Tag Archives: living religion

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.

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.

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter 1 Activities (Followup) #Pagan #Polytheism

A kinda stereotypical witch’s altar from the free images available on Canva. There’s a herb wand, a leather-bound book with a Nile-River-Goddess-inspired pendant hanging over it, three votive candles, a big crystal, another leather bound book with a pentacle and wings embossed on the cover, some red fairy lights, a stick, and a mason jar with some pebbles(?) in it. I think there’s also a bundle of dried lavender in there somewhere.

Following up on this post with the second Homework Question asked by the author at the end of Chapter One. The author asks:

“What would it be like to honour the differently? Consider experimenting with a practice that is different from the beliefs that you hold. Can a hard polytheist meditate on Atman with a group of Hindus? Can a monotheist make offerings to the spirits of the land, understanding them as aspects of the divine? Can a soft polytheist, or nontheist, call upon a deity and speak with them as a person rather than an archetype? Sit with the feelings of discomfort that may arise from this thought experiment. Is it important to continue to believe as you do now? Why or why not?”

I started to touch on this very briefly in my previous post. That, when trying to find points of relation with monotheists and panentheists, I lean into the idea of numerous individual godsouls – including those of actual deities – making up a giant, composite, universe-soul who is, at the same time, an entity unto themselves, but that doing this is not entirely comfortable.

I feel like I’m lying. Or being rude to my gods. Or both. Which is one of the reasons I mostly practice as a Solitary.

Uh. More on that, even though I’ll be touching on it again in a few chapters:

I “go to church” with my girlfriend, and her ritual group, and it’s LOVELY. I’m very glad that I get to do this – or got to do this when they were doing ritual online, and may get to do this again if in-person stuff is available while I’m visiting DC – and it’s been really… really special and important for to be able to do that. I’ve talked before – if not on this blog, then with my friends – about “missing church”. Which has meant a couple of things for me. I miss the… laziness? Of just being able to show up at a ritual and follow the directions, rather than having to come up with the ritual myself.

Like, yes, I’m definitely down to create my own rituals, they’re personally meaningful and let me connect with my gods, my ancestors, my godself, my fetch, the spirits of my micro-bioregion. All of that. But it’s also really nice to be able to who up and immerse myself in a ritual without having to also make sure I remember what step comes next.

But I also miss “church” in the sense of “having a community of shared values and… heavily overlapping(?) cosmology with-whom I can do personally meaning woo-woo stuff on a reliable and consistent basis”. And there are local ritual groups, public ones, that I could be part of. Or there were, a few years ago. But it feels really weird to sort of “play at” penentheism, or at duotheistic poly pantheism, in a long term way. Like, she who is the white moon among the stars is actually NOT the same person as the one who’s the green earth. Heck the Green and the Earth are two different people. And that’s just on my personal altar, before you get to the specific individuals who make up the Green ad the Earth who I call to when I do quarter calls. You know?

So, to drag this back to the author’s question:

While I’m able to consider the soul of the universe, of which I (and/as my tripartite soul) am just a tiny, TINY part:

  • I’m not thinking of Atman – my rudimentary understanding of All That Is, the connections between, and ultimate unity of, All That Is, is not likely to be the same understanding that someone who’s been a practicing Hindu for 25 years is going to have via the lens of their faith.

AND

  • I’m going to feel like I’m oversimplifying things if that’s the part I focus on. Like I’m smoothing the edges off my cosmology to make it easier and more palatable for a largely monotheistic “over-culture” to wrap their collective heads around

AND

  • I’m going to worry that I will forget both the complexity and the embodied immediacy of The Divine qua numerous individual deities, spirits of place, etc, if I spend too much time focusing on that broader, harder-to-have-relationships-with (harder to relate to? – There’s probably something worth digging into there) all-encompassing Universe Soul at the expense of naming and honouring and relating to those individual entities-unto-themselves who are my gods, who are the gods-who-aren’t-mine, who are the local Neighbours, who are my specific ancestors of blood and spirit, who is my own godself… all of them.

So, yes. I think it’s important for me to continue worshiping as I do, and… cosmology-ing as I do. While I get that my practice and understanding are going to keep evolving over time, I don’t think I’d be doing right by my gods or my Other People, if I changed that up substantially or suddenly or, possibly, at all.

That’s where I’m at right now.

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter 1 Activities

A Book Cover: Looking down a deep well. Tree branches and “the Moon” (actually the camera flash) are reflected in the water. It’s a good shot. The words “Seeking the Mystery – An Introduction to Pagan Theologies” – Christine Hoff Kraemer” overlay the image in blue and yellow text.

So I got myself a copy of this book. It’s one of the ones that’s on the reading list for Cherry Hill Seminary’s Community Ministry Certificate. I figure, if I can’t take the courses (…yet), I can at least start doing the readings. So I’ve made a start of it. It’s absolutely an intro book – a bit of a light survey with a solid bibliography to go hunting up further stuff. Short, but it’s chewy none the less. I appreciate how the author has made a point of drawing on examples from a lot of different traditions, and from writers/thinkers/theologians who were both well-established (Starhawk, Graham Harvey, Carol Christ, the Andersons, the Farrars, Judy Harrow, John Casey, Margot Adler) and those who, at the time of this book’s publication (2012) were much more recent additions to the Pagan theological… canon? Can I call it a canon? Let’s go with that. Think Sarah Kate Istra Winter, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Katherine MacDowell, Raven Kaldera, Ivo Dominguez Jr, and Emma Restall Orr, if we want to split that particular hair at roughly the Millennium line). I’m hopeful that, as we head into 2022, she’s got a 10 year anniversary follow-up in the works. Time will tell.

Anyway. The book has Activities at the end of each chapter. And I thought I’d give some of them a go.

Chapter one, which is kind of an introduction of theological terms like “Monism” and “Animism”, “Process Theology” and “Polytheism” (both hard and soft), asks the reader to think on their own theological position(s) and how that position has changed, if it has, over the course of their life.

~*~

So:

I would start by saying that my theology was experiential before I ever heard the word “theology” let alone started using it in sentences. Part of why I stopped being christian is that… there wasn’t anything there. Or at least that who was there was definitely not answering my phone calls.

I was about fifteen when I concluded that “Christian” no-longer described me, and that it was time to figure out what I did believe, and ideally to find a faith that could match it.

I was sixteen when I met a God for the first time.

As the prophets say:

And, lo, I became Pagan.

For the first few years – years when I was interacting with mostly Wiccan practitioners, mostly on the proto-internet of the mid-1990s – I probably qualified as either a soft polytheist or a duotheistic polypantheist (one of my profs used that term to describe the embodied, “all the gods are one god and all the goddesses one goddess” theology of Wicca, which she practiced). I’m not sure if I was an animist yet, though I knew that Ancestors were part of my reality pretty much immediately. I met my first (out) hard polytheist when I was in my very early twenties and that, as they say, Really Gave Me Something To Think About.

I think I was probably hitting on my own hard polytheism inside of five years later. Basically, I started meeting other gods (and then meeting other humans who had very specific relationships with specific other gods) and it felt increasingly… rude? to act like they were interchangeable. It was also around this point that I started thinking about the nature of souls and came to my own conclusion that there are multiple parts to a soul, or multiple souls, in a given person (not just human people, fyi, so: definitely an animist by this point). What I think is that, since reincarnation is a thing, and since ancestors who stick around and with-whom you can interact, are also a thing… There must be a spark that jumps from life to life, reincarnating over and over and picking up experiences, as well as a “self” or “memory” soul that develops over the course of a given lifetime and becomes an Ancestor (and sometimes a restless ghost, tbh) upon death.

That said: A lot of the theology I’ve read has been by Feri initiates, even if they were presenting stuff that was okay for laypeople to know. Lee Harrington. T Thorn Coyle. Starhawk. Gede Parma. Orion Foxwood. So maybe it’s not surprising that I’ve picked up.

Everything seems to be built in a series of nested layers – I am an entity unto myself. But I’m also part of the entity that is my micro-bioregion and, from there, my planet. I’m also made up of entities-unto-themselves that are the myriad folk of my gut biota, for example. My planet is made up of all those micro-bioregional entities, and is part of the entity that is my solar system.

And I think that souls must be a bit like that. I am an entity until myself – and so I go to the land of the Ancestors when I die. But I’m also part of the soul of All That Is – the universe has a soul made up of a zillion parts, because the universe is made up of a zillion parts. I think this is a little related to the Feri tradition’s Star Goddess. But it’s also a little related to the Vedic tradition’s Prajapati. It just seems to fit, given how the universe works (by our current understanding of How The Universe Works). All those land spirits, all those Gods of place. They are entities unto themselves. And I think, on some quiet level they are, like me, part of the All That Is.

I’ve met my Godself, my Deep Self, my Shard of the Universe Herself – to use three different ways of referring to Her – I know She’s real, and is an entity unto Herself. But I also know that She is, at the same time, both part of ME – this human body, this human life enlivened by a leaping, experiencing, ever-renewing Spark (is this Fetch? Maybe?) and remembered by/as an Ancestor (is this Talking Self? Maybe?) in times to come – and part of the swimming, blending, universe-soul, All That Is.

So… my Hard Polytheism and my Animism are underpinned by something like Pantheism? Maybe? But it’s a quiet, background pantheism rather than the Pantheism or Panenthism that my Unitarian clients, or the uh… Pananimist Nontheism(?) that my Buddhist clients for that matter, tend to lean towards. It’s what I lean into when I’m trying to find points of theological relating with people who are just weirded out by the reality of “Gods, Plural” and give me funny looks when I want to talk shop. It’s fine, but it feels a bit like hitting a wall, sometimes. It’s much easier to tell people that “my church is in my back yard” or “I take a walk in the woods when I need to commune with the divine” because that sounds hippie-pantheist enough to be non-threatening (I say, presuming that people are likely to be off-put by polytheism and hard animism) than to get into the nitty-gritty of seasonal offerings, deities turning up in the living room (and the bedroom), messages being passed along through humans who are More Sensitive To This Stuff than I am, using an imaginary legal pad to talk to my Godself, and how old an appliance has to be before it starts talking (I think the youngest machine who every told me her name is Janice, my wife’s the sewing machine who would have been… between 40 and 45 at the time? So younger than the Tsukumogami by a substantial margin. I’m kind of… trepedatious about what will happen in 10-20 years when my library starts hitting that age…)

~*~

… And that’s kind of where things stand right now.

I’m sure things will continue to evolve – particularly around Animism regarding things like “I am a mammal that eats… at all” and “So much plastic packaging… What do I do with this??” – but I like where my cosmology/theology are at right now. I think, at this point, it’s more likely to deepen than to change direction. I hope that’s how it goes.

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

Full Moon – Long Nights Moon Crests: Winter Solstice 2021

A bright red cardinal sits on a bare branch as tiny snowflakes gather on his feathers and swirl in the air.
Midwinter – A Cardinal in the Snow

I finished my poetry challenge, and at least a few of the pieces I drafted have some potential to become something good. Something that I noticed – and something that’s come up in a bunch of books I’ve read (everything from “money mindset” books to magic books to books on ecophilosophy) – is the whole idea of “What we speak, we bring into being”. Not in the simplistic sense of “If you mantra about being a Rich Witch you will become one” but in the sense of “language shapes thought, it shapes what we’re able to conceptualize”. (It’s why people with systemic social privilege so frequently get up in arms when marginalized and oppressed people start creating and using language that gives those privileges a name, or that gives them a name other than “that’s just normal”).

I find that, when I want to write about concepts of abundance and place-connection, I have a bad habit of, first, writing about lack and loss and disconnection (this is true whether it’s poetry or brainstorming about personal goals) – this can be a useful step for narrowing things down and finding patterns, but it’s also a place where I can get stuck. I have to remember to ask myself “Okay. If you don’t want X, Y, or Z… where do those Don’t Wants point you? What is the billiard ball direction of ricochet that you bounce towards when you rebound OFF Don’t Want?” If I want to <em>use my words, my breath, my voice, my song to work my will and make it manifest</em>… I need to know where I’m aiming my Will… or else all that potential energy will stall out rather than launching and transforming into kinetics.

A lot of the poetry I wrote/drafted over the course of this past lunar cycle was about the Don’t Wants. Some of it wasn’t. Some of it was about abundance and security that I already have, and about where I’m actually aiming. But a lot of it wasn’t, and that may mess with the effectiveness of the spell. None the less, I Did The Thing, and I was reminded that it’s not overly difficult or time-consuming to draft a single – mediocre, granted – poem every day. To have a tiny writing Practice that doesn’t stress me out and that I can stick to for a sustained period of time.

So there’s that.

My girlfriend has been visiting for two weeks, which was wonderful. She and my wife and I did Solstice all together for the first time. We walked down to the Winter Stone and made offerings – Laphroaig scotch and Angel’s Envy bourbon plus home-made cookies (coffee-almond-maple macarons, honey-spice cookies, and rose-poppyseed shortbread) – before my two girls went for a walk together for Metamour Time and I headed home to finish my work day.

My wife and I got to have a lovely anniversary together, too.

She made me a very fancy dinner, and we shared some chocolate and a bottle of our wedding wine (same type of wine, different year – Inniskillin’s Late Autumn Riesling) and chatted away on the couch together, while my girlfriend spent the evening with a couple of friends we’ve all been bubbled with for going on two years. It was absolutely wonderful.

My father-in-law came to visit for a couple of days (he arrived 24 hours after my girlfriend left) and just headed home again this morning. I’m relieved to have the house to myself for a bit and to be able to get my breath back.

Solstice is such a weird time. Weird because I’m over here balancing (a) my anniversary, (b) having a big shindig (not this year, obviously, but during non-plague times it was a thing we did every year) and filling the house with our friends, and (c) doing the actual Dreaming and Resting and Turning Inward that Midwinter is actually about – if you’re me, at any rate – and that’s before I even get to the part where I’ve got a bunch of not-religiously-Christian (but culturally very-much-so) family members who want to Do A Thing for Christmas and trying to balance all of those family obligations out around a day that, for me, is really just a quiet day that I mercifully don’t have to work on (unlike most stat holidays) and, had I my druthers, would probably spend reading a book, cleaning the house, and eating leftover Solstice goodies in peace.

I’ve dug out my copy of Seaking the Mysteries again and am looking forward to devoting more time to reading it and working through the writing/thinking prompts. The chicken carcass we hung out for the crows – on a big, copper hook hanging from a branch of our cedar tree – has finally been Investigated by a couple of locals. It wasn’t quite an “Offering Accepted” moment, but it was wonderful to see these big, black, umbrella birds hopping from branch to branch, checking angles and balances, before having a good nosh. I hope they come back.

~*~

What I’ve been up to:

At the Full Moon, I took myself down into my Luxury Astral Sea Cave. There was seaweed and salt water all over the floor, so (a) June’s been around, but also (b) I had to do some tidying up. I ate some of the seaweed, and a little snail – who wanted the company/food source of a planted bunch of bladder wrack and a tubeworm/anemone – has taken up residence in my grotto (hot tub?) and, as a result, my Luxury Astral Sea Cave now has a rudimentary filtration system that means I can do laundry and such-like without worrying about wrecking the open ocean (entire astral plane?) on the other side of the membrane.

I got a message on the memo pad that said “Succeed!” + “I can see growth / I can seed growth (/ I conceded growth?)” + “seeds”. Which means I’ve gone and popped 32 squash seeds onto my tiny office altar and, I think, I’ll be planting at least some of them in the spring. I sort of secretly think this is also hinting at a timeline? But we’ll see.

For Solstice, I came up with a little visualization that I did this morning that involved a walk through a wintery landscape and the question: “What does this dreaming winter landscape have to tell me about the kind of rest I need?”

What I saw in the ice/mirror: I saw Fetch, my child/animal/embodied self cutting out a garland of paper dolls.

Between this and the regimented lumber plantation that kept trying to assert itself, the message I got – that I hope is an accurate one – is that the kind of rest I need, that I would benefit from, is less about sleep and more about unstructured, non-productive but creative play.

It’s probably telling that my reaction to paper dolls is basically “But this is just so much garbage…” rather than “That looks like fun”.

So I’m asking myself:

In addition to take Sunday afternoons to read pagan theology, ecophilosophy, and similar, what kind of regular play date can I give myself – something like an Artist’s Date – that lets me PLAY in way that isn’t regimented and whose end-goal is “this was fun” rather than “I have produced a garment” or “I exercised” or similar.

I’m honestly considering buying myself a “stocking stuffer” package of water-soluble soap crayons or something and making a point of covering my bathtub tiles with green spirals and seaweed fronds or something. It could be fun. And it would be easy (I hope) to clean up, too.

I’m having that Just Before New Year’s warning feeling of “don’t make commitments you aren’t going to keep”, so I’m a little hesitant to stay spouting off about wanting to visit my Sea Cave on a regular and frequent basis, or wanting to get back to the nightly yoga routine that I stopped doing six months ago when I seriously wrecked my knee by going skateboarding for the first time. These are good things to want, and good things to do, and also: It’s six days ‘til 2022 and we all know what this time of year can be like. So. Maybe I’ll just sit on those for a week or two. >.>

Slow Holler - Ace of Water

Image: Slow Holler Tarot – Ace of Vessels – A Mason Jar with a storm, a lake, and a shooting star inside.

I use a random tarot card generator to pull my Card for this (waning) part of the Long Nights Moon. I went into it thinking “JUST the next week or so” but… wow, now that I’ve seen it: Gosh, I hope this is what 2022 has to offer.

The Ace of Water is the distillation of the whole suit. Emotional fulfillment. Creative inspiration and action. Job satisfaction. Time and space for self-nurturing. Artistic endeavors. Happiness. A full and open heart.

Yes, I want this.

And, yes, I have this.

Two partners who love me and care about each other. An end-date for the job that’s been stressing me out all year (I gave my notice 2 weeks ago, and have five weeks – aka 10 days – left) and an at-home job to replace it with that will be more flexible and lower-stress for everyone at home. The chance to breathe and to refill the well.

I look forward to welcoming it all further in.

~*~

Movement: 14-minute yoga (on youtube) with my girlfriend. Ambles in the woods and down to the bay. Walking to (bubbled) friends’ houses. A little bit of dancing. Nothing fancy, and nothing consistent, but some movement going on.

Attention: Watching the birds and squirrels out my window. Watching the weather and, tbh, the driving conditions. Watching my stress levels and paying attention to what conditions (foods, feelings – mostly feelings) give me stomach cramps vs which ones leave me feeling fine.

Gratitude: For everything. For my father in law coming to town. For two weeks with my girlfriend. For a really lovely 9th anniversary. For Winter Solstice music mixes. For online concerts. For crows in the cedar tree. For cardinals and chickadees being busy with their own lives, which overlap just a little bit with mine. For surprise xmas bonuses from 2/3 of my jobs. For having the extra cash to help out a friend. For another friend making a full recovery from an injury. For my brother’s good news. For my newest niece liking a very old family recipe. For cold, fresh air. For central heating and extra blankets. For sunshine. For starlight. For snowfall. For magic. For time with people I love. For time to just myself. For all the love that’s carrying me through my life.

Inspiration: Rooted, by Leandra Lynn Haupt. The jar of hazelnuts in my pantry (half of which are now home-ground and some of which have been added to another batch of maple-coffee macarons). The turning of the year and ways to incorporate the tastes of other seasons into my midwinter dishes. The astrological positions of the Moon. Wintery imagery. Snow falling in thick flakes at sunset, the red flash of a cardinal against the white-white-white of snow.

Creation: I haven’t written a poem since I finished my challenge. That doesn’t mean I won’t write lots more, but my focus has been elsewhere, in my kitchen and my craft cabinet. I’ve tweaked and re-written recipes that I made up years ago – what would my distant ancestors have used to make food special in winter? What do I have available now? –  and had a good time making honey-walnut ice cream and coffee-hazelnut cookies. I (finally) finished a skirt, added button closures to the slippers I knitted two years ago (now they don’t fall off my feet!), and have picked up another knitting project that I put away nearly a year ago. It’s been nice to make things with my hands again!

A frosted-over soap bubble balances on frozen grass stalks against a blue background. The words "Merry Midwinter Everyone" overlay the image in white script.

New Moon – Long Nights Moon Begins

A waxing crescent moon, craters visible, hangs in the lower right quadrant against a black sky. The words “Long Nights Moon” overlay the image in white script.

 

Early December. The Season of the Hag starts today and, right on time, a snowfall. Just deep enough to cover the ground, but light enough that I can sweep my neighbour’s steps rather than getting out the shovel just yet. My wife is away for the weekend, with her girlfriend, and my girlfriend is due to arrive this coming Wednesday for a couple of weeks. She’ll still be here when this barely-new moon is full, and for a couple of days beyond that.

This weekend is going to be a mix of Trying To Relax combined with doing a lot of dishes, getting the second bedroom ready for her arrival, and probably doing a big grocery shop for thing like romano beans and veggie sausages and tempeh.

But it’s also the weekend I make a libation to the Hag of Winter, change the wreath on my front door, and put up the holly garlands by way of seasonal decorations.

Sadly, I didn’t get the extra hours from one of my comms jobs that I was hoping for. I’m not saying it won’t happen eventually, but it’s not happening going into 2022, so: Plan B is in effect. We’ll make it work. I’m looking forward to the day – 7-8 weeks from now – when I’ll have more time on my hands to do things like “stay on top of my kitchen” and “make things from scratch”. I still have a list of things I want to make – jars of romano beans and chick peas and stewing beef, honey-almond-cinnamon ice cream, apple butter, bread (it’s been AGES!), but also skirts, sweaters, button/lacing additions to the slippers I made 2 years ago – that will require time and focus that I haven’t (confession…) wanted to devote to “work” when the other kind of work has been so exhausting.

I’m looking forward the slow turning of Winter into Spring 2022 as a time – I hope – of welcoming my creativity back to wakefulness and finding a better balance between “work that makes me money”, “work that makes me HAPPY”, and “Actual LEISURE, Thanks”.

The voice at the back of my head – which is probably just plane old me and not the whisperings of Angler Fish June Cleaver (but who knows) – asks “Okay, so how are you going to make that happen? You’re still going to be working on Mondays and Tuesdays, just doing a different job. What’s the plan here, Me?” And, mostly, it just means getting out of bed before 9am and doing some of that Productive Home stuff in the hour or two before starting my money-making work day. Sewing or knitting while I chat with my girls and drink my morning coffee. Taking myself out of the house for a walk every Saturday morning. Making a point of shutting down work and reading a book for an hour once dinner’s on the go. Staying off social media more than I do (I say while blogging, um…) Just getting my priorities sorted in a way that makes me put the money-work away, deliberately, every day and that helps me avoid Mindless Scrolling.

Right now, there’s a grey squirrel eating birdseed on my window. A couple of crows have flown over the house – one of them just landed in the tree across the street). And my own little birds are preening and waking up now that there’s some afternoon light coming in through our north-by-northwest-facing window. I need to take myself back up the street and pick up some birdseed for them, I think.

Mary El Tarot Deck – The Tower (a burning image of something that looks a bit like the statue of liberty), reversed; The 10 of Disks (a winged, black horse whose rider is a white goat with numerous, spiraling horns, carrying a stylized set of scales), upright.

Behold, the tarot cards I pulled today. More specifically, I pulled The Tower, Reversed and then, because landing on the tower isn’t strictly FUN even when it’s not scary, I basically said, “Okay, but then what?” nd shuffled until something fell out of the deck. Which, thankfully, was the very positive and reassuring Ten of Earth.

I’ll expand on this a little elsewhere, but my basic read on this is:

  1. That which falls apart wasn’t meant to last.
  2. After the struggle, you find your feet (your security, your sense of home and safety, your material well-being) again.
  3. Don’t freak out.

I mean… I’ll take it. This is fine.

~*~

Movement: I went for a walk this morning, through the little bit of succession woodland near my house while the snow was falling.

Attention: Right this second? I’m paying attention to the stiffness in my back and neck, and to the smell coming from my oven so I don’t let my lunch/dinner burn by accident. Also hunting up new tunes to add to my Winter Solstice mix, and keeping an eye on the snow outside, which seems to have let up for now.

Gratitude: Thankful for an exit strategy, new-to-me clothes (hand-me-downs from my Mom, because I’m at the age where my style and my mom’s overlap enough that this works out), a quiet day, a walk in the woods, delicious lunch (lupper?) in the oven, clean mason jars, a video date this evening, my wife getting some Enforced Down Time, my girlfriend coming up to visit very soon(!), my friend continuing to make a swift recovery from her health scare, beeswax candles, just enough snow to be pretty without being difficult the move through, pretty music playing while I write this, having options that allow me to leave a job when I don’t like it. Grateful for love and support, and for being able to experience and accept those things as true.

Inspiration: Moon phases and astrological positions, weather, seasonal changes, local birds, the wind.

Creation: As I mentioned here, I’ve been drafting a poem (sometimes more) every day since the last Full Moon. It’s felt good to do, without being arduous. I may want to keep it going for longer than my one-lunar-cycle duration but, for now, I’m sticking with that and am at roughly the half-way point. Some of them are… mediocre at the absolute best. But some of them have some good bones to work with, which is nice to see given how long I went without reliably poeting for a while there.

Samhain 2021 – Ancestor/Harvest Moon Has Been a LOT

A dark wood floor and a charcoal background. A white pumpkin with a long stem sits at the right edge of the frame. A black line-drawing of a human skull hovers against the charcoal backdrop. The words “May your Beloved and Mighty Dead guard and guide you. Blessed Samhain” overlay the image in white script.

It’s Last Harvest today. In keeping with eating the nasty bits at Samhain, I have beef heart marinating in red wine in the fridge right now. This afternoon – after editing a story submission – I will be hanging up more ancestor pictures in the hallway, then lighting my altar candles and doing a Silent Supper: Inviting my People to come in and visit, setting out a plate with a meal and glass of sortilege for those who want to show up.

I’ve never done this before. Not like this anyway. So we’ll see how it goes.

This month – the whole waxing and waning (almost – new moon is this coming… Thursday, I think) of Harvest/Ancestor Moon – has been a whirlwind. It started with my having the honour of officiating the wedding of a couple of friends of mine – I’m not legally licensed to solemnize a marriage, so the paperwork side was done beforehand through city hall, but it was lovely to be able to do the ritual in their back yard with their families and friends around them.

Side note: It was really neat to feel the Air Folk come in. It made me think of the magic I did to get this house, when I felt the Earth Folk arrive. They came because I was doing magic for housing and stability. It was cool to feel the Air arrive for a ritual of vow-making.

Other side note: I would love to be able to run this kind of ritual again.

After that, I basically got on a plane(!) and flew(!) to DC, to visit my girlfriend for our third(!) anniversary. Barring a slightly rocky start (below), it was a lovely visit. We took an impromptu trip to Chesapeak Bay and got to stand in the Atlantic – and get absolutely drenched in the waves – on our anniversary. We made apple pie and went for a night walk to look at the stars. We read stories to each other. We co-worked, because I was there for two weeks which meant more “domesticity” than “vacation”. It was good to have all that time with her.

The rocky start: The day I arrived, I got a wrecked phone call from my wife, telling me that my little bird, Fiona, had died. Which was pretty heart-breaking. A drive out to a pretty park turned into me sobbing in a parking lot for 40 minutes, grieving and devastated that I hadn’t been home when she died.

I buried her yesterday, just as the rain was starting, wrapped in corn husks and on a bed of tulip bulbs. I’m not expecting the bulbs to germinate – they were pretty old – but they were what I had.

One more family member in a year of losing family.

A close-up shot of a tiny, bright-eyed, pale blue parrotlet, sitting on her perch.

It’s time for me to sign off and do the final edits on a story-submission that’s due today.

I hope your beloved and mighty dead get in touch.

Take care,

Ms Syren.