siberian shamanism

I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

—  Neil Gaiman - American gods
I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.
—  Neil Gaiman
WHERE DOES THE SUN COME FROM?

IN A VILLAGE SOMEWHERE IN SIBERIA, THERE’S A GIRL WHO HAS A SECRET LOVER. HE SNEAKS INTO HER BED EVERY NIGHT IN THE DARK, AND SHE HASN’T A FUCKING CLUE WHO HE IS. 

ONE NIGHT, SHE DECIDES TO FIND OUT WHO HER MYSTERY MAN IS, SO SHE COVERS HER HANDS IN SOOT AND HOLDS ONTO HIM REALLY FUCKING TIGHTLY THAT NIGHT. IN THE MORNING, SHE LOOKS AT THE BACKS OF ALL THE GUYS IN TOWN TO WORK OUT WHO IT WAS. 

IT WAS HER BROTHER. OH SHIT.

SHE’S SO HORRIFIED BY THE WEIRD-ASS INCEST THAT’S BEEN GOING ON THAT SHE GRABS A TORCH AND FUCKS OFF INTO THE SKY. HER BROTHER GRABS A SHITTIER TORCH AND FOLLOWS HER, AND THE TWO OF THEM BECOME THE SUN AND THE MOON. ISN’T THAT CUTE? NO. NO IT ISN’T. FUCK OFF.

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

—  American Gods, Neil Gaiman
I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of casual chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.
—  Samantha Black Crow, American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Cultural Influences in Temur

 A quick disclaimer: There are dozens and dozens of Mongolian and Siberian people groups, many of which either still practice, or are in the process of reclaiming, forms of shamanism. I’m adding the disclaimer to this post because, more so than the others, I will be speaking in broad terms that give a general overview, since the varied nature of these forms of shamanism mean that, though certain aspects may apply to most of these groups, they will not always apply to all. I will be using a general “Mongolian” or “Siberian” when it is a majority aspect, and give more specific names when necessary.

Siberian shaman ~1950’s

Rattleclaw Mystic

 As with the Temur, shamans were particularly important to the nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Siberia. Mongolian shamanism was, in its earliest form, an all-encompassing way of life which emphasized reverence towards the natural world and ancestor worship.  Shamans have a wide range of functions, with speaking to the spirits, protecting their tribes, predicting the future, and healing among the most important, though other duties might vary from tribe to tribe. Similar to the Temur, many shamans wear headdresses that cover the eyes, though the reasons differ; rather than the symbolic significance of the Temur, shamans cover their eyes to protect onlookers who would be put in danger if they looked into the eyes of a shaman while a spirit was entering them.

Death and the Ancestors

In much of Siberia, the hard permafrost makes above ground burials a necessity; some groups wrap their dead in cloth, others in wooden boxes. Among the Samoyeds, Mansi, and Ostjacks, tree burials are common–platforms were placed on trees, out of reach of bears and other predators.

In both Mongolia and Siberia, there is a belief that the soul is split into multiple parts and that, after death, one part of the soul stays behind as an ancestor spirit to remain in contact and help descendants. These are the spirits that are summoned by the shamans, although certain animals, such as bears, ravens, and wolves, are also considered “ancestors” (in fact, legend claims that Genghis Khan was fathered by a wolf).  These spirits, when no longer attached to their descendants, will then be bound to nature; rocks, trees, or rivers are common. They can still be spoken to by visiting the location and a shaman can bind the spirit into an amulet or carving, known as an ongon (this is the name of both the spirit and the physical representation).

Temur and Bears: “Play the Bear”

The Temur have a respectable relationship with bears (despite the image above) and regard them as family. Among Mongolia and Siberia, certain tribes hold bears in an almost deified position and, as already mentioned, revere them as an ancestor. In East Siberia (among the Tungusic tribes of the Orochon, the Ulcha and the Oroch), this idea of the bear as family culminated in “playing the bear.” This was a lengthy ritual where newborn bears were taken and brought into the tribe to be raised for several years as one of their own children. After three to four years, the bear was cleaned, taken to a special area a little ways away from the camp, and slaughtered. The body was brought back to camp, boiled and eaten, and then the bones smoked and buried. 

anonymous asked:

What would be the best source for learning the history of hedge witchery? Any books you recommend for the learning and practice of it as well?

This is going to be a somewhat complex answer. Haha Hedge witchcraft itself is a new practice that’s based on old practices. It’s often fairly syncretic or eclectic, but a lot of it based on traditional (often European) witchcraft and magical practices. So the best books about the history of hedge witchcraft (I would say) are books about traditional witchcraft and shamanism, especially those that focus on spirit flight and spirit work. These books may not mention hedge witchcraft specifically, but the things they talk about are the foundation for hedge witchery.

It’s also important to keep in mind when reading about hedge witchcraft that it’s primarily experiential and therefore idiosyncratic. There are a lot of similarities in the experiences of hedge witches, and therefore there are general guidelines for practice and belief, but each hedge witch’s experience (and therefore practice and beliefs) will be unique. 

*Books I haven’t read but that I’ve seen over and over on websites run by other hedge witches I trust, so I feel fairly confident recommending them (they’re on my to-read list as well).

History

“What is a Hedgewitch?” on Walking the Hedge (This article is a good overview of the roots and development of hedge witchcraft. Check out the rest of the site for practical information, too.)
Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits by Emma Wilby (One of my very favorite books)
Shamanism in Siberia by M.A. Czaplicka (This was a huge help in affirming a lot of my experiences before I found hedge witchery; while Siberian shamanism is different than hedge witchery, there is some cross-over. It’s useful to see how other cultures address and interact with spirits and the spirit world.)
*Books on shamanism by Mircea Eliade
Fairy tales and folk tales (Often treated as mere stories, these are packed with lore about crossing the hedge and spirit work; it’s everywhere.)

Practice

Hedgewytchery.com
Sarah Anne Lawless is a traditional witch who talks about hedge witchery quite a bit as part of her practice.
*Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism by Jenny Blain
*Hedge-Rider: Witches and the Underworld by Eric DeVries (Some people have raised questions about some of his claims regarding the role of Germanic deities and the narrow focus on Germanic practices, but lots of other people seem to regard it pretty highly. I think it’s worth checking out.)

Here are some other book lists to check out:

A Hedgewitch’s Book List
Hedgewitchery Resources

Followers – y’all are welcome to share your favorite hedge witch book recommendations, too! I know my list isn’t complete by far.

“In the Star Wars phenomenon Luke Skywalker is a direct translation of the word ‘shaman’ out of the Temgusik which is where Siberian shamanism comes from. So these heroes that are being instilled in the heart of the culture are shamanic heroes. They control a force which is bigger than everybody and holds the galaxy together. This is true as a matter of fact, and as we explore how true it is, the limitations of our previous world view will be exposed for all to see.” 

~ Terence McKenna: The Invisible Landscape

spirit-witch  asked:

Your last reblogged post, the one about staying away from certain religions in my practice... Umm... Are there any other religions/gods/goddesses I should stay away from, so that I can respect those who don't want me in them? I, as a pagan, don't want to cross lines that I shouldn't. I mean, I normally don't bring gods or goddesses into my practice at all, but I'd like to know so for future recommendation.

“Bear in mind this is a rough list, and not all of these are closed completely, but do have sometimes extensive initiation requirements and/or require being taught by a full fledged member of that religion’s community.

Voudou
Santeria
certain sects of Hinduism
Mayan
Aztec
various Chinese folk traditions and/or religions
Shintoism (certain sects though it’s been heavily debated that all should be closed to outsiders)
Korean folk religion
various African theologies
Native American and First Nation spiritualities (which is a broad field and not homogenous)
Pacific Island (various traditions, for example Hawaiian faith is off limits entirely)
Indigenous Australian
nearly all oppressed indigenous religions
Yazidi (so very closed, don’t even dare with Melek Taus)
Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Druze, etc) have sects with various degrees of initiation requirements
Zoroastrianism
Indigenous Peruvian/Quechua religion
Stregheria and Stregoneria [~note~ this is why I hate the so called “Strega Fashion” so much- “but it just means witch!!1!1!” THEN CALL IT WITCH FASHION ]
Rastafarian
Shamanism (Siberian and other traditions)
Some indigenous Caucasian religions are closed off to foreigners and have initiations (places like Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia have closed indigenous religions for safety. If you are of the ethnicity you are allowed to study and initiate you do not have to live in the area unless they say so). “

post written by:
http://lavenderwrath.tumblr.com/post/120322132719/what-religions-exactly-are-closed

4

Out Today: Klaus #1

What It Is: Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the story of how Santa Claus really came to be. Where did he begin? What was he like when he was young? And what happens when he faces his greatest challenge? Drawing on Santa Claus’ wilder roots in Viking lore and Siberian shamanism—taking in the creepier side of Christmas, and characters like the sinister Krampus—Klaus is “Santa Claus: Year One.”

Read Klaus by Grant Morrison & Dan Mora on comiXology

Listen. I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theatres from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former like I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that’s there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it will eventually be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive.I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible society lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, life is a cruel joke and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.
—  Neil Gaiman, American Gods

I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

—  Neil Gaiman - American Gods

I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

—   Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Altered states

Yesterday my friend N and I climbed Piz Bernina via the Biancograt ridge. It was a long day - we left the Tschierva hut at 3am and didn’t reach Diavolezza until 5pm. I was well acclimatised but my friend N had, somewhat ill-advisedly, only arrived from London the day before.

N is a veteran of the punishing marathon des sables and hence no stranger to suffering. Nevertheless, the altitude took its toll and he was in a state of exhaustion for most of the day.

His experience made me think of the various ways in which we humans attempt to alter our states of consciousness. Drugs - both natural and synthetic - are probably the most common way, but there are many others. Meditation is one. Drumming is another; in many shamanic cultures, and especially in Siberia, rhythmic drumming is used to induce trance states. Certain rhythms are thought to cause theta wave activity in the brain (4-7 Hz), which is the frequency at which transcendental and spiritual experiences most often occur.

Another way to alter consciousness is through fasting and/or physical exhaustion. This is probably why shamanic initiations are often so grueling. In the 1920s Knut Rasmussen, the Danish scholar and explorer, described how the Eskimo shaman Peqanaoq intiated his apprentice, Igjugarjuk:

Peqanaoq placed the youngster on a sledge and, in the depth of the dark and freezing Arctic winter, dragged him out into the lonely Arctic waste. He built a tiny snow hut for Igjugarjuk and placed him in the hut on a piece of skin just large enough for him to sit on. He was left alone for thirty days with instructions to think of nothing but the Great Spirit. After five days, Peqanaoq returned with a drink of lukewarm water, and after another fifteen, with a second drink and a bit of meat. That was all. Toward the end of the ordeal, Igjugarjuk was visited by a female spirit who became his spirit helper. After thirty days, the elder shaman brought Igjugarjuk home where he was required to diet and fast for another five months. As a result of this experience, Igjugarjuk came to believe that ‘The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering alone open the mind of man to all that is hidden to others’ (as cited in Campbell, 1970).

In Heaven and Hell, Aldous Huxley makes a similar argument to explain the visions of medieval monks:

So far as vitamins were concerned, every medieval winter was a long involuntary fast, and this involuntary fast was followed, during Lent, by forty days of voluntary abstinence - Holy Week found the faithful marvellously well prepared, so far as their body chemistry was concerned, for its tremendous incitements to grief and joy, for seasonable remorse of conscience and a self-transcending identification with the risen Christ. At this season of the highest religious excitement and the lowest vitamin intake, ecstasies and visions were almost a commonplace. It was only to be expected.

For cloistered contemplatives, there were several Lents in every year. And even between fasts their diet was meagre in the extreme. Hence those agonies of depression and scrupulosity described by so many spiritual writers; hence their frightful temptations to despair and self-slaughter. But hence too those ‘gratuitous graces’, in the forms of heavenly visions and locutions, of prophetic insights, of telepathic 'discernments of spirits’.

- Aldous Huxley, Heaven and Hell.

Fortunately my friend N did not have any visions on his way up Piz Bernina, but I have heard some remarkable stories of people’s experiences as a result of advanced stages of exhaustion.

Piz Bernina (4049m)

Biancograt