Hel and Back

This one spans three decades and may take a minute. Grab a drink and put your feet up.

It was 1980 and I sat in the church van with Maria Villalobos-Ramirez, Lourdes Bacardo, Anita Rodriguez, and Dolores Ortega. Between the five of us we had gone through all of the butane in Anita’s Clicker portable curling iron, half-a-bottle of Love’s Baby Soft, a tin of grape Lip Lickers, and a full eyeliner pencil and a lighter.

We were headed to camp (yes, think Jesus Camp only less affluent) and we were singing. Songs that started out about roadtrips, “Lonely days turn to lonely nights, you take a trip to the city lights,” “Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends / I found myself further and further from my home,” and “I gotta be cool, relax, get hip, get on my tracks. Take a back seat, hitch-hike. . .,” disintegrated into, “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight,”[1] “I wanna kiss you all over,” “Oi, oi . . . I’m a powerload . . . watch me explode!” That’s about when Brother Preacherman said enough was enough and that we should sing gospel songs instead.

That’s when TBW decided to rebel. I parodied a choir-girl stance and began, “Hey Momma, look at me, I’m on my way to the Promised Land.” Right on cue, the other girls chimed in, “We’re on a highway to Hell!”

Brother Preacherman was too tolerant of my bad behaviors.

We think of going to Hel as a bad thing. We tell the feckheads in our lives to go to Hel. Some of us even provide directions. But as someone who’s been to Hel and back, I can tell you that the ride sucks, but the return has its rewards.

Let me explain.

Part One: I left the comforts of my rather insular covens and headed for The Bamas in 2002. I worked on my doctorate, raised my babies, and kept doing my thang. I tried “coming-out of the broom closet” once or twice—okay, constantly—but very few people understood what I was up to. There was an “English Graduate Organization Prom” that I attended with my new-found grad-school bestie that first year; I had only been around for a few months and I thought it would be good to mingle. I was wearing a headband right on my hairline; a die-hard-fundie (who had made off-color comments about a pentagram shirt I wore to class) asked me, “Do all of you wear those?”

“All who?”

Wicc-ahh, wit-ahh, whatever you call yourself.”

I had been pegged by a Church of Christer—but for a totally banal headband.

I threw a bang-up Samhain party (which I referred to as a “Samhain” party rather than a Halloween party—and was met with “a whaah?”) some weeks after that and all of my Witchy-Chachkas were very visible. Everyone must have thought they were décor.

Another time, a few years later, I sat on my back porch with my immediate supervisor (and friend), her fiancé, The Only Other possible-Pagan (she was ambivalent at the time), and The Bad Husband. I don’t remember what precipitated the event, but I was reading Tarot. My boss wanted to know, “Where’d you learn that?” Just as I was about to tell her everything, the other woman shot me a terrified look that said, “NO! Keep your mouth shut!” To this day, I wonder what she was afraid of?

After that, I wore pentagrams, spiral goddesses, serpents, and medicine bags to work. You name it, I tried signifying with it and no one saw me. (I still have a giant “Witch” sign over my desk—next to a rune glyph, a spiral goddess pendulum, and a little portrait pin of Marie Laveau.)

All of this is just to say that when I decided to make myself known, I had to take my stav in both hands and pound the ground. Hard.

I think I was a little out of line. Much like singing AC/DC in a church van.

Because that action set me on a road to Hel, through the fires, and into relationships with some of the Baddest Witches eveh.

Part Two: The Descent

It was Summer 2007, I had just earned a Fellowship: the department was paying me to finish my dissertation rather than teaching. The above mentioned grad-school bestie was so resentful that I had gotten the award rather than her that she “broke-up” with me. No shit.

The Only Other possible-Pagan took a job in another state and shoved off—and not on good terms.

In late-May, I set the need-fire, I took my stav, and I called for three witches that would teach me what I needed to learn from here on out.

See “The Witch’s Duh.”

I had just met a brand-spanking-new grad-student with the craziest aura I have ever seen. (She is the #2 of my “Trance” post, btw.) Having sent my children to stay with family in Chicago,[2] by July 3, I was three chapter drafts into my dissertation. There was a toga party.

That’s how it began.

After that, there were 12 months of phonecalls with her voice on the other end saying, “Oops, I ended up in bed with the wrong boy again, can you help?” and “I’m drunk and the boy I like is being mean to me, can you help?” Imagining her as salvageable, I always did. But the relationship wasn’t entirely unreciprocal. Having felt like I had bled every ounce of my person for others, I had little to no sense of self left in the cupboard. We joked that she thought she was “all that” and that I didn’t even believe I was “a bag of chips.” But her unbridled vivaciousness would not contend for her BFF (actually, this relationship was the first time I’d heard/applied this term of endearment) to be less than awesome. She said that she loved me and she brought the dead parts of me back to life.

It was February of 2008 when I decided to dust off my grimories and hit the books harder than ever.[3] By April, I was ready for my last elevation with Bertie. I graduated with a PhD in May. Over the summer, The Only Other Pagan came back to town and we made amends. She had wholeheartedly adopted Witchiness—plus she brought a friend back with her.

We were tightthighttight for three months.[4]

Then, in September/October, I got talked into rigging a Dom-Jot table. I take full responsibility for having gone along with it. I lost my mind that fall and nearly lost everything else by New Year.

Part Three: In Hel and Back Out

In January 2009, I had a Naussican spear through my chest (see “It’s a Wonderful Q” for this reference), and found myself standing at the Gates of Hel without a shovel.

I started teaching Witchcraft on a more formal basis; I knew that if I was going to have to climb my way out of Helheim, I was going to need to buckle down. I spent the next ten months mentoring Witchcraft students online and teaching a select few in person. I spent those same ten months deflecting ridiculous fallout from that fight with a Naussican. I started writing a book called The Bad Witch Files—but I never knew how it ended, so it never went very far. It still calls me in bits and spurts.

I continued teaching (secular and religious) and learning and practicing and trying to piece my life back together in some way that looked like life, even if it still smelled of sulfur.

In October 2010, I started blogging here and you can go see the milestones for yourself. I think it was summer 2011 before I realized I was on the road back from Hel. I knew the journey was going to be long. And I knew that if I was ever going to make it all the way out, I was going to need to articulate myself—use my voice.

And—here was the hardest part—then I had to work through forgiving myself.

But, in order to avoid the calm stillness and silence where certainty resides, I kept myself a moving target, often chasing my own tail. Having spun m’self round and round, I have finally come full circle after traveling to Hel and back.

Part Four: The Return

It was back in February 2012 that I finally found the new mentor I had been craving. I had studied and practiced all the Hermetics, Ceremonial Magic, Theurgy, and Goetia I wanted to alone. After ten-fricking years of going it alone, I was ready to be taught, lead, united with others.

I looked to him to teach me all about Teutonic Shamanism. Unfortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to drain him of everything he knew, leaving me back at the drawing board.[5]

Right back where I started.

Fortunately, I did not go to jail, but I did collect $200. And by “collect $200,” I mean “pulled my head out of my arse and found my voice.”

Yawp, bitches. [6]

At the beginning of that shitefeckedup four year trek, I knew I had Heathen ethics, I knew I had High Ceremonial practices, I knew I had a moral compass aligned with Matthew 25:40, I knew I had a Helluva sound occult education behind me, and I knew I had – gifts—we’ll go with “gifts.” But I had never been forced to articulate what I “was.” I always considered myself a Heathen Sorcerer, perhaps because my childhood nickname was, “Y’lil’heathen,” perhaps for more substantial reasons stemming from my appreciation of the Anglo-Saxon ethics I learned as an undergraduate. I laid claim to the title “Sorcerer” in my early 20s, before I was even a mamma.[7] But, while I knew what it meant in my body and in my soul, I was never really sure what that might mean—you know, on paper, with other people looking at it.

Polyphanes wrote a post last week that struck a chord with me. He wrote: “I’m so far over the place, hither and thither, that I break a lot of people’s definitions, preconceptions, and labels. In other words, as befitting my Hermetic nature, I’m a trickster and don’t fit into any one bin, since I’ll just flit right out and into another one. I’d be like a Schrödinger’s Cat of traditions, except with less neurotoxin.” 

I felt a little like an unexplained Copenhagen interpretation too.

I’ve given you the rundown of my Jesuit educational upbringing with Bertie. Though Bertie tried her best to balance Catholic Christianity and Occult-Paganism for me, I held on to some of the vestiges of my Evangelical fears of “evil” and “Hel” for quite a while. I’m not ashamed to admit that. But, today, it seems like a lifetime ago that I was articulating my sense of Evangelical Detox. That’s not to say I discovered it in 2010, but that I had just found the voice to articulate the experience.[8]

Perhaps the most profound experiences are what ended my ongoing tailspin in the last few months. Having gotten back in constant contact with Bertie, I was pressed *from the outside* to journey back to the inside. Having lost Brother Preacherman and Mama Lisa over the summer, I was shocked into appreciating the “call” (or were they saying “caul”?) other folks saw hovering on and about me. Having learned what I’ve learned from Maman Lee a few months back. And having been pressed by The Road Less Traveled to reeeeealy articulate the difference in several traditionssome of which are my own, some of which I didn’t understand nearly as well as I did after being asked to clearly express those distinctions—I found that my voice was there all along. It was a little browbeaten and tired, it had been vilified and colonized—but it was still audible. And it still sounded like me.

Back in December 2011, I think I busted through some hymeneal (hmmm, hymnal?) membrane when I clearly articulated my thoughts about the word “vagina.” It had been—dare I say it—pricking at me for a while. And much like really good sex, once I found the right spot, it was all over.

In February 2012, I picked up the stav I had left idle for too long and started working on Teutonic Shamanism[9]—very close to the pathworking Bertie had taught me in the 90s.[10] It was these pathwork journeys, ironically, that brought me back out of Hel. And how I found my voice.

As for the journey, it’s not at an end. But I’m glad to be trading in these uncomfortable shoes.

So here’s what I’ll tell you in the next few posts:

  • What it means to go to Hel and Back in Teutonic Shamanism
  • Why I’m settling deeper into a new path (or, really, praxis)—that’s not different, just a better amalgamation of what I always was
  • What I’m teaching in Delta, Alabama next month and in Auburn, Alabama in November and December
  • How all of this relates to Wolves and Ulfarnir
  • How you can go to Hel too!

Thanks for sticking it out for this long post.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Which I thought was, “There’s gonna be a party tonight.”

[2] One of whom, at not quite twenty, we lost this week.

[3] Ergo the 2008 in my email address—that was the year I set “stuff” up under the name Ehsha.

[4] This is all a sort of side-story which is more of an irritation than anything real. But it bears mentioning given what I had requested—three witches to teach me. Boy howdy. Witch’s Duh.

[5] This is no disparagement on him. It’s just that everything was the same stuff I had been teaching for years myself—just with different names.

[6] Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. I’m teaching this in a few weeks. Squee.

[7] I remember the conversation with my sister. I didn’t have the language to discuss High Magic versus Low Magic yet, but I knew the connotation of “Sorcerer” versus the connotation of “Witch.” Having always understood Wicca as initiatory, I never laid claim to it as an eclectic idea. I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around non-initiatory Wicca as “Wicca.”

[8] And it seems kinda trippy to me that I started envisaging an online Pagan Seminary back in September 2008 and started actually working toward it by publishing the results here nearly three years later. Now, here at the end of 2012, it seems the time has come to fully articulate that ambition.

[9] I don’t know how many of you saw the “Wyrd Sister” page before I turned it into the retail page it is now. If you missed it back in January, it aimed at being a page which cataloged my last leg of training in Seiðr. It rapidly got too close to STFU mysteries, so I switched it.

[10] And now I have vajay and stav and pounding jokes running through my head—that’s appropriate.

Time Travel

I teach H.G. Wells sometimes.[1] It strikes me now that when Wells’ time machine is visually reproduced, it almost always has a spinning apparatus. Most of the images, like the one shown here, have some (primordial, Jungian, spiritus mundi) approximation of a drop spindle. The disk at the back spins and the traveler negotiates time.

I’ve been digging out my old lessons and my old implements for about a year now. I’m never not astounded that, “I still have that!” It’s been a bit like time travel.[2] Even as I actively look through my boxed up youth, things are passively finding me. My son brought me an end-blown flute from who-knows-where in my basement and asked me, “How do you get this thing to make sound?” I’d had that thing since I was in seventh-grade. Where had it been? When he put it in my hand, I was transported.

Today I found a drop spindle. Rather, a charm of a drop spindle that was given to me as a reminder of  Wyrd.[3]

Lemme show you.

This picture shows a drop spindle with wool already spun on the shaft and some roving unspun. The past is the pre-spun wool. It’s already been spun. Your ancestral past is the yarn deep, deep underneath.[4] When you come into a family, you inherit what has been spun.[5]

There has to be a “getting the shaft” joke here somewhere.

The present is what is currently being made (not well illustrated here since it’s kinda something you have to see in motion.) And the future is that near-nebulous mass that has yet to take form. The future is not predestined.

In my argument about Oedipus as a Heathen-drama, I explain:

Fate is a predestined fortune. . . . there is a set order to the cosmos and that order cannot be altered. Karma is the give-and-take between actions and consequences over a series of lifetimes. Wyrd is between. . . .Wyrd agrees that there is a set order, but that, as individuals, our interaction with that order is what determines our lot. But there’s the extra added bonus of ruin. At some point, you may make a choice that absolutely ‘seals your fate.’ No backsies. No re-do. No exit strategy. No plan B. Sometimes we can screw the cosmic pooch, and end up ‘doomed.’. . . [W]e may formulate our Wyrd. . . [b]ut, Wyrd is sticky. If a bullet’s got your name on it, you’re fucked. . . .

Let me put it this way, the most popular metaphors for Wyrd involve spinning and weaving. If you have any experience with thread, sewing, weaving, crocheting or any of those handicrafts, you know that if you have weak thread or if you have balding fabric, your final project will eventually tear, no matter what. At that point, it’s ‘doomed.’ But if you could go back to the place in time when the thread was being turned out or when the fabric was being woven and make a different decision, one that prevented the weakness in the thread, one that prevented the baldness, the ‘fate’ of the project will be different. (Bear in mind that in this metaphor, you are the shit who made the thread and fabric.)

But, today I am meditating on what it means to “go back” and undo your pre-spun Wyrd. Is that kind of “time travel” possible? Let’s see.

At the base of Yggdrasil is Urðarbrunnr, or Urð: The Well of Wyrd. This well is tended by  the Norns, Urð, Verðandi and Skuld.  It’s easy to think of them as “past, present, future,” but that tends to make the future seem set. This is not the case. Skuld corresponds more to the English would “Should” as in “what should be,” not “what will be-no-matter-what.” There is a sense of “due” to the word as well. As in “that which must be paid.”

Really, a better translation is “what has been,” “what is becoming,” “that which, in all likelihood, unless someone screws said cosmic pooch, and unless someone has inherited a sick ørlǫg, should happen.

Ah, ørlǫg.

If you thought Wyrd was a hard concept to get your “I’m used to thinking in terms of Karma” brain wrapped around, it’s about to get weirder.

Close your eyes and imagine The World Tree. Oh, not a Heathen? Here’s a picture.

Imagine water falling from Yggdrasil; some of it will fall into the Well of Wyrd but only a small portion of it.[6] So, most of what happens doesn’t matter too much; only some things fall into Urð. Once those occurrences fall into the well, they go to the bottom and settle; this is ørlǫg. These layers of phenomenon form the foundation of the Well of Wyrd: our fate. As ørlög builds up, it changes the way the water is likely to fall, like Dr. Malcolm’s explanation of chaos theory in Jurassic Park.[7] As the foundation of Urð changes, some outcomes become more probable than other outcomes. Given enough ørlög, some outcomes become inevitable. (See “Screwing the Cosmic Pooch” above.) Keep in mind that ørlög is neither positive nor negative. You can accumulate “helpful” ørlög as well as “detrimental” ørlög.

For the most part, Heathens embrace personal responsibility. You’ll never hear The Bad Witch say, “X is bad for me because my mother . . .” or “It’s my father’s fault that I . . . .” Don’t get me wrong, I understand the ørlög my parents laid at the bottom of the well. I don’t idealize my parents. But even when my ways part with my parents’ ways, I still honor them. In uncovering my ancestry, I have some, um, primordial ooze, to be sure. But they and their ørlög are urð, what has passed. I am verðandi, that which is becoming; and need to be concerned with skuld, what should be. I need to spin my own Wyrd instead of constantly examining my predecessors’ (on account o’, I have children who will inherit my Wyrd spindle and my ørlög). More on that in a minute.

But, then again, sometimes a good deal of “inherited” ørlög lays at the bottom of Urð. And, barring profound acts of heroism that few of us even face the opportunity to enact, ain’t nothin’ in the world you can do about it. The extent to which you control your Wyrd has to do with the profundity of ørlög you (and your ancestral family) have accumulated. And you cannot travel back in time to undo your ancestral ørlög.

Or can you?

The time when we should examine our predecessors’ urð is when we find ourselves perpetuating detrimental behaviors. At these moments, we should just breathe for a moment, recognize that we are in verðandi, that moment which is becoming, and begin to unwind our ørlög. While there isn’t much we can do about what’s wound on the spindle seven-layers deep, we can revisit the recent past and straighten out the Wyrd we’ve wound in our own lifetime.

As long as we are living and breathing, there’s always a chance to straighten it out.

But even when our ancestral ørlög is knotty seven-layers deep, we don’t chuck the spindle and invent a new one. We don’t take someone else’s thread and start winding it onto our skein. And we sure as hell don’t ignore it and keep spinning over it. The most important thing we can do is find the kinks in the thread (triggers that “make” me do X like The Bad Daddy or Y like the Bad Momma). Find the kinks in your thread and carry on conscientiously.

Maybe we can’t time travel to change our familial past, but we can, knowing where the kinks are, make better decisions about our “now.”

Don’t confuse this with the happy-joyness of all those shite self-help-through-positive-thinking-power-of-now bull-spittle philosophies out there today. (Oooh my badness, do I have a thing or two to say about this Rhonda Byrne/Eckhart Tolle crapola. But first I must read Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Don’t wanna say something you can read elsewhere.) You can’t smile ancestral ørlög away—it takes work.

Blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes a little blogging.

With frith,

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/). [8]


[1] Aside from Morris Jessup, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of talk about “real” time travel in the twentieth-century. But there was this video that circulated on the websternet about a year ago of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 silent film, The Circus, where a woman presumably walks past the camera talking into “a cell phone.” This was used to “prove” that there is a truth behind time travel—and that Hollywood soundstages had very lax security in the late-20s. I’m sure you’ve seen it. If not, go Google it—I’ll wait.

[2] I found a binder with my notorious gel-pen notes in the margins and was suddenly twenty-two again. I could smell the dank stone of the carillon which blotted out the pollution of Chicago’s South Side. Ah, but I had all of my sense about me rather than being the credulous child I was at twenty-two. (Don’t we all say, “Ugh, I wouldn’t be twenty-two again to save my life!” All while we wish that we had our youth restored. Twain was right, you know. Youth *is* wasted on the young.)

[3] This past spring I started making simple ritual garb for the would-be store, Roots, fit The Wyrd Sister. As a nod to my Heathen roots, I called the line, “The Wyrd Spindle,” on accout o’ the drop spindle has always been a metaphor for Wyrd.

[4] I was profoundly touched by the comments some of you left on my Roots post. Some of you shared stories in personal messages and emails. Our roots, like the great Yggdrassil itself, reach into the primordial ooze. I really want to talk to you about some things I’ve been putting together while meditating on Ginnungagap, but that’ll have to wait as it is a huge side-track.

[5] For an Anglo-Saxon Heathen back-in-the-day, to be (re)born outside of your (former life’s) tribe, to be (re)born as a stranger (to the family of your former life), was a fate worse than anything. One does not willingly trade in one’s kindred.

[6] This is part of why the Norns laugh at large egos. If you believe that everything relates to you—if you believe all of the water falls into your well—then you are a fool. Plus, think of how monumentally screwed you would be.

[7] Chaos isn’t chaos unless you are too close, folks. Step back one or two paces; chaos is hypersymmetry.

[8] Holy guacamole, y’all; can you believe we are nigh 10 months (40 posts!) into the Pagan Blog Project? I’ve met many of you through Rowen’s project and have read some fabulous posts by writers I may never have run across otherwise. I’m proud to have been part of this from the beginning. So proud in fact that I can’t wait until next week to announce to you all that I am hosting a blog project of my own for 2013. Let’s keep this between you and me for now–don’t tell the other 1200 readers, OK?

Ovomancy

They say you have to break a few eggs to make metaphorical breakfast foods, but I can’t seem to break any.

Well, this is just downright silly. I have a collection of my hens’ first eggs and I am loathe to crack any of them open. (My little chickadees hatched out of their own shells on Easter this past spring and have just become mature enough to lay. After the trauma of finding a slew of dead birds this summer, I have become very protective of my girlies. And, it seems, their eggs.) As is the case with first eggs, these are not very big. Just larger than the cherry tomatoes that bedeck my yard with color, their little green and blue egglettes are not nearly enough for foodstuffs.

Sookie, Diablo, Rex, Tina, Harriet, and Pico

Since I am teaching a course on divination this Fall,[1] I had decided to use the eggs for ovomancy. And now I can’t seem to do it.

Silly, right? I know I’ll get over it, but I’m having all of these thoughts – now that my (second-)favorite hen has begun crowing, I know I have a rooster out there. What if I crack open a grandchicken?

I know it’s very silly, but I think my (absolute-)favorite hen may be the only one laying. I saw her out there in the eggbox and collected her teensy deposit. She’s my baby. She and a sister were unwell as chicks and had to be handfed and nursed until one died and this one rallied. My greatest success in chickening thus far, this hen likes to meet me at the door and jump on my shoulder to be held. How am I supposed to crack her eggs?

Silly. Yes. We covered that. What if I use all of the eggs for divination and then my chickens don’t lay any more?

Even sillier. That’s like a Senator suggesting that women could control how and when they . . . never mind – that’s a different post altogether.

Totally nonsensical.

Well – – I had intended to write you a post about learning ovomancy. But, seeing as I am being very silly about my eggs, this may take a day or two. As of now, I haven’t learned anything.

What I have learned is two ways of potentially reading these eggs. One involves dropping the whites into boiling water and observing the patterns made by the solidifying albumen. The other involves watching the clouds formed in a glass after poking a pin hole into the small end of the egg and allowing the albumen to drip into water.

I have also learned a little bit of history. One story that is repeated over and again about oomancy (another word for ovomancy) is of Liva Drucilla, a Roman Empress who incubated an egg in her bosom while pregnant in order to divine the sex of her child. The story goes that when the chick hatched, it had “a beautiful cockscomb;” therefore she knew she would have a son. This story is even sillier than my anxieties about cracking my little-teeny-eggs. Firstly, all chicken eggs take twenty-one days to incubate. Always. Every time.

On the first day, you can sex a chick by looking at its wing pattern. I’m very good at this now. I consistently get the results exactly the opposite. For this reason, I have had hens named Diablo and Roosters named Harriet. You can also “vent-sex” a chicken. I’ve seen it done and would prefer to name all of my hens after the Steelers starting lineup, thanks all the same.

After about three weeks, you can begin to see differences in combs, but depending on the breed, this means little. After about four months, you can see spurs. However, my current roo, a cuckoomaran, has no spurs to speak of and has always “set” like a hen. If it weren’t for the crowing at 5AM, I’d swear he was a she. S’what I get for naming yt Lola, I suppose. My dad says that unless you are a “real pro” at it, you can confuse hens and roos up until the day they either lay or crow. (Even Dad thought Lola was a “purty hen,” btw. He’s thrilled that she’s not. It means Lola is taking a trip to North Alabama to live at The Big Bad Farm.)

My chickens aside, all of this takes three-ish months. Combs don’t begin to appear (in most breeds) with real definition until about seven to ten weeks in or so. What? Did Liva Drucilla walk around with an egg in her dress for three weeks, then keep a chick there for an additional ten? No. It’s a charming story. But no.

See? I over-rationalize everything. How am I supposed to lay my anxieties aside and gaze at the albumen of Steven’s eggs with any sense of seeing?[2]

Plus, like tasseomancy and (gulp) hepatomancy, ovomancy seems like it is going to be a very subjective method. And I’ve had a few things come up this past week that I’m afraid I’ll read into the thing.

There’s a certain someone who screwed me over in a big way a few years back. I don’t mean Real Housewives of East Central Alabama drama, I mean could-have-(wrongfully)-put-my-husband-in-prison-and-succeeded-in-separating-me-from-a-whole-section-of-my-family drama. It seems her Wyrd is coming in. The twine that she wound on her spindle made a shitty-shitty skein of cloth and it’s falling apart like crazy. I’ve waited for this day. And guess what? I’m not even enjoying the show. Honestly, I feel sad for her.

But, Karma’s got nothin’ on Wyrd – she’s a total beeyatch.

And one of her partners in crime? I saw her this weekend in a very unlikely scenario. On an impulse, I reached out and touched her (in a crowd). She looked at me like I’d gone green and sprouted wings. But – and this is a little more typical of The Bad Witch’s experience with divination,[3] just seeing things – I saw things that I really wish I could unsee.

And then there’s this other thing . . . and while I said I preferred to see it coming – I kinda don’t. Like a train-wreck.

So, I’m a little nervous about looking for anything at all.

When I’m looking for something specific, I’m much better with something I feel like I can control,[4] like I Ching, Tarot, Runecasting, and (thanks to Polyphanes for the introduction) Geomancy[5] – though I have had a Tarot reading or two throw me for a loop.

When I just let the information come? It comes. And right now, I donno if I wanna know. You know?

Breathe in, breathe out, Bad Witch.

And break an egg.

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

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] Don’t mistake me. I am a teacher not a diviner. I have some basic skills and teach from a theoretical, ministerial perspective. I am sensitive, sure, but have little experience reading for other people and have only basic skills in “controlling” what I see and when I see it. And usually I am more reminiscent of Raven Simone than Edgar Cayce. Although, every once in a while I say something that makes folks a little goosefleshy. Completely on accident. Turns out I don’t filter information before regurgitating it – prolly as a result of not practicing enough.

But the theory behind it? That I can teach.

[2] Don’t worry, y’all. I’m overdramatizing to prove a point. I’ll be fine.

[3] Usually, like my mother, I will just start talking and say things that I didn’t know I knew until they come out’my mouth. When it happens to Momma, the hyper-Christian-terrified-of-being-demonic, she says, “Hmph, I guess my schizophrenia is acting up again.” As if it were preferable to be mentally ill than sensitive.

[4] Feel being the operative word.

[5] I think I now understand WTF I’m doing. Or not.

Hell Hath No Fury

I’ve been tapped on the shoulder and reminded to look at the Furies (or Erinyes) particularly Megaera.[1] I really haven’t figured out what an ancient Greek chthonic energy wants with me yet, but I think I am developing a clue.

You see, recently The Bad Witch made a new witch friend and wasn’t really sure what to think of it all. I wasn’t sure if there was just a lot of bumbling going on or if this person was intentionally acting like a twat. So, like I do, I put together a little reveal spell that went a little something like this (given that X = intentional twattary):

If X = yes, then Y: If X = no, then Z. If, however, X = only sort-of, than Y/10+2.

Well, I got an awful lot of Y.

Not only did I get Y on the front I specified, I started seeing a lot of folks getting slapped with my “Y are you being a twat?” spell. I didn’t mean it. But to be fair, they brought it on themselves. They shouldn’t have been schmucking it up. And the “punishments” are not bad, BTdubs – mostly trivialities. But the incidents are too incredibly specific and my means of discovering each person’s happenstance is far too unlikely for me to ignore.

Now that my eyes have been opened, I see that I was far too trusting of a lot of people and far too dismissive of the effect I’ve had on some of the more foul-minded folks around me. I mean, The Bad Witch really tries to have a live-and-let-live (occasionally live-and-let-die) attitude. If I find that you are a bozo, I tend to just leave you alone. I figure life’s rough enough being you, there’s no need for further retribution from me, right?

I did a little fact checking and, not that I’m surprised, I verified each person’s commission of twattery. It’s enough to make a Bad Witch cry. I was wondering why, oh why, do these folks need a Y? And then I connected the dots and I saw a pattern – it was pretty obvious and it was not a surprise in the slightest degree. It’s the same pattern I’ve been chasing my tail over for years.

Sometimes you have to say, “Now dawg, when you chase your own tail, you have to expect to get bit in the arse!”

So, having gotten bitten yet again, I’m pissed off. Maybe at myself. I’ll let you know.

You see, aside from the original target of the spell (who is, by and large, unrelated to the rest of those getting aetherically shanked), everyone else is a bit removed from me and not really on my radar – and yet, they all have the same center of gravity (one that is decidedly on my radar). While that central personality seems to be, for the moment, unaffected, everyone else in orbit is falling like dominoes.

Here’s the irony of the whole thing. Currently, the falconer calling out the control signals at the center of the death-gyre is being “good.” But sometimes being good right now doesn’t relieve us of our bad pasts. We still have to pay our Wyrd, our Karma, our Fates. And who do we pay these to? You got it: the Furies. The Erinyes, the Norns, the Avengers.

Think of it like this: We throw a pebble into a pond, the pebble makes ripples, those ripples go on and on long after we’ve thrown the stone. When the ripple effect catches up to us, sometimes we have long-forgotten that we even threw anything at all. But it’s our Wyrd and we have to sew our cloth with the spindle of thread we create, right? Some people are so stone-headed, however, that they don’t see ripples as effects of having thrown stones and see those ripples as “persecution.” (Which is why TBW did a lot of black-work-soul-searching to make sure I wasn’t experiencing the ripples of my own long-forgotten twattery. Obviously, my big sin is auto-tail-chasing. Maybe one day a witch’ll learn a lesson, eh?)

Last night I had a talk with The Bad Husband and he reminded me that this Death-Gyre Falconer (DGF, for short) has rippled every pond in my life by throwing stones (and, sorry, mixing metaphors). DGF throws stones (sometimes at me, sometimes just in my pond, almost always offhandedly and carelessly – without any real intent) and the ripples go on and on. The Bad Husband and I were planning to expand our business venture, The Wyrd Sister, an online Botanica and Curio, to a brick-and-mortar store in town. Inexplicably, I got cold feet: “What if DGF throws a stone?” As it is, I’ve had to shield volleys aimed at my online retail presence, I’ve had to block incoming salvo aimed at my grove, I’ve had to repel a fusillade of tiny pebbles tossed like skipping-stones by a careless child. Repeatedly.

I wasn’t being “really injured” but I was being worn down. I have to admit, I got tired of petty hailstorms. At one point, I even temporarily threw my hands up in surrender (that didn’t last long, I’m not built for surrender if you can’t tell).

It’s almost as if She was just waiting for me to ask; I cried out, “Somebody, help me make this twattery stop!” And, who answered? Megaera.

This is only the second time something like this has happened to me. A few months back, Hestia showed up on my porch (unbidden) with a Tiffany Blue giftbox, a Seven of Cups, and a whuppin’-switch. Now, you have to understand; I am not geared toward a Greek or Roman or Egyptian pantheon. I am a Heathen, a sturdy Germanic girl (with a side of Mvskogee for spice). My patrons wear horns and raw sheepskins. But these days, whenever I ask for help, it’s a toga that shows up.[2]

Let me tell you a little about my new friend, Meg.[3]

This is Meg kicking some bee-hind on the North Frieze of The Pergamon Altar

The Furies or Erinyes were a lot like Dexter Morgan in that they punished those who got away with murder. If you committed a crime and somehow weaseled your way out of justice, the Erinyes found out. A victim of cosmic injustice[4] could ask for an intervention. I’m told that one of their particular pet-peeves was matri/patricide[5] but one might also land on the Erinyes’ naughty-list by oath-breaking, ingratitude, unfilial conduct, general disrespect to others, manipulations that challenge the “order of things” (I see this as accomplished by magickally overstepping ones’ bounds), callousness, and breaking the laws of hospitality.

Yea, that all pisses me the hell off too. So, basically, they are good Heathens like me.

I’ve also learned that Megaera, Alecto, and Tisiphone are “impartial and impersonal” which makes them excellent judges who are not swayed by doe-eyed pleas for “understanding.” I kinda like that about them as I am, admittedly, a softy. I also like it that they hound malefactors like an English Pointer on a blood trail until the offenders are either driven mad (with guilt) and/or die of illness or disease (if they refuse to admit their guilt).  Another thing I like is that the wrath of the Erinyes is unrelenting. It can only be placated through atonement. In other words, if you’ve effed up, you have to fix it. You can’t just let it go and say: “Oh, well. That bell can’t be unrung,” “It’s out there; I can’t take it back,” or “I can’t do anything about that now,” or “Sure, I’ve diss-ed you to others but I can’t change what they think of you based on my having repeatedly and relentlessly having slandered your name in their presence.”[7] Meg has made it perfectly clear to me that denying responsibility won’t fly with her and her sisters. Oh, and they do fly.

When she first showed up, I couldn’t imagine what the personification of a “jealous woman” was doing on my doorstep. Then I realized: both gratitude and envy are motivated by memory. Follow me on another etymological rant for a moment: All three of the Furies are motivated by resentment, a word that originates from sentire, “to feel.” Resentment is, then, the re-experiencing of or memory of a feeling; this feeling is then, necessarily, directed outward at another. If jealousy is defined (psychologically) as the fear of loss and its etymological basis is jalousie – a French term describing parallels having to do with imitation and emulation (but now, typically, applied to louvered blinds, go figure), then it makes sense to deduce that an envying person fastens onto the life of another and wishes for removal of their own situation and replacement with the situation of the other. They want to be parallel.[6]

Then, I got it. Megaera is not one who encourages jealousy, she is one who punishes people who commit crimes in the name of jealousy. I’m slow, I know. This isn’t my pantheon, folks. I’m learning as they show up.

So then I had a good laugh. Somebody wants my life? I can’t think of any justice better than to let them have it.

Follow me on this. My life is awesome. But I have busted my rump to have it this way. I sacrifice and I scrape and I make do and I work and I pray and I honor and I still have to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get the seemingly Sisyphusian ball rolling all over again. And I smile the whole frickin’ time. Even when I’m bitching about it.

I want to be a fly on the wall so I can watch someone who has only ever seen my life from the bright and shiny exterior realize that there is literal chicken shit to be cleaned, very real obstacles to be surmounted before coffee, much more compassion to be extoled before lunch than one would expect from a Bad Witch’s every-other-Tuesday, fears to be calmed, children to feed (generally three-times as many as escaped from my body), rewards to defer, books to read, complicated questions concerning the nature of demons (I’ve been teaching CM) to address without unnecessarily scaring the piss out of anyone, and new and strange deities to be venerated.

I want to watch someone with a constitution that allows such jealousy try to run a household on a budget the size of mine. I want to watch that one deal with an immune system that fights back. I want to watch the person who needs constant validation as they dig deep inside themselves to recognize that all they are getting is the pleasure of having “done the right thing.”

Best of all, I can’t wait to watch where Megaera throws her stones in their ponds.[8]

I feel better already.

Blessings, Quarks, & 93

The Bad Witch


[1] Like many other cultures’ personification of “Fate,” the Furies are three women: Alecto the unceasing, Tisiphone the avenging, and Megaera, the jealous.

[2] Please don’t write to tell me that only men wore togas and that both Hestia and Megaera are female. It’s a joke based on synecdoche, folks.

[3] Pardon me darlin’ if I get a little Norn on your pretty stola, it’s what I know.

[4] I always reckoned cosmic injustice was a possibility but my belief-system involving Wyrd kept me from being convinced. I’m starting to change my mind.

[5] This isn’t unique; every culture, including Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus, have a bit to say about all this too.

[6] A jealous person is one who wants to eat your soul. This person wants to become you, wants to take what you have and make it theirs, wants to strip-mine your life. They can and will if you let them.

[7] Ain’t that just a “Terrible Awful” thing for me to say?

[8] And TBW isn’t usually a fan of Gluckschmerz. This time I can make an exception.