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I made some bad decisions academically this week that are going to somewhat hose my GPA. Dad won't like that--he'd much rather be paying the tuition of a student that's pulling better than a 3.0 and I'm not sure I'm gonna pull any A's this semester. But I'm not going to mope about that because what I need to do is keep going forward.

There's a Peruvian shaman named Amaru Li who is well-known in the Baltimore area--apparently he comes around about once or twice a year to teach classes, check up on some students, fundraise for a foundation to get clean water to villages in the Andean highlands, etc. Today, he was giving his introductory mini-workshop at Mystickal Voyage, the metaphysics shop/community center that I like to frequent. Does it surprise anyone that I was super-excited about attending that? I wasn't sure what to expect, really--I actually checked out two ethnographies on Peruvian shamans and curanderos and read up on the beliefs and practices beforehand. I'll admit that I partially did that because I'd never heard of Amaru Li before and I didn't no his reputation. For all I knew, he could have been a fraud with South American trappings. Ayahuasca is pretty popularized in some circles, etc, etc.

Suffice to say, Amaru Li was not a fraud. It was for the most part a two-hour question-and-answer session, with him telling stories from his life and explaining his worldview. It was pretty light on cultural-specific content (except in the cases of a story or two), but because I'd done some reading I could tell he wasn't namedropping for the flavor of it, but rather streamlining things. He was more interested in conveying a general 'shamanic' worldview. It was a pretty newbie workshop in some ways, and it was clear he had some more modern and academic ideas integrated into his practice and beliefs--but I wasn't expecting something exactly out of a book where the fieldwork had been done in the early nineties at the absolute latest. Curandero practice, shamanism, and even Catholicism in Latin American at large all take influence from new ideas (Catholic saints as spirit guides and allies in healing f'rex), and integrate them with already existing knowledges and tradition. So in retrospect, that wasn't too surprising and was really more comforting and reassuring. You don't have to live in the past to shamanize.

One thing that amused me and gave food-for-thought for later was his brief description of 'compacting', that is, making a compact or connection with the local land spirits, one's magical and healing tools, one's guides and spiritual allies. The rough process sounded a bit like my unusual experiences in the UMBC library last year. As I joke now, "I like working in the library--and the library likes me, too." I haven't really felt anything in a while, though. Maybe this is because my work ethic and dedication has slacked a bit, and/or I've been neglecting this relationship in some other way. Or maybe it's because after a year of working there, the wonder of the stacks becomes somewhat routine, so I'm not paying as close attention. Or more likely, a combination of All of the Above. It's a bit daunting, though--how do you determine what a library, or a guardian spirit of a library, wants? The building seems a bit young and a bit too modern to have a traditional sort of wight, but my suspicions and experiences remain. I'll talk about the Library Monkey in greater detail (such as there is) another time.

Hm. This was supposed to be a post about shamanism and therapy, and my interests in both. Pia's recent post, and some of the commentary, put me in mind of that. Therapy and counseling was always something I had an interest in as a possible vocational path; it stems from having a long ling of positive experiences with various counselors and psychs, and then noticing that this perception and experience wasn't necessarily common. (I actually cried at my last meeting with Dr. Steinberg. Sure, we'd only seen eachother two or three times a year...but for 11 years? I have great affection and admiration for him, he's why I want to be a psychiatrist.) I was reading something like Serge King's Urban Shaman, or Harner's Way of the Shaman, and the author was talking about how the purpose of the shaman was to heal, and to serve a community. Those two ideas really resonated with me--at least, a practical use for all this magical spiritual woo-woo stuff! With retrospect and just a touch of ego-pandering, I suspect the self-centered focus of some new age/wiccan/occult stuff didn't really appeal to me. What could I do with this that I couldn't do acting in ordinary reality, including become a better more enlightened person? The practicality appealed to me. I'd be lying if I left out how appealing the ease of journeying, core shamanism-style, seemed, or the idea of having spirit guides, etc. Totemism is probably where my more selfish attractions come in.

While I'm working on a psychology major right now, with an emphasis on clinical psychology, I'm not planning on immediately pursuing the qualifications and experience needed to become a therapist. I'm actually planning on getting into a nursing school.

This is partly a strategic decision--becoming a Registered Nurse is an extremely flexible job qualification, desirable and useful in a wide variety of fields. There's almost always a shortage of nurses somewhere. And it puts me in direct contact with people, the role of the doctor in modern American medicine is often much more distant. There are also a lot of different sub-fields to branch into and out of. I could look into psychiatric nursing, social outreach, hospital administration, becoming a Nurse Practitioner (which is a doctor in all but title, complete with ability to run one's own practice), etc, etc. It's a more stable job market even in uncertain economies like the one I'll be dealing with for the foreseeable future. I can go back to school later after I've been in the workforce a while, or take classes on the side, etc.

The other interesting medical/healing/shamanism intersection that's appeared lately in my life is PTSD. My mom, the amazing friend I made the first day at UMBC, and someone I look up to and admire here on livejournal, Pia, all have PTSD. All to different degrees--Mom had basically recovered by the time I knew it was an issue, but still. Three significant people in my life is reason enough to want to learn and educate myself a bit--and with two wars and veterans-to-be yet to come home, there will be more Americans and people with PTSD as well. One thing I've learned from Pia (and somewhat from my Abnormal Psych 285 class) is that that kind of damage can be frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted. Olivia's very vocal about how her background has affected her--she spent her first semester at UMBC scamming free food and suspicious and confused at just how nice and trusting everyone was.

Culture clash between black and white, urban and suburban, or other differences of class or culture come up frequently between us--sometimes as humor, sometimes frustration, sometimes with one of us 'translating' for the other. I really try hard to be a trustworthy and reliable friend to Olivia, to be a contrast to what she's been disappointed by in the past. Maybe things look a little uneven if I have a car and tend to be generous when spending money or resources on friends. I hope that doesn't make her feel too guilty or indebted. But, well, good fortune should be shared. Olivia shows me around Baltimore, teaches me about a culture or two completely different from my own, and knows all the best places for cheap tasty food, cool thrift stores, and inexpensive and awesome entertainment. She's also big on concerts and is on the promotion crews of at least one of her favorite bands. Girl has a gift for getting invited backstage, I swear. Also very handy in a mosh pit, considering her wing-chun skills. Also a pretty good witch and psychic--but she'd be in a lot better shape, she knows, if she could sort some of her emotional and mental issues out.

Olivia and I have very little in common at first glance, and it probably takes a second or third glance to see where the similarities and reasons for friendship come in. (Or an astrologer's eye--her birthday is the day after mine). But...being her friend challenges my preconceptions and worldviews, and makes me learn and consider new things. Her charisma and wit aside, that's something I value. I know that if I'm ever in a bind or a bad situation, and there was something she could do to help, she'd be there.

Hooboy. You can tell my sleep schedule is all messed up. 3:42am is OH GOD WHY AM I AWAKE TIME. or at least, it should be. Small wonder I didn't wake up until 2:30 on Thursday. In my defense, when I came home this evening, it was to find my brother had indeed caught the flu, had been alone in the house since 5:30 pm, and had spent the last three and a half hours vomiting up anything he tried to stomach (including saliva), curled up under his comforter shivering with the chills, and so on. So the first order of business when I got home was changing and rinsing out his vomit bucket and towel, asking him about his symptoms to confirm it was the flu, griping that I couldn't find the thermometer to check him for fever, and cleaning up all the broken glass from when he dropped a cub trying to get to the sink to retch into it. I hope I don't get sick myself, I haven't had a flu shot. Or, at the very least, I hope I don't get sick until, say, Monday evening. Ideally, next Wednesday evening. That would be even better. However, I've usually got a pretty good immune system, and I'll be hitting the v8 and sleep and hand-washing a lot this weekend as I keep an eye on my brother just in the same.

Okay! That's it! I'm done typing! I've got crazy messed-up-sleep rambling 3am diarrhea of the fingers! Clearly, I have made up for my previous lack of typings, and can spend the rest of the weekend, such as it exists, working on homework and studying and slacking off in less obvious ways. Apologies for giving you all a giant Wall of Text to read, rather than something more manageable and single-topic.

Date: 2008-11-08 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chironcentaur.livejournal.com
Mystickal Voyage, the metaphysics shop/community center that I like to frequent

I have never actually been there, although I'd like to go sometime. But I live downtown and I don't drive and the bus ride there is about an hour, so it will have to be really worth it. I've heard enough to know not to buy most of the stuff they have there, lol. ;-)

always something I had an interest in as a possible vocational path; it stems from having a long ling of positive experiences with various counselors and psychs, and then noticing that this perception and experience wasn't necessarily common.

No, sadly it isn't. Even the ones who aren't horribly unethical and abusive, a lot of them are just apathetic, see the world in a box and want to prescribe drugs the instant you walk through the door. If you're not like that, if you understand that weird does not always mean something wrong, that not everyone needs to be on meds and you actually give a shit about the people's whose lives you will have a major impact on, then by all means get into the field. There needs to be more therapists like that so there are less fucked up victims like me.

I suspect the self-centered focus of some new age/wiccan/occult stuff didn't really appeal to me.

Me either (well, my issues are more numerous than that, particularly with new age, but its up there). Learning skills for a reason instead of just for shits and giggles makes more sense. Its not a human community I serve, but my gods instead, though its still service. :-)

Date: 2008-11-08 06:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zuki-san.livejournal.com
I like MV much more as a community center, than as a place to buy stuff. I've made a couple friends that I make a point to drop by every so often to try and visit, and I keep an eye out for inexpensive or free workshops that catch my eye. I like the way they serve as a base of operations for people that do healing, divination, energy stuff, etc. The coffee shop's nice and their selection of shiny things and general merch is pretty good, their book selection's only recently starting to get a bit better and more diverse.

I don't actually go up there all that often myself, it's like halfway around the beltway from where I live in Arbutus. Unfortunately, I'd already decided I liked the place before I realized what a drain on gas it was going to be! The southern branch of Turning Wheel is a lot closer and more convenient for me, (and has a much much broader and better book selection and cheaper rocks) but I've managed to collar my bibliophilia and lust for shiny things for a while. I'm pretty well 'stocked up' for now.

If you're not like that, if you understand that weird does not always mean something wrong, that not everyone needs to be on meds

Yes, exactly! "I want to be a therapist/psychiatrist for the people who believe weird things" was the way I used to put it. The otherkin, the pagans, the geeks and freaks and kinky people. I'm not quite sure how I'd go about that, or develop that kind of a reputation or practice (although I might ask makhsihed), but it's an eventual goal.

Thanks for the comments and feedback.

Date: 2008-11-09 06:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chironcentaur.livejournal.com
I live within easy walking distance of Grandma's Candles on Saratoga Street. They have a decent selection of incense (including the Wild Berry stuff, which I really like, good for someone that can't handle the smell of most incense) and its not badly priced. Their book selection is mostly stuff I wouldn't want, I've been told the stones they sell are reasonably priced mostly from my rock obsessed girlfriend who knows what things should cost. She bought a statue through them before, too; they don't have much of a stock but they do have a lot of magazines where you can tell them what you want and they'll go pick it up for you without jacking up the cost the cost too much.

It doesn't have the community center appeal, but for buying stuff its not that bad.

Date: 2008-11-08 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonvoice.livejournal.com
Does it surprise anyone that I was super-excited about attending that?

We never get anything quite like this here in Perth, in that sense we are limited. Especially because many of the local Indigenous folk just don't do things like this at all. I have no problems with the latter, but man, something like this would be awesome.

You don't have to live in the past to shamanize.

A lot of the time, it actually does more harm than good. Which is why I myself made a concrete split away from Vilturj, into 'wildspeak' and a greater amalgamation of a whole heap of different things I'd learned. I am SO eclectic now. Lol.

As for the self-centred stuff of Wicca and what have you - I actually find this difficult too. I find it FAR easier to serve others, than to serve myself; to the point where a lot of my 'life lessons' seem to be concerned with the spirits reminding me gently and not so gently that I need to take better, and more consistent care for myself.

Look into The Trauma Spectrum by Robert Scaer for an interesting, mind-boggling treatise into trauma and trauma therapies. Truly amazing stuff.

Also, Olivia sounds awesome! :D

And I hope you don't get the flu as well! *hugs*

Date: 2008-11-09 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zuki-san.livejournal.com
I meant to speak up earlier, sorry I didn't comment sooner, I've been busy.

Yeah, Olivia is awesome! I'm so glad I know her. My bro's doing a lot better with the flu, too.

Thanks for the book recommendation, it sounds like it could be very useful, maybe even right up my alley.

The eclecticism is what's working for you, and it's pretty soundly based in both your heritage and background, but also the current circumstances of your environment. Keep it up. The world's not getting any less weird, after all.

Heh, I know what you mean sometimes about it being easier to do something for someone else, or for someone else's sake, than for myself. I've got a few mental tricks I used to turn that around and make me get things done, in some ways it's probably something with a negative origin I need to get over.

Date: 2008-11-08 03:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] die-uberfrau.livejournal.com
I have PTSD too. I don't know if you knew that or not. I was dx'ed with PTSD in 2002. Actually, as a favor to my readership I typed up my bio in brief (http://scinnlaeca.livejournal.com/138617.html) so if people wonder about my worldview or the way I react to things, there it is.

PTSD definitely affects such things as ability to trust. While I have a lot of people on my LJ, as far as actual meatspace friends go, I don't make those easily, 'course being an introvert kind of complicates that too. For years I was expecting the PTSD to eventually go away or get better, and I have finally come to the knowledge and acceptance that it's like diabetes, while it can be managed, it never just goes away and extra care has to be taken for the rest of one's life.

There seems to be a disproportionately high number of "classic" shamans (as opposed to core, or Harner-style shamans) who have dx's. PTSD is one of the ones I see come up, although I also have to say shamanic people will always be on the very fringe of society so it's not like everybody and his brother has PTSD. I have a very hard time getting non-PTSD people to understand what it is like inside my headspace. I largely avoid the news, for example, because it triggers more often than not. When I leave my home by myself, I am not just worried about the temperature, etc, I am worried about rapemurderbadstuff.

Anyway. Nursing is a guaranteed job security in our failing economy. My mother is a nurse and will do that until she retires. I looked into it but there's too much of the interacting-with-humans element for me. I think psychiatric nursing needs more good people who aren't abusive assholes. I know this sounds bad, but having been in certain situations, some people get into the helping professions for less than noble ideals and some are eventually made into bullies. Not everyone who works in these professions is like that, mind you, but the more people who work in these professions who get it and really do want to help, the better.

'compacting', that is, making a compact or connection with the local land spirits, one's magical and healing tools, one's guides and spiritual allies.

This may or may not sound crazy, but I have done this. I treat my tools, especially my drum, as if they were people. To an extent, they are. The reason why you find all those named swords, etc, in mythology is because to name something is to give it a spirit. I have made certain alliances with my tools, local spirits of place, and certain of my Gods. In exchange for me doing certain specific kinds of Work I am afforded some protection/provision from Them. Right now I'm on a mandatory "paring down" but that won't last too long. ;P

Anyway, I'm not an expert in shamanism, and I tend to not call myself a shaman because I haven't "earned my shaman wings", so to speak.

The Peruvian shamans must be legit, they helped Obama win! Lol. ;P

Date: 2008-11-08 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zuki-san.livejournal.com
Ah, I thought I might have been forgetting someone when I was listing off the "People I know with PTSD." I actually hadn't read your bio, thank you for the link. I tend to pick things up from context, so that clears a few things up for me. (Woo, another t'ai chi person! I need to find a school or teacher nearby to me. What style do you practice?)

Not everyone who works in these professions is like that, mind you, but the more people who work in these professions who get it and really do want to help, the better.

I do have some trepidation about going into nursing. I know that I interact well with people, and that I seem like I've got the 'instincts' or tendencies for that kind of work. But I know the medical professions can be stressful and draining, and the idea of burnout worries me. I've read or heard that it's that kind of lack-of-caring over time that can make some people involved in healthcare 'go bad' and result in negative experiences like yours. I want to get my Certified Nurse's Assistant certification soon and work in the field a bit before I graduate. That way, I can get some experience, better pay than the minimum wage, (even if I love the library dearly) and I'll learn if I've got the right temperament for the work earlier on.

This may or may not sound crazy, but I have done this

Doesn't sound crazy to me at all. Makes a perfect sense to me to treat one's tools with such respect. An animist worldview makes the most sense to me, so it only makes sense to treat the small gods of one's tools with respect and honor alongside spirits of place and deities. We help out our human friends and get help in return, after all.

You might not be a shaman, but you've still got respect from me for your greater experience with wights and gods and Spooky Woo-Woo than mine.

The Peruvian shamans must be legit, they helped Obama win! Lol. ;P

Wait, what? Really?

Date: 2008-11-08 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] die-uberfrau.livejournal.com
This is the footage of the Peruvian shamans:


sending energy to help Obama win. ;P

As far as Tai Chi goes, I practice from a book I got specifically designed for raw beginners with mobility issues. I don't have a teacher or a class. I am trying to do even a little bit each day (it's bad because I was largely not working on it when I had pneumonia, and now getting back in routines has been something of an uphill struggle), but I'm still a beginner and moving meditation seems to work better for me than sitting.

The bio was a recent addition to my LJ, I made a few back-dated posts to give readers some context on certain things. ;P

Yay, world unity!

Date: 2008-11-09 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zuki-san.livejournal.com
From an outside perspective, that's hilarious and ridiculous and awesome.

From an internal perspective, that's still pretty awesome, that a collection of peruvian shamans care enough about the election to get out together and send energy to the candidates they favor. I'd wondered at first if it was a mixed group of curanderos and 'sorcerers', because they also had that photograph of John McCain, but apparently two of the shamans are choosing to support him instead. That makes more sense, from what I understand the three different subsets of shamanic work/labels in Peru are a bit segregated and will certainly know of eachother, but not necessarily cooperate as they do different things. So that's also cool that they're working together even though they have different views.

They even had a quick shot of one of the curandero's mesas on one of the other 'tube vids. ("Table," cloth laid out with all one's ritual tools and items for working magic, healing, etc.)

My inner anthropologist goes 'Squee!'
From: [identity profile] end-of-the-mind.livejournal.com
May I friend you? I followed you from [livejournal.com profile] moonvoice's journal. Yaaaay Table-top gaming! Yay lolcats! Yay animism and therianthropy! *waves a tiny flag*

I wish we had a shaman that came 'round. It's really hard to find anyone to talk to about such things here in west Texas. Who'd have thought, huh? =/
From: [identity profile] zuki-san.livejournal.com
Sure, go right ahead!

I'm a bit flattered by the attention, really. I'm making an effort to post more often this month as my own personal NaNoWriMo-esque thing, but a giant dumpload of Scary School Stuff has kinda nixed that temporarily.

Give me another couple days to figure out a schedule and a rescue plan and I'll start blogging about all that cool stuff again. Perhaps I'll friend you back as well.
From: [identity profile] end-of-the-mind.livejournal.com
Scary School Stuff is definitely the norm around here. I'd never have believed that 9 hours is a LOT (I took 18-20 every semester as an undergrad) but hoo boy!! Plus the teaching and stuff. Man.

But yeah. I understand. No worries! *tips hat*


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