Etsy shop update! At last!

It’s been a long time since I made any substantial updates to the Etsy shop. Finally, I have nine new tiny necklaces listed and tomorrow eight new altar cloths/tarot spread cloths will go live. Click on the pictures to be taken to the listing.

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I’ve made these to fit your very favorite deity statues; the lobster clasp lets you easily place and remove the jewelry even around awkward swords and other pointy bits. They look really beautiful and make lovely offerings or just tokens of affection.

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The necklaces with two strands (like those in the above pictures) are made on a slightly smaller scale and are great for smaller figures and figures made on a detailed scale. The single strand necklaces (like the one below) are great for larger statues and those made on an overall bigger scale.

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These are just $7 each (+shipping). I’ll be adding more as soon as I have some new beading wire to work with – and time to make some! If you’ll be attending Many Gods West in Olympia, WA I’m hoping to have a few available for sale in the vendor’s room. Even if I don’t have any, do catch up with me and say hi.

Desire, self, and the edge of the Gods

My current study is propelled by several driving questions, especially regarding the nature of the human self in relation to divinity and the metamorphosis that occurs as these two points gain and sustain proximity.

One matter that never sat quite comfortably with me was the hardline stance that (modern, Western) polytheism posited an irreducibly discrete nature of divinities. While I do consider myself a hard polytheist, I use this term to describe how I think and how I organize experience rather than how I believe the gods to be (or how I secretly wish they were). My experience tells me that regarding the Powers as separate and particular individuals is an effective way to exercise good religious hospitality and it helps clarify the organization of my various relationships. However, I find it difficult and perhaps even impossible to tell the gods what they are. Maybe it’s just because I run with world-breakers and mischief-makers but sometimes it happens that a Power rather overflows its boundaries and starts to get more or less muddled with its neighbors. It has happened only infrequently with me but this muddling of categorical identities has caused no end of problems for other worshipers. (It’d be inaccurate to say that my experiences of this blurring hasn’t been confusing or anxious-making but I’ve perhaps experienced less distress as a result from spending a lot of time in traditions with a more or less laissez-faire approach to discrete divine identities.)

My concern regarding the stance outlined above is what it implies about the experience of ecstatic union and the desire for transcendent union. Can multiple parties whose natures are irreducibly separate ever achieve a satisfactorily unified state? Granted, the basic thrust of “hard” polytheism doesn’t have anything to say about religious goals (of which transcendent unity might be one), but for those polytheists who seek or desire unitive experiences, is there a basic philosophical tenant arguing against us?

(One simple way of answering this question is to say that ecstatic and transcendent union is a gift the Powers grant us as a matter of grace – of presence freely given. This might certainly be an accurate answer as far as it goes but it’s not one that I find completely satisfying.) Jubilee and Munin, Ravens, Tower of London 2016-04-30

In contemplating these questions and in studying materials written by more informed people than myself, I came across a passage explaining that difference itself was the engine of unity. The (dated and heterosexist) example given in the text was that just as the differences between men and women made it possible for union, so the differences between divinity and humanity made it possible for union. I’d rephrase this example as “the differences between self and other” if I wanted to continue to leverage this metaphor, but like all metaphors its instructive and illustrative nature breaks down and becomes silly pretty quickly. The point is that discrete categories can fit together *because* they are different.

The nature of the differences between divinity and humanity also begs clarification. What exactly is different about us? If we are irreducible individuals, as the basic stance of polytheism outlines, what characterizes each category – and indeed, should the basic unit be the individual and not the category of being? (That is, should be speak of gods as individuals instead of as a collective community comprised of individuals?) Regarding these questions I got nuthin’ – but difference may still be an engine driving us towards unifying experiences.

What hides under the desire for unity that seems to press Powers and people together? It might be that we wish very strongly to see reality from a new perspective, but my own experiences with this particular desire are much less articulate. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any words in there past, “You; you; I want you.”

Some philosophic schools hold that a unified state in which all distinctions are dissolved is unsatisfying and not ultimately what’s sought. They hold that distinction allows for pleasure, and that even though all things known and unknown fundamentally have their base in a shared substance, distinction is inherent within this foundation of being and exists as a mysterious property of reality. Other schools hold that that this property is not so very mysterious after all and that distinction is chosen by the soul on some level in order to experience the giving and receiving of sacred pleasure. Still other schools think that aspiring even after these high levels is ultimately wishing for a type of bondage and point out that all beings desire freedom most of all.

While I think that the idea that distinction is a mysterious property contained within undifferentiated reality is a rather nifty explanation and one that has a pleasantly mystical quality to it, it’s not really one that’s been floated in (modern, Western) polytheist circles – and it if was, we’d all get accused of (gasp) monism. (I personally find the second explanation – about distinction arising from a soul-deep desire to give and receive joyful pleasure – to be emotionally satisfying but that’s because I’m a Tantric and therefore just a monist with a funny hat.) At any rate, neither of the three explanations outlined just above really have a great deal to do with broader (modern, Western) polytheism even if one tradition or another might have their own take on this question. (After all, we’re all still very concerned about whether or not Loki gets honored in worship rituals; we haven’t gotten around to worrying about matters of transcendent unity and its implications for our polytheist identities, practices, and relationships.) Anfiteatro, El Jem, Túnez, 2016-09-04, DD 41-43 HDR

The idea of difference driving the desire for unity is helpful, I think, and perhaps especially relevant to devotional polytheists seeking to understand the weird things that happen as a result of prolonged exposure to various Powers. Of course, some desires change and this changeable quality draws attention to other nuances of a discrete identity. If one knows oneself in part via desire for another, what happens to that self-knowledge when the desired other changes in some way? This is an unsurprising source of anxiety that comes up when the Power one is close to begins to get muddled or otherwise shift.

In some ways, I wonder if this shifting isn’t something of a cosmic challenge. After all, we are subject to changeable desires every day, every hour even. These changeable lusts and loves and wants rarely disrupt our sense of self, but the kind of desire felt regarding the Powers is quite different – or at least, that might be what we are called on to demonstrate. Can you keep loving as shit gets weird? Can you love yourself through a reinvention of the Beloved? Can you love yourself through a reinvention of yourself?

Sometimes it’s the self that changes and must rediscover the thread of this ongoing desire; sometimes it’s the apparent object that changes and the self must trust the presence of that thread. One can work towards these deeper realizations from either end, triggering changes in the self or changes in (the perception of) the object. And of course, the Powers themselves may choose to change in order to bring us to new levels of knowledge.

Beyond love

There is a post I keep trying to write and it never quite comes together. We’ll see how far this one gets.

There are emotional horizons beyond that of love. As deep, broad, and intense as sacred love is there are things that lie on its other side. And there are things beyond that still – or so I trust.

Extreme sensations, no matter how sweet or pleasurable turn into pain eventually and when there is no relief  or culmination or resolution all that pain turns into a kind of drawn out grief. No one talks to us about love so intense and outsized that it becomes its own source of tragedy.

I write so little about Him here that people actually don’t realize that He’s my primary focus in life. It is much, much easier to write about other topics and those are what people gradually know me best for talking about.

I’ve spent the last several years lost in medieval Indian love poetry because I have no source of emotional refuge closer to home. My religious leaders certainly didn’t talk about what happens after love.

The thing is, I don’t know how to cope with or manage this experience. It is drawn out like hot wire, fine and burning and bright and dangerous to hold. What do you do with this kind of emotion? My only response has been to melt and wave after wave of sentiment surges out and I cry all the time.

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One of the people I rely on for instruction (I wish I could remember specifically who) said that there’s a good reason people are so wary of religious life. When you shack up with a path you might very well find your life going to shit before very long – and yeah, it’s not too inaccurate to say that religion is the source of the problem. See, when you suddenly rearrange your priorities in a way that will always leave you fundamentally disappointed and frustrated, you will always find life and lived experiences somewhat lacking. For instance, if your religious worldview includes charity as a priority and you go through each and every day surrounded by greed and selfishness, you will naturally end up disappointed and frustrated. If your religious worldview prioritizes a view of humanity as fundamentally connected and interdependent and you see nothing by people talking about how we don’t have to care for one another, you will naturally end up disappointed and frustrated.

The problem isn’t religion as such – and in fact, since this is an entirely natural outcome of religious engagement, I’m not sure it can be considered a problem at all. The difficulty arises from being forced to exist in contexts where our highest goals will be impossible to achieve or realize – and this, perhaps, is the entire point. Trying to force consensus reality to conform to a present, private understanding of a religious paradigm is misguided at best and abusive at worst.

Being in a context suffused with tension between desire and resolution, interior reality and exterior reality, is intensely painful and we have a choice regarding how to deal with this pain. We can lash out and harm others as they inevitably fail to live up to our private ideals; telling others that they aren’t pious enough, aren’t devoted enough, aren’t pure enough, aren’t driven enough, aren’t educated enough, aren’t committed enough, etc. etc. doesn’t actually inspire many people to adopt a religious worldview and certainly doesn’t further the resolution of one’s private desires. Others’ “failure” to conform to our private priorities isn’t a flaw in the system. It’s a feature; a lesson; an opportunity to shut up and recognize that everyone is currently suffering or will eventually suffer from the same failure to resolve the tension between private desire and consensus reality.

What I’m saying is that we can choose to learn from this tension, this “problem” or we can hurt ourselves and others with it.

I struggle with this. I prioritize the sacred relationships in my life and feel them with such intensity that I can have little patience for the small, nuanced, and delicate ways that interpersonal ties are formed and sustained. I am not always a very good friend. I am not always very patient with the ways interpersonal ties are expressed. I have failed to be compassionate and patient and without doubt I will continue to fail.

This failure isn’t a flaw; the flaw exists only in me demanding that all other versions of reality conform to my interior priorities. It doesn’t mean that I’m wrong or bad, merely that I still have much to learn.

I don’t feel like this love lives in me; I feel like I live in it, moving through it like a cloud or bank of fog every day. This outsized love is painful enough that it feels like a flaw, like a problem, like a burden – but just because it feels this way doesn’t mean it is.

My life has been ruined by religion. I’ve been shredded to pieces and beaten down until I don’t recognize the person I was or am or might someday be. The little markers that gave me gravity and a place to sit are long gone and I have no idea where I fit or where I belong. I have loved long past the point of pain and I don’t know how to stop. I thought about stopping and even tried for a while but found that the world of dry and empty and bland. I don’t know precisely how to channel this intensity or how to find relief; nothing seems to fix it for long.

“My ruination,” I call Him.

And yet I persist – not out of any nobility of purpose but only because I don’t know how to stop.

Still here

I’m still here. The amount of catch-up I have do to with this blog is a bit overwhelming so I’m avoiding it. Every so often I think about an entry I could write and I might even sit down and write out several paragraphs but I leave off before it’s finished and it ends up just languishing in my queue.

I’m working on May’s Patreon perk. It might be a sample from current work on the Heartroad 2 manuscript or it might be another printable. I’ve been working on printable altar backdrops and one is currently available on Etsy.

I’m also busy sewing for a few clients, so I haven’t had time to get back to making more altar cloths. I really like making them but finding fabric isn’t always convenient.

I’m busy studying in preparation of my presentation at Many Gods West. I’ll be revisiting the well-received session on three lady poet-saints and I’m very excited. I’m deep into a book examining Mirabai’s cultural legacy. I’ll also be doing the Advancing Devotional Practice session that I’ve presented at PantheaCon. This session was done at February’s PCon and it was amazing. I’m sure the conversation stimulated at MGW will be just as illuminating.

In addition to may paid sewing work I’ve been volunteering to outfit deities at a few different temples, two local and one distant. This work is a wonderful test of my abilities and gives me wonderful opportunity to learn some very unique skills along the way. It’s work of spiritual excellence as much as it is of technical and artistic excellence; I feel immensely grateful and humble to have these opportunities and it’s truly wonderful to be able to give back to communities that have been so gracious and welcoming to me.

I’m very much enjoying getting back to doing divination for clients. Each reading I do is a chance to become better and I’m hoping to find time to study more in-depth sometime later this year. Even though I’ve been reading professionally for 17 years I still feel like I have lots to learn.

Thanks for sticking with me. I have so many, many projects I want to work on. I’ve chosen to re-do the recordings of the audio book for Worshiping Loki so that project is a bit on hold. I’m writing an outline of another audio project. I’ll record it eventually. I keep wanting to quit one of my jobs so that I’ll have time to actually do these things but as it is I can’t afford to. I’m still hoping to find new employment that will increase my earning so that I can decrease my working hours in order to focus on art but nothing’s come through. Anyway, thanks again.

Issue fixed – I hope!

Someone just brought to my attention that the contact form on my Divination Services page was not sending me messages like it’s supposed to. I’ve redone the form and tested it out; everything seems to be OK now but it could have been broken for around 2 weeks at this point.

If anyone else has been trying to reach me to request a reading, I apologize for not responding. I simply wasn’t getting the messages and I have no idea where they ended up. It’ll take some digging to solve that mystery. In the meantime, please let me know if you sent a divination request to me and haven’t heard back. I’m definitely not ignoring you; I just never got your message!

In the meantime – well, clearly I’m not blogging very much. I’m currently working on a new batch of altar cloths for the Etsy shop as well as art projects for Patreon supporters and the general public. I’m also busy brushing up my knowledge base for presenting at Many Gods West in Olympia, WA in August, and I’m using any leftover time to work on Heartroad 2. So that’s what I’m doing while not blogging. Sorry to be so very absent; I’m around, just not very vocal here. You can look for the April release of Loki’s virtual temple tomorrow (Patreon supporters got it early!); I did something a little different to celebrate one year of worship videos for Mother Loki. What an amazing year it’s been.

New $3 level on Patreon!

I’m happy to let you know that I’ve just added a $3 level on my Patreon. This will give you access to a work-in-progress preview that’s just a bit smaller than the previews shared at the $5 level. I know that $5/month is not something that everyone can afford and I’d like to give people the freedom to move up (or down) the levels as it’s comfortable.

I know I say it frequently but the support I’ve received on Patreon, through my blog, and in person has really kept me focused on producing more work. So much of what I’ve done in the past year – and more! – has been directly due to people being enthusiastic about my work. I would never have issued Walking the Heartroad on Kindle if someone hadn’t prodded me about it. I would never have written Worshiping Loki if someone hadn’t asked for just such a book. I would never have set up a Patreon with monthly productivity goals if someone (namely Jolene, cough) hadn’t poked me until I made it happen. I love writing, teaching, and making art and there’s no question that I’ll keep doing it – but Heartroad 2 has more than doubled in size BECAUSE OF YOUR SUPPORT over the last seven months. It took me about two years to get it to that size in the first place and YOU made it grow. That’s really amazing to me and I hope it’s pretty darn cool to you, too.

Thanks a lot for everything. Really.img_19021

April 1st is coming up and I would like to do a nice video release of Loki’s virtual temple video to celebrate one year of his incredible project. I’ll be getting paid tomorrow so I’ll have a few dollars to play with. I hope to have the video made and ready for my $10+ supporters before the first, which is when I’d like to release it to the general public. Watch for that announcement here!

 

Equinox divination services

If you’re new to this blog – or if you missed my announcement a while back – I offer professional divination services online. I’ve been a professional reader for 17 years working primarily with tarot and oracle cards. I read on a variety of topics from money matters and romance to spirit work and sacred luck.

Now that the Northern Hemisphere has fully moved into spring, many people (including myself!) are making plans for the seasons ahead. My current divination schedule is quite open and I would love to read for you. Just fill out the form on my Divination Services page to get started.

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By “Junonia almana-Kadavoor-2016-07-11-002” © 2016 Jee & Rani Nature Photography is used here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51002022