(Note: Part of this is a bit of personal history, so I can get across a general idea of the progression of events that led me to where I am now, and why.)
As soon as I was old enough to walk, my parents would take me to the museums in Washington, DC. I was lucky that I had parents who valued knowledge above other things. There were no visits to Chuck-E-Cheese, and amusement park trips were rare. By the time I was in middle school I was reading and comprehending college level books, and taking out my own interlibrary loans. But I had begun to comprehend something else, and at a much younger age. It was within these museum halls that I first became aware of a seemingly subtle current that flowed around and through what most people perceived as “reality”. Animals long dead came alive before my very eyes. Spirits in old coffins and canopic jars rose to tell me stories of ancient times beyond the reaches of memory or comprehension. These experiences firmly crossed the line between ecstasy and terror, and my young mind grappled desperately with the changing flows of reality all around me. I remember when I would go into the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. All around me I would see the sea creatures come to life, telling me their stories through sound and movement, color and pulse and vibration. I was immersed in their world, a kaleidoscope of wonder.
It was these experiences that would form the skeletal frame of what would become my spirituality. I spent a very large part of my time as a child rambling in the woods, or lost in a book. I had much preferred the company of animals and spirits to those of other children. I knew, even if I did not fully comprehend at the time, what these spiritual entities were, but I didn’t discuss them with the adults around me. I bore enough of a stigma from struggling with a severe learning disability and behavioral challenges. I didn’t want to compound this with stories of spirits, “imaginary friends”, talking trees and so on and so forth. Not that people never suspected anything. A mummified turkey foot in the toy chest. A weathered fox skull found on the railroad tracks and hidden under the bed, directly beneath my pillow, “So he can talk to me better in my sleep”. By the mid-90s I started actively exploring the occult. Like most people I cut my teeth on Wicca first, and ended up firmly rooted in Hermetics (alchemy) and closely bonding with the deities of the Greco-Egyptian pantheons (particularly Dionysos, Hermes and Wepwawet). Fast forward to the present, I’m initiated into the ATRs. I’m still very new, having only been initiated for a about nine months or so. In truth I never expected this to be the end result. How exactly I stumbled into the ATRs is an interesting adventure.
For years I’d maintained an online presence under the moniker “Shin Cynikos”, though most people simply called me “Solo”. I was an active presence in various occult and metaphysical circles, as well as the “scavenging” and “vulture culture” communities (primarily on LiveJournal, a format I no longer use). I also kept an active blog, Cynanthropy.net, which I may or may not go back to using. Tumblr seems to allow for more on-the-go posting, since I rarely sit down long enough to write detailed posts like this one. But I digress. Gradually I began to withdraw my online presence, mainly because I seemed more preoccupied with actually living my spirituality instead of typing about it like so many others do (and there is much in that department I simply keep a secret–Harpocrates and yadda yadda), and I tend to care very little about attention-seeking and what others think about me and what I do. I’d also by that point amassed quite an impressive collection, and had a penchant for finding the oddest things, which garnered me a reputation amongst the local and semi-local occultist friends and acquaintances who’d come around looking for stuff for their rituals and projects and so on.
Eventually I’d attracted the attention of a Palo house a few years back, though contacts with some mutual friends, and started working with them on finding various things, as well as talking shop about everything from spirit-work, necromancy and the ritual use of animal parts to animal husbandry. It was funny at first, because–although I had an awareness and understanding of the ATR/DTRs, they never registered much on my radar at first, and I honestly could not understand why someone would want to, say, take a museum-grade, fully articulated wolf skull and stick it in a pot of dirt. “A skull is not a root bulb!” I remember saying at one point. But I ended up fostering some truly valuable friendships as a result, and ultimately ended up “going native” and getting initiated myself. It’s been a crazy ride, but ultimately I’ve no regrets.