Ostara, Easter, Beltane, Overwhelm

Originally posted on Pagan Bloggers.

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. -Rainer Maria RilkeOne of the hardest parts of starting from scratch is having to evaluate absolutely everything to decide if we want to include it or not.

Holidays are complex and mysterious things for me. Left to my own devices, almost everything creeps up on me without giving me a chance to get much planning done, even for holidays I enjoy like Halloween and holidays that I have off work like Thanksgiving. If I was on my own, I’d probably just enjoy the quiet day off a national holiday offers. However, holidays are important to my spouse, and I want my kid to grow up enjoying them if possible, so I continue to think about it.

There are going to be holidays no matter what- the ones we already celebrate, yes, but also the secular and dominant-faith-narrative holidays. Some things are outside of our control. Bug goes to a secular daycare, but that means there’s Christmas and Easter celebrations at school… and Christmas in particular is hard to avoid. The Universalist Unitarian church we attend has an Easter egg hunt every year as well.

Good holidays require planning. Lent and Advent were great for that when I was a kid (plus, let’s be honest, my mom did all the work) and I think it might be nice to bring some of that sense of anticipation in. Adapting an Advent calendar would go over well, I think, as well as stuff like “looking at lights” and “engaging in service opportunities” that put one in mind of it being an important time. I’ve actually got a full twelve days of Yule that I’ve been doing in a religious sense for several years now, as well as my other two New Years, but almost none of that translates well to celebrating with a toddler.

This year, Ostara came so far ahead of Easter that it wasn’t even on my radar until I started seeing posts from other pagans about it. Ostara is a great holiday, and one that really ought to be celebrated for Mara, thematically. But it didn’t happen. I let it go and resolved to do a bit more with Easter instead, to make up for it.

Lent is harder than Advent since the dates don’t like up well at all, but something like that would not be inappropriate for that time of year… Ostara is Mara’s emergence from the Woods. We thank and celebrate Brhenti’s aid through the winter at Imbolc, but while the ground has thawed, there’s not much in the way of fresh fruit between Imbolc and Ostara (unless your grocery store is importing it from Mexico). It’s a time of reflecting on what strength we’ve left to carry us out of the winter.

We did manage some Easter for Bug. It was very basic, mostly an egg hunt on Easter morning. It was hard because Easter was the same weekend as her birthday, so there was already plenty of excitement to go around. (I’m honestly not sure if she understood where ‘party for her’ ended and ‘party about bunnies’ began.) In fact, this would have been an ideal year to celebrate Ostara instead… but of course that didn’t happen. No use crying over spilt Cadbury eggs.

Beltane… well, we did sort of celebrate Beltane, though it was largely by accident. May is when the city we’ve moved into starts coming alive for the summer, so the first weekend included a First Friday celebration with local businesses, musicians and artists, a Mayfair at the local Waldorf school, and the First Market on Sunday. We went out after work on Friday to look at the sights, and on Saturday spent some time at Mayfair until Bug got tired. I brought home flowers from First Market for my spouse, who immediately placed them on the new altar.

Ah yes, the new altar. I’m working on a project for my spouse the next two months, and this kicked off with repeating the ritual for Juno I did last year. I had some pokes from Star Wars day and some pokes from Juno and I ended up with the sketched outline of a syncretization of Juno-Leia I’m calling the Juno of Alderaan.

And then I ended up with a felted doll of her, because that’s what happens when you’re me. One of the ways I understand things is through craft, so I spent the hours shaping the body form, choosing the colors, studying Leia’s hair styles to decide what I wanted to do…

I’m very pleased with the result, actually.

Mostly I’m trying to get my head on straight. I’ve been making my offerings to the local spirits and to Mara every day, and I’m hoping to try some more organized magical work for the household in June. Summer is full of festivals and holidays and at the same time they feel much less formal, less set in stone. There will be a pilgrimage to the ocean, there will be fairs and fiber festivals, there will be the tracking of which foods come and go at the farmers’ market. All of these things matter, but the precise dates matter less than knowing when they happen in relation to each other.

I’ve got my rough shape. Some of the work to be done is hammering in details; some needs to happen when it happens. All of it will come in time.

Day 19 – Slowing Down

Today was a slow day. Bug’s not feeling well and we didn’t have anything we needed to do, so we just stayed in. I darned another sock until my wrist started hurting (time to get my supports back out) and worked on coupons and laundry and bead organizing. And I did find time to get outside while it was nice out and go down to the creek.

Apparently we’ve reached the point in daily practice where I am getting somewhere. I know this is happening, not when I start getting inspiration, but when I start getting my ass kicked. Part of my invokation of Redbird is asking for creativity and today she basically called me out on it.

I have lots of ideas, and that’s wonderful, but my follow-through is lacking. Some of that is executive function issues, some of it is compulsive tendencies, but a lot of it is just dicking around on the internet. (And there’s a lot of overlap there, because infinite scroll + OCD can be a baaaaad combination, but still.)

I have a lot of projects that I am in the middle of, and even more that never seem to make it past acquiring the raw materials. Sometimes that’s because an idea doesn’t pan out, and that’s fine. Sometimes projects are going to take a while, especially if I’m spending the time on things like playing with Bug or taking care of the house. But this isn’t those things.

What did I tell you not to do?

Get distracted.

And what did you immediately do?

… Get distracted?

And if I was satisfied with the way I was spending my time, that’d be something else too. But, once again, I’m not. I look up at midnight and wonder where the time went. I like my hobbies! I want to do them more often!

I’m not sure what the solution is. Maybe I go back to using a blocker in my browser for specific websites, or I try more specific, time-limited goals, or I try some new ways of actually working on my to-do list, or… I don’t know.

But she’s right. I gotta do the thing if I want to do the thing.

Maybe that’s something I can address the next two days…

Day 17 – Doing the House Work


I’ve got a definite weekday routine again, a rhythm for praying and offering to Mara and the local spirits on my way to work, short as the trip is. This morning I noticed that when I’m walking in that direction from my apartment, my mind automatically slips into the words now.

I thought about Brhenti this morning, though I didn’t call on her then. I thought about her off and on during the day.

It rained all day, but stopped just in time for my walk home so I was able to call her from the side of the water just as I did last week. I combined both of the rough drafts I had for her and liked the result.

When I came up to the house, it was with the sure sensation that she didn’t want candles and incense, she wanted something else. She wanted chores. So I loaded the dishwasher, took out the trash and recycling, started in on the laundry. That was good, but there she wanted something a little more out of my comfort zone.

Now, I’ve mentioned here before that my spouse is a knitter. They make beautiful objects and I’m still flattered every time they spend all that time on something for me. Nothing makes me feel more loved than hand knits.

So I have a lot of beautiful, hand-knit socks. I love my socks. I wear them all the time. Some of my knit socks are six years old at this point.

Holes are a thing.

I have just been putting the socks with holes aside waiting for the mythical someday when they would get fixed. And waiting. And, well, I’d been thinking about it more than usual today.

Just look it up on the YouTube and do it, is about what she said to me.

I watched three videos and darned two socks and mostly I am amazed I didn’t try this sooner. A+ new skill would honor Brhenti again.

Eschatology and Daniel Tiger

In the long arc of the Empty Sky, the world ends lots of times. Maybe it’s local or personal. Sometimes it’s changes in geography and even physics. Occasionally, the perception of the past and present itself shifts. The old world is gone.

And the next morning the sun comes up and the story continues.

Right now there’s a lot going on. Yesterday we got approved for a new apartment. It’s on the other side of town, so it isn’t a long distance move, but it’s going to be a lot of work getting ready in the next month. The landlord wants to show the place starting next week, so I have to clean it and declutter and start packing at the same time.

It’s a little sad because this is the place we brought the baby home, where she learned to roll over and crawl and walk and talk. On the other hand, hopefully I’ll stop thinking I hear the cat all the time.

Besides the move itself, I’m trying to see how fast I can get all of my paperwork in order. I’ve been thinking about it since I need to get a new license anyway, and now that thought process is sped up a little. Better safe than sorry.

There’s a lot to worry about right now, and a lot I can be doing. But this move is a good reminder that small magic can add up. I started working with the local spirits near my new job when I went for the first interview, and I know that helped. I kept building the relationship when I started working. It’s an awful housing market right now, but when my spouse and I asked for help they delivered almost immediately.

None of us has control over the big picture. All of us have control over some small corner, and the whole point of magic is to increase that control. Well, I’m taking that and running with it: wards and charms and protections, blessings and curses, luck and strength to those who need it. More offerings and stronger relationships, that they drop gifts in my lap and open my eyes so I can see them.

It’s hard to focus in on what I can do personally, so I ended up turning to one of my daughter’s favorite shows for advice. On Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, when a big storm damages the neighborhood, the cleanup effort has three steps according to one of my dad role-models, Daniel Striped Tiger: first you help your family, then you help your neighbors, then you help your neighborhood. I think this combines nicely with the reminder to put on my own oxygen mask first – you start in the spheres where you can make the most difference.

Taking care of my family is the biggest thing I can do. My family isn’t just my spouse and kid or any kind of blood family, but it’s the people who know me and whom I know, the people who I know are safe to vent to and who feel the same way about me, even if we don’t always agree or face the same problems. Heartsiblings, best friends, the people who drop everything when you need to talk and vice versa. These people are easy to help because you either know what they need or they’re comfortable telling you what they need. If you’re doing it wrong, they’ll tell you and you’ll listen. That’s family. They’re easier to magic for because they trust you and are open to you and often your wyrd is bound up with theirs in some way. These are the people you’d trust your life to at the end of the world.

Once my family is as stable as I can make it, then there’s neighbors. These are the people who live near me – because a lot of the time, my safety and well-being is intertwined with theirs – and this is also friends and other social groups: for me it’s my church, my online friends,  and my coworkers. For you it might be people in your church or grove, your co-workers, your kid’s classmates, your gaming group, whatever. These are the people whose well-beings directly impact your well-being, either because you care about them or their situation impacts yours or both. I don’t know them as well as my family, so I need to pay more attention to what help they want. But not only do I want my friends to be safe and happy, but if my neighbors are in trouble or my coworkers aren’t able to come to work, I’m likely to be impacted by that too. These are people who you probably know at least a little bit, and who probably are willing to trust your good intentions (and you’re probably able to trust theirs). Ask what they need and help them get it if you can. These are the people who are going to be in the warehouse with you at the end of the world, fighting off zombies with baseball bats. You want them in as good a shape as possible.

The neighborhood is the bigger picture: governments, organizations, movements, demographics. I can’t protect every queer person personally, but things that affect the queer “neighborhood” affect all of us. I’m disabled but not dependent on the ACA as much as some people, so I need to listen to other people in the disabled neighborhood to know what is most helpful. I’m not a person of color, but I can try to protect the PoC neighborhoods similarly. Listen, ask, act. Magic and action alike in this area tends to be most effective if it’s supportive magic powering others or precisely targeted: I can join an organization with a regular donation, volunteer at a local group to do a specific thing, knock on doors and get out voters in my district, honey jar my government officials, bless and protect those in the streets.

In that same episode, Daniel Striped Tiger quotes Mr Rogers, telling his son that when he was scared, his mother taught him to look for the helpers. This is important too. This is still the same country it was last week in a lot of ways, but some band-aids got ripped off hard and we popped some stitches. I have a whole house to pack, altars to disassemble, a toddler to take care of, plans to make. We have a lot of work to do for ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our neighborhoods. But we’re not alone. I’ve had friends already offer to help with moving. Lots of people are trying to figure out what to do next. That’s what we can do. Those of us who can, get up in the morning. Keep moving forward. And remember the names of the ones left behind.

Preparing

You can tell how anxious I am about society by my canned good storage.

I got into prepping as an intellectual exercise in high school, as a side effect of being into radical outdoor survival, underground secret lairs, anarchism and eschatology. I mean, what other hobby is going to bring all of those interests together? I discovered the Loompanics Unlimited and Paladin Press catalogs back when they still sent out catalogs, and it was a short leap from there into the wild and wooly world of prepping.

The thing about prepping, as any good episode of Doomsday Preppers could tell you, is that basic, reasonable levels of prepping make a lot of fucking sense. Why wouldn’t you want to have some bottled water on hand in case of an emergency? Of course you want to know where your essentials are if you need to evacuate. I live a mile from a major river, in an area that’s allegedly going to get The Big One any minute now.

And hell , my stash of canned goods came in handy when I wasn’t working and we had my medical expenses to worry about. At its most basic level, prepping comes from doing a little bit extra just in case. 

Of course, then it gets a lot of uncomfortable baggage and automatic weapons and its all downhill from there.

In general, though, I can gauge my comfort with society by my stacks of canned goods and my friends… I have a lot of green beans, is what I’m saying, and not just because the dented tin store had a great deal. I like feeling like I have some measure of control over my well-being even when almost everything is out of control. If society collapses, or a train explodes, or we get a hundred year flood, I can’t stop it. But I can be ready to get my kid out safe, and to make sure we can manage in the meantime.

Devotionally, the equivalent of prepping is probably research. There’s no such thing as too much research, is there? But there totally is.

I don’t have much of anywhere to start with Tzymir and Redbird. Tzymir is kind of like his namesake and kind of like Hades and kind of like King Yama… Redbird is kind of like Persephone and kind of like Freya and kind of like her mother.

What does that actually mean? Not much. More red herrings than red birds. So I keep forcing myself to look up from my books at what is actually in front of me, to draw from nature instead of from a tutorial. It’s hard. It’s slow. It’s not as simple as green beans.

It’ll be worth it if I can break through. But first I have to keep going, no matter what tomorrow brings.

Sweeping the Sun In, Slowly

I spent a good chunk of this weekend cleaning.

Like many other things that are good for me, I’m much, much happier when I’m keeping up with the housecleaning, but it’s very hard to do when I’m in anxious or depressed. On the other hand, cleaning is one of the very few things I can use as a redirection when my OCD is getting the best of me, so it’s often the easiest outlet even if it’s a little… earth scortchy.
(When I’m cleaning in OCD mode, whatever I can’t deal with tends to just go in the trash. It’s not the greatest for the environment or whatever but it lets me get on with things so it’s a compromise I live with.)
Creatively, I feel as if I don’t even know how to write. I managed a short reflection about my grandmother’s death and… that’s it. I’m still not sure how I’m allowed to feel about her death. It’s as if I’m not entitled to my feelings, because I’m so cut off from my family. I know that’s not how feelings work, and yet I circle around it.
My grandmother prepared cards for upcoming birthdays ahead of her death. I didn’t know this until I opened the mailbox the other day and there was an envelope for my daughter’s birthday, addressed in her small, neat handwriting. (Maybe that’s where I get my tendency to write so small.) I won’t lie, I sobbed there in front of the mailbox. I put the card in my bag without opening it. That’s the kind of woman my grandmother was – she was dying, and she was making sure her grandkids and great grandkids would have birthday cards. Considering nobody else in my family sent my daughter a birthday card except my parents, knowing that’s the last one is hard.
I feel better, though, for cleaning. Hekate was right to push me, The energy’s been stagnant in the house for a while – I was very busy with work during all three new years this year, and I feel like I never got a proper start. But it’s getting warm outside, and that sunlight burns away a lot of things.
I’ve been scared to move forward, but I need a change. Pretty much everyone is agreed about this, from my spouse to my deities down to a recent tarot reading I got which I’ll be talking about soon. I don’t know how to move forward, but I have to pick something before I go crazy.

Secondhand Pagan, Redux

Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This i...
Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speaking of things from ages ago…

About a year ago I wrote about being a Secondhand Pagan, finding altar pieces and other materials at thrift stores and yard sales. Over the some I wrote occasionally about yard sale finds and honoring the ancestors at estate sales, but as the yard sale season waned I’ve let the subject drop but some conversations I’ve had offline made me want to revive the subject.

I’m thinking about doing a series of posts about being a secondhand pagan, about the sorts of things you can find at thrift stores and the like. I’m very fortunate in this area, as I live in a city with no lack of thrift stores, estate sales, and secondhand shops. I think with enough patience, though, a lot of it is do-able anywhere you have access to a decent thrift store.

My goal is to work my way through the standard neopagan altar, one piece at a time, with pictures and suggestions for different ways you can source each one secondhand. I’ve collected a lot of pictures at this point, so it’s time to see if I can tie everything together.

House Work: X is for Exact Expertise

I am not a cook. In fact, the fact that I have spectacularly poor skills in the kitchen has been a part of my identity since high school, when I managed to set the flan on fire in home ec. This is another area in which my OCD doesn’t help – I’m extremely paranoid about food going off, and I get hung up on following the rules, which doesn’t suit cooking of the “add some milk and spice” variety. If I have an exact recipe to follow, I’m a little better off, but I still find myself wrestling with questions like “exactly how boiling is boiling?” and “are you sure that’s brown? really?”

Fear if imprecision is a real problem in the kitchen, and OCD isn’t the only reason I second-guess myself. I get hung up on the idea that I’m not a good cook and I psych myself out.

What I need to remember is that cooking, like most things, is a skill. Some people are more talented at building a recipe or getting the timing right or seasoning to taste, but cooking itself is a learned skill. Expertise is not inborn. I learned divination, I learned to write, I learned to meditate. I still practice all these things. I can learn to cook as well.

For Thanksgiving, I made the mashed potatoes. I peeled them, cut them, mashed them, added the milk and butter, and so on. It was easier than I thought, even though I knew mashed potatoes are pretty simple. I enjoyed it, though. Cooking is one of those things that’s been on my bucket list of Home Skills for a while, but it seems so broad and intimidating that I’ve kind of pushed it off. Hopefully, though, I’ll be working on some real foods in the near future.

Disir and Estate Sales

Putting a bird on it!
Country Festival Glasses

Of course I have female relatives who’ve passed who would more traditionally fit the description of disir. They’re not the only ones I feel a certain attachment and obligation to, however.

I went to an estate sale this past weekend and came home with three glasses designed as go-alongs to Corningware’s Country Festival pattern. (This is a secondary pattern to Spice O Life, but one I have a few pieces of already.) As I unwrapped them from their paper and peeled off the estate sale price tags, I whispered thank you and promises to take good care of them.

I got the sense it was appreciated.

In a way, each time I go to a sale like this and bring home glasses or napkins or Pyrex or Corningware, I’m bringing home something that was important to these women. Maybe more or less important – at another estate sale we picked up some well-loved kitchen knives and a lovingly-seasoned wok, as well as some towels. I’d imagine there’s a lot more of her in the wok than in the towels. I often get that feeling from estate sales in a way I don’t from garage or yard sales.

These things were loved. Now I get to love them, in my admittedly hipster way. I think of the Lady of the Mushrooms when I’m using the mushroom pot. A few weeks ago it was an estate sale full of Winnie the Pooh merchandise – I have thought of the Lady of the Hundred Acre Woods several times since. I will think of the Mother of Tuxedo Cats when I use the Country Festival glasses.

Hail to the women who came before! Hail to the ladies of the sales!

House Work: Commitment

Spice O' Life tea kettle
Spice O’ Life tea kettle

Right now my wife and I are in a bit of a holding pattern. We are, once again, waiting to see if specific intent is going to manifest for us, and when, and in general it means a whole lot of things are up in the air until we know what’s going on with this one specific thing.

In order to deal with that, we spent the weekend not thinking about it.

On Saturday we drove up to Scappoose, Oregon. It wasn’t a terribly long drive, but it brought us to the home of Blue Moon Fiber Arts, who were having their annual barn sale. They have a property which is almost as gorgeous as the yarn they produce, and the drive was pleasant. We did some yard sailing along the way and stopped in a thrift store in Scappoose, where I got a couple of altar items for Mara and found, in near-mint condition and with its lid, the tea kettle from the classic Corningware “Spice O’ Life” pattern. It was three dollars.

On Sunday, after a morning of stumbling onto overpriced vintage sales trying to pass as yard sales, I came across the 10-cup percolator from the same pattern. This one was missing its lid and its heating element, but it was less than two dollars.

Now, up until just recently, we’ve never committed to a kitchen pattern. Everything we have is secondhand, and most of it is vintage painted enamel just because if I’m going to buy a used pan, I’m going to buy a used pan that I like, dammit. But I think something clicked when we were looking at the Merry Mushroom house a few weeks ago. Since then, my wife found a stoneware dish pattern that she likes, and we decided to commit to a cookware pattern.

We are officially collecting Spice O’ Life. It’s a little later period than we’d been planning to go with our kitchen but it looks really good against the wood-paneled walls and cabinets, it’s easy to find but has more obscure pieces so there’s some thrill of the hunt there, and it reminds me of my childhood. What more could I ask for?