on the term ‘spirit-worker’
So I was contacted by a colleague today and asked my opinion on the term ‘spirit-worker.’ Apparently it’s become a fad to use this term when one is not, in fact a professional. I thought it might perhaps be wise to clarify for those who are confused.
This term came into being in 2004 at a gathering of shamans and spirit-workers hosted by Raven Kaldera. We were looking for a term that legitimized the work of those bound to the Gods and spirits, people who were doing the work of a shaman–engaging with Gods and spirits in a larger, more meta way than a devotee is called to do and doing so specifically for clients and communities– but who had not undergone the death-rebirth trauma of a traditional shaman. After much discussion, someone suggested ‘spirit-worker.’ It’s an apt term, one that refers to a person who works for the Gods and spirits (regardless of tradition).
It is a specialist term.
It is not a term for laity no matter how sensitive or skilled that lay person might be. I may know how to pop an abscess or suture a wound (i do in fact know these things) but i’m not a surgeon.
There’s apparently a great deal of confusion, or so i’m told (I myself haven’t seen it) surrounding this term, particularly with the G&R crowd currently trying to purge the devotion and piety out of polytheism reducing it to mere transactional relationships with random spirits. One might in fact be high psi, one might be very sensitive to the Gods and spirits of one’s devotion but unless you are snapped up into active service (which presupposes not just a binding agreement but training and binding obligations), you’re not a spirit-worker. The only workable difference between being a spirit-worker and a shaman is that psychic shattering of the death/rebirth (or with some shamans madness/restoration) experience.
The last thing we need is to see “spirit-worker’ get parsed out into ever smaller and more specific categories — you know, how some people at both patheos and G&R are trying to do with ‘polytheist.’ Such linguistic splitting is a matter of rendering the whole irrelevant and it should be resisted, at least in these cases. It does not help or bring clarity. This is not a difficult thing. If you’re not a specialist, not a professional, you’re not a spirit worker. Embrace what you ARE. Do that which is given to you to cultivate be it tending your shrine, engaging in prayer, maintaining ongoing devotion. that’s important, in fact that’s crucially important. It may not be shiny and sexy but it’s fundamental and our traditions could not exist without the laity doing that work.
I’m cranky today. It’s in the high nineties and i’m working in a studio that has almost no air conditioning. If my tone here is brusque, I apologize but I will also say that I’m getting massively sick of problems being created where there aren’t any. maybe this all goes back to the ‘words mean things’ debacle of the last year and you all know where I stand on that.