This is a follow-up post to my previous post, American Gods: Paul Bunyan.
The most complete list of entries for ‘American Gods’ posts can be found on Sara Mastros’ blog.
After some thinking and reading things, I figured I’d try my hand at automatic writing, and considering I’m new to the practice, having only done it a few times, feel free to take this all with a Paul Bunyan-sized helping of salt, but I figured I’d share the fall-out for your edification/entertainment.
I got my start with automatic writing a few weeks ago, reading this blog post, by Sara Mastros (I promise I won’t link to her blog in every one of my own entries, but she’s got so many darn good things to say and you should totally follow her blog, and support her patreon, if you like her writing!).
I don’t know really what automatic writing is supposed to ‘feel like’ as I’m doing it, it sorta felt like Freudian free association the whole time. I didn’t necessarily feel like there was any actual ‘channeling’ going on, or anything ooky-spooky, like one might expect. Maybe I’m just new to it and it’ll change over time, or maybe what I have written so far is valid in its own way, I don’t know. I did feel like some ideas were just popping into my head, but considering I have ADD, I don’t want to prematurely assume it was something it wasn’t.
I did feel like after a page or two of scribbling, that Paul Bunyan was there, in some form. I got a warm, fuzzy (literally like he hadn’t shaved, and metaphorically) Older Friend/Uncle kind of vibe as I was writing. Like he’d been around a while, and had seen some things, and knew the value of old-fashioned hard work, and wasn’t going to beat around the bush.
Regardless, I’ve decided to treat the results of that automatic writing as if they were valid. So I’ve put together this ritual, which is just a “working-draft template” of sorts, you should feel free to adapt it or change it, if it doesn’t suit you. I feel like this sort of thing is pretty individualistic, and you can’t necessarily follow someone else’s ritual processes and expect it to give the same results. Except of course, when you can.
For this, I’d recommend being in or as close to the largest herd of trees you can manage. If you’re giving offerings, he said he wants lots of good food*, so bring a rather hearty helping of delicious food. The fresher and more home-made, the better. Lumberjacks were known to choose which logging camp they worked at based on the reputation of the camp cook!
For incense, if you have the opportunity to do so responsibly/safely, build a fire and burn pine logs/twigs/etc. If not, I suppose you can always buy that pine scented incense I used to chuckle at in the local head shop. I might pick some up myself, after hearing he likes the smell of burning pine.
He says a quiet place is good, if you’re in the woods that’s probably a given, but if you’re not able to get to the woods just find as quiet a place as possible. Also lumberjacks spent a surprising amount of time on/near rivers, because they would float logs down rivers to get them to the saw mill. So even if you can’t find a good wooded area, a river will do in a pinch.
Nobody knows the value of a good day’s work like Paul Bunyan, if you can call on him either in the early morning just before, or right after a long day of serious physical and mental effort, so much the better.
Better Call Paul:
- Start by, as Paul put it, ‘clearing your mind of lumber’. Get the dead-wood of the day out of the way. Clear away the trimmings, the leftovers of the days work. Let your mind grow silent and still, listen to the wind in the trees. Paul Bunyan spent his time more with trees than people, he knows them and they know him. If for whatever reason you can’t get in touch with him, try to talk to and listen to them instead. [These are the first answers he gave me, and they feel the most important, the others are good ideas, but not as important.]
- Give Paul Bunyan your sweat, your hours of labor. You can dedicate hours of work you’re doing anyway to him, or set aside specific time/work for it. It’s best if it’s strenuous, and preferably outdoors.
- Care for the forest, pick up litter, pull invasive plants, plant trees that should be growing there, etc. You can give money/time/etc to an organization devoted to local forests/national parks in your area, or to organizations that help the environment in general. This means a lot to him, he cares about the forest immensely, and even though in his day (if he did actually exist, I’m almost certain it would have been in the early 1800’s) the lumber industry was monstrously unsustainable, times are changing, and he very much encourages good stewardship of the woods.
- If you’re having a hard time connecting with him, maybe try singing a logging song, there are quite a few.
Once you have his attention/presence, continue with the offerings**, light the incense (if you haven’t already), praise him for doing all the things he’s done (this can be a great way to call on him, if none of the above work! I think he really enjoys the tall tales people tell about him).
If you want his take on something/etc, now’s the time to ask for it, and don’t expect it to be pretty and flowery and loquacious, I get the feeling that he’ll say what needs to be said. I haven’t petitioned him for help with mundane things just yet, although I reckon I might try that soon. I think he’d be a powerful, determined spirit to have in your corner. But if you want him to work for you, I think it’s only fair that you be willing to break a sweat too, as it were. It’s no understatement to say he values hard work, lumberjacks would burn about 9,000 Calories per day at logging camps in the harsh Wisconsin winters.
I apologize if this is somewhat weird or disorganized. Like I said, I’m cobbling this together from several pages of ramblings where I sought feedback from him regarding how best to honor him.
If you find this intriguing enough to give it a go, let me know in the comments how it works out for you! I’ll certainly keep posting about the greatest logger who ever swung an axe, if I have anything else I think is worth sharing. Perhaps I’ll add a follow-up after trying to petition him for help with something mundane.
*He listed ‘lodging’ right after ‘food’ but I don’t have any good ideas of what that might mean. I guess I have a good question to ask him next time I do automatic writing practice, eh?
**If you’re eating food with him, sharing a meal, it’s best to do so in silence, lumber camps had an unwritten rule of silence during meal-times. There’s some debate about why, but no debate that it was absolutely a custom among lumberjacks.