Building a House in the Wastelands

On the continent of Non-Christendom, in the wide expanse that is broad-brush defined Pagania, I have no village. There is no “tribe” for me.

I’m not a witch.

I’m not a Wiccan.

I’m not a devotee of The Goddess Movement.

I’m not a recon.

In each of these I find undercurrents that repel me, and most of all I can’t toe the communal line that seems to exist, which demands rejection of reason and adherence to strict extraneous beliefs in exchange for acceptance. I can’t swallow the conspiracy minded bullshit that demands I fear and loathe genetic modification of food or slather untested, unknown concoctions on myself rather than seek proper medical attention in the name of some fabricated sense of “purity” and “naturalness”.

I can’t do a bit of yoga without the world assuming I must be against GMOs (I’m very, very not). I can’t buy some incense because it smells nice without also being pestered with nonsense about pink salt and bleach curing cancer (yeah, in a goddamn petri dish. Which doesn’t need to continue living afterwards, unlike a human being who will become very ill and possibly die from drinking bleach). I can’t admit I know my way around a Tarot deck without being bombarded with memes on the virtues of organic everything (even though “organic” farms use far more chemicals and toxic, unregulated pesticides, not to mention require more land use due to decreased yield and the irrational Western demand for “pure” “organic” produce is one of the factors fueling increased deforestation in places like South America).

In summary, I cannot worship at the altar of The Sanitized Magic Natural.

I cannot swallow claims of colloidal silver being some sort of magic cure-all, knowledge of which has been repressed Big Pharma when I know it was the go-to cure for syphilis in the 1500s…and when those people died of syphillis anyway, despite using so much colloidal silver that their skeletons show it to this day. I can’t buy into fears of chemicals, when I know that literally all of existence is chemicals, and that there is zero difference whatsoever between a “natural” chemical and one we created. I cannot accept fearmongering about modern medicine and assuming that literally medieval herblore is more effective, when the women and monks relying on that herblore in their day would have given up their immortal souls for what we have today. How fucking ungrateful would we seem to them? Or even to our ancestors of barely a hundred years ago?

This idea of the sanctity of the “Natural” that permeates Pagandom is stomach turning to me. The embrace of ignorance that I see so much is no different from the embrace of ignorance that exists among radical Christians who deny climate change and evolution. We are so far removed from the danger and death of “natural” existence that we’ve forgotten why we created some of our methods in the first place. Natural is not singing “om” in the woods and petting trees and huffing oils and only using “certified organic” products (a label with no real meaning other than a price hike). Natural is infestations of parasites. Natural is dying of an infection from a minor wound to an extremity. Natural is premature babies dying hours or days after they’re born. Natural is starving because the locusts came this year. Natural is life eating life. Natural is chemical.

What “natural” utopia, exactly, is it supposed to be our goal to recreate? There never was an era of matriarchal Goddess-inspired peace, where Mother Earth was loving and kind and provided for us because we respected her. Not in Europe or anywhere else. Humanity did not thrive in a happy disease-free bubble where no one ever got cancer because all the medicine was plants. That is nothing but the modern Pagan’s Eden, and it is just as fictional without even the benefit of being mythological.

I’m so tired of encountering this nonsense at every turn. And when it isn’t this form of nonsense, it’s nationalistic pricks like the AFA pushing white pride, gender essentialist drivel. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, and I do not feel particularly apologetic about any of it.

Why, why, why does spirituality have to go hand-in-hand with utter fucking nonsense like this? Where are the Science Pagans? I realize I may be asking too much. Pagandom subsists on magical thinking, and that does not jive so well with rational thinking. But I don’t find it hard to maintain a non-literalist spirituatlity, complete with rituals and candles and runes, and also accept the fact that chemotherapy is better than weed at ridding people of cancer, that chemtrails are not a thing, that pink salt lamps do not purify the air, that cleanses and detoxes have no effect because the liver does that already, that vaccines are safe and effective, and that GMOs are not an existential or physical threat to our health. I feel no struggle in laying out cards and also knowing that David “Avocado” Wolfe is an opportunistic hustler who milks the desperate for money. It’s not hard to make an offering to a god without thinking that I live in a demon haunted world of toxins and conspiracies. It’s not hard.

So why does it seem I’m all alone?

So Begins 2017

New Year’s Reading 2017

I rarely lay full spreads anymore, but I do keep up with a New Year’s Day reading and this year’s turned out to be, well… Intense. 

The Two of Arrows up there carried over from last year, when it was manifesting and from the year before when it was the key theme. This card has represented my depression/anxiety struggles and to have it in the “leaving behind” position is encouraging (not that I have any belief my barrow-wights will vanish, but I have reached a new and healthier place in resisting them). 

The Forest Lovers appears as a key opportunity for the year I will be getting married in a Viking style ceremony in the mountains, the first true rite of passage in my life. The Wildwood deck is cheeky as hell and blunt as a sledgehammer sometimes. 

But of everything here it’s The Stag that commands the reading. This card that I have from the beginning associated with Tyr comes as deep wisdom from the gods. In this year when justice on all fronts will come under threat the likes of which many of us have never imagined, we will need His example the most. We will need conviction and compassion and willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. Tyr is chided as being “no peacemaker”. But when there is no justice there can be no peace. 

This is the year of the shieldwall, and we will all need to find the strength to hold our place in it. 

When the Student Is Ready.

Hello friends. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

A good deal has changed since my last post in March. I’ve gotten officially engaged. We have a new home and new jobs and have added a sweet, snuggly hound to our family. I have my workshop back, even if it still is a shambles from the move, and I’ve been taking steps to commit myself to following my bliss.

My bliss is telling stories, and I will be telling my stories my way, in my voice. No comparisons. Comparing myself to the achievements of others and finding myself always wanting has been a plague on my writing this past year. At the impromptu wake held for my uncle last week, my aunt asked me if I was doing any writing. Not really, I told her. Not as much as I would like.

“You’re such a beautiful writer. What’s stopping you?”

At that moment I realized I had no answer to that question. All the possible excuses that flooded through my mind shriveled into inadequacy when faced with that question from a woman in mourning. It ceased to be a question. It became a challenge.

What was stopping me? Me. Only me, just me, nothing but me. I had made a choking ouroboros of myself, driven by a deep terror of judgement, and of being thought arrogant. Arrogance and boastfulness, being “full of oneself” is the bogeyman to the Midwestern child. It is the worst thing a person can be, and any sign of it is to be quashed even at the expense of healthy confidence. I’ve come to realize that this is one of my Shadows, created in me both by birth (anxiety and depression are family ghosts) and by my upbringing. It is the darkest, most manipulative and nasty side of my Inner Critic. It has so many tricks to convince me that my efforts aren’t worth it and that I’ll never be as good as others, because if I haven’t finished a draft by now I probably never will I’m just not smart or creative enough so just don’t bother and hey there’s some dishes that need cleaning, you know you really don’t keep the house well enough….

The Critic sticks her nose into every aspect of my life. I will never get rid of her, but I’m learning ways to sock her in the nose when she’s not wanted. That’s where another of my Shadows steps in, the one I call the Farmwife, to thwack the Critic with a wooden rolling pin and give me a good dose of tough self-love (and possibly inspire cookie baking). The Farmwife Shadow personifies a matter-of-factness and a make-do/can-do attitude that I associate with my maternal ancestry and which I’m proud of; and a bitterness and resentful anger of which I am not.

I expect to be blogging more about my flirtations with Shadow-work, but the true inspiration for this post was the revelation I had while spending some time with my Mary-el deck last week.

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It’s been a good while since I’ve had the space and the solitude to do a proper reading. After the move I decided to redesign my creative space to be more conducive to writing and laying cards. I’m quite happy with what I came up with. I have a corner altar for my Patroness, above it a small space for my ancestors and other honored dead, and above that a shrine to the World Tree. In the center of my main workspace is my tarot altar, a simple arrangement of a shell, a candle, and a stone (Earth, Sea, and Sky, a hearkening to my adolescent interest in Irish-Celtic neopaganism). I made myself some tea (I almost always have tea when I sit down at that desk) and decided to try out the Tetractys spread, one of the layouts from the very detailed book that accompanies the deck. As I began to lay the cards, confusion crept in. What the hell was all this Earth and Fire doing here? I’d never seen so much Earth before! I’ve never been an Earth person. Air and Fire, Water and Air…those have been my typical pairings. But my desire as the satyr-bodied King of Disks? The looming Magician sitting there at the heart of it all staring sightless at me and offering up no clues? The Devil AS my Devil and Minotaur Ace of Earth as my Angel? It wasn’t until the last card, the final outcome and peak of the pyramid, that comfortable reality reasserted itself in the 4 of Cups.

The Magician (Mary-el)

There he is…looming.

I have done so many readings about my creative aspirations. It was among the first questions I ever explored with tarot and oracle. It was the dream I brought to my first day retreat with Joanna Powell-Colbert back in 2013. I’ve drawn lessons from each of them. This one, though, left me puzzled. So I sipped my tea and scratched my dog and stared and stared…The King of Disks certainly looked very pleased with himself, lounging against that tree, manhood exposed without a single fuck given. I perused the book. Completion. Confidence. Mastery. Consuming the fruits of one’s self-creation.

The bell went off. I journaled through the cards, quickly, without thinking much about what I wrote. When I looked at the Magician again, looming over the Heart of the Matter, the message could not have been clearer:

“Get out of your head, girl. MAKE IT MANIFEST.” 

I have never felt a connection to The Magician. He seemed an alien presence in nearly every deck, aloof and cloaked in the unfamiliar. I had always thought of him in esoteric terms, preferring to identify myself as a writer with the ecstatic, with archetypes of Divine Inspiration. I had failed to notice that it was not inspiration I needed. It is not inspiration or even creativity that compels me to tell stories.

The Magician (Wooden Tarot Majors deck)

The Wooden Tarot, Majors Deck

It is the need to make these worlds real. I want to paint them and their people with such color and sensation that they live in the mind of another person. I want to take these places and their histories from the ephemera and give them solidity on the page. I want, I need, to make them manifest.

That is the Magician’s domain, and so Magician I will be.

Daily Draw

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Messenger Oracle, Ravynne Phelan

Yesterday was all anxiety and heightened emotions and staving off depression. To draw this card today is such a perfect spark of randomness.

I’ve really been feeling the Messenger Oracle lately. It’s fairly new to me still, but its simplicity and gorgeous art is just what I need right now.

Daily Draw: Know Your Power

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Hands down my favorite image from this deck

Oooh I get chills looking at this one! I’ve been dipping my toes into shadow work this week and given what I uncovered this feels very much like an affirmation.

Daily Draw

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Dragons have some words for me today…

Yesterday was spent in some intense reflection. Today, I’m being rather forcefully told to get back to my art.