Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Decorum is Optional? (Aka: Character assassination is bad, mmkay?)

A while back, there was a big kerfluffle and it seemed like everybody and their brother on the internet was raining hate on people. Now, it's going on again. I'm sitting here looking at this business and wondering how on Earth we can expect to be taken seriously when disagreements turn into screaming cat-fights (at best) or prolonged campaigns of (attempted) character assassination. Honestly, I don't know why there is such a preponderance of individuals who feel that smearing their opponent's good name with mud and essentially trying to convince everyone they should be hated via accusations that they do something heinous, like eat babies or something.

Look, folks, I understand the pagan community is a diverse place. I recognize that there is a wide range of educational levels and experience. I recognize that everyone communicates a bit differently from everyone else and that miscommunication is going to happen. I even understand that due to the nature of communication via the internet, there are going to be things that translate really poorly and quite likely will offend someone despite an earnest intent not to do so. I get all that. I understand that communication is shakey at best under those conditions sometimes, but is extremely poor when there is a lot of emotion involved.

I appreciate all of that. I really, really do. And I can accept that it happens. I'm a big girl with her big girl panties on. I question, however, just what these people who are out there trying to use character assassination are trying to do? What is the long term goals here? Let's say that Zaphoid B. is a pro at this internet character assassination and he's squared off at Ford P. Let's say that our boy Zaphoid has managed to chase Ford off and reduce him to a psychologically scarred wreck that can't even sit at a text prompt with out having some sort of PTSD flashback issues now. This doesn't make Zaphoid the big dog or the king of the hill here. All it does is traumatizes Ford and demonstrate how much of a troglodyte Zaphoid is. (Actually, troglodyte isn't the right word. That's insulting the ancient critters, they evolved to higher life forms. Our guy Zaphoid doesn't seem to have such redeeming qualities.)

Being the schoolyard bully doesn't make you the better person. It marks you as an abusive creature that may be a sadist or perhaps someone sociopathic. No one wants to really be around Zaphoid. His hanger-ons are participating in some group-think nonsense and, on some level, they're afraid that Z is going to turn that bit of monstrosity onto them. Zaphoid is someone that I would point at and say they are the dregs of society, regardless of where they pop up. We've got some version of ol' Z in every social arena. We apparently can't escape the bastard unless we go become hermits on the mountain. Even then, there's a chance that Zaphoid is going to try to start something via carrier pigeon if he's decided that we're a fine target to vent his spleen on.

Now, why in the Nine worlds are we seeing people lining up to join Zaphoid's cult? Because you disagree with something Ford said? Really? There's far more civil ways to handle it than assaulting someone's character. Hiding in the rank and file of Zaphoid's cult and shouting out slurs doesn't absolve you of the fact that you are making yourself into part of the problem of the internet culture. It is a sign of cowardice. For some odd reason, there appears to be an extra large heaping portion of that kind of behavior to go around in the pagan community right now.

I have this crazy idea. Someone tell me if I am way off in left field here. Sound off in the comments or something. But, my wild idea is that if you disagree with someone, propose a reasoned counter argument. Rather than attacking the person making the argument, go after the flaws in their argument and stick to the points of discussion rather than shady ad hominem nonsense. I know this is a revolutionary concept right now. If you feel strongly that someone is wrong about a major thing and you feel you must blog about it, sit right down and do so. And when you make that blog post, dismantle their argument and show all the reasons why it is incorrect.

It is possible to have an argument with someone and not have it turn into lobbing insults. It is possible to even have a HEATED argument with someone and still be respectful. Wild, isn't it? I know, I am at times something of a Pollyanna. I don't think, however, this is one of those cases. You see, I am living proof that it is possible to do so. I have very strong disagreements with Beloved on a regular basis. About once a year or so, we'll get into an argument. There is no shouting. There is no name calling. There is no insulting another's intelligence or otherwise being a right bastard about it.

Here's our secret for how to not act like Zaphoid:

Treat each other how we would like for ourselves to be treated.

This is such a basic thing that even my six and eight year old boys get it. There is no reason for someone to be treating someone else like utter garbage. You can scorn someone. You can utterly despise them. It is still possible to treat them with respect. And the reason why you treat them with respect is not because you necessarily respect that person. It is because you respect yourself.

Because what does it say about your self respect when you lower yourself to behaving like Zaphoid? I don't know about you, but from where I stand, treating people like they're less than deserving of the barest minimum of respect you demand for yourself is telling the person you're treating that way it is ok to turn around and do that to you. You're setting up a silent social construct wherein you are giving permission to the scorned and insulted person to treat you in the same fashion. You are demonstrating how you prefer to be treated with this conduct.

I know that there are a lot of people in the pagan culture who hate the idea that we must all 'play nice' and somehow create a homogeneous cultural attitude. That is not what I am talking about. There are going to be people who are too 'hard core' for the social niceties that others would insist on. There are going to be people who have inherent fundamental disagreements over what is proper decorum in ninety percent of the settings where you can think of some sort of social interaction is going to happen. I accept this. I actually think that these sorts of things are good because they force us to stop and look at ourselves and how we are doing things. Self-reflection is part of the path to wisdom.

What I'm talking about is people deciding that anonymous satire is an excuse to attack the people they don't like and accuse them of doing it, when there is literally no evidence for it. I'm talking about people parroting hate towards a person because it is the trending topic, never mind whatever the consequences of that will be. I'm talking about people who engage in harassment so severe that people come away from being the subject of it psychologically harmed. This stuff is not ok.

This is a problem. Whole swaths of people in the pagan community are quiet on this front. This is not acceptable. This type of behavior is what drives vulnerable people to suicide. You see it in young adults who are subjected to this from their peers. This type of behavior can lead to people losing the livelihood. This type of behavior is what will destroy us if we let it. At one point, someone told me that this type of bullying (which is a term for this, but no one really wants to say it is a real problem and wish to ignore that it happens outside of the schoolyard) was pack mentality. I was told that it was an attempt to enforce pack order and a natural result of pack dynamics.

If you want to take the pack behavior argument, that is fine. There is one problem with that. We are not like wolves. We have the capacity to transcend such things. If we didn't we would have never created civilization. It took more than just opposable thumbs to make that happen. That same little nugget of brain-meat that allowed us to go from creatures of pure instinct to creatures of reason is what we need to apply in this case as well. Because, guess what, if we're not applying it, then we are going to see things get ugly really, really fast.

Use your higher brain functions. Use your manners. Respect yourself. However you want to phrase it, start applying it. Psychological abuse is intolerable. We do not put up with people randomly beating each other in the street. We should not put up with people engaging in the same level of causing harm on the psychological level.

Yes, I referenced character names from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Given the level of absurdity of the entire mess, it seemed the only fitting choice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spell craft: Alternate uses of Prayer Beads

Anyone who is familiar with the use of prayer beads as a meditative focus recognizes that they are a highly effective tool for assisting the practitioner in entering a mental state conducive to spiritual work. There are countless varieties of prayer beads. Within the Filianic tradition, there is the Rosary (which is patterned in a fashion similar to the 5 decade Catholic Rosary1) and the chanting Rosary (which is patterned after the 108 bead malas used in Hinduism and Buddhism). Obviously, prayer beads are tools for keeping track of prayers. They can, however, also be used as devices by which one can enter into a trance state or for spell casting.

The repetitive nature of chanting helps the practitioner to ease into a state of trance that can prove fairly deep in surprisingly short order. The trance state helps the person using the beads to relieve stress and anxiety, attain deep relaxation, assist in mental focus, and build greater mind-body connection. This is accomplished by the way the practitioner must maintain awareness of their actions in counting the beads and detachment from the random thoughts that pass through their mind during their session. The use of meditation as a tool for general wellness is well documented and strongly encouraged by many knowledgeable people, including the staff at the Mayo Clinic and researchers at Harvard University.

In one of my earlier posts, I discuss the psychology of why magic works. Through the process of chanting and counting beads, the practitioner enters into a state of mild hypnotic trance. This mental state is one that is most effective for engaging in magical work. The mind is more pliant and open to suggestion. This makes it easier for the practitioner to establish a set of commands within their psyche that orients them towards successful completion of their ritual goals. The mind is also more keenly attuned to the spiritual elements of the world in this state. As such, it is easier for the practitioner to direct and orient the psychic fields around them to create an environment favorable to the results they are seeking.

Through the use of a key phrase (known as a mantra), the practitioner primes their psyche to seek out situations and information that assists them in manifesting what they desire. It also creates a ripple in the psychic fields around them that increases the probability2 of success in their manifestation efforts. The most effective mantras are generally very simple. When we consider the use of mantras from the Hindu belief system, we find that a great deal of them are one word or one syllable. Looking at correlating mantras in the folk magic practices of Europe, we find that they are a short phrase consisting of simple words. The easier it is for the practitioner to remember their mantra, the easier it is for them to hold it as a mental focus.

Mental focus equates to psychic focus, in most general cases of magical practice. The more clearly one can envision their goal, their target for their spell casting, the closer the results will be to that result. At the same time, it is good not to make the targets of spell craft too specific. This makes the statistical odds with respect to manifestation steeper. Thus, the occultist who performs a spell to have a red Corvette is going to face greater odds against their manifesting this result than the occultists who performs a spell for reliable transportation.

1. There are variants to the Christian prayer beads. These sets of beads can be adapted to use within a Filianic context as well, such as the Anglican prayer beads are especially well suited for prayers to the Janyati with their 7 bead 'weeks' corresponding to the 7 Janyati. A future post will be discussing prayers adapted to a prayer bead set laid out in this fashion.

2. Chaos magicians have some very interesting things to say on using magic to increase or otherwise manipulate the probability of an incident occurring. Most of the websites that you can find discussing chaos magic will eventually come down to a discussion of this practice. Some have even worked out mathematical formulas to describe how this works out. I, however, haven't sat down and done calculations to write up a proof on how this works. I only know that on the basis of what I have witnessed and anecdotal evidence from conversations with other occultists over the last twenty years, I have seen that magic can work to influence the probability of an even occurring.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Divination: Observing Versus Seeking Information

This week's divination post is a bit of a departure from the past topics. In my past posts, I talked about techniques and tools. Today's post, I am going to take a moment to look at methodology from the angle of intent. There are two ways to approach a divination session. One method is simply observing the information presented by the tool of choice. The alternate is sifting through the information in search of a specific answer.

The observation method, in my experience, yields better results because the information is not being viewed through a filter. When we are simply observing, we are open to more details and information that does not necessarily fit the profile of the target query but serves to add greater depth to the picture presented. The observation method also gives the reader a measure of detachment from the result, lowering the likelihood of observation bias in the results.

The seeking method is harder to pull solid results out of your divination tools. The information you are seeking can prove deceptive. The desire to get information that aligns with a specific set of expectations can turn into reading false positives or false negatives in your results. There is also the problems of observation bias. The reader will also be in a position where they are disregarding details that are not immediately connected in a fashion that is obviously apparent. This can result in a reading that is deficient in usable information about the query.

This raises the question of how does one do a reading upon a specific issue with out being caught in the tricky waters of reading into the results? The first step is to put oneself into a neutral mindset with out any attachment to the outcome of the reading. The lack of emotional investment in the results does a great deal to relieve the risk of observation bias because the mind is not primed to pick up details that fit the unconscious expectations and anxieties that come from said emotional investment.

The second step to consider when reading on a specific issue with out getting too caught up in potential observation bias is to take the information as it is presented and convey it directly. Read quickly and leave the processing of the results to when you have finished your initial assessment of them. The first response to the information that your divination tool presents is going to be the most accurate, especially when it is unfiltered. (Obviously, take a moment to at least phrase your information in a tactfully appropriate way for your audience.)

When you do your subsequent assessment of the information presented in your analysis of the results, do your best to maintain that neutral standing. Follow the information, let it lead you to your conclusions. There will be times where you will feel like the reading is just utter gibberish or that you are talking out of your hat. There are going to be times where these feelings are somewhat legitimate. But there are going to be a significant number of times where the information that seems completely random and has all sorts of weird/wrong connections through it are actually very important and organized in correct context for the querent.


Author's note: I want to apologize for how rough this post is. I had a hard time putting it together. Next week, I'll try to bring better content to the table. I appreciate your patience and your forbearance with me.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Evening Ramblings.

Hello Folks,

It is a bit late in the evening here at my place. We just got the kids to settle down for bed. I spent my day running in circles trying to get stuff ready for school tomorrow and a bit of cleaning done. (I'm half way to a clean kitchen. This is progress.) I wish I had something profound and uplifting for you. I truly do. Unfortunately, I don't have anything clever, witty, or something amazingly spiritual.

I am sitting here listening to the playlist of music I put together based off of the songs that come up the most when the gods are playing with the radio. I am drinking hot tea, hoping my sore throat will go away, and wondering if I have caught my son's cold or if the problem is my allergies. In the light of all of this mundane stuff, I feel a bit guilty that I don't have something more luminous to share. It is frustrating because I feel like I am letting you all down right now.

I recognize, however, the person who is putting the pressure on me to perform is myself. I am at a unique place where the gods involved in my life are encouraging me to focus upon my health and welfare. They want to see me at a place where I can look at stuff like my writing and not feel inferior simply because I am not making a large novel's worth of output on a given day. The biggest thing that I keep getting pushed to keep in mind is that I am not a machine.

It doesn't sound like a very mystical or spiritual statement, does it? Still, this is the message that comes to me time and time again over the last several weeks. I am human. I have limitations and I am going to have variable days that produce a range of how I perform given my limitations. It is hard for me to accept that I am not perfect. It is a nonsensical thing for me to chase this concept of perfection. Because perfect doesn't really exist except as an idea to torture us.

Still, I struggle and often find myself ready to give up on myself because I can't perform as well as I feel like I should be. It is a problem that has been present for pretty much all of my life. I'm still working with my therapist on resolving that problem. The gods have decided that I am going to change. And I am not complaining with them. Their decision that change needs to happen is actually in line with what I have been attempting to do for the last several decades. I think that they have seen my struggle and decided to take an active hand in helping me through it.

Help from the gods, however, doesn't manifest in things magically getting easier. Often, I find myself in a position where I am challenged and things get harder before I have a breakthrough. Some people talk about ordeals and rites of passage. I tend to think of the repeated challenges that pop up and act as gateways into future growth in those terms. Some times, I wind up creating those situations myself. And sometimes the gods create them.

Either way, I am still working hard to make a positive change in my life and to grow more fully into the person that I was supposed to be. My perfectionism is not helping me on this path. It is something that I stumble over on a regular basis. I know that it is, in a big way, rooted in anxiety. Thus, I work on my mental health and try to get that mess under control. Because the more I can manage my mental illnesses and bring health into my life, the more I can mature and grow in all areas, not just my spirituality.

I don't know if I am going to be making posts every day this week. I will try. I will also try to go back to that daily theme I had going on before when I was posting every day. I recognize, and ask for your patience in this, that I am not functioning in a hypomanic state, like I was last August. This means that things take a bit more time. But it also means that things are more completely thought out before they are posted. It is my hope that what struggle there may be in producing quantity for this blog, there will be less struggle in producing quality work for it.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Psychic Life Vs. Mundane Life

Oh how the last several days have been exhausting and vexing. I suppose I was doing ok up until the point where this theme developed Friday evening that had stuff flipping off tables and falling over for no apparent reason. I'm torn between chalking this up as yet another manifestation of my spectacular ability to be clumsy. (If there's just one crack in the floor, I will be the person to find it and trip over it. I also fall up stairs. I'm talented like that.) This theme has carried over into today, though I did not wind up losing lunch or dinner to it.

At the same time I am considering if this is the fruit of my own fumble thumbs, a friend of mine suggested it could be Somebody looking to get my attention. I haven't been doing as much in the devotional work with the dead over the last little while or so. I have been spinning my wheels trying to get all of the mundane details of housework, children's educational matters, and my psychiatric health business dealt with. It has made it difficult to do much else.

While Ingvi and Loki are both very present, I have been feeling a bit cut off from everything else. I could make some trite comment about the state of the stars is interfering with my life. Honestly, however, that really doesn't cover it. Things in my life tend to happen independently of what planet is in retrograde or what sign the Moon is located in at the moment. It just doesn't appear to hold much active sway in my life. Instead, I think it is just a case of my having ten thousand things on my plate and stuff falling out of my view because I'm overwhelmed.

In a perverse manner, the physical/mundane world chaos makes the psychic background noise harder to hear, thus it gets more quiet on that front in many respects. I guess it is a case of my brain filtering things out so that I don't get even more overwhelmed. It makes sense. Still, I think that there are signs that there is still a good amount of activity going on. I can't say for sure if the stuff falling over and such was one. But I have noticed my plants taking on strange changes over the last few weeks. (Accelerated growth in a few cases and one dying by just withering like it hadn't been watered, despite my keeping it well taken care of. The soil in that last case is always dry to the touch, it is really weird.)

I have been feeling the urge to shift things around on the altar and get some work done outside to tidy up the outdoor shrine. I have been feeling the urge to get busy gardening. Usually that isn't such a big deal, but there feels like there is something more behind this. There is a deeper push at play here that keeps putting plants that would be well suited to my growing conditions in my path, at some of the oddest places by the way. The gas station doesn't usually have plants for sale, but yet a few days back someone was offering me a few peonies for a few dollars.

I am going to try to act on the urges to get into the dirt and grow some stuff. I am also going to do something about my altar. It is cluttered and feels generally unready. So, when the kids are at school Monday, if I have the energy, I am going to clean it off and reorganize it. It is a bit past due for that to be honest.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Law of Attraction: A Rant

The above image is just another iteration of things of similar expression that I keep seeing on Facebook and in other social media. At first blush, it looks like a very 'spiritual' sentiment and sounds like it could be valid when taken from the pseudo-hermetic perspective that is predominant in the pop-culture occultism. (Yeah, that last pairing of terms felt like an oxymoron to me, as well. Consider it something like a two word Zen koan.) It is a statement that I see a lot of people sharing and praising as wisdom.

I have a huge problem with this 'wisdom.' The first statements here I am inclined to agree with and would hold them as correct. The Universe is not punishing, blessing, or controlling us. It simply exists. We are part of it and it functions in ways we honestly have no way of fully comprehending. The questions of our relationship to the Universe1 and our role within it are the reason why we have the sciences and philosophy. They're enormous questions that we have been trying to hammer answers out to for over five millennia and I don't think we're going to figure out any hard and fast answers at any point in the next five millennia. 

It is the following statements that I take issue with. The premise that our positive and negative experiences within the world are the result of our personal mental/emotional/physical state is one that I reject. This places the onus of one's experiences upon their own shoulders. It tells the listener that they are morally culpable for all that they have experienced, regardless of the actions of those around them. I'm sorry, but I cannot accept that argument. The wealthy man who lives in luxury did not summon his wealth to him by being of a positive mindset. The poor man who lives in utter squallor did not cause his poverty by being in a poor mindset. 

Good and ill happens to humanity in a manner that often seems capricious and uncaring. As much as we want to use trite expression like those in this meme to tell ourselves that we summon our good fortune to us with 'positive' thinking, that's just now how it works. Our positive thinking may encourage us to subconsciously seek out favorable conditions and it may create a small magical ripple in the fabric of reality that encourages those conditions to arise. This, however, is a small thing compared to the prevailing circumstances that we exist in. A person dying of an incurable disease is not killing themselves with 'negative' thoughts and they are not going to cure themselves with 'positive' thoughts. Those positive thoughts may help them endure their disease and assist them in creating conditions that are conducive for them to live longer with their disease, but they will not make the disease go away.

That negative thinking business, it doesn't cause our suffering. It may add to it, but it is not the source of it except in specific cases. And in those cases where our negative thought patterns have caused our suffering, it is not because we've summoned it out of the Universe. A person who has been the victim of assault did not summon, consent, or encourage their assault to happen just because they happened to be depressed at the time. A person who has suffered tragedy after tragedy did not cause these things to happen to them on the basis of their 'negative' thinking. Suffering is an inherent part of existence. We can't think our way out of it and we sure as hell don't cause it to happen to us on the basis of the fact that we're not having the magically correct thoughts.

This pseudo-spiritual garbage is hubris and victim blaming. Each time I see it posted, I see someone who has it good thumping themselves on the chest saying 'I created my prosperity with out anyone's help.' and conveniently failing to acknowledge how many people assist them in reaching that position of accomplishment. Each time I see it posted, I see someone pointing at the person who has been victimized and telling them "You caused your suffering. It is YOUR fault this happened. Suck it up and fix it." Callous is too kind of a word to describe the person who takes the latter position.

I believe in magic. I practice magic. I am involved in the occult community and I do think that our thoughts have the capacity to shape reality to some extent. This does not mean that I support this nonsense. I recognize there are limits to what we can do via the occult arts. I also recognize that the causality chain that leads to our present situation has far more links in it than our feelings and thoughts, most of them completely unrelated to our present mental state and forged in the past in ways that we are not going to be fully aware of despite all our efforts to consider all the factors.

If you want to say that these sorts of memes are accurate and correct, I highly suggest you stop following this blog. I am going to continue to declaim them as harmful to the mental health of all people and detrimental to actual occult practice. I may become even more sharp in my expression of this sentiment as time goes on. I find that my tolerance for such nonsense grows smaller as time passes. I deal with real magic and real spirituality. This nonsense is neither and should be rejected.

1. I am not 100% sure if they're including Deity in the term Universe. Some people do. I am using the term in the sense of the whole of reality that we experience and can observe. It is my understanding that Deity is both immanent and immersed in reality. That said, I believe that the whole of reality functions differently than at the will of Deity because there is a plurality of deities and no one deity controls everything. The will of the plurality of deities is going to be complex and contraindicate each other. From this dynamic tension, there are going to arise things in the Universe that make no sense. I'll detail more about my thoughts on this matter in another post.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Endurance of Spirit

It has been a very challenging time of late. I have been struggling with finding the mental cohesion to post pretty much anything. Even writing in my prayer journal has become difficult. I have times where I feel like I am something inferior because of my difficulties. I know that a larger part of those feelings stem from my unhealthy self image and a truckload of distorted views on my self worth. Throw in a heaping pile of just plain difficult work managing the household, parenting, and the business of my children's educational needs, and it gets really difficult to find the energy to do much of anything beyond exist. And even existing makes me exhausted.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen me post earlier tonight something about 'running out of spoons'. It is a bit of shorthand to describe the state of mental and emotional exhaustion that I have when I run out of my energy to keep plugging at the challenges before me. We all start the day with a limited amount of energy and some of us have a bit more limited energy than others. Those of us, like myself, who have a deficiency in proverbial spoons (a unit of energy, if you will) find that we have to plan our days according to what we think we have the energy for. As a result, there are things that will get missed. As blogging is not a primary part of keeping the household running and my meeting my responsibilities as a wife and parent, it tends to find its way towards the lower end of the list.

Sometimes, I feel rather like all of this is a futile effort and that my energy should be placed elsewhere. This feeling, however, is not the fruit of a desire to be frugal in how I expend my resources but rather the result of that morass of unhealthy thinking that I struggle with on a daily basis. For, that unhealthy mess of thoughts tells me that my dreams are unworthy of actualization and that I am not deserving of success in any areas, among a lot of other terribly unpleasant things. As I sit with this tangle of unpleasant mess, I find myself sorely tempted at times to just give up.

But, I don't. There is something down deep inside of me that just won't let me. I can be in abject agony and I still will struggle forward, usually with a great deal of anger at being in said agony. Some people would call it tenacity. I think, however, tenacity is just an adjective to describe something more basic than that. Within me, my spirit is drawn to contest against the world and push to realize a specific vision of the world. I will thole my injuries (and sometimes foolishly try to act as though they're not there) and continue to push towards making this vision real.

Sometimes, I have people ask me why I do everything the hard way. It is the same part of me that refuses to lay down and die at play here. I find myself confronted with a challenge and I see one single option that is fitting and honorable. Thus, I push myself to use it to manifest what I feel must come to be. After the fact, I will have people tell me that they couldn't see how I did it and exclaim my courage. It bewilders me, because I saw only one viable option. It wasn't a matter of courage against adversity as much as it was taking the sole option that makes sense.

Now, this rambling bit has a point. My spirit pushes me forward. It is what helps me to endure pretty much everything that has been thrown at me thus far in my life. Our spirits are far stronger than we realize. It is from our spirit that we derive the strength to do the seemingly impossible tasks. (And I will confess adrenaline helps in many cases as well.) As much as our higher brain tells us that what we face is insurmountable at times, that deeper primal part that is twined somewhere between spirit and biology tells us we can make it happen. In all honesty, that endurance and unwavering push to press forward is what keeps humanity moving forward.

It is my hope that somewhere within the depths of our collective hearts and minds, there is the force of our collective spirit that will push us to reverse the great tragedies unfolding in the world. It is my hope that we will stand against the evils of the world and create a more just world for our descendants and life at large. And I think it all begins in the refusal of individuals to give up when things get painfully difficult.

Thus, I continue to write. Even when I don't have the spoons for it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Is it OK to disagree with Gods?

There is this idea that has been bubbling at the back of my mind for a while now. I have some people in my life who are very firmly of the opinion that one should never disagree with the Gods. I have other people who pointedly refuse to even consider situations where they are in a position where disagreement could come up. I sit here and I look at this with a question in mind. I can't help but wonder where does the dividing line between piety and free will land on these sorts of matters. I know that some people would argue that disagreement with one's Deity is tantamount to blasphemy (or worse).

I look at my experiences and I find myself not inclined to agree with the premise that one who is devoted to their faith must always agree with their Gods. I just can't shake the idea that we have free will and this extends to if we are going to agree with the Gods on everything. Some Gods will demand that their believers adhere to all points they set forth and make agreement part and parcel to worship and devotion. I can appreciate that relationship dynamic but it strikes me as an outlier rather than the norm.

I am not the most pious person. I freely admit this. But I don't think that piety consists of slavish adherence to a set of rules. It is my understanding that piety is a mind set. One can perform the ritual gestures of worship from a mindset that is not fully engaged and focused upon what the meaning of said rituals are. I tend to call this lip service to faith. It is, from what I have seen, a more shallow way of worship and focuses upon ritualism. Now, for some people this is what works for them and what they can engage in given their life circumstances and needs. I try not to look down on ritualists, but it is hard for me to see this as operating on the same level as people who make the conscious choice to engage in the ritual, understanding all the meanings of the ritual and the role one assumes in enacting it.

A pious person is someone who approaches Deity with respect. It is a person who approaches them with careful regard for the role Deity plays in their relationship with the person in question and the world at large. The person who pours out a glass of water in offering for their gods and is fully invested in said action, in my opinion, are more pious than the person who pours out a bottle of expensive malt whiskey with out that sense of engagement and conscious action. Piety is an intersection between right mind and right action. (And right action is fluid because life changes and the actions demanded of us will change as our relationships with Deity change and develop.)

Coming back to the question of disagreement with the Gods, I think it is possible for a pious person to disagree with the Gods. I think that we can not only disagree with the Gods, but express said disagreement in a manner that is respectful of the Gods. I am a strong proponent that every person is having an individual relationship with Deity and that they experience Deity in a manner that is best for them to comprehend at that time. As such, the Gods may place something in our path that we will disagree with. And I think that the Gods expect said disagreement and will observe us to see how we respond.

I think there are cases where the Gods test us via disagreement to see if we will stick with our oaths to them (such as an oath of obedience being tested with an action required that the worshiper opposes). I also think that there are cases where the Gods set up situations that we are going to disagree with as a way to get us to change our thinking and our mode of addressing situations. Finally, I think that the Gods present us with situations that will provoke our disagreement as a way to open up further dialogue between us and them.

I don't think that disagreeing with the Gods is an instant case of impiety. I think it is rather a situation where we're called to look at the situation, question it and our role in it it, and reassess where we stand. I think that such situations are vital for a person to have a faith that is 'living' because continual reflection and reassessment is the way we grow. The question of impiety arises when we approach how to handle this disagreement.

The pious person will approach the disagreement as though it is a communication breakdown between themselves and the Gods. They will try to find away to respectfully handle the challenges that arise from it and actively seek ways to maintain their respectful relationship with Deity as they do so. The pious person will maintain the right mind circumstances even as they work to reestablish what the right actions are for the situation. The impious will lose sight of the necessity of respect and abandon the search for what the proper response to the situation will be.

In all things, we are in a relationship with the Gods. Piety is the expression of respect towards them. Just as a person's relationship with another is going to be different from their relationship with yet another person, so too shall the individual relationships with the Gods be different. There will be vast swaths that are going to be similar between people. This is how organized religions developed, from people recognizing the shared elements of their individual experiences with Divinity. I think that if we would be wise, we would remember that our individual relationships with the Gods is going to be different for each of us. Thus, we must remember that piety will manifest a little differently with each person.

TL:DR version - It is OK to disagree with the Gods, provided you maintain respect for them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Storm within.

I had been feeling upset with the difficulty I have been having in organizing my thought to post. As I was juggling the household chores, bills, and caring for a sick child today, I told myself that I really couldn't make myself try to write up blog entries on top of it all. It has been a long, tiring, and trying day today. (Any one with suggestions for how to prevent earwax build up issues for children, please let me know. Irrigation and drops work only so well. And wiggly kids don't do a good job of holding still for either.)

About dinner time, I hit the point where I was ready to have a melt down of my own. My youngest was screaming and crying about how he didn't want dinner (after nearly throwing a fit over the idea that he wasn't getting his peanut butter and jelly sandwich because he thought I was giving him his brother's ham sandwich). I discovered that the pork ribs I had planned to make for Beloved and I to have for dinner had spoiled. And I was somewhere between cranky because I was hungry and ready to scream from frustration. It always scares me when I hit this mental point because I feel like there is a jumble of pure chaos in my head and I can't think clearly. It is even worse when I'm hypomanic (which was a few days ago).

Fortunately, Beloved got home from work just in time to manage the kids as I attempted to broil some hamburgers and make myself some macaroni and cheese. As I was dealing with food stuff, it struck me that this feeling like there is a howling storm inside my head hits me on a bunch of different levels. There's the obvious sense of anxiety and frustration that comes from such a tense mental state. And there is the obvious short temper that comes with it. But, at the same time, I find myself feeling like I'm screaming into the howling wind on a spiritual level with no resolution to what has me screaming. I find myself feeling like the gods and spirits are all just beyond my reach, circling around me in the storm. It is a nerve wracking feeling because my anxiety tells me that I'm being judged.

After I got some food in me and I had some time to calm down, I looked at that storm analogy and tried to figure out if there was some way to make that into something more user friendly. To be honest, when you feel like you're on the verge of screaming insanity, it is hard to channel it into something useful. Usually, when I hit that point, I dissociate some to give myself some breathing room. Otherwise, I start stammering, trembling, and becoming more prone to shrieking over the stupidest things. It is a horrible feeling of helplessness to have that chaos in my head taking over everything. Thus, I escape it by turning off some of my responses to it. My therapist says this is not the healthiest option for how I can handle it. I've yet to find something that works better, to be honest.

But, sometimes I actually can manage to channel that storm into something. Sometimes, that sense of howling chaos in my head comes with an eerie clarity that allows me to see an action that needs to be taken to resolve the problem that lead to it arising. Usually, it happens in cases where I have been stoked to rage over some injustice and I channel all of that energy into solving the problem. It is not a comfortable place to be at. It scares me some after the fact. But when I have a place for that storm to go, it is amazing to watch it unfurl rather than try to tear me apart. Because when I 'ride' that storm, I will not rest until my mission is completed. It is a dizzying sensation and I find myself caught in a measure of ecstasy when it happens, only to have it go out like a blown out candle when it is complete.

Odin is the god of wisdom. He is also a god of madness. And of fury. I think all these things are tied together. And I think that when we manage to take the madness and turn it into something we can use, his hand is there aiding us. He's claimed me as a daughter. At first, I found myself uncomfortable with the idea. The Hanged God is not known for being a gentle deity, nor for being one to keep his people on easy paths and to coddle them. Then it struck me today, Odin is the god of the storm. This storm inside me is as much from him as it is a product of the constellation of suck that is my history. And I wasn't angry with this, which seems a bit odd. No, I'm actually thankful for it. Because it is a sign that Odin is always with me. It is a weapon he has put in my hands so that I may break down barriers before me and crush my opposition, even when it is my own illness.

Anger is like a firestorm in my head. I feel like everything speeds up and I am going to start screaming and throwing stuff. It scares me sometimes. Well, more often than sometimes, but it is also perhaps one of the most powerful weapons in my arsenal. Because sometimes scorched earth tactics is the only appropriate answer to the problem and sometimes you need to scream with the voice of a hurricane to get heard. Wisdom lies in recognizing when those are the correct response to the situation and I think that each time I hit this mental/emotional/spiritual storm inside me, I am learning more about how to deploy it to my advantage.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Recovery & Renewal.

I apologize for my recent absence. I was hospitalized a short while back due to complications with my bipolar. I honestly have spotty recollection of things due to how badly I was doing and the way my medications had been adjusted on a daily basis, it seemed. It was very difficult for me to reach out for help when I hit rock bottom. Thankfully, Beloved was right here and he helped me get the help I needed.

I've been home from the hospital for almost a week now. I am not yet at full health, though I am vastly improved from where I was at when I went in to the hospital two weeks ago. Feeling mildly depressed and somewhat anxious is an enormously positive difference when compared to being suicidal and having hallucinations. Looking back over the last several months, I can see how things came to that point and I honestly don't know what I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. That scares me. The idea that I am going to get sick like that again at some point in the future (and given how things have been over the last several years there is a good chance it will happen within the next year or two after I acclimate to my medications) is something that frightens me.

I've seen a good number of memes flying around Facebook that present mental illness as something romantic or like some kind of superpower. It is a mindset that I find fundamentally disturbing. It tells me that I should be thankful for what is, honestly, pure torment and a daily fight to hold on to my sanity. It tells me that if I'm struggling, it is because I haven't fully accepted the 'blessing' of my illness. This attitude that disability is something that can be transformed into an advantage with the right attitude is just as damning as the one that says that disability makes a person fundamentally worthless. Seeing these memes around on the internet makes me very wary about doing much with social media. Because that sort of thing is toxic and does not bode well for my recovery.

It is hard enough when you question your sanity everyday because you have been gaslighted into thinking you are fundamentally untrustworthy, regardless of how you bear yourself and hold true to your convictions. Striving to do that and then reality test everything because you're not sure what your experiencing is correct for what you have on the basis of the proliferation of these memes just serves to dig the hole you're stuck in deeper. (I need to clarify, the gaslighting happened during my formative years and I haven't yet managed to deprogram myself from it. It colors everything.)

So, I am working to restrict the stuff I deal with on the internet to things that will promote my health and wellness. I am not entirely sure how this is going to manifest in my future posting here. I do know, however, that I am going to keep this blog running. I honestly don't know if I am going to get back to the daily posting schedule. While I would like to do so, I don't know if that is going to be too much for me right now. My anxiety is making even this post difficult.

Moving forward, I am going to attempt to provide some solid, in depth information for other folks who practice witchcraft or pagan faiths and are struggling with mental illness as well. It is hard when your faith practice gets a few raised eyebrows when it is mentioned in passing. It is even harder when you have people openly questioning your sanity on the basis of your mental health history and faith practices. I wish I could say that my knowledge about being in that position came from academic study, but it really isn't the case. I've personally experienced slighting from professionals in the medical industry even as I have received such scorn from some people who were once very close to me. My personal experiences are obviously going to be very different from those of someone else. But it is my hope that in sharing them and my observations, I can make sense of what I have experienced and I can help at least one other person out there feel like they're not alone and they're not crazy for their beliefs.

I will still be doing my academic style posts regarding various topics. I have a whole list of divination oriented ones to write up. (If I can manage it, I will have the first of them up on Monday.) I am also working on getting a few books finished up that deal with Filianic topics. The Southern Hemisphere edition of A Year With Dea (a daybook of meditations) will be ready early Summer (provided I can get everything back on track). I have a book of mystic visions and such that I am nearly ready to send off to press. I want to say it will be available for purchase next month, but it depends on how things go with the publishing house I'm working with.

To you, my readers, I want to say thank you. Thank you really is rather paltry next to what I feel. I am immensely grateful for your support and readership. When the depression and anxiety tell me that my writing is a useless exercise, I find someone has read one of my posts or I have encouraged someone to look into new and interesting ways to grow in their spirituality. The fact that my writing makes a difference to you is what motivates me to keep going when all of the garbage in my head from my illness tells me to stop. Thank you.