Thursday, June 19, 2014

When Visions Become Real

One of the visions I've had over the past several years is of the classic pub gig, some musicians in a crowded Irish pub, playing traditional Irish music. Somehow that didn't quite happen during the past few trips. It always turned out to be a guy and guitar singing ballads, or someone with a harp playing Enya covers. While planning the current tour, I added in the hope that I could dance a jig and a reel with Patricia. She took up Irish dance shortly after our daughter Meghan did, and has gotten rather good at it.I managed to pick up the jig and reel while helping Meghan to practice her dances for her end of year recital.

Stopping at the music store in Kenmare, we found out that there was going to be a "session" for local musicians at Crowley's pub that evening. We got there early and watched John tuning up his banjo and a female friend of his tuning her fiddle. They soon launched into a medly of reels, which made me smile. Finally some live traditional Irish music in an Irish pub - in Ireland! Then a badhron player joined in and my vision was complete, so we danced a couple jigs and reels to the amusement of the locals, before finally walking home almost at midnight.

The sun has been setting slowly here, finally disappearing around 10:30 or 11:00. So that walks home have been under pretty fabulous skys.

We still have a few more days here in Ireland, and a few more opportunities to bring visions to life.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More on Ireland and the Continuing Saga

We have this weekend off from planned group activities, which doesn't mean we don't have anything to do. We will be taking some long walks around kenmare, going to see the Celtic Tenors this evening and generally enjoying how much better everything tastes over here in Ireland.

Last night was amazing. I've been planning this trip for over three years, gradually piecing together my visions into something that could work. During that time, I read Frank Delaney's Ireland, which gives the best account of the traditional Irish storyteller that I had found, and I wanted to include that in our tour. I did a lot of searching and finally settled on two likely characters. I don't believe any one person could have carried the weight of all the contradictory elements of this Seanachai vision, so I was very fortunate to find both of them. Amantha Murphy is anchors the role of the speaker for the pre-christian, pagan land, filled with goddesses and gods, heros and heroines, everyday wonders and the miracles that arise in every generation. Batt Burns is the quitisential, traditional, hill-walking, brough-talking, condensation of the Catholic Irish, filled with pride in his country and in the people upon whose shoulders he satnds. He is a showman and a bit of a magician, even popping on an old hat and pair of spectacles in order to invoke the character of his own grandfather, from whom he learned the art of the storyteller, as well as many of his stories. Watching Batt yesterday evening, sitting beside the turf fire, just as so many before him, reciting the words of his ancestors, I was struck by how well this vision had come to pass. I leef so much gratitude to all my ancestors and all the other spirits and people who have helped to make this visions real.

After the storyteller left, we went out for a pub crawl. And these were some pubs! We started off with the Wander Inn, where I had a pint of Smithwicks and Patricia a Bulmer's cider. After we finishered there, Patricia and I bowed out and walked over to the food truck to get a cheeseburger and chips. There was an interesting conversation already going on between an older woman and a fellow who looked to be about my own age. She was telling him that he should find himself a good younger woman and get on with life. He said he was a widower these past 11 years and had no interest in trying to find someone to take the place of his wife, though he missed his two sons dearly, both of whom had imegrated illegally to New York. As we tend to do, Patricia and I joined into the conversation and the four of us had a good bit of fun before we finished our food and headed home under a magnificent sky, the towering clouds painted from behind by the light of the full moon.

Meghan sounds like she is stirring and so we will be setting off for a hike soon. I promise to add another post soon. Wishing you all well from here in Ireland.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Off to Ireland again!

It's the beginning of our third full day here in beautiful Kenmare, and this is the first day that I've managed to get the blog site to work.

Patricia warned me before we left that Mercury was going retrograde and would remain that way for the whole trip. Even without the heads up, I would have figured it out by now. But despite communication snafus and interruptions, this has been the best time yet! There are 24 of us in all, staying at the Ardmullin Holiday Homes in Kenmare. Apparently I cannot add photos to this blog on my iPad just yet, so until I remedy that, you will have to use your imagination.

We arrived at Shannon airport at about 8:30 in the morning on Sunday and were met by the Kerry Coach driver named Derry, who was like a compilation of Patricia's Irish uncles. The coach was perfect. We did not miss having to drive. We stopped off at Adare Manor for breakfast, thanks to Derry, who happens to know the manager. Then a quick stop for groceries at a Super Valu and it was into Kenmare to unload our bags and settle in. I managed to stay awake for the walk into town for dinner at Foley's, then crashed about 20:00 and slept for ten hours straight.

Our first full day, known as Day Two on the itinerary, was spent getting everyone comfortable finding their way around town. After one of our flock missed a turn and wound up taking an extended walk, I made sure that everyone could find their way hame from town. Dinner was at O'Donnabhain's Pub, which is owned by our landlord here. They had a fellow playing traditional irish ballads on guitar. He managed a version of a reel so that Meghan could demonstrate her prowess at irish step dancing.

Yesterday - Day Three - was our first day trip. The coach picked us up at 9:30 and we drove up to Killarney, stopping at Ladies View to give many of the tour their first view of the Lakes of Killarney. Have I( mentioned that there are 24 of us? We had to leave Meghan and her nanny behind that morning, because Meghan hadn't woken up yet and we have firm rules against waking sleeping children. In Killarney we took a jaunting car ride (pony cart) which we have been wanting to do for the first few times we were here, so it was about time. Beware the bad jokes. Okay. It's time to get dressed and walk to town for Market Day. More later!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Shamanism in Tribal and Post-Tribal Contexts

I am going to address a couple of the things I hear most often on Facebook pages and other forums dedicated to shamanic traditions. 
“No real shaman ever refers to him or herself as a shaman.” and “No real shaman charges for their services.”
Let’s consider tribal culture for a moment. First off, the primary unit of this culture is communal – the tribe itself. This is something that is simply impossible for most modern Americans to grasp. Your very concept of “self” is radically different from someone growing up in a tribe. Further, the community of the tribe is quite closely knit – much more so than small towns in our own culture. Even more so that extended families. These are cultures in which everyone knows what is going on with everyone else, to a degree that would be quite uncomfortable for folks from our culture. Now, if someone is chosen by the tribe’s shaman as an apprentice, everyone knows this. They know how that person is doing with the process of learning and initiation and they know when that person receives the blessing of the shaman to begin working. For the initiate to go around proclaiming him or herself a shaman would be ludicrous. They already know. 
In our culture, in shamanic practices, we have clientele who we have never met before they come to see us. There is no community net of people who already know what we have been through and that we have received our teacher’s blessing. What we have is word of mouth – and business cards. 
You see, not calling yourself a shaman has everything to do with the tribal context, and nothing to do with shamanism. 
The issue of charging for your services is another case of the same thing. The tribal communities still function on barter and exchange. They don’t use money in the same way that those of us in the post-tribal culture do. So naturally the shaman doesn’t get paid in money. However, the shaman does get paid in food and labor and whatever else he or she needs. 
Once again. Charging money for anything is a matter of cultural context, not shamanism. It is important to be able to view shamanism as it is, separate from the tribal context, if we are to be able to practice it in a meaningful way in our post-tribal context. 
For more on the difference between shamanism and tribal culture, check out post-tribal shamanism