life

Who You Are in the Dark.

With everything that’s happened lately, I can’t really bring myself to post another update of the recent non-events of my life.

The most galling part is that it’s probably not that likely that police-on-civilian murder is actually on the rise — it’s just seen. With police forces allowed to self-regulate for so long with virtually no accountability, it really seems like the only reason that the Minneapolis police department responded by actually firing the officers involved and charging one with the murder of George Floyd is because the public’s eyes were on them, and irrefutable proof was spread far and wide.
Just look at all of the cops who get put on “administrative leave” instead.
Look at all of the “good cops” that look the other way when the “bad cops” go rabid.

Or, for a related example, look at the Glynn County Police Department’s complete non-response to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. It was only when the video went viral that anything was done. Look at the cops macing literal children.

I’m torn about providing links here.
On one hand, if you don’t know these specific cases, a link would be helpful. On the other, it’s all searchable, and I feel profoundly weird about possibly directing people to images of the victims’ suffering. Not because they’re disturbing (they should be disturbing) but I have feelings about dignity in death and it should be enough to know it happened without seeing it. I don’t know. I’m rambling. Google at your own risk.

Property is replaceable. People aren’t. None of the victims did things that were punishable by death, and I support any community that protests in response. It’s obvious that waiting for the people in charge to do the right thing achieves nothing. Nonviolence is a very specific protest strategy — when it doesn’t work, it’s time to abandon it.

Who you are in the dark, where no one can see your good or bad deeds, is who you are. Choosing to do the right thing because there are witnesses, or a viral video, or you might get fired or jailed, or you fear some kind of eternal damnation or other divine retribution, doesn’t make you a good person. It makes you an amoral coward.

I don’t really know what else to say. If you’re in a position to help, there’s a GoFundMe set up to benefit George Floyd’s family and cover his funeral expenses, another to cover legal aid for Minnesota protesters, and a list of local bail funds to help protesters in your city or state. If you are planning to attend a protest, please do so safely and responsibly, learn how to help in a medical situation, and keep an eye out for shit-stirrers. Even if you can’t donate or protest in person, there’s a list of anti-racism resources with other things everyone can do for a more just world.

Believe people when they tell you they’re suffering.

Neodruidry, life, Witchcraft, divination

The Accidental Journey

When I was little, I loved to sleep. I still do, to be honest.

At least, the adults around me thought it was sleep. I wasn’t really sure what it was. While hypersomnia has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, sleeping was never really just a means to an end.

I didn’t really have any privacy growing up, I didn’t have my own bedroom until I moved out — if I didn’t have to share it with my brother, I had to share it with my mother. You couldn’t even get five minutes in the bathroom without someone either banging on the door or just barging in. But the time and space behind my eyelids was mine.

When I was little, I learned the patterns my brain followed when it started its spiral into sleep. As soon as my thoughts turned into free-association nonsense, I learned to tweak them just enough to influence my dreams. If I timed it just right, I could dream lucidly, or, if nothing else, have dreams that were vividly beautiful and meaningful to me.

Sometimes, I wouldn’t be tired enough to descend into sleep. I experimented with ways to make myself dream — slowing my breathing, blinking my eyes in certain patterns, listening to certain songs, repeating phrases or disembodied snippets of poetry under my breath.

The first “awake dream” I had shocked and confused me as much as it delighted me. It was brighter and more vivid than the most memorable lucid dream I had, and I still retained a sense of the “real” world around me — I had a sense of awareness in two places at once, and gently ignored the walls around me for the impossibly lush, green gateway ahead. Unlike a dream, I could control my body. Unlike a fantasy, I couldn’t control anything else.

I didn’t know hedge riding, shamanism, or path-walking was a thing yet, I was only eight or nine years old. I kept it to myself, knowing that my experiences would either be dismissed as childish make-believe or decried as somehow demonic.

It was a long time before I learned what it was, and how lucky I’d been. I learned that doing this could be useful for more than just me. I’d spent a lot of time journeying as a scared, angry kid, and was fortunate to find things that (for the most part) were helpful at soothing my hurts and teaching me to avoid the destructive patterns I was being taught. It was because I was able to accidentally find my way there that I was able to find my way into a better life.

I know I was extraordinarily lucky, and things could have gone very wrong if I hadn’t been. Waking, sleeping, or journeying, I’m grateful every day for the way they turned out.

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

Walking the Talk

I had a dream the other night. It was about someone I haven’t seen in years, and virtually never dream about. We were close at one point, but time and circumstance eventually decided otherwise.

In this dream, I was faced with a decision: I wanted to try to take on some of a soul debt that they’d incurred, to make things right again. I kept being told that I couldn’t. It wasn’t mine to take, and nothing I did was actually going to “fix” things.

It’s a bad habit I have. I spent a lot of my childhood trying to manage people’s moods, to keep mommy from getting screamy, or my younger siblings from getting in trouble. I’ve always been sensitive to noises as it is, especially a raised voice or the sound of a slap. Even now, as an adult, the thought drives nails into my brain and twists my stomach into hard, acidic snarls. Like Kiko, who immediately searches for the source of the sound any time she hears a video of a kitten meowing, I tie myself in knots to make all of the bad things stop. While “trying to fix things” seems to be helpful on its face, it’s not a good habit to have. The ability to sit with discomfort and know when not to interfere is a skill worth cultivating.

This is all some very roundabout exposition to justify asking one question: Why do we do what we do?

The person in my dream once called themselves a shaman. There’s a lot of stuff tied up in that one word, many even hesitate to use it because it often comes with a heaping side of appropriated cultural practices. It’s one of those words, like “tattoo,” that is a loan word for a widespread thing. In some cultures shamanism was just called “journeying” or “hedge riding” (much as tattooing was called “pricking” or even “embroidering”) so using a distinct loan word from another culture had appeal. For most people curious about communicating with spirits through altered states of consciousness, it isn’t necessary to turn to appropriated cultural teachings. Your elders know the ways.

This person called themselves a shaman in a tradition where they were an outsider. But why?

Was it the appeal of gaining secret knowledge?
Was it an attempt to adopt something new and “exotic,” like a hermit crab coiling into a painted shell?
Or was it a genuine desire to use these skills to help their community?

Unfortunately, it didn’t end well. They lost friends and loved ones. They were pushed away. In the end, they weren’t any better off than when they started, and neither was their community. Whatever it was that they had sought, they didn’t obtain it.

I know another person who called themselves a green Druid witch. They were a powerful witch, too. But working within the framework they chose came with rules, so they found sly ways to work around them. So why adhere to a tradition to begin with?

Was it to position themselves as an expert?
Was it out of genuine belief and respect?
Was it because they thought it would fill a personal need?

In the end, that didn’t work out so well either.

I’ve also known doctors who seemed to practice more “eminence-based medicine” than anything else, so this isn’t restricted to people in the metaphysical/religious/esoteric community. There is no shortage of people with ulterior motives, even if they don’t realize it themselves.

In the pursuit of any knowledge, self-interrogation is important. Do we seek titles? Recognition? The uncovering of hidden talents? A broader set of skills for interacting with the world? Why do you do what you do?

Know yourself. Know your motivation. Self-deception always leads to loss.

 

divination, life, Plants and Herbs

The Rowan and the Heather

This week, I wanted to dive back into Ogham divination. I’ve been practicing working with a pendulum made of a fallen cypress root, and the set I have is probably the most conducive to using it.

When I first learned pendulum divination as a preteen, I did it a simple way: hanging a ring or pendant from a piece of string into an empty glass, and asking it to show me “yes” and “no.” Usually, an even number of taps on the glass was a “yes,” while an odd one was a “no.” I’ve always enjoyed using pendulums, and I’ve been having a really interesting time devising ways to mix different types of divination together. Driftwood Ogham fews and a wood pendulum seemed a natural match!

I didn’t ask a specific question this time. So far, this set seems pretty good at telling me what I need to know. It isn’t much like tarot or Lenormand, in this respect. It’s less about answering questions than providing a different, more nebulous kind of insight. If Lenormand describes actions and situations, and tarot describes the energies and emotions surrounding those situations, Ogham is another layer entirely.

The pendulum was still over every oval of driftwood, except for two that made it swing in swift, ever-widening circles: Rowan and Heather.

Heather came up for me last week, when I asked specifically about working through some old patterns. These are things that are going to take more than a week to get past, so I’m not surprised to see this friend appear again.

Rowan is Luis. In Ogham divination, it represents protection from every kind of danger — physical, emotional, and spiritual. It’s defense, precaution, and care. Bind two rowan twigs into an equal-armed cross with red thread, and you have a protective charm. This points to either having protection, or needing it. In either case, it’s time to look to the things that make us feel safe.

rowan-berries-in-tetons-4054016_640

Honestly, it reassures me. If Heather points to needing to metaphorically “burn down” old protective patterns so new growth can emerge, Rowan tells me that they aren’t necessary. I am protected, I am safe. I don’t need them. There are healthy behaviors and mechanisms there, better ways to protect myself that don’t involve self-sabotage.

I can keep doing the work without fear, and I’ll be better for it.

 

 

life

Homeschooling, feat. Kuato the Martian Resistance Leader and Gwyneth Paltrow

It’s always a delightful feeling to discover new things about your partner.

Like, for example, the fact that they don’t know anything about Goop and have never seen Total Recall. (Him.) Or that they can’t stand hearing people call machines “pieces of junk” because they feel like it’ll hurt the machine’s feelings. (Me.)

This weekend, I sought to rectify these gaps in his cultural education.

I purposefully didn’t want to watch the 2012 remake, because there’s a heavy-handed charm in the original that I didn’t think would translate. Even when they’re trying to, there’s a ridiculous rubber-alien magic that modern remakes can’t really capture. Besides, I don’t know if Colin Farrell can really nail campy one-liners, you know?

Honestly, I’m kind of surprised by how well Total Recall has aged. All of the parts that look incredibly goofy and narmy were just as goofy and narmy years ago. It was a fun watch that was exactly what it said on the tin: A Schwarzenegger action flick on Mars that was just as Schwarzeneggery as it promised. We snarked. We ate kettle corn. We watched SpaceTrump get his eyeballs inflated by explosive decompression.

And then I led him down a Goop rabbit hole:

“Vagina eggs? What.”

“… That’s a lot of money for vagina eggs.”

“I keep reading the word ‘Goop,’ but it’s not sinking in as the name of an actual company. Goop. Goop.”

“There’s a very big ‘how did we get here’feeling. Like why did anyone think this was cool or a good idea?”

“Oh boy! The Goop Lab! That sounds very trustworthy.”

“Vampire facials! … Oh, your own blood.”

“I feel like these jade eggs are going to be in every article about her. Like they’re the crystal skulls to her Indiana Jones. They’re the common thread that will lead us back to the ancient aliens.”

“Oh, so you cowards aren’t gonna show me the $15k 24 carat gold dildo? You’ll show me the eggs, but not that?”

“Please stop doing that to science.”

In unrelated news, there are more birds in the trees outside my windows, and they’re singing their hearts out. Everything else is quiet around them — there’s no real traffic to shoo them away or drown them out. As much as I hate the reason for it, I love the fact that I can hear their songs like this.

Here’s hoping you’re staying safe, sane, and not succumbing to any cooter egg- or astronaut sticker-related problems.

 

divination, life

The Alder and the Heather

For this week’s divination, I went back to my driftwood Ogham set. I asked the question that, probably unsurprisingly, has been plaguing my mind lately:

How do I heal my self-confidence and get used to self-promotion?

I drew Alder and Heather.

Alder is Fearn, the fourth consonant of the Ogham alphabet. Symbolically, alder is a battle-tree. Magically, it’s said to help us face the things we fear. Alder likes to grow in areas that give it “wet feet” — this creates an association with the liminal space between earth and water, between the logical and the emotional, between the body and the heart. It’s wood is also naturally water-resistant, a useful characteristic for creating structures designed to last underwater! It’s a supportive, protective tree spirit, with strong connotations of defense in battle, whether that’s against others or oneself.

Alder tells us to create strong boundaries and defenses, so we don’t undermine ourselves with negative emotions and self-doubt. Any decisions made right now should be carefully considered, so your emotions don’t lead us to burn the bridges we should be building instead. Seeking guidance from the spiritual realm will be helpful here — the roots of the alder help us resist being eroded by our negative emotions, the way they help the earth resist erosion by the water, but, despite this assurance, it’s a mysterious tree that isn’t always forthcoming with how it’s going to do this.

Nice. I can see it. It matches the tarot reading I received the other night, when I was told that not only am I not self-promoting, I don’t always necessarily make the right decisions when it comes to things of that nature. So… Way to call me out, alder tree!

Next is Heather, Ur, the third vowel of the Ogham alphabet. Symbolically, it’s a plant of contrasts — it’s passion and enthusiasm, and the consequences of both. Magically, it’s said to open portal to the realm of the fae. (And fairies associated with heather are said to be particularly attracted to shy people, to boot.) Burning it brings rain, sleeping on it brings prophetic dreams of good luck, and carrying it is protective. Heather tops can be brewed into alcohol, and heather honey is particularly dark and thick. It’s a flowery, sensual, intoxicating plant.

heather-4783673_640

Unfortunately, heather also doesn’t produce terribly well. At least, not if it isn’t periodically burned to the ground! The word-Ogham kennings refer to cycles of growth, or the earth. It’s said to be connected to death and fate through its connection to the soil (a connection which is somewhat reinforced by its magical use for prophetic dreams).

Drawing Heather is often interpreted as enjoying a sweetness and time of repose, but the lesson here is clear: There’s time for drinking heather beer and eating heather honey, and a time for burning the heather to the ground. There’s a time for sweetness, and a time for death. Don’t worry, though, because the burning of the heather brings it back with renewed vigor.

Taken together, I can see a path emerge. I have behaviors in place that are protective for me, but paralyzing. (If you can’t handle positive attention, hiding most of yourself away is a great way to avoid it!) Alder’s protection can help me weather my own negative emotions. Heather shows me that, while destroying my deep-seated protective mechanisms won’t be pleasant, I’ll grow stronger and better than before if I do it. Doing what feels good, avoiding my fears, needs to be balanced out by burning the whole damn thing to the ground if I want to enjoy the sweetness of new growth.

It’s going to suck, but it’ll be okay.

Now I’ve just gotta make that list my therapist told me to. Sigh.

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

An Bealltainn toilichte!

Hello!

If you celebrate Beltane, I hope yours was a happy one. If not, I hope your May is going well. (Well, all four days of it, anyhow.)

I did a small, low-key ritual at home, to honor the Three Kindred and pray that this year’s metaphorical harvest is good. All of the omens were positive — blessings I really need right now. I had some candles, incense, a parlor palm for a tree, and a tiny bit of honey, beans, and whiskey for offerings. I didn’t have all of the woods to build a sacred fire, but I kindled a tiny one of oak, rowan, and ash twigs. I also didn’t have flowers or much in the way of decorations, but it was enough.

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Someday, I’ll be able to have a proper bonfire outside.

Saturday, I participated in a video call with one of my former teachers, a group of current- and former students, and entertainer Mandy Goodhandy, for tarot readings and cocktails. I had a lot of fun — and not just because it was the first time I’d spoken to someone who wasn’t either my partner or one of my cats in roughly a month.

When my turn came around, I asked a deceptively simple question: What do I have to do to obtain the life I want?

The answer? Learn to self-promote.

I’m, uh…
I’m not great at that.

Let me back up a few minutes. When my turn came around, both Mandy and my former teacher commented on my energy, that I seemed to exude a light. It was incredibly sweet and kind. Also absolutely terror-inducing.

I’m good at accepting compliments in the moment. At the very least, I can keep my idea-meat from short-circuiting long enough to smile and croak out a “thank you.” Inside, however, it’s more like

aaaaaa

spongebob

community

I’ve been working with my therapist about it. It’s slow going.

As you can probably see, this presents certain impediments to promoting myself. I make things, but, when it comes to showing them to other people, I panic. I’ve been taking small steps to try to get over it, but there’s still a huge element of self-sabotage when it comes to trying to attract attention — the one thing guaranteed to make me want to flee in terror.

I can catch a giant spider and let it outside. I can hook a rattlesnake. I can handle a spinal tap. I can take a lot of things in stride.
Just not that.

(Fun fact: When I was a little kid, I used to hide under the stable and cover my ears whenever anyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Though I no longer do this, the desire to has not lessened.)

And so that’s where I am. My therapist has tasked me with writing down good affirmations about myself, and reading them every day. (This is also slow going.) I’m trying to find meditations for boosting confidence. I’ve got a pouch of crystals waiting to be charged for self-esteem. At this point, I’d gulp flower essences by the pitcher if it seemed like it’d help.

I asked Lenormand cards for some guidance. They gave me Bear and Mountain. Stubbornness, and dominating obstacles. No secret tricks here, just doing the thing. Damn it.

Still, there’s no harvest without tilling. (I mean, there is no-till farmin, but work with me here.) There’s no reward without toil. If I want to have the harvest I’ve prayed for, I have to put in the work of… riding the bear up the mountain?
The metaphor’s gotten away from me a little bit, but you probably catch my drift.

From my house to yours, have a good week.