Back into the stream

I’ve had to take a break from my regular practice for the past couple weeks due to sudden and uncontrollable health stuff. One of my prescriptions has always been a little side effect-y and it ramped up pretty dangerously. Whether due to dangerously low sodium levels, neurotoxicity, or throat spiders I started having dizzy spells of increased frequency and severity. I fell down twice. It took a lot of preparation to move twelve steps from the bedroom to the kitchen and often I couldn’t do that much. Getting to various altars, stepping over mess-related obstacles, playing with fire and incense, staying standing for prayers, etc. was simply not manageable. I gave myself a medical leave for the most part. (Though I rather mourn the changing nature of my job description, I don’t miss being hauled out to Work, rain, sleet, or neurotoxicity.)

Finding a care provider on short notice was also unexpectedly difficult but I did finally manage to find someone to provide medication management. There might be a high cost involved but this was one of those situations where waiting 6 weeks for an appointment with another provider was equally dangerous in an entirely different way. I’ve also been trying to get my taxes together and once again I’m outraged and depressed at the high cost of being self-employed. In one way, having a job where I work from home is an immense luxury and privilege; on the other, health stuff/disability prevents me from having the kind of 9 – 5 job that I’d otherwise be able to. (I do have a part time desk job where I play with digital collections at a library but the pay is criminally low and it’s less than part time, so no benefits.) So basically I’ve been rather too sick to stick with my regular practice and rather too busy to let myself feel bad about it.

At the present time I’m focused primarily on building and maintaining connections with several different Powers. Different days of the week are given to Santa Muerte, the Newcomer, the Ancestors, and Hela. I’m also ready to begin (re)connecting with various entities in my neighborhood. Our garden spirit needs some attention, particularly because hir garden will soon be partially paved. The spirits in the green space down the block are quite feral but not terribly fierce. I worry about harm coming to them due to various destructive activities the neighborhood addicts and assholes engaged in (these categories don’t necessarily overlap but destruction nonetheless results).

I want to reconnect with these nearby Powers in large part because I love them and want to experience their proximity and because I’m hoping to engage in a little give-and-receive assistance. I’m concerned about the physical property I live on and what might be happening to it. I’m worried that it’s going to be sold to a party that won’t care for it the way we (the residents) do. I’m worried that the current owner is going to disregard its inherent precious character (like by paving the garden). I’m worried that rising rent is going to force me to move or to adopt an even more restricted lifestyle.

I’m also worried about reckless development, “improvements” made without regard for the wights, human activity that harms and distresses our Good Neighbors, and about their general well-being. I care a great deal for the land spirits, all of them, and for my most immediate neighbors in particular.

Ideally, a relationship with land spirits and related spirits-of-place is one that supports and promotes the interests of all parties. My goal is to create this kind of ideal relationship, or come as close to it as I’m able. Like every other human, I require a lot of help and support; unlike many other humans, I don’t get a lot of this support from other people. Since I’m limited as to what I can do for myself (we all are to one degree or another), I rely on the Powers for aid. Since the Powers are also limited in what they can do, I do my best to cultivate many different mutually beneficial connections. And this is how I imagine my life when I think of how I would most like to live.

I am not separate from the community of spirits. I’m part of their company. We are all different, distinctive entities with our own needs, desires, ambitions, fears, and teleological trajectories. At this time, in this place, we’re all together. We all benefit from aid shared; we all increase through the sharing of resources, effort, and attention. We all grow through increased understanding.

Maybe this all sounds outrageously utopian but you know what? It’s entirely possible. I’ve achieved this kind of community building with spirits and Powers before. It’s not actually that difficult. Sure, you’ll find locations with really pissed off land spirits that want nothing to do with humanity, but you’ll also find wights who are quite interested in forming beneficial connections with us. After all, you’ll find plenty of people who are disdainful of humanity, dismissive of suffering, unwilling to share, angry at the prospect of helping or providing for others, and resentful at any trend towards equity. You’ll also find people who are very willing to engage in sharing and a dialogue towards understanding, compassion, empathy, and aid. Spirits, like people, have to be met where they are, on their own terms. I look forward to this work and I am humbled by its magnitude.

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Why We Need Love Goddesses

I’ve said plenty of times that the deities in my life are all chaos and death. Chaos n death, that’s the pattern.  It’s not a matter of me being especially chaotic or deadly, but something about the way I fit into the giant clockwork jigsaw of the universe makes me especially compatible with these Powers. We fit well together. It’s always been chaos n death.

Many polytheist and pagan types find themselves aligned with Powers that share very similar domains or characteristics. A person might find themselves surrounded by liminal characters, lots of gatekeepers and crossroads types; another might find frequent allies in watery deities, deities related to animals, or deities concerned with health and healing. And of course, some people find themselves surrounded by Love Goddesses(TM).

I never “got” love goddesses. (And yes, I know there are male-type Powers associated with love and the broad category of concerns that love goddesses are also concerned with, but this actually isn’t important to the point I’m going to be eventually making.) I didn’t understand these love emotions or the beauty, art, or luxury that typically went along with love. I knew it was important, I just didn’t understand it on a personal level. I didn’t see how these things related to me.

A lot of this was very likely because I had a rock-bottom opinion of myself. I have always thought of myself as a fundamentally unloveable person – despite any evidence to the contrary. Not that I wasn’t worthy of love; I just felt that at some point, eventually, without a doubt, the people who loved me would discover that underneath the good stuff was a whole lot of garbage that wasn’t worth the effort. I have done considerable work on this front but it is still a mental stumbling block that needs constantly negotiated.

I also didn’t like myself. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was unattractive. I thought that I was repellent to others. I thought that luxury and pleasure were a waste, that they were a pacifying comfort against the reality of entropy and pain. I thought beauty was a waste because everything crumbles to dust sooner or later. Freya-norse-mythology-21934274-300-427

Freya was the first Power to step in and start to change all this. She was my first ally, in a way. She was the first Power to just up and offer to help when I was struggling with the emerging realities of life as a spirit worker and maturing devotionalist. To my mind, She had nothing to gain from this. Her compassion went straight down into me and rattled my emotional basement like nothing else had. I started to understand, very vaguely, that love was beauty and that beauty was healing.

A couple years ago I came across a Power that shook me right down to the emotional basement all over again. At the time I had resumed some very old work with Kali (like, stuff that I had started when I was 16) and was feeling it struggle to resolve. It wasn’t the wrong work, but it wasn’t quite right on some level, either. I persisted, hoping it would level out. I was puzzling over a very direct encounter of Her in an unfamiliar form. I fell into the research rabbit hole and came out the other side staring into the eyes of Kamakhya.

Shakta theology and philosophy is distinctive in the context of subcontinent religious traditions and global religious traditions. Encountering a radically different form of Kali was not actually a problem in the way such a thing might be in a different tradition or context. It was merely unexpected. That Kamakhya was identified with the yoni Shakti pitha, with Sri Lalita, with Tripura Sundari, and with the very Earth Herself was more surprising.

Sri Lalita

Sri Lalita

Sri Lalita had fascinated me for a long time but I hadn’t really done much about it (chaos n death, remember? I was busy). In her hands She holds a noose and goad, two minuscule instruments capable of exerting force wildly disproportionate to their size; a goad is intended to move an elephant. One instrument propels while the other restrains. Her other two hands hold arrows made of flowers (or flowers used as arrows) and a bow made of sugarcane (or a stalk of sugarcane used as a bow). The sugarcane bow is said to be strung with a string of beads. Imagine!

 

 

 

I called this goddess of plenitude forms Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari Sodashi Kamakhya – because She was. She was all these things and all these things are the same entity (you know, more or less. That’s just how Shakta theology works). Through Her divine grace I learned about love. I learned about just how powerful love actually is and how it can accomplish things that other emotions simply cannot. Her grace accompanied me at every step as I dove deep back into the bhakti current that had nurtured me so long ago.  No longer content with redigesting the lessons I had absorbed as a teenager, I set about trying to learn the deeper truths of this path and She helped me gain a fuller understanding of the power of devotional practice. And this is finally the point I want to make.

Devotionalists need Love Goddesses(TM). We need the Powers associated with love, beauty, joy, compassion, and companionship. We need to have these things in our lives because our path is completely saturated in a very particular sort of love. Petitioning a beloved Power who’s already on our side *because they have chosen love and power and beauty and compassion as their domain* is one of the most effective and profound things you could ever do on this path.

Devotionalists need Love Deities. We are already in Their precious and sacred domain. They already care about us. They already love our relationships. They already love our love.

My work with Sri Kamakhya is done – at least, this stage of it is. I was going to gently put away Her blessed altar because there is another Power that I am resuming work with and I have used up the very last bit of available horizontal space currently accessible. My little heart broke. My cold nasty cynical Lokean heart just broke. My beautiful, compassionate, luminous Goddess – how could I remove her visage?

And there it was – permission. Permission to keep the altar in place, permission given by a Power who has no sentimentality, but who does have compassion. Even She has to acknowledge the most blessed patron of my spiritual love.

We need Love Deities, you guys. We already have them.

Things I Don’t Write About

I don’t write about spirit work – except for the times when I do.

I don’t write about the excelcius moments that arise from divine proximity – except when I do.

I don’t write about the grinding sensation of failure, of inadequacy, of intrinsic inability.

I don’t write about the stress, anxiety, confusion, or despair.

I don’t write about the messages I hear.

I don’t  write about the People I meet.

I don’t write about the calling or the response.

I don’t write about the currents, winds, streams, or rivers.

I don’t write about the whispers.

I don’t write about the job.

I don’t write about the joy.

**

I’ve become a reasonably successful recluse. I’m not known for these things because I don’t talk about them. I don’t talk about them because they are a greater piece of my heart than I thought anything could be. I don’t talk about them because despite having been given a hard reboot and a new OS, despite having eyes that are a different color than I was born with, despite having to relearn the finer points of embodiment, despite having the physical, lived experience of divine intervention I don’t always believe in the reality of the context I’m caught up in.

I don’t talk about these things because I don’t want to.

I don’t talk about these things because I owe no one an accounting (least ways no one that has to read a blog in order to gain an accounting). I have always served the Powers first – before there was even an awareness that serving the Powers constituted spirit work, I served them and knew what I was. Even when people who should have known better tried to tell me what, exactly, I was and wasn’t.

Did you know there was a time when devotion and spirit work were all but mutually exclusive? It’s true. I argued the point more than once. Love, I was told, wasn’t compatible with service. Love, I argued, was the very fuel of service.

**

I don’t talk about spirit work because I don’t want to talk about failure. I’ve frequently reflected that I’m on the path of failure. I will never not fail. Failure is the condition of the manifest world. Failure is the trajectory of disintegration, the path that absolutely all of us are on. We will fail because this is not a path that will ever reach completion. We will always be inadequate to the task. It’s therefore cruel to pick at the practice of someone else, inexcusably mean to criticize the work another is engaged in. We can and should encourage improvement, can and should demand accountability, can and should require redress and apology – but the work that happens within the sphere of one’s own interaction with the numinous and the expression thereof insofar as it doesn’t interfere with another being’s intrinsic and sacred sovereignty – including their teleology – doesn’t require commentary. We must be free to fail – else the path itself remains only a potential.

**

I don’t talk about my spirit work because I don’t want to talk about my failure. In defiance of everything I’ve learned about this path and everything the path has taught me, I got fired. Yes. That….that doesn’t really happen. It’s not supposed to. There are a very limited number of outcomes on a spirit work path, especially one that takes you further towards very specific ends. Getting fired is not one of those outcomes. But I am a Lokean and I will always be an exception.

**

I don’t talk about spirit work because I don’t want to talk about how much I want to go back to  work. I don’t want to describe the very many tastes I’ve sampled of this life in an effort to find something that satisfied in quite the same way. I found nothing. When the Work itself has put you back in this world, your software is fundamentally incompatible with other functions. It’s like trying to make a spreadsheet in Photoshop. No one’s happy.

**

So why am I talking about all this if I don’t actually want to? I’m talking about it because I might, just might, be going back to work.

I am what I am and I am responsive to this path.

My Life’s Top Priority

Almost fifteen years ago I gave oaths of loyalty, service, and affection to My Lord. This undertaking had more steps than I anticipated. When I first decided, “Yes, this is something I’m going to do”, He stopped me. My heart wasn’t in the right place. My motivation wasn’t right.

But isn’t this right? I asked. This is what you wanted from me. I’m just doing what you asked me to.

That was the problem and that was my very first lesson.

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Powers in my life: Saint Death (Pagan Experience Project Feb week 3)

santamuertaLooking back over my blog I’m noticing a very heavy emphasis on the Hindu side of things, which might suggest that this is a dominant force in my religious life. It’s actually not, at least not on a day to day basis. There are some devotions and observances I maintain and I’ll eventually get to those but at most I regard myself as a student of this collection of traditions, not as a member or participant.

I’ll start by talking about the Power in my life with the most controversy. Interestingly enough, that Power is not Loki.

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Letter to a New Spirit Worker (pt. II)

Dear You,

If the Powers and Potencies can be said to have one shared, defining characteristic, it might dynamism. Their ability to effect change manifests in more ways than we are even aware of, though we try to make sense of these sacred personalities by outlining the ways in which their dynamism is most obvious to us and our interests. This is why we say one Power is like lightening while another is like the slow inexorable pace of a glacier. This is why we say one Power is related to love spells and high wild windy places and tiny Shetland ponies and another is related to the depths of computer networks. It’s all just various avenues of potential change.

It’s helpful to remember that this dynamism is a naturally arising property of their being; they can’t not act and they can’t not cause change through their proximity. Sometimes they can be convinced to throw some weight behind a particular magickal working of ours but that’s more a matter of focusing sunlight through a pinhole than turning on a light. You’re not getting something new; you’re getting a focused measure of something that’s already there and active.

Since the Powers effect change and make things happen by virtue of their being, and not necessarily for any specific reason or motivation, we have to be cautious when assigning reason and motivation to them. The Powers have their own motivating concerns and those very rarely have anything to do with us. We as human beings are not likely to be their priority unless they’ve specifically chosen to get involved with us. Even then, but for a scant handful of savior-types, our human comfort and well-being is not a major concern. Do you care about one particular variety of crustacean endemic to a few volcanic islands? You probably care in a general sense of having concern for the welfare of the planet and you might have a more personal sense of concern if those volcanic islands happened to be near and dear to your heart for some reason but you do probably aren’t super concerned about the intimate struggles and concerns of these crustaceans on a day to day basis. Not because you’re a bad person, but just because you have other concerns occupying your mind.

The Powers are generally quite responsive to human attention and will reciprocate when approached with courtesy and kindness. However, you must never mistake affection for altruism. Your welfare is up to you. The Powers will help you and they will do so because maybe they like you and because maybe your goals are in line with their goals or maybe because they owe you a favor or maybe because they’re hoping that you’ll owe them a favor or maybe because you’re working on an interesting project and they want to get involved, or whatever. They will help you for a million and one reasons but not at the expense of other goals they have in mind.

They will, however, help you grow if you’re willing to take responsibility for your welfare and for your own decisions. Getting circumstances to transform into more a more harmonious arrangement is kinda what they do (see above). If you’re lucky and have a good working relationship with the Powers then this arrangement will have a harmony that strongly benefits you. If not, you’ll have to tough it out or maybe find a Power whose dynamism is more in line with yours.

A lot of people don’t want to step up to this responsibility. I know they don’t because I didn’t. I went through the same growing pains of developing a greater sense of spiritual and material maturity. I wanted the Gods or the lottery or a guru or *anyone* to come along and make life better for me – and by better, I meant easier. By better I meant simpler. By better I meant advantageous to me.

I got all this, but not the way I wanted. I got these things because I was given lots of practice taking care of myself. And life got better and easier and simpler and started providing more advantages for me. And yes, I had and still have a whole hell of a lot of help. The help that came my way made such a positive difference because I was already putting in effort on my own. The Gods can help with this but they can’t and won’t and don’t want to do it for you.

This isn’t a bootstrapping philosophy. This is more about recognizing your own power, your own worth, your own ability, and the utter dread power of your own responsibility. The power of choice and consequence is yours. By making choices with the weight of deliberate effort behind them, you can reap more potent consequences. Just make sure you’re actually choosing to do the things you want to do. There will always be unforeseen consequences; the only thing you can control is your ability to choose.

In an effort to make life easier and better and more advantageous people will sometimes shop around for answers. There are countless Powers and Potencies out there and each one of them has all the answers you could ever want to hear. Some of those answers might even be helpful and relevant. You must never bargain your autonomy for answers. Many Powers – even several who would be considered “good” or “benevolent” or “white hat” by those of us on the ground – will feed you answers till you burst just to get you on their team. It’s less work for them this way because you’ll be able to plug in their answers to every question and conflict you ever come up against.

Your number one loyalty has to be to yourself. I’m a Lokean, so I get to tell this particular secret. Any compromise on this point will turn your autonomy into an ante and you will loose the greater capacity for effecting change on your own terms. Without this greater capacity, you’ll never grow into the kind of worker you have the potential to be. And that’s fine – if that’s what you want. Is it?

All my love,

Me