Tag Archives: empath

The Fine Line

I’ve talked before about how a lot of the practices I employ are shamanistic in nature. For those who are unaware, I was born into a family of Empath-shamans and was raised learning how to employ shamanistic techniques. I grew up thinking that the techniques were Empath techniques until I met a few Empaths and realized that the major work that Empaths do was the basis of all the work that I do. In other words, I take empathy into the realm of shamanistic practice because that is what I was raised being taught to do. My teacher was my mother, and, in my family, the shamanistic gift is passed through the maternal line (through the paternal line comes the gift of prophecy).

There were three very important lessons that I was taught when I first started learning. The first was that it was vital that I learn not to judge others for things they couldn’t control. I was taught that everyone was different, that different people viewed the world in different ways, and I needed to learn how to see the world through many, many perspectives.

That lesson may seem pretty straightforward, but it isn’t. When my mom told me that I had to learn to see the world through many different perspectives, she didn’t just mean I needed to consider the situation of each person I came across. She meant I had to learn what it felt like to live within their skin. I had to learn to merge my aura with the auras of others, and I had to learn how to compartmentalize my mind so that I could truly shift into the mentality of another person. I can’t say much more than that, however, as the techniques I use are ancestral ones.

That actually brings me to the second lesson I was taught, which was that the more I discussed a technique with others (those outside my family), the weaker the ability would become. For years, I was terrified of talking to people about being an empath (I didn’t know I was using shaman techniques until I was in my 20’s). I eventually learned that it was okay to talk about empathy – that is the surface level of the type of shamanism that I have inherited – but I have to be careful not to discuss the unique techniques I use that are purely shamanic in nature.

For example, I can teach people the process of learning how to dreamwalk, but I can’t disclose the methods I use to cross from this realm to another realm – it feels forbidden. And it’s a feeling that resonates in my soul – it’s not a feeling that comes from any sort of external source. There are methods I can suggest to others because they are common knowledge, and they do work, but they aren’t as effective.

It can be rather frustrating to not be able to talk about certain things because sometimes I’d really like to share the things I know. I’m the kind of person who always wants to share everything. It took me until I was in 4th grade before I realized that when people said things to me about other people, I was supposed to keep those comments to myself. To be fair, I grew up in a household where I was taught that if I wasn’t comfortable saying something to someone’s face, I shouldn’t say it behind their back. When I was younger, I thought everyone behaved that way, so the idea of keeping secrets was incredibly foreign.

I love to share. I love to tell people about the things that I experience whether those stories come from my mundane life or my spiritual life (which are very intertwined). But I can’t. When I go world-walking, I am oath-bound not to reveal what is going on in the nine realms without explicit permission from the deities involved. In some cases, I am not permitted to even give the names of the deities who have asked for my help. The most I can say about what is going on in the nine realms is “Things are hectic right now, so the Gods may take longer to respond than usual,” which is what I would have said at the beginning of the year. Crazy things were happening – bad things. Things that threatened to shake the stability of certain realms. Things which are currently in the process of being mended, which is why the Gods are hanging around a bit more than They were.

And I hate that I can’t be more specific – I had to rewrite the last three lines until the Gods were satisfied I wasn’t giving too much away. I’d love to be able to tell everyone exactly what is going on, but I can’t. The oaths that bind me aren’t ones that I myself have given the Gods, but oaths that originate with far-distant ancestors.

I mostly wanted to bring this up (I’m sure some of you are asking why I’m talking about something I can’t actually talk about) because I feel it important to explain why shamans and certain godhis/godhas don’t share all the UPGs they experience. I’m sure it’s just as frustrating for those on the receiving end of comments like, “I can’t tell you that,” or, “All I can tell you is its hectic/calm/etc,” as it is for me when I have to make those kinds of comments. It’s really difficult when I come across UPGs that don’t match what I’ve seen while worldwalking or when I come across UPGs that are true but revealed without evidence that thought has gone into the decision to share them or not.

I’ve been thinking about this since I started reading “The Deites are Many: A Polytheistic Theology,” by Jordan Paper, and I was struck by the part in the introduction where he explicitly says that there are some things that he absolutely cannot talk about. When I read that, I was astonished to find someone else who understands the difficulty of sharing without sharing too much. So far, the book is amazing.

Now, if you’ll remember, I mentioned three rules, and I’ve only discussed two. The third rule my mother taught me was that the most difficult people to understand are those we are closest to because we tend to blind ourselves to their faults (especially lovers and close friends). Because of that, there is an intrinsic instability to energy work performed on the behalf of other family members or incredibly close friends (i.e. you would die for them type of close). It isn’t impossible, it’s just very, very difficult.

The main reason it’s so difficult is because we make assumptions about family members that we don’t make about outsiders. Most of us assume that our families will support us, and when that assumption proves false, it is devastating. We have certain concepts of their behavior and personalities which make it difficult to truly understand what they need or desire out of life.

In general, people tend to think that it is the opposite – that energy work is easier when done for family members. In reality, however, it is much easier to wreak havoc by trying to help out where we aren’t wanted. I’m reminded of the section of the Havamal where it says (paraphrased), “Often he saves for a foe what he has planned for a friend, for much goes worse than we wish.” Or to put in terms everyone will understand, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It’s the same concept.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the most important lessons that I was taught that still underlies the framework of the shamanic work I do today. I will answer questions, where I can, but please be aware that there are some things that I just can’t tell you. It isn’t that I won’t tell you – it’s that I’m oath-bound not to share certain things. And the one thing I don’t do is break my oaths (even when those oaths are ones made by my ancestors).

My Thoughts on UPGs

UPG stands for Unverifiable Personal Gnosis, and it is essentially a personal interaction with any deity that doesn’t have any basis in the lore. I am going to say right now that I adore UPG because it is how I interact with the Gods. And I have no problem with others who have UPGs because I believe everyone’s path is different, so ridiculing someone else’s beliefs is a little counterproductive.

While I think that UPG can enrich a person’s spiritual practice, I don’t think that UPGs should be used as the foundation of a communal faith. When a faith is shared, then there needs to be shared practices and traditions that are embraced in communal settings because the sharing of those practices is what allows a faith to flourish. In this particular aspect of life, I agree with traditional reconstructionists. Public blots and sumbels should be done in a way that is as close as possible to the way they were originally done. In this one area, I embrace reconstruction.

In almost every other area, I shed it. In my personal practices, I feel no need to stick to the traditional format of the blot because I believe in cultivating personal relationships with the Gods and Goddesses I follow. How I choose to cultivate those relationships is difficult to relate except to say that it is largely done through UPG. And most of that UPG is done through dreams.

I dream a lot. I don’t remember every dream I have, but I have about half a dozen dreams every night that I can remember in glimpses. I also dreamwalk – I hesitate to call it a shamanic practice due to the difficulties talking about shamanism in general can invoke. I’ve read many sites and books that claim shamans no longer exist, that there are just people who try to emulate shamanic practices from other cultures, and that claiming to be a shaman doesn’t make you one. Which isn’t surprising, considering no one seems to agree on what a shaman is supposed to actually be, other than some kind of medicinal herbal healer who walks in the spirit world.

The truth is, though, that what I’ve been doing my entire life echoes everything I’ve ever read in books and websites about shamanism, and I trance as easily as I breathe. I was trained as an empath by my mother, and the more research I do, the more similarities exist between empaths and shamans, so I am okay with either term though I tend to use empath since it is more widely understood and accepted.

So when I say I dreamwalk, I mean I walk through the worlds when I sleep. I don’t necessarily do it by intention – I can fall asleep and “wake up” somewhere else. I know there are people who would love to have the gifts I do, but the gifts do come with a price. I struggle to fall asleep – I have insomnia – and I do not wake feeling rested when I dreamwalk because I am fully conscious while sleeping.

But is through my dreamwalking that I experience UPGs. It was UPG that pulled me into the world of the Nordic Gods to begin with. In that particular dream, I was a man, drowning in an ocean, trying to make sure my children were safe, and the boats above my head were Viking longboats that somehow perfectly formed a triangle. In interpreting that dream (which I do myself because dream interpretations are 100% specific to an individual), I found myself drawn to Odin and heathenry.

I don’t often share the UPGs I’ve had because they are usually incredibly personal, but some of them are random glimpses of the Gods. I had one dream where I was walking up a snow-covered bank watching Odin climb up the hill in front of me. Even though he never turned around, I knew he was aware I was there, and it was a rather somber moment.

Those UPGs don’t mean anything to anyone besides myself, and I would never try to use a UPG in order to convince someone that the way I see certain Gods is the only way to see them. In any case, if anyone has a UPG they are comfortable with sharing, I’d love to hear it. I’m also willing to entertain questions about the dreamwalking, as I have been teaching a couple people how to do it.