Do you tip your shaman?

As I mentioned, I went to a shaman a while ago, you know, as you do when you’re in the middle of an existential crisis. Plus it had been the subject of endless debate and derision among our Friday night drinking buddies what our power animals would be ever since my friend H. went and found out she was a sandhill crane. Speculation ranged from amoeba to bald eagle, depending on whether we liked each other or not that day.

I tend to approach life in a clinical, detached way, always an observer. My first degree was in social anthropology, and I can’t tell whether my outlook on life made me choose that or whether it chose me like one of those Hogwarts stick thingies. So when my friend J decided that she wanted a trip to the shaman for her birthday I immediately said “hells yeah, let’s call Manfred the shaman” and resolved that I would remain detached and observe. But in the meantime a bunch of shit happened and I decided that I wasn’t going to be all clinical and detached about anything. I was going to believe in the shaman. This was both exhilarating and terrifying; my spirit animal could be something totally kickass like a grizzly bear. But what if what if he told me I had no soul? Or a demon following me around? Or a terrible spirit animal like a vole? Basically I think it’s terrifying to have someone describe anything about your character; I mean, it’s hard for me to even read comments to my opinions on facebook. How was I going to face the animal spirits? They probably saw me litter, or how much road rage I get, or that I am secretly too lazy to read real newspapers. They know what an asshole I am in private. Like real life Santa.

Thankfully my friend J had the same concerns, so when I arrived at her house before the shaman we shared a jittery breakfast and hardly spoke to each other. We made nervous conversation about whether we were supposed to tip him, or whether we’d have to smoke anything. We just didn’t know what we were getting into.

When I got there I chickened out and changed tactics and decided to remain skeptical. However, it’s hard to maintain skepticism when shamanism sounds so practical. Seriously.. look it up, it makes a lot of sense if you remove all the power animal language. Also, it’s especially hard to maintain skepticism when a perfect stranger describes your best friend in the exact terms that you used during your last wine fueled “you’re the best, I love you” session. We have often described our friend J as the most “live and let live” type of person that ever existed. It’s basically the only way she could possibly cope with us and we’re eternally grateful that she does, so we praise her for it often. Turns out, J is a horse and apparently that is a distinctly horse trait. Among many other things which describe J perfectly that I won’t get into because I think J might stomp her foot at me and run away from me forever if I post too much, which is another horse trait. While the shaman was detailing J’s awesome personality traits, I started to nervously laugh, which descended into hysterical panic at what he would describe the me as.

That hysterical panic is indicative of river otter energy, and turns out I was right to be afraid. While I was initially pleased that I wasn’t a vole, this soon turned to dismay. I am paraphrasing, but the shaman said that the river otter is an animal different from all other animals. Our job is to provide levity to the universe. However, most animals don’t “get” us and our river otter energy is often compromised by fed up parents who don’t know how to handle us, and are frankly probably too tired to try. We’re insatiably curious and we don’t like rules. The shaman described his river otter granddaughter as someone who always finished assignments quickly and perfectly and then spent all of her spare energy goofing around and driving her sandhill crane sister into madness with her complete disrespect for authority. She quits things when they stop being fun anymore. He said this all with an undertone of annoyance and then quickly added that his own bison spirit could be enticed to play sometimes when he was in the mood, but I am pretty sure he just said it because I was on the verge of tears. The shaman called me annoying. I am pretty sure that is not copacetic. On the plus side, it now makes sense about the time my swimming instructor called me a “natural floater”. I am a river otter, asshole, not fat.

I refuse to believe I am the only one in the shaman’s 26 year practice to take photos, but apparently it’s true. Must be the weird river otter in me. This is him extracting energy from J. It took him like half an hour to clear all the anger out of me.

So anyway… I am a misunderstood river otter. Now what? I’ll tell you what; I have ordered every piece of river otter art I can find on Etsy, that’s what. What else are you going to do with the knowledge of your spirit animal?

Also: my friend I. gave me some assurance that at least I wasn’t a sea otter, because sea otters are notorious rapists. So there’s that.