Want to do something about climate catastrophe and pollution? This 2018 study puts consumer buying habits in the crosshairs. Turns out the shampoos, fragrances, and other toxic consumer products we buy and use so blithely emit enough volatile organic compounds to contribute a whopping 38% to the urban air pollution. This is almost as much as gas and diesel fumes, and much more than industrial sources. But these toxic consumer products comprise only 4% of the mass. This means your Axe body spray is probably doing more immediate and lasting harm to the air than a gallon of gasoline left uncapped. And that’s outdoors! Think about the effects of these chemicals on indoor air.
I’m ecstatic to hear of these findings, but as a person who is exquisitely attuned to symptoms of poisoning upon contact with thousands of consumer products, I could have told you this many years ago. I knew intuitively that consumer products made with volatile organic compounds (including fragrances and scented personal care products) were playing a much larger role in climate catastrophe–as well as dangers to public health–than most people would want to admit. And that what’s happening on our planet with pollution and climate change isn’t just due to the greed of corporations and governments (aka “those guys over there”), but also due to the gullibility and thoughtlessness of the average consumer. Every single freakin’ one of us.
But hey, I’m a “Cassandra in the Coal Mine” (people believe canaries and run for their lives–they don’t listen to human “canaries” at all). We were all talking about this 30, 20, 10, 5 years ago, and just yesterday too. You all don’t listen, at your peril.
Stop Buying That Shit
Think of the difference we could make if we all just stopped buying that stuff? We may not be able to do much about arson in the Amazon, but we COULD make a huge difference to our forests by not buying palm oil unless we’re sure it’s sustainably sourced.
In the same way, we have it in our power to substantially cut back on pollutants in our air, water, and soil (thus diminishing the chemicals which lodge in the bodies of your kids and all those cute forest animals and water mammals). Forget that bottle of fake strawberry body rub or “Juicy Lucy Mango-Citrus shampoo.” Save your cash instead for a nice evening out, perhaps at a restaurant with a “fragrance-free” policy so you can actually taste your food instead of another diner’s heavily applied “designer fragrance.” Or put it a college fund so your children won’t have to become indentured serfs at a One Percenter’s golf course or franchised BDSM dungeon in order to pay for their college education. (Not that I have anything against BDSM–it’s just that I don’t think sex workers are going to have many rights under such circumstances.)
And…because I’m now in the midst of my own thirty-year anniversary of multiple chemical sensitivity, which began during my pregnancy with my first child, I’ve finally simply had it. Up to here, in fact. I’m already socially isolated AF, with a declining career, and since my beautiful Trickster God is quite happy to support me in going all “Lokasenna” over this issue, I’m putting the rest of my sadly limited but bizarrely interesting life on the line. For this issue and a few others.
Someone just please take care of my cats when I’ve finally bit the dust after throwing myself repeatedly at windmills.
I don’t know how this “has cats” (or “has” anything) thing got started but there it is. I “has” ’em, and I’m about to have more. My Lokean “Dog Days of Summer” have turned into a Nile Flood of Cat Rescues (all praise to Bastet!). (Note: previous sentence contains nerdy references to traditions pertaining to the rising of Sirius).
Now, I already have (below, left to right), the peerless Popoki, the sweet and skittish Niblet, the curious Freya, and Varda the Valiant. The last three, all rescue cats. Niblet was a tiny little thing found between two boards in a back yard in Richmond, CA, and was fostered by a dear friend. When I saw his photo on her cell phone I realized he’d be the new companion for Popoki. Niblet and Popoki went Hawai’i with me, and back again, and seriously–their cat airline miles can go to some other luckless feline because they are NEVER setting paw on a plane again. Ever.
Freya was a just a kitten, dying of dehydration in the middle of Main Street in Upper Lake. She was scooped off the street and restored to health by a woman I’ll call Ruby, an exceptionally compassionate feeder and rescuer of cats. Ruby would not only feed the strays, but got as many neutered and spayed as she could, on her slim income. I met Freya in Ruby’s store, and I’d been thinking of getting a third cat, and suddenly here she was, in my arms. Freya is the ultimate cat of curiousity–and a real diva besides. Popoki was slow to warm up to her (and still ignores her as much as possible) and Niblet (a male) was fascinated yet intimidated. Freya sits at my right hand, in the high chair my kids used to use, because otherwise she’d sit on my computer. Freya likes having her own throne…
Varda, full grown but only as large as a teenage cat, was a stray that inhabited the area under the office cottage I briefly rented in Upper Lake. She’s possibly a Bombay breed. She was being fed by a kindly construction worker and had become quasi-friendly. She’d had a twin brother, apparently, and the construction worker called them Jack and Jill. But one day the brother disappeared and the sister was left on her own. She still lived under the cottage and both the construction worker and I fed her. Then the cold winter winds began to blow. Little Jill became very ill, but was smart enough to actually go to Ruby’s shop for care. I guess the word on the street among Upper Lake strays was that Ruby was a dame with a heart of gold. (And that she was.) I told Ruby that if she could nurse the cat over the weekend, I’d get her to the vet on Monday and then adopt her. “Jill” became “Varda,” and after the usual two weeks of recovering from her respiratory infection and being sequestered in a spare room, joined my indoor cat family. (Varda is from Tolkien, another name for Elbereth, a goddess of the Elf pantheon.)
It took about a year for everybody to adjust to each other. Popoki, who has always been somewhat aloof anyway, still keeps to herself, mostly out of reach of the others. She’s over ten now and would rather ignore the social turmoil that Freya likes to create, because Freya gets in everybody’s face.
Meanwhile, Ruby had parked four of her cats in the woodshop that is now Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. She’d fallen on hard times, had to live in a tent on some land down the road, and wasn’t allowed to have her cats with her. Some stayed at her shop. This went on for a few months, then she and her partner decided to move across country with a van full of their other pets. At the last minute she asked if she could leave three of her cats behind, promising to send money for cat food every month. Well… I knew how that would go…but what could I do? Say “no” and have her take them to Animal Control?
So Meowington (my dear, late, lamented Temple Cat), Khu (a Siamese), and the nameless grey female with extra toes (now called Arya), were left behind. Khu was adopted by people across the street. Meowington stayed on the premises and ruled the yard until the baby rattlesnake bit him. Arya stayed in the rafters for awhile then suddenly bolted, living rough under boards and decks and in bushes for a year until I gradually lured her back into my yard with lots of canned food. (Meowington used to chase her off). So now Arya is my outdoor cat companion and likes scritches, petting, brushing as much as she likes the regular grub. Should I take her indoors? I don’t know how she’d do–she is as skittish as Niblet in some ways, and very independent. Popoki would probably despise her–and me–and Freya would probably bully her. Arya’s never wanted to go back into the woodshed/Temple and doesn’t seem interested in my house either. But we’re just about at that point where I will be able to pick her up, put her in a crate, and get her to the vet for shots (Crystal had had her spayed long ago).
And now everything is about to change. Keola (“Life”) and Kia’i (“Protector”) are part of a feral family from a trailer park in “K-Ville,” halfway around the lake. They are currently sequestered in that spare room of mine, recovering from their own surgeries. I had thought their ears would be clipped, as I intended them for yard cats, but they weren’t. Now I’m not sure what to do. I figured, being kittens, that Arya would be less freaked about them–and better able to keep her position as Queen of the Yard.
But here’s the rub. My compassionate friend in K-Ville, who has been caring for the mother and her four kittens ever since they showed up in her yard, can’t find homes for the other three–Mama Bitzi, another tabby female kitten, and a fluffy white Siamese male kitten. They are facing extermination. The trailer park has rules and there have already been complaints about too many cats, and cat poop in other people’s gardens. My friend has to do something quick.
I can’t stand the thought of these animals being put down. I have a very big yard, with outbuildings and a wild hill behind me. None of my neighbors will be bothered by cat poop (downside: bear, foxes, wild cats…). And I like the idea of keeping the family together as long as everyone is spayed or neutered. (I had a similar gig with a multi-generational feral cat family that ruled the yard around my house in Pahoa, Hawai’i. Before I moved back to CA, I got them all spayed and neutered and moved to an animal sanctuary–along with a large donation.)
Anyway…I volunteered to take the whole family onto the property. My compassionate friend will get flea treatment for the cats, and have the other two kittens spayed and neutered.
My only worry is Arya. I don’t want her chased off “her” turf again by a new group of cats. I’ve worked too hard, built up too much trust, to have her go back to living rough. I’m trying to figure out how to make the transition easier for everyone involved, especially her. Meanwhile, my indoor cats are wondering about the strange smells coming from the spare room…
I’m asking for special blessings from Freya (the goddess) and Bastet. I has cats. Boy, do I has cats.
Let’s overshare, shall we? I got some unwelcome news the other day–though it wasn’t exactly a surprise–and sadly, I doubt my sojourn at an Adventist hospital will be anything like the video below. No medical staff in TERF bangs and black leather lab coats. No long-haired singing surgeons. And though the one I’ve got promised me two small tattoos on the inside of my colon, I doubt I’ll be sporting a teensy skull and crossbones in my “anatomy, anatomy… ”
Shucks. My own body is sooooo not “Zydrate” cool. And unlike the character of Amber Sweet in Repo! The Genetic Opera, I won’t be getting anything as simple as an eyelash transplant. Truth be told, I’ve got two different sets of surgical events coming up in my near future. The question at the moment is whether they can be done on the same day by two separate surgeons or not.
But there’s actually a point to this blog post–I’m not just sobbing into a witchy cup of herbal tea.
Surgery as a Liminal Space Challenge
If I have to go through this (and it appears that I do), I want more than the best possible outcome for my old lady body. I want my steel tempered and my temper adamant. I want my Will ‘o the Witch firmly in place, and a surfeit of crispy, creamy offerings tossed to the Guardians of all Thresholds, well in advance. I want to hallow the hospital ground and make like an earnest animist with the spirits of surgical instruments. And even though the Adventist god is not one of mine, I’ll offer respect there too. Pre-surgery hypnosis? That’s on my list. As of this moment, I am in training.
In the next couple of days I’ll be creating a program based on physical, magical, mental, and spiritual steps I can take to prevail in this liminal space challenge. I’m not boasting here–I’m scared and I don’t want to be. I figure if I can approach preparation, surgery, and recovery with everything I’ve learned in my life to date, I can replace that fear with proactive, powerful mindsets and actions. I may fall short of the bad-ass triumph I imagine today, but I’ll certainly be much better off doing this than approaching my wyrd passively, as a “patient.”
So I’ll reaquainting myself with certain books in my library, such as Jason Miller’s The Elements of Spellcrafting and Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways.
Miller’s book contains a method for enchanting not just the larger goal (“a successful surgery and recovery”) but also every single step along the way. He writes:
“How enchantable is your body? How enchantable are your habits? How enchantable is your environment? These are questions to ask when we are doing healing magic. Magic, energy healing, and alternative medicine all help, but they are not going to rewrite your DNA, replace your gut bacteria, or remove the need for effort and change on your part” (pp. 40-41).
Exactly. Words to live by.
As for Wachter’s book, lots and lots of ways to work with the unseen beings and energies of what he calls “The Field.” I’ll be looking to this book (and others) for ways to court and nurture alliances, remove inner and outer obstacles to success and healing, and ways to call in the logistics and support help I’m going to need–that kind of thing.
Other practices that I’ll fold into this will include Ho’oponopono (the real kind), medical self-hypnosis, wards against fragrance and chemical exposures while in the hospital, enchantments for transportation and the highways, blessings and protections for my cats while I’m away, and so on.
Asking the Spirit World for Help
As I’ve said often, I’m a polytheist. I have some wonderful deities that I honor on an almost daily basis (sometimes I miss a day). And I work with and honor my ancestors and make offerings to the local wights. I probably need to get with the wights over there near the hospital, to ask them for safe harbor and safe passage. And there will be a lot of consultation and divination throughout.
There’s a lot to do. I also have to figure out medicare in the middle of all this.
But I do have time to over-prepare. After this blog I won’t be saying much more than what I’ve written today. I believe in secrecy during magic, in cultivating a quiet and determined mind. But I write this blog today because there may be the start of a roadmap here for someone else facing surgery or medical procedures.
The most important element is to approach each surgery as a liminal challenge, a rite of passage, and as an opportunity to “level up.” I expect to be even more of a bad-ass after this, with a much improved quality of life.
“May there be peace between us for all of our days.”
Okay, so the neighborhood bear broke my favorite red flowerpot in the middle of the night and traumatized the geranium that was barely holding on. And the turkey flock who takes over my yard at least twice a day, pecking for bugs or raiding the outdoor cat’s food dish, scrapes and scratches the crab grass to bits (not that I much care). Flocks of quail skitter through as well, never any trouble. Someone spotted a family of foxes the other day, and so now I’m worried about the feral kittens I’ve just taken on…
As “difficult” as I might find my animal relatives from time to time (black widow spider, do you really need to make your web in the coil of my garden hose?) I am sure it’s nowhere near as difficult as they find me–us–humans. As a species we are clearly beyond insane and every single creature on this planet probably suffers from Post-Human Trauma Syndrome. I am not joking.
But I am pleased by my visitors, even the clumsy bear. And the earth is generous to me. I eat from this land. My neighborhood is fed by a spring–a real, living spring!–and I bless it every day. I feel emotionally held by the trees, mountain, and lake that I see from my window and greet each morning. And I believe that this act of greeting is what allows me to engage with them in a deeper way. This engagement leads to communication (I think) which engenders respect (at least on my end), which transforms into reverence (from me) for most of what’s around me. (I’m not feeling much reverence for the neighbors who were arguing loudly yesterday afternoon.)
As a child, I think I lived this way naturally. Then I forgot it for a long time. And now near the end of my life, I’m relearning and living this way again. I’m cultivating this life with devotional practices, so what I do can look a little quaint. I don’t mind. For a long time, I’ve been seeking some way to live reverently.
Yearning for Justice and an Earth-Reverent Life
Except for the uber-rich and the sociopaths who fancy themselves at the top of corporate and governmental “food chains,” I feel that many of the rest of us humans are longing for reverence. We want to get back into balance, back to a state of what the Kanaka Maoli would call “aloha ‘aina” (loving the land). We want people, plants, animals, and our planet to be treated fairly again. We need to learn how to deal fairly with all that is, ourselves.
I suspect that a yearning for an Earth-reverent life as well as justice are reasons that Mauna Kea and its Protectors (Kia’i) have become an international flashpoint this summer. Thinking and feeling people (not those who are lumpish with greed and glutted with power) see how bad it’s gotten and how much worse it can and will get. Unless… unless… unless we come together. Unless we learn how to make community again–if we live among people where such skills are rusty–and to include the Earth and its creatures in that community, as equals and stakeholders. We need a world where our mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, lakes, species, and oceans are “people” too, with legal rights. (Corporations are just golems. They shouldn’t have rights at all.)
The animists are right, you know. All matter is imbued with consciousness. Studies show…
As for justice, we also need to ensure that legal human rights are strictly observed as well, that the rights of indigenous and aboriginal peoples are upheld and strengthened. It’s a key element in the only positive future we can possibly achieve. The health and safety of every human, every creature on this planet, and the planet itself depends on our taking this very, very seriously.
And it’s imperative that those who make a request of a mountain or a lake–or an indigenous or aboriginal community–learn to take “no” for an answer, if that’s the answer that’s given. Because you know what? Consent counts. It really does. And no amount of wheedling or PR spin can change that. TMT guys are coming on like rapists, frankly, and their “you know you want it” approach to the mountain is disgusting to the rest of us.
This stunning short film, featuring Jason Momoa and a number of the Mauna Kea Kia’i, makes these issues abundantly clear, in case it wasn’t clear enough already.
Love of Place
Almost every Hawaiian mele (song) and oli (chant) is either about a beloved place, or includes references to beloved places. Almost every single one. Places aren’t “just” locations for family and community life, they ARE family. That’s as near as I can express it. I think I’ve got it nearly right.
Other examples of passionate love of place: I think of the French writer Colette, who wrote so movingly about the countryside of her childhood.
I’ve always been deeply affected by places I’ve lived, even if briefly. I attach to houses and landscape features very easily and mourn when I have to leave them. Themes of exile and homesickness are strong in my life, and these feelings of longing are often unbearable. I still miss “Nemo’s Rock” in the Coronado tide pools and the houses on Loma Avenue and Loma Lane, not far from the beach. I deeply mourn the cottage across from La Jolla Cove (below) where I lived as a teenager (it’s now demolished). I remember the light and feel of the air in La Jolla so vividly that I’ve cried over it. Certain places where I’ve lived in San Francisco and Albany also still clutch at my heart. I dearly miss the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I used to go there in the early morning, after dropping my first kid off at preschool, and sip green tea in the teahouse. Sometimes rain would dapple the koi ponds.
But the island of O’ahu gave me my first experience with exile and homesickness. When I was five I lived on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki. Though my family was there for less than a year, the feel of the ocean water, the sand beneath my feet, flowers and trees, and the sight of the Ko’olau Range east of Honolulu, all were absorbed by my soul. Later, I must have buried my yearning for Hawai’i as surely as I squashed feelings of missing my father. I say that because my yearning roared to life when (1) I saw the Hokule’a voyaging canoe when it visited San Francisco, and (2) when I returned to the islands with a series of visits starting in 2000–first Maui, then Hawai’i island. On Maui and Hawai’i I experienced a bewildering assortment of numinous and healing experiences. These were confusing because I have no genealogical connection to explain them. For many years, I felt like I was living with one foot in California, the other in Hawai’i.
I moved to Hawai’i Island in 2016, living on Mano Street in Pahoa for seventeen months. Even though I moved there with the expectation of being happy “at last,” it was a bad time for me. I had post-divorce crazies, terrible social anxiety and depression, frequent suicidality, and a longtime love affair gone wrong. But in that house on Mano Street, I began my inquiries into magic, refined my polytheism, and began to cultivate spirit relationships through devotional practices. It’s ironic. I’d prayed for so long to be allowed to move to Hawai’i, and once I was there, I prayed fervently for permission to leave. When I finally got my dismissal from the Powers there, I made the most costly and physically devastating move of my life.
But would it surprise you if I told you that now I miss my house and the Puna district? I miss the thirty-foot tall hibiscus trees dripping red blossoms on all three sides of my yard. I miss the ‘ohia lehua trees. I miss the spaciousness of my house, its high ceiling and large windows that looked out on jungle all around me. I miss my “difficult” and noisy neighbors: the shrill coqui frogs and gutteral cane toads. I miss picking up fallen coconuts; the “bathtubs” of morning rain dumped on my metal roof (which scared the cats until they got used to the noise); wild orchids and ti plants; the Ahalanui Warm Ponds (covered with lava now); the young coconut grove and view of the ocean from Kalapana, just across from Uncle Robert’s place. I miss driving the Red Road from Hawaiian Beaches past the “Four Corners.” I miss Mauna Loa and Kilauea. And yes, I miss Mauna Kea.
I believe it is natural for human beings to cherish the soil where they live, and to feel kinship with it.
So you see, Mauna Kea, is a cherished ancestor, as well as a beloved place, so how could the Kanaka Maoli ever consent to simply hand it over to people who have no reverent life at all? And why should the Kanaka have ever been asked this in the first place? Why should we ask them to break their hearts simply at the whim of a science that could go elsewhere?
This last month has felt bifurcated. On the one hand, I was finishing up two important acts of devotional service for the Norse Loki Laufeyjarson, my patron deity, and on the other hand I was called into service on behalf of Mauna Kea and Poliahu, its goddess of the snow.
I know. It sounds weird, doesn’t it?
I guess that’s just how it rolls in polytheism, especially when you work with deities from different pantheons. Bifurcation, trifurcation, whatever-furcation!!!
In my most recent work for Loki, of course I’m referring to the LokiFest Online conference and the completion of work on Loki’s Torch, an anthology of devotional work. I’m now experiencing a post-project “let down” (I hear that’s normal) with only vague intimations of what’s coming up next.
In my work on behalf of sacred Mauna Kea, I’m referring to signal boosting and writing, as an ally from afar. And of course I’m not going to stop finding ways to pass along information about the cause. It’s also a gift to connect once again with the spirit of Kapu Aloha, as exemplified by the Mauna Kea Kia’i (protectors). I so want them to win!
The above is background for an unexpected grace that’s emerged in these last few weeks. I had thought that my incongruous relationship with the “powers” of Hawai’i had been severed back in 2017, and I’ve felt a sense of exile, and a vague shame, ever since. Finding that connection fanned into life again, as part of a “call” for everyone to show up for the Mauna and for the Kanaka Maoli, has been healing. All I had ever wanted, really, was to be of use to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i).
And why is that?
Because, starting the early 2000’s, Maui and Hawai’i islands whammed me with a spiritual epiphany and then bestowed substantial healing for my environmental illness. I have no idea why, but it happened and I benefited. In return, I pledged to do whatever I could for Hawai’i as a “give-back.” I’ve often been clumsy in how I went about this, and have stumbled on the paving stones of “good intentions” as I travel my personal “road to Hel.” But I did try to keep my vow even when looking (and acting) the fool. I guess it feels good to have another opportunity to potentially contribute.
Years later, Loki also saved my life, coming to me during a time of utmost despair and shame. I made a vow to him too, oathing myself to him and his service. However he understands that I’ve also got previous commitments. He graciously stepped to the side as Mauna Kea came front and center on July 15th. (Besides I was still doing his work, as well.)
Come to think of it, I’m no stranger to bifurcation (trifurcation, whatever-furcation!). I’ve straddled worlds and juggled distinctly different viewpoints and approaches as a parent, in my romantic relationships, in my career, and in my creative work and spiritual quests. I’m always in exile, never entirely at home. Yet, there are common themes with all of this. But maybe only I can see, from my own peculiar vantage point, how it makes sense for me to honor deities of both the Norse and Hawaiian pantheons, as long as my offerings are acceptable.
My favorite Loki artist, Sceithailm on Deviant Art (aka Sceith-A), often depicts Loki as shod on the right foot, shoeless on the left, walking between worlds. How lucky I am to be at last with a deity who understands. My own right foot walks the Midgard realm known as Turtle Island. My left foot–apparently–never really did leave the ‘aina.
Cue up your favorite song. I said it was a party! Then click the banner link below to get your copy of Loki’s Torch, officially published today, August 1st, just in time for Lokabrenna (Sirius rising and the “Dog Days of Summer.”)
Update: By the way, in case you were wondering. Here’s a message from Ky Greene regarding the financial aspect of this ALL VOLUNTEER PROJECT: “Everyone who contributed got a free PDF. We only make $5 off every sale, which we are saving to be able to fund other events/products for the Lokean community as a whole. The rest of the proceeds go to MagCloud for their printing service. Since it’s a print-on-demand service, people are paying the printers.”