Local Gods: Portlandia

I imagine that Portlandia wonders sometimes how Athena managed with Athens.

Portland wants desperately to be a city of art and craft, of good food and progressive politics, hip and clever, full of small businesses and neighborhoods that are still full of neighbors, a beautiful city full of art and nature. And it is those things! It is also a city shaped by racism and gentrification, a city that wants artists but where artists can barely afford to live, and a city that fails to live up to its ideals.

Portlandia has been on the city’s seal since 1878. A tall woman bearing a trident, she looks out over the Willamette River and her valley. She is described as the Queen of Commerce and a star shines over her head. I was first drawn to her because of this; I saw her as a relative of my goddess Mara. New to the city and job-hunting, I made offerings that we might find work. Ultimately we ended up in a suburb outside of Portlandia’s domain, but I kept circling back to her and to the city itself.

A bit over thirty years ago, Portland installed a large (second only to the Statue of Liberty) copper statue of Portlandia above the entrance to the then-new Portland building. This depiction of Portlandia does not tower over the river valley, but instead she crouches down, holding her trident out to one side and reaching out to the city inhabitants below. There is an amazing amount of emotion in her face and body, and it was this statue that helped me make that connection with her.

She is the city, and like the city, she wants to be better. She wants to make things better for her inhabitants. She reaches out to help. She offers a hand up. I have gone to her for help finding work and for help finding housing.

I’ve never seen her work alone; it’s always in concert with other local spirits when I get results. I call her with the rivers, with the bridges, with the city ancestors, and with the spirits of smaller parts of the city. The offerings she seems to like best are public praise (Portland is a little bit self-obsessed), taking care of the homeless, and taking care of the city itself. Supporting local artists, local presses and local businesses is good, too. When you can, battle gentrification and racism, and hold the city government accountable.

Do your part to take care of Portland and Portlandia will do her part to take care of you as well.

This post was inspired by Sara Mastros’s American Gods Project; there’s plenty of good stuff worth reading over there.

Carnival Season

Just recently I saw my first carnival of the season.

As I see Wodanaz in both the Hunt and the Carnival, the first carnival of the year is a moment like the first farmer’s market, where I am seeing a power shift from their winter self to their summer self and I stop to acknowledge the passage of time.

This is, of course, entirely UPG, but the role of carnivals in pop culture is liminal and dangerous, a place where the bad are punished and strange blessings and curses both might come up, so it seems reasonable to me that archetypal Carnival might feed on the same energies as the Hunt. And of course, I first met Wodanaz wearing the face of Mr Dark.

I know other pagans who mark their seasons with nature-based observations, noting when plants first sprout or ripen, but I suspect I’m just not sufficiently earth-attuned for that. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the signs of the seasons, what the plants are doing and so on, and I can certainly note and appreciate it. It just doesn’t resonate for me the way spotting the lights of a ferris wheel on the side of the freeway does.

Day 30 – Down to the River

wp-1490938497225.jpgIt was a good day for walking down to the river on my lunch. A guy could get used to this routine, I really could. Today I gathered all the prayers in a word document, and now I’m trying to decide what I want to do next.

I’ve done the same prayer for Velos and Pechak for three weeks now, at similar places, and it’s starting to take on an energy of its own. Some of the other ones are almost there, but Pechak and Velos are… maybe the least picky? Or maybe just the simplest to reach out to. I knew what I was asking them for almost right away so it didn’t take much tweaking.

Today’s coin is a souvenir from the 1962 Penticon Peach Festival and Square Dance Jubilee. I associate peaches with Wehaz, the Merciful Fire. There is a certain fruit – and scholars can’t agree which, of course, but some say a rare peach – that, when eaten, burns away the imperfections and ruts mortality leaves on your soul. It gifts enlightenment, or maybe immortality… You know, something like that. It’s not unlike how Wehaz is in the wildfire that allows new growth and the forgefire that burns away impurities in metal.

Let go of what’s holding you back. Sweep in the new and necessary.

Day 28 – Lemon, It's Tuesday

Tuesday’s dollhouse shrine figure. Clothes are still a work in progress.

Every week Tuesday has rolled around and I’ve somehow been sans prayer, despite having working models for everyone else, despite being completely sure I’m going to work on it this week.

On one hand, considering I knew almost nothing about Tuesday when I started, the fact that I now can contact him, interact with him, and know the outline of his mythology seems like some pretty good work to show for it.

On the other hand, well.  I hadn’t actually done the assignment. I started with the format anyway, planning to make something up on the fly as I had last week and promising myself that later on I’d do it properly, maybe following the format from Felix Warren’s course, or doing some meditative writing or something.

Nope. Sit.

He made it clear that I was going to sit there and I was going to write the damn draft, and despite getting distracted by a goose (goose necks are weeeeird y’all) and worrying about rain, I got it down. As a bonus, I got a few more notes on his personality, and a vocabulary edit. (Instead of “worker for my household” I’m experimenting with “voice of my household”. What do you think?)

Tomorrow morning I have another doctor’s appointment, because I think Wednesday is the only slow day at work that I haven’t had one yet. Maybe I have. I’d have to check my notes.

Anyway. I decided to pull a coin again tonight, and this time it was a commemorative coin for the 1996 Olympics with the logo for rowing on it. (Does anybody else remember those? They came in cereal boxes and I was obsessed with collecting them.) Sometimes you just have to keep plugging along, and sometimes plugging along hard enough is what wins you the medal.

Day 23 – Crossroads and Confluences

Sometimes happenstance makes things obvious. Last Thursday it seemed like pure luck I ended up at the confluence of two rivers to call on Pechak and Velos – I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that I knew those two rivers met near there, and it didn’t even seem relevant enough to mention in my post last week. Today at lunch it was beautiful, and I felt tugged to walk a little ways from my office, down toward the place on the edge of the Willamette where I first made offerings when I interviewed for this job.

Also it is the spot where a large creek enters the Willamette.

A confluence isn’t the same as a crossroad, energetically. It’s a mingling. These two things are separate, and then they are joined. It’s a little like a marriage, or a merger.

I noticed the repetition as I came down to that overlooking spot and as I offered the day’s prayers. There’s some ideas to chew on there about why a confluence of rivers is sacred to them. Two separate, distinct powers that operate in concert or in opposition but always together… hmm.

For the most part, Pechak and Velos are very straightforward. I ask them for protection from those who would harm our household. There’s some mysteries to them, but those aren’t necessary to get anywhere. They can be blessedly straightforward, and that’s a nice way to start winding down the week. I darned another sock today, and I put dinner together. I’m trying to stay on top of the to-do list thing, in a combination of not being too hard on myself and not being too easy.

Let’s see what Brhenti has to say about that on Friday.

Day 21 – And Now For Something Completely Different

This morning was pretty unremarkable – I got dressed, started the dishwasher, took out the trash, said morning prayers on my way to work, got on the phone. The usual. I started playing with the new to-do tracking in my bullet journal. Then around 11:30 I noticed something was weird on the edges of my vision. Some of my peripheral vision was missing, and more was weirdly blurry. It didn’t last very long, and was followed by a headache.

Normally I’d just try to forget it as soon as possible but I ran it by my spouse to see what they’d say and their reaction was “uh, nope. call Advice Nurse.”

So I compromised and emailed Advice Nurse, and you know it’s a bad sign when you email Advice Nurse and she calls you back almost immediately. I described it to her and she wanted me to come in today. Just. you know, in case. Because of my medical history.

(Have I mentioned how much I hate that phrase?)

So off I went, in the middle of the day, and it was resoundingly not awesome, but everyone agreed it was for the best that I came in just to make sure.

In other news, I have ruined my streak of not having migraines since the early 2000s.

The streak I have not ruined is doing this practice every day, because I dragged my sorry butt down the creek anyhow, and called out to Tuesday’s power, who’s starting to acquire epithets, at least. He is called the Stolen Crown and the Maligned One and Dread Fairness. He’s extremely formal when I’m in ritual but can turn around and smirk at me the next minute, and he’s not what I thought he was at all, but that’s just par for the course for me, ain’t it?

Anyway. Three weeks down and off we go again…

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.

Day 15 – Halfway 

Another lesson in finding the places and times that are right. I come before you on your day in this sacred place. 

After work I went to the library. I needed to return a book. But once I was there it occurred to me that I could offer my prayers and energy there too. I include the library wights in my offerings already, after all, and libraries are very much sacred places. Pillai is sometimes associated with knowledge, too. 

Little Insomniac kept me up quite late so I’m going to leave this there. 

Day 14 – Baby Steps

I’ve been offered a different position at work, and I said yes to it. It’s got some downsides in the short term, but it’s good positioning in the long run. I’ve really been pushing myself to be The Guy Who Pitches In at work, after my last office job ended up pigeonholed into a corner where I couldn’t get promoted.

Today was spent turning my attention to Mr. Tuesday, who has still not given me a name. I’m more at peace with that now. While there are powers I know of who entered the Labyrinth to begin the cycle of incarnation, he’s the first I’ve come across in any depth that’s the opposite. I think about apotheosis as a theological construct all the time; I’m actually kind of surprised I haven’t seen it pop up more in this project.

Like Tyr, he has connotations of honor and discipline. He’s all business one minute and amused by me the next. I approached him first thing when I got home from work, because if there’s anybody I’m not going to put it off with, it’s him.

I’m a work in progress, and I have to approach him believing that. One of my co-domagick-ers wrote about lying to yourself today and I found that timely for me. Tuesday will see right through false confidence, but he’ll also see right through the kind of self-deprecation that I use to make excuses for myself before I even start. Honesty is hard; being too hard on myself is easier, because it protects me from disappointment.

I prayed to the Dark Lady tonight too, just chanting her mantra. It felt good to do that. It’s not a promise, it’s not a commitment. It’s just reaching out because it felt comfortable to reach out to her and get that answer back. Hopefully it’s a little step toward a healthy ongoing relationship.

Day 13 – Confessions

Last year I spent six months working with the Dark Lady, a practice that included daily mantra repetition and meditation. On one hand, it was sufficiently intense that I barely saw Mara for most of that time. On the other… Well, she was great, and I accomplished a lot, and she introduced me to Redbird and was the catalyst for a lot of things I needed.

At the end of the six months, she told me I needed to stop and move on… to Redbird or to Tzymir or whatever, but I was done with her. I even hesitated to add her to the line up, but despite my efforts to do as I was told, well. I’ve had the Dark Lady in my life in one way or another since forever. She got an altar when we moved regardless.

Tonight I straight up told her I missed her, mid-prayer, distracted. I thought about going back inside – it was raining, and so instead of going down to the edge of the creek I stayed up under cover.

Finish the work, she told me, and I took a deep breath and steeled myself and started over.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I got done, but she gave me clear indication that she’d “sent me away” because I was too likely to continue out of scrupulosity rather than genuinely wanting to. And it wasn’t until I had permission to return that I realized how personally I’d taken it in the first place. In that post at the time, I wrote about being disappointed because I wanted a social connection out of it that I couldn’t have, and that also played a role, but I think I also was avoiding thinking about whether or not I was sad about being left behind again.

Another lesson in asking, perhaps.