Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Medicine Name is a Haiku

Q: Can a lazy atheist have a spirit animal?

A: Yes, but it may not be well cared for.

Did I tell you I have a spirit animal? It's a horse, just so we get that out of the way. I know it's unusual for someone such as me to have a such a powerful spirit animal, one usually more associated with shamans and messengers of the dead.

Last I checked, I have no messages.

I have used associations from many cultures in examining my spirit animal. Norse myths, of course, and since I was born on a Wednesday, and am full of woe, I am an Odin's child. Odin had the horse Sleipnir, the eight legged horse, often thought of as four men carrying a coffin. Odin's rune is Ansuz, Aminita Muscaria, prophecy and revelation. The converse of which is associated with Loki, the fire giant, so we got the pyromania tie-in. The converse Ansuz is also associated with lack of clarity or awareness, so, and check and check.

I've studied native american cultures, especially Plains Indian and Lakota meanings, and horse is pretty damn straight-forward. Power, freedom, but also difficult to control.

I didn't pick the horse. The horse picked me. A horse is a beautiful animal, but it is also a vain, stupid, and reckless animal. And that's all me.

I also have a medicine name. I don't think I want to tell what it is. It's actually still in progress, not quite fixed or gelled into a final or coherent form, and given the horse nature this should be no surprise.

I won't go into boring detail. I'll give you the short version. Last year I participated in a medicine ceremony down in Texas. It was a wonderful experience that I would recommend to everyone. The ceremony was established upon traditional Native American lines with those wonderful big skin drums and songs, and was officiated by a guy named Ta Tanka. There were others who would assist in naming, but I got Ta Tanka, probably because I was a problem child. It didn't matter that it was all white peoples there, with not a single Native American present.

I'll tell you I felt extremely dorky and self-conscious about the whole thing. We performed a dance around a fire, and the moon at that time of year was not only full, but in close orbit. Huge. I'll get to that in a second.

I realized pretty quickly, dancing around the medicine wheel and a large roaring fire, that if I was going to get past my discomfort, I would have to treat this ceremony as an ordeal. And so I did, I expended as much physical effort as I could, the equivalent of unending wind-sprints, leaping and jumping, to get myself out of my skull.

I suffered in order to get past my self-consciousness. I did for sure, I almost blew out an Achilles tendon, had to ice down afterwards, and my ankle was not the same for a month afterwards. So, I kept dancing and running until I was exhausted and could not take another step. I stood on a ridge, and the moon came out and it was the biggest fucking moon I've ever seen. I stood there, and closed my eyes, and said "Alright, spirit vision. If you are gonna come to me, now's the time! Let's go. Chop chop."

Nothing. Not a damn thing, and I despaired. And then, with my eyes still closed I see just this tiny little circle of green, about the size of a half-dollar a foot from my face. And I'm like, what the fuck is this? It's hard to see, but the closer I look the less unfocused it is, and it resolves to a white horse's skull nestled in very lush grass.

I report this to Ta Tanka. He asks me a bunch of questions about the horse, what is it doing, how did it die, where was it going, what did it feel like.  He writes in a notebook, and then has me go back out and dance for the answers. I try to dance like a horse would, and after while, I don't even have to try.

As we proceed with this collaboration in fleshing out this tiny vision, I remember at one point asking him "What if these revelations are all just me making all this shit up?" He replied "What's wrong with that?' I didn't have an objection to that and so kept dancing.

By the end, about two in the morning, I'm beat down physically, but quite happy mentally, as we have worked out my medicine name. Or rather, we worked out the starting point for my medicine name. It's changed since then. I think I need a few more ordeals to completely work it out. But it's a start.

You notice this whole thing was pretty much about me? Horse written all over this.

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