So. Full disclosure. I received an ARC on the expectation that I’d give an honest review of Deborah Castellano’s Magic for Troubled Times, AND I’ve been following Deb’s work for 20 years. She’s the Ms Sugar whose New Year, New You blog challenge of yore continues to be a go-to for me any time I need to kick my own ass. So it’s safe to say I was expecting great things when I opened up my eBook and got reading.
More accurately, what I was expecting was a book-length version of the “failure” chapter in her previous book, Glamour Magic. Something that recognized with warmth and sardonic humour that failure is always an option, and then gave you the kick in the pants you needed to take action rather than wallowing in self pity.
That’s not what this is.
The warmth, the sardonic humour, and the Grind ‘Til You Own It are still there. But the magic presented is shadow work (not as sexy as it sounds) and refuge work. It’s creating your own sanctuary, making allies by showing you’re serious, and spinning the thread that will lead you out of your personal labyrinth.
Magic for Troubled Times is a book to help you find your way through your own personal underworld (and maybe make things a little easier on yourself while you’re stuck there).
Deb shows you how to ground when the ground under your feet is shaking, and how to shield when your rights are under attack, with stops along the way to talk about doing money magic (because so many people’s Troubled Times involve job losses, health crises, and unexpected bills) and literally hexing the patriarchy to create social change at will.
Having done my initial read-through, I’m looking forward to digging more deeply into the rituals and practices she suggests, joining the associated Workbook group, and seeing what magic I can cook up to help improve my general life situation.
I chose this because, yeah, its root meaning is “long term material security” (and because the lack-there-of stresses me out). But also because I’m forty-two, rent in my city has literally doubled in the past five or so years, and I’m scared to death of Never Being Able To Retire. If I have a beyond-this-project long term goal, it’s To Have A Home that my loved ones and I (a) can’t be renovicted out of, and (b) can happily and comfortably share (this may mean multiple small units on a large, super rural property… I don’t know yet).
I talked a little in my Week Nine post about how I can’t hit what I don’t acknowledge I’m aiming for, and about how feeling stuck between multiple people’s wants and needs is making it hard for me to really focus on a long term goal. I pulled three oracle cards at High Summer, two days before I interviewed for yet another job for which I was a good fit and super qualified, and three days before I – yet again – didn’t land the job.
What I pulled boiled down to “TRUST US. We have a PLAN. You’ll see where it’s going in a minute, just stay the course and you’ll get there.”
Which: Okay? I guess?
But I’m also over here having exactly the same trouble I have with more mundane, human situations which is: If I don’t know what The Plan is… I will simultaneously freeze right the hell up AND run around in circles like Chicken Little, frantically and ineffectively trying to manage every outcome (mostly by trying to hold still and not get noticed which… doesn’t help thing, I do realize).
I was saying to my friends, over on Ye Olde LJ (DW, but regardless: Yes, really), how landing this job – or any third job that was 100% remote (and therefore 100% portable) and paid the same wage for the same number of hours – would let me start shunting money into a house down-payment fund (which: It wouldn’t be much, relative to local housing prices, even if I worked at it for 10 years. But it would be something) and maybe start throwing cash into an RRSP, too.
I don’t regret leaving my previous third job. It was stressful enough to be messing with my health, and having to negotiate about vacation time (not even vacation pay, just time away) with somebody who didn’t know about, and wouldn’t have approved of, my Family Situation was… not something that I wanted to stay in, either.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m loving having two days per work week where I can spend all day working on a novel (which: I am working on a novel, y’all), along with doing the occasional rack of dishes and running errands without having to fret about how many hours they require me to be away from doing paid work.
But. I sure do miss the extra cash. And I sure did think I’d have found something to mostly, if not entirely, replace that cash source by now.
So I’m feeling a little discouraged.
I think this is one of those situations where I’m thinking about “What can I realistically get” rather than “What do I actually want”. Because what I actually want is for my cost of living (but not my quality of life) to drop substantially, and for my 20-25 hours of already-secured work per week to pay me better so that the money I’m making already will let me secure all the things I want to secure – writing time that doesn’t interfere with family time (much), a house that is ours free-and-clear, a retirement fund, an adventure fund and the free time to put it to use, and being able to pick up whatever we want at the grocery store, and whatever we want (within reason, and potentially with some budgeting, but still) at the department store that is online shopping.
To drag my narrative back to Week Ten’s subject matter… It’s less that I’m afraid of getting what I want, and more afraid of having wanted, and then gotten, the “wrong thing”.
None the less. I’ve said it multipletimes before: What keeps me going is success. Every time I write a thousand words, I feel more confident about writing the next thousand words. Having a map for a story helps me get through those chunks and feel like I can keep going.
Every time I get a job interview, I feel a little less stupid for bothering to try, even if every tie I don’t get the latest job I’ve interviewed for… I get discouraged. At least I know I’ve got the experience to get people’s attention. Which is still something.
I’ll need to spend some time looking at want adds tomorrow morning, but right now I’m going to take a couple of hours and work on my next thousand words. I’ll talk more about that when it’s time for me to do the write-up for Week Thirteen: Sacrifice. But for now, I’ve got another scene to write.
This card feel appropriate for its “pause and reflect” characteristics – I’ve literally heard it described as the “interim report card” of the deck – and also because this Project is based in the suit of Earth. I know this card best as “Patience”, from the Osho Zen deck, where it stands, just before the second “plateau” card of the suit of earth, as a reminder that Things Take Time, and only slightly less well as “Healing” in the Wildwood deck, where it’s a call for rest and pause. It’s a very (g)Lammas card for those reasons. But it’s also a card about sowing and cultivating – as Oliver Pickle writes in She Is Sitting in the Night – and about results that come from labour and putting in the work.
I harvested rhubarb from my garden for the first time since we moved here, three Beltanes ago. It took three years, and annual top-ups with manure and compost-heavy top soil, for the sand-and-gravel of my front yard to become something that will let a deep-rooted plant like rhubarb thrive. My irises bloomed for the first time since we got here, too. The seven sisters roses are more covered in flowers than ever. My recently transplanted raspberries, from a neighbour, are rooting successfully and putting out new growth. It’s so good to see them thriving. Later today, I’ll be making peony soul cakes – for offerings and for a midsummer barbecue we’ve been invited to, down by the river – using petals from the peonies in our yard. All of this is wonderful, but it didn’t happen by accident.
I wanted my garden to thrive, so I put in the work and the time and, frankly, the money, to help it do so.
Which brings me to my reflections about where I’m at with my King of Coins Project goals.
I’ve said this multiple times, over years and years of writing this blog. I can’t effectively aim my Will if I don’t know what I want to hit.
There was a point, back in mid-May, where I talked to my Godself about the things that needed to happen in order for my household to be able to thrive. And very shortly thereafter, things started Coming Up that were pointing me in the direction of what I’d said needed to happen. And yet, at the same time, I started digging my heals in because there’s more than two people worth of needs in my household, and I was feeling noticeably trapped (between sets of wants/needs) and resentful about the extra costs associated with prioritizing one set of needs and wants over all the others.
And, big surprise, I have landed zero of the jobs that flooded my way at that time.
Oof. One of the other things that the Seven of Pentacles relates to is a fear of failure, a fear of making the wrong choice. And I have that fear is spades, let me tell you.
It’s definitely stopping me from “picking a direction” because I don’t want to find out, in the long or short run, that it was the wrong one.
At the same time, the Seven of Pentacles is an opportunity to both (a) celebrate your achievements, and (b) make changes and tweaks to one’s long-term plans.
First and foremost: I’m out of debt. It’s potentially going to be a bit of a battle to stay that way, but I accepted the help I was offered, and I’m no-longer throwing hundreds of dollars at a credit card bill that seems unending. I have automatic payments set up to (a) make sure my monthly automatic charges – patreon and some charity donations – are paid off, (b) to add a tiny bit to my savings fund every week, and (c) to put towards my 2022 income taxes, when that bill comes due next Beltane. So I’m feeling good about that.
I have definitely ridden the hedonic escalator up a few steps. I don’t generally feel like I’m going to be punished for buying new clothes, and I’ve invested in some Nice Items (like an Actually Leather day-to-day-use handbag, and a bunch of flowing, light-but layerable 100% cotton dresses) that should serve me well for years and years to come. Needing to scale back the consumerism, when I quit my Very Stressful Job just before Imbolg, was An Adjustment. But it’s worked out and the thing I spend the most money on, tbh, is “emergency preparedness food” (couscous, orzo, green lentils and mung beans for sprouting, tinned and home-pressure-canned beans, vaccuum-sealed dry sausage that can be stored at room temperature until it’s opened, and then eaten fairly quickly, crackers, peanut butter, nuts and dried fruit, that kind of thing) in case there are more power outages in our near-future.
I’m not sure about “changing my baseline”. I did feel “weirdly exposed” when I made that final payment on my credit card and saw it balance out to zero. I did have to majorly fight myself on “I can buy so many things!!!” (Which doesn’t mean I didn’t buy “so many” things – I did. I just paid cash for them, and bought them over multiple weeks instead of just a couple of days. And, yeah, that emergency flashlight/charger and a bidet widget for our bathroom were among them). Still. The thing I was afraid would happen if I “let” myself be free of debt… happened.
And it wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t a Terrible Situation with No Way Out where I ended up “right back where I started”. And it wasn’t even very long-lived. It was a managable, and managed, situation where I equipped my house a little better for a particular kind of Bad Situation and gave myself presents that I’ve been wanting for years (a rhodochrosite ring to complete my Bi Pride ring collection; a black felted hat with a broad brim – yes, I DO feel very American Horror Story when I wear it, sorry not sorry; a book about Feri witchcraft), and then I chilled the heck out and went back to reading library books and doing home-canning.
Have I “raised my baseline”? TBH, I don’t think so. Doing that requires (A) a third remote job (or a massive raise from both my current employers – unlikely but maybe?), and (B) the opportunity to save up for a house down-payment, rather than having to pour all that extra money into rent. But I spent a year living with “owning a house” as a distant, but at least possible, dream, and I would like to have that again.
As far as changes and tweaks go:
I have my name in for another possible third job. One that would require more hours than I want to give over to working-for-others, including some weekend hours that I’m absolutely not thrilled about, but that I’m eminently qualified to do and would be good at. And I kind of think I need to take a moment today – because it’s Solstice, and it’s a good time to do this – to sort out what I actually want. What my Ideal Situation is and how to work my will so that it happens.
Six months ago, at Winter Solstice, I put a handful of squash seeds on my tiny desk altar. I think it’s time (past time – would have been better at the new moon, three weeks ago) to collect half a dozen of them, and charge them with goals.
·New, possibly short-term, upstairs neighbours who are clean, quiet AND away a lot of the time
·A new third remote job with good, ultra-flexible hours, a fun task list, and better-than-current-expectations pay, plus raises at my other two jobs
·A publisher for my still-on-sub chapbook
·Great sex + a happy, loving polycule
·A growing bank account and savings funds including a down-payment fund
·A spacious, tidy, very affordable home with native fruit trees growing all around the edges of the yard and enough time, energy, and focus to both tend and harvest said yard as needed
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!
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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, 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, 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.
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.
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.
 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.
 “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).
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. 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.
 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…
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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, 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, 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.
 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.
 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?