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

sidhehound, 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 ❤🐺🐐

paganism, sidhehound, visual art

Musk Ox Man

“Musk Ox Man” (2020)

Digital art.

The Musk Ox Man is a weather spirit who visits here most winters. He lives in the North, but roams South during the winter season. As he passes, his footsteps cause the snow to fall.

This is a recreation of a lost drawing of mine from several years ago.

Prints and other lovely things are available at RedBubble.

You can support my work at Buy Me A Coffee.

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.

paganism, sidhehound, visual art

Coyote

Photoshop drawing / painting of a Coyote.

“Coyote” 2020

Digital illustration.

Prints, greetings cards, and more in my Society6 Store.

We might be verging into TMI territory. Coyote came to me during one of my shamanic practitioner training weeks, and it was a wild week. Prior to working with Coyote I had considered myself asexual for years, but BAM! I suddenly had a sex drive. It was really frightening and fun at the same time. A few month later, my sex drive calmed down and now I enjoy a healthy amount of sex with my partners. Things also went wrong regularly that week, and I lost many things. Wild times.

I’ve been wanting to draw Coyote, and share this wee story for a while, but I was worried I would be judged for not being asexual when I was so, so sure that I was.

paganism, sidhehound, writing

Story time: Journey to the Great Phoenix

Drawn from a journey undertaken on 11/05/2020

I donned the cloak and antlers of Earth Deer Spirit. Alongside the Blackshuck, I began my journey. 

It was dusk. The pinks bled into purples, then magentas. Pinpoints of light marking the constellations began to appear, and with them the luminous colours of the Starbirds. We were invited to traverse the skies with them. 

Up we went, my edges merging with the night sky. The Milky Way sparkled below us, showing the Starbirds the way. The pale lights and sweet scents of the Upper World drew us in, where the Great Phoenix was burning bright in the topmost branches of the World Tree. 

I had to move through the crowd gathered around Phoenix, being careful not to bump into children who were running around in delight. Falling from the azure sky were Her feathers, and the children were making a game of gathering as many feathers as possible. A feather danced into my hand. 

I was called forward by Phoenix to hear her message. 

I am a creature of all three realms. I am born in the Lower World; my nest of ashes is safe amongst the roots of the World Tree. I die in the Upper World; my burning a spectacle in the crown of the World Tree. My body rises, and my ashes fall, through the Middle World; my forms spiraling around the trunk of the World Tree. 

My cycle is ending. My body has almost burnt up. My ashes are falling through your world, gathering ready for my rebirth. 

It takes time for the dust to settle. 

paganism, sidhehound

Ceremony – Beltane 2020

My intention for this celebration was to mark Beltane, to connect with my spirit allies meaningfully, and to offer prayers on behalf of my community. It was a solitary event because of the Covid-19 lockdown. Due to health reasons it was delayed until Saturday 2nd May. Thankfully the weather was beautiful so I was able to celebrate outdoors in my garden. 

Seperation

I created a sacred space using sage to smudge my garden, before calling in the elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth at each quarter. I then called in my spirit allies and the local spirits using my bullroarer. 

Transformation

While drumming and moving slowly, I undertook a journey with the intention I journey to non-ordinary reality to speak with my spirit allies and ask them for their prayers.

When I returned I made a prayer rag for each prayer from fabric I have stored away.

I approached my prayer tree, a Japanese maple I designated as such during a ritual when I first moved home, and made an offering to him. I asked him to hold the prayers and carry them to the upper world. 

The altar was made when I moved in, and is simple. A pair of red deer antlers I acquired while I was at art school, and a piece of slate that I bought for 50p from a kid who was chancing his luck in the local park. 

The offerings were collected from my garden: a dandelion, a bluebell, and a rhododendron, along with a tealight.  

Using a blend of incense made by a friend, and some sage, I mindfully cleansed each prayer rag and attached them to my prayer tree. 

While drumming, I undertook a second journey with the intention I journey to non-ordinary reality to shepherd these prayers to where they need to go. I do not feel it is appropriate to share the events of this journey yet.

Incorporation

Upon my return home I sat in silence for a time, and to borrow from Dr. Seuss my heart grew three sizes as I contemplated what I had bore witness to.

To ground myself back into ordinary reality I spent some time creating affirmations and intentions which I burned. I waited for my incense to burn down before giving quiet thanks to all who attended in spirit, then I went to enjoy a late lunch with my partner.

Blessings from under the unfurling ash trees. 

other arts, paganism, sidhehound

Roses and Thorns – w/b 13/05/2019

It will come as no surprise to you that I am not very good at blogging. I spend too long overthinking topics and eventually the inspiration leaves me. To keep me writing regularly, I am going to try and write a bit about what happens during my weeks. Roses (the good stuff) and Thorns (the meh stuff).

Roses

Land healing WIP

As some of you may know, I am training to be a shamanic practitioner and that involves a lot of work. One of my tasks is to perform land healing at the Notre Dame Convent Chapel in Dumbarton. It is an abandoned chapel, formerly a listed building, and was linked to a teaching order of nuns. I spent an afternoon there conversing with the spirits of the land, trying to understand their needs.

First soul retrival

Another part of my shamanic training is to offer services to friends and family. This week I was able to try out my soul retrival technique for the first time away from my classmates. My friend suggested we work outside, which was a wonderful idea. She chose a beautiful spot amongst some trees and bluebells.

Trace

Another friend was performing in a work-in-progress puppet show called TRACE, which explores the long-term impact of childhood abuse. It was harrowing, but shares an important message. that could benefit people (if a group discussion followed). I hope to see it fledge into a full show.

Thorns

This week’s thorns are the same ones I experience near constantly: pain, fatigue, and depression. I had great experiences this week, but aside from these few hours I spent the majority of my time bedbound.

One of Twobird's drums.
paganism, sidhehound

Reintroduction to Shamanism

Entrance to the Earth Lodge at Anam Cara

I have been practicing some form of neo-pagan shamanism on and off for the past decade, but chronically feeling lost in my experiences. I made a breakthrough this year though!

It began when a friend recommended a local shamanic practitioner who was taking on clients. Tiffany has had such an amazing influence on me over the past few months. With her guidance I have come to a better understanding of what makes me tick, work through some toxic relationships, and finally have the confidence to pursue the path of a shamanic practitioner myself.

I’ve half-heartedly tried to become a shamanic practitioner in the past, but I had to work through a lot of issues of confidence and ego. I still have to work through a lot of issues of confidence and ego, but I have an awareness of them now. I am now in a place where I can step forward.

One of Twobird's drums.

The universe recognised that, and finally, I found a teacher who I felt was the right fit for me.

I am just back from an amazing weekend of training with Tiffany’s teacher, Twobirds. I joined her Introduction to Shamanism course at Anam Cara, an amazing retreat centre in Inverness. I cannot find words to express my joy and gratitude for my time with Twobirds, and my amazing fellow students. Being able to share such powerful experiences with such wonderful people has left me feeling truly blessed, and I am ready to keep walking this path.

This is who I am and what I do.