Coming soon: a new web address for this blog!

[[[At the end of November I'll be migrating this blog to a new address, which will be: racemehome.blogspot.com]]]

26 December 2012

Reading Challenges for 2013

[This was first posted here.]


I've decided to join a reading challenge or two... or three.

I currently have a revolving stack of eight to ten books next to my bed. I'm somewhere in the middle of each of those books. As much as I read - for pleasure and for academic work - I think I can keep up with these challenges, and they look like fun directions in which to take my bookish adventures this year. 



Check em out: 

The Dystopian Reading Challenge, hosted by Blog of Erised:



The "This isn't fiction" Reading Challenge, hosted by The Book Garden:



And, the "Get Steampunk'd" Reading Challenge, hosted by Bookish Ardour: 



(Images link to their respective reading challenges.)



*You might notice, they're all somewhat related to research I'll be doing for the story I'm writing on this blog. Very observant, you. Indeed, that'll make it easier for me to keep up with the challenges - they meld quite well with things I'll need to read anyway, and give me a little more incentive to do my homework. 

22 December 2012

meh

So much I want to write about, so little time to myself in which to write...

My mom is here for the holiday. It's causing all sorts of mini-epiphanies in my brain. I'll write about it when I have more time. She's big on over-scheduling vacations.

18 December 2012

*ahem* ...drumroll please...

Today is December 18th! 

And Finals are over!
And my graduate school application is done!
And it's exactly one month until my First Blogoversary!

So..... I wanna do something celebratory!




On January 18th, 2013, 
I'm going to Give Away Stuff!
(Incidently, that's also someone's birthday.
Someone pretty cool, even.
Don't worry, I'll wait here.)


Are you back? Ok, let's resume:

You have one month to get your name in!





Ok, I think I'm done with the exclamations now.
Phew, that was exhausting.

I am  pretty excited though.

In honor of my intent to incorporate my artwork and poetry with my blogging, I'm going to give away one of my art prints and a hand-made copy of my poetry book. I may or may not add more as we get closer, I don't know yet. 

Which print? 
This one, called Souls. 
The one I'm giving away is approximately 9.5x24" (it's 60% of the size of the original painting), and it's printed on heavy weight, fine art paper by the awesome people at Fine Canvas Prints in Phoenix, AZ. This is a level above the Society6 prints in terms of the quality of both paper the print is on, and the printing job itself. It's a $75 value, if you're curious.


It's one of my favorites. I hope you like it too!

"But Bones, how do I enter for this giveaway?"

Thanks for asking. Here's how:

1. Follow my blogs (each blog followed = one entry). 
*Just a note, if you don't follow me "publicly" (as Blogger calls it), I won't be able to see your name in my follower list. I have never, and will never, post or link to a list of my followers anywhere in my blogs, just in case that matters to you.

2. Comment on this post (one entry).

3. Follow me on Society6 (one entry).

4. Follow me on Facebook (one entry).

5. Share the link to this post either on your facebook or your blog, or any other social network, then email me the link at art.by.eala@gmail.com (two entries for each medium the link is shared on). 

So theoretically one person could get a bunch of entries. Pretty cool, huh?
Links to my Facebook and Society6 pages are at the top right of this page.

Let the games begin!



17 December 2012

a challenge for the pagan community


Here's a challenge:

"Write a blog post about what you hope to see for the Pagan community in 2013, and include what you are going to personally do to make it happen. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture, but be daring. Be brave with specifics, and even ways you're going to hold yourself accountable, it's for the good of us all, right?"

That's from That Witchy Place's facebook page. They're doing a giveaway and this is one of several ways to enter (the other ways are far less time-consuming!). Go ahead, check it out.

~

It's a good question, huh?

What I hope to see for the Pagan community in 2013... well... it's not a question I would normally consider because, well, it feels a bit presumptuous. And maybe that's indicative of a trend, or a pair of trends, we see in the pagan community. It seems that there is a spectrum of humanity that gets a central stage in the pagan community. On one end are the people who love to tell others what to do, and shout their news to anyone who might listen. On the other end, those who avoid giving such advice in an almost phobic manner. Most of us, I'm guessing, fall somewhere in between those two extremes. I'm perhaps a bit closer to the phobic end, despite being a blogger. I'm not a fan of telling others how to conduct their spiritual or even their public lives, and certainly not how to integrate those two areas of life. So envisioning a direction I think an entire community should go isn't exactly a natural exercise for me.

To attempt this, I'm going to tell myself that nobody's taking my words here as directives, which I'm sure is accurate. Hypothetically speaking, it might be nice to see the pagan community to...

hmm...

... to communicate better. Yes. To learn to listen without swallowing anything whole, nor disregarding anything whole; to learn to advise without assuming authority unless that authority has been conferred by your listener; to learn to hear each other with sympathy, if not empathy; these are the things I'd like to see.

As to how I plan to make this happen... that's actually easier than it might seem. Or at least, it's easier than I might think it seems. I has a blog, after all. But if I'm going to look at this as a proactive change, it has to be more than just continuing the same old stuff.

It's a happy coincidence that my first blogoversary is coming up in January. I'd already planned to refocus this blog to include more of my daily life. The Diary of Bones started out as a place for me to write about what I call my psychosis. I didn't expect anyone to read it. But... I have more than 3000 views in less than a year. So somebody must reading. And lately, my psychosis has been less prevalent in my writing. Obviously, I've started writing about other things. The focus has already changed. Now I'm just adding a little intent behind the momentum.

One of the things I've written more about (probably the topic I've been writing about most, in the past several months) is my spiritual path. In 2013, I'm going to continue writing with the Pagan Blog Project and sharing Project Pagan Enough. I'm also joining the Pagan Pages Blog Hop as staff. As I do move into 2013, I'd like to recall in my writing - and reading - the idea of better communication in our community. Every movement starts somewhere small. Perhaps this isn't revolutionary, but it's something that would strengthen our community and our members. Who's with me?

14 December 2012

Jack Frost!

I was thinking about him last night as I laid in bed, falling asleep. He has a prominent role in this year's Christmas-classic-to-be, The Rise of the Guardians. Great movie, by the way. I loved it. Very pagan-y, not a madonna to be seen in the whole thing, and Jack Frost - one of my favorites - had a starring role. What's not to love? Oh, and it was pretty funny. Jack Frost's epiphany could have been written a bit better, I thought, but hey - that's really the only moment I didn't fully enjoy. And it was a rather short moment.

Side note: I was impressed with how they explained the Tooth Fairy. I won't spoil it, but yeah, that was cool.

So anyway. Movie critique aside, what really excited me was seeing my little Bear (my child) get excited about Jack Frost. See, Jack Frost was my favorite of the big legends when I was growing up. Santa was cool, but I caught my mom in that cover-up pretty early (something I've managed to successfully avoid with Bear, thank goodness), so Santa wasn't all that. Jack Frost, on the other hand, left beautiful works of art on my window every morning, all winter long. And really, that wasn't until I was a teenager.

See, when I was a kid I lived with my mom, and we always had heat in the house. So even though we lived in upstate New York, I'd only see the frost on the windows when I woke early, which wasn't all that often. But when I was a teenager I lived with my dad, and my bedroom didn't have heat. It would have if I'd left my bedroom door open, but I didn't. I needed the seclusion more than the heat. I needed my bedroom to be my refuge - I thought of it as my cave, my own space where I couldn't be hurt. It's where I went to heal when I was wounded. Honestly, in hindsight I realize it wasn't much different than my dogs running to their kennel when they're in trouble. Only, I was in trouble all the time. Anyway, my room was freaking cold.

I'd pile up in my blankets, creating a tent of warmth, and listen to music while I stared out the window. My room was in the corner of the house, and the window looked out over the lakes and hills below us. The wind was louder in my room than in any other room of the house, and I loved it. I had positioned my bed so that the foot was next to the window. My desk was at the foot of my bed, which served as my chair if I felt like sitting there. I didn't sit there much, though, because my desk was more of a hidey-hole for all my little trinkets, and the top of the desk was dominated by my stereo. (Which, by the way, had two tape players in it. Ha!)

When it was really cold, which was pretty much all winter, I would sleep with my head in the corner of the room and my feet near the window, with extra blankets over my feet because the window wasn't really sealed all that well. Or maybe the seal was just overwhelmed by the cold. I don't know. Anyway, the extra blankets helped. In the deepest parts of winter, I would sleep with the next day's clothes in the bed next to me, so they would be warm when I put them on the next morning. I'd bring my pillow under the blankets with me, and craft a blankety tunnel from my face to the fresh air, with a curve to soften the cold. In that little den-within-a-cave, I slept quite well.

Mornings were always good, despite my insomnia and my preference for sleeping in. In the morning, the house was quiet (nobody else was a morning person, either), and my window was painted with frost. I'd tunnel to the foot of my bed and lift the blankets just enough to peek out and admire the artwork. Then I'd peek over the frost to check on our cows, in the field just below. Sometimes I'd see our horses, but they usually preferred to hang out in the lower tree line, where it was a bit warmer and a bit too far for me to see clearly. Then I'd lay there, holed up in my little den, and listen to music.

I thought about Jack Frost a lot, then.

Since leaving New York, I haven't had much cause to think of him. I hadn't forgotten - I still thought of him every time I did see frost, but that wasn't very often. I live in Arizona, now. I'm a big fan of being warm pretty much all year, but I do miss Jack Frost. I don't miss the cold, or the snow, just the beautiful filigrees on my windows in the morning. Of course, you can't have one without the others.

The Guardians movie brought Jack Frost back to the forefront of my thoughts, and I'm delighted that my little Bear thought Jack Frost was "so cool."

Last night, several hours before I went to bed, I was grumbling about the clouds that had rolled in right before sunset, because I was going to miss out on the meteor shower. "The first time in weeks that we've had clouds, and it's the night of the meteor shower. Figures." My mother called me from Iowa to tell me that she just saw the most awesome meteor, and I should go outside to watch the shower. "Yeah, thanks Mom. I'm appropriately envious now." Then it started raining. I grumbled some more because it was just downright cold (for southern Arizona).

I didn't sleep well last night. I fell asleep quickly enough, but I woke at 4am, and never got completely back to sleep. I dozed on and off, noticing the clock at 5-something, 6-something, and a few more times before 8-something, when my dogs decided I was awake enough to feed them. I really was awake by then, although I did not want to get out of bed. (Nice warm bed. Soft bed. Ahhhhhhh.) I got up anyway, to let the little bouncing Bella dog outside. My old boxer dog, Roxy, refused to got outside - too damn cold and she hadn't had her breakfast yet. As I thought about getting Roxy's jacket out for her (she's thin-skinned and short-haired, and adamantly anti-cold), I turned to look out the door, to see where Bella had gone... and there was frost on the windows of my truck. Filigrees, tender little ferns of frost.

It made my heart happy.

Good to see you again, Jack.




And now, as I finish this post, I'm looking out the window next to my desk at the front of my house, and I see that my truck's windows are clear, but there's snow falling from the sky. Until next time, Jack. Be well.

05 December 2012

Who Bones is...

... a girl, usually. Like when it's convenient, which is most of the time. That means I often present as a woman. But my core is ambiguous, or maybe androgynous. If I need a label, the best one is genderqueer. Let's go with that.

... fragile, but not weak. I'm a survivor, despite being overly sensitive to the moods of my loved ones and fluctuations in my environment.

~

I'm also Eala Magee.

~

The nickname, Bones, actually came from something completely... what's the word?... irrelevant to anything meaningful. Inconsequential. A few years later, Archer and Hela gave the name meaning for me.

How I first acquired the nickname: The Army, you may be aware, is overly fond of alpha-numeric labeling systems. While I was overseas, I headed a two-person team that was labeled "B1". B-one. Get it? Yeah.
That year, needed a screen name for a website (OKcupid, if you must know), I used "humanbones" on a whim. Because I was a human intelligence collector called Bones.

Ok, so that was in 2007.
In 2011, I started dating Archer. Not so terribly long into our relationship, we were bickering about something via text (highly NOT recommended as a strategy for constructive argument, by the way), and I asked him (I hope I'm remembering this correctly) why he cared about whatever it was. He responded "because I love you down to my bones."
It was the first "I love you" of our relationship.

He had already taken to calling me Bones because of my screen name on OKcupid (we met via that website). After his "down to my bones" statement, it became a thing. I started using "Bones" elsewhere, just because it made me think of him and smile.

Later, well... I already wrote a whole post about Hela's influence on me. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. Or re-writing the blog. Whichever.  And the connection with my nickname... well, I had to get stripped down to my bones, psychologically, in order to 'fix' myself. More on why that's connected with Hela, here.


These days, I'm ... well, I'm tempted to say I'm a different person, but that doesn't quite ring true. I'm sure it seems that way from the outside, but on the inside I'm the same person I've always been. Only, without the false front I used to have. Without all the fear. Now, the inside matches the outside.

~

So, what does that outside look like? A painter, a writer, student, an aspiring psychologist and anthropologist, a pagan working with Hela, Odin, Sretya, Epona, and - unexpectedly - Bast. I talk to my dogs and my cat, who make me happy; they respond one way or another, for better or worse. I have only been without horses twice in my life - this is one of those times, and it makes me sad. I'm without a motorcycle, too, which also makes me sad. But I'm also a lover: anam cara to Archer, and girlfriend to Doc, and those things make me happy. Music makes me happy too.

These things have always been there, at least in potential; now others can see them too.




I don't know this guy.
I just found this video on youtube.
He's not a great dancer,
but he's better than many
and he looks like he's having fun.
I had fun watching him.
Maybe you will too.


[This moment of reflection has been brought to you by my upcoming first blogoversary, which will be 18 January. Blog party? Maybe. Let me get through finals first.]

03 December 2012

Psychology of Terrorism, part 2

See! I really am  getting my homework done!

Thought I'd share this excerpt. Sort of a quick 'part 2' of my earlier post on the psychology of terrorism. This goes into the "are they psychotic/sociopaths?" argument. It's a pretty casual piece, not too academic-y (that's a word, because I said so), and it interests me. Enjoy!

[The book being quoted is my textbook for this class; pretty sure I included all the relevant references in the quotes, so you shouldn't need the book for this to make sense. Let me know if I missed anything. If you're curious or otherwise interested, the book is "Psychology of Terrorism," edited by Bongar, Brown, Beutler, Breckenridge, and Zimbardo, published 2007 by Oxford Press.]


In the section “Third Floor: Moral Engagement,” the author discusses the relative moral engagement of terrorists from their perspective and the perspective of mainstream society.

“From the perspective of the mainstream, terrorists are ‘morally disengaged,’ particularly because of their willingness to commit acts of violence against civilians. However, from the perspective of the morality that exists within terrorist organizations, terrorists are ‘morally engaged,’ and it is the government and its agents who are ‘morally disengaged.’” (p73 - 74)

The above statement recalled the earlier discussion of whether or not terrorists could be considered anti-social, in terms of anti-social behavior as indicative of a psychopathologic condition. In chapter 2, page 15, the author refuted the idea of terrorists as having antisocial personalities: “The 9/11 attackers were willing to give their lives in the attack. So far as I am aware, no one has ever suggested that a psychopath’s moral blindness can take the form of self-sacrifice.”

“Psychopath” is a nebulous term, but the author seems to be using it as a synonym for ‘a person with antisocial personality disorder,’ so I will use it the same way for the sake of consistency.

Returning to the statements from chapter 5, quoted above, we know that a characteristic of antisocial personality disorder (APD from here on in) is a sort of moral disengagement. Of course there are more requirements in the DSM for an actual diagnosis, but this is perhaps one of the more recognizable and broadly-known characteristics.

With that in mind, consider the idea of broadening our concept of “self” so that it might include the small group in which a terrorist might find themself. When we diagnose an individual with APD by citing their apparent moral disengagement from the well-being of other, one of the things we’re saying is that individual does not value the humanity of other people as being even with the individual’s human value. What if we were to expand that conceptually – could we come up with a sort of group-APD?

Perhaps that wouldn’t even be a disorder – certainly it could be considered “normal” (though unhelpful/unkind/etc) for one group to consider itself “more human” than other groups. It’s well-studied (at this point) that a necessary factor of warfare is the dehumanization of the “enemy” by soldiers of each side. On a conceptual level, this seems to be not terribly different from the moral disengagement one sees in APD, only on a group level.

This is especially pertinent, I believe, in light of the understanding that terrorists are “not angry about personal frustrations and insults,” but rather, they are angry for perceived insults to the group with which they identify themselves, as the author points out on page 17:

“Kinder recounts evidence that political action, including protest and confrontation, is motivated more by identification with group interest than with self-interest... Group identification makes sense of sacrifice by people who are not personally frustrated or insulted. The mistake is to imagine that self-sacrifice must come from personal problems, rather than identification with group problems... The power of group identification is thus the foundation of intergroup conflict.”

With group identification obviously such a strong motivator – which comes at utterly no surprise to anyone even passingly familiar with evolutionary psychology – why have we not considered a sort of group-APD? Could this be a sort of social psychopathology, perhaps distantly akin to mass hysteria? 

~

There will be more. Oh yes, there will. I'd apologize for subjecting you to this, but... I'm not really sorry. Personally, I think it's a conversation we should all be having. 

02 December 2012

Must.Do.Homework...! (dammit)

Gah!

Psychology of Terrorism.
Great class, fascinating stuff.
Not something my brain is up for tonight.
Gotta get it done anyway.

I'd much rather be writing about Jacq, my fictional chick.

01 December 2012

How to wake up happy, lesson One

I woke up today next to Archer, who was sleeping peacefully beside me as the morning sun kissed his skin. He looked like living honey. I admit, I stared for a few minutes, even though he hates being stared at. I was awestruck.

Then I realized it was 0930, and I had slept about an hour longer than I usually do. So I very carefully crawled out of bed (he probably woke up a little anyway, he's such a light sleeper) and went to let the girls (aka, the dogs) out and feed them.

While I was waiting at the door, I heard singing... my child was in the kitchen, putting the clean silverware into the drawer from the drying rack, and singing. It was the cutest, sweetest thing ever.

Archer's still in bed, probably dozing, but I'm resisting the urge to go swoon at him some more. I'll just occupy myself by doing a little writing on my stories.

30 November 2012

.... or not.

So, the art show isn't happening.

I got to the gallery to set up, and was told all the art had been moved to someone else's studio, so that the gallery could be used for something else this weekend.

The person whose studio everyone's artwork had been moved to, wasn't around.

I'm a bit irritated. And totally bummed.
If I had more energy, I'd be more irritated than bummed, but I mostly just feel... tired.

Art Show Today!


28 November 2012

a very minor epiphany

Usually I can look back at a relationship and see why I loved that person in the beginning, even if I don't necessarily feel so friendly to them in the end. With Husband #2, I look back and just see my own mental illness.

That kinda makes me laugh, which isn't very charitable.


26 November 2012

blog organizing

Ok, so in light of all this meta-blogging I've been doing (that is, blogging about blogging), I figure it'd be good to post some links to the other blogs I'm working on. I'll get them up on a side bar as soon as I can convince blogger to cooperate with the rearranging.

fictional story I'm writing: http://storiesofbones.blogspot.com/
poems (and some prose): http://poemsofbones.blogspot.com/

This blog will remain my 'diary.'

My previous posts in this blog which were specific to the story of my abuse have been moved to a private blog. That will be published... someday. Honestly, it will probably take me a very long time to finish that. The main thing I have to do before publishing it, is to tell my mother the story. I'm not ready for that. Actually that's pretty much the only thing I have to do before publishing it. Still. It's gonna take me a while. 

25 November 2012

party planning step 1: determine reason to party

My first post in this blog, 18 January 2012. Reading it again, it feels like my first post ever. But I had two blogs before this one. Neither told the whole story, but that wasn't what they were for. I haven't deleted them - I hate to throw anything away - but I haven't posted in them, either.

I went back to it because I couldn't remember what I had written, or exactly which day I had started it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that what I had said then, has held true. It reminded me of the struggles I have surmounted within myself over the past year. This blog was the beginning of holding myself accountable for who I was, both the good aspects and the bad. Though at the time, what I saw seemed more bad than good. That's no longer the case, by the way. I'm pretty happy with who I've become, for the most part. In that purpose - holding myself accountable - this blog represented the first point of inner light which led to the end of a very dark time in my life.

That  is what I'd like to commemorate for my first blogoversary - points of light that lead us home, turning points and internal ordeals, and being a Survivor. 

24 November 2012

anticipating blog-evolution

I've been doing this particular blog for almost one year.

Hmmm.... blogoversary party? I'm considering it.

I'm also having that internal discussion which is epidemic among bloggers nearing their anniversary, about the evolution of this blog. It developed from a place for me to figure out what the hell is going on in my brain, to whatever it is now. Which is, it seems, more of a spirituality blog. ...I'm cool with that, by the way. I don't know that I really need to 'redefine' my purpose here, but I do think it's important for me to recognize how my focus here has changed.

This is my diary, after all. No reason to put whatever the hell I want into it.

At the same time... I want to write my story, my survival story, and I think that will need its own space. But I feel it would be best for me to write that story in its entirety before publishing it. So - I think I just decided - those stories which are relevant will be moved from this blog, to a private blog. That will allow me to write my tale 'silently' and without pressure to finish it sooner than I am ready to. This blog will continue as it is; I will leave a summary of my already-posted stories here, perhaps on a separate tab or something.

I'd like to talk more about my art here, too, how it intersects with my spirituality, and the growth of these things together... My life is becoming more integrated than ever before. This blog will continue to reflect that integration. If all my interests become potential topics, which does seem to be happening, then you will see more of these in the near future: my paintings, my academic interests (developmental and evolutionary psychology, anthropology, and gender development, in particular), my animals, and even my child (maybe). If you're reading this because it's a pagan blog, don't worry. My spirituality has fully integrated itself into my life. It's never far, never separate. 

21 November 2012

idle thoughts


"Don't say things like that, child."
"Why not, Mom? You are the best."
"Because best turns to worst so quickly, and I can't live up to either."

craziness!

I just woke up. I'm not really fully awake, but I fired up ye ole computer anyway and opened up blogger. I was thinking about my story. Ideas...ideas... And then I noticed that people are actually reading my blog! Holy crap! And, thanks!


19 November 2012

fiction

I started a project today. Actually, I started it the day before yesterday. It stewed in my brain until it got too big and I had to let it out. I know, I know - just what I need, another project. Maybe I should finish the 78 days project, eh? Well, I didn't say those 78 days were going to be all in a row, did I? No? Good. Cuz they won't be. And this new project, well... it just had to get started, or my brain was going to explode. So there ya go. *Clicky* to see the new project: some fiction from Bones.

17 November 2012

W is for Mr. Wednesday

I'm reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Again. I'm remembering the last time I read it, when I wasn't so much of a 'practicing' pagan, and I was too distracted by life to really pay attention to what was actually being said in any book I read. I read this book as an adventure story - which it is, at least superficially - but I missed out on the most interesting bits.

That is to say, I didn't give the nuances of the story a lot of thought.

Why, for example, is Mr. Wednesday - Odin - portrayed as he is? And... just how  is he portrayed?

Before I started re-reading this book, I read 'somewhere on the internet' - I should have marked it, but I didn't, and I can't remember where except that it was in a comment on some webpage about the book - that some person had read the book and thought Odin was portrayed very negatively, and therefor incorrectly. That sat wrong with me, though I wasn't sure why. I just hadn't been left with that feeling of negative portrayal, the first time.

Re-reading the book, this time with a greater awareness of the characters' stories (and identities), I grew to like the Mr. Wednesday who was portrayed, though I feel like Odin is somewhat less  of a con artist than he's made out to be.

I suppose if I had read the book (the first time) when I was a child - and more of an idealist - that I might have seen Mr. Wednesday as quite the villain indeed. Back then, I might have thought that anyone who even attempted a con, was a villain. But the first time I read the book was during my deployment to Iraq (with the Army). I was spending my days interviewing suspected terrorists, hoping to glean a bit of information that might save somebody's life. A little con-artistry for the sake of survival was nothing, on my scale of good-versus-evil.

Then again... my own beliefs of what deities are, in general, would negate the entire plot of the book. I believe the forces which we call gods would not cease to exist if we stop believing in them. They're still there, personalities and all (though "personalities" is a poor term for it), because they were always there. In naming them, we only recognize what is already true. At the same time, I don't think they're particularly concerned (to put it lightly) with taking human physical forms, subject to the same laws as human bodies, which was a central idea to Gaiman's plot. So, the Odin I'm getting to know would have no need of the trickery which occurs in American Gods.

But...  I have to wonder, how would  Odin act, if the situation in the book were true - if he were actually threatened with being extinguished by the disbelief of humans? And if he could actually be killed by a gunshot or starvation? I can't say I'd entirely negate the idea behind the characterization of Odin as a trickster in league with Loki. It doesn't really seem that far fetched. He is  ruthless, afterall. And if anybody could pull off the plot of the book, it's Odin and Loki.

Regardless, I'm not convinced that we should hold our differences against the author. He tells us very early on in the book that Mr. Wednesday is not exactly the Odin we know from lore:

    "Mead," said Wednesday. "Honey wine. The drink of heroes. The drink of the gods."
    Shadow took another tentative sip. Yes, he could taste the honey, he decided. That was one of the tastes. "Tastes kinda like pickle juice," he said. "Sweet pickle-juice wine."
    "Tastes like a drunken diabetic's piss," agreed Wednesday. "I hate the stuff."

This is a fictional Odin, a character based on Odin but with some artistic license applied.

We do get a glimpse of the "real" Icelandic version of Odin, the one who came before the American version in Gaiman's story. In his very brief scene, I got a sense of the Odin I'm coming to know; he was the wise god who had sacrificed himself for knowledge, an All-Father. The contrast made me realize the urgency of the American Mr. Wednesday.

The edition of American Gods  I have, has a section in the back which includes an interview with Neil Gaiman. In it, he is asked how his writing has changed since he moved to the U.S. from England (where he grew up). This statement begins his response:

"I wrote about America a lot in Sandman  [a previous publication of his, which I highly recommend], but it was a slightly delirious America - one built up from movies and TV and other books. When I came out here I found it very different from the country I'd encountered in fiction, and I wanted to write about that. American Gods  was, in many ways, my attempt to make sense of the country I was living in."

Ah, and there we see why Mr. Wednesday - Odin - is portrayed as he is.

If we were to take the gods of the old countries, and put them in situations where they could truly die of disbelief or any human ailment, and then set them in modern America, changing their natures to fit an American morality... what would  they do? Honestly, I think Gaiman may have it right.


16 November 2012

x is for xylophone: a short story

When we were kids, little kids, before any bad things happened, my brother was partially deaf and had trouble learning words. Later, Mom would have his tonsils removed, and that somehow fixed his hearing, because the deafness was linked causally with frequent and severe ear infections. But until that happened, he said words like, "Kee qu-oom," which meant 'thank you.' Our older half-brother, who was a teenager at the time, delighted in giving the younger boy words to say, just to see how they would be repeated back.

"Hey, say 'thank you.'"
"Kee qu-oom!" *giggle*
...and so on.

Until one morning at breakfast,...
"Say 'xylophone.'"
"Xylophone!" *grin*
...and jaws dropped all over the table.

Some things just come naturally. Some times, it's a thing we least expect.

15 November 2012

labels: a short rant

It comes down to: labels don't change the nature of the thing.

~

As I was driving home this morning, my mind wandered, as it does on the long stretch of highway between there and here, and I thought of a conversation I've never had with a particular Catholic friend of mine. She's very smart, this friend, but would be a bit scandalized by my opinions on Catholicism. I think it's a fine religion, in its essence. But I would classify it as polytheism, the worship of many divine entities (the holy trinity, for example, though they could also be called three faces of one entity, although they're not; perhaps all those saints are a more clear example). On second thought... if "God" is in all things, as they say, wouldn't that make Catholicism pantheistic, technically? Well, not according to the Catholic church. But the labels they use don't change the nature of their religion. Perhaps that's why I'm so hesitant to label my own path - it doesn't fit neatly into any pre-existing labels.

And then my mind wandered again... to a recent, real, conversation in which she mentioned the visual political difference between the two towns we live in. Here, she said (in my town), there are GObama stickers everywhere. In her town, there are Romney stickers everywhere. This conversation was just days before the election... and I thought, neither is ideal. Neither really deserves my enthusiasm. But: Romney scares me. Obama doesn't. I differ with Obama on his foreign policy (drones, specifically), but anyone who thinks Romney wouldn't do the same or worse is fooling themselves. I differ with Obama on his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, but again, Romney would have signed it, too. Any president would have, in my opinion. Romney scares me because of his views on, well, anyone who isn't a rich white man. Frankly, any of his policies would have worked to dis-empower the individual people of this country. He believes in the supremacy of government; he believes his experience of privilege extends to all of us - the rest of us are just too lazy to take advantage of it properly. "Small government" my ass. Call it what you want, the label doesn't change the nature of the thing.

On an unrelated note: calling an Archangel a demon, doesn't make it so.

~

[/soapbox]

12 November 2012

self-renewal and repurposing my home


I've been quiet of late, I know.
I'm reordering my life. I'm focusing more on my relationships - with my child, with myself, with my gods, and with my loves - and I'm reorganizing my house, so that it will be more of a sanctuary - for my child, myself, my gods, and my loves. That's what I've always sought in a home; that's what I will create, here, for the first time in my life. A sanctuary, gestalt.

~

Odin seems to have taken up permanent residence on my altar. I think I need to make him an altar of his own, so I can retain the general-usefulness of the one current altar in my house. I'm not sure, yet, where I'll put it. Probably in my bedroom somewhere. But I need my altar for other work.

~

Yesterday I spent a large-ish chunk of time contemplating ways to make my home stronger, less malleable to the expectations of others. Hmm, I suppose that requires some explanation.

Here's the thing: I wouldn't have thought of this if it hadn't happened. I'm still not totally sure it isn't coincidental, but the more I think about it, the more my doubt fades. It just doesn't make sense any other way.

Every night, my dogs sleep soundly from the time I go to sleep (or earlier), until I wake up in the morning, and I wake them up by opening my bedroom door. Frequently, me opening my door only wakes up Bella, the younger of the two dogs. I have to intentionally rouse Roxy, my old lady dog, to get her up for her morning potty break. And every day, my child sleeps until at least 8am, if not 9am. I am always the first one awake in my house. On the rare occasions that I oversleep, the dogs stay quiet, waiting for me and snoozing, while Child plays quietly in their room. If I oversleep, it's because (I'm exhausted, and) the house is quiet enough that I can. In the mornings, as I get close to waking, I sleep very lightly indeed.

Every time that Archer spends the night, something happens to disturb our sleep. The dogs have a coughing fit (I'm lookin at you, Bella, with the one ticklish hair caught in your throat), or they've eaten something that disagreed with them (oh Roxy the Ravenous) and are loudly vomiting all over my carpet (really, you couldn't at least aim for the tile?). Or Child wakes up at the crack of dawn, and knocks on my door because "it's morning, Mama!" W.T.F. household. Why you gotta be like that? And why do you only do this shit when Archer is... here? Oh....

There has to be a reason. Archer and I have been together almost two years - the longevity of this issue makes me really think it's not a coincidence, any more. Maybe it was at first, but not after so long. It has become... habitual. And why is that? It could be that Child and my dogs feel a change in the household when Archer is here. It could be. But... that doesn't feel like it's a strong enough variable to be independent. Their energy is unfocused, reactive but not driven. Archer's energy, on the other hand, is Driven. He is powerful, whether he means to be or not. His expectations have a way of coming true.

So I think that my house needs to be given a purpose. It needs direction of its own, and the energy to resist the expectations of anybody who isn't Me. It's My house, dammit. As I contemplated how to do this, Sretya seemed to come back out of the mists. Of course - homes are her thing. In hindsight, that's probably why she didn't want to be involved in my recent spellwork that opened the door for Odin coming into my life. It was to help something that was outside my home, and outside my household. Duh.

Anyway, that's why I need the only altar I have, back. Odin is here, so with his and Sretya's approval, I'll include him in the ritual, In fact, with the approval of all three, I'll include Hela, Odin, and Sretya, each for their own reasons. But, Sretya is the power behind this upcoming work. Hela and Odin are there for me, in their ways, but Sretya is there for the home. The altar will need to reflect that. And Odin needs his own. Maybe Hela does too - I'll ask.

Once I complete this work, I'll get back to working on learning the tarot and the 78 days project, and re-learning the runes.

I'll keep you posted.

09 November 2012

Working with Woden

hmm, yes, so... I've been busy, the past few days. Catching up on my life.
The new meds are working... Is this what "normal" feels like?

~

I'll tell you a story, the most important one of the last few days.

It's about Odin.
Actually, it's about how I came to Odin.

I had decided to do some Work.
And by Work, I mean a spell, but I don't like the word "spell" because there are too many connotations which make the word inaccurate for what I'm trying to communicate. This has nothing to do with me demanding anything from the universe, or trying to mold it to my will, or blue fire coming from... wherever. This is about me asking the assistance of the Energies around me. It's more like a prayer, but less passive.

I came to the idea for this work when I was faced with a loved one's problem to which I could see no way of helping directly. I asked my oracle cards - and was inspired to use them in a Working, to ask them to guide this person and help resolve the situation. So I got permission from the person to do this, and then figured out the details of how.

Six animals from my deck immediately jumped out at me as being the  right ones for this task. Then, as I puzzled over how I would conduct the ritual, I realized I wanted to ask one of my deities for help with this, too. I don't usually do a ton of deity work outside of my own internal pathworking, but it felt right. Since the two deities I have worked with most over the past couple years are Sretya and Hela, I thought of them first.

I dismissed the idea of asking Hela pretty quickly. I didn't want her deciding that this person was better off by shedding the source of the problem rather than working through it - that would have caused far more hardship; her help can sometimes be more brutal than what I was hoping to achieve.

Sretya was a logical choice, with her talent for finding the happy side of fate, but... she felt very distant, as I mulled the question around in my mind. So I thought some more. Was it wise to ask a goddess for help when she felt like she didn't want to be involved?

I don't remember where the inspiration came from, exactly, but somehow Odin came to mind.

Now, it's important to know that I've really never worked with Odin. Sure he was called on in some of the rituals I participated in when I was involved with a military open circle that leaned heavily toward Heathenism, but a) that was in 2008, and b) those rituals were holiday celebrations, not "working" rituals. As any pagan who has hung around for a year or two, and especially as one who has made even a cursory study of the runes, I'm familiar with Odin's story. But I'm using "familiar" as the military does: I would recognize it from 50 meters, but don't ask me any nitty-gritty details. So when it occurred to me to work with Odin on this, I was confronted with a couple more questions that had to be answered before I did anything else.

1. Is it rude/inappropriate/somehow-not-good to ask a god for help the very first time you work with them?
My instinct said Yes.

2. I was planning on working with my oracle cards, and I felt they were essential to this Work; would Odin, who gave us runes, be offended by the use of a different system in a ritual requesting his aid?
That worried me.

So I researched, and read blogs (Galina Krasskova's blog, Gangleri's Grove, was particularly helpful, especially since she just began a series focusing on Odin, and she knows her stuff). In the end, it was (divine?) inspiration that provided the answer. I realized, in a "dug" moment, that I should ask Odin via the runes. So I did.

I picked up my rune bag, which has been relatively ignored for too long, and asked, "What will result, if I ask for your [Odin's] help with this Working [which includes my oracle cards and would be our first together]. Then I reached into the bag and blindly pulled out Ehwaz.

Image from this site:
http://www.mysticgames.com/runes/Ehwaz.htm.
The image was the best part of the site.
I recalled that Ehwaz was something about togetherness... I found and opened my copy of Taking Up the Runes (by Diana L. Paxson; it's my go-to book for runes). Opened it with the intent to flip through until I found Ehwas... no need to flip: it opened to that page.

This is what I read:

"Meaning: Horse... Horses are also associated with Odin... Thorrson explains the meaning of Ehwaz as symbiosis between partners - man/horse, man/woman, for example - or opposites working together harmoniously toward a single goal." (page 196-197) Further reading confirmed my initial impression: this was as strong an affirmative as I could have hoped for.

It all felt right, except, I felt like I needed an offering for Odin. I was out of mead. I eyeballed my bottle of sangria, and dismissed it. I sniffed my already-open, half-full bottle of shiraz, and... it smelled like mead. Well then. That worked. For reasons I couldn't possible explain, because I don't understand it myself, I chose the best apple from the bunch I had bought a day or two prior (I'm planning on making pie) to add to the offering. I put the apple in the bottom of a larger clay cup, and poured the shiraz over it, until the apple was covered. It finished off the bottle. It felt right. The ritual went smoothly, and I felt like I had done all I could to help the person I was trying to help.

I also felt obligated to Odin, in a good way. He stepped in to help me in a time of need - I owe it to him to learn the runes and his stories better, and to include him in my practice. Each evening since that ritual, I've felt the urge to do something for Odin. The first evening, I flipped open Taking Up the Runes, randomly landing on page 134, where Eihwaz begins. Eihwaz, the yew tree, is sacred to Odin and represents the Worldtree Yggdrasil, where Odin hung to learn the runes. I'm not sure why I was surprised at the synchronicity. I began my studies there.


This is from the same website as the first.



Today, I learned that there is indeed a connection between Odin and apples. It wasn't just my own UPG.

01 November 2012

Samhain, obviously

It's the morning after, but I'm not done with this season yet. In my book, Samhain is a season, not a day. And I like it that way. The veil is thinning  - it doesn't just I'm always a little sad when each day of the season is over; I won't have an excuse to do all this again until next year (without looking awfully eccentric, that is).

We still have Dia los Muertos to celebrate. That's a big deal in this region, and the themes are the same as those we recognize in Samhain, so we celebrate that despite not being hispanic or latino. Besides, it gives us a chance to share in a public celebration of the dead, which we don't usually get as pagans.

Yesterday was pumpkin carving, costumery, trick-or-treating, and a mute supper. In other words, awesome. I cooked dinner, which I almost never do. Beef roast, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and baked beans. I made everything from scratch except for the baked beans, which were canned. That makes it sound like I did a lot of work (unless you cook, and you know how little work goes into mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, and a roast done in the crock pot). That's my kind of home cooking. I was going to make pumpkin pie, but I didn't have enough evaporated milk, or anything to substitute for it, and I really  didn't feel like driving to the store. So we'll do that tonight.

The down side? Missing Archer. This holiday is so very family oriented; it felt strange to not have Archer near, and stranger still to know that he is on the other side of the country and sick with something flu-like, and the distance is keeping me from being there for him. Making him soup. That kind of thing. His illness compounds the normal missing-him part. I want to help, but all I can do is get off the phone with him, so he can sleep. Are you reading this, Archer? I love you. 

 

30 October 2012

the week of Samhain festivities continues!

The day between the full moon and Samhain - today - my coven is having our Samhain ritual. Which means I'm leaving my little town for the first time since Friday. I have class tonight, too. Statistics, bleh. I don't know about statistics class, but I'm feeling well enough for ritual. My energy is somewhat better than neutral - a huge improvement. I even cooked  myself lunch today. I'm quite pleased with myself. And despite my misgivings, I'm leaning toward being ok with the new medicine. So far, it seems like it's a good thing.

Pumpkin carving and more Samhain stories tonight tomorrow!

29 October 2012

time out

I took this weekend off from the world.

Saturday's plan to go to the flea market and the farmer's market got cancelled. I just couldn't do it. I didn't sleep Friday night. I was exhausted Saturday morning - but still unable to sleep - and I worried about the safety of driving.

Maybe I could have slept, I don't know. Every time I laid my head on my pillow, the tears came. It was too painful to let my mind wander. So I distracted it with books and games. And before I knew how late it was, the sun was rising.

My new meds came in the mail Saturday morning. I checked my mail, because I promised Archer I would. I took a dose, then took a nap.

Today is day three of the new meds. It seems to be helping. I got to sleep before 1am Saturday night, and before midnight last night. That's a huge improvement. I've been getting to sleep around 4-5am for the past several weeks. Except for the nights I stay with Archer - then I get to sleep by 11pm, usually - but those are too few and far between.

Enough of that. I'm feeling gradually better. Today I feel... like I don't want to move, but I can  move, and that's an improvement. Today I have the strength to fight back.

I'm still skipping class today. I'm not quite that  ambitious. Yet. I'll have to make myself go tomorrow. That's my statistics class, and I can't afford to miss that one.

I did still include my child in some Samhain activities this weekend. We talked about our town's local ghosts, did some baking from our "harvest" at the grocery store Friday night, and explored our family tree on ancestry.com. Which, by the way, is completely addictive.

~

I did something else Friday night. I continued the oracle reading I had started on Thursday.

Thursday, I had drawn the first three. After the reading I left the cards in order, setting them on my altar. Friday, it felt right to continue.



In shorthand, I would read this as (roughly): "Remember what's good (otter); return the loyalty of dogs, they will guide you (dog); speak kindly to yourself (fox). Healing requires transformation (adder); persistence will bring you home (ram); find the strength to lead yourself, to be ok with being alone (wolf). Connect to what matters, leave the rest behind (hawk); be open to nourishment offered by others, particularly feminine deities (cow); you will find your place in the world through this journey (horse). These are the lessons to balance destructiveness with construction, to resolve long-buried conflicts and begin a new life (raven).

Good advice. I hope I can do it.

~
I use The Druid Animal Oracle Deck by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Bill Worthington.

27 October 2012

a week of Samhain festivities: day 2





Day 2: Saturday 27 October

It's Farmer's Market Day! Yay!

We're going to round up the Last Harvest with a trip to our town's Farmer's Market. It's always an awesome event, but of course being so close to Halloween, it'll be even awesomer on this day.

Then home for carving pumpkins and making Pumpkin Pie Spice Butter! Double Yay!

Pumpkin carving is a great time to talk about the thinning of the veil. I'm taking a certain amount of homeschooling-mom pleasure in the fact that in Child is learning about metaphors in our Literature lessons right now, and I can reinforce that lesson by explaining the metaphor of the veil. I look at it this way (and this is roughly how I will explain it to Child):

The "veil" is a metaphor we use to describe the thin, porous separation between the world we can see and touch with our bodies, and the world that only our souls can feel. It's like the difference between body and soul. These two things - our bodies and our souls - are connected and so entwined that it can be hard to tell where one begins and the other ends, but they are also two different things. The two worlds are like that - it's hard to tell sometimes where the physical world ends and the spirit world begins, but they are in fact two distinct worlds which happen to be located in the same places. Now, even though we are souls, we still live in our physical bodies in the physical world. There are other beings who live in the spirit world only, and we can only see them when they find ways to reach our souls, or when they find a way to cross the "veil" and enter the physical world. This is important to know because during this time of year, the veil thins. It is thinnest on the night of Samhain, which is the same night as Halloween. The thinning of the veil makes it easier for spirits to communicate across the veil. So Samhain night is the easiest night of the year for us to communicate with those in the spirit world, while staying in the physical world.

Child's inevitable question: Who lives in the spirit world? The souls of the dead who have not yet been reborn, the spiritual memories of our ancestors, the elemental energies, and the deities. 

~

We will have a dinner story with our meal this evening; I'll read "Journey to the Shining Isle" by Starhawk, tweaking it ever so slightly, to replace the generic goddess stirring the cauldron of souls with the named Goddess, Babd of the Morrigan.

~

Our town has innumerable festivities planned for this weekend; we'll wander about and join in as we please, between our family events.

~

To make the pumpkin pie spice butter, combine these ingredients, mix well, then store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks:

4 tbs softened unsalted butter
4 tbs pumpkin puree
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp grated or dried nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

(the cloves, ginger, and nutmeg can be substituted as a group, with 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice)

I got this recipe from Witchin in the Kitchen's facebook page.

~
The fall leaves clip art used above came from this website: http://www.kidsturncentral.com/holidays/clipart/fallclipart.htm

26 October 2012

vervet monkeys and totemism

V snuck up on me.

I lost track of the alphabet somewhere between last week and today.

Which means, obviously, that I'll be talking about Vervet Monkeys today.

Whaaaaa.....?

Please, try to contain your excitement.




Who said pastels aren't manly?

Actually, I do have a point (and it has nothing to do with colorful genitalia).

A recent revelation about how to read my animal oracle cards (or any cards) for divination has led me - as I said then - to view aspects of my spirituality differently. I started really looking at the qualities of each animal, as opposed to trying to memorize the meaning of each card. Sounds like a "duh" moment, but it took me awhile to get there. Anyway, this morning I was thinking about Vervets, because I was trying to think of a "V" word for my Pagan Blog Project post, and "Vervets" is a much better word than "vicissitudes." Well, maybe it isn't, but it's better for my brain this morning. I need something a little lighter today.

Thus, Vervets.

A friend of mine took that picture (above) while we were in Rwanda this summer. It's an adult male Vervet Monkey. You can tell because it has baby-blue balls. True story.

So having decided to talk about Vervets, I began pondering what lessons a Vervet might confer, were I to draw it from my oracle deck. Not that I have a Vervet card, but if I did. Specifically, I started thinking about what makes Vervets different from other monkeys, and from other primates.

And then I thought, "well it's not like drawing a vervet monkey would give the same advice as drawing a baboon." But... that sentence might actually not make sense to anyone who isn't into primatology in some capacity, so I'll expand. You can tell a lot about a species by how they play, because juvenile play is a huge indicator of how the species will behave as adults.

Vervets have a relatively loose hierarchy in their social structures, and they engage in about as much solitary play as social play. Baboons, on the other hand, have a oft-contested and rigidly enforced social hierarchy - their play is almost always social play, because those skills are important for them to develop. ... That's just one difference in the character of the two species; there are many more. We don't even have to go into their physical differences, which are great enough.

If I were to draw a Baboon card, I would interpret it as a lesson in hierarchies, power, and family loyalties. A Vervet would be a lesson in flexibility, oneness with your environment, and being comfortable in your own skin - even if you have baby-blue balls. It's like comparing vikings with hippies. Two very different animals. Each species of primate - and there are many - is different from the others.

So I wonder, for those who have "monkey" totems, which one do you have? It pays to do the research on this.

~

And then  I thought, maybe I should create a primate oracle deck. That would be interesting. That's a project for the winter holiday season, when I don't have to go to classes all week. I'll keep you posted.

video

a week of Samhain festivities: day 1

So I decided to make a big deal of Samhain this year. You know, as opposed to Halloween, which has always been a big deal. This year Child's getting involved, and I'm taking the opportunity to finally teach Child some of my beliefs. This will be a week(ish)-long celebration. I'm excited.

~
I've noticed I'm getting better at planning activities for Child since I started homeschooling. Come to think of it... my whole life is getting more organized. All because the homeschooling schedule demands it. 
Huh. Didn't see that coming.








Day 1: Friday 26 October

Samhain - Summer's End, in the language of our (Child's and my) Scottish ancestors. We can feel it here in the high desert. Summer is ending; it gets cool every night, now, and the days are short and the lengthening nights are often windy.

We homeschool, so instead of the regularly scheduled history lesson (the beginning of the Age of Exploration, if you're curious), Child will be learning about the history of Samhain. I've hopped across the internet and scoured my own books, and come up with a plain-language but thorough enough story of the holiday. I'll share it in a separate post.

This evening, Child and I will participate in a haunted house event at my college to kick off the season. On our way home, we'll stop at the grocery store and "harvest" a large hunk of beef to roast, some potatoes, apples, and sweet potatoes (yay pie!). We'll pick up some cider and mead, and pumpkins too. I'm using the shopping trip to explain the harvest that our ancestors would have done, and that I participated in as a young'un growing up on a cattle farm.

I'm cutting the festivities there, for today. Child's attention span is easily overloaded.

If Child's interest is still engaged when we get home, we might talk some about the predators our ancestors would have seen this time of year - notably, wolves - because of the relative scarcity of prey, and the not-quite-too-cold-yet conditions that would keep them moving about, rather than hiding in dens. And bears, which would be preparing for hibernation.







~
The fall leaves clip art used above came from this website: http://www.kidsturncentral.com/holidays/clipart/fallclipart.htm

finding hope

Cloistered in my bedroom, doing my get-ready-for-bed routine - putting away the clutter of clean laundry, notebooks, and miscellany that coats my bed each day - I saw my oracle cards, had a moment of love, and realized, "duh, I should ask my oracle cards how to get myself back into balance." This deck is all about balance; every answer I've ever gotten, for anyone, from this deck, has pointed toward a more balanced [whatever the situation called for].

So I sat on my now-cleanish bed, and shuffled. And drew.

Dog.
Fox.
Otter.

Now, usually I'm looking immediately for the symbolism of each card; this time, after drawing the first card (the Dog), I thought, "huh, maybe this is literal." Maybe that's because I just got back from taking Bella for a walk, and playing with both dogs and their toys after the walk - activities which improved my mood. It wasn't a drastic improvement, but still, any improvement is good. There hasn't been any in so long. My instincts tell me to listen to that first thought, and consider the very recent improvement to be proof.

So before drawing the second and third cards, I felt there was a literal quality to this reading that I haven't seen much in previous readings. Then, the Fox - the High Priestess in my coven believes the Fox may be trying to reach me, in the sense that s/he might be a totem animal I'm meant to learn from.

And the Otter. Oh, the Otter. If I had any doubts that this was a literal reading, they disappeared with the appearance of the Otter. Remember my Otter story?

...ok, here I have to break into what I was about to say, and replace it. This is what just happened. Just now.

I went to my list of blog posts and searched for "otter" because I wanted to link the post with my otter story right where I said, "Remember my Otter story?" A quick reference for anyone who was curious and didn't know what I was talking about. The four posts I've done recently about otters came up, but so did one more, from quite a while ago: "dichotomy: survivor v. whore." That made me curious; I hadn't started working with Otter back then. Otters weren't even really on my radar at that point. I figured I must have done a reading that I logged in that post, since my oracle cards were really the only place I came into contact with otters, then. So I clicked the link, to see what I said. Sure enough, I had done a reading and gotten Otter. I read on, remembering the post. It was a highly emotional time for me - more than now, because things were more volatile then. I was still so devastated by then-recent events that my emotions and wits felt so scattered much of the time. Now, I'm just dealing with Depression - an illness, not a symptom of trying times. I got to the bottom of the post, and went on to the comments. Reading Archer's comments to me... how do I describe it? They just made me feel warm inside, loved. I smiled.

And I'm glad I followed the otter back to that post, to that time.

I know what my depression is; for the most part, I know how to combat it. Recently, I've been overwhelmed by the siege.

I need to remember to play with my dogs; exercising them, exercises me - and that's good for my health. The Dog of my oracle deck is a protector; I believe my dogs help protect me from myself.

I need to remember that Archer loves me, has always loved me, even when I didn't feel worthy. Even before I knew what to think about him, when I couldn't have seen it because I didn't believe it was possible. The Otter led me back there, and I needed that. His lesson, always pertinent, is a reminder that things are ok. I have a stuffed otter (not a real one, a toy; the silkiest stuffed toy I've ever touched). Just holding him makes me feel a little better. Juvenile, but better nonetheless.

And the Fox, I believe, is me. Surrounded by those who love me, trying to keep the words in my head from becoming weapons, used to break me down from the inside, out. I've decided - just now - that it's time for me to start trying to work with Fox. But the message in this reading from Fox seems clear (besides needing to work with her/him) - my greatest difficulty in battling my depression is in the shame I associate with certain memories. Most don't actually warrant shame on my part, some embarrassment in a few perhaps, but not shame. Nevertheless, the shame is there. And when the litany of my misdeeds begins to play through my memories, it's this that does the most damage. I cut myself with my own words; Fox counsels care with communication, so that words do not become weapons through deceit. I'm working hard, lately, to remember the good things, when the bad things try to take over my thoughts. Practice makes perfect, right? Maybe not. But I'm getting better at it.

Tonight, I found hope.






Now, I'll link you back to that Otter story. Enjoy.

25 October 2012

poetry? prose? whatever.

the long highway stretches out before me
a lonely song from a makeshift radio, the only voice in my head
if I close my eyes, would it all just go away?
would there be time for fear or pain, if I didn't know what was coming?
the quiet solitude of oblivion
so welcoming

24 October 2012

the Chariot: 8/78 days of tarot





Oh how I wish I could harness some of her energy. She's forging ahead, full-steam and full of power. She is going somewhere, with momentum. She is purposeful, unheeding - or unconcerned - about the stormy skies around her.

And she's ... holding an umbrella?

Oh right, stormy skies.

Really, I think the umbrella adds to the unconcerned feel, kind of a "I'm going to get shit done, and hold my little umbrella, too." Like doing construction work in high heels and still kicking ass.

From the book: "'Despite any concerns you may have, I am in control of this situation.' ...The thunder of hoofbeats shakes the earth and yet her slight form remains perfectly still as the horsepower vibrates the reins. This confident young woman is intent upon forward movement and progress in the face of many challenges. The energy she directs is moving at dangerously high speeds. In the midst of the swirling chaos  she remains steady and focused."

Yes! What they said. Exactly. Awesome.
I can relate to that, even though I haven't been feeling it lately.

Reading on... "If it is your turn to drive the chariot, you will find yourself wanting to move in a certain direction. You will be confident in that direction. Getting started will be the hardest part."

Yeah no shit. That would be me, every single morning.

The final word: "Once you start moving, there won't be much that can stop you until you reach your goal."

Well I hope that turns out to be true.

I just talked to my psychiatrist this morning. She's getting me in for appointments more frequently these days. She wants to add a second antidepressant to my morning routine, an SSRI. The welbutrin (well, bupropion actually, which is a generic form of welbutrin, because the VA is fucking cheap) hasn't been enough lately. I'm not keeping up with my life. I'm functioning at a lower level than what I consider the minimum acceptable. Not far below, but still, not where I need to be.

For the most part, I can get through daily stuff, but nothing extra. Some important things have been dropped by the wayside.

I haven't seen my girlfriend in too long. I even missed a party at her house.

I have commissions to finish, and to start, ones that I want very much to do for their own sakes. I just can't seem to find the steam.

I just got a letter from DES (the Arizona agency that handles food stamps, state health care, welfare, and some other need-based assistance programs). They rejected my renewal for food stamps because I didn't make it into their office for an interview in time. ["Interview" is becoming such a vague term.... it's what they're calling it when I bring in paperwork that could just as easily been faxed or emailed.] I'll have to get in there this week and apply again. Otherwise the food stamps will come in later than usual - or not at all - next month. That's important. That's $300 a month I can't afford to replace.

The thing is, I can't get started in the mornings. I drag myself (kicking and screaming, yes) out of bed at a decent hour. I get my child's schooling done, or as close to done as I can before I go to my class (and the babysitter takes over). Usually, I make it to class. I've had to skip a few times, when I just couldn't make myself go. In the afternoons and evenings, when I have time to work on commissions or do other errands, I just can't make myself do it.

I am the Chariot, in reverse.

How do I turn this around?




~
Image of the card from: http://www.mindbodyspiritodyssey.com/2012/09/mind-body-spirit-odyssey-review.html

23 October 2012

the Lovers: 7/78 days of tarot



When I first saw this card, and its name, I thought, "Oh, it's about love. And here's two lovers who seem well-balanced, if a little unsure. Or maybe that's just a sedate happiness. Yes, let's go with that. And... who's the angel lady? She seems like she approves... oh wait, did their hands manifest her? No wonder she approves."

I wasn't feeling this card. I chalk that up to my own issues.

I tried a bit more analysis, looking at the parts of the card, the artistic details and symbology. I noticed that the lights on either side felt balanced, so I counted: four on one side, six on the other. But, the six "lights" were yellow flowers, and smaller than the four gas lamps on the other side. So, balanced in a gestalt sense, but not numerically.

I felt like I wasn't really getting anywhere, so I opened the book a little sooner than I usually would.

Sayeth the book: "Core meaning: Making a decision that makes your heart glad."

Hmm. My confusion increased. Maybe it's the insomnia, but I was having serious trouble here. This is where things get sticky, because I couldn't see more than a tenuous connection between good decision-making skills and falling in love. (Poor decision-making, on the other hand, seems to have a strong track record in my history of love.) Really, I've never seen love as a choice made. I've long had this vague notion of love as something that happened, like the flu - unpredictable overall, but more likely in certain preventable circumstances, and bound to hurt once it takes up residence. I read a little more.

"[W]henever the right two things come together, something transformative and magical happens."

Then I thought of Archer, and it all came together. 

The lights are unbalanced individually, but balanced when seen as a whole. 

The angel is a conjuration of the lovers' decision to love; she is representative of the greater magic that happens when the right decision is made. 

The two people - the masculinized technology on the left, and the feminized natural world on the right - must be joined, unified, not separated.

The two people are confident; I know this confidence, because I feel it when Archer holds my hand.



"The Lovers" is the union of two good things into a whole,
which is better than its parts. 
Ours is the decision to unite, or not. 

19 October 2012

the Hierophant: 6/78 days of tarot

My tarot deck just shuffled itself.

I picked it up to find the next card, then remembered the deck had slipped off my nightstand a few days ago and been hastily tossed back into a stack. So I took pains to re-organize it before starting my observation today. Just as I was putting the last card back in place, the deck practically leapt out of my fingers in a graceful slide toward the floor.

Exasperated, I gathered it up and organized it, in the order the cards had come in. I'd been keeping them unshuffled, thinking it would aid me in going through the deck as I learned each card, in order. Then I realized I probably should just let them be unshuffled. I think the deck was tired of being unshuffled. Stifled, it seemed to say.

Well, it's not like the "next" card is going to disappear from the deck just because it has been shuffled, so now I'm shuffling them.

They seem less tense. I think rigid orderliness didn't suit them. Can't say I blame them.

~



On we go, to the Hierophant, card number 5, the 6th card in a once-orderly deck. 

Here is a man who has spent long years in pursuit of wisdom. He is well-read, and wise enough to share what he has learned. He's not aggressive, but he's no pushover either. There's strength left in those arms. The children gather, seeking wisdom - seeking that essential key to a better path. In sharing his knowledge, he expresses his active participation in the world; he has learned much, and experienced much that could not be read. He is, perhaps, a philosopher who frequently leaves the library to test his ideas in the world.

The book says: "the Hierophant is one who teaches us how to live in accordance with our sacred beliefs... He is the bridge between theory and practice. He creates a connection between spiritual belief and daily life... The apple [holy crap there's an apple! How did I miss that?!]... if you cut an apple crosswise, the center forms a pentagram, representing the four elements of the physical world under the guidance of Spirit. Our Hierophant, shown here as a humble, compassionate, and wise teacher, weaves together all these notions and more, and gives them to us as keys to open up our own understanding."

Apples! The nourishment of the soul, a sacred fruit for a sacred purpose.
(I can't believe I missed that.)

18 October 2012

underworld (into the forest)

The best memories of my childhood are of being in the forest, alone.

My thoughts were more clear there than they were in any other setting at that time. Today I learned that the imagery of the forest still has the power to bring me clarity of thought, or at least to bring to a state of calm which allows for a greater degree of clarity. This state of calm is not the calm of absence, the calm of lack; it is the calm of vibrancy, of womb-like life, a symphony of souls, blanketing the forest like a mist.

There in the foothills of the Adirondacks, I found shelter in the forest; it saved me from my home.

This could be a picture of the woods surrounding my father's house.
It isn't, but it  looks exactly like it, right down to the grown-over tractor trail.

Such a strong connection to the spirits, there... as though the Underworld were closer in a forest...
It seems there are many connections between forests and the Underworld - which I'm sorta using as shorthand for a comprehensive  label describing all things on the other side of the veil. 

I remember escaping into the forest, running from the tension and the hurt; the season didn't matter, the forest always welcomed me. It hid me, sheltered me from my step-mother, who rarely left the house and wasn't "fool enough" to go walking in the woods.  

We logged those woods, as a family, every autumn. We would be finishing up right around this time of year, if we still lived there. Logging was one of the few things we ever did cooperatively. Once every few years, Dad would hire a guy to come in with his percherons and cut down the trees of a certain size. That year and the few following years, we would spend the late summer and most of autumn finding the felled trees and harvesting them. Dad wielded the chainsaw, slicing the trunks and branches down to carryable size. My step-siblings and I (often it was just my step-brother and I, as my step-sister didn't care for this work) would load the pieces into the wagon. My step-mother helped with the loading sometimes; usually she just drove the tractor. In her defense (I suppose), she did usually make my step-sister help with the unloading, once we got the wood back to the house. There, Dad or my step-brother or I would chop it down smaller with the ax, so it could fit in the wood stove we used to heat the house. We'd stack it along the wall of the house, near the back door.

One year, my father's grip slipped, and he sheared off some of the skin on his palm with the chainsaw. He went back to the house, cleaned it up and put a bandage around his hand. My step-mother insisted he go to the emergency room. So he went, and the doctor took the bandage off, cleaned it out again, put a new bandage on, told him he was lucky, and gave him some painkillers. I doubt he ever took them. That was the year we had to wait to haul in the rest of the wood, and we ended up going back in between snowfalls so we'd have enough to last til spring. Only Dad was allowed to use the chainsaw.

I liked being there in the woods. It made me feel safe even when my step-mother was there. As though the strength of the forest overpowered whatever drove her and made her cruel. In hindsight, it seemed that it was true. I have so very few memories of her being angry while we were in the woods, and so many more of her being neutral, or even pleasant, during that work. There, I could shrug off what cruelty did come; it lacked significance.

I felt more powerful in the forest. There was no need to fear. In part, I think that was because there were no walls to close me in, to trap me. There were no corners to back into. But there was  space. There were many hiding places, and I knew them well. She could barely find the trail. It was more than that, though. The forest felt sentient and beloved, an active shelter for those who loved it back.

These are the citadels, the natural cathedrals, the monasteries of the sentient Earth. Starhawk writes, "Branches are patterns of flow, of collection, concentration, and dispersal." (The Earth Path, page 188) She How many mythologies can we think of which describe trees - or a tree - as connecting two or more worlds? This site (which is interesting in it's own right) lists more than a dozen cultures with "cosmic tree" myths. The Forest, with it's dramatic seasonal cycles, has long and wide been a symbols for human cycles of life. In a place that is so alive, so long-lived, and composed of trees to touch all worlds, it's no wonder there is such a strong spiritual presence. I've come to believe that forests are places where the Underworld is unusually close to our physical world. If nothing else, their patterns of branches and roots are powerful symbols of the cycle of life and death: we flow through, collecting and dispersing as our paths lead us from one world to the next, and back, again and again, and again.


This gorge was a twenty minute drive from our farm.
It's a tourist attraction, but still one of the most spiritual places I've ever been.


~

This post is an expansion of my last Pagan Blog Project post,
"Unobtrusive magic (under the bridge)." 
Let's consider it Part 2.

~

Image sources: