Truth without meaning

eyes

For most of my life I had brown eyes. You can see what color they were, there at the center of the iris, near the pupil. A rich, medium brown with depth and beauty in equal measure. When I was a child I remember seeing flecks of gold in my mother’s dark hazel eyes. I spent many minutes staring at myself in the bathroom mirror trying hard to see spots of gold in mine.

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For most of my recent memory I’ve had weird gold eyes. You can see what color they are, that splash of bleached iris that picks up green so easily I might as well have green eyes. But I don’t. In natural light, as in this picture, I have a flat, bright, unnatural gaze. I look at myself in the bathroom mirror each day as I wash and after nearly a decade I still don’t know what to think about what I see.

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For those who don’t know, when I’m not writing I spend my days in an office moving around pictures of brains and eyeballs for a medical research collection. I have access to the entire body of English language medical literature on eyes and eye health. My experience is undocumented. It does not exist. It is unscientific. It is, all told, literally impossible.

But I hold up old photos of myself and oh, there they are. There are my brown eyes. Bright brown in sunlight but clearly a rich, medium brown.

There are still people in my life who knew me Back Then. Some are friends and say oh yes, I have grown myself a different pair of eyes. Some are family and they say nothing at all.

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Scientifically speaking, observable and measurable data does not necessarily yield meaning or explanation. You can know a thing and not actually know what you know about it.

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In my Advancing Devotional Practice session I talk about a few of the obstacles and problems that one might encounter when engaging in this work in the long term. One of the most interesting obstacles I’ve encountered is the rejection of the outcomes of practice. I have a grand analogy that I call “boxes from Cosmic Amazon.com” where suddenly there are packages on your mental and spiritual doorstep that you didn’t actually order. But see, our account with Cosmic Amazon is not private; we share it with the Powers we have aligned ourselves with (or who have aligned themselves with us). They contribute to the relationship we experience. Devotional relationship is not a thing solely created by the human practitioner. It is a shared process, a dual creation, and outcome partaking of multiple causal personalities.

My personal theme for PantheaCon this year was telling the hard stories, the stories that I don’t like to think about, don’t like to analyze, don’t like to dwell on, don’t want to know about. In my session I even talked about waking up from my psychic death experience a different person with a different gender. I talked about one of the deepest losses I’d ever encountered; even though I didn’t want to, at the time it was the right thing to do. Regardless of how much I don’t want to think about these experiences, they are part of a continual process of emergence; they contribute to the unfolding I continually witness expressed through my living being. Though I occasionally talk privately about my psychic death experience I have rarely even mentioned it publicly; that’s because it’s actually quite a traumatic thing. Even though it happened, oh, probably ten years ago this summer, I’m still shaken at the memory and chilled by the still-obvious repercussions.

But you see, I can’t tell this story – not really. I can talk about the experience and the effect it had on my life and how difficult it was trying to reject an outcome that I never sought or asked for or desired or even knew was possible. What I can’t tell you is what it means; this is what I’m still seeking. I had an experience that was entirely inexplicable and yet entirely, fundamentally, unquestionably real. Even people who didn’t know me in person noticed. Data was observed and measured but no meaning exists. There is no context for these factoids, no repetition to frame this pattern. Results have not been replicated and so no working theory can be tested.

I have searched and searched to find a meaningful explanation for this collection of anomalous data. Even in the context of my ever-unfolding spiritual life’s course I don’t see how these things fit. I don’t see how they make me better – only different. And that’s not a good enough explanation for me.

It’s almost time to seek a few more answers, to dive a little deeper into the pools I won’t look at. I don’t exactly know what to look for and I’m fairly sure I won’t enjoy what I find but ignorance does not sit comfortably with me. It might be time to pick up the dropped threads and find out which plucked strings of my wyrd continue to vibrate and hum.

 

The Enough of Sacred Love

Like I said, there were several things I didn’t get the chance to say or to get into very deeply during my PantheaCon session. This is one of them and this deserves its own space.

Contentment with one’s spiritual life and fulfilling satisfaction with religious experiences is a surprisingly elusive subject. Within paganism, when one is dissatisfied, one is entirely free (and may even be encouraged) to go and try out other forms of engagement. Without putting too fine a point on it, I think we rather feel that spiritual fulfillment is a human birthright; if this is a form of fulfillment that an individual desires, then that individual should be entirely empowered to go and achieve it. When that fulfillment is elusive it is time to try another form of achievement.

Because this broader paradigm places virtually the entire weight of spiritual fulfillment under the category of “things people can achieve on their own if they’re just left to their own devices to take care of” the idea that a person within this paradigm might experience dissatisfaction in their spiritual life and be unable to solve that problem is not one we frequently encounter. When it does come up, the advice usually runs along the line of helping the person feel empowered to take charge of what they want out of religious engagement.

People of more or less polytheist leanings tend to have a slightly more nuanced grasp of this problem. After all, no aspect of polytheist religious engagement is absent of the knowledge that this engagement involves some degree of input from personalities-not-ourselves – be they ancestors, land spirits, deities, guardians, and so forth (I call them collectively Powers for simplicity’s sake). Therefore, religious dissatisfaction within this paradigm may be in some way related to how the Powers fit into our engagement.

In terms of a polytheist devotional practice, such a thing might play out in feelings of dissatisfaction and feeling like one’s engagement is not enough because the desired satisfaction remains elusive. Because a polytheist devotional practice includes the Powers’ input into the engagement, dis/satisfaction with the engagement will also include some degree of dis/satisfaction related directly to the Powers.

Simply put, if a person thinks they’re supposed to be getting something very particular as a result of devotional engagement and that thing doesn’t occur, they will naturally wonder if they are doing something wrong in relation to the Powers. This leads very quickly to “I don’t have enough” syndrome.

“If I just did something different-”

“If I just had that expensive tool-”

“If I just read more books-”

“If I was just prettier-”

“If I was just more skilled-”

“If I just had a more dedicated practice-”

“If I just tried harder-”

“If I was just like this other person-”

“If I just had better skills-”

“If I was a better devotee-”

“If I was just better-”

“- I would be closer to Them.”

These thoughts are not just toxic. They are poison. They are corrosive. They will destroy your internal spiritual landscape until all that’s left is anger, jealousy, resentment, and self-pity. When this occurs our sacred beloveds are nowhere to be found; there is no room for Them anymore.

This particular variety of jealous, resentful anger has the potential to absolutely destroy you. It nearly did me. I still struggle with feelings of “enough”, with spiritual satiation, with accepting that I have divine relationships that are full and perfect and entirely complete. Some of us so strongly desire these Powers that we make any promise, do any ritual, compromise any shred of good sense just to get closer to Them.

I want to tell you that that’s not the way it works. You might think you’re getting closer to Them just because you have an impressive list of completed rituals and some impressive promises that you’ve inched just a little closer to Their shining proximity. It might seem entirely logical to change yourself to more closely resemble someone that you imagine sits near the Powers (whether this person is real or imaginary) so that you too could have a swallow more of that sweetness. But before long you’ve simply wasted a lot of time and gotten yourself tangled up in a lot obligations and lost yourself in the midst of transforming into some person you imagine would be better at this whole loving the gods thing – and nothing at all has changed. They are still as elusive and hard to grasp as ever.

You’re not any closer because you’ve failed to make sufficient effort. You’re not any closer because you actually aren’t that far away – you just think you are.

See, you’re actually perfect.

Everything about you and your relationships with the Powers is full and complete and perfect.

Nothing can change that perfection and it’s certainly impossible to make better; after all, it *is* perfect. Seeing it as anything else is to invite a tragic level of irreconcilable dissatisfaction – irreconcilable because if you look at any mystic or devotional poetry, you’ll see that the longing never ends. It never ends.

Our choice is to suffer as a result of seeing the contours of our sacred relationships as lacking some quality or to discover the absolute perfection that we are already part of.

Your relationship is perfect. Your relationships are perfect. This is their fullest expression and you already have it.

Get better at being in this relationship not because you want to fix it somehow; it’s not broken. No, you strive to improve it through improving your ability to savor it. You orient your mind to it and rest in its full perfection. The challenge is becoming calm enough to notice that it has been perfect all along.

(Some of us, sadly, are thoroughly cursed with desire that we will find no satiation in life. Perfection does not satisfy, but of course neither do our efforts cause anything to change in any meaningful way. Imagine trying to resolve this fundamental rejection of Things As They Are. Because I am who I am, I’ve looked for a third choice: I’ve settled for striving for contentment, not fulfillment, and I try very hard not to let this desire for something I can never have override my good sense – except that I have let it, multiple times even. It only ever ends in the very worst kind of tears.)

Falling Short

Not long ago I got in a verbal tangle with someone else regarding an emotionally fraught subject. I don’t like debate and I don’t like arguing. I don’t like getting invested in what someone else does or doesn’t think. This is at once both healthy and avoidant; I often wonder if I’m not head-in-the-sanding all kinds of situations that I ought to confront more directly. I also deliberately minimize personal exposure to stressful information, like the news. I don’t feel empowered. I feel anxious in a way that debilitates my ability to focus. Right or wrong, I avoid confrontation while keeping my private heart aware of that every day is someone’s best and worst day. Knowing this, I make a deliberate effort to not contribute to someone’s bad day. Human suffering is caused by humans; human suffering is relieved by the same. I know which side I want to be on.

So that I waded in fully to the tangle is not just out of character for me, it’s downright contrary to my personal values and standard of conduct. “Are you having fun?” multiple friends asked me. No, I told them all. Behaving badly doesn’t make me happy.

I don’t know about any other reasonably intelligent person out there, but I realized at some early point that my intelligence could be a weapon. Along with sarcasm and humor, I had a pretty formidable arsenal without really trying. (It’s a good thing I don’t have a strong charisma score or I’d have to become fabulously wealthy.) I could hurt people with sarcasm, wit, and information. And for a long time, I did. I believe that I am a fundamentally mean person.

I have this fantasy that my intelligence, sarcasm, and humor are weapons held in reserve, deployed only against oppression and the causes of suffering – or against the occasional asshole who needs cut down for my own well-being. This is not the case. Though I have chosen to express kindness, it is a choice I have to make over and over again. Sometimes I forget to choose and sometimes I just plain make the wrong choice. Occasionally I just decide to make someone else’s day a little bit worse.

It could be argued that some people are just asking for a verbal take-down – bigots, misogynists, fundamentalists, people with a morbid comfort with the existence of measles – and on some level I agree. But rather, ideas need to be taken down. Ignorance – chosen, opted-for ignorance – deserves to be exposed. But there is a difference between people and their ideas.

Every day is someone’s best day. Every day is someone’s worst day. This day will be someone’s marriage, someone’s birth, someone’s death. This day will be painful for someone. This is the day that someone gets relief. These are the truths that I keep close to my heart and no feeling of peace crosses my mind without these whispered post scripts. These are universal and do not change. These are what I should react to, not to ideas that crumble.

Using Prayer Beads – Part 2: Getting Started

As part one made clear, prayer beads are used in many faith and cultural traditions and have been very a very long time. They are used in different ways though most frequently as an aid to focus and concentration during prayer and contemplation.

Polytheists and pagans are often attracted to the idea of prayer bead use because these tools themselves are attractive. Colorful beads, soothing textures, and meaningful imagery all combine to create an object that invites touch and engagement. Do you experience the sensation of “grabby hands” when you see a string of prayer beads? That’s OK – that’s supposed to happen. 😉

Let’s say you have a string of prayer beads that you bought because you liked the way they looked. You have the desire to use them but just aren’t quite sure how to get started. What kind of practice is best for you? How can you make your prayer beads work? These questions are quite common among new prayer bead users, especially those who don’t have a background in their use.

Since prayer beads are often used as focus during prayer or worship, let’s first identify what you wish to focus on. Is there a beloved Power you would like to pray to? Is there a situation that you want to send good energy towards? Is there a Power that you would like to get to know better? Identifying the subject of your focus is the very first step.

“But,” you might say, “I want to focus on Loki and Kali and my friend’s cat and people without jobs and also dolphins and maybe I need a new bike and…”. Hang on, let’s just deal with one focus at a time. You *can* use your prayer beads for all the things you wish to focus on, but it’s best to address one concern at a time. If you want, you can also have a separate set of beads for each topic; for instance, you might have a set of beads for Loki, one for Kali, one for sending healing energy to animals, one for helping people, and one for helping yourself. No matter whether you have one set of beads or many, the first step will always be selecting your focus and then sticking to it.

Just for this example, let’s say you want to get to know Loki a little bit better. When it comes to Powers – deities, spirits, ancestors, and any other entity – names matter a great deal. You can use their name to get in contact with them. Calling their name with respect and love is the first and greatest magical formula of all. They *will* notice and they’ll respond – when they’re ready.

The very simplest (and arguably best) way to use your beads in this imagined scenario is to repeat Loki’s name on each bead. As you say His name, recall His stories, attributes, titles, and so forth. Hold on to that feeling as you repeat the name. You can repeat His name out loud, under your breath, just by moving your lips, or in your mind. I recommend saying the name softly to yourself, just loud enough to hear. This will help keep you focused.

Simply keep going until you finish the whole round. Then you can stop and do it again later. You can repeat this cycle of prayers multiple times a day if you’re really dedicated or you can aim to do it a few times a week. It really doesn’t take very long. You can do multiple rounds in one sitting, if you like (I personally aim for two).

You  can make each name a little more complicated if you like. You can recite His name multiple times on each bead, or recite a group of names (for instance, you might say, “Loki, Lodur, Lopt” on each bead). You could recite a title on each bead along with a name – “Loki, Mother of Witches, Father of Monsters”. You could include a word of praise on each bead – “Loki; hail!”.

A simple prayer is ultimately best when you are just getting started. Using names and phrases already fixed in your heart and memory will prevent forgetfulness and will help you focus on the purpose of your prayers rather than on trying to remember what you wanted to say.

Next time, I’ll talk about some ways that you can apply the recitation of prayers to your practice. Though there are many different ways that you can do this, it always comes back to the same thing: fixing your mind of the thing you care about and then celebrating it with your words.

Using Prayer Beads – Part 1: What Are Prayer Beads , Anyway?

As I’ve made strings of prayer beads for my Etsy shop, I kept coming across pagans and polytheists wanting to use these items in their personal practice, but not knowing how to actually get started. To address this, I wrote a pamphlet that is included with each order of beads through my shop but I have much more to say on the subject than can fit in a few columns of text. Since I don’t think you should have to buy prayer beads in order to learn how they can be used to enrich your personal spiritual practice, I decided to dedicate a blog entry or two (or three!) to the topic. First, it’s helpful to say outright that prayer beads, worry beads, and other beads-on-a-string have been used by many different faith traditions and cultural groups. This is quite possibly because beads themselves are very, very old. They are one of the first artificially crafted adornment used by human beings. Beads have been found in graves and burial sites from long before recorded history. The beads we find today dating from that period are generally stone or shell since these are the materials that endure being buried for thousands of years. In addition to stone and shell, today we use metal, wood, glass, plastic, ceramic, and composite beads most frequently; coral, pearl, fabric, and paper are also used for bead creation. Other items, such as tightly closed flower buds can also be strung on a string in the same manner as a bead. Popcorn and cranberries are still sometimes strung as part of a family’s Christmas decorations in the United States (and no doubt elsewhere). Today we generally associate prayer bead use with Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions; however, Muslims, Sikhs, and members of the Baha’i faith also use them. There is also growing interest among Protestant Christians in the use of prayer beads; other Christian traditions also make use of different types of counters to keep track of prayers. People who have no particular faith affiliation use them as a tactile focus during times of stress or when focusing on a particular dedicated course of action (such as sobriety). I personally think that prayer beads would be especially helpful to people who do distance healing on behalf of others or who frequently send energy towards a particular purpose. Prayer beads can be approached from a faith-oriented perspective or not. It’s not necessary to identify with a particular religion in order to use a string of prayer beads, especially if you are using a string not designed in adherence with any particular tradition. The beads I make, for instance, do not contain 108/54/27 beads like malas do nor are they organized in decades like a rosary – though I could certainly make some that do. I chose not to adhere to a traditional number or arrangement because the prayer beads I make aren’t specific to any tradition; each user can choose for themselves how to arrange their prayers. MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPrayers, of course, are primarily what prayer beads are used for. Each bead is a moment of focus where the user’s attention is given specifically to the name of a particular Power, their titles and celebratory greetings, a sacred formula, or a phrase created to affirm a specific purpose or goal. Prayer beads are very helpful when trying to focus the mind on a particular magickal or spiritual outcome. The repetition of, say, the intention of directing healing energy towards someone who has requested it, helps ensure that a full measure of energy is clearly sent. It’s one thing to simply say, “Yes, I’m sending energy now”; it’s quite another to sit down and say that for five or ten minutes. Prayer beads are excellent aids for meditation, too. A neutral, affirmative mantra or phrase helps focus the attention; this focus is further emphasized by the physical act of holding the beads between your fingers. A string of prayer beads also lets you celebrate the name or titles of a beloved Power. Saying a sacred name over and over again firmly establishes Them in your mind and heart. Calling on a Power you wish to become acquainted with is also possible. Powers are quite sensitive to their names being called and will certainly respond sooner or later (though of course they might simply say, “Enough already; we’re not a compatible match.”). So that’s all for the first part of prayer bead basics. Next time I’ll talk about how to create your own prayers and spiritual formulas for use on a string of prayer beads.

Who She Is – a new chapter in the Work

I’ve debated a bunch over how much to talk about my personal practice and about whether or not such a thing is even all that helpful. I have come to value and enjoy my privacy a great deal; it’s a way to keep myself safe and sane. It’s absolutely surreal to have in-person conversations with strangers regarding something I wrote online. I’s weird enough when it’s local friends talking about the Facebook post I made about a soup recipe; when it’s about emotionally-heavy spiritual issues it can be even harder to deal with. I often imagine myself having conversations with strangers and judging my level of disclosure based on my imagined comfort.

All this is to say that I’ve thought quite a bit about this particular subject and how to talk about it and if I should at all. Ultimately I feel that this information whose time has come and I’d like to help boost its signal as it emerges from intangible dimensions.

Like I’ve said before, the feminine Loki isn’t a different entity. She’s entirely herself, entirely Loki; She is as central, as “default” a form as Her masculine side. That He’s the face most people encounter is His own choice and doesn’t reflect that one aspect is more fundamental or authentic. As to why He seems to favor a masculine expression one needs only glance at the extant lore; His actions as a feminine being are consistently derided and spoken of in highly negative terms.

(This last part is perhaps especially relevant to those who understand the Lokester as a damaged, injured, or fragmented Power. Much of His trauma is situated in Her. She’s not damaged, per se, but She is a site of contested identity and value; one can interpret His reticence as a way of protecting this vulnerable and volatile self.)

Getting to know Her is, perhaps, predicated upon a willingness to accept Him precisely as He is. Though I think many of His worshipers would say that yes, they accept Him precisely as He is, this kind of radical acceptance isn’t limited to a comfort with, say, holding as equal both the worldbreaker and magician aspects of His personality. This kind of acceptance also encompasses patience with His absences, His distractions, and His variable moods. Acceptance of His nature is demonstrated by, for instance, genuine and wholehearted acknowledgement of His multitude of partners and lovers. (One doesn’t have to like them all on a personal level but acknowledging the reality of, or the potential reality of, these relationships without obstacle-level jealousy is an expression of one’s acceptance of Him.) The same goes for His myriad worshipers. Personal fondness or even agreement isn’t necessary; acknowledging the reality of another worshiper’s practice and emotional experience is.

There is also a level of personal strength that must be developed while learning to accept Him as He is. One has to learn to count on personal intuition, experience, and problem solving ability in order to approach acceptance. After all, authentic acceptance is probably impossible to achieve unless you trust yourself first. Otherwise there’s nothing but second-guessing and anxiety. (I’ve been there; I know what it’s like.)

No; accepting Him fully isn’t easy. I’ve encountered a lot of shadow work as I’ve striven for greater levels of acceptance. I still have much work to do.

Of course, there’s no formula to convincing Himself to appear as a feminine being. She does so at Her pleasure, to whom and when She wishes, for Her own private reasons. Though I’ve been aware of Her for a long time, it wasn’t until just a couple years ago that She became a regular fixture in my spiritual life and I’ve been a Loki worshiper for nearly 15 years. Though I hope you don’t have to wait quite so long to make Her lovely acquaintance (and if my efforts and others’ to draw Her more fully into this world are successful, you won’t!), there was a lot of work I had to do on myself first. I also had to complete various other work I was doing with other Powers.

Wait – what was that little parenthetical statement? Yes, it’s true. I do sincerely feel that the work I’m doing in my own practice and that I hope to inspire in yours makes Her more accessible to those who love Her. I hope to give Her a greater foothold here to make Herself known. The surge in open expressions of Loki veneration in the last five years or so might have various cultural drivers but there is a spiritual component to this, too. Loki worship has been going on since at least the mid 90’s and no doubt happened before then, too. (And people say we have no history!) All that is paying off in greater accessibility of this delightful Power.

So how to get started? I’ll talk more about this soon. In the meantime, here’s a collection of colors that I strongly associate with Her specifically. Imagine a bright, brilliant sunset with lots of coppery oranges, mauve pinks, and silky purples. There’s Her. Lots of vivid light somehow limned with deepening shadows. herself

Weekend rush – magnetic pins, prayer beads, practice

It’s already shaping up to be a busy end to a busy week. The dizzy spells I’ve been experiencing over the past few weeks finally came together with all the other symptoms of an ear infection. This makes me seriously wonder if I haven’t just been dealing with some kind of stubborn infection that’s lasted for *a year* with intermittent flare ups. I initially ruled out that possibility because I wasn’t sick – no fever, no aches, no head pain, no ear pain – but everything hit me quite suddenly on Wednesday night. No fever, but all the rest was there. I’m going to make an appointment with my doctor and see if we can figure out a solution. This dizziness has been a really serious problem that I’ve been ignoring since I had no idea how to fix it or even other symptoms that I could point to. Getting sick ironically helps. All the same, I’m not looking forward to seeking treatment. I just want it to go away so I can go back to my regular chronic illness routine.

This week has also seek a lot of prayer and chanting. A lot of time has been spent introspecting and simply feeling. This can be a challenge. I find the outward “doing” of my practice generally easier (though for several reasons the daily doings have slipped in regularity). Sitting and just being with the impact of that practice can be a lot harder. All the same, I seem to have found a nice rhythm with my prayer beads. Though japamala is a long-established part of my practice, non-mantra prayer bead use is rather newer and has a history of not being wildly successful. This time around I might have it figured out, though; that’s really nice. I’m liking this new development.

Speaking of prayer beads, I found a cache of vintage beaded jewelry yesterday that I brought home to be repurposed into prayer beads. There are some softly faceted glass beads, some foil-lined beads, loads of beautiful glass round beads, and a long string of what looks to me like some kind of unfinished coral beads but I’m not entirely positive. I’m used to coral beads being violently red or pink for having been dyed that way and they’re generally quite smooth. These have a slightly rough, variable texture and a more natural color distribution. Today I’m going to a bead shop to look for a few necessary supplies and I’ll bring a few of these mystery beads with me. Whatever they are, they’ve already made a lovely string of sea-inspired pocket prayer beads and I look forward to creating at least one additional string from the remaining beads.

This week I also finished the magnetic scarf “pins” I’ve been working on for a while. Some of you reading might remember the dust up(s) that happened when a number of pagans and polytheists spoke openly about their choice to head cover for religious and/or personal reasons. The negative reactions that resulted were painful to watch; on the one hand I want to believe that we as pagans have more respect for the personal lives of others but on the other we have as much baggage regarding the policing of (primarily) women’s bodies and choices as anyone else in our culture. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a religion that both produces clothing items specifically for members’ own use and re-deploys mass produced items in a way that reflects their values and identity; the idea of religiously motivated clothing choices is simply nothing new or even all that noteworthy to me. In fact, when it comes to expressing personal values, spiritual aspirations, religious affiliation, and so forth, clothing is one of the most frequently-used tools of all.

Saying I supported those who chose to veil for religious reasons seemed rather pointless, like I was providing only the bare minimum standard of human decency and then being asked for congratulations. I wanted to do something else but wasn’t sure what or how. Then a friend clued me into magnetic “pins”, little decorative veil accessories that fasten cloth without poking holes in the fabric. I looked at lots of pictures and thought, “I could do that!”. So I did.

These are strong 1cm magnets topped with shiny glass drops. I chose them with the idea that they could be discrete or decorative as the wearer wished. I found a supplier that has many more eye-catching elements that I’d love to buy but first these have to sell. I’m selling them in groups of three pair (six magnets all together), two matching and one contrasting. Since these magnets stick to metal hair clips and other hair accessories, I’ve included a snapping clip to let wearers instantly experiment with different looks. And since I know that a number of pagans-who-veil appreciate the dampening of psychic energies that veils help achieve, I decided to use glass drops since glass tends to deflect and fragment unwanted energies.

I have eight sets listed in the shop; click the link at the top of the page or click the picture above to see the listings. Let me know too if there’s a particular style of magnetic pin you’d like me to help you create; I’m always happy to discuss custom orders.

OK, now for weekend errands. Guess I better get moving; those groceries aren’t going to buy themselves and chronic illness cat needs her morning medicine (tuna flavored!).

When Lines Blur

You might be aware that it happens but you don’t think it’ll happen to you: You think you know a Guy and suddenly He might be someone else. Perhaps the One you’ve been praying to for month or year – or decades – slips off the mask and a new face appears. A new form, unfamiliar faces, unexpected attributes rise to the surface of Their presentation and you’re left feeling confused, betrayed, and upset.

Have the emotions been lies? Have the words They’ve spoken been falsehoods to lure you into believing something that wasn’t ever true? What of the promises made, the vows spoken, the ordeals undertaken, the faith kept? Can you trust anything They’ve said at all? Can you trust yourself anymore?

It happens. It happens more than you might expect. In fact, for polytheists this kind of categorical disruption is almost – but not quite – entirely  normal.

Except that it’s not, you know? The books don’t mention that the Gods can change. Our kindred leaders and religious guides don’t talk about the time that Anubis was Coyote was Aphrodite. We don’t swap stories at meetups about confused identities and the complex knotted mess of faith and vows and promises left in the wake of Their coming out. This experience is turned into a solitary ordeal endured quietly in the most private corners of our hearts and minds. This happens because not only have we individually been chastised for being too emotional, too devoted, too enthusiastic in our embrace of a divinity, but because we now have to admit that – on some level – we were wrong.

In that admission is an immense ocean of tumultuous accusation. We should have known better. We should have studied harder. We should have joined an orthodox group instead of striking out on our own with our cat spirits and faery guides and dream life lived Somewhere Else. We should have stopped watching anime in high school. We should have read a scholarly book or two. We should have listened to our elders – you know, the ones who never told us that anything could go wrong on the path to spiritual growth.

It’s a lie, you know. It’s all a lie.

I’ll tell you a truth: You’re not wrong.

You’re not wrong to experience the Gods changing shape. You’re not wrong to experience the blurring of lines, the erasure of titles, the disruption of names and familiar forms.

The lie is that this never happens. The lie is that you’re doing it wrong if it happens.

That’s not a lie I’m willing to perpetuate.

This kind of disruption happens for many, many, many reasons, not all of which are even able to be spoken aloud. Some of these reasons are for the Gods themselves to explain to you, in Their own words, in Their own time. Some of these reasons are for you to discover yourself as you experience the unpleasant growth that is forced during this period.

You’re not wrong to feel this way.

You’re not wrong to want to pitch the whole thing, to toss it in the dumpster in the alley out back, to fling the books out of the window of a moving car, to delete your blogs and Facebooks and emails and mailing list memberships. You’re not wrong to want to change your name.

There is no easy way out of this. Sorry/not sorry. This experience is the path teaching you something that you need to know. I can’t tell you what that thing is because there are lots of possible lessons to learn in this. It might be that you need to get to know yourself a whole lot better. It might be that you need to exercise that backbone you just grew. It might be that you need to let go of what you thought you know, what you trusted because someone else told you was true. It might be that you need to grow the truth for yourself and that can only happen through personal lived experience.

Names, forms, attributes – these things are mostly convenient for us. The Powers don’t need them in the same way we do; they have a very different relationship to Their names and forms and attributes than we do. However, They have a degree of ownership over these things that gives Them permission to move them about as They wish. The Powers reveal chosen names and forms and attributes as They wish, when and where and to whom They wish. This isn’t done necessarily to frustrate or hurt us. Usually it’s to teach us something very important about how we should – or could – relate to Them.

Though I said that many, many possible lessons might come from this experience, there is one that I feel is especially relevant to any polytheist, devotionally-identified or not, and that is to let Them be as They wish to be. If we accept that the Powers have wills and desires of Their own, then it follows that They would have preferences regarding how They are related to by us (collectively and individually). The Power in your life might be getting tired of living up to the role of wacky sidekick, stern uncle, or distant mother. They might wish to express Themselves on Their own terms and so are leading you to acknowledge different sides of Them through the adoption of unfamiliar guises and behaviors.

You might discover that you really were talking to an entirely different Power than you thought you were. You might also discover that They were really only just Themselves all along.

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.

Presenting at Many Gods West

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be presenting some brand new material at Many Gods West, a polytheist religious conference taking place in Olympia, WA later this summer. It’s a real treat to have the opportunity to explore religion, spiritual practice, ritual, and magick with such a diverse group of presenters and attendees.

I’ll be presenting a session called “The Labor of Love: (Re)Valuating the Purpose of Devotional Practice”. It’s my hope that this material will help further a consideration of what purpose devotional practice actually serves in our greater religious traditions and how the development of increasingly-articulate forms of devotional engagement actually contributes to the growth and maturation of the traditions that practitioners are part of. Some of the static surrounding a conversation about devotional practice is the opinion that this work is indulgent, delusional, or simply selfish; I hope to counter these attitudes by highlighting some of the physical and metaphysical advantages that this practice yields. (And to speak to a concern that I imagine a few of you have: No, I don’t think that devotion is important because of its concrete, measurable, or observable outcomes. I do plan to mention that valuating the human emotional experience at all is a problematic and potentially reductionist endeavor.)

Click here if you’d like to take a look at line-up of presenters and rituals. The precise schedule of events is still being determined but this is what the weekend has in store (though there’ll also be some musical performances, too).

If you’d like to know more about the event itself, visit the Many Gods West homepage. Registration is still open and last I knew there were still rooms open at the hotel.

I love teaching and sharing information and conferences are a great place to do this. I also get to meet lots of people that I’d never have the chance to otherwise. I’m by nature pretty reclusive – which is good since I can’t really afford to go far or do much. Finicky health also keeps me close to home and that can make traveling complicated, too. Needless to say I’m a little nervous about the trip for these and other reasons but I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the Pacific Northwest and I’m very happy for the chance to spend some time there.

If you’re a little nervous about the prospect of going to such an event and, like me, kind of a socially awkward kid, perhaps think about coming anyway. We can stand in the corner and fidget together while thinking about the pets we left at home. (My cat, you guys! I’m gonna really miss my cat!)