It’s back to school time, and that has me thinking about those of us who no longer spend much time in a classroom. I’d like to encourage us to think deeply about different purposes and practices of learning so that we can shape our own back-to-school intentions for ourselves. One of the biggest ways to make a difference is to practice what's not perfect.
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A little more than a year ago, I put out a call for submissions for Prayers to the Allfather, a book of prayers and rituals for Odin. Well, despite a number of people being kind enough to share my CFS across the internet, I received exactly three submissions. Due to various factors in my life at the time, I just wasn’t feeling equal to writing the bulk of a book of prayers on my own (since when I think prayers, I think poetry, and I am not primarily a poet), so I reluctantly shelved the project for a while.
Then I got to thinking: maybe a prayer book is too limiting. Maybe most other pagans, witches and polytheists out there also shy away from writing prayers for public consumption, either because they feel too personal, or because (like me) they associate them with poetry and feel unequal to the task. Maybe I pigeonholed my own project into the remainder bin.
And then it occurred to me: no one (to my knowledge) has yet to come forth with a devotional anthology for and about Odin. All of my initial foot-dragging on the notion of such a project aside, I finally had to ask myself whether I wanted to be the one to step up to the plate and do this, or whether I wanted to wait until someone else did it, and have to live with the regret.
And so, here we are. Today, on August 30th 2014, I am opening submissions for Masks of the High One: A Devotional Anthology for Odin. Submissions will close on May 1st, 2015.
It's been almost a year since I walked through the veil of transition between Maidenhood and Motherhood.
In my typical Scorpio fashion I have jumped in full force, straight into the deep end. She is yet to be 'babysat' by anyone besides my husband, she sleeps with me at night, on me to nap, my breasts are forever at her disposal, we are pretty merged, my Maiden and I at this point. It seemed the most natural way in the world for her and I to be together at most times, it feels as if a part of my insides was birthed outside of me while remaining a part of me. Like I gave birth to my heart and now I hold her as close and as dear as possible.
Despite this energetic vortex that envelopes the two of us, somewhere throughout this year it became apparent to me that I was going to need some downtime, this need developed into a routine known in the evening as 'Daddy/Daughter' time, this is my time to unwind. When we decided, my husband and I that downtime was very much a necessity for me, the vision that I held was of me knitting, reading, writing, meditating, napping and drinking tea. I'm happy to say that at 11 months this is pretty much how my sacred space looks 80% of the time.
Daddy/daughter time began with me addictively watching TV series and eating potatoe chips (often they were organicish) and drinking pop (cane sugar instead of white....) getting as many "ep's" in as I could and fervently escaping into other worlds. I posted on my personal Facebook page asking for more show recommendations when I had devoured Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, The Tudors, Boardwalk Empire and finally Orange is the New Black. My Priestess sisters, energy community and homesteading friends suggested some nice healthy mindful practices rather than T.V. They had the same vision for a healthy, full time to self that I had had. I just wasn't there yet. I felt myself slink away from announcing my dirty little TV and snacks habit and just sank even further into the couch cushions. I sank and I feared that I may have lost all of who I thought I was. I wondered if I was going to loose my Priestess self, if I was going to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom that didn't write, hold circle, offer services to others and ate junk food and watched T.V. I'm so appreciative that I allowed myself to sit and eat. I'm grateful that I didn't push and that I was were I was and allowed that to be okay. These months humbled me, they revealed my humanness, not only in my need to take time for self, but in my ability to experience a little sloth without loosing my soul or my calling in the process.
My mentress, the Priestess Aquarius, would teach me this during every learning session we spent together. "Above all Candise, a Priestess must be humble," she would tell me during my training. It was these words that followed me when I fell into a depression during a 'dark night of the soul' three years back. Similar to, yet nowhere close to as dire, this dark night of the soul mirrored my surrender into the couch potatoe phase that I have just been through. Both of these situations called for me to fall into what was and to allow myself to be in those moments, to let go of what I thought life should look like and to flow with the River of life. My dark night of the soul began when a man who has lived this lifetime shrouded in darkness, one who had wreaked havoc on my life when I was a young Maiden re-appeared in my life temporarily three years ago. I fell to pieces as years of frozen and unacknowledged trauma rose to the surface. My first response was to 'spiritual leapfrog' through the pain. To skip over the pain, to deny it, to spiritualize it away, simultaneously I felt myself teetering along the thin line of self-destruction as my old wounds promised to take me over the edge and back into the black abyss of self-destruction that I had lived in once long ago. In that moment of choice a silent clarity descended upon me and I made a deal with Goddess, I said to Her, "okay, I'm going to fall apart now. I'm going to feel everything I didn't feel when I was abused so many years ago. I'm going to fall to pieces and I'm not going to rush to come back together, I'm just going to let it happen and I need You to carry me through this." And I did. I just fell completely to pieces. For one full year I did little more than make it to work, the rest of the time I cocooned on the couch, I barely ate or showered, I went to trauma therapy and fought the voices in my head that argued that therapy wasn't as evolved as breathworks, meditations, Shamanic journeying and communal circles (all of which I also attended). My world turned black and I wasn't sure I would ever see colour again, my pride was stripped away from me and I flowed along the river of despair until one day I was delivered to the shore. I stepped away from the river integrated, more whole than I had been before I fell apart and I was gifted with experiences that I could offer others on the shamanic path. Suddenly I had less 'answers' for others and more experience to share in. This was the heavy pill of humility that I swallowed and this experience has taught me that being real, being human is worth more than any shiny ideal of a spiritual woman that I could try to fit into could ever be.
So I fell into my couch once again, though this time out of burn out rather than despair and I just watched as much TV as I could, I trusted the process despite my very alive pride that yelled at me that I was loosing all of my Priestess self in this year of Motherhood. I struggled with my 'Superwoman' archetype that had envisioned me baking, cooking from organic scratch, writing, knitting, sewing, visitng friends and humming a merry tune all the way through. I judged myself, harshly, after all I only had one little baby. I had so much help from my husband. I wasn't working. She slept great. So what was my problem? Simply put I was drained. In the Waldorf tradition of thought, which is rooted in anthroposophy a woman's child is under her 'Madonna Cloak' for the first three years of life. Energetically my Maiden sucks up as much of me as she can and I need to reboot. So I sat. And I watched, and I watched and I snacked.
Recently, my good friend and Daughter's of Evecolumnist, Crystal Blanton wrote a powerful piece for the Wild Hunt about Ferguson, the shooting death of Mike Brown, the riots, and the wider implication this type of systemic racism. She solicited thoughts from Pagans in the public eye about where and how we can confront, heal, and grow community when events of power, oppression, and racism plague our world. There among the many voices were my friends, New York City activist and witch, Courtney Weber and teacher and New Jim Crow activist, T. Thorn Coyle. For the piece I offered this opinion, which Crystal used to sum up the article:
"I really am struggling with this because I want to believe that love is still the law. I want to believe that humankind is better than this savagery that is power, oppression, privilege, and racism. I want to believe that love is stronger than fear, but I can’t help but know that every mother of a brown child lives in fear that her child will be the next Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown. In times like this I ask how do we as Pagans lead and be vessels for change? How do we become the Goddess’ conduit?...
Since my last 9-part article here on my experiences at Pagan Spirit Gathering, I've had a big change in my life. I can't talk about most of that - sorry. What I can say is I've gained some deeper insight on the Samhain resolution I made last year about being less judgmental. I will remind folks, I say less judgy, because we're all human, but just trying to honestly walk in someone's shoes is hard for so many people to do. And I say that with the inclusion of the Pagan community.
There are notable Pagans who have spent time with me in person, people of whom I've at least made an attempt to let them get to know me and of course vice versa, at the very least on some base level of agreement, who harshly judge me. These are people who won't give me the time of day. People who, on one hand shout to the hilltops we need to be accepting of everyone, who won't even acknowledge my presence unless they are forced to. And even then, they do so grudgingly and while being back-handedly polite. Does it hurt my feelings? At this point in my life, not really. In fact, I developed a mechanism to cope with not being able to be everyone's friend/acquaintance back when I was a kid. Allow me to explain:...
The message is simple: "Stop poisoning the Earth."
How I received this message is also fairly simple, although it took me 28 years from when I decided the heathen path was my path until I heard this message. What to do about the message is a little more complicated.
I've been telling the story of my personal journey on my heathen path, and I'll resume the story in my next post. Since there is so much story to tell, and this message needs to get out to humankind, I'm pausing the story in order to post this message. The reason I decided to write this blog was so that I could get the gods' messages out to humanity.
The short version of how I received this message is this: I've always been a writer, since I was a little kid. I started writing poetry, songs, and fiction very early. I was already "hearing" characters talking in my head as a child, as many authors do. Last year, I started writing a novel based on heathen mythology. I "heard" characters talking to each other, or saw them in my mind's eye, and sometimes just sat down at the computer to write and scenes just flowed out my hands. This is the normal way I write. When I started "hearing" the gods this way while writing Some Say Fire, I did not think they were really the gods at first. I thought I was just writing a novel. When I reach that part of my personal story, I'll share all the ways I found out that sometimes it was really them talking. Most of the time it's my subconscious talking when I write. But sometimes, perhaps a few minutes of gnosis experiences out of thousands of hours of writing time, I've received what I believe to be messages from the gods to humanity. I need to get these messages out to my fellow humans, not leave them locked in an unpublished and possibly unpublishable novel.
The summer monsoon came to the Mojave Desert a couple of months ago, and a huge thunderstorm cracked the night over my house. I asked if Thor had a message for humanity. He did. "Stop poisoning the Earth." It was the same message Sif had given me the previous fall, when I first started writing Some Say Fire. In the first post I made in this blog, I quoted the scene I was given in the novel, and then interpreted it as a message against the GMO grain crops that are designed to be resistant to herbicides so that more herbicides can be used. Sif's message was specific, but Thor's was more general. That leaves it open to personal interpretation.
It makes sense that Thor cares about the Earth. Not only is he the god who gives rain to us so we can grow crops, including the kind of grain crops that are the major sphere of power of his wife Sif, he is also the son of the Earth Mother. Jord means Earth. Jord is also known as Fjorgynn, a name linguistically relating to names of Indo-European rain and thunder gods like Thor. Thor's father Odin is a sky god, so in terms of the archetypal story of the union of the Sky Father and the Earth Mother, Thor and Sif are one such pair and so are Thor's parents. Poisoning the Earth is hurting his mother. His literal mother.
What exactly does "stop poisoning the Earth" mean?
Does it mean buy organic food, so as to vote with my wallet for less pesticides and herbicides on plants, and less antibiotics and hormones given to animals? Buy certified Non GMO Project foods when they're available? I've become convinced that is one of the things I must do, even though it's difficult with a tight budget. Before, if the organic version of a producet was unaffordable, I would buy the non organic choice. Now I just don't buy the item at all. I'm losing weight, because I can't afford as much food. So, that's a plus, because that's good for my beauty and social acceptability, and not eating poison must surely be good for my health.
I grew close to Thor in the first place because in this desert ecosystem, rain is such a rare blessing, and of course I can't grow my garden without it, I'm always utterly delighted when his storm arrives and it starts raining. It's my habit to raise a joyful toast in thanks each time.
I grow organic food in my garden, but I still have to buy food too. I don't have a farm, just a normal sized yard. I grow traditional crops of the desert southwest adapted to desert conditions, supplied by Native Seed Search. I compost my yard waste and kitchen scraps, which I have ritualized as Presents for the Gnome, making a sacrifice of kitchen scraps to the garden gnome. The gnome is a total vegan and a freetarian. The more I give to the gnome, the more the gnome gives back to me, in the form of rich black compost soil to add to the garden beds. Although he is represented by a garden gnome statue, the landwight is actually a being of vast power. The gnomic blessing of the compost soil grows healthy and delicious foods, and beautiful and lusciously scented flowers to attract the bees and the hummingbirds.
I save rainwater to water my garden. I'm thankful that's not illegal here like it is some other places in the USA. I have a bucket positioned under the drip from the air conditioner, which only condenses water when the air is humid. Condensed water is the purest I have access to, so that goes on food crops. I also manually save household greywater from the kitchen and bathrooms to water my garden. There is a bucket or pitcher next to every faucet and shower nozzle. The water I use to wash herbs doesn't go down the drain, it goes back into the herb beds. My yard has an automated watering system, but most of the year it's only legal to use it on certain days, plus, that water both costs money and is drawn from Lake Mead, which is also where our local power comes from (Hoover Dam.) Municipal drinking water has all kinds of additives that are not good for plants, like flouride and chlorine; rainwater is superior for gardening. Vegetables such as tomatoes have to have even water every day. So I hand-water a lot with buckets. In the summer, I hook up the "redneck shower" outside -- a sun-heated garden hose with a shower nozzle -- and my greywater falls directly on the yard.
So, I buy and grow organic food, and I save water. That's not enough, though. What else does "stop poisoning the Earth" mean, and what can I do about it? Drive less? I already combine trips and plan my route to save gas, because it's expensive. In fact, I do so many things to save money my friends urged me to write a book about it, which is why I wrote Skinflint Hints. Frugal living and green living have a lot of overlap. Money is a pretty good measure of how much of the Earth's resources one is using. So what else does the message mean? Buy fewer things? I already buy very few luxuries; if anything is really not necessarily I usually wait to be given it as a gift. If I have to buy something at all, buy the quality one so it won't wear out as fast and fewer things will end up in the landfill? Check. I do that already, too, when I can. Buy used instead of new? Check. Use less plastic packaging? Buy less plastic in general -- get the natural thing instead of the petroleum-based thing? Don't buy anything with plastic microbeads in it? Be careful what I throw away? Think about how easy something will be to recycle before I buy it? Think of how a thing or its packaging could be re-used into something else before I buy it? I do that anyway; it's just part of the country ways in which I was raised. Try to buy old stocks of old-fashioned, illegal non-mercury lightbulbs so as not to add more poison mercury to the trash? Use hand tools instead of power tools? Repair instead of replace? I was doing that already. I was doing most of these things already, because most ways to save resources also save money. The only thing I wasn't doing was buying more expensive organic food and looking for the rare and expensive certified non-GMO foods. Altering my behavior as a consumer is a good start, but is it enough?
What else should I be doing? Vote for less poisoning? Volunteer for a cause? Sign internet petitions? I'm not sure that even does anything except give away my email. March in the streets against corporations that poison the Earth?
Yes. All of it. Everything. That's only the beginning.
Get this message out to others? Yes. What I can do as an individual that could have the most impact is to do what I'm doing right now: pass this message to mankind on to other people. As one person, my choices as a consumer and in daily living may have a small impact, but when many people choose to help end the poisoning of the earth, there may be a much larger impact. Sharing the message is the single most important thing I can do.
Bangkok, Thailand. I stood viewing the sunset’s stream of pastel colors from the deck of my hotel after sitting in an airplane all day. I had departed from Vancouver, B.C. and my bottom was sore. My energy field was depleted because of tight seating arrangements and stifling conditions on the aircraft. I fell into a soft bed and asleep straight away thereupon though and when I awakened rubbing my sleepy eyes the next morning it was still dark out. I dressed, repacked my bags and grabbed a coffee at the hotel kiosk on my way to the waiting cab. I got in and in a few minutes I was at the airport once more and aboard Asian Airlines flight 399 to Kathmandu, Nepal, a place that my neighbour loved to visit and often talked about. I was going to Nepal to find my spiritual connection in an exotic place. The questing torch that I have held high for many decades burned brightly and I was excited to explore another powerful place on planet Earth. It was 1996 and I had just healed my ovarian cancer with the potato, Reiki and other dietary measures and was feeling robust. My husband was with me, he liked to tag along with his globetrotting wife. It was mid January, and our return tickets were for the end of March....