Lammas Preparations

Lammas blessings to everyone.

Tomorrow is the end of our first membership drive and our in-gathering. We are all coming together not only to celebrate as a clan, but to share our fruits with the broader community by way of the local humane society.[1]

This year our Hoietfescht, wheat fest, will commemorate more than a harvest of the garden, but the harvest of a community. We are rounding out a year of toxin-free growth and have gone from being a handful of folks mulling about with an idea, some hope, and a drum and trying to recover from a terrific misstep involving some very nasty neighbors to a tight tribe of two-dozen folks[2] (and growing) with a hof and vé to call our own.

One of the traditions we will be starting involves bringing in part of the year’s harvest as an offering. This is nothing new. But I’m developing a way of bringing in some material remnants of that old bad-faith relationship, those old toxicities, and incorporating them as a representation of “days past”—those old things which don’t serve to sustain us or nourish us in any way, so that we can make way for new growth, new vitality. Of course, this is done in a positive way, not a malicious attack on the past (on account o’—what good would that do ‘cept to turn and bite me in my own behind). Much like the Bracher, Spirit Walker, Witch Doctor, Shaman, etc. clears the bad juju from a place or patient so that healing can take root. As ever, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Another tradition is grain-free bread. Amaranth bread doesn’t rise, but it tastes good. Among our tribe and guests of tribe members are those with celiac disease and otherwise gluten-frees and grain-frees. Imagine the “loaf-fest” jokes that we will/have/ circulate/d? I’ll fill you in on that too.

I’ve more work to do before tomorrow, but I wanted to stop in and wish you all a happy holiday weekend, whether you celebrate Lammas, Hoietfescht, or Lughnasadh. And to share with you some of the new additions to our hof altar—especially for tomorrow’s Freyfaxi. There are other goodies in the works, but this is what I have images of which to show you.

Wæs Hæl!

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[1] Which has been trying for the past few years to become no-kill, but in a college town that’s an uphill battle. The students take in an animal and find they can’t keep it so set it loose or just turn animals out at the end of term. It’s disgusting. As a result, our shelter charges a premium for adoption making it harder for honest-folks to adopt. Plus, there’s a lot—I mean a LOT—of dog-fighting in nearby areas.

[2] We have little-ones, grown ones, teen ones, all kinds of kind.

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Call for Submissions: Prayers to the Allfather

The deadline is June 30, 14.

Third Time’s the, um, Charm

This one is more personal than sex.

And while I’m great at theorizing sexuality and discussing sex in the abstract, I never do very well when the conversation turns real. I don’t want to know the intimate details—the, um, ins-and-outs—of my friends’ romantic lives any more than I like to talk about mine. I’m not prudential, mind you. I’m fairly game for accepting anything[1]—except that I don’t like talking about it.

And if you consider how I feel about talking about actual magical operations, I think you’ll see that this is a full-on personality trait. I will do many things; but when it comes to constraining the importance of those things to the limitations of language, I find that I am uncomfortable. It seems to me that speaking a thing diminishes it, disempowers the act, caps its potency, and imprisons it forever in a Derridian horizon of nominalism. To blog about such things seems to make “words on a page,” a formerly empowering phrase for me as a writer, turn into what Hamlet calls merely, “Words, words words.”

Thus, it goes against my grain to tell you what I am about to tell you.

So be gentle.

I’ve had one of those run-ins—finally with a Norse deity—that is hard to put into words. I’ve told you about the times Hestia and Megaera paid brief visits. But they weren’t claiming me; they were bringing me advice, comfort, instructions, whatever.

I’ve never been “dedicated” to a particular deity. I’ve had affinities to be sure, mostly Celtic and mostly dark aspects like The Morrígan and Ceridwin; though I have been lit up by the fire of Brigid from time to time and the combative spark of Scáthach. No one has ever asked for more than a dance or two, and that was just fine with me since I couldn’t imagine being “godatheow,” a godslave.[2] (Psst, you’ll wanna check out that footnote, it has a g-jillion links.) *I* obviously never chose a deity to which I “belonged,” that felt a little pompous or assumptive or something.

The Norse gods never bothered with me much. I liked the ethics and the lexicon and the culture of the Northfolk, but the pantheon just felt (as it should) like elder-kin. The lore always seemed (as it should) like literature. I am not saying that I never felt their presence, but they were more like onlookers—guests who stopped by to have a beer but not stick around too long. Admittedly, I kept them at an arm’s length. Loki scared the shit out of me and Odin just seemed like a pushy, domineering sort.

Odin on Sleipnir by spanielf on DeviantArt

Over the years, Odin would poke his head in and say, “Hello. Wanna go for a ride?”

I always declined.

Recently quite vehemently.

It was September of 2012 when I finally decided that I would formally align myself with a deity. I’m not sure how the other kids are doing it, but I did it this way. I was alone for the weekend and I had just gotten re-comfortable with my old practice of spirit-journeying. I had gotten to where I could drop back into a trance like I could in my 20s and early 30s. Just like riding a bike. And just as exhausting when one is older and not in great shape.[3] After what felt like an eternity of asking questions and opening doors and walking and walking and walking and talking to odd inhabitants, I was tired enough to throw my astral hands in the air and say the equivalent of, “Come and get me!” It felt almost like an offer to the highest bidder. I regretted it almost immediately: “That was a bad idea.”

Of course, I had a couple of scrubs come by and low-ball me; I expected this. But I don’t go home with deities that live in their mama’s basements.

Yeah, it felt kinda like being picked up in a bar.

I almost took this one offer but there was a weird little hitch that made me look at the fine print a little better before saying, “I’m sure you are very sweet, but no thanks.

After that, things started happening, changing, improving, amplifying, and doing so pretty rapid-fire. I found myself asking, “Who do I thank for this? And who do I thank for this? And who left this present?” and generally shouting, “Thanks,” to the broader universe hoping my benefactor would hear me.

I knew I had settled on being a Heathen. I knew I was bound to engage with a Celtic/Anglo deity. But I kinda thought there might be a lesser-god/dess that would be a little less insistent than The Alfather. Yeah, yeah, I am a control freak. Who of us isn’t? And anyway, I don’t believe that going to the ultimate deity is the only way to go. I know lots of folks who have great relationships with deities that are not Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Baal, Lugh, or their female counterparts. I thought a creatrix like Cailleach or Fairy Fand would suit me just fine.

Then, as you likely read, over the winter, Freyja came along and started making it fairly obvious to me that she was taking up housekeeping. I thought this was a little bigger than I expected but it seemed fine and dandy to me. I could handle a shapeshifting Vanic-fio-Asa-Goddess with cats, falcons, boars, and herons who just happens to be Queen of the Psychopomps.

Then Odin came back along—a little more strident than ever—and suggested that he had claim on me simply because I had agreed to Frejya’s terms a few months earlier.

“No.” I said. “And it’s not that I don’t like you. I really think you are groovy, but you see, you’re just not my type. You’re too aggressive. If you want to talk from time to time, that’s cool. But you have to stop leaning on me.” That’s how it felt—like he was always leaning on my like a possessive and dominant dog. “If you don’t stay on your side of my comfort zone, you will turn me off entirely and send me running to some more-passive wine-drinking Apollonian.

He laughed his tell-tale laugh, made a polite acquiescence that somehow still insinuated, “But, I’ll be back,” and let me be.

For about two-and-a-half months.

In the meantime, I decided that I would go ahead and make a formal dedication to Freyja. Not a “godatheow” relationship but a reciprocal, “I-recognize-what-you-have-been-doing-for-me-so-thanks-let’s-wear-each-other’s-class-rings,” kind of dedication.[4]

It was nice. Just nice enough to be fine. Good. Fine. Nice.

And then yesterday.

I don’t even know how to tell you this without sounding schizophrenic. But I assume that if you are reading this blog, you have a modicum of knowledge about such encounters and will not seek me out to have me committed.

Yesterday.

Odin approached me for the third (serious) time.[5]

This showed up.

Last week when the kindred met to do that stav workshop, my Journey-buddy and I were making comments about “finding spirit animals” or fylgia. He mentioned that one might see “normal animals” three times in remarkable circumstances but that fantastic animals (should that be your animal) tended to appear everywhere all the time—on t-shirts, on TV, in dreams, etc. Last week I started seeing hanged men and gallows everywhere. It unnerved me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it until yesterday.

Yesterday when Odin poked his head in and said, “It’s time.”

This time, he . . . um, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I don’t mean to say he was going to put a horse’s head in my silk sheets or my brains on a band contract, but that he made an offer so tempting that I couldn’t refuse it.[6] Not a carte blanche offer either, of course. This is a Norse deity who plays by the rules of Gebo. But a fair, good, solid, damned-attractive offer. And in the end, I get to keep my soul—such as it is—thank you very much.

We made a bit of a compromise, and I was even given the A-OK to tell y’all about it—most of it.

I have to give an ordeal.[7] No bloodletting, piercings, or body-hanging or anything of that sort, but not totally painless either—only because I am so indulgent. My detox period has been moved up. I normally detox for a week in April or May. I start on a nine-day near-fast on Monday: “No bread did they give me nor drink from a horn.” And there are other physical and non-physical sacrifices to which I am obliged. A little sleep deprivation, a little caffeine withdrawal, a little abstinence—alcohol and sex.

This showed up.

The ordeal of Odin is usually commemorated in August. Guess what? I detox every six months. After striking the deal it occurred to me—Guess what’s six months from now? August. And the fact that it’s Lent and we are talking about self-sacrificing gods making an exchange for Gnosis, hanging on trees, and transfigured resurrection, yeah. All that occurred to me too. After the fact.

I have to journey in each of the nine worlds and collect eighteen “things.” I guess I’ll know what this is when I get there. (This struck me as “random.” Then it occurred to me, duh: 9×2=18. I’m slow.)

Yes, I get something in return—I was given this information from Odin in his Oski aspect. And then as Svipal gave way to Gagnrath, he warned me that I wouldn’t get my return in *my* order, but in his.[8] This could be a Witch’s Duh moment–but I don’t think so. And once it’s all over and our accounts are settled—then I will be asked for my hand in, um, theowdom—we’ll go with theowdom. Obviously, it would be a shame on me forever if I decline.

To be clear–I don’t see this arrangement as “ownership” or “slavery.” Others may (I’ve read that they do.) This is not the tenor in which it was presented to me. To minister is already to serve–“theow” means is related to “thew” or “bodily discipline”–I’ll talk about that later too. After all, in the RCC, the Pope is called The Servant of Servants. (Go ahead, sing the Nirvana song. I’ll wait.) There is a physical discipline to journey work. We must commit to this loyally if we want success, no?

I wanted to talk about Ordeals and trees and Judas Iscariot but that will have to wait, I suppose. I also somehow thought I’d have time and space to cover “horsing” and such but that will have to wait too.

For now, let me just share with you a bit of the conversation I had with Odin. Keep in mind that prior to yesterday, I didn’t know that humans replicated Odin’s ordeal. I had no idea that folks were doing this sort of thing. It wasn’t until after this conversation that I thought to look any of this up. I have a ton of stuff to share this upcoming week. In the last 48 hours, I have had information and revelation dumped in my lap like an aetheric piñata has burst just above me. I may be a little too overwhelmed to make much else of it.

E: “I’ve told you, you’re too pushy. I don’t want to be owned by a man. You know that simply just doesn’t fit my worldview.”

O: “Ah, but you are missing the point. Men are the war-lords—women rule the hearth and hamlet. You are in charge of all else—I am the defender, the warrior.”

I feel like I’m trying to make a photo essay at fill in the language gaps–like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing–but with trees.

E: “But a ‘slave’? Naw.”

O: “Read the Hávamál: ‘I know that I hung on a windy tree, nine long nights, wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, myself to myself, on that tree which no man knows from where it’s roots run.’ See?”

I was beginning to see. In a weird apocalypses unlike any of those I’ve had with other beings. It transcends words.[9]

E: “So, what’s in it for you?”

That’s the part I don’t have any words for. I had this instantaneous understanding of things I couldn’t have imagined even existed.

O: “See. That’s how it works.”

E: “I can totally live with that.”

O: “See you a week from Wednesday.”

–Oh, I have to share some insights about Wednesdays too.

Until then, waes hael!

~E


[1] Doing is another thing altogether. I’m married to a dedicatedly monogamous man + I am loyal to my vows to him = transitive property: I am dedicatedly monogamous.

[2] There is a lot of controversy about this term and practice. It seems the Norse gods are very hip on “collecting” godatheow and Odin has more than his fair share of folks out there discussing the matter. Here’s a good oneThis one gives food-for-thought. In a search this morning, I found my friend Aubs (SatSekhem) at this forum.  I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you recently, lady, how goes it with Sekhmet? Here’s a thread with a broad range of ideas.

[3] This was also the around time I decided to call myself “Völva” instead of “Witch” and to use the term “Seiðr” instead of “Ceremonial Magic.” I haven’t gotten around to telling you just how I think I might maybe feel about the word “Shaman,” so let’s just say that this was when I *formally* re-made “spirit-walking,” “journeying,” and “pathworking” a part of my regular practice/life.

[4] My relationship with the gods is best explained in terms of dating, it seems. Married by 20, I have little experience with either.

[5] From what I’m learning, it takes a lot of folks three times.

[6] And I had just finished reading Needful Things, so I was in a wary state of mind. It was *that* good.

[7] One of the biggest controversies is that godatheow are conflated with BDSM. Not all servants are Ordealists. Not all Ordeals involve BDSM. If you are an adult, read this (and all of her ordeal posts, really).

[8] He was shifting aspects like a character from A Scanner Darkly.

[9] If you follow me here—you follow. If you don’t understand this part, it’s not for you to understand.

Hail Brigid: A Good Jera

Hail Brigid of the triple face
Who’s voice does rise on the lilt of grace
Who’s blossoms beautiful ever bloom
On the wings of poetry’s sweet perfume

–“Hail Brigid” from Songs for the Strengthening Sun by Sharon Knight and T. Thorn Coyle

Keeper of the healing light
Shine your love on us tonight
“Brighid” from Lady Moon by Kellianna

Pimpin’ some great Pagan tunes today. Enjoy!

Yesterday I spent the day affirming life and celebrating the onset of spring with some friends. Sort of new friends but not really. We have many mutual friends in common and have been in the same place at the same time on many occasions but were never meant to come face to face until yesterday.

This may be a lot like my post about visiting Mount Cheaha but with a different punchline. You see, a few months ago–November–I took one student to a gathering in Central Alabama to meet with some folks. This visit ended up really lifted our spirits by letting us know that not all of the Pagan community was out to burn this little set of “bad” witches. Yes, they had heard all of the rumors and lies about us but judged us for who we actually were, face-to-face, on that day. Amen?

Yesterday, come Helheim or high-water, bad brakes or “no-half-foods” (inside joke, sorry), we were getting our behinds to Pinson, Alabama for a lovely rite with an Ár nDraíocht Féin (A Druid Fellowship/ADF) group. T’wern’t just me and one student this time (though that would have been totally fine). There were two carloads of us that pulled up this time. And we had a blast.

Can I brag about it for a minute?

On the way down Hazey and I made one of Hazey’s cohort watch The Godfather for the first time. (“Wait, is this the one with the cocaine?” “Or is it the one with the ‘little friend’?” “Oh, is this the one . . .” “It’s the one with the horse head–now watch and learn.”) We quoted it back and forth so often that we confuzzled the poop out of the poor girl.

We pulled up in a yard where we were immediately welcomed like family, treated to the most amazing stories about Hawaii, Scottish lore (and actual history), and the funniest people we have been with in a long time. One note: while bacon purportedly makes everything better, salmon mousse with wine may be the exception that proves the rule. (Also an ongoing joke, sorry.) I got to meet a woman who’s been following my blog while I have been following hers–and we didn’t even know! (Go follow Journeying to the Goddess and The Journeys of a Nomadic Pagan, go on, I’ll wait.) I love when the universe says: “And *NOW* you will meet!” Seems she moved to my neck of the woods a few months back. (Welcome home, Daughter RavynStar; feels like kin already, don’t it?) And if that don’t beat all, we were given free rein to grab as many potential stav as we could for next week’s workshop. I may have walked away from that experience with some great sticks and a serious case of machete envy. 

Once again, I was treated to the chorus, “Oh, *you* are the Bad…hmmmwhatnow?”[1]

As much as I hate to disappoint, I never live up to the lies one might hear about me.

After a beautiful ritual, expertly executed[2] by my new soul-friend, Pixie (of the Pythons), we had the most luscious feast with Pagans who do eat meat and do not get sloppy drunk.

Tipsy, yes. Ugly, no.

Then we drove home in a reflective spirit, a joyous spirit, an exhausted and snoring within thirty-miles spirit. Fresh air, red wine, fun folks, energy galore, followed by The Godfather Part Two? Yup. I may have even drooled on the leather interior before Vito pinched the rug.

But in all seriousness, I was blessed profoundly during Pixie’s ritual. You see, last Imbolc, I thought I had turned a corner. I thought I had found good community with which to celebrate. I thought I could be a good Pagan among Pagans. I was wrong. My heart ’bout broke. The only thing I got right was a promise I made to pursue the *real* feminine divine. Last year’s rite involved far too much smoke and ashes[3] the blessing of “wish wheels”–we carved our intentions for the year on a green platter and then “cast” to internalize our intent. I carved a water symbol, a pertho, a something, and a something else.[4] All representing the female mysteries.

While I did not find the community I thought I found at Imbolc 2012, I did find the purpose. I struggled for a solid five or six months after that to figure out what I really needed to do to reclaim the female divine. Suggestions of Yoni Punja and of Dianic orders abounded–all which left me scratching my head.

But at Imbolc 2013?

Before heading out the door I pulled a rune for the day, as I sometimes do when the spirit moves me.

Jera.

I assumed that it was because it was a new spring, a new season, a new yadda-yadda. Then during the ritual Pixie offered us an opportunity to reflect on our own “work.” I sat on the ground flanked by brilliant students. I found myself breaking pine needles. One of my girls handed me a particularly “good” one. As they fell from my hands, I looked down: Jera.

There it was.

I nearly wept.

If it had been five degrees warmer, I likely would have allowed myself to wail without fear of tear-cicles.[5]

I looked up and saw that I was surrounded by people who love me—plus some new friends who think I might, in fact, be kinda OK.

Jera.

As we pulled out of the driveway and onto the highway to head back to Auburn, I asked my carload, “Damn, that was fun! Why don’t we have cool Pagans at home?!”

One of the girls perked up and remonstrated me: “Duh. We do. Look around, we are they. And there are, like, a ton of us.”

Jera.

Brigid, bright and fair,

Thank you for slapping me upside the head and getting my feet on the right path.
Brigid, whose hue is like the cotton-grass,
You kicked my ass right where it needed kicking.
Rich-gressed maiden with ringlets of gold,
Your wisdom is in the bounty of letting me “cut m’own switch.”
Oh, Mother Brigid,
Let this be as good a year as is begun.

May every last one of you be blessed!

Waes hael,
Ehsha


[1] More than once followed by, “So, tell me more about Völva-craft.” Dude. Squee?

[2] Expertly executed–I don’t care what she says; when problems arise (as they do in this human life), you can’t fly by the seat of your broomstick like that unless you know your business inside and out.

[3] Which I took as a bad omen and then proceeded to push down, down , down.

[4] It didn’t occur to me until a bit later that I needed to form a helix.

[5] Eye-cicles?

A Little More About Stav

Many of you have responded positively to my post about the völva, I thought I’d provide you a little more historical context. I hadn’t intended to turn this blog into an education center, but if a little teaching is called for, it’s what I will do gladly.

First, a little fun about the word völva. Though it is strikingly similar to the word vulva (and what Google always thinks you mean when you search around for more information about my subject—that and Volvo), the two words come from different stems of PIE (proto-Indo-European) languages. If you look at the chart below, you will see that Latin and Romance Languages and then Germanic Languages are on different branches. The word we use for female genitalia, vulva, does come from a word “volva,” but this Latin form of the word is also from where we derive “revolve,” as it means “to turn.” The Germanic version of the word völva means something entirely different. The word which translates more closely to vulva in Germanic languages (walwjan, wealwian, weoloc, and walzan) is more akin to spiral, roll, wheel, and waltz. About a year or so ago, I latched on to the term helix. Völva, on the other hand, with an umlaut[1], translates into “wand carrying woman” (in that it is a female word) or “stav carrying woman.” Therefore, the relationship between völva and stav is not new. As a matter of fact, as you can see, the stav is part and parcel with the term völva.

 iecentum1

The term “stav” has a bit of a multiple meaning. “Stav” means both “stave,” the physical weapon or “staff,” and the martial art which employs the stav. It also means “rune-stave,” magical symbols carved into items—look them up, they are fairly Goetic-looking. It can also refer to a perpetual calendar (aka Runic Almanac) based on the cycle of the Moon over 19 years. See this for more funtimes. The term also refers to runic characters themselves. Stav meditations, that is to say meditations on the meanings of the runes, date back to circa 500 CE.

Further, meditations using stav are not new (and the relationship between völva, stav, meditation, and Yggdrasil alignments are not new–that is to say, these are techniques that have a deep and meaningful history). Like yoga, Stadhagalr (sometimes misnamed runic “yoga”[2]) is a technique of meditation which uses gestures and postures to reach higher levels of consciousness and enact seiðr (magic).

 tumblr_lotv4lK8TU1qfle8oo1_500

Many of these techniques were written down and codified by various practitioners—Stav by Ivar Hafskjold (who claims it is based on oral tradition preserved in his family since the 6th Century) in the 1990s, Yggdrassil alignments galore (by the likes of Per Lundberg and a YellowPages search of “Yggdrasil Yogaskole” will yield a list of yoga classes across Norway that use Yggdrasil meditations), and Stadhaglr by F.B Marby, S.A. Krummer, and Karl Spiesberger in the early 20th Century. However, they are centuries older than that—we just don’t have a formal manuscript to point to their origins. (We have a good deal of Medieval texts—a few earlier.) According to Sarah Lynn Higley in “Dirty Magic: Seiðr, Science, and the Parturating Man in Medieval Norse and Welsh Literature,”[3] The Book of Taliesin “show[s] a preoccupation with the hermetic and pseudo-scientific knowledge popular in medieval wisdom traditions. . . . [As] “Angar Kyfyngdawt” . . . list[s] supernatural attributes spoken in the first person by the Taliesin persona who boasts of his exploits, ordeals, secrets, and incarnations as animals and objects” (137). This is just to say that seiðr and its shapshifting element, in astral projection or “pathworking” or “journeying,” is nothing new—just that it is becoming “re-popular.”

I hope this clarifies a few things about the age of stav practices, the variety of stav practitioners, and the differences between traditional stav-work and contemporary applications of ancient practices. And I hope it gives the interested a few more resources to pursue.

I have magic-class tonight and one of my students is bringing me a behbeh kitteh that she rescued from under a shed. Starting tomorrow my posts may be much less academic and reflect how much “I really love cats”[4] in an eHarmony sort of way. All cats all the time.

Waes hael,

Ehsha


[1] To denote a “front” vowel—the ö is the sound in early or burn.

[2] I feel about using “yoga” to define stadhaglr about like I feel when folks use “shamanism” to talk about journeying or spirit walking. Yoga : Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism :: Shamanism : Samoyedic / Tungusic Siberians and Mongals and their various descendants. I plan to write a post in the near future about the words we use to signify “altered states of consciousness in which we interact with the spirit world and the benevolent and malevolent spirits who reside there” or “entering into a trance state to practice divination and healing.”

[3] Essays in Medieval Studies 11.

[4] Of course, “I think about how many don’t have a home.”

Is Yod Pertho?

Without shortchanging students in my four secular classes or two magical classes, without shirking my grove responsibilities, after seeing to my personal health, my animals, and after loving on my teenagers and my Facebook buddies, I’m final able to sit down with y’all. And that feels darn good. Especially since there is some Cab Sav to bottle with m’husband later this week—and no, that’s not a euphemism.

I had an interesting conversation about the Thelemic 11th degree today.[1] It was an odd conversation in that it happened over text message while I was simultaneously talking to an intermediate magical student (about vomit, of all things) and making a shopping list.[2]

*Note to self: do not confuse shopping list with recipe for either 11*Ointment or Cakes of Light.

Ever have a day like that? I do. All the damn time.

I am a Witch. No, not exactly. I am a Sorceress. Magic has always been part of my everyday life. My kids have a lexicology (often euphemistic) and frame of reference that tell of a life surrounded by magical accouterments encounters, and—to a good extent—training. So it never occurs to me that “it’s a little odd” that the mirror in my dining room talks back to unsuspecting guests, that we have runic wards over the doors,[3] that my daughter has a mini-besom in her room to get rid of “bad friend energy,” that our pets have “imaginary friends,” or that I frequently have wood carved with pentagrams in various stages of “crafting” for The Wyrd Sister’s Shop in my garage or driveway. All of those daily idiosyncratic things that work their way into a magical life are like breathing out and breathing in around here. The kids are very rarely shocked by what the common-printer spits out or by the titles of books on the coffee-table.[4] Anymore.

(I know the book here is not that weird. I was just looking at it in anticipation of the new Guillermo del Toro movie, Mama. While I look forward to Oz and Gatsby–which made it to my Am Lit 2 syllabus, there are some unfun films coming out this year. But of them all, Beautiful Creatures seems the absolute pits. The last thing Witches–and especially Southern Witches–need is another over-romanticized version of what “our world” is like. Gimme Hansel and Gretel any day. At least folks will know it’s crap-fiction and–to be honest–it kinda looks like there will be a villain a la Brotherhood of the Wolf rather than actual Witches.)

Yesterday’s weirdness started with The Son talking extensively about Jesus fury at a fruitless tree which led to a full-on conversation about cursing that I will have to share with you as soon as I sort it all out in m’brain.

Today’s everyday magic started when Daughter pulled a lesson I am preparing on the ins and outs (and ups and overs and fore and behinds) of the LBRP and LIRP. It was really just a graph of the TOL superimposed by the human body and a pentagram. (If you’re interested, the point of the lesson at hand is to explain how the Pillar of Severity, the Pillar of Mercy, and the Middle Pillar all line-up and do their thing. Rather, why we line them up to do our thing.) Daughter said, “I never really got this part. If it is *in the end* a circle, why [zigzags the paths between the Sephiroth like lighting]? Why not more like the spheres [spirally finger] in Yggdrassil?”

Why indeed.

An aside about the handout: You see, I teach my beginners the basic rituals of major traditions like Wicca, Golden Dawn, Ásatrú, etc. so that they don’t get into a situation where they will embarrass themselves.[5] I want my students to enter Pagan circles—any Pagan circles—with confidence that they know what to expect, what to do, what to say, and WTF is going on. I mean, I’ll never forget all those times I was with folks who had *no clue* about Witchcraft or Ceremonial Magic or anything for that matter who proceeded to show their asses—and I don’t mean skyclad.[6] Trance is not the same as demon possession (demons, har har, that’s another story) and the LBRP is not a power-play to call archangels into one’s living-room. However, the “thingie with the athame and the chalice,” aka, The Great Rite (Sacred Marriage, Hieros Gamos, whatever you wanna call it) is a sex act—symbolic or not.

When my youngon’ asked me this rather erudite question, it made me rethink something. You see, I’m in the final throes of revisions right now and I’ve stumbled across a portion of a chapter that has me stymied. I’m starting to believe (OK, I’m well-on believing—just resisting the work) that I’ve skipped a whole section of explanation that seemed to make sense in my head but never actually made it to the paper. This happens to Freshmen writers all the time; “It’s in your head,” I tell them, “it just never made it to the paper.” In a bit of an aside comment I wrote: “In a magical tradition where Völva are remembered as those who were the (almost exclusively) female ‘wand carriers,’ the rune Perthro is about as close as you will get to Yod or Iota. Perthro, like Yod, signifies ‘secret knowledge,’ ‘Mystery,’ ‘hidden things,’ and ‘occult abilities,’ as well as ‘initiation.’ It also signifies ‘vagina’ rather than ‘phallus.’”

Yod. Size doesn’t matter.

Pertho. It’s almost like a chalice–but she gets legs.

 

The editors let it slide. Maybe because they didn’t want to be caught with their trainers undone. But they didn’t do me any favors. Now I feel like I either have to explain the ways that the two systems (don’t) line up or chuck the whole thing. I haven’t felt this blinded by a topic since my dissertation. It’s like tunnel-vision, only worse.

So I believe that means I only have one choice.

Back to the middle of chapter three it is.

I actually have several interesting posts begun—I just can’t seem to finish them because of my closeness to this project and its looming deadlines. I promise something more comprehensible soon—perhaps about the awesome professional drum clinic and tribal dance clinics the grove has lined up for Spring. Maybe something about how reading too much Stephen King makes me reconsider community dynamics. Maybe about how I notice a lot, lot, lot of us are having wackadoodle dreams and what my chickens have to do with mine. Maybe something about cursed figs.

Now I’m going to dream about tribal dancing with King to drumming chickens eating cursed figs. I just know it.

Waes Hael!

Ehsha


[1] You may remember that I’ve called this The Pink Eye of Horus degree. If not, now you know.

[2] I was also texting a secular student and sent the wrong text. Fortunately it was banal. Because—well, could you imagine explaining that to the school administrators?

[3] No one seems to ask our neighbor about their mezuzah.

[4] Books on Seiðr are, it seems, easier to explain to friends than, “My mom does Gender Studies and that’s a book about . . . um, er, ah . . . It has skeery pictures!” My middle child has become a Crowley fan over the past three or four years. If my books and binders go missing, I usually know where to find them.

[5] Or worse—embarrass me.

[6] Now, I admit—and this ain’t easy—there was this one time I played dumb for self-preservation’s sake. But when I considered having to squirm out of the truth, I lied about the meaning behind a pendant I wore. It wasn’t my finest moment and I’m not proud of it. But I do admit that it happened. This, however, is not the same as simply “not knowing any better.”

I’m Bringing Gebo Back

This is part of a post from The Bad Witch Files. I’ve been writing about Gebo this week, so thought I’d revisit it here. You can also see “12 Footnotes” and “Another Q&A.”

 

To a Heathen – really, any good-souled Pagan of any tradition – the law of Gebo is a respectable one – an accepted one. You give what you get: like-for-like: what goes around comes around: you reap what you sow: the threefold rule of return. Self-deprecation and martyrdom are not really a part of our belief system. Taking something without giving back? Well, that’s jus’stealing, ain’t it? We sacrifice, sure – but we sacrifice to deity, we don’t make sacrifices to human mortals. And, goshdarnit, don’t we adhere to the idea that “to lead is to serve”? In Paganism, honor is obtained and maintained through a system of checks-and-balances. There should be no one person in a group who does all the giving and no one other who does all the taking. Like Æsop’s ant and grasshopper.

I was thinking about that fable – I was actually going to focus my post on “Grasshoppers,” but then I was (pardon the pun) bugged by something. The way I had always heard the story was that the grasshopper got to have all of the fun in the sun and watch the ant work and laugh and play banjo all summer and then when the cold came around, the ant let the grasshopper seek shelter and partake of colony feasting. I was always miffed at Æsop for being so naïve. Even as I kid I knew that there’s no way on this green earth that the grasshopper learned anything aside from a lesson that goes: “Shoot yea, I can have a party-life and when the cold comes ‘round, I’ll just present myself as a victim of climate change. Some hard-working and compassionate killjoy will save my metathorax so I can live to party another summer.” Then I looked up the fable. The real one.

Holy hell. I had learned the story from a bunch of self-deprecating martyrs, hadn’t I. In the original, the ant leaves the grasshopper’s metathorax out in the cold to become oriel food. Now, I don’t advocate leaving any creature out in the elements; I think that’s downright despicable. However, it’s a fable. A metaphor. But given the warnings the ant gave the grasshopper, given the opportunities the grasshopper had to change his mind, I think the ant did what the ant had to do. After all, the ant had a colony to protect and feed – and have you ever seen a grasshopper eat? Those suckers consume everything in their path and look around for “What’s next?”

It brought my mind to thinking about those we sometimes disparagingly call “Party Pagans” and “Playgans.” I know you know who I mean. Those who love festivals but put very little toward study, ritual, and meditation. Those who avoid introspection like they would a plague (of locusts?). Those who feed their pride but not their character – nor the souls of those with whom they interact. Those who concoct and improvise rather than employing tried-n-true discipline. While I love a good party as well as the next Heathen, and while I see the absolute value in true ritualistic revelry, and at the risk of sounding moralizing and judgmental, I feel like a shindig should be saved for desert. Consuming “festival” as the whole meal can make you end up looking a lot like an insatiable grasshopper.

Enough preaching, where was I?

Gift for a gift – Gebo. Right.

To the ancients, a gift always called for another in return. Accepting a gift places us under obligation to the giver – be that the gods or another person. But – remember – we don’t have to be *forced* into obligation. Being given a gift presents us with the choice of acceptance or rejection. If you accept you must be prepared to give in return. If you don’t want to give back – don’t accept the gift or return the gift (pristine).[1] This is not returning a gift in the derogatory ”Indian Giving” we often hear about. It’s responsible action.

We must find the balance between giving and receiving and learn to give and take conscientiously. As part of the universal idea of balance.[2]

See you next week.
Til then, Waes Hael!
Ehsha


 

[1] Gebo can also mean a partnership or union; gebo is commonly used as the sign of a kiss (the symbol of affection, gebo can be said to be the X in XOXO). It can also mean forgiveness – one of the noblest gifts of all – to give or to receive. When gebo shows up in a rune reading, we tend to interpret it as: “Ask forgiveness and it will be given; likewise, show compassion.” Gebo itself is nonreversible, BTW; but the converse (sideways) reading indicates an relationship imbalance.

[2] Gebo itself is nonreversible in a runic reading, BTW; but the converse (sideways) reading indicates an relationship imbalance.