Monday, June 29, 2009

Goddess of the Week

Idun (also spelled Iðunn) is the Norse Goddess of springtime and youth Who keeps the golden apples that keep the Gods eternally young. Her name means "Ever-young" or "She Who Renews." She passes Her apples out at feasts, and no matter how many She takes from Her basket the same amount remain within.

She was once enticed out by one Loki to be captured by the jötunn (giant) Thjazi or Þjazi (Skaði's father, by the by) who desired the apples; though once imprisoned, to Thjazi's dismay, She refused to share them.

Without Idun the Gods soon began to age; and so they sent Loki out to retrieve Her on pain of death, which He did, though not without a bit of drama. But all was made right in the end, and She was returned unscathed; and the Gods were soon young and strong again.

There is another, though fragmentary legend about Idun: one day Idun accidentally slipped down into Niflheim, the land of mists and cold, where Hel's realm is located. Once there She fell into a stupor or coma; and though Her husband Bragi and other Gods tried to warm Her up by wrapping Her in furs She would not respond. The other Gods eventually left, but Bragi promised to remain with Her until She could be roused.

That's where that story breaks off; but we can see in both tales the common idea of youth and renewal being absent for a time, in much the way that winter and cold descend upon the land every year.

I don't think, however, that Her appearance now is connected with the actual seasons, given we just had a solstice and aren't particularly near springtime in either hemisphere; more likely this is a personal sort of renewal to be had this week. Perhaps something from your youth or childhood may be rekindled now, or may prove inspirational; how may you find renewal through such things?

Alternately, what have you been hoarding? What resources or energy have you been keeping close? There is no need to hoard; this energy is self-renewing and generous now. Remember that no matter how many apples Idun takes from Her basket, there are always the same amount left.

And so I ask Her, What do You have to say to us this week?

Hoard, hoard, spare a penny
I am one and I am many
Old is new and new is old
All the world will end in cold

Yes I am young, for spring is young. But likewise I am ancient too, for spring is the most ancient of all.

All lies within the apple. It is eternal; it is the food of the dead. Who are eternal, after all.

I am the living face of Hel. Where do you think I am in the winter?

It is more complicated than you think. I am not all shining blond hair and big blue eyes; I am the process by which the old becomes new. It is not a painless one. But you knew that, didn't you?

For to be eternally renewed, you must always be dying. Not so fun now, is it? But take it. It is your best, truest path.

And then She is gone, very very quickly, like a blast of the north wind.

That was not at all what I was expecting, and I am not sure what to do with that. What do you think? Any ideas?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Flashy Panel

Ooooh check this out:

Now if I were the type to have a MySpace page (I'm not; I've been dragged kicking and screaming into this technology stuff as it is and would much rather sit on the porch yelling at the damn kids to just GET OFF MY LAWN ALREADY) this would fit quite nicely. I can't decide if it's hypnotic or vertigo-inducing, but still, kind of fun.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New Card Line at Zazzle!

I've put everybody up but the Sheila-na-Gig (for some reason, publishers seem to think She is 'obscene'), including the new version of al-Uzza and the second Hera I did for the SageWoman cover.

There are several nice things about Zazzle's cards: first, you can customize the inside to read whatever you like at no extra cost; second, you start seeing discounts when you buy ten or more of them (and they'll put them in a box too); and, third, and at long last, you can mix and match cards within your set.

So go check it out! Here's the link.

ETA: Whoa, checked my email and apparently someone at Zazzle likes my Hekate card, as it's been put up on their Awards Showcase, for today anyway. The thing wasn't even up an hour!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Goddess of the Week

This week's pick is Nyx, the Greek Goddess of the night, which is what Her name means. She is is one of the primeval Deities called the Protogenoi, or First-born, Who include Deities like Gaea (Earth), Thalassa (the Sea), and Khronos (Time). She is daughter of Khaos and sister of Erebos (Darkness), by Whom She had a daughter Hemera (Day) and a son Aither (Light).

Nyx also gave birth to many children on Her own, without a father. As night is an ambiguous time that can be both restful and frightening, we find among Her offspring on the one hand Deities like the Moirai (the Fates, Klotho, Lakhesis and Atropos), Moros (Doom), Ker (Violent Death), Oizys (Woe), and Nemesis, and on the other hand gentler Deities like the Oneiroi (Dreams), the Hesperides (the four Goddesses of the evening), and the Goddess Philotes (Sex); though She is perhaps most famous for Her two sons Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death, but the gentle kind).

She was said to have great black wings and to dress in dark colors; and She rode in a chariot drawn by black horses, the stars following behind Her.

She was an oracular Goddess, unsurprisingly, with an oracle at the Greek city of Megara, and She was invoked in witchcraft (or at least She was in Ovid's stories of Medea and Kirke).

I was rather surprised that She came up today, as this is the week of the summer solstice in my part of the world, when the sun is at its highest and strongest and the night is at its lowest ebb. I am not sure what to make of that, except maybe that it is a continuation of the theme that there is darkness to be found even in the times of greatest brightness. After all, at Yule time we focus on the light to be found in the time when the dark is most powerful; but at Midsummer we tend to focus entirely on the light.

But I don't think this is about the Year, really, and that long cycle of dark and light; Nyx is about the shorter cycles, the clockwork regularity of night and day. This is something smallish, something in your hand right now. What is changing over to the dark for you now?

She is also, I think, about the fertility of the dark and the night, the inspiration to be had in dreams and visions, even at this time of year, not usually considered the time to be going within. What have you been dreaming about? What visions have you had recently? What has your Night given birth to, both the frightening and the peaceful? What shadows are being cast by the bright light of Midsummer?

Also, within the darkness you hold in your hand right now, what is Sleep and what is Death? They are twins, it is true; but it is very important to discern one from the other now.

So I ask Her, as usual, What do You have to say to us?

I am darkness and mist, night and fog, confusion, the veiled stars, black, night as a presence. Not an absence of light, but a living thing unto itself; and this is a time of darkness now, whether you want to see it or not.

You always think the North is the only place in the world. I am here to remind you that it is, right now, Yule just as much as it is Midsummer. That is the darkness. That is the message of how to be complete. As the Earth is, always.

Not that I celebrate those holidays anyway; I'm Greek not a Celt after all. My summer festival is Skira, Sunshades. The year is not to be teased into points. That is just you humans wanting to make everything nice and neat, the year into eight equal wedges, eight separate pieces cut up into a chart, a paper folded, boundaries delineated. It is not as sharp, as defined, as you would like it to be. Get used to it.

Summer is summer; it is a plateau, not a point; you expect things to be in focus, to have a definite end and beginning. Who can say at what second night begins? It is a process, a blending, an in-between time, not a threshold or a point when everything changes, like a goal post you tag and then run the opposite way from.

I am here to tell you it is far murkier than you want it to be. It is primal, I am primal; and my children are powerful and ancient. I myself am born from chaos, literally, the swirling storm-clouds, the change and the potential for destruction and creation, tornado or gentle rain. You never can predict things, you know.

Take heed, look at my children. There are many of them, more than you have named; look at them all, see how They are present in your life. How have you given birth to Them yourself?

What do you think?

References again from Theoi, especially the article on Nyx.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bits & Pieces

I suppose I should say that one of the reasons this blog has been only the Goddess of the Week entries as of late is that I have been working like crazy getting stuff together for a new shop or three. One of which tasks is the scanning in of all eighty-three (I know, an eighty-one card deck with eighty-three cards!) of the Goddess Oracle Deck cards at 1200 dpi, since I had lost all my previous (and anyway rather smaller resolution) scans a couple years back in a hard drive crash, alas. And even though the originals aren't all that big (like three something by five something inches) those scans are pretty freakin' slow with the scanner I've got. But I've been beavering away, as they say, though it is fairly mind-numbing. But it's left me with these odd chunks of time, about five minutes long, while I babysit the computer. Not quite time enough to do much, I thought.

But then it occurred to me I could knit. So that's what I've been doing, and that's what's going to be seeding (hopefully) an Etsy shop sometime soon. I've got about a dozen more sundry and various knit critters to sew up, including several stripey cats.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goddess of the Week

Well now. This is the fifth time Kamrusepas has come up. Kamrusepas the Hittite Goddess of magic and healing, She Who cured the God Telipinu's anger, She Who is said to heal paralysis by loosening that which is bound.

And all this time when She has come up for Goddess of the Week I have talked about how She is a healer Who heals primarily through kindness and compassion.

When the other Gods were faced with Telipinu's absence, They sent a bee to bring Him back. Finding Him asleep, the bee woke Him up by stinging the God on His hands and feet. This did not, and this is a shock, make Him any less angry. It was Kamrusepas, finally, Who was able to bring Telipinu (and the fertility of the land He had taken with Him) back into the fold, by casting powerful spells to make His anger go from Him.

Now, the first time I drew this card, I had not tracked down the story in which Kamrusepas heals paralysis; however I found a version of it tonight, from Images of Women in Antiquity edited by Averil Cameron and Amélie Kuhrt (essay on Hittite birth rituals by Jackie Pringle).

In this story, both the Great River and the Storm God have 'bound' up the land and its fertility, in much the same way the land suffered when Telipinu was lost. Affected are the fish, mountains, clouds, lions, the milk of the antelope and the water of the Great River itself. Kamrusepas, upon being told of this, drove Her chariot to the Great River and performed an incantation, in which She loosened all that had been bound, and the land was restored to fertility and health.

The same source has this to say about Kamrusepas' name (she is spelling it here without the final S):

If Kamrusepa's name, with its typical -sepa suffix indicating a 'genius', may be correctly derived with Laroche (1947) from the Hittite word kammara- 'smoke, haze', we may see her originally as the divinised concept of the sacrificial and cleansing smoke that rose to the sky from burnt offerings, and by extension, of the ritual itself and representative of its human performers.

One of the ways Kamrusepas heals in the legends is by transferring illness from the afflicted person to something else, for example wheat, which is then burnt as an offering, the original harmful energy being safely released in another form. She represents that energy of transformation, cleansing, and unbinding, all within a ritual context.

The ritual part is striking me as important here, and I am reminded, somewhat guiltily, that I as a Witch have not done a working spell in some time; or at least, not a formal one.

But then something else hits me: in all this time writing about and contemplating Kamrusepas, I am astonished to realize that I have never thought to ask this very obvious question:

What is bound? What in your life needs to be loosened so that you may heal? What is stuck? What old magic needs to be released? What is still bound?

She has been waiting politely all this time with a little smile on Her face, I can see it. All right, what do You have to say, Lady?

Ah, there we go. You are getting it now. Yes, that is it exactly. What is bound? When you can ask the correct question, you will get the correct answer. Just ask. I will unbind it, loosen it up, let the river flow again, easily, gently, with sweetness. This is about flow and about creating the space for good to flow into; bound is a word for full-up, stuck, tight and unmoving because there is nowhere for anything to go. What I do is exorcism, I suppose you could call it, if you wish to be dramatic. It is gentler than that, though, really, though do not mistake it as not powerful.

But yes. I am still keen on kindness, still wish to see it a part of your daily practice; and yes, I am here again as reminder. A gentle reminder.

But again, and this is important: if you can first see that which is bound, I can then loosen it. All you need do is ask.

What do you think? What within you is bound, especially in matters of health or anger? How might you go about loosening it? Can you think of some ideas for unbinding spells?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Goddess of the Week

Another repeat Goddess, this week's pick is Kirke, the Greek sorceress and Goddess of transformation; She came up back in early October. Her mother, in some accounts, is Hekate Herself, though generally Her mother is said to be the Okeanid Perseis, Whose name means "Destroyer." Kirke is called by the Greek word pharmakeia, translated as "sorceress" or "witch;" but on a more specific level it refers to the use of drugs or herbs, and, yes, as you have probably guessed, it is the root of the English word pharmacy.

Kirke's name is usually said to mean "hawk;" though the Theoi entry gives it as "derived from the Greek verb kirkoô meaning 'to secure with rings' or 'hoop around'--a reference to her magical powers." Interestingly enough, like the second definition, the first also includes the notion of a circle, the pattern a hawk traces in flight.

Kirke's powers of metamorphosis usually concern humans changed into animals. She transformed the nymph Skylla into a monster who was part human, dog(s), and fish; in the Odyssey She changed Odysseus's men into swine; and in a later Roman legend, She is said to have changed King Picus into a woodpecker. Her family tree is rife with sorceresses and stories of half-human beings: Her sister Pasiphaë was mother to the bull-headed Minotaur on Krete, and Kirke is the aunt of the one and only Medea.

She is also a necromancer, and She advised Odysseus on how best to consult the dead seer Tiresias.

So, let's see, what can I make of all that? Transformation, the boundary between what it is to be human and what it is to be animal (which are we? both); and a little bit of an Underworld journey, or at least a consultation with someone from that Land. Also, the idea of circles, cycles, and the perspective of a hawk, round and round above it all, watching and observing with great attention.

So I think that little journey in the dark I mentioned a couple weeks ago is still ongoing, not only because Kirke is a necromancer, but because She is related to Hekate; but I think the theme this week is the ability to put it into perspective, and to see the patterns and cycles at play. There is an in-between theme at work here, too, not only in the stories of transformation but in the mention of Tiresias, about whom a verse or two has been written:

Take a little trip back
with father Tiresias
Listen to the old one speak
Of all he has lived through
"I have crossed between the worlds
To me there's no mystery
Once a man like the sea I raged
Once a woman like the earth I gave
There is in fact more earth than sea"

My fandom for Peter Gabriel and (original formula, not diet caffeine-free) Genesis aside, it comes down to this:

Something has been brought back, out of the dark, as is proper to these journeys; and that thing, though it may seem but little, is part of the process, the cycle, of transformation. It is not one or the other, but both. This will make sense to you. I hope so. It is not making sense to me, I'm afraid. But both. That is the important part. I keep getting that.

Oh. It is not 'both' or 'in-between' as in being half one thing and half another, but as in being both things, each complete and whole, at the same time.

So, then, what does She say?

Both, yes, also herbs. I know, you just put in an herb garden, you and your witchy ways. Back to basics, to what makes a Witch a Witch; grind the herbs, make the charms, all the old and playful and numinous ways, those that connect you back and back to Me and to My motherline. Implicit in that definition of sorceress is healer, you know, at least from the top down; healing with herbs and drugs and medicines and with knowledge of how the body and mind work. It is a week of healing. But it will be found in the in-between, in the acknowledgment of our animal ways, our in-between ways; you can call it dark if you will but I make no judgement. Also I am daughter of the Sun, Helios; and wherever you are on this Earth there is now a solstice near. Your summer is their winter; your underworld journey is My noon. The sun shines in glory at midnight.

I think it will take me a while to unravel that. As always, I am curious as to what you my readers think?

And as a postscript, I am also quite strongly hearing the message to do some scrying. Like with the black bowl, or the bowl of water with the ink swirling in it kind of thing. Scrying, quite specifically, not Tarot reading or any other form of divination, either. Bowls, water, blackness, gazing into the Dark a little.

Oh, and as Gandalf would write, post post script: to read Kirke's tale, which still surprises me with its sweetness, go here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Goddess of the Week

Well that's a bit bi-polar, jumping from Hekate one week to Kwan Yin the next. Though I suppose, my depiction of Hekate has always looked quite compassionate to me, in Her aspect of lighting the way and comforting the traveler who finds herself on dark, lonely roads; most show Her rather more, well, witchy and spooky.

At any rate, this is going to be an interesting post, as I am elsewhere taking part in a reading/discussion of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, and we are in the week of reading deprivation. The idea behind that being, from what I understand, is that it is a week off from the non-stop brain-stuffing of Other People's Ideas, the constant stream of everything in in in, so that the waters of the soul may settle and clear, and one may see what one's own actual opinions are when deprived of everyone else's. Which is a very good idea, and well it's been an interesting week let me tell you, but what it means on a practical, Goddess blogular level is no magazines, no blogs, no email, and no books on, oh, I don't know, say, Chinese mythology. We are allowed, however, to write, as that is a very excellent way of discovering one's own opinions; so I guess this week's Goddess interpretation will be rather light on the history part and heavy on the interpretation part.

So off the top of my head (and oh, my God, it almost physically hurts to say that) Kwan Yin is a Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion. She has elements of a loving mother Goddess and if I'm remembering correctly (I may not be) likely is an older Goddess adopted by the Buddhists as a Bodhisattva, in a similar manner to how any number of Goddesses were adopted into Christianity as Saintes (like Brighid, for example). She is very popular and fairly widespread in the East; and She can even be found in a male form, especially in Japan, where She is called Kwannon. S/He has links to the Tibetan Avalokitesvara, the thousand-armed (and eleven-headed) compassionate Bodhisattva, which also incidentally links Her to the Dalai Lama. (The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a really lovely sculpture of the male Kwannon, about life-sized, in the 'royal ease' pose. He is so beautiful. I went with a friend several years back and when she saw Him she said, "I just want to curl up on his lap.")

This card is about compassion and kindness, then. In light of (or in 'dark' of, ha!) last week's card, Hekate, where the message was to look for the dark within the season of light, I think this week we are being told to be gentle with ourselves. The dark can be alluring in its own despairing way; and I want to interpret this as a warning not to go too far with it. It is not, after all, about finding the misery within the happiness, as I said last week, but for the purposes of balance. And perhaps it is only meant to be a little foray into the dark, not a full-blown Underworld journey; just a reminder, a memento mori at the feast, the dancing skeleton the Romans would pull out to remind everyone to enjoy what was before them, both the food and their lives.

So, this week, be kind to yourself. Ground your doings in reality and the limitations of the physical world and what it means to be mortal, but be kind. It is, really, the most important thing. Or so I have found.

I remember being in sixth grade, and finding myself confronted with the horrifying 'game' of dodgeball, also called, and this is telling, bombardment. For those of you blissfully unfamiliar with the game, basically the (lazy-ass) gym teacher dropped a bunch of partially deflated soccer balls into the middle of a crowd of half-feral middle school kids, and whoever could, i.e. the fastest and strongest, grabbed them up. Then they threw them at the rest of the kids, and if you were hit with one you were out. Of course the faster, and harder, they threw it, the more likely they were to be able to get someone out. So they were thrown pretty hard, and though they were half-deflated, if you got hit with one it definitely hurt. And who were the strongest fastest kids, usually? The boys. So, pretty much, it was a bunch of boys throwing things at girls. Looking at it through an adult, feminist lens I can now correctly name it as a way of teaching violence against women. I don't, really, see any other way that breaks down.

I got real good at cowering. I was a scared, anxious kid anyway; but that was just too much for me. And because I was good at cowering, I was usually one of the ones left till last, and so the experience was about as prolonged as it possibly could have been. And the teacher did nothing, of course, and if I were the cursing type... well, luckily for Mr. Thibault, I am not. The point of this digression being:

There was one boy there, by the name of Joey Freiday (yes! that was really his name!), who, alone of the mob saw that I was frightened. If he found himself in possession of a soccer ball, he would walk up to me first thing and gently tap me with it, getting me out of there as soon as he could. It was an act of kindness that is actually bringing tears to my eyes now. When I saw him a couple years ago at a class reunion, I thanked him for it. He, of course, did not remember.

What kindnesses do you remember? Little things, maybe, to the person who performed them, but that have stayed with you? Muse on them this week; it is important now, this card is saying.

Rereading all that, I find myself thinking If I had just had the presence of mind to tell that gym teacher no. But then? I would have had to have not been afraid. And I was how old? Twelve? And so I find myself remembering that I must have compassion, also, for that scared little girl; and that I cannot judge what I did then by what I would do now. That, also, is key. For kindness and compassion must begin with the self.

So I would also say, this week look back on your past and find someplace where you judge yourself harshly. And look on that act, if you can, with kindness and forgiveness and compassion.

And so, then, what does She say?

It all begins in compassion. That is all you must need know. It all begins in compassion.

Even that twisted legend, that myth of Adam and Eve, even that, for all that it's been crafted to be a tool of oppression ("See? God says women are second-best. It's right there in the Book"), for all that, it is a story begun in compassion. For Adam was lonely, and God saw that and said, Oh, he needs a friend. I will make him a friend. I will make him someone to love.

Find the compassion at the root of things. There is a new understanding in the air now; or there is a way to a new understanding. But you have to look first. If you are able. Be kind there, too.

Oh, and: all is well. I tell you and you may believe me, right now, and I am Kwan Yin and I would know: all is well.

You are all beautiful. You are all beloved. You are all worthy of kindness.

What do you think?