perzephone: (21 grams)
Sometimes things happen. Coincidences. Synchronicities. They tend to happen quite often in my world, and it's why I'm Pagan.

A day or two before my surgery, I did a one-card draw from my Goddess Oracle deck, and received Abundantia, a Roman Goddess similar to Demeter or Ceres. Abundantia is more along the lines of the bounty of the harvest whereas Demeter and Ceres are the grains themselves. I'm always a tad skeptical when I draw Abundantia because money is always scarce.

I worry constantly about money, about what will happen if I lose my job, or we go broke, or can't pay the bills. I lived in poverty for the first 20 or so years of my life, and it's sort of embedded in my mentality and emotions. Lexapro kind of helped me break out of the cycle of actively worrying and having cyclical money anxieties, but that starving wolf is always lurking in the background of my mind. Granted, we usually have enough money to cover the necessities, and Rob's folks do help us out when we are in dire straits, but we live pretty close to the bone for the most part. Going out to a fancy restaurant, or going to a show (yeah, right, as if I would actually go to any of the shows out here - the average ticket price to see even a mediocre comic or magician is around $60 per person. Whenever I do fork out money for a 'show', it's a concert), or the movies usually means sacrificing groceries, so we don't do it.

When I was preparing for my leave of absence, I withdrew myself from the active Union roster so they wouldn't try to pull dues out of non-existent paychecks. At the same time, they sent me a form for disability benefits. I had my doc fill out his part of the form, and I filled in my part of the form. The top section of the form was for the HR representative to fill out. It consisted of my name, employee ID#, dates of my leave and I think my social security number or something. To save time I filled it in, even though it said 'for office use only'. When I took it to HR, the agent refused to accept it because I had filled in the top part. Oh fucking well, I screwed up. I didn't really have the time or inclination to request a new form, have the doc fill it out again, and make the trek back to work - and I was a little pissed off at myself and the HR rep. Rob tried to push me into it, but I was like, "fuck the HR rep & the horse she rode in on, so I lost out on some smidgen of money that I probably won't see til my leave is over". End of story.

Whenever Rob or I use our health insurance, we get these Explanation of Benefits forms that tells me exactly how much money the medical visit or procedure cost, how much the Union covers, and what my share to pay is. They very rarely contain any pertinent information, and they're not bills. I've gotten so used to seeing these things that most of the time, I just throw them away. I've been opening them recently because when Rob went to the ER, we received a bill for the entire amount, and later received an EOB stating the event wouldn't be covered unless we sent in the ER reports (my insurance wants to make sure any visit to the ER is 'medically necessary'. In other words, if I or Rob go to the ER w/gas pains, thinking it's a heart attack, I have to pay for that motherfucker). So since we're still getting Rob's bills, I've been opening the EOBs instead of chucking them. As a result, I've had a stack of them sitting on my desk for the past three or four weeks that I just hadn't gotten around to opening.

I had to reinstall McAfee last night, and the Dragon Cave was down for regularly scheduled maintenance, so I had some downtime. I started going through the EOBs. One looked kind of funny because instead of saying 'Explanation of Benefits' it said 'Explanation of Disability Benefits'. I tossed it in the trash can & then had a "Wait, what?!" moment because when it landed in the trash it landed check-side up. Needless to say, I started opening and actually reading those EOB forms & found another check for the first week of my leave.

Some way, some how, my disability benefit request was filed and approved. I don't know how or who, but it occurred to me that the card with the Goddess Abundantia was still sitting on my nightstand.

I get the feeling that I've been praying to the wrong Gods my entire life.
perzephone: (stfu)
What the fuck is it with modern Heathens/Norse-centric/Odinist/Asatruar Pagans that they seem to feel they are somehow better than any other Pagan (and most of the time, any other person) on the fucking planet? They all seem to be mighty concerned with the supposed purity of their family lines, family honor, all that jazz, and Gods forbid if you happen to not know who you're related to, or if you've forsaken your familial bonds. They take the term 'white trash' to all new levels of disdain.

I don't really care on a personal level, but the more I've encountered that attitude from that particular group of Pagans, the more annoying it is. I think it's because of the hypocrisy inherent in most of their claims. If you're of European descent, unless you are actually about to inherit some title, there is no fucking way that you are 'pure' anything. Even if you are about to inherit some title, there is a lot of hanky-panky going on in those royal/landed/titled families. Not to mention the practice of fosterage/hostages back in the day, which entangled families across borders.

Using myself as an example... My father's father's family were from the Prussian/German Empire (at least, according to my dad, who was a fantastic story-teller... I could go get a DNA test and see just how much of a mutt I am but it doesn't really concern me), and bastards of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kaiser Wilhelm was the last of the Hohenzollern family line, and the last of the Teutonic Knights that Christianized the area of the world known as Ducal Prussia. The area of Ducal Prussia was originally inhabited by pagan German tribes, followed by the Teutonic Knights & the Hohenzollerns. I could be part Slavic or Polish, since Prussia was once unified under the Slavs, who became the Polish people. I could also be Lithuanian, since those people became the Prussians... or Swedish, since the Swedes invaded Prussia at some point, too. And who were those original pagan German tribes? Scandinavians, Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Francs, Gauls, Saxons, etc. & so forth. Prussia was fucking huge, and its borders were amorphous. It kissed both Russia and the Roman Empire throughout its lifetime.

My father's mother's family was primarily Welsh. Wales, being part of Britain, has the same variable ancestry as Prussia. Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, Jutes, Normans... My mother's family were French Canadien, meaning there's the whole history of France, the intermarriages with indigenous Canadians... and American immigrants and natives, because my mother's family came to America sometime in the early to mid 1800s. I am not entirely sure if my mother's family was from the St. Lawrence River area or if they were Acadian, but since there is indigenous blood in there (my mother was about 1/8th, so I think I'm like, 1/16th or 1/32nd or some shit - and no matter how much Jody nags on it, I am not on any registry because there are real indigenous people who need the recognition more), it was probably SLR French Canadien.

Given my background, I flirted with Norse-centric Wicca. It didn't work for me. I felt about as much connection to the Aesir and Vanir as I do with YHVH/God/Allah. The only connection I have is with Loki, and that's only because when you work with one trickster, you sort of end up with them all (I've got a connection with Anansi, too - doesn't mean I'm connected to all the native African Gods). None of the Germanic deities truly call to me, and the one half-possession experience I had with Frigga cemented that. She was so alien, so foreign, so unnatural... we were both uncomfortable. I flirted with the British/Celtic pantheon, and only found affinity with Herne. Part of me becoming a former Wicca was that I could no longer call on Cernunnos or Cerridwen with any faith. They were not my Gods, any more than Odin/Woden or Freya were. I found my religious home with deities and practices so far removed from my ancestry it almost feels forced. But it's what happened.

And then for some heathen to come along and disparage my practice as shallow and dishonorable... to disparage anyone who has the same kind of religious journey as I have had... makes me just want to punch them in their hypocritical nose. Which is why I told the guy he was insulting and high-handed and left it at that. Can't punch someone through the internet.

Yet.
perzephone: (green zombie girl)
I should have taken the opportunity to go to Haiti when I had the opportunity, lo those many years ago. I think my life would be more satisfying somehow.
perzephone: (Default)
Conflicts in my life:

The ceremonialist: rigid, disciplined, ascetic, controlling

The shamanistic: flexible, wild, indulgent, going with the flow

The spiritualist: somehow in between ceremonialist and shamanistic.

How do I tie these desperate impressions together and bring it to the outside world?

Once upon a time, many years ago, towards the end of my career as a ceremonial magic(k)ian, I summoned a spirit into the triangle outside my protective little circle. I had all the timing right, all the correspondences correct, the directions, the words; I had fasted, I was purified. In other words, I did what a ceremonialist does best and the ritual worked according to plan.

I had the most interesting conversation with this spirit.

We played a game of riddles and truth or dare. I asked the spirit at one point if the ritual truly compelled it to appear before me, or if it chose to come. It declined to answer, which made me believe at the time the spell truly compelled it, but it didn't want to tell me that because spirits are often embarrassed when summoned by teen-aged girls instead of powerful older magic(k)ians. I also asked the spirit, "If two people summoned you at the same time, do you appear to both?" It gave me a pat answer of "I am Legion". I tried to push it a little more, with questions about the nature of the universe, and I found myself at the short end of the intelligence stick. It's kind of strange to watch something like What the Bleep Do We Know and have a physics lesson taught by a minor spirit come back to haunt you.

Tired

Dec. 9th, 2009 08:58 pm
perzephone: (Default)
I'm whipped today. Just whipped. I waited around most of the morning to find out if I was being laid off or not. To my utter dismay, I found out not only am I not being laid off, but I am expected to justify every single minute of my day. I just don't think I want my job enough to do that. I mean, I need my job, and it would be nice to keep it long enough to get my hysterectomy... but this is going to get ridiculous.

I used to be a gore-whore. If it was sick, twisted, depraved and monstrous, chances are I've seen it. Suicides? No problem. Flaming martyrs? No problem. Obscure, graphic crime scene photos from the 20s? Torture? Animal experimentation? Zippocat? No problem.

One would think, with our department being the IT Help Desk, that we would not have much to do with the criminal cases that flow through the office at the rate of about 1600 per week. However, we have a great deal of exposure to the media behind the cases - surveillance videos, stupid people filming their own shenanigans, autopsy photos & video, crime scene photos and video, the criminal documents themselves. I watched a man with a gun hunt another man down in a grocery store. I've seen the autopsy of a small child that wasn't even recognizable as a human anymore, it was that badly beaten. The left overs of a home-made car bomb, or the occasional case of - well, suffice it to say, bad things happening to small people. Brutality inflicted on humans by humans is at my daily disposal, and at first I was titillated when I found the folders full of images of dead bodies, because I am somewhat of a necrophiliac. It just doesn't turn me on anymore. I thought all the years of gore sites like rotten.com, bangedup, ogrish & Stiles had hardened me to things like this. I thought I was immune.

I think it was seeing the crime scene photos of a lonely grave out in the middle of the desert. A woman's body, badly burnt, turned into a mummy, shrunken and unidentifiable, that did it to me. Someone had a CD full of crime scene photos & they couldn't get the CD-Rom to read it. I opened the disk, changed the view to thumbnails & the person I was assisting enlarged one of the photos in the top row, which just happened to be a close up of this woman. It was startling and unexpected, and every time I closed my eyes for the rest of the day, there she was in photo negative. She didn't continue to haunt me, but the setting did. There are a million places out here that look just like that grave site did - abandoned lots, construction sites, quarries, the vast empty wasteland of Nevada is full of sagebrush and windblown trash. There are so many places outside Nevada just like that, too, even in the most crowded cities are places where bodies can lay undisturbed and unnoticed. Within my beliefs, the shell we leave behind is just like that windblown trash - it's really of no use to anyone anymore. We slough it off like a cicada's husk when we die. To the living, though, that husk is the last vestige anyone will ever see of a loved one. The funerary rites are necessary to put ghosts to rest, necessary for the survivors to heal and move on. Every body forgotten and discarded in abandoned lots, quarries, dumpsters, the Great Big Empty, is a door that will never close.

I feel bruised and battered inside - every day I am exposed to more murders or assaults or kidnappings, and so much more... mankind's imagination when it comes to causing grief and harm seems infinite. I try to fill my off-time with playful things, captioned cats, comics, artwork, news articles that highlight the weirdly funny instead of the weirdly malicious. It's the things that creep out on the sidebars that nail me - like the pit bull yesterday or Monday, or the man who injected his wife with his own HIV-infected blood so she'd fuck him again - and someone trying to defend him because apparently enforced celibacy makes men do things like this & they should be excused for their actions. I think about some of the work I've been doing on myself regarding becoming more compassionate, meditations, protective and healing mantras I'm learning, and then another day at work makes me wonder why I'm trying to be more sympathetic to the human plight. We, as a species, are not all that worthy of compassion and sympathy - but I suppose, simply because of that, I should be all that more determined to open myself to those feelings. When I pray for one, I pray for all, and when I pray for all, I pray for myself.
perzephone: (Default)
I'm admitting a little secret here.

I honestly have no clue what the problem with Silver Ravenwolf is - I've never read any of her books cover to cover. I mean, I hear about her historical inaccuracies, her condescending tone, her dumbing-down of Wicca, her poor advice - but I'll never really get it. Frankly, because it is Wicca, I don't want to get it, either. I got To Ride a Silver Broomstick after I'd stopped being a card-carrying Wiccan (it was published in 1993), skimmed through it a little, dismissed it as Wicca & gave it to Jody. I ended up giving all three books to Jody. I don't even know what she thought of them. I remember vaguely thinking that using the drawing down the Moon ritual to walk down a street in a bad neighborhood was kind of stupid, but that was about it. It's hard to believe that SRW's only been on the scene since the '90s... but it's hard to believe, at least for me, that 1993 was 16 fucking years ago.

The only reason I'm mentioning her is because someone on one of the pagan forums I visit replied to a post in which I mentioned a feature of lunabar that tells you when the moon is void of course. He said that the whole 'not starting anything new' when the moon is v.o.c. was brought about because of SRW. I'd been hearing that about the moon being v.o.c. since I was 10 & living w/my cousin who had all of Linda Goodman's astrology books, about 10 years before SRW even hit the scene. People sometimes forget that before Wicca became Kind of a Big Deal, many of us who would become Wiccans of one ilk or another were wallowing in the softly filtered rosy-quartz glow of the New Age movement.

Thinking about it now, that may be part of 'Fluff-Bunny Syndrome', at least here in the U.S. (I don't knock 'fluff-bunnies', either, mainly because I really don't give a fuck if someone wants to have a nice day, as long as they don't take it out on me). Many people my age and slightly older had post-hippy parents and went through the New Age. I think it's worse if you lived on the west coast for any length of time in the mid-80s. Now, if you mention Sedona, people will look at you with a noticeable 'Huh?' sign over their heads, but in its heyday, Sedona was the New Age hot-spot. Yes, I have been to Sedona, basked in its (at the time, I don't know how it is now) overpriced rosy-quartz glow of its vortices and power-places, oohed and aahed at the gaudy baubles of entire quartz caves packed onto one necklace or pair of earrings, and didn't feel a thing other than the creaky springs of my hotel mattress stabbing me in sunburned nether regions. I also lived near Lacey, WA when J. Z. Knight/Ramtha had the ashram up there - the woman that's in the memory foam mattress commercials was one of her supporters, I think she was on Dallas at some point. My dad's psycho-bitch-girlfriend-from-Hell was heavily into transchannelers & this thing called 'Ur' - and the spacebrothers... All I see now when I look at JZ Knight videos is classically tailored shoulder pads & the worst 80s hair known to mankind.

But that was what a lot of us Wiccans grew up on. The New Age concepts of Light, Peace and Love. I suppose it's not all bad - if America could put up with a collective bunch of loonies like that, Wiccans and neo-Pagans were fairly low-key in comparison. The New Agers channeled Ascended Masters, the Wiccans channeled Gods & Goddesses from mythology anthologies. The New Agers believed in turning the other cheek, the Wiccans proclaimed, in pseudo-OE, 'An' it harm none!' The Wiccans weren't quite as apocalyptic as the New Agers, and the New Agers weren't quite as sexy as the Wiccans, but a good time could be had by all.

In health news... )
perzephone: (Default)
Every once in awhile I like to sit up late at night and surf the dark underbelly of the ‘Net.

No, not 4chan… but the purveyors of the strange. The bloggers whose blogs read like HP Lovecraft and Charles Fort. The birth defects, teratomas and momento mori sites. Auctions of dolls and clowns gone horribly awry. Schizophrenic artists. I have satisfactorily ruined sleep for myself tonight.

It’s a day for it, though.

Let me describe my back yard to you, just to set the scene. The lot our house sits on is roughly square, divided into a front and back yard with the house plopped into the middle. The back yard forms a U around the house - on either side is a narrow walkway with the rectangle of the yard behind the house. Around the perimeter is a cinder block wall - on either side it’s about 5 ½’ tall - I can barely see over it. In the back, there’s a retaining wall & the main wall is about 8’ up. On the kitchen side of the yard, the walkway ends in a block wall, & on the other side, we have a padlocked gate. I am not the most nimble person around, and I am short, and I would have trouble scaling these walls. I don’t think anyone could do it quietly, or without the dog taking notice. I doubt, seriously, that anyone other than myself or the dog was in the backyard today.

Rob had gone on errands. I was sitting here at my computer, and the dog was laying on the floor next to me. The wind was blowing a little - breezes, really. We have a wrought-iron grate over one side of the back sliding-glass door, w/a gate on the door side. We usually leave the gate open during the day. Sometimes the wind will slam it, but today the breezes weren’t moving it, and it was open halfway, sticking out into the porch area.

Someone knocked on the back sliding glass door and I heard a child’s voice say, somewhat indistinctly, “I know you’re in there”. Chelsie startled at the same moment I startled & looked at me like, “Did you hear that?!” She got up when I got up, but it seemed like she was reluctant to approach the door. Usually when something makes noise she begins barking her fool head off, running from front door to back door, wanting out… but today, not so much. I don’t know if it was because I hesitated or if it was because she felt something not-quite-right herself.

We’ve got a black-out style curtain hanging over the back door, so I couldn't see the back door. But I had heard no footsteps leading to or from the door, and of course by the time I had shaken off my paralysis and gotten up, whoever it had been was gone. The wrought-iron gate was still in the exact same position, so I know the wind hadn’t smacked it against the grate on the other side or the door itself.

The household goms have ramped up a notch or two over the past few weeks. I think the weather’s keeping them active. We’ve been getting a lot of weird noises lately - knocking on doors, metallic banging. At least it all seems to be coming from the outside, and they haven’t been knocking on Rob’s headboard or smacking the back of my chair.

And a little extra that I wouldn't feel comfortable telling on fb... )

Well, it's 4:03 and it might be able to get some sleep finally.
perzephone: (Default)
Over the past couple of nights we've been watching What the Bleep Do We Know as dinner entertainment. We're about an hour into the 'Theatrical Release' version. At first, I was a tad annoyed because I didn't realize it was a documentary. Within the first ten minutes, I was completely absorbed. We only watched about 20 minutes the first night, and another half hour or so tonight. I don't think I can handle much more than that in one sitting. There's so much to absorb. It's very heady stuff.

For all of my mathematical difficulties, quantum theory is remarkably easy for me to grasp. What's amazing to me though, is how quantum theory seems to be where the spiritual world and the scientific world kiss & make up. The scientists in the little interview blurbs are talking about things like 'entanglement', which is the concept that everything is connected (and as they were explaining it in oh-so-scientific terms, I almost started bawling because it set off the chills & made my hair stand on end). Separate two particles a million miles apart, do something to one particle, and the other responds instantaneously. Are the particles communicating? Maybe. Are the particles connected? Definitely. One guy talked about how much energy potential a quantum particle has - and it's a miniscule thing, compared to atoms it's the stuff of which atoms are made - but yet it has the energy potential of billions of suns. All of a sudden, the Large Hadron Collider took on far more sinister tones - imagine a quantum bomb - I'm sure out there, someone already has and is working on it in a lab somewhere.

They talk about the Schroedinger effect & how the observer effects the outcome of an experiment merely by observing & Rob almost fell off the couch (I'm familiar with Schroedinger's cat, though - I think it's a Cheshire cat, and it is, or might not be, in that box over there. I always wonder to myself if Schroedinger had a dog). They also talk about time, and about an experiment in which a neuroscientist did brain surgery on conscious patients & found that the brain actually sends impulses backwards and anticipates physical contact before it happens, making it seem as though the contact & the brain's response occurs instantaneously. Of course, it raised the question for me of is the brain thinking backwards in time, or is it sensing interference with the aura before physical contact is made?

Then there was another experiment, done with simple electronic devices. The devices were first wrapped in tinfoil (which is hilarious to me) & were placed at the center of a table with four well-trained and experienced meditators sitting around it. The four would cleanse the table and device and the surrounding area, and then enter deep meditative states, and when the four were ready, one would state an intention for the device, such as 'this device will raise the pH level of a container of water 1 point'. After the intention was stated, the meditators would imprint this purpose on the device for a specified amount of time, and then at the end, would mentally just let the device go, releasing it. The device would then be placed in an electrostatically neutral package & shipped to another location. The device would be used in accordance with whatever it had been 'programmed to do'. And the devices would do it. That blew my fucking mind.

And that was about all I could handle for tonight.

Rob then started blabbering on about, if the universe is constantly expanding, what, exactly is on the outside of the universe that it is expanding into?

Because my brain is fried and incapable of rational coherent thought, I told him, "you're off the map, matey. Here there be monsters".
perzephone: (Default)
When I think of calm, comforting, nurturing elements in my life, I usually think of either the Moon or the ocean. If I was somewhere with a coastline, a desire for a loving deity would send me straight into the arms of the Pacific. To me, She is a Goddess in Her own right and when I lived in California and Washington, I actively offered worship to Her, in all Her moods and tides and weather. I don't talk about it much, but I did like living in southern California, and if the cost of living wasn't so high, I'd much rather live there than anywhere else. I think my Grecian soul found it familiar, with its pseudo-Mediterranean climate, the endless expanse of sand and sea that made up its coastline... at heart, I am a California girl, lol.

But here I am, in the Great Big Empty, no ocean in sight. So to whom else can I turn when the ocean isn't there?

All along, I've always thought of the Moon as 'Mother Moon', and gazing upwards at Her has always filled me with a sense of peace and stillness. She's always been there, like the sea, watching over me, watching over us all. Honestly, I don't think of Her as Diana or Artemis, or Luna or Selene - They are not the Moon, but the Moon is in Them. The Moon just is. I have a little in common with Bob in that - he's a moon-dog, a lunatic, and so am I. I watch Her cycle closely, I follow Her across the sky, I keep in tune with Her rhythms. I have a kinship with dogs and coyotes and hares... I see Her face in my favorite drum. Maybe all along I have been just neglecting to see what's always been there.
perzephone: (Default)
Ok, I've been Pagan all my life. I've got patron deities, spirit guides, totems, ancestors (well, they may not be related to me, but I consider them my ancestors more than my actual ancestors)... but for the life of me, I have no clue about this particular situation.

I'm in the market for a new deity. I'm tired of serving and serving and not really getting much in return. I'm tired of getting my head run into brick walls. I'm tired of being kicked around. I'm tired of the school of spiritual hard knocks.

Back in June, I honestly started asking the Universe for compassion, comfort, nourishment, creative guidance and all I've gotten has been white noise.

So, what's the general consensus on consciously choosing a deity to worship? For instance, if I just decided to start worshiping and giving devotion to say, Brighid or Diana, is that acceptable?
perzephone: (Default)
I just got out of the bath tub, which was heaven after being on a bathless restriction due to the kidney surgery & subsequent stent. I was reading a book about the QBLH, and had some revelations, and was seriously going to sit down and blog my ass off.

However, when I got out of the tub, Chelsie wanted to have a towel fight. When the towel fight was over & I sat down and started to upload my Autumn avatar, she started pacing around the door. Rob, who is absorbed in Wintergrasp or something, says, "I think she needs to go out". I tell him, "give me a minute". Chelsie then goes over & starts licking Rob's feet, which cued him to ask, "Does she have water?" Much back and forthery ensues because I've got to get up to let her out, anyway (which means going outside with a flashlight and an extra shoe in the event of a zombie scorpion apocalypse). So I fill her dish from the filtered water pitcher, and give her food. Then I had to refill the filtered water pitcher with water it could filter. So I saw the coffee pot, sitting there empty, and said to myself, "well, while I'm in here..." & set up the coffee pot for the morning. Since I was in the kitchen, filling up dog bowls, pitchers and coffee pots, might as well take my pills, right? After circuiting the kitchen, I took the dog out, scanning walls & the porch ceiling for armored invaders. Figured, well, I'm outside, might as well say my thanks to the Great Mystery. The dog finally peed. She came inside and dropped a cricket on the floor. Dog had to go back outside while I scooped up said drool-covered cricket & threw it outside. I haven't even gotten out of my towels from the bath at this point, so my first attempt at scooping the cricket up meant the towel wrapped around my hair unfurled and the plastic container, piece of paper and drooled-on cricket all went to the floor.

Finally, here I am, no crickets in the living room, hair brushed, night gown on, dog fed & watered & relieved, teeth brushed, coffee pot filled... Rob still doing fuck knows what in WoW.

This whole chain of events is actually quite hilarious, considering my revelation.

When I was a younger woman, I was dissatisfied with my existence and sought to change it. Using the QBLH for many things, mainly its nifty system of correspondences, I practiced magic(k) and witchcraft to inflict change I desired on the world around me. The QBLH helped me put spells together...

Malkuth, earth, oak, dog, bull, green, North, Cerridwen, Demeter
Binah, Saturn, graveyard dirt, goofer dust, black, Les Barons, Saturday

As I got older, and moved away from trying to inflict change on the world around me, I instead began using the QBLH to transcend the world, to rise above it, to reach enlightenment. I spent more time in the Ain Soph Aur than on Earth. My life was spent in Daath and Kether, always seeking a way out.

Now, I've come to realize that I've somehow reconciled those two halves of myself. I no longer seek to change the world around me, at least not much. Yes, I'd like to live a more comfortable life, free from health problems and money worries. I like having the security of a good job. I'm also always trying to be more than just a clod of clay and salt. I still believe in the lessons of Jonathon Livingston Seagull, that we are all limitless beings of light, the Divine Spark still burns brightly within each and every one of us.

Here's what I seem to have integrated. I can be of the world and in the world, and still be a core of fiery light within an egg of chaotic potential. Instead of seeking to change the world to bring it more in line with my vision, or seeking to change myself until I am no longer recognizable as being part of the world, I am bringing my vision more in line with the heart breaking, breath-taking awe and wonder that is the Divine Mystery right here on earth. Which is why, when I came out of the bath, filled with heady thoughts about how amazing my revelation truly was, there was the dog and Rob to pop my little pink balloon. Yes, I am a limitless being of light - but I am also me: short, fat, tired and achy, needing to go to bed.

I think I am going to embark on some Qabalistic pathworking. Not the officially sanctioned, accredited degree system PathWorking™ of the OTO or Golden Dawn or Newly Reformed Hermetic Orthodox of Isis the Multi-Veiled Triple-Aspected Priestess of All Things Eris Has Nothing to Do With Whatsoever... just my own journey down the trails of the Tree of Life. I think it'll be interesting to see who I meet now that I've got slightly different eyes.
perzephone: (Default)
I've reached a weird impasse.

I'm of the school of thought that one does not just pick up a random encyclopedia of Gods & Goddesses, thumb through it & say, "I'm going to be a priestess of (insert name here)." My patrons aren't ones that I've studied & said, "Well, these guys seem pretty cool!" No, They have smacked me on the head - sometimes close to literally smacked me.

Now that I've decided it might be kind of nice to be enfolded in the arms of a loving, compassionate and kind spiritual helper, I've got no idea how to go about it. To my knowledge, none have invited me. I know I encountered something the night I broke down and asked for help - but Who it was, still no clue. I've been trying to communicate with Brigid to try and muster up some creativity, but I haven't gotten much response from Her. Seal is likewise elusive & the last time I made a serious effort to follow Seal, I dreamt I drowned and got tangled up in a deadfall of whale bones on the ocean floor. It disturbed me to no end because I have recurring dreams about something [i]huge[/i] and terrifying that rises from the ocean depths - the only proper term that comes to mind is 'Leviathan' or 'Legion', even though I know what's coming for me isn't biblical - but it's biblical in proportions. I've never seen it but I know it's down there, and being in that pile of whale bones & not being able to get free... ugh. Put me in a very bad place in my head & I was so relieved when I woke up.

When I think of Persephone and Hades, I do see Them as compassionate deities, but not personally compassionate. They have a hard role. Persephone has to leave us all in cold and darkness for many months, has to shoo away the sun, has to allow the plants to die so the Earth can rejuvenate itself. Hades and Persephone have to do the same thing to living beings - make sure they reach an end to make more room for new life. They welcome the dead to Their home, and provide the functions of both caretakers and judges. They are universally compassionate, to be able to do this not as indiscriminate, passionate deities like Zeus, but to know when the time is right and to keep the wheel of the year turning. Ariadne and Dionysus are ecstasy and madness... as are the Ghede to an extent. The side of herself that Bear has shown me is not Bear-as-Mother... she is Old Bear Woman, who knows the trails to the best roots. She seems to be very close to Persephone, even though Bear is most strongly associated with Artemis (the 'Art' is Bear, as in Arthur, Artio, and the 'U' in Uther). Bear goes underground with Winter and comes back to the surface in Spring, she keeps track of the seasons and the life of the green world. Persephone and Bear are time-keepers. Besides, Bear is an integrated part of myself and I know I can't turn to myself for the level of nurturing and compassion for which I feel a great need.

I feel strange & awkward approaching my current patrons & asking, basically, "Will you be my mommy?" I know a lot of this comes from my own attitudes towards compassion, nurturing and loving-kindness. It makes me uncomfortable. I can be compassionate and caring, but Gods forbid I have to admit it or acknowledge it. I'd rather it be done privately and in an offhand way. And I hate accepting kindness, compassion or nurturing from others. It makes me feel sort of, well, like someone wiped a booger on me, or like I just stepped in dogshit (or maybe a banana slug) with bare feet.

Another problem is that so many of the Gods & Goddesses and deities/entities associated with compassion feel very foreign to me. Isis? Kuan Yin? Jesus? Mary? Hathor? Yemaya was a possibility for awhile, but not so much anymore.

I dunno. I feel very helpless in this.
perzephone: (Default)
Kidney Pie, Beware )

Monday night, when I was ready to just commit seppuku, I decided to apply some friendly advice. I went outside with the dog, and it's my new habit to say thank you to the Great Mystery for the day and the night, not just when it rains, but every night. So, along with the thanksgiving, I actually asked for help. (Yeah, Hel probably froze over, pigs flew, some God popped out of an abandoned refrigerator & wreaked havoc on unsuspecting locals, you name it). I asked the Great Mystery if it could send me someone or something to help me with the pain.

When I went to bed with my heating pad & hot water bottle (and resorting to taking enough Phenergan to just knock my ass out), I sent a request out to the Unknown - just to please help ease the pain and comfort me, as I am orphaned and have no parents, and I am all alone.

Yesterday, it was weird. No more cramps. Nothing. Just a minor backache, which I always have. I was still bleeding like a stuck brontosaur (and still am - I know the saying is 'bleeding like a stuck pig', but a pig would have already bled to death by now), but it didn't hurt. My legs didn't feel like they were being torn off, I could stand up straight. Didn't even take any regular Tylenol. Last night I said thank you to the Great Mystery and to Whoever or Whatever helped me and gave me relief.

Today - I don't even have a freaking back ache. Well, I do, but it's that sort of relieved bruised feeling you get when a cramped muscle relaxes. For like, the first time in 15 years, my back feels fine. Of course, I'm stuck at work & can't do anything about not being in chronic achey back-pain. So I guess something out there does like me enough to offer a helping, healing hand, and it is greatly appreciated. I would kind of like to know Who, though, but much of the world runs on kindness from strangers.

I came home to a message that I've got another interview at the County Recorders Office, too :D
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The awesome [livejournal.com profile] moonvoice asked if anyone who worked with spirits had any that they turned to for comfort or compassion.

It gave me pause.

I've never even thought about having a totem, spirit guide, deity or other spiritual entity in my life that I would turn to for compassion, comfort or love. I mean, I guess there are compassionate, kind and loving deities... like maybe Jesus and Krishna. Ganesh comes to mind, as does Kwan Yin (your spelling may vary). There are some motherly deities like Isis and Yemaya. 

There are some that I've had encounters with Who, while not harsh and strict, are a Hel of a lot of fun to party with, but They aren't exactly kind and loving - Coyote, the Barons, Eleggua/Papa Legba. Tricksters can still teach some hard lessons. I've had guardian spirits - but the twin jackals weren't there to romp and play with me - they were there for protection.

Most of my deities, totems and spirit guides are harsh and demanding. I ask for nothing while They ask for everything - which is probably why I've let my spirituality take a back seat to the everyday world. Eventually, I get tired of giving and serving without any reward other than being allowed to serve. I think for me, even if something innocuous, like Ladybug or Hamster, were my totem, I would still end up being thrown against brick walls. Maybe I'm missing out on something - maybe They've all been enjoying a joke at my expense. It doesn't feel that way, but I could be handed a sign and still not recognize it.

Among many of the spiritual people I've known, it's some strange badge of pride to have harsh deities, totems, guides & what-have-you. I know a lot of people whose patrons are Kali, Hecate, Odin, Tyr, the Morrigan, Ogoun, Chango, Oya, raven gods, death gods, war gods... and virtually none who hearken to Aphrodite, Erzulie, Oshun, Isis, Gaia... Are we all beating ourselves up? Are we all so desperate to avoid being thought of as New-Age-White-Lighters, or even worse, the dreaded 'fluff bunny' that we deliberately seek out the hardest, meanest, most savage patrons in the spiritual world? Or do we all actually need these brick walls and hard roads?

Over the past two days, I've been in intense pain. It doesn't let up, and it just keeps going. It feels like I'm tied to horses going in opposite directions & my legs are getting torn off. My back is wrenched, I can't take deep breaths & nothing really helps - I took 8 fucking codeine Sunday & it didn't even take the edge off - and now I'm out of codeine. Tequila doesn't take the edge off. I've got a high pain tolerance, but damn. If it <i>was</i> a kidney stone, from what I've heard, I'd get breaks in between the waves of pain. A sex change operation is sounding pretty damned good right now.

 So I'm sitting here, thinking to myself, "Who would I ask to help me with this pain?" and the truth is, no one. Not one of my patron deities, not one of my totems or spirit guides. I probably wouldn't even ask in the first place - it's my body, it's my pain, I'm dealing with it & it shouldn't be anyone else's problem, immortal, spiritual or otherwise. I feel like a big baby for even complaining about it, but yes, it hurts <i>that</i> much. The headache I had the night I almost had the stroke would be preferable, because at least it might go away within 24 hours. I guess some people do ask their spiritual helpers (and just that word combination, 'spirit helper' is note-worthy) to take pain away, or at least help ease pain - and I guess it's an acceptable relationship for them and their spirit helpers. It's kind of funny. I've surrounded myself with spiritual entities all my life, been surrounded by them... and I've always been willing to serve Them... but when it comes to my problems, I still feel very alone.
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This has been kind of percolating through me, and my boss being in a meeting all afternoon has given me a rich opportunity to brew it into a heady draught of words. And I'm not sticking this one behind a cut, so there.


Life as an Archetype: The Warrior

 

I was born the same year that the Vietnam conflict ended, and in the early 1970s, there was still a lot of animosity towards the returning armed services. They couldn’t get jobs, they got spat on while walking down the street, people would drive by and throw stuff at them… I remember Jody, my oldest sister, carried the POW/MIA stickers everywhere & plastered them everywhere. Many of her friends who had come back from Vietnam buckled under the constant pressure of hatred and became drug addicts, alcoholics and suicides. Back in those days, syndromes like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries were not well understood and received little, if no, treatment.

 

Many of my male relatives are veterans. My father was a vet, although due to his propensity for story-telling, I don’t know what branch of the armed forces he was in and he had so many social security cards on him when he died – none of which were his – that the Veteran’s Association could not find any record of his service. I know from his photographs (now lost during multiple moves) that he did serve during the early years of Vietnam. His father & older brothers served in the Prussian army & the early days of Germany, and fled when Hitler rose to power. I’ve got uncles on my mother’s side who are veterans, one of whom has PTSD and suffers from intense flashbacks. He served during the last part of WWII and in Korea in the Navy. Jody was in the Army but received a discharge during boot camp. Rob was in the Air Force, but received a discharge during Tech School. Rob’s dad served in the Army during Korea, and many of his uncles and grandparents fought in civil conflicts in Yugoslavia, Prussia & Hungary. I’ve got a good friend who put his time in the Navy and still serves in the Naval Reserves.

 

I am a pacifist. I pretty much have been all my life. I do not support wars on foreign soil. I’m not an active pacifist – I don’t feel like getting arrested for protesting, but I do support those who are willing to put their civil rights on the line. I try not to invest in companies who support the war machine, and I let my conscience guide me at the voting booth. I’m not a militant pacifist, though. I believe that countries should have the right to defend their own borders against invaders. I understand that sometimes, wars are necessary – for one, it thins out the human population. Secondly, even in real life, there are ‘bad guys’. I’ve also had a strong opinion brewing since September 11, 2001. Hate the government, not the soldier.

 

One of my coworkers’ (I’ll call her Alice to minimize confusion) boyfriend was serving active duty in the Air Force in the years following September 11, 2001. So far he had managed to avoid being called into the Middle East – he stayed home and maintained and guarded the air base. It was a constant source of worry and stress for them both, though. She was equally worried about the possibility of another invasion. John Mayer’s song, Waiting on the World to Change came on the radio & it made Alice angry because she felt he was protesting the movement against Iraq & how people like him were no better than the terrorists. It was mostly the lyric, …”When you trust your television, What you get is what you got, Cause when they own the information, they can bend it all they want’… that pissed her off the most. How dare this guy insinuate that the media and the government were lying to us all? Very quietly, although apparently loud enough to make everyone in the room inhale and turn to look at me, I said, “He’s right, though.” Alice called me out on it, “You think the government is lying to you? You think that none of us are in constant danger? That no one’s actually dying in Iraq right now?!” I told her that not one of us really knew for sure how big a threat these terrorists were, if they were indeed going to attack us again, and at that point, many of Bush’s commands had been proven to be, shall we say, ineffective and mislead. Even Bill O’Reilly had apologized to America for supporting Bush’s search for weapons of mass destruction. Alice took it the wrong way – she felt that my saying that meant I did not support our troops, the boys in blue and green who were in Iraq or serving at military bases across the U.S.

 

I let it slide. Things were tense between us for a couple of years, but eventually as her man was home more and the constant stress lifted, things were forgotten. I don’t know if she thinks about it whenever she hears John Mayer on the radio. What got me to thinking about it was another song entirely – Offspring’s Hammerhead.

 

… I'm just doing what I'm told

Every single man and woman who chooses to serve in the military, be it our military or another country’s military, is living life as an archetype. They may be a clerk, a medic, a general, a grunt, a runner, a pilot, a ground unit, a mechanic, a special forces elite… they are all embodying an ancient ideal. They are all warriors.

 

In ancient times, mighty Gods and heroes arose Who were the patrons of the warriors. Ares/Mars, Athena, the Morrigan, Thor, Tyr, Freya, Achilles, Cuchulainn, Anahita, Indra, Mithra, the Badb, Huitzilopochtli, Ogoun, Sekhmet – the list is probably endless, and many of these Gods are still propitiated today by modern Pagans. In ancient cultures as in modern society, people filled various roles and duties in society – there were healers, priests and priestesses, hunters, farmers, rulers, administrators, crafts and trade people, builders, and warriors. There used to be rituals and ceremonies central to each little group – harvest and planting festivals for the farmers, rituals for healers to perform on the sick and on themselves to cleanse themselves of illnesses, sacrifices and thanksgivings for the hunters to keep the game in balance with the predator, blessings of new buildings for the architects. There were also rites of passage – a child becoming an adult, marriage, birth, death… and for the warriors, there were rituals not only of initiation, but rituals to ensure success on the battlefield, propitiating the Gods that ruled war so as not to be chosen to end up among the slain, protective runes and rites, and very important rituals to ease their reintegration back into society once the fighting was done.

 

It’s easy for a pacifist like myself to sit back and think, “What a fucking idiot. That soldier is putting his life on the line because of some whack-job politician’s misguided attempt at foreign-policy-via-blunt-force-trauma”. Who am I to think I have the right to judge an archetype? That’s really what the soldier is – he or she is one of the most ancient archetypes – the Warrior.

 

Living the Warrior archetype means being willing to kill someone (in some cases, it also means assassination, torture and slavery). In many societies and cultures, killing another person has always been a major taboo. Although it doesn’t always seem this way, murder is not generally condoned. Condoning murder means lawlessness prevails and communities crumble. The warrior has to be able to bridge the cultural inhibitions that prevent a logical, community-minded person from killing someone else.

 

I am the one, camouflage and guns
Risk my life to keep my people from harm
Authority vested in me,
I sacrifice with my brothers in arms

 
I'll take a life that others may live

 Not everyone has the ability to do this, to make this choice. A warrior on the battlefield, whether it was an ancient plain where people fought face to face with axes and spears or a modern scenario where bombs are dropped on an enemy from miles above, faces that life-or-death decision every time he or she goes out to fight. The soldier may simply be protecting him or herself against another soldier, or he or she may be protecting his or her squadron, or some gods-forsaken outcropping of rock in a strategic position… but underneath it all the soldier is protecting the greater ideals of his or her country, his or her fellow citizens, his or her government and all for which it stands. I’m not making the distinction here of ‘right or wrong’ – to the soldier, the warrior, there is no ‘right or wrong’ because he or she is serving. He or she has made the decision to put the life of his or her countrymen before his own.

 

Stay the course, reasonable force
I believe I serve a greater good

 

Society has lost many meaningful rituals. We still have our small rites of passage – weddings, funerals, graduations, baby showers. I think it is still important to draw those bold, heavy borders on the timeline. I think something that may help people like my shell-shocked uncle reintegrate back into a life of peace would be some small ceremony – cleansing away the taboos of murder, removing the stigma of serving an unjust government, opening a heart that has closed itself off to pacifism so it can cope with killing. Even a ‘Welcome Back’ party could serve as this – a time to say thank you, a time to let the Warrior step off the tank and gun turret and be healed by companionship and re-acceptance into society. Hopefully the next few years will see many homecomings and opportunities to reunite with friends and loved ones who have been gone far too long.

 

I think, as a whole, most people have forgotten that the soldier is an archetype. I believe in free will, and I believe that people can make choices in their lives that will keep them safe from harm. I tend to assume that people follow their logic. Until recently, it had not occurred to me that maybe, even without a mandatory military draft, the soldier may not really have a choice. It could be that the need for that archetypal role to be filled by someone pulls the soldier, the Warrior, into service. Part of why I wanted to write this out was to, in some small way, honor the men and women who are fulfilling that archetype.

 

Thank you, Warriors, soldiers, servants of the armed forces, for stepping forward in times of need to protect us all.

perzephone: (Default)
Ok, I revised some of the wording and finished it. Constructive criticism is welcome.

Actually, any criticism is welcome because then I'd know at least one person read this, lol.
 
Spellcraft 101: Theory and Philosophy

Let me share my philosophy on who can practice magic. I believe that anyone can practice magic. I don’t believe a person has to be a Wiccan or Pagan to practice magic, although if a Catholic, Christian, Jew or Muslim practices witchcraft, they may want to make peace with their God before doing so, since it does seem to be a no-no in those religious frameworks. I personally do not believe that the power behind spells is granted to us by the Gods. I am pantheistic and believe that everything is connected by a greater spiritual force, like a web of energy binding everything together as one. Because we are all connected, I believe that it is possible for something someone does has the power to affect something or someone across the globe.

 

I also feel that magic’s greatest power is over our own psychology. When someone performs a spell, not only are they affecting the object of the spell, they are influencing themselves. If someone does a spell to be more attractive, they will respond to that spell by walking with more confidence, dressing more confident, becoming more outgoing – in truth, they will become more attractive.

 

I’m of a mixed mind when it comes to curses and hexes. I’ve actually never cursed anyone or hexed anyone. I’ve done more than my fair share of ‘go away’ spells, but I don’t feel that banishing spells are necessarily curses or hexes. I’ve asked for ‘divine justice’ in a couple of occasions, and seen that in action. I don’t doubt that curses and hexes can and do work – but I also know that protective spells and actions can effectively negate the energy of a curse or hex. Personally, I’m not afraid of curses or hexes – and I’ve had people tell me they put a curse on me. It seems kind of naïve or one-sided to say that magic works and in the same breath say that curses and hexes don’t work. But from my experience, curses and hexes seem to have less effectiveness and a greater chance to fail than positive spells.

 

A bit of etiquette to bear in mind: always ask someone’s permission before doing a spell on their behalf. Letting someone know that you want to help them out magically is respectful, and if the person has a lot of psychic self-defense mechanisms at work, they will be able to clear the way for your assistance, and possibly even help the spell along. If it’s a curse or hex or something negative, of course you’re not going to tell the object of the spell, “Hey, I’m putting a curse on you!” – at least, not until after you’ve done it and you want to scare the crap out of them. Sometimes, telling a person you’ve cursed them is more effective than actually putting a curse on them.

 

If a spell fails, chances are no one is going to be harmed by it – and most likely, no one will ever know the spell fizzled. Sometimes they do backfire or have unexpected results, but anything we try in life, from learning to ride a bicycle to asking someone out on a date, runs those same risks. When embarking on magical pursuits, it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind and open heart.

 

So here is my contribution to the world: Spellcraft 101.

 

First Point: Practice

Practice.

Practice.

Practice.

 

I used to be one of those people who felt that magic was the last resort, that a person should exhaust all other avenues before performing a spell. I don’t know how I ended up with that belief – probably because other people respond that way. Magic is one of many tools given to us. Just like other tools, the only way to become a masterful spell-caster is to practice casting spells. Although I’ve met people who claimed wild success with their first spell, there are very few true ‘wild talents’ when it comes to witchcraft.

 

When a person is first starting out, it is best to start small, with inconsequential things, things that only affect the spellcaster or a willing guinea pig (not an actual guinea pig, mind you, but someone who has given their permission to be used as the object of a spell). It’s also easier to begin with positive or protective spells instead of launching right into cursing, hexing, banishing or binding spells.

 

Healing spells are an excellent proving ground as long as the illness is not one that is immediately fatal. Helping a friend eliminate migraines or helping oneself resist getting the flu would be better than trying to cure someone of cancer or HIV. Not that wanting to cure someone’s cancer or HIV is a bad thing, especially if it works, but it’s always best to start small and with something that will help build confidence and self-assurance. Protective spells are good beginning spells, too, but the results are usually not as tangible.

 

Many people, me included, tend to make fun of people who cast spells for every little thing. You have to recognize when a mundane solution to a problem is faster and more effective than a spell. While learning spellcraft, though, cast spells for everything.

 

Second Point: Taking Action

 

Magic will not do anything unless some kind of real-world action is also taken. There’s an old joke about this guy. Every day he prays to God, “God, please let me win the lottery!” Days, weeks, months, years go by with this guy praying to win the lottery every single day. One day, he wakes up, goes for a walk & prays to God, “Please, God, just let me win the lottery!” God taps the guy on the shoulder and says, exasperatedly, “Hey, Schlomo, buy a ticket!” Performing a spell to get a job or make more money will do nothing unless something is done to help the magic along. Taking classes to improve skills, sending resumes to prospective employers, and speaking to a manager or supervisor about taking on greater responsibilities or getting a raise – and some spell work will help the most.

 

Spells work best as a means to potentialize action. They can sway a situation to one’s advantage, or push a decision one way or the other, but for the most part spells are not miracles.  

 

Referring back to recognizing when mundane solutions will work better than magical ones, once past the practice stage, this is a good thing to remember. If someone is the victim of a dangerous domestic situation, doing a spell asking for ‘divine justice’ will not help if the victim is killed by their abusive partner. Doing a healing spell won’t help someone who is bleeding to death unless they’re already in the ER. Doing a spell to keep kids off drugs won’t help if the parents are abusing drugs and setting an example for their children to follow.

 

Third Point: Self Discipline

 

One of the principles of magic is the ability to visualize the outcome of a spell. In order for visualization to be effective, it requires concentration, energy and focus. If one has a five-minute attention span, chances are their spells are not going to be successful. Some people are born with a natural ability to focus their attention on something for long periods of time. Others have to train their attention, like any muscle or skill. Being able to maintain focus for long periods of time can have advantages outside the spiritual world – computer programming is one clear example, surgery is another.

 

Attention and focus are part of the training needed for practicing witchcraft. Sometimes, if a spell is done within the confines of ritual or ceremonial magic, it may need more time and involvement than just 15 minutes or so of candle-burning. If a person cannot reign in their body and mind, all the preparation that goes into a major magical undertaking is kind of pointless.  One of the most common pieces of advice seen in any spellbook is ‘turn off the phone, turn off the TV., close the bedroom door…’ – in other words, tear oneself away from all the nitpicking little distractions of modern life.

 

Honestly, the way I see it, any religious or spiritual practice requires a modicum of self-discipline. Learning to meditate involves calming the chattering nonsense running rampant in the brain – quieting the ‘monkey mind’. For those following a shamanic path, vision quests, underworld/Otherworld journeying, and other shamanic technologies involve being able to get past all of the physical body’s nagging needs – being able to ignore hunger, thirst, discomfort, an itchy nose, a cramping toe, having to pee really, really bad – as well as telling the monkey mind to shut up for awhile. 

 

Fourth Point: Timing

 

Timing is everything. Once a person begins practicing magic or following a spiritual path, it becomes easier to ‘tune in’ to the natural rhythms of life. Even in major urban centers, there are still seasons and tides. At first, spells may just go awry even if every detail is attended to, every step is followed. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time – the Universe has something else in mind.

 

Here in Las Vegas, the city is still part of the greater desert around it. We have a definite monsoon season from mid-July through August. People who have been living here for awhile seem to get antsy and irritable during the weeks preceding the monsoon. Everyone seems cranky. There seems to be extra stress put on everyone, like we’re living in a pressure cooker. Shortly after the 4th of July, the clouds roll in at night and the air becomes heavy and humid, and it seems like all the cranky antsy desert dwellers inhale – and hold their breaths. One afternoon the clouds don’t burn off and the first lightning flashes are seen, followed by thunder that sounds like it’s cracking the world apart. The rain comes, and everyone, the desert itself included, exhales in a giant “ahhhhh”. That is what magical timing feels like – a great pressure, a need to do something to solve a problem or fill a gap – the spell is that first lightning bolt, the thunder is the pent-up energy being released in a sudden flash, and the rain is the spell doing its work.

 

So there it is, my philosophy on becoming a successful spellcrafter. Bear in mind, these are my experiences and observations, and as many Pagans say, “your mileage may vary”. 

 

Ó Janelle Feldes, July 24, 2009

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I've been finding it harder and harder to define values that are a part of my spirituality, a part of me being Pagan. Most of my values have developed independently of my faith.

There is one value that has everything to do with my faith and very little to do with my mundane life.

When I speak to the Gods, spirits, elementals, spirit guides, totems and assorted and varied entities that surround me, I speak to Them directly. I have no need of a priest or intermediary to speak to my Gods for me, or on my behalf. I have not met a theistic Pagan yet who felt they needed a priest, priestess, clergyperson, minister, reverend, or any other person to translate their words to their Gods. The only exception to this has been when the person is possessed. It's kind of hard to talk to your God when your God is wholy in you and whatever is you is subsumed by that greater entity. It's why the lwa tell the attendees at a Vodou ritual, "Tell my horse!" when they have something important to tell the person they're riding. Of course, no one at a Vodou ritual would dare misinterpret the words of the lwa to the one the lwa possessed. The lwa also have the modern gift of speaking in relatively plain English (or French or Creole or Haitian).

It is a great feeling to know that when I pray, I am not praying to some guy in a funny hat who is then passing my words on to whatever deity it is to which I'm talking. There is no confessional, either. If I transgress (which is relatively hard to do, considering my deities haven't handed me any rules), I pay for it in karma, not by counting little beads or flogging myself. If I do step on toes, the entities Themselves let me know, and it's usually quick and unpleasant and not soon forgotten.

Of course, this is not unique to Pagan experience. Priests were once absolutely necessary in the Christian faith because of literacy. The common, average folk could not read, so their Bible was useless to them. They needed the priests, the learned men, to read the book to them and clarify the laws and tenets of their own faith. Nowadays, I've seen among Christian people that there is no longer a great need to attend church to have the bible read to them. They can read the Bible themselves, interpret the words for themselves and apply those words to their own lives. It is a blessing of modern times.

I think this is a large part of the reason why I've always been a solitary practitioner. When I was Wiccan, I tried to start a coven a couple of times, but realized that I didn't want to be a leader or constantly have to tell people what to do. I've also tried to get involved with covens, but it's almost impossible for me to hand over my autonomy. I was banished from a Wicca class for using an oil that was not ordained by the Priestess/instructor. Who was she to tell me I couldn't use an oil I preferred in a homework-assigned spell? If I wanted to follow rigorous and rigid instructions, I would have joined the military. And if I wanted a bunch of sheep blindly following me around, I would have started a cult.

Another part of spiritual autonomy means I don't have to go to a special building to worship. I don't necessarily need to be outdoors to feel the presence of the Divine. Sometimes it shows up in my kitchen, or even comes through the front doors at work (not my current work, but jobs that have been open to the public) to say howdy. I may, on occasion, build a shrine or an altar, a place to focus my attention while I pray or someplace to leave an offering, but I don't need the place to feel sacred. The world around me is sacred, every last bit. It is thoroughly infused with the spark of the Great Divine, the Great Mystery. It flows through everything, sanctifies everything. My backyard is no less sacred than a huge marble temple or a small wooden church. I remember going to churches with my friends when I was little, sitting in Sunday school. Sunday school always seemed to be held in a stuffy little room, away from the main church. It was, if nothing else, almost exactly like a school room. I remember looking out the smeary windows onto a rolling lawn that no one ever got to walk on, or play on, or pray on. I don't know why all the churches I went to had such beautifully manicured lawns. Funerals, maybe? I played in more cemeteries as a child than on church lawns. We never had Sunday school outside. The first church I ever went to that utilized its outdoor space was the Greek Eastern Orthodox church in Memphis. I almost converted because of sitting out on the lawn after Mass, eating barbecued goat, watching the men furtively pass around a flask of ouzo - which even crossed the priest's hands a time or two, watching the sun move through the trees that flanked the lawn and cast long shadows that never seemed to touch the church itself.

Even though Christians say God is everywhere, I get the feeling that some of them may not truly believe that. Why else build churches and temples? Why else expect to spend Sunday mornings cooped up in a building instead of going out and enjoying God in the wild places? Sometimes I wish I could be like one of the Christians who converted to Paganism, so I could more fully understand the whys and hows of the religion. No matter how many times I've read the Bible, how many Christians I've spoken with, it's still baffling to me. I probably confuse Christians, too - I mean, how is it possible for me to believe in their God but not worship Him? I always think of Him as "that God named God". I believe in their God because there are so many millions, probably billions, of people who believe in that God called God... but it is a privilege of my polytheism to believe without the need to worship.
perzephone: (Default)
In keeping with my last Pagan value, something that I know I share with many other Pagans is a love of learning. Most Pagans I have met are well-read, enjoy debate and are critical thinkers. We question everything, even our own beliefs. Wikipedia isn't good enough for most of us. We want footnotes, indices & appendices. Pagans today keep up with current events, science, exploration, innovation and invention. We want to know the past and the present and try to divine the future. There is no blindly following the will of our Gods - we always want to know why we're being asked to do something. We don't want to be spoon-fed and if something is handed to us, we're usually more suspicious than grateful. I think this is why so many Pagans favor deities and spirits who teach hard lessons.

Alongside learning is open-mindedness. Most of us aren't content to stay in society's little boxes. We're curious about everyone who is different from us, places we've never been, cultures vastly different from our own. Most Pagans I know have honorary degrees in Comparative Religion. It's a constant striving and yearning to know and experience. True Pagans are expansive and inclusive. We don't want to insulate ourselves, and fear is always another opportunity to learn.

Of course, this sometimes works against the community as a whole. I've seen so much disdain, hatred and anger directed on those Pagans who choose to be on the New Age side of the scale... the dreaded 'fluffy bunny', the 'white-lighters', those who truly follow the Wiccan Rede and Rule of Three, those who believe that Wicca is a few hundred thousand years old, the ones who want to be white witches and only acknowledge that which is good and light in the world and their fellow humans. Just as bad as the 'fluffy bunnies' are the hardened, cynical Pagans who love to tell people uncomfortable truths in as mean a way as possible. I could not imagine going through life with blinders on, seeing only one side of a story, knowing only my immediate surroundings, but I am not so cynical and hardened that I cannot see the wonder in the world around me or share it with other people. Yes, I gnash my teeth and smack my head on my desk sometimes when my oldest sister gets on one of her 'Universal justice' kicks, and some things people say (especially online) make me wish I was an atheist so I wouldn't be associated with said comments, but I've become a bit more tolerant and accepting in my old age & no longer feel the burning need to pounce on anyone who makes a moronic statement about Paganism in public.

This is really an amazing place we live on - the Earth Herself, and it's an amazing time to live in. I think, right now, there is so much ease of access to information that for people to not want to learn is foolish. It's so easy. Of course, turning that knowledge into wisdom is a complicated alchemical process involving Will, time and slamming into brick walls often.

Some people tend to think that knowledge runs counterintuitive to faith, that knowing too much can rob you of your sense of wonder and awe. I have not found that to be the case. I've developed, over time, a belief in a variety of Intelligent Design. I don't believe that some God or Goddess created the earth, the stars, the waters, the land, that people sprouted up overnight from some clay kiln or popped up in a garden... I don't know if it was a Big Bang or a Gnab Gib that set the clockworks in motion, and I'm not too sure of how evolution really works, but when I look around at all the marvelous coincidences of the results of whatever it was, I know that there is something Greater behind it all, guiding it, giving little nudges of Divine inspiration. Why else would our brains have receptors that respond so well to chemicals found in plants? Or why certain flowers developed that can only be pollinated by certain insects? Or why this little blue-green ball in the middle of whirling space would have just the right combination of elements and the right distance from a burning source of light and heat to be inhabited with all manner of life? There has to be a purpose... Someone or Something wanted us here for a reason.

Science fascinates me. I wish I had better math skills so I could truly partake of the magnificence that is science and truly understand things like string theory and quantum physics. The smidgen of understanding I have makes me long for more, but even the tiny glimpses I catch of the overall significance of some of it blows my mind and leaves me reeling for days. The scientific arts are just one tool we have to understand our surroundings, and that understanding brings us closer to knowing that everything we do effects everything else around us. We are part of a great web of time, space and life, and we are so insignificant in the greater tapestry - but on this small corner of the warp and woof, we are all so very important. To deny ourselves that knowledge is to cut the threads that bind us to the loom and the Weaver or Weavers stitching it all together.
perzephone: (Default)
As a Pagan, one of my values is education. Humans have an immense capacity to learn.

Now, if you believe in the Burning Times, a lot of knowledge was supposedly lost to the ages. People could not maintain an oral tradition, they could not write anything down, nothing could be made public, everything was locked away and hidden from plain sight.

I used to believe very much in the Burning Times, but as I grew older and read more history, political and religious, it wasn't really that much of a Big Deal. Yes, people did lose their lives in the Inquisition and the witch hunts, but it wasn't so much witches or Pagans who were specifically being hunted down. It was people who owned land the Church wanted. It was people who were heretics in the eyes of the Church. It was people who just weren't liked by their communities. I don't know if the common '6 million' figure is accurate or not, but a good number of innocent people lost their lives due to (to borrow a phrase from Rob Zombie) superstition, fear and jealousy.

I know that in some African countries, people do still lose their lives for practicing, or being accused of practicing, witch craft. In some more conservative areas of the U. S., occult and psychic stores are vandalized and protested into closing up shop. I've been pretty much a west-coaster all my life, and luckily I have never encountered persecution. I've met a few Holy Rollers who were obnoxious beyond belief, but I've always had the rare privilege of being a 100% out of the broom closet Pagan. When I was a teenager, I was quite militant about it. I wore enough pentagrams and crystals & mojo bags to ensure my death by drowning if anyone pushed me into about a foot of water, I had the ACLU's phone number memorized, I could quote state statutes banning witchcraft from the birth of the nation, I lobbied for looser regulations on psychic arts business licensing (in Clark County, it's a time-consuming, rigorous and expensive process to prevent con artists from taking advantage of people), I wore robes in public.

Today, though, anyone with an internet connection or a library card can obtain a great amount of information about witchcraft and Paganism. I think in all total, there are probably more Pagan forums, commercial occult & psychic stores, occult websites, etc. than anything else online except maybe porn. Hel, there's even Pagan-centric porn out there (no, I'm not counting this one website Rob & I encountered featuring 'vampire lesbian nuns sucking Satan's big red cock).

Bearing all this in mind, I think the Pagan community as a whole does not place enough value on passing on information. There are many who complain of poorly researched and written books, the abundance of 'Witchcraft 101' books on the market, the 'fluffy bunny' take on Paganism that many of these poorly researched and written books have. But, when it comes down to it, very few people are willing to teach. I used to complain about this one AOL chatroom called 'Ask a Witch'. I don't know why the majority of people were in that chatroom, other than to pounce on the unexperienced & unsuspecting & make them rue the day they ever tried to ask a witch anything. I can understand that yes, in a situation like that, it is going to attract a lot of people who either want love spells or want to murder someone. It would be like me throwing a hissy fit anytime anyone asked me where the restrooms were at the Excalibur. Just because 15,000 people have asked me that doesn't mean that it's not the first time they all asked that question. They honestly didn't know where the bathrooms were (even if they were standing right in front of them) & I happened to be the closest thing to an employee they saw walking by. People also tend to forget that they were new once, too.

I think bad attitudes chase people away from exploring Paganism on a deeper level. They get kicked around so much when they first discover it that mistreatment turns them off & makes them wish they had never gotten the urge to explore it in the first place. I know Paganism is not evangelical, we don't get gold stars for converting people to the pack, so to speak. But if a person walked into a Catholic or Christian church, or a Jewish or Muslim temple and asked someone there to tell them about this God they'd been hearing so much about, would anyone blow up in their face? No. They'd be welcomed in, invited to explore & hang out. I don't know why it's so hard for Pagans to do the same thing. I mean, we're not telling people to go out and tell all their friends about us, but... what does it cost to be nice to someone? (Yeah, I know, coming from me that's a lot. For me, being nice is like slicing my face off or something... but I have the capacity to change, too - don't forget that).

It also irks me that it's always the whack-jobs who end up on television telling people about Wicca or witchcraft or Paganism in general. Always gotta be the whack-jobs. Why can't it be a relatively normal Pagan? Yeah, Tom Cruise screwed the Scientologists over on Oprah, but he's just one guy - every Pagan who ends up on t.v. seems to be a Tom Cruise. I go on web sites & read comments left by other Pagans whenever one of these whack-jobs shows up on the national news or a talk show & they all complain or 'try to set the record straight' about whatever damaging image the whack-job presented... but it's all after the fact. No one cares what people have to say when they're in damage control mode. We need more proactivism and less hindsight. And what is one of the easiest ways to be proactive about the image of Paganism in the media?

Teach.

Whenever someone asks me a question about my beliefs, I just try to be open, straight forward and honest. I don't go all New-Age white light and bunnies, and I leave out Unkle Al and Anton LeVey and the thing about the hot dogs and buns... and I just answer the question. I never generalize, and I always remember that I am not just speaking for myself, I am a representative of every other Pagan out there, whether it's Wiccans, reconstructionists, neo-Pagans, Dianics, Druids, Odinists, Asatruar... If I am the first Pagan someone meets and has a conversation with, I want them to be comfortable thinking that one of their neighbors or babysitters or banker might be Pagan, too. I don't want them to look at me and think I'm going to sacrifice their cat to my Gods. It costs me nothing except some of my time. I'm also never afraid to give referrals - books, stores, websites, forums, other resources.

I think it would be amazing if 'Mystery Schools' were opened, physical campuses dedicated to Pagan religious studies. Model them after the Catholic schools, so the students are still getting the fundamentals - history, literature, the sciences, but supported by Pagan concepts and attitudes. I know there are correspondence classes online, but why not colleges? If I had the resources at hand, I would consider it, but I'm mostly broke and have no background in education, lol.
perzephone: (Default)
I ran into another snag, this time about plastic surgery.

Do I think it's a desecration of the body as a temple? Yes.

Now, what about body modification, like tattoos, scarification & piercings?
I have tattoos. I've had my nipples pierced & my ears are pierced. Do I think it's desecration? Wellll, yes, if I drew that line in the sand, I'd have to say yes, because tattooing, piercing & body modification could be seen as a shallow attempt to live up to media standards... if your media was solely based on fringe culture.

I think there are limits as to what I find to be edifying versus what I find to be desecration. There seems to be a different mindset that people who go for extreme body modification do not share with people who get facelifts, tummy tucks, boob jobs, nose jobs, etc.

Ok, so you get a chin-lift, maybe a size added to the boobs... not really too bad. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, has fucked himself up. There's a definite line that's been crossed there between getting some new window dressings and smashing the building with a wrecking ball. I've seen some people who have mutilated themselves for fun and pleasure, too. They split their penises in half, they get horns and ridges and things installed under their skin, get their tongues split, get whiskers and multiple face lifts so they look like some nightmarish version of the Cheshire cat... but for some reason I see this more akin to someone getting a gender reassignment. These people are trying to be more of who, or what, they see as themselves.

As for myself, I've hated my skin since I hit puberty. Honestly hate it. I wish I could peel it off - I've tried in places and it's horribly painful - I passed out a couple of times. A couple of my tattoos are to cover scars. I wish I scarred more extensively because even scarred skin is preferable to my own 'healthy' stuff - instead even deep burns heal up like nothing happened. I've always been accident prone, so there were never any awkward moments of 'How'd you manage to perfectly cut lose a strip of skin, Janelle?' - I always had a ready excuse. When I got hit by that car & had massive road rash over a good half of my body, I was hoping when it healed I would have skin that was soft & unblemished like a new born. Nope, no such luck. Acne, rosacea, it was all there all over again. I tried covering it with makeup through most of my teen years and it just made it worse. For me and my skin, there is no such thing as 'non-comedogenic'.

I like how my skin looks with the ink on it. It looks right. If I had the skill, I'd tattoo the rest of my body. There is a cleansing catharsis about the pain induced by a tattoo gun. I've experienced it a little bit when I had my nipples pierced, but it wasn't the same, it didn't work out well and I've come to the conclusion that piercing just isn't good medicine for me.

But it brings me to a point... If I see others who do incredibly damaging things to their bodies as trying to become the person they see in the mirror - maybe I'm too harsh on people who go for more traditional and mainstream surgeries. Maybe not all people who get cosmetic work are vain, shallow and addicted to biased media imagery. Maybe they, too, are just trying to be the person they see when they look in the mirror?

I guess this is an example of another one of my personal values. Many Pagan paths are paths of duality. Goddess and God, male and female, yin and yang, give and take, Sun and Moon, black and white, Fluffy-Bunny White-Lighter and Satanic Chaostician. I try to walk the 'Grey Path' - the Middle Road, trying to take nothing to the extreme and trying to see things in every direction. Part of being on the Middle Road means being able to see both sides of a story, even if it flies in the face of something I believe or hold dear. I never truly take sides. If a friend comes to me and wants advice because their relationship is falling apart, I commisserate with them and ask them how they think their behavior has made their partner feel. If a coworker complains about a boss, or a boss about a coworker, I sympathize and point out things that the complainer could have done differently. I believe in diplomacy and mediation. I never see anything as being truly evil or truly good - there is always a spark of light in the eye of evil, and a spark of darkness in the eye of good. Without the light, we would never meet our shadows, and without the dark we would never appreciate the light.

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Rainbow Serpent Woman

August 2014

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