Not Quite Goodbye

Hey all,

You’ve probably noticed things have been quite here for awhile. I originally intended to let this blog stay in its current form, but felt that wasn’t fair to those of you who liked to read my posts.

I will not be writing here at The Crossroads Forest anymore. There are a variety of reasons for this, namely involving private matters. That said, I am not finished writing/blogging yet. I have a new spot here on WordPress; if you are interested in the link, please contact me at kaye DOT macarthur AT gmail DOT com.

Thank you all for a lovely experience here.

Salt and silver,

-Kaye

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Build from the Ground Up

Sometimes, in order for there to be growth, there must first be fire. You must first clear the old, burn it to ash, and rebuild upon its bones.

I have spent these last four months thinking long and hard on my spirituality. To be honest, there’s nothing to say. It remains as aloof and amorphous as it has always been. But, to be frank, I’m simply tired of trying to convince others of the details of my belief, of my faith, of everything.

Spirituality is for the self, the soul, the individual; religion is community. It is the unifying practices and beliefs that unite folk and give them common ground to build upon. But I have a long history of not playing well with others.

As much as I might crave community, might long for it, my experiences show me that it’s unlikely I will ever find one that actually resonates with me in some capacity. A place I feel a fit, feel at home. Instead, I must carve my own existence out with blade, bone, and claw, apparently. Fight for it, I guess, and all that other flowery language I’m so fond of utilizing.

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Ego Revisited

Last year around this time, I wrote a post entitled “Fuck Your Ego” with a follow-up post called “Benefit the Community, Not Yourself.” Sadly, as with many topics like this one, it bears revisiting and rediscussing again and again.

These days, if you’ve been paying any sort of attention to the blogosphere or the online Pagan community in general, you’re aware of the term “privilege” and the various ways people respond to it. In essence, for those unaware, “privilege” is a term utilized to indicate ways that an individual or group in modern Western societies is benefited for certain things they are born to, such as socio-economic standing, educational background, race, gender, sex, and so forth. These days, in the Pagosphere, it is being discussed in terms of “Wiccanate privilege” and the fact that Wicca and Wiccanate practices are the de facto default assumption for any so-called pan-Pagan event, festival, etc. This debate has been getting more and more popular in the last several weeks, finally coming to the general Pagan blogs and communities after being argued over on Tumblr for the last two years (and longer).

I’ve made my stance on Wicca pretty clear in the past, I believe: it’s not for me and I prefer not to be assumed as Wiccan in any way, shape, or form. But this post is not about that. Instead, it is intended as a request for those getting bent out of shape regarding the use of the term “privilege” to refer to any group that is benefited by their social standing in a group or in modern Western society to take a step back, take a deep breath, and take their head out of the sand and look around.

Humanity is, sadly, inherently selfish or self-absorbed I’ve found in my twenty-five years here on this planet. Some of you reading may assume me a jaded Millennial, but predominately I have found this to be true. It is sad that at nearly twenty-five I am jaded enough to have little faith in humanity as a whole. But that does not mean I do not have faith in individuals on a small-scale.

When I wrote “Fuck Your Ego,” I was angry and frustrated after spending several hours reading about and ranting over the various problems in the Pagan community. It saddens me that a year later, we are still having all of these issues without a speck of progress. The fact that our PPRW communities are unable to reconcile our differences and aim for benefiting our community rather than ourselves is emotionally distressing and exhausting.

So, again, I ask you to take a step back when you begin to get angry over being accused of being “privileged” or you believe you have been slighted in some way despite being in a privileged position, whatever that may be. Listen to what those around you are saying. No, really listen. Don’t just hear what they are telling you. Listen to them; digest it in your mind; think on it before you respond. If we all took a few more moments to listen rather than waiting for our chance to speak, mayhaps we would have made a step forward in the last 365+ days, rather than seem like we are slowly sliding off the edge of a cliff created by our own desires for power and position in our various social spheres.

The amount of argument and fighting in the PPRW communities over the last several years is a turn-off. The fact that people are afraid to voice their concerns with even the smallest things is a problem. The amount of bullying, beleaguering, and bashing that goes on is appalling. The fact that many are driven out of their various social spheres because they didn’t get along with someone “popular” or disagreed with someone who held some sort of position of power is shameful. The number of people who have given up on causing any sort of change or progress in our various communities is staggering. They are silencing themselves not necessarily out of fear of repercussions but, rather, wondering what the point is. Why should they exhaust themselves with fighting for equality if the wheel of progress has been rusted still?

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Ending the Battle

Winter and I have never been friends, but this year we grew to understand each other a bit more. While we are still enemies, of a sort, when the death throes of the season began this week, I felt mildly saddened. I will not mourn winter as I relish in the blushing petals of the cherry blossoms that grow everywhere and the daffodils as they spring from mulch and mud to greet the sun. But I will feel a twinge of sadness as I recall the fresh scent of newly fallen snow and the quiet hush of the world when everyone is home on a snowday and I get the roads all to myself.

This last winter, I began my shadow work. It has been a rough ride at times, easier at others. Much of it deals with my relationship with Persephone, too, a topic that I will write on more tomorrow, my first anniversary of working with the goddess.

It is time to take the armor off, even as snow still piles in the parking lot and icicles trickle on the eaves. Time to relax and wash away the sins I faced in myself these last three months, the ones I have accepted and learned from. Time to pack them away in memento boxes to remind myself of what I am, what I want to be, and what I can be.

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Deer, Stag, Hart

The title of this one is a bit of a cop-out. Mostly I wanted to talk about the Stag Queen a bit as it’s been awhile since I have and needed another title for D for the PaganBlog Project. So deer is what we get. But it works.

Last winter I went through a bit of a fallow time again. The gods quieted as I began my shadow work in December but they had been simmering down for some weeks prior. After a long period of quiet, I happened to park my car in Old Town Alexandria and walk over to the restaurant for dinner with The Boyfriend. However, when I approached my car again afterwards, I had to laugh. I had managed to park on the corner of Prince and Royal and when I looked up at the street signs, I saw that the building just behind it bore a large, oxidized copper statue of a stag.

I’ve spoken some about my cryptomancy and this was one of those times that I looked up and took notice. Between that and other signs, the Stag Queen has taken on a larger role in my practice. She and He Who Waits, the Hound, that is.

My altar has changed significantly in the last few months. Before it was more of a shrine to my various deities, icons being swapped out for others as the need arose. Today is bears the antler my grandfather came across years ago and the hand-carved wooden figure of a howling canine before my two white pillar candles. I lay my worry stone in front of my Tarot deck and the two stones I picked up what at Oxford: a large chunk of rose quartz and a desert rose about the size of my fist. It functions more as my shadow work space now than a shrine, having been put together the morning of my surgery back in January. I lit the candles before we left and prayed to the gods to keep watch on me as I slept and the knives did their work. I feared dying on the table, though I was young and healthy. (Surgery has always frightened me and I’ve managed to avoid it for a long time, so I was rather frightened at the possibility of not waking up from the anesthesia.)

The Stag Queen has become quite prevalent here, though. I find myself waking to new epithets and tidbits of information. The Hound or He Who Waits is aptly titled. I have only seen him once but I can feel him in the background, patiently waiting his turn but keeping an eye on me at the same time.

Whoever these entities are, they are around for awhile and have much to teach and much to share with me.

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Savannah 2014

Part of the reason I’ve been so quiet these last few weeks is due to a trip I took down to Georgia at the end of February. Much of February was spent getting back to work at my new job, dealing with the anniversary of a trying time in my life, readjusting to new social dynamics between myself and friends/acquaintances, and preparing for this trip.

Savannah is a place I visited when I was younger, sometime in middle school. I went there with my Girl Scout troop to visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the organization. We took a bus down from northern Illinois to the eastern coast of Georgia. It’s a long trip, about fifteen hours straight, if my memory serves correctly.

This year, I only had to drive through Virginia and the Carolinas to get to the city. The 2014 convention for the International English Honor Society took place there this year and I had been looking forward to this over a year. Not just a vacation for both me and The Boyfriend but the chance to, once again, geek out over literature with current English majors and fellow alumni? Sign me up ASAP.

I remember when I visited Savannah the first time. Most of my memory is clouded by reminiscences of singing on the bus with my fellow Scouts and listening to a new CD that a friend had gotten me onto. (Yes, still CDs then.) I remember visiting a candy shop and watching everyone else in my troop get excited over the various flavors of salt water taffy, something I didn’t and still do not enjoy. This year, I actually stumbled upon the shop again, recognizing it by the heavy prevalence of Coke and the fact that it took up approximately four store fronts. (If you ever get to Savannah, definitely check out the candy kitchen on River Street. They have caramel apples the size of your head and veritable tons of salt water taffy that they make in the shop – and you can watch them do it.)

But what gets me the most about the city, and did the last time, too, is the Gothic beauty of it. With its numerous squares and the dusky green Spanish moss that hangs everywhere, I can’t help but get a familiar stirring in my gut, the one that reflects a sense of sacredness whenever I get near historical landmarks or beautiful places. Truthfully, though, it’s the Spanish moss that gets me every time with its spiny tendrils hanging low and the tiny ferns that grow along tree branches everywhere. But what hit me most about this visit was the shock I got when realizing that they allow the trees to grow over the roads in Savannah.

Here in northern Virginia, I watch every spring as they chop thick branches from trees all over in order to better accommodate traffic and cars, generally. By the mall closest to us, they’ve hacked the trees to a state where they look like stubby relics of what they used to be. The trees across the street are the same way, the underbrush cut back from the sidewalk, despite not infringing at all upon walkers and bikers, for whatever reason. But down in Savannah, I walked along Bay Street and commented repeatedly on this observation, that the trees grew outward and bridged over the roads while semi trailers roared down the streets. It was so baffling to me after having walked out so many mornings to find them, once again, chopping branches off the trees around my building, as I did this morning. Baffling but precious and valued in a heart-wrenching way. (Trees are, after all, sacred to me.)

Most of the days we were down there, I sat in on paper readings and roundtables about literature. I listened to more than one panel about fairy tales and mythology as this conference is one of the rare times that I actually get to engage with others interested in the topic on an academic and nerd-y level. I even discovered that one of the women I spoke to regularly there was also Pagan and a nature spiritualist, something that pleased me greatly. Another woman spoke on her interest in Celtic Paganism as it coincides with her research for a paper she’s working on. It was pleasant to see and talk to such folks, but reminded me that it is very rare for Pagans to be “out” in the English and literary fields. If things come to pass properly, I hope to hold my own panel at one of the next two conventions about studying as a non-Christian English major, in order to open the floor up to those who follow other religious paths – or no path at all.

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Domains

The building my office is in doesn’t have a free parking lot. Instead we often end up having to use the lot for the Catholic church next door. From the back door, it’s about a five to seven minute walk, usually, for me to get to my car, unless I park in the pay lot and stay at work until after 6 when the arm goes up and I can get out without paying.

Last month as I was walking out to my car, the moon having risen and night having settled in, I looked up and was amazed to see a great number of stars. Or, at least, more than I expected to see in the middle of downtown Arlington just a few miles from the cities of Washington, D.C. and Alexandria. As I always do when I look up at the stars, I looked for the constellation of Orion. I don’t know why I typically search for the hunter in the night sky except that he is one of the few constellations that I know. But standing there, walking to my car and staring up at the sky, I got to thinking about domains.

In Druidry and Celto-inspired paths, you can often hear about “land, sea, and sky.” I’ve felt a draw to that idea at times, but it still seems too generalized. “Where are the rivers?” I question. “The forest and the city are not the same land,” I argue. In Wicca (and neoWicca) you hear of the calling of the quarters for North, East, South, and West in circles. These domains with their numerous associations (elements, winds, and so forth) that have been popularized in many Pagan circles have no resonance with me.

As I looked up at the sky, I began to think of the divine domains. The gods of sky and earth, of forest and the underworlds. My view of the world and its geography is more nuanced and can’t be summed up in a few simple words. Hell, I could wax poetic about rivers alone – and have.

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