paganism

22. Hold Mabon

tree

I have no idea how to even go about describing what happened for Mabon this year.

At least, not in a way that the majority of my readers would understand and I’m not even sure that the people who have experience in the situation/skill set would get it either. But it involves a drum circle, an oak tree, and Baba Yaga’s hut.

I normally start to work with Baba in fall and winter, so her reappearance nearish the first day of fall isn’t terribly uncommon. One of her motifs is spinning [think the spinning that a person would do during ecstatic dance], and she has the infamous chicken legged hut. I have never however experienced the spinning hut myself prior to tonight and it will be interesting to see how this plays out-I don’t know what this means. It didn’t run away or get aggressive so I suppose I have that in my favor. Listen, we’re talking about a folkloric symbol that can carry itself around on chicken legs, I don’t think the fact that a house can get defensive is truly the oddest aspect of this story.

As for the mundane side of Mabon we went to the park for drum circle. Mid is trying hard to make sure I have down time that doesn’t involve looking for roaches, packing, unpacking, cleaning, and wondering if the movement I’m catching out of the corner of my eye is a roach [I have come to realize that I am getting a lot of allergy related floaters, which are slowly driving me insane, like something out of a Poe story]. I did do better with the drum circle than I did with the concert last month. I sat under an oak tree and just was for awhile.

I will do my traditional bread later this week, or next weekend, schedule permitting. Same with applesauce and my normal Mabon/fall foods, it will have to be fit in with the rest of my tight schedule. Everything has to be done by the 30th so while I’m a little frightened that I’m running out of time I also know there’s a definitive end point.

Advertisements

Dante and Virgil: The Light/Shadow Split [Shadow Work 101]

inferno

[Another Pagan entry. Feel free to skip this one.]

[This is a very rough starting point for this concept, and will be revisited and reworked in the future]

Part of why I’m writing these entries is that I get asked about this style of work all the time.

Part of this is hard for me. I didn’t choose the shadow life, the shadow life chose me. That’s…only sort of a joke. Most of my life has been spent staggering around falling into potholes, figuring out what I can take from it, getting out of the hole, and repeating the whole process over again.

I can honestly say though that I only spent about five minutes on a ‘light’ path. I found myself in gray and then into shadow pretty much as soon as I figured out what that meant-and from there fell into the direct healing aspects of shadow almost as quickly.

The main issue that people seem to have is where the difference between light and shadow begins and ends. And that makes a lot of sense because I don’t see them as a conflict or even as a dichotomy, I see them as a partnership-they don’t fight each other, they work side by side and often weave in and out of each other. You can be very light shadow and very shadowed light.

I see them as Dante and Virgil. As in, the Inferno.

Bear with me on this one.

So the thing with shadow and light work is that there’s three main points here. Maybe only one major point and a acouple observations.

1. I’ve had -a lot- of workers say things to me like ‘but I always thought I was a light worker but what you’re saying makes sense to me!’ Then you’re probably a light worker. Most shadow workers I know, knew light wasn’t a good fit for them from the start. If you’ve been using that label, keep using it.

Seriously. You can do healing work as a light worker, you can do grief work even as a light worker, you can do most everything a shadow worker does as light worker. A therapist and a dentist are both healers, they’re just going at different systems.

If you honestly feel like you might need to spend time with shadow, then do some readings, start talking with a worker, look into it. By all means, explore the paths a little. But don’t let yourself be forced out of your path because you read about a new term.

2. The main difference seems to lie in where you’re putting your push. Shadow says that your pain/aggression/anger/’dark’ emotion is a valid place to be as it is-just perhaps one you don’t want to set up shop in. Movement out is about hitting balance. Light on the other hand wants you out of there as fast as possible because basically pleasure is the end goal. I use that word deliberately here, because it’s not so much happiness that light seems to be going for, it’s about a lack of pain.

The idea that light is seeking pleasure isn’t a judgment statement, and with any luck I’ll be able to come up with a more sophisticated description at some point. However, this is a split that makes sense to me on an instinctive level-because shadow is most definitely -not- about pleasure seeking and life needs both healing/balance and pleasure to be worth living.

3. Shadow isn’t dark, dark is another path.

Shadow can certainly run very, very dark and hit on topics like death and destruction in a range of applications. But there are separate dark paths.

I’ve just never encountered anyone doing what I would call ‘true’ dark work. I have however come across some energies that have given me significant pause, and been banned from the playground, and I know those energies have people working with them, so yes at least in theory there’s dark workers in the world. I suppose that if for no other reason than true energetic balance they need to exist.

Note: I avoid using terms like black magic for a reason, because I feel like in a world where horror is a thing that exist it brings up images like rams’ skulls and black candles and hooded robes. It’s not the image that I’m going for-though maybe those things are what’s at play, I don’t know.

Okay, now we get to the fun part.

So Dante is a man who knows that he has to get through hell to get to his end desire. It’s literally impossible for him to do what he’s trying to do without doing it. He’s not necessarily looking forward to it, and this isn’t going to be a ‘fun’ afternoon activity. Dante is our light worker here, who just wants to get on with the whole thing.

However, he encounters Virgil-a wise man (literally, a wise man, the man who is wise enough that God and Satan both are allowing him to wander through hell with Dante) who will show Dante how to get out. However, one of the thing that Virgil is saying to Dante is that there are things that Dante must learn in hell, that will make him a better person-and more importantly, can only be learned through hell. At no point does Virgil tell Dante to speed up or take a short cut-he doesn’t even really tell Dante “I know you don’t feel good and I wish I could make it better for you.” Virgil knows that this journey will make Dante a better man-and even more importantly, he knows that it will end.

Virgil is the shadow worker here. It’s not a perfect fit, for either man. Dante is slightly more openly obsessed with his desired pleasure than most light workers I’ve come across, and most shadow workers don’t get the luxury of quite that level of wisdom or the ability to know exactly where the path ends. However the coupling also highlights the way that the two perspectives compliment each other-light sometimes needs shadow to guide it through hell [or whatever situation it’s being faced with], and shadow needs light to give it an end to work towards or it gets stuck in its obsession with balance above all else.

This is a really important point, and part of the reason that I find a lot of the back and forth over labeling tiresome-the two work together. At no point is it implied that Dante or Virgil is actually more important than the other. They are working together as teacher and student, but teacher and student in a way that suggests that they need each other. It’s not that shadow has more wisdom and light is more flighty-they’re just coming at the world from different angles. [It might look like this example is actually implying that Virgil is the smarter, more developed player-but remember that there’s two other books in the Divine Comedy and the closer Dante gets to Heaven the more important light becomes. Light is just not necessarily the best tool in a trip through Hell.]

The Shadow and the Light: an Introduction to Introduction to Shadow Work

shadow work

[This is one of the rare openly Pagan posts on this blog. If you are not comfortable with such discussions, this is your warning to leave now]

I’m writing this post because one of the questions I get asked all the time (I mean, three or four times a week) is for written materials on the subject of shadow work.

They are out there, but you have to know what you’re looking at to find them-there are plenty of books on healing, on emotional balance, on energy incorporation, on death work from both a spiritual and an academic standpoint…but it’s hard to find something that’s directly on the shadow paths.

If you really wanted to get as solid a grasp on shadow work as you can I would actually start with Jung or someone who writes in the Jungian tradition. Jung defines the shadow as:

an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one’s personality, the shadow is largely negative, or (2) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious.

From Wiki, but it’s a place to start. While there have always been people working with the darker side of personality, these are the people who codified a lot of the language used in shadow work.

In terms of how shadow work interacts with the concept, shadow is any part of the psyche that causes discomfort, pain, or is otherwise rejected by ‘light work’ such as primal emotion such as anger, or processes such as grief and conflict. Shadow work however does not see these concepts as full negative because shadow work attempts to avoid ranking or favoring of energy for any reason and instead sees all emotions ranging for joy to rage as human expression and should be accepted as such.

What Does Shadow -Not- Do?

I am deliberately going at this backwards because the conversation about shadow work gets swamped with misconception and stigma, really fast, and frankly quite aggressively. It has been my observation that what people call ‘light work’ is heavily favored to the point of a social bias, but a lot of that bias seems to stem from a lack of understanding surrounding shadow work and what shadow workers are attempting to do.

What shadow work is not:

-Death worship (though a shadow worker may work with death energies/deities for support and facet energy)

-Obsession with darkness and pain

-An insistence to be mired in depression or negative emotion

-Chaos work (not that there’s anything wrong with chaos work at its core, it’s just not chaos)

-Being goth or emo (though again there’s no reason you couldn’t be goth or emo and do shadow work)

-Seeking out the worst aspect of a situation or forcing discomfort on a person

What Shadow Work is:

Shadow work is sort of an awesome practice in that it’s easily described in a single word: balance.

Okay, so it’s not that easily described. Shadow work is about integration of what could be called primal emotion, and acceptance that all experience is necessary to a point as an expression of the human condition.  Which isn’t the same thing as saying that all experience is healthy, optimal, or desirable, but to be fully human means that you experience ‘darker’ emotions or feel pain, as well as the light and love that takes center stage in modern Western society.

It does not mean that a shadow worker lets anger take over or attempts to cause harm on another individual because ‘that’s what happens in the human life cycle!’ I really want to stress that. Shadow work is NOT the same thing as being an asshole.

What shadow work is attempting to do is bring all emotional expression in alignment, valuing it, and giving it the room to be processed and released. So it is the attempt to heal old emotional wounds, and learn how to handle future situations without either denying anger/pain/stress by bottling them up or forcing them down, and learning self healing and soothing techniques to reduce the intensity of those emotions in the first place.

Shadow works ironically by increasing the role of light in the life cycle in that sense. Shadow workers actually greatly value the beauty and grace in mundane existence because we do acknowledge that life brings with hardship and eventual death. How each worker does that will vary, depending on the base path-I walk a type of shamanistic path that includes a lot of work with what could be called hardship deities like Baba Yaga, who teach wisdom through intense (truly intense at times) work and through the valuing of things like hearth work and homesteading to extend out the usage of resources. There are other workers who are healers and artists and therapists. There is no one way to do shadow.

Should a Person do Shadow Work?

Yes.

This is one of the few times where I will say that everyone should be engaged in a practice. I do actually feel that a person is happier, healthier, and more balanced when shadow is allowed as a practice into their established belief set. Because shadow work can be as minor as ‘right now, today is bad, but that’s okay, life will get better some day’, there’s no reason -not- to do it-and people really do seem to find greater peace by facing and feeling darker emotions and acknowledging their own flaws.

It is a slow path though and I do want to stress that this integration isn’t a fast fix. You will not be able to do shadow work on a three day retreat and come back completely whole. However, even short term work will allow for more healing and greater integration than what existed prior.

What about Hedge Riding?

I sometimes get asked about mood altering substances in relation to shadow work.

The down and dirty answer is that while I acknowledge and respect the role of such things in traditional shamanism, I don’t use them (with the exception of lower than normal social alcohol use and a handful of supplements for depression), and I’m not sure that it’s a great idea for someone just starting out on shadow path work. Not until you know what your psyche is actually holding onto, and -only under the guidance of someone fully trained in their usage and only in an environment where they’re legal-. I have heard horror stories of terrible trips because people were chasing enlightenment, and trying to ‘prove’ to an unsympathetic legal system that you really were using for religious reasons is a nightmare, or so I’ve been told.

Don’t cast deeper shadows by doing something dicey when walking meditations, while slower, get you to the same place both ethically and legally.

Do You Actually Have to Have a Religious Practice?

Nope.

In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is actually very grounded in mindfulness and other techniques that link into shadow, and is almost completely secular. There is absolutely no reason you have to bring deity of any form into this. This is purely digging around in your own psyche, and there’s no reason you have to be on a fully shadow path to do so.

Homestead Updates

I’m not going to call this the start of a new column because those always fizzle out on me if I say ‘hey guys I’m starting a new column’. So maybe I’ll write this one again some time soonish, or not. Maybe I’ll get the Haunted Western New York stuff going again-the 2,000 or so hits I’ve gotten on those tags this weekend make it look like people are interested (no, I’m not the one making the claim that there are ghost dogs in Rochester. Promise.) or the Sunday Legends stuff active again.

What Lit the Fires Again?

Facebook. And not the Horrific Knits page either. I’ve been heavily active in a network of secret women’s only spaces on Facebook and one of them turned out to be a homesteading page where we sit around and talk about the uses of dandelions and how to grow mushrooms. Me being me, I don’t need to be the center of anything, but I need to feel ~involved~ and it turned out that there’s a need to talk more/develop more projects for apartment spaces. Since I live in an actual apartment-apartment [as opposed to a duplex or floor of a house or other larger than what I’m talking about here space] I was like, well, okay. And it built up from there, when I decided to start addressing questions about homesteading for newbies and/or urbanites.

A Minor Piece of Housekeeping

I mentioned this on Facebook about a week ago and a grand total of 8 of you saw it so I’ll say it over here now: part of the reason that my ‘I promise to come back to blogging’ was delayed as long as it was, was a series of major-ish life shifts and that included a fairly major change to my work schedule. I now work a slightly unconventional Wednesday to Saturday 10 hour swing shift…so expect a sort of potential long term-temporary scheduling change here, with entries going up consistently between Sunday and Tuesday, with potential posts on the other days.

Projects

I haven’t touched fiber or canned in forever. Both are on the list for things to incorporate again as soon as possible. Small steps, darling readers, small steps. Right now I’m getting my patio garden going again and running some small, simple ferments.

I’m trying that tomato hack with an heirloom tomato from Top’s (is it weird that we can buy heirlooms in the grocery store? I’ve been told that it’s weird). I have no real news to report on that experiment, since it’s been a total of 2 days and the only issue I’ve had so far is that the ‘cracked’ crock pot that I was using for planter wasn’t as cracked as I thought it was and the tomatoes got flooded out. Twice. But they’re in a much better drained pot now.

I had a photo that made it obvious which meme I was talking about but it’s disappeared into nothingness. It’s the one where you slice the tomato and plant those to get them to sprout. We’ll see if this works. I also have some garlic in a grow bag.

tomato onion

I’m running some small ferments right now, I have jalapeños and some apple cider vinegar going in canning jars.

jalepenos

[This next section will include both not-delicate language and discussions of minority religious practices. This is your cue to leave if you don’t like either.]

Hedge

So we just had a sabbat and in an attempt to demystify part of my woo-woo-shadow-worker-I-have-no-idea-what-the-hell-she-means life I will tell you what Beltane was like this year. It was good, I want to stress that. I danced the May pole for the first time in several years (I’ve graciously decided to redefine fertility as abundance for myself in an attempt to make peace with that aspect of my religion. Because. no to babies. I have no idea where the hell I would put one, in the damn bathtub?). It was a nice pole, we had -a lot- of women. It was an insanely women heavy dance this year. That’s neither good nor bad, it was just an observation. It was cool and dark and damp all day.

We sat around talking about poop and bone broth. At several points during the day I remarked that this is how I can tell that I’m now an adult…my informal start to summer with the first public ritual I do all year was marked by grumpiness about teeth, bodily functions, and what a great idea it is to stock up on canned goods and meat when it’s on a 5 for $20 sales. I’ve crossed a line, folks, there’s no going back now.

And I realized I wear way too much jewelry to ritual. I’m bordering on a stereotype.

jewelry

Needled

sundaylegends

I’m knitting again.

I know it’s a weird statement, on a knitting blog. But this rut I’ve been in has extended to anything harder than garter stitch blankets. But I’m working on a trade, a scarf for a Christmas ornament, and I’m really enjoying the project. I’m not working on anything terribly complicated-lace on largish needles with bulky yarn. It’s pleasant enough though-and I like the yarn. Always a bonus.

As I settled into the rhythm, I realized that the needles I’m using are bright green-which triggered an idea I’ve had for this column for a long time and have mentioned in passing on occasion. But it’s unofficially Memory Month, so if I’m rehashing an idea, it’s actually appropriate.

There is an idea, in relation to folk magic and urban legend, that you can work spells and raise energy with fiber arts. The basic idea is an extension of knot magic: knitting is basically a series of needle-worked knots, and knots can be used to ‘trap’ or catch energy. So in theory, you could work up spell bits and bobs, in various colors, and hold onto energy that way. If you wanted, you could hold the piece until the end of the spell and burn the piece then to release the energy. Or you could hold onto it like a talisman. This idea actually extends to a superstition that’s floated around my Internet career on various fiber sites-that different cultures had the idea that it was terrible to rip out your own work because it tears out your own luck.

The idea of this binding means that you can also bind a person to you through knitting or other fiber work-working your hair or the hair of another person will bind the two of you together.

Knitters will sometimes say that projects and yarns have personalities, and you can ‘raise’ energy will working on a piece. It’s not necessarily bad luck to work a project that you don’t like, but it can be rough going and sometimes yarn will tell you what it does and does not want to be-it’s easier to work with a yarn that wants to be, say, a scarf than yarn that doesn’t.

In terms of energy, it also possible to use fiber to work with manifestations, meditations, and other mindsets that are aided by repetitive motion. If you wanted to work an abundance chant, for example, you could use green needles (hence what triggered this post), green yarn, or both (or neither, to be honest) and work your chant across each chant. Spinning and knitting are both helpful to clear the mind for meditation.

Folklorically, a lot of the myth surrounding European hearth spirits mention fiber, at least in passing. Many of these spirits (fae or otherwise) are deeply interested in spinning and other fiber arts. Some will actually do the spinning for you if you stay on their good sides, for others, if you slack on your fiber work, you risk enraging them.

Knitting is not without its own little urban legends and superstitions-it’s terrible luck to knit for a baby before it is born. As in, potentially fatally bad luck. There is also the infamous sweater curse-don’t knit for your partner before you’re engaged, or you run the risk of breaking up the relationship. You should also try to never hand a person a pair of needles with the points to them or risk damaging your relationship. Dropping needles is bad luck. Don’t leave knitting needles empty.

Art and the Folkloric Mind

tumblr_nrajfwneSl1qkevp7o1_500I choose my Facebook cover art by what calls to me-the image has to instill some sort of intense, almost knee jerk intense, reaction.

I change the art roughly around the sabbats, though there’s no religious or spiritual angle to that. It takes me a couple of months to get tired enough of a picture to want to change it.

My current cover is the drawing above- Skull Crowned with Snakes by Henry Weston Keene. It is an illustration dating to 1930 for a novel by John Webster.

There is something about this image that makes me feel that this is the best fit for the period between Mabon and Samhain. Not for the obvious death/skull connection to the season, though it seems like everyone and their stock lists have thrown themselves into a frenzy over the sugar skull craze (a craze I’m of two minds about-I would love to find Samhain merchandise so I’m all for the extension beyond the secular Halloween, but on the other hand…I doubt Walgreens cares much for religious exposure. They do care about profit, though).

We have been watching Hell on Wheels (…and I might have already watched Depp’s Sleepy Hollow three times in the next week) and I have a weird personal theory that deliberately or not the show is telling Norse mythologies. That’s the type of mind set I’m in right now-I’m planning October’s blog theme in my head and while I want to do my normal ‘scary’ folklore I keep finding myself on what is sometimes called the Shadow path-where it’s not so much as scary as dark, and the dark is only scary because we’re trained to see it as such. The Shadow is actually a Jungian concept and its presence in our lives is actually an extension of our selves.

There’s definitely darkness to this piece, and admittedly something slightly overblown and overly ripe. But it’s also regal in a way, like if Death held Himself iron rod straight because He knows that regardless of how we play, He’s always going to win that hand. Snake is a personal symbol of mine, and Snake for me stands for awareness of self. I know I’m projecting, but art for me is about the personal as much as it is the intended symbolism. This is the Shadow for me.

I’m tempted to use the Hermit card as my blog image for next month. Let’s light these shadows, and see what the next spoke brings.

 

The Lady Mab

myth and meme month

I promised you more fae stuff.

The Lady Mab is an interesting case because she is slowly regaining (or gaining, potentially) popularity. I don’t remember ever running into anyone working with her, but I have encountered at least four people interacting with her in the last two months. It’s not a huge jump, but it’s a name that’s starting to get spoken of.

It is also interesting because she may be a completely fabricated figure. She may not actually have a direct line back into ‘true’ folklore, in that while she is cited as the Queen of the Faeries (which is an actual folkloric figure), she is named by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet but there have been suggestions made that he was playing off of word origins and meanings to create her name, not pulling from existing folklore. Mab, however, began to be used throughout other English works after Shakespeare until she became a fully fleshed folkloric and pop cultural figure, going so far as to be incorporated into certain tellings of Arthurian legend.

At some point it becomes questionable if it matters where the image comes from, if it slowly becomes ingrained.

There is a possibility however that Mab has become the stand-in for -all- Queens of Faerie, with the name being a convenient shorthand to access that type of energy. There are ballads and other folkloric records naming the last queen Oona, so there is an established history of naming a particular individual to that role. The descriptions of the Faerie Queen, which frankly give the whole thing a certain Daisy Fay Buchanan feel for me, give the impression of a woman/entity who is beautiful enough to know the power of it and not really enough empathy to care. This is a creature with her own motives. Mab/the Queen is also in charge of the presentation of the Seven Year’s Sacrifice, the blood sacrifice that keeps the fae out of hell.

There have been suggestions made (only briefly, via Wikipedia, though I don’t know enough about Dianic derived Wicca to say anything in either direction) that Mab/the Faerie Queen’s re-emergence is a development out of teachings from Charles Godfrey Leland and Morgan McFarland. My experiences have found that people working with Mab have also made her a leader of the Wild Hunt, and using a more aggressive energy with her than may be first apparent. She is not necessarily a war or ‘dark’ energy, but practices invoking her seem to pull from a more gray area than a light one.