As I begin a new aspect of my spiritual path, I was presented with a challenge: what name shall I call myself?
There have been many aspects of me that have changed and shifted over the years.
My given name is James, but almost everyone in my life calls me Jim. To many in various communities, I was known as “Two Snakes,” a name inspired by my Wiccan studies. This name was also inspired by Native American names, as well as mythology from all over the world. The full name, in my own personal mythology, is Two Snakes Crossing Water. Water is the element of the psyche and of healing. In the mythology that I have studied, snakes have always been either the destroyers, or the healers and wisdom keepers. You can see this reflected in the caduceus, the symbol taken by many medical establishments.
Two Snakes Crossing Water: one that becomes the destroyer, one crossing the other way to become the healer.
In truth, I have thought about taking another name many times, but none have stuck. In some places I have been known by my last name, Stovall, and in others I have been known as Shaman Jim. However, “Shaman” as a descriptor and a title has some baggage of its own that is worth digging into.
Anthropologically speaking, shaman is a term for a Spiritual Specialist of a very specific part of the world, the Evenki of the far north of Russia.
It is generally accepted that the root word šamán was adapted and modified by the Russians and then the Germans. Anthropologists latched onto the term and then used it to discuss similar Specialists all over the world.
As I understand it, a shaman is one who interacts with Spirit on behalf of their community, and is not a label one chooses for themselves — it is one granted by the community they serve.
I have been called Shaman Jim by the people I have served, and by the Spirits themselves, but it is a term that I am uncomfortable with. My teacher has bestowed on me the titles Pampamesayok and Altomesayok, but few would understand those terms that come from the Q’ero people high in the mountains of Peru as describing the ways that I practice my work. Paq’o is another name that could apply, as is Curandero. I have been called a “Peruvian Shaman,” but there are several issues with this as well, mainly that I am not Peruvian. And while I personally understand why Spirit has linked me to these traditions, and had me follow them with all my heart, I do not want to appropriate the faith.
Just the fact that I practice it in Michigan with the Great Lakes instead of the Mountain Spirits is change enough. My ancestry has a lot of German, so does that make me a Seidhr? There is much Slavic blood in my veins, so does that make me a Wołchw? Another aspect of the title Shaman is that it has been used a lot to market spiritual services — whether or not they could genuinely and truthfully use that title — so for good or for ill, it is the term that most people will think of and type into Google in order to find people like myself.
So: what is in a name? How can I be authentic, have integrity, and not fall into the trap of appropriation? How will people find me for help and guidance? What shall I be called?
It is with all these considerations, and more, that I began a long and amazing conversation with many advisors, including the clever people at Anchor and Fox Consulting.
We have come to the conclusion that I should use the names that have been associated with me the longest by those that have experienced my work before. For the sake of my integrity, the use of the term “practitioner” can help express the origins and descriptions of my Spiritual work without staking a claim to something I am not.
Through this process, I have come to understand that on this new aspect of my journey I will present myself as Jim Two Snakes, Shamanic Practitioner. I am glad to meet you.