Astral Body Modifications
One thing that modern spirit-workers of all sorts are beginning to talk about when they get together is the fact that often, our hame is different from those of other people. Some may have mild to moderate changes, and those may have grown slowly, over time. Others may have dramatic astral changes of the sort that can only be implemented by major spirits, as explained above. Nonhuman bloodlines can create hame anomalies, which can become more severe if those bloodline-gifts are exploited for spirit-work, as they usually are. Constant shapeshifting can also take its toll on the makeup of the hame, and the spirits themselves can move through you and change you, leaving traces of their nature that can build up over time. It's not uncommon for the attributes of a patron deity to leave their mark as well; one spirit-worker whose patron is Odin developed eye problems. My own patron, Hela, limps, and so do I a good deal of the time. Like her, I am not made bilaterally due to skeletal malformations, and my physical and astral meridians are also very different from side to side - one side is always more "dead" than the other.
One example of a minor spirit-modification that has become immensely popular is a Reiki attunement. When done in the classic way - and not just in the way of many folks who claim to be able to attune anyone in two minutes by waving their hands at them - a bit of your aura is scooped or "cored" out to make room for a "port" that will connect to the Reiki energy and download it through your hands. The various symbols are used for control of the flow. Some Reiki masters warn that for the next 21 days, the astral body needs time to get used to the modification, and may reject it. Many already-modified spirit-workers have found that Reiki attunements just won't take on them; that "port" may be already in use for other purposes.
This is a new and uncharted area, and we are working on tiny scraps of knowledge. One thing that we have noticed, anecdotally, is the issue of the chakras. (Yes, this is Hindu and not northern-tradition, but just as every lich has the same acupuncture points, every hame has chakras, regardless of what you want to call them.) Chakras have many purposes, but one of them is as attachment points between the lich and the hame. We've noticed a lot of changes in which chakras are strongly and permanently attached, and which ones are "normally" detached for spirit-workers. The biggest offender in this latter category is the second chakra. Ironically, it is associated with the reproductive organs (as opposed to the sexual organs which are root-chakra) and there is a long tradition of spirit-workers being sterile or childless. In some cultures, women are not allowed to do shamanic work until they are past their childbearing years. While a minority of spirit-workers (especially those who are closer to "priest" or "priestess" than "shaman" in their work) do breed, most don't, even today. This is sometimes due to the pressure of the Gods and spirits - if your entire life is dedicated to them, there's no room for the responsibility of children - but it is strikingly often due to physical reasons. At a recent yearly gathering of spirit-workers from various Western traditions, only one out of the entire gathering had ever had a child, and that one became sterile soon after a single difficult birth. When the bloodline-goddess Hyndla gave me an astral modification in the region of the second chakra, she commented that if I hadn't already been sterile, it would have made me so.
Other anecdotal knowledge suggests that different chakras are used for different sorts of magic, and thus get modified differently, if only through continual use. Sex magic, of course, uses the root chakra the most and tends to make slow changes over time there. Both shapeshifting and body-temperature control seem to make strong use of the third chakra, over the diaphragm. Heart chakras are the second biggest "offender" for being frequently disconnected in spirit-workers, although that may be due more to continual trauma than anything else. Making sure that the heart chakra is at least temporarily connectable is very important for a spirit-worker, who is in a service position and must not fall into contempt for the people that they are serving, nor forget how to love. Throat chakras tend to get slightly modified from doing years of galdr or other "shaman singing". Third eye and crown chakras are often heavily modified by the spirits, especially the latter if the spirit-worker is a horse for god-possession. When I underwent my shamanic death, my crown chakra was permanently shut down and moved to the back of my head, where it became a sphincter-like "port" that could be opened to receive information, energy...and deities, should they wish to use my body for their purposes. (For more information on the phenomenon of god-possession, please see the next book in this series, Wightridden.) Other horses report that the spirits use the existing crown chakra, or in rare cases the heart chakra.
Many of us have theorized, as discussed in the chapter on bloodlines, that those of us who are spirit-chosen have been nabbed due to the nature of our "wiring", of lich and hame and ve. It may well be, especially for those of us who go through shaman sickness, that we have been chosen for wiring that can not only manage the basics of spirit-work, but has the best chance of surviving shaman sickness and the ensuing spirit-modifications. It may also be that those spirit-workers who do not get heavily modified and sent through shaman sickness are spared because the Gods and wights, in their wisdom, do not feel that they are "wired" in the right way to be a good risk for survival.
Another thing that we've noticed is that no matter how strange and extreme the astral modifications are, the basic energy meridians and points described in acupuncture are still where they are in "normal", unmodified people. We conjecture that this is because moving those meridians and points would cause the physical body to become unbalanced, ill, and die. That means that even a modified spirit-worker can still get acupuncture, use acupressure, and work with those physical meridians. No matter what is done to us, we still remain here in a human body, and have to work with that.
It's not unusual for modern spirit-workers to "anchor" an astral modification to a physical body modification such as a tattoo, piercing, or cutting. In some cases, the wights actually did the astral modification simultaneously with the physical one, as in the case of the nine symbols on my back that gift me with the protections of the Nine Clans of the Iron Wood. During each piece of the tattoo, I had a vision of the chief of that clan coming to me and putting something into me. Another spirit-worker had a set of modifications done for purposes of signal clarity - the large ear piercing was for better "hearing" of the spirits' messages, the labret (lower lip) piercing was a "microphone", and the tongue piercing made sure that she spoke the messages properly.