Tiny Temple Dedicated Oct. 28th

Today Lake County had the most spectacular sunrise! Pink clouds were streaming all over the sky (like flame-colored hair) and the silvery moon (waning gibbous) was visible in the West. I felt this was a wonderful omen for today’s dedication of the “Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.” The temple is a small former woodshop that I’m (still) fixing up and have dedicated to my patron god, Loki. Lokabrenna means “Loki’s Torch” and refers to the star, Sirius.

10:28 Lokabrenna DedicationThe process of preparing for the dedication was more complex than I anticipated. Yesterday I bought offerings: Maker’s Mark cinnamon-flavored whisky, a giant fancy cupcake with rainbow frosting, and a fancy donut with multi-colored sprinkles.  Today I did some heavy-duty cleaning, some purification and protection rituals, and had to clean up myself before beginning the ritual at 11:45 AM.

Let me admit that I don’t know what I’m doing, exactly. I put this dedication ritual together based on online blót instructions (but without any sacrifice, so it wasn’t a blót after all), some other sources, and my own quirky tastes. Basically I hailed Loki by many names (including “Rebel Without a Pause” and “Charming Iconoclast” as well as more traditional kennings and names); read Dagulf Loptson’s Loki’s Stave out loud; read a number of greetings, poems, and limericks collected for this purpose from two Lokean Facebook groups; offered the offerings; drank a toast (I had cinnamon tea–I don’t drink alcohol); and then asked for Loki’s blessing on both the temple and the temple cat, Meowington. I had about twenty minutes of meditation, then I thanked all involved and closed the ritual. It was over by around 12:30 PM.

My “epic fail” moment came when I wanted to pour a drink for Loki. I couldn’t get the plastic off the top of the whiskey bottle. I had no knife or scissors handy, and try as I might, I could not pry the stiff plastic away from the bottletop using only my fingernails. Finally, I leaned out of the circle to grab a screw off a nearby shelf and scraped away with it until I was able to make a dent in the plastic. In all, it took several minutes to open the bottle. During this time I imagined Loki laughing his ass off… (My self-styled “Loki’s Plucky Comic Relief” moniker well earned in those moments.)

During the meditation I felt happy. I might even venture to say that I felt Loki’s happiness and approbation. I don’t know where I’m going with all this. I certainly don’t set myself up as any kind of “priestess” or leader (I’m a newbie devotee, for one thing), but the call to create the temple was and is real, and now I just see what happens next.

Today I am also on Day Two of “Eight Days of Loki” (again, from Dagulf Loptson’s book) and will follow that with nine days of “Breaking Loki’s Bonds” (another Loptson ritual). In the middle of all this we have Samhain and my birthday (Nov. 1). It’s a very intense time for me (and for all of us, really, but I can’t address that right now).

Hail Loki! I feel happy that I’ve completed my promise to you, and now we learn what we’ll do with this tiny temple!

MeowingtonGuardian
Temple cat, Meowington, as Guardian of the Threshold

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My Need for Kindred and Cahooting

I’m living here alone, almost on the shore of a large lake, in a county that’s one of several scorched by the Mendocino Complex Fire (which is still raging). I was able to shelter in San Francisco for two weeks during the evacuation, in a neighborhood where I previously spent many, many years of my life. Though I was in an empty apartment and sleeping on the floor, I was happy. Every day I could leave the flat and walk down a hill and see people–whether in the Castro District or Noe Valley. I could eat, window shop, and just get my body moving and feel a part of life, of a community. I began to hunger for my daily walks, to be out, alive, and able to exchange insignificant pleasantries with people behind the counters of health food and hardware stores.

I was closer to most of my oldest and dearest friends, as well as my two grown children and my mother, and was able to see most of the people important to me in that short span of time. It was heaven.

Back here in Lake County (beautiful as it is, and with some very good neighbors), I am mostly alone. No lover, no roommate, no job, no clients, and with only a sad little scruff of a post office as a walking destination. The nearest towns are three and six miles away, and their sidewalks are barely populated. There are no brisk crowds to navigate. Barely any restaurants. No cafes for fomenting revolution or falling in love.

My isolation is also largely due to years and years of multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illnesses (which explains the “no job, no roommate” part). I live carefully, dodging chemical toxins, including the ubiquitious scented products that are everywhere and on everybody. Outings with new friends sometimes involve that person’s habitual scented hand lotion or hair product, and I roll down the windows and try to focus on enjoying the person, ignoring my frustration at breathing and tasting the damned stuff, and having to plan for yet more “downtime” to recover from their “chemical companions.”

1280px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_021Sometimes, because of the constant toxic exposures, I feel like giving up on attempts to socialize, but that way is death. Suicidal thoughts have been too frequent these last few years, especially since my divorce. I won’t act on them, I know. But I suffer nonetheless.

 

So my strategies for combating loneliness and isolation have become more far-fetched and eccentric, though to me they seem quite reasonable. My pagan, polytheistic spiritual practices keep me going. I court my gods and the local wights with offerings and poems. I  talk aloud to my cats and my “most trusted” invisible friend. I work with my ancestors. I adhere to a regimen of solo tantric practices. And I keep my antenna up for anything that might provide an opportunity for actual human cahooting in spaces that might be non-toxic enough.

Last week I went to a local senior center’s “open mic” night. It was sparsely attended but welcoming. The sound system was dysfunctional. Even so, I read some of my poems. I went with a new (unscented) friend and I think we both enjoyed ourselves, at least until one of the musicians was inspired to perform a Neil Diamond medley. At that, we fled.

Perhaps my biggest desire is for what is known in pagan circles as a “kindred.” I’m actively working on creating my Lokabrenna (Loki’s Torch) “tiny temple” (the structure formerly known as the “woodshop” and fondly referred to as a “meagre palace of Midgard“). I am seeking to fill it with like-minded Northern Tradition Pagans and Inclusive Heathens who are Loki-friendly. Yep. And I’m calling in  the tarot readers, the rune casters, the tantrikas, the mystics, the occultists, and the witches too. Come one, come all (come fragrance free!). I will serve you tea and if you wanna light a candle or do a ritual, I’m down. In the tradition of hospitality that was sacred to my ancestors, I am welcoming visitors and am LGBTQI etc. friendly. I am hoping that from among these visitors (should any appear), there will emerge a closer band of boon companions, kindred for my–and our–waning years. Lake County needs this. And I need it too.

One thing I do know–I simply can’t afford to adopt any more cats. Four in the house and two in the temple are quite enough.

Are you a fellow traveller? Searching for kindred too? You can let me know right here.

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Meagre Palace of Midgard Part Two

I just spent two weeks in evacuation mode, fleeing first the smoke then the actual threat of the Mendocino Complex Fires, which made it to the valley beyond the ridge which is behind the community I live in. My view of Mt. Konocti this morning is either smoky or misty, but I suspect it’s smoke that veils it.  Driving back yesterday I saw broad bulldozer lines cut into the hills. Some of the hills around the lake are either blackened or tinted hot pink from fire retardant. It’s a new twist on an old landscape, with the forest fire raging now in other counties besides ours, drawing help from as far away as Samoa and Aotearoa (New Zealand).

I have asthma and other respiratory problems, so returning to this area hasn’t been an easy prospect to face. (Even as I write, my eyes burn and my throat constricts.) But my house (and the neighborhood) survived, and the cats were growing increasingly restless in the empty apartment where I sheltered, with absolutely no furniture except a sleeping bag and a folding table and chair I bought from Target. But I was–and am–super fortunate to have had that resource. It may not be there next time I need it.

The return trip was a challenging three-hour drive in hot summer temperatures with four cats in crates, which means no chance to stop for a bathroom break because the cats might suffer in a stopped, hot car for even the five minutes it takes to grab a key from the station attendant and run to the nearest stall. Prior to setting out, I asked my “most trusted one,” Loki, for a travel blessing. Because one doesn’t ask for favors from this trickster god without offering something in return, I promised that this week I’d buy some paint to begin fixing up a woodshop on my property in order to turn it into a Loki “tiny temple.” (I wrote about this idea before the start of the fires.) Since my house is intact (thank you, firefighters!) and I have the notion that it’s a good thing to keep a fire god happy, I have pledged to begin work on this Lokean sanctuary.

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In some ways, the project will be an “architectural folly” and I imagine Loki stalking the grounds as an “ornamental (manic pixie dream god) hermit.” For example, I’ll be painting a Loki mural on the outside (really trying hard to NOT imagine him in the mural as a gratuitously shirtless, hunky firefighter…). Any future owners of this property are going to have to “just deal with it.”

Much of my impulse for this “folly” comes from a deepening connection with this trickster god. This is something I never would have expected to enter my life. Sure, I’ve had lots of odd spiritual experiences but my path is always twisty and often opaque. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be at this place, overcome with devotional love for a northern deity, I would have scoffed or thrown a coconut at you (I was living in Hawai’i then, on Pele’s land).

But another impulse comes from the recognition that we Lokeans are outcasts. I’m no stranger to that social strata, so the idea of making a place for us is an appealing thought, even if no one actually comes to visit the sanctuary besides me.

But as a teacher of mine used to say, “it’s all in the invitation,” and so perhaps this place will provide the soil to germinate the community I seek.

Are you a fellow traveller? Do let me know!

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Mendocino Complex Fire

“Lady of the Lake Interrupted”–that was going to be the original title of this post. But why not just get to the point? Almost two weeks ago I fled the thick “clam chowder” smoke of Lake County, just a few days before the advisory, then mandatory, evacuation for the North Shore communities. I begged shelter from some relatives and have been here now, in a completely empty San Francisco apartment with four cats, a sleeping bag, and several boxes of family photos (plus a few books and treasured artwork). I could have gone home a couple of days ago, but I’m hoping for more smoke to clear.

Back in May, when the volcano began to erupt in the middle of Leilani Estates in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, friends and acquaintances began to congratulate me for “leaving Hawai’i before the eruption,” as if I’d somehow unfairly cheated fate. A lot of my friends and acquaintances back there did have to evacuate, some are still without a permanent place to live, and yes, I feel sad that I wasn’t there to have helped out as Puna “stayed classy” through the crisis (“Stay Classy Puna” is a local slogan). On the other hand, I might not have survived. Between the asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity condition that I live with, the volcanic air–or threatened toxic releases from the geothermal station– might have taken me out. I’m glad that I didn’t stay to either die or force my kids to fly over to rescue me in dire straights.

But now all those folks who think I dodged a kharmic bullet can rest easy. I have now fled the largest wildfire in California history, a fire that was just one ridge away from my home in Lake County, and though I am not in a shelter, I’m “sleeping rougher” than I have in years (on the floor), and “oh my bursitis!” I’m here knowing that the next time Lake County has a fire, I may not have anywhere to go. This apartment won’t stay vacant for long. Shelters are out, as the fragrant personal care products and cleaning products that prevent my equal and healthy access to all kinds of ordinary goods and services in the best of times, also keep me from accessing public facilities in the worst of times. I can’t afford an RV or even a truck with a camper shell, so I’m actually expending a fair amount of time obsessing over my options during the next fire, even though there are none.

Friends who would take me gladly, as a temporary evacuee, are not prepared to shelter my four cats as well. But the cats are my companions and familiars, and they go where I go.

I was lucky this time, to stay in San Francisco as the fire rages. And privileged too. A lot of people were sheltering in parks. The heat up there, in the summer, gets into three digits… can you imagine? Kids, elderly people, pets, in a tent with no fans, under those conditions? And in one park, there was only one propane burner for cooking for dozens of people. And the smoke–they couldn’t escape it like I did. Plus, a cluster of people from one of the regular shelters have come down with a norovirus blamed on donated, canned water. I have only myself to blame for getting sick from pre-made deli food.

I’m lucky too in that my house and neighborhood are intact. The firefighters did a tremendous job keeping the Ranch Fire flames away from our North Shore towns (just as they prevented the River Fire from reaching Lakeport). But other people have lost their homes. Housing is already scarce.

But this is a blog about all things woo, spiritual stuff, magic… Loki… and whatever else I feel like writing now that I no longer care much what anyone thinks. So yes, there is a woo side to this narrative. Let me continue to over-share.

Among my evacuation items, I brought most of my pagan altar doodads, my magical tools (except my crystal chalice), my tarot deck, and a few choice books that I’m in the middle of reading. (I also packed my Lois McMasters-Bujold Miles Vorkosigan books and a complete, hardbound set of Jane Austen, but I digress…).

While here, I’ve kept up my daily tantra exercises and meditations as well as my devotional practices for Frey, Gerda, Freya, and Loki (which I do in an Inclusive Heathen context, as per The Troth, combined with a greater personal and spiritual affinity with the approaches of Northern Tradition Paganism). All this has helped. Greatly. Feeling as if “my deities” are “with me” is also a comfort and these workings have deepened. I begin to understand people who rely on religion–this kind of thing is new to me.

And for the first time in my life, I’ve actually done really well in “remembering my tools” while under duress. I credit the daily practices above. Whatever it is we do, spiritually or religiously, these things can build resilience so that when crisis does strike, there’s a bit more ability to keep a cool head (at least at times) and to feel less overwhelmed (mostly). I also recognize that being here, alone, in an empty, non-toxic apartment in my old neighborhood, rather than in a public shelter among scented strangers, also contributes greatly to my resilience.

I suppose my biggest concern going back, aside from smoke exposure, is how do we build a better framework for mutual aid before the next crisis hits us? The local motto for our community is “Lake County Strong,” but old-timers are the most likely to benefit from long standing family and social networks, just as I have from a family connection here in the Bay Area. How do we have more of that for people who are marginalized and less socially connected?

I’m pondering. I’m wondering what I can do, personally, with the resources I have. Ideas are welcome.

Are you a fellow traveller? Or even a local Lokean? Let me know you’re there!

mendocino-1400

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Loki Limericks

With Loki you’ll never be bored,

For his tongue is as sharp as a sword.

And his heart is pure gold,

While his humor is bold,

And of mischief he’s always the lord.

I just explained, in a general way (meaning on social media) that all this “woo” stuff I’m doing is (1) a serious study, (2) also a deliberate application of a homeopathic dose of “madness” that keeps the rest of me sane, and (3) it’s enjoyable and fun as hell.

I am sheltering from the Mendocino Complex Fires in a completely empty apartment, in a region with better air quality. I am here with my four cats, a sleeping bag, and my computer to keep me company. Without a table or chair, it is hard to work on my book. The cats frequently burst out into a “wild rumpus” (at all hours) and thunder through the flat with games of chase and hide and seek. I worry they are waking the newborn baby (and parents) downstairs. I also worry that they are waking me, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Except write limericks to a beloved god in my current polytheistic pantheon:

Our Loki’s the coolest of gods,

Though other folk think us quite odd.

We love his flame-hair,

And don’t-mess-with-me glare,

And his tricks we will always applaud.

I suppose limericks are one way to beseech and propitiate a god of fire as well as mischief. And it’s a lighter touch than “please save my house, please save my neighbor’s house, please save everyone’s house, please save the poor woodland creatures, even that poor lame fawn who is finding it harder and harder to follow its mother through my yard…”

Our Loki loves cinnamon sweets,

And chocolate and other fine treats.

We can pour him some mead,

Or bake bread that we knead,

But we always make sure that he eats!

Yeah, so, Norse gods. To be specific, I am currently “working with” Frey and Freya of the Vanir, and Gerda and Loki who are Jotun (though as Odin’s blood brother, Loki is also counted as Aesir). When I started to get into this Norse phase, I joined The Troth because it’s an “inclusive heathenry” organization that has a specific and stated policy against racism and other forms of discrimination. But I don’t seem to be a heathen by their definition. (And The Troth is not exactly supportive of Lokeans.) I think Raven Kaldera’s “Northern Tradition Paganism” may be a decent umbrella term for me, at least for now.

After years of being quite smitten with another tradition entirely, the message came “go to YOUR ancestors now,” and so I am trying that very thing, in various ways and with many kinds of interesting results. But I lack a “kindred.” There’s a Facebook group that is the closest I’ve come, but gosh, I sure wish I could find people in my area.

Except “my area” is currently on fire. Lots and lots of fire.

Loki's_flight_to_Jötunheim

Are you a fellow traveler? Are you fleeing disaster? Let me know you’re out there.

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Adding this one:

Our Loki is one sexy guy.

He’s more Pan than Het’ro or Bi.

With god spouses galore,

He’s up for lots more,

And none of us even ask why!

A “Meagre Palace of Midgard”

The title of this blog is a phrase cribbed from Tom Hiddleston’s star turn as “Marvel Loki” at the 2013 Comic Con, the video of which continues to fill me with geeky glee. I go to it often for amusement and solace, just as I also turn to Puddles’ Royals cover,  assorted cat videos, and Liam Lynch singing “Let’s Make Love in the Third Dimension.”

The above makes it hard to find a date, by the way. These types of “special interests” just aren’t covered in OK Cupid algorithms. Just saying.

So… I have a woodshop on my property. That’s meagre, right? For the last few months, a surplus of neighbor’s cats have called it home. And though still inhabited by the food bowls of the two most feral felines, of late I have been a-pondering the fate of this quite serviceable structure. I don’t have the money to turn it into a tiny house and I’m not sure zoning would permit it anyway. I could turn it into my very own office, but at present I am client-less. It needs insulation, sheetrock, and painting at very least. But it does have electricity! And a view of the lake.

(I wasn’t kidding about living near a lake. See? There it is!)

Clear Lake, CA
By Federico Pizano, Sept. 14, 2013. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

In my mind’s eye, I see a Tiny Temple. A Pagan Haven. A place to gather kindreds (of the most inclusive kinds). If I build it, will they come? My experience has taught me that trick never works, but the doing of it might keep me out of trouble and off the streets. Plus I could alarm the neighbors by painting Loki runes on the side… (I have wonderful neighbors though, and they already know I’m a bit strange.)

Because I am a sucker for creative futility (I’m a parent, for heaven’s sake!), I probably do need to rebrand the woodshop as an architectural folly and dedicate it to the array of deities who have captured my attention. And then invite someone over for tea…

What else have I got to do? Like I said, it’s hard to find a date… a pagan, Lokean, long-haired, clean-shaven, non-smoking, magical, witty, slightly subby date…

Are you a fellow traveler? Lemme know! And if you have an older brother…

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Magic and Animism in Lake County, CA

New to the area, several months ago I called the studio line of our local community radio station, KPFZ 88.1 FM, and asked the Pagan World Views hosts this burning question, “Where is everyone?” They couldn’t exactly tell me.

So pagan humans being scarce or well-hidden in these here parts, I began to greet the mountain, the lake, the ancestors and wights, plants and animals, and “the spring that feeds us” on a daily basis. I believe we’re getting to know each other (I had a similar practice on Hawai’i Island). I adopted two more cats, Freya and Varda, which annoyed my first two, Popoki and Niblet. I noted with sadness the closing of a rock and mineral store in Lucerne. I kept working on my fantasy novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, a tale of mid-life magic. I tried creating a “fragrance-free” pagan meet-up group which attracted absolutely nobody and only cost me money.

And witch camp in the redwoods out as mosquito repellent causes me to drool and lose my words — not helpful when trying to make new friends or attempting magical utterances.

Sigh.

So besides listening to podcasts such as Down at the Crossroads, what’s a chemically sensitive (i.e. poisoned), socially isolated, solo practitioner of non-denominational magic to do?

After consultation via divination, the deities of varied genders have decreed, “go forth and blog!” So here I am, a “Lady of the Lake,” with a tree-obscured view of Clear Lake out my living room window.

And here you are, a reader! Well met! What sayest thou?

Charmed_A_Fairy_Under_Starry_Skies,_by_Luis_Ricardo_Falero

“Go forth and blog!”