red vulture

paganism, food, gender

quick update

okay so an update about me because I haven’t blogged or been on tumblr forever:

my grad school/practicum experience is overwhelmingly at the moment. I am staying abreast of it in a way I’ve rarely been capable of in the past (thank you psychiatric meds) but it’s a huge amount of work. I can’t wait until I graduate I can ‘just’ have a job like a normal person.

my interest in hospice and palliative care continues to grow and it looks like I have a potential mentor now. I very much enjoy being mentored (and doing things hands on). I would like to orient my work towards trans, indigenous, and minority religious clients. I am investigating what I would need to do to become a polytheist chaplain. you might see more content from me going forward as I try to get the skills needed by studying various religions, etc.

sadly I’ve had to sacifice my creative stuff for the most part but yesterday I put some hopeful work in on both drawing and writing.

my relationship with the Morrigan is extremely confusing and contentious at the moment, though my relationship with Nephthys is stronger than ever. Without Her (and Osiris, though He is less present for me than She is) I would not succeed at any of this. That said I’d like to acknowledge that the Morrigan has also been a constant presence and even though our relationship is extremely weird right now I would never dream of leaving Her out of my gratitude. I think this is something I need outside perspective on and I’m still thinking about how to get that.

so there it is, quick update from me!

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The Beauty of the Yellow Rose

That awkward moment when someone you’ve always had positive dealings with is accused of treating people like shit. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING. Cue me backing away slooooowly.

On to other things:

I pissed Osiris off mightily recently. I am really good at pissing off gods lately. During the course of trying to repair this massive blunder, I learned that He takes these things very seriously. Maybe because He doesn’t have quite as many worshippers in the modern day as some other deities? Maybe because He has a tough time showing his playful excited side and when He does it’s easy for Him to feel rejected? Whatever it is, I fucked up by not handling His birthday with the proper respect.

He wouldn’t take to me for a good while there, and I was worried I’d actually driven Him off for good. However, Wep Ronpet came around again thanks to a different calendar than I use, and even though I’d already done it once He seemed to think this would be an appropriate opportunity to perform some rituals in order to make up for last time.

I should say here that sometimes I have trouble writing in the blog because my Gods/Goddesses often ask me to keep certain things private, or They’re not super clear on what they prefer and I err on the side of caution by not posting. So, I might not provide a whole lot of details in what’s to come, but I’ll try to get the basic gist across:

Since my early days of academic study I have been drawn to serial crime. Why it happens, who commits it, who suffers. In particular serial murder, to the point where I had at one time seen so many crime scene photos that raw meat started to make my stomach turn. I think in part this is because I’ve always had a sense of impending doom (which I later found it is not uncommon in survivors of trauma), the sense that somehow I would be murdered or otherwise wouldn’t make it past thirty.

Because of this (and probably other reasons too having to do with personality makeup, following deities strongly associated with death and mourning) I’ve always felt a special connection to the victims of murder, serial murder in particular. Osiris has asked me to visit different graves and body dump sites, usually to just leave flowers and commune with the stains left behind by the crime. A Ted Bundy victim, Denise Naslund, has a grave marker in a cemetery fairly close by (though she’s not actually buried there, since SPD lost her skull) and I’ve left flowers there.

This time, another murder in Seattle spoke to me. Mia Zapata fronted a blues influenced punk band here in the early 90s, a time when music was perhaps the most creative and free its ever been in this city. She was brutally raped, beaten, and strangled to death on her way home from the bar one night. Something about it sunk its claws in to me deep. That was a time unparalleled in this city, so the history spoke to me. She did too, a little “chicken woman” beloved by her friends who sang like a “heavy angel.” Her music included themes of death, alcoholism, friendship, and chillingly, serial murder. I identified strongly with many of her songs.

Video played at the sentencing hearing for Mia’s killer, Jesus Mezquia

Mia loved yellow roses, so my thought was to take a bouquet up to the Central District where her body was found in the small hours of July 7th, back in 1993. Osiris made it clear that this time, I couldn’t bargain with Him. He didn’t care how many spoons I had or whether I’d managed my time appropriately; He wanted certain things done at a certain time to make up for my previous foolishness. So it was that I found myself on that street, updated and full of new buildings now, deserted, more or less, in 1993. Yet still, the place where her body lay exposed and brutalized remained; I could compare it almost exactly to the picture I had.

I set the roses down as close as I could, taking three from the bouquet. One for Him, and the other two to place at the spots where crime scene tape had been secured. I sat and wrote in my journal about how Mia inspires me even from the grave; she was fearless about performing and trying new things within her craft even though personality wise she was somewhat shy and reserved off stage. She was kind, “a best friend to a lot of people,” and while she wouldn’t ever have labeled herself an activist, she lived those principles instead of sitting around holding forth on theory. She died on the cusp of fame, sadly relegating the band to a piece of history instead of a living breathing performance group.

I thought of her and her life and never spent a second on her killer. He’s in jail now and good riddance, but it’s Mia and her music that we should remember.

The best thing for me was when I stood up and turned around, a yellow rose bush was blooming in the front yard of the church there.

P.S. As far as the ethics of doing this for Osiris when the religious beliefs of the victim are different or even unknown, this is NOT a project wherein I ask Osiris to protect or guide the spirits of those taken. Rather I ask for Him to clear any negative energy that may persist in spaces like these. I give little prayers to the God or Gods a victim I know believed in, or ask any god that might be involved to do the guiding or cleansing. Murder leaves a stain on the soul of  place, and rituals can help scrub it away.

On my own again

I am no longer a member of Kemetic Reform. My best wishes go out to them as they venture forth and do the hard and necessary work of trying to establish a tradition. I especially appreciate Sharon’s videos, live rituals, and knowledge of AE. However, I am not convinced I’m meant to be a part of any one group. Even my blog, in the sense that it’s always been a journal and not a how to, points to this. If this changes at some point well, I’m sure the Gods will let me know Their will. And frankly, the Gods do and always will come first in my life. I participate in communities to the degree that I can without losing sight of Them and Their needs and desires. I don’t want or need any static in my god phone. This is a discernment process I have to actively engage in every single day, and the more complexities I have to juggle the more difficult it can become to keep that path between me and Them open and free of obstruction.

I know also I have some beliefs that may be considered fringe, like supporting god spouses, and not everyone will be on board with that. That’s fine, but I also know that if such a relationship is someday my calling, I might have to strike out on my own at that point anyway, given how the topic is generally received. Since I started blogging I have been rather beset by negativity at times, due to politics, strongly held beliefs on all sides, ideas about what a Kemetic should and shouldn’t be, ideas about how Kemetics should practice and comport themselves, and so forth. Some of that is a good thing and needed; we should all be able to think deeply on our beliefs, and able to defend them. On the other, it’s been a bit tiring to wade through all of it, when all I am trying to do is write about a single person’s journey. I want the blog to keep that conversational tone, instead of turning in to a battleground. It’s always been my goal to show you all a little slice of life, a spirit quest if you will that showcases one person’s attempt to puzzle out just where they’re going with this whole minority religion thing, now that I’ve accepted that I am a believer.

So I think it’s best to remove myself as an official member of Kemetic Reform. That said, I ask the blessings of the Netjeru for each and every one of them. They’ve had the stones to put together a group where few other people will bother. They didn’t let the pessimism I see a fair amount of get in the way or tell them that they couldn’t at least try to put something cohesive together. Kemeticism needs that and I hope they’ll be the ones to do it.

Thanks for reading.

The Morrigan’s Trials

I just had an extremely trying time with the Morrigan, and I wanted to share it.

For months She was throwing fits, having tantrums, and generally being an unreasonable bitch. I didn’t really know what to think and I kept trying to figure out what the hell was happening with little to no guidance from Her. I started to get the sense that some of it wasn’t coming from Her at all, to the point where I cleansed Her altar, asked the Netjeru to bring Their light to it, and hung my evil eye charm over it.  I thought of what I had read earlier about the monsters mentioned in some Irish tales. The author of Guises of the Morrigan (which I have problems with, namely that the Tuatha did NOT “colonize” anything) claims that these beasts are a mask of the Morrigan (another issue is he thinks absolutely everything is a guise of the Morrigan). I don’t agree, really. I think they’re perversions of Her, and I began to wonder if that was what I was facing, if that was part of the duality and fractured presence I was experiencing.

I stood before Her altar and begged Her for something, anything. A new face to follow, some respite from Her behavior and attitude. This is not the kind of relationship I want to have with my gods. Even though She is fierce I want to love Her, I want Her to love me, and I want our basic understanding to be based on that. We do things for our partners because we love them, not always to appease them. Plus, this is the goddess that has guided me since I was nineteen years old, and maybe even before then. She came to me when I was suffering the most, when I was so beset by malevolent ghosts and spirits that I couldn’t function. My apartment was more like a circle of hell than it was a place I could feel safe, and She helped. She came and taught me how to master and use the Void. She came and made some sense out of the madness, both psychologically and spiritually. I couldn’t understand what I had done to upset Her so.

Finally, as I knelt before Her altar and the spirit wings sprouted and flared on my shoulders as they are wont to do in Her presence, I realized something else was going on. I thought about how I hadn’t received a spiritual cleansing in ages, about how a friend of mine used to pick through my feathers and clean away the spiritual dust and dirt, and how I haven’t had that luxury in years. I turned my attention to my own body, inspecting every inch.

Eventually, I found it. A hideous tentacled beast, sunk deep in to my side. Since the Morrigan came to me I have been occasionally asked to wander the Void, finding and destroying monsters as Her judge. I took my sword and pried it free with the tip. I can’t explain the horror I felt, seeing it whip those razor sharp limbs around as it tried to find purchase in my flesh again. I burnt it to a crisp as I have done every malevolent thing I’ve ever triumphed over, but the memory stayed much longer than its physical form did.

In its place I found a tender pink wound that I did my best to cleanse and bandage over. Finally, the Morrigan seemed pleased. I realized then it had been a test of sorts, though whether She engineered it or merely wanted to see me succeed after the fact, I don’t know. I sat and told Her that while I loved all of Her, I needed not only the Lady of Decay and the Goddess of Maggots, but also a more balanced side in order to maintain some semblance of sanity. She transformed and stepped towards me in shining armor, her black hair free in the wind. Here I am, She seemed to say, the Faery Queen.

Weak with gratitude, I told Her that one day I would be too sick to keep fighting for Her. She reassured me that on that day I would be retired, if you will, with the honor appropriately accorded to an old warrior. I hold Her kindness sacred, and all of Her faces, even the red-mouthed Badb who I struggle to keep locked in my heart where She can’t hurt others unduly. That is perhaps my core flaw, my capacity for rage, and I have had to keep it all in balance in order to master Her gifts.

Glory to the Morrigan, may I act in Her name.

Happy birthday Osiris

i love and appreciate Your joyful presence. 

  

this racism shit is tired

I am making this post while I am pissed off, fair warning.

If you are Kemetic (or anyone really, but this is the context I’ve seen this in) and you refuse to do anti-racism work on yourself, you are giving a portion to Apep

Do you understand that? Fine, I’m just a single devotee and I can’t tell you what to do or what the gods want. Or hey, you know, those deities of old had different values, and sometimes They want to do shitty things! Fine, sure, put whatever justification you want in this space. That’s yours to do. And I did just read an interesting post about how horsing Pan is about convincing Him not to rape people. But you know what? The horse doesn’t just let Him rape people. They draw boundaries and set rules for when He appears, to protect the mortals in His presence from being forced.

So it doesn’t really sit well with me to hear those reasons. I believe that the gods grow and change with us, but even if they don’t…well. I have boundaries. And one of those is that any god who wants to further a bigoted agenda shouldn’t even try coming to my altar, unless they want the biggest damn fight a mortal can offer. In my perfect world everyone would draw that line. Normally I think I am pretty live and let live, but this is just wrong. It’s wrong.

And yes, it is true that I am all for reclaiming Irish indigenous identities and traditions, and that I think we have a lot in common with a lot of other indigenous people. But that Irish-ness can only be reclaimed if we actively fight and stop using our white privilege, to the extent the world will allow us to do so. We can only build deep and respectful relationships with for example First Nations and Native American people if we do it in solidarity, if we do it by acknowledging that we are protected by white privilege in a way they are not, and that such unearned protection is wrong. Rewild yourself. Stop benefiting mindlessly from whatever privileges you have. It’s the right thing to do–the just thing to do–and it’s something you should do selflessly because you believe in equity. But do it for yourself, too. Whiteness is part of what has taken your identity, because we sacrificed everything that was Othering so we could have respectability, so we could have Whiteness and all the benefits it confers. Being anti racist is the way of truth and it benefits the whole world.

Here are some things to work on and do:

Ten Things To Remember: Anti-Racist Strategies For White Student Radicals

Oh and YES you should do this EVEN IF you have had your feelings hurt by Afrocentrists.

Thoughts on discernment

Note: I will use the term god as a catch all for deity(ies)

Lately discernment has been a topic foremost in my mind. Have you guys ever seen this certain thing go down in kink communities, where everyone has a fetish but they’re all convinced people who don’t get off on the same things as them is nuts? Yeah, pagans and polytheists are really good at that too. But there is a point where we have to get serious with ourselves and realize when we’re normalizing–in the case of the kink example–something abusive, and there’s a point in our journeys with belief where we have to separate the gold from the dross.

I guess you could say I have some controversial beliefs myself. I think both recon and UPG are important, but I tend to value UPG above history, for example. At the same time, while I believe that popular renditions of gods can be an excellent stepping stone to a variety of faiths, I am very skeptical about a practice solely based around a popular interpretation of a god. I think animism is real and I believe in spiritual shapeshifting, but physical shifting is impossible. I think faith can be full of joy and wonder, but that it should be taken seriously. I don’t think it’s a fashionable coat you can put on and take off as it suits you. And so forth.

So when I encounter a new controversial thing, I tend to consume all the material I can find on it before I decide how I really feel. Some big names in polytheism have very controversial reputations, but I did my own research and a lot of those people wrote things that have spoken to me the most. Without that, I don’t think I could have fully understood certain divine experiences I was and am having. Maybe that’s the first step to discernment: do your own research!

Anyway, I am not really going to delve in to the particulars of what I have been exploring lately, but let’s say the response to this particular belief tends to be omg get counseling you fucking crazy schizo person! You’re ruining heathenry/polytheism/paganism and you hate puppies/kittens/sunshine/and joy! When outsiders get ahold of these things it tends to devolve in to “just kill yourself” very quickly.

So I guess this disjointed post is about how we decide what we’re experiencing is actually from the gods, and where do we draw the line when it comes to identities, interpretations of the gods, and so on.

One thing I want to get out of the way up front is that yes, I am schizoaffective. I have other disorders, but this is the one that obviously distorts my perception of reality the most. It’s also one of the big bad disorders that gets brought up (or more often its cousin schizophrenia) when people encounter a polytheistic/pagan belief that seems fringe to them. I think the most valuable thing I can contribute to the ongoing “how do we practice discernment?” debate is this perspective. I’ve also been sucked in to ‘religious’ situations in the past that weren’t healthy, and beliefs about myself that ultimately weren’t true.

How do we draw lines for ourselves, and how do we practice discernment, i.e. figuring out what is god and what is man?

1) Does the identity or spiritual message make you feel particularly special and unique?

2) Conversely, does it make you feel worthless, abused, or unworthy of love?

In short, does god seem to hold all the beliefs and perceptions you do? If so, you need to re-evaluate. This is not to say that god(s) aren’t ever going to hold similar beliefs to you. We attract the gods we need, or maybe the ones we deserve. It would be an exercise in frustration for a god to choose a mortal who held completely opposite notions (though I am sure it has happened). But when god reflects everything you think and believe perfectly…be careful. This kind of gets in to one of the big questions which is, if you have a delusional disorder how do you decide what is coming from god and what isn’t?

Personally, if I am off my meds, sick, or otherwise not at my best, I don’t go to the altar. This is because when I feel like this, the godphone turns in to something malicious. It is appropriated by my illness and I can’t puzzle out Their voices anymore. It’s better if I don’t try. There are also physical signs when a delusion is about to happen. I feel pressure on my head, almost exactly how the characters experience sanity loss in Call of Cthulu games! Things distort and take on malevolent qualities. The world tilts on its axis, maybe.

Of course, people who are skeptical about religion and spirituality in general will always see every experience I have as evidence of my delusions, and that’s fine. All I can tell you is that I am very well medicated and though all of my other delusions went in to remission (more or less), my belief in god(s) remained. For me, that is good enough.

3) Does the belief draw out, exacerbate, or otherwise support a harmful or negative part of yourself? Or, is the belief/identity more about controlling the people around you than it is about your inner spiritual wholeness?

By this I mean, if you have trouble with, say, social anxiety, is your belief that you’re some type of mythical creature (or whatever) something you’ve created so you don’t have to take on the world? Sometimes it’s easier to say “I’m X, you wouldn’t understand” than it is to say “I have social anxiety and I need to get professional help.” For people with genuine spiritual experiences who are also mentally ill, this process can be even more complex. Is there something missing within you? Are you hanging identities on yourself like ornaments in the hopes they will keep your self loathing or grief or whatever it is at bay? Or do you craft elaborate beliefs/identities so you can force other people to acknowledge them at every turn? Keep in mind I am NOT referring to things like asking people to adhere to your pronouns if you’re trans, but rather elaborate fringe beliefs that you have to constantly work in to every human interaction. If you’re actually suffering from narcissism or obsessive compulsive personality disorder I know you won’t be able to absorb this advice, but for those of you with FLEAS it hopefully helps.

It’s important to realize that fantasy is very attractive, and while we may experience fantasy quite strongly, it’s important to control it and not let it control you. Another aspect of this concept is whether the identity is grounded in something negative. I am skeptical of identities that orbit around those types of planets. I think this is why so often people say “I am not my disorder” when discussing cancer or other chronic illnesses. It is not always healthy to cling to identities that keep you from being as happy and healthy as possible. Investing too much of yourself in a maladaptive behavior is a good way to never change and grow, and I think being the best person possible is linked to changing and growing. This isn’t the same as having a realistic idea of what you can and can’t accomplish given the reality of your limitations.

Lastly, personality disorders can often hide in identities and beliefs considered to be fringe. This isn’t to necessarily say that everyone in a fringe community is measurably mentally ill or has a fractured personality. But just like kink can attract and protect rapists and other sex criminals, fringe beliefs often have a non-exclusionary ethos built in which can be exploited by toxic and sometimes downright dangerous people. As someone who had an entire community destroyed by just one of these people, it pays to be skeptical. I don’t walk around paranoid that everyone I meet is a serial killer or anything. I think most people in real life would describe me as at the very least polite and friendly. even to strangers. But I don’t trust people either, until they give me a good reason. Part of discernment is protecting yourself and drawing boundaries, with yourself, with other people, and yes, even with your gods (though that’s another post).

4) Is the belief based on a misconception, especially if that misconception is colonial or otherwise problematic in nature? Appropriating the transgender experience, the mental illness experience, racism, and so forth is not an okay thing to do, no matter your beliefs. Now before people get upset, no I don’t think worshipping the gods of a people you aren’t ethnically a part of is inherently appropriative in every scenario (which is ANOTHER post..I’ll get back to my racism series soon). I am a Kemetic and I am almost 100% Irish. While I do follow my people’s traditional religion–in particular worship of the Morrigan–that’s not the entirety of my path. But if you’re taking on oppressed identities without sharing in that oppression, you have a problem. Likewise I am all for UPG but if your belief is based on colonialist images, for example, it needs to be discarded. This is a good place to do research in to the history of whatever religion you adhere to, because research will help give your UPG the proper shape.

5) If someone else is telling you something about you, your identity, or your spiritual path, do they have an ulterior motive? This isn’t easy to spot, but I’ll go out on a limb and call it a huge problem. I think a lot of young women have experienced older male ‘elders’ willing to trade spiritual knowledge for sex, but it’s not just a problem between men and women. Be on the look out for people who want something from you. Note that this is not the same as fair payment for someone’s time, but be wary. Some of the cult like situations I found myself in were because the people operating within them wanted a new person to have sex with and then discard. When it became clear that I wouldn’t give in, I was dropped, ignored, and otherwise shunned. Up until that time they were going out of their way to tell me how spiritually important I was and how rare my identity was and blah blah blah, all forgotten when I wouldn’t open my legs.

Likewise, are these people operating under a delusion, and now the two of you have entered in to a shared delusion where you reinforce one another? This one is really tough because of course we sometimes experience similar spiritual things that are legitimate, or at the very least harmless. But sometimes, we get pulled in to another person’s fantasy world.

6) Are you in a place in your life where everything has gone to shit, and the people that make up a certain subculture, religion, or community of belief are the only ones offering you love and understanding? This one is insidious. And it’s not always bad, I hasten to add. Many times people have found religion, or the gods, or what have you at very dark times in their life. Coming from a shamanistic perspective, that can even be appropriate. For me one of the core concepts of shamanism is the shamanic death. I believe this death can be a literal medical reality, but it can also be the death of self, the death of one’s major support structures, and so forth, and at times when we are processing a death we often acquire a new life at the end. However, any time you put a wounded or lost energy out in to the world, predators will sense it and start to circle. Be wary of people who offer you too much too quickly.

tl;dr keep your wits about you and be painfully honest with yourself