That I’m worthless,
that I am nothing,
these are the lies my brain has told me.
That my work and words are pitiful,
that no one ever
these are the lies my brain has told me.
That my politics are misguided,
that power thrives
and I, in my isolation,
these are the lies my brain has told me.
That it would have been better
not to be a burden
and to relieve my parents
of my poverty,
these are the lies my brain has told me.
That nothing I do
will be of note
and I shall die unknown
these are the lies my brain has told me.
But I do not have to listen to them
I've gotten very riled-up politically in the past few days. I'll be honest, I'm at best wary of the government. Have been for quite some time now, ever since a certain billionaire-who-shall-not-be-named got elected president. But its gotten worse in the wake of COVID-19, when it seems to me like our entire economic system is faltering because it can't endure a sustained shutdown of production. I see people cheering stay-at-home orders and curfews, and I become concerned for the safety of others and for our freedoms as well. So far the government of my state is making sure everyone is taken care of. So far. Again, I am at best wary of government. In truth, I'm distrustful of it. I do not put a lot of faith in those who hold power over others.
I know I'm not the only person who shares these views, in part because I've taken to social media to express them. That, as you may have imagined, has backfired tremendously. I am the sort who gets very involved in political discussions, and very heated up during arguments. I get real angry, really quickly, and I am very opinionated. This has lead to many political arguments about how we go forward, what the best methods are for containment, how useful is the government, and who is being left behind. I have not always shown the best of myself in those arguments. Quite often, I leave them behind feeling angry and ashamed at my own conduct.
With that in mind, I have decided to back off from political arguments, and instead propose a thought experiment. Imagine that when this is all over, we have found a new system that doesn't rely on the same methods of production. In this system, there are no employers, nor employees. There are no government officials, no presidents, no congress. There are only people and what they can provide for each other.
Imagine a community in this system. Each person contributes what they can to the community. Some of them grow food. They have gardens, which they tend to, and which produce extra food that they can give to their neighbors. Others in this community cook. They take the food of the gardeners, and turn it into delicious meals, hosting community potlucks and dinner parties. Still others in the community brew their own beer, make their own tea, make clothes, and other things, and share them with the community. Everyone has something to give, and everyone has something they need.
Now imagine this community is linked to other communities through communication and infrastructure. Other communities are producing other goods, including furniture, medical supplies, books, and other things. These things are delivered from community to community through a decentralized network. Each community has something they lack, and that other communities can provide. Each community has something to provide, and that other communities lack. Like the cells of a gigantic organism, the communities each have a number of functions, and rely on each other to survive and prosper through the system of Mutual Aid.
Under such a system, the community self polices, and is able to encourage people to stay home if they are ill. There is no rent, nor any need for money, so work is able to stop and quarantining can happen on the community level without the need for government intervention. At least that is the theory; I am neither a political scientist nor an epidemiologist. But it seems to me that such a community would be able to withstand a pandemic without things like video-game retailers claiming they are essential.
This may seem like a pipe dream, but the beginnings of such a society are already beginning to form. In the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, mutual aid initiatives are springing up all over the country. People are beginning to realize that a better future can be built out of the present, and that corporations don't have the public's interest at heart. Class consciousness is beginning to build. What Ursula K Le Guin called the "Social Organism," has been conceived, and is now waiting to be born.
I can only hope that this comes to pass, because there is another future that I see. One in which things mostly continue as they did before, but people have to carry around a card saying if they've been tested for the virus. If they are found to be immune, they have free reign to join society. If they have the virus, they are quarantined and treated. If they can't afford treatment, nor the test, they are prohibited from interacting with society. Maybe some kind folks will take pity on them, and they can form a functional colony, not unlike a leper colony, where they will live as second class citizens, unable to go to work outside the colony. Or maybe they'll simply be left to die in the street.
These are both hypothetical futures. Only one of them may come to pass, and it's possible neither will. But of the two of them, I don't think I have to explain which one I favor.
At this point I don't even have to explain what COVID-19 is. We all know. We're all staying in our houses as much as we can, on leaving when we need to, or can be relatively assured of not having to interact with a whole bunch of people. I live in Ohio, in Cuyahoga County, and we are all doing our best to make sure we do not transmit the diesease. Cuyahoga County is where the first few cases in Ohio appeared, and we are all painfully aware of this. Many people have come to me and told me "this feels like the end times." No surprise, then, that I ended up turning to the divine. But it is not the Christian God that I have found in these dark times. No, the faith that I have turned to is the faith of the Norse Gods, the Aesir and Vanir.
I am making the transition from a self-guided Druidry to a more formal grouping of pagan practices: Asatru, also known as Heathenry. This is the faith of the Aesir and the Vanir, the Gods of Norse Mythology and of the ancient Germanic people in general. It is a reconstruction of old pagan practices, and though the exact style of worship varies from group to group or even, in the case of solitary heathens like myself, from individual to individual. It has its problematic elements - racist groups co-opting the faith abound - but I was lucky enough to find some groups online that explicitly ban hate speech, and I have been discussing my practice with them. I have had some personal revelations talking to them, and meditating on my relationship with divinity. An I am fully confident in my stance when I say I believe the Gods are real and that they have spoken to me.
It may seem odd to turn to a group of Gods that are due to die when Ragnarok occurs, especially when things seem so dire in the world right now. But what inspires me about the Norse Gods, and Odin in particular, is that they never seem to give up, despite being doomed. Odin constantly travels the world, searching for a way to avoid his end, or even to hold of Ragnarok altogether. He is doomed to fail, and he knows this, but he tries anyway, because even the slightest hint of a chance at avoiding a terrible fate is worth fighting for. Whereas other divinities would simply accept their fate, Odin fights tooth and nail against his. That is inspiring to me.
Whether you are Heathen like me, or pagan or atheist or whatever, I believe that we can all learn from Odin's example. We can fight back against COVID-19, against government mandated quarantines and the erosion of our civil liberties, against tyranny and certain doom. It is not useless to do so. Rather, it is the most useful thing we can do.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- Dylan Thomas
I have always wanted to write professionally. Were it up to me, I would spend every day in front of a keyboard, typing my heart out and pouring every inch of my soul onto the page before editing the crap out of it so that it is at least remotely presentable. Writing is my passion, and I would love to do nothing but write. Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to make this happen.
I do have what most people would call a real job. In fact, I have two of them! Unfortunately, neither pays much above the state minimum wage, nor do they give me a lot of hours. I'm lucky if I hot a combine total of twenty hours a week. So, to supplement my income, I am asking you, my dear reader, if you feel so inclined, to leave me a tip on Ko-Fi.
Ko-Fi is a service that acts as a front end for PayPal and Stripe, and allows patrons to leave tips for their favorite creators. Usually this is a one-time tip, but I have invested in a Gold account, so if you want, you can leave a recurring monthly donation. And if you choose to do either, you will receive exclusive content that only supporters of the blog will have access to.
Poetry has long been one of my favorite things to write, and if you leave a one-time donation you will have access to supporter-only poems. I will try to post a new poem at least once a month, so check back regularly for new updates. This does not mean that I will never post a poem to the blog, but rather that there will be poems i post to Ko-Fi before posting them anywhere else. If poetry is your thing, consider leaving a donation and taking a gander at my writing.
If fiction and tarot are more your cup of tea, you will want to subscribe on a monthly basis, as i will also be posting Tarot Tales: flash fiction based on a four-card tarot draw. The first card determines the protagonist, the second the central conflict or problem related to the story, the third presents the action the protagonist takes to try and resolve that conflict, and the fourth card is the outcome of their action. It's a good way to practice divination while also honing my writing skills. Again, the intent will be to post these at least once a month, so keep your eyes peeled for notifications and updates.
The first two posts, one poem and one tarot tale, are live on my Ko-Fi page right now. Please consider checking them out and leaving a donation. Also, please consider following me on my new twitter account for updates and shenanigans. Any way you can support this blog is greatly appreciated. Thank you all so much. I'll get into more magic posting later this week.
My spiritual journey has been long and hectic. I spent nearly twenty years as a Catholic, became agnostic during my early adulthood, and only very recently did I become a Neopagan. But of all the spiritual communities I have been a part of, it is probably the one I have at my local magic shop that has been the most accepting. But even there I stick out. I am the only Druid that I know of in my immediate area, and I have largely created my own practice out of thin air with books as my teachers. Most everyone I talk to about magic self-identifies as a witch, and while they have great advice on the practicalities of magic, I've had to sort out cosmology on my own. This is not a complaint, however: I've come up with a practice that is uniquely my own.
In retrospect, calling myself a "hedge bard" could not have been more fitting. While it mainly refers to my combination of the natural and druidic with poetry, it also has a modern literary reference built in. Hedge Knights, in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR. Martin, are the classic knight-errant archetype of medieval romance. A knight-errant wanders the country proving their worth by competing in tournaments and showing themselves worthy of their title. While I do no wander, I am a masterless bard and druid, walking their own path towards spiritual enlightenment.
That being said, I have learned a lot from both Wicca and the Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan movement. My methods can be very Wiccan, but my cosmology and beliefs are very Celtic. So I thought I'd take a look at the two biggest pillars of my beliefs, and write a bit about how I view these concepts.
The Irish called it Tir Na Nog. The Welsh called it Avalon. I simply call it the Otherworld. It is the realm of spirits and deities, of unconscious desires and intuitive knowledge. When I meditate, I believe that some part of me accesses the Otherworld. I am able to see and commune with parts of myself long buried, and divine information about myself and my spiritual journey. It is a realm of faeries and wonders, and dangers as well, which is why I take precautions and always make sure to have an offering whenever I do a ritual.
I could not begin to tell you what the geography of the otherworld is like, save that it can be shaped by our minds when we enter. I frequently imagine myself in a druid's grove, or a forest full of trees. another druid might see it as a stone circle, inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors. Someone else might see it as a campfire near a beach. The visualization is part of the person who travels there, and is shaped by them. Or so I believe. It is hard to ever be certain of anything about the Otherworld. I am only certain that it is real.
As for the spirits themselves, I borrow the Wiccan concept of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. I have taken to greeting these spirits (not calling them, for they are ever-present) when facing the cardinal directions and casting a circle. The casting of a circle is not a Celtic tradition, but it is something that I find defines the ritual space quite well, and helps set the mood for journeying to the Otherworld or manifesting magic. When I finish the ritual, I thank the spirits in attendance with a libation and a prayer, and take up the circle. Libations are an important part of this process, as is thanking the spirits, because I wish for the spirits I greet to be my allies whom I can count on if necessary. Besides, when you are entering a world beyond the material thanking those spirits who are present is only polite.
Inspiration is a gift. I have always believed that. Not all ideas become full artistic works or projects, but a new idea is a blessing from the gods. That is why the druidic concept of the Awen, or divine spiritual inspiration, appeals so much to me. Though as a concept it is more tied to revivalist druids than the reconstructionist movement, I do believe that when I write something that speaks to me, I am channeling the Awen. I believe it was the Awen that guided me down the path of the Druid in the first place, and it is the Awen that guides me when I make a decision about my spirituality.
The written word and poetry is sacred to the druid, and particularly to those of us who call ourselves bards. It is from the poems and tales of bards that we are able to keep mythology alive. These tales are not mere entertainment, but are vehicles for important lessons. They are also our best windo into the world of the ancient Celts and how they lived. And when we create new tales, we acknowledge that the tale is ongoing. We keep the tradition alive not only through our spiritual practice, but through our art. and that is why I am honored to call myself a druid.
So now you know the roots of my belief. There's more things I could write, about the Celtic cosmology of Earth, Sea, and Sky, The ever-evolving layout of my altar, the types of ways I invoke the elemental spirits. But all those are better left to their own posts. These are the two pillars of my belief system, and I simply wished to share them with you. Until my next post, I leave you with this poem:
Let all the world be a holy treasure
to be shared and enjoyed and never hoarded
until the last of us here has boarded
the ship to Avalon,
the world beyond
Last night was a bad night. I sent a message to my boyfriend, and when he didn't respond I sent another message apologizing, assuming I had pissed him off. I went to sleep. I wake up this morning to find out that my boyfriend has messaged me to tell me to calm down, that he had just gotten off a twelve hour shift and had fallen asleep right after, and that was why he didn't respond. My boyfriend starts work in the wee hours of the morning, so the post has a timestamp of 2 AM. I immediately message my boyfriend three walls of text apologizing, explaining that I had missed days of meds, and promising to fill my pill box this morning. I get a message saying that it's OK, but he's at work right now and can't talk. He ends this text with a kiss emoji. I message a kiss emoji back along with the words "Noted" and "Sorry."
I get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to work. The entire drive I am obsessing over my relationship. I am certain that I have torpedoed it, that I have ruined everything. I remind myself that this is depression talking, and I visualize a bindrune that I had created to channel away relationship stress. It works, either as an actual magic spell or as a mindfulness exercise that brings me back to the present. I go to work and am relatively calm, though I have my usual anxiety that everyone is going to hate me and that I am going to get fired. I swallow this anxiety the way I always do, and continue working until the end of my two hour shift, thinking about how my boyfriend works almost six times as long as I do on any given day. At the end of my shift, I go to the break room, get some coffee, and end up talking to a coworker about my relationship anxiety and desire to move out of my parents house as soon as I can. The coworker is a very good listener, and is very encouraging, and I leave.
When I get home, I find that my Mom has done a lot of cleaning in my room, which makes me feel like I'm twelve but is also very nice so I thank her. Truth be told, I'm kind of a slob, and the room does look so much better. I think about a book on sale at a local magic shop about witchy decorating, and wonder if that could trick me into taking better care of my stuff. I decide against it, because I had already bought a decent amount from the shop in the last two weeks. Every time I go in there, I buy something, because despite the store owner telling me otherwise my anxiety tells me that I can't just hang out there. But I love it there so much. It almost feels more like home than my house.
I go downstairs to get a cup of tea. I reflect that the last cup of tea, which was my first of a special blend with rose petals that a friend of mind made, tasted a little weak. I open the infuser to clean it out, and pull out what looks to be an entire rose. "Oh," I think. "So that's why." I fill the infuser again, making sure to put more teal leaves inside than rose petals, and put a cup of water in the microwave.
While the water is in the microwave, I reflect on how much I hate being stuck with my parents. My parents are good people, and I love them. They accept me with all my queerness and my witchiness, and are fairly progressive. By all accounts I should love living at home, because they take care of me. But I'm twenty eight. No one should be taking care of me. I should be taking care of myself. I can't afford to move out, though, so I end up feeling trapped. Trapped in a house full of people who love me, to be sure, but still trapped. By the time the water finishes boiling and I put the tea infuser into the cup, I hate living at home more than ever. I want out. Badly.
I come upstairs and sit down at my computer to write. Before I do, I open up my laptop and check Facebook. There is a post from the owner of the magic shop encouraging people to come in to the shop, that today is the day whether you have been or not. I resolve to go after I have something written. Then I remember that I still haven't filled my pill box, so I quickly run to the bathroom and do that before returning to my desk. I open the post editor on Weebly, write up to this very sentence, hit save, and close the laptop.
After writing, I leave and go to the magic shop. I spend most of the afternoon there. I talk to the owner, the tarot reader, and to a few of the regulars. I get a couple of books, including the book on witchy decorating, and also a notebook, because I am coming up with writing ideas while I'm there. Ponchi, the Tarot reader, loans me a pen. I sit down and fill the first three and a half pages. Miranda, the owner, makes tea for us.
It dawns on me, sitting on a comfy sofa with a throw-pillow that says "fuck," that I don't know of any other shop where you can just hang out and its no big deal. Every other shop I've ever walked into, people just want you to pay for your things and leave. But then again, no other shops have comfy sofas with throw pillows that say "fuck." Not even other magic shops.
How to describe this place? Imagine you have stepped into a Victorian boudoir that was plucked straight out of its time period by an intersectional feminist with a stolen time machine and a fondness for vintage candlesticks. There are candles and incense everywhere, but you will not find a single Palo Santo stick or bundle of white sage within these walls. The bookshelves along the walls house not only books on astrology, tarot and palmistry, but also feminism and queer theory. There are crystal balls and crystal pendulums and crystal wands and just plain crystals in bowls. There's a section of scented candles with spells on them, and the ones labeled "Protection from Internet Trolls" are marked fifty percent off.
Every time I come in here, I am home. A true home away from home if I ever had one. I feel better just being there, like my depression has melted away and I can think more clearly.
My boyfriend, Jeremy, messages me while I'm there and apologizes for earlier. He was stressed as well and he thought we both could use a breather. I tell him that he absolutely had the right idea. We talk for a bit, and I leave. I come home, make a burrito as a quick snack before dinner (I skipped lunch without realizing it), drink some coffee, and come upstairs to finish this blog post. I finish this blog post. I look it over, make a few edits, take a deep breath, and click the post button.