Imbolg was last Thursday, and I’ve been doing “halfway through the winter” and “wake up, shake up” stuff for about a week now. Culling books, clothes, and housewares, reorganizing the heavy duty shelving in my kitchen so that things are easier to find and use (and use up), doing energy work for chakra unblocking and otherwise trying to change up some persistent patterns, even timing a job application (that would mean big, largely positive changes for us) with the Moon in Leo turning full yesterday morning.
Today I finally made it to the Winter Stone. I brought a mix of whipping cream and maple cream Sortilege, a jar of sunflower seeds mixed with basil, blue vervain, and mugwort – all reminders of summer that was and summer that will come again – and a soul cake made with melted chocolate and cream steeped with licorice root and warming spices and sang little bits of SJ Tucker’s Imbolc Song for Offerings after brushing about a foot of snow off the stone itself.
Around here, Imbolg doesn’t mean crocuses and snowdrops like it does in Vancouver and DC, even when the temperature is as chaotic and weird as it’s been this year (swinging from -41C a couple of days ago to an expected +3C this coming Friday). Around here, Imbolg is the half-way point. Whether you count “winter months” as December through March, or push all the way from Samhain to Beltane, early February, with its groundhog watch and its pharmacy shelves lined with heart shaped boxes, is the point where Winter starts turning towards Spring or, as the local Druid Grove puts it, “The evidence based belief that Spring will come again”.
Decades ago, when I was both new to living outside of my parents’ house and still fairly new to being Pagan in a “regular religious practices” kind of way, I was trying to figure out what Imbolg meant for me, how I could mark it when most of the books I was able to find had been written by people in California or other warmer climates where you could at least see Spring coming in early February, even if it was only because the snow was noticeably staying melted. At that time, I was doing regular rituals with a few friends – some my age, some a decade, or even a generation, older – and the “mother” of the group had us over for an Imbolg ritual that involved a celebration of femininity and sensuality, of flavours and smells and textures and movements that made your senses wake up and feel alive again after months of cold and dark and, given that we were all involved in Academe at the time, the looming spectre of midterms hanging over our heads on top of that.
These days, Imbolg is the time when take down my Solstice decorations and change out the wreath on my door. But it’s because of that ritual that my February-to-May wreath is all jewel-tone ribbons and cinnamon sticks. It’s because of that ritual that I make my Offering soul cakes with chocolate and cardamom and star anise alongside the warm, sweetness of licorice and sarsaparilla roots. If High Summer is the pause point, the indrawn breath and sultry sigh before the work of the harvest starts, if High Summer is “Glammas” and a chance to painted toenails, skinny dipping, and blessing the harvest that will come, then Imbolg is it’s opposite number: Seed packets and dreaming, soaking in the cauldron of creation that is your own bath tub, a time for intention-setting and putting plans in motion.
The sun set at 5:11pm on February 2nd. Today it sets at 5:17. Six weeks from now it will still be light out after 7pm and we’ll be hearing the geese coming home, maybe even seeing snowdrops starting to push through the soil against sunny, south facing walls. Maybe it’s just because it’s a bright, BRIGHT day today – only -4 with a light breeze and the sun feeling warm on my back – or because there was a crow visiting my back yard when I stepped out to make my offerings, and a chickadee checking out the long-abandoned blue jay nest at the corner of my house, but I’m feeling hopeful today in a way that I didn’t yesterday. Roll on Spring! I know you’ll get here eventually.
So I’ve been reading Brendan Myers’ The Other Side of Virtue, which is about “heroic virtues” and how various pre-Christian, European cultures (that we have anything like information from, so looking at things like The Oddysey, Beowulf, the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Norse Eddas and Sagas, and the Mabinogion for clues) answered the question of “How shall I be a good and righteous person?”
At the same time, I picked up a copy (from the library) of Restoring the Kinship Worldview: Indigenous Voices Introduce 28 Precepts for Rebalancing Life on Planet Earth which includes a list – with each pair presented as the opposite ends of a spectrum – of elements that make up, respectively, a “colonizer world view” and an “indigenous worldview”.
Now, I think the main thing you need to have a colonizing worldview is an astronomical sense of entitlement and presumption that your way is the Best Way.
You can be a polytheist, animist, ancestor-venerating society that recognizes gods as being of specific places, landmarks, wheelhouses, etc and see it as completely sensible that the people whose lands and lives you take over would continue to worship their own gods and ancestors (as long as they also worshiped at least one or two of yours, and paid their taxes)… and still be a greedy, colonizing bastard of an empire who thinks Rome (or the Forbidden City, or Tenochtitlan, or Mongolia, or Ur, or or or) brings order to a chaotic and barbaric world and obviously everyone is better off when Rome (etc) is well off thanks to having access to everybody else’s stuff.
You can be a violent, enslaving, traumatizing civilization, full of people who think they’re the best of everybody, and still have those various Best Of Everybodies not be interested in ruling more than their ancestral territory to which they owe honour, allegiance, and deep respect because obviously.
(Yes, I’ve been watching Britannia, how did you know?)
But I think it’s really interesting to see how many of Myers’ suggested Heroic Virtues are reflected in that list elements of Indigenous Worldviews.
Which: I mean, it kind of stands to reason. The Hellenic and Roman empires notwithstanding, most of the people living in Heroic Age Europe were living in (relatively) small territories based broadly on kinship and peppered with non-human and/or formerly-human intelligences who definitely had Views about what happened in their space and/or to their bodies, and/or how their still-human relatives conducted themselves.
You opened your home to the stranger who came knocking for all the reasons you’d do it everywhere else, e.g.: (1) It’s polite, (2) travel is time-consuming and tiring and it’s better for everybody if nobody has to hump 100% of their own food and water all the way to wherever they’re going, (3) it might be YOU traveling next time and needing a bed and a meal from a stranger, (4) it keeps (or at least helps keep) relations with the neighbours manageable and friendly, and (5) it keeps (or at least helps keep) relations with The Neighbours manageable and friendly, too, because nobody wants to piss off a deity just because they happened to look a little shabby when they hit you up for a bowl of soup and a spot by the fire.
You treated the forest/field/waters with respect because (1) It’s polite, (2) extensive trade routes notwithstanding, there’s still not the kind of massive supply chain that can get your particular kin group out of a jam in the entire bioregion’s been hit by a drought or a flood, and (3) see above re: a landscape where everything is sentient and, understandably, has opinions and expectations about how they get treated by and with.
So, no, it’s not a shock that my pre-christian iron age ancestors in Hen Ogled (Cumbria, Dumfries & Galloway) likely had a worldview that overlapped considerably with those of other animists the world over.
Right. So where does that leave me?
The other day I reread what I wrote around (g)Lammas – about how, if my goal is to have a house that I own, there are steps I need to take to get there – and, while a lot of those things have to do with getting enough extra income to put substantial money aside to save up a down payment, while downsizing enough Stuff to fit us into a slightly smaller space… Some of them don’t. Some of them are things like “Be respectful of the house you have now” by doing things like vacuuming regularly, feeding the garden, limiting the amount of objects in your house to those that you relate to rather than neglect… stuff like that, and: “If you want a crowded table, get comfortable with having one”.
Case in point: Yesterday, we got a short-notice message that a friend of my wife’s was dropping by and – surprise! – had his wife and son in tow. At dinner time.
We ended up not hosting them – they’d picked up drive-through on the way here, and were stopping by because he needed to pick something up from my wife – but I spent a slightly frantic half-hour quick-tidying the front room, and cooking enough food for five adults anyway. All the while repeating “Hospitality Is A Virtue” through gritted teeth and being thankful that what I’d planned for our own meal was something that could scale up easily.
But can I start aiming to do this with grace?
Yeah. Yeah, I can.
I can make the effort (and, however gross this is, it is an effort) to keep the inside of my head from becoming a seething rage pit every time a friend who owns their own house outright and, in one case, inherited it already-paid-off, complains about how hard their life is and how tight money is… if only because some of those same people are probably grinding their teeth when I complain about how tight money is while only working 23 hours/week, eating fancy cheese, and shelling out for plane tickets twice a year.
I can make the effort to replace the assumption that people only call me when they want free services with, maybe, an assumption that people actually like me and, if ever I was in need, they would show up and help me out. (That one is really hard, btw. It’s one of those Core Horrible Stories that has lived in my head since I was nine or ten, and that always comes back and rears its ugly head again).
I can make the effort to not resent my neighbours who need help with their garbage every week and who get antsy about having their car brushed off an hour+ before they’ve said they need it ready to go, and who are, frankly, the powerless people in this situation and who are getting antsy probably because they’re afraid of being forgotten and stuck. Which: fair. That same fear – of being forgotten when I need help – is why I’m so pre-emptively resentful about Helping People in the first place.
Which: How telling is that last bit?
It’s always easier to be patient when you have all the time in the world.
It’s always easier to be generous when you have plenty to share.
But I can try not to default to being an asshole about it when I don’t have those things. I can be a more gracious and generous host. I can be a more dutiful and respectful animist.
 Based on stories – and some histories – from 1000-2000 years ago and what they tell us about expectations around social behaviour and what was appropriate for Good People to do.
 Per Graham Harvey’s definition, rather than that of, like, 1800s Christian-supremacists.
 Which I’m… sort of doing already. To the tune of may be $500/year, so it’s going to be A While. But still. Doing.
So, I was bopping around Patheos, as you do when you’re a Pagan of a Certain Age who still loves long-form blogging, and I came across this article which, among other things, said “cultivate joy”. Now I’m not Lokian, I’m not Norse reconstructionist or any particular subsection of Heathen.
And: I still appreciated the heads-up, you know?
So here I am asking myself: How can I cultivate joy?
Why? Because “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. Because my Fetch is a kid who didn’t get a lot of play time and would probably enjoy it. Because it’s good for my brain and refills my creative well. Because joyful experiences shared are points of connection.
So why not?
I pulled three tarot cards from my Wildwood deck to see what they had to say about it, and I got:
The Three of Fire – “Fulfillment”. Adventure, optimism, stepping into the unknown… but doing so from a secure home base (literally and figuratively)
Ten of Air – “Instruction”. Which a lot of interpretations read as this intensely negative thing, but for me has always been a card about leveling up. In the case of the Wildwood deck, it’s particularly about knowledge and passing on skills you’ve mastered (but maybe also getting better at things you’re new at?). It’s a “Next chapter!” kind of card.
Four of Air – “Rest”. To some extent, I think this is “Joy helps alleviate burnout” but also “Introvert time can be an avenue along-which to cultivate joy, too”.
So, what I see here is a lot of “home = sanctuary”, coupled with “try new things – they don’t have to be dramatic to make you happy”.
I’m still a long way from finishing my novel draft. I’ve got about 2 weeks, or a little more, to write 35,000 words which… we’ll see if I can knock that out. That’s a fair few 6000 word days I’m looking at, but… maybe? Fingers crossed. I’m revisiting the idea of liturgical and devotional poetry. Partly because I read this thing about Pagan Prayer, and partly because it remains something I’d like to do, even if I’m not sure where to start or how to keep things from getting repetitive. I think my Gods might enjoy the work, and I think I would enjoy doing it. So maybe that’s what my November will involve.
I’ve been thinking of the part of prayer that’s Listening, and how incredibly bad I am at it, most of the time. Not just the concrete bunker that is my skull, but also the way my anxiety-brain goes running off madly in all directions, afraid to listen lest I find out that Somebody Is Mad At Me or something… even when I know that isn’t likely.
I have a couple of books – anthologies like Her Words and Return of the Great Goddess – that were published in the 1990s and are mixture of historical devotional prayers/praises (translations of Homer, etc) and contemporary verse that may or may not be explicitly devotional or offered to a specific goddess. But I find them… nice(?) to pull out and read from.
Something someone at a Pride party said to me… more than a year ago now, is that a lot of The Neighbours just want to be noticed and acknowledged. Which leads me to think that maybe, possibly, I could draw on the examples of Mary Oliver and Bliss Carman as much as anyone else’s, and just write what I see and try to open myself to Wonder.
We’ll see where it takes me, I guess.
We’re well and truly into the Season of the Witch now. Have been for about three weeks, if not a little longer. The mornings are cold, the leaves are turning, it’s getting dark earlier (noticeably, even this soon after the Equinox), and I’m grateful for layered clothes and thick socks, even if I’m still risking wearing sandals when I run up the street (literally – we’re half a block from a grocery store) for emergency brussels sprouts and nutmeg (just me? Okay).
We just celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada – thence, in fact, the emergency brussels sprouts and nutmeg (though my visiting girlfriend was actually the one running that errand). It happens 2-3 weeks after Autumn Equinox (it used to be the first Sunday after the first full moon after Autumn Equinox, but it’s been standardized at some point in the last 15-20 years or so), and I find it a nice way to mark the Second Harvest / Mabon in a way that lets me take advantage of a long weekend (and an anniversary) and invite non-pagan friends and relatives into a Harvest Feast where I say my Thanks during the planning and cooking phases, and just keep the altar lit when everybody’s here.
I have to admit that this kind of thing helps when it comes to getting my butt down to the season stones in a timely (ish) fashion. I didn’t go at Autumn Equinox. But I went to the Autumn Stone over Thanksgiving weekend, brought whiskey and a home-made cranberry-apple-walnut muffin, and gave my thanks for full larder and happy harvest and having my girls around me.
Now my head’s pretty firmly turning towards Samhain – ghost pumpkins and purple autumn asters, rutabaga, jarahdale squash, Russian sage and birch leaves turning to pale gold, turkey heart and liver for solo breakfast on a Monday morning three weeks from now as Ancestor Moon waxes and Scorpio Season takes off. I might try doing a Silent Supper on the night of the 30th – try doing that meditative listening/attentiveness thing again and see what, if anything, happens. Maybe I’ll hear from somebody.
The cards I pulled for the Full Moon were also from the Wildwood deck and what I picked up were:
The Three of Water (“Joy” but also, typically, my Polyamoury card)
The Ten of Fire (“Responsibility”)
My decks – but particularly the Wildwood deck – tend to run VERY literal. So I’m not surprised to see the Three of Water turning up both (a) when I’ve been thinking about how to cultivate joy, but more-so (b) when my girlfriend just visited for a couple of weeks, and I hosted a Big Traditional Feast with both partners and my local-extended polycule in attendance.
As for the ten of fire though… this is often a card about only taking on what you’re actually responsible for. Questions about “what is your job and what isn’t” and “who you are responsible TO is not the same as what you are responsible FOR” come up, for sure.
But this is also just a card about: “Did you make a commitment? You should make good on that commitment then.” And potentially about choosing your battles – and your tasks – carefully so that you don’t take on too much.
Movement: Walks in the woods and a small living-room dance party, recently, with my visiting girlfriend. Crescent Moon pose (and some Warrior Two), when I haven’t been doing my nightly yoga.
Attention: Mostly I’ve been paying attention to the temperature and frost warnings. My little Fiona bird is probably mostly de-fleshed at this point and if I want to dig up and preserve her skull, I should probably get on that now-ish.
Gratitude: My girlfriend. My wife. Flirty karaoke shenanigans at the local tiny gay bar. In-person visits. In-person thanksgiving dinner. Leftovers. Extra cash thanks to a surprise work-gig. My relatives being friendly and welcoming to my poly-family. Potlucks. Surprise pears from my neighbour. Multiple people offering me pie! The loan of a really great book in a really great series. Crisp, sunny mornings. My neighbours turning on their furnace so that we can make do without doing so yet. Gifted bamboo cutlery. Garden herbs. Winter squash. The feast and everyone – human and otherwise – who contributed to it. Moonlight. Sunsets. Icecream. Being able to see my breath. Warm shoes. Warm blankets. Fresh sheets. Kisses. Being in love with multiple people and having them like each other and get along. So many things, basically. My heart is full.
Inspiration: Uh… I mean, if you call “reasons teen me was mad at my mom” inspiration… I guess that? Drafting a YA novel is a trip.
Creation: As I said, I’ve been working on An Actual Novel. And also made a giant dinner that worked out really well. But that, and a batch of apple butter, are pretty much the extent of it at the moment. Onwards!
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).
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.