Andrew and Chiron discuss shaman sickness, transformation, and growth – and all the things that pretend to be those real experiences. They discuss authenticity, how to discern if an experience in real, and approaching spirits. They also get into talking about the invitation to collude with with the problematic elements of our histories and the world in general.
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Andrew: Welcome to another episode of The Hermit’s Lamp podcast. I am here today with Chiron Armand to talk about everything because one of the things that I appreciate having followed their orbit for a while is they do a lot of different stuff. They practice a lot of different traditions. But I think that one of the things that’s inspired me about having them on is they seem, from my point of view, to do it with a lot of integrity, which I think is something that can be very difficult or sometimes just totally lacking when people are involved in a variety of different paths. But for people who might not know who you are, who are you Chiron? Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Chiron: I’m a dude from Queens, 33 years old as of the time that we are recording this. I’m a Taurus with a Pisces rising and Leo moon, Venus [inaudible 00:01:04] Mars in Capricorn and I happen to be a spirit initiated shamanic healer with some initiations in a few other traditions including Haitian Voodoo as in Malidoma Somé. I am the founder of impactshamanism.com and I’ve written a couple of books on magic and am hoping to move more into my artistic life because I also have a background in the arts and academia that has been not as flourishing as I would’ve liked it to be over the past few years as I’ve gone through various virtual experiences and stuff, but I’m finally regaining my footing when it comes to which parts of my expression that are ratchet and nerdy and all that. Social media has been a fun place to remember aspects of myself that I haven’t been able to play with [inaudible 00:02:01].
Andrew: Yeah, it’s always interesting. I find that for sure, as time goes on, things come back. Right? I mean, I went to art school right out of high school, graduated art school and I was like, “Fuck this business.” The art scene’s horrible. And I [inaudible 00:02:21] for a long time. But those pieces return, right? Which I think is interesting. And it’s interesting how and when they return as well.
Chiron: A former teacher of mine would say, “Nothing true is ever lost.” And that is something that’s been really near and dear to my heart. Especially if you are someone who has experienced a lot of loss or a lot of initiatory descents, it’d be really scary because you’re in the becoming of something new, perhaps even over and over and over again. But things come back, things come back and its really beautiful when they do for sure.
Andrew: Let’s talk about that, the initiatory descent. Tell me what you mean by that because not everybody’s necessarily going to know that term or have and idea about it.
Chiron: Sure. When I’m speaking of initiation, I’m generally speaking of one of three different kinds of things, but number one, the most important thing when I’m thinking about initiation is was the initiation efficacious. So, I’m talking about what we often consider to be initiation, the idea of a spiritual teacher, a priestess, a mambo or ouanga or something or tata. I have been initiated into [inaudible 00:03:52] initiated into Palo. I have been [inaudible 00:03:58] human beings who had certain licenses who then put me through a ritual process on the other side of which I became someone new. And my experience of being initiated into certain traditions, there are some similarities no matter what. There’s often some kind of a stripping of way of that which you were.
[inaudible 00:04:22] it shows up in different ways. I often think of the myth of the descent of Inanna. You have this springtime goddess who’s moving through these, I believe, seven portals into the underworld. At each stage she literally, she’s having an accessory of piece of clothing removed. So, initiation can happen under the tutelage of a spiritual teacher.
Initiation is also something that life is doing to us all the time. We go through these cycles [inaudible 00:04:56] life grabs us by the neck and we lose things. We experience a divorce. Our house burns down. We lose a job that we’ve had for 30 years. We are being forced through a death experience on the other side of which is rebirth, but first you have to recognize that the death is happening, surrender to it and if you don’t do that, and we don’t, we resist it, we’re like, “Oh fuck no. I like this amount of money. I like this lifestyle. I like this person who is probably not too great for me.” We all love, we have a very death resistant culture.
Andrew: Or even if you don’t like it, that experience of I don’t actually know what else to do.
Chiron: I don’t know [crosstalk 00:05:45]
Andrew: This is all I can see and I don’t know what else there would be if I let go of these things.
Chiron: Absolutely. And side note, one of the things that’s been really interesting to me as I’m trying to make sense of some of our societal ills, I have been looking a lot at what I consider to be a certain individual and collective stagnancy that occurs that makes us particular vulnerable to possession through our refusal, individually and collectively, to die, to die, to die well and become something new. If you’ve been avoiding a good death energetically for 30 years, then you’re just a really stale individual and just like water that is stagnant, it’s going to attract flies. So, that’s just a side note.
Life is always trying to… There’s obviously initiation by spiritual teachers. There’s the idea that life is always supposed to be trying to initiate us. Also, there’s another piece here that’s between spiritual teachers and life, which is I am a strong believer that we are supposed to be initiated into adulthood, the killing off of the child self. That does not occur in our culture. That’s another staleness view of us all as wounded children walking around in adult bodies and that’s not cool.
And then the third initiatory kind of stuff I’m talking about is spirit initiatory stuff that sometimes a god shows up or a deity or a spirit or even an energy. I think that this doesn’t get any play, but it happens. A craft can come and initiate you. Suddenly, you start seeing books about knitting everywhere and you’re like, “Whoa, I am dreaming about knitting,” and sure, that can be backed up by weaving deities and the lineage of grandmother spirits who are [crosstalk 00:07:50]
Andrew: [crosstalk 00:07:50] ancestors, right? For sure.
Chiron: Exactly. And energy, whether it be deity or ancestral energy or even a gift can absolutely move into our life in a shocking and overwhelming way, demanding our attention, demanding that we bring our attention to it and that can be very harrowing.
Andrew: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and I think that those kinds of transformations on all levels and they’re not easy usually. Sometimes they are. I mean, I’ve been through initiations. When I spent my time in the OTO doing Crowley derived ceremonial stuff, I would always know that I was ready for the next initiation because I had a dream about it, that I was literally walking into the temple and there I am and some of the elements after on the other side of the initiation, I was like, “Oh yeah. Look at that.” There’s not the whole piece but it’s pieces of it in the dream state and it was very interesting to have those [inaudible 00:09:10] and in that case, the work was often impacting me ahead of time.
It would start. I’d be like, “Oh, I can feel the itch. The next initiation’s coming because there’s some turmoil here,” and then I have the dream and then I work on the turmoil and then I have the dream about the ceremony and then at some point not too long after usually, then I get the call where it’s like, “All right, we’ve coordinated a date for you. You’ll show up on this date and we’ll do the thing.” And then in that case, the formal side was more of a cap on the work. Like a completion of the work and an opening to whatever is next.
Chiron: You can totally feel that door just starting to become [inaudible 00:09:56] if you have dreams, energy of slightly discomfort, a new opening is beginning.
Andrew: I’m always curious about this from people because to be completely honest, I am somewhat cynical about spirit led initiation. Not because I don’t believe it’s true and not because I don’t believe it happens, but because of all you need to do is go on the internet and all the BS that shakes out from that sometimes.
Chiron: [crosstalk 00:10:35]
Andrew: From your point of view, how does a person who’s feeling a connection with an entity, with an ancestor, with the stuff, how do they differentiate between an ego thing, between something that’s real versus maybe getting in their own shadow and ego stuff.
Chiron: Get good divination, preferably from someone with a spirit centered practice. I say that because there are so many different kinds of diviners and I love all of them. I love us all. Kind of. That’s the shade part that we were talking about.
Andrew: We’ll get to the shade part later.
Chiron: Well, I have to allow myself to be bitchy where I think it serves. There are so many amazing diviners. There are individuals who use tarot in very psychological model. I myself have benefited from spirit workers who are psychotherapists. We’re all intuitive. Sometimes I have to get out of being spirit centered. I have absolutely benefited from friends of mine who are far more grounded in Midgard, in middle world who say, “Chi. Chi, get [inaudible 00:11:59] fucking 401K Chi, 401K.” [crosstalk 00:12:03]
Andrew: [crosstalk 00:12:03] do your taxes.
Chiron: Exactly, do your fucking taxes, Chi. But I think that when someone is thinking I might be encountering the numinous in a profound way, then go to someone who is grounded, who has encountered the numinous in a profound way. Absolutely, experience some of my earlier shamanic initiatory illness experiences I knew I had experienced something and I had some ideas about what I experienced, but then I went to spirit centered diviners, all of them in different traditions and they were able to say, “Yes, this happened to you. This is exactly what you think happened [crosstalk 00:12:55] fuck dude, that was real. Here are some next steps.” [inaudible 00:13:00] profound being nothing if it doesn’t become actionable.
I have a friend who, I’m here in Guatemala in a cool ex-pat city that’s also, I like it, I like the vibe, but nearby there’s Lake Atitlan where there are various small towns which are more touristy than others and I have an ex-pat friend who is currently volunteering at a hostel there and he was like, “You totally got to come down, Chi. It’s going to be amazing. There’s drum circles and cool shit and a lot of people in white cotton drawstring pants doing ayahuasca and injecting frog poison in their arms,” and I’m like, “Okay, that’s a lot.” But what struck me was that no one’s integrating their experiences. They’re just like, “Yeah, I shoved frog poison in my arm and I almost died. It was crazy 30 minutes.” And I’m like, “And then what?”
Andrew: Yeah. For sure.
Chiron: And so, there’s that descent into [inaudible 00:14:04] initiatory experience [inaudible 00:14:08] but then there has to be an ascent. You have to come back. That’s the whole point.
Andrew: Well, when I was 14, I was in the Dominican Republic and I was driving a motor scooter and I got hit head on by a dump truck and almost died. I spent a long time, first of all, I spent a year learning how to walk again. Physically it was really, really challenging. But also, that question, “Okay, so this happened, now what?” And the now what became I’m going to read everything that I can find. The now what became I’m going to run into spiritual people and I’m going to be cornering them and asking them questions and so on and so on. And that process of trying to make sense of a thing. I mean, there’s the psychological level, there’s the why did this happen level, there’s all that stuff.
I think that that’s the challenge with a lot of these things, you know what I mean? I spent plenty of time in my early 20’s joyously exploring psychedelics and other things and again I had this really profound experience and I was like, “Well, now what?” And the now what was I don’t need to do this anymore, I need to go do other things. I need to get to this place without anything else and experience it directly. So, I think that that process as you talk of it, it’s amazing to have an opening experience. It’s not amazing to have a horrible experience like getting hit by a truck, but it’s amazing from a certain perspective, I suppose. But it’s a question of what are you going to do with it. What does it mean? How does it change your life? How does it change your self, your sense of self? I think that’s really integral to these kinds of things.
Chiron: Sure and oftentimes we need people on the shore with their arms outstretched welcoming us back and helping us come back, whether that is the spiritual people that you’re cornering, whether that is the people who helping you move through various initiatory experiences in the OTO. Where not supposed to be doing this alone, so our collective lack of understanding of initiatory process is tremendously to our detriment individually and collectively. I absolutely hit a point in my initiatory illness stuff, where I was just desperately trying to get back to the human world and to the stable and to quote/unquote real and was flailing terribly.
And through a perfect, I mean, utterly profoundly perfect scheme of synchronicities, was led to another spirit initiated person, who called me up like, “Hey, let’s talk about some essays I just wrote,” and they said some key words that actually showed me that they were safe enough to share what I was going through with speaking with them because I had been being gaslit by a lot of people. And those keys words [inaudible 00:17:32] and they were like, “You need to come and live with me. Come live with me.” And I actually moved in with him for three months and those three months, they gave me the space and time and knowledge to better understand what had happened to me and the [inaudible 00:17:53] to finish piecing myself back together.
Andrew: I think that brings up a really important point too. People need to be safe. There are lots of people who that are like, “Oh yeah, you’re totally having this experience,” and “You’re meant to be the next great whatever.” And I think that the more people are selling you stuff in terms of ideas and whatever and big pictures, again, the more suspect I tend to be about it.
Andrew: I think that there comes this place, point where it’s like, “Yeah, you’re in the middle of some shit and you got to patch that together.” It’s so much different than… I get people occasionally who get sent to me and essentially the question is, “Am I insane or have I made contact with God directly,” or whatever. And this particular person I’m thinking about, they were hanging out with all these people who were telling them all this great stuff and what it meant and how wonderful it was that spirit was moving in and they would lose days to possession and whatever and this and that. And when we sat down and we flipped some cards, I’m just like, “No. It’s none of that. You need to go, preferably right now, to the hospital and say ‘I’m hearing voices, I’m having psychotic episodes and delusions. I’m losing time.'” And they had a big emotional purge about it and then I don’t know what they did because they left. And I don’t actually know them.
But it was one of those things where, depending on what people are telling you and the bigger the crown they’re saying is on your head, the more suspect you should be of it, I think.
Chiron: For sure there’s a famous anthropology story. I forget exactly the cultural context, but there is a woman who is experiencing or expressing certain symptoms regarding illness and madness and you have the ethnographer there, the anthropologist there who is watching what’s happened and some shamans are called in from nearby town to actually come in and do divination and say is this person going through shaman sickness. Is this person in an initiatory illness experience? And the shamans end up agreeing no. This person is actually just experiencing symptoms of mental illness.
And it’s very interesting because the anthropologist goes on to say, “Well, you know, this is actually evidence of the issue of patriarchy in the tribe and that the woman was of a lower economic class,” [inaudible 00:20:56] rather than accepting the spirit centric animistic view of, “No, the shaman said that she’s not.” This is actually nothing political. This is actually not what’s going on. Get thee to a hospital.
Andrew: Well, and I think that that’s a thing that the western mindset struggles with. That it is possible to have a concrete solid answer. People feel that Oshun is visiting them, something that I run into as a priest of Shango in Afro-Cuban lineage. People show up and they’re like, “Oh yeah, Oshun’s talking to me.” And I’m always like, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe.” I’m like, “But if you want to find out, there’s a way to find out.” There’s traditional divination, there are these things that can give us answers. And almost everybody who gets the answer that’s “no” doesn’t accept it. This idea that we could get an authoritative, 100% reliable answer to a question about things like that is something that people really struggle with because they won’t look for other reasons. Instead of just being like, “Okay.” Orisha says, “No.” “Okay. What do I do now?”
Chiron: Well, what do I do now is a really important question too. We’re struggling with a tremendous lack of meaning in our culture. Identity is a huge issue [inaudible 00:22:43] and we’re all supposed to be having experiences of the profound and some understanding of the intrinsic profundity of our own true nature and being denied that, but having a soul that is wired for that. We’re really fucked, frankly. We’re so badly fucked. But don’t take this one cool thing that tells me that I’m more than are rat race away from me. Like, “No, I had this dream, it was a golden woman, it had to do with a river. It has to be this. Don’t take the first time I’m experiencing some level of profound meaning in relation to my life away from me.”
Andrew: Well, yeah. This question of that identity is one that I am fascinated by. How do people construct identity and how do people find identity. And in some ways, I’ve definitely talked about this on the podcast in a few places, especially probably on the Stacking Skulls stuff, about this notion that a lot of the [inaudible 00:23:56] magic that I do for myself, I term it as identity magic. It’s how do I change my consciousness to identify myself in a different way to make things possible.
But yeah, people are often looking, it seems, for the identity, the end of the searching for identity, end of the question of who we are and I don’t know when that happens. If you’ve found it, you let me know, but I feel like it’s a continuous set of questions.
Chiron: It is a continuous set of questions. I think that one of the things that I’ve been most blessed by was my working for some kind of a teacher who really focused on the idea of the authentic self. That you actually are here with a purpose and understanding certain aspects of that purpose can give you an idea of some of the things that you’re here to do. So, bring your attention to that. That has shown up for me in big mundane ways like, obviously I have a better understanding that I’m supposed to be doing certain things like this here and there, but even the small ways. I’d be like, “I’m going to craft a spell. I’m going to craft some magic,” and the push that I’ve experienced in the spirit world, like, “Make sure you include song in that.” I’m like, “[inaudible 00:25:21] yeah, I used to sing as a kid,” but that was a piece. That’s one of the pieces of my soul’s purpose energy, is music is there.
We are this beautiful charismatic energies, but most of us have no idea what that prism consists of. So, even getting a little bit of understanding of, and it’s not just an understanding, it’s really a remembrance of little remembrances of who we are. Which is also really helpful when it comes to protection, so that you can stop listening to every voice, human and nonhuman, about what to do. There’s almost nothing more valuable in the cosmos than the human heart. And human heart is easily hijacked, easily persuaded and influenced. You got to get that shit on lock. Or at least start who am I? What am I doing? Why am I [inaudible 00:26:32] here? And make sense of it. So you have understanding of what you have to [inaudible 00:26:38] because that trickster spirit hiding behind that Oshun face wants that heart, girl. It wants to eat you.
Andrew: Yeah, for sure. Well, and I think that [crosstalk 00:26:55]
Chiron: [crosstalk 00:26:55] someone’s knocking on my door. My apologies. I know what I wanted to say next, actually.
Andrew: Yeah, go.
Chiron: There’s also an article going around, very interesting from a number of perspectives. It’s an article, the title, I believe is called, Shaman’s View Mental Illness As Something Different Entirely. It’s a very interesting article because on the surface, the image often shared in relation to the article is that of a South American medicine person. While the article is referencing a West African medicine person. This is just, I’m a nerd. The article is referencing the work and teachings of Malidoma Somé, who is a Dagara elder and who’s written about mental illness and his experiences of psychiatric hospitals here in the west and the oftentimes spirit influences that he sees going on in regards to mental illness. Never does he say all mentally ill people are shamans. But that’s kind of the takeaway that the article provides and that most people who are sharing it seem to have…
And it’s extremely harmful and reductive of the vastly different states that we can experience [inaudible 00:28:31]. Is there a link sometimes between spirit work and mental illness or experience of madness? Absolutely. I fall into that category. But-
Andrew: And it goes the other way. Being bipolar, being schizophrenic, having a wide range of certain kinds of mental illness makes one susceptible to spirits coming around in the same way the being stagnant, we talked about earlier, makes people susceptible to spiritual complications. But there’s a big difference between a spiritual complication and what you’re talking about here as an initiatory sickness or solely caused by a failure to be aligned with your destiny or whatever.
Chiron: And it also comes back to the identity issue that what one experiences in terms of mental illness or spiritual intensity stuff. None of these things necessarily mean forever. Some of these experiences and states are temporary. But in our desperation for identity, give me something to call myself, give me something to be besides a consumer and capitalist.
Andrew: We could just end the episode right thing. Just big bold quotes. “Please, dear God, give me something other to be than a consumer and a capitalist.”
Chiron: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Right? Yeah. Well and I think it’s fascinating because this article really talks about something that I wanted to ask you about. Which is, depending on the backgrounds people come from, you’ll hear different ideas about what’s going on. And some people have much more, animism is a word that people tend to know these days. But really, a spirit rich world. Because I think of it before people started using animism. I remember talking to, because the first store I worked at was 80% Caribbean clientele who would come for readings. And they’d be like, “Oh yeah. They’ve got a disagreeable spirit on them. Oh, they’ve got this on…” and everything was a spirit.
I think that my question for you is how do was engage animism? How do we think about these ideas because I think that they’re true in certain ways. And what do we do with them? Does that make sense? Is that even a question? I don’t know.
Chiron: Well, I remember reading in my very, very early days of animism and solitary neo-Wiccan practice, always coming across walkers between the worlds and all that. Became the walker between the world and it was like, “Oh, that sounds so cool and so sexy.” And here I am, 12 years later I’m like, “Oh fuck it’s horrible! It’s just so complex.” And again, you’re not supposed to do this alone. I can’t do this alone. My life has, to a certain extent, very, very often been far more spirit centric than is healthy than is healthy for a person who lives in a body. So, again, coming back [inaudible 00:32:17] the ascent, coming back out of initiatory experiences and the troubles that I’ve had with coming out of initiatory experiences.
And then there are people who have the opposite experience. They’re living solely in a western consumerist secular materialistic model and as much as we’re told this is satisfying; the next step is to go to college. The next step is to have a kid. They’re not satisfied, so they need someone, because again, we can’t do this alone, who has that access to the other side. I think we [inaudible 00:32:57] I’d like to see us culturally become more spirit centric than we are. Yes, not because I just want to jerk spirits off, but because I think that our relationship to the spirit world offers us a lot when it comes to understanding of right relationship. But I think we need both. I think we need both sides.
Andrew: I wasn’t anticipating this episode to be a tour de force of identity and good boundaries and groundedness, but we’re coming back to these ideas. I think that it’s important. Mostly, I just do my work, to be honest. My own initiatory practice and my God kids and stuff, that’s one piece of time, running my own business and reading for people and doing work for people and running the store is plenty of time and then you throw a couple kids into the mix and you try and have some time to have fun it’s like, “Man, that’s all the time I’ve got.” I tend to drift in and out of looking at what’s going on in other places in terms of social media and so on. And maybe we’re sliding into the shade part of the conversation now, so we’ll see.
Chiron: We are.
Andrew: But, it’s interesting to me what counts as animism. And for me, there’s this question of does everything have energy? Absolutely. Does everything have a consciousness that we can interact with and benefit from interacting with? Meh. I become less certain about that at a certain point. And I think that this question of animism, for me, is one of where are the limits of it? Where are the values of it? What is functional? I remember, I had the pleasure to spend a bunch of time with done indigenous elders for northern Quebec and one of the things that we talked about when they were talking with me about the energies that are around me and people’s reactions to them and stuff was like, “Yeah, some people be worried about that, but I don’t worry about it. We don’t worry about it.” Like if something shows up, the question is what can we put it to work on? What can it do, what can it accomplish in this situation? And they said specifically the phrase, “If the devil shows up, that’s fine. We just put them to work too.”
But for me, with this question of animism, there’s this functional piece that I’m always curious about and that I don’t always see in other practices. And that may well be because I don’t understand the internal process that they’re doing with it or maybe because it’s just not present. But I’m curious, for you, how do you think about animism? What are your relationships to the boundaries of that or engaging with that at this point in your journey?
Chiron: At this point in my journey, I think a lot has to do with the local for me. The local and what needs to be paid attention too. And that’s going to be different for every person. And I think there might be things that are particularly exciting to me or interesting to me and I have to be aware of my biases in that respect as a professional spirit worker who is also doing readings and stuff. What biases am I generally bringing into my readings? What ideas? What has been [inaudible 00:36:53] to me? What have I found interesting or have survived through that might have no bearing on the life of my client and might even require me to say, “You know what? I’m going to send you for a referral to this other person [crosstalk 00:37:06] since I, in terms of the boundaries of animism, I’m currently speaking to you via my laptop on my desk, neither of which I make any offerings to or generally consider a conscious [inaudible 00:37:21] of land and house spirits because those kinds of energies have fucked me up to no end in the past in tiny ways that I’ve had to gain an awareness of and my relationship to and tend to those kinds of relationships in different ways.
And going back to what you were saying about the indigenous elders from Quebec, how do we put at that time to work, it reminded me a little bit of something a client said to me recently after a spirit helper’s consultation. Everything in my work is highly actionable. If you have a session with me that is especially spirit oriented, at the end of the hour or hour and a half, what I’m generally telling something at the end of every session is I know this was weird, profound, crazy, interesting, resonant. The last thing I want you to do is leave this session thinking 10 years from now, “I had an interesting experience with a shaman who told me some weird things and…” No. You have homework. There are things to do. Everything here is actionable. Some of the things I have expounded upon were to give you a better felt sense of the reasons why this is actionable and why this worthy of your attention.
But all of these energies are meant to be cultivated. There are actions to take. Everything is about being highly actionable.
Andrew: Yeah, I think of it like I don’t want people to leave a session identifying with something.
Andrew: I remember reading for this person and they just like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right, that’s my problem, that’s this, that’s whatever. That’s great advice. Yeah I should do that. Whatever.” And we finished the whatever amount of time we had and they were like, “Oh, but I’m a Gemini, so I just never will.” And I was just like, “Wow. Man that identity is so destructive to you.”
And I think that my time with Crowley and the Thalamic stuff was really helpful. There’s a lot of it I’ve left behind at this point. But one of the ideas that comes up there is success is the proof. You do a thing, you take the action and something happens. Or there’s an alchemical saying that I came across at one point where it’s like, “Work and be free.” Like, “Show up and do the work.” Do the things and then the rest of it comes from there. And it’s not about coming to divination to create or solidify an identity, but to learn to do the actions that make the change. External, internal, whichever.
Chiron: Work and be free. I love that. I’m taking that.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m actually going to make a little piece of art that goes above the door to my studio that just says that so that I can be like, “Yeah. Why am I here today? Oh, I’m here to do that. Okay. Why are other people here today? For me to facilitate them doing that.”
Chiron: Yeah. For sure.
Andrew: All right. So, let’s talk about shade then. Now that we’ve done all that stuff, let’s talk about shade. I enjoy your Instagram because it is delightfully full of shade. And especially in ways that… because sometimes shade is just straight up meanness in a way that I don’t dig. I’m just like, “Eh, that’s not really funny. You’re just being a jerk now for no good reason.” But tell me how you think about shade. Tell me how you approach this. Because I actually think it’s one of your magical works, the way in which you go about it.
Chiron: I’m someone who has spent a lot of time in this lifetime trying to be very nice and trying to be very good and wanting to be loved. And it is so at odds with certain energies that show up in various traditions of my life that do not give a fuck. They really just don’t give a fuck. And part of my own healing has been becoming someone who gives less of a fuck and has been becoming someone who is not afraid to speak my truth. As corny as that sounds and After School Special as that sounds, it can be a real issue for people who’ve struggled with boundaries throughout their life, for people who might even have a performance background and are very used to acting and trying to be palatable. And the year that I finally come to understand.
There’s also a story we tell in our collective mainstream new age spirituality that someone who does the work that I do is supposed to be nice. And [inaudible 00:42:42] someone who traditionally actually supposed to be very ornery. Actually traditionally someone like me is very ornery and frightening and it’s been like, “Okay, I should accept that.” I should accept that I have come to have certain experiences in this lifetime and see certain things that really if anyone saw them, they would probably be, consider humanity somewhat distasteful and that’s okay. The parts of me who are sometimes fed up with individual and collective bullshit are totally valid. It is not my job to quickly bury that so that I can coddle everyone.
I do think that there is a tremendous lack of comfort that [inaudible 00:43:34] harm in a real nurturing, rooted sense of identity, etc., etc. however, when it comes to certain topics and certain ways of being, especially when it comes to other spirit workers, I think that it really serves me as a way of calling us in to have some shade and to be a little bit bitchy. Yeah. So, that’s where I am with shade right now. There’s a lot I don’t share that only the people closest to me might hear. But I [inaudible 00:44:07].
Andrew: And by the way, half the listenership was just like, “How do I get on that private list of extra shade? Where do I sign up for that? Is there a Patreon for that? Can I get some extra shade Patreon please?”
Chiron: I guess the shade that’s generally going on in my head and heart just has to do with the collective stories that we tell about power and how frustrated I am with them. Experience in the spirit world, whether they be our collective very, very strong attachment to certain identities that may or may not serve us or may not be actually actionable, may have nothing to do with, that to me sometimes are very, very distracting. I can say, “Witch, witch, witch, witch, witch. I’m such a witch. I’m wearing all black. I’m such a witch, I’m such a witch. I have all the stones.” And I’m like, “This is so distracting me from this very specific [inaudible 00:45:11] woman ancestor who has been trying to get me to do this very specific work that would enable you to, if went through what she’s trying to get you to understand and see, bring some healing to your family, but no, you’re so caught up in this glitz and idea.
Or I’m coming originally and primarily from a folk magic background, an urban folk magic background, a New York City filled with botanicas, different traditions, but always the story about like, “Oh, that ungan, he is so powerful over there doing that really big intense work and the cemetery is so powerful.” And I remember very early in my professional practice and having clients coming to me who were being thrown at by people who were very effective, but always this conversation about “Chiron, I really hope you can help. This person is so powerful.” And needing to start breaking that down. What do you mean by that? What’s the conversation? Because there’s a lot of, a lot of our stories about power are really caught up in the abstract. We actually don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about when we’re saying that I am a, or that some else is so powerful.
And then, [inaudible 00:46:39] I’ve often found to play out when someone specifically, we’ll talk specifically just because it’s a good template around the conversation of curses and crossed conditions. Oftentimes when someone is coming to me and they are really invested in entertaining the story that the person who is working against them is so powerful, what’s often playing out is a few things. One, if someone actually is throwing at them, they aren’t someone who is just abstractly powerful in the sense that they had just training very, very well and is truly in harmony with the tremendous force. Usually that person might be, frankly, very possessed and full of intrusive energies. Oftentimes it’s someone who has no real hold on their own power. [crosstalk 00:47:30]
Andrew: Sure. Or they have a ton of rage or something. Some massive-
Chiron: Yeah. And it’s flying [crosstalk 00:47:36]
Andrew: [crosstalk 00:47:36] emotional energy and every now and then, they just narrow it down on person X and then something happens. That’s not power. [crosstalk 00:47:45]
Andrew: Not in the sense that people mean it in this conversation. Yeah.
Chiron: Exactly. And then I think about, okay, well what about your own vulnerabilities? And I don’t mean that in a victim blaming way, but oftentimes when someone has gone to a significant extent of cleansings and reversals and protection work and they have not found it to be effective and I’ve often found that that person has certain, rather odd vulnerabilities. I have absolutely seen people who might have an ancestral curse that makes them especially vulnerable through curses from the feminine. And now you have this, perhaps a woman who is in a rage and she was in a rage against you 10 years ago and you just have to shake it off. Those kinds of things happen.
So, to me, power is what is actually happening in this person’s energetic sphere that’s allowing them to have broad influence and understanding of and attempts to heal one’s vulnerabilities to me is also powerful. And then we just do not give enough credence to the simple, humble, heart-centered medicine person in the remote setting, who by way of their initiatory experiences and the work that they do on themselves, has made themselves nearly invulnerable to harm, nearly invulnerable to some of the macro possessions that we have going on in the world. And that kind of person to me is the most powerful, frankly.
Andrew: Yeah. And I think that the more people tell you how powerful they are, the more they’re not, for one. The more somebody needs to express that, the less really stuff is going on there. I, I did martial arts for a long time and I worked as a bouncer for a while to see where I had gotten with my skill because I didn’t want to go get in real fights, but I did want to be in real situations. And it became really obvious. It’s in the way you carry yourself.
And I think that in the same way that maybe those humble practitioners where people wouldn’t identify them as showing the signs of power, I think that a lot of work that fixes things also don’t show the signs of power. If you need a spiritual cleansing and we’re like, “Oh, you know what? Burdock says it’s going to help you here. So, you go down to the park with a little shovel or something, this is what it looks like, go and talk to it, make this offering. Dig up some of the roots and take a bath in that.” Or whatever. It’s like, “Oh, but don’t I need candles and don’t I need the-“. I’m like, “No, you don’t need anything. You just need this. This will fix everything.”
Because power on a magical level doesn’t necessarily look like we expect it to. Or we have become accustomed to it being performance as. And it’s not to say that there aren’t those times for those big things. You and I both participate in traditions that have big things. I went to a Awan for Babalú-Ayé, big community cleansing and it’s a whole production. But that’s its own thing. That’s not the small things. And often even then, people come for traditional divination with the Orishas and the answer is “Yeah. Bring this for Shango. Shango wants a pomegranate. He wants some bananas. He wants whatever. Oh, do this. Get a couple coconuts. Okay, you’re good.”
It doesn’t need to be dramatic in order to be effective.
Chiron: As you were saying there’s room for the dramatic. The dramatic kind of [inaudible 00:52:02] need to happen in some capacity [inaudible 00:52:06] is learning when and where and If I tried to make every cleansing that I do dramatic, I would never get anything done. And I [inaudible 00:52:14] one of the reasons why I fucking love diloggun and I fucking love the… Evil is very often very simple. But the effects are tremendous. And I revel in when my spirits tell me to refer a client to a diloggun reader because I’m like, “Oh. Yeah. You’re going to get the medicine back. You’re going to get the medicine.”
Andrew: For sure. And think that that’s definitely a thing too. That referral. You said it already. I think it makes tons of sense too.
I want to go back to this question about thing though, before we wrap up today, about being a nice person. Because I think that there are a bunch of false dichotomies or false positions around this conversation. On the one hand, you have the people who feel everybody should be nice, spiritual people should be nice and kind and calm and benevolent and whatever all the time. They shouldn’t be ornery or anything else. And then on the other hand, you have this people who feel that they should be dark and powerful, gothic as it were. Whether literally or functionally. And then I think there’s all these other positions.
What do you think about that? You’ve been moving away from being nice, you’ve been moving towards being more direct. How would you describe that position? What advice would you give to people around trying to make sense of those kinds of positions?
Chiron: Well, one thing that I’ve been studying a lot over the past few years is the energy of collusion, the ways in which we unconsciously make ourselves available for things that are not our truth or things that support us. The things that done support other people. There’s so much evidence of what collusion looks like in spiritual community and politics, in the entertainment industry. And I am becoming more and more aware of place in my own life where I collude.
I just shared on Facebook some months ago this moment where I was walking through the San Francisco BART station and a beautiful person who was asking for donations was singing and I really, I had already made some charitable efforts earlier in the week. I also was broke as fuck. And I just had a couple of things I wanted to get done that day, but this person’s song was like a siren song. It was one of those beautiful voices and they had a sign up and I’m walking and I’m like, “I really want to support this person.” I strongly believe in acting from a place of movement in one’s heart and I’m feeling moved in my heart right now, but I really can’t give right now. Do I share their sound cloud? What can I do to make this energy move?
[inaudible 00:55:26] of me who looks at this person who’s singing and looks at me and grins as we are exiting the BART station. And the grin was something that felt like, “Oh, poor unfortunate soul. We’re not that person, right?” Like, “Look at us ascending out of the San Francisco BART station into the light with whatever resources we have. And in that person meeting my eyes, I suddenly felt a lot safer and more comfortable not making any effort. And in that moment, I was able the catch that unconscious collusion that would happen. Now, this isn’t significant. There’s no children in cages involved here. There’s no sex abuse claims that I’m d- it was just so simple and small and tiny and perhaps even slightly laughable, but it was a very important moment for me to recognize a place in which I was vulnerable to other people taking me off of my center.
Andrew: Well, and for, as a straight looking cis dude, the amount of dudes who try and pull me off of my beliefs about equality and feminism and gender identities and all these things, it’s amazing how much effort there is to create that collusion where people will be like, “Oh, bla-bla-blah.” I’m like, “Dude, that’s a sexist joke. I don’t actually find that funny.” Or whatever. And the amount of persistence and pressure. And I think that when I listened to that story, one of the things that I hear and I think is really important is on the one hand, it’s not cosmically and historically changing a particular moment, but when we have those experiences where we notice the collusion and we make a different choice, then that creates more space for us to free ourselves from that collusion and to continue that centeredness. And I think that this goes back to the, the simple Imbolc, the simple offering. It’s not always lightning flash awakened everything moment. Sometimes it’s those little things that start shaking us onto a different path, a more centered path, a more authentic path.
Chiron: [inaudible 00:58:07] things that have a hold on us individually and collectively that need to be fought against. Coming back to the conversation around niceness. Well, what about justice? No justice, no peace. And there are things that need to be fought against. There are things that we are all in agreement with. There are ways in which I myself am still colluding with past abusers in my own way. They might not be physically in my life, but the parts of me that are like, “Yeah, you kinda do suck, Chi. You kinda did deserve to be treated that way.” This is an ongoing conversation around healing and reorienting ourselves towards the energies of healing and justice and that’s not going to be nice. And that’s not going to be complacent.
Andrew: Well I read this interesting brief piece that got me thinking somebody from my kink community was writing this piece about being a nice guy versus being a good guy. I mean, linguistically we could shake it up in different directions, but the point that they were getting at and where it took my mind was essentially what they were talking about was when we’re being a quote/unquote nice guy, we are doing positive behaviors in one way or another or nice behaviors in one way or another with the expectation of reward. With the expectation that it will get us something or take us somewhere. And they were talking about being a nice guy in order to eventually get the person you want to be with and stuff like this versus being a good person, which they put forward as being honest, being direct, being authentic. Being really deeply real and not necessarily not being kind or whatever, but also not doing it with, not being kind or nice with ulterior motives, which ultimately isn’t niceness.
And I think that in our culture, there’s a lot of niceness. Going along to get along, being polite to avoid problems and sometimes that’s absolutely important. Sometimes it’s better than what else might happen, but I think that this question of being centered and authentic and genuine versus trying to make everything smooth, easy, nice and so on.
Chiron: Yeah, totally. The promise of reward, but even the promise of safety.
Chiron: [crosstalk 01:00:51]
Andrew: And that’s definitely a reward. That’s an inauthentic equation. I’m being nice because I want this thing and not that that might not be like, “Please, if you need to do stuff to be safe, be safe. Please, everybody.” But there’s an inauthenticity there-
Andrew: … which it behooves us to, as we are able to work away from.
Chiron: Absolutely. Abs- and I would say a significant part of my work is looking at times in childhood when we were making compromises to be safe around the adults around us who weren’t actually adults.
Andrew: Or to get that love or to get that affection or whatever. Any of it. For sure. Yeah. For sure.
Well, I think that is a profound and wonderful place to wrap this up. Let’s shake off those things. Let’s challenge those collusions or as my friend might call them, internalized oppressions and let’s move on from there. Let’s see what we can do to change ourselves and change the world.
Andrew: Yeah. Remind everybody where they can find you okay? People should absolutely follow you on Instagram, but there are other places too.
Chiron: Sure. On Twitter and Instagram I’m Chiron Armand. And I have a Facebook page, Impact Shamanism. My website is impactshamanism.com.
Thank you so much for having me.
Andrew: Oh, it’s been absolutely a pleasure. It’s been as delightful as I imagined it might be.