Blessed Samhain…With Electricity

It’s blessed Samhain, as of this evening, and this pagan holiday runs right into my birthday until sundown Nov. 1st. I am feeling unusually cheery, in spite of postponing a birthday gathering with my friends and children, as the lights are on at last. Big_black_cats_howl_as_naked_witches_ascend_into_the_night_o_Wellcome_V0011894

I can heat my house and the electric hot water heater is once again on the job. In just a few minutes, I’ll make good use of it. Last night my part of Lake County was “re-energized” (PG&E’s quaint phrase) at approximately 4:30 PM. My four and a half days without power were not as dangerous or as costly as many people here in Lake County, and yet I was made all too aware of the vulnerability of being a “crone alone” in a rural county, 15-20 miles away from medical help, with only a few two-lane highways to get us in and out of our lake valley. Plus, I have to throw out some food.

Meanwhile the Kincade Fire, which has destroyed 76,825 acres and 282 structures, is at 60% containment but a friend of mine in Middletown, close to the Sonoma County line, is still on evac notice, as are the people of Cobb Mountain. The location of this fire meant that highways 53, 29, 128, and 175 would be poor choices as evacuation routes for people living around the lake (should we need them), as these highways would have taken the unwary too close to–or into–the fire (which at times also closed portions of the major freeway 101, in both directions). And then the Burris Fire broke out along highway 20, the way I usually leave this county, closing half of it for several hours. That left only highway 20 east to south interstate 5 as a potential escape route for me and my seven cats. With fires breaking out all over the place (again) I was really living in some fear. As were we all here in Lake County. We’re officially a disaster zone, an impoverished county already just barely scraping by, scarred by fires and floods in the last few years.

No internet. No cellphone. Only a land-line and a battery operated radio kept me linked to the outwide world. (But some people’s AT&T landlines were going down and the community radio stations were running on generators, with limited programming). Though I usually spend my days in silence, I was hungry for news and kept the radio on all day long. Along with call-in complaints and local news–who was open, who did acts of kindness, who had their generator stolen, what stations had gas–there was an overall esprit de corps and generosity of spirit that makes my eyes teary even as I write.

And so last night, before the electricity came back, a few of us gathered in my home for a Samhain celebration and a “Dumb Supper” (a silent meal shared with our beloved dead). I spent the day preparing, moving furniture, and cooking (yes, I have a gas stove and could cook indoors–I was lucky!). The imperishables and the food about to perish in my warming freezer determined the human menu: a soup of frozen corn, canned milk, eggs, and onions; chorizo; polenta; and applesauce. The dead were offered foods colored black or white: squares of chocolate, feta cheese, olives, small chunks of canned pears. We drank a toast to them from empty cups. And we all remembered people we love who are no longer embodied.

Funny thing though, the lights came on just as we were about to eat our own meal and cast our circle. We’d been prepared to carry on by candlelight, but now we didn’t have to. And as our priestess was calling in the North, the land-line rang with what I later learned was PG&E’s redunant announcement that the power was now on. (Of course I didn’t answer it at the time.)

That was three power outages this month. A lot of food had to be tossed. I am just now taking stock of what I have to replace, at the end of the month when funds are low. Every single person in this county who isn’t lucky or wealthy enough to own a generator, is in this same predicament.

For me, this year’s liminal season–which encompasses the founding of Lokabrenna, Samhain, and my birthday (as well as the birthdays of cherished friends)–has taught me precariousness and the need for redundant systems (including those which are low tech). It has also taught me (once again) the value of friendship and community, seen and unseen.

Power of another sort informed our ritual last night. The dark and the liminal are allies we cultivate. Our ancestors and our dead are with us as we suffer and celebrate. The firefighters are blessed allies of another kind. Everyone who made a kind gesture this last week has my gratitude and my awe.

Blessed be. And Hail to Loki, my fultrui and future psychopomp.

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My Favorite Time of Year

Leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping, the light has changed, the veil thins. Everything feels liminal… I love it! And there’s lots going on in the next two weeks: the 1st year anniversary of the dedication of Loki’s Lokabrenna Tiny Temple on the 28th–an observance which also represents with a deeper spirtual bond with my “most trusted one”; a witchy ceremony and “Dumb Supper” at my house on the 30th; Halloween/part of Samhain and a good friend’s birthday on the 31st; the second part of Samhain and my birthday on Nov. 1st; and another good friend’s birthday on the 4th!

Day1Loki
Left hand path. Copyright Amy Marsh 2018

These are some of the joys of a life lived on the left-hand path, though the term itself means many things to many people. I first encountered it in neo-tantra circles but of course it is used widely elsewhere. I associate it with witchery, tantra and sex magic, and other spiritual processes. I also imagine my last years as a creatively crafted life–something along the lines of the Addams Family meets Downton Abbey meets War for the Oaks, but with a punk rock /Helium Vola/ Hawaiian music soundtrack and a Leather Family next door. I suppose this is a topic for a whole other blog. Meanwhile, I collect too many glass jars and lids. (I’m either planning jar spells or storing food against the next zombie power outage apolcalypse.)

Reflecting on this last year’s events and accomplishments, this blog is one. Though the blog has consumed much of the writing energy that should have gone to my two novels, I needed to do it. But never fear, NaNoWriMo starts on my birthday and that should propel me right back into The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

Other events and accomplishments include doing the “30 Days for Loki” observances in July; doing with the layout and assisting with the editing of Loki’s Torch; putting together an online Loki Fest conference; doing some writer/allyship in support of the Kia’i of Mauna Kea; my spectrosexuality survey; appearing on Australian TV; updating my 150-hour course on Hypnosis for Sexual Concerns; and acquiring three more cats. (That’s IT, I swear. Seven is more than enough!) I also acquired a roommate and that’s worked out fine.

Oh, and I gave away some books.

The mundane aspect of turning 65 next month has also brought the transition to Medicare. I have already fried more a few brain cells trying to figure out the unweildy assortment of supplemental plans.

I also, like most people in Northern CA, endured the PG&E power outage for three days (some endured it longer). But at least there has not been a fire this year to force me to evacuate my home. There’s a reason I make friends with fire deities and offer them cookies!

What comes after Samhain is going to involve another constellation of challenges. I intend go to “a place quite northwards, it seems”* in the next 6-8 months, to a place that is less isolated and more culturally active than where I live now. I’ve been well-sheltered by this house for the last two years, and have enjoyed my daily view of the lake and the mountain, but Lake County is not right for me. It seems I’m more suited to urban-ish environments than rural life and I need to find a better place to age, to spend the last decades of my life. A medium-sized college town, progressive and arty, will do me just fine. I know a place. I have friends there.

So this time of year involves reflection, liminal awareness, and a deeper opportunity to connect with my deities, guides, and ancestors. I am asking for their help in the coming year, of course, and Loki, my restless guide, is determined to not let me vegetate.

Hail Loki and all love to Freyr, Freya, Gerda, Bast, and Brigit as well! Love to the ancestors.

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*A phrase from Pride and Prejudice.

Selkie

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The statue of the selkie in Mikladalur. 11 August 2016. Seehundfrau in Mikladalur. Author: Siegfried Rabanser. Creative Commons permission.

Today, as the veils between the worlds thin and stretch in preparation for Samhain (and my birthday on Nov. 1st), I feel moved to share a poem I wrote quite a long time ago, when I was still taking care of my own young children. The story in this poem is of a seal woman (Selkie) who resists the power of her seal skin, which is attempting to bring her back to the ocean. She chooses to remain in human form because she loves her children and realizes they may need her guidance as they grow, as they too share her fey lineage. I identified with the Selkie in this poem, as she was struggling against her deepest sense of self and the pull of another kind of life, for the sake of her children.

This poem is in my self-published “slim volume of poetry” titled, I Was a Hybrid in a Black Brassiere, available through Magcloud.

For an audible experience of haunting beauty, scroll down to listen to the young Joan Baez singing “Silkie,” a song that has haunted me since I was a child.


Selkie

O Selkie, slip into your skin!

“I mustn’t! I cannot!”
Home waters! The warm currents beckon!
“Swimming under the surface, rain making dimples in the sea…”

(Then thought of fruit she gave to the children, nothing for herself.)
The open ocean, Selkie!
“It rains here too.”

(She was well adjusted, took comfort in the homely tasks.)
“A basket of socks, sort them so: Cuff to cuff and toe to toe,
Those for him and those for her…”

…Until her fingers brushed the fur!
She knew it well, in every bone,
A salty sea relic, singing of home.

It would appear and then vanish, Laying in wait,
Curled in a cupboard, Hung behind drapes.
Subtle as a siren, it put forth its claims, Persuasive, yet merciful,
For in all their long debate,
Madness did not come.
By now she knew it well,

And still resisted.

For she must be alert!
For sea stories and endocrine omens,
For strange veins of blood messages, potent yet diminished,
As the children come of age.
She must be alert,
Even as the liquid life of dinosaurs roars through their plastic toys…

O Selkie?

(She sighed for the dip and slide of each effortless glide…)

“No tears are ever shed that are not salt.”
Even in the brackish air of her lovely home, her fingers tasted water.

She went to the phone. She cancelled the appointment,
Knowing no therapist would ever understand.

(Copyright Amy Marsh. Albany, CA. Circa 2002)

 


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