Playing With Sharp Things

The problem with trying to gather up everything of a particular category in one place is that one has to remember where all of the things from that category are. If I’ve forgotten where something is, or even that I owned it, you’d think it’d be easy to cast aside but my memory is terrible and I’ve had things disappear during terrible moves before, so when something seems to be nowhere to be found, well, either it’ll turn up or it won’t, so I move on and put the thought aside.

In this case, it was an array of pieces from Odin’s altar, from the last time Odin had a proper altar. Spearhead, knife, other knife, small sword-shaped letter opener, a necklace I used to wear for Loki and a few other bits and bobs. I come by my obsession with sharp things honestly.

I don’t quiiiiiite have room in my Magical Knives Drawer for more knives, but we all know I’m going to find space for them.

Have I talked about my Ridiculous Knife Collection? Because it’s ridiculous. I have your normal assortment of metal ritual blades and bowie knives and daggers and pocket knives I’ve pressed into service when I somehow managed not to have a fancy knife to hand. I also have knives made of wood, bone, and glass. You know, because you never know exactly how you might want to tweak your elemental associations. (If I wanted to, I could set up an altar where every element was represented by a knife. That generates some interesting energy of its own, as you can probably imagine.)

I actually did take out and consider all of these when I was doing the original KonMari (except, of course, for the ones I just found). The thing is? I really do love them all. They each have different energies, associations and uses. As ridiculous as it might be to have a Magical Knife Drawer full of magical knives, hey, I’ve done much more ridiculous things. If I’m embracing what makes me happy and has worked for me for a long time, well, stabby things are definitely on that list.

The Boring Stuff

I found my fucking bone runes.

Also my two missing tarot decks, and all of the hematite and copper jewelry I used to wear for private, formal ritual, and a few other things besides.

I found them in a storage box that I thought held something else entirely. In other words, it was pure chance I found them now and not three months ago or three years from now. And yet I found them at the perfect time, immediately after I’d designated a storage container for divination tools and other special pieces.

It’s hard to know, sometimes, whether you’re on the right track or the wrong one. Everything can look like it was meant to happen if you trace the path far enough. Everything is fated, if fate is the sum total of everything we’ve already done and the choices we’ve made.

So, I found the damn bone runes. I finally have all my divination and close practice stuff together in one bag, for the first time since before the baby was born. The KonMari practice itself is… well, done, in one sense. A bit on-hold in a way. Ongoing, in another.

Lots of ongoing in my life right now. I’m trying to juggle current responsibilities and enchanting for some new options as well as doing the practical steps necessary for those new options to work out. I need to get the garden box planted this week. I’m working on a post about magical notebooking.

Gotta remember that slow and steady will get me closer than sitting still. I’ve had decent success with my discipline, though I could always be better.

I don’t have enough of a point to this post, but it’s been open for two days now, so I’m just going to call it.

Metaphysical KonMari: Spirits and Powers

When I started this process, I was actually eager to leap ahead to “decluttering the gods,” even before I finished the earlier steps I outlined for myself. I was convinced that giving myself some kind of clean (or almost-clean, anyway) slate was the way to solve my anxiety.

Since then, I’ve come around to the idea that what I really need to tidy up my expectations for myself. Rather than getting hung up on whether I have enough or do enough for any individual god, maybe I should focus my effort on creating a sustainable spriritwork practice that’s not dependant on adding more and more work or complexity to my system.

There’s always going to be another spirit. Since I’ve been diving back into Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery, I’ve recommitted myself to active magical work, and that requires working with a variety of spirits depending on the project and my goals. More than that, months ago I read about the idea of a personal spirit retinue, a kind of divination exercise that allows you to find out the spirits who are already interested in and interacting with you in your life. I haven’t pursued having someone else perform this divination for me, but I have been paying attention as much as I can and asking those interested in me to make themselves known. Being open to a project like this is basically the opposite of reducing the number of spirits and powers in my life.

Rather than fight it, though, I’m looking to switch from individual offerings to more generalized offerings aside from when I’m actively working on things that would result in specific offerings. Taking a bit of inspiration from this post, I’ve been experimenting for a few weeks now with offerings for “those who watch over or take interest in me or my family”. I’ve been asking them to let me know who they are when they want to step up; I’ve had some dreams pushing individuals to the forefront and I’m trying to encourage them to let me know what I should be doing. (I can’t do a practice exactly like the wet egg in the link, if for no other reason than my area has a truly amazing ant problem if I so much as leave a few crumbs out too long.) One dream pushed me to reach out to the spirit I tag 1934 Indian, after the motorcycle I see him on. Another dream reminded me of a spirit who shows as much interest in my attempts at cooking as at sorcery.

There’s still Mara, as ever, and in fact I’ve gotten suggestions to shake up the way I worship her again. There’s Hekate, and Odin and Loki, Persephone and Hades, Ganesha, Guan Yin and Guan Yu, my ancestor work and local land and city spirits and others who simply don’t have names. But the difference is that for once I don’t feel overwhelmed.

To put it in KonMari terminology: they all bring me joy. What didn’t bring joy was my expectations of how “offerings” are supposed to happen, so my attitude is what needs to be fixed up. Now I keep going, and I keep refining, until I find a practice that works in the long haul.

Going Left

“In a quarter mile, turn left onto Blakely Street,” Google Maps’ narrator instructed.

My grandparents’ house is to the right. I was there only an hour before, saying my goodbyes before meeting my parents and sister for lunch. My spouse and I were headed back to the airport in our rental car, toddler chirping in the backseat.

I’d already run back in the house once, crying, for another hug and another goodbye.

“If I asked you to go right instead of left…?” I thought out loud.

“I would,” my spouse agreed.

“But it wouldn’t change anything, would it?” And I was crying again.

“Is there anything you haven’t said? That you’d do differently?”

I shook my head.

“Then no, it wouldn’t.”

“Turn left onto Blakely Street,” Google Maps said when we got to the corner, and I didn’t argue.

My grandmother is dying. Not in the vague sense, but in the hospice care sense. My spouse and I had been planning to go back to visit where I grew up in the nebulous future, when there was money and time and and and…

And then there was no more time, so we blew the tax refund and what little vacation time I’ve earned on it.

In between family visits, I took my spouse on a whirlwind tour of Places That Mattered To Me. The library that shaped how I imagine libraries. The comic book store where the owner still knows my name after all these years. So many streets that look exactly the same as they did twenty years ago, when I was swearing I’d leave town and never look back.

I didn’t get into my feeds all weekend, so it wasn’t until today that I saw Alex’s Undoing and Reforming. In a long and beautifully-written post, the line “I have continually been directed to look at the things I keep tucked away in my emotional and spiritual closet and don’t want to look at.” resonated with me because of all the sorting I did over the weekend, and the way it echoed the KonMari process.

There was actual sorting of things that had been mine that were still at my parents’ house. I brought back childhood photos and some of my other grandmother’s buttons. There has been an ongoing sorting process, back to when I started Project Protagonist, where I went through what I believed as a child to see what was true. But I’ve done very little work sorting through what my parents gave me, and the shape my childhood has given my life. It was strange to have a spouse there watching me interact with my family, letting me unpack the conversations later.

I’m not sure how much of this KonMari can, or should, be shared in public. But it’s part of the process, and it’s affecting how my other sorts are going. My feelings about Loki in particular (and Odin to some degree) and how present they are in my life have changed drastically in the last month or so. KonMari only works if you drag everything out and lay hands on all of it. Laying hands on everything has turned out to be harder than I thought in every category, from the physical (I still haven’t found those fucking bone runes) to my feelings on the gods, to the looming question of ancestor work, to what I want to do with my life.

Everything is upended and I’m just trying to keep all the plates from hitting the ground, I think. I’ve always said I don’t believe in regrets, and I’m being tested. But regret requires there to be something I’d do differently, and I’ve always known I had to leave the place I grew up. I love my family; I tie myself in knots over it, even when they drive me crazy or get my pronouns wrong. I love my grandmother, and I had the opportunity to tell her, and so I have no regrets. Just… sadness.

Eventually things will settle, but that’s not the comfort it would be in other circumstances. In the meantime, I have another closet I need to figure out how to empty.

Metaphysical KonMari: Practices, pt 2

The stunning thing I realized, when I started making my practices list, was how many things were on it that I didn’t enjoy doing. Not just things I did because I felt like I should, like runes, but things I actively did because of religious scrupulosity rather than because of any kind of faith or experience. I have a tendency to track omens in really unhealthy ways, for example, telling myself that since X didn’t happen, it must be because I’d upset a deity. I know this is disordered thinking, but I spend too much time and energy addressing it in the moment instead of working on the pattern in the same way I do with other aspects of my OCD.

I’m not going to go into my full list of practices here, but once I felt like I had a good, solid representation of my practices, I made a companion list of what I would like my practice to look like. It looks a bit like this:

  • add incense and water more regularly to candles
  • regular offerings, esp to ancestors and spirits I have a personal relationship with
    do more regular magical work
  • finish art for a second working draft of my oracle deck
  • start seriously working with my coin system
  • develop a regular divination habit
  • more magical journaling
  • regular meditation and spiritwork practices

The same key words kept coming up: habit, and especially regular. I suppose it’s not accidental, given that my energy this year is being spent trying to keep going. I struggle with doing things regularly (hell, I still can’t shake the feeling that it’s profoundly unfair that the laundry won’t just stay done) and with creating good habits.

My sleep schedule is a mess. My work schedule varies from week to week, and I never know whether I’ll be able to get to writing as soon as the baby goes to bed or if she’ll be up and demanding my attention for an hour or two. I’m still trying to make cooking a habit as well, but cooking generates dishes to wash and I sometimes find myself overwhelmed before I even start.

It’s ridiculous, but it is what it is. I need to learn to work around myself, because stomping on the parts that don’t work well in the name of being a better person isn’t working.
At night, I like doing my candles; I like taking that moment of silence and reflection. I want to do more of that. I need to figure out how to make the regular parts easier. I’m going to try some apps for nagging, since reminders do help. I’m also thinking about a thing or two I do before bed specifically, or while commuting, instead of trying to get everything in while waiting to see if the baby’s going to sleep.

Suggestions for habit-forming? I’ve tried HabitRPG before and found the ‘losing points’ aspect anxiety-inducing because it didn’t solve the forgetting/losing time aspect of not doing things for me. Other ap or game suggestions are welcome, though.

A Tale of Two Shrines

To be honest, I have a bit of a shrine problem. I tend to have a lot of them, and they tend to creep into other, unoccupied spaces when I’m not looking. Separating out my feelings about the physical “stuff” of shrines and altars from the deities represented therein has been one of the difficulties of this KonMari attempt, but I have made significant changes to two altars so far.

The first is my ancestors shrine. This one was my first real sense of improvement – I redid this shrine almost immediately after going through the physical step, removing some things that no longer made sense, and adding a few things I’d rounded up from elsewhere, like my grandfather’s pocket knives. I did a lot of waffling over what went on there, and a lot of fiddling with placement. Finding the balance between different categories of ancestors and the symbolism of each is a challenge, but I’m happier with the layout now than the previous one.

As for the second shrine…

I used to work much more closely with spirits of the waters than I do now. For a time, this meant a strong relationship with the Norse goddess Rán. For several years I hung a net indoors and hung various shinies and offerings to her on the net. When we moved into this apartment a few years ago, I wanted to try maintaining it as an outdoor shrine. Over time, however, it became clear that this just wasn’t working, but I the idea of disassembling the shrine was overwhelming. I found a beaded shawl that was made like a net and created a new indoor shrine, but left the old one outside, too anxious to do anything about it but feel guilty.

On Friday, I took the whole thing down. There was very little to save from it. It was barely even a decommissioning, given that I’d already replaced it. It was just a thing that needed to be done, that I finally did.

There’s still so much to do, but having that shrine taken care of, finally, instead if sitting there making me feel guilty is such a huge relief for me. Even if I stopped now, this will have been worth it… but I don’t intend to stop now.

At the very least, I still have to find those damn runes.

Metaphysical KonMari: Practices

I was trying to make a list of practices and then I got to ‘reading runes’ and I stopped.

(Why is it always the fucking runes that trip me up? Can I blame Odin? I blame Odin.)

You see, I only read with runes about twice a year, when I’m doing specific kinds of card readings that need additional context. I happened to think about runes because I have been thinking about my missing ones for days on end now, but there are probably plenty of other things I only do every couple of months and I’m not thinking of.

I was talking to a friend about this and she suggested that I treat it similarly to the decluttering technique where you turn your hangers backwards for six months or a year and only keep the clothes’ whose hangers have been turned, indicating that they were worn.

This is a reasonable suggestion, but it doesn’t make for much of a blog post, nor does it make me feel like I’m accomplishing much, so I started making a list and I’ve been slowly adding to it and I realized today that I’ve been overlooking a whole category of things. Things I have very much wanted to declutter from my spiritual life before.

I am, of course, referring to scrupulous practices. These overlap heavily with luck and omen-spotting, and are therefore metaphysical and/or spiritual practices. They go on the list.

I think, to tie it back into Keep Going, I need to make it a regular review process, same as evaluating what I’m reading. Practices that are generally good can become scrupulous for me, and taking some time off from them can reset them to healthy levels. In the past I’ve had to be told when I need to do this kind of stepping away. I need to learn how to do it for myself.

Awareness matters.

So… how do I know when to move onto step four? Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll just barrel right into that too. Let me think about it and get back to you.

Metaphysical KonMari: Influences

I have a folder in my feed reader that is specifically for the feeds that annoy me, so I don’t have to look at them unless I have the energy to be angry.

Why do I have this folder? Why am I even following blogs that I know will annoy the crap out of me? This must mean it’s time for the Influences portion of the KonMari.

As soon as I started in on it, I realized I probably should have done this first. I’ve done digital purges several times before, and this is much less fraught than sorting through tools or altar pieces. There’s still some angst there, as I let go of blogs that haven’t been updated in over a year or that I feel like I would keep up with if I was a better magician.

There is the idea of the lifestyle blog, all about being a better $X. There is a tendency to read these blogs aspirationally – instead of doing the things on those blogs, it’s so much easier to just read them and dream about doing them. I know this kind of blog well; I know six different recipes for making your own detergent and have never tried a one of them.

I did finally succeed in using those candle-making instructions the other night, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is that I tend to get into a new kind of blog, or a new “wing” of an old kind of blog, and subscribe to ten different blogs (or worse, Facebook groups) in the same genre and then they all sit there until I get overwhelmed and delete them all. I plan to do ALL THE THINGS and then I get overwhelmed and fail to do any of the things. I’m not sure how to fix this problem in the long run, but for the moment, anyway, I can fix what’s in front of me.

I took great pleasure in unsubscribing from that minimalism blog that always annoys me, from that spiritwork blog that always seems to be talking down, from that magic blog that’s not a system I’m never likely to put any time into. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in a wide variety of topics, that’s a good thing to a point. Unfortunately, I can only focus on so much at once, so I need to improve the signal to noise ratio.

Along the way, I whittled my subscription list down enough that I’m switching back to receiving all of my blogs by email. I’m not sure what it is about feed readers, but no matter what I use, I seem to forget to check it. Rather than remember once a week and get annoyed at myself for forgetting, I’m just going to send them to my email, where I can read them in the moment or tell them to come back later. I’ve switched to and from this system more than once, and it definitely works best when I keep the number of blogs I’m reading under control.

I need to hone my ability to judge whether something is bringing me joy in the moment – not necessarily whether this particular post makes me happy, but whether the last two or three have made me happy, whether I sigh inwardly when a certain blog shows up in my feed, what I look forward to and what I delete unread. Rather than let everything pile up, I need to be more aware of my own happiness in the moment and more responsive to my own state of mind. I’m hoping that keeping my feeds in my mailbox will do that for me going forward.

To a certain extent this will be an ongoing trickle of a process going forward – I can clear out my feed reader or my FB groups, but there’s always a stream of newsletters, liked pages and other influences that spill in front of me. The ongoing work is to keep that mindfulness about what brings me joy and what I need to get out of my life, one status update at a time.

KonMari Interlude

Today I was definitely going to take another shot at Metaphysical KonMari! So I…

… cleaned out the kitchen cabinets.

I didn’t even properly KonMari them, I just cleaned a bunch of things out because I had to get rid of something, it was driving me crazy, but the baby was a little too fussy for digging through the bedroom closet in search of my missing runes and jewelry.

I finished reading Spark Joy on Friday and honestly I like it a lot more than Marie Kondo’s first book. On one hand, it’s more philosophical than Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. On the other, it’s much more specific and detailed when dealing with the actual ins and outs of decision-making. There are clothes-folding diagrams. It’s very nitty-gritty in some spots, and seems to have been written in response to the questions I see come up the most in KonMari groups.

Kondo talks about several broader subjects that I felt were very important. First, she answers the question “what do I do if I need it but it doesn’t spark joy?” Yes, she talks about getting rid of her hammer and pounding nails with a frying pan, but she pairs that with a story about getting rid of her screwdriver and breaking her favorite ruler trying to substitute that for the correct tool. She goes on to talk about how you can find joy in things that do a necessary job and do it well by appreciating those things instead of taking them for granted and treating them with the same respect that you do your other belongings.

One of the big failings of the American reception of the KonMari Method is that Americans are far too quick to jump into sorting while throwing out the more philosophical sections of her method. I’ve seen many people react with skepticism or discomfort at the idea that our things have energy, that they should be thanked for their service, and so on. None of this bothers me, and while I still don’t empty my bag every night, the idea of having a bag that I trust and am happy to thank for doing a good job makes perfect sense to me. Anyway, I took a few pages of notes and I’m still chewing on some of the things she discussed in the more philosophical section of her book.

I’m currently in a transitory state because I’m working at a temporary store. I have a permanent job as well, also part-time, and I’m continuing to look for either a full-time position or a slightly more flexible second job to replace the one that’s ending. Frankly, I need to be doubling-down on job magic. So far I’ve gotten what I’ve asked for but I think I’m not asking for enough, or perhaps I’m not being sufficiently specific. Either that or there’s a direction I’m supposed to be going in that I’m just not seeing.

Sometimes I forget that getting my act together is not a destination and the fact that I’m not yet together is not a failure, just an in-progress.

More to come when I find those fucking runes.

Metaphysical KonMari: Physical, part 1

This is the easy part, I said.

Just gather up all your random magical crap and sort it, I said.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

I attempted to do the physical component of the konmari last night, gathering up everything I could find before the baby went to bed. I knew I was missing a number of things that got boxed up when we were making space for the baby, but I decided to go ahead with what I had, because as you can see above, what I had was still a pretty big pile.

One entire altar didn’t even make it on the pile, I just looked at it and knew I wasn’t attached to anything on it anymore. I have a box of things that are definitely no longer mine. But this was so much harder than I expected.

There’s a surprising amount of anxiety in dismantling an altar or taking down a figure I no longer have any connection with. It’s not as if it’s necessarily long term, and it’s explicitly not a reflection of my relationship with the god but somehow I have no active Kuan Yin altar and that bothers me.

I have five sets of runes, somehow. I couldn’t even find one of them. Two sets are handmade by me. Two other sets are handmade ones I bought. I read with runes approximately three times a year, I don’t need this many rune, Allfather or no Allfather. But I’m supposed to do this without thinking of the practice of reading runes, right? How the hell do I separate the tool from the thing the tool does? For some reason I thought this would be a lot easier than it is to separate.

I got overwhelmed and also took much longer than I’d envisioned. I’m going to have to try this again when I have more spare brain, I think. Maybe this weekend, when I can stay up a little later, and when I have time to go hunting for missing pieces.