Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Devotional Techniques from the Heartbreak Trenches

Recently, I was asked by a former student if I had a ritual or practice to get rid the bad energy of betrayal of a broken relationship.   That was a bit of a punch to the gut. I’ve been struggling with a lot of those betrayal and brokenness feels recently.  It’s not a pleasant place to be.  I imagine it to be a lot like the grinding monotony of working at a fast food restaurant, except imagine that restaurant to have a bunch of broken glass scattered all over the floor and you have to work barefoot.   You keep trying to sweep up all the glass, but you keep finding more, dammit!
Stupid emotional glass shards, who needs em’ anyway?
It’s that age old question: is it better to have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all?  Sometimes I have wished I never loved at all.  I’m sure anyone who has gone through a breakup, the death of a loved one, or unrequited love has pondered that question.  When we love without reciprocation it’s a difficult place to be.   Love is more than just roses at Valentines Day or teenage romance novels.  It’s actually a complex biochemical process that is largely out of our control, as we all know from the never ending movies, shows, and books that center on love lost, gained, and not returned.   We don’t choose how or when we love. We only choose how we act while engulfed within that feeling.
As a polyamorous individual, my rules and obligations in terms of relationships are often more multifaceted than people who choose to focus their romantic love energy on only one person.   I am still married, but no longer with my two other primary partners.   So even though I still have love in my life, I also have heartbreak at the same time.  Having felt both those things simultaneously, I can tell you that I can indeed work in the Restaurant of Glass Grinding Pain and feel the love and partnership that comes from a 16 year marriage.  Who knew, right?  Have some data points from the edge of the relationship frontier, dear reader.
So when I was asked this particular question about practices for heartbreak, it just so happened that I had been immersed in personal and intensive work on answering it.   Yay, I guess?
I don’t know if I’m ready to feel a bunch of shiny happies at the idea of using my own experience with pain to help others, but I’m going to try.
If you already have a devotional practice in place, that’s great.   It’s much easier to do this sort of difficult work if you’re already used to doing daily spiritual work.  So if you’re reading this and not in a great deal of emotional pain, get to it!  Start your practice now so that when you need one, it’s there.  Go. Now.  (Are you going?)  If you are in emotional pain you can still start a practice.  I would suggest keeping it simple and doable.  I have a post here on how to get started with daily devotional work.

Now to the pain specific parts:

a photo negative image of a woman crying
Miedo-ajeno” by RayNata – Mis documentos. Licensed under Public Domain viaWikimedia Commons.
So, what entity is the right one for dealing with bad breakup energy?  The answer lies within you.   I’ve really come to believe that there is no one right answer, no perfect combination of elemental associations, deities, herbs, and words that will automatically make things right for all people.  One person might pray to Frey for peace and new love.  Another might light a candle and hold their hands toward the flame while asking the fire to transform them.   A third might call out to their ancestral mothers to aid them with wisdom and support.  I think the key here is not to necessarily find the perfect god or spirit to aid you, but to reach out with your heart toward the idea or being that you find compelling.

No matter what, be prepared to fail.

Failure is good. It means you’re trying.   I’ve done intense trancework since my twenties. It’s a comfortable tool in my magic bag of tricks, one that I use for almost every magical act in one way or another.  When this breakup happened, that all ended. I couldn’t trance. Just couldn’t do it. Bam. My focus was gone. I couldn’t even begin to reach a still place in my mind, let alone cast it forth into the ether.  So I went back to the beginning.   I focused on my breath, simple two powers, and tree of life meditations.   Eventually my focus began to return in fits and starts.

Be prepared to change.

Being in a bad breakup can cause you to go into an emotional crisis. This makes you psychologically vulnerable.   The whole point of brainwashing techniques is to induce this sort of psychological state within a person so that the individual’s belief system can be rebuilt.  This is the moment when a lot of people are “saved” by religion.   It sounds pretty bad when I put it that way, but it’s also a moment of opportunity.  When you feel broken your mind is open to change and you can choose how you rebuild yourself.   This leads into:

Be prepared to ask yourself hard questions.

Because you want to make sure that change is good.  Devotional practices can be a release valve and a safe place to process and feel.  (Make sure to put a box of tissues next to your altar)  It’s just you and the Gods.  Don’t expect to get grand gestures every time, but make sure you’re listening to your own internal dialog.  It’s worth keeping a journal, blog, or voice memos of your thoughts during these moments.  At first I would say don’t worry too much about anything but letting the feels out.   Eventually I began to ask myself what I had learned, what I had lost, what I intend on doing differently in the future.  Don’t just ask yourself these questions once, keep asking.  As you work through your grief the answers might change.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I am a trained priestess and ritual specialist.  I have helped lots of people develop rituals for all sorts of things.  I have a degree in psychology and I kick ass, right?  Nope.   In my own moment of crisis I need help just like everyone else.  I found out who my true friends were, and that even though the loved ones I thought would be there for me weren’t, a lot of people were there for me.  They moved furniture, cooked meals, listened to me bitch (lots of bitching), sent me cards and packages, and even helped me learn to fix my exploding car.  It’s okay to need professional help too. That’s what therapists and social workers are for.   Devotional practices dovetail great with therapy.  I know. I’ve done both.
Having told you all to go do your own thing with your own Gods, I still know that sometimes the best thing is to use someone else’s words. Pre-written rituals can help until you can find your own voice.  Here is a short example of a ritual component that could be used in many pagan formats to get rid of the bad energy of betrayal.

Thawing of the Stone Heart Ritual:

You will need:
  1. a candle or fire,
  2. a stone that was put in the freezer,
  3. a bowl of salt water,
  4. a quiet space.
After you have called to the Kindred, the Elements, or created a sacred space, pick up the bowl of salt water in your hands and place it in front of you. Look down into it and dip your fingers into the water.  Imagine the waters as your tears and as the tears of all those who have experienced heartbreak and betrayal.  Allow yourself to experience your sadness as best you can.  Use the water to wash yourself and mark yourself with sacred symbols that connect you to the sacred waters like spirals and circles.  Say:
Let the tears of those who have gone before purify me.  Let me be cleansed of unwanted feelings, let me be filled with the wisdom of the waters below.  
Take the cold rock into your hands, or if it is too cold to touch for long lay it in your lap or touch it with your fingertips.  Feel the coldness of the stone and imagine it under ice and snow where you might find a stone like that, a rough piece of granite might come from a mountaintop, a rounded stone might come from a river bed or the ocean.  Let the cold of the stone become the betrayal you felt, the bad feelings that you’ve had over your loss of love.  As you can, take the stone into your hands and let your body warm it.  Say:
Let my heart warm as this stone warms. Let me have the strength to endure the cold of loss and let me be patient with myself as rock worn down by rain in the spring.
Light the candle or fire and hold the stone toward the flame, one hand over your heart and say:
Let this be the flame of transformation. Let this be the flame of purification. Let this fire ignite in my heart and burn brightly to show me the way in my pain and sorrow.
Feel the warmth of the flame flowing into the stone and at the same time into you. If you have the time or inclination, repeat “Let this be the Flame” again and again like a mantra while imagining yourself purified and energized by the flame.
Keep the stone in a spot where you can see it.  You have made it a talisman that you can use when you need to feel steadied or strengthened.  As time passes and you find yourself thinking less and less of the past, eventually you will come to a time when you don’t need the stone.  The best thing to do would be to take it to a place in nature that seems like it would belong, a river or a mountain, but burying it will work as well.   As you walk away from the stone, know that you walk toward something new.
Good luck, and may we all find the healing we seek.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Summoning the Swan Maidens

It’s that time again where a large portion of my life revolves around preparing forConvocation.  This year I got a great ritual slot, and I think I’ve got a great ritual to present.  It’s called Summoning the Swan Maidens: an Exploration of Inspiration and Sensuality.  I’ve been studying this group of spirits for some time, since one Samhain I got a big old clue-by-four to the head.
The swan woman is a motif we see all over the Eurasian continent.  The swan itself has been used in religious iconography through the ages. From the Gaulish Celtic Sequana to the Vedic and Hindu Saraswati, we see goddesses and spirits associated with swans, flowing rivers, healing, creativity, and inspiration.  In Northern Europe we have fairy stories of the swan maidens as well as valkyries with names like Swanwhite and Allwise.  There are celtic tales of love and longing that take the shape of humans transformed as swans.  In Eastern Europe we hear tales of the winged Vila roaming the mountains naked, recognizable from their alluring descendant Fleur Delacour of the Harry Potter world.  Then there are the Dakini: winged and beautiful Tibetan Buddhist spirits of enlightment and sensuality.  Greek vase iconography abounds with winged women.  Men too, for that matter.  But the swan comes up in the story of Leda seduced by Zeus in a swan guise, leading to the birth Helen of Troy, arguably one of the most potent focuses of Love in all of Western literature.
I never planned to work with swan spirits.  It seemed a bit pretentious.  Swans?  What do I think I am? It seemed weirdly angelic and preposterous to me.   I am a druid and a witch.  I collect bones and herbs.  I took the name Dandelionlady partially because it was humble and earthy.  Swans?  Do I have to wear a tutu?
But I wasn’t really given a choice.
It was Samhain when I first encountered them. We were doing our ritual at Rose Lake: state land reserved for recreation and research.  I had suggested that we do water scrying and then go to visit a large square stone that we had dubbed the Oath Stone.  For the scrying I held the bowl for everyone, trying to get angle so that the moon was reflected in the dark waters.  I wasn’t sure if it was working at all. It seemed to me that my grove members were humoring my tendency for the mystical and dramatic.  When it was my turn to look into the bowl my friend held it as I looked downward into the rippling darkness.  I felt foolish staring into the water, trying to find some meaning hidden within. The waters remained stubbornly dark and water like.  No hidden imagery at all. So it was with some disappointment that I led people toward the Oath Rock along the tree lined dirt path.
a pencil sketch depicting a woman and child before a field of stars
Image taken from page 120 of “Red Apple and Silver Bells. A book of verse for children … Illustrated by A. B. Woodward”
The spot where the stone was located was about 50 feet off the trail. It was a five-minute walk from the ritual site.  I was sure I could lead us there without a problem.  There was, of course, a problem.  I led my grove members along the trail, back and forth, looking for the proper place to go off-trail.  Eventually, I gave in and told them to stay on the trail while I just wandered into the woods to find the proper spot.  This was beginning to feel like a disaster.  First the fiasco with the water scrying, then we went wandering in the dark like fools.  Ugh.
So I bravely foolishly wandered off the trail. Like the Fool card I lept, but instead of rainbows and puppies I found myself embroiled in a wild rose thicket.  At first I carefully moved the branches away from myself as best as I could, but eventually as the clock in my head ticked onward and the people I was leading continued to wait on the trail I pushed ahead harder.  I had found the hill that was directly to the west of the spot I wanted to be, so if I just kept pushing east and downhill I knew I would find the hollow spot where a giant tree had fallen and a smaller three boled tree had grown next to the knee high cube of granite.
It was at this point that I began to have the visions. Superimposed over the dark chaos of branch and thorn before me was something else.  I had glimpses of flying birds and the feel of softness against my cheek even as my legs and arms were torn by the bite of the rose.  My sight would flicker back and forth between the internal world high above the woods and my external world struggling through the undergrowth.  Finally I broke free of the thicket and into high grasses that quickly led to the downward sweep of the hollow I had been looking for. I called to my grovemates, who were only a short way away.  As they poured beer and spoke of oaths fulfilled and promises they made that day I was elsewhere.  Once the pressure of finding the place had eased, the inward pressure of vision increased and I sank downward into it.  I saw the birds land and there was a rustic cabin in the woods.  The birds became women and went inside.  I saw a glow radiating from the edges of the logs and from the windows as if the whole thing was filled with nothing but light.  I could not go inside.  The light seemed to peak and then instantly I was within. There was a room full of winged women, some young, some old. I was among them, youngest of all, and I had wings on my back as well.  It was a shocking vision for me and while my feet were rooted firmly on the frozen ground my wings were soaring far above in a starlit sky.
That was merely the beginning of ongoing dreams and visions of these spirits. Fast forward a few years and a lot of books later, I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned at Convocation, but the funny thing is how it all ends up revolving around such material questions as how many LED lights do I need and how do I make a fake fire look good in a hotel?  Remembering to bring containers to put the offerings in is important.  Coordinating people coming from many cities to take parts, and getting everyone and everything organized while there’s a dozen other competing events is intense.  Wish me luck as I prepare, dear reader.  Getting ready for a big ritual is always a scary thing.  May the swan spirits wing their way to inspire and guide me so that I may in turn inspire those who attend. It’s a funny thing, where a daydream in a rose thicket can lead a person.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Books in Review

Long, long, ago, in a land far far away I used to have a LiveJournal. This was slightly post MySpace, and well before the land of blogs.  There's things I still miss about that platform, but it's pretty much dead like a redshirt Star Trek officer on a rocky planet.  One of the things I've missed is my records of what books I was reading, and yes, I could get my butt over to Goodreads and do it all properly, log my books in color coded, sharable glory, but let's face it: I'm a rebel.  I like my boring, poorly organized lists.  I like the ability to ramble on for a while about an author without having to click a bunch of times or feel like I'm in some sort of book reading competition.  So.  Here we are.  Me writing about reading, and you reading my writing.

I read a lot of books.  I hope if you are reading this you read a lot of books too.

I just finished An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery by Janna Malamud Smith.  I liked it a lot. It's about the psychological challenges to creating and becoming truly a skilled creator.  It's one thing to like to draw, and something entirely different to attempt to be a professional artist. I've pretty much come to terms with the fact that if I want to stay sane I need to create, in large amounts. 

"She learned, for example, that one must welcome discouragement and anxiety in any creative task because they may be signs that will and control are giving way to something fresh and original. She had grown up among people who were convinced that anxiety was a sickness and not the freight of worry, even despair, that any difficult work carries with it."

Just for that it was worth it.

She talks about the challenges of the importance of solitude, the struggle to go public with work, the need for peers to challenge and aid one in the deep, lonely, work of attempting to forge something new and worthwhile.

I'm also re-reading Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett on the advice and prescription of a friend.  I have been informed that I am Granny Weatherwax. I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Mostly complimented.

I'm almost done with Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Holy Hel, read this book. The prose is fluid and crisp and the meaning is... powerful.  Written from a father to a son, it is his worldview and history.  This is no memoir of fishing trips and family Christmases.  This is a book about the African-American experience in such a way as to make you ache and long for a better world.  Read it. Now. No really, now. It's a beautiful book and it's a window into a world many of us need to understand better.

Things have been challenging for me for a little while now.  There's been some binge eating of ice cream.  Some people will sink into the safe and confident world of videogames, others might go drinking with friends.  I totally get that.  Me, I go read.  Book are my security blanket, my oldest friend, my go to thing when stressed.  So I got myself a real brain spinner.   I'm reading Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall.  It's mostly about particle physics. I'm really liking it. Sometimes the best way to cope with overwhelming emotions is to forget about them by engaging the logic brain.  Sometimes the answer is to run and hide. I'm down with that. Especially when I'm doing so by learning about dimensional branes.  These are postulated physics membranes that would separate multiple infinite dimensions from each other.  Before I get more than the name I've read about spacetime, quarks, and high speed particles. Did you know that relativity calculations are important for GPS to work?  I didn't.

I'm also working my way through The Gospel of Loki, which is actually a bit boring and disapointing, mostly because it's a fairly accurate blow by blow of Loki's adventures, except without elves, and with Sigyn cast as a whiney Martha Stewart wannabe.  I'll let you know if I like it when I'm done. 

So there's my book report.  Makes me happy.  I'm gonna take the kids for ice cream for dinner now.

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.


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