MIGRATED ESSAY FROM LIVEJOURNAL

Spotted Hyena and I have a relationship. I wouldn't say we are close, more like a "oh hey, I was in the area and thought I'd drop by for some chit-chat" type of relationship. Spotted Hyena's greatest lesson for me was nudging me in the right direction for finding my therioside. Something about her felt familiar and her energy matched mine in some ways that Grey Wolf, my life long mentor, did not. She was quick to dodge any latching on I might do, batting away any rushed jumps to conclusions that I'd made a mistake on identifying my inner-beastie and had been a hyena all along.
"Oh, we do have a bit of a kinship," she said with a smile that was friendly and crafty at the same time, "but you are not mine. We'll talk when you've figured it out."

Then came the website with the statement: "Dire wolves most likely filled a niche similar to today's spotted hyenas." Aha! True to her word, Hyena dropped by to talk about this revelation and about how her way of living often seems "right" to me. She's actually older than Dire Wolf, and the fact that she is both more ancient then he and yet still extant makes her perspective fascinating to me. She chuckles and reminds, "Honey, my tribe mastered this Game long before doggies entered the picture. We were so good at it that lions had to give up solitary life just to compete!" She is sure of herself, tough, and doesn't give two damns if you love her or not.

When [personal profile] moonvoice posted her wonderously long lists of totemic keywords, I of course immediately clicked on Spotted Hyena. I've posted it below and bolded the lessons that I have also encountered most strongly with her.

" The healing power of laughter, seeking to find many ways to communicate with others, sharing your knowledge freely, endings, the end of a difficult or positive period, trusting your instincts, trickster energy, an ability to hurt with words, watch what you say, attracting people like you, being very adept at groupwork and collaborative projects."

Laughter
Hyena does teach about laughter, but it isn't the warmest teaching in the world. Those maniacal cackles and whoops are rarely about joy. They are warnings, rallying calls, and a way to relieve stress. They are also a form of psychological warfare. Hyena laughter reminds you that sometimes you have to go a little crazy to keep your sanity. Sometimes you have to laugh so you don't cry. Laughing through pain and fear may sound ugly to others, but sometimes it is a way to build strength and a way to relieve pressure that would otherwise make you collapse. If anyone can teach you how to put on a "shit eating grin", it is Spotted Hyena.

Instincts and Trickery
Kali. Hecate. Lilith. The Mother Who Destroys. Crone. Sorceress. Witch.
Spotted Hyena shares the shadowy current of archtypal energy with these entities and symbols of darker female power. She knows when to nurture, but she isn't afraid to be cruel. There can be sweet tenderness among the hyena clan, but there can also be viciousness and murder. It is not uncommon for the one of the first actions of a young hyena's life to be siblicide. Spotted hyenas also defy what many people consider sexual and gender norms. Females rule the clan, are larger and more aggressive than males, and even have a large psuedo-phallus. Ritualized sexual behavior starts at an early age, with mounting and genital licking being daily events.
Because of their unusual physiology and the difficulty of telling males from females, hyenas often became symbolic of homosexuality and transgenderedism and were hated and vilified by those who also demonized these populations of humanity. The matriarchal nature of hyena clans also brought them infamy among some societies that felt that strong women were devilish or dangerous. Spotted Hyena is not a totem that one should seek if you are not comfortable with or do not accept diversity in gender roles and sexual orientation. She can be a dangerous being if you try to tame her or change her, and she does not stand for those who try to force others to change.
Spotted Hyena is deeply instinctual. To work with her you have to be willing to accept all of her. You have to be willing to be made uncomfortable at times as she has a tendancy to dive into the shadowy realms of your soul and drag back things you tried to hide or forget. She is unflinching, unashamed, and if she doesn't respect you, sometimes she is untrustworthy. But for those who can stand up to her tests, those who can look at the fetid, rotten truths she sometimes drags in front of you and laugh instead of run, she can be one of the most loyal and supportive of guides you will ever meet.
She isn't evil...no totem is evil in the human understanding of the word. But she is brutal in her honesty, challenging, and easily misunderstood. And she has somewhat earned her reputation as being a creature of sorcery and curses.

Biting Words
This is probably the lesson Spotted Hyena works with me the most often, and the one that most overlaps with some of Dire Wolf's teachings. Spotted Hyena knows the impact of sounds and vocalizations. She knows how to intimidate and comfort with sound. She knows how to bluff, and she knows when to back up her bluffs. Spotted Hyena has often whispered in my ear as I've considered what I should say in a given situation but am at a loss for words. If I want to comfort a friend without smothering them, Spotted Hyena sometimes tells me how to craft my words just so. If I am trying to get an adversarial person to back off, again Hyena can guide me on just the right words that will put that person in check and make them think twice about trying to spar with me. And on the very rare occassions that I want to destroy a person with words, well Hyena and I bare our fangs and attack the nearest weak spot we find. Biting words indeed.

I do realize that what I have just written could make some think that Spotted Hyena is a horrid and mean totem. I don't see her that way at all. On the contrary, I have seen her gentle, playful, loyal, and caring side. She isn't all "blood and guts in the dark night". But I won't lie about her or try to soften her image. Hyena wouldn't want that.
Hyena-work isn't for everyone as it can be harsh and requires just a touch of madness. But some people will hear the laughter in the hot African night...and can't help giving a little chuckle in return.

And I can't resist ending on a pic of my favorite hyena-lover and her two "babies". :-)

title or description
paleo: a beautiful full moon with clouds (moon)
I normally try to refrain from gushing over and trying to convert others to shows, but I'm feeling a void since the last episode of the first season of The Walking Dead aired, and am in the mood to squee.

I loves me some zombies. The Walking Dead had me ready to be hooked just because of its subject matter. Also, I have read most of the graphic novels it is based on which are smart and thought provoking. The idea behind the graphic novels is that the zombies are simply the situation. The real conflict and threats lies in the characters themselves, how their own personalities and fears often cause greater harm than the undead plaque they are trying to survive. It gets into some pretty deep stuff, way beyond "aaarrrr, braaaaiiiinnsss".

Being a bit (okay a lot) of a cynic, I really doubted that the show could capture the depth of character and bring forth the issues the comics did. TV producers have a way of latching on to literature as an excuse for creating a show but often have trouble translating it.

Happily, I was dead (punny!) wrong about that worry. The Walking Dead could have easily been a mere genre show, which I as a zombie fan would have been fine with. However, it ended up being one of the finest examples of drama I have seen to date. It is highly cinematic, more like a movie than television. The action is slick, the horror is sometimes unbearably visceral, and the two main characters are incredibly nuanced.

(semi-spoiler alert)
One character in particular, Shane Walsh, especially impresses me because it would have been so, soooo easy to turn him into a cliche. Pre-zombie-attack, Shane was the partner and best friend of Sheriff Rick Grimes, the main character who ends up shot in the line of duty and is hospitalized and comotose when the undead outbreak occurs. Shane ends up taking Rick's wife and son under his wing and ends up becoming a leader of sorts for a band of survivors fleeing the city. He enters into a sexual relationship with Rick's wife, which she breaks off and keeps secret once Rick is found alive and joins the group.

This, of course, causes Shane to become increasingly resentful and bitter towards Rick though he also keeps the secrecy and acts happy to have his friend back and alive. It is obvious from the start that Shane is probably being groomed to be an antagonist. Towards the end of the season, he starts a downward spiral into semi-fascist authoritarianism, uses more violence than needed to deal with problems, escape into drunkenness, and even attempted (possibly actual) rape of Rick's wife.

The writers could have easily made Shane into an mere asshole, the black hat to Rick's white hat. Someone we can all boo and hiss at. Shane is deeply flawed, but he isn't bad and certainly not evil. You can't really hate him even when he turns to heavyhanded and sometimes brutal tactics to keep order in the group. Or when you see the first chilling signs of a temptation to murder his friend. Or even when he tries to force himself on his former lover in a drunken attempt to literally take back the only thing that gave him purpose after civilzation collapsed and survival was uncertain. He is a tragic figure in the classic sense of the word. He is a human being trying to do right but breaking under extreme pressure. If he does end up becoming a villian, it won't be for simple reasons and watching his fall is sure to make the audience experience a bit of that conflict that the character is going through. The path he is going down is a bad one, but in a way you can't totally blame him.

I think there are many people who haven't given The Walking Dead a chance, mistaking it for "just" a zombie show. It really is much more than that. Like the comics, the zombies are the *environment* and the true conflict and tension arises from the surviors themeselves. This isn't a simple shoot-em-up-and-smoke-a-cigar-in-victory story.

And for those who *are* zombie fans...oh my! I've become so jaded and habituated to zombie flicks that I can't remember the last time I was truely scared by the undead. The Walking Dead changed that. This may seem like blasphemy, but I think George Romero's iconic undead have finally been topped. The make-up and effects are superb and uncanny. The gore is...hell I didn't know you could get away with that much blood on American television now. And the horror of infection, the fear of death, the sorrow of seeing loved ones turned into something *else* are brought front and center without ever seeming cheesy or forced.

The Walking Dead made me remember why I love zombies in the first place. Zombies wrap up all my fears into one fetid, rotting package. Disease, contamination, death, mob mentality, the collapse of the world as we know it. But unlike most zombie movies, The Walking Dead isn't a shoot-em-up where two hours of headshots and decapitations lead to a nice, tidy solution.

No, you are stuck with the zombies. And, worse, you are stuck with your fellow surviors.
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
Edit: According to some sources, this is a fake.


paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
Hello, my name is Paleo and I'm a book hoarder.

I'm seriously thinking of doing a book purge. The problem is I absolutely cannot bring myself to part with a book unless I know it will be "safe", as in goes to someone who wants it. I worked for years at HPB and unfortunantly, many books do end up in the dumpster. I still sell to them when I think the book has a good chance, but I wish I had other options.

I also have been wanting to get rid of various stuff, everything from a Master Splinter action figure still in the box to a collection of plastic toy canines to a doll of The Crow to a deer antler. I'd like to make at least a little money off of it or at least not loose money trying to rehome it.

Ideally I'd like to barter, but Houston doesn't have a good culture set up for folks to gather and swap stuff.

Also, does anyone have good ideas for clothes that are beyond wearable? Ripped pants, holey socks, company shirts, torn leather jacket. The environmentalist in me cringes at the thought of chunking anything if something can be done with it. I can't think of any craft ideas that I'd realistically get around to doing. Is there some use for all that fabric though?
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
List 10 things (animals, plants, etc.) that you see in your local habitat. If you don't have a yard, you can borrow a park or somesuch.

1. Grey Squirrels
2. Dragonflies
3. Mockingbirds
4. Blue Jays
5. Oaks (assuming Post Oak, need to investigate)
6. Magnolia Trees
7. Fire Ants
8. Cockroaches
9. Mediterranean Geckos
10. Humans
paleo: Dire Wolf skull (Default)
Ah, the end of an era. I joined Livejournal back in 1997 when I was a wee freshman in college. I remember spending hours in the computer lab just click-click-clicking to see if any of my friends had updated. I thought LJ would be eternal, but I just can't stay with a place that keeps lowering its standards of privacy. I have to have *somewhere* to openly talk about things like spirituality, sex, mental health, and all the weird shit that goes on in my head.

I'm still trying to figure out this Dreamwidth thing. I'm so slow to learn new internet stuff. And I am waaaaay too ponderous when it comes to filling out profiles. All that "Who Are You" type stuff can make me sit and think for hours, not knowing what to say. 'Cause when it comes down to it, I really don't know who I am.

I'm going to try to make this journal better than my Livejournal was. This includes:

1. Actually using tags for a change. Had I used tags in LJ, searching for the stuff I want to keep would take a week rather than a month. Plus, this will make it easier for readers to browse through the stuff they are interested in.

2. Being more selective of who gets to see this journal. I found myself self-censoring ALOT in LJ, making filters for this and that. I felt like I was spliting myself into itty bitty pieces. It was uncomfortable.

3. Take requests on what to write. Yeah, the rule on writing what I want still stands, but I do enjoying knowing what people would like to hear as well. I often don't know what people are actually interested in or would like to hear more about.

4. Try to avoid going on long reclusive withdrawls. Even when I'm not feeling chatty, I'll try to think of something to say at least twice a week.
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