What’s On Your Altar?

Let’s have a round of “what’s on my altar?” tonight.

Let’s see…two burning candles for the Blood Brothers. One candle for Loki Himself that is an autumn/fall harvest candle. It won’t burn no matter what I do to it. (I’m thinking of putting something extremely flammable on it just to see if I can make it burn because GOD DAMN IT *L* what don’t you like about that candle? I’m starting to think it’s just that the time of year isn’t strictly his domain so He won’t let it burn.) A wintergreen candle welcoming Lady Skadi (getting cold here). A piece of driftwood because it carries a calming energy with it. Another harvest candle for the Gods Who Smile on Me. Another candle for Loki Himself, a tall white candle for Odin–Loki’s Blood Brother. A sage bundle that isn’t being used at the moment. A candle welcoming bounty into our household. And a wonderful plaque a friend of mine made for my birthday. choose I love tending my altar. It’s a joyful duty, one that brings me peace and a sense of purpose.

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Missing Loki

missedaspot

I don’t know if anyone will particularly find this interesting, but I thought I would share. For a while I’ve been having minor health problems. Nothing that is going to kill me today, but if I don’t get a handle on them they will certainly do so down the road. Or brain damage me, which is, about my worst nightmare. About a year ago (maybe less, but if feels like forever ago at this point) I was having some deep conversation with myself, and Loki, and the universe at large and He demanded I completely overhaul my diet.

He’s done this to me before, and I wasn’t happy, but did end up dumping caffeine, the sweet, dark nectar of the Gods. It was hell. It was horrid. It was hard. I felt much better.

I wasn’t eating terribly: my husband is vegetarian tending toward vegan, so I was eating with him part of the time. However, when I wasn’t with him I was eating drive through because I don’t feel like I have time to eat properly when I’m working. I was eating garbage fast food for breakfast almost every day of the week that I was working because it was so easy to get it and cheap. I was having doughnuts almost every morning too because the Krispy Kreme bin is right there beside the newspaper when I stop to pick it up. In the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t want to work harder at simply staying alive.

Plus, doughnuts are awesome. (As an aside: I eat organic at my house. I buy nothing but organic, wholesome foods for my husband and children, yet here I was eating fucking doughnuts.)

Loki told me to stop or I was essentially going to kill myself. NOW, when He exnayed caffeine for me at one point it was raising my blood pressure to extremely unhealthy heights because I’ve apparently developed a sensitivity to it. I can do de-caf for the most part, but even that can be iffy if there is too much caffeine in the decaf roast of the coffee. So, it’s best if I just avoid it.

When he started hinting around again that I needed to overhaul my diet I wasn’t happy. I went to the doctor and my blood pressure was pushing up to unhealthy ranges again and my other bloodwork wasn’t the greatest. Grumbling, I decided I would try to change things, but didn’t really want to. I resisted, doing well for a few days, fucking up for ten more. Then I went back and my blood pressure was even higher.

Loki: Cut the shit. No sugar. No salt. No dairy. No meat. No caffeine. Eat like your husband. He’s healthy. And knock this shit off. Why won’t you just do what you already know you need to do? It’s either shape up or die thanks to your genetics.

Me: You love meat!

Loki: No shit. Your body shouldn’t have it. You’ve known this for a while, but you continue.

Me: I know.

Loki: Then do it, Love. Stop being stubborn.

It’s food though. It’s a lot harder than it should be. I’m embarrassed to admit this has actually driven a wedge between myself and Loki, mainly because though I’ve done a lot to do what He wanted from me, I haven’t fully complied. I stopped buying sugary lattes all the time. I stopped buying cookies and doughnuts (for the most part.) I haven’t fully gotten on board though because it’s hard. I love that kind of food. I grew up on German food and rich, fatty farm food. We negotiated and he said I could have a day a month to eat as I chose, and I’ve still been having trouble getting there.

I recently found out my biological father has diabetes at 50, something I’ve been terrified of because my birth mother’s family also has it, and once again Loki has a point. My birth father is apparently not doing well either. That scared the shit out of me. I want to be around to do all the fun stuff with my family I’ve envisioned. I may get diabetes eventually, but I don’t want it to be because I couldn’t lay off the sweets. I want to be around to write and laugh and love. I need to try harder. He always has a point, and I’m so very ashamed that I’ve allowed this to come between us. I adore Him. I adore everything about His ecstatic, energetic, beautiful self, and I’ve been having trouble sitting with Him because I feel like an errant child.

But He doesn’t care the way I think He does. He doesn’t hate me because I’m having trouble. I’ve been tossing my human baggage His direction.

He gives a shit about me.

I have so much trouble with that concept. I’ve finally realized that I’ve been pushing Him away even as I’ve been lighting candles on His altar because of this enslavement to the food I want to continue eating when I shouldn’t. It’s insane. I’m addicted to crappy fucking food that isn’t even as good as the home cooked food I make.

I guess I’m writing this post because the struggle is real. Sometimes They ask us to do things we already know we should do. Sometimes They ask us to do things that seem ridiculous on the outside, but are perfectly legitimate because They have a longer view. And we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to do whatever they are asking because it’s HARD. Well, change isn’t easy, but Loki is a God of change. This piss ant struggle over what food I should and shouldn’t be shoving in my face capsized my entire religious practice because I didn’t want to change. I started to gradually change the way I was eating and my blood pressure has been getting steadily better. I started doing the things I should do. Then I relapsed a little, took a half a step back. Now I’m struggling forward again. But, I want it now. I spent almost an entire summer without Loki. I have been ignoring Him, and I know He hates that. I want to do things differently. Loki has been around. I’ve felt him checking on me frequently, but I haven’t been engaging.

Shame is a powerful thing.

But fuck that noise.

I’m getting healthier for myself and my family, and I feel like I can’t truly work with Them unless I’m healthy enough to delve into the energy work and that’s where I’m at with Loki. I’m trying to get healthy enough to do that with Him again.

I’m trying to think of a good way to tell a God I’m sorry.

Maybe something like this?

I’m so sorry I’ve been absent in my practice, my Sweetest Friend. I know I’ve been with you in spirit when I’ve been engaging in creating, in art, but it hasn’t been quite the same. I miss you and I’m sorry.

I’ve also missed My Sneaky Starshine, whoever you are.

And thanks, Odin, for not forcing the issue. I know you could have and you are letting me work it out on my own.

Thank you Lady Sigyn for showing me the perseverance is in my realm of control. Thank you for being Victory Woman.

Hail to the Gods!

That Struggle

I am editing a text on Teutonic religion right now, which is interesting. I haven’t been doing much lately that works directly with religion itself. Okay, I take that back. I haven’t been doing anything at all with the exception of my devotions, which, when done without much intention are hollow at best and insulting at worst. I’ve been trying to draw my attention to my devotions as I do them, once I realized what I was doing.

Dealing with some minor medical issues, work, and family, as usual and still trying to make it all flow. Every day is a struggle for time, but I’m aware of the need for it, which makes it more likely to happen.

July for Loki 2015 or Lokkasplosion on My Life

firemeditation

I believe this will be my third July for Loki. It seems like I should have been at this longer for some reason. I’m excited this year in a way I wasn’t quite last year, and I think it’s because I haven’t been getting in as much time with Loki as I’d like. Having a month that I know I’m going to be setting aside time for Him is a huge deal for me. I’m not planning on addressing the origins or reasons for the Month for Loki in this blog post—though I think the practice originated with Galina Krasskova—as others cover the topic more thoroughly and knowledgably than I, but the month roughly corresponds with the rising of Sirius which varies from region to region. Read more about Sirius here. According to the simulator I found Sirius doesn’t rise in my region until late July (though I’m not entirely confident I’m reading the results right.) But, that’s no reason not to go ahead and give him the whole month.

I have some exciting plans for this month and a few things I’m already planning on working toward. I think my major focus is going to be meditation. I’ve had varying degrees of success with traditional meditation, but I thought I would branch out and try a few different things, such as focused meditation (using an image or other tangible object for meditation), chanting (what words or tones remain to be seen), and art as a form of meditation. I’m also going to try to tackle meditating with and around children and children’s schedules, as my youngest keeps the same hours we do it often makes it difficult to do anything especially deep as far as meditation goes. When you have to keep an eye on your candles for fear that small fingers will be in them it does tend to put a damper on things. To round out the art extravaganza I’m also going to attempt to have a few pieces of flash fiction here and there as well as some poetry.

A major focus of my work this month is also going to be prayer. I’ve created some small prayers for Loki previously, though nothing I’ve ever been especially good with remembering the words to, and I would like to start shaping something that will be useful to me overall. I’ve also been meaning to figure out a regular meal time prayer for my family for quite a while, as it’s something my husband has mentioned he would like more than once, which isn’t exactly Loki related, per se, but is something I think this time would be good to be used for.

Yet another goal of July is to start working my witchery back into my day to day living. There are various ways to do this with such simple things as cleaning my house “with intent” to cleanse negativity at the same time, to cooking with joy and love, as well as remembering to sage the apartment at least once a week. There’s so much I could do with this. My daughters have also been coming home with Willow branches after rainstorms from our local park and I’m thinking of making them into besoms. I should probably add some simple crafting to my list then, as well.

So, that’s the “Loki’s Amazing Fun Month of Chicanery” so far as I have it mapped out. I’m fairly certain this will be augmented with some beach trips to meditate as well, but I haven’t set out anything in stone. July Fourth we have plans to celebrate the Independence of our country with some friends, but that won’t be time off for me. Loki likes celebrating, so I’ll be inviting him along too.

One last teeny tiny thing that I’m working on that is a special request from Loki Himself, is being cheerful. Yes, he’s asked me to be cheerful and less negative. It’s not good for anything much to be stuck in a rut, including health, magickal workings, or my family.

What are your plans? I hope everyone aspires to a wonderful month of happiness, even if they aren’t celebrating for Loki.

Be a Rebel, Blow Out Your Candles

candles

Never blow out a candle or you blow away the magick. This was something all little, new baby witches were taught when I was coming up as a youngster. Growing up there were countless frustrations as I imagined I’d ruined a ritual completely by blowing out my candles at the end. Blowing out candles has such joyful, childlike association for me that I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. Then I’d have a meltdown after I did and remembered I wasn’t supposed to. Who doesn’t like blowing out birthday candles? Who doesn’t like controlling something with only the invisible force of their breath? At the time I didn’t question the instruction, but little by little over the years I’ve come at that from a completely different angle.

Breath is life.

Breath, divine breath, wakes up life.

When you’re making a gris-gris bag you breathe life into it, wake up the spirit of the bag, depending on how you make one, of course. They’re not as strong if you don’t.

Your breath is magic. When I blow out a candle I don’t see it as blowing away the magick, but rather using my breath to spread my intention into the universe. I’m adding to the magick. In my mind’s eye I’m spreading the gossamer strands of my intention far and wide with my breath, especially with ritual magick. Of course, there are times I don’t blow out candles. When I don’t want to sacrifice any of my life energy to an endeavor I don’t, but normally if something is worth doing on the magickal front it’s worth me putting any energy I can into it.

Like all magick though, if you just can’t get the idea that you’re blowing away the magick out of yoru head when you blow out candles you’re using in a ritual or for devotional purposes you probably shouldn’t do it. You program your intentions with your thoughts. That’s why mental control is such an integral part of witchcraft in general.

Appropriation: Worship Like You Stole It

Okay. Appropriation. I want to have a discussion, and here’s a thought I seem to always have when the topic comes up. As an American, everything I have is appropriated. I have not a single thing that I can claim as unique cultural heritage found only in my birth land that belongs to “my people”. The language I use-English, is an obvious place to begin. I learned Spanish. I’m not Latina. Therefore, by the broad scope of appropriation, I’ve just bungled. English itself is a mash up of other languages. I use it every day and I don’t bother giving a wit about the words that aren’t English. I don’t know the history of the words and I use them with impunity. I speak therefore I appropriate. I guess you can argue that my ancestors, or at least some of them, brought the language along with them, but some of my ancestors didn’t speak English, it was forced on them. So, am I now practicing some strange form of forced appropriation? Is there a term for that?

I’m not Native American, or at least not ONLY Native American (I believe I would be about 1/8 native American. My Great Grandmother was the ancestor in question.), so if I try to immerse myself in that culture I wasn’t raised in it can be considered appropriation. I haven’t, but I like learning about it, and I’ve occasionally thought I’d like to use some terms here or there in my spiritual practice, though I don’t out of shear laziness. It takes more time to explain something unusual than use common lexicon. I use sage-sage bundles, which are native American in origin, without knowing much about the traditional use for them. I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t know that most pagans would. I rather think of it as a tool l’ve acquired that works. Should I research it? Probably. Nothing but good would come of it. However, I’m extremely thankful for the people who came before me and realized Sage was awesome.

Because of my mixed genetic background I can say I feel free to work with any number of deities, but I wasn’t really raised in any of the backgrounds they “come from”, such as the Norse pantheon I work with now. I’m not part of the Asatru bandwagon that thinks we should only work with deities we’re blood tuned for (*cough*racisist undertones*cough* Excuse me.), but then isn’t that what the abhorrence of appropriation is all about? Don’t raid other people’s cultures for your own benefit, willy nilly. I wonder how America’s Buddhists feel about this? Either it’s okay for me to research and come to something respectfully and use it in my practice or work with deities that want to work with me, or it isn’t.

For example, most Americans almost look on Greek and Roman mythology as our own. It’s very intrinsic to our culture, at least educationally, yet, it isn’t ours. Is it appropriation if Persephone wants to work with me (I’m not Greek) if She’s decided to work with me? In some ways the entire idea of appropriation spiritually is just farcical. Some aspects of appropriation seem to negate the idea of free will on behalf of deities or the fact that some ideas simply don’t exist in other cultures. Isn’t making up new words for an idea, such as two spirit people for example, more disrespectful than simply using the original term? I realize bigender is more academic, but there was already a name for that. Maybe I’m just being a jackass and maybe I just don’t get it, but much like the rest of American culture, spiritually, there just isn’t anything unique that I can lay claim to without “appropriating”.  We don’t have many things that are uniquely our own aside from Phili cheese steaks, the Liberty Bell, and arguably, pop culture deities that originate in the States. Voodoo, I suppose, but wouldn’t that still be appropriation? Thoughts? Should I just let this go? I think that people who come from countries with their own deities and cultures get more hung up on appropriation than Americans do, in general, because of this stuff.

Americans don’t have anything that we haven’t stolen.

Swooning Over Rumi

Rumi was a 13th Century Sufi Mystic. Until today, the most acquaintance I had with his work was the occasional meme on facebook. You know the type I’m talking about: there’s some sort of inspiring natural background-a fly over the Grand Canyon at sunrise perhaps, and then a poem or pronunciation about life that makes you feel smugly superior for having read it, or maybe completely insignificant. I was in Barnes and Noble, banished there by my husband to “buy a few books”, which sort of made my gut churn because we rarely have enough extra money for things like that, but right now we’re okay. So, I go and I’m aimlessly wandering around, resolving not to buy anything except maybe something for the kids—because that’s something I can justify to myself— and I get that tickle… that tickle in the back of my thought area that I generally associate with Loki, but well, maybe it was someone else. I’m not sure. I’m guessing it was probably Loki though. I find myself wandering near the Eastern Religion section when a song I deeply associate with Himself comes on the sound system (it was Take Me to Church by Hozier for anyone who cares), and I can’t take my eyes off this book of Rumi’s poetry. Then I get the shooing hand motion type urge rolling over me. The “go on, pick it up already”. Okay, okay. So I do. The first poem I flip to, of course:

In love, ask for madness

Give up reasoning, give up life

Look for dangerous adventuresI

In deserts filled with blood and fire!

Okay, thanks Loki. Yes, I’LL BUY THE DAMNED BOOK ALREADY, of course my Sweetest Friend, if you insist. I get home with it and begin to idly flip through, and as I’m reading the book—and I start with the forward because I can’t not read the forward even when it’s twenty pages of boring nonsense— I’m struck by the description of what the poems are from the scholar who was tapped to write it. They’re “intoxicated expressions of love and longing for unity with the immortal Beloved.” (Farzad, Rumi’s Little Book of Life) (Yes, beloved with a BIG B.)

…okay. Okay, so Loki (Maybe. I’m just not sure where that came from.) picked an interesting book. About four poems in it became clear that Rumi was at the very least a Beloved of a God and possibly, I would take it as far as a Godspouse. Here are a few poems that I took as support of that idea. (So, to be clear, yes, I’m talking about historical support for the idea of Godspouses, or at least devotion that is something like it outside of the Indian religious setting.)

These aremy main “proof poems” for the idea.

This first poem downright gave me chills. I so know these emotions.

All are satellites around You, the suns

And planets have entered your orbit.

Beloved, am I the seeker or the sought?

Until I am I, you are another.

There is no place for “You” and “I” in unity.

Let no feet remain that lead us to thorns

Let no heads remain that lead us to denial.

There is water flowing in the middle of the stream

And water frozen on the banks

One is swift, the other stagnant.

Be aware, swift one, or you too may freeze.

It is the sun that transforms stones into gems,

It is the sun of eternal love shining in your heart

That stirs it into service and leads it to mastery.

The king covers the falcon’s eyes so it can detach

From its own kind and gaze only at his face.

Misguided is the one who takes his gaze

Off the Beloved and turns toward another.

A food give up Christ to buy a donkey

The wise man sells his donkey to follow Christ.

Seek the light beyond the light of day and night

Beyond judgement, the light bestowed by God.

Leaving the darkness we are the moonlight

Returning to the moon, for the trust is

To Him we shall all return.

Now, of course, that is chock full of Jesus stuff, but I can read around that to see the core of the feelings there and I was deeply touched, but something a little more visceral is what convinced me that this “mystic” was a little more the brand of mystic I’m familiar with. Give me something that shows the Humanity of the Divine and the Divine in the Human and I’ll generally follow along and at least listen to what you have to say.

One day you will see me sprawled in the tavern

My turban pawned, my prayer rug stained with wine.

Intoxicated with the teasing kiss of my Beloved.

I see his curls dancing on the palm of my hand.

Rested, he is tempting me to stay awake

And fest with him till dawn.

How blessed I am that this charmer entices my spirit away from this world.

That last line got me. How many of us who have worked closely with divinity haven’t felt that way from time to time?

I was jumping around in the book, and this last poem gave me pause as it’s kind of the “mystic’s truth”.

Questioning cannot unravel the secret of truth

Nor giving away your wealth and position.

Mere words do not exalt the heart

Pain is the price that the heart has to pay.

There are so many more fantastic poems in this book. I’d like to honestly post the entire book (I rarely suggest books, but Rumi’s Little Book of Life is totally worth the buy, even if you just like good poetry.), but here’s another one that kind of slapped me upside the head.

Wordly goods and your body are like snow

Melting into nothing, but to you

The snow seems better because you doubt.

Your precious opinions thirsting for certainty

Cannot fly to the Garden of Truth.

As opinion acquires knowledge and progresses further

It begins to emanate the scent of certainty.

Fancy is born of opinion,

Vision and intuition from certainty.

Since I tasted the sweetness of the Beloved

I became a seer, my feet do not tremble,

I do not walk like the blind,

I step boldly toward my spiritual hoe.

What the Beloved whispered to the rose

Making her blossom, He said to my heart

And made it a hundred times

More beautiful.

Well, is it just me? I mean, I’m totally convinced that this mystic had some sort of extremely deep connection with his chosen divinity that seems more like an intense devotional practice that reminds me of nothing so much as Godspousery or…well, whatever the hell I do. I don’t have a good name for it. My practice is a living one, but I’m not traditionally monastic. Thoughts for another time, I suppose.