Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison
greensh

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Documented and Living. Enough?

I've been pondering why a purely scientific approach to paganism doesn’t feel right to me. [info]the_caveat has provided me a clue. I asked him how the modern practitioner of shamanism was to cope with the indigenous nature of the anthropological aspects of the path. The response I received was:
"Shamanism is certainly one of those nice, documented and living traditions"
Ah. This is it. The scientific, anthropological person would see it this way. It makes sense. The catch is that this is not enough. To illustrate my point I will make up a story. No living or dead people are referenced in this story.

Scene: Mutt and Jeff, two scientific, logical male pagans, are carefully working off of an anthropologically verified Book of Shadows. The ritual for the night is 'Drawing Down the Moon'. Now denuded and at the conclusion of the working, the two are wondering why the ritual did not work.

Mutt: I don't understand. We did everything exactly how the books said. The objects were exactly placed. We said all the words that were in the book. Nothing happened. I just don't understand.

Jeff: Yep. The Moon doesn’t look like it got any closer to us. I took 'before' and 'after pictures'. While it has shifted 23.5 degrees NNW in the sky, the diameter of the moon, a reliable measure of distance from the Earth, has not changed.

Mutt: The ritual does work for other people. I have full documentation that we did it the right way. The placement of the objects is perfect. We said every word correctly. This past week I watched the video tape of that ritual we recorded enough times to know I didn't do anything wrong. And I have to tell you, the HPS at that ritual said the moon was drawn down for her! I traced her lineage back to Z Budapest, so she was the real thing! Verified source material from a vetted person. And yet, it didn't work for us.

Jeff: You know Mutt, I was just thinking about something. What if the Moon had moved closer to the Earth? Wouldn't that have caused problems with tides and such? That might be a bad thing. Hmmm... maybe it's a good thing that the ritual didn't work. How about we move onto the next one on our list?

Mutt: (bending down, finding paper in the pocket of his robe) This says that we are going to do the 'Five Fold Kiss' ritual next. Well, let's get started.

Jeff: I hope we get this five fold ritual to work!!!

LOL... anyway. The point of my humor is that there is more to the personal experience of religion than just the documentation. IMO the real stuff happens outside of the documentation. To borrow an analogy, the map is not the journey and the path is not the destination. The real magick happens in a place of unseen goddesses, talking trees, and may, just maybe, otherkins!

While I seem to be making a point at the expense of logical pagans, the situation illustrated by Mutt and Jeff is very much what the non-native shamanic practitioner faces. Yes, the practices are anthropologically documented. There are indigenous people "living" the traditions. Neither helps the modern seeker to truly connect with the true path. The magick is difficult to capture. The ecstatic nature of the shamanic path makes this even more so. In reality, the shamanic seeker moves beyond the documented into their own realms of ecstatic experience. The results cannot be documented. The outcome cannot be compared to a historical record for validation. The knowledge that it is valid is the experience itself. In the shamanic path there are enough people have similar experiences to reach a consensus of experience.

Now I invoke that word. If there are enough people having similar otherkin experiences to reach a consensus of experience, I suppose this leaves the logical scientific method at a loss, the kid sitting in the den while the adults have their meal in the dining room. The outsider has the right to say, "I don't understand or comprehend". The outsider is out-of-bounds, or perhaps merely rude, to say "it is only a delusional state". The shamanic path, with all of it's cross-world phenomenons, can be viewed as being equally delusional. For me, in my own experience, it is just fine.
Tags: ritual, scientific
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