Songs Of A Year Past

That feeling of a year has come and gone.

Its place was carved from my memory with an athame, cold and deep.

I feel the empty space that grew bigger after you ran through me . . .

You saw the child inside, looking for love in all the wrong places, bruised knees, bare feet, and my heart on my sleeve. You took this little bird under your wing; you said, “Little bird, fly higher than me. Little bird, be all that you can be.”

Little bird wanted to see the forest in its entirety; she left the nest in search of clarity.

The little girl is further away and the young woman is showing more with each day. Her wings are growing stronger and one day she will fly, higher than she ever dreamed.

She remembers the patience, care, and love you showed her and will not forget it. It was a cherished time in the girls’ life and she was looking for someone to fill the void that tarnished her soul. She wanted to feel whole and cared about as anyone does. She thought she had found it, everything felt so right; how could it have been so wrong? She doesn’t waste time stirring the cauldron on this one; she knows it’s better to take it for what it was and move on.

She wouldn’t change the past for anything.

The Little bird has built a new nest now and has plans of her own. She greets the morning sun each day with a delightful song, she stretches her wings and prepares for flight, yet in the back of her mind she knows she’s not ready for the sky.

She listens to Grandfather Wind just the same as she always did, she hugs Grandmother Oak even tighter, and she knows all that she knows from experiencing it in full force. She talks to those that don’t speak and she listens because she knows they do. Her intuition is getting stronger and stronger and she feels as though she’s actually opening doors inside herself that she never knew where there.

The stars still dance and shine just as bright as ever; the world still spins beneath her bare feet. She still dances to those same old songs and still makes up her own beats.

Her energy harmonizes with the rhythm of the Universe and she can see behind sight, she can hear without sound, she can feel without tangible touch, and she knows things grander than this tiny earth are all around.

She still doesn’t care if people want to stare; chances are so does she. She is open and free and can finally see everything for what it really is or is trying to be. Her truest feelings she keeps locked deep inside, if you want to know you must pay a price.

Big Brother is watching, the eyes never sleep; they are keeping tabs so we have to watch what we speak. Freedom of Press is so 1893, in 2013 nothing is free. She knows this all too well; she can’t assure you it hasn’t already been said.

With the clay in her hands, she sculpts her future. She lays down the past and walks away. “Lessons learned,” is what she’d say.

The sun is brighter tomorrow the moon is farther away. The grass is greener where you water it, don’t forget that and think it’s better in another place.

She has dwelt on things in the past way too long. It’s The End of The World record, skipping in the background. You make do with what you have, you sacrifice for what you want, and you shouldn’t change for anyone but you; that’s how regrets are made, that leave you feeling blue.

Those feelings drive you to abuse the things you shouldn’t and take for granted the ones that really care. The rest of the world doesn’t get it and other people make me feel weird.

There’s much on this Little Birds list of things to do. She cannot sit still and watch everyone else fall apart and melt into one big pile of goo. She wants to help in a game she can’t win. You see the game has no rules so she’s always on the losing end.

The intentions are becoming ever so clear the Little Bird is joyful and queer.

She can’t change what has happened and will not defend it anymore, no matter the side; she stopped keeping score.

There is a community around her that can use her energy more; she sees where she is needed and leaves when she is needed no more. The feeling of this past year has left scars on her bones. She’s changed in more ways than she’ll ever know.

She is quite lucky so don’t feel sad, she found what she was looking for on the outside and is slowly letting go of everyone and everything that makes her mad.

She has walked off the yellow brick road and has decided to see where the red one leads. She knows better this time around, she won’t be caught gazing at the stars with her guard down. Time will tell all and all will be known, there are greater mysteries I’d rather spend my time on.

If you care to come along you know how to find me; until then, my readers’ das Leben.

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/).

Wolf Warrior – The Ulfhethennir

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!” – Aesop

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have.”
“The better to see you with, my dear.” – European Folk Tale

 “Boys like me are not afraid of wolves.” – Prokofiev

 All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel. – Margaret Atwood

 An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice.
“Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. . . . It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. . . . He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.” – Cherokee Fable

A couple of side notes before we begin, if you will indulge me.

1) Today is the anniversary of the day The Bad Husband made an honest Witch out of me. Twenty-one years ago I married the father of all three of my children and my best friend. We met on Ashland Avenue on Chicago’s South Side. I had walked out of the factory where we worked, my wild blaze of Auburn hair disheveled from the hair net I had worn for the previous nine hours, wearing a—get the late-80s look—peach stretch denim mini-skirt and a linen crop-top, and white huaraches. I saw him jogging for his car about 100 yards away. It was instant recognition. I grabbed my girlfriend/coworker by the arm and said, “I’m going to marry that guy!” I didn’t even know his name. We were so young.

 Around-about four years ago, we commenced to making each other’s lives hell. The road was, of course, paved with the best intentions. I can’t say that I’m sorry, honey. Because we are here now; and we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t passed through the fire. And I like here.

Happy Anniversary.

2) My soul-sister from Chicago has been at me to post a guest-blog she wrote back in August. If I don’t get it done by this time next week, you may all flog me.

I love so many Anglo-Saxon words that begin with U and that reflect Heathen ethics that I went a little nuts: unárlic and unárwurðlic (dishonest or dishonorable and unworthy), unarodscipe (cowardice), uncræft and unfǽle (both having to do with wickedness), and on and on—but it seemed like a cheat to use a prefix “un” for this post.

I also, like a good Heathen, thought it was worth discussing unrýne, but, to quote Rebel Wilson, I decided, “Mmehh, better not.”[1]

I thought of the uncéas, the Anglo-Saxon formal oath of reconciliation. Not to be confused with regular oaths of fealty which involve two parties not necessarily at war. To break either was punishable by death.

There are so many funfacts about oaths and oathbreaking that this deserves a post of its own one day.

The Heathen includes in her “Beasts of Battle” the Eagle, the Raven, and the Wolf. So, for my U post, I have chosen the Anglo-Saxon word for “Wolf.” It’s the concept to which I’ve chosen to dedicate the name of my nascent ritual troupe: “Ulf.”

The Anglo-Saxons, like many old European peoples, had a double-edged relationship with the ulf. Sure, wolves were feared and driven from farmlands, but they were also revered for their strength in battle and were adopted as symbols for the finest warriors.[2] Think about the White Wolf of England (which has, sadly, been coopted by white-supremacists, but originally stood for honor and fidelity).

Ulf are often imagined as spirits of the land. This is entirely true in Native American lore too, and one of those gracefully exquisite places where my European ancestry meets my Native American ancestry on the exact same page. The same paradox which characterized the attitude toward the Ulf-spirits characterized the Ælfs (Elves), also supernatural spirits of the land who could be either benevolent or ferocious. Or both.

It’s no coincidence, in my opinion, that Ælf ranks alongside Wulf among the most popular component in Anglo-Saxon names.

For me, there are some deeply ingrained personal images of the ulf. When I was about fifteen, I had a dream that a she-wolf, a huge beastly thing, gorgeously encased in muscle and sinew, took me under her tutelage and showed me how to be a bad-ass lycangyne. I can still feel the rush of adrenaline that accompanied the shape shift. I can still smell the blood.

We all know what these dreams mean.

I also have this um, er, ahhhh “buddy”—we’ll go with “buddy”—who untrustworthy folks can hear “growl” when I’m in danger. I have, myself, never heard it—but I’ve heard-tell of it often enough to know it’s there. And now, I finally know what it portends.

Plus, the first “scary movie” I ever watched was Devil Dog, Hound of Hell. I must have been six or seven. I can’t say it didn’t make an impression.

Having put myself in a wolfish mood, I’m sitting in my den right now, surrounded by 250 pounds of a particularly predatory and yet steadfastly loyal wolfish pack, watching The Grey. It’s not an awesome film, but it doesn’t blow. And it gets at the point of my post in a way I never could: The Wilderness Belongs to the Wolves. Wolves are not villains if they render your flesh from your bones while you are trespassing on their turf. And wolves will, I repeat, will remorselessly rip your face off. And there ain’t a fire in the world big enough to keep them at bay when you wander into their woods.[3]

Plus, Liam Neeson with a side of Dermot Mulroney.

I particularly love the part in The Grey where the pack sends the omega, “the outcast,” into the enemy (human) camp to test their strength. The humans kill it and eat it – the dipshit of the group cuts off its head and tosses it into the woods as a “warning” to the wolves. The humans think they have won—for about half-a-scene. The wolves, I imagine, laugh, thinking “S’ok, we didn’t like her no how. Thanks for eradicating her for us.”

They certainly howl their heads off until the Alpha says, “Enough.”

That sound goes right through me. I can feel it like a hearbeat.

And then the wolf-pack eats the humans.

I guess that’s a spoiler if you’ve never seen a wilderness film or read a wilderness narrative. Or read a fairy tale. Ever. It’s the way of the wild, ladies and gentlemen. Wolves win.

Remember, even if Peter leads the parade, the last line of Prokofiev’s story is still: “What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf?” The fear is ever-present. And sometimes, as Jeremy Bentham proves, your fear is all wolves need. They can smell it.

I also watched this terrible B movie: Wolf Town. Of course, wolves ate teenagers. In the end, all the wolves wanted was “to have their town back.” See? Stay out of wolves’ lairs and everyone will get along just fine. Go into the a wolf’s den? Dinnertime.

And when an Alpha is challenged? Boo-ya. The fangs will fly. I am a bit of a Milanian Pack-Master by nature (a trait which my youngest inherited[4]) and would like to tell you a thing or three about Alphas.[5]

(1) They are nearly silent. Though an Alpha will “lead” a vocalization, typically the ones you hear baying at the moon tend to be Betas at best. Usually, they are the terrified Omegas who want to prove themselves useful but really just end up ruining the hunt and pissing everyone off.
As humans, we tend to like Betas—they are victim-types who like to be scratched behind their ears and petted–easily domesticated.
(2) Alpha’s don’t get involved in fights involving underlings. Every so often you will see them tell the fighters, “Enough is enough,” but mostly Alphas let underlings work it out on their own. Know why? Because they are Alphas. Fights between Deltas don’t make no nevermind to an Alpha.
(3) Alphas tend to ignore challenges from anyone lower than a Beta. I’ve seen the Beta of my pack get whacked by the Alpha for stuff that the Omega can do with impunity. The Alpha knows the order. If the Beta tries to upstart, the Alpha will warn. And warn. And warn. And then destroy.
(4) Alphas protect everyone’s youngon’s. Until there’s a serious challenge of authority. Then the winning Alpha tends to trounce the loser’s offspring.[6]
(5) Alpha’s don’t feel the need to explain themselves. One might find that after a decade they are just getting to know factoids that an Alpha never felt it was necessary to reveal. Know why? Because Alphas tend not to give a rat’s ass if Betas like their motivations.

Ginger Snaps. Yes, watch it.

We also think of werewolfs, no?

The “wolf-man”[7] is a pretty universal concept, appearing in cultures all over the world that encounter wolves (Navajo, Sioux, German, Russian, French, etc.). The Scandinavian warriors had an established mythology about wolf-warriors in the ulfhethennir, a wolf like the berserker is a bear. And then there’s Loki,  Garmr, and Fenris.

And think about Roman divine connections to the wolf and the wolf-man: the festival of Lupercalia; Zeus Lykaios, Apollo Lykaios, Lykaian Pan; and the myth of Demetrius who was turned to a wolf and charged to eat no human flesh.

There are typically two kinds of were/werawolf: (1) the person who behaves as a hunter—something that would have been admirable before the ulf became misassociated with the predatory demonic—and (2) the person who can change into a wolf and back.[8]

Yum, shapeshifting . . .

I’ll leave the conversation here and pick it up when I talk to you about the ritual ulf-pack—whatever permutation its name finally takes. But for now, let me head off any ridiculous claims of wolves who pose a danger. We could go round and round about wolves being villains—both historo-linguistically and as misrepresented in lore.

But this is how TBW sees it: sheep have no place among wolves.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] And if you can’t get enough inappropriate ginger junk and nerdy show-choir shite: http://youtu.be/ulJldDyrHpo. Maybe what we need is not a riff-off but a witch-off, no diggety?

[2] I’ve just been reading the Volsunga Saga again. The hero, Sigmund, and his son, Sinfjotli, avenge their kinsmen on King Siggeir, by putting on wolfskins, and speaking with the voices of wolves.

I also remember translating “The Battle of Maldon” (ten whole years ago!) with one of my favorite grad-school teachers; in this poem, the enemy are “waelwulfas” (“slaughter-wolfs”). On the other hand, as the name Beowulf shows, the word W/ulf is one of the common roots in Anglo-Saxon names. Even contemporary surnames like Lowell, Lovell, and Lovett are diminutives of w/ulf.

[3] And hell yea—they done peed on all the damned trees. You bet. On account of they were there first.

[4] As a toddler she controlled my sister’s ill-behaved Fiest with a poorly-pronounced, “No, Baiwey!” better than any adult could

[5] Same things work in the chicken coop.

[6] That hasn’t happened at my place, but I saw it on Meerkat Manor once. And the Alpha hen will push the Omega’s eggs out of the nesting box if she wants room.

[7] Were = Man + Wulf = Wolf whereas Wera = Woman + Wulf = Wolf, therefore Werawulf.

Also, I like to play with Lycanthrope (Greek). Lykos = Wolf + Anthropos = Man. Therefore, Wolf + Woman = Lycangyne.

I do this when I have a glass of wine and get bored.

[8] I don’t want to get into attributions of lycanthropy to dementia and the word “wearg” (which may or may not have anything to do with w/ulfs—depending on who you ask) to cursed—all of that came much later. But there is an association between the ulf and sorcery that is much older.

And there is a linguistic connection that lets us know that punishment by exile for a set period was reserved for heinous crimes like oath-breaking is related to wolves. Think about it – turning into a wolf is a great metaphor for temporary exile.

 

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/).

Instant Sumbul’s Gonna Get You

It’s the second anniversary of The Bad Witch Files.

Originally, I thought I’d write up a “retrospective” to reinforce the journey I’ve made from the Witch I was two years ago: undermined, deceived, and betrayed by the only Pagan “community” I thought I’d find in The Bamas. Two years later, having dug my heart-roots deep, my branches are starting to expand their canopy again. Rather than looking back, let’s look forward. Shall we?

Last night we had our Winternights craft circle and Disírblòt/Ælfablòt. (See my list of events (a new page to your right) for more details.)

A year ago, if someone had told me I’d have a horde of happy Heathens covered in glitter in my livingroom, I’d have called bullshit. Two years ago, I’d have shanked them for blasphemy.

But, alas. This year, I had wall-to-wall Wyrdness. Tissue-paper, feathers, ribbons, beads, and—yes—glitter.

Let me make something very, very clear. I am a talent at sewing on all levels with a particular penchant for costuming.[1] I can decorate the shit out of a house and garden (and chickencoop). I can paint, I can knit, I can solder, I can calligraphy, and I can make any piece of wood my absolute bitch.

Do not hand The Bad Witch glue sticks and glitter.

This. I cannot do.

And yet.

When one of my students, a beloved grove member, suggested a craft circle, I smiled and said, “Hokay?”[2] Then, piled high with the faces I adore more than air, I managed to make a go of it.

Then we retired to the beautiful harrow The Bad Husband arranged and had a bit of a blòt. “All Ehsha Style.” And while we had our, um, moments—we’ll go with “moments”—it was right out—here’s the word—“sanctified.” The harrow was hallowed and that’s the end of that.

Plus, when you get in your skin and learn to do what comes naturally, you learn a thing or three. Here is what The Bad Witch learned from “craft” night:

Mulled wine is oh-so-fantastically-suitable if the cat ruins the mead.
Often, the only things standing between some folks and vegetarianism are salami and bacon.
The Bad Husband never learned to braid. Who knew?
If it’s red and sticky, you should prolly put it in your mouth.
Bloody handprints don’t grow on trees.
I always forget the incense.
October ain’t no thang to mosquitos in Alabama.
If the need-fire won’t catch, use a spare ritual script as kindling.
While waiting for the need-fire to catch, Sumbul!

Included in this blòt was a spontaneous Sumbul and beot. The Sumbul reflects the strength of one of the most Heathen ethical traditions: Kindred. Again, I want to clarify that Kindred doesn’t rely on consanguinity, but on loyalty and affinity. A Sumbul is where kin sit in hall and take turns with the drinking vessel. (“No, no. That horn ain’t fit to drink from yet. Get a glass.”) The vessel serves as a bit of a “talking stick” in other cultures. In Sumbul, one can skald—tell a story—and one can beot. A beot is a ritualized boast. Not the braggadocio of conceit or egoism; a beot is a promise within the community—a sacred oath.[3] It’s not just a promise to the community, mind you. It is also a promise from the community.

For example: The Bad Husband’s beot was to improve his language skills in German to a fluid (not fluent) conversational level by the next solstice. So, not only has he promised to improve our community by adding to his communication skills (and therefore work-related skills—which in turn benefits his reputation in the broader world—this is good for our community which believes that individual health brings health to the whole). Success in this endeavor will increase his reputation in our community. Failure? Um, that’s different. But the flipside of the beot is that the community is also bound to encourage TBH to improve his German. They are to prod him and make reminders of his beot. They are oathbound to not stand in his way or make any hindrances or obstacles for him. When possible, they are to assist him. It’s all about community support.[4] In turn, TBH promised to help other members achieve their goals. Sumbul and beot is a way to let your community know what’s important to you, gain their support, and become accountable to something outside of yourself.

Our oaths got bigger as the cup passed ‘round: “Oh, I get it. The more we drink, the bigger our beot become?” What started with promises to finish this or that household project by spring ended with more serious oaths to learn languages and complete Shamanic and Hermetic training (four separate beot—each trying to one-up the other in a friendly-sort of way). But beot aren’t just promises to do things. A beot can be about something already done. Sumbul is a place to get the recognition that we deserve without the guilt manufactured by our Puritanical background. Others boasted of things like twenty years of military service (whoo-rah), a shiny new bar exam passing, a place on the dean’s list, a successfully (newly) integrated family of eight, and many other lovely things.

Today, we all have a better gauge of where each other stand and we have a clearer idea of how we can help one another. How Heathen is that?

Here are TBW’s beot. I tell you this here as a bit of cyber-Sumbul. You are my extended community and I want to include you in my support network. After all, you pushed me through two years—I’m pretty sure I can count on you to push me some more.

(And as a cyber-Sumbul, if you are someone who reads my blog just to look for ways to hinder my progress, stop reading now. When you listen to one’s sacred beot, you become enmeshed in supporting it.)

Click “more” if’n you’re willing to throw down on The Bad Witch if she get’s lazy.

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Trance

The tent flaps rustle and the fire in the brazier before you acknowledges the new influx of air. The crowd has gathered outside; all who have traversed the circle have been anointed and are become discerning to the sign.

You hear the loud drumming, music and revelry outside the tent over the soft pulsation of the rhythm being played inside the tent, you stand between the worlds.

You have prepared for ten days. Phases of fasting, meditation, ritual bathing, and profound formulations have brought you deeper and deeper into trance: all for this moment.

You rise, without staggering, you are brought out before the people. At your appearance, they are enthralled by the Vardhlokkur you repeat softly under your breath; you can feel their anticipation reach toward you like a needing hand. You resist their pull and let the music carry your body into the familiar dance.

The gyðia dance around you; each has her own role today. Two guide you to the high seat. The goði hands you your stav. As you find the deepest rhythm, feeling the pulsation in your body and your being, you intensify the chant. The gyðia join in. You feel the last strings of yourself snap and you step silently out of your body, which slumps slightly in its seat. There, past the mist which obscures the worlds, you can see the futures of the men and women before you as clearly as crystal.

You send the word of power to your mouth and your voice cries out over the crowd, like the howl of a keening wolf. Some of those gathered can also see the glimmer of truth which lies beyond the fog, in that other world, where you stand.

The priest, the servant of the people, supplicates himself before you and inquires. Your vision ranges far and near. And you answer him.

You are the Völva of the people.

I have been talking to Bertie a lot lately. She’s been reminding me of the specifics of the ceremonies involved in my training—though I remember the classroom details, the reading, the writing projects, the people, etc. with specific detail, I’m a little fuzzy around the edges of “rituals.” I mean, I remember the structure, I remember the doxologies, I remember the clothes and the instruments; but I don’t have such precise recall of the events themselves—primarily because I spent much of my time in trance.

I go into trance easily.
Cooking Jambalaya.
Cleaning the chicken coop.
Driving.
Writing–typically, I have a sort-of half-in/half-out cognition; I know what needs to be typed but cannot think of the words; as I search my (human) lexicon, I lose touch with the (“other”) thoughts.

But there was this one time.

Once, I started typing and, though I have never considered myself an auto-writer of any sort, I looked up and had two pages of really profound, almost archaic, poetry.

I only mention it because it has started happening pretty regularly again. I had actively suppressed it—which I’ll explain in a minute—but find that circumstances have allowed me to explore this skill in complete safety again.

I showed the two pages of poetry to one person ever. That one and only Pagan I knew in town. A big fan of Sappho, she (at first) thought it was some ancient transcript I had found. That same person is one of two people I allowed to see me in trance (since I moved South, that is). You have to have a profound trust for that shite.[1]

In that same spirit of throwing STFU to the wind, let me tell you a story or two.

One time, I was drinking with some friends on a porch and the house-husband started telling a story about his childhood—I finished it for him with fluid accuracy. Creepy details and all.

It’s not like clairsentience. Thought that happens too. Another time, similar situation, I “saw” a situation between the person to which I was talking and her bestie. Thankfully, that time I caught myself before regaling the crowd with the tale. But when I “trance-out,” I’m gone and someone else is borrowing my vocal cords for the moment. Ain’t much I can do about it.

And no, I’m not schizophrenic Booze is just the Heathen’s entheogen.

Here’s a very important story that helps me understand the last four years of my life with great clarity. Ironically, these are The Bad Witch “Files” I always intended to write but somehow never shared. But I should have–there’s a great lesson in it. But I guess I had to get out the other side of the experience before I could really place a name on it.

Heregoes.

Long story short—I came to town in 02. Met a woman and told her I was a Witch; she freaked out a little but understood exactly what was what. She moved in 07; came back in 08 having fully embraced her own witchyness. Hooray, right? She even brought a disciple with her. In the meantime, I had made fast-friends (that never ends well) with the woman who would eventually become a bane of my life. She claimed witchery too. I should have known by her relationship with her rosary that not all was “right.” But I had known enough syncretic Witches to talk myself into finding it quaint. Besides, I was a little tired of going it alone.

The four of us were supposed to meet on the full-moon between Winternights and Samhain. Two (#3 and #4) bowed out, leaving me and #2 to go it alone. (I really like calling her “#2.”) I was totally fine with #4 not being present; it was #3 that upset me. It was all her idea after all.

During the evening, #2—who I foolishly trusted with far too much over those years—asked me to act as oracle. She didn’t use those words, but I got the idea. She wanted to know what-was-what. So, I did the thing that came so naturally.

A little later, word got back to me that #2 and #3 were exchanging smack-talk and #2 was reporting, “Her eyes rolled back in her head and she started speaking in another language. I swear she called up some demon because there was this thing growling at me from the back of the yard!”

Amatures.[2]

About a year later, after some of the nasty fallout from #2 (tee-hee), Witch #3 came by to do a little “work.” Sitting around the fire, she too asked me to do some what-what. As I started going into trance, she grabbed me and shook me and yelled at me, “Stop that! What are you doing?”

I should have known.[3]

Since then, I kinda-sorta made sure there was always too much going on to allow myself to go into trance. I even avoided sitting in those taller chairs in the bar-areas of restaurants  Silly, I know; but it was too evocative for me. I think there were things I didn’t want to know. Didn’t want to see. Certainly things I knew I didn’t want to do. (Because in trance? Yup. I can do things.) Something about having your magical abilities trounced on and shat upon by women who are supposed to be your fellows makes a girl want to be a hermit. Or hang out with only boys.

So, last spring when I was incited to “Do it all Ehsha style,” I declined. There was a stroke of damned good judgment on my part for once!

Nowadays, I hear tales of how #4 has taken to trancework. *shrug* It’s good work if you can get it.

This is all just to say that having gone through all the crap you’ve been through with me, fine readers,[4] I’m glad to announce that I am finally able to return to my origins. It’s been a crappy set of years, y’all; but it feels like I’m going home.

You have held my cyber-hand and seen me through the roughest of the journey and I am entirely grateful. If it weren’t for you—especially those of you who send me emails and PMs on FB and Skyped with me in the thick of it—I don’t know that I would have had the tenacity to stick it out and do what’s right.

Cyber-community rocks pretty damned hard. Particularly when it leads to flesh-and-blood community, and maybe even a self-proclaimed “fangirl” <3 t’boot.

And this is also to say that I’m not going to let my praxis be held hostage by a community that “just doesn’t understand” anymore. As a matter of fact, I have picked up where I can only surmise I am intended to be and am embarking on the task of educating my community. My whole community. Anybody game? I’m all up for a roadtrip.

After a profound near-year of rereading everything Bertie ever gave me (and reading the new stuff she’s piled on), I’m back in my own skin.

The journeyer has returned, y’all. A little bruised–maybe from the cosmic stav upside the head–but a lot wiser.

I’ve had my stav out for a few months now and was ashamed at the dust it had accumulated. (The last stav I held was one I had made (carved and everything) for #3 a few Yules back.[5] Likely she’s used it for firewood.) But I’ve moved past the regret and on to the Neetsfoot oil.

Today, my lovely will bask in the sunshine and soak up some much needed oily deliciousness.

Tomorrow, she will be in my hand as I lead a Disírblot/Ælfablot in the back 40.

All Ehsha style.

Dancing. Trancing. Chanting.

Have a loverly weekend!

B, Q, 93

TBW

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] On purpose—I mean, it has happened on accident a few times when I was physically impaired. Don’t think less of me for losing control and sliding into the aether now and then.

[2] You know the real story, right? I closed my eyes and chanted an ancient galdr. I was neither possessed nor invoking anything aside from the oracle. Both I and my late-neighbor had dogs—though I do have this rather protective “friend.”

[3] I certainly knew when, in a conversation about thoughtforms, she told me, “Yes, [she had] servitors,” and that, “sometimes they don’t even know who they are.” *faceplant*

[4] Of which I see there are currently exponentially more than they were last week—thanks for sharing.

[5] I wasn’t trying to “convert” her (because that’s what she’ll argue), but I was trying to “share” a piece of myself.

Fasting and Need

If you’ve been around My Badness for more than a year, you know that I fast in the Autumn.

I started doing it primarily to detox from the stuff I put into my body (some of it mandatory, some of it pure hedonistic self-destruction). But I keep doing it as a reminder–physically, spiritually, and emotionally–of what I really need and what I just think I need.

The next few posts are bound to be my reflections of the discoveries I make along the way.

Last year, I explained that I don’t detox with the turning of the season as most folks do, but wait until 10/1 to begin. It’s closer to Winternights and puts me in the right spiritual/physical/cognitive state to do the magics I incorporate in that ritual. And it’s a bit like Heathen-Lent—how’s that for an oxymoron? I fast and then I feast—with my ancestors. Last year I didn’t have the feast I typically do. Typically, I hold a “Dumb Feast.” Or as my friends like to call it, “Ehsha’s Awkward, Self-Conscious, and Strangely-Lit October Dinner Party.”

Here’s the most recent invitation:

The veil is thin.
This is the time to honor all of those who have come before us:
those who have wisdom beyond our understanding,
those who paved ways for us,
those who gave us our names,
those who taught us who to be,
those who loved us,
those we never knew,
and
those who touched our lives but, alas, Fate saw fit not to bring into this World.
In this spirit, you are invited to a “Dumb Feast.” We will dine in silence to “hear” and to pay our respects to the ones who have come before us.
The ceremonial meal will be followed by a brief rite to recognize our ancestors, to mourn our losses, and to light the way for all who have gone beyond the veil.
Bring a token to represent a loved one the table, if you wish.
The mourning of beloved pets is absolutely appropriate.
It would also be fitting to represent a family line, a country of origin, a religious tradition, or a family tradition.
The rite will end with the breaking of silence and the life-affirming revelry that marks a true respect for creation.

I held the feast last in October 2010. I’d had a nasty falling-out with my family of origin and that year I was particularly in need of some ancestor time. My very best non-Pagan friends showed up to support me.[1] One who had just lost a baby—having fought tooth-and-nail to conceive (for the eighth time that I know of).[2] She brought the pee-stick for the altar; it was beautiful.

Another friend brought her dog’s collar.
Another brought her late-father’s wallet.
Another brought his war-buddy’s name, written in beautiful calligraphy on a sheet of paper.
I scattered pictures of my relatives across the altar.

I just needed to feel a little familial comfort in the dark of the year. We all healed a little that night.

Not so strangely, the week after, I had a cousin come into town and call me out of the clear blue. As it tends to be in my family, he starts churches: Cowboy Churches, to be exact. It’s a really touching idea and as close to Pagan ethics as I have ever seen Christians come in an organized (well…) “church” environment. That is to say, as close to Christian ethics. I went to see my cousin at the “church”—a farm across town, full of horse-smell and running-free dogs and cats. I sat my ass on a bale of hay and listened to him sing a song I’d last heard my late-uncle Jos (his daddy) sing to my momma. Jos sang it “special” for his just-barely baby sister, while tears welled in her eyes. Oh, The Bad Momma loves, “The Lighthouse.” And she loved Uncle Jos. And buddy, you better believe he loved her back.

I told you about my late-Uncle “Grandpa” and how the smell of pipe tobacco wraps me in his loving arms again. Well, gospel-guitar leans me hard on Uncle Jos’ chest.[3]

Uncle Jos, my Big Bad Brother, Cowboy Cousin (and Cowboy Cousins twin brother), and The Bad Son could all be clones. In some ways, I reckon they are. Looking at Cowboy Cousin all night made me feel like I had a family after all.

So I sat on the hay and listened to Cowboy Cousin sing familiar songs, some of which he wrote with Uncle Jos, some he wrote by himself. One my Auntie wrote as a poem and he set to music.[4] He, his amazing wife, and his four children came to my house afterward for pizza and a much-too-late night of talking and reminiscing. I had the family photos still out from the Dumb Feast and Cowboy and I sat around looking at them and laughing ‘til we gave each other side-stitches. Among my photos, I had a picture of me and his two sisters, one of whom we lost to an aneurism right around the time we lost Uncle Jos. Cowboy’s oldest is the spitting image of her.

See—we don’t really lose anyone after all.

In that picture, I was sitting on a pony—of which I had forgotten the name. “Smokey!” he told me; turns out it was Cowboy’s favorite pony. As talk of horse-love turned to talk about family resemblances, we looked at our mutual grandfather. Cowboy told me, “He was the meanest sonofagun,” emphasis on the—long e; “He looks kinda like Abe Lincoln in this one, don’he?”

He does.

Cowboy and I were born after The Bad Granddad (and I mean bad in every way imaginable) died, so we never really knew him ourselves; but we’d heard tell. T’weren’t none of it admirable. As a matter of fact, Cowboy told me that our oldest auntie, with whom he spent the most time, told him that the Klan showed up on The Bad Granddad’s porch one night to tell him to “simmer down.” When the KKK in The Bamas tells you that you’re out of line? Hoo-dog.

Cowboy and his twin were born just after he died, as a matter of fact. Cowboy and Twin kicked their way out of their momma the day after The Bad Granddad’s funeral.

Uncle Jos’ older brother, the prankster I called Uncle-Grandpa,[5] told Jos: “Holy Hell, Jos. We just put one Mac in the ground and you bring two more into the world.”

I pulled out the “big board” of the genealogy work I was doing; the best parts of the project were only ten-months old back then. We traced our blood-lines with our fingers. Cowboy’d say:

“Yup. I’ve heard stories about this one.”
“Cain’t no one get back before this one.”
“Mother always said I looked just like this one.”
“I have this guy’s mandolin back in the trailer!”

All night we talked about family and it was like I could feel them sitting in the room. I could smell their distinctive smells . . . Ivory soap. I heard guitars.

I wanted my family back that year. When I asked, I didn’t specify which members I wanted. Duh. So, I got what was best for me. Rather than getting the ones I thought I needed—the ones I must have only wanted—I got what I really needed: a healthy helping of ancestral memory.

That night really changed some things for me. I learned that when you honor the ancestors, they pour a bounty on you.

And they smell good too.

I’m not having a Dumb Feast this year—I don’t think, anyway. Sometimes these things happen when they want to happen, you know? This year, I am having a proper Disírblòt. A proper Harrow, a proper Fórn, a proper Need-Fire (for which I may resort to matches). If the mood (moot?) is right, there will be a sound bit of proper Galdrar too.

It’s nice to have Pagani around to toast the ancestors in a more formal sort of way—a way that “looks” Heathen instead of looking “New Age” or just touchy-feely-nice-nice for the cowan-friends. I’m still having the cowan-friends over. Shoot, they have ancestors too. Plus, they are glad to be able to talk and have big fire this time.

You likely picked up from past posts that I had some – how does one say this without being ugly? – How’s “less than supportive relationships” in the Pagan community? (And, as a Heathen who understands Kindred and Frith. . . . merh.) I shied away from being “all out there” since I really didn’t feel safe. I actually tried a time or two to explain, illustrate, and exemplify Ceremonial Magic and siðr, only to be made fun of. Yes. That happened. (And they call me The Bad Witch?) Now that I’ve shucked off those influences (or rather, now that they were, rather forcefully, shucked off of me), I see that an incident I found hurtful at the time, was really something needed.

Since summer, I have been drown in ancestral bliss.

I see my Verðandi becoming what it should be—my Skuld.[6] In the past few days, I have been granted a slew of opportunities to share my “Craft.” I haven’t even honored my kin with this blòt yet and they are opening doors for me to honor them more.

Just what I needed.

B, Q, and 93,

TBW


[1] Strangely, the only Pagan friend I had in town at the time did not show. She had her excuses.

[2] She has three amazingly perfect children.

[3] It’s a big family y’all. I’ll run out of breath before I run out of kin to tell you about. Momma is 11 of 11 and Daddy is 5 of 22. TBW is 4 of 4.

[4] Cowboy Cousin has won Inspirational Music Awards and his Cowboy Kiddos have won and been nominated for IMAs for several years running. There is too damn much to this story to get into this time.

[5] Please see my other post for clarification lest you think that there are inappropriately close ties in my family.

[6] Have I mentioned the relationship between my favorite theorist(s), Deleuze & Guattari and Verðandi? Becoming? Put that on the list of things I need to tell you. Short story is: I wrote a paper about Toni Morrison’s Beloved and “Becoming” in 2005 and presented it at a conference. It’s one of the only conference papers I dropped like a hot-potato even though it was very well received. It was at that moment that I realized that I’d never be able to separate my academic work from my religion if I kept writing like that. It is at a more recent moment that I realized I don’t need to separate them anymore.

The Storehouse

The Bad Witch has been know to quote scripture from time to time. Especially when she applies a healthy layer of sensible hermenutics over the often inane dogma that gets attached to said scripture.

Malachai 3:10 – “Bring ye kol hama’aser into the Beis HaOtzar, that there may be teref in Mine Beis [Hamikdash], and prove Me now herewith, saith Hashem Tzva’os, if I will not open you the windows of Shomayim, and pour you out a brocha, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

In other words: “Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency.”

Or if you prefer: “Put your money where your mouth is.”

I won’t get into Jewish law too much today. Just let me say that only Levites could collect tithe, which is a moot point since there is no modern application. Therefore tithes are an anachronistic concept.

However, Biblically speaking,  funds were to be given to the temple to support the temple; this included both buildings and ministers. Support was given to everyone from the Levite priesthood all the way down to the most humble servants. None of those that sustained the temple were to be left out, because keeping the temple up and running was of primary importance.

But, as I was raised, the title was imagined to be 10% of ones income, payed as an obligatory gift to one’s church. Presumably to go toward the building upkeep, utilities, pastor’s salary, etc. Self sustaining, right? I don’t have a problem with this as long as it’s not abused. If you believe in a ministry, I feel wholeheartedly that you should put your money where your mouth is. For everyone, not just the priesthood. Amen?

Here’s The Bad Witch adventures of sustaining a ministry by putting her money where her mouth is.

Today I renovated the page called The Wyrd Sister. If you look at some posts from fall ’11 through last summer–like CommunityFrith and FainingSpread the Wyrd and The Road Not Taken–you will understand that I had my sites set on a few things: a local grove Celestial Earth Grove) with a teaching facility (Open Path) and a brick-and-mortar store (The Wyrd Sister) to support those ministry. So, I did all of the practical things to make this happen:

  • I filed state and federal paperwork for the foundation of the (“church”) grove, Celestial Earth Grove, and was approved in February 2011.
  • At that time, I obtained a business license, Roots Curio (dba The Wyrd Sister – onna counto’ somebody put a bad taste in my mouth).
  • The Bad Husband set up a quick-and-dirty web store at rootsbwcraft.com. It was an instant smash – until spring. But, we wanted a less dirty (and more quick) site, so we worked toward importing the store onto another site (which is not yet ready–not sure it will ever be).
  • At the prospect of running a grove/school and business, I took myself back to part-time at work for the 2012-13 school year. This ended up working out very well for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the preservation of my health and sanity.
  • I found modest (personal) funding. I was totally ready to put my hard-earned money where my mouth is.
  • Purchasing a modest inventory: packaging items and crafting crafts. I had previously only made things like Books of Shadows and Altar Boxes for personal use and gifts. But they were such a hit, that I started making them in bulk. It’s satisfyingly therapeutic.
  • Over the summer, I found a modest building. But, someone had the bad taste to phone the landlord and tell him all sorts of crapola about what Witches do on the premises of occult stores and curio shops. Boogada-boogada. Funny thing is, I didn’t make the location of the store publicly known–only a few people had access to that information. The day we were to sign the lease, I backed out.
  • Then I had a run of wyrd luck over the summer that resulted in a sizable vet bill, a medical evaluation that screamed, “lifestyle change–stat!” and a much needed vacation. Thus the spending of said extra funds. (No worries, TBW is not short sheeted–just not rolling in it!)

Along the way, I picked up a string of new students, signed on as the faculty adviser for the university student Pagan group, and jumped from a few hundred readers to the edge of twelve hundred. No pressure. I’ve also dumped off a good deal of toxicity (that I didn’t even realize was toxic until it was out of my system), thus allowing me to make leaps of progress in my writing projects. Having a bit of an attention deficit, I cannot work on one thing at a time; I have to have a few balls in the air or I don’t feel like a proper juggler. So, after fits and starts earlier this year, I have settled into a comfortable pace of controlled chaos. My favorite.

Getting rid of said-toxic-folks has had its health benefits as well. I have a sense of calm and clarity that I had been missing back in the summer. But this clarity didn’t come without a cost. It never does. Those toxic influences make up a sector of my own local Pagan population who have tried to vilify me (again). It doesn’t injure The Bad Witch, she’s like the honey-badger; she don’t care. But that is rather the opposite of bringing things into the storehouse, ain’t it?

(And that ain’t really true. I’ve lost business opportunities, connections, and potential clients because of this baloney. )

So where does that leave me and The Wyrd Sister? Right where we should be, I reckon. And none the worse for wear.

Since March, I have received a number of emails requesting information about purchasing my crafts. As you know (if you’ve read Clean Up Aisle Three. . .) that I’ve also had increased local requests for services.

But, because I don’t “feel it in my gut” that now is the time to settle into a leaseholder relationship with a cowan,[1] I have placed The Wyrd Sister and her contents of Bad Witch Crafts–herbs, Books of Shadows, altar boxes, spell kits, ritual bath kits, ritual robes, and instructions for custom work (or Work)–on this page. Go check it out. Not all of the photos are what I want–but they’ll do for this week, and maybe next week too!

And in the spirit in which I was raised to bring my goods in to the storehouse, all proceeds of all sales (not just profits, ya’ll–gross, not net) go toward supporting the new students of Open Path, fundraising for the university kiddos, Celestial Earth Grove (though there is very little overhead), and other local Pagan groups (any of them).

You see, over the spring, The Wyrd Sister attended an art and craft fair sponsored by a nearby group and unloaded *exactly* enough to defray our materials cost–that means everything after that is gravy. Since *I* don’t need the money, per se, it only makes sense to return the profits to the community. Bringing it into the storehouse, as it were.

And should you decide to buy a little somethin’ somethin’, let me show you some instances of how your purchase money is distributed:

  • The Wyrd Sister donated about $150 worth of goods to a local fundraiser’s silent auction–the fundraiser was to defray attendance costs for a Samhain event this fall. I hear they made out like bandits. Woot.
  • Likewise, I have some goodies to bring to The Pagan Pride Day event on university grounds where the student group will have  a booth; whatever they sell, they keep so that they can keep dues low and activities high.
  • My partner-in-crime and I have some crafty plans! Celestial Earth Grove is hosting a “potluck”  circle for Samhain crafts–a totally sustainable idea, right? Everybody brings those bobbles and odds-and-ends that are just taking up space but don’t need to be in a landfill, puts them together in a Witchy way, and ta-da–free Samhain crafts and magical gear and less stuff crowding the broom closet; we have some workshops scheduled for early in the day by volunteers that will teach us how to make various goodies. For free events like this, Celestial Earth provides space as well as food and drink.

Putting my money where my mouth is, yo.

TBW

If you are interested in making a purchase (or a donation, I suppose, never thought of that), drop me a line at abadwitch@yahoo.com and we’ll exchange PayPal information or whatever. (Visa, MC, Discover, Amex, checks, MOs work too.) I have not yet been approved by the IRS as a 501(c)3, but the application is out there. However, because this is a “faith-based” charitable organization as defined by the IRS, purchases and donations are tax write-offs for you. Alas, they are not tax free.

And even if you don’t want to buy anything, lend your support by * liking* these Facebook pages:

Open Path Training
Celestial Earth Grove
The Bad Witch on Facebook
The Wyrd Sister on Facebook

—————–

[1] A little etymological funtimes? Not only does cowan mean “non-Witch,” it means someone who hasn’t served an apprenticeship: a “pretender” or interloper. Comes from the same (French) word as “coward.”

Skinners in the Box of an Angry Rationalist

When I was younger I used to refer to the vending machine in the university cafeteria as “the campus Skinner Box.” It was great fun to watch co-eds kick and bat at the plexiglass when the result was not as expected.

Today I feel like I am the campus Skinner Box, expected to dispense inflated grades after obligatory contact with manipulandum (in the form of mandatory curriculum). Today’s operant schedules include a Freshman “game” to invent a classroom religion[1] and an American Lit discussion of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

In the first class, I expect to receive compressed food pellets. In the second, I just know I’m going to get electrocuted.

I had a young man tell me (in a reading quiz) that the answer to the question at hand was, “Must be some religious garbage because that’s all we ever talk about in this class.” Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you for consideration: Puritan culture. Not a whole lot of Sci-Fi going on. Unless you count Michael Wigglesworth.

So that’s where The Bad Witch has her head in her work-a-day life. The seventeenth-century.

Rationalism, my friends, is a bore.

The seventeenth-century was the era of The Great Awakening and Jonathan Edwards, the height of Cartesian rationalism, and simultaneously, not surprisingly, The Time of Great Forgetting of the Maya.[2] It ushered in our absolute dependence on “The Incremental Rational.” Time, money, science, reason. Everything became tightly regulated by its smallest degrees. Michel Foucalt would call this creating a “docile body.”[3]

The Cartesian method applied by B.F. Skinner is tres docile.

What else happened in the seventeenth-century that would effect a Bad Witch like me? Let’s see. We have the translation of the Picatrix and reification of the Kaballah—a system based in Abrahamic patriarchy—by the addition of books like Sefer Raziel to the Western Esoteric cannon. We stopped reading Ficino and preferred Agrippa.

Side note? It’s Agrippa and Paracelsus that lead Victor Frankenstein down his path of doom. Not because the occult is evil, but because Romantic reactions to The Enlightenment reign in Victor’s mind (Shelley’s pen)—he is incapable of balancing the creative force with rationalism. This is Victor’s doom. Just remember I said this for a later post. Mary Shelley was a chick.

Oh, and then there’s Sir Francis Bacon—seven degrees or less, I’m sure. The texts of the Renaissance and Early Baroque are far less “rigid” (not that the Arabic Picatrix is a loosy-goosy text[4]) than those following the dig-your-heals-in-boys-it’s-going-to-be-a-fun-ride authority of empiricism.

Pull the lever, get your food.

What else? How about the Witch Trials in Massachusetts? But, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

My hero, Susan Bordo,[5] explores how seventeenth-century philosophy intentionally shifts emphasis away from a connective female cosmos to a mechanist male “rationality” that not only disassociated human existence from the medieval feminine paradigm, but completely erased it as though the Earth Mother archetype never existed; she refers to this as a “murder” of the female soul. Bordo explains how the masculinization of thought arose out of a desire to control surroundings considering the fear of the (older paradigm of the) feminine connective cosmos resulting from plague, famine, and other seemingly arbitrary natural cataclysm.

Drop me a line if you want to read chapters of theory-laden criticism by my alter-ego: the former doctoral student.

In short, rationalist-scientists liked it better when A could be irrevocably linked to B and then C could be reduced to … whatever one sees as the lowest common denominator for C—just so long as we are all in perfect agreement about what that whatever is. (There’s a whole different post in the creation of “rational incremental thought” that shows how our “agreement” concerning such denominators is purely arbitrary. You don’t want my PowerPoint lectures, trust me.)

Pull lever, get food. Sperm in, baby out. Use *this* magical formula, get *this* result. Because it’s rational; and rational=male=divine=superior. Don’t make me fight with you about the post-Cartesian application of the Platonic Table of Opposites. Onna counta I will.

Today I was re-reading Rosi Braidotti’s Nomadic Subjects[6] (1994). I had read it back-back-back in the day and remembered the section where Braidotti discusses reproductive technologies and the (normative) power of science over women’s bodies. She talks about the difference/femininity-phobic paradigm; namely, the common cultural fantasy of a child born from a man, and the concomitant erasure of the maternal body: “Once reproduction becomes the pure result of mental efforts, the appropriation of the feminine is complete” (89). I had been using it to talk about “Momism” in twentieth-century American film. Not this time.

This time, her critique of Alchemy (actually Alchemists) struck me more than it did when I was writing about White Masculinity in Crisis of the Cold War Era. Funny how these things happen, no? This time, I paid more attention to this passage:

The flight from and rejection of the feminine can also be . . . . [found in] alchemists busy at work to try to produce the philosopher’s son—the homunculus, a man-made tiny man . . . fully formed and endowed with language. The alchemists’ imagination pushes the premises of the Aristotelian view of procreation to an extreme, stressing the male role in reproduction and minimizing the female function to the role of mere carrier. Alchemy is a reduction ad absurdum of the male fantasy of self-reproduction.

It’s pronounced Frahn-ken-shteen.

In arguing with all of the errors in Cartesianism and the binary philosophies of masculinism that pervade occult studies (and even Witchcraft (especially Wicca)), it seems that, in displacing the feminine with the “rational,” a quantum leap has been made in common sense and intuitive reasoning. And that’s where my new thesis begins.

There’s so much more to cover, but I have to go make the doughnuts. It’s been a fun coffee-break but I’m off to teach “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to students-who-haven’t-read in the hands of an instructor-who-has-totally-overthought-today’s-lecture. Same thing, really.

TBW


[1] The point of which is to initiate a conversation about religion in a Cultural Diversity context which highlights the similarities of world religions as opposed to the differences. Another was to point out that there are “odd” elements to every faith and that we should neither disparage nor discount any of them: “No giggling.” This latter part inevitably becomes important when they learn the tenets of Scientology.

Added: This particular class, somehow obsessed with Bilbo Baggins, decided that the hobbit was our forerunner to the prophet and Gandalph our keeper of the ancient ways; our pilgrimage was to Tuscaloosa where we would observe the “damned” as they are forever hazed into a fraternity by “eternally mopping the facilities in Mordor.” A commandment was “Thou shalt not wear the ring.” Another was “Mead.”

[2] 1618—also 1.618, The Golden Ratio.

[3] Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 1977. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1979.  A docile body results from domination or power derived from the manipulation of bodies by regulating and dividing up their movements as well as the space and time in which they move. Interestingly, Foucault traces the origins of discipline back to monasteries where one of the primary principles that sustains discipline is uniformity and conformity.

[4] But it was translated into Hebrew before Western languages. I’m always a fan of returning to the original. Sadly, for this case, I learned Biblical Hebrew and smatterings of Aramaic—not Arabic. Like, not at all. Not even a little.

[5] The Flight to Objectivity: Essays on Cartesianism and Culture.  State University of New York Press, 1987; “Selections From Flight to Objectivity.” Feminist Interpretations of Rene Descartes. Ed. Susan Bordo. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999; “The Cartesian Masculinization of Thought and the Seventeenth-century Flight From the Feminine.” From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology. Ed.  Lawrence E. Cahoone. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

[6] Rosi Braidotti. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. By nomads, she doesn’t mean “wandering” or “homeless-folks.” She means something a little more theoretical–like “contemporary transitional identities.”

Revenge

Alright, alright. I did my bit on forgiveness, so for my Pagan Blog Project post (this week is R), I’ve decided to balance things out with a little revenge.

If, like The Bad Witch, you were raised in an Evangelical home, you were taught to leave room for wrath by letting the God of Israel take His vengeance on our (His) enemies. When I was young, I had a pretty good inkling about this concept and it terrified me to think of an almighty deity comin’-for t’smite folks. The phrase, “Vengeance is Mine,” boomed in my psyche like the first stage of a rocket blast: incinerating everything within reach. While Brother Preacherman taught us that it meant to “Let it Be,” that God would deal with our human foes and wrongdoers, it was not our place to take a life for a life, he made it clear that anything God could do was far worse than the .45 Sister Choirlady carried in her giant purse.[1]

I was never taught a fluffy sort of “Love and Light” when it came to divine justice and vengeance. And I sure don’t teach it. Why folks would misunderstand my stance as docile is beyond me. What have I ever said that could lead one to believe that I was a “softie”? Kind and generous, sure. But kindness and generosity are not “soft.” Like forgiveness, being charitable is hard-as-hell. So, “Love and Light”? Let me give it to you as The Bad Witch sees it.

Love for me is hard-edged, penetrative, all-powerful. Love, rather like Judge Dread, is The Law. All you need is Love – because guess what? Love is invincible. Not flowers and rainbows and kittens love – that’s a juvenile idea of love. Love, rather, is the glue of Pure Will where the entire universe unites. It can only be found in relation to the True Self and is antithetical to anything egotistical.

Likewise, Light is illuminating – but in a way that is exposing. Light is also penetrative and intense. Irradiating. Igniting. This isn’t the soft production lighting suitable for Blanche DuBoise. If you are going to embrace True Light, you have to be brave enough to stand in the sun with no makeup on while your crow’s feet furrow and your cellulite’s a jigglin’.

Fuzzy candle light on a date? No problem. In my spirituality? No thanks.

Given that this is my take on “Love” and “Light,” it makes sense that my ideas about divine judgment would be a little hard-edged too. If not a little “dark.”

Nevertheless, I haven’t take the mantle of The Bad Witch for nothing. My whole project with this blog is to warn you about some Pagan potholes and help you sidestep them a little bit. So if you are out for vengeance, pull up a chair, I got some ‘splaining to do.

I must admit that I do like it when the gods step in and say, “Sit down, honey, I got this.” I’m not such a control freak that I don’t mind handing over the reins to a vengeance goddess now and again. Have at it, I say. Typically, they take over when I have shown myself entirely incompetent in the revenge arena or when I’m blissfully oblivious to others’ wrongdoings. It’s nice to have someone else do the “dirty” work, but sometimes, a little action is due on our parts. I mean, we don’t go around spitting Chew John Root at every chimp who throws poop at us. (Or do we?) And we don’t go around jinxing every numbnut who Tweets something snarky about us. Sometimes it’s not universally important that the dipsmith who sent messages to everyone on Facebook in an effort to try to blacklist us get her comeuppance (right away). Sometimes those petty things only matter in this realm – where the stick-figure humans live – the realm of ego.

But we also aren’t expected to play dead and let Wyrd and Karma exact all of the justice when something real happens.

Of course we’ve talked about how to go about checking and rechecking and rerechecking for Justified Work. Especially when we’ve been dangerously wronged. But what do you do if you simply cannot rise to your Higher Self, get aboard the True Love Boat, actively forgive, or make room for wrath and let the Creator exact vengeance? Sometimes we just succumb to our baser human desires for revenge.

And we just can’t help it.

Well, we can, be we obstinately don’t want to.

Or we impulsively can’t make ourselves sit on our magical hands.[2]

In true Bad Witch style, I have found a loophole.

One day while thinking about what my Higher Self would like to do to that sleezy sonofagun if my Higher Self could just get my hands around that ugly waddle of a neck for just five . . .

No, wait. Let me try again.

One day I was considering where salvation might lie for that nasty stinking lying sham of a human  . . .

Hokay, (breathe) try again . . .

After each attempt at tolerance ended in a fit of anger, I finally splurted[3] out: “If only I hadn’t seen a glimmer her Higher Self, I’d be alright with watching her wallow in the mud like a swine! Knowing that she could be better, pisses me the eff off!”

OK, I didn’t say “eff.”

That particular day, I also happened to be discussing 1984 with The Bad Son.

And it occurred to me: Room 101, The Worst Thing in the World.

If the worst punishment is that which we fear most, and if the best carnal vengeance is success, then perhaps the best sacred vengeance is the enlightenment we’ve eluded longest. Hard, cold, naked Love and Light.

Follow me on this currently vague epiphany. If someone is acting a jackass, then they aren’t living up to their potential. The best thing you can do to/for them is curse them with the qualities of their Higher Being. Best to curse them with the quality that would cause the most disruption in their day-to-day jackassery. And that way, you don’t get any shitstorm on your new boots. That way, if The Law of Return finds you and wants to toss a little sompthin’-sompthin’ your way, what you get in return is your own best qualities; even if you have to grow into them, it’s not a bad thing.

So if your particular jackass is someone who is a vicious taker who exploits people, he’d have a real hoot if his heart were to open to love and understanding all of a sudden. A manipulative focker would find herself having some funtimes if she were to, quite suddenly, develop deep insight into how her actions affect others. If your particular jackass is a monomaniacal and power-hungry fear-monger, a little compassion and empathy might be a good scourge. The unethical dirtbag at work who consistently gets away with it, might have a blast with a strong moral compass. Maybe a keen memory as well.

Kinda like giving Angel his soul.

You might try: humility, integrity, generosity, scrupulousness, conscientiousness, hell – you might even try sobriety!

Just think about it. Anyone that is just such a twat as I’ve described would be forced to cease and desist their destructive behaviors; this works out for you. The stick-figure ego-person would  inevitably dissolve. This works out for everyone. But while they are on the road to redemption, they will suffer during that process. Ergo, we have our vengeance. We get revenge all while having acted according to our best selves. Plus we are spinning Wyrd into our own fabric that will end only in our own enlightenment and elevation.[4] It’s like the end of every John Hughes movie.

Damn fine loophole, don’t you think?

Feel free to curse me with a little time-management and household organization, please.

Blessings, Quarks, and 93 -

The Bad Witch

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] It makes sense that he would primarily preach non-violence – specifically non-murder – from the pulpit; it was gangland Chicago and our congregation was not, I repeat *not* um, unaffiliated – we’ll go with “unaffiliated.” Most of the shite I saw in my comin’-up years I saw in relationship to Church. The word “sanctuary” carries a lot of meaning for me. In a very Victor Hugo sort of way.

[2] Been there. Glad to admit it. I’m also glad to admit that the shitstorm fallout of all that human fury was a sight to behold. It doesn’t make doing the right thing any easier when doing the wrong thing is so freaking gratifying, does it?

[3] It’s another Bad Momma word. I think it’s spit + blurted.

[4] And like I said, this might be accompanied by some growing pains too, but that’s actually desirable.

The Gale

Batten down the hatches!

There’s a hurricane in the Gulf. (Last I checked it went back out and is headed in for a second helping of Alligator Sausage Cheesecake.) Best of luck to everyone in Isaac’s path. I mean it. I’m-a-prayin’.

I was recently told, in a commentary about how busy I stay, that I was the kind of person who, if it were raining outside, I’d do a rain-dance and call up a hurricane. I don’t think it was intended as a compliment, but I decided to take it as such. It’s accurate anyway. My reply was, “Well, hurricanes are nature’s way of restoring balance.”

Can I go on a bit about some things that seem unrelated if I promise to try to make sense in the end?

The Tempest, 2010. Helen Mirren as Prospera

In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero brews up a storm to bring his wrongdoers’ ship ashore to where he can exact justice. Restore balance.

This was never my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays but I love what Julie Taymor did with the film in 2010. By casting Helen Mirren as “Prospera,” Taymor changed the whole tenor of the story, in my opinion. The dynamic becomes “female sorcerer” (and you know how I feel about that) and “mother/daughter,” which is both less creepy for a modern audience and more believable – and perhaps a little more forgivable in the way Prospera treats both Caliban and Ariel. Well, Caliban at least. And it nicely mirrors Caliban’s relationship with his mother, Sycorax. Good Witch, Bad Witch sorts of stuff.[1]

As the storyline goes, one thing leads to another, one revelation follows another. Folks we thought we could trust end up being bumbonnets, folks we thought were unscrupulous end up saving the day, and Russell Brand does a little dance. Just like real life.

The thing for which Prospero/a needs justice is defamation by and subsequent unlawful loss of his/her dukedom to his/her brother. Would n’t it have been awesome if Taymor had cast a lady villain too?

By using spells and incantations and a spirit named Ariel, Propspero/a get to the bottom of the misdeeds. Those who don’t reckon reveal spells and reversal magic can be bent to operate according to the will of the sorcerer have very limited imaginations, and (I suspect) limited experience. Prospero/a, like many Rennaissance magicians, is very inventive – and experienced. In the end, s/he gets what she wants and all is forgiven. Balance restored.

That’s right. Forgiven. Go figure. It’s fiction.

As an interesting (to me) note: Bertie wrote a book about forgiveness, not as an intrapsychic (i.e., love and light) sort of thing, but as an interpersonal phenomenon where the maltreated are required to confront their aggressors – and if it’s not possible or ill-advised, victims should elicit the assistance of the divine for confrontation and retribution.

All this talk about “justified Work” along with the emails and comments I’ve been getting from some of y’all makes me want to sit and ponder a hurricane for a spell. And what it means to be in balance.

They tell us that Isaac has veered away from my particular part of the state and that Furfur and friends have their sights set on other locale; but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel its effects. Yesterday, an oppressively warm wind blew across the plains and made The Bad Witch’s hair do that thing where no fastener in the world will keep it in check. This morning I awoke to a wet lawn and four little hens facing their first week without a rooster,[2] asking me, “What’s up?” and “This coop isn’t going to blow away, is it?”

On Facebook, in private messages, all over, y’all let me know that having some clearer parameters of “justified” work has helped you out. I’ve passed the word on to Maman Lee. But I want to be clear about something. When the winds are whipping , you have to know that you are going to feel the effects – even when the storm veers to the west. Because we put energy out there. The energy will seek balance. There might be a bit of reverb on that. No, I take it back – there will be a bit of reverb.

Not all reverb is bad, mind you. I can really dig a G major with an E in the bass.

But the point remains, when we believe that we belong to an interconnected universe, how logical is it to believe that sending energy out will provide us a totally insulated space where none of the aftershock or recoil or whatever metaphor you like will not reach us? It’s not logical. Newton: Law III. We can plan well and try to assure that the “equal reaction” will work in our favor. (Oh, yes we can certainly do this.) But we have to plan for it.

Plan. Construct. Craft.

Let me share a TV plotline. I recently got wound up with The Newsroom. Smart show, btw. Totally fiction. Anyway, the main character revises his contract to get a little something he wants – specifically to have a little power over the female lead. Then, a few episodes later, he discovers that this negotiation left him open to a direct threat from executives. In his renegotiation, he forgot to close the window that said his ratings had to be somethin’-somethin’ lest he be summarily dismissed. (Or somethin’.) Now, he no longer wants the power he so desperately desired – and yet, his arse is flapping in the wind. On account of – he asked for it. Isn’t that just how it goes? You cast a little “mojo” and get what you want and all is well and then, before you know it, Jane Fonda has you by the metaphorical balls.

I’ve told you about “The Witch’s Duh.” This is it. Sometimes balance will be restored and it will do so in such a way that leaves our hair twisting in the winds and our chickens wondering, “Will this thing blow away?” Balance is not always “nice.” It is always, however, right.

Go ahead. Grumble. I’ll wait.

Another pop culture reference? The Butterfly Effect. Only without Ashton Kutcher. You can think that you have all of your ducks in a row and then, duh, a butterfly sneezes in the rainforest. Or something like that.

This is all just to say – know that when we cast, justified or not, we are changing things. She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes (Starhawk). And She will always – regardless of how we feel things should work out – create balance. This is why I always urge my students to work on interior change to manifest exterior change. Because guess what? Exterior change will manifest interior change. It just will. And if we are off-balance when She decides to blow a hot wind on a Tuesday night, we will blow right over.

I’m a little beat from a wild and windy Tuesday, y’all[3] and I realize that I may not have lived up to my promise to make sense. But I didn’t want to get tucked in before I cleaned up that pothole for you. Watch out for this one, sometimes you think the road’s been paved and – bam – like a myoclonic shock during a freaky dream, you are suddenly slammed wide awake wondering, “Will this thing blow away?”

The Road Not Taken, I haven’t forgotten you. I just want to make sure I give you good info – so let me double-check some things and I’m on it, deal?

Good night, see you tomorrow.

TBW

[1] And for crissake – I mean this to say that there is no difference between what is perceived to be goodness and what is perceived to be badness. Untwist your panties and move the eff on.

[2] I took Lola, the rooster to North Alabama to live with The Bad Daddy’s hens and make some behbehs.

[3] I made the mistake of taking a substitute teaching job for the week, oi.

And I have lots of friends in NOLA; been arranging transportation and lodging via text since Sunday. Fortunately my two favorites are in Alabama and New York at the moment, so Phew!