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paganism, sidhehound

Transitions: My Sidhehound Tattoo

I have been wanting to write about my Sidhehound tattoo for some time, but I felt awkward about it because it is so heavily tied up in shamanic practitioner training I no longer stand by. In that context, please enjoy this report on it from November 2020. The tattoo was part of a personal ceremony representing a transitional point in my life, though at the time I didn’t realise how big the transition would be!


Introduction

My original intention for this ceremony was to mark my completion of our two-year course in my own way – with a tattoo. It was supposed to be a celebration! Of course, the spirits give you what you need rather than what you want. Instead this ceremony became a time of deep personal reflection, and for making some decisions about my future as a shamanic practitioner. 

The ceremony was originally planned for June, but due to Covid-19 it was postponed twice. In that time things had changed for me, which will be covered in the transformation part of the ceremony. 

Seperation

To outsiders, my separation may have appeared non-existent. Internally, there was a lot going on. I took a long bath, both to cleanse and because it will be some weeks before I would be healed enough to soak in a bath. I quietly prayed, and gave thanks. I thanked Twobirds for facilitating our training, the Clan for their friendship and solidarity, and Standing Stone for gifting me my name, Hound of the Sidhe. 

I then had to travel, safely, to the tattoo studio. This is the first time I physically separated myself as I spiritually separated. This was a new, and highly recommended, studio to me. As I entered the space, the separation was further heightened. The reception was fantasy themed, mostly around the film “The Dark Crystal”. I used to work with pop culture magic, so having Aughra (the voice of Thra, the world) watching over the proceedings was a magnificent surprise. 

Transformation

This was possibly one of the most powerful transformations I underwent, as it touched my mind, body and soul simultaneously. All of my tattoos have spiritual significance, but there were so many changes between planning and execution with this one. 

As my tattooist, Gillian, inked me, I told her my story. 

I began with my spiritual experiences, my mental health diagnoses, my struggles at art school before a classmate pointed me in the direction of the spiritual section of the local bookshop. Discovering shamanism, working alone, in a group, then alone again. Encountering a shamanic practitioner as a client, and then being pointed towards Twobirds and Anam Cara. How each step helped me understand who I am, little by little. 

I told her about my design, much of which came from our first gathering. How I was gifted a name that resonated with me deeply. How when I was out to journey on the land, I chose to sit beneath an oak tree (a tree I associate with my mother, whose death allowed me to take the course). How after the journey, a ladybird (my mother’s favourite animal) was climbing on my drum arm. How at that moment, everything felt right. 

I then told her about my doubts. About my struggles with being part of a spiritual community, about my doubts about my ability, about my conflict between my practice and my mental health, and about how I wasn’t sure if I even want to be a shamanic practitioner anymore. 

One thing I was certain about was the tattoo though. The pain was excruciating, even with pain relief. It helped me focus. No matter where my path goes, that moment beneath the oak, with ladybird, and embodying my new name was perfect. I will always be a Hound of the Sidhe, no matter what track I follow. 

Incorporation

Aftercare is an important part of both shamanic work and getting a tattoo. 

I took a moment of silence to let some relief wash over me. The physical and emotional pain had stopped. Time had too. Aughra’s eye was on me and I felt safe. 

Gillian and I shared some sugary drinks and snacks as she brought me back to Earth with her aftercare routine. After a clean up, I looked down at my tattoo and smiled. Moments can’t really be captured, but they can be memorialised. 

I am journaling a lot to clarify some things that came up during my eight hours of inking. My attachment to the result (qualifying as a shamanic practitioner) isn’t there any more. I will be delighted if I can catch up on all of the work, but I will be okay if I can’t. It doesn’t change who I am, it just changes the avenues in which I can express it. 

Each time I care for my tattoo (which is several times a day), I have a moment of prayer and reflection. I feel inspired to practice again, something I have not been doing for several months. 


Reading over this now, I can see that I knew then I wouldn’t be completing the course. I just didn’t want to admit it, because of the money I had invested in the training. But I did eventually trust my intuition.

Tattoo artist: Gillian Turner at Aughra’s Eye Tattoo & Piercing

visual art

Badger

Badger (2021), Photoshop

About Badger the spirit teacher

Badger can help you unearth mysteries buried deep within and without. He can root out problems and solutions. A gruff personality with a tenacious. He prefers to keep to himself, but you can build a relationship with him with time and effort. 

About the art

This portrait of Badger was created between May and July 2021. The original is a digital piece created in Photoshop. Inspired by my spiritual work with Badger as an animal spirit teacher. 

About the artist

I am Wolf Saanen, an animist artist from Dumbarton, Scotland. I create bold and vibrant animal spirit portraits using digital and traditional media. I primarily use Photoshop, but I enjoy working with lino prints, acrylics and ink too. I am inspired by my animistic practice; I want everyone to share in the beauty and magic of the natural world, and perhaps make their own connections.

Purchase prints and products

Every purchase helps support me and my work ❤🐺🐐

journal

Generic update

So much for my plan to write daily! Hello!

Is me

Life has been … interesting lately.

The 5th anniversary of my mum’s death has just passed. My sister and I went to scatter my dad’s ashes at their memorial tree in Balloch Park. He passed less than two years ago. Is it weird to think of yourself as an orphan at 38? The daily pain is less, but I have bad dreams about it all still.

I should be away at a spiritual training retreat right now; my final one before qualifying. I opted to throw all of the time, money and energy away and quit. It was a hard decision, but it was a long time coming. Between a lack of guidance during our forced pandemic break, a lax attitude towards the pandemic, the infestation of anti-vaxxers & right wing BS, and my personal understanding of cultural appropriation … I decided that it was not a qualification I wanted any more. What saddens me the most is that my course leader didn’t even respond to my e-mail saying I was leaving; my part in the community was that meaningless.

I’m planning a ritual to gain some closure over the whole thing. I’m not quite sure what form it will take, but I think it will focus on fire.

My art and spiritual work doesn’t bring in much, and I am not considered disabled enough to get support, so I am now working a conventional job for 1 day a week. That takes up three days of my week though, thanks to my fibromyalgia, which means I have less time to work on creative and spiritual things but I do have a small guaranteed income. Swings and roundabouts.

In general, I am feeling good though. I’m happy that my sister and I were able to finish putting our parents to rest, I am glad I made the choice to leave my spiritual training, and having a stable income is a good thing. I’ve been able to get my haircut for the first time in 10 months, I have my first Covid-19 vaccination, I get to play D&D, I am able to start seeing my bestie again … things are pretty sweet overall.

journal, mental health

Should

I should write something on my blog.

I should really make something.

I should get livestreaming.

I should do some housework.

I should go outside for a walk.

I need to go to bed.


The past few weeks have been a bit shit for me.

Physically, I had been in so much pain and I have been so tired. I’ve pretty much been in bed for about 15-20 hours a day. Emotionally, I had the blank flatness of depression with the occasional outbursts of tears. Mentally, I had been worn down by a decision I had been avoiding making.

I made the decision, and acted upon it, and things are slowly starting to get better.

I hate the word “should”. I tend to use it as a weapon to beat myself with. I never meet the expectations of “should”, thus triggering the never ending spiral of failure. It’s so damned exhausting.

And I know all the stuff I should be doing to get out of this, but if it was that easy I wouldn’t be feeling this way.

I do want to write more on my blog, I’m just never sure what.

Maybe I should just sit here and type every day and see what comes out.

journal

New name, who dis?

I am socially transitioning to a new first name – Wolf, as both a shorthand for “littlewolfgoat” and a hint towards “sidhehound”.

For those of you who know me as a different name, I know change is hard but I am asking you to respect this choice. I have been using a different surname for over a decade, and the majority of you have supported me in this. Changing my first name is no different (except that I fully intend to change my legal surname).

I love my legal first name. It was a gift given to me by my parents, both of which are no longer living. I love what it means; “universal grace” is my interpretation of it. However as a non-binary person I have wanted to change to a more gender-neutral name for some years. At the absolute bare minimum, being non-binary means that I, personally, want to be referred to as they/them. People mistakenly call me she/her often, and part of the problem is that my legal name is feminine.

It has taken me some time to pick a gender neutral name that I am happy with. I appreciate that it is an unconventional choice, but for those of you who are close to me and know about my path through life then it makes perfect sense. If it helps you, try thinking of it as a nickname.

This name change is experimental. I may try another name, or I may even switch back to my legal name. This does not mean that it is okay to refer to me as my old name now.

I feel empowered by my new name. It feels like me, and gives me another opportunity to express myself.

Thank you to everyone for your support in this.

Wolf Saanen x

mental health, self-improvement, writing

A Ghost of a Person

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

– Jim Rohn

I have no idea who Jim Rohn is1, though variations of this quote run rife in the personal development community. It’s an overly simplistic way of saying that we tend to manage our behaviour in relation to other people, that we should be around people who lift us up, and run a mile from people who drag us down. You know, the regurgitated advice from every self-help guru.2

We’re about 11 months into an on-again-off-again lockdown, so if we are being responsible adult, then we are not being around many other people in a meaningful way. We may be trapped with have the company of family, friends, or flatmates, we could find ourselves living with just one person, or we could find ourselves living alone. What does this mean for us if we are the average of the people we spend time with?

I bring this up because of something I am personally experiencing.

I have been diagnosed with Emotional Intensity Disorder3, twice. It basically means my emotions go up to 11, but you can look at the diagnostic criteria for the ins and outs of it all (it is very complex, and there are many different combinations of symptoms). The one criterion I want to look at it is this:

Identity disturbance with markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

I have very little sense of self. I have a habit of modelling the ideas and opinions of the people I am around. I can come across as a bit of a cranky and overly-opinionated little shit online, but in person I think I am overly-amiable and conflict avoidant. I want people to like me, but who am I? Well, I’m whoever I think you want me to be. It sounds really creepy when I write it out, but it’s true. I can’t pin my identity to anything other than others. I am a ghost of a person, and I only exist in relation to other people. When I am alone, and try to figure out who, what and why I am (remember, I am addicted to personal development) there is nothing to pin myself to.

So what then am I, and people like me to do when we aren’t around other people? How do we continue to exist?

I am struggling with who I am, and I can’t be the only one.

Are any of you fans of Nickelodeon’s Fairly Odd Parents4? There’s an episode where Timmy Turner wishes to be alone with his crush, Trixie Tang. Trixie needs constant admiration from the boys, and with them gone Timmy has to provide it all. Watch it.

That is a vibe. And it’s kind of my vibe right now.

I don’t need the constant admiration of people, but my partner alone can’t provide me with a strong anchor point for my identity. He shouldn’t have to. That’s too big a responsibility for anyone, and he is unable to really consent to that5. It’s a toxic behaviour that I am struggling to manage.

Being among people doesn’t give me a stable identity, but it allows me to flex and explore identity without overly burdening people. However, I will not be able to be around people in any meaningful way for a long time, possibly next year. A year of being a ghost.

Of course the real solution is to have my own stable sense-of-self, but I’m fucked if I know how to do that.

What am I the average of?

You can’t drink from an empty cup, but what if that cup can never be filled?


1He’s an entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. All the worst sorts of people, lol.

2I snark, but I am addicted to this stuff.

3Or Borderline Personality Disorder, but that label is so shallow and easily misunderstood.

4It’s problematic. Shut up. All your favourites are problematic too.

5How on earth would consent work in this situation?

visual art

This week on Twitch…

Hello m’dears and m’deers!

Did you know I stream my art sessions on Twitch? You can find me as littlewolfgoat, and I stream on Mondays, Tuesdays. Thursdays and Fridays from 10 am to about noon (depending on my health). It’s a chill stream; you can ask me anything (though I might not answer!), and just create along with me.

This week I have been working on an entry for a Valentine’s e-card contest hosted by OneKind (an animal welfare charity I used to volunteer for). Nothing exciting, it’s going to be a female Roe Deer with the words “I love you deerly”.

I thought it was cute!

Anyways, here is a slideshow of my work in progress so far, totalling about 7 hours work.

journal, sidhehound, Uncategorized, writing

Love and Light and Covid

This piece is a work in progress. I will do my best to make it clear then changes have been made.

This is a post I have been avoiding writing for a while, and certainly wasn’t the post I wanted to start 2021 with.

But here we are.

On the macro scale, in the US we have white terrorists backed by the outgoing president attempting a coup and I seriously doubt any real action will be taken against the perpetrators.

On the micro scale, in my home town I hear people talking about how Covid-19 isn’t real and I see that few are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

On the surface, these two things might seem unrelated. However both have their roots in the same dangerous ideology: right-wing conspiracy theories.

It all starts simply enough. Most of us recognise that there is something fundamentally wrong with the lives we lead1, and it unsettles us. We begin to question the way things are, and try to find ways to soothe ourselves. The path then diverges into multiple trails, different ideas and philosophies, twisting and turning.

But some of us trip up, and fall down a rabbit hole. That, in turn, leads to right-wing conspiracy theories.

These conspiracy theories have always been with us. I used to think it was a bit of a laugh imagining that the Queen of England was really a space lizard. But recently, I have been learning a bit about how many of these conspiracies have roots in anti-semitism (“lizard people” is a dog-whistle for “Jew”), and how dangerous they can be (such as the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s).

And we are seeing in real time, with trails of evidence (thanks to the internet), it all happening again.

Now I am not academically inclined enough to be able to go into the ins and outs of this (I have recommended some resources at the end), but I can talk about what I am seeing amongst my friends and peers.

After many years personal pathworking and spiritual practice, I am training to be a shamanic practitioner2. As such, I spend time in the shamanic practitioner, witchcraft, druid, and general pagan communities. I also spend time in vegan and vegetarian comminties. Alternative beliefs, ideas, and practices have always been a part of that. Unfortunately this includes a lot of harmful ideas, such as “vaccines cause autism”, and “chemtrails are real”. You learn to dodge these people quickly. Then there are the more insideious people who talk about themselves and their fellow “lightworkers” as enlightened beings here to drag the rest of humaninty up to a 5 dimentional existance by their bootstraps. Yikes! Can anybody say “spiritual fascism”?

For reasons I don’t fully understand3, these members of the community have been fertile ground for the seeds of right-wing conspiracies. I hear people I used to love and respect regurgitate the most ridiculous and harmful bullshit. It has gotten to the stage where I may not be able to continue the path I am on because some of my peers think that the Covid-19 pandemic is a hoax.

Let that sink in. A virus that has unnecessarily killed nearly 2 million human beings worldwide, and ruined the lives of millions more isn’t real. Or isn’t serious. Or is caused by something other than a virus (such as Elon Musk sending 5G rays down from a satellite to kill us all4). Or is a deliberate scheme to force everyone to be vaccinated (so that Bill Gates can put nanochips in us5). Or it doesn’t matter because only old, disabled, and vulnerable people will die from it (have you ever heard of eugenics?).

I am absolutely fucking disgusted.

And my heart is breaking.

I have had to cut ties with some folks in the spiritual (and vegan) communities: people I looked up to, who helped me be the person I am today. I should have done it sooner. But when? When I found out they don’t believe in prescription medication? When they implied that vaccines cause autism? When they outed themselves as climate change deniers? When they told everyone that 5G was going to harm us all? No, I finally drew the line at the pandemic denial. I can only blame myself for being hurt by these folks. I saw all the red flags, and I chose to ignore them because I kept telling myself they were “good people”. In this regard, I need to take responsibility for my part in the spread of this toxic nonsense, because I didn’t stand up to it sooner. Maybe it is too late, because for years these people have been dripping poison into the ears of anyone who will listen.

That poison has spread far, but often it is subtle. The occasional meme here, the occasional link to a crappy YouTube video there, but it all piles up. You drip-feed someone a poison long enough, and they will eventually die.

I believe that spirituality and science should go hand in hand. I believe that spirituality keeps science empathic and compassionate. I believe that science keeps spirituality grounded in reality. We need to be allies in order to figure out this mess of a world we find ourselves in.

I believe that those in the spiritual community, especially those of us who brand ourselves as healers, coaches, and therapists need to accept the fact that we live in this world, here and now. And in this world there is a pandemic, whch needs to be managed with face coverings, social distancing, and a vaccine. We cannot heal the soul if the body succombs to a virus. It’s that simple.

We have to stop it with all of this conspiracy bullshit.

The pandemic is real.

5G will not kill us.

The “global elites” are not torturing children in order to drink their blood.

Vaccines save lives.

Can I let you in on a secret? The real horrors of the world we live in are far worse. If you spend less time on this conspiracy bullshit you might figure that out.

Our communities need to recognise the pipeline between questioning the status quo and the alt-right, and challenge it because the end of that road leads to people like Jake Angeli, the QAnon shaman. Yes we can laugh at him and denounce him, but what are we doing to stop our community members becoming like him? Where do you think his first steps down this toxic path of conspirituality began? And how many others are following in his footsteps?

Before writing this post, I asked my spirit allies for guidance. Should I continue to keep quiet and avoid conflict? Or should I speak out?

And I drew Vulture from my Animal Spirit Oracle.

The Vulture is the great cleanser. She consumes what is rotten, and transforms it into something of value to the world. She does the dirty work, and deals with what we avoid, in order to return balance to the world. She stops the spread of disease. Vulture uncovers the blessings in disguise.

I call upon the Spirit of Vulture to help guide our communities back to a path of balance between the rational and the magical. To claw out the poison of conspiracy thinking, consume and transmute it, so that we can grow into better versions of ourselves. And with her wings, lift us up out of this hellish pit we find ourselves in. So mote it be.


Footnotes

1Hint: It’s capitalism.

2I apologise for using this phrase. I know that many consider it to be culturally insensitive, but I can’t think of an alternative phrase to explain what it is.

3I was linked to an interesting article that offers some reasoning: Spiritual Conspiritualists, Psychology Today

4Elon Musk is a cunt, but this isn’t why.

5Bill Gates is a cunt, but this isn’t why.

Recommendations:

“The Satanic Panic: America’s First Q Anon (part 1)” from Behind the Bastards

The Conspirituality Podcast

Q Clearance: The Hunt for Q Anon

Q Anon Anonymous

Updates:

09/01/2021 – Updated my writing to be less self-deprecating. Decided not to blame one singular person for what is happening. Added a brief comment about Jake Angeli.