I found very interesting article about Ergi -- Northern Shamans. Being a Shaman was connected to gender variance and unusual sexual practices. It's the power of taboos and power of breaking them. Sexual and gender taboos are one of the strongest among all of the cultures, and breaking them gives to Shaman lots of personal power.
http://www.northernshamanism.org/ergi-t ... third.html
An interesting read. Also a difficult one in places. Here are the bits I highlighted as I read, along with a few of my own notes.
It was never exactly the sort of condition that any parent wanted for their child. Even "sacred" can mean "taboo", which can mean "kept a respectful and/or fearful distance from", a condition that any spirit-worker will recognize. What it doesn't mean, and never will mean, is "normal". [...] In some cultures, just showing evidence of these behaviors was considered a sign that a child was bound to be a spirit-worker of some sort.
Even here, however, the "special" role of these shamans as still not playing by the gender rules can be seen; a "shaman-wife" of this type did not have to observe the taboos of women.
In some cases, the transformed shaman had a spirit-husband or spirit-wife who had transformed them to be the "right" gender for that marriage as far as the spirit-spouse was concerned. Researchers tell of the troubles of being married to such a one, as the spirit-spouse was considered the "real" head of household, and the shaman's spouse had to obey the commands of the shaman's spirit-husband or be fatally punished.
If an ordinary person of the tribe decided to change their gender, they might be shunned, but if a shaman did it, it was a sacred thing done by the spirits to give them extra power.
Ovid actually claimed that some Scythian priestesses knew how to extract "female poison" distilled from the urine of a mare in heat, with which to dose men in order to feminize them. The average person might throw this off as silliness, if they didn't know that pregnant mare's urine is the main source of Premarin, the most widely used estrogen drug today. They also ate a lot of licorice root - so popular among them that the Greeks to whom they exported it referred to it as "the Scythian root" - which is also an anti-androgen.
(Note: The bit about Scythian priestesses makes me sceptical. Wouldn't mind learning more, though.)
According to the Gods and wights that I work with, it wasn't always this way.
(Note: As we see, the author's own spiritual practices and beliefs are very much entangled here, to the point of accepting spirits as authorities on history. Wondering what the equivalent is in cultures more familiar to me.)
One wonders if an echo of that "too-powerful" nature was part of what fueled the fear and hatred of the average Viking, causing them to react in a manner so extreme that accusations of ergi were legally akin to attempted murder. One might also wonder if it continues to fuel it today.
For all that medieval Norse/Germanic society seemed to have been extremely sexist - at least by the Christian era when most of the lore was written - archaeologists keep turning up pre-medieval graves with cross-gender clothing and artifacts.
(Note: Was medieval Norse/Germanic society as sexist as that? Compared to what? Need more information.)
The medieval Norse accusation-insult that a man "acted like a woman every ninth night" shows its magical roots by the sacred number nine.
(Note: Main thing that interests me here is simply that this saying existed.)
Sometimes worlds grow old and stale and need to be broken open, and that includes people's internal worlds. Sometimes defenses grow so rigid that they inhibit all but the most squeezed and crippled growth, and they need to be torn down. Sometimes what was a survival necessity in past times becomes a social liability, and needs to go.
Long ago, after years of living with my intersex condition, when I was first ordered to change my gender by the Goddess who owns me body and soul, I didn't connect it to the phenomenon of shamanism. [...] It was when we began to exchange knowledge that it all came together: the taboo that we, needing a word to describe it, call ergi. [...] These words - ergi (n), argr (adj) - are Old Norse terms that we are using to refer to a specific constellation of shamanic-power behaviors.
The wights for whom I work did not allow me to "complete" my gender change, insisting that my genitals stay a mixture of both.
It doesn't matter what messages you internalized around these things, it only matters that you violate them, because that releases huge amounts of archetypal power.
[From quoted material] "Can I cast it on other people? You bet I can. What will it do? Well, if there is anything in their brain-wiring that might be termed hidden gender issues, they'll come out in all their flaming glory and torment the person until they do something about it."
(Note: the runes referred to in this quoted material are Mannaz, Inguz, Nauthiz & Ior. Not enough information is given to reconstruct the design, but I had a go. It might look somewhat like below, with the lines I've shown darkest being drawn first.)
In a very real sense, many shamanistic techniques are about using a state of mind which would be dangerous and damaging when induced unwillingly and unexpectedly into the inexperienced, and learning to control them and induce them carefully as tools, thus not suffering the ill effects. In this way, the mental and astral dissociation of the gender dysphoric becomes a useful tool for journeying, pathwalking, preparing to receive spirits, and of course shapeshifting.
There's also that an actual physical sex-change is a form of shapeshifting - in fact, it's probably closer than almost anyone in this culture ever comes to going through that process embodied. It's especially shamanistic in the sense that it is done with mind-altering substances (hormones - and anyone who claims that they aren't mind-altering hasn't ever lived through changing them from one type to the other from week to week), pain ordeals (surgeries), and involves the death of the old identity and the rebirth of a new one.
The day that we named ourselves a tribe was a turning point in the world's Wyrd, and it reverberated through the tapestry. Several of the Gods heard it, and became interested, and got involved. There is no turning back now. We claimed every person who lives in whatever way between male and female as members of our tribe, even if they have no idea about it, and so it is.