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Shedding Another Skin

(This is a cross-post from my FetLife writings. After I wrote it, I realized it belonged here as well.)

I’m not really into snakes. I mean, I’m not phobic or anything, but they’ve just never really held any fascination for me. But I’ve found myself co-habitating with one for a little while, and I got the honor of watching it shed a complete skin.

I’ve been doing a lot of heavy thinking about rebirth and renewal symbology. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t really identify with the phoenix – I think it’s so overused as to become a little trite (for me, not for others) – and my changes aren’t big and flashy and all in one moment like the phoenix, either.

I’ve thought about onions with layers, but the more layers you pull away from the onion, the smaller and less useful it becomes.

I came to accept and really like the concept of humus – the fertile soil that is created by the death of green things (like leaves and grass) – the end result of a long breaking down process. How winter snow creates the perfect condition for spring renewal.

I know a snake shedding its skin is also a little overused, symbology wise, but what I loved about what I witnessed is that the snake is still basically the same – it is the same size, shape, color, and exhibits the same behavior – but something is different. I can’t tell what it is, and so each night I watch it a little closer.

You might know that I’ve submitted paperwork to legally change both my first and last names. This was something I desperately wanted to do for a very, very long time, but I put other things over it in priority. So once those other things removed themselves from the hierarchy, off to the courthouse I went.

I’ve been Told by one of my Gods that I have to ritualize this change in some way. That it’s more important, more earth-shattering than getting a little piece of paper to take to the DMV. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make that ritual happen, and I have some concepts I’ve been tossing around.

I’d love to hear your ideas, your thoughts, your reactions, about how to ritualize taking on a new identity, a new name, a new phase, a new skin. I don’t want this to feel like the flash of a phoenix, but the reward after a long process of breaking down and finding the good deep within all the fertilizer.

About Del

A shaman who writes about spiritual things, but not in that namby-pamby "everything is light and fluffy" sort of way.

9 responses to “Shedding Another Skin

  1. Fala

    Hmm… let me cogitate.

  2. Amy Knoch

    The first thing that comes to mind reading this is a rebirth ritual, and by that I mean, potentially something that actually would replicate your physical body being reborn… how that would come about I’m not sure exactly, as the only ideas coming through at the moment would be physically involved, and may be more than you are physically able to do.

  3. Renee ⋅

    Here’s my train of thought about all of this, as I progressed through it:

    “and my changes aren’t big and flashy and all in one moment like the phoenix, either”

    My first thought was that this is a lot like how humans physically change their skin — a little at a time, always happening but sometimes even without our noticing it.

    I was also thinking about birds (regular birds, not phoenixes) and how they molt. Their process is a lot more messy than snakes, as they lose their feathers a few at a time rather than all at once. But it’s certainly more visible than how human skin works. (I’m not going to even talk about rabbits shedding, as I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.)

    Similar to feathers is … a veil dance, specifically a Hollywood-style dance of many veils. There are many layers and many colors, all creating a new shimmering colorful, beautiful being as each is removed. At the bottom is the being as it currently is, with all veils and layers removed, shinining in its own beauty.

    You have gone through a lot of changes over your life. Some periods have been bright and colorful, some drab and muted, some the deepest black of night. Ritually, you could convey all those layers through veils/cloth, “dancing” yourself through them, focusing on any given period as much as you need to. Underneath all you are garbed as you perceive yourself right now, as you shine right now … though there should still be some degree of covering; you do want to still be able to change more as needed, after all.

  4. hey renee awesome idea but trying to imagining Sir dancing around with veils made me almost spit out my food and roll on the floor laughing thanks for the mental image that is burned in my head, but i definately see where the idea is coming from and its good, just not maybe for Sir

  5. EVCelt

    How about having the names, and whatever else you want to shed, painted on you with washable body paint? Then the ritual could involve them being washed off of you. Or, similarly, have such things painted on clothes that you are willing to discard/get rid of (extra points if they are also symbolically linked to the state you wish to “shed”)…

  6. sarai addams ⋅

    Maybe this isn’t “ritually” enough, but I have an alternative way of seeing this to some kind of ceremony. It uses up spoons in a way that I think shows the commitment to a certain kind of energy that would be enough. I don’t know the numbers obviously, so you’d have to research it.

    What I would do is every day, shave my body (or at least the hairier parts). Then I’d clip my nails. Then I’d work at whatever skin I could reach with a pumice stone. I’d research how long it takes to replace all your skin, and I would use the pumice stone that long. Same for how long it takes hair to be new hair and nails to be new nails. Be sure to save whatever skin, nails, and hair that you can. I would carefully and with great thought take part in the process of cutting away at the old me.

    The ritual is slow,and requires spoons to be sure, but it is a way to meticulously watch over and admire, on a daily basis, your metamorphosis. When all 3 parts are done, I would take whatever remains I had of myself (nail clippings, hair, and skin) and burn them while meditating on what was, is, and then finally, what will be.

    While you are welcome to use the name for legal and social reasons, in my case I would not feel like I owned the name til the end of the whole process.

  7. Alex

    I really like Lizzie’s idea.

  8. JJ ⋅

    I know what I am about to describe does not sound like a ritual in the least, but it was for me.

    When I changed my name I requested four official copies of the document in case I needed them. It was too late to go to the DMV that day, but I went the following day. I then took that shiny new license straight to the bank. Over the next two days I changed EVERYTHING!!! My lease and utilities, my insurance, and lots of other mundane things.

    I also created a completely new Facebook account and posted to the old one that if my friends wanted to be part of my life they could friend me on the hew profile, I kept the old one up for two months posting a few references to the writing for anyone who had missed the previous ones. I made it very clear that I would not be friending anyone, if they wanted to be part of my life they had to make the move.

    The changes that meant to most to me where the ones that I was afraid of. I was unemployed and changing my resume was a joyful experience, but I dreaded calling previous employers. Most were all business and just wanted a copy of the legal documentation. One however was AWESOME!!! The executive director of the first agency I worked for in CT said something to the effect of… Bloody hell, congratulations! Gotta love the Brits 🙂

    Once that ritual was complete and the old name shed I was able to finally be ME!!! I was confident and ready to take on the world. I went on one interview as me, then I did the follow-up interview and in four days I will have been at the job for a year.

    It doesn’t have all the metaphorical properties of a ritual, but it was DEEPLY ritualistic to me. I was reborn through that process.

    I’m sure whatever you decide to do it will be the right thing for YOU!!!


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