I have been reading Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera’s interesting book Drawing Down the Spirits: The Traditions and Techniques of Spirit Possession.
I will likely write a full review of the book once I have finished it – it is quite interesting reading and does serve to set the modern spectator religion paradigm on its head – but, in the mean time, I was struck by this quote from the book:
Those of us who want to world-walk for real need to get over the idea that Otherworlds exist for our own edification and amusement. They do not, any more than the denizens of foreign cities exist to help you find your way around, teach you the native arts, let you invade their homes to gawk, and politely ignore your rude and crass ignorance of their manners and customs.
Now, I have, on a number of occasions in these pages, noted that spirits should be approached with at least the level of courtesy that one would use when approaching a stranger for the first time. I have argued that these Otherworldly beings are very real and that, if offended, some of them are quite able to do damage, either psychically, psychologically or even physically. The Golden Rule is not simply a Christian platitude; it is good advice to live by, especially if one finds oneself dealing with the denizens of the Otherworld.
The authors cited above, though, make an excellent point. The Otherworld is not some froo-froo place that one goes to in imagination that is full of rainbows and sunshine and Care Bears. The Otherworld is not there for the convenience of humans, it is not there for human learning and it is certainly not there to entertain the members of our species.
Whether one is looking at the various god myths of many cultures, the Middle Eastern stories of the djinn, Celtic stories of the faerie or Japanese stories of the kami, one thing should be immediately evident to anyone who looks at these stories as anything more than colorful tales. In all these stories, the denizens of the Otherworld are as real as we are, they live in a world that overlaps (for want of a better term) with our own, they have the ability to walk into our world under certain conditions and, most importantly, they operate by a set of rules that may be quite different from the ones humans attend to.
In addition, anyone with even a passing knowledge of these tales knows that residents of the Otherworld, even the gods, can be angered and will cause endless suffering to the people who tick them off. Filan and Kaldera tell the amusing (to me) story of a group of Wiccans who ‘drew down’ the goddess Athena. They did not, apparently, do their research or they would have known that this goddess is notoriously modest. Since this group worked skyclad (naked), when the Lady appeared and descended into the skyclad priestess, she was quite offended to find herself unclothed and departed in a huff.
I would be interested to know what sort of consequences this group faced as the result of their ill planned venture. I shudder to think what might have happened if they had done something to offend a being like the Norse Odhinn. I have heard stories of his followers going blind in one eye just from having contact with him. I shudder to think what might happen if a group angered the Old One.
Before we humans can effectively work in and with the Otherworld, we have to be able to set aside any preconceptions we have about “how things should be” in that realm. There are beings of great power and beauty in the Otherworld, beings who can and will take a human in hand and teach them but that is not going to happen if the human keeps trying to shove that being into a box that the human is carrying around in their head. I have seen this time and again in certain circles where people want to be associated with a certain god, as an example, simply because their conception is that this being is ‘cool’ or because they think that, since the god has association with something they do in their lives (art or music, say), then this must be the god for them.
Sometimes this kind of thinking works out, since the person is responding to an inner impulse toward that deity, but, often, the human ends up being either frustrated (why won’t this god respond to me – as though the gods and other denizens of the Otherworld have some compulsion to respond to anyone who calls on them), delusional (they convince themselves that the god has come through and loves all the things that they love) or fearful (the god really does come through and was absolutely not what they were expecting).
The Otherworld is not a playground. The sheer number of ‘monsters’ reported running around our realm should give us pause and make us wonder why people keep seeing impossible things walking calmly through our forests, along our roads and even, at times, in our homes. I am not asserting that every monster sighting is a result of an Otherworld incursion but, if even a fraction of them are, this should give us some indicator of the diversity of life on the Otherside.
I know that not all my readers are even interested in the Old Ways or in exploring the Otherworld. Many of you are more interested in the things that go bump in the night right here on this plane. Remember, though, that often you do not know what you are dealing with when you come across one of these beings – whether we are talking ghosts, Sasquatch or Black Dogs. My counsel is, as it has always been, that a little respect goes a long way.