Lokabrenna Tiny Temple Update

October 28th is the day I’ll be dedicating this former woodworking shop as Lokabrenna, a “tiny temple” for Loki. If readers want to leave a short prayer, statement of praise, or other appreciative comments for Loki I will read them aloud on that day. Add it to the comments section, please. (A paragraph or less will do nicely.)

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Waterfalls, and donuts too. At Lokabrenna “tiny temple.”

The interior is not finished, by any means. It still needs insulation and sheetrocking but for now the unfinished walls are disguised with fanciful printed shower curtains, so it actually looks very nice in there! The decorative theme has become “Magical Forest with Donuts” as Loki really indicated a strong desire for a donut-printed shower curtain on one wall. (The “indication” took the form of a weirdly definite emotional tug lobbed in my direction, which I then confirmed via pendulum.)

The nights and mornings are already getting chilly. With winter coming on, Meowington the Temple Cat will be getting a warmly insulated box for sleeping (right now he sleeps on a blanket on a high shelf in the temple). When it gets even colder, I’ll bring in a space heater or heat lamp. I lock him in at night because we have mountain lions and coyotes in the neighborhood and I want him to be safe. He is a wonderful, friendly cat who was left on my property along with two others. One, a social Siamese, has been adopted by neighbors and the other, a feral female, has made the neighborhood her home. I seldom see her but she appears well-fed.

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Temple cat, Meowington, as Guardian of the Threshold

I am getting a lot of pleasure out of turning a previously utilitarian space into something that is more beautiful as well as esoterically useful. I was moved to create this space in honor of Loki when I returned to my house after evacuating from the Ranch Fire Complex during late July and August. My home and neighborhood survived (thank you, firefighters!) even though the fire got within a couple of miles. Out of relief and gratitude, it made sense to create a place for Loki as a god of sacred fire.

Lokabrenna means “Loki’s Torch” and is a reference to the star, Sirius. I also think of the torch as a beacon for the inner fire of transformation (including the “fires” of sexual-spiritual energy). The “fire snake” that I added to the door last week is also a reference to Kundalini energies.

I have already made some offerings in Lokabrenna, but look forward to the “official” ceremony, which I will be doing alone, as I lack magical and familial “kindred” in this area. As a solo practitioner, I’m used to this, but comments, prayers, and other devotional statements from fellow Lokeans will be a way to involve a larger community.

Thank you very much if you decide to contribute something for me to read!

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Meowington: The Temple Cat

Meowington, The Temple Cat
Meowington, The Temple Cat

A few months ago, two people who moved abruptly to Tennessee left three cats behind in the former woodshop on my property–the one that I am now turning into the “tiny temple,” Lokabrenna (Pt.1). The talkative Siamese, Khu, was adopted by neighbors across the street. The nameless and feral grey female bolted from the rafters one morning and I haven’t seen her since. And the last cat, the tabby male named “Meowington” (I didn’t name him), is now the sole occupant.

I have four indoor cats already, and they are only now getting used to each other (the two newer cats joined my family this year). I can’t take in a fifth, even though I wish I could. Though Meowington is an extremely affectionate and personable animal, he must remain “the temple cat,” sleeping and eating in Lokabrenna (Pt.2) and free to roam during the day.

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Lokabrenna Tiny Temple

Thanks to the miracle of polyester shower curtains, Lokabrenna is looking and feeling more like a sacred space everyday. The shower curtains disguise the walls of exposed tar paper and 2x4s. Lokabrenna is in great need of insulation and sheetrock, but I can’t afford the materials or the labor right now.

But winter is coming (where have I heard that expression before?). I’m going to have to do something to at least make a warm, cozy corner for the temple cat, who will be spending quite cold nights in this “meagre palace of Midgard.” Of course I’ll do what I can. Meowington needs neutering and rabies shots too–a big priority in this Lake County neighborhood that borders on the wild. And another big expense.

I adore cats. Meowington has already stolen my heart. But he’s one cat more than I can evacuate in case of fire (as I had to do this last summer) and I worry that he needs more companionship than I can provide. His Siamese buddy is just across the street, but a huge black and white feral cat is bullying him. And there are other outdoor hazards, from coyotes to ticks.

And yet he’s a sweet presence on the land. He reminds me why my first favorites were always tabbies (I’ve since moved on to black cats and “tuxedo cats”). Even so, I’d love to place him in a “forever home,” as he’s a loving cat who will bring joy into someone’s life.

Meanwhile, Loki seems to like having him around, as do I.

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Sexual Ecstacy in This Dire Time

Trigger Warning. I know that sexual abuse and assault is a way to destroy people at their deepest, most profound core self. This can be performed as a private act of violence and intimidation; as “masculine theater” (read this excellent article by forensic psychologist, Karen Franklin); or as a technique of warfare. Though not all victims are women (including trans women), the majority are. In this blog, I will concern myself with women (trans and cis). But what I have to say about the impact of sexual violence on sexual and gender agency, as well as the importance of reclaiming sexual/gender agency and ecstasy, can apply to people of any and all genders.

I’m also going to be writing waaaaay above my own mystic paygrade here–extrapolating from my background as a sexologist, as a Western Neo-tantra neophyte, and as a sexual mystic and polytheistic devotee of certain larger entities we humans like to call “gods and goddesses”–in order to form certain thoughts about the absolute, urgent necessity to do all that we can to reclaim and strengthen our own sexual/gender agency and capacities for joy and ecstasy in this most trecherous and dire time. Call me a “sexual survivalist,” but people who are sexually free and unashamed are also more resilient and a lot harder to conquer and cow, as a rule. Of course, dictators and despots determined to enact violence and genocide on a people will usually find ways to do it, but they may not win in the end if enough people who oppose them have a wellspring of robust joy to draw upon in their acts of resistance. I believe in the ultimate triumph of Eros. (And, of course, of strategic street smarts…)

I don’t have to tell you, we live in a time of conquering right now. In the U.S., yesterday’s hearing was indeed a horror show, a Grand Guignol-esque production stage-managed by the minions of a “great [orange] puppet.” I could only watch so much. It was sick-making.  And yet, by the end of this traumatic day, I was able to re-focus, and through the various solo tantric disciplines I currently employ, enjoy twenty minutes of profound, sexually-charged, mystic energy. Wow, I needed that!

And no one can take this capacity away from me, not now. Not without drugs or a lobotomy, anyway. And I believe we ALL have these capacities, and more, should we care to cultivate them. And then no one can take them away from you, either.

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Public Domain fractal by Avi Kedmi.

In the tradition of Tantric Buddhism (with many traits shared with Hindu Shakti worship), Miranda Shaw, author of Passionate Enlightenment-Women in Tantric Buddhism, describes part of this cultivation process (which also includes meditation, etc.):


“Her ability to enhance a man’s spiritual development depends upon her innate divinity as awakened and brought to fruition by her own religious practices, which include envisioning herself in the form of various goddesses and imaginatively investing herself with their appearance, ornaments, tender and wrathful expressions, and supernatural powers for liberating beings” (p. 45). 


Let me add that the above is also how the woman (trans or cis) enhances her own spiritual development, however the above paragraph was taken from the section titled “Respect and Honor” (pp. 39-47), which includes a discussion of the Tantric Buddhist conventions that govern how Tantric men were to recognize and respond to all women (not just Tantric women). Quoting again from the book, here is a translated passage from a Tantric text (so sadly different from attitudes one encounters today):


“One must not denigrate women, In whatever social class they are born, For they are Lady Protection of Wisdom, Embodied in the phenomenal realm” (p. 39).


So, packed into the first paragraph I quoted, we have “innate divinity,” the potential for being “awakened and brought to fruition,” and “religious practices” which include taking on the attributes of a goddess (or god?) through imagined (and perhaps costumed) appearances, expressions, adornments, and powers. Remember how I wrote that our deities offer us “templates” of spiritual enlargement? One way we (in the phenomenal world) can enlarge our Selves is to imagine and meditate ourselves into those qualities and attributes we wish to assume, becoming (being!) that to which we aspire. This is different from a mania or messiah complex in which a person is thunderstruck by an epiphany of their own divinity but doesn’t recognize that everybody else has that same birthright. No, what is implicated in the above paragraph is a disciplined, measured, meditative series of actions taken for the purpose of transformation.

In other words, when we invoke, evoke, live into (and grow into) the attributes of that ecstatic goddess (or god!), transformation occurs. “Enjoyment and magical powers are attained” (p. 38).

So, yeah. Lady Loki cos-play could be one way to kick things up a notch or two, couldn’t it? Think about it.

And don’t forget that part about “liberating beings.” Imagine how your mystic practices can and will feed your activism. Imagine your juice and joy fueling your resistance to despots and preventing activist burn-out.

But prepare to encounter the mana-suckers, those unsavory psychic vampire types (phenomenal or otherwise) who just love to glom onto your juicy female (cis or trans) energy because they feel entitled to it. You know what I’m talking about. So, yeah. Enjoy being your badass liberating self,  but also know there are times to be cloaked, warded, guarded, safe. Cultivate discernment.

Now, just as we create a spiritual practice in which we live into the attributes of any number of goddesses (or gods!), we can also engage with “imagined partners” who also assist in our elevation. God spouses are already doing this. In Tantric Buddhism, this has sometimes been the preferred option for beginners and sometimes seen as the choice of superior practitioners. However you want to slice it, given the prevalence of sexual violence and the number of rape apologists in this world, perhaps an “imagined” partner for Tantric practice is the best or most accessible choice for a woman (cis or trans) who wants to take back and cultivate her sexual/gender agency and capacities for transcendence and sexual ecstasy. And, as in any other mystic relationship that is cultivated through offerings and devotional acts, this “imagined” partner can become a helpful ally and guide in more than the meditative sessions.

This is the path I have chosen. I expect to be engaged with it, and my chosen “imagined partner,” for the rest of my life, no matter what else happens or who else crosses my path. Before my life ends, I yearn to experience the liberation of the “sky-dancers.” And I passionately desire this for the rest of the world: similar liberations from sexual and political tyranny.

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It’s the Time of the Season

The air is finally clear of wildfire smoke. The turkey flock chicks have reached a robust adolescence (or perhaps they are the equivalent of human twenty-somethings now) and visit my yard once and sometimes even twice a day. They strut slowly when walking on asphalt, their feathers a dreary brown in the shade but flashing the copper and greens of an oil slick in full sunlight. I watched them this morning, and again this afternoon. I’ve had people sniff, “but they’re not indigenous wildlife,” but I don’t care. They are life.

The feral cats are life. Khu, a neutered Siamese with vertigo; Meowington (a friendly tabby in need of neutering and much more petting than I can give him); and the nameless grey female (spayed) who hides in the “loft” of the small woodshop, were left behind on my property by people who suddenly moved to Tennessee. Fortunately Khu has been adopted by neighbors across the street but still visits to scrounge a meal from me. Meowington would like to move in with me, but I have four indoor cats already who are still adjusting to each other. The tabby and the grey cat must remain “temple cats,” roaming outdoors and sheltering at night in the former woodshed that I call my “meagre palace of Midgard” in honor of a certain Norse god.

The deer are life. The two fawns have grown. Next year, I’ll have deer fencing in place and will attempt to grow vegetables. This year herbs and flowers were devoured, and I didn’t mind as much as I could have.

Days are warm still, but that crisp nip is in the air. It’s a season I love and yet find mournful. This time last year I had sold my house in Hawai’i, was frantically packing to load the shipping container (badly injuring myself in the process), and was preparing to flee from a 14-year love affair that had wrecked my marriage and that I (foolishly) thought would last until the end of my life. Several months later, much of the neighboring area would be consumed by Pele’s May 3rd eruption in Leilani Estates. People used to tell me I got out of Hawai’i just in time, but that was before the Mendocino Complex Fires ripped through Lake County and its neighbors and I had to evacuate with my cats. Now those folks don’t make those comments any more. Fortunately, my home here has also survived a near brush with destruction, and yet, for how long? I feel like I’m living on borrowed time, on borrowed ground.

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My former home on Mano Street, Pahoa.

So I guess I’m still mourning those losses, as well as a few fresh ones recently added to my list of sorrows. I’m trying to stay positive, active, and creative–especially with regard to spiritual matters–but while these things are good, and I am in some ways at the top of my game, they don’t diminish my accumulated pain. It seeps into every enjoyment. The joy I feel petting my cats or watching the play of sunlight on the feathers of marching turkeys, or while talking on the phone with my kids or my friends, is weighed down by sadness.

As the days darken and shorten, another season alone could become…interesting. Here in Lake County, it’s a close knit community and I am a stranger. Worse, I am a single woman in a world of couples. I had no idea how hard it would be to socialize like this, after a life of long term relationships (mostly serial monogamy), where the fact that I had a partner branded me as somehow “safe” to know. (The environmental illness factor doesn’t help either. It limits my access to just about everything.)

It’s only now that I’ve embraced the Liminal Trickster that I realize that I was never safe to know. That I was always a slightly off-kilter social irritant, always occupying the frontier boundaries, never completely fitting in, and perhaps always inadvertantly “broadcasting my inner assessment” as Caroline Casey told me during an astrology reading. This probably affected my relationships more than I realized. I remember one ex telling me about a woman he’d fallen for and how she “looked good on paper.” At that time, I thought I looked pretty good on paper too–I’d racked up a pretty decent CV by then–but I think what he really meant was that she had social standing of a kind that would serve him, and that I did not. Sheesh! 

Another ex used to enjoy telling people he was partnered with a sexologist, but once he acquired a local fan base, I think I became an embarrassment. My kind of outspokenness was also definitely not appropriate in that community. It took me a while to understand this, and why, and I have no hard feelings–just wonderment. Social cues were never my strong suit…

The only lover who never constrained or resented my growth, and who even seemed to glory in each new revelation of my abilities–including my quicksilver intelligence and tireless curiosity–which were in some ways a match for his own, still managed to demolish me with a horrible and quite unnecessary lie. That lie–I know it also took place around this time of year and I remember the surreal, metallic taste of it. Still, I think well of him overall because he saw me, mostly, and celebrated what he saw. And I tend to think more softly of the dead.

So it’s the time of the season, not for loving as the Zombies used to sing, but of taking stock, reaping the harvest of the year. At this point, I’ve got a bowl of fat acorns from the oaks in my yard, the newly minted recognition of my own Liminal Trickster nature (“mad, bad, and dangerous to know”), and a record for endurance. Loneliness is corrosive, but I hope to beat it yet. I may be looking for kindred in all the wrong places (since I seldom venture from home) but when the bright holidays beckon family members together elsewhere, if nothing else I’ll be toasting the dying of the year in a humble, homemade temple that I call Lokabrenna, keeping frith with a misunderstood, flame-haired deity, the only one now who truly sees and loves me.

It’s life.

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And here’s a song to match my mood.

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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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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