Meowington, The Temple Cat, Is Dying

60088448_10217637063025595_997261981310255104_n-1On Tuesday, I pulled a weed in my yard, and found this–a baby rattlesnake curled in the warm earth. I placed a flowerpot (no hole in the bottom) over it and tried to find someone to come get it, for relocation. Of course, where there is one baby rattlesnake, there may be others. When the wonderful snake rescue woman arrived that evening, we found that the snake had somehow escaped from beneath the pot which I’d thought was far too heavy for such a little thing to move. We looked around, carefully, but did not find it under any nearby shrubbery or weeds. I hoped it had gone for good.

On Wednesday, as usual, I let Meowington out of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, where he sleeps during the nights. Days, he wanders the neighborhood and guards my yard against other cats. But he can’t guard it against wildlife. My property backs up against a ridge of oaks and pines and wildness. (We’ve had a mama bear and two cubs wandering the neighborhood this week as well.) Yes, I was worried about rattlesnakes, but he made it through last summer unscathed and so I hoped for the best. I wish now I’d just kept him inside the temple that day.

By early evening I was calling for him, as usual, to come get his dinner. I called and called.

Meanwhile, I fed Grey Girl, the far more feral cat that–along with Meowington and one other–had been left behind on my property last year by a troubled couple who up and moved to Tennessee on short notice. I recall this with some resentment. I already have four indoor cats, and these folks basically dumped three of theirs on me, saying they couldn’t take them and would I feed them and yes they’d send money every month for food. I didn’t count on that money of course. I knew better. But perhaps I should have made them take these three “spare cats” elsewhere? But if I had, I wouldn’t have had the great pleasure of getting to know Meowington.

I called and called some more. And Meowington still didn’t come. I began to worry. And then finally I saw him tottering around the corner of the temple, a cobweb and a leaf stuck to his face. I brushed the leaf away and picked him up. He was shaking, breathing raggedly and hard. He kept trying to meow but couldn’t make a sound. Normally Meowington is an extremely chatty cat. He follows me around when I’m working in the yard. He’s also great at head-butting and adores tummy rubs. He’s also usually anxious for his meal, pushing his nose and mouth into the bowl as I dole out the food. But not on Wednesday evening. He was an entirely different cat, shocky, sick, unable to eat, though he was thirsty. I was worried he’d been bit, but I saw no blood. I set him down on a clean towel and left the temple to get a cat crate. I wasn’t sure who would be open for emergency care, but I was going to get him some.

Had he been bitten? Or had he been bullied by the big black and white cat who occasionally has it in for him? The only other time I’d seen him in something like this condition was after a fight with that cat.

When I returned, Meowington had somehow climbed up to the small storage loft in the rafters where I could not reach him. I tried to coax him down. He wouldn’t come. So I kept the food and water out, and left the temple with forboding, locking him in for the night. I half expected him to be dead in the morning. If was rattlesnake venom, I assumed his death would be quick.

Wrong.

The next morning (yesterday), Meowington was down on the floor again, waiting by the door as he usually does. I was touched that he made this immense effort, though he was still obviously in bad shape. He has always trusted to our routine, to his knowledge that I will always show up in the morning to feed him and let him out. I immediately put him in the cat crate, meaning to whisk him off to the vet at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, the vet couldn’t see him until 3 PM that afternoon. That was yesterday. I kept him in the crate all day, with food and water, but he only ate a little. I showed up an hour early for our appointment, hoping we could be seen earlier.

When the vet assistant helped him out of the crate. there was a little blood. And when the vet examined him, there was evidence of a bite on his belly, with tissue already going necrotic. The vet explained that a bite on the belly was worrisome–that internal organs may be quickly damaged by the snake’s venom. Still, she gave me reason to hope. Some animals do recover, she said, and she laid out a course of treatment. She did not recommend the antivenin as she said some cats have bad reactions to it. We went for something more conservative (and less expensive): pain medications, antibiotics, laser treatment to improve healing.

I brought Meowington into the house and set him up with towels, food, water, and a litter box, in the shower stall since it was the only small, quiet area away from the other cats. They’ve only interacted with him through the screen door. I didn’t bring him into the household as he is very territorial and I was afraid he’d terrorize the other male cat, Niblet, who has been freaked out for a whole year about the two “extra” cats who joined our post-Hawai’i household. A month or two ago, I had Meowington neutered and got him his shots, in the hopes of finding him a new home–a one cat household where he could be adored and adoring to his fullest potential.

I wish I’d done things differently now. I wish I’d been more aggressive about finding him a new home. I wish I hadn’t let him out of the temple on Wednesday. And I wish yesterday that I’d had the courage to ask the doctor to just put him to sleep.

Because this morning he hasn’t eaten, drunk, eliminated, and he’s clearly suffering. He is lethargic, his breathing is ragged. I’ve been checking on him off and on, ever since I woke up. He wants to stay in the (unused) litter box, not the towel. (He used to love to roll around in the dirt!). I gave him more pain medicine. He vomited it up shortly after. I’ve pet him, stroked him, sang to him, and told him that it was okay to let go–that we’ve loved each other but that now it’s okay… he can go.

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Meowington, May 15th, in a final upright and seemingly perky moment. I am sorry, dear friend, we are going to have to part. I love you.

Dammit.

Sometimes I think we give our best love to animals, because they love us so unconditionally. We can give to them (if we give at all), without our stupid human complications getting in the way.

I love Meowington. I procrastinated about giving him up to another home even though I knew I should. I hoped yesterday that he could rally, could beat the venom. It was a selfish hope.

Later this morning, I’ll take him to the vet again–he was supposed to get another laser treatment–and then I’ll let him go.

I’ve asked Freya, Bastet, and Loki for the best possible outcome. I ask them now to ease his passage.

Rest in peace, cat.

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Meowington in his glory. Died at the vet’s office in Clearlake, CA shortly before 11 AM, PST. He was an awfully good cat.

 

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This blog takes a break from discussing the spectrosexuality survey to bring you an urgent public service announcement brought to you by Greta Thunberg.

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That Was Then, THIS is Now

When I was a child, caterpillars were a frequent sight. I played all day at tidepools at the Coronado, CA seashore and gently poked a lot of sea anenomes to make them close. I could catch (and release) small frogs at the pond on the local golf course–there were thousands. In many ways, it was an idyllic childhood even though my family was poor and my grandfather had died of a radiation-induced brain tumor after leaving the Navy, after witnessing the explosions at Bikini Atoll. Planes from North Island Naval Base flew over my tidepools several times a day, so I was never unaware of war.

But by the time I was twelve I’d become convinced that the planet had changed immensely since the last time I’d incarnated (yes, I really thought that way as a kid). I blamed television and radio rays, all modern things, and sensed a coming apocalypse. I thought it would happen by the time I was a legal “grup.” I was desperate to understand how to live my life on the earth in a healthy way. Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living on the Earth was one of my favorite books. (But I was also listening to the Velvet Underground’s first album so go figure.)

Soon teen hormones took over and I became interested in other things (including boys), such as feminism, working at a women’s clinic as a pregnancy counselor, and supporting La Huelga by leafletting for the grape boycott outside of supermarkets. Then life threw me several curve balls and I did not end up in a wooded hippie commune, as I’d planned.

I ended up…elsewhere.

In spite of my valid childhood concerns, I still don’t know how to make a fire or how to identify wild edible herbs in my area. I have no skills at all that would enable me to survive a day in the wilderness, let alone the rest of my life foraging in a semi-rural or urban landscape as an old woman living in a toxin-drenched, violent dystopia caused by the galloping climate disaster we are currently doing everything we can… to continue.

I’m more likely to end up on somebody’s plate, at that point. Waste not, want not.

So I could say to Greta Thunberg and all her generation, and to my children’s generation which preceeded hers, yes, I remember what it was like to be a young person who could see clearly that Western consumerism, pollution, and war were all features of an insane cancer that would doom us all, even the animals. And I didn’t understand why the grown-ups didn’t see what I could see. And yet, as an adult, I have not done enough.

Greta and her allies will probably not make the same mistake. They have much less time to waste on bullshit than I did and their analysis is more accurate.


Quote from Greta Thunberg’s address to the World Economic Forum last January:

“Some people say that that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”


I’m going to leave that right here for a moment. I’ll return to Greta later.

Ecology 101 in “The Pleasant Land of Counterpane”

I spent the last three days in bed, sick with a cold brought from the Eastern states by an air traveller. During that time I binge-watched Versailles and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and ignored the new Our Planet, even though my cats favor nature programs. (You see, as a mature citizen of the most unsustainable resource-guzzling nation on the planet, I still have that luxury, that privilege, of choosing entertainment over information.) But last night, “while I was sick and lay a-bed,” I watched the first episode. The lush photography of masses of penguins, sea birds, anchovies, and dolphins made me want to weep. The melting glaciers of Greenland, ditto. I knew what the message of the show would be and that’s partly why I didn’t want to watch it while ill.

Here’s an excerpt from a future episode, one about ants and fungi in the rain forest. It holds a cautionary lesson for human beings. In the beginning of the clip, ants farm fungi and keep it free of disease. And there’s a phrase thrown in about how the fungal crop may have benefits for human medical research. The the footage switches to a deranged ant climbing a tree, finally reaching the very end of one twig “high above the forest floor.” What happens next is an apt metaphor for how we human beings function in the face of our self-created planetary disaster. Of the pathetic ant and its fate, David Attenborough says:

“Something has taken control of its movements, like a puppeteer pulling at the strings of a marionette. There’s just one final act for which the ant has no choice. It must find a place to bite down, tethering it to the vegetation. With the ant in its death grip, a parasitic fungus, Cordyceps, erupts from its body… Finally the fruiting body of the fungus bursts from its head. From this bulbous container spores will be cast into the air currents where they will claim more ant victims…”

But other bugs also succumb to this parasite. The footage is horrifying. But Attenborough comments:

“The more numerous a species is, the more likely it is to fall victim to the killer fungus. Checks and balances like these means no one species can ever dominate, so protecting the jungle’s incredible diversity…”

Cordyceps is sometimes called a “zombie fungus” because it eventually controls the behavior, the motor movements of its host, forcing it to starve to death while the fruiting bodies mature enough to emerge from its body in order to release spores.

I have often wondered why human beings, collectively as a species, are so stupid and self-destructive? Why are we not organizing, rapidly and decisively? Even in a destructive context like capitalism, economic arguments support the wisdom of a “Green New Deal” and other initiatives. Why are we lurching, like mindless fungi-infected zombie ants, toward the very things which will doom us all? In spite of all, we humans clamp down our jaws, unable to speak out at the very edge of the precipice–a death grip of consumerism.

Even the ants have learned to recognize their infected colleagues and to remove them from the colony, as a means of survival. But we are not so wise. And our infections are both internal (habits, thoughts, ignorance, selfishness) and external (policies, power structures, faulty leadership, pollution, war). Our individual and collective inactions give Darwin the lie. We do not care about our own species survival. We only care about whatever feeds our greed.

Here’s another lesson, this one on indicator species and social ecology. This video of the late Michael Rossman was taken in front of the Berkeley Oak Tree Sit of a few years ago. In spite of the tree sit and protests, the oak grove–“a real forest” as Michael says–was destroyed to build a multi-million dollar student atheletic building right next to the CAL stadium, which sits on top of the Hayward Fault. Though it is on a smaller scale, it is another example of the kind of short-sighted, destructive policymaking that Greta Thunberg calls out so accurately. (And how Michael would have cheered for this young woman, had he lived to hear or read her words!)

Medicine for the Cordyceps Twins of Capitalism and Consumerism

Unlike the ants sick with Cordyceps, I do think we have some choices, still. Even now way  past the eleventh hour we can back away from our lemming rush off the edge of the precipice. We can choose individual change, systems change, and context change. The doctor is in and ze prescribes: Animism. The awareness that all matter is conscious, therefore humans are not the be-all and end-all and we don’t get to be nature bullies any longer.

Animism can be combined with the Precautionary Principle as a practical philosophy to infuse global and local policies and decision-making, as well as strategies to mitigate and reverse as many of the features of our climate catastrophe as possible (including species decline and extinction, fuel usage, etc.). When we can give and observe the rights of rivers, forests, etc. as “a legal person,” with the understanding that there really is a consciousness experienced by that thing or natural feature and that we are engaged in a communication with it on some level (whether we sense it or not), then we are on the way to correcting our destructive hubris.


Here’s a passage and quote from a good article about legal rights of natural features:

Contrary to popular misconceptions, legal rights are not the same as human rights, as corporations have enjoyed the rights of legal personhood for quite some time.

“I always find it interesting that people don’t seem to be challenged by the idea that a fictional thing like a corporation can have personhood, but that a natural resource, which is actually much more tangible, can’t,” Macpherson said. “I think that people are just used to what they’re used to, and over time as this becomes more common, and more people are pushing for it, the idea will start to seem less shocking.”


Artisanal Animist-Infused Threefold Social Order

And we could try this. Though Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a man of his time with serious flaws (dude was a racist), he had some interesting insights and did some good in this world (e.g. biodynamic farming and Waldorf Schools). His post-WWI Threefold Social Order is one of his more intriguing ideas. I am not sure that all aspects are reasonable or doable in the 21st century–a far more complicated era of multi-national corporations and our climate catastrophe–but I do like the idea of infusing animism into a simplied form of his reasoning, at least as a jumping off point for consideration.

Steiner was inspired by the slogan of the French Revolution, but he thought “liberté, egalité, fraternité” should be separately assigned to each of the three general realms of human life. He felt that the economic sphere should be based on brotherhood (and we need a more inclusive word for this, I know), that the legal realm should be based on equality, and the cultural realm should be based on freedom.

I can imagine combining a working philosophy of animism (consiousness of matter) with this idea in the following ways:

Infusing liberté (freedom) with animism in the cultural realm could result in a greater respect and engagement with animals, plants, waterways, landscapes, and other natural systems as culture-creating and culture-bearing in their own right. We could allow for and respect their cultures while purusing our own within that context.

Infusing egalité (equality) with animism in the legal sphere would inform decisions to grant legal personhood to more and more animals, rivers, habitats, mountains, etc.

Infusing fraternité (non-gendered familial comradery?) with animism in the economic realm could result in more considerate and less exploitive behavior with regard to other creatures and natural features, that they are recognized as fellow citizens of this planet as well as legal persons and that they have a stake in thriving in a sustainable natural economy. Humans would return to something more in harmony with the natural order of things and no longer see ourselves as completely entitled to everything we want, no matter what effect it has on anyone else. We would have to communicate with and treat with the other terrestrial intelligences on this planet.

So these are ideas to kick around as foundational as we pursue necessary practical strategies such as renewable energy, lowering our carbon footprint, ending military pollution, and so on.

Humans: Rouge Species or Lemmings and Zombie Ants?

Right now, it’s as if humanity acts on the rest of the Earth’s species just as the U.S. acts on the rest of the countries of the world: greedy, grabby, exploitive, entitled, endlessly destructive, and heedless of consequence. A rogue nation and a rogue species if ever there was one.

While everyone alive right now (especially in “developed” countries) must take individual actions to decrease complicity and perpetuation of climate change, the elders, thinkers, inventors of this world who are working on solutions to climate catastrophe (such as the folk who present at Bioneers conferences) need to quit patting themselves on the back as elite “thought leaders” (as so many do) and spend much more time in the trenches with young people such as Greta Thunberg. Pass on what you know. Get the kids access to conventions, forums, the United Nations, and executive board rooms. Use your own privilege to grant them as much access as possible to other thought-leaders, policy-makers, Use your platform to get their voices to the general public. (And make sure it’s not just white, cis kids either, okay?)

And in turn, each young person alive today could in turn represent a bee colony, a flower species, a forest, a mountain, or a stream, and as their representative give them a voice in conventions, forums, the United Nations…

Meanwhile, someone teach these kids how to make fire without a match, please. They may need this where we’re going.

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Loki Blesses the Meds, Émile Coué Sanctions the Method

The brand new bottle of new-to-me meds is set before the altar. Offerings have been made. The candles are lit. Several consecrated pendulums are beside me. And thus the ritual begins.

“Beloved Loki, this medicine has been prescribed for me. Do you sanction its use?”

Pendulum swings yes. “And will you bless it for me, helping it to be free of any side effects?” Yes again.

“Thank you, my Lord Loki.”

And so on through my pantheon: Lord Freyr, Lady Freya (and her namesake cat appears at my knee to also add her blessing), Lady Gerda, Lady Brigid, and the Peerless Bastet. Ancestors too. One by one, via pendulum divination, they all accept and bless this medicine. I know they want me to be healthy and resilient.

And then I address the beings of the medicine itself–an artificial creation of “big pharma”–asking it to cooperate with me in a healing and resiliency building process. (Notice the animism in this approach?) I also ask my body to collaborate with the medicine. I pledge to continue taking care of my health in general.

And then I take the first dose, confident in the love and blessings of the spirits who are my family.


Caution: Never discontinue or avoid using any medication without first and always consulting with your doctor and health practitioners. 


What would I have done if one of my deities had said “no” to the “will you sanction its use” question? I would have replied, “Thank you. I am going to follow doctor’s orders, as I made a vow to do so, so while I understand your concern for me, will you please bless this medicine anyway, so that I can safely fulfill my vow?”

Spirits understand vows. And doctors understand that you will call them if side effects arise.

Better yet, I would have just asked for a blessing on the medication, without using the first question. That’s what I recommend for anyone reading this article. Just ask for the blessing. (And follow doctor’s orders.)

Why Did I Do This?

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Emile Coue. Source: Wikipedia.

I’m a hypnotist (among other things) and so I know a little hypnosis history. One of the “greats” was a French psychologist and pharmacist, Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie. He’s the founder of autosuggestion. You have probably heard some variation of the saying, “each day in every way I am getting better and better.” That’s from Coué.

He realized his patients often did better when he offered a positive remark while handing over the medicine, such as “Oh, this is exactly the right thing for you. You’ll do very well with this” (imagined examples). Here are two key paragraphs from the Wikipedia article:


Coué noticed that in certain cases he could improve the efficacy of a given medicine by praising its effectiveness to the patient. He realized that those patients to whom he praised the medicine had a noticeable improvement when compared to patients to whom he said nothing. This began Coué’s exploration of the use of hypnosis and the power of the imagination

And:

Coué believed in the effects of medication. But he also believed that our mental state is able to affect and even amplify the action of these medications. By consciously using autosuggestion, he observed that his patients could cure themselves more efficiently by replacing their “thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure”. According to Coué, repeating words or images enough times causes the subconscious to absorb them. The cures were the result of using imagination or “positive autosuggestion” to the exclusion of one’s own willpower.


So with my ritual, I have gone one better. Instead of creating a hypnotic autosuggestion ritual, which of course I could have done easily, I wanted the full blessings of my divine pantheon and my ancestors. They are deeply rooted in my subconscious and their participation means the world to me.

Also I had a curious incident a few weeks ago. I was in a crisis state triggered by a family situation. I prayed fervently to all my deities, but to Bastet in particular, for help. There is a line in the supposed “ancient prayer to Bastet” that you find on the internet:

“…slay the evil that affects our minds as you slay the serpent Apep.”

And so I begged her to slay the evils of depression and despair that blight my life. Weirdly, the persistent feeling of being bogged down by a constant state of depression and anxiety actually lifted by the next day and I felt light and free, much better than I have in years. This lasted for a few weeks. It’s like I knew I had been wounded but no longer felt it. “The edge” was definitely not just off, but gone.

Dude! I almost didn’t keep my appointment with the psychiatrist!

But though the deities grant grace and boons and blessings, we mortals are the ones to do the heavy lifting. Loki would rather teach magic and mischief and inspire my writing. Bastet prefers to focus on pleasure, beauty, and dancing. Gerda wants me to water the garden and talk with plants. Freyr reminds me that even toxic relationships can be composted for a new harvest. Freya and Brigid bring me back to explorations of the sacred feminine. In other words, there is more to explore in life and magic and if I want to step up my game…well then! My deities and ancestors are quite willing to give me a boost now and then, and blessings too, but I can’t waste my time in tears.

So I kept the appointment. And this morning I lifted the now consecrated tablet to my lips. I washed it down with tea and set the bottle on the altar, to remind me that the medicine is now sacred.

This approach could work for anyone, monotheist or pantheist, no matter who or what you call upon for assistance. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So mote it be.

As Only a Scorpio Can

Yesterday was March 6th. According to Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone March forecast for my Sun sign, that was my day for a big candy box of astro-goodies. I had (1) New Moon in Pisces in my fifth house (love and romance)–though I didn’t “go out and circulate” as advised, except for a trip to the grocery store and no, I didn’t meet a new love in the parking lot. (Gluten-free crackers were on sale though. That was a score!)

But perhaps all that action in my fifth house is what inspired me to launch my Neopagan Spectrosexuality and God Spouse survey this week? Looking for 100 good respondents who will actually fill out all ten questions. If you’re having spirit sex, I want to know. Totally confidential. (No one keeps secrets like a Scorp!)

According to Miller, I also had (2) Neptune doing the conjunct thing with the New Moon in Pisces, where the Sun and a retrograde Mercury are also canoodling. And (3) Mars is in my seventh house “partnership sector” which I guess is dandy, but since there is no human partner on the horizon, it seems kind of a waste. Now a literary agent–that’d be a treat! I could get serious about that!

So here I am, waving a nice internet signal flag (below) to the literary world and to fans of fantasy fiction at large. It’s a “showcase” of the first three chapters of the first book in my Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy trilogy–a tale of mid-life magic. It’s meant as a “teaser,” so please, purchase and be teased!

Plus, the entire profit ($3.00) of each print or PDF copy goes to the KAHEA Mauna Kea Legal Defense Fund as a “give back” to the “Big Island” of Hawai’i.

Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits V.I.

By Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI, ACS

44 pages, published 3/7/2019

Showcasing the first 5 chapters of a tale of mid-life magic. A ragtag bunch of artists and musicians learn mystic arts and team up with Elves as they resist interdimensional baddies, a giant salamander, and the usual real estate developers. Set in the lava land of Puna in the “not too distant future” of a renewed Hawaiian Kingdom. The lead characters are trans and intersex, and many others are LGB and queer. The $3.00 profit from each copy…

 

Getting those five chapters into the MagCloud format, and launching it, was what I was doing yesterday instead of displaying my charms at the Foods Etc. parking lot in Clearlake. (Sorry, fellas!)

(4) Miller also heralds this March 6th astro-quake:

“Uranus into Taurus for the first time since 1934 to 1941. This means the influence will be brand new to you and most people living today. Uranus takes 84 years to circle the Sun and all 12 houses of the horoscope, spending seven years in each house this planet visits. The seven years Uranus will be in your marriage and partnership house will be from March 201[9]* until April 2026.”  (She wrote 2018* but that was obviously a typo.)

I’m twitching with anticipation. And since I’m 64, a Uranus in Taurus partnership just might get me through the remaining years of my life. We’ll see. If nothing else, I guess I’ll make a few more trips to the grocery store.

So, just as any good Scorpio would do, I ignored the romantic promptings of the stars and shunned human company so as to thrust two more projects out into the world in order  to advance my aims for world domination. It’s a life that only my cats–and Loki–can understand. That is, until you read my five chapters and take the survey…

Then you’ll know…all!

P.S. Yesterday I found out that microwaving marshmellow Peeps is a popular form of consumer product torture. I never knew it was a thing. Is it kinky? Should I run a survey?

Cats Sitting on Tarot Cards

I give up. I should just spread the deck all over the floor or table, and do a reading based on which of the four cats sits on which card. I could also assign a divinatory meaning to each cat, perhaps corresponding to the court cards. Niblet, the tuxedo cat, will be king and will signify the past. Popoki will be queen and will signify the present. Freya, the fluffiest cat, will be princess (aka knight) and signify the outcome. And tiny Varda, still such an alley cat, is the page and will signify additional factors, the famous “fourth card.”

The cats, however, will probably foil this scheme and either sit on several cards at once or hide under the bed, and so what will I make of this? What if Freya washes herself while sitting on The Tower — could this indicate a reversed card?

L to R: Page Varda, Princess Freya, Queen Popoki, King Niblet.

Today the cats strolled over the Thoth deck as I attempted to set out a reading. They did not stay put however, so I was able to come up with a four-card spread in response to a rather intense yesterday.

I seldom use the Thoth cards. They’re beautiful but also confusing (there are so many symbols which have little to do with my mostly Norse-ish practices) and harsh (if I pay attention to the subtitles, which is not recommended anyway).

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Public domain. Thelemic Rose Cross Lamen including the changes in color made by Frieda Harris for the backside of the Thoth Tarot cards, and replacing the symbols of the cherubim with the symbols for the elements. Author: Thelemic Rose Cross Lamen.svg Author/User:Fuzzypeg, MahaVajra, Israel Regardie, Frieda Harris. Date: 29 March 2018

The card I drew for the past was Seven of Disks (subtitled “Failure”–argh! I already felt like one).

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The card I drew for the present was XX The Aeon (Judgment). Aeon also contains references to a family relationship, so seeing it side by side with “Failure” was difficult. And yet, I’ve lived with the knowledge of certain broken things for years.

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The card I drew for the outcome was the Princess of Swords.

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The fourth card was 10 of Swords (subtitled “Ruin”), probably the real outcome.

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I confess, my initial response was sheer dismay, though The Aeon looked hopeful-ish. And a sword-wielding princess is not a bad thing. But I always do this. I emotionally respond to the images then sort through layers of meaning.

Thanks to a Lokean friend, online, I was able to shift my initial reactions of doom and gloom to something more positive. After all, even the first card indicates that new growth is possible. What had happened involved some very intense feedback that was personally devastating, and yet the fact that I was even getting the feedback, and accepting the truths spoken by the person, meant that perhaps we would be able to one day unravel the dreadful snarl of patterned behavior that so does NOT put the “fun” back into dysfunctional.

Delving deeper into the cards and their positions I see the pattern of past failure, present judgment (and I’m found wanting), a vivid slashing away of old concepts (with a sun rise emerging from the storm), and the final card of broken patterns, with a heart stabbed through the middle. This last sounds grim, but is actually what we want and need in this situation. A heart “stabbed” can also be a heart–or hearts–cracked open to new possibilities.

In addition to my friend’s remarks, I am also guided by The Ultimate Guide to the Thoth Tarot by Johannes Fiebig and Evelin Burger.

I’m going to share what struck me about each card in the book.

The Seven of Disks (Pentacles) card (for the past) was likened to the cover of “a book with seven seals” full of “riddles that concern the progression, the success, and the destiny of your life.” The blue-black color of the card is said to be “vegetative” and indicates a “partly unconscious nature.” True enough–all the big issues were grounded in the damage done by my own unconsciousness, and my own unconsciousness of my unconscious (and down we go through the hall of endless mirrors…yikes.) The card also carries Saturn and Taurus correspondences symbolizing “the long journey of experience.” The authors used the phrase, “time heals all wounds,” and though I don’t know if complete healing is possible, perhaps softening of suffering is–eventually.

The Aeon as the card of the present definitely refers to judgment or Judgment Day. This is different from justice (or what I might term “a fair hearing,” which I will probably never receive but that’s okay. The other person involved has already heard too much.) The card symbolizes “revelation, transformation, and resurrection.” Gods, let’s hope so! There are some thoughts I have regarding the appearance of the sky goddess, Nut, and the  “old and new Horus,” but they are very personal, so I’ll keep them to myself.

The Princess of Swords is probably me, charged after acknowledgment of failures and the judgment upon them, to slash through “mental fog” and “erratic ideas”–preconceived notions and ideas which are not grounded in reality. The card contains an invitation to    experience “profound recognition” and “fresh inspiration from outward.” I can hardly wait. This card is also a sort of “ball’s in my court” challenge–how do I react to what I’ve heard? Do I circle the wagons around my own cherished notions or respond genuinely and lovingly to the messages I’ve been given?

Now I am writing very calmly about what was a very painful experience. And my emotions are going to be tumultuous at best as I integrate what I’ve heard and felt. But thinking is indeed my friend, and if I can bring the unconscious material to awareness and regard it with some degree of clarity and honestly, perhaps I’ll do okay in the end and be able to do right by others too. This is what the Ten of Swords card brings. Swords are intellect and thoughts. The swords in this card are now broken (even one topped by a tiny set of scales and a symbol of the sun, a simple circle with a dot–also standing for birth). These broken swords may even fall from their original formation into the “windmills” of confusion in the background. But they haven’t quite yet. There are questions here. Should the swords be reforged? Or allowed to fall? How much of the old pattern could be saved? Or should it be saved at all? What potential lurks in this suspended chaos?

There’s irony here, as I have another situation where I stand in relation to another person in a very similar position that the other person in yesterday’s conversation stands to me. I’m in the middle, torn in two, and yet I know I will never get the satisfaction I crave (justice again?) should I ever broach a similar set of grievances to that other one. That is a person who is calcified, will never cop to anything, will never really hear me or acknowledge my right to pain.

I can’t pat myself on the back at all, but I do hope that yesterday I at least gave a little more satisfaction by taking it on the chin than I’ve been given in the other situation, where I long to dish it out but know it will be futile to even bother. We’ll see what evolves.

In the meantime, I at least know I can do right by my cats, whether or not they want to serve as agents of divination.

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Sexologist Leaves Broom Closet

The “Broom Closet” is a term which refers to neopagans and witches who are not “out” about their religion and practices. As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I have worked with many people who at one time or another had to emerge from a sexual or gender closet in order to lead a more authentic life.  What I’ve just done is slightly similar, though more fraught with professional peril than with personal difficulties.

Jean-François_Portaels_-_The_witch
The Witch, Jean-François Portaels. Public Domain.

Of course it doesn’t escape me that outing myself as a witchy Lokean neopagan polytheist means my potential dating pool has now shrunk to the size of a small puddle, but hey, what’s not to like? (I mean that with the sincerest irony…)

So here’s the skinny. The last three years–after my divorce and the sale of our family home–have been personally and professionally difficult. I’ve been financially and geographically exiled from my beloved San Francisco Bay Area where my family resides. I’ve had difficulty re-establishing my professional practice in both Hawai’i and here in Lake County. Therefore I’ve struggled with a lack of interest AND motivation with regard to my work. The only truly consuming interest, besides general survival in a new region, has been a deepening of my spiritual life and the pursuit of magical knowledge.

I am a creature motivated by special interests. If I get bored with something, I drop it in favor of a compelling new shiny. Due to lack of business and time-wasting sexual harrassment by pretend clients, the field of sexology began to lose its appeal for me. I felt burnt-out. In Hawai’i, while working on my first novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I began to study magic and witchcraft as research for the book. I was soon hooked by everything about it. Whee! Something that’s even more fun than just plain sexology or just plain hypnosis but which can absorb elements of both (e.g. sex magic, tantra, and trance work)! And I’ve always been a mystic anyway, since about age twelve… (FYI, I’m now working on the second in the Ornamental Hermits series.)

I’m also not good at compartmentalization. I can do it, but it always feels wrong and exhausting. Over the last several months, I’ve been longing to combine my spiritual life with my work life with my (non-existent) romantic life. I just want put it all together in one oddly shaped package as so many others have done before me, and then spend that released energy on more interesting pursuits.

That rune reading, done on Imbolc with the help of my patron deity, Loki, encouraged me to take the leap. That’s what Loki’s all about–pushing his devotees out of stuck places and into new terrain. At first I thought he wanted me to leave my sexology practice altogether. Now I realize he wanted me to MUTATE and deepen it. Therefore, I spent parts of yesterday and today re-writing my professional website to announce my new direction. Doing this does feel like emerging from a rather stale crysalis and my wings are still a bit crumpled and soggy. However, my new page,  “FAQ: Out of the Broom Closet”, was actually a lot of fun to write.

Plus, the idea that I’ll be deliberately working in tandem with my deities and guides means I’m not going it alone any longer. I hope this means my clients will benefit from my improved access to insights and energy, gifts of the gods, belike.

Also the sexual harrassment from fake clients has been a source of worry, but I’ll be invoking protection and warding the heck out of my practice from now on. My Norse deities can be pretty hardcore…

So thanks to them, and Loki in particular, I am expanding and mutating once again. And with Freyr and Freya as deities of both sexuality and magic, I’ll also be appreciative of their ongoing guidance. I hope that in becoming whole, I’ll be doing work now that is “holy” in the best and most expansive sense of the word. I feel excited.

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Where Am I With the Ancestors?

Young Ancestors

My life has been spent experiencing and responding to epiphanies. There have been many. Sometimes they have created massive upheaval. Other times they simply add understanding and nuance to what I’m already learning. Back in my punk rock phase, at the time when I was shifting into my feminist space activist mode (1980’s), I was suddenly struck by the epiphany of feeling myself as an “ancestor” in the making, as a link in a chain of being (though I didn’t have children yet). This prompted the making of two issues of a ‘zine, Young Ancestors, which I wrote and illustrated.

By the end of that decade I was married and expecting my first child. During my pregnancy I spent countless hours doing genealogical research in the Sutro Library in San Francisco. I had a deep spiritual hunger to know my people before bringing another life into the world. My mother’s lines were easy to research as there were dozens of early New England ancestors and tons of books and records. (New Englanders are apparently obsessed with genealogy.) My father’s people were harder to find as many of them were newer arrivals from Ireland and Wales. But I was able to track my missing father and some of his family through city directories in the midwest and San Diego. By the time my first child was born, I had a pretty good grasp of my genealogy, with some lines traced as far back as the 1300’s and more.

I found marvelous books which gave me scads of dead relatives, such as The Descendents of Thomas Durfee of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. My mother even had a two volume copy of Michigan Pioneers, which gave me the abolitionist Swifts who helped to settle Palmyra, NY and then Flint, MI. I found Richard and Elizabeth Warren of the Mayflower. I had Rowells from Candia and Orford, NH. I found so many ancestors from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany–many of them settler-colonists who were most assuredly conveying a heritage of atrocities such as Indian genocide and African chattel slavery. Though my understanding of this heritage has deepened over the years, even at that time I was aware that my genealogical chart held horrible secrets and privileges gained at the expense of others. Still, I was eager for the knowledge of “my people” even as I rued their deeds.

Later I would also do a bit of research into my (now ex-) husband’s family tree, to learn more about the heritage that my children shared. My mother also was bitten by the genealogy bug, but some of what she’s logged within Ancestry.com is confused and confusing, and possibly contaminated by sketchy, not well-documented work of others.

Ancestral Medicine

But it wasn’t until 2017 that I started actively working my ancestors, thanks to the teachings of Daniel Foor, Ph.D., and his book Ancestral Medicine–Rituals for Personal and Family Healing. I also took his first online course in Ancestral Medicine. These content-rich classes have enabled me to connect with my ancestors in a dynamic way–requesting healing for each great-grandparent lineage from very distant “well and truly seated” ancestors who are capable of assisting the more recent dead to release inflicted and experienced traumas. This is truly healing work and also meshes well with my Norse-infused spiritual practices, as ancestors are quite important in these (reconstructed) traditions. Foor encourages working with the least messy line first, then moving gradually to the ones which are more traumatized.

Daniel Foor’s methods enable me to leapfrog over dozens of traumatized generations in order to make contact with much earlier “well and robust” ancestors, in order to bring healing to the generations who have experienced and/or inflicted more recent horrors of conquest, religious conversion, warfare, genocide, torture, disapora, starvation, plague, and slavery, as well as personal family traumas (abuse, suicide, alcoholism, divorce, neglect, etc.). “The dead can change” is a fundamental concept here. I experience Foor’s work as a form of ho’oponopono (see below), resulting in forgiveness and healing (though not forgetfulness).

This is also an opportunity to create an active, ongoing relationship with my ancestors.  As I do so, I learn more about the blessings and gifts of each lineage. I have a daily routine of offering poems and acknowledgement to my ancestors and a weekly practice of making other sorts of offerings. I speak with them also, thanking them and asking them for blessings for me and my children.

At present, I have completed the initial stages with three lineages, and have just begun working on a fourth (my father’s mother’s line). There will be a total of eight in all. During the ritual meditations and imaging, lead by Daniel Foor via video in the online course, I have made contact with either individual ancestors or clusters of ancestors. Each line has a very distinct “flavor.”

The contact in my father’s father’s line is someone I call “Bright Father.” He seems to radiate a robust golden joy, a “feasting in the hall” sort of presence. He “told” me (via meditative journeying and pendulum divination) that his line “comes from the stars,” perhaps from Sirius. This is the most Nordic-feeling line so far, but there is also some link to Wales and a long wide beach backed by hills or mountains. I have a strong feeling of poetry, song, and stories from this line. Incidently, several months ago Loki agreed to function as an ancestor for me and he has since indicated that he is connected to this line.

My mother’s mother’s line yielded a group of mysterious “River Women” and a feeling of a mountain landscape with few trees, perhaps the Scottish highlands (or perhaps not).  They are more remote and quiet and I probably have to do more work to cultivate my relationship with them, to learn more from and about them. The River Women feel quite witchy to me.

My mother’s father’s line manifested as several “Watchers and Archers” in a forest. One of them shot an arrow at me when I first approached. The arrow was meant to land next to me (not in me) and when I picked it up in my mind’s eye, I held it aloft to make my request for healing. I felt these particular ancestors may have been Pictish. The main feeling I experience with them is a sort of wariness, though they are also willing to work with me on the lineage healing.

I have written poems for each of these three lines and I recite them daily. Now I am in the process of writing a fourth. My father’s mother’s line has a lot of Irish and it seems the most mysterious for some reason. I also have a strong sense that Brigid is important (both as a pagan goddess and later as the saint). During one of the meditation journeys, the phrase and image of “Brigid of the long blue dress” appeared in my mind. There is much more work I need to do with this lineage and it is possible that I’ll be adding Brigid to my devotions.

I am devoted to this process of ancestral medicine as a way to help my children heal from residual trauma in my own lineages. (They’ll have to cope with their father’s stuff themselves.) It is also a way to prepare for my own death and transition. It feels like a developmentally appropriate work.

Ho’oponopono

Years ago, I studied the Hawaiian process of Ho’oponopono with Kumu (teacher) Ramsay Taum, of O’ahu. I helped to organize two weekend workshops for him in Berkeley, and also took the workshop once more on Maui. (If you google “ho’oponopono,” please do NOT take the Joe Vitale method as being in any way authentic–it is an appropriated and commodified travesty of the traditional practices.)

When I began working with Daniel Foor’s methods, I quickly saw that this was a form of forgiveness and healing as profound as what I’d learned with ho’oponopono–and also quite complementary in intention and method. Through both methods, one can reach back through time and forward into the future, effecting subtle but powerful changes in spiritual and ancestral realms.

In this video of Ramsay Taum, talking about the Hawaiian martial art of Lua, which he teaches as well as ho’oponopono, there is also a discussion of our relationships with our ancestors. Ramsay Taum says:

“We have to make sure that everyone is in alignment…and when you’re out of alignment, when you step away from your kuleana, your responsibility and obligations, your ancestors have no identity because the line stops with you, see? So when you’re lost and you’re out of balance and you step away from your responsibilities and from your place in community then interesting enough your ancestors, your line stops, there’s no more future… Everything that they’ve [ancestors] done–good, bad, or indifferent–we own that and they’ve created that space and we’re now standing at the end of the line and we just follow their footsteps. And the challenge for us living in today’s society is that you know we say that, ‘I’m following in the footsteps of our ancestors. I take comfort in that. I take pride in that.’ But when we get to the end where they stopped it’s beholden upon us to take the next step for the next generation. It takes individuals who are standing at the edge of the line to walk, to take the next step because now our ancestors, their legacy lives on through our steps, but more importantly we are now setting direction for the next generation. So when I step back in line, now I am giving my descendents identity… Our daily practice should include that meditation, that thought, what will my great grandchildren, seven generations from now, say about us, about me, what did I do? So that really speaks to kuleana.” 

Working within the methods of ancestral medicine and ho’oponopono, I do truly own what my ancestors have done but take steps to cleanse the residual trauma–allowing the dead to change and reach their full potential as ancestors. That seems to me to be part of my own kuleana. And when I do this, I can walk without hesitation, transforming the path ahead now that the previous “footsteps” have been healed and cleansed.

As I once realized that I was an ancestor in the making, doing this makes perfect sense. With this practice, perhaps I can ease the path ahead for my own descendents, releasing them from the burdens of ancestral traumas.

Can’t hurt, could help…immensely.

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