The Masks They Wear

Well, it’s certainly been a while now, hasn’t it? And not for a lack of anything to say, in fact it’s been a very busy, interesting, frustrating and enlightening year. And that was part of the problem, really: what to say, how much to say and how to actually get any of it out.

This is not the first time I’ve sat down to write this very post, it’s the fifth. The first time was early spring, so these attempts were spaced out. I would get so far with it, and then something would cause me to stumble, I’d glance over what I’d done and it would strike me as all wrong. It served as a good indication that I had not actually gotten to the bottom of the matter yet. So it will be interesting to see if I finish this time and hit that publish button, it might be the final sign that I’ve reached the end of this particular puzzle.

But let’s go back to the beginning. I started the year on a high note, I had managed something I had always struggled with: a consistent daily ritual routine. I’ve been over this before, but to review: my self discipline is garbage and the various disorders that I live with can make that worse. I tried to tell myself, and others, that regular practice was not necessary, that it was an overstrict and unreasonable expectation from overstrict and unreasonable people. I did that for a long time, but eventually I had to sit down and have one of those hard conversations with myself – do I think that because it’s what I actually believe, or do I want to believe that because it’s something I have a hard time with? And I had to admit it was the latter, and furthermore that such people had a point: if you’re going to master something, be good with something, you need to work at it every fucking day. Sporadic attention will only take you so far, and that’s fine if so far is where you want to go; I didn’t, I wanted more, and being as reality will not suspend its rules on account of my difficulty, I needed to change myself.

And I had managed it, for over three months (if I’m being honest it wasn’t every single day, the time covered holidays that involved busy schedules and travel and no time at home, but they were the exceptions, I hadn’t worked out how to deal with the exceptions yet, I was very aware of the ritual’s absence and got back into it the very next day, so I still consider it a win). I was excited, I was going to come on here to brag; and then I hit the wall that has been my obsession for the rest of this year.

It didn’t come out of nowhere, there had been signs along the way (going back a number of years), that I wasn’t sure how to interpret beyond noticing the pattern, that I kept in the back of my mind while focusing on other things. I don’t know if it was a matter of too much time going by, or if it was the string of wins I was wracking up, the layer of solid ground that was developing under my feet, that the gods decided to stop letting me ignore it. There was a shadow growing over everything I did, a certain discomfort building.

You’re missing something, what you’re doing is not adding up. Something is different, something has changed. You need to figure it out.

So I gave up my routine, even knowing I’d have to struggle back up again from the bottom of the fucking mountain at some future date. Some would say I should not have done that, never stop your devotions, and I can see the point of that, really, but at the same time I didn’t know what else to do. Something was wrong and I had no idea what, the only plan I could come up with was to suspend all operations and start systematically poking at the every surface until the problem reveals itself.

So that’s been my year (well, barring the summer where I had wilted into uselessness): poking, testing, getting hints, reading, studying, weaving elaborate theories, making many, many mistakes along the way, often ones that should’ve been easily avoidable. I have, by turns, felt close to the gods and hopelessly distant; intrigued by the new information and the strings of weird coincidences, and ready to slam my head against the wall just to make this stop.

Times like this, my solitary status can feel like a burden. I think back to when I had circles of like minded friends and distant acquaintances I could bounce these ideas off of; people who had been there, done that, and could assist a confused person with a diagnosis. The internet could be helpful with that. But then I also remember echo chambers, spreading trends and cults of personality; I can look back to a couple years worth of alleged gnosis I’d written down that read like inane jumbled horseshit to me now, all from when I’d (inadvertently, and stupidly) drifted into a very insular group where everything was tightly focused on one person’s fantasy life. Questions and gnosis and difficulties can be spun in any number of interesting, and flagrantly incorrect, directions if one is determined to look at things through a particular lens and, intentions aside, someone can be lead very far off course.

And I can do that myself, as well. I’m very much a head person, I live in my own mind and I think, obsessively. It’s both a strength and a character flaw. And left to my own devices, it can run wild. I can lose track of where an idea came from, did it originate with me or outside of me, or if it’s something I noticed in the course of reading does it really have the weight I’m attaching to it? That is a point where I do think having another knowledgeable person to bounce these ideas off of would’ve helped, someone else might’ve better caught some of this before my mind got carried away. It’s often possible to draw lines between things if you look at them long enough, and I don’t mean it’s bullshit sometimes those lines are genuinely there, but it doesn’t mean it’s relevant to you (or not in the way you’re looking at it). There was one error I’d gotten hung up on for a couple months, because I could make a lot of logical sense of it, it all tied in with each other in a way that looked a little too neat and tidy – in my own mind, that is, when put into actual practice it instantly fell flat. I remember the divine commentary on it much later, after it had been put to rest: It was a really interesting coincidence. Still a coincidence.

So why don’t you put it into practice earlier, I can hear someone asking me, since that is the arena where all theories must live or die. And I agree, I know, and yet I don’t do it, I get lost in my own mind and ignore the physical world. And probably end up wasting a lot more time that way. I recognize this, I’m trying to do better, but it’s not always easy to pull yourself out of that spiral.

And another cause of that spiral is left over baggage from the Dark Years: the mental break, the time with that very insular group, the circumstances which produced the inane rambling horseshit that was a big tangled knot of my projections and insecurities and other people’s projections and insecurities. Those years are firmly in the past, but this is the first time since then venturing out into the murky waters of let’s call it spirit work, and I’m finding it intimidating, dealing with UPG or making grand proclamations about how things have changed, when I was so wrong before. I understand better how those mistakes were made, I’m not in a depressive headspace, but there is still that worry, that shadow of doubt. And I need to confront that, I need to get over it; if this is what my life is going to be, and I want it to be, this is one of the conditions that come with that. I have no doubt part of this is all about getting me past that intimidation, and I’ve stepped up to the plate, I haven’t shrunk back from it, from any of the mistakes or only partial truths of recent months; I’m just overly cautious on this first run, and thus obsessing over things maybe a bit too much, maybe demanding a lot more evidence ahead of time than I really need.

And it’s also possible that I’ve been subconsciously dancing away from the truth, every time it rears its head, hints at its existence, for reasons that may range from simple disbelief that this could be the case to maybe a fear of what it will mean. That I keep explaining it away and retreating to a proxy scenario, something that feels safer, something that is close, yes, but not still not right.

That is a possibility that’s become harder and harder to dismiss. I’ve systematically poked and prodded every wall, but there was one place I’d ignored, because it had not occurred to me it was on the table – the surroundings, sure, not the central pillar. But no, it’s all on the table, even, maybe especially, that central pillar.

I’m not ready to make any (semi) public announcements here, past experience has also made me gun shy about rushing into such things and this, I think, is a lesson I should keep. But I am ready to say two things, one that was an early revelation and has since solidified; the other, well let’s say I am also very certain of part of it, even if I am still working out the full extent of it (and if this time I finish and publish, I may take it as an omen that I’ve reached the correct ballpark).

The first was the total abandonment of a Greek cultural framework. That came through early, it was very clear and unambiguous, and my mind had no reason to try and make it so. Probably this message came through years ago, though I had interpreted it as leave the Hellenic Reconstructionst community, which I did, and then had little opportunity to further explore. I actually suspect this has been in play all along, as I think back to the struggles I went through trying to include other elements or other gods from the pantheon, because I felt like I should, and it never working out, often because Hermes himself stepped in and put a stop to it. In trying to pick up a practice again, that was where I defaulted, it was what I knew best, diving back into reading about ancient culture to reacquaint myself and find a good starting place, to maybe follow up on a few things I’d long had an interest in there, and then the foot came down. Forget it, all of it, it’s not meant to be.

Yet the underlying instinct to look for tradition, rather than the grab bag of whatever you feel like, was still present and that brings us, in part, to the second item.

This has been a very slow process, a slow understanding and acceptance, and I think most of the research I’d been prodded on was ultimately about bringing this to light, if in a somewhat roundabout way. That the aspect of Hermes I interact with is a syncretic one. I do not know if this is a more recent phenomenon, if, as in the phrasing I frequently see in oracles, something has changed, or if maybe it’s always been this way. That is one of those questions my overactive brain could take and run away with in a desperate attempt to fully understand this whole mess; I doubt I will ever really know, one way or the other.

The way Hermes appeared to and interacted with me had seemed starkly different from what a great majority of Hellenic Polytheists described (at the time): I didn’t see the Messenger of the Gods, nor the Light Hearted Lord of the Marketplace, or the more recent Holy Hipster of the Internet. I had noticed at the time, but thought little of it. I’d had a few friends then that also counted Hermes as a patron of sorts and saw him very similar to me – I remember remarking on it to them, at least once, that I hardly recognize my Hermes in the poetry shared on e-lists, and having the sentiment agreed with, so I was not in the boat alone. But gods are complicated and some more complicated than others, there were likely very good reasons why we saw the face we did and other people did not, and vice versa. I find it to be a point of curiosity now, lessened perhaps by the presence of those old friends who were then, and still are now as far as I know, interacting with Hermes. Of course the both of them also had far more ties to the rest of the Greek package, whereas he was the only thing keeping me there.

He also rarely showed up with the classical trappings that Hermes ought to have. And I don’t know if that was always true and it just took me a while to notice it, or if it changed at some point. The downside of not journaling I suppose, but I doubt small details like that would’ve struck me worth recording. He did come with a few other trappings that were not attested to in ancient lore or practice, but were very consistently present for me. Again, I didn’t worry about this much, then, only started raising an eyebrow at it when it began growing in more recent times. Because every one of them was something that made logical sense, that looked like it belonged in his sphere even if the Greeks did not recognize it as such, and I could explain it to people in a clear way that they would understand, so it never seemed a problem.

Thing is, the reading I got prodded into doing, even the initial quick bits I was finding through internet searches, all of those extra non Greek trappings, they’re all accounted for at the other end of the syncretization line. All of it. It’s been a little eerie, watching all that come together.

It’s been an interesting journey that has kind of gone all over the place; at the end of this trip through online information, what I could find in my local library (and that could be better) and, *massive tired sigh* very brief glimpses into certain corners of the Pagan community, that I very quickly abandoned lest the insane amounts of drama, argument and infighting I saw front and center put me off the entire endeavor.

(I’m not pretending the community was wonderful when I was a mostly happy part of it, there was always drama, argument and infighting, but it’s not just gotten worse over time, it’s kicked into overdrive. I had seen discussion, among those few people I still pay attention to, about how bad it’s gotten, and yet I was still surprised. I no longer have the energy nor the patience to deal with shit like that, the benefits are not worth the cost. Now I also hear from those same few people, about many small private groups that keep to themselves and just practice their religion; I hope to eventually cross paths with them. Until then.)

Anyway, I ended up mostly focusing on two cultures, two points of interest, one entirely new and…well, one that just kept on coming up, even in my research of the first, but I kept moving away from it, talking myself out of it.

Syncretic deities were nothing I’d ever thought much about, because (or so I believed) I’d never run into one. It’s the sort of thing my brain could also run away with, down some rabbit hole I’d never find my way out of: how does it happen and what does it mean? Does it create a third being, or a meeting place of sorts, a mask that both separate gods have access to? Interesting questions to contemplate, that I could distract me forever until I have what grasp on it my limited mortal view can manage, and the lingering intimidation can make that look like an attractive path (understand what you’re getting into before you get too far off track again). I have to actively push it back.

Thing is, I could’ve dealt with a syncretic Hermes, there would’ve been some perspective adjustments, but that’s fine. But oh noooo, no, there’s got to be another curve ball.

Said curve ball was thrown many months ago, when the syncretic thing was just dawning on me, a brief direct message that had jerked me out of meditation, wait a minute, what the hell does that mean? No further elaboration came, and it stuck firmly in my head ever since, hovering on the sidelines, trying to work itself out.

You may need to get used to calling me by a different name.

I thought it would be a epithet, an addition, a nod to the syncretic side. I’d certainly found quite a lot that would’ve been very relevant. I’d focused most on that first culture and the clear link there, the one that was new and thus unfamiliar. And there is something there, a legitimate connection, I had that confirmed, in an odd bit of UPG I’m not prepared to get into. But said UPG did not involve two figures alone, the number given was three: Hermes, Option One and….oh, I mean I think I know who the third is, probably, but I’m just not sure, sooooo, let’s not worry about it!

*sigh* Fuck it. I know what it is. I know what the name is.

It’s the thing I keep inching up to, and then dancing away from, back to the new and unfamiliar, the close but not quite. Because that other thing, it’s very familiar, from way back. I put myself in the Hellenic community once because Hermes, but aside from them who were the people I was meeting? What did a lot of them have in common? The worldview I quietly absorbed through a good deal of second hand exposure, culture specific terminology I still use? A direction I was nudged into once and has never really been that far away, however much distance I (unconsciously) try to create?

Why that distance, though? Why have I, as I now acknowledge I have, been finding excuses to push it away? There are a couple of potential reasons that spring to mind. One may just be an association with certain people and the headaches they cause me, something that once acknowledged should be easy to sweep aside. Other possibilities might have more to do with me, the implications, what this could mean for me, that might require some introspection, self work, acceptance – a little bit more of what I have been doing as of late.

It could also just be the whole can of worms this opens – the question of who am I now, and have been, dealing with.

From a logical, outside perspective, I can see this makes sense. If I am told to leave the whole Hellenic package behind, if I am prodded to pick up a world view from the other culture, then why keep only the name? Why not make the full move, right? But why request worship in a foreign culture, using someone else’s name, unless…

So what the fuck, my brain screams, what happened here? Will I be dealing with Hermes in a skin suit? Or am I, right now, dealing with you in a Hermes suit? Did something on this syncretic line shift from left to right, from one to the other? Did a change occur at some point and I never noticed? Or was it always this way, and I never realized?

There is something I’m reading right now, not a book I’d sought out but kind of tumbled into my lap through chance just as I was working my mind around this, a book that has answered a few questions, closed a few of those holes in the theory, the what about X, I know X is true and Y doesn’t look like X so what about that – well, here’s another way to look at it, here’s some fine details you may have missed, and maybe that actually isn’t a contradiction. According to what I’ve seen there, that bit about the Hermes suit, that’s very possible. Not just possible, it would almost be typical. Doesn’t mean it’s true, it may have been a change, it may not even be permanent. But it’s not a possibility I can continue to ignore.

Ugh.

I am resolving not to get lost in the literal endless stream of questions and doubt, to act as if and see what happens. It is in action, not contemplation, where all theories live or die. This idea won’t go away, so run with it, flip to the other side, call the other name, worship the other god; if it’s not true I will learn that quick enough, as I have with every other misstep in the last year.

First impressions – uh, yeah. Wow. We are still in the beginning, a reversal could still conceivably happen, something else could still occur, at this point who knows. Quite the start though, like after months of something watered down I got suddenly hit with the real stuff.

And I finished this post. So there’s also that.

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On Limitations

The sparrows…have accepted even harsher limitations to achieve even more spectacular results. Like most birds, they have embraced many limits and traded in a galaxy of other possibilities in exchange for the supreme achievement of flight. Every cell in their bodies is shaped by the demands of life in the air…they are masters of a single trade, and its requirements are strict enough that every other option has dropped away.

-John Micheal Greer’s Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, Chapter Four: The Law of Limits (44-45)

You know, this post has been sitting for a while now, all written up but I was unsatisfied with it for some reason. Attempts at editing didn’t help, something about it just felt wrong, there was something I wanted to say about limits and taboos but it wasn’t coming together.

One part of my daily routine (and I feel I can talk about that more now that it has firmly established itself) is divination, a single tarot card. I had never seen the point of doing that on a daily basis, after all most people’s lives don’t change that drastically from day to day, mine perhaps less than most, so wouldn’t it just be the same thing over and over again? But hey, that’s what the experts I read say should be part of your basic foundation, along with some daily ritual and meditation (or, for me, grounding, centering and shielding plus devotional practice, offerings and time spent with the gods) so okay, I’ll give it a go. And I’ve found that yes, indeed things don’t change that much from day to day, but there is something oddly gratifying in seeing those consistent patterns developing (oh, look, it’s working!).

Then there are the times when you pull the same damn card every day for an entire week like it’s the only one in the deck (no, it’s not a bad shuffle, I know how to shuffle cards, and either way I never pick from the top of the deck). Some message here, but what the hell is it? You slowly work it out, the general idea first then the specific it’s applying to; you make a move in the right direction, stumble, and the card the next day tells you it’s not good enough; fuck off completely the following day and you get that first card again, stuck to an even uglier one that all but screams I’m getting sick of your shit.

I may need to be told more than once, but I’m not that thick. And so here I am, knowing what I need to say and this post still has the same title and the same quote, but the rest of it is very different. This is both to really cement it to myself and make something of a public vow that I will be making those needed cuts to my life to avoid mental miasma, so I can be better in tune with the gods.

There has been a lot of that going on lately, paring down, focusing. Much of it has not had to come down from on high, they’re decisions I’ve made for myself because I realized after a time it was the right thing for me to do. I’ve been living a fairly monkish existence for a little while now, been in this city almost a year and I don’t know anyone here apart from nearby relatives, I’ve made no effort to change that nor wanted to. I’ve not been a total hermit as I once was, I’ve engaged plenty with the city itself, with the nearby ocean, but not with other people, and that mostly goes for online as well. I won’t say definitely never, you never say that where Hermes might hear it, but unless and until something falls out of the sky and into my lap, this is how it is and where I need to be.

I haven’t been very good at that, being where I need to be; I spent a long time trying to live against my nature, thinking it was just what I had to do. When Hermes had me uprooted from my family’s home and out into the world, I don’t think I handled that transition well. All of a sudden (and it was sudden, it took a month) I was in a completely different place and I don’t just mean a city I’d never been to, and there seemed to be a lot more opportunities available to me that had never been on my radar before. Well, other people live like this, I told myself, very easily too, it’s just the way it goes. I tried to adapt as I had done every time my life changed on me (changes that were usually temporary and highly volatile), and it worked for a while but it wasn’t going to work indefinitely, not for me and not for the people I was mingling with; I do not fit in, very obviously, and even when that fact is consciously acknowledged it can still create long term strain within the group, let alone when everyone’s ignoring it (me because I’m still finding my footing too late in life, them because…well, because maybe you’re not as all welcoming and open minded as you like to think you are, but fuck honesty, you’re just going to keep on telling yourself otherwise while your frustration shows up in other ways). I’d never gotten anywhere that close to a normal life before (and it wasn’t even that close, with all the spirit workers and druids and the large number of interestingly, and sometimes frighteningly crazy people that passed in and out of my home), I found I couldn’t do it, and those opportunities started naturally going away.

I also finally got an idea of what my life looked like from the outside. You don’t always know that, if you’re far off the beaten track, far out of the world and only ever meeting people in the same fucked up boat as you, you might have an idea but you don’t really know until you come across a fleet of very different ships. Now I knew, and with that knowledge in mind I could watch everything contracting back into its proper shape, those opportunities I’d thought I’d seen at first proving to be mirages after all; life turned out to be a long corridor with every door sealed shut save one, the door Hermes was standing in front of. And that brought out anger and resentment, which was allowed to take over during the crisis time when my mind snapped and I had little else. Because gods damn it that wasn’t fair (and no, it’s not, but life isn’t fair and it never pretended to be). Anger and resentment driving me to waste my time banging against those sealed doors, like I could somehow force them to open through sheer will power. I won’t say it was all failure though it mostly was, but whatever wins I managed to tear free were always so small, so insignificant compared to the immense amount of effort I put into achieving them, and the further immense effort required to hold on to them, it was never worth it.

But of course it was never about wanting those doors opened, not about the things I didn’t have or the opportunities I was not given. No, it was about not having been given the chance to decide, about feeling herded down that single corridor; even that feeling, and the urge to fight against it that it brought, was more about proving something, to the world or myself I’m not sure. The saner part of me knew this couldn’t keep going, something had to be done, the hardest thing for a stubborn asshole like me to do when I’ve got my fists up and my heels dug in: total and complete acceptance.

Assume that this is it, I’d said to myself, over and over, until it sunk into my brain, this is the shape of your life, the patterns have all been set, no radical change is coming, you will never be given any more cards to play than what you have right now. Find a way to live with that. Keep to your box. Play the hand you were dealt.

If that hand contains only one playable card, the God card is nothing to sneeze at, and I wouldn’t trade it away, not for the Career, Family, Quiet House in the Suburbs and Private Yacht card master set. I never lost sight of that, it was never a question that, when the time came to make those hard choices, I’d still be on this path. Even when doubts were growing that I could ever go as far as other people were with it. I’d see the people I knew online, what they were talking about (the ones I believed, and still do), and I’d think to myself, and if you laugh at this believe me I’m laughing at myself now – if I had the sort of signal clarity that was more reliable, more consistent, more immediate, more like what they’re talking about, it would be so much easier to sacrifice everything for it.

Yes, I know, you have to put the work into that, moron. But it’s not that, that’s the secondary lesson in this fable. I never realized, back then, how much of my limited supply of energy was going into just getting through my day to day life and all the interactions that required: a multitude of room mates, both an online and in person large community I was trying to be an active part of, so many people every damn day with barely a break in between. And I’m sure it doesn’t sound like all that much to the more socially oriented types (which is the vast majority of humanity, I am an anomaly and I do know that), but it was well past too much for me. That I had the signal clarity I did, back then on the fraction of mental power I had left to spare, is amazing; the improvements that have come in just a short time of regular every day multiple times a day practice with most of my attention and energy has been even more incredible. I could, in all likelihood, progress far in this path, if I take all that will power that I once wasted living out of place, or trying to tear down impassible barriers, and put it to real use instead.

There are many reasons why the gods might request other aspects of your life be sacrificed or restricted, but one very simple, easy to understand one is just a matter of time and energy. We all have limited supplies of it, the further you spread it out the less is going into each individual thing; for a lot of things that might be fine, but some things require more energy if you want to do them even marginally well. If you want to be, say, a top surgeon or an Olympic athlete, we understand such people are not going to have much of a social life because everything is going into learning and perfecting their craft; that’s a reason not a lot of people pursue those careers (not the only, by far, but one of them), they’re not willing to make the necessary sacrifices, and no one blames them for it. You have to really want it, really want to succeed, to be willing to risk or give up so much else; in my own observation over the years, that sort of dedicated passion is in very short supply.

Easy to understand, I say, but the fact has always been (and probably still is) that a lot of Pagans have a hard time accepting that. They want to believe religion is the single grand exception, where all paths are all equally easily accessible to all people. But I’m not here to shake my head at the Pagan community, just acknowledging the attitude and saying I don’t agree. Like the above quote says, which I left up because I really liked it, hard limits are a part of the way things work, part of natural law and you all like nature, right? (that it was birds was interesting, I do have a minor spiritual fascination with them, the name Hermes gave me is a bird name, so them being the example of hard limits for great power, adds another dimension to it)

Silence, another important factor, you need silent time in order to give the gods an opportunity to get through. I have a slight advantage there, I’m far less internet dependent than it seems so many people are: I never got into social media, my cell phone is not online, and I can wait in line, wait for a bus, take a short ride while absorbed in my own thoughts without needing (or wanting) some distraction. Television though. Oh man, I used to have it on all the time when I was at home, even if I was barely watching it, even if it was something I’d seen a million times already and didn’t give a shit about. For a time there, I didn’t think I could function without some background noise.

Again, I didn’t need anything to come down from on high, I made that choice myself. Odd maybe, but it happened when we cut cable and started streaming instead. Before, I had a limited number of channels (let’s say thirty that were actually worth watching) and within those limits I could always choose something that would be tolerable; suddenly the options weren’t limited, we have everything, so now, what do you want to watch? And you know what, most of the time I could not be assed to hunt through unlimited options to find something to just brainlessly stare at; days would go by while the TV sat unused and I found I didn’t miss it as much as I once thought I would. Which isn’t to say I don’t watch television at all anymore, it means I watch it more deliberately; I watch shows because I want to see them, not because they happen to be on.

I had said, previously, that I once expected Hermes would take far more control over how I live my life as things got more intense, but then it didn’t happen and it was a cause of some distress. It may be just as well, I don’t think I was ready to accept it, that I may have needed the experience to really understand why things have to be the way they are, the point and purpose of taboos and limitations. And it may be that it’s always better I come to the right conclusions on my own, without needing to be told, that I learn my limits and make the conscious choice, over and over, to stay the path, and shed anything that’s getting in my way.

But it is true, the closer you get to the gods, the more they intrude on your life; limitations and taboos are part and parcel of these paths and it was very premature to declare that it wasn’t coming. Even in a short amount of time of regular every day several times a day practice, it’s started to come. Points get raised as they’re needed, things branch out, the uncomplicated basics I started out with grow and little rules start to appear.

(There are also some grey areas, where I’m not sure if I should be calling it a taboo. Like my diet, that I was pointed toward by the gods in a rare moment of clarity back during the bad years. It’s seemingly common for food taboos to come up, and I’ve always credited the gods with the adoption of that diet, but my diet needed to be changed for other health related reasons, and the times being what they were, I was never sure if it was just this will help you lose weight or if there was more to it than that. As a side note, I’ve been making my way through Phillippe Borgeaud’s The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece for other reasons, and there are ideas in there about food and the ancient mindset that could shed an interesting light on my chosen diet and what it might imply, but that’s a rumination for another time)

And now here we are, with the first hard line in the sand, where he needs to step in and taboo me away from something that I was not self selecting out of. I’m not going to say exactly what, not because it’s a big secret but because of the potential for public bullshit if I do (I am trying to get away from this crap, not attract more of it to me). There are things in the world I’ve paid more attention to than I need to, that I think it served a purpose once, helped me understand a few things, solidify my beliefs, learn that where I do and do not find common ground can and has shifted. It’s long since lost it’s purpose, I know that but I haven’t walked away from it.

He wasn’t kidding about the mental miasma I’ve been accruing. I can feel it, now that it’s been pointed out. The first day after that out of patience tarot reading, I paid more attention to my thought patterns throughout the day, I can see how it’s a distraction, I can see how it affects my mood, it’s won more momentum than I am comfortable with.

It’ll be a big change, that will further limit where I can go online (not just the obvious places, like there is a movie review site I used to visit that I realize now I won’t be able to go to anymore – just as well, really, I’d grown disgusted with that site some time ago and just haven’t yet made the effort to find a viable alternative so I can still keep an eye on foreign films and non Hollywood blockbuster releases). Some time this week I’ll set things up and change things around on my computer so as to avoid temptation, look for better hobbies and better ways to spend my time. Things that feed into my spirituality and not detract from it. I scoffed at that idea once and I was wrong, I was dead wrong; the more I keep him in the center of my mind, the better everything comes together.

You can learn a lot about the path a person is on by seeing what is tabooed to them; I read that very recently. So what does this say about me and my path? Less engagement, moving further away from civilization, further out into fringe. It’s not a new message; I think back to all the times, when I was trying to be involved in communities online and in person, when there was drama or people were having difficulties and wanted some help (not from me in particular, just in general), he’d crawl to the front of my mind: eyes on your own paper; let someone else take care of that; that’s not your problem, don’t get involved. Sometimes it seems like everything in my life, from the moment I was born, was preparing me for this, shaping me into the sort of person who could survive and thrive where few others would go. To what end I’m not sure, if there is some greater purpose living in a sort of exile, if there is something in particular (or some private service I can render) I’ll find along this road and no other, or if it’s just how it is. At this point, either way is fine with me.

Hail Hermes, as my circle grows a little smaller and my mind a little clearer. When the dust settles once again I doubt I’ll miss this much either, and be better off for its loss.

power is born when a flow of energy encounters firm limits, and the more narrow the outlet left open by those limits, the greater the power will be (p. 47).

 

What Little Sense There Is

It’s a pity, I sometimes think, that I didn’t come to these conclusions years ago; I feel, more than usual, that I’m here shouting into a void, preaching on a matter where the players have moved on, and the bystanders don’t know what I’m talking about. I doubt it would’ve made any difference, I’ve never had the ability to command attention or influence people, my words have always had a limited range (as frustrating as that can be at times, in certain circumstances, it’s probably an overall good; I wouldn’t really want the sort of responsibility that goes along with that). I don’t know how many people, in the aftermath of that long ago shit storm, were in the same boat as me, where their problems were coming from inside and not the external sources that were being held to blame, but I imagine some were, and an alternate perspective may or may not have been helpful. So many are gone now, vanished from the community altogether. Not uncommon with Paganism, it is still something of a pop phenomenon (though some argue it’s losing it’s power as such, and I think they may be right and I don’t think that’s a bad thing), attracting too many people here mostly for the scene, sub cultures or just some way to rebel against mainstream society; those types usually either lose that impulse or end up moving on to the next new thing. I tended to know more serious, devout types, here for the religion and the gods, but even there, circumstances change, burn out happens; it’s possible they just decided they were sick to death of the online community (understandable) and are off doing their own thing in the real world and just telling no one about it anymore. I hope that’s the case. For others, old battle lines are still drawn, and it looks like some additional fighting between some of the same people is still occasionally happening, amazing enough. I don’t think for a second any of them will ever see this, and if they did, one half would not care, and the other half wouldn’t want to hear it.

I don’t intend to obsess over this any more than necessary. The mistakes I made are done, that time is lost and I can not get it back; all I can do now is move forward, rebuild the bridges I neglected, and try not to let it happen again. Some understanding is needed for that last part, and that’s why I make these posts, but I may be coming to the end of the history book here (or at least the part of it I will share publicly). I won’t say this will be the last post on the great crisis, but there may not be many more.

When I read through one of my old blogs, as you may recall my mentioning, I was disturbed by an apparent attitude of callous disregard for the gods that I saw in my old words – one where I could still claim a close connection but I didn’t have to actually do anything on my end, and furthermore shouldn’t have to try, because I decided that I can’t, and if I say I can’t then I really can’t and that’s that, I can have my cake and eat it too and you can’t argue with me. I think if, at the time, you had attempted to point that out to me I would’ve been surprised that you’d even think such a thing; it wasn’t my intent, it wasn’t what I’d been thinking, and yet there it was, having slipped right through the cracks.

I’ve tried to make sense of my thought process, how it came to that point, but I’m not sure that sense can really be found. I think, for lack of a better way to put it, that something in my head broke and I went a little nuts there. My mind was just off kilter, seeing things that weren’t there, saying things out of line with what I meant and so out of touch I never realized any of it.

I can’t connect myself to those posts anymore, to even say what I was thinking. They seem to be written by a different person. Sometimes literally. I don’t see myself in those words, but I do see former friends of mine, people I was spending a great deal of time with after the initial blow up, a couple such people in particular. Certain words, certain turns of phrase, that was all them – I didn’t talk like that, not before, and not since. It was peppered in, all the time and increasing with every post, toward the end those were hardly my words at all.

To reiterate, again, not playing the blame game, not as far as this goes. Just to say I was parroting ideas that were not my own, over and over, and if I can make no sense of them now, well, those thoughts were never really mine to begin with.

I find that disturbs me even more, more than the first thing; it seems an even clearer sign that something was very wrong in my head. I wonder how it ever got to that state? I can’t say for sure. All I can think is that there was something wrong and I knew it, but I didn’t know what it was, and these people were the first who agreed with me, they recognized the problem and more, they offered a possible explanation. Maybe I just wanted it to be true because I didn’t have any other answers.

I can see, on this blog in the older writing before I abandoned it for seven years, I can see in some of the later entries that deterioration starting. It’s a tonal shift I notice very clearly now, though I’m not sure if you would (unless you’ve been following me for a while). On that second blog, a few years later then, it was in full force. I made some jokes at my own expense, but they were hardly exaggerations – every statement I’d make there would be ten paragraphs trying to justify it. Now I’ve always been a bit of a windbag, on a medium like this, it’s part of my lack of charm, but there’s something different about it there. It just seems so endless, so pointless, I cover the same ground in a thousand ways, repeat the same points over and over (and I’m the sort of person that might spend days writing a post like this, read it over several times before hitting that publish button, and I still thought that shit was fit for public consumption).

There is an air of desperation to it – this is all true, this statement is true, this mindset is true, it can all be justified, please believe me. And I think back to the recent half joke: are you trying to convince your audience or yourself?

I think I was trying to convince myself. I think every one of those desperate, unhinged posts were aimed at me, trying to make me believe any of it. And I don’t think it ever worked either. That’s why I had to keep trying, until I just gave up, why this sense of wrongness never fully left me, however many times I may have said I finally cornered it. If it ever had worked I might’ve been all right again, for a little while, I might’ve been able to move more down that path others who had convinced themselves were forging (I never did more than tip toe on it, before getting thrown off again, the delusions the path produced just weren’t enough to sustain).

I would’ve disappeared up my own ass that way, spending the rest of my days in the company of mental sock puppets I’d convinced myself were the gods I once knew and loved, who only now indulged my every petty whim and never asked anything difficult of me, while my life continued to go to shit around me. I will tread carefully here, but I believe I’ve seen a glimpse of where that path would’ve lead, what I would’ve turned into by now had I stayed on it: this connection watered down to a vague meaninglessness (assuming anything of it remained), and I a far more miserable and dysfunctional person. I am very glad I dodged that, very glad whatever sense I had left then kept me from it.

One of those people that I personally held to blame for my problems, that her mindset was poisoning me (toxic, it was toxic, fuck have I grown to loathe that word, loaded thought stopper that it is, I’ve made a concerted effort to purge it from my frequent vocabulary), she’s since published books. I own two of them, recently, and I’ve read through them a couple times now. I like them, I find them to be helpful, insightful and inspiring. Of course, I was in her circle once for a reason, because I liked what she had to say, because it felt meaningful and relevant to me (not that we were ever on exactly the same path, there were always some stark differences there, but there was also enough I could learn from, and I remember her being one of the first people I saw that was doing something more, someone who wasn’t laity, who wasn’t a community minister either, something other and making it work in spite of everything in society set up against that). Whatever happened, forever ago, in meatspace, doesn’t take away from that.

Yes, all the same words that I once thought the very embodiment of everything that was wrong, not just in the overall community but in my own life. Now, I’m hard pressed to find anything that warrants more than a mild disagreement. I still remember some of the issues (perhaps because those few were genuine, if once minor quibbles that only started to look big when amplified by an angry mob), and maybe the books just offer better explanations than I remember seeing way back when; or maybe the passage of time, the life experiences I’ve acquired since have moved me closer to that view than I was then (particular attitudes about mundane mainstream culture and wishing distance from it fall under here, can’t say I was ever a huge fan, but years of radio silence with nothing but the mundane world to contend with soured me further). But the rest of it, the majority of it, I just don’t know. Multiple readings have offered no enlightenment. I don’t mean places where I’ve changed my mind, I mean that I have no idea what I could’ve ever seen as wrong with any of it.

Oh, all that talk about work and responsibility is still there, of course. Of course it always had been, and I had no problem with it once. And I understand what it means: relationships are hard work, relationships with non corporeal entities are harder work, not everyone can be a mystic (or fill in title here) and even those who can still have to work for and earn it like you do absolutely everything else. Simple enough, common sense even.

The words themselves haven’t changed at all, in fact some of them in the books date back to that time period. The only thing that changed is me. I can’t imagine what twisted, anxiety brain Babel Fish I was using to translate it all into the threatening dirge I had come to see it as.

Because the problem (the toxicity, as it were) was all in me, and that bears repeating. Something was shaking lose in my head, cracks were getting bigger, and one result of that is I was scared. I was scared of the responsibility I was handed, I was scared of failure which was both most of what I had known and all that my unconscious impulses (not having attachments, goals, or even anything I want) were set up to achieve, I was scared to lose this thing that had come to mean so much to me. The mindset she advocated touched on just enough key points in that storm that I projected meaning onto it that wasn’t there, I projected a condemning, judgemental tone that (maybe?) was never there.

Just getting away from those people and their ideas would never have helped anything, anxiety brain could cause havoc just fine without them. And no amount of do whatever you need to comfort zone self indulgence would’ve ever helped, either; my ideas were wrong, my unconscious impulses were getting in my way, and it needed to be challenged so that I could come to see that. Sometimes you really do need to be pushed out of your so called comfort zone in order to realize that it’s not really all that comfortable, that it might actually be smothering you and maybe you’d be more comfortable elsewhere.

Though those vows were once a source of so much of this anxiety, I think it may all have ultimately been a good thing. If I can take anything from this experience, perhaps it’s the clear lesson on how I don’t get to just walk away. Seen from that light, failure isn’t possible, not the sort of failure that leaves you holding onto nothing. Just the more minor kind, where you get to get back up and try again, however many times it takes, until you do it right. I never knew how to look at it as a source of stability; while I do not know, and may never know, it’s possible that was at least part of the intention.

That I can read those books and see them for what they are, not the distortion my anxiety turned them into, says a lot about how far I’ve come. That soft reboot that happened a couple years back, when I’d just stopped trying and let go of it all, seems to have done wonders. Going back wasn’t just about practice, it was about mindset: getting back to the mindset when things worked, and then from that point, picking the better path.

Passing the Point of No Return

So, let me tell another story, another thing that happened to me this year that marked an important event that…well, not changed things per se, gave me some insight into how things have changed may be a better way to put it. It ties into things that have been on my mind lately as I think through my mindset pre-crisis, mid-crisis and post-crisis; rather than include it in an entry about other things, I’ll make it its own.

Just after moving here, the room mate got herself on speaking terms with one or two local pagans, and we were invited to attend holiday rituals with the semi local ADF grove – I say semi local because they’re not really anywhere we’d be able to get to on our own, but one of those contacts would be driving by where we were anyway and offered to give us a ride. Timing was a little difficult to work out, we weren’t able to accept until the summer solstice.

Once again, it will be necessary to set the scene, where my thought process was in that point in time, and that means getting at least a little bit into those new developments I’ve alluded to that I’m still working out, specifically one of the ways I first misinterpreted. I had thought it was possible that I was being passed to another god. I can see now where I made the mistake (or half mistake, since I never completely bought it, never for more than a minute before going back to being certain it had to be wrong, had to be something else), it’s pretty basic but hey, wasn’t at my best at the time. This is one reason why religious practice got neglected during that last year of self improvement in the former city: I peaked in, this is what I saw, the first thought I had and I said, I can not deal with this right now. After arriving here, I knew it couldn’t be put off any longer, but my not dealing with it then meant it was allowed to quietly fester in the back of my mind, putting down deep roots of doubt while I wasn’t paying attention, making it harder to just dismiss outright.

Before I agreed to go to the ritual, I asked who the ritual was being held in honor of. I always ask this, as there is one deity whose rites I am explicitly not allowed to attend (this is something I’ve written about before, more than once, though never here it seems; perhaps I shall have to do so, soon, while I’m still in story mode). Room mate made the inquiry and the guy giving us the lift told her it was for Helios, with Hekate as the gatekeeper.

(If you’re unfamiliar with ADF’s ritual structure, suffice it to say a gatekeeper is a minor, functionary role in the ritual – Helios is the guest of honor, the gatekeeper is just opening the way. I hope that makes some sense, because a more detailed explanation would take us far from the point)

So we arrived, in time for the pre-ritual briefing, where it was affirmed that the guest of honor was Helios and the gatekeeper was going to be Hermes. Yes, it was previously going to be Hekate, but the ritual organizer had some sudden last minute bit of divine inspiration, or whatever you want to call it, but she got the feeling it needed to be Hermes and she decided to run with it.

Must’ve been some very sudden divine inspiration, I’d only asked two, three days prior. I don’t know if any of you can relate, or even just imagine, the experience: where you can feel the god’s presence, very immediate, very sharp, and you know they’re looking at you, and you know they’re smiling, and you can feel that growing prickle of dread/excitement, where you know something is about to happen and it is possibly going to be wonderful, and possibly going to suck.

(And I should probably add, just to make absolutely clear, the people in this group did not know me, I’d never met or spoken to any of them previously, just the one guy that gave us the ride and even then it was only maybe twice, briefly. So it’s not like I had any direct mundane sort of influence over this, where someone might consciously think oh hey, we got someone dedicated to Hermes coming, why not have him as the gatekeeper instead? They wouldn’t have known.)

It did not suck, but it was…intense. More so than it had been for a while (not that even that level of intensity is ever an every day thing, for anyone, so I imagine). I didn’t stay the whole ritual, sometime between calling the gatekeeper (which was when it started) and maybe just after Helios (I can not remember, I wasn’t able to pay attention), it came to the point of either leave this space or fall over backwards, I decided to go. I found a quiet corner on the property, where I could sit down and have this moment; I didn’t rejoin the group either, I stayed in that spot, slowly recovering, until it was time to leave.

Message received, loud and clear: I was not being passed over, that was a misunderstanding on my part. But it was the way the message was delivered (well, aside from the dramatic show of inviting himself to a ritual he knew I’d be at, that is), the particular phrasing of it, that’s come back to mind these last weeks.

You made vows. Binding, life long vows. And you have not been released from them.

There has always been a debate about choice, when it comes to divine relationships, who is doing the choosing. Seems these debates are still happening, or so I see from one of the very few Pagan blogs I still pay attention to, though with a different head ache inducing argument (as opposed to the head ache inducing arguments I remember, or the head ache inducing arguments of the future). My own views on the matter have always been on the…traditional side, I suppose you could call it.

I think most people will go through their lives without any deep interaction with the gods, aside from a nod of acknowledgment during active worship and maybe a clear blessing or two in response to need. The next biggest group will be those who find a particular god seems to give them a little more attention than normal (perhaps due to profession, a smith god for a smith as an example, but it could be any number of things), an exchange develops, more worship from the person and more blessing from the god, and that’s having a patron. I can’t say how common it is, not everyone will find one that’s for certain, but I don’t think it’s very rare either. And then you have the people that the gods intrude more on their lives, make more demands, more sacrifices, not of anything you’d buy or make (or not just that) but of yourself; they offer more, too: time, attention, energy, power, inspiration, letting you into their lives (or, well, they’ll leave the door unlocked, you have to actually get there yourself). These would be the spiritual specialists, with any of a variety of titles, purpose and work to do.

(Yes, I know this may not be the best, most detailed explanation, but I’d like to think it at least gets the point across, for the purposes of the present discussion)

I think even that last category, the relationship can begin from the person’s prompting. They do the work of reaching out, being open and available, make themselves look like an attractive prospect to Someone; maybe it begins as a less intense patronage but, as time goes on, the person is interested in more and the deity can see they’re sincere, they can both meet the demands and withstand the burdens, and it just grows naturally like that. I have no problem believing that. But I also have no problem believing that sometimes the gods choose certain people, sometimes before the person has even started with prayer and offerings, there is something about them that the god will make the first move. Sometimes, the gods may give that person no real choice in the matter. It’s not an even power dynamic here and it never will be; a human being can not compel a deity to give them the time of day if they don’t want to, a deity can make a person’s life very difficult if they don’t do as required.

This kind of thing is very well attested to, in historical accounts, in traditional cultures, you don’t even need to look very deep to find it. There’s no reason to think it would all of a sudden stop just because some people in modern times find the idea uncomfortable. If you do find it uncomfortable, well, there’s good news. You probably have nothing to worry about. No one, anywhere, at any time, has ever suggested this is a common occurrence; it’s very rare, we’re talking a statistical handful of people, and the odds of you being one of them are not very high.

(I should maybe also note that, just because I believe things of this nature can happen, does not mean I believe every individual account thereof. Maybe especially now.)

But back to me. It had been amusing, once, to wonder which of us did the choosing. It was a long time ago now, memory is generally less clear and accurate than you often think that it is; I have told the story many times over the years, but even that doesn’t always keep mistakes and embellishments from cropping in. I remember being drawn to Paganism out of the blue, I remember feeling like I was searching for something, someone, doing my research, going through names until I came upon his and then he was just right there. I remember reading Greek mythology as a kid, and he wasn’t one of the ones I was drawn to (that would be Apollo and Artemis, which goes to show what I knew then) so it never made sense, in hindsight, why he was the first Greek god I called to. There were a few other things that, in hindsight, could be early signs of his presence, of his pulling strings before I knew it. If he did choose me, and set things up to make certain I would find my way to him, it was subtly done, which would not be out of character. I may never know for sure, and it probably doesn’t matter much.

Now, even with the intriguing idea that this may have been arranged before Paganism was on my radar, doesn’t mean I couldn’t have chosen to shrug off his invitation and continue playing video games. I don’t think his choice necessarily implies my lack thereof, and that’s how I always thought it worked for me. I never felt coerced, more…charmed, I suppose, though I never thought of it that way, before. Everything seemed to move and grow along a natural trajectory: he came and I welcomed him, I called and he answered, he asked and I gave, I took a leap and he kept his word. I suppose, in retrospect, some of it may have moved at a faster pace than usual, faster than should be, maybe, from an outside perspective, but it never felt that way in the moment. It felt like something I was building as much as him, something I wanted as much as him, every crazy step of the way.

But then it occurs to me, how would you know? How would you know if you had a choice? If the god doesn’t approach you that way, doesn’t say it at the outset: you belong to me now, so come along, resistance is futile; if he just asks, holds out a hand and asks, would you know? If you always said yes, or at least yes to the right requests, how could you know? Don’t you have to test to really understand your limits? Say no, try to walk away, try to go back, and see what happens. Can you slip back into your old life (whatever life you had), or does everything instantly go to shit?

And another thing, just because you may have started out with a choice, doesn’t mean it will remain that way. Circumstances can change, in innumerable ways. You can lose that choice, you can give it away, by, like…oh I don’t know. By making vows; by making binding, lifelong vows. Something like that, could be a bit of a game changer.

It may not matter anymore, beyond the occasional intriguing late night thought experiment, what the situation really was way back when he first showed up, when I first established worship, or even when he made his first big request and asked me to just trust him. It does matter what the situation currently is, going forward.

I may very well have had the opportunity, the choice, to walk away once. I never took it; instead I pushed forward, pushed and pushed, and passed the point of no return. I do not have that option anymore.

Not that I’m complaining, far from it; in fact, in some ways, I consider it a good thing.

“A Glimpse Beyond the Veil.”

Let me tell you guys a story, a happier one than I so often end up telling. Something that happened to me on Christmas day last year (so thus almost a year ago now), something I want to record in as many places as I can find it, because I feel it was an important event, a gift from the gods, a kick in the ass down that right path we all sometimes need.

Or perhaps it would be more helpful to begin a little further back, to an earlier event that pointed me in the direction of that right path, without which the later, more important event would likely not have happened. A rather simple thing, the room mate and I had some excess money, there were parts of the state we had not yet seen (namely all of it), and so we took a vacation to the coast.

I have noticed by now, as I go through my old writings looking for answers and trying to make sense, that I bring up the less than stellar parts of my existence way, way too fucking often; you could make a fun drinking game out of all the different ways, say, my abusive childhood comes up in posts, and play it with someone you don’t wish to survive the night. Having noticed that, finally, I don’t want to keep doing it (acknowledgement yes, but we have gone well beyond that, obsession where it is the framework that defines, and thus owns, your whole life), and yet I feel it’s important to step back into it just a little, in order to properly set the stage. I’ve previously called the city a psychic drain, and so it was – not the actual location, though my lungs never quite adjusted to it it was a gorgeous place, it was the people and the local culture they’d built that killed it for me. I’d been living there a number of years, by that point I was mostly in a constant deep depressive state, with occasional short lived outbursts of frustration that could be likened to throwing myself against the prison bars some part of me knew were there, trying to escape. Not all of it can be put on the city (depression has always been a frequent visitor, and I have always, even under the best of circumstances, struggled with leaving the house, being willing to speak to people), but it was its own problem that was making matters worse than it may otherwise have been, and I don’t think I fully understood that, until the vacation where I had something to contrast it with.

Being there, even for a short time, was like being able to breathe again. All of the issues that had been crippling me for years (the numb depression, the hermiting away) were not in play, or not to the severe level I’d grown used to. It was everything great about living in that state and nothing that I’d come to hate (as far as people and local culture went, might as well have been a different country). I absolutely loved it there, and I’m very glad we had the money to visit two more times before departing forever. If anything could lure me back in that direction, it would be the coastal towns; I was quite tempted to try settling in there, but it was very rural and rural is not always easy to do when you do not drive.

(As it is, I’ve been able to move somewhere where I have even easier access to the coast, leading to more frequent visits as I can go just for the day, and I’m in a major city that is very friendly to my car free lifestyle. I’d say it worked out well)

Midway through that vacation, I remember sitting on a swing set on the beach and watching the waves, suddenly turning to my room mate and saying, “I don’t want to live here anymore.” It was a weighted moment; it shouldn’t have been but it was. It was no secret I was unhappy, no secret I’d grown to hate it there, I was pretty vocal about it when talking to family; maybe I’d just gotten so hopeless over time, it never occurred to me I could leave, that it could help.

I’d still be there about another year and a half, but that remaining time was different, everything was different after that. Because now there was a plan, I was going to leave, I didn’t know when but it was going to happen, there was a goal to work toward. Not just the leaving, but starting to pull my life back together, so that when I finally did get to go I would be ready for it, prepared to make the very best of the new opportunity, to leave as much of the baggage behind as I could. Much of that involved fixing my health, losing all the weight I’d never noticed I was putting on, adjusting diet and habits so it would not happen again (and yes, motions were made toward the gods as well, after a long time of silence, I was immediately handed a bizarre, unexpected puzzle I’m getting closer to solving – time wasn’t wasted though, I did much of the introspection about old paths, old friends and old ideas in this time, and I really needed to come to that understanding before anything new could be done). I didn’t have those outbursts anymore, the deep depression became more occasional than constant; no one would say I was happy, but I found a way to be content.

And I found a way to leave the house, at least a little more than I had been before, kind of had to for the losing weight thing. Going out at night wasn’t so strenuous, when there was no one around, and through that we found paths that were less populated even during the day. I still tried to avoid downtown where there always seemed to be far too many people in far too small a space – unless I had some reason to think it would be mostly empty, like say because it was a holiday and most such people would be home with their families. Which brings us to Christmas.

So there we were, almost a year ago now, the phone calls home my only real obligation of the day done long ago and leaving us without much to do. It was getting pretty late by the time we decided to take my daily walk outside rather than on the treadmill, and to do something different, walking through downtown to the river and back rather than the winding route into the hills I’d been doing more often. We made it to our destination without anything of note, just enjoying a peaceful winter night, pausing by the water for a bit, before heading back home.

It was on the way back that it happened, a voice calling out to us from the square as we passed by.

“I offer a glimpse from beyond the veil.”

No, really, that’s what he said. It was a man offering tarot readings, for whatever you think they’re worth. It registered as we went past, set in our path and barely pausing to hear the words. The significance of it sunk in quick enough, and when we were two blocks away I’d stopped, I knew we had to go back, that this was something I needed to do, something I needed to hear.

I know he told me his name, but I have since forgotten it. A recently paroled ex-con in a top hat, wool coat and red scarf, he was reading for a couple homeless kids by the time we arrived, and space was made for me to sit up front and watch everything while I waited my turn. He seemed both knowledgeable and charismatic, able to explain the symbolism in detail even to someone who has never seen it before (as the kids ahead of me had not) and make it entertaining. I was impressed.

It may be one of my favorite memories, all the years I spent in that city I don’t think I ever felt more at home there than I did in that single moment, with those particular people. A liminal space set apart from everything around it, while the city bustled on in the background, distant and unimportant; I used to find such times and places a lot, worked on making my whole life one such, and I had missed it.

All the times I’d ever had any oracular work done it was always by someone who knew me, at least in passing; this was the first time I had my cards read by a complete stranger. He did a very good job, so I thought then and even more now, a year later. I remember what the cards were and how they were interpreted, as I’d written it all down as soon as I came home; I won’t go over every card, every word, a general idea will do. He told me I knew exactly what I want, I have everything I need to get it (and they were lofty ambitions he saw, that’s how he put it – not by mainstream society’s standards, that’s for sure, but in the single sphere I care about and have interest in, I suppose it could be seen that way), and it’s only a monumentally messed up mental process that gets in my way. I’d begun understanding that then but he put it in very simple terms – fix that shit, stop listening to it, and you can accomplish whatever you want. And this upcoming year would be about new beginnings, on more than one front, the right time, the right energy, it was all lining up; if I wanted to start something, or start over, now is the time and it will go well (provided I heed those aforementioned warnings).

It was good to hear at the time, I had been starting to feel disheartened. We’d tried a year to get a solid answer from her office about the possibility of a transfer, and they kept putting it off in a way that, while not offering anything definite, did keep hope alive. Conversation and plans started turning to going anyway, and how much extra would have to be saved in order to live while looking for a new job. Even though we were both still determined to go, the amount of time we’d have to wait and plan and save money started to stretch out before us until no end appeared in sight.

Not to say I connected any of that to the reading, to the promising year of new beginnings that had been laid out for me. It was about two weeks later, not long after the new year, when she was laid off.

That changed everything. I don’t even remember feeling panicked about it, I knew what it was, the door opening. The divination I did the same day, just to confirm, well, it was more or less the tarot equivalent of Hermes screaming in my ear, just go already! We knew where we wanted to live and we had enough money to leave; everything fell into place, an apartment was secured fairly quickly, and on the last week in February, we were gone.

And now here I am, at the end of a very productive year.

If I was still living there, or anywhere near by, I think I’d be wandering around downtown about now, hoping to run into him again. This last year was such a whirlwind, in the best way possible, I’d be curious to know what’s coming around the corner next, and how I can best take advantage of it. Unfortunately, even if I were still there, I doubt I’d find him again, however hard I looked, and I doubt I’ll find anything similar here, now. I think that was a special once in a lifetime sort of thing.

Just thought I’d share that with all of you, so I don’t forget it, what can happen when the gods want to get their point across.

The gateway is full of ghosts, also full is the courtyard

Before embarking on our epic, cross country move, the girlfriend and I did a divination to see if we had the gods’ backing, both in regards to locale and timing. That was what came up as the description of our lives in Baltimore. It is apt.

Almost every post I’ve made here has in some way referenced the constant struggle my spiritual life has become, it has been going on for that long. I would come here with some insight, convinced I knew the root of the problem, convinced I could move forward, or at least fake it until I make it. And things really would be better, for a while at least. And then it would all fall apart again, leaving me often more depressed than I was before. I just could not seem to climb over that wall or outrun the negative thought loop in my head.

I was not able to try working off the success I had with my Hermaversary celebration (which was my last post here until recently), because just shortly after that the circus freak show that was my cross country move swung into high gear. I was unable to spend much time dealing with religious matters because all my energy was going to dealing with epic amounts of stress and keeping my head from exploding. When I arrived here and much of that stress (though by no means all of it) was gone, its cause if not its after effect, I took a much needed and well earned break. I lost myself in some of my favorite relaxing activities and swore off anything that would cause me more stress – which, sadly perhaps, did include my spiritual life. It wasn’t how I wanted to come down here but I was at my absolute wits end and I needed it.

But just because I wasn’t actively pursuing it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t in the back of my mind; turning over and over, insights bubbling up to the top, as these things often do, just waiting until I’m ready to deal with it again. That moment finally came a short time ago, and finally here we are again. Yet another post on how I know what is wrong.

Yes, I do think I have some new insight. But I don’t think any of the old ones I came up with were wrong. They were all a small part of the puzzle, but not the whole picture that I initially took them for. And those insights I did have I tended to underestimate and downplay their effect on me, in my desperation to have it all be over and over now, I tried to convince myself the problems were not as bad as they really were. Of course my mind knew better, and sooner or later it reminded me of that.

The change in my relationship dynamic with Hermes is a big part of it. Probably I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. Thought it would be okay because it was Him and I know Him and I trust Him, but it isn’t. No matter how much I just want to be okay with it, it just hasn’t happened. Yes, a lot of my expectations were heavily influenced by the experiences of others and that did me no favors, but that certainly isn’t all of it. It changed the way I see Him in relation to myself, it changed my instinctual reaction to Him. It made me uncomfortable; and when I’m uncomfortable, my walls go up.

My leaving the company of two groups was harder on me that I at first wanted to admit. I had spent quite a while with both of them, both had in some way shaped my spiritual life when it was in new and vulnerable state, and not all of that influence was ultimately healthy or beneficial. It is amazing how your behavior can be influenced by group think, even when you might not personally agree with something you might still do it anyway, or just be reluctant to go against it, even if every sign is pointing you in that direction, because its just not what’s done. It wasn’t just the stress from interpersonal drama, the way I would be told I’m one of the group while at the same time being singled out by them, being needlessly ridiculed over practices and beliefs and attempts (on both sides) at re-education when my life didn’t perfectly line up with your standards. I have a lot of lessons I need to unlearn, a lot of group imposed taboos to shatter, in order to move on in the direction I need to go in.

I have acknowledged that I feel a good deal of bitterness toward my former spiritual homes, one for leaving me so woefully unprepared for the things that happened to me, and the other for not being the support base it purported itself to be. Recognizing this anger will,  I think, be helpful in moving forward. But it will likely take a lot of time and work to find all those unnecessary and toxic beliefs running around in my head, and deeply ingrained thought patterns don’t just vanish overnight.

But that, I now realize, was not all of it. And even acknowledging the true severity of those issues wouldn’t have helped me earlier. Because the problem, the bigger picture, was my life itself. Everything in my life was wrong.

I remember something that Hermes told me right before I moved to Baltimore at His request, when I was still talking things through with my future room mates but before anything was finalized and so my mind was still thinking of other potential places to go. Hermes told me I needed to go to Baltimore first because there was something I needed to do there; after it was done I would leave, go further out and settle elsewhere. I always remembered that even if  didn’t pay close attention to it. And it didn’t take too long to figure out what I was doing in Baltimore, I was there to collect my partner, to help to drag her out of her life and take her on the road with me. My moving there was a catalyst for both of us, almost immediately our lives began changing in ways we never would have predicted and in ways that were unsettlingly similar; we both began more and more disconnected from things and people we had thought were important, and pushed us closer together as a result. That experience bonded us together even before we fell in love, which is of course exactly what They wanted. Once I saw the writing on the wall, I knew my purpose in that city had been fulfilled and it was time to leave.

And it took us two years to actually leave.

For her it’s completely understandable, it must be hard to walk away from a life you’ve been living for years, to fully convince yourself there is nothing there worth salvaging. But for myself? I’m honestly not sure now. I was miserable there more often than not, most of the connections I made (with few exceptions, and they know who they are because they are the people I’m still speaking to) brought me more stress than benefit. And yet I kept trying anyway. I put myself through the wringer trying, I wore myself out, I made myself sick, trying to make things work that I knew, somewhere in my mind, were never going to.

Perhaps because it was my first time out in the world after I escaped the abuse and retreated from society to allow my wounds time to heal; perhaps because it was my first chance at having the real life everyone always told me I never would. Perhaps because He had sent me there and I didn’t want to let Him down by blowing it all to hell, I wanted to make it work for His sake as well as mine.

It was not entirely a wasted effort, I learned a lot about what my limits really were, how to work within them and where I need to call it quits; those were mistakes I needed to make so that I don’t make them a second time. But once Renee and I were together, once we were bonded in that way that made us partners on this divine roller coaster ride, my purpose there was done and Baltimore became, officially, a dead end for the both of us. And yet there we were, trying to make a life in what was only supposed to be a brief pit stop.

I’ve come to see my time in Baltimore now as one long, long transitional period; things didn’t really improve while I was there, it all just changed, one piece at a time, into something completely different until, aside from the fact that Hermes and I were still standing there, all else was unrecognizable. It’s a lot for a person to go through, even if I was given someone to go through it all with. Everytime I thought I had a handle on where I was going, another piece was taken away and replaced with something different and there I was, back at square one. And when all that change was said and done (for the time being anyway, knock of wood), I had no hope of moving forward on my new path because I was living in a spiritually dead place, surrounded by the ghosts of what once was; any success I thought I found there would, of course, be only a ghost itself, vanished by dawn’s light leaving me alone in my confusion again.

Its hard for me to believe now that I genuinely didn’t see it. Right after we acknowledged it was time to go and then didn’t, everything immediately fell apart, and this spiritual crisis of mine finally reared its ugly head. The timing fits so perfectly, I feel like an idiot for missing it. But I guess it is easier to see clearly from the outside than you can in the middle of the fray.

But I am in a new place now, where my gods wanted me to be for the time being. I’ve been taken about as far away from everything I once was while still remaining in the same country, what better place to make a fresh start of everything.

I’m not going to say that all will be well shortly, or even that I’ve made any significant progress. I’m tired of saying that and turning out to be wrong, it’s getting embarrassing and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about it. It’s unrealistic to expect that everything will just go poof overnight, even if I was in peak condition and I’m really not, I’m really burned out from the last several months and the last four years. These issues I’ve raised here can not be ignored (I tried, not going to happen) and exorcising them will not be easy work.

Starting my relationship with Him was easy enough, I wasn’t even looking for it it was just there. Some part of my mind thinks it should be that easy again; but its different now and it won’t work like that again. I look back on what I used to have and wish I could go back there again, forget all this that I was given because life was easier without it; that also is not going to happen, and I really think that, if presented with that opportunity, it is not what I would really want. And either way, even if the vows could be dissolved it’s not like it will erase this time it will still be different and I would always wonder what I might have had, likely to my detriment. I’ve been given a clean slate, but the writing that used to be there is still just barely visible, I can’t pretend I don’t see it or that I don’t remember what was there, or that it won’t continue to influence my behavior for some time to come.

I have now, I think anyway, done all that I needed to do to get myself in the right position. I’ve moved out of that city of ghosts, I’ve cut ties with all the dead ends in my life so none of that can influence me anymore than it already has. I’ve fixed it so that the only real voices I will hear will be my partner’s and my god’s. I continue to wish longingly that there was some other tradition I could join up, continue to think it might have been easier to have a template to work off of instead of feeling my way around in the dark (and I know some people out there would really envy me that total freedom I’ve been given, and maybe one day I’ll be able to look back and see this as a good thing, but I don’t envy me much right now and there is no use pretending I feel differently), but that is also not going to happen and it’s another mistake I don’t intend to make again. External circumstances are as right as they are likely to ever be; the rest is up to me, and time.

Will it all work out? I don’t know, I’d like to think so, but the obstacles are such that it feels foolish to make any promises. It will take time though, and work, real work, and that I need to keep reminding myself. I’m not just simply getting back on the horse like I’ve been trying to tell myself; that horse is long gone, there is a bull there in its place, and I’ve all but forgotten how to ride.

*Blows Off Dust*

Been a while since I’ve been here, huh?

For those who do not follow my adventures elsewhere on the internet, over the course of this year so far, I have broken ties with two dysfunctional, toxic Pagan communities, dealt with spiritual depression and the effects of our current shitty economy, and left behind a city where I was miserable (and which I should have left two years prior) and moved (rather suddenly, and with an almost cartoonish level of stress and drama) across the country to a different city sight unseen (making this the second time I’ve been so Ordered in my short adult life).

Its been busy here, to say the very least.

And so, as this transitional period is slowly winding down and I’m feeling my way around in my new circumstances and figuring out how to make it all work, I find myself coming back to this blog again. I admit, when I started this I didn’t have the clearest idea what I was going to do with it, and things in my life began changing very quickly before I had a chance to figure it out. Initially I wanted this to be a space for articles rather than more casual writing (that was what my Livejournal was for), but I’ve not been in the right headspace for that. And so I’ve been quiet for the most part.

Now, I think that Livejournal may not be the right space for me now. I’m not abandoning LJ like so many other people have recently (although I would be lying if I said the fact that so many people I used to interact with there are gone hasn’t contributed to this decision), but I do think I need another format for spewing my thoughts onto the internet. Beyond this not being a so called “social networking” site (a big plus for me at this point) my old haunts here are very much tied into those communities I’ve walked away from, the fallout from that has left me more burned out than I really realized (and I’m far less social than your average person as it is, I burn out quickly over less). I need to focus myself now on processing the changes I’ve undergone, finding my feet again and figuring out where I’m going now; the less I have on my plate, the fewer ties to the toxic environments whose programming I’m trying to shrug off, the easier it will be for me to do that.

This will likely become the main outlet for my online presence, at least for the time being. The writing here will likely become more casual in tone as a result, but it will continue to focus on my religious life as that is what I am here about. I do not promise that I will be posting every day or even every week, I know a lot of people blogging can produce posts that often and one of my struggles with this site was feeling a pressure to come up with something of quality to say on a fairly consistent basis (my muse hates pressure). It will be as often as I can, but hopefully, more than I have been.

As a start, I’ve changed the look of the blog; I liked my former layout aesthetically but the white background was a little too harsh on my eyes (I would like my current set up a bit better if I could change the link text color from orange to blue, but maybe in time I’ll have the money to do so, we’ll have to see). It won’t be the only change I make here, there is a lot here that is outdated and it would be helpful to make this better reflect where I am now toward the end of this long, long transitional period.

As a side note, if I have an outdated link of yours here, if you’ve changed blogs, changed names or anything else, comment and let me know, I can get it fixed.

Until then pardon the sawdust, and when I’m done making the updates I’ll be around again.