Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Is Not an Apology

To the man who yelled obscenities out his car window to a girl who dared to walk the sidewalk alone, does it ease your mind to assert control over her? Did you look at her walking without your aid, your guidance, or your permission and think that it simply would not do to allow her to not be reminded that you, the man, own all womankind? All women, they were made for you, clearly. They are the natural holster for that thing you're packing in your trousers, nevermind that a woman allowed you to grow there. Nevermind that a woman saw your growing genitalia on a screen and thought, yes, I will bring that forward into the world. Did you view that as permission, then, to behave as you liked?

You will view your assertions of ownership, of dominance, as the natural order. As divine providence. As maintenance.

And I, for my part, will do everything I can to dismantle you. Does the way I dress make you uncomfortable? Do unpretty women disturb you for existing in your manworld, unafraid to show you their reality? I will not hide my tampons from you. I will bleed and menstruate on your sidewalk. I will tell other girls to not worry about the blood stains on their pants as anything other than a stain. Our bodies function and live and breathe and expel, as all bodies must. There is no shame in biology. Not all women bleed, but all women do not belong to you. You are not my authority, and I do not answer to you.

She will wear her heels, you do not 'let' her.
She will shave her head and wear her leather, you do not 'allow' her.
She will choose to cover her head or not, her God/dess/s are her business.
She will choose what her body will do, you have no authority that she did not give you.
She will walk down the street that she lives on unmolested, unviolated, and not subscribed to your issues.
She will choose to shave her legs and her armpits and any other of her parts as it pleases her. She needn't buy into the infantization of her body to make you happy and in control, nor must she be required to like her hairy body. It's hers. She can braid it and dye it and shave it.
She will choose to pleasure herself if she wants to, she does not need your permission or your assistance.
She will work out at the gym, her very own routine; she does not need your input.
She will educate herself or not, she does not need your opinion.
She will fuck anyone she wants to. Any gender. Any time. Any quantity.
Your opinion is not required; your opinion is not necessary.

If this intimidates you, good. If you are weak and afraid of a woman in her power, good. Shake until you shit yourself.

Just not on the sidewalk where we walk; we've already had enough of your shit.

Be fucking afraid. We won't be owned.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

One for the Menfolk

Dearest hearts,

How can you be healed?

To be a man, a male, this day is no easy task. It is a bramble of intersectional issues; each ailment affecting each group differently with regards to social status, race, upbringing, interest, sexuality, the list goes on. There is much that is expected of you; the legacy of thousands of years of patriarchal society. You are anticipated upon birth, the hive mind of many cultures prepared to welcome a new heir to the bloodline, the traditional vessel of the family name. When you arrive, the testing begins.

Children experience challenges regarding the expectations of their parents, but while small girls have gained ground in acceptance of tomboy behaviours...you dear ones are systematically stripped of your feminine attributes. I say feminine, but truly these are masculine also for you are born with them. How can the being you were born into this world as be 'wrong'? It is well within the purview of masculinity to be sensitive, nurturing, loving and every possible attribute that has been foisted upon the feminine to take up the yolk. Men, you are expected to be strong, in heart and body. The expectation is destructive, insidious, and corrosive.

The tears are conditioned out of you. Self-acceptance is conditioned out of you and exchanged for what is socially acceptable among your friends whose parents still believe in the myth of a stronger and weaker sex. Our genitals do not define us. Gender roles are horse shit we invented on our own.

Dare to be vulnerable, to be weak, to be feminine, to be fucking fabulous. Wear make up to hide the scars that make you feel unattractive. Plenty of other countries do this, America, and it needn't be overt or garish. Wear some damned concealer for your senior photos if it makes you feel confident.  Banish the notion that you must present strength at all times, project confidence in all things...it's exhausting to watch. I'm sure it must be more so to experience. If you are comfortable and delight in traditional trades and handiwork, by all means pursue these things. Be a lumberjack; it's ok. It is no secret to any of you men that know me that I'm staunchly feminist in the traditional sense. We are all born equal, and we should fight for that equality together; not by shutting you out.

I am told by men, "That's just the way it is, period." as though the conversation regarding their pain and self sabotage must there end.

How many times must I hear the godawful phrase uttered "Men cannot be raped."

Or

"The mother should always get custody; the courts favor the mother."

Or

"She wasn't abusive, he was just weak."

Or

"Women and children first"

Or perhaps controversially

"The father has no say in the pregnancy whatsoever"

How many times must you endure this shit? I'm so sorry. I believe you. I believe you when you have had to swallow a bitter pill and said nothing. I believe that you were abused, that you were raped, that you were wronged. And I'm so sorry.

I see the turmoil inside, the quiet acceptance that this is how things are despite pushing the broad male demographic toward a self destructive cliff. They break. They become violent. They take lives.

And if they are white, they are given fair treatment. If they are a person of color, usually they die.

Men, I am telling you that you do *not* have to stand as a bulwark against the world and it's injustices. Your fellow human beings can shield you, too. Female, non-binary, however our gender roles are defined you are not alone. And you are NOT to blame for ALL of the world's troubles, but if you see inequality you must call it out. I will call it out for you as I see it. The system which values you and places your gender far above everyone else, especially if you are white, is also the very system which is destroying you.

We face a variety of different issues, but to heal us all and to make headway against the wounds left on ALL of us by a patriarchal society we absolutely must honor each other.

I honor your sacrifices; big and small. I honor your bravery. I honor your years of dying "like gentlemen" as though your life was some small thing.

No life is so small a thing. I have no wisdom in me to say that one method or another is going to heal the world of its wounds, but I will start with this simple thing:

I believe you.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

One for the Ladies

Dearest hearts,

If there is no other thing that I can teach you, no other offering of wisdom or anecdote about those times I'd done something ridiculous, or nothing else that you may remember me by, I want you to be with me here in this moment right now.

I want you to turn off all of the distractions. Drown out the noise and focus in whichever manner is most conducive for you to absorb information and let it electrify your blood and bone to the marrow.

I am begging you, to take your hand and place it on your chest above your heart and feel it beating. Spend a moment this way, and just breathe in the company of your heartbeat. Life is fleeting, and you are alive. When you die, you can't do shit to change the world. Only what you leave behind can do that but you...your hands will be gone. Your heartbeat will be gone. Everything will be over and naught remains but the silence of unmaking; the unraveling of the mortal casing of your fire.

Now, look at your reflection: on your phone screen, your monitor, your reversed camera, your compact. Look yourself dead in the eyes and say: I will fight for myself.

Deadass say it out loud. Do not shy away from your own judgement. Whatever doubts about yourself you have are not important. Those are not here right now; in this moment there is only you.

Ladies, no one is going to do this for you. No one in the slow decline of a rancid and ruined world is going to give a shit about your carcass. The earth itself was made to retake you; to swallow you whole and return you to that fire from whence you came. When you were born, a spark was gifted to you, and you shall not betray it. It's always there as long as you live; no matter who your parents are or how it got to you, you were born with it. It could easily have been struck from you before you were born, but it wasn't. And you're here. And you MUST fight for yourself. That spark is always with you, and none but yourself can validate your worth. None but yourself can love you as you can. Society dictates what we should and should not be, how we should look, what THEY value, and all too often these expectations are unable to be reached by those who seek it. Fight for yourself.

If you are timid, find your voice. If you are brazen, raise those who are timid up and support them. We shall not eat our own any longer. We are born, we grow, we die. We change along the way, and every step can be measured in events or decisions or new beginnings. You have been weak, you have been tired, you have worn your threadbare spirit and expect it will never need mending. Women birth life, and for some that comes in a physical form and for others an abstraction; a starting over, a reinvention not limited by our biology. We are all spark bearers as human beings, and we have been told that one sex is lesser than the others. Will do equal work for less pay. Will fill out the gender roll assigned to them. Will always strive to satisfy others and put herself last. Will be silent. Will be submissive. And for some, that may be familiar and comfortable, but nothing about being human will ever be one size fits all. Fuck the system. Tear it down and make it our own.

Let today be the day you met your own eyes and said that you will fight for yourself. When you are able to acknowledge that your one and only chance at doing everything you've ever dreamed lies entirely on your shoulders, you know that the onus is on you to do these things. Support from friends, family, loved ones; these can help you keep going when you are depleted, but you alone were born and you alone will die and all true change MUST occur from the inside.

Stop making excuses and keep your hand over that heart of yours and wrestle your doubt to the ground and tell it I WILL FIGHT FOR MYSELF. Wrap yourself in the love that you've been denied, soak yourself in your worth. The spark in you is beautiful, but beauty is subjective and fleeting.

Because the world will fucking kill you. They will make laws that give easier access to death. They will call it many things, but will look the other way when you suffer.

Woman, fight!

FIGHT!

Your life can be defined by two verbs: living, or dying. Which will you choose?


Monday, January 30, 2017

Here I Stand

Here I stand within the rising storm,
The earth is bucking beneath the weight of our carelessness
Roots are lifting as trees upturn, laid low by the winds
of hate, and destruction.

Our foundation is shaken, words scrubbed from our cornerstone.
We have never been innocent. We have always been been bloodstained and torn
by circumstance, by lies, and by prejudice.
We have always fought, seeking our end.

And here in the maelstrom of choking dust and the ashes of an empire,
though it burns our eyes and dries our throat, we raise our broken voices.
Through clouded eyes, and hands that once knew revolution,
our hearts are on fire.

We must choose our weapons.

Will we raise a sword?

The keen edge forged in fire, glinting steel which rends flesh from bone
the sight and smell of blood to lay to waste our enemies
who are struck down and tread upon by the machines of war
and who then will the victor be? The dead and living cannot say,
for the dead are gone, and the living mourn, and are numb.

Will we choose the pen?

The ink of immortality scrawled over page after page
of desperate pleas for humility, for humanity.
The poetry and power of language: from them the poison
is drawn which voice the battle cries and mottos of our age.
The pen may order the sword, but but how will words find strength
when facts are stripped of their truths?

Will we choose our feet?

Will we mobilize, marching proudly and in solidarity?
Risking life and limb for what is right, having only one
precious life to give.
We call, we gather, we unify, and our differences divide us again.
And again.

Will we choose the flame?

Sword, Pen, and Action together may carry forth a flame,
Kindle together a torch so bright that the lady of liberty
weeps that we remember her, that we honor her,
here in this time when the gods of liberty and justice are wounded
and gasping for air in the streets as the world watches them die.
Burn from them their bonds, their gags, the prejudice.
What flame we can kindle; what hope can we inspire?

Around the fire we will gather,
Around the fire we will be healed,
With the light of the flame, we will rise.

Here I will stand: with love, with fire.
Sword sharp as the wit necessary to arm ourselves.
With humanity.
With you.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Year and Change

There are a lot of things that being a Pagan in the modern world has taught me, from experiences within a community and apart from one. I've spent a lot of time on my own and in contemplation, asking myself questions about what my values are and how I would absorb what I've learned into my practice and my life. It's been a long time since I said anything at all.

First of all, if you have an opinion, you will find someone that opposes you.
If you are in a community, you will experience power struggles.
People will behave like the flawed individuals they are, no matter which setting they exist in.
There is nothing more terrifying than dealing with individuals who claim to have the backing and justification of their gods behind them...which never appear to conflict with their own interests.
You will also experience magic and community, and it can be rewarding to feed your soul and engage in projects to better the world around you; grassroots efforts to worldwide change.

But right now, I believe the Pagan community is sick with Ego. It is the same ego that haunts other faiths, same justification, same nonsense. I have experienced a phenomenon where people are more interested in touting their values and insisting that they are virtuous than actually living these values. Yes, they are broken. And in America right now, we are a broken people struggling for an identity that is only about to become more fraught with danger than we have known in a long time.

And everyone has the answers, of course. All I can think about is how often in history we will repeat all of this, over and over, watching the same things happen and wondering how we could possibly have allowed it; is there meaning to all of the suffering? Probably not, but we need it apparently because we can't live without it.

By and large, I have encountered a great deal of Pagans who are simply normal people who make mistakes. Most of them do not possess any malicious intent, but many are converts to Paganism with a suspicious nature and baggage to go along with it. Paganism appears to be a collection of people who constantly seek those with matching suitcases. I don't think there's anything wrong with that; everyone should be free to pursue their own happiness, because a fire that cannot breathe will burn out.

And if at all possible, the things that make us different should not prevent us from uniting when it matters with mutual respect. In a perfect world, anyway. Change is not a thing to be feared any more than any other thing, but we resist it. We look inward after every absence, wonder what it is we had done wrong and if it could be fixed. Amend bonds, but do not chase a fledgling leaving the nest. Do not discourage them or speak cruelly of them.

Despite the 7 years I have given an old community, I do not consider myself knowledgeable in a lot of aspects of that faith. In fact, it may be that I am not a fit for that particular structure. One of the most damaging things that occurred for me, upon leaving, was realizing how used up I felt and how powerless others had tried to render me. I've spent a year trying to get my head back together and ask if there is truly any value in community, and if I'm honest there are people I genuinely miss. I am more wary than ever of false prophets and group delusions, but I feel utterly alone and isolated. Jaded, really. Because my fire was one of the things I had, and I misunderstood it's use.

In a sense, I'm still searching for my matching suitcases and the energy necessary to be of use to those whom I know I jive well with. Too many people tried to hang special signs on me that I didn't want to wear and didn't feel qualified to, and the end result was being smeared by many unfairly by people I don't even know, or don't know me either, and it is what it is.

I don't envy the houses of other Pagans; the structures they've built for themselves. I hope that what use I have yet to offer will come to fruition soon, and perhaps someone will notice.

Or not. I don't care for fame; I've already earned some infamy at the hands of others. But I'm positively done with the hypocrisy I've seen and have better things to do, I think. Before I go, though, I want to write this to those who are desperate to hear it from someone.

  • We may not agree, but we can value each other. Life does not exist in an echo chamber.
  • You have time to figure out where your path goes. Questioning is important. 
  • You're probably not crazy; chances are you might just be surrounded by assholes. 
  • Do not feel ashamed for trying to improve yourself, no matter where you started from. 
  • Your worth is not measured solely by the breadth of your intellect or which authors you read. 
  • Challenge yourself and your beliefs, allowing yourself to change is ok. Things which change are growing. 
  • Trust your instinct. Sometimes red flags are just cardinals, and sometimes they're warning you about a dumpster fire. 
  • Someone will always try to be better than you. At least you aren't so insecure you feel that you need to belittle others. 
  • There will always be someone older, younger, more experienced than you. Worry about you. 
  • If someone tries to look down on you, remove the platform. If they're not paying rent in your head, they don't deserve to be in it and we all possess value even when we are wrong. 
  • Learn to apologize and mean it. 
  • I'm very, very sorry if I have failed you, or if you've had a terrible experience. 
  • It's okay that other people do not understand you; many times we don't understand ourselves either. 
  • Expression takes many forms. Spirituality takes many forms. Cruelty is evident.
  • Your disability does not make you a bad human being, much less a bad pagan. 
  • Anyone not willing to work with your disability is not someone you will be able to grow with, nor is the environment suitable for you. You will find somewhere else. 
  • It's okay to take care of yourself, and it's okay to say no. 
  • Pay attention to how people talk about others who are not there. 
  • It's okay to be wrong. It's okay to recognize problematic behaviours in yourself and learn to change them. You are not a pariah. 
  • If mental illness is treated as anything other than the physical, real illness it is in any community, beware the stigma. These will be the first people to rush to judgment. 
  • Your mental illness does not make you less of a witch, but you will experience the limits of your boundaries just as anyone else. We are all limited beings; find your strength and don't let your desire become your weakness. 
  • You don't need a label for yourself. Some people seek them, others will not need them. 
  • You're not going to hell. Unless you travel to Michigan with the express purpose of finding the town. 
  • Examine your goals and pursue them. Take as long as you need to. 
  • There are "special snowflakes", but there are also "conformists". To any two different people, you may be both at the same time. Fuck what they think; do you. 
  • You cannot please everyone. It's not your job. But if it IS your job, make sure you're working with the right people. 
  • Keep going. Keep fighting. Even when you're tired. Even if the only person that knows is you, keep doing it. 

I hope you are all well. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bad Gods

Anyone who has dipped a toe into the pool of polytheism know that people tend to fall in a great number of camps with regards to what the Gods *are*, who they are, and what function they serve. There is argument from a wide swath of devoted about the nature of the Gods, and as one might expect, everyone thinks they have the answer. I don't have the answer, but I do have a perspective I'm going to share.

I want to talk a little bit about "Bad Gods", that is Gods that have somehow earned themselves the reputation of being Mean Little Fucks that, much like Voldemort, their name must never be uttered. They have even built (modern) traditions around these superstitions that vary from country to country and group to group. Everyone wants the chance to prove that they're a badass practitioner that can stand against the will of a Bad God; the lore supports them of course in as much as statistics may be used to back any cause by bending them to the will of the interpreter.

So I'm not going to rely on texts for the Most Perfect and Accurate translation that was freshly removed from the cold dead fingers of the monk that spent his (we're gonna guess "his") life writing them down from wherever non literary source he heard them from. I've read them and I'm not interested in rehashing them; if academics can't agree and devotees cannot agree then there's no point in looking at the same things we've always had and sharing an interpretation.

What I am interested in discussing is how human beings have awarded themselves the right to decide whether or not a God is acceptable for worship based on decidedly human attributes they have given them. We have to have ways to relate to and understand the gods even in a limited sense, but reading lore too literally means you'll miss the metaphor. That's fine for some, but the Gods ultimately don't care much for our limitations of them. Are they limited themselves? By necessity, yes, but not in the ways that we are as human beings. What is really important to understand is this:

No Gods are Safe. There are no Bad Gods; only destruction and creation. All Gods contain both elements; making and unmaking. 

Our interactions with them are dangerous in the same way that living is dangerous; even the most benevolent spirits are still not always going to behave in a way we comprehend. If we call our earnest relationship with a God "worship" or "devotion", it doesn't matter; our relationships with them or lack thereof matter more than how others have come to perceive them. I'm saying Gods are dangerous in that they are a double edged sword we are glad to bear: love is as dangerous as hate and you will receive what you give in return. We merely become comfortable and familiar. Love is not safe, but it is worth it. It is a peril we are willing to risk to enrich our lives; such is our relationship with the divine. Gods are greater than our understanding, but also as understandable and relateable as the divine we carry within ourselves.

When I hear things like "X God brings about only pain and suffering", what I hear is a number of things. 1.) They have given their pain the name of a deity, the author of their suffering, based upon the words of others and haven't really thought for themselves. 2.) They are displeased by their interpretation of events. 3.) They did something really fucking stupid.

When I hear "X God killed MY God", all I can think is (summarizing the words of a friend) if your God is dead what the hell are you doing? Gods exist in mythic time, not linear time. Ragnarok has happened and it has also not happened. Baldr has died to bring about new life later, and he hasn't. Loki is bound beneath the world, and he's walking around freely, also he is a she, also he is central to the survival of mankind as a fire god but ALSO a real pain in the ass when he's had a bad day. Morrighan is a title, and three women, and one woman, and one being while many and also could reasonably fill a small portion of a zoo on Her own. Zeus is a golden shower, a swan, and king of Olympus because fuck you. What are our 'rules' to them? What merit can there be in worshipping a dead god; clearly you get results that you desire by working with them. If they were truly dead, that would not be possible. If their rules applied to us, I could be eating a cheeseburger in my tomb while also composing a power ballad about my banishment to Siberia and no one would even question it. Not very many people can parse the idea of time flowing in any way other than linear, so the mythic does not make sense to them. They're not dead; they are myth. Myth changes, and so do Gods. The only way for a god to die is to kill the myth entirely by not allowing it to evolve and change. Fundamentalist parroting leads to death and stagnation and it will be destroyed to create something else. Nature hates a vacuum.

We worship Gods with confusing/broken/incomplete lore because the lore helps us to determine their function and sphere of experience. In the Celtic and Gaelic traditions, a deity with specific spheres of influence would be responsible for all aspects of it. A goddess of war would be the go-to deity for prayers of peace or victory. A god of medicine is also a god of affliction, because to heal one must understand the hurt. In order to bless, one must understand the curse. A fine example of this is Nodens, whom I have written about before; he's a healing god people offered lead curse tablets to because that's how this whole thing works. Each god or goddess responds with their own flavor; their own level of snark or gentility that varies by relationship.

Because we're people and we suck, we tend to focus on the negative. Change is hard, compassion is hard, and we don't like hard things because blessings and curses come to us and we are not always able to correctly assess which it is. The loss of a home and a loved one can be simply that; it's the cost of living. Suffering is living; chaos is ongoing. We bring order to the universe through ritual, but the nature of the universe is dis-order. It is a brave act to love openly and freely as it is also brave to welcome change in its many forms. That doesn't mean it doesn't suck, but it also doesn't mean nothing good will come of it. Not good or bad, just is.

In short, if you disrespect a God, don't be shocked if you do not receive a blessing or answered prayer. In fact, you might notice a decided absence of happy-feels in your life; reconsider the source. In all likelihood, it's your perception that flunked up the whole thing when you valued one thing over another or chose to withhold hospitality. Chaos is the mother of blessing just as much as destruction.

Food for thought. More later.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Words

They're never enough.

It's been so long since I've written about my observations or felt comfortable being open enough to explain what I'm feeling or properly framing my struggles so that even a casual observer can grasp how fundamentally shattered I have become. In fact, I am still incapable of doing so.

I'm not the person I once was, and yet I am. I put my faith in all the wrong people, trusted in the altruistic assumption that most people are fundamentally good. It's simply not so. It's true; good and bad people are subjective and change depending on who you are most convenient to. There will always be someone to shit directly on your passions and soil your dreams, especially if you are as vulnerable as I am. It's the most unusual thing; for all the reservoir of strength I hold within me just to get through the day successfully without falling back off the wagon into the void, people mistake that as impenetrable armor.

It isn't. It's just skin.

I'm perfectly aware of how I am perceived by others, even when they have fashioned an elaborate maze of dishonesty and adopted a mask of friendship. I know. And I know when I'm being used, awake to being valued so little as to be reduced from a friend (much less a person) to a Reason or Scapegoat or excuse to be a fucking coward. I am done with cowards, and I am done playing nice anymore. In some circles, or at least in Pagan Leadership, it's my actual job to wear a professional face and referee. I have to set an example in that hospitality is a virtue, and to be friendly to guests with whom there is some awkward history is a simple tenet of being a leader and Not Being A Total Ass. You must treat others how you wish to be treated, and this includes the talk behind closed doors or private messages or subversive letters to the board. If you cannot talk to me because I am not worth your time or consideration, then you may go and fuck yourself because I don't have a single fuck to give you.

If I'm smiling at you knowing full well that I am hated by you, I am not being dishonest with you. I choose not to engage in activities that would spur unnecessary drama and have a responsibility to myself and to the people I am responsible for to maintain that order. No, more than anything I feel sorry for you because you don't know me at all. That is intentional. You do not have my permission to enter my world. You are relegated to a different sandbox; the one that has judged me based on appearances or very limited second hand information. You seek rumors. You speak poorly of others. You shame them. You are staying in the sandbox.

Because if you had even the slightest idea of how hard I fight for every breath I take every day and truly understood it, you would not believe me. If you bothered to try and understand, then you would not discard me so easily. You would understand that my time is precious and pressurized. You might grasp that I am wholly rejected by the society I live in as something that isn't worth the air I breathe. Less than a minority. Not conventionally pretty. Not especially interesting to most people except doctors with too much time on their hands. My ability to perform, to remember, to smile, to speak, to make music has been ripped from me. Words do not exist for this kind of devastation. This will absolutely please those that hate me to know, and I know they're out there. I want them to know that even though my pain brings them joy, their joy means nothing to me. Even though I despise them, I don't wish this evil visited upon them. That makes me better than them. That makes them less than nothing.

In short, I don't deserve it. I know this, and so don't pay these people much mind.

There are few options left to me: change my life and find a way to heal the damage I've endured or give up. Giving up is more seductive than it has any right to be. There is just so much pain. So much. So much that talking about it makes me no fun to be around, so I shift my focus.

I'm taking back my life now. You can't have it. I will save it to enjoy with the people I love, and you should do the same. My circle is small, but rock solid. My faith is unbreakable and I don't seek validation nor approval. You cannot have my heart.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll learn to dance my way to freedom. I've never been good at it. I'm uncoordinated and physically incapable of balance, but I will learn. Watch me, join me, or get out of the way.

I can change everything, and I will.