Contract Magic

Well, that’s what I’m calling it. Basically I create contracts with spirits or deities to set boundaries, determine goals, have experiments, outline limits, and set timelines. I find it a really useful and practical process.

I read a lot of blog posts and pagan news articles on the dangers of oaths before experimenting with this kind of magic. I had a friend look over the contract to ensure I wasn’t getting myself into trouble. I also counted past oaths I’ve made and pondered, “Did I complete this successfully? What happened when I did? What happened if I violated a term?”

When I call this process “magic”, I’m not casting spells over the paperwork or anything–that, in my mind, would mar the consent for all parties involved. But the contracts themselves, as a living document, feel magical.

I realized that I actually tried to start this process when I was in deep psychosis five years ago. I have not bothered to look at these old contracts because they are too painful to see, but the seed of the idea was there. Those old contracts were a scarring failure of mine. But now, I feel this process could become a great strength. I hope you’ll forgive me, readers, for not outlining what those failures were–that time of psychosis was deeply painful and I don’t like to talk about it.

At any rate, I feel this new adventure will be successful. Amusingly, I am rather inspired by the warlock class in D&D 5th edition, who creates pacts with otherwordly entities to gain powers. It does feel a little like that.

I suppose it was my recent interactions with Lucifer that reminded me of this idea so he deserves a:

Hail Lucifer!

Become the Monster as The Undead Warlock from Van Richten's Guide to  Ravenloft – Nerdarchy

Image description: a young black half elf warlock wearing a marvelous red cloak trimmed in gold. There are purple flowy bits. He has navy pinstripe pants and knee-high boots. He carries a small skeleton pet. He has a sword belted at his right side. Source.

Autumn Realizations

Last night, as I tried to sleep I was turning over in my mind certain aspects of my practice. What did I want? What seemed interesting?

Today, I had some intense realizations. The gods really strongly told me, X is what is not working and you need to stop pursuing it. It’s making you sick. And while the message did come out rather harshly–and Odin seemed annoyed–I do think They, the gods and goddesses, meant it in the best and kindest possible way.

It seems like lots of pagans do X, but for me it just does not work. It made me feel stupid and rejected, you know, not to notice before, or really understand how bad it was. Like, I *knew*, but now, it’s really clear. I called a friend to talk about it who congratulated me on this clarity.

I still don’t feel great and need time to mule this over. I was gonna go to an online Troth event tonight, but I think it might be more restful to play video games and have tea.


Freya really emphasized that She was trying to help me resuscitate my practice. She encouraged me to go back to the drawing board and rethink what I want. I’m also rethinking deities and learning how to interpret them anew.

And I did take time to think about that stuff today.

Two groups of spirits have been sending me vibes lately. Both are groups I’ve interacted with before, quite extensively, but not with this degree of good health. These opportunities are chances to start again. I do have frameworks for both, having done a lot of research already, but there’s so much more research to do hahaha.

Anyway, this first group of spirits would require me to be quite serious in my efforts with them, so I am taking time to really think if this is what I want. I want to be careful to focus on devotion in the year ahead and try not to take on too much work. If I go too far too fast, I might burn out again. So, I’ll really have to ponder this one, or potentially just save it for later when me and my practice are stronger!

With the other group, King Arthur’s pantheon, I do feel pretty confident in following the Mysteries, even though it’s gonna be a solo effort with lots of experimentation. I’m basically poking at inventing my own devotional calendar, based on what’s important to me in his mythos. John and Caitlin Matthews’s Arthurian Magic does offer lots of group rituals and esoteric content, but not a lot of it speaks to me. I’m happier using the actual literature around King Arthur and co. to use as hymns.

I have this grand leatherbound book of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. (How I acquired this book is a story in itself that I’ll have to tell one day! With pictures!) So I could use that. …Additionally, I probably should read it cover-to-cover at some point haha. (I also have a leatherbound copy of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King that I could take pictures of for you all!) And for Queen Guinevere, I used to use an excerpt from Chretien de Troye’s Arthurian Romances as a hymn since Sir Gawain talks so kindly and lavishly about her, that it was perfect for an invocation. After much internal debate, I do feel comfortable inviting both of them back into my life. It’s a relief actually, since we’ve built up so much care and time together. I’m glad not to reject them.

Rereading this, I can’t believe I never took the time to invent a devotional calendar! But, really, I was horribly terribly sick and suffering, so observing the season with Queen Guinevere was enough at the time.

After my flirtation with Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, I’m finding myself to be more and more interested in using recorded sources than I used to be. I was more focused on mysticism in the past. I’d still like to learn more about Ireland and Scotland, but possibly, less in a spiritual way and more in a grounded sense of history, literature, poetry, etc. I’ve signed up for an ancestry class, but it’s turning out to be more mystical and ancient than I thought. It’s still worth exploring though.

What are you learning or relearning this fall?

A (Covid-Influenced?) Fallow Period

This weekend, I rearranged the contents of my bookshelves. This was very satisfying! I will be rearranging them again, as I will finally be acquiring the LOTR trilogy this week, secondhand. Those tomes need space! So Wednesday evening I will be having a delightful time fussing with my books.

While I was dusting and tidying my room this weekend, my hands went almost of their own accord to my tarot altar. I started putting away my decks, crystals, animal statues, and trinkets. It felt like the right thing to do. Then I went to play Dungeons and Dragons (where my players fucking rocked at roleplay that day). The next day, I put away my Norse/Arthurian shrine. I didn’t feel a lot of emotions about it, beyond some vague guilt that I ought to do more.

But, I noticed two key struggles with my faith right now:

  • I want to have lower expectations of myself. And I need the gods, goddesses, and spirits to also have lower expectations too.
  • It’s starting to feel a bit like I’m worshipping the fantasy genre that I like to write, study, and read in. It’s weird.

And so my faith feels like a block to me writing fantasy stories, rather than an inspiration. Lately, I’ve been pondering: ok, if I take faith out of this story, or take faith out of the daydream/goal I am fantasizing about, what am I actually aiming towards in my life? I’m not sure what the answer is yet.

Combined with this difficulty is the ironic fact that my two batches of poems that got accepted as a submission this year are both at Norse pagan publications. So clearly, religious inspiration does get me somewhere. It just doesn’t seem to be where I want to be.

Last week, I joked to a new queer Unitarian Universalist friend that if I were to convert to another faith, it would be for the institution and structure. I wasn’t entirely joking though, and my friend agreed that that’s where they and their heathen spouse often bicker about being able to get heathens to do anything. Getting pagans to organize is tough.

I don’t think I’m necessarily going to upend my whole practice and join another religion. But I’m content to stay connected with UU–which is a new thing for me this year–and also with my Buddhist teacher, Lama Rod Owens, who is easing me back into meditation practices.

Meditation was probably borderline traumatic for me for quite some time, because I spent much of 2018 and 2019 trying to understand this new level of psychic power: receiving visions while awake. Queen Guinevere’s presence was overwhelming me: a particularly potent delusion came back and I was receiving way too many visions by trancing/sitting with Queen Guinevere almost every day. Or trying to, at least, because I thought that that was what a godspouse/spirit-spouse was supposed to do, right? Sit with one’s spouse, each day. A daily practice, as is so often touted in various spiritual circles. But it made me so sick.

Eventually, by the summer of 2019, trying to get myself to sit and meditate was like wrestling with a lion and I realized that… “meditation” kinda sucked?! I wasn’t actually meditating, I was lost in half-delusion, half-trance and being rather out of it. I wasn’t sick enough that it was preventing me from functioning or working, but it was miserable enough that I had a hard time talking to my friends about it.

But then again, my therapist has repeatedly affirmed that it’s really good to have healed from psychosis and that not everyone does that.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I am relearning how to meditate and it actually does feel good. I still hallucinate a little, and sometimes I get input from Deity when I don’t always want to be, because I struggle with boundaries with Them. But sitting with emotions, sitting with the body, the breath… it does help with a short guided meditation. I can’t do a long meditation, but I can manage a short one.

Having a priest/ess, minister, congregation, community, something would have been a great boon to me in my deeper illnesses. I did not have that physically, beyond the occasional visits to my grandmother’s church at her request (RIP <3) and an online kindred/pagan conversation group (that I’m still a part of actually).

I’m returning to my first practice: tarot. I’ve done a few readings. I’ve been reading about the Devil card a bit whose themes I’ve been contemplating. I’m debating selling a deck or two, and saving for a new one. I’ve made a wishlist. I’m starting to avoid tarot decks on Kickstarter because it’s just too damned tempting and there are so many decks on Kickstarter??!

I do have Lo Ken’s “Art and Numen” book sitting on my To-Be-Read pile of books. Martin Shaw’s “Wolf Milk” will come in the mail in a few weeks. And in June, I’ll have two pre-ordered books coming in: the new Loki book by …. some pagan author whose name I can’t recall (is it Morgan Daimler?)… and Lama Rod Own’s new book Love and Rage. So, I’ll probably still read spiritual stuff sometimes. And Kelly-Ann Maddox, a famous tarot Youtuber, just came out with a new video on how she got into tarot, so I don’t want to completely abstain for spiritual stuff.

Or maybe that would be good for me, idk.

I had such a weird hallucination the other day that my dad suggested abstaining from the fantasy genre altogether but that would honestly mean upending my whole life: no DND, no RPG video games, no books, no more magical poems, no myths or tales–I just couldn’t!!! I would be ridiculously miserable if I did that. But, it could be fun to read non-fantasy stories… maybe I should make room on my bookshelves for more scifi 😉

Updates, Writing, Spirits, etc.

I got laid off today, thanks to coronavirus. I haven’t really told my friends yet, since I finish next Tuesday. I expect it will come up in DnD tomorrow though. Really, I am sure lots of people in the field of ESL are getting laid off. 

A part of me is thinking, yeah, use this time to write rune poems and make runic paintings but Jolene Dawe’s latest post has me wondering if I ought to do lighter tasks. I’ll see how things feel the first few days.

Although really, I’ll still work on drawing that Norse/Celtic knotwork style regardless because learning this style is teaching me about acquiring my own.

I’ve been working on a submission to the Troth’s Loki anthology. It’s being edited this weekend by an old university colleague (she’s getting paid–never fear!) and I’ll receive the edits on Monday. I’m pretty excited to do something for Loki.

I need to pick a pagan name though. My online kindred encouraged me not to rush, even though I’d already thought of a temporary name. They told me to take it slow, think on it, wait for the name to come. That seems sensible. I didn’t rush choosing my name as a trans guy, after all.

Better to really give it a think. Still, I might need a temporary name just to go with this anthology, if the name doesn’t arrive on time. ^^

Last weekend I asked one of my elders about books on ecstatic practice. She nudged me, you know, why do I want to know this stuff,  what was my goal, especially since I already seem to have a handle on the mild ecstatic practices that I do have already? 

I told her I didn’t know and that I would need to think of a goal.

So instead, I bought Felicia Day’s book on inspiration (“Embrace Your Weird”) which I think could be a lot more useful to me as an artist.

If anything though, I was debating buying a book on druidic awen to see what Celtic practices there are around inspiration. The druids work with that pretty regularly so I thought I might get some good ideas. 

When I talked more with L, my elder, I realized my concern was more about boundaries with spirits at bedtime. I often hallucinate at bedtime (and indeed, the MRI to examine this problem this coming Sunday got cancelled today) and find my boundaries with spirits to be thinner. L really frowned at me in concern because, as she said, she is REALLY STRICT with spirits about stuff like that, because sleep is important.

This week, as I was more attentive to these boundaries, I have a funny feeling that I might be getting

  1. residual deity energy in my aura bringing up unnecessary stuff
  2. my desires or impressions of Deity being reflected at me

Somewhere on the Magick from Scratch blog, the author writes about all this stuff. I’ll have to review it.

Anyway, I did like a check-in with myself at bedtime and realized that my boundaries were pretty loud and clear. I really just think I am floating a bit in residue, illusions, and desires. And I wanna be clear here: my hallucinations are obviously hallucinations and are manifestly different from spiritual visions. I know what’s what.

BUT, just to avoid tangled communications as I go to bed, it’d be useful to clear stuff up. I hope to have a bath later on this evening to clear myself up–although it’s late enough now that I might not and just do it tomorrow. Additionally, I am thinking I need to regularly sit down with Deity, at least once a week, and open up to Deity to be like ‘yo I am here, what’s up?” so that way there is a container for trance. 

That way, I don’t feel an impulse to trance at bedtime. Lying down definitely makes me receptive but I don’t want to do it at bedtime! I’m not sure where I can lie down to do this. Maybe I’ll get a meditation chair?

Oh yes, that too. Gently guided by Lama Rod’s teachings, I hope I can slooooowly learn to meditate again. His 7 Homecomings meditation taught me that I could try again. He’s doing a lot of online classes right now, so we’ll see how that goes.

(also shout-out to Jolene. I’ve been reading her stuff… probably since I was a newbie pagan 8 years ago. Her friendly supportive vibe has always encouraged me! Her wife, Beth, and her writing have also long encouraged me in my practice.)

 

Where I’m at now

Prompted by my good friend’s blog post “On discernment, discipline, mental illness, and witchcraft”, I thought I would update my blog.

First off, I want to say I was “B” in the above post. Osfairy, I hope you don’t feel guilty for accidentally prompting me to take a break! It was a healthy decision for me and I feel I have a lot more clarity. (And bitterness, but so it goes.)

They spoke of discipline:

Discipline takes on a weird taste when you have mental health issues, because laziness and discipline become weapons that partners, friends, family, society and establishments use to further punish and marginalize you.

Putting meditation discipline and the discipline of daily offerings into my life did me no good in the end. There were no fruits beyond stress and exhaustion. I was awfully hard on myself for not succeeding in these activities.

So… what’s the point of religion if not to bring joy, sanctuary, justice, and wisdom?

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–onwards to updates, then.

Well, having permanently broken things off with Queen Guinevere, she is no longer in my life.

I’ve put away my reduced heathen shrine. Everything is in boxes and bags in my closet.

I still get occasional nudges from spirits, but they are rare and infrequent compared to before.

I met with a local spirit worker to talk things out. She at first tried to convince me to relearn grounding, centering, and shielding since I am still having problems with basic basic stuff but then I told her that I don’t even want visions right now. I don’t really want to interact with that stuff. It’s too easy to see pretty lights, colours, and to hear what I want. Visions are too insular and, with the way I feel now, they’re sorta useless? Like, do visions really bring any good to my life?

That conversation with that spirit worker friend helped me see that if I had had a pagan teacher or elder to speak with from the very beginnings of my practice, much of my delusions and illness could have been avoided. I told her, well, were I to continue practicing now, I would ask her, but now it’s too late.

She invited me to a Solstice party regardless so we’ll see how I feel. I don’t have any goals or hopes to paganism right now.

Last Friday, after watching a beautiful choir performance, I stood in front of a fake tree of silver lights in a park grove surrounded by real trees. I promised myself that I would not go back to religion without a teacher.

This morning, as I tossed and turned from an upset stomach, I had a dream that I was given a gift of a Valknut ring that shone like a diamond.

 

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Source: https://silverviking.is/product/925-sterling-silver-valknut-icelandic-scandinavian-odin-viking-norse-ring/

I was either Told or my unconscious-mind told myself that I ought not give it away until I find a husband.

I’m not sure why I should dream of such a thing when I am questioning all my religious pursuits.

The one hope I do have is to go to a Buddhist temple to ask anew how to meditate, and what to do with visions whilst meditating. Buddhists are experts, after all, and have been meditating for thousands of years. Who better to ask? (Plus, despite my heathenry, I still find Buddhism super interesting.)

I did look at my agenda today though, and noticed a libation to Dionysos coming up. I felt pretty friendly about it, looking at my scribble. I think a group ritual can’t hurt, particularly because it doesn’t require me to meditate or seek visions in any way. Plus libating Dionysos would be appropriate.

*shrugs*

I’m not really sure what I want right now, beyond time and room to make art. That, at least, I can learn to give myself.

Taking a well-deserved break

For a good portion of this year, I thought I had half-elven fae astral children with Queen Guinevere. I told a few friends about it, who were willing to listen, if not believe.

Then, fortunately, I brought it up with a friend who is a witch. They pointed out to me that given that I did not consent to the births of these beings, nor did they seem to have a lot of consistency, these might be false spirits. Shaken but coherent, I agreed with them.

This friend also spoke of being cautious when it comes to making promises to spirits. They pointed out that, given that children are a huge responsibility, and making a (future) marriage oath to Lady Guinevere, would mean that my practice has no ABORT button.

While I was pretty calm during this conversation, when I got home, I pretty much immediately sat down with Lady Guinevere and told her I need to break up with her.

Things were quiet for a few days.

I sat with her today and realized that I can’t hear her very well because there is trust broken between us. I keep seeing visuals of a broken marriage ring. She seemed patient and encouraging however. She asked me to look at the situation through her eyes (so I mentally put on green-lensed glasses, as her eyes are green) and I saw a knight dragging a heavy weight. So, she seems very aware that I am struggling.

I don’t know if this break will be long term or short term. I do see now that I won’t be married to her for my whole life, and that one day, I’ll move onto something new.

I have a deep and abiding need to create art without devotional purpose. I want to make art for silliness and fun, rather than to uplift a deity or spirit.

I want to give myself several months off. Perhaps longer, if I need it. I want to commit myself to some kind of artistic practice. I just don’t know how to foster it yet. My friend M recommended the book The Artist’s Way to cultivate regular art, so we’ll see.

I am deeply reluctant to commit myself to daily meditation again. It’s a lot of visions, spirit presence, and bright colours. I am doubting that it is healthy. I talked to my online kindred, who agreed that meditation can actually be unhealthy for those who have experienced dissociation, delusions, intrusive thoughts, or visions (I don’t have all of these symptoms, just some).

I’ve actually thought about returning to a Buddhist space where I know they meditate for one hour. But I know that exposing myself to an hour’s worth of visions and messages would be so so harmful for me! Maybe meditation isn’t for everybody, y’all.

I have had the following vision a few times: a blue shirtless man is surrounded by a rainbow of colours. Sometimes, he has black light pouring into his ear. I wonder if I ought to paint this fellow, who is clearly a metaphor for my own experiences… and my insomnia actually…

I might continue to update here, but less about spirits, and more about me.

I plan to continue using tarot, my journal, and candles to create a sacred space for myself and my care routine. Beyond that… well, I hope to break through artist’s block so I can MAKE ART.

Wish me luck!

Messaging Malfunctions

So, for the past two-ish years, I have gotten the calling to be Odin’s priest. I don’t think I am wrong in my hearing of the message, but I think I have stuck too closely to the letter of the idea. I’ve really been stressing myself out about training, the investment, the time, etc. And I’ve realized that with all my other goals–working abroad, becoming a better artist, furthering my education as a teacher–priesthood just doesn’t work.

I don’t have time! Who has the time?

I can really see now why pagans don’t do the formality of becoming priests. It’s a ton of unpaid labour whose training is paid for out of pocket with no societal support and little community support (do we need a fund bank for the training of priests?). I super super appreciate the leaders in our community who take the time to do rituals and learn the necessary Stuff. I still kinda wish I could, because I know I’m enough of a scholar nerd/leadershippy person, that I could do it. But. I got other stuff to do.

(Side-note: I am listening to Heilung’s new album Futha and this is so intense)

I want to focus more on my art. I want to study Japanese this fall, partly for work, and partly to write haiku&tanka in the original language (who? me? a nerd? nooooo). I’m taking a printing workshop in November and a bookbinding class in the new year. I can’t do both priesthood and art. And that’s cool!

I just feel bummed that I let myself stress so hard about this for so long. My continual, ongoing life lesson seems to be about tempering ambition so that I can plant seeds at the right time. (Timely, as tonight I am going on an edible herbs walk in my city.) I get really high ambitions and want them real bad, but then don’t have the follow-through energy. Such an Aries trait omg.

SO, I am reducing my meditation so that I can wake early to make art. I’ve been somewhat managing it on and off this summer, but Lady Guinevere encouraged me to Get Serious this week. (Thankfully, she waited until the end of my short vacation to say that.) Today, I did tarot and a rune pull for myself. It was nice.

Tomorrow… maybe I’ll plot my haiku zine or doodle a picture of Lady Frigga and Lord Odin (whom I ship as loyal marriage partners, in whatever monogamous or poly function that is to Them).

I’ll probably still try to host rituals sometimes, and do stuff in community rather than alone, but… I don’t want to hurt myself trying to honour the gods and goddesses, you know?

Earlier this summer, for the first time ever, I did a tarot reading for someone else (a friend) while deliberately seeking messages from the fae King and Queen, Arthur and Guinevere. It worked. So stunning. I’ve been keeping this skills to myself for like… I want to say six years? Seven? Seven. I was deeply ill for a good chunk of this time, so I don’t want to shame myself for not coming out of the oracle-closet sooner.

I figure I will periodically experiment with delivering (tarot/rune) messages as I feel called to. And as I get the impulse. I might share things on this blog more. I don’t want to think/write about it much because I’m already a bit stressed having come to this not-priesting decision.

It’s been quiet this summer on this blog because I’ve been busy with work and dragonboat racing. I’ll likely be on this site more in the fall/winter because I will have less racing to do. And we’ll get a six week break from practices so that’s great.

I do have long-term plans for my art, but it’s really long term, so I am not worried. ❤

Thanks for bearing with me, y’all.

Hard Lessons: A Visitation from Lord Apollo

Lately, when I just sit on the bus or take a walk with no podcast on, I will sometimes get a visit from a deity. So here are some words of wisdom from Lord Apollo:

First off, he remarked that I seem to have a -2 inspiration on reading Plato’s Republic. He cautioned me about basing my faith entirely on books. He suggested watching a video instead.

He also encouraged me to check out some Italian paintings of the Hellenic gods.

Then some advice:

“Come to see Us when you feel joy.”

This is because sometimes I feel obligated to pray, even when I am grouchy. So I have to unlearn this idea and just go visit them when I feel chill and happy. I think I still get stuck on the idea that one should always do ones devotions but honestly, that just doesn’t work for me as a person with illness and disability.

Lord Apollo noted that our mutual or intersecting interest is a friendship with Socrates. I am considering printing a picture of him to put on my altar.

Now, his last remark, which is the whole point of this post:

“Living our values is enough! This is a revelation for you!”

So, over the years, I had deeply misperceived advice on offerings. I gave way way too much to the point where it harmed me very deeply. Like “go to the hospital” deeply. My religious delusions really hurt me because I wasn’t confiding in local pagans or asking for help. I can admit that now. Honestly, I don’t think this was an issue of pride. I was/am mostly just a really shy person!

I talked out my issues with a spiritual therapist and a local pagan friend which really helped my discernment a lot. I’m way healthier now.

So, this year, I was trying to keep up a regular ritual practice every weekend with each of my four faiths. I found this very draining and unworkable. Additionally, I felt I was being taken away from my priesthood when what I really wanted was to feel grounded in heathenry as clergy.

Lord Apollo’s remark that this is a revelation to me is important because this lesson has been and is so so tough for me to learn. This may not be a revelation for others but it is for me. ❤

Regarding his assurance on living Hellenic values, I’m mostly focusing on hospitality for now. A prime example: I bought a friend a gluten-free snack today then realized she wasn’t able to attend our D&D group’s board games night. Ah well, next week.

I’ve also ordered a book “Teach Like Socrates” to learn some new teaching methods (I’m listing the bill as a work expense for my taxes muahahah). I’m rereading Jo Walton’s The Just City to compare what I know now about Plato to what I knew before.

All in all, it was a very kindly visit from Lord Apollo. Seriously, deities are infinitely more chill than my mental illnesses made them out to be. I’m very grateful to know the truth now.

Thanks for the excellent advice and useful revelations! Hail Lord Apollo, Lord of Oracles!