Monday, December 27, 2010

Here

Yes, I'm here, and hope everyone has survived the holidays just fine.

I don't know what I'm doing with this blog, or my art, or any of this. Perhaps I shall just make quilts for the rest of my life. Or perhaps I have simply been a bit chilly since the autumn and come spring I'll be obsessing about gardening, who knows. Seasons are what they are, after all, and we Pagans know it.

So I don't know what I'm doing here at Amused Grace. But what I do know is that this is the season for finding out, for visioning, for going into the dark places, for there is time enough dark on our hands, on our minds, to explore it in depth.

And I am doing work, or rather, Work; but much of it is internal, of course, and what is coming out, the Working in the real world (ha! define 'real'), is not particularly Pagan-related, though one could argue it all is, as it's about me, and I am Pagan.

I seem to be in an aniconic phase. The altar in my bedroom is dusty and unmaintained, I have not done anything special for a Sabbat in I don't know how long, it's been ages since I've done a spell, and I've never been interested in any kind of daily practice; but it's not as if I'm having some sort of spiritual crisis or major rethinking. I am Pagan to the marrow of my bones. I am simply keeping it close now for some reason. I feel gathered into myself, looking out at the world with a sharp eye, and though I'm reading plenty of blogs I somehow always stop myself from commenting or participating. I've never been much for community, it's true, as I favor the model of the Witch living alone on the margin of the wood rather than the college of priestesses one.

The holidays do sort of bring out the bah-humbug curmudgeon in me, I admit. These last few years especially the frantic lighting of lights and cheeriness seem forced, seem rooted in denial. This is the dark time of the year. Let it be dark, then, and quiet, and still.

I can't see with all the noise.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

AEDM November 21-28

Wow, that, uh, wasn't meant to be a whole week's worth post, but oh well. I have been doing plenty of stuff, still. So here we go:

First I did another of the square quilts blocks, in the light green stripe. I only made one, as a test, and I'm not sure it's going to hold its own with the stronger colors of the other blocks. Here it is with one sherbet and one chocolate block:



But mostly what I worked on, quiltwise, was these totally addictive four by four squares:



I made a few more of these, but they had either too much contrast or not enough, so they got weeded out.

I also did this little mandala sort of doodle, which I found very weirdly difficult to do. I thought I'd just let the colors come to me but it was really awful. I don't think I'm over that block yet. Or, maybe, I just don't work that way? Whenever I do something like this, with no plan, it always comes out looking the same, just sort of random rainbowy colors and I always hate it. Hmmm.



And last, I spent most of the time working on these little Etruscan Sims ladies:



The dresses (and heads) still need a little tweaking, but they're pretty good so far.

Oh, and yeah, I made three freakin' pies and some banana bread Wednesday night, as well as a complete turkey dinner &c on Thursday. Whew!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AEDM November 19th & 20th

Yesterday on my various errands I acquired some more stripey cloth, which I washed and dried. Today I ironed it, cut the pieces out and assembled them, giving me another five of the consquaric blocks in ice cream and sherbet shades. I would have gotten six out of them, but I cut one single triangle off by a quarter inch, and it would not line up. Holy cow though it's tricky fussy cutting those out and keeping track of them, especially when the repeat of the stripes is just a little smaller than the height of the triangle you are cutting. ('Fussy cutting,' I should explain, is when you cut out a piece of cloth following the pattern on it.) Somewhere in there I just started whining, Fussy cutting is fussy, waaaah! but I soldiered on through.

I tried a single square out of a red yellow and black much smaller stripe; I'm not sure it's going to work (it's at the middle bottom, though you can't really make out the black of it). I think I want all the stripes to be kind of on the large side. Here's a picture of the new ones, posed with the ones I did a little while ago in chocolate shades:



The smaller one on the extreme left is the first one I tried, to see if I liked the idea in the first place. I intend to make some larger ones out of that cloth, which is a bright red and orange. I'm not so keen on the sherbet and ice cream color scheme, though it works well enough on that cloth, and I like the effect in the squares, and how each one is very different; I'm going to throw some bright reds and yellows in there so the finished quilt won't look so 'trendy' to me. (Don't get me going on that fad that just won't die of brown paired with aqua.)

I also got a chunk of striped cloth in shades of green, which should go nicely, though I didn't get as far as playing with it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

AEDM November 16th, 17th, & 18th

Catching up a little here; I've been making plenty of things but fell off track a little with the posting part. So here's what I've done in the last few days.

I made a single square (the one in the upper right) on this Trip Around The World quilt. It's meant to be a doll quilt, and the squares when done are two inches across. Yes, it's stupidly tiny. Yes, it takes forty-five minutes to hand-sew a single block. Yes, it's kind of wonky since it's teeny and hand-sewn. Yes, it needs to be ironed. And yes, I love how it's coming out so far. I am tempted to make it a full-sized quilt, except I don't expect to be alive for the required thousand years.



I also put together another row on the orange-yellow-and-black quilt, which means I have more than half of the nine-patches done:



I did a little block, just to see if I liked it. I had in mind some very colorful high-key exuberant quilts I had seen. I think the contrast is a little too pronounced in it, and that it would work better with a lighter blue, so hmmm.



I also cut out the remaining pieces and assembled this square, adapted from a mandala doodle I did. Maude is, alas, not impressed, to judge by her yawn.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alchemy

This is the sort of thing I would usually talk about on my other blog, the one dealing with my father's hoarding and its aftermath. But of course one can't really separate one's life so neatly, and it is all related and intersecting. So I will make this observation here: what we are doing is in large part a spell.

I suppose I should give a bit of rough background. My father was a compulsive hoarder and a mechanic. Have you seen those TV shows? I haven't, actually, because I know I would find them triggering and enraging; but from what I have heard he may very likely be worse than the people on them. Because, no matter how bad they are, the very fact that they have agreed to be on those shows mean they recognize something is wrong with them. For my father? Not so much, no.

For forty years he filled this yard (and the garage, attic, breezeway, and two outbuildings) with junk like whole rusty cars, car parts, engines, tires, scrap metal, galvanized heater ducts, pipes, lumber, boards, milk crates of cedar shingles, cans and jars filled with nails and bolts and screws, refrigerator drawers, wooden drawers salvaged from old bureaus, broken furniture, and on and on and on. At one point there were seventy-eight cars on this acre and a half lot. I wonder, quite seriously, if we have actually had a million bolts, screws, and nails here. I am in no way kidding. How many nails fit in a gallon tin can? And how many of those have we found, and gotten rid of?

So, anyway. What my sibling and I have been doing in whatever time we can spare is to clean this up. (This is only possible, I should say, because my father is now in a nursing home and no longer lives here.) We have already taken a huge amount of stuff off the property. We have made (according to the receipts) twenty-six trips to the scrap yard to get rid of iron, so far (that number is probably a little low, actually, since I don't think we have all the receipts), and taken more than eleven tons.

Yes. Eleven tons. And it has barely made a dent, honestly. It doesn't look very much different.

So back to the Witchy aspect of all of this. Besides the obvious ways in which this clean-up is honoring the Earth (or really, just being decent to the Earth), and the ways in which it is making this bit of land more hospitable to faeries (what are faeries famous for hating? Iron) or the way in which it is more personally connected to my own growth and feeling of freedom, not to mention the whole working out of issues thing, it is also in some very real ways a magical process.

Because it is alchemy. We have been gathering up base metal, copper, brass, iron, and yes, literally lead, and transforming it into gold, or rather, cash. And that is a magical process.

And so I recently took some of that money and bought myself something which really seems quite appropriate, given the author's interest in alchemy and transformation. Can you guess what it is?

Here's the package which arrived today. It was quite large, and very heavy.



Yes. It's a book. Can you guess what color?



Why yes. Red.

O happy happy. I have only had time so far to page through the illuminated part and read most of the introduction (I had to put it down to help take several stacks of tires to the tire place), but I can already tell it is going to change the way I make art.

Good.

AEDM November 15th



I know y'all believe me; still, I like having pictures. I'm very visual, and if I can't see it I forget it exists (which is one reason I tend to live out of laundry baskets, because if I put my clothes away in the drawers that means OMG I have no clothes!)

So I got another two rows done on my Hallowe'en/Samhain/November yellow-orange-and-black quilt, bringing it up to seven of the fifteen rows of twelve, nearly half (as far as the nine patches are concerned). It's starting to take over my floor, hmmm. Given the layout of my studio room (which is an attic room), my project wall (a hunk of batting hung up that you can pin pieces to, then step back from, so you can get a look at it, and rearrange) is actually my floor and the rug, since with the tilty ceiling, built-in bookcases, doors, chairrails, the futon, &c there is no blank piece of real estate on the wall. Except this quilt is probably going to end up about the size of the entire rug. Hmmmm.

I rearranged it by color, so it would be easier to keep track of how I'd already combined the colors. I'm shooting for no repeats. Looks pretty good so far!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

AEDM November 14th

And again with no pictures of what I did. Oh well. I cut out more (and more, and more) of the squares for my orange-yellow-black-and-grey quilt; I've finally gotten enough now to start up sewing together another batch. I've got sixty nine-patches done already, and I think the finished size is going to be twelve by fifteen squares, so I'll need one hundred eighty altogether. So that's one third down, with one hundred twenty to go. I still need to find probably about four yards of ash grey cotton for the plain squares in between.

I also sat down and listed a bunch of unfinished object projects, and then laid out the next series of steps to do for each, which is very helpful. Because I'd like to use November also to help me learn to finish things (I am notorious for the amount of UFOs I've got kicking around. How many quilts have I started now?)

Earlier today (well the 13th, I guess) I went scouting around for lumber on the property. I may have found a good hunk of something to use as the two inch thick piece for the top of the bookcase I designed last week. Except, looking at it, all I could think of was Gandalf's remark about Barliman Butterbur's mind: it was 'like a lumber room: things wanted, always buried.'

Hmmm.

AEDM November 13th

I did a couple little watercolors (and when I say little, I mean like one and a half by not quite three inches) to scan in for little Etruscan Sim wallpapers. Again, though, I don't have a scanner just now (the sibling was supposed to bring it over for me to borrow it today, but forgot), so I don't have anything to show.

I'm making stuff, honest!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

AEDM November 11th & 12th

Yesterday I did some journal-type writing; I guess that counts as art, but again, I've got nothing to show (or nothing that I'm willing to show, anyway). Today I played around with little texture maps for Sims stuff (it's a hobby), in the hopes of making a little Etruscan woman (my goal is to make an entirely old Pagan Sim-world). It looks a little odd, since it's a texture map, and stretches to fit around the 3D mesh, which in this case, has two braids in the front, and several more hanging down the back. I had thought that given the shape it would work well with an Etruscan-style hat; but when I tested it in the game it turned out that whoever did the texture mapping had gotten the color for the braids from the top of the head, so they were showing up the same color as the hat. So I think that I'll have to ditch the hat, alas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AEDM November 10th

Well it's another day where I don't have a whole lot to show. I decided that even if I didn't know what I was going to do with the grey parts of that Hallowe'enish quilt I started, that didn't mean I had to stop working on the orange and black nine patches. So I cut out a bunch of black squares. I didn't get as far as cutting more of the yellow and orange ones though, so I don't have anything to assemble together yet (since I used up all the ones I'd already cut).

I'm counting it, even though part of me things that's really pathetic. But then I have this habit of discounting what I do. The year before last (I think?) I also participated in the year-long (and rather more laid-back) version of Creative Every Day, also hosted by Leah. Part of that was keeping a creativity journal. I was really surprised to find what I counted and didn't count as being creative.

Because when I wrote down every little creative thing I did in a day, I had this huge list. Every day. Things like blog posts, cooking stew, sewing, knitting, twiddling about on the guitar, things I discounted as not Art, capital A.

And I'm realizing that not counting prep work, which is what cutting out fabric for a quilt is, is a way of disappearing the energy put into it, which is not good for the soul. Because you end up at the end of the day tired and thinking you did nothing. Which is not true at all.

So. It counts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

AEDM November 9th

Well it was another one of those days (well, okay, I'm talking about Monday the 8th here, properly) where the sibling and I spent several hours cleaning up junk and sorting stuff to go to the scrapyard. However, I did manage to squeeze a little bit of art in there.

Namely a little bit of dyeing. Last month I did a batch of yarn in black walnut; today I strained out some pokeberry dye, tied some of the black walnut yarn off tie-dye fashion, and plunked it into the pokeberry solution. This is real low-tech dyeing, I suppose I should mention; I'm just going to let it sit there for I don't know a week or two maybe and see what I get.

The black walnut dye, made from crushing and soaking the hulls, makes a really marvelous rich brown. If you dip it a few times in indigo you can actually get close to black, too. Pokeberries of course make a bright magenta, though the color isn't that fast. Though I have heard if you get the dyebath acidic enough, the color is permanent and won't yellow (which in this case means it goes to a dark red, or at least the batch I made last year has gone from purple to rich deep red. Not a bad color itself).

So we'll see how that goes. I didn't get any pictures, though it's not much to look at, honestly. Just a bunch of bright magenta stuff in a five-gallon bucket.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

AEDM November 7th

Another confession. I fucking hate the artistic process. I really, really, really do. The phrase I always, always come up with is that it is like pulling my own teeth. For all that I don't want to know what I'm doing, well, maybe that has nothing to do with it after all, I don't know. But I only do it for the results, honestly. I hate the process. I really do.

Painting doesn't send me to some lovely zen-state where time no longer exists; always it is simply a chance for the monkey mind to rant (and rant) about awful things while the rest of my brain is occupied, and every millisecond is filled with rants and the petty stupidity of thought, even as whatever it is I'm making is being made (or making itself, maybe. I don't know).

And I get frustrated so easily. I mean, it's ridiculous, and has been proved over and over again, but when drawing, like, say, trying to get that hand right, I always, always despair that it will never work. Every single time. It always does, but that knowledge, that experience, never seems to take.

It's the same old block, I suppose, one that I've been trying to get around for several years now. One that I have in general left off fighting, because fighting it, rebelling against it, has not only proved to be useless but I swear only makes it stronger. So maybe this making art every day thing, on schedule, and with the intent to check in daily and show others, is just not a good idea for me. I can never tell. I'm not the type to force myself through something; I have found that it inevitably harms me in the process.

So, this is what I tried to paint today. I went at it not knowing what it was going to be, and not caring, either, or so I thought. But it got to a point where trying to decide what to do with it, or trying to judge what was the appropriate next step just met with all this, not resistance, I don't quite think, but all this stupid other stuff coming up, to the point where I was nearly in tears and just said fuck it. Fuck all of this. Now.



So I left off.

I swear, the only reason I paint is for the end result. Now, it's true, I don't really want to know everything about what it will be, and I want it to be its own thing—like a spell, where you say, I want this result, or better. It's that or better part that seems to fill itself in. Divinely? Maybe. Probably. And that's good.

I'm beginning to see it a bit now I think, this block, and what it is constructed out of. It all comes back to the hoarding, my father's hoarding, and the resulting neglect that was all a piece of it, and of being told, and shown, that my needs (really, anyone's needs but my father's) were not just unimportant but completely and quite impartially irrelevant. Personality disorder on my father's part, you see. I don't really want to get into any of it here, and I certainly hadn't planned to (that is what the hoarding blog is for), but, it is kind of the big issue I'm dealing with right now. And if there's one thing I've learned about myself is that things that are important to me permeate my entire life. I don't see how they can't, really.

So I think really this comes down to some part of me having been taught that I am simply not allowed to do what I want, to have what I desire, to behave as I like. And when I try to do any of those things, I am still coming up against the idea that I shouldn't, and I am bad. I know, that is the language of a child there, isn't it. Well yeah.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

AEDM November 6th

So I designed that bookcase which will hold the fat quarters and which will go under my Muse pictures. Now, I'm not really much of a woodworker, not yet, anyway, though I'm a little further along than being confined to building birdhouses; but I'm no cabinet-maker, certainly. So I kept it simple. Simple, but with some design to it; and I figured I could probably make something simple but with a bit of an Arts and Crafts sensibility in the proportions. That I can do.

So here's the sketch. I should probably redraw it on graph paper, since the proportions of the thickness of the wood are a little off (since 1" wood is actually 3/4"), and I want to make sure it won't look anemic; still, I'm pretty happy with it.



Again, I don't have a scanner right now so I had to take a photo, which I played around with to get some kind of readable contrast. I like the effect, though; it makes it look like one of Leonardo's sketches, don't you think?

Although, really, for the full Leonardo effect it should look like this:



I don't know yet quite how I'm going to do that thick top, or the moulding on the thick top, but I'll figure it out.

And oh yes, that's a sketch of Sir Isaac Mewton's head over there on the side. He moved, of course.

Friday, November 5, 2010

AEDM November 5th

Art Every Day Month is always (well, okay, this is only my second time at it) kind of a mindfuck, honestly. Or at least it is given the way my mind works. I am a recovering insomniac and my productivity generally takes place in the wee hours. Which means I'm usually one of the last ones checking in at Leah's site and I feel like I've missed out on the discussion, or that I'm hopelessly behind and a disorganized loser or something.

I know. I'm just stating it. I do recognize that that's pretty silly. Also, dammit, I'm just not good with the pressure. Not, mind you, that I'm giving up on this already or anything; just that, as usual, I have to adapt the 'normal' way of doing things to my own deeply, deeply idiosyncratic brain.

I am finding the same thing happening that I did with the Goddess of the Week posts; that having an audience means I censor myself and am unwilling to, well, even start. I suspect I will just have to ignore that. I'm not sure what to do about it but the word 'freestyle' is coming to mind.

So with at least the scheduling issues in mind, I'm going to try something. It is ridiculously early by my usual schedule (it's not even 10pm here!), and I've already made something, which I will post below. I will try, also, however, to do something else, and post that tonight as well. But it will be after midnight and so will actually be tomorrow's entry. So that will put me a day ahead, which sounds (from here) to be lovely and relaxing, and should help relieve that feeling of pressure which is making me crazy. (Well, marginally more so than usual, ha.)

So. This is what I did today, for Art Every Day Month:

I still don't really have a lot to show. But I cut out some more grey squares for my Hallowe'enish nine patch quilt. Then I laid them down, and put my glasses on (that last part is important). Because once I could see them I was no longer so sure about the colors. So I cut out some of the plain grey cloth I had, and laid them down too. I think they are too dark. The effect is not what I want, really. Here's a look:



I corrected for color in Photoshop, but it's still a little on the magenta side, especially on the left.

The thing with grey, I am finding out, is that it has to be dead-on neutral (or ever-so slightly brownish warm) to read as grey. Even a little bit of blue in that grey means it's reading just as blue, especially in contrast to the orange, which is complementary and so tends to push it over. So I think I am going to have to just go with a solid ash grey, and one that is lighter than the solid I already have. Probably; this project is now in a stage where some mulling needs to be given space to happen.

You know, once in a while when I tell an artist acquaintance that I make quilts, I get a mocking response (honestly, usually from a dude artist). So I tell them what I have found to be absolutely true—that I used to think I knew a thing or two about color, and then I tried to make a quilt.

Because you are not only using other people's color choices and are not mixing any colors yourself, but you are also using patterns, which 1) do incredibly unpredictable things when placed next to each other, and 2) look entirely different whether viewed up close or from a distance. It is baffling and marvelous both.

So anyway, I'm going to put this particular quilt aside for the moment (at least until I can get some of the right color grey cloth). I don't know what I'm working on instead though. I'm sure I'll figure it out, though.

AEDM November 4th

Well I did a fair amount of artsy stuff today but I don't really have much to show. First I went to an off-the-beaten-track fabric store to see about getting more ash grey calico for the orange-black-and-grey quilt I'm working on; I found some there and got it. When I came home I threw it in the washer, then the dryer (since I always pre-wash all my cloth), and—gasp—ironed it. (I never ever iron.)

Then I cut a bunch of squares out of the grey.

So, like I said it was a fair amount of work towards that project, but I don't really have anything finished to show.

However, one of the other bits of cloth I got was this stripey stuff in milk and dark chocolate browns. I'd seen a lovely square quilt on a blog which I would really like to link to but cannot now for the life of me find; it was made by cutting striped cloth and piecing it back together to make concentric (consquaric?) squares. So I took the quarter of a yard of chocolate stripe and made these:



Given how weirdly they're cut, that's all I got out of that quarter yard (though I have a lot of odd-shaped scraps now). They're about seven or eight inches square.

I would like to make this one in warm colors, like the old m&m autumnal color scheme: dark brown, light brown, red, orange, yellow, and that yellowish green. I have a feeling it's going to take a while, since I'm kind of picky about the cloth. But that's okay. Any time I actually find some cloth that will work, I'll make as many of these squares as I can from it, then throw them on the pile.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

AEDM November 3rd

I have a confession to make.

I don't like messy art.

No, that's not true.

I HATE messy art.

Still, when I was lying in bed last night trying to figure out what I wanted to do today for Art Every Day Month, I remembered I had the stuff to make monoprints.

We did them in art school. As you may have guessed by the name, unlike most prints, which are designed to be made in some kind of quantity, you only make one of these. What you do is ink up a sheet of glass with your ink and a roller, then put the paper (rice paper works well) face down on top. Then you draw on the back with a pencil or whatever, or, you can simply trace with a finger or fingernail. You can get some unbelievably black blacks with this, and they can be quite yummy.

So I set it all up, having first set the portable heater in the room to Quite Toasty; and sure enough, the cats could smell it and were soon scratching at the door to come in. They then promptly curled up and went to sleep in the lovely warm room, and I had my models. I am so clever.

I also did some sketches of hands and some drawings after some photos of trees I had.

I took a photo of the ones I liked since they aren't exactly scan-in-able all wet and sticky like that.



They are kind of fun, I guess, though not really my thing, like I said. And I got all paranoid about washing up afterwards, since the ink was oil-based. My studio room is also my sewing room, and black smudgy ink + nice clean cloth is not a happy thing. So, hmmm. Usually I do water-based paintings that have far less potential to get everywhere, but I've been wanting to do some oil painting, too. I don't know if it's going to be able to work in that room after all.

AEDM November 1st and 2nd

Okay, I kind of knew this was going to happen and it's all right. Monday was one of those thirteen hour days spent cleaning and hauling stuff till I pretty much fell into bed, exhausted; and I knew it would be. So the very first day of Art Every Day Month was a miss.

For the second day, though, I found myself up in my new studio room sitting there wanting to make something but not knowing where to start. So, even though I want to be doing more 2D sort of art pieces, I fell back on a quilt I've started. Which is also fine. Quilts are art, and even if it wasn't quite what I wanted to be doing it is a way of priming the pump, you know?

I did a dozen more nine patches on this quilt Tuesday night; I've got sixty so far, and the thing is meant to be twelve by fifteen. They're about five inches across right now, and will end up four and a half(ish). Though the thing with me and quilts is that I know I've got the bar set pretty high: I want them to be functional, which means, I want them to actually go on a bed. My problem? My bed is king-sized, and nobody in my family with smaller beds cares about quilts.

Here's a shot of them laid out five by twelve. They are posed on a pinkish lavender bedsheet of mine.



The squares in between the nine patches are going to be ash grey. Except ash grey calico/quilting fabric is proving very difficult to find. Crappy old Jo-Ann's just doesn't bother with unusual stuff. I'm going to poke around some local quilting stores and see what they've got, but I may end up having to make the grey a solid. I'd rather not, though. For now there are six grey ones posed in there.

Here's another shot of it run through Photoshop with the pink changed to grey (more or less) so you can get a better idea of what I'd like the colors to look like:



Spooky, don't you think?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Harvest

It's Samhain, and we haven't had a frost yet up in my part of New England; we're about two weeks overdue as the average first frost date is the fifteenth.

I did try to garden this year. I have had some success with it in the past. But this year the last week of May I started having some health issues which lasted all the way through to July, and which meant I really had to take it easy physically; and well if you miss June in the garden you'll never catch up.

That, and the critters this year were everywhere. We've had deer since a local supermarket put a giant new warehouse, with diesel trucks and lights running 24/7, right plunk in the middle of a large swath of woods just up the street; between them and the lily leaf-eating beetles (a truly horrific species in the larval stage, yikes) I've had to give up on the front lily garden. And of course we've always had groundhogs, the bastards.

But this year we also had rabbits. And my poor vegetable garden was inadequately fenced. Oh it had been well fortified once; but a couple years of poor maintenance (and luck) on my part meant the defenses were easily breached, and every time I jerry-rigged a fix another hole sprouted. And so anything I planted this year was pretty much immediately nibbled to the ground. That meant no beans, no cukes, no beets, zucchini, summer squash, not even any goddamned radishes, never mind lettuce. Even the stuff I put in as seedlings was eaten, though given that the tomatoes were eaten from the top down rather than the bottom up, I suspect deer rather than rabbits in that one.

All of course except for the one single jalapeno pepper plant. That one they left untouched. But given those health issues I now pretty much can't have spicy food. So I had an abundance of little hot peppers that I couldn't eat.

It was annoying, to say the least.

I used to check on it, though; hope, you know. But all that was left of the tomatoes were these inedible (to me) half-eaten things. So I'd pull them off the plant and chuck them behind the garden, into the tangled thicket of blackberry, wild rose, pokeberry and goldenrod that grew around an old woodpile. I was trying to keep the garden a little tidy, at least.

By the end of the summer I had pretty much given up on the vegetable garden for the year.

Instead we've been cleaning the yard. The short version (if you want the long version, again, check out the Tetanus Burger link on the sidebar) is that my father was a hoarder and the yard is (still) full of junk, though we've been cleaning it for years already. Seriously. It's a big project.

And so one day we were cleaning up a pile of transmissions or engines or something, over by the reclaimed area of my vegetable garden (the spot had once been a large brush pile). And there, in that area overgrown with blackberry, wild rose, pokeberry and goldenrod something red caught my eye. It was this:



Those are tomato plants growing there, thriving there, among the briers and weeds.

You have to understand, I have never had any luck starting tomatoes from seed, when done in the spring in little peat pots under a grow light. They get all spindly, or damp-off and die. I figured I just wasn't any good at it. So I was rather surprised.

But there they are, out in the open like that, healthy and uneaten.

Things will take care of themselves, I think. Our intent is worth something, even if it works out in ways we would not have foreseen. We can make a harvest of something we did not even realize we planted.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Honor

Okay, this is going to be a little tricky, and I don't know how much I want to share, given that that is my real name at the top of this blog; then again, it's only been my real name for not quite a decade yet, so there is still a bit of camouflage there.

But Hecate's post got me thinking. And now here's the part I don't want to get into, much.

I should warn you all first, I suppose, that this blog may now well descend into the occasional navel-gazing; and I guess I have two things to say to that. One, this is a blog, and one can hardly be surprised, as hello, this is a blog; and, two, that one should rightly check one's belly button on a regular basis, as a lotus may be sprouting there. You never know.

This is the time of year when it is traditional to honor the ancestors. The veil is thin, so they say, and the ghosty sorts crowd us round, as the leaves fall and the trees shift through their annual deaths. I can't say I can really feel it this year, though, as I still have that cotton in my ears of necessity. But that's okay, as it really has done wonders for my anxiety level.

So now to that navel-gazing part I'm not sure I want to share, about the ancestors.

Or, rather, about my father. A warning to the stray cousin who may have wandered here: if you do not wish to hear anything bad about your Uncle Walter, you may want to leave now.

You see, my father was a deeply broken person. I say was, even though he is not dead, because he is now in a nursing home after a stroke several years back, and he does not remember anyone. This is a good thing; a great blessing, in fact.

He was seriously mentally ill. I mean, not that we recognized it growing up; I am only able now to see that there was something really wrong with him, or put a name to it. But he had a personality disorder, a severe personality disorder, one called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. This is not, it should be noted, the same thing as obsessive-compulsive disorder, no. They are not even, as far as I've been able to find out, particularly related, other than the similarity of names. OCD is perceived as not-quite-right by the person with it; they know, on some level, that the compulsions and rituals they perform aren't rational.

But personality disorders are different. They are perfectly in harmony with the ego. Which means that not only does a person with one think they are perfectly rational in their behaviors, they think they are right in doing what they do. Especially someone with OCPD, with its focus on perfectionism. Other personality disorders, by the way, include narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and the ever-fun antisocial personality disorder.

Anyway, this made my father, well, not fun. Actually it made him an impossible completely opaque control-freak who could not be reasoned with, even a tiny little bit. Oh, and he was a hoarder, too, of an extreme sort. If you wish to hear about this more in-depth, really, go read my other blog, Tetanus Burger. There is more than enough about him and the effects his behavior had on us over there, as, well, that's the stated purpose of that blog. I would like to especially direct you to a recent post on his OCPD.

So, back to the ancestors. Though I know that honoring them is a big part of this time of year, and of this religion of Paganism in general, it has never been something I've been all that interested in doing. I suppose some of it is that my family (to either side) is not all that close-knit. As a family we don't really do family. And that's fine.

And some of my family are just, well, dysfunctional, as Hecate put it. And I don't wish to honor that. Acknowledge, sure, that's fine, and healthy, as denial won't get you anywhere, but honor? Not really, no.

My father's father, my grandfather, died when he was young, when my father was I think eleven years old. My father was the eldest of three boys; so his father also left a six year old and a two year old. My grandfather died suddenly, and unexpectedly, in 1934, right in the middle of that Great Depression which also wiped out the family's savings. Fortune, actually, one might even say, or so I hear. There was money on that side, once, as evidenced by the numerous rich houses my ancestors built, including a big stone number that now functions as the Historical Society for the next city over.

So, bad times. And one could reasonably surmise that that childhood of loss, insecurity, and deprivation triggered my father's later hoarding.

His mother, so I have heard, was also a piece of work, perhaps a hoarder herself. I don't know; I was very very young when she died, and I don't remember her.

So. Back to things of a Pagan nature.

A couple years ago, my father came down with some kind of raging infection in the nursing home. He was taken to the hospital where they started pumping him full of intravenous antibiotics. We went to visit him there. He was running a high fever, and was very very out of it. Or, almost, to my Witchy eye, very very in it. Some part of him, it seemed to me, was seeing very clearly. Oh, not in an intellectual sense, of course; but some part of him knew he was very close to the edge, very close to dying. And he was terrified. Because he was completely unwilling.

I'm not surprised; the man was terrified of any kind of change, even the littlest sort. And it doesn't get much bigger than death for changes, does it?

But as much as I have reasons, good reasons, to dislike the man, or, even, to hate the man, I am a compassionate person. I think I am, anyway. Though at that point, really, it wasn't my father there. Just a scared, terrified person.

So when I got home I invoked my ancestors, his ancestors, though I had never felt the need to before.

I did not honor them. I did not ask nicely. I told my grandfather, the one who died young, that I did not know if he left willingly or unwillingly, but that his leaving had caused a profound mess, a real fucked-up pile of shit, one that my father had happily passed on to the rest of us. And so I told him that it was now his responsibility to get his ass over to that hospital bed and be there for my father. And the same for my grandmother, too. Because I sure as fuck was not going to do it. As if I could have anyway.

So I don't know about honor. I figure the ancestors are dead already. They can deal with the unvarnished truth.

Or maybe that is honor. I have always considered the telling of that kind of truth, that level of honesty, where nothing is sugar-coated and I just tell it straight from the soul, to be a form of respect. So maybe it is.

The next day my father was much better. Remarkably so, and the doctors commented on it, even. Though I don't remember now if I thanked them. The ancestors I mean. They still owe me, a lot.

Funny

I suppose I should say that I've no intention of shutting down or abandoning this blog; I fully intend to continue to write about Paganism, Goddesses, the numinous, &c. Just that right now I'm not sure what I want to write about, or if I wish to give the place a more precise focus. Probably not. I am a big fan of the organic, and forging ahead without anything but the roughest idea. I find that with that method what needs to come up, will. I have found it much more rewarding.

In art school we were taught to plan it all out thoroughly. Before brush hit canvas (or colored pencil Stonehenge paper) we were to have sketched it all out to a precise level of detail, rearranged all the elements to perfection, and have it all thought out intellectually.

This method is a sure-fire way to drain all vitality out of a piece of art. You want to lose that spark? Draw it once perfectly, then trace that onto the final piece and try to recreate what you just did. Or have it all thought out beforehand, so that anything that wishes to spontaneously arise can't.

I abandoned this long ago. I realize I am lucky in being able to do that. I am technically proficient enough that I can lean on that proficiency and know it will support me. I can wing it, as I go.

It is so much better to do it that way. I don't want to know what I am doing when I create. I want to look back on the process, this organic creation, this birth which involves a living creature, a living creation, a living work of art that is not me, and see what has come up. I want to see what it wants.

It's like sitting down to write when you don't know what you want to say. It is so much better, and you find out so much more, when you do that. Oh sure, sometimes it won't come, and you can't force it if it isn't ready; but if you ever find yourself thinking that you don't know what to say, then write. You will find out.

So then I guess I have answered my own question, the one I posed at the top of this as I just write this out straight and let it come: this blog, then, will likely focus on the creative process, from a Pagan, Divine, spiritual, numinous point of view.

Funny how that works.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Truth

I took down the bit on the sidebar saying which Goddess I'm currently writing about. It has not moved in some time. And when I read the stated purpose of this blog, I no longer know if I agree.

I had hoped that writing about Goddesses on a regular basis would inspire me, and cultivate some momentum and motivation to work on the book for that Goddess deck of mine; instead, though, I am finding the whole thing a chore. More often than not I put it off, which is why though I am pretty good at starting the writing of my Goddess entries on Sunday, they frequently don't get finished (and published) until Tuesday or Wednesday.

So that, I think, is where all that stuff in the last post about when does a vocation become just a job comes from, for me, anyway. I have never been able to tell the difference between getting a 'hit' about something about me, and something that is about others; I have had to hope, mostly, that it all works out, and that in picking up stuff that applies to me personally I am also tapping into something larger that is useful for others. And it seems to be that way, judging by the responses I've been getting. Honestly, I am surprised.

I have been very busy lately, too, in a lot of other ways; and I've been dealing with some shit (and yes, that's the right word, honestly) that is pretty big, stuff which I've been documenting and exploring on my other (shared) blog, the charmingly named Tetanus Burger. I suspect all those endeavors are what made the idea of cleaning the junk from paradise a handy metaphor for the Goddess to use.

So I don't know. I've never felt very open here, perhaps because this is my 'professional' blog, one that is connected to my real name and all; and I get afraid to share in a meaningful way. Meaningful, in this case, meaning, truly from the center (there's that idea again) and truly from my Divine self, my Voice; but in such a way that is honest and which opens up others as well. I have so much more going on in my life right now, as far as visions, and encounters with the Divine, and the glorious Magic of it all that I just don't share here in this place, with its emphasis on some art work I did more than a dozen years ago now. I am afraid of being thought crazy, I suppose. And it's rather personal, too, of course, and I am shy.

Of course, if Goddess-worshiping Pagans aren't the audience than no one is. And I am an artist already of the esoteric, and, really, can probably count on a fairly wide latitude of indulgence from the world just because of that. And others do it, too, don't they now? I am hardly alone.

I don't know where I'm going with all that, or what any of that means. Just that I am feeling not myself here, talking about this old art, making myself write here out of some sense of duty that is perhaps, is probably, no longer serving me.

Not that I don't love Goddesses, the Goddess, or that I don't want to keep exploring that; the idea of writing about obscure Goddesses still intrigues and delights me. It is in some ways traveling upstream, pushing aside the overgrowth and briers and finding that spring from which eventually a mighty river will flow, and that is always numinous and valuable. But my interest I think is shifting to the mythic, to the personal, to that varied and creative and vital world of dreams, to the daimonic, if you will. Or rather, it has shifted, long since.

Talk about Deities, the established canonical cultural expressions of the Divine, seems to me now to be looking at the outside layer of things. Even Dionysos or Hermes is in my mind now a refined, conscious, version of that internal Guide we all have, the psychopomp, soul-guide who comes into our dreams and visions. That feels far more numinous to me right now.

Maybe it's just the time of year. The Dark grows deeper with every passing moment; and I want to go in, like I always do at this time. Maybe it is especially pronounced in me because I am such an introvert, I don't know.

So, like I said, I don't really know where I'm going with this. Perhaps I just need a break (No, no, says the Muse. Fine.) I am not ready just yet, I think, to abandon this all, to abandon this project in particular. But it may come to that. And I know that may give some of you palpitations. But honestly, that is too bad. My art has worth and strikes a chord in people I think because I do it for myself, because I explore that which has meaning to me personally. And so I think others recognize that meaning as something that is true. I have never been able to do something because others want me to. Or, rather, when I have, it has had no power, no meaning, no magic, no truth.

So let's start there.

Goddess of the Week



And now we're back to Water, from Fire; this week's Goddess is Ganga, the Hindu Goddess of the Ganges River. She last came up on April 19th. The Hindu Goddesses seem to have been coming up a lot lately; I don't know if that means anything, or is just random. For whatever 'random' means, anyway.

Though She is a Goddess, and is sometimes depicted in human form with rivulets of water to either side, She is more often referred to as just the River; in Her case, the River is Her primary image. The Ganges is believed to descend from heaven to this earth and to contain great powers of purification.

In one tale the Ganges River was persuaded to descend to earth, so that humans and the earthly world might have a share in the Divine; but She feared that Her descent would be so powerful it would destroy the earth. So Shiva agreed to put Himself between the River and the world, thus breaking Her fall and keeping the earth safe. The Ganges is said to wander about in Shiva's hair, which is matted and tangled as befits an ascetic God, before falling to earth.

In another tale Vishnu, in walking the cosmos, accidentally stepped through the surface, breaking a hole in the heavens. Through this hole the Ganges descends; this time Her fall is broken because She lands on Mount Meru, the center, axis mundi, or omphalos (to use the Greek term) of the world.

In both stories it is said that the heavenly Ganges is the River, the source of all Rivers; and the earthly Ganges is but one stream. From Mount Meru the heavenly Ganges split into four rivers, thereby flowing in every direction and bringing the Divine into each corner of the world.

So the Ganges, and Ganga, then, are representative of the Divine River, what one might reasonably call the Divine Source, out of which all things flow. So this week, I think we retain the emphasis on the Center, and that which is located there; but it has shifted a little, to include the idea of that which flows out of that Center.

The thing about the earthly Ganges, though, is that, for all its divine powers of purification, in modern times it is one of the most polluted rivers on earth. Yet despite this pollution it is believed to still retain those powers of purification. Now, I personally feel rather uncomfortable with the idea of purity as a Pagan (or Neo-Pagan, to distinguish my religion from the 'pagan' religion of Hinduism, as Christianity would call it), as I have a great respect for the powers of breaking down, dying, and rotting (especially in a New England October); there is, perhaps, a metaphor in there: how has that which flows out of the Source been changed or polluted?

Or maybe that is not the best word. Perhaps we are talking more about a loss of clarity of vision. True, rivers change. The river that flows by is always different while always the same. Still, I am wondering about how, say, a vocation, a calling, can change into something that is just a job. How has that river changed? What muddies it, pollutes it?

How might you clean it up? What needs to be removed, screened out? How can you regain some of that clarity? Can you? Is it even possible? Is the river different?

I have a feeling She can shed some light, some clarity on all this. What does She say?

It all changes as it flows. The river that is downstream is not the river that is upstream. Of course not.

You know it does not work that way.

You are almost asking about a lost paradise; a place of shining light and purity from which you have fallen. You know that is not how it works.

If this earth, this River, is dirty or polluted it is what you have brought to it. If you have filled paradise with junk, it is up to you to clean it. That is not an accusation, really; I am simply saying that those with the power to dirty have an equal power to clean. Underneath it it is still paradise. It is still the River that flows.

Nothing is uncleanable, unfixable, irreparable. And you have allies, of course; Nature will take care of Herself, if given the space. She is in fact very good at that.

Not, of course, that you can get back to that exact origin, that original state. You know, I know, that the river is always different, always flowing. And yet at the same time it is always original, always springing up as something new. You do not have to seek origins in some mythical past; it is all around you right now. It is a trick to recognize it, though. Listen to your dreams. It is all old, and all new.


I think She is talking about the Unconscious, about archetypes, about the Otherworld, the imaginal realm if you will, which are eternal and spring up spontaneously, always themselves, always old and familiar, and always new and fresh.

What do you think? What flows from your Source?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Goddess of the Week



It's Vesta's second time here; Her first appearance was back on June 13th, right smack in the middle of Her holiday the Vestalia. Though the traditional day of that holiday was the 9th, Her temple was open to the public (meaning women of the public, as it was always closed to men) from the 7th to the 15th of June.

Vesta is the Roman Goddess of fire, the hearth, and the center. Her little round temple was (is) located in the heart of the Roman Forum, the heart of Rome (both City and Empire) itself. It was believed to be very ancient, having been founded either by Numa (the second King of Rome) or even Romulus (the very first King after whom the city was named). Its round shape was thought to echo the primitive round thatched huts of the early shepherd-settlers of Rome. It was not properly an inaugurated templum, though, but an aedes, a 'house' or 'dwelling place', usually referring to that of a Deity; a templum, was, technically, a space officially marked out as one where the augures could read the signs. A templum was traditionally square or rectangular, probably because the cardinal directions played an important part in the readings; perhaps this is one of the reasons Vesta's 'temple' wasn't. Or, perhaps, it was just that old, and that central to the state religion, and so was something of an ancient exception to the rules.

In that little round house burnt a perpetual fire, one tended by Her famous college of priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. That fire, that hearth, was itself the official image of the prototypical altar, the hearth fire of the home; in early times, the family would gather around the hearth and offer to Vesta each day.

Vesta's temple, as a sort of emblem or symbol of the home, the hearth, the center, had a chamber at the center of it (though given the ruined state of the temple currently, the layout is not clear) called the penus, the name given to the pantry or larder of the house, and another expression of the idea of the center. (What is more central to a home than where the food, the nourishment, the prosperity, is kept?) In this aspect She was worshiped with the Di Penates, the household Gods of the larder, Who, with the Lares (household Deities) protected and watched over the house. On the national level, the Penates installed in Vesta's temple were the Penates Publici, Who also at one time had Their own temple a little further up the road from Vesta's temple on the Velia.

The penus of Vesta's temple contained sacred things, things that were central to the ritual safety and prosperity of Rome. No one knows quite what they were nowadays, but possibly those sacred things included statues of the Penates Publici and the Palladium.

The Palladium was a statue of Pallas Athena (Whom the Romans equated with their Minerva) said to have been brought to Rome out of the ruin of Troy by Aeneas. Before that it was said to have miraculously fallen out of the sky to Dardanos (or Ilos), the legendary founder of Troy; its presence was thought to keep the city safe. (Not unlike the the ancient olive-wood statue of Athena Polias kept in the Erechtheion, which was also said to have fallen from heaven).

Now, these are the Romans we're talking about, so it's safe to say that much of that is pure political propaganda, to establish a link between the old great Greeks and the hoped-to-be-great Romans. (Which to be fair, they were.)

Now that's all a bit of a tangent, I suppose; but you never can tell. For some reason this week the Penates and the secret hidden chamber, in some way a holy of holies was really resonating with me. It wasn't until I started doing the research, however, that I found out that the festival dedicated to the Penates is October 14th.

So. Vesta both is, and guards, the center of things, the hearth, the heart, the fire, the source, the holiness in the very middle of place and self. What is in there, for you? How will you enter into that place, that innermost part; what defenses must be penetrated (yes, it is a related word) to get into that place? How do you act (or not act) as the guardian of your own holy places? Do you know how to get there? It may be easier than you think. After all, all roads lead to Rome, they say.

What does Vesta say to all that?

Dear, start with warmth. If you can feel that glow, that warmth, that aliveness, that fire within you you are on the right path. It is unmistakeable; you will know. What makes your heart beat? What makes your veins run with fire? Not just the light, but the heat, this time. Not with your eyes will you see it; but with your skin, your body, will you feel it. Track that warmth, be drawn to it like the fire at the hearth when you come in from the cold and the rain.

You will come home.


What do you think?


References:

Dictionary of Roman Religion, by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins

The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, by Jeffrey M. Hurwitt

A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, by L. Richardson, Jr.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Goddess of the Week



This is Oshun's second appearance here; Her first time was nearly a year ago, in the first week of November 2009.

She is one of the Orishas (Spirit or Deity) of the Yorùbá people of western Africa, and the Goddess of the Osun River, which flows through southwestern Nigeria. Her sacred grove and the shrines and sanctuaries within it, which is located just outside the city of Osogbo not far from Her river, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005.

Oshun is a Goddess of love, kindness, sweetness, beauty, and wealth. Like other Orishas, She has a color, yellow, and a number, five; honey, peacocks and pumpkin seeds are associated with Her.

Oshun is said to be the principle wife of Shango, the God of lightning and thunder; His other wives are Oya, Herself a storm Goddess, and Oba, the daughter of Yemaya and Goddess of a river named for Her the Oba or Obba. Where Oba's river meets Osun's river there are dangerous rapids; this is seen as a manifestation of the friction between the two of them.

She is said to be especially receptive to prayers, answering them quickly.

This week we are in the thick of harvest-season up here in the North, and there is really no way of avoiding the season right now; even the local Catholic Church down the street from me is overrun with pumpkins today. Pumpkins, both for their yellow color, and their remarkable number of edible and fertile seeds, are associated with Oshun. What did you plant? How did it grow? What are you finally harvesting right now? It may not look anything like you thought it would, by the way. How did it take on its own life? What will you do with it now?

What sweetness are you harvesting now? What tastes of honey in your life?

So what does She say, then?

Oh honey. Slide into that River with me. Bake pumpkin pie with honey and cardamom, and share it with a friend. Create sweetness now, in your life, in the lives of the ones you love. Pour honey over the bitterness in your life; honey is a healer, you know, and I mean that literally as well: bacteria does not grow in honey. The bee-sisters are wise, as ever.

And look to your sisters, to the women around you. Make sweet community with them. I am Harmony, too, you know. Work together and see how much beauty you can create now.


What do you think?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Goddess of the Week



The Hindu Goddess Uma is this week's pick; this is Her first time here. Well, sort of.

The thing with Hindu Goddesses is that they tend to slide into each other, especially given that reincarnation is a tenet of Hinduism; Sati, for example, Shiva's wife, is said to have been reincarnated in Parvati. Kali, Who came up both last week and two weeks before that, can be considered an aspect or even emanation (to use that word imprecisely) of Parvati, or Sati, or Durga (Herself sometimes an aspect of Parvati), and could even reasonably be said to be the same Goddess as Uma. It is assumed that a Goddess, or the Goddess, has been worshiped in India since prehistoric times; in medieval times a Goddess called Devi, 'Goddess' or Mahadevi, 'Great Goddess' was said to be the underlying principle behind all Goddesses, and ultimately no less than the very essence of reality. The Mahadevi is especially associated with this particular cluster of Goddesses—Parvati, Durga, Uma, Gauri, Kali, &c.

Now to Uma specifically. She is an aspect, or emanation, or independent Goddess Who was later attached to Parvati or Sati, Who personifies, represents or incarnates the practice of devotion and asceticism. She is closely tied with Shiva, the God of ascetics, and said to be His wife (Such is Her fame, however, that Shiva is often called 'Husband of Uma'). Her power derives from Her ability to practice austerities and in Her renunciation of the world; and in this form Shiva, Who is also the God of the phallus and eroticism, cannot deny Her.

Her name is said to come from Her mother's reaction when She learned of Her daughter's desire to become an ascetic: U! Ma! She cried—No! Don't!

A Goddess called Uma Haimavati is mentioned in the Kena-upanishad, which probably dates to the first or second century CE; the name Haimavati means 'She Who Belongs to Himavat', Himavat being the God of the Himalaya Mountains. Uma Haimavati is in later writings a name for Sati-Parvati, and indeed Parvati's name means 'Daughter of the Mountain', Her father also being Himavat or the Himalayas. Uma Haimavati is earlier than Parvati, though, Who is not mentioned by that name in the Vedic texts; She was perhaps attached to Parvati at a later date, or the early mention of Uma was assumed to refer to Parvati, perhaps to give Parvati a more ancient provenance.

Sati, Shiva's first wife, is sometimes called Uma in the stories when Her devotion to Shiva is being emphasized. However, when Sati's father insulted Shiva, such was Her devotion to Shiva that She killed Herself; and Shiva, Who hadn't cared about the insult at all, mourned Her death with such world-destroying intensity that the other Gods had to resort to a ruse to get Him to stop.

Parvati, as the later reincarnation of Sati, was destined from birth to be married to Shiva; but Shiva Himself, perhaps a little wary of marriage after that experience, did not want any part of it at first. So She withdrew from Him, and devoted Herself to a fierce type of asceticism.

Parvati as Uma surpassed even the greatest sages in all the traditional austerities, such as standing on one leg for years, living on leaves and air, and sitting between four fires at the height of summer. This type of practice is believed in Hinduism to generate tapas, a kind of inner heat or fire; this fire can get so hot in the great sages that the Gods fear for the safety of the world. This is turn means They are usually more than willing to grant the practitioner a boon.

Now Uma had focused Her devotion on Shiva; so, in time, it was He Who came to grant her dearest wish. That dearest wish? That she marry Shiva. And, having proved Herself not only His equal but His type, He readily agreed.

This week looks to be a continuation of the themes in play for the last three weeks, since Kali, also an aspect of Parvati, first came up. The problem is the same one that had you reaching into the darkness and the depths and the destruction; but the focus this week is on the work that must be done with it. It is hard work, but good work, and not something you can't handle, I don't think. Find that focus, and let your mind run on one track for a while. You will be able to achieve more than you thought was possible.

What does She say?

Practicing denial of the flesh so that one may unite with the Beloved? It has its twisted logic, doesn't it? But I know what I'm doing. And so does He.

And so do you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Amused Question

A bit of levity, sorely needed I think with the great Kali showing up twice in three weeks.

Okay all you vision-havers and dream-interpreters out there, I got one for you.

What does it mean when one is entertaining a bit of a crush on a young Peter Gabriel, yet one is having recurring dreams of Phil Collins?

I can't figure out if I love or hate my brain.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goddess of the Week



This week's Goddess is Kali again, the Hindu Goddess of destruction and death, showing up for the second time in a month as the year tips towards the dark here in the north. The first time She was here was only the week before last; in between Her appearances we have had Sunna, the Germanic Sun Goddess. We have been taken to the black Void, then to the brightest Light, then back to the black Void. I do not know what is going on here.

Kali is the Goddess Who represents that which is outside of civilization and society, the messy reality of things which don't fit into the neat categories we create. She reminds us that those messy things are also necessary, sacred, and a part of the whole.

Though She is unquestionably destructive and horrific, as the primeval Void, She is also infinite potential. The waters of the underworld, where embryonic demons wait to be incarnated, are said to be Her womb, and indeed as I mentioned in the earlier post, Kali is revered in Tantrism as the shakti or primordial female principle, She Who underlies all reality, and Who is both formless and unmanifested, and manifested in infinite forms.

Maybe it's the time of year; after all at the equinoxes both hemispheres see day and night, the light and the dark in balance. This time of year is about just that, balance, not just the shifting seasons, in the growing or fading warmth, or the growth or death of the plants, but in the emphasis, the weight of things moving into another position. Autumn is here in the north, and summer has ended; and we must change ourselves to fit it.

Look this week to both your darkest dark and your brightest light. Find out how they are joined, and how they move in balance (for they are not static) to make a complete whole. Though you may not have to look very far; the 'energy' now feels pretty unsettled to me, and they may very well make themselves known all on their own. Try to take it in stride, I guess.

What does She say?


I am here, always here. I am the root and the dark; I am at the bottom of all things. And yet, go far enough down in the cold Earth and you will find heat and light, will you not? Within is without. You know this by now.

But look on the black side! Not all is blinding-brightness and burning heat. The dark can be very soothing, and offers healing and renewal in its own way. Things are waiting to be born in the lightless waters. Call them forth! Receive them! Be willing! For They will come anyway. And remember that when something is born, something else dies.

That is as it must be. Do not pretend to be surprised.


Well. What do you think?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Goddess of the Week



Sunna came up (ha) for the first time here just about two months ago, on July 5th. She is the Germanic Goddess of the Sun; Her Norse equivalent is named Sól. Both names just mean 'Sun.'

Sunna's sister is one Sinthgunt (Who may be a star Goddess, or a doubling of Sunna Herself), about Whom not a whole lot is known; in one of the so-called Merseburg Incantations, dating from the 9th or 10th century CE, both sing charms to cure Baldar's horse, which had become lame.

In Norse myth, Sól, the Sun, was created from the brightest ember that had escaped from Muspellsheim, the land of fire to the south. She was set in a chariot, drawn by two horses called Árvakr ('The Early-waking One') and Alsvin or Alsviðr ('The Fleet One'), which She drives across the sky every day, pursued by a wolf named Sköll ('Treachery'). She is said to be the wife of Glenr ('Opening in the Clouds').

An alternate myth says that Sól and Her brother Máni (the Moon), were originally the mortal children of a man named Mundilfäri ('Travels Like a Pendulum', perhaps an alternate name for the Moon), who were so radiantly beautiful that Mundilfäri named them for the heavenly lights. The Gods, however, were angered by Mundilfäri's hubris, and so snatched the children away, tasking them with driving the chariots of the Sun and Moon.

Sól is sometimes called Álfröðull, meaning 'Elf Disk', though this term is equally applied to Her chariot which holds the Sun.

I am glad to see Her after all the black of last week's Kali, I'll admit. Though I can't help but think the two are connected, as They are so markedly opposite. One week it's black as the Void and then the next it's the brightest of the Lights there are? Something's going on. I don't know if it's both/and or an either/or, though. The latter sounds like it could cause some serious whiplash. Take it gently, if that option resonates with you.

If the former, know that the digging in the dark from last week will allow you to stand more firmly, and be more grounded and rooted in the earth, which will form a stable base from which to reach towards the Sun.

Sunna is a healer, too; bask in Her warmth, and cultivate a sunny outlook if you can. It will help immensely at this time.

What does She say?

I am Healer, I am Light, I am the Sun, the Day-Star; I fly across the sky, regulating time, marking the day, and cutting the night up into manageable pieces, so there is never too much dark. Follow my example. Cut your darknesses up; make them into small things, and take them one night at a time. And do not despair. I am ever followed by the Wolf; yet, I do not let him catch me. Not yet, anyway. We will all be caught some day, it is true; in the mean-time, blaze forth in glory.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goddess of the Week



Well, last week before I picked the card which would turn out to be Morgana, I thought for a moment, and tried to guess, or predict, Who it would be. And I came up with black, black black black. And I thought, Oh, Kali.

But it was Morgana, for whatever reason.

And now here Kali is. I guess I was off by a week.

She is a Hindu Goddess of destruction, death, blood, disorder, and that which is outside of order and civilization. One meaning of Her name is 'The Black One', and She is always said to be black or dark. She was the first card I did, apparently out of nowhere, when I knew very little of Her, and before I had any idea that I would be doing an entire card deck of Goddesses; She should properly be much darker in Her skin tone. I apologize.

Kali is said to have been born of the wrath of a Goddess, either Durga, Parvati, or Sati, depending on the tale. As Their personified rage, She is so powerful and out of control in Her bloodlust that She threatens to destroy the world.

There are many tales of Kali involving Her frenzied behavior on the battlefield. Like Sekhmet of the Egyptians She is said to go into a battle fury and gleefully drink the blood of Her enemies, or anyone in Her way, really. Only Shiva, often Her husband, and no stranger to chaos Himself, has the power to calm Her, either by lying down in Her path and pretending to be a corpse, or by taking the form of a wailing baby. Either way, He attracts Kali's attention, and stirs Her compassion, so that She is calmed.

As Kali She is described as wild and dangerous, bloodthirsty and violent. She is depicted naked and emaciated, with fangs, claws, and a long lolling tongue; Her skirt is made of cut-off arms, Her necklace of skulls or severed heads, and Her earrings are the corpses of infants.

And yet.

In Tantrism, She is very highly venerated as the primordial shakti, the female creative principle. In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Shiva says:

Thou art Kali, the original form of all things... Resuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress.


And in the Nirvana-tantra, Kali is described in terms of the primeval ocean: She is like all the waters of the sea, and Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma are merely the water filling the hoofprint of a cow; and from Her those three arise like bubbles from the ocean's depths.

She is underlying reality, in all its mess, blood, disorder, and death. Yet She must be made peace with, and must be accepted, to be whole and to achieve salvation and enlightenment in Tantrism. She is a reminder that our desire for order goes against the nature of life itself.

So this week? Well, I won't lie. This is big stuff. Big ugly stuff, that is of necessity also truth. How well you are able to deal with it, face it down, accept and even love that ugliness will determine how well you do with it, and what you learn from it. There is powerful knowledge and wisdom here, remember.

Now. What does She say?

I am black. Black as the void, black as the all-swallowing Winter that approaches. Black as a hole, black as the heart of the Sun, black as the heart of you.

The Void is not nothing; that is the irony, the mystery at its heart. It is all potential, all material, all that is, waiting to be born, to be manifested. Yet until it is it is nothing. That is the mystery; that it is nothing, and everything, at the same time.

I am not that frightening. Or, well, maybe I am; but you will have to get over that. It is inevitable, you know, that you come back to Me. It is not something you can escape.

But take heart; you have come home to me many many times. This death is not your first. You are an old hand at dying, really.

And at any rate you do it all the time, don't you? For I am here now.


Reference:

Hindu Goddesses, by David R. Kinsley.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Goddess of the Week



This week's pick is Morgana, also known as Morgan le Fay, the great sorceress and healer of the Arthurian legends. Though considered human in the late works, Morgana's divine origins are hinted at in her epithet 'le Fay,' meaning 'faery,' 'Fate,' or 'Otherworldly woman.' The strands going back are rather tangled, but she does seem to have a good part of her origins in an old Gaulish river-Goddess.

In the Arthurian legends, Morgan le Fay is one of three daughters of Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall, and Ygraine, her elder sisters being Elaine (one of many in Arthuriana) and Morgawse, who would be mother of the infamous Mordred. They are half-sisters to Arthur, who was gotten on their mother by Uther Pendragon through a ruse (which makes it rape).

Morgan was unhappily married off to one Urien of Gore; their son was Ywain. She was very skilled in magic and much associated with Avalon, an Otherworldly island long connected with Glastonbury. She is usually thought of as a fierce enemy to Arthur; yet, when he was wounded at the end of his reign, she was one of the women of Avalon who took him in to be healed.

Those are the basics of the Arthurian legends. Let's look a little deeper now.

Her husband Urien (and their son Ywain) finds his origins in a real sixth-century king; his son Owain ap Urien was famous for battling the Angles. This fame got them both incorporated into legend, starting with the Welsh. Owain features in a tale of his own called The Lady of the Fountain; however in the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydain, Triads of the Isle of Britain), he is called a son of Urien and one Modron.

Modron is usually remembered as the mother of Mabon in the Welsh tale of Culhwch ac Olwen; he was said to have been taken from his mother when only three days old. Though there is not much information about either of them in this tale, there is something powerful and primal underneath it: for 'Mabon' simply means 'son', and 'Modron' simply means 'Mother.' Which means that Mabon ap Modron means 'Son, son of Mother', unusually enough; especially given that the ap part, meaning 'son of' is literally called a patronymic, meaning 'father-name,' it is remarkable that there is no mention at all of a father. And though he only has a bit part in the tales as handed down to us, yet Mabon gives his name to the collection of Welsh literature called the Mabinogion (or Mabinogi, more properly). Now Mabon does have Divine origins—ultimately he has his roots in Maponos, a Celtic God of Roman Britain often linked with Apollo. This is the Mother and Her Son.

Now as for Modron Herself: She in her turn derives from the Goddess Matrona, the eponymous Goddess of the Marne River in eastern France. Her name means 'Divine Mother'. She is probably a singular form of the old Matronae, 'The Mothers', Who are Celtic mother Goddesses going by a Latin name, usually shown in triple form, posed with various emblems of fertility such as bread, cornucopiae, or babies.

There is also a folk-tale that tells how Urien came upon a washerwoman at a ford; though she does not give her name, she tells him she is a daughter of Annwfn, i.e. a fairy-woman or Goddess, as Annwfn is the name of the Welsh Otherworld. She later has two children by Urien, Owain and a daughter Morfudd (mentioned as Morfydd in the Triads). And all that actually does connect Her with the great Irish triple Goddess of sex and battle known as the Mórrígan, which She is usually said not to have much relationship with, despite the similarity of names; for the Mórrígan can take the form of the Washer at the Ford, an Otherworldly woman seen washing bloody clothes in a river, Who presages the death of the person whose garments she washes.

You will notice, that even in the late legends Morgan is associated with triplicity—She is one of three daughters, a triplicity which is all the more pronounced given that Her sister Elaine has almost no story of her own; it's as if she is just filler brought into the stories to round out the number. And in the Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin) She is said to be one of nine sisters skilled in magic who live in Avalon.

So, then, what of all that?

It is remarkable to me how some things survive, and how despite layers and layers of camouflage and how various consonant, though unrelated stories can accumulate on an idea, one can still trace back to that source, that wellspring. In this case, literally, as Matrona has a shrine near to the source of the Marne River. I am tempted, then, to say that this week will be one of detective work and a search for origins; may it be as fruitful for you.

However Morgan le Fay, or Morgana, as I've called Her here, is perhaps calling us to remember our roots in a different way. She is never said to be anything other than human in the late tales; yet she still retains that 'le Fay' appellation. Work this week, I think, to discover your own fay-ness, if you will. We are not as separate from Nature as we would have it. We are certainly (and I realize I am rather preaching to the choir here) not un-magical beings, though we are human.

Her tale is of an ambiguous character, too; though Arthur's enemy she is also a great healer. Perhaps her story has merely been framed in a unflattering way by the storytellers who sided of course with Arthur; perhaps, also, it is a comment on the nature of magic being dark, complicated, many-sided, and rich, a characteristic that lovers of duality (who like to reduce everything to good and evil) cannot understand or endorse.

I think, though, that the main lesson this week is that you will have to figure it out for yourself. But this week marks the beginning of the end of summer, and the beginning of the turning of things, or at least that is what it has always felt like in my area. How is your world, your earth, changing now?

What does She say?

I am everywhere like the tide; the tide of the breath of the body, the tide of the seasons; I infuse it all. I am the undercurrent of the magical in all. I am that feeling of aliveness, that subtle body, the feeling of being alive. What is that after all but Magic?

Do not think that it is not all related, that the enlightenment of the Buddhists or the Christ does not also have its place, its name, its recognition in the older messier Ways; it is reality, after all, and it has always been, and has always been seen. Find the other definition for it, the one that is closer to home for you. It is there.


What do you think?

References:

The Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, by James MacKillop

Wikipedia, believe it or not, which proved handy for keeping things sorted out
.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Goddess of the Week



Nut is the ancient Egyptian Sky-Goddess; this is Her second appearance here, the first being last Valentine's Day (or Lupercalia Eve, if you prefer). She is one of the nine primeval Deities of the creation myths of Heliopolis. (Though the name Heliopolis is the one usually used, it is the Greek one; the old Egyptian name was Iunu Mehet or On. It is the modern Tell Hisn, a suburb of Cairo now). Several regions or cities in ancient Egypt had their own creation myths; in Iunu Mehet the story went like this:

In the beginning of days there was only Nun, the watery abyss, Whom the Egyptians called the 'eldest father'; out of Nun the Sun-God Atum emerged. Atum then created a mound of silt, which was the first land; after this He created two Deities, the Air-God Shu ('Dry'), and the Moisture-Goddess Tefnut ('Moisture'). From these two were then born another pair, Geb, the Earth God, and Nut, the Sky Goddess.

Geb and Nut then coupled, quite passionately.

In a slightly different strand of the myth, the Sun God Re (also of Heliopolis, and equated with Atum) then had Them forcibly separated by Their father Shu, the air, for He feared being overthrown by Their children. He further cursed Nut, and forbid Her from giving birth on any day of the year.

Luckily Thoth (Tehuti), the very clever God of Scribes, made a bet with the Moon and won, thereby gaining enough light to create five more days, bringing the total to 365 when it had been a nice even 360, or twelve months of thirty days each. (Of course 365 days is not the actual length of the year, it being more like 365.25 days, and they knew it; but the ancient Egyptians loved their round numbers and their order so much that, honestly, they kind of just let it slide). So Nut was able to give birth at last, and bore Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys, and the elder Horus. Nut and Her five children, plus Geb, Tefnut and Shu, were considered the Heliopolitan Ennead ('group of nine Gods of Heliopolis').

Not counting Nun, apparently, and not naming the mound as the first bit of dry land, either, oddly enough.

As Sky Goddess Nut was said to swallow the Sun each night and give birth to it the next morning, making Her body, though the sky, in some ways a form of the Underworld; She was sometimes depicted as a sow, as they bear innumerable young (here equated with the stars) and have a reputation as cannibals who eat their young, as Nut alternately swallows the Sun (to bring night) and the stars (when it is day).

This week then is about waiting, pregnancy, and the anticipation of a good thing, I think, even if (like me) you have no desire ever ever ever to become literally pregnant yourself (or if, you know, you're a dude or something). Something Wonderful is coming—it is, in fact, just around the corner. The best part is that it's not something out of the blue, but something you have been working towards for some time that is about to bear luscious fruit.

Not, incidentally, that you need to do much about it at this point; it is, pretty much, inevitable that it comes at the appointed time. And that means whether you work at it or not at this point. Sure, keeping the momentum going is a good thing; but if you are tired or worn out, know that if you are unable to keep up your former pace now it will make little difference.

You may not even know you have been doing this work, incidentally. It may be one of those things that have been working themselves out on a deep dream-level, in your unconscious mind; perhaps something along the line of realizations about past circumstances that give you a new strength and purpose.

Just relax, and let it come, and be its own thing. Though like a child, it will almost certainly not be quite what you think it will be.

What does She say?

You are all my children. You are all born from me, as innumerable as the stars; and when your long day-life is over you will all come back to me, stars and gods and humans, devoured by the dark to be reborn sure as sunrise. Always devouring, always giving birth; it is the way of things, to be dark and light, joyous and fearful in their times. Though the fear is not really necessary, you know.

Granddaughter of the Void, they say; and I bear His nature, never forget.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Off For A Bit

I'm about to go out of town for the next couple of weeks, which means that posting (and comment moderating) will be off until about mid-August. See you when I get back!