UPG: Walk-ins

Atrocious grammar and obnoxious format- my apologies. -s

some people seem to be made of different stuff than most
perhaps not all individuals have “immortal souls”
circumstances can lead to an energetic death- this may be the death of the original individual energy, ego-death
sometimes the original energy can be brought back but it will be changed (ordeal)
-sometimes it will be augmented with an alien energy
-sometimes it will be replaced with another energy-body (walk-in)

no reason to assume replacement energy-bodiesmust be of the same type as the initial energy-body
doubt Gods of more vast scale would have much use for a mortal body / don’t really believe in Gods incarnate – maybe they augment the energy-body, though
Suspect most replacement energy-bodies are “lesser-God” beings and “smaller” than Gods- maybe angels, djinn, Fae, elves, etc

I think the shaman is born from the original energy, changed or augmented;

Replacements can be shamans, but while a shaman is skilled at working with both material and aethereal energies, a replacement (walk-in) may never be as skilled working with both types of energy simultaneously depending on the nature of the energy.

Angels tend to be human-affirming, but aren’t the light birdwing people most people imagine- they do emit light, but it is a burning light. Like if you’re a pasty fucker and are out in the sun too long, you can feel it irradiating you- angel “light” isn’t the warm glow in its purest form.

Demons are individualistic or rebellious angels, feel “earthier” and have a more fiery aspect. I think they feel “warm.” Some are human-affirming, but some may be the same thing as:

Djinn, who tend to resent humanity. They view themselves as higher than humans. They have a seething, radiant heat like hot embers.

The Fae are an incredibly diverse people with members both “light” of energy and “dark.” They can have elemental associations of water, fire, earth, air. I know most about water-horses and not so much about the rest.

Elves have a “dead” energy- there is something of death around them even though they can control how they appear, like the Fae (“glamour”). Their energy is light or dark, and it is like a paleness, the blued pallor of death. They aren’t always paragons of sobriety and, also like the Fae, can get quite wild in their activities. They may be Ancestors, or they may be the Ancestors of some of us. The Mound-Lords. They’re often both dark and cold but beautiful and sexual- I think this is due to the fertilization/rebirth aspects of death- the nutrients of rotting material go into the soil, making it more fertile. Anger the Elves and your crops will fail – lack of fertilization.

Some say they’re all the same thing, just different cultures within a people. And by some, I mean me and probably some other eclectic oddballs out there.

Notes on “demons,” djinn, etc.: Both are dangerous but no moreso than angels, the Fae, elves, and so on- they have individual temperaments. Angels will immolate you if you violate their sense of “good.” Demons seem to be more reasonable, on average. Djinn, Elves, Fae seem to have little love for anyone who is super into their own humanity but don’t seem to be outlandishly unreasonable if you don’t act like an asshole. All of them can be tricky. How much of that is deliberate and how much of it is just their way of being, who knows. Again, it varies from individual to individual and relationship to relationship.

Don’t fuck with any of them unless you’re certain you’re willing to play by their rules or risk being outfoxed. They will probably win if you try to get into a battle of trickery with them.

Walk-ins can happen after trauma, or perhaps there was some contract made between the host and new inhabitant, etc. The link between the vital body and the energy-body is too strong to be overwhelmed in most cases so the walk-in must either happen via mutual agreement, or if the tether is broken or weak, perhaps something can move in.

Seems to be a relatively permanent state- I think severing and reconnecting a metaphorical link between the physical and aethereal will deteriorate or become brittle with too much bending. At least, it seems many people can get burned out if they “switch pilots” too often- but maybe is a lack of maintenance between “drivers”-

Similar phenomenon to “horsing” or “manifesting” a Spirit, but that is temporary. A possession tends to be violent and the possessing spirit usually has some direct aim- whether feeding on the torment of the host, manifesting will, or something else entirely. Rare, and probably not to be messed with as they are by definition hostile.

Manifesting past lives- this happens as a flood or massive data dump. I’m not even certain it’s a past life thing, or if it’s more like static on a radio. Never seen it be permanent, not neccessarily linked to trauma or “weakness of connection,” happens with some individuals who are like energy conduits.


…Perhaps I’ve been reading too much RPG lore.


Bones and Stones: Totemic Layouts

Queen Hyeen. Spotted Hyena skull with Tibetan quartz, apophyllite, and Lemurian seed quartz.

Before I get too far into this hideously verbose post, I want to discuss my use of the term “grid” in this context. This one is based not on circles or radial symmetry, but on the shape of the central symbol or totem and the energy flow around it. The grid can be as simple or as complex as you want it. I prefer simple, as too many different energies getting twisted in can muddy the waters of intent. If you want an ambient energy processor, simplicity tends to be more effective. If you want to produce a quicker, harder, and more concentrated burst of energy, more complexity and forethought can be of use.

Animal relics form the basis of this grid. If you haven’t got bone, claw, hide, feather, etc., you can use an image, book, even music or a particular incense, if that is what most evokes the essence of the animal/spirit you are working with. (Check out Morin khuur music if you’re looking for Horse-sound.) I’m a bit traditional, in that I will always favor bone and keratin to plastic when it comes to connecting with animal energies. But- as in all things- what works for me, may not work for someone else.

So, with the general disclaimer of “this is what I do; feel free to adjust it to your needs” in place:
1. Determine Animal or Spirit symbol. This will form the basis of your layout, and the stones you lay on and around it will work with it to help support your goal. It can help to personalize your Animal symbol, and start to see it not as an “it,” but an individual, a collaborative partner in your work. Continue reading “Bones and Stones: Totemic Layouts”

Baphomet: Know Thyself

Baphodelic Super Goat on DMT by Steve Hartwell/Hexmark Studios.

For months, I’ve been intending to write a post on that enigmatic Goat-God, Baphomet. Everything I wrote seemed either too long or too glib, or so weird that I worried my meaning would be obscured. The fact that I’ve failed thus far may be the best illustration for how enigmatic this Deity can be.


There is a great deal of theorization available online to the interested reader regarding the historical origin of Baphomet. I advise a great deal of skepticism and cross-referencing of sources, and I may write more concerning Hir history later, but there’s a lot of conspiracy rubbish, Satanic Panic nonsense, and no small degree of religious paranoia to sift through. Even then, Hir origins are poorly understood and arguably unknown.

Besides, Baphomet seems pretty enthused by self-propelled explorers and seekers of understanding. Curiosity, a prying intellect, and an awareness of one’s instinctual nature seem to be hallmarks of the Black Goat.

Regardless of Hir true origins, there isn’t anything explicitly Satanic about Baphomet, even though the Goat has been adopted as a symbol of such. Don’t assume that someone who deals with Baphomet is a Satanist (some would be quite offended at this assertion)- or that they aren’t. Best not to make assumptions at all, really, but Ze makes a lot of people uncomfortable, including, curiously enough, no small number of Pagans.

The familiar image of Baphomet as the goat-headed, eagle-winged androgyne can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when the name was applied to an illustration by French magician Eliphas Levi titled “The Sabbatic Goat.” Although the supposed historical justification for Levi’s drawing is lacking, the symbolism in it is still potent. Levi’s Baphomet symbolizes that which is: male, female, both and neither; composition and decomposition; the dark and the light. Baphomet teaches that what we think of as opposites are really part of the same whole.

You have a left side and a right side; both sides are still you, no? A top to your head and a bottom end, too. Still you. So what we humans often think of as this or that is really the same thing.

The following consists almost entirely of UPG: “unverified personal gnosis.” That is to say- basically- personal mythology. This information may or may not be of use to others, and should be differentiated from historical practice and not assumed to apply to others’ beliefs. That being said, in my experience:

As mentioned earlier, Baphomet is male and female, both and neither; this is why I deliberately use third-gender pronouns when referring to Hir. (Plus, using “Hir” in reference to Baphomet is a bit of a pun, “hircus” being Latin for “goat”…) Baphomet is the frenzy of existence, the instinct of being. Baphomet is the rut, and the decay of  dry bone. Baphomet is metamorphosis, the death-throes of stars and the fission of atoms within suns.

As always, I find looking to a Deity’s totem animals tells us a great deal about the Deity Itself. Goat is vitality, wary intelligence, willfulness, and, frequently, no small degree of licentiousness. Goat digs life. Goat likes to eat tasty-smelling flowers, jump on stuff, to chew cud and doze and chase other goats of its preferred sex(es) about. Goat is also smart enough to keep an eye out for eagles, wolves, leopards, and other creatures in its environment who would like to feast upon it. Goat wants you to convince it why it should (or should not) do something, and even if it takes your opinion into consideration, it’ll only listen to its own judgment. Goat doesn’t follow placidly along like a sheep; Goat will butt its horns right up against your head and say: “Why should I?”

It’s little wonder they’re besmirched in the Bible and other Abrahamic texts, beside the fact that there was near-constant conflict over grazing rights between goat-herding families and sheep-herding families when most of them were written. Goats tend to display many traits explicitly condemned (likely because combined they form someone who isn’t terribly suggestible and a pain to control): they are prideful, indulgent, mischievous, skeptical animals. They’re also absolutely hilarious and roguishly charming.

(I have had the privilege of keeping goats before. They’re like huge cats with hooves and horns. They will frequently attempt to destroy anything and everything, but are affectionate and friendly when the mood strikes. Some will converse with you in the same way cats will “chat” back and forth with you, only with much bleating in place of meowing. They almost certainly have a sense of humor. Have I mentioned I adore them?)

So all of this that could be said of goats, can also be said of Baphomet. For all the earthy goatishness (which, by itself, is all very Pan, another Deity demonized by Christianity…) there’s an airy human side as well, for Baphomet is about balance, including that between the feral instinctiveness and cold calculatory intelligence. In typically anthropocentric fashion, correctly or incorrectly, humans have fashioned themselves the symbols of intellect, the ability to take responsibility for one’s actions, will over matter, and self-control over one’s baser impulses.

Baphomet reminds us that we are both the goat and the man. We are instinct and intellect; the heat of ecstasy and rational consideration; both animal and human. There is no difference; human is animal.

Regarding Baphomet as Ze appears in Levi’s illustration, some additional notes/UPG:
Wings indicate ascension; we are our own salvation. Also represent the Air element.

An upright pentacle, with one point upward, is said to represent spirit (traditionally a trait ascribed to humans, although I would argue that it is in no way unique to humans) over carnality (or the right-hand path); an inverted pentacle, with the point down, is said to represent carnality over spirituality (or the left-hand path.) In actuality, these are simply two means to the same end: another false dichotomy. I personally utilize both, with the upright pentacle as symbolizing Will rather than Spirit, and don’t recognize either variation as inherently “right-hand” or “left-hand.”

Baphomet may also resonate with queer folks. For straight types who may not understand why some of us are so invested in our sexuality and/or gender identity: being a statistical outlier can be, to put it bluntly, a mindfuck. Finding a reflection of one’s self in a Deity can be intense, especially when that Deity teaches “Know Thyself,” something many of us have been practicing for a very long time. Baphomet is represented as an androgyne, possessing both breasts and an erect phallus; while I do not believe that Baphomet gives much of a care for gender or sex in reference to Hirself, the overlapping of traditional “masculine” and “feminine” archetypes is nonetheless significant.

“Solve”-Dissolution. “Coagula”-Coagulation. An old alchemical concept which suggests both intellectual analysis and synthesis as well as the crude explanation that decay is necessary for growth.

Baphomet has, in my experience, been quite reachable via practices that could be described as ecstatic in nature. A little pomp and circumstance- anything that engages the senses as well as childlike wonder, curiosity, and intrigue- does exceptionally well. Self-awareness is best of all.

I’m sure there is more, and it’s difficult to really summarize a Deity. I’ve tried to go over some key points based on the experience (for lack of a better word) of Baphomet. I fear that no amount of explanation can really suffice, and that the Goat really has to be experienced to even begin to explain.

Baphomet says, “Look within, and know Thyself.”

Subspace & Shamanic Trance

Today’s post deals with BDSM (bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism) and Power Exchange, and the usefulness of scenes in achieving a “travelling” mindset. While it will not be sexually explicit, these themes can be upsetting, so consider yourselves warned. As such, the post is behind the cut. Continue reading “Subspace & Shamanic Trance”

extinct and mythological totems

Captive Thylacines at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Source: Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1904.

I see this question not infrequently: can extinct animals be totems? Can creatures from mythology?

Short answer, as I see it, is yes.

Getting into “why” takes a bit more digging.

First, let’s go over the difference between a totem, a guide, and an astral form. These definitions can vary from tradition to tradition; the following is how I see them in my practice:

Totems are spirits who are with you your entire life. They may be inherited, or they may “adopt” someone. Totems tend to reflect the inner reality of a person and “speak their language.” The study of one’s totems is a path to wholeness, self-understanding, and gnosis. They can act as envoys to the spirit realm and the ancestors; they may act as protectors, teachers, or “astral parents.” They reflect truths about one’s self and personal history that may be veiled from the conscious mind. There may be one or several- some traditions claim nine. Personally, I have two.

Guides may come and go, or they may stick around your entire life- but they’re a presence “from without.” Sometimes they may teach you a thing or two and then go on their way; they may put you through a whole curriculum. Sometimes they’ll show up to point the way, and sometimes they simply seem to take a liking for someone and pop in now and again. There may be only a couple, or many. It seems that the more journeying a shaman does, the more “contacts” they make, and so one can accumulate a significant number of “friends on the other side.”

Astral forms are the forms a practitioner may take when journeying in other realms. They come from within and may be adopted for sheer usefulness combined with natural affinity, or they may be a form that is simply intuitive to the practitioner. When journeying, I tend to take the shape of a dragon roughly the size of a German shepherd- a form that came quite naturally to me even as a small child.

(Of course, if you zoom out, it’s all part of one whole- “within,” “without,” these are relative terms–)

These various spirit-forms seem to vary in how specific they are- for example, my primary totem is Spotted hyena or cave hyena, which are simply different subspecies of the same animal. A more generic guide I’ve done work with is Stag, who has shown up as a Red deer (Cervus elaphus), Wapiti (Cervus canadensis), Chital (Axis axis), Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus). These species are only distantly related (aside from the Red deer and Wapiti) but all were undeniably STAG: crowned with antlers and with more than a whiff of testosterone! Some people do have a “class” or genus of animal as their totem- they may click with equines, felines, cetaceans, and so on.

So, then, back to our T-rexes and Unicorns.

Regarding extinct animals, many species who once lived here survive through their descendants and relatives. Even if the living members of the species have died out, or been driven to extinction, the overall essence of the creature lives on. Therefore, someone with an extinct totem may be introduced to them through an extant species, or even honor the extant species alongside the extinct totem. However, even if a species has no living descendants (such as in the case of the Thylacine) its essence is still out there, both in the spirit realm and, in some cases, within human memory. Just because a species no longer wanders this planet doesn’t mean they’re gone from the astral, too.

Sometimes we may not even know the species but get glimpses of it in our subconscious or during journeying. For example, my secondary totem is some sort of birdish dromaeosaurid. I dreamed of this animal for years, and sometimes borrowed its form while journeying, all the while not knowing what it was. It looks like a “raptor” but has feathers (reddish-gold, not unlike a Golden eagle’s in color) and is very active and avian in nature. Skittish-  rather like a small wildcat or coyote in mannerisms. This information came to me before it was commonly accepted that dromaeosaurids were feathered, and when dinosaurs were still assumed to be ectothermic and more closely related to crocodiles than birds. I’ve always felt a draw to raptors- birds of prey- and chickens, several of which I had as pets. (They were no less affectionate or responsive than a family cat or dog.) Turns out that chickens are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs [1].

Could this be coincidence? Absolutely- but when facts align with intuitions, it does tend to lend them a bit more credence, at least in terms of personal practice.

If you suspect you may have an extinct animal totem, research as much as you can about their relatives and, if they have them, living descendants. You never know what your real world allies may show you.

Mythological animals may present a bit more trouble.

One thing to keep in mind regarding the astral is that things exist there- and potentially on other planets or in other realms- that do not exist on Earth.

Furthermore, there are very few mythological creatures which do not have counterparts the world over. Beasts such as dragons hold a place in human consciousness; whether originally chimeric composites of mundane animals or a reflection of beings from the astral realm, they have been acknowledged and honored as powerful spirits in their own right.

These animals have their own energy- even such creatures as the gryphon- which is not simply the sum of their parts. Gryphon teachings are similar to, but different than, lion and eagle teachings. So yes- mythological animals, too, can show up as totems or guides. If you are working with such a creature, perhaps begin by looking at the pieces, lion and eagle for a gryphon, for example. Some of the energy may be different, but it’ll still lead to understanding and inner knowledge if we but listen.

1. http://bmcgenomics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2164-15-1060

the big fat otherkin post

Detail from “Goddess I” by sha

Speaking in generalities here, because it’s more concise. ‘Kin are a diverse bunch, so obviously different individuals hold different beliefs, and this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive treatise on the topic. I can only speak from my personal experience and from my interactions with individuals I trust within the community.

That being said…

what otherkin is:

-The belief that one is, in some way (usually in a spiritual sense) some species other than human. “Therian” (therianthropy) tends to pertain to extant species, while “otherkin” is often used as a catch-all for those who may identify as extant species or species represented in various lore (i.e. dragons, elves, etc.). There is sometimes infighting between therians and otherkin, whom they may view as “too far out” due to the presumed nonexistence of such creatures. Some therians reject the ‘kin label. I tend to use ‘kin as an umbrella term encompassing therians, otherkin, fickin, and so on.

what otherkin is not:

-A religion or cult. Otherkin may be Christians, Pagans, agnostics, atheists, or just about any other religious (or areligious) group you can think of. There are no ‘kin “authorities.”

-A belief in literal, physical shapeshifting.

-Psychosis. This one requires delicate wording, but it comes down to the ability to function in this world, regardless of whether or not one believes in other worlds. Every ‘kin I’ve known is fully aware that biologically speaking, they are human.

Can they function, i.e. discern “real world” fact from fantasy? Do they think there is a literal world inside their television? Do they think they can fly? These are (extreme) examples of psychosis vs. the holding of unconventional beliefs. ‘Kin may have mental illnesses, of course, but being ‘kin does not indicate one is psychotic. I have only met one psychotic ‘kin in my fifteen or so years of interacting with the community, and plenty of non-‘kin people also suffer psychosis.

-A belief in totem or other teacher-being. Some ‘kin believe in totems, others do not. Those who do believe may or may not identify as the same species as their totem.

-A gender identity. ‘Kinness is unrelated to gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria.

-A slippery slope to “transethnicity,” which isn’t even a real thing.

-Oppressed. Yes, ‘kin frequently get razzed, trolled, made fun of, etc. This is not oppression. To the best of my knowledge, no ‘kin has been fired, physically assaulted, evicted, refused medical attention, or otherwise been persecuted because of their belief. People often react poorly to those things they perceive as “weird,” but speaking openly about any unconventional belief is likely to draw scrutiny. While this might be unpleasant, especially when discussing topics that pertain to our sense of identity, it’s a risk of voicing a minority opinion or belief.

-A call for alternative pronouns. Most people demanding to be referred to with individualized pronouns like “catself,” etc. are trolls. See also “Special Snowflake Syndrome” below.

-Possessed. Just…no.

-An excuse to act like an asshole. Every now and then you’ll run across someone who uses their ‘kinness to excuse shitty behavior. Shitty behavior is shitty behavior, regardless of the reason. Most ‘kin don’t do this. Some do, but these people, if they weren’t ‘kin, would find some other way to rationalize being a jerk. That’s a behavioral issue (or in some cases, a personality disorder) and not a ‘kin issue.

what otherkin may or may not be:

-A coping mechanism. There’s a divide here that can get heated from time to time. On one hand you’ve got those who do not literally believe that their soul is whatever species, if they even believe in a soul at all, and embrace ‘kinness as a method of coping with trauma or mental illness. Totally legitimate. (Although I would consider such folks more “animal-hearted” than kin, per se.) On the other, there are those who believe in ‘kinness as a spiritual descriptor no different than the belief of, say, reincarnation or other hypotheses regarding the nature and “life cycle” of the soul. Also totally legitimate.

-There may or may not be a belief in “astral” shapeshifting, or “m-shifts,” mental shifts where the beast within becomes more prominent. Many ‘kin isolate when they sense an oncoming m-shift, because of the social unacceptance of acting outside of a relatively narrow range of behaviors. Examples of m-shifts can include a desire to walk with a digitigrade stance, eat one food and refuse another, and so on. M-shifts are not exclusive to ‘kin- “sub space” and other alterations of consciousness could arguably be considered a mental shift. Shamanic practitioners also have experience with these altered states.

-There may or may not be a sense of “phantom limbs,” which may or may not be related to m-shifts. This is the sense that one has wings, a tail, horns, etc. when the structures do not physically exist.

-Dysphoric. Some ‘kin feel dysphoric; others do not.

-“Special snowflake syndrome.” Trust me, most of us don’t want to be “different.” It’s far easier to not be “different.”

Still, there are some folks who, in attempting to assert their identity, go a bit overboard. This is common with people who have finally found a label that applies to them. Older ‘kin, who last more than a few years identifying as such, tend to have little time for the troublemakers. They’re usually easy to spot. There’s an accompanying self-entitlement that these types usually ooze: they tend to claim to be inanimate objects, “godmod” (“I’m not just a dragon- I’m the king of ALL dragons! From the Pleides!” and so on.) Special snowflakes definitely exist, but they tend to alienate others due to their crushing hubris.

-A belief in other worlds. There are ‘kin who identify as fictional characters, which usually entails some belief in alternate universes, but this minority of the community is frequently ostracized by the majority. My experiences with fickin have been mostly pleasant and any problems encountered have been unrelated to their beliefs. Most of them are not so egotistical to believe that they are the “one true Sephiroth” (or whomever) and therefore, there isn’t really any reason to have a quibble with them.

other notes:

Spiritual beliefs, almost by nature, deal in the intangible. While the initial reaction of people outside the community is one of incredulity, consider any number of other religious/spiritual beliefs- many of which sound irrational when boiled down. Virgin births, reincarnation, resurrection, the survival of the soul after physical death are, to me, no more or less ridiculous than the belief that the form of a soul can take various shapes.

Again, I cannot speak for the entire community but if anyone’s got any questions or anything to add, feel free.

hyena & the sacred clown

Hyena painting in Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc Cave, France. Photo by Carla Hufstedler.

I hate clowns. Clowns as I grew up with them- oversized feet, overly bright primary colors, thinking they’re funny when I find nothing amusing about them. I’m a stick in the mud, frequently finding accusations of never having had a childhood leveled at me.

As a Hyena person with this opinion, I’ve always found myself scoffing at descriptions of Hyena people as “having great senses of humor,” “having difficulty being serious,” and so on. I always identified strongly with the solar-fiery aggressive bristle mane-feminine and lunar-cool still waters run deep-masculine aspects of Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta, commonly known as the “laughing hyena.” All extant species of hyena produce vocalizations which resemble laughter, but it is the Spotted hyena who is the most vocal. Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) and Brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) are quite different from their Crocuta cousins- they’re a great deal more solitary, live in smaller family groups instead of large clans, and do not display the larger/more aggressive/uniquely “equipped” females. When met with aggression they will tend to flee or even feign death, as opposed to the Spotted, who will happily meet a threat head-on.

Since I always look to members of the species themselves for primary keys to understanding the Spirit of that animal, rather than through popular perception, this connection of Spotted hyenas being “clownish” always struck me as very odd. When hyenas “laugh” or “giggle,” it’s a vocalization of stress or agitation. There is nothing joyful or happy or mirthful about the laugh of the hyena- but there is fear, potential aggression, an animal on an adrenaline rush.

Humans seem instinctively uneasy around hyenas. When we look back through history for folklore surrounding the family, what little there is tends to be very negative. For such a prevalent predator, they’re disproportionately absent in Paleolithic cave art, which suggests that the amount of Hyena worship going on was negligible if not entirely absent. The one cave painting I’m aware of is located in Chauvet Cave in France, and appears to have originally been intended to represent a bear but was later reworked, and spots added. In most indigenous societies throughout their natural range, the Hyena- whether the Spotted in Africa or the Striped in western Asia, is associated with death, necromancy, witchcraft, shape-shifting, and, particularly in the case of the Spotted hyena, non-heteronormative gender identity and sexuality.

It was only once I started to look back into the figures across many cultures that I tend to have an affinity for- tricksters and psychopomps all- that I started to notice a pattern. Devotees of these Deities and students of these Teachers share many of the same associations as Hyena does- death and rebirth, witchcraft, shape-shifting, Queer identity.

Sacred clowns are figures who also show up the world over and are shamanic in their own right- often, they are ritually subjected to the abuses of a cruel world, whether the malice of fellow humans, fate, the forces of nature, or something else entirely. In doing so, they heal through willingly absorbing the community’s pain, and fuse laughter and suffering. The sacred clown is not a glib child-oriented character with a red wig and big shoes; they are profoundly tragic, often dark and associated with the realm of the Dead, and yet through their tragedy, we find relief from our own.

Not insignificant is the Hyena’s ability to heal from grievous wounds that would make many other animals succumb to infection, starvation, or predation- I have seen a male Spotted hyena with a quarter of his upper jaw bitten off by a lion survive. No visible nose or upper lip, but he still hunted and ate with the clan. Another instance was a Spotted hyena skull that had had its skull split clear through the braincase, only to heal- the injury as well as the healed bone visible in the specimen. Spotted hyenas’ immune systems can tackle rabies as well as distemper, anthrax, and a whole host of other microorganisms that would kill most large carnivores.

I experience this in my own personality in how I process grief and trauma. The first thing out of my mouth when my father died was a joke that, had I been around company unfamiliar with my mannerisms, would’ve landed me in some very hot water indeed. The only way I avoided crying at his burial was by suppressing grim laughter. I reacted to a sexual assault by laughing- an uncontrollable, rigid, high-pitched laughter- in the face of the person assaulting me. Witnessing tragedy, I’ve always got an off-color joke or three in the back of my mind. Yet all these years later, in private, I cry about losing my father. I experience flashbacks to the assault and other traumatic events I’ve lived through. These things are no laughing matter, yet I laugh at them, laugh hysterically, and turn the entire thing into a joke. Not to belittle, but to take the sting out of the tragedy, open a dialogue about it, hopefully produce healing, and wrest control from the sick jokes that life has a way of lining up for us.

Of course, this has to be used judiciously, and learning to keep my highly vocal Spotted muzzle shut has taken years of practice. Massive teeth and powerful jaws can cause extensive damage very quickly. Hyena, like the archetype of the Sacred Clown, is frequently (if not always) irreverent and tends to lay bare the bone of an issue- even if the rest of the community isn’t ready to address it.

The Sacred Clown is frequently the one pointing out that the Emperor is butt-naked and doing so in whichever way they can extract that most laughs. Spotted hyenas live in a society rich with ritual hierarchy, and, like many communal large predators, exhibit behavior that may look at first to humans like uncontrolled viciousness. In reality, however, this behavior consists of highly ritualized displays of dominance which deal very little actual damage and in fact serve to avoid the need for violence. Its purpose is one of communication rather than actual threat. In this way they also model appropriate “bite inhibition” which, for the sake of a Hyena human living in a generally not-Hyena-friendly human society, can be taken as “asshole inhibition”- learning when to be an outrageous thorn in the side of authority, and when to stand down.

With teeth that can demolish elephant bones, cutting through to the marrow of an issue, Hyena is an enigmatic creature, and ultimately one who teaches purification by way of embracing the deep shadows, laughter through tragedy, and genderfuckery: a prime example of the Sacred Clown tribe.