Friday, July 10, 2015

*Ghosti: a Weird Word for Relationships

One of the things that we in ADF love is a good scholarly article.  As an ADF priest I have read a lot of scholarly articles as have the many initiates, priests, and scholars among our members.   One of the beautiful things about all this research is that occasionally we come across some really neat things.  Sometimes we even rediscover  sacred mysteries of the indigenous peoples of the Eurasian continent.  *Ghosti is a word like that.

The reason that it has an asterisk in front of it is that it isn’t a real word. Not in the sense that we know someone ever spoke it.  However, linguists have come a long way from the realization in the 1800’s that Sanskrit had a shocking amount of words that were very similar to words in various European languages.  Scholars from Victorian England postulated that Sanskrit and English were in fact languages that had developed from a common root.   Many years later we know they were correct.  That’s why we ADFers focus on the Indo-European cultures.  They have stuff in common.

So among the words for sun, sky, pig, cow, and even flea we have a word that means both guest and host.  It is a word of give and take, of relationship between.

You cannot have relationship without there being at least two things, even if they’re parts of self.  By its nature, the word relationship implies interaction.  *Ghosti is that interaction between something that is not you and your self.  In the Germanic languages the words that developed from it mean both guest and stranger.  The word hostage and hostile also come from it.  From the French we have hospital and the Greek have euxenos which means hospitable.

As I have delved deeper into vision and trance work with this concept I have discovered this word is essentially about action.  You cannot have relationship without some sort of doing practice.   I envision it as a flow of energy that moves from one being and then back again.  This particular sort of energy is created simply by interacting.  However it disappears if it stops flowing.  Without give and take there is nothing left.

Friendship: painting donated for auction.
I love to study the traditions of hosting that have developed in different cultures.  In Lithuania it is traditional to greet a guest with a bit of bread and salt on an embroidered linen towel.  In India worship of the personal god is called Panchopchara Puja.  This is a particular kind of puja or ritual for worshiping the gods, but it is also equated with how one should treat guests. There are five steps, including creating a fragrant atmosphere for the guest, having a lamp so that guest and host can see each other clearly, having something to eat (always a good plan when guests arrive), and a flower to give.  Lastly rice was involved to represent fertility and offering.  Food is often a central theme of guest greetings.

In the Germanic lore there are the tales of the wandering stranger, who comes to the door of a household and asks for food and shelter.  This is a test. We all know the tale.  The stranger is no common mortal, but a god in disguise who is pleased by the people who offer food and warmth by the fire and displeased by those who do not.  In our lives we are rarely presented with such a test, but how often do we turn away from our duties as a good host?  We no longer live in isolated villages or hamlets.  The majority of folk work in offices, get food from supermarkets, not the back fields  or storeroom, and live in many spaces that are not our homes.  I don’t think this excuses us from host duties.  We are hosts in our own lives, and guests in the lives of others, wherever we go.  This is how I live my life now. I am always attempting to be a good guest and a good host.

This has caused me to re-evaluate my ethics and relationship to ethical codes.  I can no longer accept “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”  It’s not bad really.  The Golden Rule is a decent rule of thumb if you can’t think of anything better.  However when evaluating it against *ghosti it didn’t hold up.  When I’m being a good host I don't give people what I would want.  I give them what they want. I don’t buy a birthday present for my lover that I would buy for myself. I buy them something that I know they like.  Part of my work as a human who practices *ghosti is learning and observing what others want, and this is the essence of the mystery that I have discovered.

*Ghosti is a means to compassion and empathy.

By stating that I choose to be a good host and a good guest in other’s lives I commit myself to understanding their needs and my own.  I accept the fact that relationship is a flow between people, and not a static condition. Nor can I assume that if something is right for me that it will be right for other people.  My job is to communicate my needs and listen to the needs of others. These are essential steps compassionate living. Certainly compassion has other components, including love and acceptance, but those things too are rooted in understanding.  So I choose to try to be a good guest and a good host.  As an introvert I struggle with these things.  I pull away and let the flow of reciprocity dissolve.   But I keep trying.  It is a goal and the process is what transforms me. *Ghosti is a practice that I keep, like my devotional practice or my meditation practice.  It is a mystery that I drink from but only when I let someone else hold the cup.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thermodynamics and Meditation

was asked to teach meditation at the Upper Midwest Druidic Conference this past weekend.  It was the first druid event I had ever taught at, and I was a bit nervous, but I felt like I had a lot to share and we easily filled up the two hour slot talking about the challenges and advantages of meditation, the importance of managing willpower, the differences and similarities between trance and meditation and I also shared a number of different meditation techniques.  As I have worked with my meditation practice I have created a number of different techniques that I use and have shared.  One that I haven’t shared here yet is based on the laws of thermodynamics. 

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be destroyed or created it can only change form.

The second law of thermodynamics states that energy tends toward chaos in a system, or maximum entropy.  I read somewhere that if you look at it in terms of information, it can be stated that within a closed system, energy tends towards a more complicated way of being described.  For instance, if you have four atoms lined up, that’s an ordered system.  It’s also easy to describe. I just did it.  But we know, because of the second law of thermodynamics, that those atoms are going to wander off just like unsupervised teenagers.   One might go mope in the corner, two will hang out down by the mall and one will just keep wandering around hoping that the moping one will notice how interesting and deep it is.   See how much longer it took to describe the four atoms once they got out of line?  There’s more information there, even if I take out the teenager references.  

That’s a bit of an interesting aside.  For the purposes of this meditation all we really need to know is that heat will spread out evenly within a closed system, moving from a place of higher heat to lower heat.   In real life we feel that when we pick up a stone and hold it. Usually stones are colder than we are, unless they’ve been sitting in the sun.  For the purposes of this exercise, don’t put your rock in the sun.  By the way, you will need a rock. It can be any kind of rock, though I prefer rounded river stones for the way they feel in my hand.

In this meditation we will use our knowledge that as we hold a cold stone it will be warmed by our internal heat as a metaphor for the transfer of emotionality.   Because we are sensory beings it’s good to invoke the senses when we meditate.  In this instance we are using touch. 

Okay, so enough science-y stuff.  Let’s meditate all ready. Get yourself into a comfortable position: sitting or standing with feet flat on the floor and your spine straight. Hold your stone in your hands.

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and then push that air back out forcefully.  Take another deep breath in and let that air back out again.  Take one more deep breath in and gently let that air and empty your lungs completely.  Continue to breath deeply and evenly.   Focus your attention on the stone in your hands. Notice how it feels cool and feel yourself warming it with your internal heat.  As you warm the stone allow any feeling of stress or anger to flow into it as well.  Imagine that you are sending any frustration or pain into the stone as well.  Feel the coolness of the stone on your hands and let the peace and stillness of the stone come into your self.  Allow yourself to trade the heat of anger for the coolness of peace.  Know that the stone does not mind, it is stone, washed by water, eroded by time, slowly becoming soil and earth.  This stone is a connection to the Earth Mother herself. Imagine now where this stone might have come from, a mountainside or a riverbed.  Imagine yourself there for a moment, having shared the experience of being human with a stone, now share the experience of being a stone. The stone will be warm in your hand now, but that heat will fade once again and the stone will be there when you have need of it.  Take one more deep breath in, and out, and when you are ready, open your eyes.

Take your time with this meditation.  Part of the metaphor is identifying with the cool stone, which evokes slowness and stillness.  You can experiment with different stones and see if one kind or another works better for you. Recently I’ve been working with stone from a mountain I visited this spring. 

Here’s a couple of other meditation techniques I’ve written down:

Druidic Meditation Techniques (Part 1)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Toad Blessings

There was a toad in the garden today.  It was invisible until it moved, and the subtle lines and spots of genetic design came through.  I smiled.

Toads are the representatives of Bad Things.  Princes get turned into them.  They are the familiars of dark witches, representatives of death, weirdness,  and not at all fuzzy or cute.  Toads hang out with snakes in the back end of the cute pile wandering along with hairless cats and beetles. So I saw this toad and I thought about all that.  Stepping carefully so as to avoid disturbing it any more than I already had, I picked up my hoe and kept making holes for transplanting cucumbers plants. 

In northeastern Europe the toad is associated with the witch goddess Ragana. The height of her power comes at midsummer.  She is said to call young men into the forest, seducing them and then sucking their life force from them.  She sounds like quite the cougar to me.  I laugh, and yet I don’t.   Do I read this as another example of fear of the powerful older woman?  Certainly we have plenty of examples in various Disney villains.  There’s Ursula, the only fat girl in the entire Disney pantheon, the Wicked Stepmother (does she even get a name?) and my personal favorite, Maleficent.   She was always my favorite villain, even before the remake. I watched that movie as a kid just so I could see her in all her fabulous, dark glory.  If only my hands could ever be half as elegant as hers.  Older women are either wise or evil or possibly and most terrifyingly: both.

I have tiny crows feet at the corner of my eyes and a permanent frown line from reading too intently for too long.  These days I have more in common with the villains than I do with the heroes.  Am I breaking this down too far?  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  Sometimes a witch is just a bitch.


I don’t think so.  Neither do the spirits I work with.  In the past couple of years I’ve acquired a new hobby: vulture culture.  That’s where you collect the bones of dead things.  It’s been a really powerful and fun way for me to connect with the land of the dead.  It has become a devotional practice for looking at the darker side of life.  For a priestess of light and rainbows it’s been a little weird. There are nasty smells and rotten flesh.  There’s the details of how to de-flesh (yep. That’s the technical term.) and cleaning a dead thing’s teeth carefully with a dedicated tooth brush. The bones themselves are quite beautiful and I’ve enjoyed adorning them.  Really, it started with my cat.  My dead cat.  He died because he had a heart murmur.  His twin had died a couple of years before that.  They had matching but opposite stripe-y spots with white fur.  I buried him in the back yard and my husband built a cairn. We would give him offerings. It was good.

Then we moved.  Our house went into foreclosure as we got sucked under in the tidal wave of the housing bubble. My dead cat got left behind with the empty house and the sagging porch we could never afford to fix.  So being the Druid that I am, I went on a mission to get him back. I dug up the shoebox feeling like a grave robber and a trespasser on land that had been mine. I found his skull with a thrill of truly Celtic delight.   The Celts loved their skulls. 

I took him home. I cleaned him up and made him a nice little wooden plaque to hang on. 

I am that creepy old witch.

What does it matter if I have a fondness for a sustainable, eco-friendly material that no one else wants or cares about?  I think this is what happens when the princess grows up and discovers that life doesn’t end when the fairy tale ends.  She gets slowly older, hopefully stronger.  Life doesn’t give us happy endings.  There is no guarantee.  But I saw a toad in the garden today and he and I were unafraid of what was to come. 

Toad blessings are the backwards blessings, the things you didn’t expect to turn out.  The ending that was painful but taught you something, the beginning that was like pulling thorns from skin.  Toad blessings are real, and dark, and gritty.  They’re scary.  Most of us run from them if we can. I know I’ve run from toad blessings a couple of times.  More than once they’ve made me cry.  But if you can find the gift in that curse than you’ve found the power of the witch.   I’ll take it. How ‘bout you?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wherein I Find a Chicken in the House and a Lesson to be Learned

There’s a chicken in my house.  Staring at me from the living room.

What The Fuck.

You see, last night after my druid meeting I had to bring in the tomatoes from the cold.  We have a great little greenhouse that my MIL gave us.  But it’s not enough to protect my tomato transplants from possible frost warnings. This morning I have to move those same tomatoes back outside so they get enough sun and water to be useful.  I’ve put too much work into these damned tomatoes to stop now.  I propped the door open. That was my mistake.  

Now I’m chasing a chicken through the kitchen. In fact we are doing fucking laps around the kitchen as it runs from me and circles the countertop island.  I am dancing with this goddamn chicken and I really don’t think it’s funny. I’m not in a good mood.  And yet, in front of me there is this ridiculous chicken walking along with her awkward chicken gait and her big stupid yellow feet and her bouncy stupid head.  On lap three around the kitchen she looks back at me.  She’s taunting me and I know it.

I hate myself for laughing.

I am unhappy, goddamn it!  Life is kinda sucky right now. I am feeling drained and tired and I did not sleep well.  I don’t really want to talk about it. Which is good, because the chicken really isn’t a great conversationalist. 

Goddamn chicken.

Chickens in the house really ought to be dead.  I think of the tarragon roasted chicken I made for dinner last night and the potato sorrel sauce that really was an excellent lemony addition.  I consider that this egg layer might be tasty too, if I could ever catch her.

New tactic.  I ignore her. This is reverse chicken psychology. I have a psychology degree.  I can do that.   I go get another flat of tomato transplants noting where I accidentally stepped on a couple in the dark last night and take it back to our tiny adorable pop-up greenhouse.  There are more chickens waiting in the yard.  They follow me, knowing that the taller beings tend to bring food and scraps.  I kick at one as I get near the garden.

You have to understand: chickens are garden destroyers. They eat my seedlings. They scratch my seeds.  They undo my patient and careful work.  I realize in this moment that chickens are my nemeses.  This is both hysterical and depressing.  I sneak inside and pull the mesh garden gate across hoping they won’t notice that the electrical fence surrounding the garden is currently unplugged.  I deposit the transplants in the warmth and protection of the greenhouse and go back inside.

The chicken looks at me from under the dining room table.
I move toward her.

It is then that I realize that I am herding her directly toward the children’s playroom and panic rises in my chest. I have visions of chicken poop in the lego bin, of havoc wreaked and messes made and it is a mad race between her and I to get to the opening.  I pull the sliding doors shut before she can reach me.  I am faster than a flapping chicken.  It’s a super power. I feel pleased.   We make eye contact and I begin the chase again.   This time I move faster which upsets her little chicken psyche.  She flaps and squawks and makes a run for the living room.  I’m right behind her. I flap my arms and herd her toward the door.  She makes a break to the right and we do the kitchen loop a couple more times.  Finally I use my hands and skirts like a reverse matador and wave her toward the foyer.  We pause.  She’s clearly agitated. This adventure is not turning out as she had hoped. I can see her wondering, “Why do the big and small wingless beings go in here so much?”

The back door is a light I want her to move toward.  I say, “Go into the light little chicken, go into the light!” If she won’t go into this light, I think, I’m going to do her in and she can go into the other greater light at the end of the tunnel.  I carefully maneuver myself forward so as to not startle her into making another break for the kitchen.  Finally she turns and sees her brethren and the grass glowing emerald in the sun.  The grass really is greener on the other side, and she runs awkwardly for the door. I slam it behind her and sigh. 

The moral of the story?

Sometimes the awkward, stupid, parts of life are what make it worth living.

For my loved ones and friends who are having a hard time right now: I love you. Hang in there.  And maybe chase a chicken or two.  It’s kinda theraputic.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I am the next She-Hulk

I’ve heard people say pain is a great teacher.  I suppose my question was always: “What exactly was I supposed to learn from incapacitating pain?” It is sometimes so bad that I have to hide in a darkened room.  Every once in a while the thought of a drill to the skull sounds like a reasonable plan if it would just relieve the pressure. 

The thing is, that pain is there for a reason.  My selfness is rooted in my body. My body is rooted in my environment. My environment is rooted in culture with food, McDonalds, perfumes and all the chemicals that float through our lives.

I went to an allergist once. He told me I was chemically sensitive.  He also said there was nothing he could do because what I had wasn’t an allergy. These things bother everyone, he informed my younger self. It’s just that some people’s bodies are less capable of dealing with all those toxins.

I cried in his office.

He did not help me.  Doctors often can’t.   The system they are immersed within is not there to help people.  I’m sure there are a lot of people in the medical world who want to help people, but the system clouds their ability to do so.  They are force-fed rules and regulation that may or may not be useful.  Like S.H.I.E.L.D. the fault lies in the organization, not every individual.

However, there’s a message hidden within what he told me.  He gave me that information so that he could dismiss me.  But I took that message in a bottle out and examined it.  I wiped my eyes and began my own studies.

“These things bother everyone.”

He was right.  Later I had a child with food sensitivities. (Another thing that allergists dismiss) Much later my husband started eating a low inflammation diet. I tried the Whole 30 with him and damn if it didn’t work.  I had friends who started doing the same things and it worked for them too.   Our bodies are only as good as the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.  We live in poisoned times. My question now is, “Why are we surprised?”

The number of people with food allergies rose by 50%  between 1997 and 2011 according to the CDC.   That’s a lot.

Allergies are defined as an immune response to a protein.  If there’s no protein there can’t be an allergy.  Proteins by their very nature are biological. An immune response to one is pretty much the body saying, “Hey! That’s not me!! That’s some biological thing that is not me-ish! Get rid of that crap!”  That’s what the old white man in his imposing office was trying to explain to me. That’s the thing that made me feel crazy enough to cry in a doctor’s office in front of an old white man. 

But it’s not even half the story, and now researchers are actually studying the very thing I was feeling all cray-cray about.    It’s called TILT or Toxicant Induced Loss ofTolerance.  Basically it means that people can feel horribly allergic to things that aren’t proteins. 

According to research done by Dr. Claudia Miller this kind of intolerance comes from an initial exposure to some sort of chemical.  After that, the body no longer can properly deal with even small amounts of many chemicals. Their bodies change fundamentally and permanently including the nervous system, immune system, endocrine system and more.

This is what super powers actually look like.  We’ve been exposed to Gamma radiation.  We’ve been dumped in the waste of our own society.  Super powers look like joint pain, migraines, stomach illnesses of every sort, rashes, sore throats, and doctors who tell you there is absolutely nothing.  Nothing they can do.  Nothing there. Nothing but the failure to thrive. 

I am She-Hulk. I just don’t get the advantage of being impervious to harm or turning green.  Also, how come her shirt stays on when the Hulk’s shirt always falls off?  Anyway, back to the topic, dear reader.

We are the result of exposure to the environment that our species has created.   I know so many of us.  We are all struggling to succeed when our own bodies betray us.  It has been my life’s work to succeed anyway. 

So I have carefully crafted my life so that I can exist.  I eat a low inflammation diet, influenced by the work of Gary Taubes, Mark Sisson, and Melissa Hartwig.   I hold my breath when I have to go down the laundry detergent isle in the grocery store. I exclaim how wonderful that cake looks and then don’t eat it because it’s bought from the store and I have no doubt it has soy oil in the frosting.  I take a lot of Benadryl.

If you suffer from sensitivities there are still not a lot of answers.  The best that you can do is avoid  your triggers.  There appears to be a connection between sensitivity reactions and addictive behaviors that is evolving a new theory of illness where chemical sensitivity and addiction are seen as two ends of a spectrum of a certain kind of human reaction to their environment.

Claudia Miller created a self test for sensitivities that can help you or those you know to identify if they are chemically sensitive.  This is useful, since it appears that once you pass the threshold you are likely to continue to become more sensitive unless you make an effort to try to avoid your chemical triggers.  Often people who are trying to deal with allergies feel as if they are going through a “detox” stage.  When you’re allergic to a thing often times you also crave it, even when it makes you ill and you know it. This anecdotal evidence is backed up by research that indicates the connection is real and the difficulties seen with addiction are just as embedded within chemical intolerance issues.

I didn’t get a choice about “going green”.  I had to switch to home made cleaners to survive.  I eat simple home cooked food so I don’t get ill.   I avoid bars, crowds, smokers, and people with big hair so I don’t end up gassed into a migraine. My friends and loved ones understand and do their best to be respectful. I really appreciate it.

Bruce Banner has to avoid things that make him angry so he won’t go green. I have to avoid things that make me ill and it has turned me green in the end. Somehow it doesn't make it better that I get to be like Bruce Banner and Jennifer Walters.  What does make it better is that the changes I've had to make have helped me to walk in balance with the earth.  It also makes it better when I can help people to avoid the trap of despair I felt in that doctors office so long ago. If you do suffer from chemical sensitivities, know that you can do things to help yourself and that you're not alone. Good luck. 

(This was going to be an essay on lessons to be learned from prolonged illness. It’s become a series.  Dear reader, if you found this useful, please consider donating or buying my art to offset the research time and cost of purchasing academic papers. Thank you.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Beltane Coloring Page

It's the time of year when herbs come into season. I've been harvesting chives, sorrel, and violets.  So in honor of the herb harvest I created a coloring page from Celtic myth.  The brother and sister pair of Airmid and Miach are the goddess of herbal healing and the god of surgical healing.  So enjoy the healing of coloring while thinking about this pair of healing deities.

I hope you're all having a wonderful Beltane!

To download the printable version, click here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Voice for the Earth

This is the speech I wrote to share at last weekend's Earth Day event in Detroit.  It was a bit scary leaping off into the world of speeches and belief.  It's not easy for me to think I'm worth hearing. But that's the thing. This isn't about me. This is about the Earth:

The essential quality that I see as necessary for us is flexibility of mind. By letting go of what is supposed to be important and right as told to us by the mainstream we can rethink a better vision of what is truly important. 

 We are the tribe of the outsiders.  We know who we are.  Those who think differently than the mainstream.  I see it within many subgroups, pagans, poly, kink, gamers, geeks, we are the people who think outside the box and that kind of thinking is exactly what is needed.  We live in difficult times.  This is the time of peak oil and growth overshoot.  We live in the time of confirmation of climate change and the knowledge that we as humans have the power of the gods to shape our very existence.  With great power comes great responsibility and this responsibility is on each and every one of us.  We have the responsibility to find a better way to live.  To seek a vision of sustainability not only for the spirits of the land and the gods and the goddesses, but for our children, and their children, and for ourselves as well.  This is both an altruistic calling and a selfish one.  

I have had visions of the future. I have seen the earth as a great river, a flood that comes and wipes us away as flotsam and twigs.  She is powerful and there is only so much she can do to protect us from ourselves.  In my vision I saw us as bits of twig and leaf being washed away by the force of the waters.  But then, one twig caught another and braced against the bank.  More and more twigs and leaves came together and caught branch to branch, leaf to stem.  We built safe places in the onrushing flood, reaching out to catch others. And with each stem and each leaf our safe space became stronger.  With each new person caught we were more able to create something new.  This is the vision I give you.  It is not a vision without fear.  It is not a vision without pain.  But it is a vision with hope.  We have been told that this is the beginning of the age of aquarius.  We have been told that this is the dawning of a new era.  I tell you that a new era will not come unless we ourselves work for it.  We are the Tribe of the Outsiders and this is our quest.  To seek and make a vision of the future that is better than what has been gifted to us.  We are pagans.  We are the children of the Earth.  I would say unto you  we have the choice to birth a world that is equal for all,  that celebrates all people of all races, genders, and choices. that lives our belief that we are walking on the sacred earth with every step.  We have this power.  This is the ultimate power from within ourselves to shape ourselves into something new and better.

The acceptance of your own ultimate power and responsibility is a fearful thing.  The knowledge that we are the ones that will birth this change, that our parents could not do this thing that there is no certainty to sustainability and safety  is formidable.  But we must do this.  Incrementally, one small change at a time.  One choice, one meal, one garden.  Let go of what the media tells you. Let go of expectation and outdated ideas of success.   We are the Tribe of the Outsiders.  Let us embrace our gifts that we may find our vision and lead the way to a true sustainable, beautiful, joyful new time that we may gift to our children and their children.

May it be so.

Thank for your time.


Related Posts with Thumbnails