Musings From the Mud

Finally have a post ready. Quality isn’t guaranteed.

Staring at the sky listening to a woman mourn her twenties, and thinking about reaching out to someone I have been nursing a very abrupt and intense crush on. Unsure of whether this would be their scene, because I’ve never seen any indication that they go for folk music like I do, let alone country soul. The breeze is nice, this is my home, more so than the nearby house I grew up in.

I didn’t get a good look at this singer at first and thought she was artfully draped in gold lamé, and I suspect it was because of her singing about walking through fire after telling a humorous tale of having literally lit herself on fire. It ended up being a standard 70s inspired maxi dress, but it suits her anyway.

It feels good to lie on the compacted mud beneath me, even with the waterproof blanket between us there’s a sense of relief. It has felt like it wanted to be touched. I’m not supposed to have my shoes off, it’s a safety thing, because people never check where their glass is going here. I don’t care. I’ve been going barefoot and letting the swordgrass and dry stiff straw and baby Rosa multiflora sprouts scratch my soles so the land can take whatever it wants from me.

When I left my now ex I was terrified that I was never going to have any semblance of humanity again, which was a terrible illusion created by the expectation that I whittle myself down into a more user-friendly instrument. Too much. Too little. Go away. Where’d you go?

Well, I’m fucking gone and doing an awful lot better than I had let myself believe I was going to be.

The air no longer feels smothering. The first hints of fall. When everyone leaves, the leaves start dropping. A sudden withdrawal, I guess, from the abundant accidental offerings of chili dogs and funnel cakes and fair trade single origin coffee and ice cream and all manner of booze and, ahem, burnt offerings. Though the Landvættir could surely live without the glow sticks and forgotten air mattresses. Bought only to be thrown in the trash, by someone else. Because it will always be somebody else’s problem, I suppose.

Look how well that’s turning out for us.

“If you’re in love, you have nothing but work to do.”

Heartening.

Perhaps the necessary struggle to tolerate being on my own is the easier route. But she’s not wrong.

The fact that the dog days are finally over and there’s the vague suggestion of a chill in the air and night has fallen and it’s too dark to spin yarn anymore has me thinking of the Yuul spinning Verbots. And so, by extension, Yuulsege.

When I left my ex I was lucky enough to be able to fall into the arms of my community. The series of events slowly working up to this brought people I could lean on to the forefront. Options were visible. I was not going to be alone and suffering in the ways I had spent many years fearing. I had, in a social sense, a home to come to.

And that was vital.

And yet, while writing this, I’ve bailed on writing blog posts and am avoiding social media because Hell is Other People and I don’t know how to act. I want to be alone. I want to be invisible. And so therefore the solution, apparently, was to go to work. And then go to music festivals where I had freebie tickets, and be politely ignored, which is what humans do in large numbers and close proximity. Despite our collecting in a hay field, city etiquette kicks in.

I am sure that all of this is entirely because I am starting to feel like a product, like I am too much, too close, go away, where’d you go? I am afraid of being an instrument again. Or continuing to be one, because I’m not sure I’ve ever not been one.

I catch myself leaning in to be engulfed, and then pulling back and aggressively flagging my interests, my identity, stepping back from testing the waters because I don’t know who I am. I’ve never been a real person before. And it leaked into the way I interact with the rest of the community, ramping up with every tactically beneficial acquaintance.

Like a muscle knot, if left for too long without being broken apart, more will catch and tangle. And eventually the forgettable bundle of angry muscle deep in your shoulder blades is sending pains shooting up your neck into your eyes, radiating around the front and threatening to crush your chest.

A simile I hope nobody else can relate to.

I am frightened and resentful when people see potential in me, and then expend resources trying to get it realized. I give up easily, I become exhausted and run away, and am often too scared, too ashamed, too frustrated to get back on track.

Trothmoot spelled networking spelled the looming threat of success, and my first instinct is to sabotage it all for the sake of familiarity and the perception of safety and missing the comfort of being sad.

And that habit will have to be broken.

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So, Your Pagan Event Is Getting Picketed – Here’s What You Can Do

Pagan pride season is coming up again. There are, as you may already know, certain groups who will go out of their way to try and crash your events.  It helps to know how these groups operate and how to get rid of them–without legally jeopardizing your own event. Mass gatherings like pagan pride require the organizers–and the attendees, by extension–to remain in the good graces of the powers that be.

Not the gods, but the people issuing your permit to gather. Or the people you called to alert that an event too small for permits was happening.

Picketers can throw off the energy and momentum of your event, and they often attract a crowd. The gathering of a crowd means that picketers now have an audience, and having access to more people means that they’ll stick around for longer because they like the attention and have more people to target.

Drawing a crowd also presents two possible dangers for your event: one, that it will drag attendees away from your event to go yell at the picketers, and two, increase the likelihood of someone doing something dangerous or illegal because they’re pissed off.

Which can result in forceful legal intervention, a horrendous lawsuit, and will create issues with organizing the next event. We don’t want that.

So we’ve established that debate, argument and heckling don’t work. Fighting and forcing picketers away also doesn’t work, for slightly different reasons. Provocative groups are often, as a rule, lawyer happy.

So what does work?

Cut off their attention supply, and bore them to tears.

warning - live trolls do not feed

You usually can’t force them to leave unless they encroach on the area you have a permit for–and even then, public property can’t be monopolized, and free speech is a demo derby. That can make picketers virtually untouchable.

Don’t touch them, by the way–because again, these people are prone to filing lawsuits.

Before you Start:

Step zero, which has to happen before any response can be planned, is to have the permission of the event organizers. In the case of Philly Pagan Pride, the idea was from the organizers, so we didn’t have to worry about this. With Seasons of Transition Pt II, we had volunteers from within the community who approached me first and ran tactics they had in mind by me.

But it is absolutely necessary that you are working with the event, to prevent any possibility of accidentally working against the interests of the event. Make sure you understand what the event permit allows–or what’s allowed when you hold an event sans permit.

Once this is sorted out, you’re free to proceed to step one.

Continue reading So, Your Pagan Event Is Getting Picketed – Here’s What You Can Do

Not Dead, Just Busy!

I disappeared for a bit there because, according to my therapist, I “overwork myself” and “need to practice self-compassion.” Whatever that means. Anyway, the blog was one of the first things that got cut because there were no oaths or responsibilities attached to it which made it very low priority if things got hard to manage. I’m getting a little better now.

So, update.

I left a group I was on the mod team for. It was toxic for multiple reasons, as most Lokean groups online inevitably are. Most of the mods left. I had to take a break from basically any relevant things online (other than being openly very salty) because I’d get wigged out and very annoyed. I’m getting back to an acceptable baseline.

By the time this is posted, I’m going to be on a plane headed for Seattle to go to Trothmoot. Babby’s first Trothmoot. First Trothmoot since the end of the Verboten Jotunn Blotin’ policy. (Remember that discourse?) I am very paranoid that people will not like me. There are more important things, at least in theory, than people not liking me. I am still deeply concerned about this possibility.

Also planes. Also allergies. Also not sleeping right. Also being cold “Travel” and “travail” were once the exact same word. Go figure. I have packed a lot of snacks and my comfort hoodie.

Work is being done on our next trans empowerment blot/Sege. Our first one was in early April at Baltimore Witchfest. We were indoors, with a closed room, a small enough crowd to be no pressure, and access to a workshop called Drum Church where I had the opportunity to space out on purpose and then grab lunch before doing the thing.

This time around we don’t have the benefit of having a venue handed to us. And venues are expensive. So we are doing the thing outdoors. So we are contending with the possibility of the local hate preachers. Or some local wingnut starting something. Or worse.

No pressure.

There’s a lot of coordinating and meetings and planning and filling of forms to be done in relation to all of this. I have an activist background (…and, like, foreground I guess, since developing and hosting these rituals is activism) but none of that has involved the actual organization aspect. I am treading new water.

Hopefully I float!

And, like, you know? I have these aspirations towards serving the community as clergy, especially in terms of providing spiritual care for incarcerated Heathens. And I figured–again with the splitting connotational meanings of identical words–that with clerical work and clerical work, there was a lot of form-filling and filing and such to be done. And some meetings.

But you guys there are so many. I’m not even ordained yet. I’m not able to get into the Troth’s clergy program yet. I’m really hoping the tedious stuff is a big part of the training. Because, from what I hear of the clergy I know personally, and from what I’m seeing, there’s so much more of that than marryings, buryings and baby blessings.

Though there’s that, too! Baby blessings are something that inevitably spark a ton of debate, but they’re really incredible to witness in person.

So my last update here is going to be some boring housekeeping.

When I hoarded this username it was just supposed to be a placeholder. I had some weird idea about an online shadow work journal. And then never got around to it, because, uh. The shadow is the shadow for a reason. You don’t go publicizing that stuff unless you have really, really bad boundary issues. I ended up sticking with a trained professional.

The name was just a goblin-themed pun on the idea of a “sparkle pony,” aka, someone who will probably die in a puddle of their own body glitter if left to their own devices at any kind of Burner event.

Since I went on a rant about snacks and Trothmoot I’m, very obviously, not actually a sparkle pony. I got this, even though my anxiety is very certain of terrible things happening.

Again. Trained professional in my corner for a lot of very good reasons.

So what I’m getting at is that I am, in addition to hopefully getting back on a schedule, changing my blog name. Rebranding a tiny bit, and maybe changing up my content a bit because I fell into a niche of info posts, and that was getting constricting. Maybe I’ll include a little more of a ~lifestyle~ bent here. While I haven’t officially linked my legal identity with this blog, I’ve definitely left enough crumbs for anyone who cared to figure it out.

I was kind of officially out of the broom closet as a result of presenting at Witchfest, so.

I’m going to be focusing July on getting our ritual for PTWC set up, and then maybe queueing new content.. My Halloween store job comes back this summer and, while the routine and income certainly help, it is time and energy spent.

My goal is to get back on my old fornightly schedule as of August 1st.

Which is a Thursday. Remember when I used to post every single Thursday? Whew. Would be nice, but I don’t see that happening soon. Biweekly was usually manageable.

So. Tidbits and crumbs for now. Back to big posts in August!

Pledging: One Year In (or Just About)

On March 20th of 2018 I swore a pledge in which I guaranteed 5 more years of service to Loki.

Within even just the first six months (i.e., from spring to fall equinox) my practice underwent some massive and overwhelmingly positive changes. Which is awesome, because part of my motivation for doing this was to light a fire under my ass.

So here’s my progress report, I suppose.

The terms of my pledge (which I think I might be publishing for the first time, actually) are as follows:

  • Oath ring must be worn during waking hours,
  • Religious jewelry should also be worn under similar circumstances.
  • Altars must be cleaned properly at least once per month.
  • Celebrate all major heathen holidays with a proven historical basis, plus Lokabrenna.
  • I must make a concerted effort to pursue ordination.
  • I must participate in and contribute to my local Heathen community, to the best of my ability.
  • I must continue studying the lore and language, and do any further research that will improve my service to my gods and my religious community.
  • No cutting hair until ordination. (This was added later.)

Continue reading Pledging: One Year In (or Just About)

Inclusive Heathenry is Accessible Heathenry

Go figure, stanza 71 of Havamal is my favorite:

A limping man can ride a horse,
A handless man can herd,
A deaf man can fight and win.
It is better even to be blind,
than fuel for the funeral pyre;
what can a dead man do?

From the Jackson Crawford translation.
Continue reading Inclusive Heathenry is Accessible Heathenry

Where Heathenry and OCD Collide (and Heathenry Helps)

I have OCD.

There. Done. Official. Out in the open.

I described some of my symptoms in my post on scrupulosity, but that was before diagnosis and beginning treatment, back when I thought I just had subclinical symptoms and no compulsive behaviors.

I was very compulsive. I just didn’t realize it until the OCD kept me from eating. Which I was aware of, but didn’t register fully until a counselor on my campus noted my weight loss and, instead of complimenting me, worked out a bulk meal plan with safe foods.

And I didn’t even properly acknowledge the obsessive aspect before it got that bad, because I’d always had distressing intrusive thoughts, and upon reading the criteria thought, “big fucking deal.”

Which…I mean, it is, actually.

OCD involves a lot of horrible thoughts. You are not in charge of these thoughts. You, with strenuous effort, get to be in charge of whether these thoughts are in charge of you. But you are not in charge of the thoughts. And these thoughts always center around disaster.

Somehow I have it in my head that eating out of a can that hasn’t been meticulously inspected for dents spells instant death for me. Never mind that statistics overwhelmingly favor me never getting botulism. Never mind that modern medicine overwhelmingly favors me surviving if I do somehow get botulism. Never mind that botulism can take several hours or sometimes even days to even become a deadly problem.

Instant death. My frantic little brain is sure of it.

So imagine carrying the baggage of the end of the world as you know it. You put in a lot of work getting things to where they are, and now you find out it’s all going to be ripped apart and set on fire. And, oh, also, you’re going to be mauled by a huge wolf. Who is your nephew. And die horribly. But there’s a vain and frantic hope that you can avert it if you learn every single way you can stave off tragedy, be it ripping labels off of cans and checking for dents, or making sure the door is locked, or learning forbidden magical skills, or fishing for information in riddle contests, or binding the wolf, or, or, or…

Suddenly, ritual suicide to learn the alphabet makes a lot more sense. Odin reads obsessive-compulsive as hell.

This doesn’t show so blatantly in works like Havamal, which is ostensibly written from Odin’s perspective and full of moderate, common-sense approaches to life’s worries. Up to and including criticism of the habit of staying up late obsessing over your problems. (Don’t come for me like this!) This is a man who, while consumed by fear and acting to assuage it, understands on the rational level that the behavior is largely irrational…in other people, at least.

I made a self-deprecating comment once about rational mind vs. emotional mind in therapy. And my therapist explained that neither is superior nor inferior, but rather are two halves of a whole that make up the Wise Mind.

Which, quite frankly, sounds an awful lot like Odin.

But I’m not Odin.

You won’t catch me playing godly hangman because I’m a high-strung bundle of broken nerves who thinks all mistakes are unfixable, permanent stains on my personhood, and who doesn’t trust myself to ensure anyone else’s survival and who is terrified of getting sick.

So that’s the other place Heathenry comes in. Our ritual structure involves a lot of sharing germs. Every single ritual event I go to involves knowingly taking the risk that I will get sick. This becomes doubly true in the middle of winter, or when people bring their kids.

Sharing the Stein isn’t just sharing space and blending our lives together in ritual. It’s a safe, comforting space where I am secure among friends and I’m sharing their germs.

yeah.

We don’t really talk or think too intensely about the germs thing.

Listen, though. When I went to my first Distelfink event, I was terrified that people weren’t going to like me. I was a stranger to everyone but Rob–who, bless him, drove me. Because I wasn’t driving at the time. Because I was too anxious. Because of course I was.

I was too anxious to share the Stein, overwhelmed with the fear of other people’s microbes and somehow tangling their Wurt with my spooky controversial Lokean-ness.

Now, just over a year into my involvement with Distelfink Sippschaft, I have gotten comfortable enough to use the communal Stein, and go for the high-octane libation. To the point where I was…crying and…flipping bottles…and dabbing at dogs…at Yuulsege.

I’m going low-octane for a while just because my alcohol tolerance is so low. But to even get to the point where I was okay with risking drunkenness, crying in front of people who are not paid to put up with my feelings but still aren’t going to shame me, to get comfortable with driving (sober! Not after sipping too much high-octane!), let alone driving somebody else’s car in the kindred…

That is a lot of progress.

I was so, so sure that nobody in Distelfink was going to like me. I felt like an intruder in their lives. And now I have friends.

Friends! Friends who teach me how to spin, and knead bread, and speak Deitsch, and drive stick. Who are baffled that I would ever think they wouldn’t like me.

The intrusive thoughts, quite obviously, have not gone away. But Heathenry gave me a comforting frame of reference and multiple opportunities to teach myself how to be calm.

…and maybe someone will help me be a little calmer about cans.

Things We Lost in the (Sacrificial Jól) Fire

January 21st was Jól, if you calculate your calendar with the Lunisolar method.

Bonfire

That is, the second full moon after the winter solstice. The first full moon after solstice starts the year, but I was observing the Urglaawisch Yuulsege that day.

…and tearfully toasting my new ex during Sammel. And accidentally drinking too much. And flipping bottles to try and impress the hostess’s dog.

The dog is 7. He’s Gen Z. I figured he’d think it was lit. But he’s a dog. He’s not going to dab appreciatively.

Ugh.

Anyway, the thing about my ex.

I ended a 9½ year (to the day) relationship at the end of November. I am not going to go too deeply into why it ended. But my official (and honest) explanation is that it just wasn’t going anywhere. During the phone call where we broke things off, my ex and I agreed that it was sad, but a relief.

But it is sad, dammit.

I sent a Christmas card wishing my ex well, but carefully avoided leaving any crumbs of false hope. I never heard back. Not that I particularly expected to, though I do hope the silly anecdote about the Harambe Christmas sweater brought some holiday cheer.

So I left it at that, and returned to making decisions about all the artifacts left behind. Among the items was the first, and only, bouquet I had ever gotten.

They were a gift brought along when my ex came to see me for Easter. When my ex went back home, I dried the flowers and put them back in the vase, where I gladly woke up to see them for seven more years.

And then after the breakup I woke up every day to see those flowers and hate myself. Look what you’ve done, I would tell myself. This person loved you enough to get you flowers and you threw it all away.

I had legitimate reasons for leaving. None of those reasons made my ex a bad person, just the wrong person. And it just wasn’t something Easter flowers were going to fix.

Another item was a small ragdoll I had made to look like my ex, because we were in a long distance relationship and it was nice to have something to cuddle or sleep next to. I held on to this, very literally, for the first week after the breakup when I couldn’t get out of bed. Eventually, I realized items either needed to be contained or removed if I was going to recover and stop stumbling on random things from my ex.

The ragdoll went in a box in the closet for a while, because it was far too specific to the now-absent relationship. I was only keeping it to make a decision on it, and I knew it was going to have to be removed from my life eventually, along with the flowers.

These things were lovely, but their purpose had been fulfilled and it was time for them to go.

I wanted it to be sacred and purposeful.

Both Yuul and Jol mark times of stagnation and introspection. There is nothing to be planted and precious little reason to go outside. Anything that hasn’t died off yet is just holding on. And it’s miserable, which is why we have so many winter holidays in the first place.

So when we aren’t socializing and reinforcing how important community is, we go into our homes. We go into ourselves. We burn through our stores and scrape our cupboards and learn to survive without. Even though many of us are living post-scarcity, it’s probably the best possible time to get a feel for what you do and don’t truly need.

I didn’t fully grasp this during Yuul, between the usual rune headache and accidentally drinking too much of the libation, but I was being unsubtly whacked over the head with the idea of life transitions.

I’m not dead. Sure as hell felt like it between a severe cold and the breakup and the general misery of winter. And the future I thought I was going to have may be gone, but that leaves room for different ones.

Where I flip bottles and dab at middle-aged dogs, apparently.

But, also a future where I approach compromises with a better grasp on what I want. Where I establish myself on my own terms, and not based on a foregone conclusion, because guarantees make me lazy.

…and where I reckon with uncertainty. Which is kind of a big deal in all other aspects of my life, these days.

So along with onions I grew in my experimental scrap garden, little bits of goldenrod, and cast-offs from the altars that were due to be burned…my little ragdoll and first ever bouquet went up in flames.

I want a good harvest. In more ways than one. And I am hoping that I am able to continue to do the work it takes to make that happen. And to trust the process of digging around in literal dirt, and emotional dirt, and pulling weeds, and handling my responsibilities in a way that I can reap the benefits but also accept a certain amount of failure.

As I’m finishing up this post, I’m caught in a squall and getting snowed in. Buried, but halfway through winter. Soon I’ll be able to say I was planted instead. My onions and squash and lettuce will grow, hopefully I will too.

To a good year, and to peace.