I remember when I was a baby shaman. I joined a list. I talked to others who were in the same boat as I was. I championed my causes. I acted like a fool, and I played with fools who were foolish enough to play with me. I hadn’t thought much about that time in awhile. At the end of my Journeywork post, I made a statement that I’m not a shaman. I’m a person who does journeywork. I’m a different person now than I was then. The cause of the dysfunction revealed itself with that statement. I even remember a few scattered people telling me, in their own words, what the problem was, but I didn’t understand. I thought they were just being elitist jerks, and some of them actually were, so the confusion was somewhat natural. Perhaps the elitists were repeating something they heard someone else say that sounded good to them, and thereby muddling the message because they didn’t get it either.
I thought that I should be a shaman. I did the things that theoretically define what a shaman is, so why couldn’t I be one? I did this thing, and people who do that thing are shamans. Oh, but shamans do these other things too! You need to do X,Y and Z. Oh, so if I do those things I will be a shaman! I need to, uh, open a business where people will come to me for help, and I’ll help! I’ll be sooo good at helping! I’ll be the best shaman ever and everyone will respect me!
Did you notice the mindtrap in the previous paragraph? I would have to bend over backwards to fit someone else’s idea of what I thought I should be, in order to gain respect. But it would never come from those whose respect I craved. The gatekeepers are not amused. Some of the gatekeepers truly are elitest jerks. They are the ones who also believe in the trap, of course. However, some gatekeepers actually have some idea of what they’re talking about. They know that trying to be someone other than yourself can never amount to anything good. It can be hard to tell the difference between them. Sometimes they use the exact same words.
No matter how hard I try, I will never be a ritual magician from Siberia. Why did I want to be one of those again? It sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
Now, go back and play the word replace game. I’ve seen the exact same thing played out in a number of different communities. Any place where people spend endless hours talking about who is “real” and who isn’t is subject to the trap. Are you a real witch, priest, priestess, master, magician, otherkin, reconstructionist, LGBT (pick one, or more)? Then you must XYZ! And if you do try for XYZ you’ll become a caricature of the real thing, a caricature of your real self. You know that you’re a real person who does real things. So you want to fight back and grab that honorific with both hands while defiantly sticking out your tongue. Nice try, but the trap has you.
The people who take part of those debates have also been taken in by the trap. The rational people who are no longer part of it tend to sit on the sidelines and silently roll their eyes. You are a real person who does real things. You are a person who does your things. That really is enough, because if you dive deeply into it, you will find a sense of purpose that goes beyond the cookie cutter definitions that you’ve spent so much time trying to squeeze yourself into.