Day 12 – Dollhouses

Redbird, on the other hand, is chatty.

She was there when I went to bed late last night, and when I went to teach my kids at church this morning, and when I was enjoying the gorgeous, warm, clear afternoon, and when I went down to the creek (after dark, but the sun is still there even when it’s dark).

Redbird also nudged me to work on something I’d been thinking around but not quite getting to for a while. One of my ongoing projects is a “doll house” with representations of the powers I work with, where I can leave symbolic offerings that I periodically renew with energy, and with a floor that represents the household/our space that can be used for sympathetic magic in warding our space.

It’s going to be a long-term project. I have a fairly good kit of accessories and offerings at this point, and I’ve finally settled on which dolls are in which roles, but very little doll fashion is designed for deity representation, so I’ve got a lot of sewing to do. Or to commission. Or both.

But the important part is this tangible thing took a step forward today and I’m a step closer to the final product.

My Own Dead Bodies

Although speaking of my dead selves, I have to say Hekate absolutely did as she promised and upended my life since I committed to working with her for six months. My life is drastically different: I don’t just have a different job, but I’m in a different field, and one I hadn’t really considered before. I hit a point a few weeks ago where I suddenly began to pass with regularity. I’m taking a course in creativity and spirituality and actually working on the assignments, writing creatively after a long dry spell. I’m doing regular meditation and spellwork. I’m sleeping better. I’m a better dad and I’d like to think a better spouse. I can think clearly  for the first time in years thanks to starting Prozac.

I’m a wholly different person than I was six months ago. That person isn’t exactly dead, but he’s gone. Hekate kicked my ass in the most necessary way.

And when I did my reading on Mabon, I got a clear indication that means she’s not going to be extending the contract at Samhain.

This has happened before – in fact this happens most of the time. Powers come in, we get some work done on both sides, and they wave goodbye when we’re done. The ocean gods took their turns, Kuan Yin is there if I need her but she told me I was ready to stand by myself at a certain point, and even Odin and Loki wander in and out as it suits them. I move around, so many of my wight relationships are time limited. The only power who’s always there is Mara.

So I’m not exactly surprised, and instead I’m trying to pick apart my disappointment. I think I was hoping I’d get something that allowed me to feel like part of something bigger- Hekate is a very popular deity, after all. I joined a Facebook group devoted entirely to her, and considered taking a course that was just about working with her. I never lacked for other peoples’ input on what it meant to work with her.

Maybe that was part of the problem. I have too much history with my own Dark Lady for her to really be anyone I’ve read about in existing mythology, which is of course the thing I realize every time I come to this point. She didn’t introduce me to Persephone and Hades, but to Redbird and Tzymir, wholly different powers with differing stories.

When I try to connect based on belief, I fail. When I try to connect based on practice, I fail. When I try to connect based on values, I am more likely to succeed. I know this. And yet…

Well, it doesn’t matter. I have just shy of three weeks left with my Dark Lady, as we settle into the dark of the year. In November I’ll be participating in the King’s Ride in tandem with NaNoWriMo.

Part of me wants to move on already. I keep catching myself being vaguely surprised that I’m still doing my homework for Hekate. I always have a tendency to check out as soon as I know I’m going to be moving on; as soon as I think about moving, I want to declutter, downsize and start packing. On the first day of camp I was always thinking about the end of the week.

My old selves get left where they fell, their work never done, their bones never buried so much as left to gather dust in a folder labelled Unfinished Drafts. They pile up after a while, but I ignore them. They’re behind me. That whisper about all the things I’ve failed at? Just the wind. Definitely not the Ghost of Projects Past.

But now this is about follow-through. If the self who made the deal with Hekate is dead, well, this can be the wake for him. I have an obligation. I’m not going to let it slip now, for fuck’s sake. I just need to keep doing the thing until the end of the month, and then I can move on to the next thing without having an excuse to be down on myself, and that’s a benefit unto itself.

Building the Labyrinth

Order and Chaos were the first born of the First Principles, midwives to their siblings, partners in the making of the physical world. They loved each other as only opposites can, looking not for solid partnership but for completion. For a while, Order found her Chaos inspiring, and Chaos found his Order calming. Sometimes they were so close that they were a single being, logic and intuition combining into Wisdom. Then they may grate on each other and fall apart, only to circle back again.

They knew that the pearl of existence had formed around the grain of the void, watching their first creations crumble into entropy as the Voidchild reached out curiously to touch them. They determined to keep the things they made as safe as they could.

Chaos and Order knew their parents had come from the void, somehow, and they tried to teach the Voidchild how to exist, setting it a path through the maze from spirit to physicality, but the Voidchild always pulled away.

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“What are you doing out here?” I’d heard the door. I didn’t have to open my eyes to know it was her. I was laying on my back on the front walk, letting the cold from the stones seep through my flannel shirt and my skin and my subcutaneous fat, and settle in the space in my chest.

Moping, I didn’t answer. Sinking into the earth, and failing even at that. “Thinking.”

“It’s cold.”

“It is?” It was an honest question; I hadn’t really felt it. Autumn was coming on slow, but it was coming.

I felt tiny hands on face. “Wake up, Daddy. Bye, Daddy.”

“Bye?” I opened my eyes and my daughter was right there, bent over my face and giggling.

“She wanted to go to the park,” my spouse explained. “I thought maybe you could get some writing done.”

I sat up like a glacier retreating. “Thanks.”

“Do you have something to work on?”

“I’m open to suggestion,” I sighed more than answered, and she gave me a peck on the cheek.

“You’ll think of something,” she insisted, confident. “Remember the conversation we had earlier?” Then she and the baby were gone, and the house rang with her silence.

I turned the earlier conversation over in my head and wondered what I had to add. Sure enough, my thoughts sorted themselves like salt through a shaker and I hurriedly began to type.

Ask Again Later

My sister did a card reading for me the other night, and the takeaway was “don’t worry, keep going.” She kept apologizing and pulling more cards, and the answer kept staying frustratingly the same, because there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell cards “I get that but be more helpful, please.”

I realize I’m the one who picked the theme for the year but somehow I didn’t expect it to be applied to my life for me. I’d say “lesson learned” but… well, ha, probably not.

I have discovered a new kind of stabbing things that I’m enjoying: needle felting! To the left is my new representation of mom!Loki. I’m really pleased with the fire hair. She’s my third project and the first time I’ve experimented with highly technical and complicated design techniques like arms. I can’t tell you the last time I thought so much about how arms work, you guys. And hands!

Needle felt sculpture feels very intuitive to me. It’s easy to pick up and put down, which is a bonus around a toddler. Unlike beading, I don’t need to have a lot of small, easily-lost things out, which is also a bonus around a toddler.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly fleshing out a more complicated but still meaningful daily magical routine. “Just light a candle” is ths survival mode I fall back on when I can’t do anything else, and I’d been in survival mode for too long. I’m adding complexity one thing at a time, trying things on – more daily practices and even a new moon ritual. I figure I can do anything for a little while and see how it goes.

For a while I was doing regular breath meditation after I asked for discipline, but I was struggling a lot with my old friend Falling Asleep Sitting Up, so I switched styles to something a bit more active. It’s working much better. Changing is not quitting.

I’m not sure what’s next. I’ve got some more complicated needle felt ideas I want to work on. Maybe I’ll make figures for some of the spirits I work with that are largely unknown, just to see how challenging it is to get a feel for what they look like.

Chapbook: the Merciful Earth

The Merciful Earth, a chapbook collection of some of the fiction, prayers and poems I’ve written for Mara, is now available on Amazon for $.99! This is the fulfillment of a promise I made to her three and a half years ago in exchange for her help with a major project my wife and I were working on. She has been a very kind and patient Lady while I got my head together.

New, Again

Happy Lunar New Year! Slightly late, as usual. I celebrate my third new year at this time, between Imbolc and Lunar New Year. This is the new year that really feels like a new beginning. Things are starting to grow, it’s not super cold and miserable every day while I wait for the train.

I certainly could choose, instead of multiple specific new years, to make some sort of “every day is a new year, every day is a new start” philosophy work, but to be honest, those sorts of changes don’t stick for me. I need a schedule. I like order.

I’m not necessarily good at order, but I like it and I try to seek it because my natural state is chaos. I make lists and plans and schedules. I make, for example, a neatly ordered outline of how I intend to KonMari my spiritual life.

But I still can’t find my jewelry and my bone runes so I can get rid of them and clearly getting hung up on this doesn’t help anyone, and all of the things that would be in that “group of stuff” are things I consider to be very personal and fairly valuable, so they’re unlikely to be tossed this early in the process anyway. What I learned from my first pass at the physical KonMari is that everything is more interwoven and more complicated than I thought, so I will definitely need to come around again.

In Spark Joy, Kondo speaks about honing one’s sense of joy and how many of her clients have trouble deciding what joy feels like when they start the process. I suspect this is why her clients boast a 100% success rate – what she’s teaching them is not how to throw things away but how to tell whether the things in their lives spark joy. Once you start applying KonMari-type principles outside of their intended context, you begin seeing them everywhere.

Jessica Abel talks about finding a single creative goal and sticking to it, fully committing. I have a long, long list of works in progress and plot cards and story hooks that I haven’t even started on yet. Abel is absolutely right about the tendency to spend a little time on everything and accomplish nothing.

I have plot ideas I’ve been holding onto since I was eleven. If I sat down and wrote out a list it’d be far too long to fit on the worksheet she offers. (In fairness, the worksheet itself suggests it might be insufficient.) I need to give myself permission to move some things to “not in progress right now” and then put it somewhere I can’t see it anymore.

Writing is so interlinked with my moods that I think doing this now instead of waiting until I’m done with the metaphysical KonMari is reasonable, especially because I’m still compiling my list of practices.

This is starting, but it’s keeping going. Abel recommends picking a project that’s comparatively easy to finish if you haven’t had a lot of luck finishing before. I have a few fiction projects that are in different stages of done. While I’d like to work on Unstuck, I’m still, well, stuck as I work on straightening out some plot kinks. While I let that simmer, I’m going to take Abel’s advice and work on something that’s a bit more complete.

There’s something to be said for the feeling of finishing something, after all, and the joy of keeping going is in making progress.

(If You're Going Through Hell) Keep Going

Well, guys, the year is wrapping up and since being a professional doll stylist is a limited time engagement, I’m starting to think about what I want to do in 2016 aside from braiding hair. Other bloggers are talking about key words and personal mantras and the frankly, the closest thing I have to a personal mantra right now is “if you’re going through hell, keep going.”

That particular quote has done a lot for me at various times in my struggle with OCD. I know from experience that I can do anything for a few months, and that no matter how bad my anxiety is at the moment, my brain weasels will break before I do, and eventually I will start functioning again. Looking at next year, though, I think I need a different kind of keep going in my life.

Finishing is hard. Finishing is particularly hard right now, as I’m working a lot and prone to wanting to spend my downtime doing fun things. But unfinished, unsorted or messy things hang over my head, and getting something sorted away and taken care of makes me very, very happy. So I should do what makes me happy. I should keep going until a project is done – either until it’s finished, or until I’m ready to give it up, or sometimes until it’s at a natural stopping point while I let it incubate more.

Puzzles, for example. I have drafted Puzzles no less than four times from scratch. I’ve completely overhauled the outline at least twice. Nothing I do makes me happy. It’s time to keep going instead of walking in circles – so I’m going to move on to Unstuck, which is named rather ironically now that I think about it.

I am planning to talk about writing a lot more. I am planning to really look long and hard at what’s on my In Progress list. I’m going to finish the lesbian mermaid story. Everything else is up for grabs.

Let’s see what happens, eh?

The Third Mariam

This myth was given to me by my sister Marie.

Our mysteries bear the name of my grandmother and mother, while my original one is lost to history.
It’s easier to let the people call on anyone but me. I want nothing to do with most of them. They have designs on me I can’t abide.
Some say my mother died giving birth to me, some say she wandered off to fulfill another destiny in the wake of Yeshua’s death.
I was a frail and sickly child, spiritually afflicated as they say he was, torn between soul and body.
Mariam held a bitter regret, and an anger towards those that continued to pursue me. She argued with her daughter of before about the best way to preserve me. She had a human enough heart that life, she could not bear to see me go with them. She wanted for me what she had wanted for herself: to be free, to be one with the planet. She did not want me to become like them.
It pained her when I whispered to her the visions I saw: the crimson towers, the crystal palaces and golden streets, the great thrones, a place I called “Home” though I had never seen it. Yeshua did the same to her and she cursed every one of those moments–though the Writ say she kept them in her heart.
There are as many stories on how I met my mortal end as there are stars in the sky. Mariam saw a loving opportunity as I lay bleeding, though, and she rushed to my side with the Anqa’s cup, filled with the forgetting elixir that absolves the drinker of both sin and memory, setting them free in the next life.
In letting me perish, she could save me.
I could not bear the thought of starting over, of leaving the space I was in suspended between the planet and the stars. I was in love with my experience: with power and deity and transcendence. I bent my ear to a little whispering, rumbing voice that had been chasing me since my earliest memory, and during the rite, I poured out the elixir and replaced it with the Water of Life–blaming it on Auntie Brhenti.
My struggle was still over, but rather than becoming fully human, I became as my aunties were, and Mariam went into the ground with a broken heart and without drinking of the elixir herself, knowing that the only way I would follow her was if I chose.
Mara had caught my lie. Brhenti doted on me, giving me territory in the southwest: rich farmland, lush forests, and a marvelous view of the sea. Mara grew bitter.
I was afraid of the daughter of earth, and my once respect for her turned to fear, then petulant anger. People still remembered my mother and grandmother, and venerated all three of us for the miracles we brought with us from the Southern lands. I called on the lands of the Near East, using my grandmother’s name to secure gifts from the Anqa and tutelage from the Dark Lady through import of her bravest devotees interested in mysterious new lands.
My kingdom was decidedly of this earth: a decadent place of beautiful gardens and sparkling fountains and magically powered automatons to dazzle and astound centuries before they would be known across the continents. My palace filled with the voices of philosophers and the bubbling of flasks and the ardent proclamations of the poets. I shone my little light, and I drew the world to me in lavish parties buzzing with new wine from my fertile valleys.
But the fullness of my sparkling jewel made me full of myself, and I played poor politics–the grave mistake of a new god. I set my sights on conquest of the land as I had so many hearts, and that’s when the old gods acted rightfully, putting me in my place.
I could have reigned as a divine and long-lived queen if I was but humble. Instead, I retreated north into the cold, under the mantle of Brhenti who made a treaty with Mara that left me a string of ascetic mystics and mystery cults that chase after me to the sneers of the population. In exchange, she presides over her kirks at home not under the veil of “Mariam” but in her own name, unlike the many regional and local goddesses that divided up my kingdom. My lovely city? I have no idea what has become of it or its many collections of precious, magical relics. I don’t… care? Moments pass, and we dance on. Besides, my Gardens are lost, never to be found. No matter what the stories promise about Paradise.
I do still hold the cup–it is my charge now. I will not tell you if it is filled with the elixir, or the Water, or even my own blood. I will not tell you if it will taste bitter to you, or sweet. But I can give the drink that offers salvation, that offers a peace of the soul. I can spare a soul from even a god’s wrath, and I can offer comfort to those dying before their time. I am the flickering flame of the traveler’s candle in the window, I am the hearth fire that protects a family from the winter’s chill. I am the dawn that puts to rest the spirits of the night.
But beware before you ask to drink, because my mercy is for those that have respected their own law, not for those who seek to injustly escape their consequences. To be truly ‘fair” means to turn a deaf ear to the screaming pleas of the traitors to kin and the transgressors of the laws of Nature. Don’t be guiled by the delusioned guilty, for I am not a great goddess of naive righteousness.
I am a fickle little girl with a great golden cup.

Meditation Beads

Glass and metal with kyanite.
Glass and metal with kyanite.

Other Mara-related things this month included finally sitting down and doing some things I’d been planning to do for a while now, including teaching myself to do rosary-style beading. The impetus for this was finding a pair of earrings in a thrift store with coin-pendants and little birds on them, just as I was working on Bluebird’s myth. The central piece of the beadwork above, with the bird, kyanite and coin pendant, came off the earrings as-is, in fact. I had been thinking about meditation beads for a while because I’ve had good results in the past meditating Buddhist-style with a mala, chanting for Kuan Yin, and before that, saying the rosary. Repetition is good for me.

In that respect, this style of beading also turned out to be a meditative action. It’s just fiddly enough to hold my attention.

I’m not quite satisfied enough with the prayers to publish them yet, but the beaded section is simple faceted glass beads from the craft store. I know people who do gorgeous work with precious stone beads but I’m definitely not there yet. The dividers are little brass roses I reclaimed from broken thrift store jewelry. There are seven sets of three beads, seven being the number Mara indicated to use. Eventually I would like to do a longer one but I want to work that out beforehand. This is kind of a rough draft.