This isn’t really about marriage equality

‘For you I take a holy risk to love as I must,
love is the law, the only law that matters’
-Reclaiming witchcraft chant by Ravyn Stanfield

I went to the beach yesterday, and swam for the first time in years. I’d loved swimming once, but body dysphoria and abuse had robbed me of the pleasure. I was fat and strange and bullied for it as a child. I was very young when I grew large breasts and the feel of spandex swimclothes was insufferable to my autistic sensitivities. In bathers all I could feel were other people’s eyes all over me and my chest, worsened by their sticky words. People threw me in pools and even tried to drown me. During my school’s compulsory swimming program I began telling my male teachers I had my period. The women I told I had the flu, because they’d know I wasn’t menstruating for a month straight. When that excuse wore thin, I’d ‘forgotten’ my towel and gear. They didn’t believe me and gave me detentions. Detention meant nothing to me; I’d sit at the back of the classroom and read every Friday afternoon. I didn’t have anywhere better to be.

Yesterday, a friend suggested we go to a pool, or the beach. I said I didn’t want to go to the pool for fear of disease. Although the both of us are prone to ear infections, public pools fill me with more than just germaphobia; a visceral disgust. Rafts of snot and used bandaids and laughter that made me want to rip off my own skin with my bare hands. Chlorine bloodshot eyes hiding tears.

But it was gloriously warm yesterday, and the sea was fresh and calm, so I said yes to the beach. It’s hard to learn to say yes to what you want and no to what you don’t, and knowing the difference. To have people take you seriously when you change your mind. I wore an old t-shirt and boxers because I don’t own anything else. I’m fat again now but flat-chested and tattooed and stubbornly body neutral. There were other people there, enjoying the warmth and the sun, but they were tourists. The liminal; this is my realm. I was able to ignore the occasional odd looks of judgmental teenagers, dismissing it as a folly of youth. I swam.

It was a baptismal experience. Two of my greatest loves, my parents, the sun and the sea. A rebirth into a better version of me. The first time I ever took my shirt off in public was at the beach. This wasn’t a true first, a reclamation or victory, but it was a Rubicon. One of many.

I made an offhand comment to my friend about how people have lost touch with the world around them, too absorbed into the constructed, manufactured reality of the human. That we no longer have the ability to read the winds by looking at the clouds or tell the date by the stars. My friend couldn’t accept the beach was natural, a pristine sandbank extending so far from the shore, believing the sand to be imported. To him, the sand was too real, like a postmodern dream. There’s a walking trail where one can see how dramatically the shape of the coast has changed by comparing it to Impressionist paintings of the Heidelberg School of the late 19th century, shifted about by the waves in the natural bowl created by the very narrow opening to the bay. The Boonwurrung land that I love and through love wish to know.

He told me rain had been forecast-it was raining over the bay at that moment, far in the distance, but I knew the clouds wouldn’t make landfall judging by their size, shape, and the speed of the wind. They didn’t that evening, at least nowhere near me.

Not long after, we both spotted an insect floating on the surface of the glassy green water. It was a bee, and I immediately wanted to see if it was still alive. My friend was worried for me, that I shouldn’t use my bare hands to pick her up. I did anyway. I knew she wouldn’t sting me. She didn’t. Cradled against the wind in my palm, she immediately began grooming the salty water from her legs.
I’ve never been stung in my life, partly through luck, occupation, and love. As a child I never had a forest to run wild in, so I’d spend hours observing insects in our yard instead. I loved cicadas, dragonflies, mantises, beetles, bees and case moths best.

I carried the bee the long way back to shore and gently nudged her off my hand in the shade with some flowers nearby. My thoughts and statements are often punctuated by what others may consider coincidence such as this, but I know it’s a dialogue. We’re in a constant conversation with the world around us. To ignore it is the source of a well of deep emptiness that results in a drive toward apocalyptic self-destruction. Anything to escape the pain. Pay attention, it was telling me, disconnected from my body and the natural world, suffering. The entire biosphere of our world is as one organism, one community. Listen. It’s speaking truth to power.

Today I spent most of the day lying in bed feeling surly, tired and hurting. The day the marriage equality plebiscite results were released. It was a win, but the cost was too high, the percentage too low, the outlook too grim. Then I heard thunder and rushed outside to feel the first few drops of rain on my skin and relief from the oppressive heat and stress and uncertainty I’d been holding on to. It hit me like a wave. I could feel the love and strength and relief of the queer ancestors and we wept together. I opened all my windows to let them in, to wash away the tension.

There is still sand in my hair. Small victories.

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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.

solaire-of-astora-large

“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.

A return

I enjoy walking as a form of simple, aimless meditation.
Last night I went for walk along an unfamiliar path, and got thoroughly lost deep in the suburbs.
After some time, I met a cat. A beautiful, muscular and trusting black and white feline, who meowed at me until I noticed it; I was listening to music and may have tripped over it otherwise.
The cat had a message for me.
After I dispensed a payment of ear-scratches, it wandered off.

I sat down on the ground and felt so overwhelmed with fatigue, slipping into a light trance was unavoidable.

In this trance state I was transported to a scene I recognized as one I had painted many years ago, when She was the subject of many of my artistic endeavours.
Lilith, with grey skin, pointed ears, silver hair, and a featureless face except for her large, solid red almond eyes.
In this instance, a long serpent-like tail coiled behind her instead of legs. The way she appeared to me when I was younger was not always consistent, but always easily recognizable.
Before her, She held a brass bowl, filled with blood. She was pouring it on the sand. The bowl never emptied. Behind us, in the distance was a silent, still sea.

I’ve got bad RSI pains in my hands at the moment from overindulging in PC use.
I put my hands under the blood flowing from her bowl, letting it wash over my hands, and the pain disappeared for as long as the blood covered them.

We had a conversation without words.
I don’t remember what happened to our relationship. We had been close when I was a teen. Perhaps I had drifted away from her, thinking I needed to, because of my gender transition. She put that notion aside, reminding me my body is filled with blood, plump with it.

My concentration slipped and the pain returned. I got up and after over an hour of listening for trains and main roads, managed to find my way back to my house.