Boxing. Gloves.

creative_writingI’ve spent the last year doing everything except writing.

For the most part, I didn’t write because I spent most of my time reflecting upon things that I could never transcribe without betraying confidence. Lots of confidences, actually. It seems that 2015 was The Year of the Life Lesson. As a minister, friend, mother, lover, teacher,[1] I’ve held my share of hands in 2015. By the end of the year, my refrain had become, “A’right Universe, no more life lessons; I’m all full up on character building at the moment!” Most of these were not *my* life lessons, mind you—I was part of support systems during others’ life lessons—though there was definitely a learning curve for me in this tale. A Cosmic teachable moment, if you will. I’ll get to that.

The intensity of my year, genuine personal crisis among close kindred after genuine personal crisis among close kindred,

Gennady Golovkin vs Curtis Stevens

Gennady Golovkin vs Curtis Stevens

resulted in a really beautiful summer experience with everyone leaning on each other and taking solace in “not being alone.” And musical theatre. Once fall rolled around, many of the crises had leveled out to manageable; divorces were finalized, custody battles were no longer heated, risky pregnancies were brought to healthy conclusions, abusers were managed by the legal system, and that sort of thing. Two new crises appeared—one cancer diagnosis and one lost job for the family’s sole provider—nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not the power-punch jab-cross-left uppercut-cross combination of spring. Just let me just say, for the record, the last days of September and the first weeks of October sucked. (For a peek at how I approach the cycles of the seasons, have a look at “Deep Winter,” written almost exactly a year ago.) In the vacuum of further crises, however, I saw that patterns of abuse started to appear—some of them wonderfully resolved—others not. That’s where the lesson became mine. At what point do I stop being “support” and start being “crutch”? Here’s what I figured out. Some people come to me because they respect me as a spiritual leader. Once they’ve been ministered to, they are grateful and go back about their lives. Some people come to me and don’t know how to respect the role of service a minister assumes.[2] As spiritual leaders, this is a precarious ledge for us to tread. And entirely our responsibility to regulate.

This is just an interesting side-note and, perhaps, metaphor. My daughter, who works at an assisted-living complex, came home and said, “This lady asked me why we wear gloves when we bus tables. When I told her it was ‘sanitary,’ she said understood why we wore them to serve, but not to bus. I had to tell her, ‘When we serve, we wear gloves to protect you. When we bus, we wear them to protect ourselves.’” Apparently, the lady still didn’t get it. In some circumstances servers are imagined as automatons. But there is a big difference between service and servitude. And sometimes it’s appropriate to put on prophylactic gloves.

The problem with this is that we need to touch[3] and to be touched—physically, metaphorically, you know—and gloves 309038act, by their intended nature, as a barrier. So, when to wear gloves, when not to wear gloves? When do I need to stop directly touching and start protecting myself in this act of service? Yeah.

That’s where I am. Trying to figure out gloves.

And boxing.

In the past three months, though I had decided I was out of the confidential woods enough to write again, I’d not been writing because my life took on some of those elements that required me to learn to lean on someone. It’s odd having the shoe on the other foot. Or glove on the other hand, as it were. Here’s the deal. My kids are grown and my husband and I are looking to relocate—perhaps across the state, perhaps across the country, we haven’t determined that yet. The ambiguity of the situation is naturally riddled with both anticipation and anxiety. Smack dab in the middle of that, we’ve taken in a tenant,[4] a dear friend who has a great opportunity to advance his career but who needs a temporary leg-up to make that happen. Anyone who’s had a long-term house-mate knows there’s a good deal of negotiation involved.

And a good deal of boxing—move this here, that there, put this in storage, etc. In the middle of boxing up a house inhabited for a dozen years, a house in which small children came to adulthood, I needed to relearn to relean on my own support system. Thank the gods I had one. And I made a new discovery along the way; (this is probably the point I want to get to most), I have found a Muse again. It took all the literal and figurative boxing up of the past and all of the precautionary glove-wearing of the present to create room for new things: a safe space.

So, here’s my plan. (If I write it down and post it, I feel more accountable to follow through.) I know I’ve told you a dozen times that I was going to write a book about my nutty experiences in the Pagan arena. Sure, I did all the handbooks and non-fiction religious texts, but not the book idea that was the inspiration for this blog over five years ago. I never could get my hands wrapped around the narrative properly because A) like I said in “Deep Winter,” I didn’t know how the story ended and B) I didn’t have an appropriate Muse to address. Now I have both closure and a Muse. No more excuses. But to keep me in the writing mode, I’m going to hold myself responsible to this blog again too. It’s a good way to keep my spiritual-academic brain in top form. I’ll be writing about the Runes and Heathen lore and practical applications, as usual; but rather than using the English alphabet as many of us did for years a few years ago, I’m going to work my way through the Futhark “alphabet.” (The Elder—not that I won’t wander into the Younger or the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc from time to time.)

With that, I leave you for now. As ever, I’ll tell you how the boxing goes and what I discover about these gloves.

moving-boxes-labeled

 

[1] And add to this list “musical director”! Yay, it’s such an adventure. After my fun with George Bailey, I got to direct Young Frankenstein. On Tuesday, we, The Board of Directors for the local theatre, will vote on the musical for summer 2016. I have the perusal pack for the seemingly unanimous top pick already on my desk. As ever, I’ll let you know. For now, I’ll just say that I may need to build a wooden rabbit.

[2] Servants exist to be persistently retained, right? Um, no. Let’s not get off on entitlement and the creation of a servant-class and the politics of servitude in The Deep South, because this quasi-Marxist Witch could go off. When a teenager from Texas makes a bad choice and lives are destroyed and his momma’s defense is “affluenza”? Huston, we have a problem.

[3] Exciting new change: I’m providing Reiki services at a local wellness studio. It’s grand and I feel “in touch” again.

[4] Who, it just occurred to me as synchronous to this post, “donated” a large box of culinary gloves to our household. Anyone who knows me knows that there is a direct corollary between the Scoville score of a pepper and the likelihood that I will touch a facial membrane after cutting it.

Strange and Change

This is really odd.

I’ve seen an overwhelming spike in traffic on my web-presences in the last few months without doing anything. Literally—without even posting a single status. If you read this blog regularly (or even if you’re one of my new acquaintances and just take a peek at the posting dates), you know that I have been comparitively silent for about six months. Life has been a roller-coaster and I’ve been holding on, white-knuckled, during the loopty-loops.

I admit, it does make me a little paranoid to see that I have 403 new views in any given week. And it’s not just here—it’s on my Academia.com profile, my LinkedIn profile, Facebook—both witchy pages and homesteading pages. Like I said, it’s odd.

So, for anyone stalking me, investigating me, or simply interested in me and my daily totterings about, here’s what’s what over by here.

  • I’ve (almost completely) decided to leave the academy permanently and am looking at re-entering the corporate world. The pay is—no exaggeration—300% better, the people suck less, and there are tons of perks (like potentially working from home). So, having spent the last six months filling out teaching applications for jobs starting in August 2015, I’ve started looking at jobs that will make way for a “real” summer vacation. In Italy.
  • Speaking of applications, it’s college application deadline season and I’m pulling teeth to get transcripts and test scores together for my son, the professional procrastinator. But one perk is a foreseeable campus visit to Savannah.
  • I received encouraging legal information and it looks like I’m about to dive in to get some sort of settlement on the past year’s BS.
  • My love-life has been tumultuous but rewarding. My social-life has taken a profound shift for the better. My interior-life is—well, sort of in limbo if I’m being entirely honest. But as soon as the weather breaks, I look forward to getting out of my own head, redecorating a few rooms, and changing things visibly for the better. Other than that, the chickens are chickens, the bees are bees, the dogs are dogs, and the cats are cats.
  • But my artistic life—even if it’s not publicly evident —is blossoming. I’ve been writing poetry again and am submitting poems for publication. I’m painting again—mostly experimental techniques, so it’s hit or miss.
  • And I’m taking an extended break in teaching and tribal leadership to finish all of the writing projects I’ve started over the past two years.
  • Aaaand—I cut off all my hair again. I do this from time to time—seems to coincide with the urge to redecorate. Anyone of you who’s been here knows what this is all about.
  • Another thing that’s about to be revampped is my writing habits. I’ve taken a very necessary hiatus from blogging and am now ready to start putting my thoughts into words again. A great many things have substantially changed for me over the past six months, so you can expect to hear a change in my theological perspective as well as the rest of my worldview. Along with the loss of ten inches of hair and nearly three stone of body, I’m a different person than I was six months ago. Trauma will do that. Ironically, these changes are because I have reclaimed the person I was before all the trauma. I’m sure I’ll explore that in writing soon enough.

With that, I leave you for the porch and a girlfriend who brings me Diet Coke, cigarettes, and smoked bacon because it’s Tuesday.

And I leave you with the quote that has gotten me through the last leg of this wild ride:

HairBeingPulled

 

 

Hel and Back

This one spans three decades and may take a minute. Grab a drink and put your feet up.

It was 1980 and I sat in the church van with Maria Villalobos-Ramirez, Lourdes Bacardo, Anita Rodriguez, and Dolores Ortega. Between the five of us we had gone through all of the butane in Anita’s Clicker portable curling iron, half-a-bottle of Love’s Baby Soft, a tin of grape Lip Lickers, and a full eyeliner pencil and a lighter.

We were headed to camp (yes, think Jesus Camp only less affluent) and we were singing. Songs that started out about roadtrips, “Lonely days turn to lonely nights, you take a trip to the city lights,” “Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends / I found myself further and further from my home,” and “I gotta be cool, relax, get hip, get on my tracks. Take a back seat, hitch-hike. . .,” disintegrated into, “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight,”[1] “I wanna kiss you all over,” “Oi, oi . . . I’m a powerload . . . watch me explode!” That’s about when Brother Preacherman said enough was enough and that we should sing gospel songs instead.

That’s when TBW decided to rebel. I parodied a choir-girl stance and began, “Hey Momma, look at me, I’m on my way to the Promised Land.” Right on cue, the other girls chimed in, “We’re on a highway to Hell!”

Brother Preacherman was too tolerant of my bad behaviors.

We think of going to Hel as a bad thing. We tell the feckheads in our lives to go to Hel. Some of us even provide directions. But as someone who’s been to Hel and back, I can tell you that the ride sucks, but the return has its rewards.

Let me explain.

Part One: I left the comforts of my rather insular covens and headed for The Bamas in 2002. I worked on my doctorate, raised my babies, and kept doing my thang. I tried “coming-out of the broom closet” once or twice—okay, constantly—but very few people understood what I was up to. There was an “English Graduate Organization Prom” that I attended with my new-found grad-school bestie that first year; I had only been around for a few months and I thought it would be good to mingle. I was wearing a headband right on my hairline; a die-hard-fundie (who had made off-color comments about a pentagram shirt I wore to class) asked me, “Do all of you wear those?”

“All who?”

Wicc-ahh, wit-ahh, whatever you call yourself.”

I had been pegged by a Church of Christer—but for a totally banal headband.

I threw a bang-up Samhain party (which I referred to as a “Samhain” party rather than a Halloween party—and was met with “a whaah?”) some weeks after that and all of my Witchy-Chachkas were very visible. Everyone must have thought they were décor.

Another time, a few years later, I sat on my back porch with my immediate supervisor (and friend), her fiancé, The Only Other possible-Pagan (she was ambivalent at the time), and The Bad Husband. I don’t remember what precipitated the event, but I was reading Tarot. My boss wanted to know, “Where’d you learn that?” Just as I was about to tell her everything, the other woman shot me a terrified look that said, “NO! Keep your mouth shut!” To this day, I wonder what she was afraid of?

After that, I wore pentagrams, spiral goddesses, serpents, and medicine bags to work. You name it, I tried signifying with it and no one saw me. (I still have a giant “Witch” sign over my desk—next to a rune glyph, a spiral goddess pendulum, and a little portrait pin of Marie Laveau.)

All of this is just to say that when I decided to make myself known, I had to take my stav in both hands and pound the ground. Hard.

I think I was a little out of line. Much like singing AC/DC in a church van.

Because that action set me on a road to Hel, through the fires, and into relationships with some of the Baddest Witches eveh.

Part Two: The Descent

It was Summer 2007, I had just earned a Fellowship: the department was paying me to finish my dissertation rather than teaching. The above mentioned grad-school bestie was so resentful that I had gotten the award rather than her that she “broke-up” with me. No shit.

The Only Other possible-Pagan took a job in another state and shoved off—and not on good terms.

In late-May, I set the need-fire, I took my stav, and I called for three witches that would teach me what I needed to learn from here on out.

See “The Witch’s Duh.”

I had just met a brand-spanking-new grad-student with the craziest aura I have ever seen. (She is the #2 of my “Trance” post, btw.) Having sent my children to stay with family in Chicago,[2] by July 3, I was three chapter drafts into my dissertation. There was a toga party.

That’s how it began.

After that, there were 12 months of phonecalls with her voice on the other end saying, “Oops, I ended up in bed with the wrong boy again, can you help?” and “I’m drunk and the boy I like is being mean to me, can you help?” Imagining her as salvageable, I always did. But the relationship wasn’t entirely unreciprocal. Having felt like I had bled every ounce of my person for others, I had little to no sense of self left in the cupboard. We joked that she thought she was “all that” and that I didn’t even believe I was “a bag of chips.” But her unbridled vivaciousness would not contend for her BFF (actually, this relationship was the first time I’d heard/applied this term of endearment) to be less than awesome. She said that she loved me and she brought the dead parts of me back to life.

It was February of 2008 when I decided to dust off my grimories and hit the books harder than ever.[3] By April, I was ready for my last elevation with Bertie. I graduated with a PhD in May. Over the summer, The Only Other Pagan came back to town and we made amends. She had wholeheartedly adopted Witchiness—plus she brought a friend back with her.

We were tightthighttight for three months.[4]

Then, in September/October, I got talked into rigging a Dom-Jot table. I take full responsibility for having gone along with it. I lost my mind that fall and nearly lost everything else by New Year.

Part Three: In Hel and Back Out

In January 2009, I had a Naussican spear through my chest (see “It’s a Wonderful Q” for this reference), and found myself standing at the Gates of Hel without a shovel.

I started teaching Witchcraft on a more formal basis; I knew that if I was going to have to climb my way out of Helheim, I was going to need to buckle down. I spent the next ten months mentoring Witchcraft students online and teaching a select few in person. I spent those same ten months deflecting ridiculous fallout from that fight with a Naussican. I started writing a book called The Bad Witch Files—but I never knew how it ended, so it never went very far. It still calls me in bits and spurts.

I continued teaching (secular and religious) and learning and practicing and trying to piece my life back together in some way that looked like life, even if it still smelled of sulfur.

In October 2010, I started blogging here and you can go see the milestones for yourself. I think it was summer 2011 before I realized I was on the road back from Hel. I knew the journey was going to be long. And I knew that if I was ever going to make it all the way out, I was going to need to articulate myself—use my voice.

And—here was the hardest part—then I had to work through forgiving myself.

But, in order to avoid the calm stillness and silence where certainty resides, I kept myself a moving target, often chasing my own tail. Having spun m’self round and round, I have finally come full circle after traveling to Hel and back.

Part Four: The Return

It was back in February 2012 that I finally found the new mentor I had been craving. I had studied and practiced all the Hermetics, Ceremonial Magic, Theurgy, and Goetia I wanted to alone. After ten-fricking years of going it alone, I was ready to be taught, lead, united with others.

I looked to him to teach me all about Teutonic Shamanism. Unfortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to drain him of everything he knew, leaving me back at the drawing board.[5]

Right back where I started.

Fortunately, I did not go to jail, but I did collect $200. And by “collect $200,” I mean “pulled my head out of my arse and found my voice.”

Yawp, bitches. [6]

At the beginning of that shitefeckedup four year trek, I knew I had Heathen ethics, I knew I had High Ceremonial practices, I knew I had a moral compass aligned with Matthew 25:40, I knew I had a Helluva sound occult education behind me, and I knew I had – gifts—we’ll go with “gifts.” But I had never been forced to articulate what I “was.” I always considered myself a Heathen Sorcerer, perhaps because my childhood nickname was, “Y’lil’heathen,” perhaps for more substantial reasons stemming from my appreciation of the Anglo-Saxon ethics I learned as an undergraduate. I laid claim to the title “Sorcerer” in my early 20s, before I was even a mamma.[7] But, while I knew what it meant in my body and in my soul, I was never really sure what that might mean—you know, on paper, with other people looking at it.

Polyphanes wrote a post last week that struck a chord with me. He wrote: “I’m so far over the place, hither and thither, that I break a lot of people’s definitions, preconceptions, and labels. In other words, as befitting my Hermetic nature, I’m a trickster and don’t fit into any one bin, since I’ll just flit right out and into another one. I’d be like a Schrödinger’s Cat of traditions, except with less neurotoxin.” 

I felt a little like an unexplained Copenhagen interpretation too.

I’ve given you the rundown of my Jesuit educational upbringing with Bertie. Though Bertie tried her best to balance Catholic Christianity and Occult-Paganism for me, I held on to some of the vestiges of my Evangelical fears of “evil” and “Hel” for quite a while. I’m not ashamed to admit that. But, today, it seems like a lifetime ago that I was articulating my sense of Evangelical Detox. That’s not to say I discovered it in 2010, but that I had just found the voice to articulate the experience.[8]

Perhaps the most profound experiences are what ended my ongoing tailspin in the last few months. Having gotten back in constant contact with Bertie, I was pressed *from the outside* to journey back to the inside. Having lost Brother Preacherman and Mama Lisa over the summer, I was shocked into appreciating the “call” (or were they saying “caul”?) other folks saw hovering on and about me. Having learned what I’ve learned from Maman Lee a few months back. And having been pressed by The Road Less Traveled to reeeeealy articulate the difference in several traditionssome of which are my own, some of which I didn’t understand nearly as well as I did after being asked to clearly express those distinctions—I found that my voice was there all along. It was a little browbeaten and tired, it had been vilified and colonized—but it was still audible. And it still sounded like me.

Back in December 2011, I think I busted through some hymeneal (hmmm, hymnal?) membrane when I clearly articulated my thoughts about the word “vagina.” It had been—dare I say it—pricking at me for a while. And much like really good sex, once I found the right spot, it was all over.

In February 2012, I picked up the stav I had left idle for too long and started working on Teutonic Shamanism[9]—very close to the pathworking Bertie had taught me in the 90s.[10] It was these pathwork journeys, ironically, that brought me back out of Hel. And how I found my voice.

As for the journey, it’s not at an end. But I’m glad to be trading in these uncomfortable shoes.

So here’s what I’ll tell you in the next few posts:

  • What it means to go to Hel and Back in Teutonic Shamanism
  • Why I’m settling deeper into a new path (or, really, praxis)—that’s not different, just a better amalgamation of what I always was
  • What I’m teaching in Delta, Alabama next month and in Auburn, Alabama in November and December
  • How all of this relates to Wolves and Ulfarnir
  • How you can go to Hel too!

Thanks for sticking it out for this long post.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Which I thought was, “There’s gonna be a party tonight.”

[2] One of whom, at not quite twenty, we lost this week.

[3] Ergo the 2008 in my email address—that was the year I set “stuff” up under the name Ehsha.

[4] This is all a sort of side-story which is more of an irritation than anything real. But it bears mentioning given what I had requested—three witches to teach me. Boy howdy. Witch’s Duh.

[5] This is no disparagement on him. It’s just that everything was the same stuff I had been teaching for years myself—just with different names.

[6] Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. I’m teaching this in a few weeks. Squee.

[7] I remember the conversation with my sister. I didn’t have the language to discuss High Magic versus Low Magic yet, but I knew the connotation of “Sorcerer” versus the connotation of “Witch.” Having always understood Wicca as initiatory, I never laid claim to it as an eclectic idea. I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around non-initiatory Wicca as “Wicca.”

[8] And it seems kinda trippy to me that I started envisaging an online Pagan Seminary back in September 2008 and started actually working toward it by publishing the results here nearly three years later. Now, here at the end of 2012, it seems the time has come to fully articulate that ambition.

[9] I don’t know how many of you saw the “Wyrd Sister” page before I turned it into the retail page it is now. If you missed it back in January, it aimed at being a page which cataloged my last leg of training in Seiðr. It rapidly got too close to STFU mysteries, so I switched it.

[10] And now I have vajay and stav and pounding jokes running through my head—that’s appropriate.

I Had a Few Words With The Bad Witch and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

I finally got around to watching What the #$*! Do We Know!? the other day.[1] It articulated much of what I try teaching my apprentices in terms of Quantum Physics, Magick, and “reality.” So, I wasn’t surprised by much of the stuff in this film. But one thing was new; I had never heard of the experiments being conducted by researcher, Dr. Masaru Emoto, chief of the Hado Institute in Tokyo.[2]

Emoto created some experiments on water that validate the influences human consciousness and “intent” has on physical reality; though you and I would likely simply call it “Magick” (duh), this phenomenon has come to be known as the ‘Hado’ effect. Emoto describes it as follows: “Hado is the intrinsic vibration pattern at the atomic level in all matter, the smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness.”  Dontcha just love it when they use scientific words to define those things we’ve been talking about forever?

Here’s what happened.  Emoto took some water and directed various thoughts and feelings “at” it. Then he froze the water.  When he “sent loving thoughts and feelings to the water,” the water froze into stunning and highly-organized crystals; however, when he directed negative energy into the water, there were either no crystals at all or there were disorganized and unappealing formations. Surprised? Neither was I. Invoking positive energy causes an equal and corollary reaction.

Momma’s church. The view from her “hill.”

Last weekend I went to an early Beltane ritual where a Reiki Master charged crystals and performed a ritual ending in participants “planting” charged crystals in damaged or ravaged places on Earth.[3]  I have my quartz and I intend to plant it on farms in North Alabama where, a year ago last Friday, tornados ripped through my families’ communities (*literally* just barely missing the homes of my parents and my sister and her family). We do this sort of thing; we call it Chi, Ki, Prana, Life-force. So this part is not a shocker for TBW.

But, the next part is what – ridiculous as it seems – blew my mind. In following experiments, Emoto did nothing more than write a word on a label and place that label on the water container before freezing it. Guess what happened. Same thing. No shit. Why am I surprised? It’s simple sigil Magick in a laboratory in Japan. I know. It’s not that the thing happened that’s got my head twisted, but that I’m starting to think about a lot of possible implications that I never thought about before.[4]

For instance . . .

This got me to thinking about t-shirts. Does the shirt we wear effect the 60-70% of our watery bodies? What about the water vapor on the planet around us? Does wearing a “Bad Witch” t-shirt make one internalize the sentiment? What if the sentiment is intentionally ironic? What matters more – the words or the intent?

Tell me then about tattoos? Huh? How does that work?

I always thought of these things in a psychosocial framework which is influenced by hegemonic values. i.e: I wear my ΠΒΦ t-shirt as part of my external and manifest identity – I want you to see this shirt and think of me in a certain way: as a sorority girl and all of the attendant meanings attached to “Greekness” in a college town like mine (family connections and affluence and certain social values) and more specifically as a member of Pi Beta Phi, and the meaning attached to a nationally respected sorority with a “secretive” past (more money, rigorous study habits, particular aspirations, and less likely to be a “sorostitute” than other girls in other shirts with other attendant meanings).[5] I know you will “read” my t-shirt and I choose to identify myself with its “message.” I have, perhaps, internalized this part of my identity to the point where I no longer imagine myself as making conscious choices about what my shirt says about me. After all, t-shirts do not appear in a cultural vacuum, but, rather, express a cultural engagement with values, attitudes, and concerns of the majority.[6]

But what does the symbol *ΠΒΦ* do to the water in my body? And therefore my body itself? And my brain? And my being? Anything at all? Do I have to be frozen for it to matter? Is freezing water like a wave collapsing into particles when observed? (Holy crap, I’ve talked myself into another “wave collapse” conversation.) In Emoto’s experiments, no one had to look at the labels in order for the crystals to have formed. No one knew which water would receive which label. Emoto did not “invoke” the water with positive/negative emotions. It was merely the presence of the word that caused the change.

I understand this in terms of sigil Magick. I really do. When we have intent. When we invoke, when we purposefully change the energy waves around us, when we charge an item or a bath or a meal with our intent. But I don’t get it in terms of daily, banal, t-shirt-y-ness. Does wearing a shirt that says “Love” affect our physical beings aside from our psychological states and psychosocial perceptions? I would tend to say no – but does Emoto’s experiment suggest that I’m wrong?

Am I having a duh moment? Was this something everybody already figured out and I’m just now stepping in it like a pile of horse pie that everyone else saw laying in the road?

This got me to thinking along another line. A personal line. Once, after a really strange and inexplicably dramatic pitfall in my life, I – understandably – hit a low spot. Not long before I started blogging in earnest. One of the things I did during that time was to take my eyeliner pencil and write all of the negative things said about me and to me on my mirror. Still in my dissertation-mindset, I had the re-appropriation and empowerment of terms like “queer,” “bitch,” and “nigga” on my mind. Using the kind of “magic” the rest of the world still believes in, as I found strategies to positively cope with each term written on my mirror, I would erase it. From Halloween to Mother’s Day the next year, I’m not sure I ever saw my face through anything but a smudge. I thought I had “gotten over” all of that years ago. But now, I’m starting to wonder about a few lingering “side effects” of that low-spot are related to the way I “banished” those words. Have those words “frozen” in me?

This leads to a whole ‘nother conversation about emotional addiction. Part of What the #$*! Do We Know!? looks into the theory that we are addicted to our own emotions (here it is on the YouTubes: http://youtu.be/6BkI8LD24y0). Realizing the chemistry behind emotions – “nerves that fire together, wire together” – can give us the key to changing our (capital *I*) Identity. Like any other addiction, in order to satisfy our biochemical cravings, we have to supply more and more of the neuropeptides that create a cellular response.[7]In other words, we have to keep “ramping it up” in order to feel “satisfied.” But if we could change our cellular reactions we could change our Selves. Could we change our cellular reactions by doing something as simple as writing words on our bodies? This

My arm (leftmost) and the arms of several co-workers on TWLOHA Day, Auburn, 2010.

made me think about To Write Love On Her Arms.

Every year on November 13th , I hand my daughters colored Sharpies, hold out my arms, and say, “Go for it.” They each take an arm and draw entangled hearts and write the word “LOVE” up and down their momma’s blighted wrists. To Write Love On Her Arms (both the foundation and the short story) is about taking the broken in body and spirit, the addicted, and the self-mutilating and covering them in love. In his (admittedly Christocentric) retelling of the experience which inspired the TWLOHA movement, Jamie tells about Renee, who has carved “FUCK UP” on her own body with a razor blade: “she is ours to love . . . . [and we are] coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.” I imagine Renee’s scars and the scars of so many like her. And then I imagine them with LOVE written over them.

And thinking about Renee’s scars made me think about my sister’s (very recent) double-mastectomy and her terror at removing the bandages for the first time to “see” – and suddenly I can’t breathe. I had put all of my energy into thinking about doctors and hospitals and medical outcomes that I forgot to think about being. I forgot to think about t-shirts. Not Susan Koman pink things, just t-shirts in general. And what she will look like when she wears her bathrobe and what she will be invoking when she sinks her body into a tub of water for the first time. Hoping it won’t be “GROSS” and “UGLY,” I urgently want to grab my big sister like I did in the days after those tornadoes left her living and I want to write “BEAUTIFUL” and “ALIVE” all over her.[8]

And I want to write things on me too.

Does this kind of sigil Magick work in real terms? Sure we change based on our imagination of our Self. We internalize what we see. But is there more to it?

Anybody up for an experiment?[9]

I suggest:

  • “Charge” a Sharpie or an eyeliner or something.
    • Better yet – don’t – I like the idea of a “control group” of sorts.
  • Write a word on your body.
    • Better yet – have a trusted companion write a word where you can’t see it – for the “control group” – or is that just a “variable group”?
    • Make a secret sigil if you must (yet another variable group), but I’d like to see what happens with a readable language.
  • Do this at different parts of the day.
  • Tell me what happens.

Blessings, Quarks, and 93,

The Bad Witch

PS – Look! More Quarks!


[1] Writ: Matthew Hoffman, William Arntz, et al. Dir: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, et al. Perf: Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix and John Ross Bowie. Medula Films and Captured Light. 2004. Netflix.

The terms are basic and the metaphors are concrete rather than abstract and theoretical as most QP documentaries can be. If QP is hard for you to wrap you head around, I recommend it.

[2] I don’t know what to do with his name. I would call him Dr. Marsura, but the film calls him “Mister Emoto.” Seems all kinds of wrong.

[3] I have my own paradoxical feelings about taking quartz from the Earth, charging it, and then sending it back “with healing energy.” But that’s not a topic for today.

[4] And I keep remembering that, while the universe – especially the Milky Way – probably has plenty of water vapor to speak of and likely has liquid and frozen water (especially on Saturn’s moon), Earth is made up of over 70% water and that we are about 60% water (and the human brain is 70% water at that). If emotion can change water, and we and our planet are mostly water . . . I know – but – it’s – still – I’m . . . . I think I’m just having a weird day.

[5] While I may belong to a number of fraternal organizations, TBW is not a college-based sorority member.

[6] I can choose not to wear a Pi Beta Phi t-shirt and don a Bad Witch t-shirt instead. Alas, I will not subvert said values – I will merely uphold them from the outside. For exteriority confirms that there is an interiority to subvert. Dammit.

[7] According to the film’s scientific talking-heads, the cell is the smallest unit of consciousness in the human being. Ironically, this is something one of my dissertation committee members and I have discussed at length. She has written a book about Rhetoric and cellular production. I painted her a picture of mitochondria when I defended my dissertation. We are toooootal geeks.

[8] But, in the end, I may just get her a t-shirt after all. She hits.

[9] If there wasn’t s’much paperwork involved in human testing, I’d experiment at school.

Change is Good

Whatcha think?

I also let my stylist talk me into coloring my hair .  .  .  .

The Old Grey Mare, She Ain’t What She Used to Be; Thank Goodness

All this talk about evolution lately and what I’ve been trying to get at is so simple: I’ve changed the “thesis” of this blog a number of times and I’ve finally settled on what I mean to do.

First – this was intended to be a place where I could warn y’all off of some bad experiences. I was experiencing life with some very bad witches and hoped to keep you apprised of the pitfalls.

Second – it tried to be about teaching the practice of Witchcraft.Those shoes didn’t fit – so I branched out to Open Path (which languishes in the months where I have to teach in the classroom).

The reason the fit was so poor is because the shoe was forced on – like Cinderella’s slipper on a substantial -footed step-sister. It’s like this: The Bad Witch *will* teach if it’s called for. And I’m damned good at it. Really effing good. But I’m a researcher at heart. My passion has always been research and writing (not *teaching* research and writing). [1]

You know that saying, “Those who can’t *do*, teach”? (And those who can’t teach, teach Phys Ed.) I call bullshit. That’s an elitist, tenure-based-hierarchical ball of pus that researchers who are not good at teaching like to tell themselves. And each other. And the teachers who hold up the university superstructure that allows them to be researchers.

Teaching is hard. Dang hard. It involves an ability to both do and teach others to do. It’s two skill-sets in one.

Those who can’t teach well, shouldn’t teach at all, in my opinion. Just like those who are not gentle and sympathetic should stay the feck out of medicine and geriatrics. As a teacher, I know lots of teachers. As a parent, I know lots of teachers. Not all teachers are good teachers. Some are just doing it for a paycheck. But some – ah, some – some are fan-flipping-tastic and will change your life. Those are the people who should be teaching.

Wait, I take that back. I am a fan-flipping-tastic teacher who changes students’ lives. But I’m trying to argue that I should not be a teacher.

So – you have to be fan-flipping-tastic and you have to be passionate about teaching and learning.

I used to be both. I’m not anymore. Maybe again someday – just not now.

But that door swings both ways, right? You can’t just be passionate about teaching. You also have to be passionate about learning. But – here’s the rub. In order to be a good teacher, you must also be a good researcher. I mean, you can’t teach what you don’t know – right?

Shite.

Imagine if The Bad Witch were to teach architecture from her gut? It’d be like Jericho every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30-10:45. I guarantee. The structures might look pretty on the outside – and may even be logically formed on the inside; but I wouldn’t want to be there seeking shelter should a stiff wind blow. No solid foundations would be found.

Or even something more intuitive. Imagine if TBW were to teach something aesthetic like “Art Appreciation.”[2] I mean, I know what I like. I know what makes sense to me artistically. I know how to get students to talk about what evokes what in art – I can pull touchy-feely-BS out of my hat for hours and make it sound like law. But – but- but – if I know nothing about the Dadaist movement or about Minimalism, how in the feck am I supposed to teach students about the truth behind Jackson Pollok or Kazimir Malevich’s “Red Square”? Anyone can tell you if they “like” it – can they tell you they “understand” it? That’s real learning. And I have to understand Marx before I can get to Dada. And before I can teach the Avant-garde I have to understand the “stale tradition” to which it is reacting.

Horribly embarrassing side note:

The first research paper I’d ever given at a conference was superb. To this day (almost 25 years, three kids, and two advanced degrees in literature later), I can go back to it and gather bits of fabulousness. It was about the differences in the bite-marks on the necks of Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The title of the paper was, “The Displaced Vagina.” I was a fresh undergraduate and making my way through a Gothic lit course (Dracula, btw, is a Victorian novel – just saying). I had no idea who Irigaray, Kristeva, Cixous, or even deBouvoir were. After the paper, I got kudos all around. But during the Q&A someone asked me if I was going to include the French feminists in my work. (Horror of horrors,) I answered, “It’s a British novel written in the late 19th-Century; why would I include French authors from the mid-20th-Century?” I didn’t even have the good sense to be embarrassed. 

Today when I think about that exchange, I’m mortified. At the time, I didn’t know Irigaray from a hole in the – wait, bad pun.

But the paper itself, the instinct that caused me to connect the literary dots, the historical background, the biographical background, the textual evidence – it was all magnificent. Graceful. Insightful.

For an undergraduate paper.

However, I was poorly prepared to enter into the realm of conferences with its professional professorate – all of whom seem fairly willing to turn their heads and smile sympathetically when a youngon’ (especially someone else’s youngon’) makes a mess on the hotel conference room carpet. But scholarly conferences also have egotistical PhD candidates, angry permanent adjunct-faculty, and “that dude who always has to try to force you to make your work about his most recent project” – you know him. I was simply not ready to play with the big-dogs. I am now. But I wasn’t then.

(I suppose you could just say, “Well, Imma stay the H-E-double-hockey-sticks away from conferences then.” To which I’d have to say, “Really? And miss out on a learning experience?”)

My point in sharing this painful, awkward, undignified experience is just to say – if you have decided to be a teacher, you have to ask yourself, “Do I only have great instincts which make my thesis interesting at an undergraduate level; am I actually out of my league as a scholar?” It’s a hard question. And when we’ve gotten great kudos from those who didn’t expect eminence from the pen of a freshman, it’s a hard pill to swallow that we might not be “all that.” It’s very hard to admit that we might have to put in a little more shadow-work. It’s even harder to admit that, in order to teach Poe and Dark Romanticism (American Gothic) we might have to learn about things we don’t like learning about – like Transcendentalism (and the Harvard Divinity School which spawned it), blech. Especially when we’ve pulled so much lovely intuitive BS out of our hats in the past and we’ve made it sound like law for so long that even we believe we are erudite.  (I mean, it’s easy to fool a Pagan-metaphorical-freshman into thinking we’re knowledgeable. It takes a Pagan-metaphorical-grad student or a Pagan-metaphorical-PhD to call us on our Pagan-metaphorical-“what about the French-school” shortcomings.)

Today, I’m mortified that this little exchange happened. Sure. Would I ever like to ever in a million years show my ass like that in semi-public? Hells-to-the-no.

But I am also able to look back and say, “Dang, I’ve always been pretty intuitive; indeed this field of study is for me.” That’s a good affirmation.  Also, now? Sheezus, I know so much more than I did in the 80s and 90s. And, and, and I realize that there is so much more to learn. It’s magnificent. Looking back at what a squirrel I was then, knowing where I am now, and looking forward to looking back again in a decade or so – knowing even more? Can’t hate on that. Really can’t.[3]

Thank goodness I had good teachers.

So, yeah. Decent teachers have to be even better researchers.

Again, shite.

Teachers – good teachers – have to do it all. And they have to love doing it. For little or no pay, mind you. And no real cultural cache.[4]

And this goes for Pagan teachers of Pagan subjects too. We don’t get off the hook just because there is no system of accreditation for solitary teachers. Right? Right. We have to be both knowledgeable (about our tradition and about traditions aside from our own) and passionate. We can’t skate by on good looks and silver tongues forever (I’ve known a history professor or two to prove it).

In the end, this is all to say that teachers (good teachers who do their research and remain passionate and able to engage students in scholarly discussion) have my ultimate respect. But I can’t do it anymore. I’m tired. I think I may have been doing it for the wrong reasons. (Being told: “You’re good at this, you should do it full time.” Being told: “We need more teachers like you.” Truth of it is, being “good” at teaching, just like being passionate about teaching, is not enough.)

And, to be honest, I’d love to sit a spell in the classroom and be a student for about a minute-and-a-half.

Thirdly, and finally – this blog has come to be a product of real passion: research and writing about Pagan practices, Pagan ethics, and Pagan hermeneutics (especially those that fall squarely in the crosshairs of Paganism and JudoChristianity).

While there are still some bad experiences with some bad witches, and I will still keep you apprised of the pitfalls, and while there will be plenty of teaching and learning moments along the way, I want to keep solid scholarship as the forefront of my objective.

Hope you’re all still in for the ride.

You may notice a few of my posts migrating over to Open Path from time to time, though I may never get to it. I’ll leave a bread-trail.

And who’s to say that this won’t take a fourth turn? I’m actually thinking about adding a page on “Introspections” for anyone voyeuristic enough to read over my current hermitlike state and the permutations of my shadow-work (those appropriate to publish). Maybe. We’ll call it “The Bad Laundry” or something irreverent.

Sorry if this came across as melancholy. I’m not downhearted, I’m simply shocked at my own relief. Looking back on the Seven of Cups, I had too much on my plate to enjoy.

Less horrible sidenote: My husband recently went to China where, as I understand it, there is a cultural practice that says: “If it’s been offered to you, you are obliged to take it.” He says mealtimes complete with non-stop drinking and smoking were so overly-indulgent that he dreaded them. It’s like that. Too much of a good thing is often just too much.

I’m learning to say no to some of the things I’m offered so that I can concentrate on the things that really get my blood pumping. Like research writing. This time Pagani style! (Wow, there’s a seeming linguistic oxymoron.) I’m paring back. Making choices instead of having choices thrust upon me. I’m stepping back and smelling the flowers – the ones I planted but never got to enjoy. I’m going to have my cheesecake and I’m going to eat it too, goshdarnit.

I have a woodshop full of wood just begging to be carved. I have a sewing-room full of fabric to be sewn into fabulousness – and a commercial

My last oil project (2004); I never really finished.

grade serger in my shopping cart that I might just purchase after all. I even bought new sable brushes and paint. Yes, ladies and gentlemen – oil, not the instant gratification of acrylic. Not this year. This year I’m going to Skype with my brilliantly talented sister (whose work is at LakeMuse.com, just saying) and go toe-to-toe painting and chicken farming. I’m going to say yes to that plastic index card box full of ideas that I intended to get to “someday.” I’m going to say “no” to the (third) job offer I was given. I’m going to say “no” to the (two) TV projects I was asked to join. Sounds like tons of fun, but I can’t carry a ton right now. (I can make a recommendation for a substitute, right?) I’m going to teach my son to cook jambalaya. And I’m taking my daughter shopping for a prom dress.

But I’m keeping my maid.

Thanks for listening to my prattle. I’ll be more on-task next time. Just needed to vent.

BB & 93,

TBW


[1] As a matter of fact, in my secular work, though (due to bureaucratic university nonsense) I would have had to do it in 2013, I have opted to pace myself back to teaching “part time” (a year early) so I can work on all of my non-teaching projects. I’ve never felt such a relief.

[2] Lahws, the reason Mona Lisa Smile is such a good movie about teaching (if nothing else) is because Julia Roberts’ character both loves teaching and is very well informed on her subject. Sure, she asks her students to figure it out on their own, but at least she knows where she’s aiming.

[3] ‘Less’n you’re just lookin’ for somethin’ to hate on.

[4] Don’t get me wrong, some teachers derive a great deal of validation by being king/queen of their classroom realm. And that’s valid.

Evolution, Esoteria, and Extinction

This is gonna be a long one. I thought about splitting this into several posts, but fear that that would lead to several equally long-winded posts. So, just hear me out if you’ve got some time. If not, just skip to the end.

In 2006, while still a grad student, I wrote a paper for a colloquium[1] – and had the nerve to present it to the graduate faculty of my own university. (Take it from The Bad Witch, this is proverbially shitting where one eats.) I had gone to MLA in the months before and heard Michael Berube and Cary Nelson talk about the deteriorating status of contingent labor.[2] My reason for writing this paper was that the work we do in the English Department is poorly understood by the general population.  (I dare say, some of us don’t understand what others in our own department do.)  This poor understanding precedes popular criticism that derides our scholarship as “obtuse” or “meaningless.”  This criticism is often advanced in service of an ideology at odds with the democratic underpinnings of a liberal arts education and usually follows these lines: “English Departments should stick to teaching grammar and punctuation rather than teaching kids to be Marxists, feminists, homosexuals, or worse – grad students.”  Just the year before this colloquium, James Pierson authored The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy which confirmed that the expectation of the English department has become primarily to teach rudimentary writing skills – and business writing at that – the kind of writing that earns income.

Paganism, I know – I’m getting to it, just trust The Bad Witch for a minute.

Those within the Literature track of the English Department believe that they are entitled to relevance as “the keepers of culture.”  They say, “Why of course Literature is relevant!  Students should want to read both The Decameron and Ulysses and everything in between because it will enrich them with character; it will give them a soul.”[3]  Others, like myself, have heard the voices from outside the ivory tower which are caterwauling for us to justify our existence (and public funding).[4] Don’t forget grade inflation conundrum.

I had hoped to have fellow-graduate students in my audience; this paper was written for them as the target audience, after all. I addressed them immediately:

I imagine you have all had this experience.  You tell someone that you are earning a degree in English and . . . they assume a pathetic demeanor and reply, “Oh, then you are planning to teach.”  What’s worse is when they ask about your specialty.  Either you answer something like “Eighteenth Century Poetry” or “Modern Political Drama” OR you answer “Representation Theory,” “Regional American Linguistics,” or (god forbid) “Gender Studies.”  You lose either way, because either you will confirm for them that you are studying what is perceived as The Dead White Guys or you confirm for them that the Department of English is intentionally opaque, obscure, and obsolete.

But, alas, when I saw the program, my paper had been placed on a panel with brilliant but unappreciated “Topics in Rhetoric.” And to my chagrin, there was a concurrent panel with circus clowns and free candy. Guess where the grad students went? I walked into the room where my panel was scheduled and faced the academic firing squad: the surliest portion of the grad faculty.[5] Among these was the Bloom-worshiping, conservative Twentieth-Century American Poetry teacher who told me that I wielded gender theory like a blunt object.[6]

I explained all of the intricacies, but in the end, fewer English majors mean fewer specialist positions – and an increase in faculty stratification.  This stratification (along tenurable and nontenurable lines) creates a lower morale in the department as a whole and increases insularity.  I predicted that it would also “create a job market that will have all of us shaking in our boots for a decade or more.” There was a lot more to the paper, but who cares – this is just the sounding board for my real point. A point about Paganism – I’m getting to it. I promise.

I ended up entirely right and am now surrounded by an anxious and demoralized body of co-workers. Sometimes I hate being right.

The problem, I asserted was that:

So many of us perpetuate what Goeffrey Sirc bemoans as the dulling influence of academic polity, which has led many grad students to (re)produce the sort of prose and responses which correspond to our mentor’s work and therefore buys us kudos at a time when we are vulnerable and in need of affirmation.

So to sum up: grad students perpetuate what tradition (via mentors) deems scholarly. However, the public deems it futile.  Further, because we are misunderstood and disregarded as ineffectual, we no longer draw the undergraduate majors that we used to. Therefore, liberal arts have among the lowest pay in the university, in a culture that equates material compensation with worth.

The question becomes, imho: how do we make English Literature valuable to students who only take World Literatures because they “have to” in order to get their degrees in Science, Engineering, and Business Administration?  I advocated an interdisciplinary approach. Think about Science in the English classroom.  I teach Darwin’s Decent of Man in my World Literature class.  Not because I teach evolution, but because I think Charles Darwin provides a fabulous read and makes a nice connection between Frankenstein and Wordsworth.  Plus, I tend to have a lot of various COSAM students and this is a good bridge text.  All of my students typically love it; though the ones who don’t read continue to think that Darwin claimed man evolved from apes.  Didn’t happen.  One thing Darwin did claim is that those species which evolve adaptations that better suit their surroundings will survive better than those that cannot/do not adapt.  “Survival of the Fittest” does not refer to strength – lion over gazelle (or Science and Math over Liberal Arts) – it refers to appropriateness in adaptation – fins over feet.

True story.  There is a pond and a biologist who studies that pond – actually the fish in that pond.  Some of the fish reproduce asexually – they are haploid clone fish.  Genetically, each offspring is an exact duplicate of its parent.  There are, in that same pond, diploid or polyploid sexually reproducing fish of that same species.  They get one set of alleles from each parent.  This is nature’s preferred method of reproduction – organisms typically receive one set of homologous chromosomes from each parent.  The benefit of cloning is that ALL of the parent’s DNA gets passed on to the next generation and then the next generation and then the next generation – the species remains pure.  The sexual reproducers lose out since only half of their DNA make it to the next generation and less gets passed on to the generation after that – you get the idea.  But. One year a virus invaded the pond.  It was a predator.  The clone fish were able to fight the virus at first, but when the virus mutated and the clone fish stayed the same, the clone fish were eradicated.  The diploid reproducers evolved; they built up a resistance to the virus and they survived.

Such phenomena have many implications in biological sciences and specifically genetics; but what the heck does it have to do with English?  (And what the heck does it have to do with Paganism and Witchcraft?) I’m sure that if you’ve read any of the other Bad Witch Files, you know that I am ever-ready to talk to you in terms of metaphor.

We are like the fish in the pond.  Those of us who integrate new material into our work are more likely to evolve and therefore survive.  Those of us who clone, may not.

I do not advocate the kind of cross-pollination that waters-down the discipline.  Literary Studies remain Literary Studies, Wicca remains Wicca; but I advocate doing it in such a way that involves other disciplines, more like symbiosis. Or microevolution.[7] It’s hard, because it means that as a scholar and a teacher (academics or spirituality), you have to know more than one discipline.  It’s also hard because it involves going out on an evolutionary limb of our own rather than cloning our mentors’ work.[8]  A proposal which is sticky. Some feel that this advocating of hybridism will result in nothing short of bastardization of Studies in English.  But do a quick Google search: any state schools still have a Classics Department?  How many still teach Old English?  Because of its perceived obtuseness, Classics Departments have generally been absorbed into the English Major or cut altogether.  Such topics in English are going the way of the Dodo.  Extinction is the result of a failure to evolve. [9]

Just look at the Catholic Church.

Here’s the real question for those of you scrolling to the end.

What does that mean for Pagan and, more pointedly, Witchcraft traditions? Does that start an argument against traditionalism? Or is Witchcraft, by virtue of being intentionally esoteric,[10] insular, enigmatic and secretive, consequentially immune to outside annihilation?

If I was right – and I maintain that I was/am – when grad students perpetuate canonical tradition at the expense of scholarly innovation (which the broader populace derides), Liberal Arts – already esoteric to some – maintains the misunderstood position as “impractical.” Consequently, the discipline attracts fewer students. The domino effect is that teachers are less valuable and less compensated. This makes a career in teaching liberal arts less attractive which, snowball, snowball, snowball . . . .

But, in many Pagan traditions, we try our damndest to maintain “pure” traditions and to stay in line with ancient practices. This isn’t the first time I’ve asked a question like this, but it’s the first time I’ve asked it outright: Is this even a good idea?

We pretty much agree that wine is OK instead of blood. We concede that (some) sex can be symbolic. We recognize the impracticality of many traditional tools and find that a system of “correspondences” and “substitutions” is the key to magical-proxy.[11] But then we say that other traditions are non-negotiable. Again, like my question about gender, I find myself asking where we draw the line.

Am I comparing apples and oranges here? Polyphanes recent commentary on The Digital Ambler In Terms of Another” makes me ask myself: “Am I trying to discuss a biological impulse in terms of a mathematical algorithm?”[12]

I don’t have an answer.

I’m seriously considering this conundrum.

This one may plague me for a minute.

This post is  part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet.”


[1] “Going Public in The English Department.” In Higher Ed Studies, “Going Public” generally refers to a lifting of the academic veil that shrouds our department in secretive obscurity.  Yes, we are the keepers of culture; yes, we have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the written arts.  But not at the risk of insularity and exclusion.  Think about it, if we hide culture away in an enigmatic and exclusive circle – sure we succeed in maintaining scholarly integrity but we also fail at affecting the greater society around us – which is in dire need of some high art and cultural awareness.  Yeah? I was The Bad Grad Student too.

[2] Not to be confused with contentious labor.

[3] Yup. Somebody said that to me. I reminded him that my illiterate auntie has (and all of my Mvskogee ancestors who never had much use for written literature had) a bigger soul than he ever would.

[4] As a case in point consider this.  I took part in a Graduate School Research Forum and after one of my comrades in English gave what I considered a well-thought-out talk for an anti-hunger project, one of the judges said something like, “I don’t mean to be a grumpy old man, but what’s the point?  Literature isn’t going to change the world.” Not even within the walls of the academy are we safe from such raw criticism.

[5] The affable portion was in the room with the clowns and candy, obvs.

[6] My response was, “Like a phallus?”

[7] I’ll concede to use this term even though I know that there is no relevant difference between microevolution and macroevolution. Both happen comparably. When biologists use different terms, it’s for descriptive reasons. When creationists use it, it’s for ontological reasons. I’m neither a biologist or a creationist, so I have nothing at stake.

Geological Time Spiral. Want an explanation? Click to link.

[8] And while evolution is typically imagined as a linear progression, in our imagination (supported by geological evidence), evolution can have the ebb and flow of the tides, the orbit of the Wheel of Fortune, the Great and Sacred Spiral.

[9] There is a counterargument to hybridism – but for our purposes here, let me limit myself to the positive results of hybridism.  I’m always dragging a COSAM student around the English Department; they leave saying, “I didn’t know you could do that with English.”  The big payoff is – they go out into the broader university and say things like, “I was talking to this woman from the English Department about co-writing an article about artistic renderings of seed pods in early twentieth-century biology textbooks.”  This is like the movement of gene flow which allows new genes and characteristics to spread from their population of origin – the English Department – throughout the species – or university – as a whole.

[10] When TBW was a kiddo in Chicago, there was a club called Esoterica. I have happy memories associated with this word.

[11] Holy hot-hell, my brain just went into a mode of Structuralist and Deconstructionist Theory from which I will run post-haste.

[12] But – – that’s a whole nother ball of, well, balls to be well-explored over a pint or two. Or six. (Tee, hee, I wrote “sex” and had to revise.)