Failure Mode

Well, I had intended to do #domagick, and then I didn’t have any “research” to share on what I wanted to do so I figured I’d just, you know, do magic. I’ve been working on sewing a backpack/possibles bag and the more I’ve worked on it, the more it’s taken on a life and personality of its own. She had very strong opinions about shape and structure that differed from what I’d planned, and now I’m working on a late addition – turning an old Captain America t-shirt into an applique that is being over-embroidered.

The plan is to work on it every day until it is done, because follow through is not my strong point.

So then why is the post called Failure Mode? Well, I woke up at about 4:30 AM and realized I had not worked on it the night before. It turns out I’m a great deal more okay with that than I expected. There was a time not that long ago when I would have been having a scrupulosity freakout – and a time slightly less long ago when I would have thought I was okay with it but still been worrying about how best to atone or whatever.

It was understandable. We’ve been working with Bug on self-identifying when she needs help calming down, and one of the ways we do that is by having her sit with me on the couch in the semi-dark and listen to lullaby music videos on YouTube. It’s not at all surprising that sometimes one or both of us falls asleep there.

So I woke up and I did last night’s stitching, and it is what it is.

And now I’m going back to bed.

Fallen Off the Earth?

Not quite, though I’ve been trying to be more mindful about my social media and computer usage in general. April is for poetry, so I’ve been poeming.

Most of my poetry so far has been related to one of my fiction projects and posted on Dreamwidth as a collection and a second, longer piece. I also wrote a sonnet about lunch.

I also published A Home Made of Bells over at October Country.

A Home Made of Bells

originally published at Pagan Bloggers

Last year I embarked on what I half-jokingly called a “spiritual KonMari”. In the same way that the tidying program promises to put your house in order, I wanted to bring clarity to my spiritual house as well as my physical household. The process ended up going in directions I had not at all expected, as I was quickly reminded that hearth and mind and faith are all related in complex ways.

Sage’s post about hearthcraft rang true for me. I tend to be the kind of person more interested in mysticism than the mundane, and my practice reflected that – lots of meditation and direct interactions with spirits, lots of hands-on magic and astral travel and hours and hours in the library and the whole life-eating nine yards.

But there was a point when I realized that that way led disordered thinking and unhealthy relationships, and I had to move away from a lot of those things. (Also, I’m too old to go without sleep for days anymore and Bug doesn’t like it when I meditate while she wants to play. C’est la vie.) To borrow Rowling’s terminology, I had to switch gears from Ravenclaw to Hufflepuff.

I spent years stripping layer after layer like paint from a Craigslist dresser. I’m still not sure there is hardwood underneath. It may be all paint and the memory of drawers. But I have gone far enough down and it’s time to build up again.

Once I stripped all of the things that no longer worked for me away, I found that, like Morag, I had a pile of good stuff left over, raw materials and things to upcycle with no rhyme or rhythm to them. I had a few practices, and a few spirits I loved, whose presence in my life brings me joy. I had trinkets that make my heart sing to touch them, and some habits and gestures that keep me grounded and happy.

I spent March working on a daily practice, inspired by #domagick. I learned a lot, chief of which was that I don’t want the kind of daily practice I started with. I began with the assumption that anything worth doing had to wait until after Bug was tucked into bed and I was alone, not going to be disturbed. What I realized when I was actually doing it is that doing that takes the fun out of evenings spent with Bug, because I’m distracted waiting for her to fall asleep.

As the month went on, I found I was continually being pushed to other things and I was prompted to think about why Brhenti wanted me to darn socks or why the best place to honor Pechak and Velos was at the confluence of two rivers. I started to understand why honoring differently put me in such a different mindset. It helped ensure I was able to see Brhenti in the small things. It helped me to understand some of the nature of Pechak and Velos’s relationship to each other and to Mara.

I finished the month with a few very concrete things that lay a solid foundation. Some of them are more practical than others but they all help with the building process. And it’s very much a building process.

I like reading about unusual styles of house construction – straw bale, earthbag, cob, I love them all. I keep circling back to the idea of building my own house, if I had land and time enough. I grew up watching This Old House on PBS, enjoying the slow transformation of a project over an entire season; HGTV is fun but it’s not the same.

I’m fascinated by the process of building something one step at a time, from almost nothing to a fully-functional modern home. Sometimes I dream of building a home with my own hands for my family, something we can settle in.

I don’t have land and I’m running low on straw bales, but I see this as the same kind of opportunity. Instead of Morag’s yarn, you could say I have a barn full of reclaimed materials, old windows, flea market furniture and empty wooden pallets. Some of them are in great shape and some need more work, but overall I just need to start slowly, lay a solid foundation, and then build up from there. It’s all about thinking about why I’m doing something.

For example, I was thinking about bells, mostly because I ran out of places to hang wind chimes. I’ve long used wind chimes as a part of my wards, but bells were one of those things I liked but didn’t end up using as much as I wanted. I’ve experimented with them in lots of different ways, but nothing quite clicked. I had a tube of bells in red and green and gold that I picked up after Christmas for 90% off somewhere, thinking I’d string them for some purpose.

Now, Bug’s been having a rough time sleeping, and I was trying to think of something that might help. We’ve got night lights and white noise and the like, but too often she wakes up scared and doesn’t calm for anything. It’s hard for her, because she ends up fighting sleep a lot, and it’s hard for me and her mama because if she’s not sleeping, at least one of us is probably not sleeping either.

Bug isn’t able yet to articulate what’s scaring her, so we’re coming at the problem in the metaphorical dark as well as the literal one. We’ve talked some about powers watching over her in a broad sense, and about how the visible wards on her room are there to protect her, but I wanted to see if something a little more direct would help.

I got out some ribbon and the bells and called Bug over to look.

“Which of these colors do you like?”

“All of them.”

I tied the first bell on one end of the ribbon, and then showed her how I was stringing them like her beads. They were fiddly enough that I had to start them on the ribbon, but I had her do as much of the stringing as she could. I let her pick how many bells she wanted, and we ended up with three clumps. While we worked on it, I talked to her about how the river sprites would hear it and come protect her if she rang it at night.

I made one for the back door as well while I was at it – mine’s fewer bells, and equally spaced, with more knot magic thrown in. It’s still pretty simple, though.

Even if I wanted to go into mysticism again, I couldn’t. Parenthood has taught me more about living in the moment than my flailing attempts at meditation ever did.

I need a faith for a household. Something I can offer my daughter, and something that brings me that joy even when I don’t have time for complicated daily practice. I need something with a solid foundation, with practical benefits, and one project at a time, I think I’ll get there.

Day 26 – Bright Lady

Incense and candles are a good all-purpose offering, but I’m fascinated by the variety of things individual powers might prefer. An all-in day for Redbird included:

  • teaching sex ed to my sunday school kids
  • receiving the blade-in-chalice ritual of my regular testosterone shot
  • grocery shopping
  • spending the afternoon off the computer, taking care of little things around the house and playing with Bug
  • a spectacular home-cooked meal from my spouse

Basically she wants me to live in the moment and be committed to doing the best I can with what I have. Sometimes that’s medical care and sometimes that’s a nap and sometimes that’s finally getting a shoe rack put together in the entryway.

Hail the Bright Lady, who shines light on my choices. Do what you do with intent, whatever you do.

It seems kind of hard to believe that the month is almost over. It’s definitely time to be finalizing the daily prayers. I’m not sure whether I’ll type them up and make a little booklet for myself or copy them neatly into a notebook but either way they’ll be getting a ‘final’ version so I don’t have to keep flipping forward and back in my bullet journal every night.

Day 25 – A Dark Night

It’d be a bit more thematically appropriate on the Dark Lady’s day, but Mondays are very bad days for minor spiritual breakdowns so Saturday is a perfectly fine choice. We were at the church tonight for social time and I stepped away after dark to call to Tzymir there in the darkest part of the yard.

Maybe it’s just because it’s Saturday and I get so little response from him, but when my kid woke up screaming from a nightmare, I found myself laying with her in the dark wondering if I was even accomplishing anything with this work, and then if the fact that I was wondering about it made me feel I hadn’t accomplished much at all toward  unpacking my hangups regarding warding.

I think, intellectually, I have made progress. I know I’m doing more and asking for more overall. But tonight I feel like I’m wandering aimlessly in Tzymir’s labyrinth and I’m not sure how to get out. Gonna ask Redbird in the morning if sleep doesn’t help.

Day 22 – Getting Specific

I was walking on my lunch hour, running through the daily prayers and thinking about some of the different ways I’ve been asked to do offerings last week by various powers. When I stopped by the creek to do today’s prayers to Pillai and Bluebird, I got a response from Pillai that was essentially ooh, we can ask for other things? I wanna ask for something different too.

 I’ve been enjoying the practical offerings, so I didn’t even whine about it.

I want you to write for me!

You know, there’s a lot of things I know I’ve been slacking on. Cooking. Laundry. Paperwork to update my birth certificate. And I’m not writing fiction the way I’d like to, sure. But I’ve blogged literally every day this month; writing is a thing I am actively doing every day. Surely there’s something else…

Picture, if you will, the sensation of someone giving you a skeptical eyebrow, and you can’t see or hear them, but you know the eyebrow is there, and it is arched.

The certainly is something I was meaning to work on, after all. And while it doesn’t have a due date, this was the best time to do it.

 

The result is my opening post on Pagan Bloggers: Now Entering October Country

Day 03 – Brhenti

Friday belongs to Brhenti, the Lady of the Forge. I had a drafted prayer for her, but it was written when I was planning to do this in the morning, so it was not particularly useful. I stumbled through a different one, calling on her both personally as a power of creative work and for the household as the power of preservation – included in her purview is the art of putting things up, especially canning.

The process of working out how to associate powers with the days is a bit of research and a bit of trial and error. Redbird would be a good fit with many of the traditional Venus associations, but she’s far too associated with the sun for me to want to honor her any day but Sunday.

So then what to do with Friday? Well, as anyone who grew up watching Sailor Moon knows, Venus is associated with the element of metal, so I turned to Brhenti. She’s the Daughter of Iron, the Merciful Copper. I like the idea of decoupling passion from sex; while Brhenti is not asexual, the passion she inflames is creative. She inspires. She gifts poetry and wit alongside hammer and tongs. Reproduction as a concept is more of Mara’s portfolio, but Brhenti can inspire her own kind of generative impulse.

Her abundance is the well-stocked pantry and the never-blank page. Her gifts are simultaneously practical and flighty. She is prone to getting carried away as much as mortals are. She’s not an exact match, but while there are considerable overlaps in systems, there’s no perfect agreement anyway. I think she’s my best bet for Fridays.

After candles and incense and prayer, I sat with her briefly. The Littlest Insomniac was still up and I was distracted. I need to learn to work with that, but tonight the exercise felt a little hollow. Tonight felt like it was going to be a long 30 days.

I think about prepping a lot more lately, and it’s nice to have a power associated with that specifically. Mara gives and gives and then winter comes and she runs away wild. Brhenti shows us what to do with the bountiful harves and how to get through the snowy months.

oh. well then.

I started this blog five years ago yesterday. Well, the first version of this blog – it’s moved around a bit and been renamed once or twice since then. Still, five years is the longest run I’ve had on a “real” blog.

Five years ago, we’d only just moved to Greater Portlandia. Today we finished moving into our third apartment in the area, and our first one that we can pretend is actually a Portland address. Years of building a relationship with Portlandia, Willamette, and other local powers has paid off in some real ways in the last fourteen months or so.

I’m not sure how I feel about it all right now. We’ve been moving for the last week and a half, so I’m exhausted and stressed. Logistically, it’s a big improvement, and there’s a lot of exciting things about the new place, but right this second I can only think that it’s Sunday night and I don’t feel like I got any rest over the weekend.

I took advantage of the move to rework some of my altars. I’m experimenting with new kinds of wall-hanging altars, basing some on grapevine wreaths. I’ve got the basic wards up and I’m working on different reinforcements that take advantage of the features of the new space.

It’s a little overwhelming right now, but I think it’ll be good.

That goes for a lot of things at the moment, doesn’t it?

Life-Changing Magic

This post popped up on my Tumblr dashboard:

The Konmari Method can totally be applied to your astral life. Does it bring you joy? No? Then stop that shit and do something that does. […] That’s called adjusting your approach to your spirit life and people do that shit all the time.

I keep finding myself in a mindset that’s dangerously close to scrupulosity. This isn’t good for me.

There’s a place in her new book where Marie Kondo talks about working with people who don’t know what it means to ask if something “sparks joy.” I know that feeling myself, but for me it’s a facet of depression. I sometimes declutter compulsively when I’m in a bad state, but only things or maybe internet accounts.

Decluttering my spiritual life is a lot harder. A few years ago I did an exercise called Project Protagonist, a whole year spent revisiting the ideas that were important to me and to my ideas about magic, metaphysics and spirituality as a child and teenager, before I got involved with others. I have a tendency to fold myself into interesting shapes to try to please other people, and I wanted to see what I looked like unfolded, if you will.

This was an excellent exercise and I rediscovered a lot of things that were very useful to me, including getting back into fictional reconstruction. Both Project Protagonist and fictional recon as a system, however, lead to a certain amount of… overcrowding. One can only discover what works by trying things, and some of those things don’t work. I have a hard time putting things aside.

Keeping going doesn’t mean continuing to do everything I start forever. It means actively evaluating what works and what doesn’t, as opposed to getting mired down and overwhelmed. It means being willing to move on to the next thing. One of the things I need to put into action this year is to evaluate and be willing to change or even end relationships and practices that aren’t working, and to take risks and try new things.

To that end, I’m going to be trying new methods of reaching out, and tracking success or failure. I’ve seen discussions in some spaces of divining what gods, spirits and ancestors are already around you and interested in you, a kind of personal pantheon. I want to work on that idea, of discovery and on further developing some relationships I already have. I’m working on some divination ideas but haven’t moved forward yet. I should.

Nothing is permanent. That’s what gets me through panic attacks. This too shall pass. I worry about changing things because I’m afraid everything will fall apart, as if I’m atop a delicate framework with no real support to it. I suspect there’s more support than I think, but ultimately the best I can do is build more support. Part of that is doing the construction, putting the work in.

Part of that is the lesson of the Hanged Man: learning to let go. I’m still working on that one.

Restarting?

I started the new year with #31daysofmagic, a challenge from the Strategic Sorcery community. I was really good about it and then the last couple of days it’s gotten away from me, as the ideas I had for animals and boxes were much more ambitious than I really had time for.

Scope matters.

Normally I would quietly give up, because I’ve got perfectionist tendencies. If I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all. But that’s not how keeping going works, so instead I decided to pick up where I left off.

And today that means setting things on fire, so bonus. There’s nothing to instagram tonight, unfortunately, because I didn’t get the camera ready before I set the paper on fire. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best.

The important thing is picking back up and getting on with the magic. Other things, too – before the holidays, I picked up two part time jobs, one of which is temporary and starting to wind down. I’m finally not working six or seven days a week every week, and that’s got me in a place where I can start juggling other things again.

I’m happier when I have a lot of things in motion. I suppose it’s kind of the mundane equivalent of shoaling. If I keep kicking at a bunch of things, sooner or later one is bound to score a goal, right? Well, maybe not, but it beats not even trying.