Del in Person! Appearances in 2013!

This past week has seen a lot of activity in my inbox from events that want to schedule a Del appearance, so I thought I’d keep you up to date on places where you can see me in person! Some of these are still in process of being sured up, but I thought I’d give you a heads up just in case!


Feb 15-18: Dark Odyssey Winter Fire, Washington, DC. I’ll be teaching three great classes: Non-Parental Littles Play, Leather Traditions and Protocols You Can Use, and Sadoshamanism (with Michelle Belanger). I’ll also likely be helping out with some of the rituals.


Mar 15-17: CatalystCon, Washington, DC. I’ll be appearing on a panel titled “Sex and Sexuality from the Trans Perspective”. It has been promised to be a 201/301 level discussion about trans* identity as it relates to sex and sexuality, and I’m happy to contribute! There are some stellar classes there that I look forward to taking as well!

Mar 20: I have a possible gig teaching for the Baltimore Educational and Social Society. This is still in the works, so the date is tentative and obviously I don’t know what I”ll be speaking on.


Apr 5-7: Charm City Fetish Fair, Baltimore, MD. I will likely be in attendance, and may be appearing on a panel or giving a class depending on how things shake out. It is an awesome educational event!

Apr 23: I am teaching for Black Rose (Washington, DC) on one of their Tuesday educational evenings. They’ve asked for my class “Oh Bloody Hell, Wound Care in the Dungeon”, which is a great class on how to protect both your partners and your toys should you accidentally (or purposefully) break skin while playing. Great for those who are skittish about blood!


May 16-19: Northern Delaware D/s Boot Camp (no website, but you can find them on FetLife), Darlington, MD. I am in the process of securing a one-day appearance with them, so this is still in the “maybe” column, but it’s a great event at Ramblewood if you aren’t a fan of big crowds. Lots of great educators and a fun atmosphere.


Jun 12-16: Free Spirit Gathering, Darlington, MD. This is a family friendly Pagan event I attend every year. In addition to driving the “Short Bus” (a mobility aid for those who have a hard time traversing the campground), I will be teaching classes in the Teen/Young Adult track, as well as possibly some geared towards adults.

Jun 19-23: Dark Odyssey: Fusion, Darlington, MD. This is a big kinky festival with a focus on spiritual kink (although there is plenty else to do if that’s not your thing.) I will be working primarily with the brand new “Ordeal Track”, where it will have its own focused programming and rituals, including a culmination ritual that is designed to push your limits and show you what you really can achieve. It will be an extremely fun week, and one of my favorite events all year!


Aug 16-18: Etinmoot, Hubbardston, MA. This is a small gathering for people interested in celebrating the Jotuns of Norse tradition. I will be leading either a class or a ritual (or some combination thereof) for Hel, including possibly talking about my experience this past winter.

Well, that’s what I’ve got so far. I’m sure as the year progresses, I will be adding more dates onto this list. If you are a member of a Pagan, Northern Tradition, Shamanic, or other spiritual group; or a kink, fetish, power dynamic, or other BDSM group, and you’d like to have me come speak, teach a class, lead a ritual, or in some other way participate, you can contact me at and I’ll be happy to send along a class list.

You can also follow me on various social media for updates as to when and where and what I’ll be teaching. I can be found as “Del Tashlin” on FB and G+, “Wylddelirium” on Twitter, and “Del” on FetLife.

Hope to see some of you soon!

(Sorry for email subscribers: I reblogged the wrong post!)
I highly enjoyed this entry on the vision of polyamory the mainstream media is presenting as “normal” – the concept that it starts with a monogamous couple who decide to include other relationships of lesser importance (secondaries) which are regulated by many rules the secondary did not help create, and for which the “primary” partner holds veto. The author makes it clear that although it *is* one version of polyamory, it is by far not the only, or even the most common one. For example, these “polynormative” images assumes heterosexuality, whereas most of us queerdoes have been involved in some form of non-heirarchal poly at one point or another, and yet the media *never* portrays poly as a queer thing (my partner Winter would point out this would have to do with trying to legalize same sex marriage, making all media visages of lesbian and gay relationships identical to heterosexual monogamy). Also, it is rare to see POC represented in these portrayals of polyamory, unless their race is used to show their “exotic beauty”.

Anyway, I don’t want to give away the entire post, but it is incredibly on-point and wittily written in regards to the real depth and breadth of poly relationships and how they are homogenized for television. Kudos to the author for speaking out instead of toeing the line on this one.

Sex Geek

Polyamory is getting a lot of airtime in the media these days. It’s quite remarkable, really, and it represents a major shift over the last five to ten years.

The problem—and it’s hardly surprising—is that the form of poly that’s getting by far the most airtime is the one that’s as similar to traditional monogamy as possible, because that’s the least threatening to the dominant social order.

Ten years ago, I think my position was a lot more live-and-let-live. You know, different strokes for different folks. I do poly my way, you do it your way, and we’re all doing something non-monogamous so we can consider ourselves to have something in common that’s different from the norm. We share a certain kind of oppression, in that the world doesn’t appreciate or value non-monogamy. We share relationship concerns, like logistics challenges and time management and jealousy. So we’re all in this…

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The Broken Lock

It happened by accident; she went to remove her collar for a visit with her family, and the tiny key broke off in the lock. Luckily, she hasn’t been asked to remove it since then, like being somewhere that gets hinky about giant hunks of metal. But there is it, stuck, unbreakable and yet in its own way broken; her collar stuck on her with no easy way of removal unless she unweaves the links that holds it in place, keeps its form.

It’s not all that dissimilar from our relationship, especially these days; we went from being in a dynamic that although always in place, only really became active in my presence. She went home to another place for long stretches of time and I didn’t really control much of what happened there. She came and went as she pleased, conducted a social life outside of her relationship with me, made her own decisions when it came to what to buy and where to store the spoons. But then one night, when my life was the on the verge of its own radical upheaval, I called her to me and informed her that she and I were going to live together.

Now, it sounds like she had no choice but to obey, but it was more of a negotiation than that. She had been living with an ex-lover she did not care for or enjoy living with; she also lived pretty far away from me and therefore when I needed her she had to drive quite a distance to help. It started with me living in a friend’s spare room while she alternated crashing on their couch and going back “home”. But even then, she knew the day was coming, sooner rather than later, that we would be living together.

Things moved very quickly. They found the abscesses in my abdomen and I needed her by my side; I needed rides to all of the appointments in quick succession and then I was in the hospital and needed a partner to stand in for the spouse I had just lost to infidelity and dereliction of duty. When I was released, she had already started setting up our first experiment in co-living, a friend’s house we were basically borrowing until we could find a more permanent place.

It took a while for us to find our stride; we both wanted there to be a deepening of our commitment to the other, without a radical change to either of our day to day existences. I was and will continue to be chronically ill, with the addition of the acute issue, so it wasn’t like I was in a position to take more reponsibility over her day to day choices. But at the same time, she became my PCA, my cook, my housemaid, my caretaker, my companion, my advocate, my chaffeur from time to time, my social scheduler, and sometimes even my representative at events and places I couldn’t go myself. And this all happened almost literally overnight – we had been doing this full time thing for less than a month when it went into overdrive.

I’d love to say it all went smoothly, and parts of it did. However, there were also times where I could see all the stress in her eyes, and her hair – I joke with her that I can gauge the level of her stress by the frizzyness of her hair – and my inner Master voice told me I had to give more rewards. More structure. More recognition for successes, and gentle reprimands for failures. I’ve always had to be gentle with her to some degree – although I can rough her up with my hands and toys, her emotions have been much more of an intricate mindfield where the wrong step could put her out of commission for days. It’s something she’s been working on for a long time, and she continues to take it very seriously, but we’re not at the end of the road with that yet.

She started noticing her own strengths and weaknesses, and started reaching out to others for help in making her a better, more suitable slave for me. She knows she needs to work on her time management, to make judicious decisions about when to multitask and when to focus on a single thing, and on being respectful and polite to me even when I’m an annoying and messy roommate. She went from either being cooked for (by her ex) or just zapping something convienent in the microwave to preparing nutritious and tasteful meals that take all of my odd dietary needs and desires into consideration (which was sadly complicated by my chronic nausea and lack of appetite – she had to find ways to make foods that encouraged me to eat even when it was the last thing I wanted to do, without spending ridiculous amounts of money neither of us had on expensive gluten-free alternatives to all of my old comfort foods like macaroni and cheese).

On top of that, things got much hairer with my health. The surgeon declares that this upcoming surgery is dangerous, could possibly kill me, and all of a sudden in the midst of trying to adjust to having me around her all the time, she also has to come to terms with not having me at all. She has to balance her grief and worry with keeping things positive around me, so I don’t get dragged into her turmoil and lose my own sense of zen about whether or not I’m about to die.

There were only brief moments where we actually got a chance to talk about our dynamic and how it had changed; ways to make it more obvious to both of us and recognition for all the work she’s taken on. But those moments were stolen; little conversations on the porch of the Squat, or wormed into discussion as we re-read The Marketplace series. We crafted a “greeting ritual”, something that brings us deeply into our dynamic as soon as she gets home from work (and allowed for daily training exercises that I thought were important).

There are times that I am worried that I forced her into this – she had already given me her consent, her submission, and so when I basically informed her that we were moving in together because I knew I couldn’t live by myself (and this was before the surgery was imminent; now that’s twice true) and I knew she was unhappy and looking to leave her current living situation (she didn’t like where she lived, the apartment she lived in, or the person she was sharing it with – it’s not that she hated her ex, but she just wanted to move on both romantically and life-wise) and so I “solved” her problem by announcing we were moving, together.

But then there are days that make it clear to me, if not both of us, that this was perfect timing for our relationship. It has given us ample opportunity to connect deeper as Master and slave, as well as Shaman and initiate (not that I really see her that way, but I do assist her in her own spiritual meanderings), as well as just two people looking to rebirth themselves into a new incarnation. She smiles at me, or does something nice without being asked, or she stops to send me a short email telling me how much she loves me and is happy to be in service to me. Even in the deepest stress of facing the surgery, she never forgot her role as she helped my friends and family with their travel arrangements and making sure they had all the information they needed. She’s stated in several situations that her service gives her something to focus on when her emotions make her feel unfocused. She feels like she’s doing something with her life, rather than just working a thankless job and eating food and watching movies. Even though sometimes that’s exactly what her life looks like, there’s always that moment when I call her into my room to ask to do something for me, even as trivial as making me a cup of tea so I can continue to write uninterrupted, and it all comes surging back.

When we didn’t know what the future held, she decided she wanted to take on a new symbol of our transition from what we were to what we are; we found ourselves in my friend Captain’s tattoo shop with her at my feet kissing my boots before two needles penetrated her in a long legacy of kinky queers; getting your nipples pierced used to be reserved for those who wanted to signal they were an owned submissive before they went mainstream. And in that moment, laying on the table with her slave blindfold on (it actually has the word “slave” on it), she trusted me enough that when she realized the jewelry was bigger than she had imagined, she knew I had asked him to use 10g jewelry (most nipples are pierced at a 14, which is smaller) as just another mindfuck in a series of mindfucks we’ve played with over the years.

Sometimes I worry about the day that she’ll have to take that collar off – not so much because our relationship comes to an end, but more if she decides to travel by air and some TSA agent refuses to understand that it is a “religious item” that never comes off (I’ve heard stories on both sides of experience as to whether or not collared submissives are forced to remove their metal collars during air travel), and the only option is to unweave some of the links so it will fall from her neck. But now, we can both look down underneath her clothes and know there is a mark she always wears; not her nipple rings, although they’re a symbol of it, but the mark of courage that she was able to take this leap of faith with me, continues to choose to bow her neck to our combined future, to the twists and turns that affect both of us.

In a way, the most wonderful side effect of the terrible, heart-rending tragedy that was the end of my marriage, is replayed each night when she comes home from work, removes her clothes, comes into my room, and sits at my feet. Even if the neighbors think we’re just two aging lesbians cohabiting together (because I don’t pass, even as transgender, to most eyes), in those moments we both know the truth; that collar, wrought by her own hands (twice, as the first time she forgot to ask me what colors to use and she had chosen colors that had specific meaning to me – and not a good one), is only a sign, a token, a easy shorthand when we pass through kink spaces, and what really matters lies underneath.

To Rave, my property, my girlslave, my assistant, my PCA, my amateur masseuse, my cook, my social scheduler, my available demo bottom, my play partner, my little girl, my roommate, my medical proxy, my advocate, my representative, my companion, my friend. I love you very much, and I am continually awed and filled with gratitude at the choices you have made, the consent you have given, the power you relinquish, and the changes you accept with grace and dignity.


So often, when someone wants something spiritual to happen to them, us grumpy kids tell them they’ve got to do ‘the Work’ in order to achieve it. Yet, how often do we really stop and define what that means? What ‘Work’ have you done to get to where you are in your spiritual journey?

I know many people are waiting with baited breath to hear about what happened to me on Dec 28th, but I’ve been busy, you see. Busy doing all sorts of things that fall under that category of ‘Work’, whether or not it looks like it.

First and foremost, doing the ‘Work’ means taking care of yourself. Making sure you’re eating foods that do good things for your body, whatever you’ve found that makes your body, mind, and soul operate at peak performance. If you’ve trying to make (or maybe force) a spiritual evolution to happen, but you’re eating crap food all the time and not getting enough sleep/exercise/rest/meditation/healing, it’s just not going to happen. I’m sorry if I’m the first person to be telling you this, but I find there are certain things that make my body, and therefore my abilities (or whatever you want to call them) like hearing the Gods, or being able to decifer what They might want from me, easier to accomplish. For me, it’s about eating foods with actual nutritional value – meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts – staying away from things that slow me down, like stuff with too much sugar (I’m diabetic), or foods that make my brain feel sluggish (high carb foods like breads, pasta, potatoes, etc). But you’ll find that there are just as many diet suggestions for spirit workers as there are spirit workers; some must refrain from gluten, soy, MSG, preservatives, meat, alcohol, certain drugs (prescription or not), etc. Ask my girl about trying to plan a series of meals for a group of spirit workers, trying to take everyone’s dietary needs into consideration and still find choices that everyone can eat – it can be an uphill battle sometimes. But we all choose to eat these peculiar ways because it helps us be at the top of our game, keeps our bodies and spirits functioning at maximum, and giving us enough energetic ‘spoons’ for those marathon days of doing very focused Work.

Sleep/rest is also important, both making sure you don’t get too much as well as not enough. It is true that sometimes that can be the most difficult obstacle to overcome – our society is evermore pushing us towards this unobtainable ideal of being productive at all hours of the day and night, only sleeping when it feels absolutely necessary, but you can’t do this sort of stuff if you’re exhausted, or suffering the symptoms of too much sleep, either. And rest isn’t only naps; it also means taking time off, doing things that are purely for enjoyment, rather than something goal-driven. It means finding some friends to play a board game, or going to the movies to see something fun, or spending an afternoon in an art gallery allowing yourself to be inspired. Many shamans I know engage in some sort of handicraft, and although the products themselves may have spiritual significance, it’s also just nice to spend a quiet afternoon knitting or working in the forge or playing with clay.

Spending time with people who are not your clients or co-workers can sometimes be important. I’m very much an introvert, needing lots of alone time to feel human, but even I need to get out sometimes and not be forced to talk about whatever Work I’m doing. I need to feel community, to be around family-of-choice, to feel loved and supported and jovial ties of friendship and adoration. Yes, sometimes being around people of any sort might accidentally trigger an “on duty light”, but it’s totally acceptable in most cases to gently let someone know that although you see and acknowledge their need, you’re presently relaxing, and will talk to them about their spiritual crises another day. If they can’t accept that, then find other people to be with. It’s of critical importance when you socialize in the circles you also Work for, that people recognize and respect those boundaries between “Del the shaman” and “Del the dude who wants to hear some dirty jokes, please”.

Once your body is tended to, doing the ‘Work’ also means tending to the mind. You can find spiritual inspiration in a lot of places; reading helps me tremendously. Sometimes it’s the more obvious books on Loki or spirit work or the spiritual philosophies or this or that religion; but I’ve found just as much food for thought in works of fiction, poetry, art, and science. Whatever ignites your curiosity, what makes you think and introduces new and different ideas or ways of seeing the world, can be considered ‘Work’. I also watch a lot of documentaries, especially when reading seems like too much focus for my mind (like when I am feeling ill), because they show me sides of life that I may not have been exposed to, or concepts/philosophies that make me question my own dearly held beliefs. You need to stimulate your mind, give yourself permission to question what you believe to be true, and usually that only happens when you’re faced with someone else’s beliefs and experiences that differ greatly from your own.

Prayer and contemplation are also very ‘Work’ oriented. It’s nice to have a beautiful table laid out with all your pretty spiritual tools and other offerings, but what makes it an altar, and not just a display cabinet, is taking the time to actual sit in front of it and use it as a focus for worship, contemplation, offering, prayer, and meditation. Your altars should be a gateway of connection with that which you hold dear (and yes, you can have altars to ideas as well as Gods; I have seen some gorgeous altars to the concepts of sanity/mental health, family, harmony, peace, musicianship, and love; these were not dedicated to any specific Deity per se, but just the archetypical concepts themselves). Building and maintaining your altars can also be seen as ‘Work’; if your altar is covered with dust and neglect, it can be an obvious sign that you’ve lost your focus. You need a strong foundation before you go on adding al the shiny additions to your spiritual life, and if you can’t find the ten minutes it takes to dust off your statuary and replenish your perishable offerings, you probably shouldn’t be trying to take on much else. Granted, sometimes the Gods keep you hopping, and the altar maintenance gets away from you, but then please go back to “rest and relaxation”, and maybe combine the two – stopping all the furious blogging and answering email; turn off the computer and go make sure your altar is in order.

Also, ‘Work’ means listening, and if you’re not turning down the volume on you life, you’re not going to hear anything. If you’re running from one distraction to the next, you’ll never hear the quiet voices inside. It can be easy in our American culture to feel odd or disjointed when you’re not actively distracted – look at how many people feel the need to have the tv on while doing something else entirely, like studying or cooking – and I’m totally not immune to this. Every so often, I will catch myself in the middle of running from one distraction to the next, and have a hard time recalling the last moment of real silence I experienced. People frequently complain, when I am starting to teach them about meditation, that their brain won’t shut up. They rarely understand that is a side effect of never listening to it; it feels like a good friend who has been dying to talk to you for weeks, and so as soon as the opportunity arises, words come spilling out in rapid succession for hours on end. It’s as much about paying attention to all the odd things your brain wants you to know, as it is about reaching the silence beyond that. If all you can manage today is to spend one minute in complete silence, even if that minute is eaten by the brain telling you all the other things you could be doing with that one minute, it’s better than not doing it.

It also means taking time for others. I have a terrible reputation for being busy; almost every email I get from friend or client alike starts with “I know you’re a really busy person, but I really need/want…” Don’t make this mistake. Even if you are really busy, if you’re serious about having a stronger connection to the Gods, you have to make time in your life for Their ‘Work’ to manifest, and if you keep up this aura of never ending toil, neither the Gods nor the people in need will come to you out of fear of adding more to your plate than you can handle. This goes the other way, too, that sometimes when my life is legitimately busy – oh, say after a major surgery combined with a move – that you just accept that mundane life is going to have to take some precedence for a while, and your spiritual pursuits will just have to wait until things slow down a bit. But we humans, we are masters of filling up time with all kinds of commitments, distractions, and other obligations that keep us from the uncomfortable feeling of being at loose ends, of not having anything to do today; but if you don’t cultivate that sense of openness, you’ll miss all the spontaneous opportunities that come from just being available.

This does mean, however, that part of the ‘Work’ is also learning to say “no” to things. Although that online class looks mighty tempting, I need to seriously think about the commitment it will take to finish it, and weigh the time sacrifice against all the other things I could be doing with that time. I used to do a lot of community theater, and when I read about my friend’s shows I get this sadness in my heart; I start to wonder to myself if I could actually audition for something one of these days, but then I remember how much time and energy goes into rehearsals, learning your lines, getting your costume together, run-throughs, productions, cast get-togethers, parties, etc; it’s just not feasible for me. It’s very hard for me to hear that “no”, even though it’s coming from me, but it’s a “no” I have to say to myself over and over again.

The other side of learning when to say “no” is learning when to say “later” to spiritual pursuits. After reading a passage in a book, a blog post, or a magazine article about something spiritual, we frequently want to figure out how to make that manifest in our lives RIGHT NOW. We forget for the moment that we’re going to school full time, or working 80 hour weeks, or trying to raise a child, and we just want that ecstasy that we feel rolling off the page when we read about it. It’s hard to hear, but sometimes mundane life wins. If you need that 80 hours in order to pay your bills; if your child needs you full time until kindergarten; if getting your degree means having more free time later to pursue such things; then you have to radically accept that although it would be nice to have the time to work on spiritual things, now is not the time to do it.

This happens to us spiritual-type people, too. We try to force the obligations of our spiritual Work, in addition to the mundane realities of rent/bills, family, other jobs/commitments, relationships, into one schedule, and it becomes clear that maybe we need to take a break from one or the other in order to get what we want out of life. Although opportunities to run away from the mundane side do occur, they come much fewer and further between than the other way around. Maybe you’re the kind of lucky that can find someone to pay all your bills while you spend a year in spiritual retreat, or maybe if you focus on working in a monetarily-satisfying way for a certain amount of time, you know the payoff will be the ability to spend days in meditation. But more often than not, it’s the other way around; where sometimes even us crotchety shamans have to turn away from the communities we serve and do whatever it takes to pay the bills for a while.

Another part of the ‘Work’ is developing solid relationships with the communities you intend to serve. It’s impossible to be a shaman without a community. I know it goes against a lot of the dramatic idealism of many spiritual-types who like the archetype of shamanism, but one of the big differences between being a spirit worker and being a shaman is that we absolutely, positively, need a community to serve. And no, your immediate family does not count. A community must be big enough to support its shaman, if not financially, at least with a legitimate amount of need. These communities sometimes don’t even know they need a shaman until one (or many) arrives. I’m sure no one in the kinky community was standing around thinking, “Man, we need us some shamans”, but as soon as Winter and I appeared to our local kink communities, we found ourselves with more Work than we could handle. But this means that we both have to do things to strengthen that bond, to let the community know that we belong as well. We have to go to events, and spend time at parties, and teach classes, and move within our people so they know we are there, that we have reputations of being not only spiritually-upright, but also upright in our knowledge and understanding of that community. It would be difficult at best to serve a community that you didn’t understand the culture of, and the only real way you get that sort of understanding is by being a part of it.

These are just some examples of ways of doing the ‘Work’ that will lead you towards whatever next evolution you desire. It’s just a jumping off point, for you to make your own. What do you think you need to do to make room in your life for the kind of changes you want? How do you let your inner self know that it’s time for growth? Are you taking care of yourself, of your responsibilities and needs, so that you have the freedom of thought to tackle these tough issues? Do you have a solid enough structure that when you come through your evolution and need time and space to rest, that it’s already set up for you? What ‘Work’ are you doing?