Honoring the Ancestors: The Name of Chernobog

How many Slavic deities were you exposed to as a child? For me, the answer was only one.


On today’s date in 1940, Fantasia premiered in New York City, and the Night On Bald Mountain sequence seared Disney’s interpretation of the Slavic god in the minds of generations, for good or ill.

Hail to the Lord of the Lands of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy.

The Third Mariam

This myth was given to me by my sister Marie.

Our mysteries bear the name of my grandmother and mother, while my original one is lost to history.
It’s easier to let the people call on anyone but me. I want nothing to do with most of them. They have designs on me I can’t abide.
Some say my mother died giving birth to me, some say she wandered off to fulfill another destiny in the wake of Yeshua’s death.
I was a frail and sickly child, spiritually afflicated as they say he was, torn between soul and body.
Mariam held a bitter regret, and an anger towards those that continued to pursue me. She argued with her daughter of before about the best way to preserve me. She had a human enough heart that life, she could not bear to see me go with them. She wanted for me what she had wanted for herself: to be free, to be one with the planet. She did not want me to become like them.
It pained her when I whispered to her the visions I saw: the crimson towers, the crystal palaces and golden streets, the great thrones, a place I called “Home” though I had never seen it. Yeshua did the same to her and she cursed every one of those moments–though the Writ say she kept them in her heart.
There are as many stories on how I met my mortal end as there are stars in the sky. Mariam saw a loving opportunity as I lay bleeding, though, and she rushed to my side with the Anqa’s cup, filled with the forgetting elixir that absolves the drinker of both sin and memory, setting them free in the next life.
In letting me perish, she could save me.
I could not bear the thought of starting over, of leaving the space I was in suspended between the planet and the stars. I was in love with my experience: with power and deity and transcendence. I bent my ear to a little whispering, rumbing voice that had been chasing me since my earliest memory, and during the rite, I poured out the elixir and replaced it with the Water of Life–blaming it on Auntie Brhenti.
My struggle was still over, but rather than becoming fully human, I became as my aunties were, and Mariam went into the ground with a broken heart and without drinking of the elixir herself, knowing that the only way I would follow her was if I chose.
Mara had caught my lie. Brhenti doted on me, giving me territory in the southwest: rich farmland, lush forests, and a marvelous view of the sea. Mara grew bitter.
I was afraid of the daughter of earth, and my once respect for her turned to fear, then petulant anger. People still remembered my mother and grandmother, and venerated all three of us for the miracles we brought with us from the Southern lands. I called on the lands of the Near East, using my grandmother’s name to secure gifts from the Anqa and tutelage from the Dark Lady through import of her bravest devotees interested in mysterious new lands.
My kingdom was decidedly of this earth: a decadent place of beautiful gardens and sparkling fountains and magically powered automatons to dazzle and astound centuries before they would be known across the continents. My palace filled with the voices of philosophers and the bubbling of flasks and the ardent proclamations of the poets. I shone my little light, and I drew the world to me in lavish parties buzzing with new wine from my fertile valleys.
But the fullness of my sparkling jewel made me full of myself, and I played poor politics–the grave mistake of a new god. I set my sights on conquest of the land as I had so many hearts, and that’s when the old gods acted rightfully, putting me in my place.
I could have reigned as a divine and long-lived queen if I was but humble. Instead, I retreated north into the cold, under the mantle of Brhenti who made a treaty with Mara that left me a string of ascetic mystics and mystery cults that chase after me to the sneers of the population. In exchange, she presides over her kirks at home not under the veil of “Mariam” but in her own name, unlike the many regional and local goddesses that divided up my kingdom. My lovely city? I have no idea what has become of it or its many collections of precious, magical relics. I don’t… care? Moments pass, and we dance on. Besides, my Gardens are lost, never to be found. No matter what the stories promise about Paradise.
I do still hold the cup–it is my charge now. I will not tell you if it is filled with the elixir, or the Water, or even my own blood. I will not tell you if it will taste bitter to you, or sweet. But I can give the drink that offers salvation, that offers a peace of the soul. I can spare a soul from even a god’s wrath, and I can offer comfort to those dying before their time. I am the flickering flame of the traveler’s candle in the window, I am the hearth fire that protects a family from the winter’s chill. I am the dawn that puts to rest the spirits of the night.
But beware before you ask to drink, because my mercy is for those that have respected their own law, not for those who seek to injustly escape their consequences. To be truly ‘fair” means to turn a deaf ear to the screaming pleas of the traitors to kin and the transgressors of the laws of Nature. Don’t be guiled by the delusioned guilty, for I am not a great goddess of naive righteousness.
I am a fickle little girl with a great golden cup.

First New Year Time Again

First New Year was an interesting one this year.

I had to work on the 31st, so I wasn’t there for trick or treating. Nonetheless we read a board book about the Great Pumpkin and my child left her candy out as a sacrifice to the Pumpkin, who brought her Duplos instead.

Since I didn’t have time to cook this year, on the 31st I laid out a feast of tiny doll food for the ancestors, and yesterday night I did actually have real food to leave out for them. The Hunt got offerings as well.


Sunday night I did the most formal ritual I have done in probably years, certainly since the baby was born. I’m still chewing on the results I got. The most difficult part is that I was told not to do any divination for myself or ask for any to be done for me before Yule.

This is an entirely reasonable request. I have a real problem with using divination as a checking behavior, continuing to ask questions when it’s useless. Hopefully this will help me unlearn that.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo out of habit this year. I’m not going to make any write-ins and I probably won’t make 50k but I’m going to write a bunch and count all the words and just… see how that goes.

Hopefully this will result in more posts here! I wasn’t intending to go radio silent – I have a couple of posts in draft stage, even. Life just got away from me a bit and I haven’t quite got it back yet. Life is good like that.

Notebook of Shadows

Two years ago, I signed up for Jason Miller‘s Strategic Sorcery course. I was looking for ways to take a practice that had become really theoretical and bring it back to, well, reality. While I enjoyed the course, I didn’t give it as much attention as I could have, in many places cherrypicking techniques that seemed immediately relevant and skipping things I thought sounded irrelevant or silly.

Recent discussions in the group for current and former students, however, have got me looking at the course again and a few days ago I sat down and did the initial reading and ritual again. When I finished, I immediately grabbed my planner and wrote down my impressions from the ritual.

In theory, I could write this in a special journal just for the course, or a more traditional book of shadows that’s solely for magical and spiritual topics. In practice, though… I start those and then they do one of two things: either I stop using them after a few pages, or they morph into more general notebooks anyway.

I recently consolidated all of my blogging efforts into this single site. This is a thing I do semi-regularly – I’ll have some idea that sounds like a perfect reason to have a secondary blog, and I’ll start it, and one or the other blog will drop off entirely. I just cannot focus on more than one blog at a time, no matter how good my intentions or my planning system.

The same is true of a planner/journal system. For me personally, if I try to maintain more than one notebook, planner or journal I will inevitably end up putting everything in one book anyway. I couldn’t even maintain a traveler’s notebook setup because my brain froze at having three tiny inserts to choose from! Giving it more than one actual notebook is just a recipe for disaster.

It really just goes back to the need to have everything in one place, doesn’t it?

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My Setup

October 1-15
October 1-15

Everybody loves an excuse to talk about their planner, right? So this is my current baby, a bright orange, dot-grid Leuchtturm1917 in a pocket size. I know people have written tons of analysis about this notebook vs that one, but I chose the Leuchtturm1917 because when I went to Powell’s, that was the brand that had a dot-gridded pocket size notebook in stock.

In the past I’ve been a serious devotee of the graph-paper notebook, going back to my freshman year of college when I started using lab notebooks for everything. I started using it because my handwriting is tiny and gridded lines were thinner than college ruled lines. I quickly became addicted to being able to draw straight lines in both directions and adjust as needed.

I’ve recently been converted to dot-grid because it does all the things I like graph paper to do with some additional benefits. When I’m not writing in a straight line for whatever reason, the dots seem to fade out of my attention span much more easily than a grid does.

One of the best things I took from the Bullet Journal concept was the monthly outline. I hate writing in a traditional, blocky calendar, especially in a format this small. The day-per-line works great for me, though it ends up being split over two pages because the month is long and my pages are short. Below the dates you’ll see a few checkboxes sneaking in for things I have to do regularly during the month.

On the next two page spread, I have my monthly bill pay checklist, sorted by due date, and my to-do list for the month. I know some people are big fans of weekly layouts, but I don’t generally have more than two or three things scheduled for any given day, and my notebook is small enough that a weekly layout would be ridiculously cramped anyway.

Those are the only things I do every month right now. Everything else is a sprawling mass of notes, bullet points, check boxes and one-off collection lists. It’s beautiful and I love it so.

Planner Revamp

31 Days of Planner PeaceAs I mentioned yesterday, I picked up my planner again because things had gotten out of control in my head. I originally put it down because staying home with an infant involved very little forward planning, and it’s hard to write in a notebook with a baby asleep on your chest, so I wound up falling back on systems that were based around my phone. I tried one to-do app and then another, but never loved one. I leaned even more heavily on Evernote than I usually do, and kept all my medical appointments in Google Calendar.

For the most part, when I was doing the minimum, the system worked. If I had found a to-do app that did everything I needed without requiring a paid account, I might have been satisfied. But I didn’t have that GTD-like confidence that everything was safe and written down. Without that, my OCD eventually reared its ugly head again.

I prayed and offered to Mara, asking for inspiration to calm my mind. She pointed out to me what I always do to calm down.

I watch planner videos. Hours of them, letting YouTube recommend me one after another: Filofax, Franklin Covey, Erin Condren, kikki.k, Hobonichi, disc-bound, traveler’s notebook, bullet journal, chronodex. Whether it was a plain and practical bullet journal or a colorful life planner with washi tape and stickers exploding from the pages, it didn’t matter. I watched them all.

Paper planners calm me. The physical act of writing makes me feel better and more in control. I considered going back to the traveler’s notebook or the binder, but then my mind went back to the system I used in college. It was influenced by GTD and the hipster PDA, and the new incarnation borrows from the bullet journal, but it’s technically none of those things. Instead of an A5, I’m using the smaller size because it fits in my pocket. Everything goes in one book. Anything more complicated than that is likely to be too much for the dad of a busy toddler.

GTD as a system hangs on the idea of ubiquitous capture: if you put everything in your Trusted System, you can trust it, because you know it’s all there. The minute you stop putting everything in the system, it stops being a trusted system (at least for me) because I can no longer trust it. If I write everything down, my OCD abates because I know everything is in the notebook. It cuts down on what the brain weasels have to work with.

Planner Peace is having a system I trust, that allows me to reduce the noise of OCD in my head and be happier and more at ease.

Always Starting

31 Days of Planner PeaceHaving succeeded at writing about Mara every day for a month, I was less intimidated when another blogging challenge wandered across my awareness. The simple challenge to pick a topic and write about it for 31 days sounds pretty straightforward, after all.

When I began writing for Mara, one of the reasons I was doing it was because I felt like I had lost my center. I spent several months working with a physical therapist this year on my vertigo, and while the physical problems improved, in other areas my life seemed to be spinning wildly on. After spending months and months focused on my health, letting my schedule be shaped by a half-dozen or more specialists’ hours, I was at a loss.

I was considering going back to work, but had no idea what I wanted to do. I continued picking up small freelance writing jobs, but they never paid much. I had a lot of things I wanted to do, and lots of summer social options on the calendar, and I felt like everything was getting away from me.

Lots of planner fans talk about the idea of Planner Peace. I’ll be chewing over the idea a lot this month, but basically it means the idea that if you can just find the right planner, the right system, everything will work smoothly and perfectly. For me, planner peace is a little different, and goes back to the idea of ubiquitous capture.

One of the reasons that there’s no such thing as a perfect planner is because needs change and life changes, and what makes sense during one phase of life may not be practical for another. Right now, I need a paper planner in my life, so I have added a paper planner to my life. This month I want to explore this idea of “planner peace” and what I actually gain from having paper planner, as well as ways I can use it to make my life more organized, healthier, and more magical.

  1. Always Starting
  2. Planner Revamp


This myth was given to me by my sister Marie.

“Give us the child!” Chenek’s servants had been standing outside of the house all night. Mariam was wringing her hands as she saw to her daughter-in-law and the infant they wanted so badly. She could feel her humanity acutely as their menacing energy outside clashed with the quietly incensed Brhenti’s across the room.

The goddess–her daughter, she reminded herself, though it felt so unreal now–crossed to the door. She seemed to be considering something.

“What are you going do, my Lady?” Surely this wasn’t a betrayal. Brhenti had no love for Chenek, and she wouldn’t break an oath of hospitality.

Brhenti simply drew her sword and threw open the door. They pressed to rush inside, but she threw them all back, pulling it shut behind her and blocking it with a spell. “Enough!”
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On the Hunt

There are many Hunts, and they vary almost as much as do their Riders. Some rode for vengeance and some for justice, some ran from the gates of Hell itself, some rode searching for a Heaven that would never be found on the roads they were on. Some rode the horses they’d ridden in life, or strange, dark beasts that nonetheless acquiesced to be carry them, or themselves took the form of wolves or giant cats or other predators. I was not the first to choose a motorcycle, with a headlamp streaming through the twilight, but the image stuck to me.

When I took point, berserker and valkyrie alike in my wake followed suit. No hounds or howls announced our arrival, only the low thunder of perfectly-tuned engines. We’re still a motley crew, riding everything from crotch rockets to cruisers to naked bikes. More often than not, mine is a 1934 Indian. It doesn’t really matter; they run on whetstone sparks and shining wet teeth and gunpowder and fear, not petrol.

Some years are better than others. Some years the picking is ripe and there’s no second thoughts, no bitter taste in the blood of our prey. Some years are strange and the prey sickly-twisted. Some years virtually all we hunt are humans, and some years almost none.

The Hunt is never clean.

No matter how insubstantial the riders, no matter how little is left behind when the Hunt continues from one target to the next, it’s not a clean job. Viscera sticks more in the darkness of the Mists than it does on the battlefield, and the smell… well, when your targets are already rotten inside, there’s little to be done about the disgustingly sweet scents we tracked, each one a unique blend of dying flowers and burnt sugar and greenish meat.

Some of them were human, some of them monster, but all of them were messy.

I would tell you not to bother running if you’re prey, but it doesn’t matter.

Please, do run.

It’s more fun.

Light and Dark

The light falls across her body in colored shards: red, green, cobalt blue. The Daughter of Light is unmoving aside from the soft twisting of color with each note she calls. She breathes in plain air and sings out promises and stained glass and hope and a spray of blood. Her throat was ragged from the sharp edges of color, and still she sang.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” her auntie Dark asks, concern pulling her lips tight.

“Oh yes, very,” the Daughter of Light responds.

Darkness wraps her arms around the younger spirit and pulls her into a tight hug. The Daughter of Light squirms, trying to escape.

“Why do you do it?” the Dark Lady asks with a sigh.

Light lets out a soft, smiling laughter. “Oh, it’s just exquisite, the pain. It’s lovely. You should do it.”

The Dark Lady, who had held her daughter through more bawling and nightmares than this, shakes her head and only holds tighter.