Last year Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the publishing arm of Neos Alexandrina released The Shining Cities, which is exactly as the subtitle suggests: an anthology of pagan science fiction. Pagan science fiction stories written by pagans, for pagans. I purchased a copy as soon as it came out, read the first story, then the next, and the next and the next and then set in down because I was reading it too fast and I wanted to savor.
“Cattle die, kinsmen die
all men are mortal
Words of praise will never perish,
nor a noble name.” ~ Havamal
The wall as it stands now. I’m missing my uncle — I had a photo of he and my grandparents, and it did not make it to the store to get printed. I also want a photo of my father as a grown-up, but they are hard to find with 1) by himself or with other also deceased folks and/or 2) sober. He may not LOOK shitfaced, but, when I can tell, it does not pass my scrutiny. So there. Also, I need to get a photo of my mother’s father up there, too.
My grandparents. Why, no, they never did grow up . . . Who says you can’t blow a kazoo at ninety?
They’re wedding day, at the church.
My grandma was a hottie! Or, sea sick . . .
Gippy’s service photo.
Little baby Gippy. He’s in the middle. The Ears! *dies* All his younger photos Kev and I went through, including the service albums, we were all, gee, I wonder if we’ll recognize him, I wonder which one hello ears! I don’t know who all else is in this photo. Family of his, obviously.
An awesome photo that covers my great grandparents, my great aunts and uncles, and my grandmother. Woot!
Top is my father, his sisters and my Nanna and Papa. The lower one is my father looking way too young. I’m having weird moments lately realizing that he died so young. He was 68. So, not *way* young, but you have to understand that, from my point of view at the time, he was *old*. The nurses in the hospitals when we’d go see him would try to insist that he was our *grandfather*, all the time. Mind you, too, his youngest child was 11, when he died. 12? Turning twelve. So. Not old, but old to have kids that young. It’s been an interesting shift.
Like I said, so not done yet. I want to get a rosary to hang up in the center of the photos, there, and there’s noise about a few saint images to get placed about. I really don’t know how I over-looked my uncle’s photo, but I had this deadline, see, and I’m still so overwhelmed by their being on *that* shrine, so . . .
Shrine, angle right.
Shrine, angle left.
Bastet’s shrine sits atop our Beloved Dead non-human shrine. When I tried moving Her shrine elsewhere it really, really felt wrong. I don’t love that in order to give Her offerings I need to climb up on a chair, but I love this statue presiding over the living space. The dead dog plushy is a nod to the shrine below Her. Bastet is one of our background deities, for the most part, but we have strong, deep feelings for Her.
Also, I love this statue. The pictures do the soft, benevolent smile no justice.
You are the Foundation,
cellar dug deep for stores to be laid up, to see us through our lean times,
stone ringed ’round, thick and strong, to carry the weight of our dwelling.
You are the framework.
Timber hewn and set in place, the bones of this structure that is my life,
solidly braced throughout, giving shape to so much raw material.
You are the openings,
Windows and doors placed in just the right locations to let in light, air, breath,
and easily shuttered when the outside elements threaten to overwhelm this sanctuary.
You are the walls
Plaster and paint, the flesh of this space, gently partitioning off the rooms of my soul,
providing layer upon layer of solitude and privacy as needed, but welcoming enough for company, at need.
You are the chamber in the heart of the house,
replete with all the lush comfort any bedroom could offer, rich textiles,
and the intimacy that comes from such a place, that goes deeper than blood, than life, than something so simple as love.
You are my hearth
at the center of it all, my life is an offering poured into the flame of Your divine glory,
All that is nourishing and warm and life-giving within me comes from Your shelter, Your blessings, Your generosity.
You are the Foundation.
This, this, so much this. This morning is a lovely cool, over cast, drizzly day. I am coming out of medicated stupor, I have been tending the shrine morning and night, I have been making sure to say prayers out loud, to dare myself to have the audacity to address Poseidon formally on occasion. I have re-introduced formalization in my bathing process. Just feeling less brain dead alone has helped immensely, and the black mood of the last few weeks has lightened to a tolerable, steady blue. Ah, melancholia, you old friend.
There was a day, last week, that involved light banter. I banter. I am a sarcastic woman, and I come from a long line of showing love in little teasing jabs. When it’s Really Important to be Serious, I try to avoid doing that, because I don’t believe it’s a healthy way to express love, it does not build confidence, it does not nourish, without there already being a strong foundation established. Poseidon and I, we have a strong foundation established, so on the lighter days, or on the days when I’m trying to tease myself into a lighter mood, I tease. I joke. I pick up old weapons and turn them into moments of “look at how far we’ve come”. Badges of pride rather than wounds.
So, this day last week, and things were decent and light and good . . . and then, in the span of a blink, in the exchange of one word, a feel of teasing agreement, everything changed. I was being a brat, but not in a serious way, and I said, “I am such a brat,” and His agreement was jovial and teasing and completely fit in the tone we’d been setting, but in that blink everything was thrown open and that teasing, light-hearted, jovial agreement became instead completely devastating. Oh, how, now what will I do? NOW after all we’ve been through, after all His reassurances that He Knows me, now He will level that barb at me? The recoil was staggering, and even as I recoiled I knew a number of things:
1) My emotional state is not. trustworthy. Especially because of things like this: in the blink of an eye, everything changes and often reality is discounted entirely for the sake of ephemeral imaginings. Usually this is strictly true during a particular two week period, if you get me, during any given month, but when the black descends, nothing is really safe or stable;
2) He knows me. Considering how things progressed afterward, I can’t say that it wasn’t a calculated devastation on His part. It may have been; likely He simply will not pass by an opportunity to dig deeper, to, ahem, strip me back to the bone as it were;
3) Even as I recoiled I was grasping for Him. Our foundation is rather strong, and though there were a number of hours when just breathing was difficult, I was almost immediately before the shrine, burning incense, pouring libations, moved beyond words to just *be* there.
He is not threatened or scared of my emotional extremes. I have nothing on His moods. I experienced a bit of not-unlike-horror at the wound His returning my jovial mood produced, but beyond the immediate “You know I was not seriously calling you a brat” reaction, there were no taking back the word, no falling over Himself to apologize. It was more, look at these foundations and then decide if you want to hold on to this hurt feeling, or if you’d rather examine it and then release it.
So, examine, release. And all the while, grasping Him tightly, securely, and feeling utterly safe in my devastation, until it eases and I can breathe again.
I know He is not the only god who does this thing, and I know I am not the only one to be wounded and wounded and wounded again. It’s not unique to living this sort of life. Introspection, contemplation. I have days when I grow weary — why does everything have to go back to those particular experiences? Why do I have to share these weak moments with others? Well, I don’t have to, but since working through it is part of my devotional life with Poseidon, it seems fitting to share, here. And I find it useful when others talk about the moments when things aren’t easy. I like anecdotal stories, so I share them.
Interestingly enough, the photo I have to share isn’t of Jord’s shrine — largely as Jord’s shrine is not yet assembled in our household. On earth day we of course think of Her, but my thoughts also turn to the various Mothers of the Gods, specifically Bestla and Rhea. Our plans for the day involve getting dirty — evening out the garden bed that will grow some of our food this summer, so that we can get planting, mostly. This is the first year I’ll have any experience in a not-frame garden bed, so it’ll be interesting. Our neighbor managed to get his to look nice and even, and I am to follow that example. And, then, we’ll plant the leeks that Beth brought home on Saturday. And I’m ignoring my need to Plan Everything, because experience will give me more knowledge than planning will. (The bed is something crazy long by two or three feet wide. I want to say thirty feet but that seems to long, and also not long enough. I don’t know how many of me I could lay down along side it, but certainly at least three. Possibly four, maybe even five. It’s long) We want: squash, kale, tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce. Actually the lettuce we may pot or even put in the front for the dog’s grazing pleasure.
Bed planning has me wanting to plan the other beds — like the bed of native bleeding hearts and violets I want in over the graves in the yard. And the garden I want to set up for Poseidon (which will have pansies and violas and possible a gourd or two, and maybe even a home-made fountain/pond by the end of it. Water lilies would be neat.) And the nine herb garden. And the lilacs I want. And the composting bin I want to set up (which will likely be a smaller DIY storage bin project, since Beth won’t let me have my worms! *pout*)
This morning, though, I found myself before Rhea’s shrine and praying, with my mind toward Her connections to the beasts and the wild. It likely isn’t strange that I find common ground between Jord and Rhea, in those wild places. Contemplating a shared shrine space for the two Ladies. For now, sitting with it, and I thought I’d share an image of the shrine.
The imagine on the left is a representation of Ge, though there’s so much overlap between the Two it makes my head hurt/is awesome, and I really adored the artwork. The image on the right is inspiration for a plaque we want done, for the Bee Spirits, and it will ultimately live over our stove, but for now I loved the colors and wanted it against that red wall. The frogs are somewhat obvious — the black one is made out of coal, in fact. The incense holder is a snail, which is a very awesome critter, for all that they won’t leave my pansies alone. (Borderline creatures like amphibians and mollusks make me think of Poseidon rather strongly, and obviously my connection with Rhea comes primarily from my connection with Poseidon, who is one of Her many offspring).
Like all of my not-Poseidon shrines, it’s small and simple, but I rather am pleased with it.
I haven’t yet gotten my head to remember things like, hey, if you start the observance at sundown the day before, the shrine being set up “early” makes sense. I am not making myself go through things* faster than it takes me to go through things, so I’ll say honestly that this past week was extremely trying. I am interested in processing my grief while fully throwing myself into the hands of my Gods. This includes in pulling myself together enough to function, pulling myself out of my mundane worries enough to dismiss them from my mind long enough to honor Poseidon with this, the 7th observance of this festival. I did not do these things early enough to get the observance going at sundown the night before, but I did take the time to burn some incense, light the lamp, and pray. And snap some photos.**
This is a very basic shrine. The mantle is the top part of our hearth shrine. I’m at a point where I want to start including honoring — secondarily to Poseidon, naturally — Pegasos, Sleipnir (oh you faint of heart, singularly focused households, look away now!) and, unexpectedly and yet not, the Dioskouri. That happened, a bit, this year, but there were no physical representations beyond the horse figurine that I have for Poseidon Hippios.
Standard food offerings are: carrots (with greens still!) apples, and sugar cubes. This year fancy demerara sugar cubes! Obviously there are no photos of the energy work offerings.
Flowers! I snipped two of this bouquet for Poseidon’s shrine, and they have not immediately whilted like the last ones, so I’m taking His color suggestions to heart. Pink is a beautiful color that He especially enjoys seeing on me (my wardrobe will attest to this, though I don’t love the color myself) but not so much on His shrine. Duly noted.
**Pushing myself to get in front of the shrine and not skip out on this festival was extremely hard. It brings up all sorts of ideas about miasma and festival purity, but with Poseidon and me, it really comes back to, “Come to Me, and give Me everything.” This week was wretched and grueling, and things are being pulled from me, and every day has been a battle with apathy, because calm detachment isn’t possible right now. And it’s not even that I don’t want to share this with Him — I don’t want to be experiencing it, period. I’m toying with the idea of writing about it all, in greater detail, but currently that’s an excuse to not sit with it and just be so I’m trying to do just that.
I love my God, I truly, truly do.
**Beth took the other pictures.
May Your strong-legged stance provide shelter for the new-borns in the year to come. May Your presence give comfort those in distress, those in need, those in pain. May Your vengeance by felt by those who would harm and abuse these, Your beloved creatures.
Two weeks ago, I picked up my much neglected yoga practice, for the first time in a few years. I went about it slowly and mindfully, focusing more on not stretching the body to the point of injury (something I’m too likely to do because I don’t seem to register pain as a warning to stop, but rather a challenge to be overcome by barreling through, which is not useful). It was fun and humbling to discover the ways in which my body has changed in the few years since my last serious practice. I haven’t gained a lot of weight since then, but it’s certainly redistributed, and I’ve accumulated aches and pains and injuries (and possibly gout) that require concessions. My routine is an amalgamation of asanas, mostly lifted from Kripalu Gentle, with a few more picked up from books here and there. Once picked up again, it is like an old, familiar friend. These are the moves, this are the variation of sequences, that I have used as a devotional act for Poseidon since I started practicing yoga back in 2000. I can be mindful and push myself, or I can let my body remember the forms and let the mind go where it needs to go.
I remembered, very soon into the practice, that yoga helps things come out, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I began purging some emotional ick. And, really, the only emotional ick that I have any room in my being for at this point is ick over my grandparents having died last year.
Naturally enough, the practice barely happened last week. However, I noticed that I was sitting with their having passed a lot longer, a lot deeper, a lot more mindfully, than I had been.
Grief is such a funny thing. I belong to Odin as much as I belong to Poseidon. Death isn’t new, and it’s not even a frightening thing. I know our loved ones remain with us, that a relationship can still be maintained. Dying is a process, like being born, and it’s a useful word that describes something, but it does not, in my experience, mean “gone”. My immediate family is made up largely of disincarnate beings, human and otherwise, and never-incarnate beings, so having a physical body is not a requisite in my book for relationships. So, when grief hits me this deeply, with the “if I don’t let go of my awareness of it right now I will end up screaming in a ball in the corner” I’m always somewhat bemused. That sort of grief is for the people who cannot or do not experience a continuation of interaction . . . right?
Am trying my best to set aside reason and value judgment. We grieve how we grieve how we grieve.
This week has been rough. Small, tiny triggery things that won’t quit. And this is after weeks and weeks of Pointed Dreams. Am I caring for my Beloved Dead? Or have I dropped that?
I’ve dropped that, like a hot potato. They are in my mind, naturally, but that’s not what I mean when I talk about caring for my Beloved Dead. Where are the gifts? Where is the time spent? Where is the reflecting and remembering to keep the mindfulness fresh?
I am not one who can hear the general dead, but I can hear my dead. (And, of course, there is a bit of my brain that says it’s all psychological comfort to help with the grief and nothing more. On the days when I buy into that, it still doesn’t change what my goals are, but most of the time I don’t buy into that because there have been Things, often enough that those are easier to buy into.)
The goal is to get the ancestor wall in order by the next dark moon. Should be easy enough; I don’t have photos for everyone but I have enough that my familial lines will be represented. My grandparents are both pretty serious about getting a rosary over there for them, as well. Which is fine, since Beth’s grandmother is pretty serious about our getting a Mezuzah (and I found a Tree of Life design for one!) on the lintel, and some of the Queens want an image of the Virgin Mary with their shrines. Look, you know, we’re a multi-faith household. It’s good. (Mostly I can only hear my dead, but I think anyone could hear Beth’s grandmother if they just tried . . .)
It’s entirely possible that pictures will be forth-coming.
Here’s the thing about head covering for religious reasons when you’re pagan: it’s weird. I can’t deny that I cover for religious reasons. Once upon a time, a long time ago in a land far away, Poseidon said, “So, hey, fabric on your head? Yes.” I don’t have a continuous tradition to draw on, I don’t have examples to point to and say, “that!” I live a spiritual life that is living and growing and changing, and I interact with my gods and spirits on a personal level, and at the end of the day, the fact that Poseidon said, “About this thing . . . ” is enough of a reason for me to cover.
I can’t, and won’t, deny that there are issues that come with covering. The most obvious one is, since I wear a scarf on my head and not a hat, it looks like I’m covering for religious reasons and, assumptions are often made about what those reasons are. I live in a fairly religiously diverse city, which makes it somewhat easy — more to the point, I live in a lifestyle-choices-diverse city, which really makes it easy. When this taboo first came up, we were still in Philly, and I hesitated a lot, and toyed with covering a lot, and opted for non-hijab styled covers mostly because there was a strong Islamic presence, and I did not want to offend people.
I don’t get the religious question a lot anymore, but when I first moved here it happened a fair amount. I suck at stock answers, so sometimes I answered decently enough and sometimes I’m human and I’m having a bad day and it’s not my fault if you don’t like my “it’s personal,” response when you ask me in the middle of my shift at my day job. More often, though, I try to be more gracious about it, because I do believe that we represent our gods, whether we want to or not.
But I think about the veiling a lot, because, well, I do it every day, and I am pagan, and it *is* a bit not-normal for pagan peeps to cover for religious reasons. They do it, as I had fun learning last year, and more of them do it than you might otherwise think. But it’s still not common. And that’s fine.
Last week at work, I was approached by a cautious-about-offending-me woman who wanted to know if we sold head coverings (we do, indeed, or at least, things that can be used as such) and then proceeded to explain that she and her church were attending a local mosque and she was very nervous about doing the whole head wrapping thing. I was able to share a bit with her, and because I’m a nerd who has studied headcoverings of various faiths (in part because, hey, I like to know what I’m talking about, where assumptions come from, but mostly because I’m a nerd and I like to know things period) I was able to tell her a little bit about Islamic headcovering, though I couldn’t tell her what the rules at this particular mosque would be. I did point her to some tutorial websites, and she left less nervous and more confident, and it was very cool.
It likely goes without saying, though I’ll say it anyway because lately it seems like things that should go without saying need to be said, I support anyone’s choice to cover, for whatever reasons. I support pagans who want to run around nekkid, and I support pagans who feel called toward modest dress, for however they define modest dress. I wish that I didn’t feel awkward going out with my scarves wrapped hijab style, because there are days when I want those layers between me and other people — it has nothing to do with shielding or not shielding and everything to do with I feel comfortable covered up. Some days I do, and I leave my bangs out in a token effort to say, look, I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I am disgusted by the idea that anyone thinks they get to have a say in how much of myself I show or cover. You don’t. Get over it.
I do poke at the cultural appropriation issue when it comes to covering, a lot, but I keep coming back to: there are only so many ways to tie a piece of fabric to your head. I still favor the tichel a lot, because it stays and I don’t need to pin it. But there are days when I want to get fancier, and I wish I would without worrying too much about other people. I don’t care about the people who think covering is wrong/bad/oppressive/stupid. I care about not offending people who also cover, because we should be supporting one another’s rights to cover, not making it more difficult to do so.