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.

Walpurgisnacht

I remember being nineteen, standing with my then-best friend in the dark of a glass campus walkway on a new moon night, looking at our reflections and seeing someone else in mine. It was terrifying but also exciting, proof to my mind that this was real and that I wasn’t wasting my time on other realms and the supernatural. I used to do a lot of stupid magical things to get that thrill of realness, to see if I could and to see what would happen.

It’s not that I would recommend that kind of reckless thrillseeking to somebody new to magic; actions have consequences, and yes, some of them I’m still living with. But I used to take risks, all kinds of risks, considered risks and desperate risks and insane risks. I’m not sure when that changed.

I mean, a few years ago I quit my job and my significant other and I sold everything we couldn’t fit in the car and moved to the Pacific Northwest with no plan. It worked out, obviously. But since then, perhaps because of the OCD and the anxiety, I’ve struggled with even reasonable risks.

“What do you want from me?” I ask Hekate.

“Magic,” she says.

And I don’t know how to answer that. You’d think it would be easy, given how much stupid magical shit I’ve done, but somewhere along the way I lost my confidence. Everything I do feels empty, and that emptiness isn’t suited to magic. In the thin dark of Walpurgisnacht I confess my emptiness.

I have made progress. Asking for Mars’s energy has inspired discipline. I’ve meditated, written, made progress on chores. But the emptiness only recedes temporarily, because whatever I am given seems always on the verge of slipping away. When I close my eyes I feel the ragged edges of a hole in my chest. I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s depression or an energy body issue or just my nature. At one point I thought maybe the cancer was a product or a representation, and the double mastectomy would remove it or something, but you can’t remove a hole. You can only patch it or fill it, and if you don’t tend to it, your bucket drains away no matter what you do.

I suppose that leaves two choices. I can find a way to patch the bucket, and look to be refilled, or I can accept that an empty bucket is still full, just of something else entirely.

It hurts to look at myself when I am empty and self-destructive and desperate for that realness, especially since I’m not nineteen anymore and I have people who rely on me. But I’m not doing them a whole lot of good the way I am right now anyway, and I can push myself and work with that emptiness without doing things that only sound like a good idea if you want to be a protagonist in a horror novel.

Sometimes the Dark comes with a warm blanket, and sometimes she comes with stompy boots. I need stompy boots, and strong hands that don’t let me flinch away from the mirror. I hate looking at myself, but I have to see myself. Since last fall, really, I’ve been treading water. I spent March caught in a riptide, and April giving in to drowning grief.

I’m tired. I’m ready to crawl onto the shore and let the seawater drain away and confront the emptiness. To find fullness in the void, if that’s what it takes. If I’m going to be thrown into the fucking abyss, I might as well cross it, right? There’s no point in going back to the other side of the sea. Hekate is known as a guide in dark places. I used to know how to trust the Dark. I don’t know when I forgot that.

Teach me, Lady. Teach me, Lady. Teach me, Lady.

Metaphysical KonMari: Spirits and Powers

When I started this process, I was actually eager to leap ahead to “decluttering the gods,” even before I finished the earlier steps I outlined for myself. I was convinced that giving myself some kind of clean (or almost-clean, anyway) slate was the way to solve my anxiety.

Since then, I’ve come around to the idea that what I really need to tidy up my expectations for myself. Rather than getting hung up on whether I have enough or do enough for any individual god, maybe I should focus my effort on creating a sustainable spriritwork practice that’s not dependant on adding more and more work or complexity to my system.

There’s always going to be another spirit. Since I’ve been diving back into Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery, I’ve recommitted myself to active magical work, and that requires working with a variety of spirits depending on the project and my goals. More than that, months ago I read about the idea of a personal spirit retinue, a kind of divination exercise that allows you to find out the spirits who are already interested in and interacting with you in your life. I haven’t pursued having someone else perform this divination for me, but I have been paying attention as much as I can and asking those interested in me to make themselves known. Being open to a project like this is basically the opposite of reducing the number of spirits and powers in my life.

Rather than fight it, though, I’m looking to switch from individual offerings to more generalized offerings aside from when I’m actively working on things that would result in specific offerings. Taking a bit of inspiration from this post, I’ve been experimenting for a few weeks now with offerings for “those who watch over or take interest in me or my family”. I’ve been asking them to let me know who they are when they want to step up; I’ve had some dreams pushing individuals to the forefront and I’m trying to encourage them to let me know what I should be doing. (I can’t do a practice exactly like the wet egg in the link, if for no other reason than my area has a truly amazing ant problem if I so much as leave a few crumbs out too long.) One dream pushed me to reach out to the spirit I tag 1934 Indian, after the motorcycle I see him on. Another dream reminded me of a spirit who shows as much interest in my attempts at cooking as at sorcery.

There’s still Mara, as ever, and in fact I’ve gotten suggestions to shake up the way I worship her again. There’s Hekate, and Odin and Loki, Persephone and Hades, Ganesha, Guan Yin and Guan Yu, my ancestor work and local land and city spirits and others who simply don’t have names. But the difference is that for once I don’t feel overwhelmed.

To put it in KonMari terminology: they all bring me joy. What didn’t bring joy was my expectations of how “offerings” are supposed to happen, so my attitude is what needs to be fixed up. Now I keep going, and I keep refining, until I find a practice that works in the long haul.

Let Your Breath Out and Wait

the river called me down
I didn’t know her name
just the voice calling
across summer so hot the air
stole back everything I drank
til it hung on me, a heavy
drunk like Josh expecting me
to carry him home Sunday morning
I collapsed under the weight
of the shore

I burned the bridges I stood on
collapsed into her arms
and wept, or drowned,
shrouded in charred skin
mourning as molted feathers drifted
across the surface of the water,
gathering in waterlogged eddies
like rice left along the curb
as the car pulls away

she was so close as I stood on the rocks
just past the riptide, just out of my depth
all froth and lace and brokenshell-sharp teeth
the song pounds through my chest
stone brown as my skin, hot as my blood
under my feet as my heart picks out
the rhythm of the river and I jump

between the beats

too fast and not far enough
I can’t tell if the shock is the water
or the rock or my lights
going out as she pulls me close
whispers the lyrics as I hum
vibrating with melody
coughing, choking, spitting her out
but never straying far from her either
never listening to good sense
when she opens her arms and calls my name

A Card Reading

When you’re used to the DIY philosophy, it can be hard to recognize when you need an expert. I’ve run up against this in my housing lately – there’s a plumbing issue that I have to turn over to my landlord, as much as I hate to do that – but it can also come up metaphysically.

I can count on one hand the number of tarot readings I had done for me before I learned to read them. I started teaching myself spells as soon as I learned spells were a real thing. At that point I didn’t have much income anyway, so I couldn’t have afforded a regular reader or someone to do spells for me. But even when I had a good chunk of disposable income, my instinct was to do it myself. I may take someone up on  an offered reading, but when I have a question I reach for my own cards first.

Sometimes you need that outside perspective, though. In the past, I’ve had very good friends volunteer to read for me when I was particularly stymied on an issue, and recently I was very fortunate to win a reading from Circle Thrice. Ivy’s readings go into tremendous depth, and I had looked at her website and wished I could afford one before her contest.

Because I’ve been frustrated in my search for full-time work, I asked for her input on several avenues I’ve been pursuing and the results were startling. For one thing, she cut through exactly why I’ve been unhappy with freelance writing and essentially gave me permission to stop beating my head against that wall. Considering how popular freelance writing is as a side gig suggestion, I suspect it would have been easy for a reader to want to interpret that as a good option.

In fact, one of the outlets she said was the strongest was one I almost didn’t list at all – I’d nearly given up on finding full-time office work in my field or a tangential area. Amazingly, the week after the reading I had two interview calls for office work. My cause may not be as lost as I thought it was. Ivy’s readings combine divination skills with actual business and project management knowledge, so I found it very practical and her suggestions were very down to earth. Considering how many pagans or magicians sum up their money advice as “do what you love and money will follow” or “don’t worry about money, money is base,” it was a tremendous help to be able to get a reading that combined practical advice with the interpretation of the cards.

So what am I doing? I’ve stopped trying to find freelance writing work for now. I’m refocusing my magical efforts toward office job-type areas, like annointing and sigilizing my resume, breaking out the Jupiterian and Mercurian energy to help me sound confident, and so on. Changing directions is hard. Pushing myself is necessary. It’s not the only angle I’m pursuing, but it needs to get a lot more attention than it has been.

I’m used to turning things over to the gods. “Mara, find me the best solurion for me” requires only that I be looking. It doesn’t mean I have to choose. But it’s still easy to make choices when I’m not paying attention, favoring one outcome over another. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I’m not having luck with the outcome I’m leaning on, it can lead to frustration.

There isn’t a perfect answer. Perhaps if there were only one right answer, divination would be able to point me toward it, but my life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes I wish it did – that I only needed to figure out the Answer and the road would become easy. But I like having choices when I feel like I have them, and so that means accepting that I have choices when I feel like I don’t have them, too. That’s another thing I appreciated about the reading; there was no right answer but there were options that had more favorable outcomes and options that were harder.

When I was a kid I loved the parts of scouting about learning how to survive in the wilderness. It’s important, when you’re navigating without a trail, to regularly stop and check your map. It’s easy to get off into the wrong direction. Even if there’s more than one way to get where you’re going, it isn’t every road that leads there.

So I’ve checked my map, and I’ve reoriented myself. And now off I go again.

Failure, Perfectionism and Keeping Going

The other day I decided I was going to set myself a challenge. I felt overwhelmed by my stack of books waiting to be read, and so I decided it would be a reasonable challenge to go three months without buying or acquiring any new books, instead reading the books I already own. I got some of my friends interested and even made plans to review the books on Goodreads for accountability. I’ve failed at this before, but this time! This time I was going to do it!

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Early the next morning I got an email notification that a book was on sale in the Kindle store that day and I scooped it up without even thinking about it. An understandable weakness, especially before I’d had an caffeine, but my first reaction was not to laugh at myself for the lapse. Instead I jumped straight to beating myself up for failing so quickly and thoughtlessly.

Of course, that does no good either. My spouse was quick to point out that I should see this as an exercise in mindfulness, ensuring “that you don’t feel like you’ve destroyed the world by accidentally buying a book.” I screwed up and it’s okay, and I need to remind myself of that more often.

I certainly could take this as an excuse to give up, pretend I was never serious about doing the thing, erase it from my mind. Or I could tell my brain weasels to fuck off and keep going.

As I was thinking through this, a post popped up on my Facebook feed about using planetary energy of Mars. Mars, it turns out, has just turned retrograde. (Traditionally this is a bad time for starting new things, so perhaps I can blame Mars for my failure at book-restraint.) Mars as a power gets a bad rap because we are often opposed to the kind of war Ares represented to the ancient Greeks, but I was reminded that Mars can be a power of the discipline needed to enact change, as well.

I certainly could use more discipline, but more than that, I need change. I’ve tended to be scared of asking for help with change, because I need my family to be stable, but I’m reaching the point where I have to wonder how much of that fear is actually reasonable and how much is pointing to something so I don’t have to admit that I’m shying away from actual change. After all, it’s certainly convenient to not want to change to protect my family…

Living with OCD means constantly picking apart which of my anxieties are reasonable and which aren’t, or doing the calculus of degrees of reasonableness. It’s important to prioritize my family’s stability, but it’s not reasonable to fear all change, and trying to hold myself in place while simultaneously trying to improve is just shooting myself in the foot, magically. I need to change that mindset.

Another post reminded me of Guan Yu and the different energy of a martial Wealth power as opposed to the sovereign wealth or fertile wealth I usually turn to, so I end up with something like:

Power of Mars, right now we are in sympathy
nearly at a standstill, looking backwards
in this retrograde I need to break down unhelpful patterns
lend me discipline, lend me mindfulness
remind me how it feels to be in control of myself
that by the time you once again turn your face forward
I will be ready to turn with you
on a rightful path to do my duty to my family and my gods
and unafraid to succeed as I walk forward.

Mars leaves retrograde on June 29 – ironically, I seem to have unknowingly created this challenge to last almost exactly the length of the retrograde. I’m taking that as a sign that I am on the right path, or at least a right path.

Sweeping the Sun In, Slowly

I spent a good chunk of this weekend cleaning.

Like many other things that are good for me, I’m much, much happier when I’m keeping up with the housecleaning, but it’s very hard to do when I’m in anxious or depressed. On the other hand, cleaning is one of the very few things I can use as a redirection when my OCD is getting the best of me, so it’s often the easiest outlet even if it’s a little… earth scortchy.
(When I’m cleaning in OCD mode, whatever I can’t deal with tends to just go in the trash. It’s not the greatest for the environment or whatever but it lets me get on with things so it’s a compromise I live with.)
Creatively, I feel as if I don’t even know how to write. I managed a short reflection about my grandmother’s death and… that’s it. I’m still not sure how I’m allowed to feel about her death. It’s as if I’m not entitled to my feelings, because I’m so cut off from my family. I know that’s not how feelings work, and yet I circle around it.
My grandmother prepared cards for upcoming birthdays ahead of her death. I didn’t know this until I opened the mailbox the other day and there was an envelope for my daughter’s birthday, addressed in her small, neat handwriting. (Maybe that’s where I get my tendency to write so small.) I won’t lie, I sobbed there in front of the mailbox. I put the card in my bag without opening it. That’s the kind of woman my grandmother was – she was dying, and she was making sure her grandkids and great grandkids would have birthday cards. Considering nobody else in my family sent my daughter a birthday card except my parents, knowing that’s the last one is hard.
I feel better, though, for cleaning. Hekate was right to push me, The energy’s been stagnant in the house for a while – I was very busy with work during all three new years this year, and I feel like I never got a proper start. But it’s getting warm outside, and that sunlight burns away a lot of things.
I’ve been scared to move forward, but I need a change. Pretty much everyone is agreed about this, from my spouse to my deities down to a recent tarot reading I got which I’ll be talking about soon. I don’t know how to move forward, but I have to pick something before I go crazy.

Going West

My grandmother passed away earlier this week.

When we were first discussing the visit to see her, we had planned to wait until April, when things were a little simpler. Going in March was a lot more effort in terms of logistics and also somewhat more expensive, but once I had the thought that I should go in March, I couldn’t shake it. I’m not psychic, but I think every life has a few moments like that in it.

Now I light candles for her, and I watch and re-watch the videos I took when we were there. It’s not much, but my child will know she met her great grandmother. I took the little cat figures she gave me away from the shelf they were on, and put them up with my other grandparents’ funeral cards, with my other grandmother’s buttons and my grandfather’s army knife.

While I was definitely pagan when my mom’s parents passed (fifteen or so years ago now) I didn’t have any kind of ancestor practice at the time. I had a basic one when my cousin Rachel passed a few years ago, but her death was difficult for me to process in ways that made it difficult to reach out to her as an ancestor. This is the first time I’ve had to navigate the idea of it while actively mourning.

I kept wanting to think about the mechanics of it during March, and then pushing it aside. I’m a planner, so it’s normal for me to go ‘okay, if X then Y’ but this felt morbid. And then the time finally came and I was too numb to do anything but the most basic things.

It’ll be some time anyway, before I’m ready for an ancestor relationship. Right now it’s just about honoring her life and what she taught me. I expect there’s a period of transition? I’m honestly not sure of the mechanics. Time is meaningless, so maybe it doesn’t matter, but I feel like it does. Anybody have any suggestions based on experience?

In the meantime, I’ll talk to Hekate and Persephone, and keep myself busy, and work on… well, I have quite a few things to work on. I’m still numb sometimes, and sad sometimes. It’s getting better, I think, and I know it’s normal. I’ll get there.

If you’re going through hell, keep going. So here I go.