Ready? Steady? Go!

Wow. I guess this is the “Farewell” post. It’s a little bit hard letting go. Thanks to everyone who listened to my insanity and helped me feel a little more sane over the past couple years. (Because, “Yes, Virgina, there are bad Witches.”) I hope you hang out to hear Hazey tell her stories too. While she’s a site younger than I am, she has a good head on her shoulders and quite a yarn to spin.

Have a happy and prosperous 2013–pop over to http://www.EhshaApple.Wordpress.com if you haven’t already, you can pick up my travels post-Bad Witchery over there.

I’m sure, as things go , I’ll be back to poke my nose in from time to time. But until then, I have some blogging advice for Hazey, The New Bad; y’all feel free to eavesdrop.

Twelve points for twelve months.

1) There’s no need to tell your story all at once. Folks are happy to listen if you are entertaining; therefore, episodes are better than a movie-length post.

And you’ve got enough to say that you don’t have to be repetitive.

2) Poioumena, parables, metaphors, and fairy-tales are good for telling more of the whole truth than can be put in words. Folks identify with certain stories and know how those stories “feel” so you don’t have to work so hard to put them in your pointy shoes.

3) That said—keep control of your metaphors. Ain’t nothing worse than a metaphor what can’t stay on track. Plenty of “Bad” metaphors out there have run amok of their authors and shown folks that the emperor is truly and completely nekid. Make your logic hang together or folks’ll notice. Our reader is smarter than the average bear (and they know how to make sense of a film’s ending).

4) Metaphors are OK. But don’t lie. Just don’t. It ain’t worth it; the truth is so much more frightening and entertaining anyhow.

5) You aren’t “The Bad.” Remember you are just reporting on “The Bad.” And you have seen that shite as up close and personal as any of Stephen King’s protagonists.

And, as we continue to see–some folks are always gonna think it’s about them. You can’t second guess yourself. If it stings them, must mean they have a guilty conscience–ain’t nothing you can do about that.

6) That said, this is not about revenge; this is about warning others that Pennywise is not actually a clown and that they shouldn’t patronize Leland Gaunt’s little shop of horrors.

7) You are learning loads of new things right now. Information is pouring in and out of you at break-neck speed at this point in your Witchy career. You should share that information and all the great new lessons you are learning—but you should also know when to STFU. When it comes to “secrets,” remember that your audience understands that there are things which cannot be said.

8) Don’t dicker with your numbers. Nobody cares in the end. I pulled up a “Bad” blog not too long ago which purported well over two-thousand “followers.”  The little box came up and asked if I wanted to join 627. Now that’s just embarrassing. We keep our numbers under wraps here for a few reasons: A) The number that pops up here is grossly inaccurate. I’ll explain the logistics of Tumblr, Twitter, FB, etc. later. B) If it hurts someone else’s pride that we have X and they have Y—enough so that they have to make smack-talk about it Online—then we will just remove the info. We ain’t out to rub it in.

Speaking of (A), everything posts to a parallel site on Tumblr. We can discuss Facebook and Twitter and the WP stats function later. It’s not interesting enough to go here.

9) Speaking of “followers,” your audience does not “follow” you—you are not their “leader.” They are your audience, your sounding board, your patient ally, and occasional (when necessary) adversary. Do not presume to make them your subordinates as other bloggers have done. You’ll do better to have 1500 “friends” than 600 “underlings.” (Hell, I’d rather have 600 friends than 1500 underlings.) If no one else ever visits, I’ll be here right by your side, reading, laughing, crying, goading.

10) Speaking of things with which you should not dicker—readers’ comments are sacred. Only SPAM gets deleted. Otherwise, how’s anyone ever gonna trust you?

11) Never blog UI. I believe that’s what the “Save Draft” button was specifically designed for. Trust me. Sometimes you don’t want to publish that shite until you are sober. And rehydrated. And maybe caffeinated—but that’s a whole ‘nother problem.

12) Finally—but most importantly—have fun. This is for blowing off steam, not for generating pressure.

I adore you. I’m already proud of you.

Ready? Steady? Go! (Take this bad broom and fly!)

Sage advice from the original.

Magic and Zuzu’s Petals

“Hee-haw!”

I can’t stay mad at someone who loves his little girl like this.

 “I want a big one!”

“My mouth’s bleedin’, Bert! My mouth’s bleedin’!”

“I’m not paying you to be a canary!”

“I wish I had a million dollars. Hot dog!”

 “I’ve read about things like this.”

“Out you two pixies go. . . through the door, or out the window.”

“What do you know about that!”

“Say brainless, doncha know where coconut comes from?”

“I’m going to have a couple of harems and maybe three or four wives.”

“We don’t need any characters around to give the joint atmosphere.”

“Hey, Mr. Martini, how bout some wine?”

–All quotes from It’s a Wonderful Life and any given day at my house.

We quote that movie as if my momma wrote it.

There’s something magical about the moment when a wretched Jimmy Stewart, after having reached the depths of despair and having cold-cocked a police officer, runs out on to the frozen bridge and entreats his Holy Guardian Angel: “Help me Clarence! Get me back. I don’t care what happens to me. Get me back to my wife and kids . . . I want to live again!”

There must be something magical going on, because right after his life-affirming proclamation and vociferous entreaty, Bert—who just five minutes prior didn’t know our character from Adam—calls out his name: “George! Hey, George! George! You a’right? Say, whatsa matter?”

Comprehending that he has a second lease on life, our character realizes that, “My mouth’s bleedin’! My mouth’s bleedin’!”

Thus begins one of the most famous redemption scenes in American cinema.

I know I already played my Frank Capra card a few months back with “It’s a Wonderful Q,” but for my last post of the Pagan Blog Project, my last post for 2012, and my penultimate post on The Bad Witch Files before handing the thing over to Hazey and moving the rest of my furniture over to Ehsha Apple, I’d like to tell you why I hate George Bailey more than any other character in film.

And maybe it’s partly because I am more a Cary Grant fan than a Jimmy Stewart fan. Really, my favorite Jimmy Stewart film? Philadelphia Story. And that’s because of Grant and Hepburn and in spite of Steward. Mr. Smith? No thanks. Rear Window and Vertigo? Love them, but that’s a Hitchcock thing. Give me To Catch a Thief, Notorious and North by Northwest any day.

I named my horse Bringing Up Baby, for pete’s sake. I wanted to name another His Girl Friday but was out-voted.[1]

An Affair to Remember leaves me in tears before the first pink champagne.

After Cary Grant? Paul Newman (I would have named the horse Cool Hand Luke as a second option). But that’s beside the point.

JIMMY & GEORGE

Let me back up a minute and tell you that it’s partly because of my aversion to Stewart’s lanky physique and protracted visage as much as I was to his characters’ typical chowderheaded, simple-minded idealism, and reluctant worthiness that I didn’t see It’s a Wonderful Life until I was an adult. Harsh words for one of America’s best loved actors, I know.

My first exposure to the film was in a Christmastime family game of charades where one sister gave the clue, “movie,” paired with the clues, “four words” and “first word=small word,” and the other sister—as sisters do—finished the thought and won the game. I may have been eight or nine at the time. I had heard of the film, but I knew so little that I didn’t even realize it was a Christmas film.

When I met my husband, I learned that It’s a Wonderful Life was his favorite film of all time and that, aside from Bugs Bunny, George Bailey was his favorite character. (And that his life-long bestie and the Best Man of our wedding, replies to compliments with, “This ol’ thing? I only wear it when I don’t care what I look like.”) So, ready to love this incarnation of Jimmy Stewart as much as I loved my then “boyfriend,” I sat to watch the film for the first time in December 1989.

I watched George save his baby brother, I watched him stand up for his father’s honor against the powerful but coldhearted Mr. Potter, I watched him save the grieved but drunken pharmacist, I watched him plan his escape from Bedford Falls from National Geographic and coconut sprinkles to a wish for a million dollars—“Hot dog!”—and his second-hand monogrammed suitcase.

I kinda like George up to that point. I hoped the best for him. I wished Stewart wouldn’t talk like he had a mouthful of mutton, but I liked George OK. I wanted to see this young man have it all—but, I would learn, the only time Jimmy Stewart makes it to an exotic location, his son gets kidnapped. Que-sera-sera.

By the time the kid from The Little Rascals opened the gymnasium floor, thus dunking Mary and George, I knew how the rest of the story would go. And I cry every time—from the school dance to “Auld Lang Syne.” But not because I love the story. Because I am so despondent at George’s fate. It’s the famous “love scene” that breaks me. Over the phone, George tells Sam that isn’t “trying to steal anybody’s girl” and he tells Mary, whose been sidling-up against a celibate (assuming Georgie-Porgie and Violet haven’t gotten “tired of reading about things”) twenty-three year old man while telling him that “it’s a chance in a lifetime,” that he doesn’t “want any plastics and [he doesn’t] want any ground-floors and that [he doesn’t] want to get married ever to anyone.”[2] He makes it more than clear to Mary Hatch, played by Donna Reed, the quintessence of American house wifery, when he says, “I want to do what I want to do!” Four seconds later, he’s kissing her. Seven seconds later, they are married.

George gets trapped in a whirlwind of unwanted domesticity,[3] he get shafted at every turn, and no one ever notices—until it’s too late. His life’s savings goes toward his brother’s education and when Harry comes home from school? He’s got a surprise wife and new job in tow. He may become a war hero, but at this moment, he’s kinda a twat.

George could have been as rich as Sam Wainwright, instead he gave his bridal purse to a dying family institution and ended up without a proper honeymoon and in a “drafty ol’ house” with broken windows and a faulty banister newel.

And a very fecund wife, I might add.

George would carry Mr. Gower’s secret to his grave, yet he was set-up for his demise because of the imprudence of his uncle.

Yes, yes. I know. George makes a big difference in a great many lives. Everyone prays for George. Blah, blah, blah.

In real life, we rarely see folks who make that sort of sacrifice; nine times out of ten, we see folks unwilling to make sacrifices yet still expect a town to ante-up in the pivotal scenes.[4] If you have your hand out for help more often than you offer, you aren’t George Bailey; and you’re not even Mr. Potter—you’re just Bedford Falls.

MARY HATCH, BLACK MAGIC WOMAN

Not unfamiliar with delayed gratification, philanthropy, good works, Matthew 25, deferred-dreams, charity, sacrifice, etc. and the ways in which these acts feed/starve the human soul, I still feel that George Bailey got short-changed. Yes, yes, in the end he’s touted as “the richest man in town” (more on that later). However, it remains that he traded in a life where he called the shots, where he planned his location, and where he held his own hefty pocketbook for a life where coconut-hatin’-stone-throwin’-window-breakin’-Mary Hatch called the shots, where the fruit of Mary’s loins roped him down in one place, and where he ended up financially dependent on the charity of others, including Sam Wainwright: “Hee-haw!”

But that damned Mary Hatch. Now that I’ve memorized the movie from twenty-three years of multiple viewings, I get caught up on Mary Hatch every time: “George Bailey, I’ll love you ‘til the day I die.”

Fecking batch.

But even the first time I watched the movie, I knew. I knew. I knew she had cast a binding spell on that poor little sweet-hearted boy and that at that moment she’d lassoed young George with a noose and the albatross of his life.

Not only did she intentionally whisper in his bad ear, she broke windows at the ol’ Granville house where George “wouldn’t live in . . . as a ghost.” George makes a “whole hat-full” of wishes to “[shake] the dust of this crummy little town off [his] feet and . . . see the world.” As he waxes on about the greatness his life will become after college and a great career as an engineer, Mary picks up a rock and casts. Hard. You can see it in her eyes. She’s doing magic. And unlike George, she follows the advice in my “Hush, hush” post and she doesn’t reveal her wish.

Mary Hatch as Bad Witch? Hmmmmm….

I know I’ve pointed out somewhere that my conception of evil magic or “black” magic is that which is done in an effort to bind the will of another. Even if it is done with the supposition of “love,” to bind another to your side—as in a love spell or any spell that binds someone’s loyalties to you, a spell that determines the course of another’s life, their living conditions and location, or a spell that in any way affects the outcome of someone else’s circumstance in a way that benefits the magician—is evil, manipulative, black.[5] That doesn’t mean we don’t all do it from time to time. But, say brainless, this is a shortcoming rather than a strength.

By the time I saw It’s a Wonderful Life, I was about to turn nineteen and was already steeped in the occult. Maybe if I had seen the movie as a kid, or even as an adult with no magic under my belt, I wouldn’t be so hard on Mary.

But I didn’t. And I am.

But back to George.

GEORGE’S WYRD

There’s something about the message that we should be satisfied at living our lives for others. Something about the idea that when it comes time for our “positive wyrd” to show up in the nick of time and plant an old maid’s divorce money on our dining table, we should be overjoyed.

There’s something about the message that argues—if you bleed your life for others and they save you in a *big* moment—even though they’ve been blind to your daily plight for a dozen years—then everything is all well and good and you should just be happy to be alive.

Bull.

Without the George Bailey’s of the world, as the narrative runs, we’d be a mess. Or something like that. To borrow Hazey’s term, I call that hand.[6] I’ve know quite a number of (real) George Bailey’s in my life. Know what? They didn’t get a lump of cash in the end scene—folks anted up for them all year round.

I guess I just feel like that’s how it should be; we should take care of each other all of the time and not just in the eleventh hour of need. I get burned up by the message that we should be joyful at the prospect of having gone around the bowl twice before being flushed down the crapper only to pull a maladroit and wingless angel out of the drain as our salvation. That’s not how it works. When we take care of others, we don’t end up on the chopping block. No one would allow that.

In the end, it’s the moment when George realizes that he has his daughter’s flower petals in his pocket that he is restored to himself and I can convince myself that there is something vaguely redeeming about this film and its main character: “My mouth’s bleedin’ Bert! . . . Zuzu’s petals! Zuzu’s petals!”

Ah, shit.

Living, no matter how torturous, is always a sight better than dying.


[1] I was also Dr. Spinalzo in a high school production of Arsenic and Old Lace. Couldn’t watch the film often enough to suit my taste.

[2] Strangely similar to my own declaration just months before The Husband proposed.

[3] Ken Jennings supports my suspicion that the rapid-fire romance between Mary Hatch and George Bailey after Harry’s return suggests that George’s Buffalo Girls came out tonight, nudge, nudge, knowwhatimean, knowwhatimean.

[4] This brand of selfish egoism may be one thing I dislike more than George Bailey.

[5] I like Poke Runyon’s long-winded and tangential explanation about parents who lock refrigerators so kids don’t get at the foodses, Mi Lai, and sociopaths—he also gets into a discussion about how using sex-magic unbeknownst to your “partner” is unethical to evil, coz duh! (The Hermetic Hour. Evil, Evil Magick, and Evil Magicians.) Basically, if you are out to “exploit, manipulate, or deceive” for your own good, it’s evil. I define manipulate very broadly. So does Frater Thabion.

[6] Looks to me like, despite the FBI’s warning that the Capra film stank of Commie ideals, George Bailey is an invention of post-war American capitalism. The moral of the story is—don’t leave America or the Pottersville-baggers will win and turn the movie house into a strip joint.

Here’s a thing.

Here’s a thing.

Here’s a slightly less interesting thing.

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).

Yoiking and Zauberstab

First off, Merry Christmas to any of you who are celebrating it this week. I hope your Yule was as groovy as mine was. While I could not celebrate with my broader kindred (for (positive) reasons that require a separate post), I did have a great birthday party (thanks to The Husband) jam-packed with Absinthe, dirty lyrics by Prince played over the world’s coolest amplifier, and a couple-dozen folks that have a very special place in my heart.

I also went to a lovely Christmas party where the host thought enough to “mazal tov” and “drink hail” to his non-Christian guests: this led to “It’s kinda cold for dancing nekid—especially in an elevated chair,” jokes.

I’ve wanted to write about yoiking for some time but waited for the Y post in the Pagan Blog Project to do it. Then, of course, I missed it. I also wanted to talk about this groovy term “Zauberstab traegerin” so I saved that and missed it as well. Here’s my attempt to make up my shortcoming. This post isn’t really much of an argument; it’s just informative.

I recently had a birthday. My daughter knew that I had wanted to read Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy for some time but never got around to it. I wouldn’t let anyone watch the movies until I did. For this reason, among others, she bought me The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on audiodisk.[1] It’s a very political story with a murder mystery and family intrigue. I only mention this because Larson is fairly critical of Swedish politics, especially economic policy and racism. Racism in Sweden you ask? Yes, Larsson constructs a character that exposes the the neo-Nazi roots of the Sweden Democrats party. (Look here for more info on “The Dark Side of Sweden.”) Larsson’s character, Richard Vanger, has a particular penchant for eugenics and genocide—particularly of the Sami (also Sámi or Saami), the indigenous people of Arctic Europe.

Because my own Heathen roots are of an Anglo-Saxon and Dutch flavor, somewhat different from the Nordic and Scandinavian variety, I never really encountered discussion of the Sami until this year.

While talking with a Scandinavian peer (she too calls herself Völva in her own—very different—tradition) about vocalizations and the American yawp, she mentioned a practice of yoiking (or joiking). I knew what this was, sort of, but thought it was closer to yodeling than it actually is.

According to the University of Texas Music Department, the yoik is:

A form of song which utilizes a scale and vocalizations which are unfamiliar to virtually everyone in the Western (American and European) world, the history of the yoik is representative of all the encroachment and abuse that the Sami people have suffered at the hands of outsiders.

Here’s a this.

And here’s a this.

And this looks so entirely familiar, even though I know it’s not.

Bob Tarte explains (“You Must Be Joiking.” The Beat Magazine: 22, 4. 2003. Web.):

Joiking originated in the chanted vision songs of Sámi shamans perhaps predating the Sámi migration into northern Scandinavia from the southeast 2,000 years ago. . . .[T]his improvised style of singing . . . is less about actual words than melody and vocal textures . . . . A person could joik about a hunt, a frozen stream or the birth of a baby. But what makes these fluid songs with no fixed rules unique is that they aren’t considered to be about a subject. The joik, and by extension the joiker, are said to actually become the subject. . . . And you don’t have to believe in spirits or channeling to experience the rush [of joiking]. Call [it] the summoning of the unconscious or a wordless connection with the deepest archetype of song itself, and its surge is equally impressive.

I hate to compare distant and distinct cultures to one another for fear of colonizing, but I can’t help see the similarities between the Sami yoik and Native American vocalizations.[2] (While it is not my intention to make this my argument, in these moments of similarity, I have to wonder if those theories about Solutrean migration to The New World are accurate at all.) Both are intended to induce a “shamanic” trance, are used to call animals and spirits, and to shapeshift—what Tarte means by “become the subject.”[3]

I had asked the peer in question about the relationship between the Sami and her Norwegian ancestors and didn’t receive a suitable answer for my tastes. We are still hammering it out. It had become my impression, after being pointed to a woman named Yngona Desmond (make up your own mind about this one), that the Sami and other northern European cultures were unrelated. Desmond, who claims to be “Vinland’s Volva, an honorary title of respect and recognition, gifted . . . by Sámi Noaide,”[4] is a “Heathen leader” in Georgia who regularly leads a boar hunt.[5] It seems like yoiking and seiðr—especially in the form of galdr—are connected; I just want to be very careful about lumping cultural practices together based on geography.

(a.k.a. Dancing nekid in an elevated chair.)

Like I said, I don’t have a point to make here. I just felt like saying, “Hmm, would you look a’that?”

Likewise, I want to point you to a term: Zauberstab traegerin, German for “wand bearer.” But a Zauberstab is not just any kind of stick, stylus, or rod. It translates as “wand” but connotes specifically as “magic wand.”

I love that about Deutsche. I’ve told you about how I feel about words like Schadenfreude. The German language can cram a whole concept into one word.

(I also think of words like Zigeunerleben (“Gypsy life”), which makes me wonder how much racism is intended by—or even accidental to—the song by Robert Schumann (which I remember from high school chorus). The song is a romanticized[6] depiction of “wandering gypsies, so wild, so free of care, with eyes flashing brightly, with dark flowing hair” and “raven-haired maiden[s]” who “dance . . . [while] bright as a torch, burns her passionate glance.” And now that I know what I know about Sweden and the Sami, I’m starting to wonder even more about Germany and the Romany. I mean, I know that “gypsies” were rounded up in the 40s, so why do we sing this song seemingly about a racial fetish in high school? That’s totally beside the point—but it makes me think: Why am I back on the subject of Nazis?)

I’m not sure where I stumbled upon the term Zauberstab traegerin—it’s one of those moments that I wish I’d taken better notes. I mean Zauberstab is easy enough to find all over Harry Potter cites in German, but I know I found “Zauberstab traegerin” as a complete term. In terms of Völvastav, Völvakona, and Stavkona (“the wand carrying magic woman”) this is a significant term that I am now beginning to think I may have dreamed.

Happy holidays.

~E


[1] Why they didn’t keep the original title, Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) is not beyond me, but it’s a better epithet for the novel than a nod at one of Salander’s many tattoos.

[3] If you have caught on to my Deleuzian proclivities, you have to know that I love that he used the term “become.”

[4] I was subsequently pointed to this quote on a New Age Fraud discussion thread by someone who was very concerned about the new preponderance of “fake tribes” here in the Southeast of the United States. I had no idea that this was such a common problem. Seems it is. It also seems that it’s one  New Age Fraud takes seriously enough to investigate and subdue. I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the past month and have had to educate myself right-quick on accounto’ I had no idea this was a widespread thing for fakers to do. Though I don’t really approve of the hate-filled rhetoric, I found this page (also handed off to me by the “concerned” person/people) very helpful in understanding what’s legit in a “tribe” and what’s not. It made me think twice about Desmond and others.

[5] I don’t know anything other than what I can deduce from the questions I was asked about Desmond, what I read briefly on the discussion thread in the footnote #3, and what little I read on her blog. I was (coincidentally?) just lent a copy of Völuspa: Seiðr as Wyrd Consciousness (cross-country), but haven’t read it yet. As ever, I’ll let you know.

[6] Here I mean “fanciful”—not to be confused with “Romanticism” which is specific to a literary movement.

 

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).

I Don’t Wanna! (talk about gun control)

I actually have been writing.

I wrote several blog posts and then chucked them. I wrote like a madwoman yesterday to meet a deadline.

But there’s one thing I’ve been avoiding. Admittedly, I haven’t even been reading much in order to avoid the subject.

I do not want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I DO not want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I do NOT want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I do not WANT to TALK ABOUT SANDY HOOK.

So, here goes.

I really don’t talk about politics too often, do I? There was that DC40 thing last fall and the PantheaCon thing. But I don’t usually “go there.”

Today, I feel like I have to “go there.”

I have a ton of friends with small children. I guess I was ahead of the procreation curve, my kids are in high school and jr. high. And as I read my friends’ posts on social media about how hard it was to put their babies on the bus and how they gave extra hugs and kisses, I keep thinking, “Am I callous? I didn’t struggle with sending my kids to school. And high school is where we are expected to worry about guns.”

All this as I took the third batch of cookies since Friday out of the oven[1] and stirred the homemade mac-n-cheese while finishing some of the kids’ chores for them before they got home from school.

Perhaps we all mourn in our own way.

I haven’t been able to process this event. I’m sure you are all having a hard time with it too. But I just want to go into my mom-cave and hide until 2013 (which *is* coming, btw). On top of the normal response, I’ve started some of the lighter prep work for a solstice oracle. So, I am as open as convenience store. With some of my filters removed, I am admittedly testy and should not be in polite company—or Online.[2] Tomorrow should be a blast.

Today I got into two tussles with a brother with whom I typically have no contact aside from birthday and holiday wishes. I had a go at a stranger in the grocery line. I dropped the ball in magic-class. And I’ve had to walk away from family TV time—twice. This is not how I function.

Let me backstory before I go on.

When my cousin died when I was about twelve, I cried. A reasonable response. My brother chastised me, “You barely knew him.”

As a kid, my sister used to sing, “Gentle Shepherd” and “Shannon” to me just to make me cry. She thought it was hilarious. I was always emotive when it came to music.[3] With some songs it’s instant and consistent—doesn’t matter who sings it, I cry immediately.[4] And I’m not a sad, maudlin, or morose person—I’m Pippi Longstocking in a pointy hat. I just cry with music. And not cute little soap-opera tears, either. Big “boo-hoos” (and sometimes even some snot).

These family tidbits are just to explain why I shut-down “when bad things happen.” I always have Brother’s voice in the back of my head: “You’re being ridiculous. You don’t even know anyone in Connecticut.”[5] And I even hear my sister laughing at me as I cry.

I stayed offline for most of the weekend, even reblogged a post just to avoid thinking. (That worked out well.) Husband had some friends over for a birthday celebration for me on Saturday where there was absinthe and Prince–no thinking. And I took care of some grove business on Sunday. On Monday, a little tired from a magic class gone slightly cock-eyed, I crashed on the sofa to watch the finale of The Voice with my daughter.

Goddamnit!! if Blake Shelton didn’t stand there with a card that said, “Emilie Parker / 6,” as a piano and string instruments in C guided the soft candle lighting into focus. I’d know that Leonard Cohn song anywhere

And I saw what was about to happen: They are all going to be holding those babies’ names.

Blake didn’t even get to tell us about David’s secret chord before I had my hands in my face yelling, “Noh, noh, noh, don’t. Fast-forward! I can’t!” and ended up stomping out of the room so my own Emily could watch it without me.[6] After that, I pushed it waaaaaaaay down: “I will deal with this emotion at a later date.”

Guess what today was.

A later date.

Yesterday some of you saw my rant on FB about the t-shirt meme. My niece posted it first, then my brother. I commented on both. My644188_526552814037754_1413004826_n (adult) niece removed my comment. My brother and I went tête-à-tête. The crux of his argument was, “If a school is not teaching about God then, by default, it is teaching atheism.”[7]

The crux of mine was that God is everywhere—even where children die. And prayer *is* allowed in school—it simply cannot be enforced. And that religious education *is* allowed in public schools—as longs as no one religious dogma has preference over another.[8] That’s the trouble with rhetoric like this—all finer points that could be very good debates get boiled down into a sound bite, tossed on a t-shirt, passed around social media, and then cut off any meaningful discussion at the knees.

Then, after hearing my President speak, I quoted him: “‘We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to guns.’” I added, “Folks, I’m totally pro-gun (just not in *my* house). You see, it’s not about taking things away—it’s about providing access to the right things.”

This was followed by this The Conservative’s Club post which equated the human rights infractions in The (former) Soviet Union, Turkey, Germany, China, Uganda, and Cambodia to U.S. attempts at gun control. The only point I agreed with was: “With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.”

Mind you, I was only on FB for a little while. And on-and-off at that.

Bam, bam, bam!

With the post that I just reblogged debating the etymology of The Rede—which followed one discussing the ethics of The Rede as it applies to cabbage worms—I am starting to wonder how my fellow Witches feel about guns and how y’all are handling all this shite. We are a pretty emphatic crowd. I can’t be the only one who can’t watch Adam Levine sing “Hallelujah”—especially through the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift.[9] This has to be doing a number on you as well. Can we struggle through it together? (I promise to peruse your blogs as soon as I can do it without breaking-down.)

Here’s where I stand. I’m pro-Amendment 2; not because I like guns but because I believe in an armed citizenry to maintain a modicum of balance. I certainly don’t want an armed authority while I’m systematically disarmed. (I know, I don’t have access to nukes–but I’m fairly confident my government isn’t going to nuke my house.) Plus, I don’t want a gun in my house–but will protect your right to have one in yours.

However, I do not believe that “armed” should not mean “without regulation.”[10] So, I am also pro-gun-control. Gun control does not mean completely disarming. I can even imagine a world where I could be (conceivably and philosophically—if not viscerally and morally) amenable to automatic weapons—so long as they were only in the hands of well-trained and regulated citizens, and that I could be reasonably sure that they would remain only in the hands of such folks.

Ergo, *control.*

It’s like what I said about boundaries. Can debaters stop resorting to either/or, all or nothing reasoning? A boundary is not a rejection.

After I posed most of this on FB, (1) there was an odd explosion in town—but I don’t know what yet. Some lights went out across town—but it was startling. (2) I discovered that there was a (very real) gun threat at one of my kids’ schools. (No worries, it’s all in hand.) (3) I was told that a family neighbor killed (himself and??) his family this morning. This hits close to home, y’all.[11] WhoTF are we as a people? These aren’t anonymous strangers today. I know these people.

So advise me, my friends. How do we live practical lives surrounded by human violence? Yeah, yeah. I got the spiritual, ethical, philosophical end of it. I mean practical lives. The day-to-day and I have to live here end of it.

For instance: When a mentally ill person decides to follow through on threats to feed my dogs “antifreeze-steaks” and then attempt to kill me and my family, can I harm some?

Sure.

We’ve all pretty much decided that “self-defense” doesn’t count in The Rede. So let me push the argument. Didn’t we already harm the mentally ill person by not providing—and also verifying that s/he undertakes (there’s lots of folks diagnosed with shit for which they refuse treatment)—proper mental health care? Or do we wash our hands of that? As a Heathen, I cannot.

The argument that I keep hearing is tantamount to “That’s not my responsibility.” Well, who the fecks is it then? You certainly don’t expect the mentally ill person to be responsible for his/her own care, do you? Really??[12] And people close to the mentally ill? They tend to get so wound up in life that they believe they’ve “got this,” that they can manage the situation in a domestic way. We can’t count on them to be objective. So what do we do? I certainly don’t advocate rounding people up for Orwellian “therapy” or institutionalization. But there has to be something in between.

Has to be.

If I know that I know that I know (or even reasonably suspect) that a community member has at least three personality disorders, a grudge, a handgun, and a rifle—what are my obligations? If not as a citizen, as a Heathen? Because, if not me—someone else. Even if so-and-so doesn’t come after me, if s/he decides to go after someone else, did I not do harm by passively allowing it?

If we are in a community with an unstable person and we know that they pose a danger to someone (even if we don’t care about that individual on a personal level—hell, even if we actively dislike the target), what are our obligations? How do we do no harm?

I need a compassionate and ethical sounding-board unencumbered by Christian dogma and the political trappings that have somehow become part of “religion.”

You in?

It’s time:

the-voice-tribute


[1] Entirely non-holiday related. That didn’t even occur to me until later.

[2] Let me apologize to anyone who poked the typically placid bear and got an arm bit off.

[3] Still am. I bawl at the first two notes of “O Holy Night” even if I don’t have a connection to babies in mangers and shit. And it doesn’t have to be sappy songs. “Don’t You Forget About Me” does it as fast as “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton, plz). I had to work at desensitizing myself to “Amazing Grace” so that I could attend funerals with a modicum of dignity. I can do it if there are no bagpipes.

[4] Except Michael Bublé. He only makes me feel ennui.

[5] As an adult, I know grief for a stranger is not a ridiculous reaction. But it’s hard to shake our hard-wiring.

[6] When it was over, I had a huge glass of wine in my hand and my darling girl said, “I saved it for you so you can watch it when you’re ready. It was lovely.” Damn kids. They never stop being precious.

[7] His children are/were homeschooled. That’s a whole story . . .

[8]    Brother: There is only one God

Me: I agree. Not everyone calls Him Jehovah.

[9] Coz on a regular day, I’m all about all of those things.

[10] Heck, I willingly make myself subject to lots of regulations: I can drive, but within a speed limit and in a particular kind of vehicle; I can purchase and view pornography, so long as everyone is a consenting adult; I can put ugly gnomes on my lawn, so long as they don’t pose a public hazard. I can’t marry a woman and I can’t grow or buy pot—but we’ll work on that next.

[11] Don’t get me started on the other shit that has gone on this week—like the guy who carved a pentagram in his son’s back. Do you know about this? Hazey told me since I was avoiding the news.

[12] This is not an invitation to indict Lanza’s late mother. We don’t know everything yet.

Ehsha Apple (A. Farmer):

All caught up in the Decemberness and 2012 deadlines, I’ve fallen behind in writing to y’all. Have a look at this conversation from May. Chime in if you have some input. Cheers!

Originally posted on The Bad Witch Files:

A few posts back, I – admittedly – misquoted the Wiccan Rede and was called on the carpet by a reader and fellow blogger, Drea.  I love when this happens. It keeps me on my toes now that I am permanently on the other side of the desk (and cauldron it seems).[1]

But, let’s face it. This is a blog, not doctoral work; and sometimes I slack off. I often write my posts right off the cuff, with no reference books at hand – I do this between feeding chickens and drinking coffee. Often I misspell thinks. On occasion, I commit the crimes of comma splice, poorly phrased modifiers, and usage error, and (gasp) I have been known to mis-cite or misquote.

As ever, the misstatement didn’t change the crux of anything I was arguing, but it sure did open a can of worms…

View original 2,869 more words

Put that in your pipe–Yerba Lenna Yesca

I thought for a minute about writing about Ymir and his proto-productive armpits (like a good Heathen), but then I found myself giving a mythology lesson instead of actually reflecting on something. Then I reflected on the lesson I gave last night about the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) and looked forward to the lesson on the Shemhamphorash but then remembered—“Damn, I can’t blog about that.” I know I want to write about yoiking (a Sami practice) and how it parallels to the vocalizations in Völvaspæ, but I want to do that later. I ran across some interesting Yucatan death gods in last week’s research—only to find that their names (the ones that begin with Y) are corruptions of the correct names.

So, with my end-of-term grades two-thirds-finished, I decided to take a short break from the academy and visit with y’all and have a little herbal lesson.

I used to smoke. On and off for most of my life. Not while pregnant or nursing, mind you—that was a stretch from 1993-2000ish. I teased that I was so good at quitting that I liked to do it often. Aside from one (or three) of those crush-the-filter because it’s too fun not to evenings recently, I’ve been tar-free and following “doctor’s orders” since early-July. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t found alternatives.[1] Now, don’t get any crazy ideas—I believe that cannabis should be legal, but it ain’t in my state (check yours); so, THC is not, um, on the menu.

Katt Williams on the “nature” of weed. Go ahead, watch it–I’ll wait.

I have never been one to shy away from putting “that” in my pipe and smoking it.[2] Turns out that mugwort can make you dream of bridesmades and the impending zombie apocalypse. Morning glories, various nightshades, digitalis and other lovely botanicals have entheogenic effects—but I don’t recommend an untrained hand in the preparation as “Seeing God” might be just what happens for ye. I don’t tool around with it. Um, anymore. Damania, passion flower, mullein, sweet fern, blue lotus? Have at it. IMHO, smoking wormwood is a lot like eating Domino’s Pizza—you could and it won’t hurt but why would anyone do that? Especially when there is perfectly good Absinthe on the shelf.[3] Most people prefer teas to smokes anyway. Me? I love to burn shite.

A little wild tobacco and dittany of crete in a sensor? Breathe . . .

When I took “union breaks” prior to July, that meant stepping out on to the porch to grab a dose of arsenic and formaldehyde. Not so today.

While I don’t light up the flora like I did in my youth, I have a favorite smoke: Yerba Lenna Yesca.[4] Sometimes it’s touted as being a weed-free high, but it’s not. While YLY serves to relax without stoned-lethargy—especially when I have a cough, which seems to be always these days[5]-anyone who says that YLY is “like pot” has never actually been high. We seem to use herbs a good deal for our “spells” and such, but sometimes we should stop and think of a more direct approach–it’s what our predecessors did.

Union break over. Back to work.

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).


[1] Googled “things to smoke” and found this: http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/406903/1. Laughter is the best expectorant.

[2] I bought the husband a hookah a few Yules back and have acquired a stash of unsmoked shisha—“Th’damn thing takes too long.”

[3] Never drink Absinthe straight. It tastes like the green Formula 44 of childhood nightmares.

[4] It translates as “woody-herb for burning.” Helpful, eh?

[5] Ironic, no? Smoke to quiet a cough.

Yes, More American Poetry-And Aztec Gods

Robinson Jeffers January 10, 1887 – January 20, 1962 Photo at Tor House by Nat Farbman, 1948

The old pagan burials, uninscribed rock, 
Secret-keeping mounds,
Have shed the feeble delusions that built them,
They stand inhumanly
Clean and massive; they have lost their priests.
“Delusion Of Saints”~Robinson Jeffers

Last Friday, my day wouldn’t maintain its gyre. I was supposed to grade and then blog (and then bake lasagna) but I couldn’t seem to keep my hands off this one. So I put it aside and did what needed doing. Now I can get back to what wants doing.

I meant to just write about Xochiquetzal and Xolotl (as you can see from my brief post earlier today)—but the Aztec pantheon has always made me do handsprings into some murky memories. So, inevitably, I ended up trolling an opaque lake or two in my psyche. I posted my X post and had to revisit my psychic acrobatics.

The first of these handsprings is Robinson Jeffers. I know, another American poet. However, though I’d love to tell you why Jeffers wants America to  “Be Angry at the Sun”  or how his  “Shine, Perishing Republic”  (or even “To the Stonecutters”) bleeds wretchedness for the America Whitman dared to hope for, I’m just going to tell you about the mythology in his poetry.

And about how detecting it almost ruined my life.

Almost a solid decade ago, I was finishing graduate course-work. It was my intention to  do  American poetry—I especially loved the middle generation: Jarrell, Bishop, Lowell, & Co., as Suzanne Ferguson calls them. Anne Sexton, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman. But it wasn’t until my last poetry course that I got sufficiently exposed to Robinson Jeffers.

And the whole course was so traumatic that I’m surprised I still like Jeffers. Heck, I lurve Jeffers—he’s right up there with O, Captain and Huffy Henry. But, like I said, the course was traumatic and I shifted my interest to film. (I talked about it more than I should have in  Unnecessary Roughness.  So, I’ve already said too much.)

Damn, grad school made me stop writing poetry. It’s not until this moment that I realize it made me stop reading poetry for goin’on ten years. Feck.

This is from my class notes—if you’re not into academic blahbiddy-blah, go ahead and skip it; the point will remain the same:

I chose Robinson Jeffers as the focus for my final project because I had detected something in his poetry that was unlike anything coming out of the Modern era. It seemed almost non-Western, certainly non-essentialist in that it seemed like there were some larger forces creating the cohesion between his lyrics and his narrative poems. At first glance, I contributed what I was hearing to his philosophy of  inhumanism,  the notion that androcentricity is the dividing force in American culture. As I read and re-read the narratives–and even more markedly in the lyrics—I had the feeling (as Jeffers would put it,  the certitude ) that everything was off-center from what I had come to expect from a (particularly male) Modernist. The characters are allegorical, never one dimensional or interchangeable like Hemingway’s injured men and officious women. The function of myth in Jeffers’s poetry didn’t fit the bill I expected either; Eliot’s allusions are indefatigably Western: Christian or  Classical  mythology. Jeffers’s system of allusion includes multi-layer planes of Judeo-Christian myth, Greco-Roman myth, and North American aboriginal myth, often within the same figure.

. . . .

His amalgamation of Anglo-Christian mythology with Native American and Mexican folklore creates a completeness in Jeffers’s narratives that is unparalleled in most Modernist texts that forget (or ignore) the previous cultures of this geographical location. Further, there is an advanced layer of scientific schemata; to his spiritual philosophies is added a conception of microcosmic certitude. From these manifold perspectives, Jeffers combines realism and spiritual philosophy into his idea of  inhumanism,  a unique device in his texts. 

And that’s not even the paper—it’s just  notes.  What the paper ends up doing, as you can prolly guess, is to walk the reader through the  amalgamation  of Jeffers’ use of myth. When I began a close reading (of, specifically,  The Roan Stallion  and  Tamar —but also  Shiva  and  Cassandra ) I was astounded at his use of non-Western mythology. I was further astounded to discover that, in using non-Western myth, Jeffers was able to create a non-essentialist landscape: his poetry tends to be very critical of assumed patriarchal roles.[1]

After a really horrible semester in which a junior-classmate was allowed to run roughshod all over the rest of the course, I had a hard time getting arsed up to write anything for my final. In the end, I wrote the paper from the perspective of a feminist Pagan shouting  Boo-yah!  for Jeffers. And really, there wasn’t any theory in the paper—it was simply a close reading that reveled Jeffers’ non-Western, non-patriarchal content. But my (female) professor was (is) staunchly anti-feminist and told me that I “wielded feminist theory like a blunt object”  and granted a B—an insult. The big problem was that I had asked her to lead my dissertation. A week after finals, we agreed that  perhaps my interests lie elsewhere.

I tucked the paper and her comments away and never looked at them again. I tucked all of my poetry books away and dust them occasionally. I made a complete 180 and moved on to Alfred Hitchcock. (Anthony Hopkins, squee!)

I was convinced, given this and a completely different but equally wounding experience with poetry in academia, that poetry just wasn’t for me. I knew that the professor was unnecessarily rough with me, but I retained that awful nagging that it just wasn’t good. In my mind it became a spotlight of shame, The Worst Paper Ever, and I would cringe whenever the memory would rear its head. God forbid anyone try talking about Jeffers.

And when I imagined the paper, I simply saw a twenty-six page jumble of words and half formed ideas. I expected to open the file and see crayon scrawled across my screen:  Jeffers good. Patriarchy bad. BAM! I whack you with my anti-phallus.

But that’s not what happened. I opened it last week (rather than grading) and glanced it over. It’s actually quite elegant. It’s entirely logical. And my memory of the paper is correct—there is no feminist theory in it. Sure I imbedded some feminist-flavored arguments, but there’s no mention of theory. The paper is foremostly about mythology. Now, I wonder if she even read beyond the first page. I honestly wonder. And I feel a little less stupid. It’s not the worst paper ever; it’s actually quite good. (I do feel some regret about having changed the path of my life over it, but que sera, sera.)

That bifurcates my brain in a way that only Jeffers’ narratives can do.

My first thought—and the one that is nagging at me with its immediacy—has to do with re-reading my old blogs.

I was convinced, given two equally wounding experience with pagan “friends,” that this shit just wasn’t for me. I knew that the others were unnecessarily rough with me, but I retained that awful nagging that I was just Bad. In my mind I became The Worst Witch Ever, and I would cringe whenever the memory would rear its head. God forbid anyone try talking about blogging.

After a year of being told that I had written this or that I went back to see what was what. Turns out, I’m not crazy.[2] I opened the old Files and expected to see blood spatter across my screen:  This and That.

But that’s not what happened. Over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that most of my arguments are actually quite elegant (as blogs go). Most are entirely logical (as blogs go). And my memory of previous posts is correct—there is no this or that in them. Sure I imbedded some double entendre footnotes for the two or three folks (like The Husband and The Bestie) on the in, but, despite my having told you that this blog would be a tell-all,  there’s no overt mention of this or that. The posts are foremostly about Witchcraft and ethics in general. And I feel a little less Bad. I’m not the worst Witch ever; I’m actually quite good. (And to round off that parallel paragraph—I do feel some regret about having changed the path of my life over it, but que sera, sera.)

My second thought gets more to the crux of what this post is supposed to address: Aztec mythology.[3] In the Jeffers paper, I wrote quite a lot about Tlazolteotl, with whom I have had a strong connection since the late 90s. And that’s my second handspring.

For the weekend.


[1] And, I think I told you, I gave my American Lit class an assignment to create a distinctly American mythology. I didn’t remember writing this, but I said of Jeffers:

The narrative poems are complex labyrinths. Jeffers draws from various intersecting cultural mythologies to invent a distinctive, unified, specifically American mythology. In doing so, Jeffers formulates a (nearly pantheonic) lineage within specifics of time and place, as well as revelation of the surrounding world–suggestions of war and human political developments–but the allegories have a ostensible agelessness. . . . I don’t mean to infer that Jeffers is imitating the mythologies of other cultures; my position is that Jeffers is creating a uniquely American mythology and that thematic intersections are inevitable.

[2] Have you been watching Homeland? (Spoiler alert.) I have been feeling a lot like mid-season-two Carrie Mathison: “I was right!”

Xochiquetzal (and Xochipilli)

Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal, from the Codex Borgia

Xochiquetzal (shOw-chee-KET-sAl), the eternally young Aztec and Toltec goddess of love and flowers who symbolizes enlightenment, is also frequently called Ichpōchtli which simply means “maiden.”

This strikes me. I have struggled with all of the different names I have been called—both legally and otherwise.[1] But that’s not why it strikes me. I am only dwelling on that because I have a smattering of initiates that are facing the point in their training where they need to start thinking about their first aspiration names.

For those of you not familiar with the tradition of taking an aspiration name, many magical organizations have a practice of translating a stated aspiration, or motto, into a usable name. Unlike some traditions which names are given to initiates,[2] my students have to make a name for themselves. In our tradition, one can (and should) make an acronym of or abbreviation for (or otherwise truncate and obfuscate) the motto rather than maintaining a direct translation. (Obvs, this can come from divine inspiration and/or/in dreams.) For instance, “Speaker of Words of Power,” would translate as something like “ræðumaður öflugum orðin.” That’s a mouthful to say the least. So, one might apply some numerology (or simply basic aesthetics) and arrive at Ræth Ov Orthin (or Orth if you don’t mind a singular “word”). Still too long? Ræth Word, Ræthword (or even Raithword), or Orthraith, Allraith; you get the picture. Of course, if it didn’t conjure images of the Hundred-Acre Wood, we could go with R.O.O. (or Roo).

Trick is, this name should change with each elevation as your aspirations should grow and change with your training.

This means I’m two names behind. Perhaps two aspirations behind. Needless to say, it’s under my skin.

Mostly it strikes me since I have been spending so much time in the care and tutelage of Frejya, who is often simply called “lady.” It seems that many of the goddesses to whom I’ve been drawn over half-a-lifetime[3] have an awful lot in common. No duh, you say. That’s how it works.

Virginia Woolf’s place-setting from Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1974-79), which I lurve. Like, a lot. In reverence to  and reclamation of the divine female, all the dinner plates are intended to look both like flowers and va-whoo-has. Bertie introduced it to us back when it was still in crates, looking for a home. Xochiquetzal is not honored, nor is any other Mayan, Aztec, or pre-Columbian goddess/woman at the table (the only pre-Jacksonion figure is Sacajawea). Though “Primordial Goddess,” “Fertile Goddess,” “Snake Goddess,” “Amazon,” and “Sophia” are among Ishtar, Kali, and Hatshepsut, Coatlicue, the Mesoamerican earth goddess, appears on the Heritage Floor with Omeciuatl, Xochitl, Chicomecoatl, and 995 other female figures.

But when it works the way it’s supposed to work, I can’t help but stop and smell Xochiquetzal’s flowers.

No, wait, that’s not what I . . .

Xochiquetzal is the patron goddess of weavers, also much like Freyja. She is the daughter of Tlazolteotl, goddess of childbirth and shriver of sins (much more on this later). Xochiquetzal, like Freyja and Freyr, had a twin, Xochipilli. She was married to the rain god Tlaloc before being kidnapped by Tezcatlipoca, “Smoking Mirror,” the god ancestral memory and of sorcery. Not exactly a psychopomp (as Aztec worldviews create a lore that is vastly different from a Western mythos of an “underworld”) but there are some connections–which I will deal with in my eventual Ehsha post about Xolotl, the dark twin of Quetalcoatl.

She is also said to have been one of two who survived the great flood that ended the fourth age on Aztec mythology.

It bears saying, with 16 days left of this cycle, that many (like me) believe that the Ragnarök tale, like the Maya Periods and the Aztec Cycles, are not exactly eschatological[4] but cyclical. Consider the survival of Líf and Lífþrasir to repopulate the earth.

Likewise, Xochiquetzal survived The Great Flood with her husband, Tlaloc, to give birth to children without the ability to speak. As the myth goes, a dove brought the children speech, but gave to each a different language. Like the Tower of Babal and a slew of other stories involving a flood and/or a high place–like a tower or a mountain.

My last fun point about Xochiquetzal is that she is said to have seduced a priest and then transformed him into a scorpion—just because she could—as a mark of her power. She encouraged sex for pleasure’s sake. For this, she is honored as the patron goddess of prostitutes. (See my post on Temple Prostitution.) There is a safe haven in Mexico City for elderly prostitutes: Casa Xochiquetzal. A sign over the door reads: “No soy buena ni mala, soy mujer.” (“I am neither good nor bad, I am woman.”)

The Dinner Party at The Brooklyn Museum

 

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet.”


[1] Now, now. I have only ever had one surname; my husband’s surname got tacked on to that in the 90s without my doing. But I had three names before I left the hospital and a slew of nicknames thereafter. A background search for my name will illustrate nothing more interesting than a change in socio-economic status. Sorry gang, no hidden relatives or appellations in Appalachia.

[2] Dig this video of a “Cherokee” naming ceremony. Don’t cha just hate it when folks are fooled into believing something is traditional? I mean, it looks like a fine-enough thing (if you were to take the plains garb off the (presumably) SE dude)—traditional, it ain’t. I encourage everyone to watch Reel Injun to see something like the crapola that plagues me on a daily basis. Like my momma reminds me all the time, “Some people just don’t know no better.”

[3] Twenty-five years is more than half my life—I just mean that I’m hoping for another half to this lifetime.

[4] Not to be confused with scatological, which I do–all the freaking time.

Smells Like American Poetry

I’m so ugly, that’s okay
‘Cause so are you.

“Lithium.” Kurt Cobain

 

The married couple sleep . . .
The sisters sleep . . .
The men sleep . . .
And the mother . . . .

The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep,
The prisoner sleeps . . . the runaway son
sleeps,
The murderer that is to be hung next day, how does he
sleep?
And the murder’d person, how does he sleep?

The female that loves unrequited sleeps,
And the male that loves unrequited sleeps,
The head of the money-maker that plotted all day
sleeps,
And the enraged and treacherous dispositions, all, all
sleep.

“The Sleepers.” W.W.

 

I rounded out the semester with Emily Dickinson, a delightful (even if overused) pairing with Whitman. I tried explaining to my students the different ways of critiquing poetry. They were all surprisingly fine with a formalist approach but couldn’t wrangle New Criticism. It’s usually the other way around.

Student: “I think with writers like Poe and Dickinson, it’s just too difficult to separate how they lived from how they wrote.”
Me: “And how they died? Does that influence your reading of Poe or–for next semester–say, Plath?”
Student: [adamantly] “Ho, yes. Especially when they commit suicide.”
Me: “So how do you listen to Nirvana?”
Student: “Well, I don’t really. But, yeah. I hear ‘self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head’ when I hear ‘Lithium.’”
Me: [damned impressed that he referenced "Lithium" instead of "Teen Spirit"] “So, how does that work for someone like me? I mean, I remember Cobain as ‘alive.’ I watched him on MTV. I remember when he died.”

They were all disconcertingly visibly stunned at this revelation. I was not about to tell them that I remembered when John Lennon died. Or (shite) Elvis.

Ah, death. Death and sleep. The two great levelers, Walt would say.

My students were able to manage New Criticism for Bradstreet and Wigglesworth and even Wheatly to some extent; but Dickinson, like Cobain, was more famous for her life (and his death) than they could get past.

Then I thought about Al.

I’m started a new course tonight. I mean–it’s a new set of students, I’ve taught the course before. Just before they finished the course prior, I asked them what they wanted to take on in the next phase. One of the students wanted to know if we could cover more about Thelema; but another “just [has] a bad feeling about Crowley.”

Yea, yea. He was a shitfucker–and I mean that literally–but can we even begin to apply something like New Critical approaches to the study of Thelema? I can if I accept that it was an inspired work, meaning it came from Aiwass and not “just” Al. I have to say “just” since I believe our HGA is also part of our own psyche. If our higher-self elevates our work to greatness (I’m not claiming that Crowley’s oeuvre is “great,” it just a statement for argument’s sake), does our baser-self not degrade our work? Can we approach Thelemic texts and rites without thinking about Crowley’s proclivities? Admittedly, some folks find his lifestyle revolutionary and subversively enthralling. Some, I acknowledge, just find Crowley gross.

How, as a teacher, do I remain objective? I mean, I have fairly strong feelings about the whole affair. And the more I learn, the stronger my feelings become.

It’s why I don’t teach Hemingway.

Papa and The Beast, hmmm.

As ever, I’ll let you know how it goes.

B, Q, and, maybe, 93

Xylomancy

Weeping Euorpean Beech

Trees have always been invested with symbolic significance, especially to us Pagan folk. (I think of the Craft names, the titles of books (i.e. The Golden Bough), and the Covenstead names related to tree species.)

We have Yule logs and stavs and bell-boughs.

But I’ve never used a tree for divination. Isn’t that odd?

Xylomancy, divination that interprets omens in pieces of wood (their shape, their position and formation on the ground, as well as appearance and movement when burnt), is new to me.

Just last spring, I tried my hand at ovomancy and found it messy and not very insightful.

Pyromancy is my style, so I think I’ll have a go at some pre-Yule-log xylomancy as the nights get colder. But like ovomancy, I have no idea how to interpret what I see.

Obviously if a branch were to fall in my path, I should expect a surprise or a sudden obstacle. If I were to employ the bark-peeling method, how would I keep subconscious human motives from altering my interpretation of signs? If I were to toss the bark on the ground, I’m faced with the same problems I had with tassiomancy and ovomancy and now xylomancy. What’s it all mean?

Knowing me, I’ll draw lines on them and they will turn into new I Ching sticks.

I may give it a try and get back to you. But I really expect that I simply go into a trance while gazing at the fire—not that this is a bad thing. It’s just not xylomancy.

B, Q, 93!

 

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).