Scrupulosity + Distance

Red Lady - red silhouette against a brown backgroundTwo weeks ago, a spirit came to me and said she wanted my attention. She’s poked here and there at recognizable names, but for the moment the best is Redbird, a spirit from the Empty Sky side whom I haven’t had much experience with before. Redbird is one of the four “children” of the Dragon and the Firebird.

In the oracle deck, Redbird is associated with knowledge and with small beginnings that turn out to be big outcomes. She’s a raw enough power that she doesn’t have a simple element or portfolio – there’s fire, there’s magic, there’s sex and death and creation. She’s the most like her mother out of the four children, but she has her differences. She and her siblings don’t ride often or for very long.

So far she’s largely instructing me in how to do certain kinds of magic more efficiently. In exchange, she gets to direct the magical effects of my practice work, so it’s basically been split 50/50 between work for me and work for her.

One of the things I’m stressed about is how many obligations I have going on at the moment, though. When she came in and asked for my time, I told her that I could give her a few weeks but I need to focus on finding a job before I can give much attention to anything else. The job hunt is playing havoc with my anxiety, enough that I’m thinking about asking my doctor for medication or a referral.

Adding another long-term esoteric practice sounds exhausting, but I also need to accept the help I’m offered.

“I’ll give you a month,” I told her. “Help me find a job by the end of it and we can talk.” This is a lot like what I said to Juno, several months ago, and that resulted in me getting very close to a job but losing out at the last moment. I’m hoping she comes though; I’ll be happy to give her more time if she can.

Things are going reasonably well with the Dark Lady, as far as I can tell.

But Mara… Mara feels different. I continue to offer to Mara but I’m feeling at a loss. It’s hard to know what’s going on there, and divination has largely turned up ‘it’ll work out’ messages from her, but I’m literally incapable of not worrying. Part of me is worried she’s unhappy about something – that maybe she didn’t like Merciful Earth, or she didn’t like how long it took to produce. That I made some mistake when I got her her own altar, or when I expanded her space, or when I konmari-ed the space. That I’m not making enough room in my budget for charity. That I’m not spending enough focus on her in her season.

It’s almost certainly religious scrupulosity talking, I know that, but knowing it has no effect. Summer is her season. If I’d gotten my shit together last fall and done my six months with the Dark Lady starting with Samhain, I’d be on the correct schedule… but I didn’t, and it’s not like I can go back in time and feel bad when I could have done something about it.

I can try and make enough time for Mara too, and I do, but I just end up worrying whether it’s enough, which is not a problem I’ve had before. Usually my religiously scrupulous tendencies manifest differently. But I know distance is sometimes normal in relationships with powers, and I’m trying not to read more into it than is justified.

It’s a struggle with myself, and ultimately I’m answerable to myself as well as the spirits. I keep going as best I can. I do what I can, I offer what I can, and then I move on.

I can only hppe it’s enough.

Spirals

down sie went into the mountains, into the earth
deeper than sie could ever remember going
down this far, hir head hurt and sie lost track
of where sie began and ended
there was so much sie had not remembered
and hir Mother would only say that sie
had already chosen not to know

deep in the earth are the labyrinths
past the grass snakes and the turnips
past the springy loam and the roots
past the groundwater and the worms

you are here again, the labyrinth said

again?

you may walk. the price does not change, wyrm.

unsure what that meant, yet
unwilling to wait and miss hir stop
sie went down, down and curled up
shed hir skin and diminished

Politics? In my religion?

Today at the Unitarian Universalist service, there was a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. Growing up I was vaguely aware that this kind of patriotic thing was done in some churches, but we were Catholic so it never came up, disloyal Papists that we were.

The UUs make no attempt to hide that they are very political. My church is small and more conservative than a lot of my friends, but my friends are super liberal, and the UU folks are trying very hard. UUs march at Pride and take positions on human rights laws and talk about why Black Lives Matter. We’re not perfect about it but this work is a huge part of what it means to be a UU community.

Even when I was Catholic, I grew up with the understanding that religion and politics were intertwined. I grew up in a state and at a time where it was not uncommon for Democrats to be pro-life, and while I never got more conservative than “I wouldn’t choose it but other people should be able to” I knew very clearly how my church expected me to fall. In high school I learned about liberation theology and I think on some level I never forgave the church for failing to live up to it.

Part of the appeal of paganism for me at that time, as a queer teen, was the liberalness of it. I had as much experience with angels as I did with gods and powers, but paganism seemed to be a place that I would be a person, while I was increasingly aware I would always be a person-shaped pile of sin that needed correction in a Catholic church. The need to correct me is what I’d always heard, and what I continued to hear, from society at large. My church, my school, the voices on the television and in the newspaper and just talking around me, they were always letting me know the myriad ways in which my existence was a glitch in an otherwise smooth-running society.exe.

Paganism, at least at first, felt different. Since then I’ve learned that pagans are no better and no worse as a whole than any other group. I’ve learned to accept that I am a glitch, a monster, a danger lurking in dark corners. I do not want my code to be cleaned up by respectability politics, but there they are again. Politics. My existence is inherently political; it must be, because laws are crafted against those like me. I believe in a cosmology that allows for and can even celebrate monsters and glitches, and defends their right to exist, so my religion is inherently political as well.

I exist, and in a country where that is a political statement, a religion that would allow me to exist is political. Demanding life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness is political.

Happy 4th, to those who celebrate.

On Shapeshifting

I was born with misplaced cells in my brain, trying to make it do something it was never meant to do.

This isn’t a metaphor. This was an epidermoid brain tumor.

Pagans talk a lot about being embodied, accepting and learning to love the body we have. Strange fences spring up when we talk about changing our bodies. “Taking care of” our bodies is a good thing. Exercising to change your appearance is acceptable, even encouraged. Tattoos and hair dye are common.

But surgery? Surgery is Too Much. There’s a point where you’re somehow rejecting the body you were “given”. If you’re talking to a certain contingent of the Goddess movement, or some conservative heathens, or other pockets here and there, changing your gender is somewhere on a spectrum between “lying” (to yourself, to other people) and self-mutilation. You’re supposed to love the body you were given.

My body is monstrous: it is incorrect, it is socially unacceptable, it has tried to kill me in multiple ways, with dysphoria and brain tumor and cancer cells. How do you love that which both keeps you alive and tries to kill you?

Embodiment is a crock, but it’s a crock we’re stuck with. I can’t just flip a switch and get along with my body, so I (and my doctors) do what can be done to make my body more comfortable and less murderous. Breasts are removed, taking cancer cells with them. A tumor is gently excised, the scar behind my ear largely forgotten except for biannual checks. Hormones are injected and dysphoria is reduced. A hundred smaller choices add up.

This is shapeshifting. My body and I are still monstrous, but at least we are monstrous on our own terms. I am doing my best to get my “mental self” aligned with my physical self. In the past, that included astral shapeshifting to reduce dysphoria, practicing having a “feminine” shape so that I would feel less uncomfortable in the physical body. These days the shapeshifting is much more bringing the body into alignment with my mental self. It’s more permanent that way.

It’s hard, but in the long run I’m learning an important lesson about embodiment: accept that the body you’re in is yours in the way you’d accept that an apartment you’re living in is yours. Change it so that it works for your life. Don’t have a dining room if you don’t have fancy dinner parties. Add a workshop for your woodworking projects. Embracing embodiment doesn’t mean settling. It means making what you have healthy for you.

The Banquet

she knows what it means
to drag a body up
from the ground, from nothing
taking sharp steps on the way
care, love, giving, all knives beneath
calloused feet and dirt-brown footprints

the black crepe is hung up in the corner
out of the way of smiling life
but always in the corner of your eye
she has waited, frozen and unsure
she has torn lovers apart
in her despair, and mourned

she has made a feast of loneliness
so none will go hungry
there is always another to your right
and another to your left
no matter the laughter in the conversation,
we all know what we’re drinking

salt and copper and spoiled milk
sitting in our mouths
we look straight ahead
stumbling forward, and she will catch us
as we fall and she will free us
from the dirt and she will embrace us
as we are burnt and we will go on walking

Ask Again Later

My sister did a card reading for me the other night, and the takeaway was “don’t worry, keep going.” She kept apologizing and pulling more cards, and the answer kept staying frustratingly the same, because there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell cards “I get that but be more helpful, please.”

I realize I’m the one who picked the theme for the year but somehow I didn’t expect it to be applied to my life for me. I’d say “lesson learned” but… well, ha, probably not.

I have discovered a new kind of stabbing things that I’m enjoying: needle felting! To the left is my new representation of mom!Loki. I’m really pleased with the fire hair. She’s my third project and the first time I’ve experimented with highly technical and complicated design techniques like arms. I can’t tell you the last time I thought so much about how arms work, you guys. And hands!

Needle felt sculpture feels very intuitive to me. It’s easy to pick up and put down, which is a bonus around a toddler. Unlike beading, I don’t need to have a lot of small, easily-lost things out, which is also a bonus around a toddler.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly fleshing out a more complicated but still meaningful daily magical routine. “Just light a candle” is ths survival mode I fall back on when I can’t do anything else, and I’d been in survival mode for too long. I’m adding complexity one thing at a time, trying things on – more daily practices and even a new moon ritual. I figure I can do anything for a little while and see how it goes.

For a while I was doing regular breath meditation after I asked for discipline, but I was struggling a lot with my old friend Falling Asleep Sitting Up, so I switched styles to something a bit more active. It’s working much better. Changing is not quitting.

I’m not sure what’s next. I’ve got some more complicated needle felt ideas I want to work on. Maybe I’ll make figures for some of the spirits I work with that are largely unknown, just to see how challenging it is to get a feel for what they look like.

Playing With Sharp Things

The problem with trying to gather up everything of a particular category in one place is that one has to remember where all of the things from that category are. If I’ve forgotten where something is, or even that I owned it, you’d think it’d be easy to cast aside but my memory is terrible and I’ve had things disappear during terrible moves before, so when something seems to be nowhere to be found, well, either it’ll turn up or it won’t, so I move on and put the thought aside.

In this case, it was an array of pieces from Odin’s altar, from the last time Odin had a proper altar. Spearhead, knife, other knife, small sword-shaped letter opener, a necklace I used to wear for Loki and a few other bits and bobs. I come by my obsession with sharp things honestly.

I don’t quiiiiiite have room in my Magical Knives Drawer for more knives, but we all know I’m going to find space for them.

Have I talked about my Ridiculous Knife Collection? Because it’s ridiculous. I have your normal assortment of metal ritual blades and bowie knives and daggers and pocket knives I’ve pressed into service when I somehow managed not to have a fancy knife to hand. I also have knives made of wood, bone, and glass. You know, because you never know exactly how you might want to tweak your elemental associations. (If I wanted to, I could set up an altar where every element was represented by a knife. That generates some interesting energy of its own, as you can probably imagine.)

I actually did take out and consider all of these when I was doing the original KonMari (except, of course, for the ones I just found). The thing is? I really do love them all. They each have different energies, associations and uses. As ridiculous as it might be to have a Magical Knife Drawer full of magical knives, hey, I’ve done much more ridiculous things. If I’m embracing what makes me happy and has worked for me for a long time, well, stabby things are definitely on that list.

The Boring Stuff

I found my fucking bone runes.

Also my two missing tarot decks, and all of the hematite and copper jewelry I used to wear for private, formal ritual, and a few other things besides.

I found them in a storage box that I thought held something else entirely. In other words, it was pure chance I found them now and not three months ago or three years from now. And yet I found them at the perfect time, immediately after I’d designated a storage container for divination tools and other special pieces.

It’s hard to know, sometimes, whether you’re on the right track or the wrong one. Everything can look like it was meant to happen if you trace the path far enough. Everything is fated, if fate is the sum total of everything we’ve already done and the choices we’ve made.

So, I found the damn bone runes. I finally have all my divination and close practice stuff together in one bag, for the first time since before the baby was born. The KonMari practice itself is… well, done, in one sense. A bit on-hold in a way. Ongoing, in another.

Lots of ongoing in my life right now. I’m trying to juggle current responsibilities and enchanting for some new options as well as doing the practical steps necessary for those new options to work out. I need to get the garden box planted this week. I’m working on a post about magical notebooking.

Gotta remember that slow and steady will get me closer than sitting still. I’ve had decent success with my discipline, though I could always be better.

I don’t have enough of a point to this post, but it’s been open for two days now, so I’m just going to call it.

Beltane, Belatedly

In my post about Walpurgisnacht, I talked about accepting my emptiness. I have been mulling the idea of seeing myself as full of something, even if that something is nothingness. I have identified myself with shadows and voids before in my life, and as goth as it sounds, that association is still a comfortable one for me.

The day after, my family got up and went to church at the UU, where a friend from local druid and pagan groups was in charge of a service celebrating Beltane and discussing the important of embodiment. Despite years of dance and martial arts classes, I’ve never quite felt at home in my body. Dissociation and body dysphoria are both recurring issues, and while I’ve made progress with everything from shape-shifting meditation to strength training to hormone therapy and surgery, there are still plenty of bad days to go around.

Embodiment is shadow work for me. I can sit with my darkness far more easily than I can sit still in my skin. Jung talks about being stuck in a stage of melancholia when the shadow is brought forth to engage with the ego, and compares this to the alchemical stage of nigredo or tenebrositas. I wonder if the process of transitioning is bound up in this psychological process?

I’ve certainly felt rather stuck in a year-long dark night of the soul. I get the feeling that internal work overlaps with what Hekate wants to see from me. After all, Jung also talked about the nekiya and katabasis, descents into the underworld, and while he meant it metaphorically, Hekate did nudge me toward Persephone and thence Hades.

I’m still a little boggled by the whole Greek… thing? I guess? One Greek deity was one thing, but I’m getting dangerously close to this being a whole thing and I’m trying to make it clear that I’m not interested in doing a recon route and am not comfortable touching the idea of miasma with a twenty foot pole due to my OCD issues. Hopefully that’s acceptable; if it’s not, I’m willing to opt out, because I don’t want to play chicken with scrupulosity.

And while it feels a bit odd to be doing shadow work as the summer comes on, well, the brightest light casts the darkest shadows, and my shadow work is a bit inside-out anyway.

Silence

Sometimes things are hard to talk about. That may mean they’re things that need to percolate, or things that are hard to explain, or that may mean they’re things we’re hiding. I’m honestly not sure which phase I’m in right now. Working with Hekate is very difficult for me, but that’s more to do with my hang-ups and less with the work itself.

She wants me to keep up with the housekeeping. It’s an uphill battle. I’m making slow progress… I think. It’s hard to be sure in my head.

She wants me to do more magic, and do it less half-heartedly. I’m good at sabotaging myself, despite knowing I’m doing it, and I remain bad at moving my set point. Working at a book store with borrowing privileges for staff means I went right back to my old habit of Reading All The Things, especially when I should be Doing Some Of The Things.

I’m trying different avenues of job hunt magic. I’ve been having… reasonable success with regular meditation, though not as regular as I would like. I’ve been adjusting altars and trying to bring better energy in.

So far the magical notetaking is at least helping. I’ve got a little over six months of trying different things in my notebook. It’s probably about time for an initial post on the subject, even though I’m still tweaking it all the time. If I’ve learned anything from following a bunch of planner/notebook people on YouTube, it’s that you never stop tweaking.

That’s pretty true of my practice as well. Never stop adjusting it, always keep moving forward.