Magic March Miracles

I don’t have to tell you all, but this is a time of intense, scary weirdness. Here in the U.S., the pandemic is going to overwhelm our medical system and our “social order” (such as it is), thanks to the criminal ineptitude of our federal government. Many state and local authorities are more competent, but they are hampered by federal grandstanding, lack of money, lack of vital equipment, and federal budget shenanigans. And, unlike Germany,  where Chancellor Merkel assured her citizens that all will be cared for, many of us here in the U.S. are considered disposable. Our impending demise is supposed to be “good for the economy.” Now, that’s always been the case here–people who are marginalized, exploited and oppressed in the U.S. have always been considered disposable and many of this country’s policies have always been brutal and genocidal–but the Covid-19 pandemic shines a glaring spotlight on this shadow side of our national history and character.

People like me, who are old, now find we have an “expiration date,” a “shelf life.” I guess that’s one way to ransack the social security system, huh? Just kill off the older people and that’s more moola for 45’s golf games.

So, this is a time of tumult, suffering and uncertainty for all, on all kinds of scales. Personally, I have been totally alone since February 27th, with approximately five actual in-person human contacts since then. I live a reclusive life anyway, but I did cherish my ability to go to the grocery store now and then, or have a meal out, alone, with a book for company. Now I don’t dare. My cats are my dearest companions in this time, as everyone else I love is far away. I’m kind of holding on to a thread right now, hyper-alert to the sounds of traffic from Highway 20, a voice from the neighbor’s backyard, and the sight of the mist that travels over the mountain outside my window. However I do talk more to friends and family on the phone, or the internet. And I do know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and some canned goods in the cupboard (though my toilet paper stash is low).

So, with all this happening, it was amazing to be graced with two magical miracles this month. On the same day, March 10th, two beings (of very different kinds) returned to my sphere. Both were important to me (for different reasons) and I thought both were gone forever.

The Cat Returns

For most of 2019 and the first part of 2020, I had been feeding and gradually taming an outdoor cat which I named Arya because she was such a tough little thing. She was a beautiful silver-grey cat with extra toes on her front paws and celadon green eyes. She had one clipped ear because she’d been spayed by the owner who’d abandoned her on my property (Meowington was another one of those cats). She became feral and fearful. I worked hard to earn her trust with regular meals placed near her lair in a wood pile, sitting near (but not too close) while she ate. She got used to me and I moved closer. Once she began to trust me, she began to enjoy my petting her while eating. She became a faithful creature, always watching for my appearance at the back door once dinner time approached. She was very punctual. And her confidence in me was precious.

By mid-January, I thought she was at the point where she might let me pick her up. (I wanted to get her into a crate and take her to the vet for shots.) I was also considering if I should bring her into my indoor cat family. (I have six indoor cats already and taking on a seventh might be too much).

But during the coldest part of January, a neighborhood tom cat began trying to chase her off around mealtimes. (He’s not a cat I feed.) Sadly, he succeeded. She disappeared for a couple of days and I tried to not worry. Then she showed up for dinner again at her usual time. I was so relieved! But the tom cat must have scared her away again because after that one meal she never came back. A neighbor told me she saw Arya one evening a couple days later but no one saw her after that. I would call for her during my walks, worried that she’d gotten stuck in someone’s basement or garage. Finally, I gave her up for dead–figuring a coyote or wild cat had killed her.

I grieved for Arya. I missed her more than I anticipated. So I was stunned and shocked when she appeared on the road outside my house on March 10th, near her usual dinner time. It was an incredible coincidence–I’d just gone outside to take the trash cans out. Arya was super-skinny and wobbly. At first she was too nervous to come to me. But a large bowl of canned food drew her near enough for me to touch her. I could feel every bit of her spine. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in weeks. I went indoors to grab a cat crate while she wolfed down the food. She was so intent on eating that I was able to scoop her up and plop her into the crate. This scared her of course. But once I had her indoors in the enclosed sun porch (somewhat separate from the rest of the house), she relaxed after a few minutes of panic. More food calmed her. I stayed with her as well, petting her until she felt comfortable.

(Bottom left, Arya before she disappeared. Middle, Arya half-starved when she reappeared. Right, Arya getting plump and healthy again.)

I’ve been caring for her ever since. One of the few times I’ve gone out in March was a trip to the vet, so she could get her shots and be tested for feline leukemia and HIV. She now has a clean bill of health, along with flea, tick, and worm treatments. She’s eating well and putting on weight. I have resolved to keep her indoors as the mean tom cat is still around. I am in the process of introducing her (carefully) to the rest of the cats.

Arya’s return is the first of March’s miracles.

The Teacher Returns

And now for the second, which gives an important boost to my determination to use magic (and common sense) to get through this pandemic.

The Witch’s Primer course, offered online by Ariel Gatoga, was an important resource for me during 2016-2017, when I started my first Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy novel and began planning my move (my escape!) back to California from Hawai’i. I had stumbled across The Witch’s Primer on the internet and was quickly captivated by the material as well as Ariel’s voice and humor. Each class helped me to focus my energy and pay attention to self-care. In this way, Ariel became my first official witchcraft teacher. I have studied, and still study, other esoteric traditions and have had some wonderful teachers. However, I don’t think I ever enjoyed a teacher’s personality so much.

In addition to the Primer, I spent many hours listening to his lectures while preparing my house for sale (painting bedrooms, cleaning…). For months, thoughts of magic and magic practices permeated my house. I am not surprised it sold quickly once it was on the market. (FYI, A Charmed Life is one of my favorite lectures. I’m revisiting it again as I prepare for my next out of state move!)

Then Ariel dropped out of sight in the middle of 2017. There was no explanation. It was all very abrupt. I was very sad. I missed the teachings and his humor. I worried that some catastrophe had happened. And then I moved on–basing my subsequent explorations of witchery on other books and sources, yet weaving them in with what I’d learned from the Primer. Ariel’s teaching remained foundational as I began to develop a regular, eclectic practice.

Fast forward to March 10, 2020. Suddenly a group email appeared from Ariel Gatoga (I’d been on his previous mailing list.) The email heralded his return, which now consists of a new website, links to all his vintage lectures (plus new materials) on a new YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account. And over the last few days, Ariel has been offering online Tarot readings (group and individual). I encourage all who are interested to visit his site and his offerings. I think you’ll be pleased.

As for me, I couldn’t be more delighted to have Arya the Cat and Ariel the Teacher back in my life. Magic is alive. Blessed Be!

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I Has Cats

I don’t know how this “has cats” (or “has” anything) thing got started but there it is. I “has” ’em, and I’m about to have more. My Lokean “Dog Days of Summer” have turned into a Nile Flood of Cat Rescues (all praise to Bastet!). (Note: previous sentence contains nerdy references to traditions pertaining to the rising of Sirius).

Kia'i and Keola
Newest rescue kittens. Photo credit: L.S. Sides

Now, I already have (below, left to right), the peerless Popoki, the sweet and skittish Niblet, the curious Freya, and Varda the Valiant. The last three, all rescue cats. Niblet was a tiny little thing found between two boards in a back yard in Richmond, CA, and was fostered by a dear friend. When I saw his photo on her cell phone I realized he’d be the new companion for Popoki. Niblet and Popoki went Hawai’i with me, and back again, and seriously–their cat airline miles can go to some other luckless feline because they are NEVER setting paw on a plane again. Ever.

Freya was a just a kitten, dying of dehydration in the middle of Main Street in Upper Lake. She was scooped off the street and restored to health by a woman I’ll call Ruby, an exceptionally compassionate feeder and rescuer of cats. Ruby would not only feed the strays, but got as many neutered and spayed as she could, on her slim income. I met Freya in Ruby’s store, and I’d been thinking of getting a third cat, and suddenly here she was, in my arms.  Freya is the ultimate cat of curiousity–and a real diva besides. Popoki was slow to warm up to her (and still ignores her as much as possible) and Niblet (a male) was fascinated yet intimidated. Freya sits at my right hand, in the high chair my kids used to use, because otherwise she’d sit on my computer. Freya likes having her own throne…

Varda, full grown but only as large as a teenage cat, was a stray that inhabited the area under the office cottage I briefly rented in Upper Lake. She’s possibly a Bombay breed. She was being fed by a kindly construction worker and had become quasi-friendly. She’d had a twin brother, apparently, and the construction worker called them Jack and Jill. But one day the brother disappeared and the sister was left on her own. She still lived under the cottage and both the construction worker and I fed her. Then the cold winter winds began to blow. Little Jill became very ill, but was smart enough to actually go to Ruby’s shop for care. I guess the word on the street among Upper Lake strays was that Ruby was a dame with a heart of gold. (And that she was.) I told Ruby that if she could nurse the cat over the weekend, I’d get her to the vet on Monday and then adopt her. “Jill” became “Varda,” and after the usual two weeks of recovering from her respiratory infection and being sequestered in a spare room, joined my indoor cat family. (Varda is from Tolkien, another name for Elbereth, a goddess of the Elf pantheon.)

It took about a year for everybody to adjust to each other. Popoki, who has always been somewhat aloof anyway, still keeps to herself, mostly out of reach of the others. She’s over ten now and would rather ignore the social turmoil that Freya likes to create, because Freya gets in everybody’s face.

Meanwhile, Ruby had parked four of her cats in the woodshop that is now Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. She’d fallen on hard times, had to live in a tent on some land down the road, and wasn’t allowed to have her cats with her. Some stayed at her shop. This went on for a few months, then she and her partner decided to move across country with a van full of their other pets. At the last minute she asked if she could leave three of her cats behind, promising to send money for cat food every month. Well… I knew how that would go…but what could I do? Say “no” and have her take them to Animal Control?

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Arya, silver grey, celadon eyes, extra toes.

So Meowington (my dear, late, lamented Temple Cat), Khu (a Siamese), and the nameless grey female with extra toes (now called Arya), were left behind. Khu was adopted by people across the street. Meowington stayed on the premises and ruled the yard until the baby rattlesnake bit him. Arya stayed in the rafters for awhile then suddenly bolted, living rough under boards and decks and in bushes for a year until I gradually lured her back into my yard with lots of canned food. (Meowington used to chase her off). So now Arya is my outdoor cat companion and likes scritches, petting, brushing as much as she likes the regular grub. Should I take her indoors? I don’t know how she’d do–she is as skittish as Niblet in some ways, and very independent. Popoki would probably despise her–and me–and Freya would probably bully her. Arya’s never wanted to go back into the woodshed/Temple and doesn’t seem interested in my house either. But we’re just about at that point where I will be able to pick her up, put her in a crate, and get her to the vet for shots (Crystal had had her spayed long ago).

And now everything is about to change. Keola (“Life”) and Kia’i (“Protector”) are part of a feral family from a trailer park in “K-Ville,” halfway around the lake. They are currently sequestered in that spare room of mine, recovering from their own surgeries. I had thought their ears would be clipped, as I intended them for yard cats, but they weren’t. Now I’m not sure what to do. I figured, being kittens, that Arya would be less freaked about them–and better able to keep her position as Queen of the Yard.

But here’s the rub. My compassionate friend in K-Ville, who has been caring for the mother and her four kittens ever since they showed up in her yard, can’t find homes for the other three–Mama Bitzi, another tabby female kitten, and a fluffy white Siamese male kitten. They are facing extermination. The trailer park has rules and there have already been complaints about too many cats, and cat poop in other people’s gardens. My friend has to do something quick.

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Meme. Unknown source.

I can’t stand the thought of these animals being put down. I have a very big yard, with outbuildings and a wild hill behind me. None of my neighbors will be bothered by cat poop (downside: bear, foxes, wild cats…). And I like the idea of keeping the family together as long as everyone is spayed or neutered. (I had a similar gig with a multi-generational feral cat family that ruled the yard around my house in Pahoa, Hawai’i. Before I moved back to CA, I got them all spayed and neutered and moved to an animal sanctuary–along with a large donation.)

Anyway…I volunteered to take the whole family onto the property. My compassionate friend will get flea treatment for the cats, and have the other two kittens spayed and neutered.

My only worry is Arya. I don’t want her chased off “her” turf again by a new group of cats. I’ve worked too hard, built up too much trust, to have her go back to living rough. I’m trying to figure out how to make the transition easier for everyone involved, especially her. Meanwhile, my indoor cats are wondering about the strange smells coming from the spare room…

I’m asking for special blessings from Freya (the goddess) and Bastet. I has cats. Boy, do I has cats.

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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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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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