Sunday, December 29, 2013

Take Only What You Need

"Take only what you need." It is a sad truth that humanity cannot function in modern society taking this fully to its literal meaning. If one were to try to only use a few trees on their land to build a small home that could shelter them from the weather, you'd be thrown out for nor paying your taxes. Rather, what I mean by this phrase is that we should do our best not to waste.

A lot of energy went into growing that tree from seed to spruce, simply throwing what you didn't use to build with would be a disservice to all the time, the decayed animals whose bodies fertilized the soil, the animals that made that tree their home, and too numerous other relationships to mention. So, when chopping down that tree for firewood, don't throw out all those splinters, use them for kindling, use small branches to carve out jewelry or cookware, the options are near limitless.

The same goes for animals. I may not have much use for deer entrails, but plenty of animals do. If I am using my own land to hunt them, I'll field dress the animal before taking it home to butcher for meat, allowing the wolves and other predators that would have normally been the ones to eat that animal some recompense for taking their meal from them. Starving another to feed myself is inhuman. Even then, when I get home, I take the meat, prepare it for storage, and then use the bones for bone broth (more so with turkeys and chickens than dear, it's a matter of size) or tools or ornaments. A leg bone for instance can usually be salvaged for use in furniture or cookware, and boiling the bone sanitizes it for safe use.

Even in more day-to-day situations, you can still do a lot to minimize waste. I love to eat the seeds in cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans, they're packed with vitamins and minerals. Some people, however, don't like to eat those seeds. That doesn't mean that you can't still utilize them instead of throwing them away. Planting those seeds can yield you a few plants, which you can use to grow more, saving you money and giving you the satisfaction of growing your own food. You can even sell those plants to people depending on where you live and what the laws are.

Beyond these ideas, there are many other things that can be done, including tanning of hides for use in making leather, or the twisting and drying of stems and vines to make ropes and such. Scrap strips of leather can be used for tie-downs or even hair ties if you're feeling rustic. When you set your mind to doing all you can to eliminate waste, you'd be surprised at just how much of the natural world can be recycled to minimize what you take.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Spiritual History

My wife tells me she has been sending some readers my way, and that many are looking for what it means to be a self-proclaimed shaman. Looking back at my first post, and the lack of further posts for over 9 months, I think it's time for me to give a little better introduction to the system I follow.

First, let's get to the basics. Shamanism has been defined by pop-culture (mainly video games) in the last few decades as being a group of individuals who speak to the elements. While some cultures' historical practices of shamanism fall along this line, it is by no means all-inclusive. The best way for me to describe shamanism is a path of spiritual development which views all objects of nature as having souls. These souls are not necessarily souls in the traditional Christian sense, but rather that everything is alive and has the right to live. Along these lines, I do my best not to kill anything for the sole sake of killing. A main rule of how I live my life can be summed up by three phrases: "Take only what you need", "Use to the fullest", and "Do not kill except to avoid killing." In the next few weeks, I shall go into these three topics in depth. For now, a little background on how I found the path to my own little corner of shamanism.

I was raised a Christian. I grew up a true believer. I went to church and left feeling empowered by the words of the pastor's sermons, ready to face whatever the world threw at me. And yet, by the time the next week rolled around, I was sullen. I would see the world around me and wonder how these Godless people functioned without my form of spirituality. Eventually, around the age of 15, I started to become aware of the way some Christians treated non-Christians and began to inquire. I would confront people on how they believed and how they could live their life in a way that wasn't in line with my beliefs. Eventually, I realized that the God I had been raised with was not one I wished to follow in the manner he was being represented by his followers. I did not want to perpetuate a culture of "How do you live without Him, everything is from Him, and if you don't believe in Him you will burn for eternity in hell."

For quite some time, I was a firm agnostic. While I didn't necessarily ascribe to the non-existence of some higher power, I was firmly against the concept that any one deity could make a world so vast and diverse and yet, somehow, not be followed by all cultures in a near-identical manner. Around the time that I turned 21, I came to the realization that I was spiritually empty. So I went looking for something to believe in. After dabbling in Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, the Nordic and Greco-Roman pantheons, and even a little bit of Islam, I came to the conclusion that none of these paths had what I was looking for.

As a Christian, when I left church, I was empowered, I was filled with spiritual energy. But before the next week's service could come, I would feel depleted. So my search was one for a way to fill this particular void. But I wanted to do it in a sustained manner. I tried prayer for months, believing that maybe all the churches had it wrong, and that all I needed was to follow God personally. The sense of spiritual purpose was still missing. I started meditation. It did some to fill up that void, but it was still lacking, it had no focus. And so, I came back to my heritage, as part Native American. I looked at their beliefs. I studied them. And yet, it still didn't give me that connection I was looking for. What it did give me was a greater understanding of the world around me. It gave me that connection that I was looking for. That connection to the world around me, that connection to everything that nature had to offer. That everything in the world has a soul.

And that is how I came to the path of shamanism. The understanding that everything in the world is connected, and that we all must work together in this world, or we shall all lose it. It is our job to guard this world for ourselves and for our children. As such, it is our job to not only live, but do so in the least threatening way we can to the world around us. For all the world is alive, and if we don't respect that living nature of the world around us, can we really respect ourselves?