Thursday, 31 March 2016

Don't waste your time looking back, you aren't going that way.

Spring is in the air!

At least it feels as though it is - I can see the tiniest shred of evidence of buds on the trees, the ground is softening underfoot with the thaw, the animals are starting the inevitable beginnings of a mating dance. I'm certain we have more surprises on the way (more 'dirt' comin', as my mother would say), but it is starting to ease into the greening.

I always like spring. It is a season of promise, of hope. It is the end of something, and the beginning of another thing - like the regular cycles of life. Everything is new, green, fragile. All things have such promise.

This spring has been different. There have been some significant endings in our lives - for a variety of reasons that I will not get into. All things have their endings, and this was a natural end. Ostara was a marking of those endings, but with a focus on hope. And gratitude.

Hope is the seed of the new beginning.

My practice has been slowly edging more and more toward heathenry, though I dislike to label myself as such. I name myself as witch - it is what I am, and what I always have been, regardless of where my paths have taken me. That said, my husband and I have decided to work on a familial path, as a hearth.

Trevor at Heathenhearth says:
Together, all of these ideas should inform our perception of the fifth definition given above – “a household or group following the modern pagan faith of Heathenry.” When we apply this term to a spiritual group, it evokes these connotations of family, home, transformation, worship, and a link between the mundane and the divine. The term “hearth” in many ways seems more apt to the practice of Heathenry than the term “kindred” which, while an important concept in Germanic culture, was never applied directly to the practice of spiritual or religious rites. Moreover, it connects us to the now sometimes-distant concept of household and home in our hectic and disconnected world, and the idea of that spiritual practice and daily life should not – indeed, cannot – be separate, but are rather facets of the same thing. For me, the idea of “hearth” – my literal hearth, the kitchen and woodstove of my home, my social hearth, the group of friends and family members with whom I live and practice my tradition, and my spiritual hearth, my own connection to the divine – is a lens through which I see both my own practice and through which I invite others to look at the world they have constructed for themselves.

Our workings, our gods, and our paths are very tied together, so it makes sense for us to commit to working in tandem. Changes have allowed us the time to explore this new grouping - one door closes, a window opens. In death, life springs.

So after the outdoor offerings were made, we came back to our home. Our wards refreshed, our altars reconfigured, offerings made to our house wights and ancestors. The next number of weeks will be spent defining exactly what we want this to be, and how we wish for it to work, but it all seems very in sync and we're both dedicated to it, so I have hope.

I took a brief vacation home to visit some ailing relatives and dear friends, which gave me ample time to clear my head and think about all of the changes in the past year. It gave me time to actually sort through all of the feelings I have had tucked away. I also got some really wonderful advice from my very wise mother.

My mother does not suffer fools, and she takes absolutely no shit from anyone, including me. I am her daughter, but she still tells me what I need to hear, something I always appreciate, even if it's hard. I got to pour my soul out to her, to tell her my woes. I was nice to have her ear and her shoulder, and that did wonders for my state of mind. It's so funny, even in my 30's, I still need the comfort of my mother - but I don't take it for granted. She won't always be here, and I try and spend as much time as I can talking to her and being with her.

Soon it was back to reality, a short week of work, and a little bit of food poisoning. We're gearing to head into April. Maybe it's that Chariot energy from a few months ago, but I'm excited to see what's next! Forge ahead! I hope I'll have more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Modern Gods: Loki

Oh, Loki.

I have always viewed Loki with a great deal of suspicion, which is always a great source of amusement to friends who work with Loki. Odin and Loki are two halves of the same coin - the blood brothers representing different facets of the wise trickster. The only difference being that Odin is organized chaos working toward his own end goal, and Loki is chaotic chaos working to amuse himself.

Some may view him as a "devil" figure. Those people need to research a bit harder. Loki is an anti-hero. He is working both for and against the rest of the gods. He is the wise fool, the trickster, the broken black sheep who is viewed with suspicion and apprehension. He is rarely trusted, because he rarely tells the truth of the matter. He is the great catalyst of the end times, but he is the actual embodiment of change, and is absolutely necessary to the mythos.

Often, Loki is depicted as being punished for his mischief or deed, or committing his deeds. This stone, from Kirkby Stephen and carved in the 8th century, depicts Loki bound in chains after slaying Baldr.

This is a 19th century depiction of Loki and Hod slaying Baldr by Carl Emil Doepler. You can tell it's part of that Victorian revivalist culture because all of the gods are depicted in Greco-Roman clothing and winged helmets.

Here is Loki, depicted in the early 20th century by Louis Huard, suffering his punishment from murdering Baldr, bound with the entrails of his children. The venomous serpent drips poison on his face, causing him to writhe with enough force to shake the Earth. Usually Sigyn is depicted as catching the poison in a basin until it fills.

In more modern times, Loki has become a bit of a pop culture phenomenon, thanks to Marvel and the Avengers and Thor. Tom Hiddleston does a very good job portraying Loki - never too evil. never too good, very self serving, very broken.

For me, I always see Loki in the underbelly of the world. The morally grey people who seek to serve themselves first. The street performers. The snake-oil salesmen. The street preachers. The pot stirrers, who try and stoke the fire for their own amusement. The narcissists who make it all about them.

These people are always trying to fill a void - it's not happiness they seek to sate, but endless and boundless curiosity. They throw caution to the wind, and do things simply for the hell of it, without prior thought. They always have a back up plan, sure, but it's not fleshed out. They aren't unhappy, but are unaccustomed to having people be kind and good to them.

Gustaf SkarsgÄrd does a brilliant job as Floki on Vikings, and to me, he is always the way I tended to picture Loki in my head - even before the show. He dances that perfect line of chaos and order, and serves his own desires and beliefs before all else. He is not Loki on the show, but the character very much seems like someone who worships him, or is inspired by him.

For me, Loki is a god that seems to want the attention, and won't take no for answer. As I said before, he is not a god I trust, and I approach him with caution - I'm not big into unorganized chaos, and I don't want to welcome that into my life. However, I get the feeling he just keeps showing up in little ways to try and make me pay attention.

He gets a bad rap, but he deserves at least a little of that.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The search into the Darkness

People see the darkness as a scary thing. It's a mask that descends on us and makes us into beings of shadow, and it is neither comfortable nor does it feel natural.

An amazing article passed my eyeballs today. I resonated with this part immediately.

"In an effort to reach divinity, enlightenment, and guru-status, we’ve banished and demonized the “negative” and the struggle of the human experience. We’ve lost touch with the glorious bittersweet medicine that our pain and suffering offers when truly acknowledged by the Self and the tribe, and subsequently integrated with compassion and love. "

 The darkness is a part of life. Nothing is every completely pure, completely perfect. Everything has a flaw. It may be obvious, and glaringly so. It may be subtle, so much so that it's 'near perfect'. It is there, however. It is about time we start recognizing that.

Embracing the shadow parts of yourself is not license to be terrible. It is not a carte blanche to be abusive or bullying or hurtful. Embracing that which makes us whole is about learning to be complete, learning how to make mistakes, learning how to make amends, and growing from those experiences. So often we get caught up in these dark thoughts that we forget the light.

I have always danced a fine line on the knife's edge of falling over the precipice into darkness. My gods, the deepest teachers that force me to spend time within the walls of my mind, are gods of death, darkness, wisdom, war. Their teachings are harsh and demanding. I also work with more gentle gods, those of healing and poetry. My views on life as a whole is to be kind, to be loving, to do good things for others and to hope for others to respond in kind. Even when people are cruel or unkind to me, underneath my anger and the fierce beastial bitch within me that seeks to devour those who dare rise against me and bathe in their blood... there is love. There is compassion. The first question I always ask is why. I try and sympathize.

It is important to not spend all my time in shadow. It is a balance, of light and dark. Too much time in either place is unhealthy. The darkness is an easy place for me, as someone with mental illness. It is an easy place to live, to make my life. It is easy to give in to those things that pull me under.

The air is silk, shadows form a grin
If I lose control I feed the beast within
--"Human" - Of Monsters and Men

While I speak of the darkness, we must always remember what lives there. Anger lives there. Jealousy lives there. Fear lives there. Hatred and sadness live there. These are all important parts of our spiritual diet, but like proverbial junk food, moderation is key. A little fear is healthy, it keeps us alive. A crippling fear of being abandoned is not. Anger is a powerful motivator in moderate doses - it becomes cruel and bitter and hateful in large doses. The same goes with the light. Too much love leads into obsession. Too much kindness can seem insincere. Too much acceptance turns you into a doormat.

Balance, balance, balance.

My lesson has been repeated over and over to me this year - "hang as I have hanged, give as I have given, sacrifice as I have sacrificed". Knowing that last year was about descending into Shadow to come out to the Star - this year has been a great trial. I have gained and lost. Spending the last few days reading through my meditation journal and life journal has painted the picture that my journey to the underworld is not quite finished yet. I often scratch my head that so many things that seem so random at first turn out to be pieces of some grand puzzle. There are so many correlations between things that have happened in the last year or so that I never saw until I read through it all. All fitting together like it was made to. It's still a marvel to me.

Even so, after spending so much time in Shadow, I look forward the the beginning of the Chariot. The Chariot for me has always begun with a journey. I am taking a short trip home in a few weeks, and I have a sense, deep in my guts, that this is the beginning of the ascent.

It has been a hard year. It continues to be hard. I suppose they are trials. They are not supposed to be easy, or pleasant.

It is supposed to be a sacrifice.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

by Lisa Sterle

This year has been a bag of dicks.

I have been living in perpetual stress for the last 360 odd days. One thing feeding off another, dipping into a denouement before cresting back up to climax. Not a break, not a rest. Mind always going, going, going. Trying to keep going, like a pack mule up the side of a mountain. Or like a goddamn Alpine Ibex, pushing myself because I crave that mineral. That mineral being sanity.

Cravin' that mineral.

It's tiring, you know. You get to a point that just feels like you can't move any further. You hit a wall, but you know you gotta get going, keep moving, because being still means death. It means the bigger, meaner cat finds you and eats you. It means you give in, and let it swallow you whole. It's fight or flight, and I'm a goddamn fighter. Stubborn old goat.

It also means I am human. A human animal.

I bleed, I cry, I yell and scream. I react like any other cornered and caged animal does when it is on it's wounded and exhausted. I conserve my energy. I strike when needed. I take care of my own, with my own demise if necessary to keep them safe.

I keep much of this beneath the skin.

I bottle this stress and worry and anger, as if to save it for later. I strain the stress off, and bathe in it until I reek. I wear it like a perfume, like a bottle of Sex Panther.

The effect it has on those around me is immediate.

"smells like bigfoot's dick"

And then later, when I am at the point of exhaustion, I take a sip of that bitter, bitter cordial I've been brewin' for months. Because my brain tells me that it's a magic tonic of truthtelling. Spoilers: it's not. It's every shadowy thing you've ever thought about yourself. It's every fear you've had about being abandoned. It's every nasty thing said in a way that makes it believable.

Stress does hilarious and terrible things to you. It makes you eat too much, or too little. It makes you sleep too much or too little. It makes your hair fall out, or gives you headaches, or ulcers. Which, of course, causes more stress.

And forget communication. Trying to tell people what is wrong is a tightrope walk of trying not to worry them, and trying to be truthful.

It ends up pushing those you love away from you because you either don't reach out enough, or you reach out too much. It leaves you alone. It makes every thing you thought about yourself correct, irrefutable.

Stress will kill you. It will inflame all other issues you have and turn them into acute problems.

It has not killed me yet. I am still alive. I feel like it would take a lot - this world has chewed me up and spit me out so many times, I'm essentially molded to deal with it.

The thing I know on top of all else, even in this state - this is temporary. I will get through this. I know from the outside it must look like an angry bee trying to escape a sealed jar, but that is not the case. As much as I want to give up, as much as I'm trying to hang on to some semblance of normalcy - 90% of the time I am a fine, functional adult.

So the lesson we have learned:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder + Depression + Stress =