King of Coins – Week 8: Are. You. Receiving?

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions: This week’s prompt is about asking someone for help. Most of us hate that shit with a hating that fires a thousand suns. Asking for help feels almost like admitting defeat. And by defeat, I mean admitting that you’re not invincible. Well. You’re not. Sorry.

Tarot Card: Six of Earth

This project is tied to the suit of earth. And this prompt, combined with… some stuff that’s going on right now… definitely has me thinking about debts vs redistribution and other related Very Loaded Topics.

Dark Days Tarot Deck, Six of Earth: A square card with the words "Six of 6 pentacles - dark days" written in white script along the bottom edge. The rest of the card presents this image: People in long, flowing robes prepare a table, laying it was pentacle-plates. There is a wood stove in the back corner, and grasses growing from the bottom of the card. At the back of the frame, birds can be seen through a large window. Seven small moon phases make an arc over the scene. The whole image is done in black and white and grey.

I had a visit to my Luxury Astra Sea Cave and talked to my Godself about… steps that need to happen and things that need to be in place before I can Do A Thing that would make my wife a lot happier in a way that can make me a lot happier, too.

And things started happening.

And, like the weirdo (this is not actually that weird, but you’d think I’d be less freaky-deaky about it by now) that I am, I’m digging my heals in, hesitating like heck, and basically going “Wait, wait, wait… is this really a good idea??”

And… it’s not NOT a good idea. It’s what I said I wanted.

(And, yeah, it’s not the only thing I want. Maybe I need to fine tune things or something).

But being offered TWO ways to achieve Goal #1 of this project MUCH faster… on the same day??

When my Girls move, they move.

O.O

But it does mean that I’m kind of hung up on thoughts of “owing” and “being beholden”. Somebody offered to help me. Somebody offered to help me. I didn’t even have to ask.

And I’m super uncomfortable with the thought of saying Yes – because I don’t want the potential scrutiny that I might be signing up for by doing so- AND kind of kicking myself for wanting to say No? Like… “uncomfortable” is still not “pissing hundreds of dollars into the debt hole every month for another year”.

The six of pentacles is basically about wealth disparities. In some cases, the focus is on sharing, “each according to ability and need”. For example, the Next World Tarot calls this card “Redistribution”. In other cases, not so much. In the Wildwood deck the 6 of Stones is “Exploitation”. The Osho Zen deck interprets this card as “compromise” and it’s about meeting everyone’s needs even if nobody gets everything they want. But mostly they seem to lean towards mutual aid. The Simple Tarot literally calls it “Giving and Receiving Financial Prosperity” and codes it as generosity.

Miriam Innis has a whole post on the Six of Coins about “unlocking what we deserve” and the role of the receiver (and her perspective, in some ways, is very different from mine, but I guess that’s why Goals #2 and #3 for this project are what they are).

Basically, I’ve spent most of the past week whinging and Having A Lot Of Feelings about accepting financial help – and, don’t get me wrong, it would HELP – from someone whose love-language is gifts, but whose gifts can come with strings or other uncomfortable things.

But boundaries are a thing, and a thing that I’ve been practicing, so…

So. I guess this is my call to be less of a prideful bitch, and say yes to the help that’s been offered?

<*squirms*>

Okay.

I did the thing.

We’ll see if the offer’s still open, but I did the thing.

Will be following up on the job – because the other Thing That Happened was I got a job interview – in a few days, if I haven’t heard from them yet. Hopefully I get it, and can continue, full steam ahead, to get Goal #1 locked down.

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

Full Moon – Flower Moon Crests (Eclipse in Scorpio) PLUS Seeking The Mysteries Chapter 4: Life, Death, and the Human Body

A close-up of five Pinkish white apple blossoms on their tree: Three open, two yet to bloom.

When I die come and bury me

Under the roots of an apple tree

Let the seasons roll for a year or three

Then eat of the apples that once were me

~ A. L. Armstrong

Maybe it’s not surprising that I finally got around to doing the most intense of the Activities for Chapter Four of Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies during a lunar eclipse in Scorpio.

Flower moon has been beautiful, and living up to its name to such a degree that I’m afraid all the apple, cherry, serviceberry, and pear blossoms will have passed before my girlfriend arrives next week. My garden in thriving – and, thanks to a couple of friends being willing to chauffeur me around – received both an influx of compost and a variety of new plant starts and seeds a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to the lovely, heavy, steady rains we’ve had for the past few days, I’ve got seeds germinating and poking their heads out of the soil – fava beans, allysum and creeping soapwort, borage, nasturtiums, anise, dill, and cilantro, for a start – and the raspberry canes a neighbour offered to anyone who wanted to come and dig some up appear to be Actually Taking Root and transplanting effectively.

I’ve made rhubarb curd (for Beltane – using store-bought rhubarb because mine was just barely poking through the soil) and, from there, rhubarb frozen yoghurt (which is amazing – highly recommended). I’ve harvested lovage, goutweed, and chives from my garden and picked several bouquets of garlic mustard from along Pinecrest creek to use in meals and in making hazelnut pesto. It’s been wonderful to have the windows open, to listen to the rain, to sit in the hot, hot sunshine and feel my bones thaw out.

Which is as apt a segue as anything.

Chapter Four offers a very brief overview of sacred sexuality / erotic theology, pagan perspectives on gender[1], the nature of the soul, and ancestor veneration.

It feels appropriate to be covering this during Beltane season, a period where the erotic – in the Lordean sense[2], of fully experiential, active connection, as the opposite of numbness, as the freedom found in, and built of, embodied joy – is invited, invoked, and palpable as life wakes up in late spring and the early summer heat makes it so much easier to breathe, rest, slow down, and feel like thriving is actually possible.

It feels appropriate, too, to be covering this during a lunar eclipse in Scorpio – all that shadow stuff, death stuff, hidden stuff, avoided stuff getting dredged up to the surface and asking to be acknowledged.

The activities included:

  • Asking how we can honour our bodies, and reframing taking care of ourselves as “giving our bodies gifts” (like opportunities to dance or soak in a tub)
  • Getting in touch with your ancestors and older relatives and/or deepening the connections you already have with them
  • Making a will, living will, or other “end of life” document

Whoooooooooooooooo. No pressure.

Since, for the moment, I have some extra time on my hands, I’ve been taking care of my garden, taking long, ambling walks, and soaking up the heat. Which feels like honouring my body – or at least my embodiedness? – to some degree.

I’m not sure that doing (proto) push-ups every night, plus small sets of weight lifting, as a way to honour the Amazons counts as “honouring my body” but it is exciting to see my arms getting a little bit stronger.

Also related to Chapter Three’s “add more devotions to your practice” activity, and in part because my wife gets twitchy around lit candles, but I want to make some kind of a weekly offering, I’ve started making a tiny cup of coffee and a tiny cup of orange pekoe tea for my ancestors, in particular, every week. I use little hand-painted demi-tasse cups that came through my Dad’s Mom for them.

And, today, I made a living will and a “last” (probably not actually last) will & testament.

At it’s most basic (and I was using the free templates available at CanadaWills, and own no property, so it was very basic) it’s a quick run-down of who has decision-making power if you’re hospitalized and can’t make decisions about your care at that time, and what you want to happen to your body and your stuff (“stuff” being a separate document that you date earlier than the will itself), and who gets to handle making sure that happens, after you die.

It was not comfortable deciding how much medical intervention I actually want in the event of me being in a Really Bad Way.

I don’t want to die.

But I don’t exactly want to linger, trapped in a shell, either, you know?

I didn’t enjoy having to think about it.

It was kind of a relief to be able to list both of my partners though.

But. I’ve done it now.

If, and as, I want to go back and make changes – if one of my (currently all under age 10) nibblings comes out as a leather dyke, thus determining who gets the Inherited Leather in the next generation, for example, or if I suddenly decide that I don’t want to donate any organs, or that I *do* want Heroic Measures done to save my life – I can do that.

But, for the moment, it’s done – pending (and this is important) my signature and that of two witnesses. Important.

But it’s done.

So that was Chapter Four. “Chapter Five: Ethics and Justice” is up next.

~*~

A woman with long brown hair, wearing a broad-brimmed black sun hat, sunglasses, black sandals, and a short black dress with long bell sleeves, sits on a red blanket in a park. There is a purple-covered book on the blanket and there are trees and a bright sunburst in the Background. The words "XIX" and "The Sun" are hand-lettered overlaying the image.
The Slutist Tarot: The Sun

The tarot card I “pulled” (at https://randomtarotcard.com/) was The Sun.

Which is a relief.

I’m one of those people who, when I shuffle the deck for a general check-in, gets the “Wow, girl, you’re really in a situation right now. You okay?” instead of any actual advice. (TBH, I’ve started just putting the cards away when they do this, because if I’m not in a state to read anything useful out of them, I probably shouldn’t be exacerbating what my Jerk Brain is telling me).

But: The Sun!

Which: The actual sun did just come out from behind the clouds, so: Literal Meaning Confirmed.

Tarot meaning / things to keep in mind: Enjoy the day. Do something pleasurable. Soak up some Vitamin D. Use your magic (that erotic as power again) to make your dreams and goals reality. Enjoy being who you fully are.

~*~

Movement: Proto-push-ups every night. Some weights (not every night, but most nights). Long walks around the neighbourhood, or by the river or the nearby creek.

Attention: Watching my health. Watching my email (waiting on the results of a recent job interview – fingers crossed). Watching the weather. Paying tonnes of attention to my garden and to what’s blooming around the neighbourhood (there is a serviceberry in the nearby park! Woohoo!)

Gratitude: Thankful for the hot weather. Thankful for the rain. Thankful for getting to eat lunch with my wife yesterday. Thankful my girlfriend will be visiting soon. Thankful for coffee with a friend yesterday. Thankful for evening walks with my wife. Thankful for family dinners. Thankful for friends who jump at the chance to visit a garden centre. Thankful for rhubarb. Thankful for plants waking up again. Thankful for so many beautiful flowers. Thankful for sandal weather. Thankful for rainbow umbrellas. Thankful for laundry machines that we own. Thankful for my 2gl watering can. Thankful for home made ice cream. Thankful for warm blankets, coffee on the couch, waking up with the women I love.

Inspiration: Squash. Garlic Mustard. Polyamoury. Moon Phases. Rhubarb. Lesbian Stereotypes.

Creation: I’ve been writing poetry again. Hurrah! Years ago, I wanted to write a full-length manuscript looking at polyamoury and queer chosen family through the metaphor of local plants, gardening, and seasonal food. Having been talking up squash on twitter recently, I ended up with a couple of poetry prompts that, while very different, could fit into that theme with some wiggling. So I’m revisiting the idea and trying to write a microchap or two playing with those themes.

~*~

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

[1] Including touching on a certain theological foremother persistently making an ass of herself. For the record: We don’t get to have “She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes” as a major tenant of faith and then turn around and go “Except you. You have to stay in a box someone else put you in.” That’s not just being a jerk, it’s blasphemy. Let’s not.

[2] “those physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us…the passions of love, in its deepest meanings…the self-connection shared…the measure of joy” (from Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic As Power” in Sister Outsider).

Magical House Keeping as Beltane Approaches

A pile of colourful pieces of chalk surrounded by a yellow chalk outline, on dark asphalt. Photo by Yunsik Noh via Unsplash

So I got back from visiting my girlfriend just a few days before the full moon in Scorpio. Beltane’s this coming weekend. It’s – yet again – That Time of Year.

I mean, “that time of year” happens multiple times, so do as you Will, but:

I spent this morning doing Actual Laundry (towels and other non-sheet household linens) + putting clean clothes away, an energetic sweep of my house (dragon’s blood incense), and some sigil magic. Plus a light-weight offering of boiled water (per long-ago request) and a cup of orange pekoe tea[1]. My windows are open to change out the air – and because I’ve got a friend coming over – and it feels pretty good in my house right now.

The plan is to do a Magical Scrubbing Bubbles later this afternoon, as well as to hit the grocery store for a few odds and sods. One of my wife’s partners may or may not be coming over for dinner, so it’ll be a full and pleasantly social day.

Anyway. The whole point of posting about this is to make a bit of a note about charging things magically.

Basically… charging something (if you use the “sustain” rather than “destroy” method of charging a thing) is telling it how you’re going to feed it going forward. So if you’re putting a sigil on your laptop to help you hit your writing and editing deadlines, you might want to charge it off your laptop’s motor. Or your car’s engine, if you’re doing a safety-while-driving ward. If you want to draw things into yourself, use your own spit (provided it’s charm that’s safe to lick – don’t do this with anything made of malachite, for example) both because it’s YOURS and because it comes from an orifice that is specifically designed to bring things into your body for the purpose of sustenance and growth.

I use my own breath a lot. Partly because it’s effective – words are how I’ve done magic since before I really knew how to do magic – and partly because a fair chunk of the magic I do is about either communication (job stuff where I do social media, creative writing with an eye to getting a publisher, etc) OR it’s about some variation on the theme of Boundaries, and the suit of air covers both so charging with breath is… “thematically consistent” with my intentions.

Anyway. I’m off to get the rest of my day finished.

TTFN,

Ms Syren.

[1] Because most of my ancestors like it – though not all, as was made clear today. I’m now on the hook for a very sweet vidal/muscat if I can’t find plum wine which… not likely. It’s never been A Thing up hear. So vidal/muscat should do the trick. Still not sure what my paternal grandmother wanted. She might like the chocolate hazelnut tea, or something a little fancier maybe? But she might also want coffee? Unsure…

Seeking the Mysteries: Chapter 3 Activities – Part Three (Other People’s Experiences)

A series of lit, beeswax charm candles standing in wet sand, i the dark. People adjust the candles with their hands.

Okay. So the final Activity for Chapter Three of Seeking the Mystery is to read one or more of the recommended essays and blog posts provided by the author and to explore how the writers’ experiences and values relate to your own. I’m not 100% sure I’ve done this one right, but here we go.

I read “Becoming A Horse” by Lydia Helasdottir and “Encountering Pagan Deities” by Gus DiZerega. Both of which are polytheist perspectives on direct interaction with divine People.

The writers’ experiences were both familiar. More-so Gus’s, since I’ve never experienced spirit-possession “from the inside”, the way Lydia does, but I’m familiar with Aspecting (having Someone “along for the ride” without them doing the driving), know a LOT of god-touched people, and have been lucky in my practice to have found a rag-tag bunch of people for-whom deities are part of the community and sometimes part of the literal family.

Gus’ statement that Gods Exist, whether or not specific individuals experience their presence or want to interact with them feels very Granny Weatherwax. It reminds me of how one of my nearest and dearest approaches the presence of her own Lady in her life and it feels very in line with the matter-of-fact ways that my other extended queer-pagan community talks about interacting with various deities. “So-and-So has been sniffing around”, “I checked in with _______________ the other day”, “[Deity] told me to tell you she wants Boiled Water”.

I kind of love it, I don’t mind telling you.

I have “gods in law” in that both of my partners have very direct (not romantic, but direct) relationships with specific deities. But also – while I do, sometimes, wonder if my… pretty casual way of relating to the divine, in their many forms, is… disrespectful? Like, if they’re hanging out on the other side of the veil and rolling their eyes at the way I lean around the corner to inform All And Sundry on someone else’s altar that “It’s gonna be delicious!” like they’re my aunties and uncles in another room – I want that kind of casual, friendly, familial relationship with the holy. Possibly because of how frighteningly powerful they actually are.

I do want to be safe in these interactions. To know that my circuits won’t be fried (to use a phrase from “Becoming a Horse”) and that what sacrifices are required of me are ones I can withstand and get through without regretting them. Plus, in the way pre-Christian kings in what is now England traced their family lines through deities and how Romans used familial terms like “Grandfather” when addressing their gods, there is a kind of doting, loving respect built into “Auntie” that makes “Ma’am” feel inappropriate?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s weird.

Onwards!

I, too, was surprised – although maybe I shouldn’t have been, particularly as a not-that-sensitive-to-this-stuff human – to find out that lots of people who are Pagan have NOT had direct interactions with deities or other non-corporeal/multi-corporeal People. That surprises me.

Maybe that surprise is due to my having become a baby witchlet in the mid-1990s, when “Pagan” was equal parts joke and threat to the culturally (and sometimes religiously practicing) Christian status quo. Why would someone convert away from their religion of origin, to a marginalized and often maligned faith, with NOTHING to go on, when they could just be a secular humanist or a Unitarian and not have to worry about rocks being thrown through your windows or staying religiously closeted.

As far as things that felt off-putting or “repelling”… really, only the instance in “Becoming A Horse” where the author implies that a body is kind of disposable. Which she may not have even been doing. But the “body as vehicle” rather than “body as self” thing is jarring for me. My body is as much “me” as my multi-part soul is “me” and the whole “wearing a meat suit” thing has never really sat well with me.

Outside of that, things like up pretty okay with my own values and expectations through both essays. I appreciate the pluralism, the “anyone can do this (mostly)”, how both essays present direct interaction with deities and other non-corporeal/multi-corporeal People as accessible and desirable while leaving room for people to kind of choose their own adventure and making it clear that going deep into this stuff… can be hard on your body, rewire your brain, and you would probably benefit from having guidance/training from someone who’s been doing the same thing for longer and has more experience.

Like: Don’t be College Giles. Don’t get high on demon possession without having a babysitter who knows how to kick them out if things get weird.

Maybe I’m reading a lot into that.

Anyway. I wrote a whole, long, rambling thing (as is not unusual for me) where I was basically just reacting to the essays and: TBH, I think the reason I chose the ones I did was because they looked like they would be familiar and dovetail well with my own cosmology. But I look at the various options presented, and I think they all would have done so.

I think the only way they really differ, if they differ at all, is the degree of “exercise caution when getting in touch with deities” that’s in there. Which isn’t even that much. It’s more of a “know your limit, play within it” kind of thing.

Which, really, is entirely reasonable.

Up next: Chapter 4!

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

Seeking the Mysteries: Chapter 3 Activities – Part Two (Devotionals)

Bare feet, seen from behind, standing on wet asphalt on a rainy day. Photo by Ollebolle via Pexabay.
Bare feet on rain-washed asphault. Photo by OlleBolle via Pexabay.

The second Activity at the end of Chapter 3 is… in the book, which is back at home (I’m visiting my girlfriend – everything is in flower here, and it’s beautiful). So I’m saving that for Part Three. But the third Activity, provided I’m remembering it right, is the suggestion that readers/students add more devotion – in the sense of altar-building, ritual action, prayer – to their days and… see what that’s like.

I do a (roughly) daily ritual of Moon Salutation. It accomplishes a bunch of things – stretching out my hips before bed so that I can get up and walk easily the next morning, yes, but also giving me a couple of minutes to (try to) focus my mind on my Lady of Song, Poetry, and Queerness, and to take a little bit of time to reach out and say hello and thank you to my recent (actually met them in life) ancestors, my Godself, my Fetch, and the Neighbours with-whom I share my house and who collectively provide for me and mine as a Bioregion.

Partially in response to this activity prompt, and partly just because I’ve been wondering since August 2020 how best I can honour the Amazons given that I’m not likely to take up HEMA any time soon. I made a necklace – amazonite and moonstone – last summer, as something that I could touch or wear that would make me think of them. But I wanted to do something else. Throwing money at a trans-inclusive org that promotes girls’ athletics was one option I considered, and may revisit, but what I decided would work better as… as a thing that I’m not just doing on automatic, a thing that isn’t just “fix it and forget it” the way a lot of money donations can be… I decided to incorporate doing a push-up into my regular Moon Salutations specifically because making my body stronger is a way to honour these very strong women who claimed me. My queer aunties of blood and spirit.

Now: To be clear: I’m not actually able to do even one push-up. Yet. Right now it’s more like moving from Heart Melting Pose to something between Sphinx Pose and a knee push-up – shins and forearms on the ground, everything else up – and then bending my arms and keeping my core as solid as I can until my nose touches my fists, or gets as close to that as I can do that particular day.

It’s not a real push-up. It is something I’m actually capable of that adds a little tiny bit more strength to my arms and core every time I do it. And when I do it, I say Hi. It’s a very small thing, but it’s a thing that I do on the regular, and I’m glad I’ve added it to the daily devotionals that I already do.

Something that is less daily, but that still feels good to do, and that I’m really glad to have the option to do it, is that I started (last Beltane, after my lovely wife found the first of them and pointed it out to me) visiting my local seasonal alters at the quarter and cross-quarter days. Sometimes I bring one or both of my partners. Often, I just pop down by myself. Sometimes I dress fancy, other times I just wear whatever is weather appropriate. But I tend to bring home-baking and fancy drinks and I take a minute to drop my roots down and say Hi again.

It feels a little bit like that scene in My Neighbour Totoro where they go to pay their respects to the Forest in the formal and formalized, but also very matter-of-fact way. Something that’s a little out of the way, but not terribly so, and not something that takes a lot of prep or a long time to do. You just have to bother.

So I bother. And it feels good to do.

Some stuff I want to bring up around this:

  1. I stopped beating myself up for missing a day (or a week or, in the case of my wrecking my knee trying to skateboard a few weeks before last Midsummer, six entire freaking months) because I figured out years ago that feeling guilty about it just made me avoid doing The Thing for longer. So all of this stuff – including, for example, making an offering of apple velvet galette and red wine at the Spring Stone for Equinox but NOT doing the same thing on my own house altar because: about to get on a plane and not wanting to leave something out that would attract fruit flies – is very much a “Start fresh every day” kind of deal.
  2. I only very rarely FEEL the presence of the People I’m reaching out to when I’m doing this stuff. And, most of the time that I do pick up on something, it’s an unspecified “rocking in the spirit” situation rather than a very specific Person getting in touch, reaching back to connect. Sometimes that feels a little bit sad, or like “What am I doing wrong”. But, at this point, I’ve just figured out that this is how this stuff works most of the time, when you are a Very Grounded bunker like I am. I still think it’s important to do, and I’m still glad that I do it.
  3. Which… doesn’t mean that I don’t get All The Feels when I’m actively trying to do stuff, or invite People in, or what have you, and I don’t experience much of anything, or when I’m trying to enter a trance (or semi-trance?) state and just kind of failing. I definitely also do that. But:
  4. On the subject of “add more devotional practices” as an activity prompt: It’s something that I definitely like doing. We’re a meaning-making species (look at the whole Dadaist movement, for example), and doing these small, easy-to-maintain little rituals on a regular, reliable basis, gives a little more shape to my days and my years which – especially two years into a pandemic where time has largely lost all meaning – is helpful in terms of structuring my life, but also helpful in terms of letting me touch on Something More in a way that’s… kind of scheduled, almost? Like I can’t just forget about it, because it’s built in and, tbh, because if I don’t do it – at least with the Moon Salutations – my body will remind me very loudly of why it’s a good idea to go through the physical motions and, at that point, since I’m already making the time to do the thing, I might as well do all the non-physical bits, too. And so I do.

Have I managed to turn every Sunday into a day of religious contemplation in the past six months? No. But I’m doing it considerably more frequently than I was when I first twigged to how much I liked making that time and space. Do I manage to quiet my brain and actually focus on my Gods during Moon Salutation every night? Not by a long shot. There’s usually a song in my head, or some kind of distracting thoughts swirling around for at least part of it. But I’m still doing it. I can still bring my brain back to “think of the moon in the sky” and focus on Her for a little bit, and then a little bit more. And that little bit more, and then a little bit more than that, is kind of how you build a practice. Even twenty-five years in.

Seeking the Mysteries: Chapter 3 Activities – Part One (thoughts on the chapter)

The broad back of a carved flat stone. You can just make out the outlines of fluffy rain clouds carved into the top. There is a slice of spice cake topped with red currants near the top-center of the frame, and the lower right corner of the image includes a pool of red berry kombucha poured into a hollow of the rock. There are dried spice-bush berries scattered over the stone. I took this picture at Beltane 2021, the first time I made offerings to the Locals at one of the seasonal altars near my home.
Offerings to the Local People, Beltane 2021
(photo by me, cake and kombucha also by me)

Woops. I thought I’d posted this a month+ ago, and it turns out it was still in my drafts. So here we go:

So Chapter Three is called “Knowledge and Devotion” but, while it definitely covers things like initiatory & mystery traditions vs not-so-much[1], Personal Gnosis (verified or otherwise), and various kinds of devotional activities, the author also spends some time talking about community and the internet.

Look. I have to admit, I had some Feelings about the part of the chapter that touched on “learning from a book” and “The Internet” vs multi-generational religious communities.

The book was published 10 years ago. Long form blogging was still a big deal and social media As We Know It Now was just ramping up (I am so wondering what she makes of Witchtok…). She wasn’t wrong about people preferring their online communications to come in forms they could tightly control due to the hostility of the environment. Like, the block button is definitely My Friend. And I see the generational siloing that happens in, e.g., queer communities, and I can understand why this is a concern for her.

At the same time… part of me is just like: Okay, but almost all of my teachers have been people I found thanks to online communities, including the local people who I’m still in touch with, who I first met in the mid-1990s, during the internet’s infancy. The ritual group I’ve practiced with for the longest, I’m able to practice with at all thanks to them broadcasting their rituals over the internet.

There are plenty of days where I crave that community, where I want to be able to “go to church” in person / locally (and not be the only one who gave 2 minutes thought to what would go on the altar or what the ritual was about – why am I reading theology books again?), and to have immersive, communal religious experiences that don’t require me to sleep in a tent for a week surrounded by relentless drumming and mosquitos.

I know that paganism – in the sense of a giant faith-umbrella with a LOT of religions under it that have enough overlapping reads on the world(s) that they can hang out together – is still largely made up of converts, even though there are definitely multi-generational pagan families out there. I can’t help thinking of Christianity, which has been around for thousands of years, and wondering about their first few centuries, before one Roman emperor converted and made it politically fashionable/expedient to be Christian (let alone another emperor, a hundred or so years later, making it illegal to be anything else). I mean, it was an apocalyptic cult that was expecting the end of the world Any Day Now and kind of discouraging its membership from having kids on that basis.

So I find it a little… almost alarmist, maybe? When someone – and Christine Hoff Kraemer isn’t “Some Boomer” who came up in the 1970s’ counter culture, lamenting about Ye Goode Olde Days before the internet existed, she looks about my age, if not slightly younger and manages the Pagan section of Patheos.com  – is Having Concerns about the neopagan movement’s sustainability, given that it hasn’t been around for very long.

If we decide to trace the lineage of Anglophone Neopaganism back to Gerald Gardner’s British Traditional Wicca[2], then “neopaganism” as a movement is only about a hundred years old. And the first sixty of those – kind of arbitrary, again, but I’m thinking of the 1979-82 explosion of goddess spirituality literature that made stuff like this available through something other than word-of-mouth – were done entirely on the quiet. (How did anyone find a Coven to join, when nobody used their real names to practice their faith, and you had to be very sure someone was both trustworthy and into it before you invited them to a ceremony? Like, Outer Courts are a thing, but don’t actually know how this was accomplished. I could probably look it up – maybe in Drawing Down the Moon – but I don’t know off the top of my head). I don’t think it’s particularly odd that Neopaganism, having been available outside of some pretty closed circles for only ~40 years, is still in its infancy as a developing, multi-generational community.

I don’t think she’s wrong to say that having some reliable Processes Of Discernment would be good for us, as a cluster of very experiential religious groups. And she’s not wrong, either, when she says that generational siloing can lead to a lot of reinventing the wheel, so to speak, that doesn’t have to happen, or that relying on the internet can make for a fragmented, very far-flung community that – because we don’t all live in the same area – can’t necessarily show up to help each other move, muster a meal train, facilitate rites of passage, or otherwise be a community the way, say, my mom’s church is a community.

I do wonder what it might have been like to grow up in a large pagan religious community that included my parents and grandparents and a couple of centuries of habit, folk symbolism, and social games. To have had the opportunity to do the Pagan equivalent of a Bat Mitzvah or Confirmation ceremony where I got to talk shop and baby-steps theology with peers and older advisor/teacher types on subject matter that felt meaningful to me, rather than awkward and ill-fitting, and then got some level of community celebration a few months later when I did the ceremony proper. To not have to rely on luck and The Algorithm to make sure I found out that local and wider-than-local religious-community-meetings were happening, because someone at the temple would make an announcement about it for a couple of weeks leading up to whatever-it-is.

But, at the same time, I don’t think it’s hurt me to have learned things out of books, or by reading blogs or going to (often, though not always online) mostly non-religious workshops run by other queer, kinky, polytheists – to have found religious community at all thanks to my far-flung but accessible-via-the-internet peer group.

In Chapter Three, the author mentions David Abram and how, upon returning to his… call it a “typical white guy life”(?) he started to lose the “profound sense of intimacy with the natural world” that he’d experienced while immersed in communities where that sense of intimacy was a normal part of “typical life”. She draws on Sherry Turkles’s Alone Together, commenting that it’s harder to form intimate human relationships – all the Brene Brown vulnerability stuff – when so many of our interactions (Oh, hai, pandemic) are done in a milieu like twitter where there’s not a lot of room for nuance (or vulnerability), and asking how one can form intimate relationships with non-human people if one doesn’t have a lot of experience forming them with other humans.

And that… is not how that works.

Sorry not sorry.

Lots of people who never had the opportunity to form healthy intimate relationships with other humans (and that is a LOT of pagans, friends) due to a plethora of Bad Childhood Situations – including abuse, neglect, and the subtle-and-unsubtle societal messages that being queer and/or trans are things to be secretive and ashamed about – learned how to experience intimacy first by emotionally connecting with pets or houseplants. Humans are so, SO wired for intimacy and connection. And gods are not without agency and know how to get noticed when they need to.

So while, yes, it’s much EASIER to cultivate and maintain those senses of connection – to understand that the sewing machine has a name (which she told me) because she’s old enough and complicated enough to have developed one; to understand that the chard in the garden is a person who I’m cutting, and hurting, every time I harvest their leaves for dinner, so I’d better appreciate their resilience and continued presence in my yard and should also make sure to feed them and give them enough water so that they heal well and stay strong – when I’m surrounded by, and interacting with, people who share those same understandings (this is one of the big reasons why I date other pagans)… But it’s not a requirement. You may have to get the hang of shrugging it off when people look at you like you have two heads, and you may (still) have to fit your religious observances in around the edges of the rest of your life, but you can still cultivate that understanding.

Anyway. This is rapidly approaching 1500 words, so I will talk about the Chapter Three Activities in Part Two.

TTFN,

Ms Syren

[1] This is why I talk about being influenced by Feri, but not being a Feri practitioner – I’m not an initiate into their mysteries, and the elements of their practices and cosmology that have found their way into my own are things that are free to share with outsiders/laity.

[2] Which… sure, it’s kind of arbitrary. But I’m a 90s kid and I remember when Chapters started carrying whole shelves full of books on Wicca – and it was Wicca, or at least elements there-of, that was most readily available, especially if you didn’t have a local occult bookstore or know how to find out if such a thing existed. So We’re going through Wicca (sort of) for the purposes of this post.

Imbolg 2021 – New Moon: Ice Moon Begins

The sun rises over a snowy hoop house, surrounded by forest, as seen through a veil of icicles.
We’re not “North” by any means but, even here, early February is still firmly in Winter’s territory and, rather than being about crocuses pushing through the thawing ground, Imbolg is very much about the days (finally) getting noticeably longer and the Sun making her slow trip back into the sky.

Note: I started writing this post a few days early – gods bless the scheduler – as I had a couple of hours to myself last Sunday, and because I got to do Ritual On The Internet that day and want to make note of what went on, while it was still fresh.

So. When I was a brand new Pagan, living away from my parents’ house for the first time, I was invited to do Ritual with a small group of school friends, some of whom were my age, and some of whom were Mature Students who’d been involved in witchcraft for decades longer than I had been. Being able to practice with other people – and other people who’d been doing it for A While and so didn’t need to read the scripts provided in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner – was a really valuable opportunity, and one that I remain glad to have had.

I still remember the Imbolg ritual we did together, even though it’s been 20+ years since it happened. Partly, that’s because I got to do some improvised singing and, while doing so, I felt my Lady of Song grab me by the head and basically dribble me like a basketball (I just kept singing until she let go – it was surprising, but pretty cool).

But the other reason was that the whole ritual focused on pleasure and sensuality. The idea was literally “It’s still the middle of winter, which sucks, so lets do something that feels really good”. There was music, there was (a little bit of) dancing, there was a LOT of tasty food, and – years before the queer term “femme” ever entered my vocabulary – there was the link between sensuality and femininity and one of my Older Friends telling me “Never forget that your femininity is part of your feminism”.

When I dressed for Ritual today, I chose my hematite necklace for the iron ore that hints a Brigid’s forge. But I definitely found myself reaching for the pink tourmeline matinee strand with its “red goddess” connotations of love, pleasure, and sensuality. My Lady of the Sun – who is journeying back into her power, and is staying out noticeably longer these days – is a Red Goddess in the sense that, well, she tends to wear red, and she’s a Fire Lady because she’s literally the sun. But also because her wheelhouse includes a lot of Second Chakra Stuff like sex and desire, pleasure, money, energy exchange and boundaries.

So – hurrah – there’s a link between my earliest celebrations of this time of year, my current seasonal celebrations, and to how I relate to my Lady of the Sun more broadly.

That’s always kind of a relief, you know?

But it means that how I see Imbolg – as still within the realm of Winter’s dreaming time, as a period for asking “what do you desire” more than (or preceding) “what will you DO to get it” – doesn’t quite line up with how Imbolg gets treated outside of my own head: As a holiday for Brigid of the Well and the Forge, as a fertility festival associated with lambing season (okay, yes, it’s coyote mating season, or getting close to it – unsurprisingly it hits right around Lupercalia – but the sheep won’t be in labour until Spring Equinox around here), as a period of new beginnings, promise(s), planning, and commitments.

Calendar-wise, Imbolg is a counterpart to High Summer, the same way the Beltane and Samhain, Midsummer and Midwinter, and the Equinoxes share elements in common.

How does Imbolg fit with dreaming and desiring? How does it work opposite the sultry pause of High Summer? It’s like it’s the stretch-and-roll-over where you slip from deep rest into dozing or maybe lucid dreaming.

A heavy, black anvil on a brick pedestal, surrounded by flowering daffodils and backed by a red brick wall.

I did ritual with my girlfriend’s group today. And they do Imbolg as an oath-taking ceremony, more or less. An opportunity to look into Brigid’s well and scry for images of the Work you need to do in the world, a chance to put your hand on her anvil – like they do at Gretna Green in Scotland – and make a commitment to do it.

So. What I saw in the well:

The three of cups card from the Next World tarot deck

Joining hands (very wedding imagery)

Me and my two partners looking suspiciously like a Maiden-Mother-Crone collective

Handwriting in cursive, in a big book, black ink and a turkey feather pen

More hands joining (friendship/support)

I had gone into this thinking “I want to reach out to my friends more this year”. What I saw in the well, I think, does include this, but I think it’s a little broader than that, too. What I said at the anvil was:

“I will keep writing, and I will keep connecting people.”

So, here I am, writing, as the wheel turns again.

Three versions of the "The Devil" - 15th card in the Major Arcana: Wildwood ("The Guardian" - a bear's skeleton, standing upright, guarding the door to a cave), Silicon Dawn (a person floating cross-legged, wearing a black top hat and tail coat, her long tail coiled on the ground below her, with two tiny humans standing in a suitcase at her side), and Osho Zen ("Conditioning" - an unhappy lion with their feet bound and a sheepskin strapped to their back, stands amid a flock of happy sheep). The cards appear in a row against a maroon background.

Obviously, I wasn’t thrilled to get this card when I clicked over to the random tarot card generator to pull something for my Tarot Card Meditation.

But it’s relevant.

Like all tarot cards, it’s got a bunch of different meanings that are context-dependent. I love both the idea of “the devil” as one’s Fetch, or as the shadow that guards the door to your personal underworld of “bits of myself I don’t like to look at”. I can look at what’s happening in my city right now – being occupied by a bunch of white nationalist losers pitching a collective tantrum, complete with harassing and assaulting people in my old neighbourhood, while our oversized and over-funded police force flat-out refuses to the job we’re grudgingly paying them to do and, instead, opting to pose for selfies with racist randos while patting themselves on the back for a job well done – and… yeah. The gross stuff that we (As predominantly centrist a city? As “white moderates”?) don’t like to look at in ourselves is screamingly on display right now.

So there’s that.

But this card is specifically for me, pulled on a day when I made a commitment, at a time when I’ve just changed jobs for something lower stress, lower hours, and closer to home. So: I’m inclined to read it closer to the Osho Zen definition of Conditioning.

Like, I can hear Ms Sugar in the back of my head, grating out “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” between clenched teeth.

It’s a card about (bad) habits.

And, look. I want to tread carefully with myself here, because I’ve spent I sizeable percentage of my life being Such A Snob about television, but: As much as I’m enjoying just vegging out watching streaming services, I’m also aware that I would probably do more creative stuff if I wasn’t sitting in front of a screen all day.

That’s been the case before, so it’s likely the case still.

So. Here I am, with extra time on my hands (YAY!) and less stress weighing on my mind (double-YAY!) and my gods have sent me a message of, basically, “don’t fritter this away”.

On Sunday night, I was thinking “I would really like a few extra hours to deal with catching up on house keeping, in a way that didn’t eat into my weekend”. And what happened? The new guy at my old job got in touch and said “Actually, I’m feeling pretty confident about tomorrow. I don’t think we’ll need to do that zoom call after all” and <*magical sparkles*> suddenly I had an extra two hours on Monday morning.

So I did a load of dishes, finished the sweeping, cleaned the bathtub, put in a load of laundry, and edited some poetry. It felt really good.

Today, between finishing Round One of sewing in my wife’s shop, and waiting for Round Two to become available, I’ve put away a second load of clean laundry, and I’m finishing this blog post. I’ll wash some dishes and type up some poetry edits once it’s in the scheduler.

My goal is to keep this up. To treat my work days as work days – including unpaid work like dishes and laundry, and creative work like various kinds of writing and editing – so that my weekends and evenings stay free for fun stuff like dates with my partners, watching movies, reading novels, and going to online dance parties, poetry readings, concerts, and discussion groups. Even if that work-time is only available two days – maybe three – per week, and the number of hours fluctuates depending on how much there is for me to do in my wife’s workshop, it’s still worth doing and I think it will make my life feel more fulfilling and less like a treadmill. Which I would like.

~*~

Movement: Not tonnes. I’ve been seriously avoiding the out-of-doors due to cold (among other things) and totally forgot to do my Moon Salutation last night. Some repetitive motion on the sewing machine is technically “movement” but it’s more the kind that I have to be careful with. My body is telling me to stretch more, so Moon Salutations, but also maybe a little bit of strength training (like “plank” type strength training) and witual workouts on youtube, are definitely in my near future. Also, my wife literally just said “It’s nice out! You should go for a walk, babe!” so: Seems reasonable, you know?

Attention: Okay. I’m totally doom-scrolling these days due to what’s happening down town. So there’s that. >.> On the plus side, I’m also keep my eyes up for small presses looking for chapbook submissions, because: I still have a chapbook looking for a forever home. So there’s that, too.

Gratitude: I am SO GLAD to be finished that job! Grateful for a soft place to land. Grateful for longer, easier mornings with my wife. Grateful for enough sleep. Grateful for time. Grateful for warm slippers and a space heater in the workshop. Grateful for clean cutlery. Grateful for warmer weather. Grateful (and proud of myself) that my debt is going down consistently. Grateful for cooking skills. Grateful for the weighted blanket that came, s a surprise, in the mail for me from my girlfriend. Grateful for movie nights. Grateful for a pile of books to read.

Inspiration: I… have no idea. Let’s say I’m trying to take inspiration from the slightly warmer weather, the longer hours of daylight, and the seed catalogue that arrived in the mail recently. I have no idea what effect that inspiration is going to have though, or what kind of creativity it’s going to inspire.

Creation: Er… see above. I’ve edited some poems. That’s about it. Maybe I will successfully write, or re-write a new glosa this week? Maybe?

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter Two Activities – Part 2

Okay, so the second part of the Chapter Two Activities is “meditate on your chosen myth for ten minutes a day, every day, for a week, and journal about what comes up”.

I haven’t been doing this. Or, I have been, but not with that degree of consistency.

I think I’ve done 4/7 times at this point?

The first night, I got a big response.

I closed my eyes, imagined myself in the deep woods, the desert woods. I started rocking side to side (which is… not how that usually goes. Usually I rock back and forth).

I thought of the woman in her besieged castle and asked:

What do you owe the land you inherit?

Images that came up:

  • Three silver coins slipped into the river, close to shore but the water was moving.
  • Wet grass.
  • Mist.
  • Hawthorne and yew (saw yew, heard “rue”)
  • Heard “Walking the bounds”
  • Short, thorny shrubs/trees (Hawthorne? Sloe? But with white bark) that woolen clothes caught on
  • Slow walking (observation? Witnessing?)
  • Rocks close under and poking through the ground’s surface

So… I guess she – or someone – wanted to talk.

The second night, I tried to talk to Peredur’s mother. I imagined myself back in the deep woods, and I asked:

Who lives here?

And… oof. I saw a woman with a green pig’s head and tusks (who was not me) and a long dress, and she was not happy. I heard:

“I do!” in this very aggressive, fuck-off voice, accompanied by the sounds of distressed horses, galloping hooves, and the sound of metal-on-metal.

So I left, because it sounded like she did NOT want me in there.

I have no idea if that was Peredur’s mom – possible, given the whole “stay away from me, I’m traumatized by war and its accompanying grief” situation – or if it was somebody else. Still a big response, but not a welcoming one.

Which: The other two times I’ve done this, I haven’t had much come up. Possibly this is because I’m trying to steer clear of the Deep Woods – where most of this story takes place (er… sort of?). But also possibly just because I’m tired and feeling under the weather. I’ve been asking about the requirements of hospitality and not getting tonnes of a response.

Stay tuned for Part 3, I guess.

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter Two Activities – Part 1

An old castle or fort on the shores of a lake, hypothetically in Wales. Green hillside, early-leafing trees, a blue sky with a lot of fluffy clouds.

Continuing with the end-of-chapter Activities offered in Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies, it’s time for Chapter Two.

Chapter Two is about mythology and its roles in contemporary pagan faiths. I appreciate that this chapter includes a discussion of ways that we can conflate mythology with history – like The Burning Times as a period when actual practitioners of The Craft were being hunted out and killed, rather than a period when various types of Christians were hunting out and killing each other for being The Wrong Kind of Christian; or the theory of a Pan-European Matriarchal Prehistory that requires a LOT of conjecture and, like most conjecture about prehisotry, says more about the contemporary storytellers than it does about the people the story is ostensibly about (this is why I like Ron Hutton, tbh). I also appreciate how the author talks about cultural appropriation and the need for contemporary pagans, as a predominantly white population, to tread carefully and respectfully when (if) engaging with the living traditions of racialized people, while also avoiding falling into the trap of “someone can ONLY engage with a tradition/pantheon/practice if they have that cultural heritage or ancestry” which can, and does, get used to bolster white n*tion*list narratives. The author also talked about how contemporary pagans are engaging in myth-making that incorporates both contemporary science and UPG, while also engaging with pre-existing texts and interpreting them – sometimes with difficulty – in ways that are relevant to our 21st century lives. It was a good chapter.

The Activities presented at the end of the chapter all revolve around a myth with-which the reader chooses to engage. So. Part 1:

Choose a myth, read it, then analyze it to answer the following:

  • What does this myth tell you about the people who wrote it?
  • In what ways is this myth relevant to you and your life today?

So. I chose to read the story of “Peredur, the Son of Evrawc” in the Mabinogion as translated by Lady Charlotte Guest and available through Project Gutenberg.

What does this myth tell me about the people who wrote it?

First, I have to recognize that this is a probably Victorian lady, and a Christian, doing the translation of a story that was written down by Christians in the middle ages as a (likewise very Christian) King Arthur legend. I gather it’s probably older, and less Christian, than that. But this is what I have available.

As far as what it says, more broadly, about the Brithonic culture at large, in terms of what the Christians who wrote it down opted to keep, this is what it tells me:

  • Peredur, who is known as “the Son of Evrawc” is, none the less, constantly running into, and gaining both honour and hospitality through, the brothers of his MOTHER. All of whom seem to live in big-ass castles within the wild “desert” wood.
    • So… I sort of think this implies a Matrilineal society shifting towards Patrilineage at the time of the writing-down? Maybe?
    • I also wonder if Peredur’s Mother was one of the Fair Folk, once upon a time, as all of her brothers appear to live in what’s described as the wild “desert” wood.
      • I’m wondering, too, if “desert” here is just… look, hypothetically, the Forest of ancient England would have been more like a savanna than like the deep, Beech forests of Germany, as described in The Hidden Life of Trees. None the less, I’m wondering if those deep forests – the Wild Wood of high, thick canopies, wind pollination, and mostly non-existent understory, far from the forest edge of insect-pollinated, annually-fruiting trees (hazel, chestnut, hawthorn, sloe, apple, a zillion bramble berries) and the related abundance of small and mid-sized game, where humans can thrive – were thought of as either “wasteland” – meaning “you are not going to find a lot of food, easily, if you’re stuck here” – or as “wilds” (like, in the biblical sense of various people wandering in the desert for forty days/years to indicate a long period of being removed from civilization and its related ills, dangers, and distractions)
      • Hiding out in the Deep Woods was definitely a thing one could do, but you had to pack in a lot of livelystock… so maybe my Deep Woods theory is accurate? (No idea)
      • Question: Is “The Lord of the Glade” Gwyn ap Nudd? Or Arywn?
  • Kingship (or earlship, etc) was won, and maintained, by Might Of Arms
    • This is also how you made a name for yourself
  • Women could inherit land and rulership but, given the whole Might Of Arms situation, they weren’t always in a position to defend that which they’d inherited if they didn’t have brothers or foster-brothers or other fighting-fit male relatives around to do the defending.
  • If someone was under your parents’ protection – I am not sure if I’m stretching things here or reading them right –  and those parents died or were otherwise indisposed, you inherited that duty to protect them.
  • Hospitality was a BIG DEAL – like if someone turned up on your doorstep, it wasn’t just “Hey. Welcome. Come in and have some food and rest”. It was “Hey. Welcome. GOOD TO SEE YOU! Come in and have some food and rest” and then introducing yourselves after the meal was done. Feed your guest first, ask questions later.
    • Also, apparently, if you had a guest and they were like “Nice jewelry!” you had to give it to them happily?
  • Being someone’s guest also came with responsibilities. Like, sure, you could eat people out of house and home and take their stuff just by asking for it. But you also had to return the favour via significant acts of service.
    • I’m assuming that Peredur is opting for acts of heroism because he’s a Knight (or wants to be one), but in a less legendary situation, maybe it’s things like doing the washing up, showing up with a hostess gift, and not making a total mess of someone else’s home.

 

Which, I guess, brings me to question two: How is this myth relevant to me, as a person living today?

  • Family ties (for a given definition of family that’s broader than the one implied by the story) being how you keep yourself safe, fed, etc
    • How can I strengthen my own family ties?
    • Am I looking after the people in my extended family? In what ways?
  • How to be a Good Guest when one’s status as “guest” is a polite euphemism for “colonizer” or “invader”.
    • What services can I do for the people whose territory I’m in?
    • What services can I do for the territory itself?
    • What can I do in order to NOT continue eating them out of house and home and taking all their stuff?
  • If these are stories about boundaries and boundary-crossings… how do I stay in my own lane, so to speak? How do I behave respectfully and respectably when I’m out and about, interacting with other human and other-than-human people, and so on?

Part Two of Chapter Two’s Activities requires meditating on one’s myth of choice, for ten minutes every day, for a week. So: Having only done one day worth of this so far, I’m going to follow up on this bit a little while.

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

Mesolithic Shamanism?

So, this was a cool read.

Guerilla Archaeology

Star Carr is a seasonal Mesolithic site situated in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, England. Early Mesolithic activities dating back about 10,700 years can be found here. The site was originally excavated during the early 50s, with excavations led by Manchester and York Universities continuing to today. In this post I will explore the evidence found of human activity at this site and suggest that even during the Early Mesolithic, complex worldviews were in place…

Alan Sorrell’s reconstruction of Star Carr shortly after the original excavation in 1951.
Illustrated London News 3, February 1951 © Courtesy of John Weedy

The Mesolithic period dates between 10,000 BC and 4000 BC, when people were nomadic hunter-gatherers. This period occurs at the end of the last ice age and continues until the first farmers of the Neolithic began settling down and domesticating their animals. The image above sets the scene, with people processing…

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