My uncle, David E.O. Rath, died May 6, 1986, in San Francisco at the age of 56, from complications of HIV/AIDS. He taught English at San Francisco City College. This is the quilt block we made for him. It includes a photo album and a book of his poems, which we published posthumously.
There are some contemporary pagans who, for one reason or another, cannot set up an altar in the place where they live. Perhaps they have family members or roommates who would object to having a place for even modest pagan rituals and observances. But satisfying “altars” can be made out of scrapbooking albums, kitchen matchboxes, and other small containers that hold miniature items, tiny figures, small significant objects, and replicas of offerings.
I’ve recently discovered the joys of HeroForge.com and Inkarnate.com. HeroForge allows you to design and buy custom miniatures for gaming and collecting. You can buy them in plain grey plastic and paint them yourselves or spend a lot more money to have them painted for you. (FYI: you are not allowed to re-sell these figures or use them for commercial purposes.) For altar backdrops, Inkarnate.com is a website for designing maps and fantasy scenes. These are just two of the many resources on the internet.
Combine your designs with paper, glue, scissors, and perhaps some cash to buy a miniature from HeroForge, and you have the makings of a tiny space for communing with your chosen spiritual helpers and allies. Print out the scenes, and even images of the figures you design, glue them to cereal box cardboard and then cut them out — in other words, make pagan paperdolls to use as altar pieces!
I used to do this when my oldest kid wanted every toy in the pernicious catalogs that used to arrive at the house when he was little, and since we didn’t have that kind of budget, I’d make paperdolls out of the catalog pictures and he could play with them. It worked while he was still a toddler. (Later, not so much.)
Since Loki is my most trusted one, I’ll share a few of the HeroForge images I’ve made in the last week. It’s hard to not want them all, in 3D form, but the images can still make nifty paperdolls.
Make your own versions of figures and altar backdrops, and have fun!
Last Monday morning I was inspired to create a #PysankyForPeace project, making Ukrainian decorated eggs to honor Ukraine’s fallen, and to honor Berehynia-Oranta, the ancient mother goddess of the region, as a protector of her land and people. As a contemporary pagan, I did the sorts of observances and rituals one does when making the acquaintance of a new deity or spirit ally. I was really charged up, inspired, and when I couldn’t find my old egg decorating kit, ordered new ones. I couldn’t wait to get into the wax and dyes.
But by Monday afternoon, I was embroiled in the newest installment of a very old trouble in my life: family matters of amazing ugliness. I don’t know if you’ve ever been troubled by a persistent, brooding malevolent figure (PBMF) in your own life, but if you have, you know how helpless, angry, and sad it can make you. Well, I’ve had someone playing this role for almost two decades–telling lies about me to family and friends and just generally not ever missing an opportunity to discredit and besmirch me, as well as to defraud me. This newest episode is pretty hateful and I lost my temper at first. But I didn’t lose my sense of irony. Here I was, trying to dedicate myself to peace and yet being swept up in some of the very same emotions that fuel war (emotions far short of homicidal rage, I will add).
It’s been very difficult to regain my equilibrium, I will tell you. The old wounds never healed and the fresh ones, well, they’re currently playing havoc in my gut. Of course, this kind of reaction is exactly what my PBMF wants and enjoys. However in an effort to calm my frustration, I’ve taken refuge in legal advice. I think I have discovered exactly how to turn this situation around. I desire justice, truth, transparency, and an end to fraud. I may be in a position to work toward that. The PBMF’s own words provided the final key to unlock the strategy. Sometimes you have to wait a long time for a cocky adversary to reveal their strategy. I’ve waited nineteen years.
So, while I’m not in any way, shape, or form trying to compare my grief and anger to the violence taking place in Ukraine and elsewhere, I am observing how a set of well-placed triggers can cause individuals to do far worse things than they would have done otherwise. And when similar triggers are collective, well then… Add to that the Ruling Class’s manipulation of such triggers to consolidate their acquisition of yet more money and power, via domination and destruction, and you have the recipe for everything that makes for the worst in humanity. In microcosm, it’s kind of how my PBMF rolls.
Today, finally calmer (though still with a painful body), I will devote my thoughts once again to peace in Ukraine and elsewhere. I have my egg decorating kits now and am about to mix my dyes. I offer these efforts to the perennial struggle for peace at home and abroad.
I have been decorating eggs with ink and water color paints since I was a teenager. And when my children were young, I threw myself into creating Easter celebrations for them (though in the same pagan-esque way I have always celebrated other holidays). We decorated a lot of eggs during their childhoods. It was during this time that I began making the batik-style Pysanky eggs, using a kit for Ukrainian Easter Eggs from Luba. However, I wasn’t using traditional symbols and designs. (Hippy free-styling is always my downfall…)
Fast forward to now, the last days of February, 2022, with possibly a sort of end to the pandemic in sight. But wouldn’t ya know, here’s Russia unleashing carnage and war on their neighbor, Ukraine, and we’re all–those of us who are simply ordinary in scale along with the “leaders” of various things–wondering what to do. Nobody wants this shit except for a few crazy old men and their arms dealers. So ordinary sized people are praying for an end to this stupid aggression if they are religious and the witches…well, they are gathering for spell-making. I’m in the latter group, in case you haven’t figured that out.
Some of the first questions in the online witch communities are, who do we invoke/evoke? What fierce goddesses, gods, and deities of other genders, should we ask to join with us in focusing on the end of this war? I happened to see this article: “Pagans and witches offer prayers for peace in Ukraine” (Heather Greene, Religon News Service, Feb. 25, 2022. These paragraphs caught my eye:
Begin quote from article. <<In her call to action, [H. Byron] Ballard requested that those who join her in “energy work” focus on the Berehynia statue in Kyiv [l added this link]. The monument, standing in the city’s central square, was erected in 2001 as a symbol of Ukrainian independence. It depicts a woman holding up the Guelder Rose, another national symbol.
The statue, however, stands for more than just Ukraine’s political sovereignty, the reason Ballard specifically called attention to it.
Artist Anatoliy Kushch, inspired by Slavic mythology, based his female figure on Berehynia-Ornate [sic], the mother of all living things and the goddess of home and family. In that way, the statue is as much a spiritual protector and guardian as a secular symbol of the country’s strength.>> End quote from article.
I had never heard for Berehynia-Oranta before, but I began to research her. She’s an ancient mother goddess who also has a fierce aspect (like so many other mother goddesses). Berehynia’s ancient stance of upraised, open arms has apparently been enfolded into an image of “Mary Theotokos” in Orthodox Christianity. (The stance is called “orante” or “orans” in Christian tradition. I don’t know much more than this, so apologies for anything I’m getting wrong here.) The image below is a mosaic “in the vault of the St Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv in Ukraine. The icon has been in the cathedral since its foundation by Yaroslav I the Wise in the 11th century” (Wikipedia).
It is wonderful that in Kyiv there are two powerful protective images for the city, both female. One is pagan. One is Christian.
Interesting stuff–and yes, let’s do invoke or evoke these powerful spiritual figures on behalf of Ukraine, if we feel that calling–but what does this have to do with egg magic? Particularly with the batiked eggs known as “pysanky?” I’m getting to that!
The Pysanky Eggs
There is an incredible website called http://www.pysanky.info. What a rich source of information! And at this website I learned the connection between the ancient tradition of decorated eggs and Berehynia (see links below). Pysanky eggs are also an important part of the Orthodox Christian Church’s Easter celebrations and the symbols on the eggs we are most used to seeing are largely Christian. Both sets of symbols are fascinating, and I am beginning to see a link between my own history with and affinity for decorated eggs and the possibilities for egg magic spellworking now, as a loving gesture of solidarity for Ukraine–its lands, people, and creatures.
These decorated eggs are connected with both pagan and Christian female spiritual figures who protect Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine, and with blessings and renewal, so they seem to be ideal vehicles for peace spells. Pictures of completed eggs can also visually demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine’s people and lands. It is also interesting that the process of creating these jewel-like treasures is known as “writing” the egg, and that too seems to suggest a relationship with prayers and chants during the making of them.
Here’s One Way to Create Pysanky for Peace
First, look at then websites (below) and then watch as many instructional videos as you need. Then, gather the tools and materials to make these eggs: a kitska (pl. kistky)–the stylus which will contain heated wax; beeswax; white eggs; dyes (these are not food grade and may be toxic); papertowels and soft tissue for wiping eggs; a candle; water and white vinegar; lidded jars to make and store the dyes. (Search out instruction videos, please!) Unless you’ve got a really good art supply store, you may have to order materials online.
If you can’t work with hot wax, you can do an approximation using crayons and dyes on the eggs. Crayons would be a good option for children who want to participate. Let the kids know that these are NOT eggs to be eaten.
One last word, be fire safe. Keep your fire extinquisher near by. Make sure pets and children will not interrupt you while you are working with hot wax and the candle flame. Again, watch some instructional videos!
Suggestions for Rituals and Spellworking with the Eggs, As You Write Them
These eggs can be made as offerings to the goddess, to stop the war, for general peace and wellbeing in the area, and/or to honor the fallen. Your choice. And I am sure there are other choices as well. Do what feels right for you. Decide what you want to do.
Write your peace prayers, spells, invocations, etc. in advance. Research symbols or make a sigil to put on the egg. Whatever seems right to you. Blue and yellow are the colors of the Ukraine flag, so you might want to use candles and dyes in those colors. Or not. Again, it’s up to you.
Do whatever grounding, centering, protection, candle annointing, etc. that you usually do. Invite whoever you usually invite, including ancestors, if you feel this is appropriate. (I asked my ancestors if there was anyone in any of my four grandparent lines who had worked with Berehynia. My paternal grandmother’s line apparently had a connection.)
Bring your egg(s) to room temperature. Perhaps you’ve left them on your altar overnight, or just in a bowl in your kitchen. Dedicate your egg(s) to Berehynia-Oranta. Bless each egg and the life force it represents. It is sacrificial. Wash your hands before you begin, and also wash the egg with white vinegar and water before you begin. (FYI: You can empty the yolk and egg white after you write it, or just leave the contents to dry out inside the egg in perpetuity.)
After you complete your initial rituals, introduce yourself to the goddess, in whatever way seems right to you. Ask her if you can work with her and the eggs in this way, for peace, for continued independence for Ukraine and other nearby nations and regions, for healing, etc. etc. (I use a pendulum for questions and answers. Any other divination is up to you.)
Then do whatever spellwork, chants, prayers, etc. you wish while you write these eggs, using sigils and symbols, as well as the series of dyes (lightest to darkest). Remember, there are three groupings of pysanky symbols for Berehynia-Oranta. For those who also use Christian symbols, there is plenty of information about those as well.
For solidarity “signal boosting:” Take pictures of each egg and post on social media with the hashtag #PysankyForPeace, and #Ukraine, and any other hashtags that you want to use. I will also publish your egg pictures on this blog, if you like. (It has a somewhat international readership.) If you want to do this, please send jpgs of your eggs to email@example.com, as well as any information you want to share about yourself and your work with the egg.
For community efforts: Local libraries, schools, churches, covens, etc. could all participate in making Pysanky For Peace. Find ways to display the eggs,along with information about the war and why peace is so important, use them in peace rituals, whatever seems right to you. And if you have more ideas, please let me know.
Peace to the Ukraine, and to us all, always. Blessed be!
There I was, driving across the river to Eugene, to meet a friend and do my laundry at the most ecologically aware and environmentally healthy laundrymat I’d ever imagined (you simply CANNOT bring your own detergent–they provide the fragrance-free stuff). And there I was pondering magic and gender and the nature of matter and all kinds of other things, as I often do when I drive. And there I was, also listening to Roxy Music’s “Do the Strand:”
“…Dance on moonbeams, slide on rainbows…”
So, mundane, right?
And then it hit me, in triplicate: the wave/particle “duality” of matter (including human bodies); the wave/particle plurality of gender; and magic defined as willful collaboration with a wave state to manifest workings in the particle realm. And don’t forget the liminal, the spaces “between,” or rather the connective, shaded, gradations of energies (a rainbow bridge?) leading to the perceived binary of wave and particle, wave OR particle.
And wasn’t it great that my earrings (ones I haven’t worn for at least two years) were perfect illustrations of that nifty little epiphany had while grooving on Bryan Ferry’s voice?
I’ve been reading a little bit about Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy, in relation to pagan traditions of theurgy. The vertical ascent from “man” (matter) to union with “the one” (a personified wave?) never made much sense to me (neither did the Christian “descent” from “sinner” to “damnation”). These days nothing can be so neatly ordered or so clearly defined, especially in such crude terms. The quantum physics theory of wave-particle duality would have knocked the socks off Plato and subsequent adapations of his philosophy (including the Christianized versions).
The screenshot below is from ScienceDaily, which took the text from Wikipedia. Note that the explanation says “all objects” (meaning quantum-sized objects), sidestepping the mind-blowing implications for “all creatures great and small.” I mean, if less than bite-sized portions of ourselves are flickering between states, does that mean that we are also, as a larger entity–in some way–doing that too and our senses just aren’t refined enough to detect this? Perhaps just enough of our flickering portions stay particle-ized long enough to provide the illusion of continuous particle-ized existence? I’ve long accepted the “matter is mostly empty space” idea, though I don’t experience myself or my tables, chairs, and cats this way, but that matter could also be “mostly inconsistent empty space” is a conceptual stretch. Is this the “void” that mystics have described, sans particle accelerators? This isn’t a new or original question, obviously. I remember calling up Gary Zukav (long long ago), halfway through The Dancing Wu Li Masters, to rave about this very thing.
But what exactly am I writing about here? I had a flash of mystic understanding, a brief moment of crystal clarity. I “saw” how magic and mystic practices are designed to reach (or struggle toward) the “wave state” (a kind of fluidity or creative chaos) for communion, manifestation, and/or enlightenment. Now I am having a hard time explaining it. And am I “right” in a absolute sense? Probably not, but I’m probably not “wrong” either.
As a non-binary person, I feel gender as a shifting state that I can describe as wave, particle, AND the liminal connective states. As a particle, photographed and therefore frozen in time, I could be (or feel) “gendered” one way. As a wave, a continuum, the static photo becomes a film, or at least a montage, and I could be (or feel) “gendered” in other ways. It seems natural then that my feelings about my material existence and how it entwines with the rest of creation, would also incorporate a sense of fluidity and a desire to bring something out of the creative chaos of the wave state, via magical workings, and into the “reality” of more static, particle-ized existence. Meditations, trances, devotional practices, spellworking… I see them now as designed to access awareness (of the creative power) of the wave portion of our existence.
But that’s just me. It’s “gospel” (as in the old, non-denominational meaning of “good news”) with a small “g,” only meant for me and perhaps others who might resonate with a bit of this or that. My epiphany can be classed as “unverified personal gnosis.”
Anything, really, to avoid my year-end bookkeeping. At least the laundry got done.
A young person, formerly of my acquaintance, used to refer to me as a “fruit bat” and though I was under the impression (at the time) that this was a lovingly sardonic nickname, I was probably wrong. Therefore I have come to see myself as more of a wombat. Besides, I can’t fly.
I know nothing of actual wombats. But one line from this Spookrat song captured my imagination, and I spent several lonely months in Hawai’i trying to convince an AI (boibot) to answer that his name was Wombat (you have to listen to the Spookrat song to understand this). Loneliness can do turrible things to a person, and chatting up an AI young enough to be my nephew is perhaps one example of the kind of desperation that can take hold in the dank, strawberry guava-choked jungles of Puna, as the relationship you thought you had turns into a smashed coconut.
Secondly, I’ll be finishing the fourth book in the series, The Perilous Past of the etc. etc.
Thirdly, as a plucky sexologist by day, I’ll be seriously researching spectrosexuality and spiritu-intimacy with IRB (internal review board) oversight. Here’s a website where I’ve begun to collect data and references, which can serve as a potential clearinghouse for all and sundry (even marsupials). This has been an interest of mine for awhile. Check out this 2019 “quick and dirty” survey.
The fourth large project will be a real, live LokiFest here in Springfield, OR, most likely scheduled for late next summer. I hope I can pull it off. I’ve sworn an oath to do it.
If not, I expect I’ll be banished to my burrow. It happens sometimes. Wombat Power, y’all.
Since my almost fatal wounds this year, inflicted by a razor sharp “serpent’s tooth,” I’ve found odd comfort and a strange sort of peace in having survived what I have always felt would be my undoing–if not of life itself, at least of sanity. I am not being dramatic about the “almost fatal” part. As a person with clinical depression who has struggled with suicidal thoughts and feelings for several decades, I did not do very well with the sudden and (to me inexplicable) utter rejection by my eldest child. So, I had some very bad times in these last few months, but I managed to hang on, survive, and now even…dare I say?…thrive.
Let me explain. Ever since I was in my teens I have been deeply afraid of two things: dying in or of childbirth and of losing a child and going mad. I did get through two pregnancies in my thirties/early forrties, though not without problems, so that fear of dying thusly was laid to rest in this lifetime (at least). This fear may have been a “past life” remnant, or (more reasonably) a harsh thread woven through my DNA by hundreds or thousands of female ancestors who didn’t survive birthing but who left an ancestral orphan behind. Multi-generational trauma indeed. As for the other fear–the loss of a child and of sanity–a form of this fear played out in the “spontaneous combustion” incident that I’ve written about in a long ago blog. After that kundalini blast and during that ten-month period of carrying the atavistic spirit of a proud, passionate, deeply lonely woman during her final months of life as a pregnant mother who did indeed lose her baby and committed suicide in post-partum grief, I had to endure all her feelings and then NOT DO THE THING. I didn’t understand this entire episode, or its initiatory impacts, until the final, blessed gestalt when she was gone at last from me, and I could then understand the sweep of the story. Somehow, by not succumbing myself to suicide, I effected a peaceful release for her.
Was she a past life fragment, or simply a wandering spirit who attached herself to me at the moment I was blown to psychic bits and then reassembled, post kundalini? Who knows. I have theories, but no real facts. I think I know where she was living but I don’t even know her name. I never sensed more than a pre-thought of hers. What I did have was the strong personality and emotions of this woman, who psychically surrounded me like a giant cube of agar-agar while I remained intact within, like a small red bean, able to carry on all my employment and children-rearing duties as usual. So it was not a psychic break, dear readers, but a form of extended, extreme mediumship. And I could have never in a million years imagined such a thing would happen to me. I endured all but the final three weeks without any form of external guidance.
Now, to some readers, the above paragraphs may sound truly insane. Whatever. But however strange and strenuous this experience sounds (and it was), this was also a fruitful time that included lucid teaching dreams that have served me well now for years. Reflecting back, did I need this ordeal of “the woman” and her tragic loss to prepare me for the surgically precise torments of this year’s devastation? (Honestly, doesn’t it seem unnecessarily cruel to describe me, a mother who struggled to raise children through three decades of disability, sleep deprivation, and chronic fatigue as “exhausting?” But I digress…) It’s an odd thing to wonder if a child of mine was actually disappointed that I made it through the pandemic without croaking. It’s a worse thing to know that resentment plus mental illness has brought us to this point. Auwe…
So let’s leave the harsh words and murky, karma-riddled past behind now and focus on the lessons and learning that have emerged for me. I’ve been fortunate to have good friends–kindly people–within reach (if not in person, at least electronically). I was blessed to have been able to break free from Lake County, CA and come to a place which actually feels good, truly like home to me. Without my gods and guides, good friends and cats, and that hope of moving elsewhere–plus the distraction of necessary practical tasks to make it so–I am not sure I would have made it through this year (let alone the year before).
Lesson One: I didn’t go crazy with grief and loss. I felt all kinds of things, including suicidal desires, but I didn’t lose my mind after all. I didn’t succumb. So wow. That’s actually pretty cool. Now let me add here that I would never kill myself (unless doctor-assisted due to a fatal disease) since it would be horrible for all left behind but it truly, truly sucks to have to endure those feelings while they last. Those who deal with this understand what I’m saying. So the takeaway from this is a renewed sense of strength and resilience.
Lesson Two: Joy is possible and if it begins to sprout in the crevices of a fragmenting grief, it can gradually push itself to the sunlight and expand. I have an image here of plants pushing through concrete. All this bad, sad stuff? It’s compost, my darlings. Compost. Seeds that I thought would never germinate are now coming to life.
Lesson Three: Better living through dishwashing. Humble tasks are life-saving. And even if you can only manage to wash one teacup, it’s a god-damned victory. Savor it and reward yourself.
Lesson Four: Loki really does come and “hold the bowl” for me when the slow dripping poison overflows, when I really can’t do for myself and must make the ask. Sigyn did it for him. He will do it for us (though not indefinitely). And believe me, nothing is more lovely than the tender mercy of a generous, trickster spirit who dumps the poison, cradles your shattered heart, and then demands a donut. So yes, your deities, ancestors, and/or spirit guides can and do come to help if you want them, if you ask them.
Lesson Five: A good tool-kit helps. And reminders to use your tools are super helpful too. During these last several months I’ve revisited many online materials from sources that I respect, listened to podcasts and daily tarot readings, read books, and put more emphasis on renewing daily practices. Ariel Gatoga’s “solar light” meditation was particularly helpful throughout this year. Ditto for Aidan Wachter’s podcasts and interviews.
Lesson Six: Have fun with people who like you. I’m finally in a location where I can do that, so I’m making the most of this.
Lesson Seven: Call it ALL home, every bit of yourself. In this new house of mine, everything is going up on the walls or coming out of boxes. All these strange bits and pieces of my life, such as it is and will be. I’m welcoming all of me, for the first time in a long time. That also feels good.
I’ll be sixty-seven come Samhain. Life is too short for avoidable misery or for prolonging the misery that comes your way. I may not have kicked the bucket during the pandemic (and I hope to avoid that fate as long as I can) but since I now live in an area where I could (theoretically) be run over by the Bus of Death at any moment, why not make the most of life for as long as I have it? And when I go, I’ll go “wholly brightly” and even my shadows will be radiant. It’s the greatest prayer and the best “fuck you” to cruelty that I know.
Though I still haven’t found my stash of tealights in any box I’ve unpacked so far, I’ve begun to put together the new altar space in the landing at the top of the stairs. This “in-between” area is a passage between the two attic rooms and the stairs. Behind the back wall is a cubby hole door leading to a cramped, unfinished area which contains spiders, webs, and probably old rat droppings which have fallen between inner and outer wall spaces. I’ve blocked this area off with a shelf, but it’s still somehow appropriate that it is there. It’s a sort of symbolic “underworld” at the top of the house, the fourth path of the landing’s function as a “crossroads.” Someday I’m going to shove a small bowl of red salt in there, for purification, but at the moment it creeps me out and I don’t want the cats to get in there either. (There are similar cubby holes in each attic room, also blocked, also needing bowls of salt.)
As readers of this blog know, I’m oathed to Norse Loki. He (she/they) have most of the altar “real estate” in the form of the tall shelf above. I also honor other Norse deities. In this new house I’m pleased to have expanded areas for Freya, Freyr and Gerda. This place, with its micro-orchard of fig, plums, cherries, pears, and mulberries, is already a very Vanir space and we are in full fruit harvesting season right now (so, yay Freyr!). In the spring I hope the roses, lilacs, wisteria, and camelias, will be pleasing offerings to Freya. I also look forward to planting an herb garden dedicated to Gerda. A bit of outdoors will always be brought indoors, for dedication and thanks. And I’m planning a space for Thor…
Aside from the above Norse deities (and my own ancestors), there are other deities/spirits I honor: the Goetic Lord Amy/Avnas, the Celtic Brigit, and the Egyptian Bast. I look forward to expanding their altar spaces as well. And I am now adding personal deification of two fictional characters who have become spiritual “ancestors” to me: Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. I’d been thinking about this for awhile and when I unpacked a forgotten child’s tea set from China and a small plate with two rabbits under a crescent moon, well, that clinched it. In my mind there is no reason that spirits can’t “inhabit” fictional forms, to assist human understanding. (Deification of fictional characters is not without precedence. I mean, some people have been working with Lovecraft’s pantheon of Elder Gods for decades!) However I haven’t yet figured out the practice for honoring Wuxian and Wangji beyond incense and offerings. Asking for guidance is the next best step I suppose.
I mentioned wights in the title. I mean land spirits. I feel the trees of course. Their protective presence is quite palpable. But there are clearly other beings and other ancestors to acknowledge. I’ve barely gotten started.
Mostly, I am happy. This is an expansive and peaceful time, with many dreams come true. Magic is alive and I live in the midst of it.