Beloved Dead

The dead have been much on my mind this month as we approach the feast of Samhain.  Halloween, Dia do los Muertos, Samhain, all remember and celebrate the dead at this time of year.  In Wicca, we believe the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead grows thinner at this time, allowing for easier communication between the realms.  Little wonder, then, that thoughts of the dead would be with me.

Each year at Samhain we honor those who have gone before, but we usually offer up a special remembrance for those who have passed in the last year.  It seems like most of the past few years I have had somebody on this list: my grandmother, my childhood friend Laura, my grandfather, my cat Pixel.  When the time for the Rite of Release rolls around again, I am always a little surprised to find another name on the last.  Every time, it simultaneously feels too soon and long ago, as I look back on all the time that has passed and yet bring the grief back up new and fresh.

There are only two that I have lost since last Samhain, who will be honored this year for the first time: my friend Chris and her son Isaac.  It’s so hard to see pictures of them and realize that this person is gone, absolutely gone, never to return.  This is the first time I have encountered sudden, untimely death up close and personal.  Somebody I used to know can die, and perhaps there’s a little regret at the loss of a chance to reconnect, but it’s not really immediate.  The old and the sick die in their time, after a long life or a lingering illness; I miss them, but I don’t really grieve for them.  Instead I adjust to the idea gradually as their death approaches.

To have them taken in the prime of life, full of health and youth, their lives ahead of them…to know that this death was absolutely, entirely, one hundred percent the fault of a very specific person…and yet to know that this person has placed himself forever beyond the reach of our personal revenge…There’s nothing quite like the feeling, like missing the top step, like being suddenly awakened from a beautiful dream, like jumping from the hot tub into the cold pool, like the power going out after dark, and more, all rolled into one.  I never cried for anyone’s death before, but I cried for theirs.  I think of them, and I think of what became of them, what was left behind in that house, and I can’t get those images out of my head, can’t get them to stop flashing before me whenever I see their faces or hear their names.  And then I think of how small my own pain must be next to the pain of their family left behind, their own stronger connections and richer memories cut short by a selfish bastard.

All of this is part of what is to be consumed by the fire during the Rite of Release.  All the anger, hatred, grief, blame, need for revenge, all is to be purified and burned away by the flames, leaving behind a measure of peace.  I want to be left with those memories we all share of them, the things we remember them for doing and saying.  I want to know that they are at peace and moving on with their existence, processing their recent lives and preparing for their next ones.  I want to embrace the lessons they taught me by passing through my life and cherish them.

I want to say Hail to the Beloved Dead.  Hail, and Farewell.

Mabon Reflections

 

Fall color leavesToday is Mabon, the celebration of the fall equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.  The world sits at the balance between the summer half of the year and the winter.  Now the days begin to grow shorter, the nights longer.  Now we reap the fruits of the harvest, the corn and the wheat, the apples and the pumpkins, all the things that have grown through the summer.  Now we stock up, canning and preserving, preparing for the long, cold winter ahead.

In Wicca, now is the time to take stock of our year.  It is time to look at what our plans for the year were and how they went.  It is time to prepare for a period of rest and rebirth as we head into the death of Samhain and the birth of Yule.  It is a time to look at things in our lives that can be sacrificed, spiritual fetters and garbage that are holding us back from growth and progress.

This year, I had a few goals.  I wanted to do more things with the kids, more of the things they want to do instead of only focusing on the things I think they need to do.  I wanted to work on connecting with and building the Wiccan community in Lansing, building up the numbers that would be attending rituals here.  I was also given a heads-up this year that I should expect a period resembling initiation (or possibly hazing!) in my priesthood and in my relationship with Loki.

This spring, I had the kids draw up “bucket lists” for the year.  I told them to put anything and everything on them, no matter how silly.  I wanted to have things to aim for with them, a direction to follow.  I do not feel that I made as much progress down this goal as I had hoped, but we did a few things.  We took a hike down the old brick factory trail.  I will have at least one and possibly two microscopes by the end of the month.  The girls are taking a thrown pottery class.  We went to Pagan Fest.  I spent a day with the younger three visiting seven playgrounds in a single afternoon (the goal was 10, but they got worn out).  Now that I see that list, I guess the idea worked better than I expected!  We’ll continue working on those lists, and next spring we’ll make new ones and work on those.

I’ve been convinced for years that there were more pagans and witches in Mason and the greater Lansing area than I already knew.  This year, it seemed like every ritual and event brought me into contact with at least one.  I led two rituals in the Lansing area, and participated in a couple more.  I went to Pagan Pride Day, got in touch with a local chat night for a while, and got the word out about Crossroads.  I think the progress on building community was perfectly acceptable given the limitations I work in (namely, very little extra free time to network!).  This goal is now going to be tabled until I get further directions from my high priests, I think.

This year, I was raised to Second Degree Priestess with Crossroads.  I was encouraged to take a more active role in leading the church, both in rituals and elsewhere.  I explored some possibilities for clerical work outside actual rituals, things that might lead me to or become the Great Work I will need for Third Degree.  And then I jumped head-first into seminary training with the goal of finally getting a degree, hoping that having that degree be in something I had already spent most of my life studying would make it easier for me to finish.  This was entirely an impulse decision.  I can’t recall even a few minutes of thinking before taking the plunge.  I say a prompting made me do it, because really, what could be crazier?  Signing up for seminary when the year is half done (assignments must be completed by Yule to move ahead, and I haven’t gotten any passes for being second degree in an ATC church), with everything else I have on my plate?  Crazy or not, I have been enjoying my time there so far, and I hope that continues.  Maybe this is the “initiation” period I was warned of back in February.

Not that the year has been lacking in hazing-type events.  After (let’s be honest) living on credit cards since Kender was born, that well finally dried up this year and we’ve been forced to live within a budget tighter than any I can ever remember.  It feels tighter to me than previous low-money periods partly because of how many of us there are now, making every little expense magnify by a factor of 8 (or more, sometimes).  It doesn’t help that it seems like everything in our house is breaking at once.  All the appliances, our cars, the computers, the furniture, even parts of the house itself, everything is broken, worn out, falling apart, molding, losing its stuffing, leaking, in one case catching on fire (!!).  So at the same time that we have no extra money, we need a ton of it to keep functioning.  Yes, I know where (or who!) this lesson is coming from, but I don’t have to like it.

Every year at this time I am asked to make a sacrifice.  A few years ago, I consciously let go of my breeding status, placed within a corn dolly holding a baby that I burned in a fire.  Another year, I offered up my roots, thinking that if I distanced myself from my Texas family, friends, and background it would help ease my longing to leave this place.

This year, I am letting go of my expectations.  I want to formally release the idea of what my life should look like, all of the “supposed to” and “have to” and “everybody else” that puts boundaries and strictures on my life.  I want to release the idea that I have to know every detail of the path I am about to take before I ever step foot on it.  I don’t mean that I will have no goals, but I do mean that I want to have fewer preconceptions about what achieving those goals will look like along the way.  I want to focus on my destination, and I want to focus on what I see along the way and enjoying the journey.  I don’t want to walk my path worrying about whether the right trees and flowers are growing there.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently feeling like a rat in a cage, scurrying back and forth, back and forth, screaming and seething with rage and tears inside (yes, even when you saw me laughing) because I want to find a way out but I am trapped.  I believe this is my door, to simply have the confidence to walk forward, not just to keep swimming in place but to move forward, regardless of whether I think it will work, regardless of whether I am confident that it is the best path.  I’m tired of standing still, tired of feeling trapped.  Maybe I’ll end up someplace unexpected.  At the very least, I won’t still be where I am now.

Hopefully it won’t mean I’ll end up running off a cliff.

Have a happy fall and harvest and all that goes with it.  Happy apple picking, happy hayrides and corn mazes, happy cider and mead and festivals.  We had our ritual this past Saturday; next weekend we’ll be off to the apple orchard.

Happy Mabon!

Need and Fire

I love fire.  It burns very close to my heart.  I love to watch it, the flames twisting and turning, the blast furnace of the coals underneath, the crackling and sparking, the transformation of everything it touches, the warmth, the need to breathe, the need for fuel.  I have always loved to watch fires and longed to tend them.  I remember my father lighting fires in our fireplace when I was a kid.  I remember watching him twist newspaper into little starter twigs.  I remember the wood piled up next to the fire.  I remember sitting on one of the round wicker stools we had, turned on its side so I could rock back and forth in my seat.

I want fire.  I need fire. But I don’t get it very much.

I remember collecting pretty candles when I was a little girl.  In Georgetown, we even lived near a candle factory where beautiful candles, works of art really, were made.  We would take out-of-town visitors there to see the candlemaking and maybe buy souvenirs.  But in our house, candles were never for burning.  I remember how much my mother freaked out the one time she caught me lighting one of my candles in my room, and I never dared to light fire under her roof again.

We weren’t allowed to touch fireworks, either.  We would go to the municipal fireworks shows, big fireworks up in the sky, but we were never ever allowed to even be near fireworks on the ground.  One time, I spent the fourth of July with some cousins, a younger cousin my age and I staying with another cousin maybe 15 or 20 years older than us.  She let us set off some little firecrackers in the trailer park that night and sent each of us home with a packet of our own.  My packet went straight into the bottom of my mother’s top dresser drawer.  She always said I could set it off later, another time, not now.  I finally stole it back when I was a teenager and snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to set some off in the street with a friend.

Fire, always lurking, always beckoning, always forbidden.  Look but don’t touch.  See the fire, but don’t tend the fire, don’t light your own fire, never.  Girl scouts don’t light fires, their leaders light the fire and keep them safely back from it.

When I moved out, off to college and marriage and all of that, I loved candles.  No longer forbidden, they were something to play with and live with.  I could read and eat and even bathe by candlelight if I wanted, with the dancing of the flames causing the light to dance around me.  I would make wax-covered wine bottles, spending hours with candles burning, turning the bottles this way and that to let the wax drip evenly down.  I loved to use candles in magick, burning them for vigils, anointing them and carving them and burning them to release.

When you’re renting, you still can’t have a real fire.  No fireplace in most apartments, no yard for a firepit.  Camping was never something we did, either.  When we bought our first house, it had a fireplace, but we kept it locked up, literally with chains and a padlock holding the doors closed, because we had to keep the triplets out of it.  We couldn’t risk any flames when they were babies, except maybe occasionally a candle here and there when they were asleep.  So many years, still without my own fire.  We’d go to eat at a restaurant with a fire and I would go and sit in front of the fireplace with one or more of my kids, either waiting for the meal or after it, just watching the fire, only watching, forbidden to touch.

I never see anybody else watching the fires like that.

I get to see fires more now, but they are still forbidden.  Sacred fires, bound by restrictions even stronger than my mother’s panic.  The priests in charge start the fires, the firetenders start and tend the fire, but I do not start the fires, not ever.  The fires are not mine, look only, do not touch, do not tend, do not fuel.  Now my kids are old enough to tend fires, so when the opportunity arises, I must stand aside and let them have their turn, let them learn and build and tend the fire.  Somebody else has started the fire, has brought the wood to fuel it, it’s their fire. Still not my fire.

I live in a house with no wood fireplace, only a small gas fireplace in one room.  We have no backyard where a firepit could be placed.  No place for my fire.

So it was indeed a wondrous and joyous thing for me last night to be able to tend a fire.  I didn’t get to light it, but I was left to tend it for almost five hours, adding the wood, placing it just so, building the flames, helping them breathe when they faltered, watching the coals, lighting new pieces.  The time passed so quickly, so fast.  I came to the fire broken inside.  I had spent most of the day in tears, feeling the mountain of “can’t” crumbling down on top of me, can’t keep up, can’t find a way through, can’t find the money, can’t find the time, can’t keep the patience, can’t stop things from breaking, until every single blessed thing I saw or heard or did brought the tears back up again.  Tears can’t stand up to fire, though.  The fire boils them away, cauterizes the wound, builds back life and warmth.  That fire still wasn’t mine, not my backyard, not my firepit, not my wood, but I still got to tend it, help it grow, and I left the fire cleansed and fresh, content, maybe even happy.

I am back in no-fire land again, back with the tears, cold.  Someday, sometime, I’ll get to do it again.  Maybe someday, I will have my own fire.

Dancing Through Life

The Great and Wonderful Aunt Anne came through last week.  It was wonderful to get to visit with her, although we did not get to ride together after all. (Turns out, she didn’t bring her bikes on this trip!)  We cooked together, their dog Chucho and A’Kos played together…or at least Chucho tolerated A’Kos trying to play.  Meeting Uncle Ken was great, too.  He’s such a perfect fit for Anne, and I could wish he’d been in the family all along.

We talked about the kids, and she encouraged me to get in touch with my cousins about their education.  Her son Brenton works at Quail Springs, a “learning oasis” that teaches all things permaculture and living off the land.  This is right up the girls’ alley; they both would love to be rangers or something similar when they grow up, living off the land instead of working in the city.  Aunt Anne suggested seeing if we could set up work/studies for them or something similar to help them get started.  Her other son Kenyon runs a Montessori school in North Carolina with his wife Mary Helen.  I’ve been looking more and more into Montessori techniques of self-directed learning for Kender, since he flat refuses to participate in anything that I lead him to.  The most I can do is set up an activity and guide him to it.  My hope is that he will be able to offer some advice on how best to set up our house for this considering our unique situation and Kender’s unique challenges.

While she was here and after she left, my aunt remarked, as everybody does, on how she doesn’t know how I do it.  How I cook for so many people every day, how I stay so calm with all the drama and crises that are constantly going on.  I’m still not sure how “safe” she would be to say this to, but as I’ve thought about that today, I have to get mushy and say that Loki and the Lord and Lady have played a huge part in this.  After Kender was born, as crisis after crisis emerged with him in slow motion, I really lost my ability to keep going.  Where I used to dance through the day (or at least my memory says I did), I came to a crawl.  Working with my church, working with Loki, and now studying at seminary have really helped me to get a better handle on my life.  Loki in particular has really changed how I view things and allowed me to see my place in the world as Edgewalker, allowing me to smile and laugh so much more than I ever did before.

At seminary, we do devotions every morning together.  One of the things we do during devotions is to state an intention for the day.  We each state our own, the only real rule being that it must be positive, no negatives anywhere.  One of my favorite intentions to build on has been, “I am strong and confident, swift and competent, leaving completed tasks in my dust as I dance through my day.”  It sums up what I want to accomplish and how I want to feel about it all together.

Speaking of dancing, I am going to take up the 90-Day Belly Dance Challenge starting tomorrow.  I seem to have much trouble doing anything outside this year, even cycling.  I don’t want to leave the house and spend the time on the intense exercise when I really need to be working with the kids and school and whatnot.  So I’m going to give this a try, working with whatever I can find on the Roku.  Reports to come weekly, so poke me if I forget!

Wish Upon a Star

The Perseids are expected to peak tonight, providing up to 100 shooting stars every hour.  That’s a lot of wishes, if you want to sit out and watch them.  I probably will miss the show, since it’s rainy here today, but perhaps we’ll get lucky and the skies will clear.  Maybe I can take my aunt and uncle over to Michigan’s dark sky park and watch the show for a bit, make a few wishes of my own.

Do you wish upon shooting stars?  What do you wish for?

As a child, the idea of wishing upon a shooting star is both ephemeral and present.  We don’t know yet what those shooting stars are.  We don’t know about asteroids and comets, space rocks and atmospheric friction.  Stars are little twinkling pieces of possibility.  Even when we know they are other suns, that possibility still hangs there of another place, another world, somewhere to go, somewhere to be.  Shooting stars are like little pieces of possibility on the move, coming down to earth.  No wonder we wish on them.

When we grow up, we learn that shooting stars are rocks in space left behind by comets, asteroid collisions, or just debris from the formation of the solar system.  The Earth runs into them all the time, and the friction of entering our atmosphere causes them to burn up, usually completely disintegrating them before they can reach the ground.

Does that sound magickal to you?  It depends on your perspective.  Even if those tiny balls of fire never reach the ground, their constituent elements still scatter in the atmosphere, joining the billions and billions of bits and pieces that make up our planet.  They bring down a little more stardust, a little more stuff from that vast realm of possibility up there that I think most scientists agree just gets more magickal and amazing the more we learn about it.  They are a connection between us and space, sometimes even surviving as things we can touch and feel.

They make it possible to touch the stars.  And through them, the impossible suddenly becomes possible.

That is the true power of wishes, whether made upon a star or whispered to a bubbling brook or brewed into a spell.  Making the wish and placing our belief into it makes things become possible.  When something is completely impossible and out of our reach, there is no reason to even try for it.  Why bother, if it can’t be done?  But when you bring a goal or desire into the realm of possible, now you have something to strive for, a reason to push and achieve.  And that works on our minds in amazing and subtle ways.  If you believe that you will someday achieve your desire, you start living for it, planning for it, and sometimes without even realizing it you will make your dreams a reality.

That is the magick.

The Eye of the Storm

Close your eyes and sit comfortably, spine balanced, arms and legs relaxed, face soft.  Breathe in deeply through your nose…and out through your mouth…and again, feeling the breath fill your body.

“Mom, can I have cereal for breakfast?”

Breathe in slowly to a count of four…one…two…three…

*thud* A 45-pound body lands in your lap and starts squirming.

…four…and then release the breath…one…two…three…four…

“Can I go outside and play with my friends?”

Listen to the soft music. Hear the birds chirping

“Stop hitting me!” “You started it!” “Get out of my room!!!!”

and the rustling of the leaves in the trees as the breeze tickles them.

“I was trying to eat the A’Kos.”

Feel your connection with the earth

*door slams*…*again*…*again*…*again*…

and with everything around you.  Feel the peace

*the alarm for an open fridge door starts beeping*

and energy you share with the universe. Stretch your perceptions and feel your aura, just above

*sirens go by, thankfully not stopping here*

your skin.  Take another deep breath and feel the energy of the earth

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mom! Mom! Elayne!”

This is what any kind of working is like in my house, my life.  Meditation, devotions and prayers, spellcraft, ritual.  Writing a blog post.  There is no peaceful place or time in my home.  There is no place I can go to and shut the door and be undisturbed.  There is no time when the shouting stops.  Even when I leave my home, the children come with me.  As a mother and a priestess, I have learned to work with this.  I have learned to raise energy while holding a beating toddler.  I have learned to maintain a chant while chasing a child around the circle.  I have learned to follow a guided meditation while holding a four-year-old who wants to alternately sit on my shoulders and hang upside-down from my arms.

I have learned to meditate in the eye of the storm.  I set a part of me to watch over the storm around me.  It’s the same part that monitors the house while I sleep.  It listens to all these noises, holds the child, and evaluates whether anything going on needs my full attention.  If I am needed, I can come out of trance and attend.  Otherwise, I work in my eye, my bubble, protected by my self-guardian.  I hear the things around me, but I do not take them in.  They slide off me, and I am sheltered.  I begin and end in the storm, beaten by the winds and lashed by the rain, but for a time I find the calm, and I find my peace.

The Lonely Path

Boundary WalkerI live on the edge.  That’s sounds a lot more exciting than I meant it to.  I don’t go base jumping or drag racing or chase after other adrenalin-junkie activities.  I live on the edge of everyday life.  My life as a Venn diagram would be a multi-dimensional collection of soap bubbles that converge on one point, me, touching all of them yet contained within none of them.  This is the path I was given to walk, this is my journey through life.

It’s a lonely journey because there is nobody I can truly share with.  There are people I can relate to in some ways, and I’ve been blessed beyond belief to find some friends along the way who can share love and support.  I will always be the outsider, though.  I will always be on the edge of any group.  I can go hang out with other autism moms, but I’ll be the only one there with a blind child, the only one homeschooling, the only one choosing not to travel the road of 10,000 doctor’s appointments and therapies.  I can join a homeschooling group online and be the only one with disabled children, the only non-Christian, the only one choosing an eclectic path blending unschooling and online learning and book learning.  I’m the cyclist in black clothes and helmet-free, I’m the goth mom who doesn’t always wear black, I’m the Wiccan priestess of a Norse god, I’m the southern girl in a northern town, I’m the gardener with a brown thumb, I’m the free-loving bisexual polyamorist with a low sex drive, I’m the white girl on the skating floor, I’m the plantar fasciitis patient finding relief in barefoot living.  I’m the one who’s going to say “but”.

I’m not the only one walking the lonely path.  Everybody does it, or at least more people than most of us realize.  There’s a purpose in this path for me, though.  There’s a job here for me to do, a work that is before me.  I can’t quite see it yet, but it is there, waiting for me to wake up, to open my spiritual eyes and begin my task.  I’m standing on a threshold, a gateway between my old life and the work of the new.  Before I can step through the curtain blocking my view ahead, I have to stand firm where I am.  I have to stand straight and confident, owning what I have built of my life.

I have to own my place on the edge.  I have to feel the power in this place, allow it to make me strong.

I walk a lonely path, a different path.  And it is powerful.

Literature Outside Its Time

One of my favorite authors of all time is Robert Heinlein.  I discovered his books the year after he died, and I read them voraciously throughout my teenage years.  Through his books, I learned about things as varied as being resourceful and self-reliant, the value of honor and integrity, libertarianism and voluntaryism (though I didn’t learn those words until later), and polyamory.  All of this was packaged into some amazing science fiction, with many different planets, spaceships, and even time lines.  What’s not to love?

Plenty, according to criticism I’ve been hearing just in the past few years.  Most of the criticism seems to be accusations of misogyny.  It’s always a little upsetting to hear that somebody else hates something you love.  The first reaction is defensive.  I have to admit, though, that I have noticed more and more things in Heinlein’s books that are a bit bothersome as the years go by.  He doesn’t have a lot of fully developed female characters in much of his early work (with some notable exceptions).  You can see a lot of evidence of ideas that women belong in the home, that girls are just pretty sidekicks even if they are smart, as well as language and attitudes conveying racism.  I can certainly see where the critics are coming from.  The more time that passes between the writing of one of his books and my reading of it, the more I can see these problems.

My response is that Heinlein’s books were a product of their time, and they were in fact pretty visionary and free-thinking…for their time.  Most of his writing was done in the 40’s and 50’s, in the form of short stories and serial novels for science fiction pulp magazines as well as juveniles aimed at teenage and preteen boys.  There was zero publishable market at the time for female leads, strong women, feminism, or parity between the races and religions (civil rights for blacks didn’t come about until the 60’s, rights for women didn’t really begin to flourish until the 80’s, and both are still works in progress today).  It would never have been published.  The language used and the treatment of female and non-white characters in Heinlein’s books, therefore, reflect the time in which the books were written and the market the books were aimed at.  I think it is a little unfair to apply the culture of our time to the literary works of another era…and the early-to-mid 20th century was most definitely a completely different era, irregardless of how many people are still alive who lived through that time.  Today, I can pick up any science fiction magazine and find stories where women and girls feature prominently or as main characters, stories that would pass the Bechtel test or whatever its literary equivalent is.  But those stories simply would not have been publishable in 1941.  John Campbell would have sent it back with orders to change it.

This is not true across the board.  This post does a very nice job of finding all of the wonderful examples where Heinlein was able to push the boundaries of sexism and racism beyond his culture a little bit, to give us a taste of things to come (although even the great Heinlein didn’t get a lot of this published until he had already established himself as a name).  This is something Heinlein was very good at, looking into the future and seeing some of the ways the culture could potentially evolve.  It is something all good science fiction does.

There are so many great messages buried in the science fiction of the 20th century, whether it is Heinlein, Asimov, H.G. Wells, or any of the other greats.  None of them would pass modern feminist or civil rights muster by today’s standards, but I don’t think that diminishes their messages.

Today, it’s hard to imagine what taboos are left.  You can find books in any given bookstore about virtually any subject.  Culture is swiftly moving towards acceptance and tolerance of just about any lifestyle or belief that doesn’t hurt others.  You can look at writings of the early 20th century, though, and find that the people living then felt the same way.  How wonderful is our time, how free! How many different ways can people live now, how many religions and cultures and methods of dress!  The same refrain, repeated again and again every few decades.  I’m not naive enough to think that we really have come of age.  There’s going to be something that will set our time apart once another hundred years have passed, something that we take for granted now that our descendants will find abhorrent.

I wonder what it will be.   And I wonder how our own literature and legacy will fare when our descendants judge us by that thing we cannot now see.

Aspecting Loki

I didn’t write about this the first time because it was such a new experience.  I’m still processing it, a bit.  The whole idea of aspecting is something relatively new to me since joining group rituals with my current church, something I read about but never really practiced.  When I was solitary, I communed with Deity, but I did not seek to allow it to speak through me…mostly because, really, who would it be speaking to?

Aspecting, or invoking, is a step beyond communing, an attempt to assume the persona of Deity or one of Its faces, allowing it to speak through me.  I see this as primarily a tool of group ritual and worship, a way for a priest/ess to facilitate communing with Deity for another.  I might aspect the Goddess and deliver the memorized Charge (which could also suddenly morph on delivery!), or I might aspect a specific god/dess in order to provide advice or another viewpoint someone.  My high priests frequently present a workshop on aspecting for various festivals to teach the concept of aspecting and give attendees an opportunity to try it for themselves.  Ideally, during this workshop they learn to feel the energy of the deity they invoke, and often they will deliver messages or answer questions for others while invoked.

I have now invoked multiple deities in various circumstances, so I am becoming a little more familiar with the process and how it feels.  For me, it is a feeling of energy flow rather than of energy touching, and it definitely consumes energy when I do it.  I’ve learned to make sure I am reasonably well-fed before attempting to invoke, lest my blood sugar crash midway!  When I seek to pray or commune with a deity, I am interacting with something external, seeking to touch a force outside myself.  When I invoke, I am bringing some of that force into myself and allowing it to flow through me.  It is like pulling a filter over my thoughts, so that what I think and say is colored and changed by that energy flow.  I may have rehearsed or memorized particular lines that I intend to say for a prescribed ritual, but those words might be altered in the moment as that filter of energy is applied that perhaps wasn’t fully present when those words were written.  If someone asks me a question, thoughts and words may come to mind that I might not have considered before.

I have invoked Loki twice now, both times in the workshop setting.  Both times, I was hesitant to speak, but I could feel His energy pushing me forward, and I eventually went with it.  Both times, I had some questions regarding my relationship with Him, and both times I got some kind of answer.  The second time was pretty memorable, for me.  Just before the workshop started, I had been chatting about how I’d been feeling “poked” at again, with little things constantly going wrong, spills and breaks and mishaps ever since I’d left for the festival.  I acknowledged Loki’s presence with me in that spiritual space of festival, and I went into the invocation with a rather open question of, “Why are you poking me?”  I was one of the last to go in that workshop, and everybody else had sort of made the rounds of the circle, speaking a few words to each of us while invoked.  The whole time, I felt His energy pushing me, humor bubbling behind it.  When I finally took my turn and drew Him down, I felt Him look around, roll his eyes, and refuse to participate, telling me on the side that He was poking me because it was fun and He felt like it.

Which resulted in a bit of an irreverent salute from me as I devoked, which I felt was well-earned.

Oddly enough, though, I did feel more at peace and comfortable with the poking afterward.  Rather than feeling pushed to look for a reason for the poking, as I had the past two times it happened at festival, it felt more like a comfortable presence, an acknowledgement that I am one of His own, teased because I am loved like a child or sibling.

While I do try to commune with Him on a regular basis alone, I have not felt comfortable attempting to invoke while alone.  I have preferred to stick with the interaction I know, to commune and pray, to seek answers from divination when they do not come in meditation.  It has been nice to feel His energy more directly those two times, though, and I do hope I get more opportunities.

Those Daily Devotions

Yesterday my teachers asked me how my daily devotions and my relationship with Loki were going.  I never know how to answer open-ended questions like that on the spot, but they do make me think.

I didn’t have anything resembling a daily devotional practice until last year, when I received my first degree and finally opened my ears to Loki’s call. I would play at it a bit here and there, but it was never regular. It always took second place and it always fell by the wayside.  I even set up an altar once when we first moved into our current house, but keeping the kids out of it and keeping it maintained proved to be too much, and it didn’t last long.

After accepting Loki’s call, I set up an altar.  It’s not really an altar just to Loki, although he is featured on it and his offering glasses are there.  It’s a general altar, my place to leave spells to run and have remembrances.  It’s not very big, just a spot on top of my microwave, but I find that this forces me to be very mindful of what I place there and how long it stays.  Clutter just can’t fit.  It’s been there continuously for more than a year now, the longest I’ve ever had one in place, and it is a big enough part of my day now that I take it with me when I travel.

Last year I worked through T. Thorn Coyle’s Crafting a Daily Practice online course.  The course uses one of her books to try out lots of different ideas for daily practice, including meditation, chanting, journaling, exercise, candles, and more.  For a few months I worked at this, meditating daily, journaling daily, lots of things.  But as before, it grew to be too much and got squeezed away.  What remains is the daily recital of my prayer beads and a Hail to Loki, lighting my candle (and incense if Brian is not home), and placing offerings of food and drink.

A few months ago, I felt that tapping on my shoulder again, that knocking on my mental door from Loki.  Reflection and readings seemed to indicate that it was time for something more from me, more that just an acknowledgement of His attention and a reflection on His role in my life.  I began to compare myself to others around me and find myself lacking, thinking I didn’t spend enough time in worship and prayer.

I realize now that was the wrong way to look at it.

My life is full of chaos.  I have a few anchors in it, like reading and having my drink and a smoke at the end of the day, that help me relax and take stock.  But mostly it’s running around, from waking to sleeping, with constant distractions and emergencies.  Try as I might, regularity and predictability are hard to come by.  Nobody else has my life.  Nobody else has my relationship to the world.

Why should I worry about how my daily practices stack up to someone else’s? My life doesn’t look like anybody else’s. My practice doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s, either.

I said earlier this year that I felt my first year of following Loki was like an appenticeship or a postulancy, a time to reflect and learn and make sure of my path.  This year feels more like taking the first steps down that path.  Rather than sitting quietly, I am working to get out into the world more.  Rather than continuing to beat my head against the goal of routine and ticking off checklists (definition of insanity?), I am working to set life goals and work towards them, to not worry so much about all the little things (because there’s damn sure a lot of them around here).

I find myself smiling and laughing more, finding humor and joy in things a little more and getting frustrated a little less.  I might laugh at something only I think or see.  I switch tasks when I lose flow and focus without worrying about trying to follow a straight line from beginning to end of something.

My role is to set down new paths, to find rules of life and behavior and break them, to find boundaries and cross them.  I am here to break expectations, to shatter molds.

That is my daily devotion, and I don’t find it at an altar or in front of a candle (unless I feel like it).  I find it in everything I do and see, the little extra light in my day, an extra star shining at night.