Choices and the Ocean

I am not the biggest fan of submerging myself in water. Showers are relaxing, baths not so much. I don’t like swimming, although I swim fine and used to be very good at it. I enjoy being on top of the waiter: sailing, canoeing, kayaking, even ice skating. Just… not in it. Okay, it might be fair to say I hate swimming and hate cold water even more as it tends to make me incapable of anything except hyperventilation (yay for the cold shock response.)

So, of course I threw myself in the Atlantic Ocean in early October.

I had been grumping about it for a while. I had considered putting it off until spring because of comfort, because I simply didn’t really want to. And also, because I didn’t have to. No one, human or Spirit, was making me.

Right before I walked into the waves and eventually dunked myself under, I asked the Ocean Lord if I had to do it. He said no, I didn’t have to. I asked Him what if I waited until spring. He said then the Work will wait. I asked Him what if I only went in part way. He said then less will be done.

There was no judgement for my reluctance. There was no “or else” and it did not seem that He would be disappointed if I didn’t manage to dunk myself in the cold waves. It was my choice.

Photograph of windy ocean waves under a gray foggy sky.
Like this but with more clouds and wind.

I don’t always know how to handle the lack of pressure from Them. Forgiveness and kindness are too often harder for me to handle than high expectations with disappointment and punishment for not meeting them. Maybe the disappointment has already happened. But that’s never the message I get, instead it’s repeatedly “They have your back.” Security, kindness, assistance… it’s a lot harder for me to grasp than well… anything else.

Years of depression, ADHD, anxiety, and PTSD left me with a lot of messages. “Biggest waste of potential [they knew].” “You would have been brilliant…” Messages of never enough, of being lesser. Blamed as incompetent and lazy, shamed for not living up to another’s expectations, and guilted for not punishing myself more. Knowing those messages were wrong is a great step, but unpacking the damage left behind is a work in progress.

Getting the message from the Ocean Lord that it wasn’t procrastination to wait was strange for me, bordering on alien. That not doing it meant simply things would go a different way, or thing would wait. That it was okay to wait. Another message I get a lot is that things will come in time and I need to be more patient.

It was okay to wait, He said I didn’t have to at all if that was my choice. So, I chose to do it then. I chose to gear myself up, walk out into the cold water, and dunk myself under.

The work could wait, but I was tired of waiting. The waiting came from me, I had been grumping about it for weeks before actually going to the beach. But with a smack upside the head, and some divination pointing towards the good outcome of doing it… I went in.

The ocean is massive. That day with the wind, clouds, high waves, and cold I saw another face of the Ocean Lord. I came out cold, wet, sandy, and with a rock. And things have been moving ever since.

It was a good day, a tiring day, and I still do not do well in cold water.

Saint Anthony

I wrote a piece on this a while back, on another blog, which has since been eaten by the internet. One of the main reasons I no longer use blogspot is it ate some of my favorite posts.

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of finding that which has been lost. In my case, I call on him most often for the sake of keys. Let me tell you a few stories as to why I love Saint Anthony.

Years ago, newly out of college and living alone me, couldn’t find my keys. I knew where they were. They were exactly where I left them, in the pocket of my pants. I just couldn’t find my pants. I tore apart my crappy apartment, and could not find them. I tossed the bed multiple times, went through piles and boxes in the hope of something. Deeply frustrated I called my (Jewish) mother. Because you see, I grew up losing things on the regular (yay ADHD) and my mother could always find them. If nothing else, she’d be sympathetic. Instead, she told me about Saint Anthony.

A balding white man in a brown monk's robe with robe belt, a blue book under one arm, and a long plant sprig in the other hand. Behind him is a blue background, and standing on peach colored ground.
Raphael’s painting of Saint Anthony.

The trick is, according to my mother, is to only call on him when you really need to. It is not for frivolous times. Then I prayed, reciting the poem she taught me.

I promptly found my pants, in my bed. Yes, I had lost them in my bed. Yes, I had already tossed my bed at least three times. My keys were right there.

My mother has even gotten my grandmother to honor and respect Saint Anthony. Which is really amusing because again, Jewish grandmother, and it was not at all expected. But here’s the thing with much of my family: we do what works. My mother taught me because it works. She is an open minded person, welcoming of pretty much anything that actually gets shit done.

Unsurprisingly, this post comes from yet another success of my favorite Saint. This morning I locked myself out of my apartment. Luckily a roommate was on her way home and let me back in. But after tearing through my room, I still couldn’t find my keys. Home, work, and most expensively, my car… I really couldn’t afford to lose these keys. I prayed to Saint Anthony and walked along the route I had gone when I was out of my apartment. I walked all the way to the coffee shop, no keys. I go inside, check near where I was sitting…

I wish I had taken a picture. Because there were my keys. The carabiner had somehow detached itself from my belt loop and re-attached itself to the chair I had been sitting in.

Thank you Saint Anthony, once again.

Beyond “The Sight”

I read a lot of scifi and fantasy books. It’s my favorite genre, though I will honestly read just about anything you put in front of me. Sometimes such books will help in my religious/magical life, and other times they will be a hinderance.

For instance, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels will always have a place in my heart. I have read them countless times, particularly Magic’s Pawn. However, all of the books discuss magic and energy as things you see. The emphasis on sight is common across the spooky board. We talk about visions of Gods, or using “blue” energy. What the ever-loving fuck is “blue” energy? Your blue might well be the joy of a clear sky on a sunny day, and mine might be the depths of the ocean. Those are very different types of energies. Except that me? I’m not big on sight in general.

A big issue I’ve had in learning from books is the emphasis on sight. Even one’s that talk about “you don’t need to be good at visualizations” tend to rely on visualizations. Well fuck.

I’ve have seen a number of books that talk about the importance of grounding and centering. In a few of them they impressively mention trans folks. (Gasp! We exist!) Except it is almost always in the context of centering being important, and not being centered in your body is bad, just ask trans folks. We’re there as a comparison… but it gives NO HELP for those of us who are trans and trying to do that shit. Honestly, I really hate being the comparison for other reasons as well. But regardless, it gave no help, because the only real help involved visualization and matching your energetic body to your physical. Again, this is something touched on in fantasy novels. Aligning your physical and energetic bodies is considered important, but almost always relies on the idea that they match. Well mine don’t match, and visualization isn’t my thing. So, basically, I was shit out of luck.

I’m not big on sight. I’m more about touch, pressure, and shapes. Sight and sound are not my metaphorical language most of the time.

So the reliance on visual language, accidentally hammered home by much of my lovely escapist reading, held me back in my Work. I never could see how my energetic body was out of alignment with my physical. I never understood the “imagine a pretty circle of light” kind of shielding technique. Beyond the fact that I always found that to be pointless (a pretty circle of light won’t protect you from shit,) I couldn’t do it. I could feel the earth, pull it up around me, shape walls, a house or fortress even. I could take air and dust and center myself in a raging tornado. By feel.

It makes sense. I think in spatial patterns yes, but they aren’t actually visual. I’m inside them, the spheres of time and the maps of memory. Both visual and auditory learning are things I struggle with. Sight just isn’t my thing.

By extension, though I would say I have experience of my Gods, I shy away from the term “visions” because I don’t do the visual thing very much. It’s much more about touch, about sound, about presence. I don’t do the auditory thing exactly either. Their questions are felt, my answers and thought, and neither in words. It took me a while to realize one reason that my Gods don’t communicate to me in words most of the time is because words are not the native language of my brain. Their communications are clearly distinct from my usual thought processes, but it’s still usually in vernacular of my head. Which means, not words.

Translating this to other people gets tricky however. I will say things like the Snake asked my consent, which is true. It just didn’t involve words. Just because Lilith showed up didn’t mean I saw Her. It also doesn’t mean it was any less distinctly Lilith.

Unfortunately, I am not able to articulate better ways of centering to other folks. For me, it only came once I connected it back to figure skating. I was a competitive figure skater in my youth (and now often use a cane a result), and my teacher tried getting me to get back to that. But even then I couldn’t connect until I recalled that solid feeling when I did a layback properly. Or a flying camel. These are things that literally do not translate to people who are not me. But one thing I will say for other trans folks who do energy work… centering in your physical body and your energetic body may be two different things. Sometimes one will be of more use than the other. And it’s also okay if you aren’t ready to center in your physical body because of gender.

It’s okay not to visualize. Don’t stress about that. Honestly, don’t stress if you aren’t good at sensing energy, you don’t have to be. Think about how you best learn, how best you think, and use that as a basis.

Because as much as I love the world of Valdemar, as much as Arrow’s Flight has an amazing look at the importance of grounding and centering, it only got in the way.

For the Dead, For the Living…

I woke up to the worst single-shooter mass shooting in US history. (It was not the worst mass shooting, that would be Wounded Knee. Please don’t erase genocidal histories.) The Pulse shooting in Orlando was a hate crime. It targeted LGBTQA folks, the shooter was enraged by gay men kissing, and it was Latin Night. And it happened in Pride Month.

Poster. At the top on each side is an image of a trans woman of color. In the middle is the Pulse nightclub's logo, with the word pulse in black on white background in top center. Underneath is printed "Latin Night / Reggaeton, Bachata, Merengue, Salsa" with a sunburst pattern behind it. At the bottom is says "June 11th" in white on black background.
No erasure. Gay. Trans. People of color. This was the poster advertising for that night.

Part of my queer family of choice lives in Florida. Luckily they were safe.

Five years ago, we couldn’t know if a hospital would allow us to visit partners in the hospital. Now, so long as the hospital takes Medicare and Medicaid, queer folks are “allowed” to visit their partners. Basic rights and dignities are something we are “allowed”, something we fight for, and something we clearly die for. Because in the US, we have to fight for the right to live. 50 dead. 50 murders. More injured. This was a hate crime… during Pride.

Many of us cannot give blood. Though the federal guidelines in the US were changed last year, so that instead of a lifetime ban on any MSM (much though I hate that term) it’s only those who have had sex with other men in the last year cannot give blood. Anyone who has sex with MSM in the last year, regardless of gender, cannot give blood. A gunman targeted and slaughtered our community, and many of us cannot even give blood.

I don’t give a fuck if you think we should keep politics and religions separate, my Gods do NOT think so. Before I knew what was going on this morning, They pushed me to cover. I did it, thinking less than usual about head covering (which is bad) but since I started reading the news I realized why. Not the time to be picking up other people’s shit. And I’m not in a place where I can properly handle the feelings of my dead today. But tomorrow… well.

See, among my Gods is Lilith. She is a Goddess of queers and trans folks, of those persecuted, and most of all, mother of monsters. It doesn’t matter how many of Her children die, She fucking cares. It might not look like what you think it “should,” Lilith gives no fucks as to what anyone else thinks. But never doubt that She cares about the murder of Her’s.

Tomorrow, I happen to have the day off work. So, there will be wine. There will be food. There will be fire. There will be ritual. For those newly dead, for those in fear and anger, I will be doing ritual for guidance, for smoothing their paths, for transitions, and for anger.

For allies: Donate blood. If you have religious community, talk to your leaders. If you have religious friends, colleagues, family… make sure they know that spewing religious hatred of LGBTQA folks is what lead to this. This wasn’t a “lone gunman,” this was a society that targets “others” particularly queer folk, people of color, disabled folk, etc. Pagans and polytheists have plenty of this toxic shit in our communities too.

Society consistently blasts the messages of homophobia and transphobia. We fear that holding hands will get us killed. We fear that using the bathroom will get us killed. We fear assault and murder. We fear being out. We fear because we are taught that we are “…something offensive, something you would avoid, maybe even pity. Something that you could never love.”

Pulse was a “safe” place. I know people who almost went there last night to celebrate Pride.

For the dead: I see you, I honor you. Your lives, your anger, your fear, your many facets of being.

For the living LGBTQA: Stay safe. Take care of yourself.

Fuck your shame, fuck your hatred. This Pride will be a memorial, and more years than most, we march for those who cannot march. For fear, for danger, for death, not everyone can march. We march for the pride.

Someone Else’s Offering

Along my commute I often have the option to stop by a birch tree, and hail my Lady. Depending on my path to the train station, it isn’t always the only birch tree along the way, but this one in particular is notable… Because someone who isn’t me has left offerings there somewhat regularly.
It is in front of a complex of apartments/lofts that has been taken over by one of the local universities and thus has students living in it. It’s a very bland contemporary design that was originally supposed to be high-end lofts or some shit, but they sold poorly and one of the schools bought it to house students. So, the first time I saw some food lying near this particular I dismissed it because students in that area are not particularly known for their habits of cleaning up after themselves. It seemed just like a discarded hotdog in a bun. Well, half of one anyways.
Except that was far from the only time I saw food sitting at the foot of this tree. Not anywhere else in the very landscaped area, not near any other tree, and not on the ground. Specifically in front of the same birch tree I stop at to hail my Lady.
A half of a hamburger (in it’s bun, with toppings) sticks out in my mind, because it was clearly cut in two. It wasn’t just partly eaten and forgotten. This meant that later offerings were noticed in their care. A passerby may well assume it’s littering, but paying attention there was too much deliberateness. Always the same tree. Always the same spot. Any wrappers were gone but the food remained, and not yet eaten by the ever-present pigeons. More than that, I could feel the energy and intent. They were offerings.
 Almost every time I stopped by this tree, there was some food offering. Each time, I smiled. The world was a little more saturated, and little more alive when I saw that. I don’t know who left those offerings. I don’t know Who or What they were leaving them for. But, that there was offerings at a tree of my Lady’s makes my heart beat faster thinking of it. More than that, She took notice as well, and approved. I was not to disturb them, simply witness their presence.
Today there was no hamburger, no hotdog, no offering laid out so carefully in that pretending to be accidental way. It’s summer break for that university now, so I assume whoever it was has gone for the season. They may or may not be back, and as I hope to have a new job by this fall, I may never know if they go back to that tree again.
But until then, I smile thinking of these offerings.

Lilith In My Life

Lilith has been many things. First wife of Adam, implication being that She was once mortal. She’s a Goddess. She’s a demon. She has a long history in Jewish mythology, with the certain reference to Her in the Dead Sea Scrolls dating to before 1 BCE. Lilith has been blamed for SID, wet dreams, miscarriages… She’s a Goddess of darkness and sensuality, both fertility and infertility, magic and sex, motherhood and sacrifice.

I get why people are afraid of Her. She presides over scary things. Darkness, taboos, desires… My fear of her was more specific though.

My interest in Lilith began sometime in high school. I’ve read up on Her many times. It wasn’t just curiosity, like my interest in political theory. Rather, it’s interest. It’s that fascination I have when there is more to it. When it’s not just my curiosity but a push from the Gods, from the Spirits, from the Universe. I have learned and forgotten so much about Her over the years…

When I got back to my religious path after college, I ignored Her. That interest kept poking at me. Not the way my Lady came through to me, my Lady was inescapably there. But there was this ongoing poke. A person mentioning Lilith at a conference. Coming across a blog devoted to Her. And another blog. And another comment. She kept coming up, and I kept ignoring Her. The best She got from me for years was “Oh, I’ll look into this later.” I didn’t feel like dealing.

Her interest in me is not at all surprising. Lilith is the Mother of Monsters, and there is much in my life to make me such a monster. She is a Goddess of sexuality, particularly taboo sexuality, and of breaking gender roles. Being queer and trans myself, well it isn’t surprising. Being someone who has given up their fertility, it REALLY isn’t surprising. None of that would have me shoving my head in the sand, doing my best to pretend She wasn’t around.

No, the problem comes down to blood.

See, unlike many folks in America, I know my ancestry really well. It’s Jew mixed with more Jew. I’ve got Ashkenazi and Sephardi, which is actually interesting considering when that mixing happened was in an era that the debate on “intermarriage” was about should Ashkenazi and Sephardi marry? And the answer was usually no because racism. Anywho, history geeking aside, I regularly deal with the awkward situation of having walked away from my blood-tribe. Okay, it may have been more akin to gleeful skipping/frolicking away, but you get the idea. Judaism doesn’t have much of a concept of sin, but there are a few things that it is better to die than to do. One of those few things is idolatry/polytheism. These are delightful conversations to have with my Hasidic brother.

So, to have a Goddess interested in me because of my blood makes me profoundly uncomfortable. (To which Lilith gives no fucks.)

Yoda, a small green muppet from Star Wars, with "Give a fuck / I do not" in white text.
Lilith and Yoda… or Lilith AS Yoda? Now there’s a thought to haunt me the rest of the day.

Phrases like “traitor to my blood” or “wicked son” tend to flit through my mind. As good as I am at dealing with unwanted thoughts, it doesn’t fundamentally change my deep discomfort with Gods interest in me because of my blood. Lilith, in my experience and some other folks I’ve chatted with, likes discomfort. She will push your boundaries until you say “No.” Lilith might be big on consent, but She’s also very much the kind of Deity who will happily push you into fucked up situations if you don’t say no to Her. And yet, my issues come back to blood and not the rest.

She isn’t the only place in my spiritual practice where issues of blood come up. Like head covering… which is becoming a bigger thing in my life. A very contentious thing for me in large part because of my ancestry.

But my head got thoroughly yanked out of the sand with regards to Lilith. I began to work with Her, but still denied this had anything to do with blood. Out of sight, out of mind, didn’t think of it at all… because thinking of it might mean I’d have to deal with it.

Background of grassy hills and open sky, with a road sign saying "Entering the state of DENIAL". Black and white.
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t quite so good at denial.

Seeing as I’m writing this, my head got yanked out again.

I’ve come to terms with my blood having a larger bearing on my religious life than I would prefer. The fact I don’t want it to have a bearing means that I’m pushing back against it, and that is a fairly large impact. Head is begrudgingly out of the sand, even if the sand is still clogging my ears. Yes, I freely admit I’m still not great at hearing things on the subject. But as Lilith well knows, once I admit something I quickly start to deal with it. Yay overthinking and introspective tendencies. At least they can be put to some use in this case. And eventually, I’ll learn more of the whys. For now, it’s still the “learning to cope” phase.

Or so I thought. Instead, it was laughingly pointed out to me last weekend that one of my tattoos – one I got for going through life with thought and intentionality, the one for my chosen family and my role in it – might well be a thing for Lilith. Apparently, it’s a common one for Her followers. Little did I know.

Yeah, I’m still glaring about that one.

Back to Many Gods West

Last summer I went to the first Many Gods West(I, II, III). This summer I’m planning to return, this time I’m presenting on Disability and Polytheism. Hilariously and unsurprisingly, this came up last weekend. Well, slightly more broadly as I was asked if I had any thoughts on disability and paganism by a fellow polytheist with disabilities.

I wanted this to be a bigger part of the conversation in large part because of my experiences at last years MGW. But beyond that, it is also based in my experiences in all parts of my life. From attending kink conventions, family reunions, or even simply going to work, having disabilities almost always becomes a problem wherever it meets society. Because clearly, it can’t be society that’s the problem (/sarcasm.)

 

I’ve had friends joke about stealing my favorite cane, which is a large part of why I so rarely use it anymore. When I officiated a friend’s wedding, I knew I would need my cane later that evening, even though my knee was holding up that afternoon. During dinner when I went to get it from my mother, someone at her table joked about how I was taking from her because it literally didn’t occur to him that the cane was mine and not hers. I get dismissed because I’m “too young” to need a cane, that it must be because of an injury, or that I’m faking it.

And that is simply a few things about my cane. Let alone anything else. (Because like many people, I have multiple disabilities.)

It isn’t just access fails that effect PWDs (people/person with disabilities). I’ve been called a waste. I was told for years about how lazy and incompetent I was. How I didn’t measure up. How I was a failure. Unknown and undiagnosed disabilities meant that I was an acceptable target for that awful mix of scorn and pity.

My Gods do not berate me when disabilities interfere with my work. The worst I’ve gotten is when I hadn’t seen the Snake in too long and when I finally made it to see Him… the Snake had the attitude of “well we have a lot to cover” much like a teacher with a class that has been repeatedly cancelled due to snow days. No blame. No berating. Or possibly the recent instance where Lilith demanded some of my wine at dinner (luckily it was outside, easy to libate.)

My Gods have led by example. Being laid out by a migraine isn’t slacking. That isn’t the time to be lighting incense offerings, if for no other reason than it would likely lead to an apartment in flames. They’re leads send me to doctors who will listen, therapists who can handle polytheism, and friends who ask if I have any more information on who the Snake is despite that they are generally agnostic/atheists. Society is flat-out abusive towards PWDs, my Gods have helped me stop being abusive towards myself by the radical act of not being abusive.

So, for me, disability and polytheism are logical things to discuss together. We have Divinities with disabilities, like madness, blindness, missing limbs. And yet… how many steps must Hephaestus climb to reach His own temple?*

Creating accessible spaces requires thinking much more universally. It’s not just ramps and braille signs. It’s quiet rooms, it’s scents/perfumes, it’s clear signs and maps. It’s knowing what you’re serving at the ritual, and making sure that seats can be provided someplace besides the back corner. One of the best questions I was ever asked… how can you kneel?

Unlike this slightly rambling post… Disability and Polytheism will actually be more coherent and structured (though the content will vary depending on the knowledge and experiences of the room.) But this at least will give some idea of why I’m flying cross-country to make it happen.

*There was a great piece I read on the internet a while back from Hephaestus’ point of view on this very subject. If you know where it is, please let me know!