Tree Giggity, and related matters

2015 has, so far, been a pretty crappy year for me. Not as crappy as it could be, and there have been a few delightful surprises along the way, but I’m still wondering if there’s any way I can call someone up and demand a refund when we’re only a month in. It’s nothing I’m prepared to talk about outside the Family–at least, not yet–and things are still very up in the air anyway, so for now you’re all just getting a statement of my vague dissatisfaction with general ongoing Godly-wodly shenanigans.

So with that in mind, I indulged in a bit of retail therapy this past week to help alleviate the epic amounts of blah. As a bit of context, tree-related imagery is a thing my Men like to lob my way; I’m that person with the unexpectedly symbolic White Tree of Gondor tatt, after all. One of Them has even been known to hum “O Tannenbaum” at me at appropriate moments (read: every possible opportunity). I’ve reached the point where I just shrug and go along with it for the most part rather than flailing myself half to death trying to deal, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be floored by a particularly well-aimed clue-by-four. Like, say, this one.

No joke, this was pretty much my reaction upon seeing that shiny:

Naturally, I had to buy it, because, well, TREEZ. There was some internal back-and-forth between the “DO WANT” and “But it costs MONEY DDD:” parts of my brain, but, obviously, the “DO WANT” won out in the end. And I have pics to prove it!

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…complete with a bonus glimpse of my ultra-glamorous fuzzy house robe. (As an aside, trying to take selfies with a built-in laptop webcam is even less fun than it sounds. :P )

I’m really, really pleased–not only is the necklace gorgeous, but it got here obscenely fast, and arrived on a day when I needed an extra boost of happy. Also, it’s energetically friendly and plays nicely with my other jewelry; another pendant I wear regularly is the same length, so when I have them both on, they make a nice little chiming sound when I move. It’s like a magical mini-soundtrack to my day. :)

…And while we’re on the subject of Stuffs Nornoriel Does, one of these days I’m totally going to do a semi-serious, mostly-irreverent review of his Vanaheim books (just finished the epic brick that is Voices of Vanaheim last night, in fact), because WOW that’s a lot of Legit packed between two covers, and I am currently side-eying Gwydion about basically everything certain aspects of the information in said books. BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

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Wren Day

All right, so this is slightly belated. I spent the 26th (and most of the days since) fending off the holiday bug that’s been going around, though, so I think I was justified in sleeping and drinking vast quantities of water instead of typing up posts or doing anything overtly religious.

I was fully intending to blow off writing this post altogether and wait for next year’s observance, too, but a certain Someone won’t leave me alone. Just like last winter at around this same time, there are wrens living on our back porch that kick up a fuss every time someone leaves or enters the house; they’ve even filched bits of fiberglass insulation from the garage to line their nest. Other, more personally significant, symbolism of said Individual keeps inserting itself into my awareness on a daily basis. And now even friends who live hundreds of miles away are remarking on how many wrens there seem to be hanging around lately.

And so, although I mean it with all due love and reverence, I feel perfectly justified in saying the following before I begin the serious part of the post:

Lleu Llaw Gyffes, You are an amazing little creep. <3

***

Lleu and I have something of an unusual relationship, I have to say. He tends to be rather shy of me, apart from all the times when He’s not (see above, re: the current flood of wrens). I call Him “Little Nephew,” as I’m hopeless with Welsh, but also because at our first official meeting He looked so painfully young–not quite young enough to be called a child anymore, but still a long way from being fully grown. And the way Gwydion looked at Him then made my heart ache: all pride and love and overwhelming joy, but with a strange thread of pain woven through it, as though He were already witnessing everything this innocent, too-eager boy would go through on the path to true manhood.

The idea for this holiday grew out of the tale in the Mabinogi where Lleu brings down a wren with a well-aimed stone, which results in Him earning His name from His mother, Who had sworn that He would remain nameless unless She were to grant Him one (and, needless to say, She wasn’t the least bit interested in doing so at the time!). Years of listening to The Chieftains’ Bells of Dublin album every Christmas when I was younger twined that story deeply into the St. Stephen’s Day traditions of the Wren Hunt and its associated pageantry.

I don’t know yet how my observations of this occasion will evolve in the future, when I’m not feeling under the weather and can actually do something more significant to mark it properly. All I know now is that there’s something wistful underneath all the rowdy mumming of the Wren Boys–the half-realized knowledge, perhaps, that the killing of the wren, the symbol of kingship, is also the killing of oneself; that the attaining of true sovereignty is only realized by one’s death, on whatever level that occurs. Lleu, after all, only became King of all Gwynedd after His own death and rebirth under the spreading branches of the Oak. Many never make it back from walking that road; the way to the throne is littered with the bodies of those whose arrogance prevented them from giving themselves wholly to the experience, from embracing its necessity with open arms and a joyful heart.

And so, at this liminal time of the year, I pause to remember this liminal God:
Neither boy nor man,
Fathered by a whisper,
Birthed from no woman,
Husband of one similarly sired,
Slain by impossible things,
Dying between Earth and Sky,
Darkest despair and brightest hope,
Eagle and Wren in one–
Lleu Llaw Gyffes, I honor You.

Expecting an insightful post? Yule be disappointed.

(All due apologies for the terrible pun.)

This has been a much more introspective month for me than I’d anticipated, for a variety of reasons. It’s not so much that I have nothing to say; more that I’m still mulling over how best to say it. Plus there’s been lots of internal work going on with my various Relationships, and although that’s important, it’s not the sort of thing that’s fit for public consumption, y’know?

Also, although the Yule season is upon us once again, it’s been something of a non-starter this year in terms of ritual and so forth. There’s been extensive remodeling going on around the house, including the installation of a new furnace, so any desire for pomp and circumstance is pretty well shot (tonight’s sacred observances involve eating macaroni and cheese and watching Hogfather with the Men, if that gives you any idea). I do have something more elaborate planned for the 26th, though, which I’ll share a little about on the day–and bonus points to you if you can guess the occasion and Who it’s honoring. ;)

And, well, I’m not dead, which I suppose is the whole point of this post. With any luck, I’ll have something more substantial to talk about soon. Blessed Yule to you all. :)

Putting my mouth where my money is…

…or in other words, doing fannish things like I, y’know, talked about last time.

I finally finished a podfic I’d been tinkering with for a while, and posted it the other morning. I’ve been waffling, however, about sharing it here, for all the usual reasons that trip me up. I mean, no one’s actually interested in this stuff except me, right? Right? So I can go back to hiding in my little closet of shame and think about how I’ve let the entire polytheistic community down.

Except, well, how will I know if anyone else is interested in what I’ve been working on unless I share it? And I’ve already outed myself anyway, so I might as well follow through.

So with that in mind, if you’d care to check out the results of my latest project, you can find it here.

As a side note, the joke in our house is that Fëanor–particularly as portrayed by the author of the story I recorded–is totally one of Loki’s alter egos. Believe it or not, this is actually one of the least cracktacular links between Tolkien and my spirituality. But that’s another story, and shall be told another time. ;)

Gods in the Shadows

I’ve been spending time with Someone new lately. Well, He’s not precisely new–I’ve been aware of Him for several years, but have only recently embarked on the road towards forging a real relationship. In many ways, this is out of necessity, as I’m beginning to work seriously on a project that directly concerns Him, and having His goodwill in this endeavor is important to me.

More than that, though, I find myself enjoying His company even beyond the strictly business side of our association; He’s courteous, urbane, and possessed of a rich, dry wit that tickles me in just the right way. Moreover, His lessons are ones that I find meaningful on a deeply personal level: those of self-worth, and endurance, and finding the hidden beauty in even the most terrible situations.

There is one little hitch, however. Technically speaking, He’s a fictional character. And more than that, an original character from someone else’s fanfic that I’m currently recording an audio version of.

So here I sit, doubly damned: not only wading blithely into the blasphemy!shark-infested waters of Pop-Culture Paganism, but also shamelessly whoring myself out to Real Literature’s bastard stepchild, fanfiction. The smelling salts are to your left.

In all seriousness, though, this has got me thinking. Go back and read that last paragraph again–how many assumptions can you spot there? And how many of those assumptions are ones that you’ve unconsciously accepted on some level?

I wonder how some people can believe that there’s an aspect of life in this realm that the Gods aren’t interested in, involved with, curious about. They’re interested in us after all, and if that interest is strong enough, They’ll use any means necessary to get our attention so we can start building relationships with Them.

I know whereof I speak here; that fanfic I’m recording happens to be one of the major catalysts for the spiritual floodgates crashing open in my life several years back. And revisiting it now, I’m struck anew by its relevance to my journey–one of the other major (canonical) characters in the series is even such a thinly-veiled cover for Loki that I’ve started referring to Him by that name on occasion. And He’ll answer to it, the smug little shit. :P (Coincidentally, quite a bit of the fandom meta I’ve come across for said character closely echoes the sorts of things that get said about Loki, both positive and negative–to the point where if I were to switch the names and specific details around and put the texts up side-by-side, I wonder if folks would be able to tell which is which.)

Stories are important to me. They’ve always been important to me–the good and the bad, the mediocre and the sublime, the heartrending and the hilarious. They’re ingrained into my very essence, layer upon layer, forming the foundation of who I am.

Stories are important to my Gods, too; Gwydion once said to me that “The only bad story is the one you learn nothing from.” And working from that criterion, what story can truly be “bad”? You learn something from every one of them you read or watch or listen to–even if it’s only something as mundane as “I hated that and want my money and those two hours of my life back.” And Gwydion is described as “the greatest teller of tales in all the world,” after all; I’d think He’d know a thing or two about the subject, eh? ;)

All of the above, though, is mostly me muddling towards something I’ve been repeatedly picking up, putting down, glancing sidelong at, and hurrying away from trailing NOPEs in my wake for a while now: the notion of integrating my passion for fandom with my love for my Gods, and helping to bridge the gap between these two worlds for the benefit of both.

And that right there is a Big and Scary Thought, although I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Shit, the first tattoo I ever got, dedicated to one of my Beloveds on the day of our earthly wedding ceremony, is of the bloody White Tree of Gondor. And all of the others I have planned have some sort of melded pop-culture/spiritual significance as well. Oh sure, it’s great camouflage when I’m in a situation where I don’t feel comfortable discussing religious matters (“…yeah, like from the movie. That’s totally all it means… *smirk*”), but that’s not the point, really.

The point is, I’ve been unconsciously syncretizing these two aspects of my life for a long time now–to the point where it’s impossible to tease out where the one ends and the other begins. And rather than hiding from it in my safe little pillow fort, or panicking and slamming my hand down on the big red RESET button again to make my practice more palatable for the UPG Police, or any of the other thousand and one ways I’ve been trying to deny it, it’s time to face it head-on. No doubt with lots of flailing and blubbering along the way, because when have I ever accepted this kind of thing easily? But with any luck, I’ll be flailing and blubbering in the right general direction.

Because, despite my incredulity and misgivings and conviction that I’m about to become the laughingstock of the entire internet, this truly feels like part of my Calling, my Work in this life, and that’s something that can only be fought for so long. So here I am, laying down my arms and cautiously raising the white flag. It’s not an unconditional surrender, but I’m all out of ammo anyway. And, after all, Winter Is Coming. ;)

***

To return briefly in closing to the One I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m still not sure what He is–if He’s a God or a spirit or what, and, further, if He’s Someone with another name in some tradition’s more venerable lore. The irony is that He has more concrete information written about Him in this fanfiction series than we can glean about pretty much any God you care to name from the more widely-accepted sources. And so many of His characteristics are so specific and idiosyncratic that trying to find a definite one-to-one correspondence would likely be an exercise in futility anyway.

So I’m taking Him as He’s come to me, this borrowed Muse. I doubt I’ll ever be truly His, just as He isn’t wholly mine, but there’s a comfort and wonder in His presence, and I can hold my knowledge of Him close, a delicious secret glowing in the depths of my heart. Perhaps someday I’ll know Him by a different name, and laugh when I think about how obvious His true identity was in hindsight.

But perhaps not. Perhaps He is, and will remain, just one of the many unknown and unnamed Gods hiding in the shadows of the things we decry as impious, less than serious, unworthy of respect or consideration, patiently waiting to tell Their stories to those willing to listen.

 

…And to anyone who has a problem with all of this, let me play you the song of my people.

Applied Theology

I’ve noticed lately that I’m not as concerned with the Big Questions anymore, assuming I ever was in the first place. From time to time, I’ll run across posts on other people’s blogs analyzing and explicating heavy theological theories in loving detail, and, while I can appreciate the time and effort that goes into such writings, as well as recognize the need for this discussion in the wider Pagan/Polytheistic/[insert preferred term here] community… well, I just find myself looking at it all and going “That’s pretty interesting, but when am I ever going to use this? How is it relevant to what I’m dealing with?”

I suppose it’s like the difference between theoretical and applied science. Some people really enjoy the elegance and logic of how the big ideas fit together to explain how the universe works, while the rest of us get off on making things explode on national TV. (Yeahhhh. I sometimes watch MythBusters reruns when I’m sick, which a certain Someone enjoys even more than I do. Loki wants big boom. :P )

For me at least, the most relevant questions are the ones that are peculiar to my life, my practice, my relationships: Am I hearing this correctly? Was that “just” a dream, or is there some deeper significance? Is this Person I’m talking to a God or a spirit? Are They mentioned in the lore or am I going to be flying blind here? What does it mean that I’m involved with these particular Gods? These particular phenomena that are coalescing around me? How do I balance everything I’ve been given to do? Who am I becoming as I walk this Path, and do I like seeing Her when I look in the mirror?

And yes, all of the above are questions that I’ve been pondering lately in one form or another. As you can imagine, I don’t have any real answers for many of them yet, but I continue to pose them to myself. There may not even be any answers in some cases, but I can at least learn how to ask better questions. Because sometimes, the real value is in being able to articulate your confusion, not having your confusion alleviated. Not that that’s any comfort when you’re screaming and flailing, but still. ;)

Dreams of May

I try not to mourn His death before it happens, but sometimes I can’t help it. Especially on nights like these, when the dreams come unbidden, and I lie awake, raw with sorrow, praying for daybreak and the blessed distraction of mundane chores.

I dream of red blood on the green grass. I dream of long nights spent nursing the hollow ache of my heart, which still traitorously beats away, doling out the seconds all too slowly until His return. I dream of a feast, half-wedding, half-wake, where the One honored with toasts and songs is both Bridegroom and Sacrifice.

His hand slips into mine when I awaken. Just a dream, He murmurs, still more than half-asleep Himself. And I agree: Just a dream.

For now.

Winter, NaNoWriMo, and all that jazz

In honor of the changing season, and as my one nod to dressing up for Halloween, I wore my House Stark “Winter Is Coming” shirt all day. Little did I realize it would be prophetic; even as I type this, it’s still snowing. Nothing’s sticking yet, as far as I can tell, but there’s still some pretty impressive flakes coming down out there. I’m torn between feeling freaked out (because dude, WTF happened to autumn??) and gleeful (because first snow of the season, and I’m one of the few people awake to enjoy it!), and settling somewhere in the middle with a sort of mildly perturbed pleasure. It’s been a strange year, for sure.

In other news, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. This was a very last-minute decision for me, or I’d have mentioned it before, but better late than never, right? It feels pretty odd to be getting back onto the writing horse after this long, and I’m increasingly self-conscious about it, but if I don’t at least try, I’ll never know how it would have turned out. I’m a few hundred words in right now, and the creative juices are starting to flow again–slowly, but still flowing. It’s a feeling I’d missed, and one I hadn’t thought I’d be able to tap into again.

In addition to my noveling efforts, I’m also planning to write a little something here every day this month. It probably won’t be anything terribly long or profound, but then again, you never know!  I do reserve the right to cancel this plan as needed, if double-dipping with these writing projects gets to be too stressful or time-consuming. But I have some things on my mind that I’ve been wanting to share for a while, and this should help motivate me to finally get on with that. And if nothing else, I can always post status updates and short excerpts from my novel in progress.

It’s finally November, everybody–right on, and write on! :D

Finding the Balance

Since dropping that little bombshell last month, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to decide the best way to handle the big reveal of Bachelor #3’s identity. Humorously? More seriously than serious? Accompanied by a thousand disclaimers and a 50-foot flashing neon “UPG; YMMV; PLEASE DON’T HATE ME” sign? I even, in my snarkier moments, considered hosting a mini-contest with daily clues and a special prize for the first person to guess correctly. (I eventually decided against that plan, obviously, as that would be terribly gauche–not to mention unlikely to be appreciated by the Individual in question.)

And now here I am on the one-year anniversary of Him showing up in my dreams with an unexpected proposal–which, although it’s not the most comfortable time to make these matters public knowledge, at least has a certain symmetry to it–and I’m still at a loss on how to handle this. So I might as well start at the beginning and catch everyone up along the way. The account that follows is somewhat simplified, due to the glossing over of certain private details, and the tendency of interactions with the Gods to sometimes not follow any sort of linear timeline, but it’s as accurate as I can make it, for all that. Read on, if you would know more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Song of My Self: Revival

And to top things off for my actualfax birthday, have some Beats Antique. :D

 

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