Tag Archives: embodiment

C is for Corporeal, D is for Dance – Pagan Experience 2015

On the off chance that you haven’t guessed by the time, I ‘m writing about embodiment for the Pagan Experience Challenge today. I’ve been a singer (14 years of lessons plus, admittedly, 14 further years of, like, singing in the shower or otherwise letting myself get rusty) since I was 7 years old. Which basically means that I was actively being taught how to Be In My Body well before puberty hit and all the social pressures to do exactly the opposite of that started cropping up.
I think that’s relevant.
I mean, yes, staying in my body in sexual situations where I’m not the one “doing the doing” is not the easiest thing in the world, and I don’t think that’s a separate issue, but I do think that learning embodiment, learning to pay attention really closely to what your muscles and feet and lungs and all the rest of you are doing at any given time has made it easier for me to be, well, naked, for a start, but there’s more to it than that.
A lot of my energy-work – whether that’s stuff like Grounding[1] or stuff like Sex-Magic/Laying-On-of-Hands or stuff like charging up a honey-pot – is centred around the bodily stuff I learned, ages ago, for How To Sing Really Well. As it happens, it’s also really centred around lighting up those big, straight-line, chakra points on your body – but I didn’t realize that until someone who could See that stuff told me as much when I showed her what prepping to sing looked like.
 
It’s… Art is magical. It’s an act of both creation and transformation, just because of what it is. But art as magical action can be used to do that whole “creating change at will” business as well. I was at a workshop on ritual, last October, and I said “I’m a writer and a witch, and when I write things down I make them happen”. Which isn’t true most of the time, but it’s proven on multiple occasions to push those odds towards What I (think I) Want, so I’m going with it. Likewise, when I sing, all those energetic chanels open up and I can Do Stuff – stuff kind of along the lines of reiki, I think? – that I can’t do, or can’t do as easily, when I’m quiet. Dancing, too, opens me up. I can be a fountain on the dancefloor. My wife says that I glow when I do that, and I’m inclined to take her literally as she’s one of those folks who can See that stuff, so.
 
Embodiment, for me at least, is the gateway to making energetic changes in the world. So there you go. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] For a given value of “grounding” – I’ve got my feet in the river pretty much all the time. I’m what sometimes gets called a “cement head”. I can bring people back to earth, and/or their bodies, when they get lost. It’s part of what I’m for. How cool is that? 🙂

W is for Womanhood – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Okay.
So many years ago I tried to do a religious studies degree on Goddess Spirituality as an alternative paradigm for viewing and understanding embodied womanhood as powerful and holy (as opposed to icky, messy, gross, less-than – as defined by The Patriarchy).
Except that (a) I was looking specifically at Blood Rites and the imagery of Maiden-Mother-Crone, and (b) I hadn’t heard the word “cis” yet, and had no fucking clue how to talk about this stuff without somehow excluding trans women from the category “woman”.
I wound up stopping my degree part-way through for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that I didn’t think I could ethically talk about womanhood in the context of a religion that has bodily autonomy and self-definition at its heart while limiting that word to cis women.
 
Now here I am, almost ten years after the fact, wanting to talk about Maiden-Mother-Crone and how… it just doesn’t work. Not really. Not even for cis girls. Not even for cis girls who choose to be parents.
 
I remember, years ago, taking part in a Goddess Group where we all got to slot ourselves into one of those three categories and then talk about why we’d put ourselves where we did. And it was… sad-funny to see how many of us made our choices based, not on where we felt we fit, but on where we *didn’t* want to get *put*. The women who’d chosen “Mother” had chosen it because they didn’t want to be “put on the Crone Shelf” and ignored because they were (or looked) “old”. The women – self included – who’d chosen “Maiden” were doing so predominantly in resistance to social pressures to start raising babies. The women who’d chosen “Crone” did it for the same reason – because they’d spent so many years, often in (lieu of) childhood, taking care of other people’s kids (frequently their numerous younger siblings), and they no-longer wanted to be defined in any way by the role of “child-care-giver”.
I’ve watched so many women – with and without kids – trying to twist the goddess-category of “Mother” to mean something closer to “career woman” or “manifester of creativity” or something because – duh – being defined by our capacity to make – or not make – babies is not actually all that empowering when it’s used as justification for treating our bodies as civic/public property[1].
 
Many, many years ago I came across a book called the Women’s Wheel of Life.
I have a copy on my shelf, because it influenced me a LOT.
It is deeply rooted in cis-based biological reductionism. Which sucks. BUT. It’s also the first (though YAY not the only!) goddess spirituality piece that expands on and changes up (to some extent) the limited options offerred by the Maiden-Mother-Crone paradigm.
 

Spring: Daughter – Maiden – BloodSister
Summer: Lover – Mother – Midwife
Autumn: Amazon – Matriarch – Priestess
Winter: Sorceress – Crone – DarkMother


 
As you can see, it ain’t perfect. “Blood Sister” could just as easily have been called “Comrade” or “Chosen Sister”. “Dark Mother” could have been “Guardian” or “Crossroads Keeper”. But it’s a start, and I’ve been glad of it for a very long time. (It being my 35th birthday today, I would put it at about… seventeen years?)
 
That said, my lovely wife once asked me – around the time that Z Budapest was choking on her own feet at Pantheacon – why it has to be about bodies in the first place.
And it’s a valid question. (And the answer is: Because we *are* our bodies. This is not a meat suit, this is *us*. We can’t choose how we’re made, or how the rest of the world is going to treat us because of it, but we can find ways, make ways, to make ourselves at home in our own skins. For some of us that’s a hell of a lot easier than for others of us. But it’s there, and it matters. You are not a thing for other people to make decisions about. Neither am I. We are ours, and we are holy. Full stop. No question).
None the less, and in spite of that answer, I do agree that an alternative paradigm (or three, or four) would be damn good to have available. Handily, they’re available!
An alternative that I (just now) came across, called the “Woman Breadwinner’s Wheel of Life”[2], offers the following:
 

Spring: Visionary
Summer: Adventurer
Autumn: Receiver
Winter: Wise Woman


 
While, again, it’s not perfect – I’d have liked to see creativity/creation alongside cultivation as the Summer bridge between inspiration and completion – it allows for a much wider range of activities, paths, and fulfillments than a model based on what we’re “supposed” to do with the reproductive organs someone else is presuming that we have.
I think this alternative paradigm allows for high-femme aunties (like me and like my wife), empire-building career-artists; raging grannies & student-activists (possibly the same people, I do realize); trans dyke mamas; sexworking professors; and all the rest of us.
 
The goddess in me greets the goddess in you. You are all my sisters. ❤
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Forced sterilization of indiginous &/or disabled cis women… "just 'cause", apparently; forced (manditory – until barely a couple of years ago, in my province – if you want to get an F on your ID) sterilization trans women; infringement and harrassment over access to birth control and abortion services for cis women; stealing children from reserves and poor, frequently racialized neighbourhoods coupled with opinions voiced by (usually white, usually cis-dude) people in power that poor women should just not have kids (see: "welfare queen"); implying that women who have "too much" and/or "the wrong kind of" sex (poly-kinky chicks AND sexworking chicks AND queer/dyke chicks) are unfit mothers and/or shouldn't be around children "just in general"; street harrassment of every possibly itteration; "Mommy Wars" and uninvited touching/discussion/advising of pregnant women (and, one suspects, people presumed to be women given their pregnancies); pressure for (cis) women over "a certain age" to have their reproductive (and sex-drive-inducing) organs removed ("cleaned out" – actual quote) now that they're not likely to result in further humans; non-consensual surgeries on intersex bodies to make them conform more to what "women" are "supposed" to look like "down there" as prescribed by a cisnormative, heteronormative, system that prioritizes the presumed desires and preferences of a het-cis male gaze; etc, etc, etc. 😛
 
[2] As someone who bakes the bread, but who doesn't earn a lot of money; as someone who is offspring-free but who holds the cultivation of my own chosen family in high priority; and as someone who doesn't see "career woman" and "parent woman" as mutually exclusive… I'm not thrilled with the name for this one. But I can work with it.

X is for Xaphtig – Pagan Blog Project 2013

Okay, okay, having put it into google, I’ve realized that it’s really spelled “zaftig”, but work with me here. “X” remains a tricky one.
Zaftig means “pleasantly plump” or “curvy” and while you can look at it one way and see one of the many ways we, as a culture, try to make “fat” and “hot” mutually exclusive categories (Boo!), I can look at it another way. Zaftig (or xaphtig) is big, meaty, fat, curvy, lush, voluptuous. It’s the shape that – much to my irriation (see above re: body-shaming) – gets termed “Goddess Sized” on the sarong racks at KG. It’s the shape that I am as a healthy, happy, adult.
It’s the shape I was when I learned to belly dance. It’s the shape I am now that I’ve been modeling for half a decade. It’s the shape I became when the woman I eventually married made me feel safe and wanted and beautiful.
 
So much of Goddess Spirituality is rooted in undoing body-shame. All kinds of body shame. Culturally inflicted shame around menstruation and (if you look at the roots of it) women’s sexuality in general. Body-policing and (typically) fat-shaming. Social expectations about being “too much woman” (if you’re a queer cis femme, a poly-type, a sexworker, a mother of “too many” children, a trans woman who routinely gets read as cis[1], a straight chick who likes sex) or “not woman enough” (if you’re butch, an out dyke, a trans woman of any sexual orientation who doesn’t routinely get read as cis, if you can’t or don’t want to, have kids).
 
So here. Have a look at this. I’d have liked to see women like Isis King and Calpernia Addams included in this picture from Wirligigagogo, I think it echos some of the aimed-for body-positivity of “thou art goddess”.
 

Click the image to go to the original post by Whirligigagogo, where you’ll find even more “We Are Beautiful” posters and pics. 🙂


 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] See Julia Serano’s essay “Skirt Chasers” for more on the idea of trans women as “deceptive”.

Moving Right Along – Warming Up My Body (and My Voice!)

Okay. Last Summer, I did yoga. I signed up for a yin/yang (that’s “yin” – for joints & connective tissues – and “yang” – aka “hatha”, for muscles) yoga class at the studio down the street and learned how to do a bunch of poses, and then did them pretty-much every morning at my own house after a couple of weeks.
And then I went a got myself a temporary day-job and that meant that I basically dropped yoga like a hot potato.

And now here it is, barely a week away from March, with (Maple) Sugar Moon starting to grow (new moon was yesterday, iirc), and I’m basically going “Okay, self. Time to get back into the routine of things.”

Which means doing yoga again every morning chez moi – even if it’s only 20-30 minutes (though I’m aiming to work up to about 45/morning) – and doing vocal warm-ups at the same time.

This is a big deal for me.

I can feel myself expanding when I do it.
And, yeah, maybe part of that is because the weather’s been ridiculously warm the past week or so, which has had my body craving yoga (rather than craving curling up in a ball under a blanket with hot chocolate, for example) – specifically downward dog, for some reason. I don’t even like downward dog (so I dunno). Or maybe it’s because I spent last night having A Conversation with my sweetie about getting my sadistic groove back, which seriously helped me out – I’ve been feeling crunched up and squashed and coiled up inside myself (like I’ve been making myself small and unnoticeable or similar) and, when my Ghost asked me what I want to get out of S/M and what I enjoy about it, and basically a lot of “Use Your Words Luke Miz Syren” plus a chance to be all me-me-me[1] about a type of play that typically gets preached as being all about the bottom, not the top.
It was really good.
However.
I also think that I’m breathing more easily and and feeling more open because I let myself sing, let myself go through the decades-familiar work of arpeggios and scales and other simple warm-up exercises, filled my lungs all the way and didn’t worry about (a) bothering the neighbours[2] or (b) staying within what I currently feel are my “limits”[3].

I need to watch myself, because the frequent up-and-down of yoga often leaves me feeling a little light-headed. That combined with the deep-breathing, long breaths, and more-intense-than-I’m-used-to vocal activity, means that I need to be careful.

So, for now, I’m doing about 20 minutes of yoga + vocal warm-ups (mostly at the lower end of my range). As I get back into the swing of things, I’ll be able to yoga for longer periods, hold poses longer, and get myself into the upper end of my range without feeling like I’m damaging myself.
By the time Actual Wedding Season hits (June, maybe a little earlier, around here), I should be in Good Form (vocally and physically) and, with any luck, on track with practicing Actual Repertoire as well as doing daily warm-ups.
One can dream act, right? 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Do not even get me started on how hard it is to actively and healthily be all me-me-me rather than doing it silently and full of resentment. I’m just saying. Seriously. Half of Syrens is all about that stuff.

[2] I spent three years – the last three years in-which I took singing lessons – getting harrassed by neighbours (who were everything from indifferently-clueless to actively, nastily hostile) about my singing. Because I practiced at home. Which apparently drove everyone in the building(s) nuts. I moved three times. That’ll do a number on a gal.

[3] I’m trying to be “gentle” with myself on this. There’s a gap between what I could do ten years ago and what I can do now and, while it’s not actually as wide as I originally feared it was (I still have my high b-flat! :-D) it is still a gap. I get tired quickly, because I haven’t done warm-ups like this in years (with the exception of when I learned a piece for my cousin’s wedding last summer), and I don’t want to push myself so far – which, really, isn’t all that far – that I end up having to take a day (or two, or three… you see what could happen there) off to recover.