Advancement (or something) means a new discomfort zone

For the past few years I’ve been eager, and anxious, and impatient to see some kind of “progress” with different aspects of my spiritual path. Maybe I should say “paths,” plural, because I don’t know if the various “roles” I seem to be filling/learning about/whatever, I don’t know, it’s a mystery are really all part of one big thing, or if they truly are separate things related to separate parts of my life, or separate “groups” of spirits.

Periodically there have been big bursts of Stuff happening that seem like more information about what it is, but not so much about what I should be doing . . . When I’ve gone to divination to get more insight, I have usually gotten some, but almost always it comes with a message or two that says “more will be revealed” and “just wait” and “that’s all for now.”

I don’t do real well with that kind of thing, but I have gotten used to it. Another thing I’ve finally gotten used to – though it’s taken a couple years! – has been how the gods (and other spirits) have indicated They prefer a pretty casual, informal way of relating. No need for big rituals . . . or any rituals . . . no, don’t bother making an offering, I’m just here to give you some advice!

Since earlier this year, when some career-shaped things did not go as I believed they would, I’ve found myself unwilling to ask seriously about timelines any more, at least on that topic. Since starting a permaculture course, I have regained some hope things will work out, and might even work out in the next year, but I can’t bring myself to throw runes or ask for a sign.

Progress in understanding most of the separate paths/roles I’ve been working on has been so slow and sporadic over the past years that I think I’d maybe expected that to keep on being the way of things.

But suddenly, it is not, at least with one category of spiritual stuff: the plant stuff. Or at least some of the plant stuff; I am not sure there is just one “plant stuff” category, but I am also not sure there’s more than one, either.

I had a totally unexpected, and extremely strong, healing interaction with a plant at the beginning of the month, which came just a couple days after realizing there is something pretty major I need to do related to plants. And I’ve started it, but it’s not ready for public announcement yet, though I am SO EXCITED I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT’S SO GREAT. But it’s not ready.

And so this was/is a big thing! And I expected to be talking to TPTB more about it! Because They are totally into me doing the thing!

And so I was not expecting Them to bring up some other big things on top of that!!

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *panic*

Yeah, Plantkind wants more from me than “just” the not-ready-for-announcement thing.

I was already struggling a little with my role in dealing with “secret” project, because uhhhh it involves other people, too, right? And um. Yeah. Community stuff + me = hahaha You’re kidding right? Wrong.

Now They’ve indicated other things They want from me, and I /love/ plants and I want them (and Them) to be /happy/ and well-treated and and AAAAAAAAAA but but why do You have to use that term to categorize it? I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted to be considered a “priestess,” but. That’s the word that came up.

Here are some of my struggles with the term: kinda maybe probably implies some more public stuff than I am used to and/or comfortable with. I’ve got 4.5 years of dealing-with-spirits experience, virtually none of it in any kind of human community-facing way. Who the hell am I to do that? (Obvious answer: I’m who They asked. *facepalm*) I don’t know how much actual public work there will be but there’s one of my fears.

It also just doesn’t fit well with my own self-image, my own thoughts about who I am and what it is that I do. I suspect some of this is lingering atheist baggage, but it’s also about the patterns of my spiritual life so far, too, and the expectations I’d created about that pattern continuing. (I see you out there, shaking your head, “Oh, you should not have expectations like that.” I know. And yet.)

And and and it seems probably more formal, at least some of the time, than what I’d (finally) gotten used to as The Way Things Are. (So I am mildly outraged; some of Them made such a point of encouraging “informal,” and now we’re going to this?!)

Then there’s some weird mystical emotional aspects to it. I have some intense relationships with some individual gods and other spirits. I also have some similarly intense feelings towards the land, but it’s only reciprocated via individual trees and other spirits that inhabit rocks and things, not “the land” as a whole (or even in part).

I have a similar kind of “big picture” love for the plants, and it’s most similar to my love for the land in not being about individuals but an entire collective. I have some relationships with individual plant Powers, but They aren’t the ones talking to me about these exciting new jobs-and-projects; I’m being approached by “collectives,” for the most part. (Which seems appropriate, given how plants grow and exist.)

It’s weird having really strong mystical feelings for things-that-aren’t-individuals – and it’s different in getting that reciprocated in various ways. It’s not like my spirit-marriages, but it’s still affection and “We will help you, too!” and kiiiiinda feels kindasorta similar to the marriages in some ways? because I feel like I’m getting swept up in, or am on the verge of getting swept up in, and subsumed in, Intense Mystical Feelings and “of /course/ I want to be with You,” and this time that’s /weird/ because I’m not interacting with a single individual. Or even 2 or 3 different individuals.

I’ve always found it kind of terrifying feeling myself on the verge of giving in to whatever, wherever, those feelings take me, but at least in the past, it was with Powers with, er, individual personalities and “faces” and I had some sense of Who They are. I love plants, but the individual plant Powers I’ve interacted with have tended to feel weird and alien in ways that most of the gods don’t (and They may be arguably “alien” in ways the plants are not! the plants don’t always seem as interested in putting on a human “mask” as gods tend to be).

I’ve had some lengthy, stressy dreams about some of this, too, that tell me part of me is really distressed about taking on responsibility. I imagine this fear will fade once I actually figure out how to do some of the “job duties” They told me They want, though I’ll probably be grappling to accept the job title for a while longer.

These things aren’t 100% surprises. There have been hints going back 3+ years, some more blatant than others, and some of the plant stuff has definitely intensified in the last 12-14 months (I got really into orchids starting about a year ago? and I know the Plants are behind that somehow but I’m not sure why). I can understand why They wouldn’t have told me sooner any specifics: I was definitely not up for human-community stuff until late this summer, and I’ve said many times I didn’t really want a major community kind of role and would in fact FIGHT EVERYONE if They said that’s what They wanted. But, well, here I am, not fighting, just mildly despairing of being capable.

But hey, They seem cool with that; They told me through divination that I’d experience problems and set backs (not quite “you’re gonna fuck up” but I figure that’s part of the message) and it would be okay.

I know there’s more to come, and I have such mixed feelings about it. Need to know more to do things as best I can; am afraid there’s gonna be another “big” reveal.

I know I’ll calm down some once I have real understanding of how this is all going to work out in practice, but I don’t have that yet, so I get to chew on it all anxiously for a while longer.

I’ve read many warnings about how you shouldn’t ask TPTB “when is this stuff going to HAPPEN??” because that might encourage Them to throw you in the deep end, but, well, I’ve steadily ignored all those warnings, and despite feeling angst about having some Stuff Happening (FINALLY), I will undoubtedly continue to ignore those warnings. I’d rather know, and have things to do, than feel vaguely, comfortably lost.

Anyway. Here’s a picture of some of my orchids; the bloom in front is from the orchid that kind got me understanding I have an orchid thing, though it’s not my first orchid:


Foreground: Phalaenopsis flower; background: Dendrobiums (one in bloom), oncidium hybrid, and another phal.

Posted in Plant Priestessing | Tagged , , ,

Community and (my) polytheism

I am very much an introvert. I love – and need – long stretches of time alone where I cannot be forced into interaction with other human beings on their terms. I don’t have any human roommates, and it’s great.

I also really wish I had a community of some kind to be involved in – ideally, it would be one in which I could be open about my spiritual life, and occasionally do group rituals or celebrations.

My workplace isn’t going to provide that; I haven’t done much in the way of trying to make friends with coworkers, partly because I’ve intended to never be here long and partly because this place is not one I really care about; I’m not particularly emotionally invested in the company. The organizations I do volunteer work with don’t really provide community, either – with one, the work I do is completely by myself, and I only see the other volunteers once or twice a year at get-togethers. With the other, the physical space where I do most of my tasks is slightly isolated from other people, and, being not prone to striking up conversation with others, I’ve failed hard for three years to get to know the other people there very well.

I get a lot out of contributing to organizations whose goals/mission/whatever I value, but it’s been a really long time since I had the opportunity to put a lot of energy into such a group AND for that group to also provide some meaningful social support for me, too. The last such group I was part of was before I became a polytheist, and a lot of that experience left me feeling really, really, like 5,000%, burnt out on even wanting to have anything to do with “community” or helping create/sustain it. (I’m feeling better now, maybe only 45% burnt out!)

When I became a polytheist, I was fortunate in that I lived close enough to a group of people who worshiped the gods I was drawn to, and I was able to participate in some rituals they did, and talk to people – and get advice from them! – who wouldn’t think I was delusional. It was incredibly beneficial. However, during those early months it also became undeniably clear that I had to move back to Oregon, where I had no social network other than my parents, and I wasn’t going to move back to my (small, rural) hometown anyway.

That was three and a half years ago, and it’s only been within the last 14 or so months that I feel I finally have something like offline community with others of similar spiritual bent.

This city has a very large pagan population, and I’ve been to some of the big weekend-long events here as well as taken some very “woo” herbalism classes. It has been worthwhile, and I particularly enjoyed the plant classes, since we were doing ritual work as part of getting to know the plants. I’d never done that kind of group work, or that kind of ritual, and it was really wonderful to be in a group of people doing that. However, as much as I really hoped that might turn out to be “my” community (or a part of it), it never felt quite right, and so at this point, I’m continuing my plant work on my own.

The other pagan events also have felt like not-quite-mine, although over the years, I’ve noticed some of the same people at those events showing up at some very clearly polytheist events; the paradigm a lot of those folks are working in (witchcraft traditions, many of them) is not quite mine, but at least some of those folks are people I can talk to about gods and spirits, as real beings, and know we have some similar experiences.

I’ve also attended several of the rituals the local ADF grove does. They’re well-done, and at two of their rituals, they honor Norse gods, including Loki, which is fantastic! I’m really glad they exist, I like what they’re doing and the social aspect is nice, but I have to line up a car to get there and the structure is also . . . just not my thing.

Meanwhile, I have always had some level of online community. It’s how I’ve found literally every offline group I’ve checked out, how I first got to know local people who are now friends, and a place I can always go to talk about my spiritual life and get support. It does not provide me those vital kinds of connection that I can only get in face-to-face conversation, but it’s been absolutely invaluable, especially when I’m too tired or depressed to even contemplate attempting to leave the house for any in-person anything.

I appreciate very much the effort that people put in to organizing regular offline religious community and all the associated projects that can go with that. I know how difficult it can be to just get a group of people to get together to talk over tea!

I also share the concern in the wider polytheist community to see traditions become more fully developed, grounded in physical place, passed on to others, and generally more a fabric of society. I have a hard time imagining what that would be like, but it sounds really wonderful, and I’m glad there are people making it happen.

I’ve also seen people spend huge amounts of time and effort into creating online community: educating co-religionists, sharing celebrations, handling conflicts, and supporting each other, and I’m pretty blown away by that, too.

Creating healthy communities is hard and valuable work, regardless of where it’s happening.

I personally, selfishly, want more community in which we all have enough in common, religiously/spiritually, to do some stuff together, and so I’ve periodically put out feelers towards my gods, to see if maybe this time, this spiritual group is one I should get more involved with, to learn more from, to develop as an additional path of spiritual development, but the answer has always come back as no. No, I have to do what I’m doing (whatever the heck that is) pretty much on my own. I can take classes here and there, but no, not that tradition, and not that one, either. (And to some degree, I get it – my personal relationships with spirits have to be done with me and Them and that’s it, it can’t/shouldn’t be a human-community project – but gods . . . having structure presented by other human beings? Who are doing the same things within that structure?! . . . I want it, and for reasons that would turn into too much of a digression here.)

Someday, I’d really love to have other people to do some level of in-person group worship with, but I don’t know that I also need my religious community to provide me other things such community often does – like volunteer opportunities, ’cause I’ve got that sorted.

I’ve sometimes wished I could do more community building on my own, but I don’t have the best set of skills for it, and I’ve also had to be very careful with my energy for the last couple years, due to being burnt out by previous “community,” and dealing with internal crap that’s left me with little for anything beyond necessities, so I haven’t made much effort to get together with the other local Lokeans (there are several other Lokeans here!! !!!!!) or other polytheists more, but I feel like I’ve gotten enough energy back (finally!) that maaaybe I can get more involved in what’s already here (like the “Portland Polytheists” group) and see how that goes.

In the meantime, I am grateful for the communities I have that are sustained by this series of tubes, and I’m particularly glad for some of the more recent additions to that (like G&R, and, more recently, the “My Polytheism” thing), since it’s brought me into more/deeper contact with people who have really interesting things to say, some of which are similar to some of my things, yay!, and one of the most valuable things about community is, after all, feeling that there are others with whom you belong.

Posted in Pagan Community | Tagged , ,

Authoritarianism, leadership, hierarchy, etc.

This may be kind of a jumbled post; I’ve been thinking about writing about some of this stuff for several months now, off and on, but I’ve just never quite felt motivated to get to it. (I don’t really enjoy writing “serious” posts, see, and there’s always been something more interesting to distract myself with.)

So anyway!

I’ve seen some really interesting writing this past year or more about authoritarianism and hierarchy and leadership, some of it coming from polytheists, and some of it not, and since I think this is a really vitally important topic, I want to encourage people to read it.

From the polytheist section:

A Conversation on Power and Authority in Polytheism starts with this:

We (meaning western polytheists, and still I resist the idea that there is a big We – we are too small and too diverse) have an opportunity. If we really do want to bring polytheism back (the Gods never left), and grow the polytheist community, (which I take to actually mean grow the religious movement of polytheism in the West), we have the opportunity to do that from the roots.

Now is our chance to do our best to root out totalitarianism, Authority and power over, and oppression. To really examine what it is we want, who we want to be, and how we want to build the community.

and expands on that, touching on topics like structure and community-building.

I’ve seen multiple posts on Magick from Scratch over the past couple years that talk about the importance of consent in human-divine relationships (as an alternative to the “but you must not tell a deity ‘no’!” notion that some people promote). Here is one of them.

On the not-polytheistic side, The rise of American authoritarianism is something I consider a must-read, as the general topic of “authoritarianism” is something that is not limited to the United States or to the impact on partisan politics (the article talks a lot about “why do so many people find Donald Trump appealing” but it’s a much, much bigger thing than just this current presidential election).

Authoritarians prioritize social order and hierarchies, which bring a sense of control to a chaotic world. Challenges to that order — diversity, influx of outsiders, breakdown of the old order — are experienced as personally threatening because they risk upending the status quo order they equate with basic security.

I also strongly encourage reading Bob Altemeyer’s work on authoritarianism; it’s a good complement to the Vox piece. It was written during the Bush years; he’s also got some later writing discussing the Tea Party. Altemeyer discusses the differences between “authoritarian followers” and “authoritarian leaders,” which the Vox piece does not talk about; the Vox piece, however, talks about people can go from a “latent authoritarian” (someone who doesn’t seem to have an authoritarian stance) to actively being one, which I don’t recall Altemeyer discussing (but it’s been several years since I read Altemeyer’s work, and I might simply be forgetting). It’s really interesting and an engaging read and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s free! It’s online!! (I may reread it at work myself . . . I’ll likely have ample downtime to fit it in.)

Authoritarian tendencies, or oppressive tendencies by any other name, that rely on having power over others are tendencies I am really not a fan of. It’s not, however, that I am fundamentally opposed to hierarchies – people who are in subordinate positions are not necessarily going to be abused, any more then people in groups with “no hierarchy” are going to be free from being abused by others in the group (see: “The Tyranny of Structurelessness“).

I was once an officer in the Air Force. I was treated much more respectfully and collegially by my senior officers than I have been treated in volunteer-run organizations where supposedly there wasn’t much hierarchy at all (ditto my post-military work; I’ve had more jerkass “I’m senior therefore” bullshit to deal with in civilian jobs than I did in the military). I know other people have had horrible experiences in the military, so I know mine isn’t, unfortunately, a universal experience, because some people will take an “official” position as license to mistreat other people.

One of the few things I remember from some of the leadership training I got, however, was being told that one of your duties as a leader is to take care of your people. As an officer, you’d have access to things your subordinates might not (rank, even very junior officer rank, has its privileges), and you’d be responsible for writing up annual performance assessments that affect things like promotions, and so it’s important to make sure they get what they need to do their jobs well and be happy and thus the whole unit does well. You have responsibilities to the people who report to you, in part because – in the military – you very literally have power over them. So I have little patience for leaders who don’t even have that fucking basic down.

I also think that authoritarian/power-over dynamics are the fundamental problem we need to address to create a healthier world. Capitalism is terrible, sure, but it’s just one expression of those dynamics. Civilizations have fucked themselves over ecologically well before capitalism gave us another nifty justification for overusing water/land/trees/whathaveyou, and people have found reasons to justify oppressing “other” people, and getting wealthy off of it, before this free market bullshit came around. (Is it inaccurate to conflate capitalism and the free market? I’ve lost track, and at this point in this post I don’t care.) Capitalism is really effective at rolling all that up greed and oppression into one mess and calling it progress, but the basic problematic concepts predate the economic system. So, you know, I’m a fan of replacing capitalism with more horizontally-structured ways of doing business, kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Replace with what?? Well, like finding more and more ways to recreate various commons. If you want more on commons, hit up the search bar on LOTS of readings about commons and cooperatives and so on and so forth. Also here’s a podcast.

(Another thing I have little patience for: “But whatever will we do without capitalism? What is the alternative? What will this great capitalism-free future look like??” I don’t know, buddy, the future’s really unclear, we’ve never been exactly here before what with the global environmental catastrophes and all, but let’s look at other ways we do things that are NOT capitalistic and also maybe, just maybe, consider the principles we want to recreate, like non-coercive, non-abusive, non-exploitative ways of doing things, and see what happens when we put that into action – and check in and see if what’s being created really does match those values! – instead of sitting around hand-wringing about the supposed lack of “alternatives.”)

Posted in Miscellaneous crap, ranting | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

My polytheism

I’ve really been enjoying the posts inspired by the first My Polytheism post, and so:

In brief: I treat gods (and other spirits) like I treat human people (or would like to), except I can be more honest with Them.

At length:

My polytheism is very heavily focused on just one god. My daily routine is interspersed with things for or directed towards Him, and He is very interested in pretty much every part of my life, including a lot of things that fall into the “mundane minutia, why do You even . . . ?!” category, but uh. It’s been like that for 4+ years, I like it, He seems to be getting something out of it (entertainment, sometimes, for sure), so there it is.

There are many Others I keep altars for, but a couple of years ago, I got repeated, clear “stop that” instructions about my then-weekly altar-tending practice. So I did. It felt weird and wrong, but the message was pretty clear. It still feels kind of weird and wrong – after all, isn’t tending altars and making regular offerings one of Things you are “supposed to” do if you’re a polytheist?? However, I’m not going to try and force things on people when They’ve indicated They don’t want those things, so for two years now, I’ve just had this kinda awkward relationship with all these altars. I like having them here, and happily, the various gods and Others have (mostly) indicated I ought to keep Their altars here. But instead of doing regular altar-focused work, or even the occasional seasonal-appropriate ritual, apparently I’m just supposed to . . . talk to Them if They drop in. *quiet introvert teeth-clenching*

I don’t keep the Loki-oriented daily practices 100% on schedule; some weekend mornings I skip a morning routine, and some evening routines happen earlier than usual, or slightly differently. Some nights He tells me to skip it and go straight to bed (. . . it takes like 3 minutes normally). He’s never complained when I’ve decided to skip some/all of the “usual” routine, and I suspect He prefers things to be less than 100% organized, both because Loki, and because if I get too caught up in things having to be 100% ALL THE TIME I get a little anxious and stressy, and He cares about my well-being. (Then there is the part of me that wonders if this is all part of some super god-level secret plan to teach me a Lesson, which I have yet to clue in to . . .)

I don’t have a travel altar. I used to at least bring a candle with me, especially when I stayed with my parents, but He’s been discouraging that, too. I like my routine enough that I don’t like NOT having it at my folks’ place, but it makes travel in other places much simpler – and I still talk to Him as much, and some portions of my daily routine that are oriented towards Him (hair braiding, sharing food), I don’t need an altar to do.

I’ve tried to get a clear answer from Him about how He actually feels about the daily stuff, especially the evening portion – should I quit it? Does He like it or simply feel ambivalent about X or Y aspects of it? Most times I’ve gotten a sort of smug “What do you think?” kind of response back (not helpful!! but not a surprising non-answer either) but then once He said that really, it was the relationship that counts. Which. Yes. I mean obviously? Anyway.

That is generally the feeling I’ve gotten over the last couple years from the Others, too. The “how about you don’t do that ritual, just get the runes out, no don’t put the offering on My altar, leave it in the kitchen” from one goddess; the “meh” response about setting up an altar for a new one; the removal of an altar for a god Who keeps showing up anyway . . .

With Loki and Mr. Lynx-ears, having pretty casual interactions has seemed appropriate, since there is a lot of intimacy in those relationships that doesn’t exist in most of my other deity relationships (and I think it would create problems in the relationships if I tried to put formality in there, except for very specific ritual purposes), but it has felt odd when Powers I don’t talk to often have been disinterested in offerings when They’ve shown up to tell me things. Oh well; that’s how it is.

Another thing that isn’t really part of how I relate to the gods is this “ritual purity” or “miasma” concept I keep seeing people talk about.

I’ve been instructed to bathe and cleanse before doing some specific rituals (all of which have turned out to be one-time rituals), but otherwise, I’ve had no instructions about there being a need to do that, or anything else, before regular interaction with Powers.

I incorporate an energy-cleansing method into my regular bathing routine, which I believe Loki clued me in to do – but He’s never indicated that it’s anything to do with Him; if I’m overdue for a shower and/or energy scrubdown, He won’t tell me to go do that before approaching Him, nor has any other Power. Maybe that means my regular routine is more than enough for Their preferences. Or maybe it has nothing to do with Them, and Loki taught me this so I’d know how to reduce the chances I’ll feel like crap from doing energy work, divination, and talking to Them; He’s taught me other ways to rebalance myself after doing energy work, too. At any rate, it isn’t something I spend a lot of time worrying about. If I can tell I’ve done something energetically heavy, then I will do what I need to in order to sort myself out, and that’s that (more or less; sometimes I opt for lesser methods of cleansing over the full shower experience, and decide to risk some level of energy “hangover”).

I greatly value having divine input into my decision-making process, especially for big things, but I’ve generally taken the approach with gods (and other “big” spirits) that They are mature adults Who know that it’s important to communicate Their preferences proactively, and not just wait until They are asked for Their opinion. So for example, I’m not going to ask if They want me to take up altar-tending again. They know where I live, They’ve proven They can tell me things about altars, if They want change there, They’ll tell me. (And how many times would I have to ask before They’d say, very bluntly: STOP. ASKING. WE TOLD YOU. … Been there done that with other topics. Don’t see a good reason to risk annoying Anyone. Waste of everyone’s time.)

Sometimes I definitely want to ask Them before I take an action, but for plenty of things, I take the approach that if They think something I’m doing/planning is a bad idea, then it’s on Them to tell me; I’m not going to ask permission for everything. Also, Loki has instilled in me nervousness about asking too much, ’cause if I do that, well, He’ll give me advice, but I probably won’t be happy with the results. (Also, sometimes? The runes start giving answers that sound like fortune cookies. #how you know it’s time to stop asking questions) I still ask Loki lots of questions about life minutia, because my inner introvert monologue has largely been turned into running chatter directed at Him, and because, hey, Husband, You want that job, You get the “Uuuugh so . . . dinner . . . what do You think? Chicken or . . . ?” questions along with the fancy rings and etc. (And He told me once that He wanted me to share “everything” with Him. … I’ll take that opening and run with it, thankYouverymuch, that has superb comedic potential.) Very entertaining for everyone involved (but when He feels like it, He does give good cooking advice). More seriously, though, I get a lot of support from feeling His subtle presence in a lot of the day-to-day, and I need that, and He’s informed me on more than one occasion that taking care of my needs is part of what He’s all about, so.

There are a lot of other spirits in my life who I know do not have the same experience/ability to “see” things that I assume the gods and other Powers have, so I adjust my communication and behavior appropriately. But with all the spirits, I actively try to find out if there’s something they need or want other than my attention/communication. A lot of times, that seems to be the “only” thing they’re after (I put that word in quotes because I think it is wrong to devalue the energy of focusing on someone else, listening to them, and responding appropriately).

I do believe the gods, and many other Powers, are bigger and smarter and wiser than I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to just obey Them without question. I kneel in front of Loki’s altar; I kneel most of the time if I’m approaching a Power, and there have been some Whose presence required full prostration (but only the first few times I went before Them). But I will also tell Them if something They tell me gives me qualms. I don’t think there’s any point in trying to hide my feelings from Powers, and I’d rather have it out there so I can better understand what They’re trying to tell me, instead of just saying “okay” and then . . . possibly not understand what the fuck I’m even “supposed to” do.

With some of Them, I will argue, or push back against what They say/suggest I should do, but mostly that’s Loki, because He encourages it, and He’s most likely to tell me things I should be skeptical of, and it’s, um, my natural behavior when I’m comfortable with someone anyway and I’m not fucking going to squish myself into unnatural shapes for any Power who wants this kind of intimate relationship. He’s also intentionally pushed my boundaries a lot; several of the other gods have, too. If I don’t push back at those times, I’m not learning the right lessons, and I very much want to learn these lessons, as much as they’ve been fucking awful at times. It has usually been very obvious when They are testing various boundaries, so it’s usually been clear when pushing back is definitely the right thing to do, and it’s been enormously healing, to be able to push back or resist in various ways and know it is safe to do so.

I’ve never been worried that asking Powers questions, or expressing skepticism about what They’re saying, would end up with getting harsh treatment just for asking. (I told someone recently I once went and asked all of Them if I could change how often I dusted altars, and this person seemed surprised I even asked. … At the time I figured what was the worst that might happen? They’d say “LOL no, keep doing what you’re doing.”) If I’m going to take advice from Someone who knows some stuff, I want to understand as much as possible what’s going on, and that means questioning Them and expressing doubts or discomforts until either I understand what’s going on, know how to best take action, and have my discomforts addressed OR it becomes clear that They were aiming at some different kind of understanding or breakthrough on my part.

Basically, I treat Them the way I’d like to treat human beings I interact with, but I trust the gods to be far, far less likely to have unpleasant knee-jerk reactions to my communication style, even if I’m too emotional to be on my best (i.e., most stoic or controlled) behavior. I expect Them to be better than humans at dealing with human bullshit, and to (hopefully) know that, for the most part, I’m trying to understand and collaborate, and that telling Them what’s going with me emotionally is an important part of the process. It’s very freeing, and a relief, to not have to bottle myself up the way I have to in a lot of human interactions, even if on some level I always do expect some kind of repercussion for “questioning authority.”

There’s probably plenty more I could say about “my polytheism,” because ecology! and what about other spirits that aren’t “gods”? and stuff? but I already feel self-conscious about how long this is and I kind of want to just publish something rather than take another month and end up with 10,000 words.

Posted in General Religious Stuff, Polytheism | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Husbands and marriage(s)

I haven’t made a lot of updates here in a while on that whole topic, but there are three now. Mr. Lynx-ears and I formalized things on the very last day of this past spring, and the “land spirit” who had been my consort for a while has been my husband since, er, last October.

The relationships are pretty different, though those I have with the two gods have some pretty strong similarities; I just have a lot less contact with Mr. L-e than Loki, and He’s not as invested in the details of my life as Loki is. But a lot of our interactions have been very similar to what I’ve had going with Loki: a lot of “here is some baggage, oh look! It’s yours!! You ought to deal with that. Now” and also a lot of emotional support and even some time together that’s just nice. Companionable. Considering that the first 6 months to a year with Mr. L-e were really heavy on the baggage-handling, the “nice and companionable” aspects still feel really new and unexpected, but I think this may be the new baseline.

My fae spouse (after we became married, he informed me he’s not really a land spirit, as in a “spirit of place,” he’s “fae”) has not been involved in that sort of stuff. Our relationship has been primarily focused on doing work for/with? an area of land. He often guides me to where to work, and sometimes does work “through” me, which explains part of why I’ve found my work there so exhausting at times: it hasn’t just been physical labor. We’ve done some stuff that has been energy- and spirit-world-oriented, too, but I’ve rarely gone to him with any of my mundane-life concerns, and he’s never shown up with a baggage cart in tow, either. (It’s nice. It’s really nice to have a relationship that doesn’t have a massive emotional-heavy-lifting part to it to the degree my relationships with gods do. And I don’t mean just my Husbands – other deities like to bring up baggage, too. . . It’s like it’s Their job or something. (I am grateful, because it’s helped me a lot, but it’s fucking tiring, and when it comes from Loki or Mr. L-e, it puts strain on those relationships.))

They have all told me that I should – need to – go to Them with stuff, that’s part of what Their role(s) in my life are. I’ve done a lot of that with Loki and Mr. Lynx-ears, but not so much with the other spirit – though he only mentioned that quite recently, and since we don’t talk very often, it hasn’t come up that I’ve thought to go to him with any concerns.

It feels a little strange in some ways to call him a spouse, since the relationship has little in common with what I’d typically consider a “marriage,” but clearly, “marriage” means different things to different non-corporeals, and it feels right. (One difference: He and I didn’t exchange vows; he says his people don’t really do that, but there are other things couples do that cause the relationship status to be labeled “marriage.”)

I’ve asked some of the gods at different times why “marriage” – why does it have to be that, why can’t it just be spending time together without that kind of commitment, or that terminology. Their answers have more or less amounted to it makes things easier in some way, gives Them more ability to influence things in my life.

One of Them also said, “It suits you” and wasn’t at all sympathetic to my discomfort with the amount of impending poly marriage, some of which came from the stigma that’s out there against people marrying gods, period. I know of several other people who are lovers/consorts/spouses to multiple gods/spirits, but, you know, combine two fringey practices and it’s kind of an uncomfortable place to be. I’m naturally poly, but I’ve only once in my pre-polytheistic life had more than 2 partners at a time – and I could really only manage that because one lived far away. (Now that I think about it, the balance I have right now is kinda similar to the balance I had at that time, though I “see” my fae husband more often than I saw my former long-distance boyfriend.) I feel like I’m really at my limit now, especially since there are two other gods Who show up once or twice a week for usually brief check-ins, and several other spirits I stay in touch with daily or at least frequently.

One of my biggest concerns when the topic has been raised has been how the new relationship would balance out with my relationship with Loki; I don’t think I could manage two of the same degree of involvement and intensity, and while intellectually I understood that different relationships are different, emotionally I had some major hangups with the thought of even a second one. It felt threatening, especially coming from another god, and especially because I wasn’t as bowled over, emotionally, as I was (am) with Loki. How could I possibly have a second Spouse?! Well, uh, relatively easily, now that those early months of screaming and running from the very thought of it have been laid to rest, and I’ve had plenty of time and evidence to realize that neither He nor the relationship or time or anything are a threat to what I already had.

I don’t want to give any of Them up, but sometimes I still miss the first year or two when Loki was the only one. It was nice when He was the only major focus; other deities/spirits I talked to had regular time and devotional requirements, but the emotion attached to it was very different.

He’s pushed me away to some degree, too; first (and years ago) by discouraging me from what had been a daily meditation/trance practice. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it’s nice having more time to use as I see fit, rather than spending it really intensely focused on relating to someone else. On the other – I miss the frequency of that intensity. (I know: every relationship has the early intense “fun” days and then settles into a less-frequently-exciting level of familiarity. I still miss it.)

The last year and a half have been rough in other ways. In addition to Mr. Lynx-ears showing up and requiring some of my time and attention, and Loki stepping back some during the early stages of that, Loki also started bringing up another stage of working on my trauma history. That was a “normal” enough part of what happened every time – or nearly every time – I tried to reach out to Him that I became afraid to reach out to Him at all. So I was upset by what He was bringing up, and wanting to reach out to Him for comfort and reassurance, but afraid to do so, because most of the time, eventually, He’d bring up the awful again . . . And there’s nothing quite as much fun as knowing that sooner or later, you’re going to get smacked with something appalling when what you wanted was the exact opposite.

That eased up last summer, and things were all right for a while, until something He set in motion hit its “everything blows up” moment about 6 months ago. It felt like such an appalling, incomprehensible betrayal that I could not talk to Him in any in-depth way for weeks without completely melting down. I couldn’t talk to Mr. L-e about it without melting down, either; I hoped He might have some insight that would help bring me through it, but really, not so much. Sometimes He’d try to encourage me to stop holding back from reaching out to Loki more. Sometimes He just had to try and keep me from completely destabilizing. Mostly He was just there, letting me vent and emoting something that felt like “I’m sorry you’re going through this but I have nothing helpful to say.”

Hearing from Them (and Others) that as truly awful as it was to live with/through, it was done for my long-term good, has only been confusing (I hadn’t been that abysmally depressed in years, or for so long at that depth). I’ve yet to understand how, or any specific details. I asked, a lot, because if I’d had that kind of information, I felt I would be able to calm the fuck down some, and actually begin to trust Him again with anything significant.

I thought I had some of my major buttons mashed unto breaking a couple years ago, but this was spectacularly worse, and with absolutely no payoff that I have seen. With every other major breakdown one of Them has brought on, I could tell to some degree what They were aiming for, and I could tell how I benefited after dealing with the emotional stuff that came up. Maybe I’m just not “through” this one to the point I can see any of that; I don’t know.

Over the last 2 or 3 months, He kept trying to encourage me to “come back,” but it was hard. I didn’t stop doing any of my normal devotional practices, but I couldn’t talk myself over or through the emotional barriers, or out of bringing the whole fucking thing up, over and over, or wanting to ask Him for serious advice in my life – but running full tilt into “how the fuck can I trust it won’t just go down in a twisted wreckage again.”

(I do realize this is Loki I’m talking about, Who has multiple myths on the theme of “fucking things up, making others really angry and likely feeling betrayed and then, sooner or later, making things better, sometimes better than pre-fuckery” but you know, those are fucking myths. One tends to hope the deities closest in one’s life won’t take actions that put the worst mythical behaviors of those gods into actual real painful display. Call me naive if you like, but I like expecting/hoping for the best in people.)

Things got easier, but then I had another brief rough spell and things got bad again. Then another god indicated She had things to teach me, and when I sat down to ask for details, it started out sounding related to, maybe, me making some progress on career-related things – but then She flat-out told me I had to turn to Him. Get over what happened, just stop, and turn to Him. He actually interjected in the reading at one point, indicated my gold ring, like He was snapping it, and asked if that was what I wanted . . . the implications seemed pretty clear. I don’t think it was a “shape up this very instant or it’s over” situation, but it was a very clear message about some of the implications of what “being married” meant.

Of course it had crossed my mind at some point, partly due to my history, and not wanting to be in a relationship where trust has been badly violated. I wondered if that’s what He was trying to make me see, to actually do: leave. Prove I could. Something like that. He’d done that before, maybe it needed to be done again? I didn’t want to, even when I was at my worst; the thought of it just added another layer of panic. Fortunately, that was not the case.

After the “get over it” talk from the goddess (She said some encouraging things after Her own fashion, too, “Husbands can be a burden, I know, but this is a good one for you, good enough, anyway”), things eased up. I’m not sure if the barrier I’d been unable to release melted away then or when He and I had another talk a few days after that. “Dancing” as a metaphor for the relationship has come up often in the past, and He used that again: “We’re married, that means things. I will lead, and you will follow. And fight! But mostly follow.” He said some of that humorously, because it is true, I cannot help but resist at times, but it’s also what He has encouraged: if I follow too closely, look to Him to lead too often, things are going to go somewhere I definitely don’t want – but I can’t go off on my own too much, either. (This is the most. frustrating. thing. to try and balance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

He also finally explained, in a way I could understand, that He hadn’t quite intended for things to be as bad as they’d gotten. I’ve often been skeptical of this sort of statement coming from gods – it seems like such an easy way to smooth things over, because we’re told gods aren’t perfect and can’t do everything, and while I believe that, I also wonder just how often it’s a believable way to give an apology and move on rather than 100% true.   Whether this time it was genuine or an example of superb acting, I don’t know, but this time I believe it.

This has been an awful year – pretty much nothing at all like what I was hoping or expecting when it started – but I think the dust is largely settled, and there’s actual progress being made, not just “trying to reassemble something from the wreckage.” I have some direction about how to proceed, though I am (as a result of this past winter) extremely gunshy about asking for details, or possible outcomes. Oh well; nowhere else to go but forward.

Posted in Land and Land Spirits, Loki, Mr. Lynx-ears, Spirit marriage | Tagged , , , ,

A small update on wildfire and bark beetles

Sometime last year, I wrote a couple posts about wildfire and/or bark beetles and forest health, so it was really cool to find another article recently explaining how the “devastation” brought by the beetles may actually help prevent more extreme fires in the future. From “Insect outbreaks help forests survive wildfires” (which mentions the  spruce budworm, a moth, as well as bark beetles):

…conventional knowledge holds that insect outbreaks increase the risk of and damage from wildfires. The logic is that these insects increase the amount of fuel for a fire because they kill so many trees. The 2014 US Farm Bill even designated $200 million each year for wildfire prevention measures across 18 million hectares (100 hectares = 1 square kilometer) based upon this assumption. There’s just one problem: that assumption may not rest upon a foundation of solid science.

“Recent studies indicate that insect outbreaks generally do not increase wildfire likelihood, [and] key uncertainties remain regarding the influence of insect outbreaks on subsequent wildfire severity,” writes Garrett W. Meigs of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry.

By comparing wildfire activity with insect outbreaks, the team found evidence that directly contradicted the prevailing wisdom. Rather than exacerbating wildfires, insect outbreaks might actually reduce their damage.

What’s not yet clear is how insect outbreaks reduce the severity of wildfires, but the researchers have at least one guess. In killing or defoliating the trees, the insects are moving the fuel along both horizontal and vertical gradients, both by thinning the forests and by moving biomass from the canopies to the ground. This movement may alter forest connectivity enough that fires could have a harder time spreading.

I’d like to think that the various governmental agencies that have an impact on logging practices, especially those done with the claim that they will reduce forest fires, will take these facts into stronger consideration than the pressures they undoubtedly get to keep logging (or “thinning,” or whatever cover-up phrase they use to make it sound like a good idea).

Posted in Environmentalism, Land and Land Spirits | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Travel interludes

I’m in a cabin by a lake, not far from where my mom grew up, and where we used to spend time some summers, visiting her family when I was a kid. I haven’t been back here in many years; I’ve rarely been to Minnesota as an adult. But my youngest cousin is getting married, and I thought it would be nice to see a lot of people I’ve barely seen in years.

This past weekend, I went to the Viridis Genii Symposium. It is a very well-run event, and very interesting. During one break between lectures, I ended up talking with another person and mentioning how I’d ended up working at an architecture firm (not doing architectural work) after being Told to stop pursuing architecture as a career, and how getting that job felt a like real twist of the knife.

He said something about how the path spirals, which means parts of it kind of look the same, because you’re going around in a circle, but you’re still progressing.

. . . True. (Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had that sort of repetition since things got Weird.)

I had to switch planes in Denver.

On the first flight, I started thinking about how I was actually going to (kind of, very briefly) see Denver again, and how actually emotional I expected to be over that, and how, gosh, wow, I moved away 8.5 years ago which means, holy shit, I moved to Denver eleven years ago and I kind of can’t handle how long it’s been since I went to grad school, since it means it’s been that long since then, and what I hoped/expected my life to be now is very much different.

It was while I was in Denver that I was first triggered, as in, trauma trigger, and despite having some intellectual familiarity with that concept, it took me a while to understand what the FUCK had happened, especially since what had actually happened was pretty fucking benign, but my reaction was pretty intense. (A classmate, a bit testy at the end of the semester, said something that sent me from the room with great force – panic, really, though I felt almost nothing but “” and then I spent an hour crying in a stairwell.)

I really liked living in Denver. Especially after several years in Boston, which was always never the place. Denver reminded me a lot of home.

I gave up my window seat on the first flight to a man who asked, because he had some sort of back pain. He promptly closed the window shade, and it stayed that way most of the flight. I was really peeved at that; I really enjoy watching the ground, or clouds, or whatever. Towards the end of the flight, there was some very slight turbulence, and I felt a shift in the energy, too. It didn’t occur to me to reach out and see if Someone was trying to reach me, but a short while later, the guy opened the shade, and I could see rugged mountains below, and I was joyful – and they greeted me very positively, and then I had to wipe away tears. I was not expecting anything like that, not that far from the area I call home.

When I got to the airport in the morning, I noticed my suitcase had a tag on with my married name on it. UGH. THIS WILL NOT DO. I ripped it off and stuck it in my pocket, I’ll deal with that later.

I had an hour in the Denver airport (and more tears seeing downtown from the air), so I took a looooooooooooong walk/trip on the moving sidewalks to get to the west end of the terminal to see the mountains for a while. There were some lowish clouds between me and them, and clouds on the mountains, so it wasn’t the most amazing view ever, but they were still THERE and I could see them, and it had been so long, and they were one of the best things about being in Denver.

It was an emotional view, the Front Range, and the amazing clouds in between them and me (the Denver area greats such fantastic cloud formations), and history, and stuff.

Having my ex on my mind, I remembered the luggage tag. I decided I would get it out, and rip his name off (we hyphenated our names when we married; some years after the divorce, I changed my name back, so periodically I find old crap that needs his name removed from it). I’d barely registered what address was actually on the tag, but yes, it was my second Denver address. Of course it was.

I waffled on whether to put the scrap with his name in the trash, or the paper recycling (symbolism . . . what do I want???), and decided on the trash. Be gone with you, be buried! I put the scrap with my name back in my pocket, I’ll deal with that later.

I felt remarkable good after that. And then I realized what to do with the rest of the luggage tag; on my (even longer) walk back through the terminal to my departure gate, I stopped to put the remains of it, with my name, into a recycling bin.

So I’m at a cabin on a lake because there’s a family wedding, and so family is doing wedding-prep things, which includes my aunt (who I’d forgotten had not attended mine) asking about mine, which was back in the mid-90s. I couldn’t remember the exact date, only the year and month. HA. Hahahahahahahahahaaa. (My mom could remember the date.) I couldn’t remember other details about it my aunt was curious about that my mom did – decorating plans and other preparations. I’d forgotten my aunt had not attended, but she remarked how she wondered what she’d had going on that was “so important” that she hadn’t come. I did not start trouble by saying “You didn’t miss much” but I was tempted.

I have not talked to any of my family about my post-divorce realizations about how abusive the relationship was, or what I’ve been dealing with since then. The divorce was amiable . . .

So that was a conversation I was very uncomfortable with. I’m afraid that the topic may come up again, because, well. . . Oh well.

There are fish in the lake; I watched them doing some interesting territorial sorts of things near the end of the dock. They are making nests for spawning.

The lake was welcoming; she wants me to come in, but the water is COLD, so I will give it a try some hot afternoon.

Some of the other land-associated spirits I encountered between Denver and here were not so welcoming.

I was admiring a really lovely landscape feature, with complex rugged edges – a plateau or mesa of some kind – and thinking how great it was, how that complexity and ruggedness would be great to keep humans away, at least from that spot, and that’s great, because so very much of the land around it was all clearly ranching or farming or /something/. And then I was surprised to get a very angry “GET THE FUCK AWAY” image from a spirit of that place, who pulled back and became less hostile when I told it I did NOT want to harm it or intrude, and that I hoped very much it would remain safe. I stopped looking at the feature shortly after that; it felt like even looking was too much.

Not far from there was another similar feature – but this one had a straight perfect scar of a road partway across it, with some buildings at the end, and the land looked plowed . . . This one had some even more complex and wonderful edges, the kind of fractal pattern when many small streams and flowing down to join together. That place felt more subdued and resigned; I said “nothing lasts forever; you can outlast this.”

Then I felt like I had to stop looking at the land so much for a while. But after a while there was a dammed river, with thoughts of flowingrushing freely (“dams do not last forever”) and then we were getting close to our destination (acres and acres and acres of plowed land as far as the eye can see – where is any of the original prairie even left?!) and then again, I felt Something strong – and unpleasant.

Unlike the powers I felt near Denver, this one was angry, and bitter, and felt like someone who feels unable to do anything but rage against what is and has been done. He asked for a particular offering, and then when I agreed to it, somewhat scornfully asked if I really thought that would do any good. Compared to the scale of the problem, no, not really.

The conversation got a little easier after that. He said he’d be my guide while I am here. (Oh, lovely; an angry regional land Power wants to hang around.)

I can’t recall if I’ve always felt kind of sad or weird about the huge swathes of the continent covered by farms. I know people have to eat. But it’s so hard to see, especially being aware of the history of what’s been obliterated, the richness that is gone. And while I wasn’t born here, I am from here, after a fashion; I don’t recall offhand how many generations of ancestors I have in this specific area, but it’s a few, and my grandparents, and some people before them, they were farmers.

When there was a lull in the historic wedding discussion, I escaped to my room to get online and catch up with some communications – and to get runes out to have some more discussion with my “guide.”

I don’t know the specifics of what he needs from me, and he didn’t want to go into details, but I said I’d help. I got an official “yeah this looks fine” from Loki, so I’m not worried that lack of details will land me in trouble, but I did have a moment of suspicion (I HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE) and pulled runes to inquire as to whether this Really Truly Honestly actually about the land or whether it’s another cleverly-disguised way to get me to deal with my own shit. Because I’m really fuckin’ tired of the latter, I have enough going on as is, and I would like something that is simply what it appears to be.

If I read the runes right, it isn’t yet-another-can-we-nOT, but I expect I’m not going to be able to entirely avoid more of the awful topic no matter what.

Round and round we go, onward and – I hope – upward.

Posted in Land and Land Spirits, Shadow Work | Tagged , ,