Cosmology and Concepts of the Divine

When I first hit the C’s during my pre-PBP brainstorming session, I originally meant to write on Creation Myths the second week; however, upon hitting last Friday, I felt that I needed more time and a bigger scope to write about what I meant. As I was walking to the grocery store on Sunday, I had a thought regarding how I viewed the Universe and thought I should touch on that a bit for this week’s PBP.

Years ago when I first began writing fiction seriously, I thought on how the fantasy world I was writing in was formed. The gods I imagined were dragons, each in control of their own elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Dark), having manifested after a time of nothingness in their cosmos. They unraveled from one another, stretching their long, lithe bodies and growing aware of their astro-physical forms. They could shape-shift, but defaulted to a few simple forms, preferring their primary draconian selves to the others.

Their bodies formed this world, the one I wrote about, creating land and sea and sky. The Water dragon strode through the countryside, his long tail carving rivers and streams into the earth, his heavily clawed hands making furrows that would become valleys and lakes. The Fire dragon burnt the desert with her molten scales, the heat rolling off her and creating the great desert that spanned the midst of the continent. The Earth dragon breathed upon the soil and flowers and trees and plants of many kinds sprang forth. When the Air dragon had exhaled and created the sky, the Light and Dark dragons argued over who would rule: day or night. They eventually balanced their powers, though Light snuck her stars and her moon into the night sky so she could always keep an eye on her siblings.

And so this world was created. There’s more to this tale, such as where the lesser gods came from and why the swa’vera (shape-shifters formed at the creation of the world) turned to demons, all but one. But that’s a tale for a different day, a different time.

This tale is akin to how I view the creation of our world, the manifestation of the elements becoming the building blocks of the world and creating its foundation. I suppose this is not very far from how science aims to explain how the world was born. A big bang, of sorts, and the creation of the basic building blocks (elements a la the periodic table) and a slow build-up from there. Being as I am a polytheist, however, I see more power in deity and that they’ve helped create the worlds, not unlike the various mythologies we see throughout time and culture.

Related to this, however, is how we conceptualize deity. Or, rather, how I conceptualize deity.

My gods are not tame. They do not always come when they are called. This is not a failure of ritual or a weakness of belief. It is the nature of my gods. I would no more expect a god to “show up” in my ritual space than I would expect to be able to call a mountain into my living room. That is simply not the nature of mountains. If I want to meet a mountain, I am the one who must move.

Because I do not believe that humans are the only beings with agency in the world, I do not expect my gods to express their agency in the same ways that human beings do. There are gods who forever remain elusive, whose identities shift with the landscape, the seasons and the stars. And there are gods so intimate that they are never really absent at all, and meeting them is not a matter of inviting their presence but rather of quieting my own expectations and learning how to listen. There are gods whose presence looms like a mountain range on the horizon, and gods with(in) whom I walk with grace, my footsteps just one more melody in the great pattern of their being. What does hospitality look like to a mountain? How does a forest speak its mind? What does it mean to invoke a god of mist and sea on a mist-strewn shore?

-Alison Leigh Lilly, “Gods Like Mountains, Gods Like Mist

I have a wishy-washy concept of the divine. Usually I refer to my personal viewpoint as “Sleep Number Polytheism” as the levels of hardness or softness change as time and experience requires. Overall, though, I view my deities in an abstract sense. Anubis is both the jackal-headed figure seen on pyramid walls and the sense of a cold desert night. He is the taste of seared gold upon my tongue and the comforting arm around my shoulders in times of weakness. Persephone is the bloody fingered maiden who claws her way up from the Underworld in the spring, her arrival hinted at in the daffodils before my building. She is both the maiden and the flowers. Thor comes to me as Thursday rains; I do not see him as the red-bearded man so many other describe. He is the rolling laughter of thunder and the flashing grin of lightning. Odin is the grey breeze of winter and the old man at the crossroads in a wide-brimmed hat I stumbled upon one cold evening. Hekate is the lantern I light upon my altar, the baying of hounds in the darkness, the wind that pushes me to the three-way crossroad in the park a mile from my apartment. The Stag Queen appears as the androgynous figure I see time to time overlapping my visions of reality, bedecked in silver and white or bare from the waist down, a wide rack of antlers splaying from her crown, and she is the sense of prey behind me. The Morrigan is the triad of crows that I see from time to time or the whole flock behind my building, their early morning caws waking me at dawn; she is the sense of trepidation in my gut when I board a plane, kiss my fingers, and press them to the hard plastic above me, a quiet prayer upon my lips for safety.

My gods come to me as wind and rain, they come to me as anthropomorphic figures. I see them in the yellow daffodils and the rosy cherry blossoms of spring and the harsh heat in summer. Cold winter snows to my ankles chill me, reminding me of divine power. I see them in the natural world as surely as I see them in the faces they present to me from time to time. They are mountain and they are man; I walk within them and beside them in this life. For the gods have many faces, not all human and not all seen by me, only those they deem me worthy of.

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Five Yellow Flowers

I bought them closed. Soft yellow buds cradled in their delicate papery shells, long green leaves reaching for their sunny faces. I bought them closed and brought them home, laying them on the floor near the heater, wrapped in their floral bag, to coax them into opening.

Day by day, they stretched, each a little more awake than the last. I watched them, looking toward them each morning and I readied myself for work or for the gym.

Yesterday, as I saw them, I recognized they had opened, their delicate inner cup of egg-yolk yellow bright and ready to face the day.

I cut them down with a pair of trimming scissors, my ritual knife being tucked away in the bedroom with the main altar. I poured water from my own bottle into their vase and removed the dried flowers that had stood there since autumn. Five yellow blossoms went into the vase, gifted to me years ago from my spiritual advisor.

Back they went upon the altar beside my grotesque Bob and I smiled. They brightened the room, just as she will when she returns, having clawed and scraped her way from the Underworld, the taste of pomegranate still heavy on her tongue, and she will explode from the earth with the violent colors of spring flowers and heavy rains.

And, again, we will know the joy of spring.

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Calendars Revisited

When C came around for the Pagan Blog Project last year, I wrote on the calendar I typically utilize for the year, which holidays I celebrate and why I don’t celebrate others. As 2013 continued, though, I felt a desire to celebrate more holy days or to create high days of my own. So, this year, I feel a need to revisit this topic and write on how my path has changed in the last year in that capacity.

Tuesday, after dealing with yet another hospital visit and heading into work for a short time to talk to my supervisor and work on the project I had started Monday, I ran errands. Among these included a visit to the bookstore to find a planner since having a job now I have more responsibilities. Planners are always something I preferred to my electronic calendar on my phone, though the hard copy doesn’t sync automatically from my email. Yet, anyway.

Wednesday, while waiting for my phone to charge, I began filling in the important dates I needed to remember. Doctor appointments, scheduled meetings, therapy, family birthdays, and what hours I work this first week back at work mostly. When I got to November, I made a note on Saturday the 15th to celebrate the Feast of the Jackal. For a long time now, I have wanted to develop a high day for Anubis and November 15 falls around the first time he approached me nearly fourteen years ago. It is an anniversary of sorts, a way I wish to celebrate our relationship and thank him for the time he’s spent guiding me in my life. And as I wrote in that feast day, I began to feel drawn towards creating and celebrating other holidays for my gods and the evolution of the year.

Persephone comes with dates that are easily associated with her. The equinoxes, the start of spring and the advent of autumn, mark her ascent from and descent into the Underworld. With her arrival in my path, I find myself more powerfully drawn to these days as her celebrations, especially as the spring equinox marks the anniversary of my bending the knee to the Maiden and the Queen.

In late November and early December I feel drawn to Hekate. Why I am not sure, but the chill air and bare trees make me think of this goddess. In the coming months, I plan to think more on when to celebrate her and leave offerings at her crossroads. Odin, too, has associations to this time for me, but he is also a key figure in the spring for my path.

Come April with the thunderstorms that characterize the month, Thor rules. It is easy to see him during that time as the sky clouds and the winds rise, the scent of ozone and rain heavy on the breeze. I see The Morrigan in October, not long before All Hallow, setting herself ready for the coming restless dead and the land sinking into slumber.

The Stag Queen claimed the Summer Solstice last year, stating in not so many words that the holiday belongs to her. I mirrored my calendar by marking the Winter Solstice for her as well. And, as such, I begin to finalize the days of the year which I will work to closely worship and honor my gods.

As I sat in the waiting room for my surgeon to call me in, waiting for my follow-up from surgery last week, I began noting the dates I wished to use for these high days. I marked them as Feasts, as a holiday has always had a culinary element to it, but also because a feast has always suggested to me merriment and the chaotic sensibility of a party-like atmosphere. Some of my dates ended up close to those which denote the common sabbats, but as they both involve the astronomical timing of the sun and the Earth, I find no reason to fault them nor do I claim any connection to Wiccan or neoWiccan influence and culture. Additionally, as I am making my own calendar, I could set the dates I could on weekends when I would more easily be able to celebrate properly.

    2014 Calendar

March 20: Feast of the Maiden
April 12: Feast of the Thunderer
April 30: Walpurgisnacht
May 1: Flower Fest
June 21: Feast of the Silver Stag
September 23: Feast of the Queen
October 23: Feast of the Crows
October 31: All Hallow
November 15: Feast of the Jackal
November 29: Feast of the Lanterns at the Crossroads
December 13: Feast to the Old Man
December 21: Feast of the White Queen

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Against Hound and Darkness

The events of this post took place August 15, 2013 during a meditative shadow work session.

Dulcet tones of a Celtic harp played softly through the living room. I settled myself on the couch and closed my eyes to shut out the dim light of the living room lamp. Slowly, over a while, my mind calmed and I found myself in the parking lot of the townhouse I lived in as a child. I crossed to the sidewalk running beside our building and lowered myself into the manhole as I had before. Cool blue light dimly lit the tunnel below, deeper than it was in life, as I descended the ladder, splashing into the rippling water quietly. A glint caught my eye and I found myself staring at two swords: the FlameBlade, a longsword with flames patterned along the blade, heftier than I imagined it would be in a long-forgotten tale; and Lightning, the amethyst-pommeled sword carried by Alanna the Lioness of Tortall. At first I picked up the slender blade known as Lightning, forged by the Old Ones, yet the grip felt wrong in my hands. I set the sword back down and picked up the thicker, heavier FlameBlade. It was better suited for this level, as I was beginning to learn that the setup of my psyche was setup not unlike the levels of a video game.

As I stood in the tunnel, I got hints of new locations for future travels and future trials. Locations near homes I grew up in throughout my childhood, places I’ve lived over the years. Danger lurks past the tunnel but I am safe at the ladder where it appears I will equip myself prior to each visit.

I sloshed my way along the tunnel and headed towards the main room I had found before where the waters of several spouts pour out into a central pit, glowing faintly blue-green, lit from underneath. Small chambers surround the hole, matching the entrance I find myself in. It is the main entrance, from what I can see; the other holes, other tunnels and chambers will hold things I must face, must fight before I can move to the larger issue in the pit. Once they are all defeated, I can move onto the next location, the next childhood home.

Slipping over the edge of the floor, careful not to fall into the central pit, I inched my way along the thin lip that leads me to the first tunnel, pulling myself inside the first chamber. In the gloom, I could see a large three-headed dog. It heard me as I step forward and began to charge, headed for the entrance. The beast is monstrous and I reached out with my blade to slice its belly if it jumps. When it does, I feel the edge of my sword slice along its gut before it shudders and flashes out of existence. A blink and I see it has gone back to its original position, growling at me from the dark. Slowly, I approach, lowering my blade and recognition hits me. The large dog is our Rottweiler from when I was quite young, my mother’s dog. I reach out and pet her, trying to comfort her in the darkness, and slowly she shrinks and her outer heads disintegrate. Soon she is fully recognizable as the old dog that I cried over in the car before my mother took her into the vet for a final visit. I start for the entrance again and think to give her water before I leave. A water dish appears (am I wearing a pack?) and I fill it with water from the spout beneath our chamber settling it before her to drink. If I need a companion later, perhaps she will be the one I need take.

The next chamber glowed red as I approached, inching along the lip that surrounds the central pit, connecting each chamber. A cold feeling rolled through me and I felt I know what is in this chamber. I am not ready for this particular challenge and I duck below the entrance so as not to be seen before moving onto the next.

This chamber is even darker than the first. I have a flash of memory to the time my grandfather held me down in the dark to try and cure my fear of it. Originally as I pulled myself inside, I imagined I would have to face that fear again. I walked in slowly and something grabbed me, holding me against the wall. I let it, thinking that was the challenge. Eventually, the force lets me go and I move further into the tunnel. A blue light comes into being above me and I see something charge my right side. I recognize the lesson here: I must not get too comfortable with the darkness; it will eat you if you allow it. I fight the shadow being and move back to the central pit. It is a challenge I realize I will have to face again in the future.

It is enough for now. I make my way back to the entrance, return the FlameBlade to its partner and climb the ladder back to the surface.

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Breaking Boundaries

Inviting shadow work to become a part of my practice has led to a tough journey. These last two weeks have demanded much of me and have been trying in various ways: physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Waking up Friday morning, I stretched on the couch as I listened to The Boyfriend get ready for work for the first time in a week. I have been recovering from surgery since Monday, having had my gallbladder removed after experiencing severe abdominal pain late last week. As I slowly stretched my muscles, I began to smile as the noises of the early morning reached my ears and the day began. Before he went to get his coat and breakfast, The Boyfriend offered to help me sit up from my laying position on the couch. Prior to Friday, I had been incapable of getting up from that position on my own, being unable to use my abdominal muscles. I waved him off and told him I would be okay; I wanted to doze a little longer and enjoy the day off before having to head back to my new job on Monday. He bid me goodbye and told me to let him know if I needed him before finishing his last few tasks and heading out.

Independence is something that I have valued highly from a young age. Being able to do things on my own is invaluable to me, but I have become complacent and needy in the last year. With the onset of my deep depression and my heavy anxiety, I found myself leaning heavily on others, most notably The Boyfriend as we now live together. Yesterday, though, as I dozed off after hearing the lock turn, I felt a need to do as much as I could on my own that day. So, as I awoke, I tossed off my blankets and figured out the best way to leverage myself from the couch.

Let me tell you: the abdominal muscles are a hell of a lot more important than you think they are and you use them in so many things.

After several attempts, I finally managed to figure out how to get up with minimal use of my abdomen. Being able to do that simple task on my own, after a week of incompetence, was invigorating. I set about my tasks for the morning before settling down to read for a bit longer.

I’ve spent much of this week reading, actually, getting a jump on my goal for 2014 of 75 books. Currently, I’m at eight novels and one short story, about five books ahead of schedule. (Being laid up for about a week with your nook and two library cards has its benefits.) The mental exercise it has provided, too, has been sorely needed. It has been a long time since I had the chance to sit and read for long periods, novel after novel. But, after five days of doing little else, I opted for sitting down to some time with video games, now that I wouldn’t be interrupting The Boyfriend as he worked from home and helped me around the apartment.

These last two weeks have had its challenges, too. It’s not all pleasantries. A relationship I valued quite dearly appears to have met its end; I won’t go into details, but the effects of that still hurt. I imagine they will for awhile. Last weekend I had a long talk with my father regarding my middle brother’s anxieties. He’s been dealing with much of the same things I have with my OCD and the things he told me scared me. At fourteen, he is almost as bad as I was at twenty-three. Wanting to help, I asked him if I could talk to our dad about it and explain the situation. Over an hour and a half later, I hung up with my dad feeling pleased that he listened (took notes even!) and was willing to do what he could to help my brother. My father surprises me sometimes, especially now as I get older and he challenges the assumptions I have made about him. Growing up, we were never close; I think that was mostly as we were too alike to get along, butting heads on many issues. But as I get older and look back on my years, I recognize the issues my father has had to face in his life, the sacrifices he has made for our family. It helps, too, that we have begun talking more openly to one another. If anything, my anxiety and depression was a blessing in that it brought my father and I closer. He has been making an effort to tell me more often that he loves me and is proud of me and my accomplishments, something I do not recall hearing very often as a child. Writing this, I find myself fighting tears yet with a smile tugging at my lips.

A lot has happened in my life these last two weeks. Although I have not felt my gods’ presences, I can’t help but wonder if they have been leaving breadcrumbs for things to happen. I have found myself feeling stronger and more capable these last two weeks, a little more every day, as I take the reins of my life and hold firm. My confidence has begun to return, too, yet I am able to better recognize my flaws and examine why I do things like lash out when angry. I am growing and I believe my gods have stepped back to let me do this on my own. It is important for me to learn to function without them, as I have leaned heavily on them and their guidance and their help in this last year.

I do not believe they have left forever; or, at least, not all of them. I have felt the quiet silver tinge of the Stag Queen here and there; the bitter gold flavor of Anubis’s presence on my tongue before I fall asleep; the heady scent of pomegranate on my skin that signals Persephone’s attentions. They have not left me, not completely, but I must depend on my own abilities and regain my own strengths without them interfering if I am to grow.


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Quick Update

Hey everyone. Sorry I haven’t been around the last week or so. Been a bit busy here. I had surgery on Monday (nothing serious, so don’t worry) but the post-op recovery has been more hassling than I anticipated. Today is the first time I can sit up for more than a few minutes and unassisted. I’ll be back soon, though.

Hope you all are well.


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Beliefs and Beginnings

Each year as I skim the post lists for the Pagan Blog Project for inspiration, there tends to be a commonality amongst many of the entries. For B this year, as with previous years, the topics of “belief” and “beginning” (or “beginner”) crop up amongst the listing. As we are still in the beginning of 2014, this is no surprise and, for many bloggers in this project, this is their first venture into the world of Pagan blogging, so setting the foundation for themselves and their readers regarding their practice and religion is no surprise.

For me, this year, I decided to go with the flow more than usual and take a good look at my beliefs. As I am stripping away trappings and looking at books to donate or give away, I take a good look at the root of my belief system, my religion, my spirituality to find out what is important to me. What are the things that I build off of? What is my foundation?

In many ways, I am starting over in my Pagan path. Beginning anew.

So what is important to me?

I am a polytheist. I say simply “polytheist” as I have days that I lean towards soft polytheism and days that I lean towards hard polytheism. To be frank, I often refer to myself as a “sleep number polytheist,” with the levels of hardness and softness being adjusted as the need arises. My personal belief is that all gods exist, though I only work with a few of them from a few pantheons, and that these deities are all made of the same “stuff” or divine energy.

I am a child of Anubis. When I say that, I don’t mean it as sincerely as others do (possibly) nor do I mean that he is my Divine Parent, as in the sense of Kemetic Orthodoxy. I merely mean that I have been with Anubis since I was quite young, I am devoted to him, and we have a teacher-student kind of relationship, one built on respect and love, at least on my part.  The other deities I work with are important to me as well, but Anubis has always been a central figure in my path, steering my direction.

I am an animist/neo-animist. To me, all things have Spirit or a divine spark to them. I believe this “Spirit” or “divine spark” is a smaller portion of what makes up the beings we refer to as gods, similarly to how we are carbon-based lifeforms. This spark is what ignites us into Life and creates (or “installs,” if you’re of a reincarnation bent) our souls. I believe that the Spirit and the Soul are different things but entwined in a way.

I believe in spirits. This does tie in to the previous section but it is also separate. When I refer to spirits, I tend to mean “non-corporeal beings” or beings that we cannot necessarily see, or rather comprehend in a visual sense, but that do exist. This can be anything from land spirits to the Fae to ghosts. While some folks are able to see these things, the general populace is not (or, at least, denies such ability).

I have no set belief in the afterlife. While I believe in my soul and I believe that Anubis will come for me when I pass, I have no idea what will happen from that point on. Whether there is a grand reward at the end of this life or this soul will be recycled into a new vessel, I’ve no idea. And as I am currently not on the other side of the life-line, I see no reason to fret over it. At least, not yet. (And I still do, from time to time.)

I practice nature spirituality. I’ve spoken on this from time to time, but it bears repeating. I find divinity and personal peace and solace in nature, of all kinds. It has an important place in my life, in my spirituality, and it is a place where I find comfort.

I practice urban spirituality, too. I don’t speak on this often (read: at all) because it’s something I don’t think about often. But, in sum, the urban landscape and cities have a mysticism to them that I feel in my bones. I adore and worship the pulsing energy of cities and believe that different cities have different energetic signatures that typically manifest in taste and color to my mind. Chicago, for example, is a gritty grey, more salt-and-pepper than plain grey, and the taste of slightly bitter smoke on my tongue; Washington D.C., in comparison, is an off-white color, more oatmeal than ivory, with a chalky taste on the underside of my tongue. Boston is a warm rose gold, but matte, as if seen through a tinted glass; its taste is crisp yet briny on the back of my tongue and palate.

I believe that community is important. Perhaps it is, in part, due to the role I played in my own college campus but I cannot see myself without some sense of community. These days, I have my fellow bloggers here and other PPRWs on tumblr with whom I can converse and discuss ideas and concepts with to better understand others and, thus, myself. While I do miss having a face-to-face community, I know that it is important to have any kind of community available to me and I am grateful for that experience and opportunity.

I believe in divination. But, as many things, it is a skill as well as a gift. Practice is important and while certain types of divination (or divination in general) may come more easily to some, it means nothing without the discipline and learning to back it up. Raw power does little good without finesse and a steady hand.

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