Fear of Commitment

If I’ve got a motto for 2018 I think it’s gonna be commit. I feel like I’m behind on everything and I have a ton of things I want to do but haven’t. I spent December working on a single project, a possibles bag for my magical kit, and while I did work on a few other small projects, coming back to this one again and again until it was done was fucking magical.

Last year when I decided to do it anyway, I got a little carried away. I said yes… a lot. To a lot of things. Over and over. It was awesome – I got some new opportunities at work and I tried new crafts and new things. And I didn’t finish all of them, which is okay! But I got really distracted, and I found myself feeling like I wasn’t actually doing anything, and that was less okay.

Follow through is hard, but it’s necessary.

To that end, I’m limiting myself to two of the many, many challenges that start at the beginning of the calendar year. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I have no writing goal or commitment. I gave myself permission to stop banging my head against the wall after NaNo and I haven’t figured out what to pick back up yet.

Instead on the storytelling front, my only commitment will be #BeatTheBacklist. I’ve got a ton of books in my ebook libraries that I haven’t read yet, including some magic books I very much want to get to, as well as a fair-sized stack of physical (mostly craft) books just waiting to be read. I’m hoping for a book a week from the TBR Swamp, and we’ll see as we go if that needs to be adjusted up or down. (Maybe I’ll do short reviews here even! We’ll see.)

The only other thing I’m taking on is a meditation/shadow work course Tommie Kelly of Adventures in Woo Woo is offering through his Patreon. Meditation is definitely a thing I benefited from when I was doing it regularly, but I’ve let it lapse, so this is as good a reminder as any to rebuild that habit. I did a bit of guided meditation looking for someone to be a guide and got myself led to Luke Skywalker, thanks astral plane, so clearly there’s work to be done.

Keeping it simple, and doing my best to make it work, are the plan for this year.

Day 11 – Overthinking This

Saturday again already? It rained all morning and we were out in the afternoon, but I went down to the creek around ten. It’s weird how big a difference in feeling that makes. Is it the act of being outside? The creek? The feeling of solitude rather than worrying about waking the kid?

Maybe all of the above, who knows?

Last week my primary concern was a lack of confidence when calling Tzymir, and this week was a great improvement on that front. My call for him was more scripted, and I got a sense that he approved. The format and language choices are starting to solidify across the different days. I am actively phrasing my prayers without caveats now. I am asking for things and I am making my offerings.

There is still conversation, but that is separate from the formal part of the practice. I feel that the separation is important because it allows me the space to ask with force, in a way I wouldn’t ask of someone I was actually having a conversation with. It’s more like the way I might ask an elected official to do what I want, or try to get a desired result from someone with power over my situation such as a boss or a city employee. It’s more transactional, but that’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just different.

I haven’t been smited yet. I think I sort of expected to be, when I started this exercise. If I wasn’t afraid of it, it wouldn’t have been hard to do, I guess.

I like having the actual conversation too, mind you, though some powers are more into that than others. Tzymir is not very chatty. He wants the formalities and very little else, and so that’s what I give him. Given that he’s not a God of Death, but a Dead God, I wonder how much of that is his personality and how how much are his limits. He is not a dying and rising god; he is more akin to Izanami in that he’s definitely, actually dead. He won’t walk the labyrinth to it’s end like the Iron Lady did, but he has been in it long enough that it is his.

Day 10 – Brhenti 

Went straight from work to couch-shopping again, so I didn’t get to repeat what I did yesterday. We actually successfully acquired a couch, so that took up most of the evening. 

I ended up deciding to go outside anyway as my spouse was getting the baby called down – turns out its a good way to be able to concentrate without having to wait until the Littlest  Insomniac was actually asleep. 

It was a good night, dry and reasonably warm with a view of of the moon. I have a finalized version of Brhenti’s prayer on Instagram. 

Then I had to go right to toddler management, so I didn’t get to post until later, but in the long run, as long as I can find time to do the thing, I think. 

Is There Community in #mypolytheism?

I’ve been a member of a number of religious groups. Whether parish, congregation, sangha, temple, cult, grove or Heathen Sunday School class, I actively seek out opportunities to compare notes with others about my spiritual and metaphysical experiences. I’m happy to be a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation; I enjoy the support of other people, being part of something larger than myself, and working with others toward a common goal informed by our understanding of virtue and ethics.

What I have never found, aside from the companionable understanding of my spouse and my sister, are coreligionists. I have friends who have aspects of their practice that align with mine in many ways, but I have no group I can go to where their offerings, their powers, and their metaphors will be the same as mine. I made my peace with this back when I was doing Project Protagonist.

I can’t help but feel like trying to find a single religious community that fulfills all of my needs is likely to end in trying to fit myself into the beliefs of the larger community. My faith and my religious experience and #mypolytheism are small scale; they exist within myself and my close family, within my mantra repetition and my offerings in the dark, within my spouse and I discussing theology at midnight while the baby sleeps, within my daughter waving and saying “thank you” at Mara’s altar. #mypolytheism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in a wider context, but it exists apart from that wider context.

Community exists outside of my specific beliefs and experiences of the spirits and powers, outside of my household and my family. My community is the UU church, not because CUUPS encompasses my beliefs (it doesn’t particularly, and tends to have meetings I can’t make it to besides), but because the people there have been welcoming and because I have different things in common with them.

My values and ethics come from my gods, but they are not unique to my gods. I sought out a community that embraced many of the same values I do, and my spouse and I decided the UU church and values were the best fit. They value family enough to provide childcare and religious education. UUs value spiritual exploration and questioning, social justice and compassion and dignity. We come together on Sunday mornings (and sometimes Friday nights, or Tuesdays, or Saturday afternoons…) because we believe in trying to create a community based on those values. The UU church strengthens my understanding of how faith and the world interact, and in return my gods send me back to the church. (Redbird’s really excited about me teaching OWL this year, let me tell you.)

My polytheist community is on The Cauldron and Facebook and, yes, Tumblr, in pockets of people and Skype chats and IRC, places where I feel comfortable talking about what I’m working on and getting feedback. I enjoy these kinds of places precisely because everyone there has a different background, different deities, different ways of acting on what we know about magic and religion. What each group gives is a common language, a context in which we can discuss various techniques and experiences so that others are more likely to understand what we’re talking about and coach their advice or encouragement in the same language.

Online community has other benefits, as Estara T’Shirai outlined in the post that planted the seed for this one. Facebook and message boards fit into my busy schedule, allowing me more time to discuss the gods than I’m able to carve out for coffee shop salons or pagan store classes. I missed so many meetups and rituals when I was working two retail-sector jobs, but I could always find a space online to talk about offerings or rituals or what I was reading.

In a related vein, #mypolytheism offers a language and a time in which to have a conversation. Unitarian Universalism offers me people to have a conversation with. Maybe none of these people believe the exact same things as me, or work with the same powers and spirits. Who cares? Not me, not them. Neither did most of the the druids or the heathens or any of the explicitly pagan groups I’ve attended. Having my own beliefs, interacting with #mypolytheism, doesn’t stop my from interacting with communities both online and face to face. They’re simply two related, but separate, concepts.

Y is for Y Not?

An illustration to Lokasenna. The list of illu...
Rap battle in honor of Loki? Sure, why not? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher whose response to questions like “can I go to the restroom?” was “I don’t know, can you?”

I kind of hated her class. 

But I still think about her every time I’m on a message board or Tumblr and someone asks “can I?” You know the drill. Can I offer Loki this, can I worship these two gods together, can I work with Lucifer without going to hell, can I practice seidh, can I be devoted and still have a life, can I read tarot as a heathen… It’s endless. And I always, always think about replying with “I don’t know, can you?”

The only way to really find out is to try it, or ask the gods about it, and see what happens. Does Loki want that offering? I’d imagine the person who knows that best is Loki. 

Generally if I’m curious about a practice, I’ll do some research and then ask myself: why not try it? If there’s a real safety concern, sure, I’ll probably hold off on fire dancing until I have an outdoor space to do it in. If there’s a good reason not to that turned up in my research, I probably won’t offer Loki… I dunno, entrails as an offering.

But if you’re worrying about whether or not Loki likes spongecake or tarot cards are worth the effort for followers of Odin, you’re not going to find a definitive answer on the internet. The best way to find out is to try it and see what happens. The answers aren’t going to be the same for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test your hypotheses and see if they work like you  used to do in school. In fact, it’s all the more important that you test your own theories because no one else can do it for you.

W is for What Works

I am eclectic. That’s a dirty word in a lot of circles these days, but to me the word speaks of practicality. I try to pick the simplest path, to organize and get results, whether it’s with my planner or with my magic.

For that reason, I believe in what works. I’ve said this before, but that means I pray to the gods who answer (even the ‘pop culture’ ones) and I do the magic that works (even if it’s a chaote’s mishmash of techniques) and that which gives no results gets no attention.

This is an unpopular opinion in a magical and religious culture that seems to believe that nothing is worth having if it the process of getting it doesn’t make you miserable. I don’t understand this, to be honest. Why would I choose to focus on things that are hard, that require hours of my time every day, that make me unhappy and produce the same results?

I know some people want a specific thing which is difficult, and that makes sense to me. What I’m talking about is the idea that sacrifices must be painful and deitywork must be an ordeal. Sure, Odin gives me a hard time when I need it, but there are plenty of times when I want something, I fall back on an old, familiar practice or spell, and it works. There’s nothing wrong with what works.

U is for Uncomfortable

I spend a great deal of my life being uncomfortable. I’m an introvert whose job involves talking to people all day long. I live with OCD, which includes intrusive thoughts. I am not out at work, so I spend a great deal of time cross-dressing.

Most of the time I want comfort – my warm and warded apartment, the company of my spouse, and so on. Sometimes I don’t, though. Sometimes I think want to roll out of my comfy bed and lay on the hard floor for a little while.

I’m just not very good at comfortable religion. If I’m not actively working on something, letting someone push me out of my comfort zone, I start to worry. It’s a little pathological, I’ll admit, but it’s how I function. My gods never seem to lack a project for me when I go looking – something always turns up. So when I don’t go looking I worry that I’m missing something.

I often run into people who only want to find comfort in religion. If that’s what works for you, I think that’s great. I’m envious, honestly. I find a significant amount of comfort, and I enjoy it. I wish comfort, well, comforted me more often.

Sometimes I need to be willing to push myself, and when I need that and I can’t do it for myself, my gods seem more than happy to kick my ass for me.

Q is for Quiet

As in… it’s been pretty quiet lately, huh?

I’m actually working on a couple of different posts, and may well get back to posting more often soon. I’d like to start doing a “what I read this week” sort of round up. I’ve been doing a lot of fiction writing the last two weeks, and messing with things for Mara’s shrine.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the Tumblr format for that.

Part of the reason for the quiet is that I’ve been busy offline – work, school and various other irons in the fire. Mara came through on a boon I asked of her, so I’m going to be writing her a book. This should be interesting. I’m not yet sure what I want to do with that, I’m sort of hoping for a sign.

In the meantime, I’m just sort of… plugging away at other things, and the blog gets pushed to the side when I don’t have anything to say. I know there’s not really anything wrong with silence, but I always feel bad when there’s not much going on here.

Boggle the Owl as Totem

Traits: self-care, kindness, emotional honesty

Boggle is worried about you! Boggle is also an owl.

When you read advice columns regularly, you start to get a sense for what the advice will be in any given situation. Allison of Ask a Manager will tell you that it’s legal. Dan Savage will tell you to be GGG unless you need to DTMFA, and Captain Awkward will tell you to use your words. Because of this, I’m able to consult my array of inner advice columnists when I don’t trust my own neurotic thought scripts. It’s like having a bunch of advice column power animals waiting in my heart chakra to tell me to slide. Hands down, the most helpful advice spirit animal has been Boggle the Owl.

Boggle gently encourages people to own their feelings, not shy away from them. Your feelings are yours, and they are legitimate whether you can act on them or not.

Boggle loves you no matter how terrible you think you are. Boggle gives hugs when you need them but doesn’t push you when you’d rather not.

Boggle says you are stronger than you know.

I told someone on a message board once that Kuan Yin sounds a lot like Boggle the Owl. My wife can sound a lot like Boggle too, when I’m having a bad day. But it’s been incredibly helpful to be able to consult the Boggle in my head, who is there to tell me that nothing is the end of the world except the end of the world, no matter what I’m in the middle of doing. Boggle teaches me to take care of myself helps me find the words to take care of others.

Honoring the Ancestors: Nikola Tesla

I’m a giant nerd, a fan of mad science, and a steampunk enthusiast. Of course I am going to honor Nikola Tesla on his birthday.

The thing you have to understand about Tesla is, I thought he was a fictional character until I was probably thirteen or so. I had just discovered those little Radio Shack electronics notebooks and circuits were the greatest things ever. My two favorite scientists were Tesla and Frankenstein. I’m not sure exactly how I’d come to the conclusion that Tesla was fictional – he wasn’t as much a pop culture hero as he is now – but learning that he was real and he was even cooler than I thought probably did wonders for my self of the relativity of reality.

I honor Tesla as a scientist but also as one who works hard without recognition. Tesla deserved more during his lifetime than he received. I think of him when I’m overlooked at work, or when I read about someone whose work is vastly undervalued. (I thought about him when Douglas Engelbart died.)

I think of him also when my OCD is on the edge of crippling. He most likely struggled with the same disorder and it contributed to the challenges he faced.

I’m glad Tesla is a little bit closer to being the household name he should be, and today, for his birthday, I raise an electrical arc to him in salute. Hail, Tesla, Lord of Currents!