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.

Sweetness

This week has been entirely cool. On Saturday, we installed our bees on the Ve.

Four of us (and our children) began this journey last summer when we first looked into beekeeping in our different counties. A whole group of us had been interested in beekeeping for a good while; so we attended a summer symposium. Four of us stuck it out when, in February, we started learning in earnest. After a winter of learning—and learning that there really are very few prohibitions[1] against beekeeping—we bit the commitment bullet, built our hives, and installed our bees.

Lemme tell ya, it was not as frightening as I expected.

And it brings me to the sweetest magical allegory in town.

I am allergic to everything on this beautiful planet (aside from poison ivy, go figure) and was terrified of what the “bee installation day” experience might bring. Yet, I donned my nerdy protective suit (full-body prophylaxis), walked into the fray where bees were flying by the tens of thousands,[2] and was totally fine. Seriously, I wasn’t even nervous. Not even a little.[3]

It’s like working with magic. Real magic. Not that conk somebody on the head because you lost control of your emotions sort of trifle that so many of us can do—but don’t if we’ve learned better. I’m talking about—whatever your tradition’s analog may be[4]–I’m talking about conjuration and all that jazz.

Let me run this metaphor out.

  • Calm bees stay calm until someone sounds the “alarm.” Then they all switch on a pheromone that makes the whole colony lose their shit. If a human sounds the alarm, well.

o   Even benevolent spirits (entities, daemons, thoughtforms, etc.) can get—um, spooked—we’ll go with “spooked,” if the conjurer gets all bent out of shape and switches on the magical alarm pheromone. And you bet your arse, somebody’s getting stung.

  • The best thing to do is use lots of protection when you are first learning to handle bees. As you get more proficient, as you learn the signals of the bees, you can work with or without gloves, with or without a veil, or with just a smoker. I’ve seen it done. I don’t think I’ll ever get there (my aversion to anaphylaxis and all)—but that doesn’t mean no one does it.

o   Likewise with conjuration. Holy heck, that can sting like the Dickens and lay you out if you aren’t properly protected. Right? Sometimes you need a metaphorical beesuit. But, once you know what’s what—and as long as you don’t have reason to suspect a rogue bee[5]—you might eventually be able to get away with working with fewer accoutrements. Just, you know, make sure you have a well-lit metaphorical smoker.

  • Beekeeping is not for the faint of heart. Some folks are just skeered. Of everything. Dogs, chickens, snakes, spiders, witches, bees. Fear comes from an uncontrolled mind, from anxieties arising out of attachment in the form of anger and hatred. Human fears develop in a direct corollary to our feeling of being threatened. According to Buddhist[6] thought, fears result from our ignorance of Self, the origin of delusions, and thus the root of our fears. If you don’t have a sense of self-presence—knowing exactly who you are (not a delusion of Self) and what you are (actually, not delusionally) capable of—you have no business messing with bees.
Fried Green Tomatoes, "Bee Charmer"

Fried Green Tomatoes, “Bee Charmer”

o   Same goes for magic. If you are a frightened, victimhood-oriented individual you should steer clear of actual magic. If you don’t “Know Thyself,” you won’t be very effectual in the first place; but you shouldn’t go messing around in atmospheres where you have no business. If you are delusional about yourself and your abilities? Let’s just say I’m not going in after you if you decide to jam your hand all down in a metaphorical honey super on a cloudy day like you’re Idgie Threadgoode or something. I’ll call the metaphorical equivalent to 911, but the rest is on you. Literally.

Some people think that if they’ve seen it in a movie it must be real–and that it must apply to them. Mmm’hokay.

  • That leads me to my last point. There are “stock” bees and wild bees. The bees I have are Italian, like most beekeeper bees in the US. They were bred by a specialist who knows how to breed queens that produce calm and unruffled[7] colonies. Like all breeding programs, this is a precise science to which all I can say is, “I don’t know man, I didn’t do it.” Some bees were bred for different things—serenity not being one of them. Or, you know, being lower on the list. This is just to say that even if you know *your* bees, you don’t want to make the same assumptions about another colony or—lords no—wild bees. The rules go out the window in the wild.

o   Not all of the “stuff” one can encounter out in the Aether is of metaphorically “known parentage.” A magician, sorcerer, whatever-you-call-yourself, can be very familiar with and work with great ease with one set of energies. But out of that element? All bets are off. Should you encounter something “wild”? The worst thing you can do is make assumptions about its imperatives and jurisdictions. Some shite will laugh in your face. And then peal it off and eat it just for kicks.

You might not, but I buy it.

It might seem like too much risk for such little payout. After all, the honey doesn’t extrude and jar itself. But bees are a necessary part (a dwindling part) of a functioning eco-system. I started keeping bees because it was the right thing to do. Now I’m discovering that there are rewards to be had well before the honey flows.[8] Likewise with magic. I started doing it for personal development, ego reduction, and self-awareness. Sure, I hoped there’d be plenty of alchemical honey on the other end of the project, but it wasn’t my primary motivation. It was just the right thing to do. And just like with my old “friends,” I’m finding that with my new little friends, there are rewards to be had before I’ve even seen my first comb.

Think about it. The necessity to calm the feck down each and every time, the necessity to have faith in one’s protective measures, the necessity to know—really know—the limits of one’s abilities (and to push them just a little more each time), and the necessity to remember to keep the smoker lit at all times.

There are explicit rewards to finding oneself in the presence of bees.

Wæs þu hæl!

 

[1] I mean, we have limited finances and a slew of animals and pregnant ladies and children and allergies. Honey may be bad for babies but bees are only dangerous if one is allergic. And one would be allergic, pregnant or not. So, there was really no reason not to go for it.

[2] Earlier in the day, my estimate is that there were 1.5 million bees. Assuming that each packaged colony had around 10,000 bees and there were about 150 orders. That’s without the neighborhood bees who came to see all the hullabaloo.

[3] The story was different when I opened the hive wearing only protective gloves the next day. That was a test in bravery. A test I passed with flying colors.

[4] Yes, I believe that various paths have various names and they are all valid—though not the same.

[5] Hive minds don’t really produce many rogues as long as your population is healthy and bred from calm queens. We don’t have the threat of “Africanized” bees in my neck of the woods.

[6] Thanks to one of my Cultural Diversity students who phrased this so eloquently during his presentation in our non-Abrahamic religions unit.

[7] They are also hygienic, varyingly disease resistant, and relatively high-producers.

[8] Not to mention the hope of propolis!

PBP Weeks 38-39: Scare Me!

I originally wrote this over a month ago and found it while posting my most recent one about Arthur Miller and Breaking Bad. Donno why I never posted it. This conversation set off a series of events which have snowballed into a full package of wonder. Maybe that’s why?

“Scare me.” –Albert Brooks, Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

“Die Brille hat das Häschen jetzt
“. . . und schießen will’s aus dem Gewehr.
“Der Jäger aber fürcht sich sehr. . . .” – Heinrich Hoffman, Struwwelpeter (1845)[1]

Most of us are familiar with the opening scene of the 1983 movie version of Twilight Zone.[2] Two men are driving down a lonesome highway listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival when the audio system breaks down. Now bored and complaining that “there’s no entertainment,” the driver (Albert Brooks) plays a stunt on his passenger (Dan Aykroyd). He asks, “Do you wanna see somethin’ real scary?” In a variation on the game of “chicken,” the driver turns off the headlights and attempts to make the passenger entirely uncomfortable. It seems he succeeds.

Seems.

For a little while the men distract themselves with a game. After a few rounds, the passenger asks: “Hey! You wanna see something really scary?” He convinces the driver to pull the car to the side of the road. The driver, amused, says, “OK. Scare me.”

Fairly soon, we realize that the passenger isn’t what he seems. Then we realize he was never actually scared by the driver’s antics. Just after that, we might begin to wonder if the driver’s fate was precipitated by his own petty actions. I mean, would they have even been playing the “do you wanna see something scary” game if the driver hadn’t started it?[3]

This is the nature of the American horror genre. I’m teaching American Literature since the Civil War and doing it from the lens of various horror genres. And it’s not all Stephen King and Richard Matheson.[4] We start with Mark Twain, wind our way around Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Truman Capote, and end up around Octavia Butler.[5]

I discovered as I was preparing for class that even though I warned my students we were “going to read some pretty scary stuff,” I generally find that what we are reading is not very scary at all. When I mentioned this to a colleague, he laughed and said, “To you.”

I’m really glad we had that short conversation and I can’t wait to thank him for making what was probably an off-hand comment. You see, he reminded me something about myself: I don’t scare as easily as some.

That’s not no big deal. Some folks frighten as easily as children, creating a boogadie whose shadow projects not just under the bed and in the closet—but into every crease and crevice of their lives.

By Rachel Greene

It’s funny. You see, historically, the boogeyman is an invention made by adults to keep children in line, to make them complacent, compliant, and tractable.

I guess what I’m saying is that some people scare themselves silly and then spread their fear to others to keep them towing the line. Powerlessness[6] makes people feel the need to control others. Often that control is exacted in the guise of “protection.”[7] If it takes creating a boogadie to get everybody on the same page and keep them there, they’ll do that too.

Allow me a brief aside?—At the time I first wrote this, I was vicariously traumatized and needed to vent.  I’d heard the most harrowing tale of something that just happened to a darling friend. And, like James’ “turn of the screw” it’s all the worse because there was a child involved. What the real world has to offer is far more terrifying  than anything we can invent from a cauldron of creatures—even those controlled by “evil witches.” Petty menaces are paltry in the light of true human terror.

Fairy tales, you likely know, were originally created for adults to express complex psychological conundrums. And then, around the Victorian Era, were used to teach children about the perils of life: don’t get mislead by wolves, don’t let the aging hag become jealous of your endowments and talents—she will hunt you down relentlessly, do kiss frogs, do be a diligent worker, do be true to your word.

However, fairy tales maintained a level of violence and cruelty that has kept psychologists engrossed in their study for generations. For instance, some German stories are especially terrifying, most notably the Struwwelpeter collection which features a tailor who shears off a boy’s thumbs to prevent him from sucking them; a rabbit, who, tired of being hunted, becomes the hunter himself (kinda like he’s saying to the hunter, “Do you wanna see something really scary?”); and a girl who won’t learn not to play with matches until she has entirely immolated herself (to the chagrin of two kittens).

Today we think that scaring kids with stories of a boogeyman is anemic at best. Right?

I mean, right??

But, then again, that’s me. And we’ve already discussed how I don’t scare easily.

Some magical folk resort to outlandish tales of boogadies that are out to get segments of our community. I see posts about “I think there’s some bad juju lodged against me!”[8] Or “So-and-so is trying to take me down!”

Well, all I can say is, “For pete’s sake. Then deal with it. Measure out some protection.” Best way to fight the oncoming threat is to take it down. Don’t they say the best offence is a good defense? Perhaps the best defense is an even better offence. Don’t just stand there and say, “Poor me. I’m being bull-rushed.” Grab the bull by the horns and ride. Unless, of course, you are afraid and unless of course you really don’t have any defenses. Then, well, hunkering down and hiding out of view is a respectable option.

As for me, I don’t use scary stories to control my—wait, hang on.

I don’t think of the adults in my life as children and I don’t refer to teenagers as defenseless—so that’s kinda a moot point.

Let me start again. Rather than scaring the people in my magical tutelage into complying with my worldview—or whatever—I invite them to explore, ask questions, meet others in the community. Nothing breeds fear like isolation. Be strong—widen your proverbial gene pool (better immunity and all).

Because one day when someone comes to my students and suggests that something might be menacing, I want them to be able to say, “It’s not s’bad”—especially if the retort becomes, “To you.”

Wæs þu hæl!


[1] English version: “The spectacles upon her [the rabbit’s] face; / And now she’s trying all she can / To shoot the sleepy, green-coat man [the hunter].”

[2] A movie about “an angry man. . . who carries on his shoulder a chip the size of the National Debt . . . a sour man, a lonely man . . . whose own blind hatred [catapults] him into the darkest corner of the Twilight Zone,“ about some folks who realize that growing old gracefully is better than perpetual youth, about a kid whose vengeful imagination manipulates and terrifies all of those around him, and about a man who sees what he knows is a dangerous monster—yet cannot convince anyone else that the threat is real.

[3] As a wise young woman likes to point out, “If you poke the bear, expect to get your face eaten off.”

[4] Who, it just happens, wrote “Terror at 20,000 Feet,” the fourth vignette in Twilight Zone starring John Lithgow—the original episode starred William Shatner.

[5] You’ll be glad to know Lovecraft makes an early appearance. I use Lovecraft to talk about the “dark epiphany” that befalls his characters. The dark epiphany, as we call it, is when a character wants to know the truth but once they learn it, the truth ends up being the worst possible of all realities.

[6] This is not intended to be judgmental. People feel powerless to the elements, to fate, to time and disease. Ancient people as much as modern people.

[7] Of course we aren’t talking about real parenting—parents need to really protect their children. Sometimes to their own demise. I can’t think of one parent who would not throw themselves on a sword to protect their bairn.

Every once in a while, children need to be protected from their parents. But that is a conversation for another day. What we are talking about here is adults who teat other adults like children in order to control and manipulate them.

[8] Fortunately I have also recently seen the likes of—“Yeah, all this is happening to me. Don’t go starting a witch hunt. It’s just the plumbing, y’all.”

PBP Weeks 20: J – Jotunar: Skadi

HBO’s rendition of GRRM’s frost giants who live “beyond the wall” with the Wildings or Free Folk of the North, descended from The First Men—sounds about right

Mytho-historically, a jotun is a giant member of the primordial inhabitants of Jotunheim the “outer” realm of Middangeard, our homeland, also called Manna-Heim or “Home of Man.” Middangeard itself was created from the body of the giant Aurgelmir (Ymir). Sometimes called “frost giants,” a cognate of Jontun is Ettin (OE Eoten). In PIE, this is also from where “eat” derives.

Curious.

Fei-fie-foe-fum.

In myth, the jotunar are often imagined as antithetical to the ēse, the Æsir and Vanir of the Norse.

But sometimes the relationships were more amicable. For instance, Skadi (aka Skade), bowhuntress, skiier, winter-goddess, and mountain-goddess.

She is the daughter of Thjazi, who shapeshifted into a giant bird and separated Idunna from her golden apple tree. (I think that’s my favorite story. Mmmmm, chaos and apples.)

For his crimes, Thjazi was executed and his wereguild paid—in part—by a union between Skadi and Njörðr, Vanic father of twins Freyr and Freyja. That didn’t end well. Later, in Heimskringla, we learn that Odin was a much better match for the giantess.

Idunna distributing the apples of immortality to the Aesir

Likewise, Loki, the one who put Thjazi up to abducting Idunna, comes from Jotunheim. Ah, Loki—he gets such a bad rap. As our trickster, it is his pranks that cause critical thinking, problem solving, progress.  Without someone to goad us from time to time, we stagnate. (See also this 1992 article,  “Utgard: The role of the Jotnar in the Religion of the North,” by Diana Paxson @hrafnar.)

Love this–by Nick Robles: http://narobles.blogspot.com/

After all, Mimir’s well of wisdom is in Jotunheim; if it were easier to access, everyone would have such wisdom.

The Poetic Edda: Grímnismál

Skadi is one of the protectresses of our hof and hearth. In our tradition, we honor life as well as death, creation as well as destruction, love-and-light as well as what-lies-beyond. We don’t consider this “black magic” or dark anything. I mean, the Initiator created the night as well as the day—and tomorrow we will get an equal helping of both.

This is sacred.

Like the mountains separating Middangeard from Utgard, Skadi, mountain-goddess, helps up maintain the borders between the ordered and the chaotic.

Until Later, Waes tu hael,

~E

pbp4

This post is part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Project, “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing your spiritual and magickal path. . . . Each week there is a specific prompt for you to work with in writing your post, a prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet . . . .” (http://paganblogproject/)

Spaghetti Magic

IntoTheWoodsWitch

There is this scene from Into the Woods, particularly the Broadway version with Bernadette Peters, that never fails to crack me the feck up. I recently had the pleasure of seeing the play performed by a very talented troupe of teens in my community–among them, my hilarious son.[1] So, I know the scene is funny in other venues. And it’s no surprise, I mean Into the Woods is the ultimate metaphor for life: be careful what you wish for lest a witch come out of you past and grant it.

The scene in question is where Rapunzel and the prince think they are about to be punished by the witch for having found prosperity and familial bliss outside of her clutches. The witch rears back her magic staff and throws all her force at the couple and their newborn bairn.

And, “fizzle.” Nothing. Nope. Nada.

You see, the witch, in an act of obscene vanity, thought she could cast a spell on herself to retain her youth–which she did, I mean it’s Bernadette Peters–but she didn’t realize she’d have to “pay” for her rashness with her powers. So when she rears back and all goes to fizzle, Rapunzel and the prince do a couple of body checks and then laugh it off.[2] So does the audience. The witch is powerless. Not because if her beauty but because of her vanity.

Do me a favor and hold that thought.

That’s Lily Tyler from memories of 80s flicks and a mini-Skarsgård, brother to Eric Northman of True Blood and Floki from Vikings.

Some of you know I started watching Hemlock Grove. Well, I don’t quite get it yet, but there is a genetics testing lab whose director? chairman? oddly calm psychopathic scientist? calls their more outrageous ventures “spaghetti projects” on account o’ they throw a bunch of stuff at a wall “to see what sticks.”[3] Needless to say, some of their experiments don’t stick.

Hold that thought.

I’m in the crossfire of a brouhaha that ain’t none of my business right now. I’m taking the blame for shite I didn’t touch. I mean, I knew about it but that’s not the same as having a hand in it.

I called my friend Maman Lee to get some advice. Seems she already saw what was brewing—warned me that “it’s been hired out” but that, since it wasn’t Justified, there would be complications for the offending party. Then she talked me through a couple of magical recipes and processes and gave me some damn-fine advice. (Thanks again—you were as right as, um, rain.) Advice which I am following to the letter.

You see, Maman Lee is a my old mentor’s friend and a root worker. Last summer when all hell broke loose around here, Bertie sent me to Maman Lee for a little teachin’-up. She is a hard-core traditionalist and doesn’t deviate from the plan, not one iota. The rule is, if she’s gonna guide me, I can’t either. Done deal. I’m not in a position to try throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. I’ve seen all kinds of havoc reign when witches start shooting from the hip, playing by ear, going off script. Now, as a natural chaote, I have no problem with mixing it up and being all creative and shite. But sometimes, rules are NOT made to be broken. This is one such case.

Speaking of last year, funny thing—and by funny, I mean kinda terrifying—is that last year when the same thing happened, my eldest (one who does not follow the same religion as the rest of the family and, more importantly, one who committed some rather egregious childhood treacheries[4]) bore the brunt of the attack.[5] It was *her* favorite chicken that was killed by the dogs (not ritually sacrificed as is the town gossip). It was *her* prize jumper-pony who was maimed beyond repair. It has been *her* life that has been devastated over the past eleven months.[6] This year, more of the same.

My hope is that she will come back to family religious values sooner rather than later. Strange how labeling herself “Christian Republican” is her act of defiance. Oh, you rebel! Anyway. If this is what it takes to get her head in the right place, I’ll have to grin and bear it. Because, in the end–that is my wish. Witchcraft is generational with us–I want to keep it that way. Even if an old witch, territorial over her greens, has to come along and grant that wish in the most round-about way possible.

Here’s what happened.

I had a very oogy feeling yesterday. But before I could do much about it, my household wards were in shattered pieces on the floor. That is not a metaphor—or an exaggeration. It’s my own fault. I suspected that (unjustified) incoming missiles were on radar, but was too busy (or too cocky) to make time to batten down the hatches. I knew that tonight was Walpurgisnacht and that I had plans to make good on a sacred oath—thought I’d take care of it all at once. As m’daddy would say, “Might ought’a not’a done that.” By 9:00 AM the AC was out. By noon, the dishwasher was leaking and the washing machine wasn’t draining. By lunch, I discovered an ant infestation. By nightfall, half the power was out in my house due to a “fused” circuit.

It was a hectic evening; but just like last summer, I got the long end of the stick. The house could have burned to the ground, but it didn’t. I’ll deal with extension cords for two days instead of an inferno—no problem. My insurance covers everything that busted and I get new or like-new appliances. And ants are no big thing.[7] My daughter on the other hand. . . not so much.[8] While Husband, Son, Youngest, and I are all doing body-checks like Rapunzel and the Prince, noting that nothing happened to us, we also note that Eldest didn’t get off so easy. The power-surge fried her PC just days before senior AP exams. She’ll have to do her work at the library, away from home. She still has no power in her room and won’t until an electrician can arrive. The AC that busted? Only cools her “side” of the house. (Yes, she has a “side.”) Fortunately it’s cool enough for open windows today, because day-old bunny poop stanks. And, fortunately, that’s insured too. The AC, not the bunny poop.

It’s hard to watch my kid go through all this but I have to realize that she is technically an adult now and this is all part of her wyrd. Even our children have to pay the price of their decisions. In the meantime, all I can do is what I can do. Be a good mama and raise the fiery shields to keep any more unwarranted poo-poo from flying in her precious face. Coz it seems like poorly thrown-spaghetti magic out there this week.

Glad there’s a storm a’brewin’ to clear the air.

Beltane/Beltaine/Walpurgisnacht blessings to you all. Turn the wheel, I’m ready.
Wæs Þu hæl!
~E


[1] Rapunzel was played by a former-friend’s neighbor with whom I’ve renewed contact. That’s a twisted story which I’d love to tell you some day.

Kids from my town. Ain’t they cute?

[2] Here’s a poorly made video of the scene starring Vanessa Williams as The Witch.

[3] It was only a few months ago that my eldest learned that one could throw spaghetti at walls. It was then that she started to offer to cook pasta dinners for us quite regularly.

[4] But only because she was vulnerable to someone low enough to manipulate a child’s emotions.

[5] I don’t tend to cry “magical intervention,” but I will call this run of bad luck an attack since it has been confirmed that—whether or not it is true—someone took credit—actually took credit—openly and gloatingly—for having magically terrorized my household.

[6] Eldest pointed this out to me—I didn’t have the heart to tell her that someone may have done this to her on purpose. Whether they actually *did* or not—they were gleeful that her young life was in ruins. Bad witches are children eaters, indeed.

I may have to tell her this year. Not that she hasn’t already figured it out.

[8] So, good job! You attacked an eighteen-year-old that you swore that you loved and would always protect. Well done!

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.

Little Blessings

Here’s a shout out to Colin who said he couldn’t wait for my blog to be all kittens all the time.

I mean, it is the internet.

This has little or nothing to do with seidr or magic or witchcraft, sort of. On the other hand it has everything to do with it.

A few weeks ago my husband conceded that, “We need another cat.” We have a 15 year old angora that is not up for playing with our thrice-her-weight 2 year old tuxedo. We agreed that we would adopt one from the shelter this spring when they tend to be overrun with behbehs. We agreed that it should look like it was going to be big like the boy we have now. We agreed that we both liked tuxedos, so we might prefer another black and white kitteh. And we agreed that it had to be a boy. Had to.

And the universe said, “Heh, heh. Watch this.”

A few weeks ago, one of my magic students announced that she had her first cat. Well, her roommate did. Not long after, they started rescuing a litter of kittens at their apartment complex. They kept one and gave me another.

Get this–she gave it to me on a day when our lesson had a little something to do with familiars. Eight days ago.

Behbeh-kitteh is a tiny little mackerel tabby (M on the forehead and everything). And by tiny, I mean she is a runt. She is about half the size of her littermates. At five weeks (according to my vet) she still fits in the palm of my hand. And I has small hands. Her paws are minuscule, so she’ll likely never be very big at all. And notice the “s” in my gendered pronoun. “She” is a she.

Here’s the fun part. Old-lady cat? She has taken to being the mama in a way she never did with Boy-cat. She likes to nap with Behbeh and then groom her–which is good because Behbeh still smells funky. Boy-cat is leaving Old-lady cat alone and plays with Behbeh-cat. This pleases everyone. Especially Old-lady cat. He plays rough too. But I caught him–sneaky thing. He lets Behbeh grapple all over him and then tackles her–with his claws completely sheathed and his mouth wide open, never biting down. He lets her think she’s winning. In the end, he is very protective. I missed the vet visit (Eldest took care of that while I was at the Imbolc gathering–my vet makes housecalls) but I hear it was priceless. Apparently Boy-cat was very concerned at the sounds of distress Behbeh-cat was making during shot-time. Don’t get me wrong, my vet is gentle–Behbeh-cat is a Durahh-mah Queen!

I never would have thunk it, but this tiny little not-even-two-pounds-worth-of-adorableness may have saved me a little. At a time where I was stressed out beyond my normal self, she came along and said, “Snuggle.” And she will not be denied. Then there are the joyfully unexpected boughts of belly laughter that accompany her antics. She can jump, but climbing is sooooo much more fun. Oh, and my kids had to perform a little deep spring cleaning to kitteh-proof and un-kitteh-first-day-accident their bedrooms. And that is no where near the neighborhood of “bad thing.”

Mickey, thanks for saving her life and for bringing this little bit of sparkle into mine.

So, yea. It is about magic after all.

Waes hael,

Ehsha