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So...right. So I was sitting here and happened by chance to look upwards and see a book that I'd gotten a long time ago and then put down. It is called The Tarot Handbook by Angeles Arrien. I picked it up on a whim, dusted off the spine, and opened it to -- guess what -- the Death/Rebirth card.

Did I really spend all that much time looking at the Death/Rebirth card? Or is this actually random?

Well, anyway, I started reading the section because I was like what the hey, maybe the spirits are trying to tell me something.

And aha. I just remembered why I began writing this post. There is a quote here that I found interesting. Numerologically (?) speaking, it seems that the number 13 (as Death is) equates to the number 4. The number 4 is associated in Japanese culture (which, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm connected to) with the concept of death. "Four" is pronounced "shi"; "shi" also means "death". This has been so disturbing to so many people that there is an alternate way to pronounce "four" ("yon").

Anyhow. The quote.

Angeles Arrien Wrote:All change requires that we let go in order to experience the new or under-expressed parts of ourselves...It is during times of change that we must know what our boundaries and limits are (Four of Disks), that we be open to negotiation and truce (Four of Swords), that we follow what has heart and meaning (Four of Cups), and that we remember that we are essentially whole and complete (Four of Wands).
Okay. So this book is based off of the Thoth deck, which I also have here for reference. I've pulled out these five cards and am looking at them now; I'm not entirely sure of the significance seen in the Western world about the number four, but it doesn't look offhand like anything too destructive. I can do some reading on the Fours later, but right now I thought it interesting because of what has been going on in my system.

And...all right. Bell. Bell has recently told me that his name is not Bell. When I asked him what his name was (a bit aghast at myself for having known him for nearly two decades and never having asked him his name [to be honest, I was frightened of this being real]), the first thought was that his name was Shang. I later thought it was Sheng (She, or Shen for short)...but Shang is what kept consistently coming to mind as the first thought in my mind, when I'd try to remember his name. So to see if there were any hits on this being...relevant, I just now did a Google search on the meaning of Shang. One of the top hits I found at a baby names site...one of the Wikipedia hits on that site says this:

Wikipedia Wrote:The shang (Tibetan: gchang) is a flat ritual upturned handbell employed by Bönpo and Asian shamans.
SO NOW I KNOW YOUR REAL NAME, ANATA. OKAY, I GET IT <!-- sSmile --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- sSmile --> *hyperventilates*

This should not really be freaking me out, but it is cute nonetheless. To be honest, I had no idea what Shang meant, and initially put it out of my mind because I thought it was a Mulan reference cluttering up my thoughts. -_-;;;

This also lets me know that I need to research Asian shamanism and Bon. *shakes head*

As for the Four of Swords...this is significant because...in my communications with Shang, it's been made clear that this relationship cannot all be me taking and him giving, and all of this being written off as fantasy by me, in addition to my not considering how his being with me is impacting him. In addition, I can't keep overlaying my own thoughts onto my psychic experiences and essentially overwriting reality (as, for example, Shang has long hair; I'd imagined Bell for years with shorter hair, because that was what was familiar to me. But we all need to grow up sometime; as [I think] Shang has put it, Bell was the kid-friendly aspect of himself).

All of this had to do with negotiation. And there's still negotiation to be done. And I can see that offerings -- while they may not physically assist spiritual beings, at the very, very least they show some effort being put into wanting relations to be effective and good. And it is the gesture -- the sacrifice -- that counts, the fact that I'm taking time out of my day to do something for him. ...

As for boundaries and limits. Boundaries are becoming clearer, as evinced in the above. And the post by Estelore had me thinking about limits -- like the limits to my own headspace (as versus the limits which I may experience when actually trying >_>;Wink. And...I can feel Shang wanting me to push my own limits...and see if I can communicate with the dead, for example. Instead of writing it off and saying I can't. Even though I think I have.

To be honest, I don't think I've ever actually tried; and to be honest, I'm afraid to try. Because I'm afraid that either it will work, and then with Shang's help, I have incontrovertible proof that all of this is real (via my knowing things I shouldn't), or I'm afraid that it won't work, and then I look like a fool. And things are setting up so that I know someone who may actually seek me out (out of need), if they know I'm interested...which would take nothing more than my reading a book on psychic ability in the right place at the right time. And if I had taken it with me a couple of days ago, this person would likely have seen it and initiated without my input (all things being the same).

So there's another coin in the pool of me somehow being intimately connected with death and rebirth.

I don't know what I should do with ...the current situation. I'm going to send this out into the aether because it's possible someone will read this and help me towards the next step.

I do recall that Bell asked me when I was younger, before the quiet period...whether I wanted to be a shaman. I said yes. I had been trained to expect this because of specific signs. But I thought he meant a shaman in a Native American tradition, not in an Asian tradition. Granted, I was 17; I may not have even known about Asian shamans. But, from what I know...which is mostly from the Native side...a shaman isn't a shaman without a community to serve.

I suppose I can't be blamed for being frightened of serving a community...when I lack faith in myself. Should I have faith in my helpers instead?
I agree that it may serve you very much to do study on Asian varieties of shamanism.
I only really know about the South Korean version, which basically mixes memorization of stories and protocols with inducing trance/oracle states through physical exhaustion, deprivation, and stress. The process to get the trance appears totally valid, but apparently the answers they give to questioners tend to follow a pattern that is rehearsed, if not identical to that used on others. Western shamans tend to question the credibility of SK shamans because of this, but... really, a semi-rehearsed answer doesn't automatically mean a wrong answer, and from what I've observed, the answers are genuinely well-advised and well-selected. It's unreasonable to expect an oracle figure to give every person a precisely unique, individual response, when a generic but accurate response is perfectly sufficient.

I highly suggest reading the blog of one Juniper, titled "Walking the Hedge."
It's a relatively western version of shamanism, but it's comprehensive, earnest, extremely self-critical and cautious... and it has been a measure of help and moderate guidance in my own situation.

As for having a community to serve... I don't know about you, but from what I can see, your presence serves THIS community. Through your musings and questions, you've helped me to refine some of my own views and quantify/qualify them with greater clarity and practicality. I am deeply a pragmatist, and one of the most important things to me about my own beliefs is that they are valid/applicable in my own life. Having aspects that are too-mutable and easily confused is a major problem for me, and you've provided the material I needed to work out what was leaving those ugly, uncomfortable, unworkable gaps.

I will continue to follow your threads and internal searching; I wish all the best for you and your headmate(s).
Instead of making a new topic, I thought I'd post here. I'm not too certain that this will be lengthy, but I'll try and get across my thoughts.

The other morning (yesterday?) I woke up from a dream in which I received the concept of a spirit helper who forms themselves into others which you know, in order for you to get to know them better. This could be from the outside (later in dreamtime, this spirit took on the form of one of my co-workers who is often nasty, but in the dream he was kind [leading to decreased dread at work]), or from the inside -- essentially with my unconsciously invoking the helper and experiencing the consciousness of the being they were formed into, from the inside out.

Meaning that -- say, the Bell* which I have experienced, which I have in other cases called Bell2 (as he seemed to be a copy of the original, not the original himself) -- could in practicality be this spirit helper having taken on the form of Bell. This form of Bell has then acted through my body in order to essentially temporarily incarnate, and give me the recorded and remembered experience of what it would be like to be Bell if this life were his. And he's taken on, also, the role of someone with whom I can internally dialogue. (I'm speaking now from a position which is more Core than not.) It explains why we've experienced Bell's essence and directive but have not sensed his memories (though granted, I've never asked for them, outside of one time). Maybe this...shapeshifter? polymorph? (they aren't quite a doppel if they can take on *anyone's* form, are they?) just didn't know them.

Something else happened...right. I was reading something that a new acquaintance had written and I found that it drew Adrian up from where he had been resting. After Adrian was awake, Shang's form reverted to that of Bell's. I'm not entirely certain why this was the case. I'm sure there's some convoluted psychological reason that I just haven't figured out yet <!-- sWink --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- sWink -->, or else it probably wouldn't have happened in such a barefaced manner.

I have considered that Shang could be at the very least, an integrative function. I found one of my old threads where I mentioned the possibility of Bell absorbing Fiore. At this point, Adrian has absorbed most of the Fire Circle, at least so far as anyone can tell; and when Shang was active, Adrian was quiet and Bell was for all intents and purposes, Shang. What happened when we read what one of our new acquaintances was talking about: it roused a sympathetic function in us which had been taken as reality for a number of years.

That in turn has led to us thinking about gender and gender definitions, again. Which gets into some touchy territory, but to get to the point we're at now...where we aren't really thinking totally within one system or another: it's pretty obvious that Adrian is a man. When we see ourselves and Adrian is fronting, we see a man -- we see that masculinity coming out through his stance and movement and face. Even without clothes on and with all our curves (though also with our current level of upper body and core strength), it's obvious that what we're seeing isn't a woman. And our thought-space changes as well, to the point that it seems like a good idea to go out and replace the clothes that we can't wear anymore with men's and boy's clothes, as they're congruent with him.

And then we get to the point of looking at other people...wondering if the six-foot-plus, heavyset man who it's likely everyone perceives as a man by his looks, actually wants to be seen as the small mother with the child, who is walking out the door ahead of him. If he wants to have her life and not his.

And then we get to the point of wondering if it is the expectations that are the problem, and not us. That the appearances are linked with expectations, and people bend themselves to try and conform to those expectations, in one way or another. But just because someone is female doesn't mean they want to be feminine. Just because someone is male doesn't mean they want to be masculine. Though I think most of us *are* told on some level that that's what we should want. But why should the shape of our bodies define what we are supposed to want, when those camps that we are supposed to split ourselves off into (and then enjoy being limited to) are so incredibly different?

In my case, when we're in Adrian's mindspace, it's very obvious that we're in essence a female man who tolerates being mistaken for a woman -- in part because what is sometimes a mistake is sometimes less of one (when we *aren't* being led by him); and in part because female men are discouraged from being men and often disbelieved in their claim of being men, and conversely encouraged to be feminine and women. This, or female men are often believed to be universally inherently qualitatively different from male men; whereas male men are encouraged and lauded for existing, and discouraged from being feminine and women.

[This paragraph is Adrian:] If you need proof of this, at least in the US -- look in clothing stores and at the differences between mens' and womens' sections. Why is it assumed that women will not want to dress like men, or men like women? If you've ever spent any time "cross-dressed" -- why is it that no strongly mens'-styled clothing is cut for female bodies (I can get into this if you want)? Why is it that only the rare items (e.g. Utilikilts) are styled feminine or unisex and sized for men -- or else are fetish gear? Why is it assumed that cross-dressing is a sexual abnormality? Not conforming in an entirely harmless way qualifies as an abnormality? Or is it the entire question of harmless cases of abnormality and deviance as being dangerous and wrong, that we should be addressing?

Having gone through -- at least -- nearly two decades of people being confused about my gender (not counting when I was called "gay" in kindergarten; having had no libido at the time, I can only guess that this was evoked by my gender presentation), and having gone through about a decade of actually being self-aware as a gender-variant person (or, at least, a member of a female-bodied system including other members who are men) and having knowledge that full "cross-living" is possible, I feel like I'm finally ready to say that this is whacked.

I'm not saying that transgendered people are whacked. I'm saying the entire system is set up to cause everyone to long for what they feel they can't have, when the only reason they can't have it is that we as a society have decided that if you have a certain type of body, you're therefore supposed to want to be a certain type of person -- REGARDLESS of what your nature directs. And that's whacked.

I should get to bed...

*I use the term "Bell" for reasons clarified in the latter part of this post.

**Note the rant about assigned gender norms being messed up is probably being sourced from Adrian. <!-- sWink --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- sWink -->
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