The sun muscled manticore

Parental love, chaos magic, and a reason to run.

When I was younger, I believed that adulthood meant escaping any emotional reliance I had on my biological parents. I thought I would outgrow a need for parental love, guidance and approval. I was wrong on both counts; this need isn’t something that one sheds with age, and you can’t outgrow something you never had in the first place.

This lack of positive parental/familial guidance has been a real shackle on my personal development and is something I continue to work through. But how? It’s awful hard to get adopted when you’re in your 30’s, which left me with a dilemma. I don’t have many strong community ties and the AIDS crisis eliminated most of my chances at having access to a supportive network of elders.

What I do have is my magical practice and a certain narrative malleability with regard to my own life. I am part of a house and legion; the boundaries of my body and self defy scientific materialism. I’m a jumble of metaphors that defy easy classification as figurative or literal. I thrive on ambiguity.
My grandmother and my son were both housecats, and one of my mothers is the sea.
I recently discovered an aspect of the Earth is another maternal figure for me. She appears to me as a Venus of Willendorf-like figure. She is nurturing and full of love, cradle comfort and simple safety. She is not an empowered earth-goddess-mother figure for me as I am neither a woman nor a birth-parent, but a powerful grounding force of warmth, forgiveness and acceptance, and I am loved. Love like being hugged tight and safe, words of wisdom so practical and grounded they are cunning and sly, warm food and solid ground. She asks little in return but goodness, to walk softly and with the bravery to be kind.

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Venus of Willendorf figurine from the Paleolithic era. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

While the Earth provides me a well from which to draw this love, I still lacked a positive fatherly influence. I needed fierce protective love, rationality, teaching through demonstration, expressions of pride and uplifting frameworks. Trust, capability and responsibility. None of the masculine deities/beings I already have an established relationship with fit this role.

Depictions of the sun as a masculine, fatherly figure in real-world mythology aren’t unfamiliar to me but none of them ever struck me as being personally relevant. Luckily for me, practicing chaos/pop culture magic I’m not restricted to the trappings of eclectic witchcraft-I can cast a wider net for inspiration than traditional mythology.

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“The sun is a wondrous body. Like a magnificent father! If only I could be so grossly incandescent.” Solaire from Dark Souls, Namco Bandai Games 2011.

Playing Dark Souls and meeting Solaire of Astora was something of a watershed moment for me. In that simultaneously delicious and maddeningly cryptic way of all Souls series characters, he tells you he has deliberately become a member of the undead in order to undertake a journey to find his own sun. This in turn this reminded me of these two songs by SJ Tucker, featuring the writing of Catherynne M. Valente:

I recommend giving these two tracks a listen, one after the other. Manticore’s lullaby punches me so hard in the feelings I cry every time I hear it. Like Grotteschi, I was denied the exaltations of a good and proper childhood. I’m doing my best to catch up but I’ll carry some wounds forever.

The manticores in this story, naturally, see the sun as a glorious, shining manticore, their father. I adore the fantasy trope of the equivalent of anthropomorphism for creatures that aren’t human.

My favourite forms of pop culture magic are those that can be ported/carried over to our world with a little creativity and tweaking. While manticores exist in the mythology of our world, their depictions are relatively scant. They are nonetheless symbolically important to me with deep personal connections. With this in mind I’ve decided to engage with the sun in the form of a glorious golden manticore, lover of the Upas tree and father of the manticore fruit-and me.

Left to my own devices, I tend to become almost wholly nocturnal, both literally and otherwise. I can be prone to detachment, anhedonia, stagnation and feelings that I do not deserve happiness or pleasure. I do not feast gladly or sink my sharp teeth into offered fruits but decline, cringe, shy away, refuse. It’s not humbleness and piety but a harmful self-flagellation.

Not leaving my cave in the daylight hours has a lot of negative effects for a person prone to depression and withdrawal from the world.
To worship the sun is to tend to my little garden of potted plants; weeding out the oxalis, gently brushing away harmful bugs, to water and prune. To take my vitamin-D pills, as like many pasty Australians worried about skin cancer I’m terrifically deficient. To burn Frankincense, which has a beautiful golden scent, using homemade beeswax tealights.

And lastly; exercise. I’m doughy and unfit and I struggle with various ailments that make sticking to exercise regimes difficult. Lions, and thus also manticores, are fabulously muscled creatures. Making exercise an act of devotion is likely to give me the fortitude to reach the goals that I’ve so far failed to reach or sustain.

I wish to steep my life in magic, to revel in it, to live it.
In the past I’ve taken up running as a way to deal with pent-up anger. While my rage is a renewable resource, I’d prefer to run for joy, satisfaction and glory. From now on I’ll run for the manticore of the sun.

Sacrifices and Sympathetic Magic

Like many pagans, sympathetic magic is a substantial part of my personal practice; be it drawings, photographs, statues or other symbolic representations. Although I do work with live plants, incenses, resins, animal remains and more, the real thing is not always appropriate, possible or practical.

My shrine to the Outsider uses battery-powered LED candles and lanterns because its hidden position makes using real fire dangerous-and I rather enjoy the humour of using fake fire for pop-culture magic.
The consumption of large, juicy strawberries is a perfectly acceptable substitute for human hearts in ritual as far as Lilith is concerned, as another example.
Since the issue of live animal sacrifice is a purely hypothetical one for me in my current circumstances, I leave those moral quandaries to be unpacked at another time. What I can do, however, is make symbolically appropriate sacrifices.
Although I’m not a strict reconstructionist, I do enjoy research and adapting ancient practices to fit my modern lifestyle. In this research I found accounts of animal sacrifice substitutes in ancient Greece being made with bread, beeswax and reeds. As the sacrifice of livestock would have represented a substantial financial commitment for anyone who wasn’t particularly wealthy, I imagine these sympathetic magic substitutions would have been reasonably common.
I have a lot of local natural beeswax on hand from making my own devotional candles, so it seemed the obvious material to use if I were to create my own effigies. It turns out carving/modeling straight beeswax is incredibly difficult and my first attempts were an ugly mess. Instead, I adapted my sculpting and casting knowledge to create small dog and bull effigies, sculpting them in modeling clay then creating a silicone mould so they could be easily replicated in wax.
I use the dogs as apotropaic offerings to Hekate as part of a cleansing ritual, since my relationship with Hekate has a strong bent towards cleaning. I’m yet to test out the bulls, but I have one set aside for dedication and sacrifice to Dionysus. Bulls are symbolically rich animals, however, and could be used for any number of other deities or purposes.
Since I was on a roll sculpting, I also made a tiny human heart replica for healing/cursing or whatever else one fancies. My companion uses them for enchanting and enclosing within his taxidermy pieces, which is delightfully creative.

In the future, I’d like to experiment with various additives such as incense or tiny pieces of dried bull (Companion jokingly referred to it as ‘homeopathic bull’) or dog hair. I’m not sure how I feel about using the shed hair of still-living animals for sacrifices since my practice has always had a distinctly necromantic bent. But does using the parts of an already dead animal nullify the effect of a ‘sacrifice’? Is the intent all that matters in sympathetic magic? Food for thought.


Devotional cooking: Koresh Fesenjan for Hekate

Suffering chronic fatigue, I usually don’t have the energy for big, flashy ritual. Once a month on the day of the new moon, I clean my house as best I can in service to Hekate, and we share the evening meal. If I’m able, I try to incorporate relevant foods such as egg, garlic, leek, honey, and pomegranate.

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Last month I made Koresh Fesenjan-a Persian chicken, walnut, and pomegranate stew.

Ingredients:
(I don’t measure things when I cook; it’s why I’m terrible at baking)
2 spoonfuls of honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper
Salt-I don’t normally add salt to my food but Hekate requested extra after I’d plated it up
Chicken tenders, cut into small strips
Cup of chopped walnuts
Liquid chicken stock
White rice
Olive oil
Pomegranate molasses

Process:
1. Toast the walnuts in a pan for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Lightly crush with a mortar and pestle. When cooking for two, using a food processor isn’t worth the effort it takes to clean.
2. Cook the rice.
3. Lightly brown the chicken in a pan and toss in the spring onions with a dash of oil.
4. Add chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
5. Add spices, honey, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses.
6. Simmer until the stew is no longer watery.
7. Serve with rice, garnish with walnut, parsley or pomegranate arils.

It’s a very sweet and sour, rich tasting dish.
I lit a candle and served it with a cup of fruit tea. Hekate seems to have a penchant for dark chocolate as well, which we had for dessert, although she seems insistent on sharing whatever I’m eating. Afterwards, I take her portion to my three-way crossroads altar, as well as a customary offering to the restless dead which I do not eat from.

Some months I’m not able to cook the food myself or make anything quite as elaborate as this, but it is my duty to share this meal and to remember the dead.

Medieval suicide baiting-East Anglians had no chill

If an individual in the marshy fenland of medieval Eastern England became radically unpopular among his fellows, he might find this symbol painted on his door:

suicide_bait

Pictured: a horizontal rectangle representing a willow stake, crossed through vertically with a stylized hemp branch. The cross is surrounded by the words ‘Both grown for you’.

Suicides were traditionally buried at crossroads with a willow stake driven through the body to prevent the spirit from wandering.
Hemp was used for making rope.

An unsubtle hint that the individual should go hang themselves.

Source: The Devil’s Plantation; East Anglian Lore, Witchcraft and Folk Magic by Nigel G Pearson, Troy Books, 2015.

Putting out fires with gasoline

The desire to write ebbs and flows in me. There are two things that motivate me; love of truth and righteous fucking anger.

I’ve been writing a lot lately.

As a girl, I was taught my anger was unjustified, unbecoming and unwelcome. I wasn’t allowed to be angry, to arm myself with fury, to cloak myself in fire. Anger was a weapon and I needed to learn to defuse it in others, men especially, lest they burn me with it. I got pretty good at it. I can meditate, smooth over ruffled egos, placate and make myself invisible.
I might as well have been drinking acid to dispose of it.
If I fought back against abuse the problem was me. I was fuelling the fire, I was making the problem worse, I didn’t know my place. My anger was a raging bushfire and the only thing it could consume was myself. Denying it didn’t make it go away. It bubbled out of me in health problems, spite, and self-harm.
I’m learning not to deny my truth. If something scares me, I find my centre. If I am tortured I go to a safe place inside. If I need validation I seek out my peers. If I am lonely I turn to friends. I act. I can’t do nothing when I’m angry. I can’t just let it go.

But I can’t throw myself into political activism, badger politicians and get beaten by police either. I don’t have the resources to participate in conventional forms of protest. The voice implanted in me by scapegoating and abuse tells me that it’s all my fault. Why then, am I not single-handedly saving the world? Am I not trying hard enough? Is my survival not a victory?

It’s tempting to feel inconsequential and impotent, to not try because nothing matters. Fostering ironic detachment is just another engine of control. Don’t turn away from the ugliness in despair. Not voting isn’t a choice to abstain, but one to uphold the dominant paradigm. Whatever you do, don’t you dare give up. They are threatened by your strength. People will try to smother your passion, to shame you for your zeal. Do not let them. You are more powerful than you realize.

Fire is a tool. Even if only a handful of people are moved by my words for just a moment, that is enough. I am enough, and together we can win. I write when I’m angry. Discover what you can do and do it. Burn.

My inner light is a government building on fire

How the machineries of Western capitalism gaslight you into being unhappy and dead inside, featuring Facebook as a pillar of the a xenophobic genocidal hegemony.

I was planning on changing my Facebook name to make myself easier to find as my name is a little difficult to spell. Apocastasis is not an alias, it is my Real Name. I just happen to have more than one. Like there being more than two genders, this is a revolutionary concept to some people. There’s nothing duplicitous about preferred names, nicknames and other alternative forms of address; just like there’s nothing deceptive about a trans person presenting as their real gender.

But before I was able to enact the change voluntarily, I got Real Name Policy’d. This happened shortly after mentioning it on a friends-only post; lest I forget that Big Brother is indeed watching.  Like someone who has willingly posted nudes online and later had similar intimate photos stolen and maliciously leaked, it’s an issue of consent. And I’m not being glib with that comparison either; the real name policy, with its Orwellian title, is a gross invasion of privacy and autonomy.

I defiantly choose to live my authentic self; I am created moment to moment, moving through space and time as I endeavor to learn and grow for the better. I refuse to harden into a solid state and stop evolving. Although I am most widely known as Dorian, my name and my preferred pronouns are context specific. Facebook’s insistence that the name I am known by in the wider community is the same as my legal name is frankly ludicrous. My legal name is nothing more than a bureaucratic invention for navigating the imagined borders of this hellish, inescapable-by-design political system I find myself trapped in.

To create a hypothetical example, George, who describes himself on his dating profile as 32, male, Scorpio, enjoys craft beer, gardening and ironic banjo music to be a woman named Sophia just because that’s what his birth certificate says is absurd. But that’s exactly what Facebook’s legal name policy is enforcing. Paperwork is just that; a bureaucratic tool and nothing more. The real and the legal are not interchangeable.

Never mind the hosts of people who don’t want to use their legal name because it would put them in danger; people fleeing abuse, wishing to avoid racism, being outed as queer, employees who work with belligerent customers and countless others.

Regardless of their reasons for not doing so, expecting individuals to face the internet as a united front is staggeringly naive. We live in a world of vastly lopsided power dynamics. Because of this one mean-spirited person can do untold damage to the life of another with no legal or social repercussions. Your conservative boss could fire you for being a furry with total impunity from anti-discrimination laws by merely making up some jargon bullshit about cutbacks and quotas.

Famously, drag performers were told they need to create a page for their community identities-as if this was some gracious, benevolent compromise. Meanwhile Facebook constantly badgers page holders to pay Facebook to stop it from concealing their posts; essentially holding the creator’s content at ransom.

The social dynamic a Facebook page has with its audience is different than that of a community member; a page is largely a tool for advertising and commodification.  To insist a performer use a page rather than a profile is to strip them of their authenticity by placing constraints upon their mode of self-expression to be purely commercial rather than community focused. It is to flatten them into a 2D object. This reveals the fundamental misunderstanding capitalist advertising culture has of authenticity; just look at its persistent, embarrassing failure to harness memes.

The best place to refuel during the skeleton war.

Except you, Denny’s tumblr. Shine on you crazy diamond.

This re-defining of realness affects us all, even those who are not impacted by the policy directly. If you are flattened into an easily categorized data-map of self you can be sold things, and you can be controlled. The act of such a flattening is in of itself a prison. One must either break the rules by being true to themselves and face dire punishment up to and including extermination, or deny themselves and accept a new replacement simulacrum of truth. This has global connotations not just for the wellbeing of the individual but is also part of the machinery of rampant poverty among colonized peoples.

Acceptance of this manufactured truth is presented as the correct choice, but oppressed people know it is not a choice at all but a trap. A wholly closeted trans woman financially dependent on her abusive girlfriend is not choosing to stay if her only alternative is to risk homelessness and death.

While Facebook’s policy is largely a consequence of them wanting to mine your data for profitable advertising revenue, in this way it is symptomatic of something far more sinister. People are being pressured into an ideology that anything that cannot be neatly categorized is an inconvenience and an aberration; that the individual is wrong for being different. The construction and enforcement of the legal self is about placing you in a prison of the mind and denying the real.

In my daily life I encounter a lot of people who are deeply, personally confronted by the fact that I exist. It’s like I’ve been cursed to be some unspeakable, unknowable horror like a Lovecraftian elder god; unfathomable. I’m queer and weird in every way there is to be except race. I’m even left handed!

The impossibility of my existence was no accident; I am nothing new to history even though many people would incorrectly assume so, so effective has the erasure of my kin been. I surround myself online with beautiful authentic people who see the real me. This eases the pain of being bludgeoned daily with the tyranny of the checkbox. Thanks to the systematic oppression of macroeconomic forces (in other words, I’m poor through no fault of my own) I’m unable to sufficiently access such communities in an offline capacity. Social media is necessary for the survival of the weird.

The legal name policy is part of a wider attempt to dismantle these havens and pockets of resistance. The end game for such operations is, as always, death. Those who cannot be flattened into a single, predictable facet are abused, raped, murdered, erased and even stripped of their humanity. All of these are the blunt instruments of control. People are infinitely complex creatures; like a globe, all of the self cannot be viewed at once.

Maps are useful, but they are not reality; to think otherwise is a great folly. People are encouraged to believe that the law is moral and good to veil its true nature as an unnecessarily unfair system of oppression.  We have people alive today who survived the Nazi holocaust and numerous other such state sanctioned genocides around the globe. And yet I see individuals with the audacity to say ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’! To them such atrocities are distant, other. The other does not exist in their fragile, illusory world; presumably racial profiling and abuse of power by police don’t either.

When I was undergoing a process of medical gender transition, it was still law that a person needed to be sterilized and divorced to be legally recognized as their real gender-because the notion of a man carrying his husband’s child defies easy classification. Forced sterilization bears repeating. I mentioned Nazis earlier. Sound familiar?

Clearly conflating the authentic self with the legal self is, frankly, horrifically dangerous. Facebook not being a governmental body does not make its policies any less dire. It’s infantilizing to deny people access tools of self-determination. It would be a straightforward process to allow individuals to enter custom sets of pronouns into Facebook’s settings rather than make them choose between the offensively labelled ‘male’ and ‘female’. The argument against this is that the system could be abused but this assertion is ultimately farcical. What significant consequence could it have if someone chooses to buttonmash into the box asking to enter pronouns in a they/them/their/theirs format as a joke? These joke pronouns are still how they are choosing to present themselves online. What it does is make people harder to manipulate and categorize, and that is what makes it unacceptable. Anything that threatens the dominant paradigm of a binary dichotomy of good vs bad must be eliminated. The absurdity reaches its peak in people who, upon supplying Facebook with legal documentation are told that their names cannot be genuine as what is acceptable is held against a standard of whiteness. Even if your legal self aligns with the real, unless you flawlessy fit the hegemony you cannot win.

Mainstream capitalism has become so bloated with its obsession with manufacturing a simulacra of the real it’s lost sight of the possibility of the existence of the thing it is trying to emulate.

 

Abomination.

Imagine a world in which this is the only way to purchase eggs.

Having my legal gender policed and enforced as a child did me irreparable harm. I wanted to play with dinosaurs, not dolls. As an adult, due to my age group and presenting gender I’m inundated with ads for cars. I’m poor. I don’t want a Mercedes. I see advertisers for what they are; suave manipulators exploiting me for profit. They don’t exist to help me make informed choices but to use me, and I refuse to destroy myself to better serve them.  I am so very weary of the divide and conquer demographics of advertisers, of binary  dichotomies, of us vs them attitudes. The authentic self exists in opposition to the legal self, as the legal self is wholly manufactured. I resist the pervasive lull of artificial desire; that which is designed to shovel materialism into the spiritual hole left by the destruction of our communities.

I’m punk and DIY and green; I’m real. I need genuine connection and self expression. The legal name policy is just another attempt to murder the authentic; to kill me, and I’m sick of it.

 

*Header image credit: La Pieta by Jan Fabre.

Book Review-Apocalyptic Planet

planet

Image description: Book cover with abstract circle designs.

Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the everending Earth
by Craig Childs
Pantheon Books, 2012

Half nature writing, half Gonzo journalistic exposé of the impact of the dawning anthropocene era, Craig Childs’ book is a compelling and engrossing read.

He depicts the planet as an unstable, shifting and magnificent beast. The Earth rends, crushes, chews and digests. Glaciers melt, sea floors become mountain tops and deserts devour. With boots on the ground, Childs witnesses this awe-inspiring process first hand; not as a geologic process too slow to be comprehended except in the abstract, but as a myriad of cataclysms taking place right here in the present and observable within our lifetime.

Although he doesn’t take on a pessimistic or proselytizing tone, he’s clear about the impact that humans have on this delicate, seemingly chaotic system. Despite the title, the book is neither a history of the planet nor a futurists guide to what we can expect. Instead, it is a musing the present, apocalyptic process we are all living through.

It’s well researched with an extensive bibliography but accessible in style; making it good reading for the daily commute-but keep your smartphone handy as he neglects to explain many of the jargon terms associated with various fields such as mountaineering. I found myself needing to pause to quickly look up new phrases pretty often.

An enjoyable read for the environmentally and scientifically conscious armchair traveler.

Embarrassment and the urban panopticon

It’s hard to be your witchy self when you’re always being watched.

I live deep in the suburbs, and while I appreciate the convenience of having useful amenities within walking distance, I can never truly relax surrounded by so many people. I struggle to commit fully to trances as even in my own home I could be and have been interrupted.

Some time ago, when walking home late one night I paused to enjoy the quiet and warm darkness.
I sat on the pavement with my back resting on a fence, legs tucked up and out of the way. The street was empty. Walking around the suburbs, I rarely see another human soul outside cars.
A man passing by stopped and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine but declined from further justifying my behavior; thinking him to be a responsible, concerned citizen. I did not wish to either lie or engage in a lengthy explanation.
In the moment that followed I realized it wasn’t compassion for my welfare that stopped him, but scorn. I was breaking a social norm; a cause for moral outrage.
‘It’s very weird. Sitting there in the dark. Very weird.’ I was at a loss for words at his tone and just dumbly agreed with a ‘Yep. Sure is.’
When I refused to engage further, he left in a huff. I wondered if he’d call the police.
It was a tiny microcosmic reflection of how much pushback I receive from society for merely existing. Much of the time I just wish to be invisible, but being an outsider removes my right to privacy and autonomy in the minds of many. The social panopticon of the suburbs leaves me feeling watched, scrutinised and judged. In the city I can sometimes disappear in a crowd, but suburbs are stark, territorial and judgemental; not a hive of blinkered workers but a landscape of tiny anxious kingdoms.

More recently pokemon go motivated me to walk to a place I was only fleetingly familiar with. An old racetrack converted to a park, with a man-made lake and vast lawns. It’s a friendly and engaging spot, raucous with birds. As I walked my thoughts turned to community, my own poverty and the private ownership of land.
Coming up a gentle hill on the return trip, I received a view of the shops I often visit from a different angle-how perspective changes things.

I paused looking at the remains of a dead tree; pondering how much science fiction idealistically divorces man from nature. An extension of the lie of endless, perfect suburbs. The total eradication of the wild, the untamed, in favour of wholly servile machines. Manufactured food and fake wood. It’s deeply troubling and unrealistic. I’ve never seen a farm on Star Trek.

Approaching the tree carefully, I touched it, gentle and loving. It was very tall, straight and old. I listened. It spoke. Dropping into a light trance I saw it was a native hardwood, uppermost branches kissed by the sun and whispering like ocean waves in the wind. It mourned the red-blooded creatures who had sheltered in its branches, who had died when it had been cut down.

The sound of a rustling plastic bag rudely snapped me back. A person had just passed me by, carrying their groceries home.
What they would have seen in me is a strange-looking person hugging a telephone pole.
It took a few minutes of self-talk to convince myself that even if they did see me (it was dark and I was wearing all black) that it doesn’t matter. I should not be embarrassed and ashamed. I have a right to exist, no matter how odd. The dangers of oppression are real but the walls are imaginary.

Nonetheless, snapping out of a trance state involuntarily leaves me jittery, disorientated and even woozy. The feeling that had caused me to shy away from trance work after one too many interruptions.
Like most people with PTSD I have a heightened startle response. The conversation with the tree was over, abrupt and jarring, like the lives of the creatures who had once sheltered in its embrace.

I love the sea.

I love the sea.
I have always loved the sea.
As a child I’d play in sheltered inlets, hunting knot eels, baby flounder and sand crabs. Fishing for prawns was an arcane art, guided by intuition, clouds and the phase of the moon.
Rivers would form in the sand with deep canyons and gorges with steep banks, only to disappear in a day. I’d stamp at the edges to create avalanches into the crystal green water below.
On the other side of the sand bar, huge waves crashed directly from the Tasman.
‘It’s time to come back, the tide is coming in.’ A phrase to ward off becoming marooned in an isolated cove.
I’ve stood on dark shores carpeted by thousands of tiny soldier crabs as they swarmed all around me.
I’ve been caught in a rip. I’ve misjudged the depth of a dive and nearly drowned. I’ve fallen off the back of a surf lifesaver’s zodiac in rough water. I’ve sailed, windsurfed, canoed. I’ve slept in a modest wooden hut which opened directly onto an equatorial beach.
I don’t recall when it started, but it must have started somewhere. She began to speak to me. I’d sit on the edge of a rocky pier and we’d talk. I’d ask questions and get my answers from the movement of the waves. Sometimes a playful slap across the face with salty water. Wordless, quiet, knowing.
When I’m overwhelmed, I go to the beach to feel centred. The waves pull, in and out, eternal. There I am the world and insignificant.
Wading into the water up to my neck is to commune with the divine. To sail is to fly.
A whiff of salt on the breeze, or a whisper through a storm water drain, I’m never far from her, my mother. Wherever I travel in the world, she is the same, constant, yet her moods are ever different.
Sometimes black and mild as bathwater, warmer than the midnight air in summer.
Luminescent with billions of tiny lifeforms cresting on the surface of tiny waves.
Glass grey and cold, moody. Knowable only in fragments. Deeper than imagination.
Glimpsed through trees and houses from inland. No mountains draw my eye to the west. Scanning the horizon- always to her. I orientate myself by her borders, not by sun rise and fall.
In dreams I can breathe underwater and feel whole. Awake, I’m not a strong swimmer. Ill health bars me from diving and this causes me great anguish.
Living in a sheltered bay, I don’t often witness her apocalyptic glory. I know, intellectually, why people fear her. I don’t. But wonder is a small step away from terror. Something dark and slimy passes against my leg and I startle. Her other children could kill me easily.
Like glass and stones and shells, she sands off my rough edges. Borders are where I belong. The salt air erodes. Shores change. Nothing stays the same for long.
There’s salt in my blood. One day it will return to the sea. All things return to the sea.

Necromancy and the Queens of Death

Red Death is for the living. Green Death is for the already gone. White Death is for us all.

Death is a heady subject among pagans. It’s large. It’s divisive. It’s inevitable.
As a necromancer, how do I approach death, my own mortality and that of my loved ones?

This is my framework for conceptualizing death.These aren’t gods or regents but anthropomorphic personifications of natural phenomena. A symbolic representation, but powerful forces nonetheless. 

RWS_Tarot_13_Death

Death as depicted in the Rider-Waite tarot.

The Three Monarchs of Death:

The Red Queen of Death is for the living.
She’s sexy, provocative, reckless and impatient. She tastes like the blood in your mouth from a kick in the teeth.
If you get too close to her she’ll burn your fingertips. The wounds will either cauterize and make you numb, or hurt worse than anything you’ve ever felt. They always scar, but sometimes the scars fade with time-time you have because you’re still alive. She’s a gushing, ragged wound; roses and rotting meat. You can hear her laughing when a speeding car misses you by an inch. She claws into your chest and squeezes your heart when you watch a loved one slip away in their sleep. She’s pain and violence, fear and finality.

The Red Queen is always with me. Sometimes she steps behind me and out of my field of immediate focus, but she is always there-trauma, mental illness and chronic ill health see to that.
My relationship with her is intimate and deeply personal; my perpetual dance partner in a tango.

The Green Queen of Death is for the already dead.
She’s motherly, patient and persistent. She tastes like forest mushrooms. She’s the roots of a tree cracking open a skull with slow but inexorable force. She’s a bountiful feast for smaller animals, insects and organisms. She’s silence carrying an ellipses into a promise…of something more. She’s the softness of rotting wood and the hardness of fossilized bone. She’s the serene marble statue of a saint in the vaulted halls of the church of nature.
The Green Death is where I do most of my necromancy work.

I love all of my specimens. However, I knew none of the numerous preserved animals in my collection before they died.
To love them as they were once alive would be to grieve for them in passing. Sadness is too sticky; I can’t flush it out effectively and it lingers. I’ve opted out of preserving anything I’ve had the misfortune of needing to help ease from this world. If I knew them in life, I couldn’t sever their connection to the Red Queen. If possible, I bury them, so they may rest and heal.

It is better for me to love my specimens as I first met them; already dead, belonging to the Queen of the Green Death. In my necromancy practices, I do my best to serve their modest demands. They require a pauper’s supper.
The Red Queen on the other hand, is ravenous for blood. Like fire, she’ll consume everything you let her.

“…Man’s heart is a ditch full of blood. The loved ones who have died throw themselves down on the bank of this ditch to drink the blood and so come to life again; the dearer they are to you, the more of your blood they drink.”

―Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis

What to do then, when a beloved, close family member dies? In most instances in my life, it has not been my decision to make.
When it is, due to their connection with the Red Death, my regular preservation techniques would be too personally traumatizing.

Skulls are spiritually weighty objects which require no context. The spirits which inhabit dead remains have also been irrevocably transformed from their living selves.
Cremains themselves are only as meaningful as that which is ascribed to them by the living; given to a stranger, ashes may as well be a box of dirt.
For this reason, I had my cat-grandmother and cat-son cremated. This process creates a symbolic abstraction of their whole physical bodies without the removal of soft tissue usually associated with preservation.
This way I can continue to carry them with me in my life and in my heart-at least until my own death-as I remember them, as they were. The two boxes of ashes sit upon the mantel at the heart of our home. Their spirits are part of the household itself; friendly shadows slinking around corners just out of sight.

 

simba

It was much harder to take selfies 15 years ago

 

There is also a third monarch, The White Death, the Grim Reaper. This psychopomp has a single appointment to keep with every living thing and serves as a reminder not to take it all too seriously; because it’ll all be over soon enough.