Days of High Adventure
Greg Stafford, Mythmaker

Allen Varney | 29 Oct 2009 17:00
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For many years, one of the standing jokes at Chaosium was that every employee had to have at least one tattoo. I facetiously asked Greg to provide an inventory of his current tattoos. He sent a photo, replying that he'd explain it on the condition my editors print his response if they used the photo. I can fairly say it is nothing like anything The Escapist has ever published:

"This, my first tattoo, is a part of my transformative healing work. Transformation is difficult work. If it is not difficult, then it is not transformative; it is just improvement. But shamanism offers a process to interact with the nonexistent, or the nonphysical, and manifest it in the world. I had to reveal the core of my vision into this world in order to make it more real. Not more real for me-it can't be more than it is. I mean, to make my vision more real for you. I'll explain as much as I can in print.

"This shows the world, the three worlds. This is the Above, this is the Below. This is the Light, this is the Darkness. This is the One, this is the Many. Each thing inside another is another world, another dimension, another depth or meaning and majesty.

"Look below here - this is the web of being. Everywhere two webs meet is something in life, an event or a place or a person or a thought or a dream or voice or vision or pain or terror or realizations that some day we will die. This net, the visible part, is the world of relationships - see how they cast their own shadows?

"And in the center there, that's the spider woman who came to me in darkness and scared the hell out of me for years. Something horrible happened and she came, and at first she was just another terrible thing. But she kept everything away from me for decades, and at last I learned her language. Sometimes she comes now in a sweat lodge to help healing, sometimes she still guards me. See her head, it's on fire. That is how to find her - head for the light. She is the center there, where fire and darkness are one. It's a terrible and horrible place to try to get to - not so bad once you get there.

"But the whole thing there, that is the world of shadows where we live. But that whole world grows too, and you can see that one tree there - that's me, or you. It takes the energy from below - the great confusion of joy and pleasure and hate and fear and screwing up and love - and that tree takes it all into itself, that tree does, and it brings the power upward from Below, up to the world of the Above. That's what the tree does.

"And above there is the sky - you see it, blue, up beyond the clouds. An eagle took me there once so I could look down more clearly. You can tell which way the eagle is going by the constellations: the Great Bear and the Hunter. And there is the sun, inside the sky, and inside it is something else. And from it, through the sun, you see, out comes light, bright light that comes out from the One, out from the Above, to warm the clouds and the trees and the world of below. And it streams into the world as sunlight, and lightning, and rain."

Writer and game designer Allen Varney has written more than 50 articles for The Escapist. See the complete list at The Great Games Experiment, and follow him on Twitter.

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