What is the place of chronic illness in Filianism/Déanism?

 Dear Reader,

This is something I have been struggling with for months. I’ve been swinging between depressive episodes and mixed episodes for the last three months. Working with my care professionals, there’s some changes going on in my treatment and they seem to be leading to greater stability and health. I really should have said something sooner. (If you are struggling with illness or malaise of any sort, seek out help. It really isn’t necessary to struggle when there is help available for most any manner of illness. I was a fool to wait this long.)

Among the questions troubling me was what was the place of chronic illness, more specifically mental illness, within the faith system of Filianism and Déanism.  This question nagged at me even as the medication change lifted the other persistent questions of self-worth from my awareness. If we consider the matter from one perspective, chronic illness is a manifestation of the fragility of all things due to khear. There are many who consider khear synonymous with sin and argue that we who suffer with chronic illness are somehow more flawed than those who do not have such an affliction. I would be so bold as to contend that this argument is grievously flawed and uncompassionate.

A much more reasonable argument is that chronic illness is part of the conditions of living within this world. Life includes suffering for many reasons, most of them hard to define. As beings that are incarnate, we suffer the afflictions that come attendant upon existing in this world. Each form of misfortune that befalls us, be it the failure of our health or our fortunes, is a part of this world being flawed. It is fixed wyrd that causes chronic illness by way of events we can not influence.

I would not dare to say that these events are karmic payment for past life errors. This would be as bad as saying that those who suffer chronic illness are more filled with khear than others and this is an outward manifestation of it. Cruelty does not begin to describe this position. It must be rejected for the same reasons as the other. Thus we cycle back to the question of what is the role of fixed wyrd.

Fixed wyrd, as best I can tell, are life circumstances that are in place to shape a person into what they are supposed to be according to the larger scheme of life. They are crucial events that we are unable to avoid no matter what other choices we make in our lifetime prior to or after these events. Some elements of fixed wyrd may be pleasant. Others are less so. Generally, however, they are morally neutral and simply an event of consequence. The key to this statement is the phrase ‘morally neutral’. They are neither morally good nor morally evil. They are events that simply happen, however tragic they may be.

As best I can figure it, the place of chronic illness in Filianism and Déanism is the afflicted are people who require compassion and care as certainly as anyone else. The afflicted are people who have as much capacity to embody good as anyone else. And, the afflicted are people who are at times in closer tune with the suffering of Our Lady. They can not escape their conditions and struggle mightily to live within the constraints placed upon them. As such, perhaps they who struggle with chronic illness might have a hope of beginning to understand the sorrows of Our Lady. 

For, when Our Lady entered into this world, we do not know if she came into it hale and filled with vigor or if she was carrying the burden of some manner of chronic condition that made her frail despite the power within her. The holy teachings tell us that she is with us at all times even as she reigns in Avala. It is possible that among they who suffer from chronic illness, there is a masked presence of Our Lady moving through the world to see how all fares.

I, however, am a madwoman who lives a life that is somewhat isolated and stranger than others. Perhaps another with deeper knowledge may illuminate this with their wisdom. This is simply my attempt to understand my place in things and the place of others like myself. I stubbornly refuse to accept the argument that we are fundamentally the embodiment of how far we have fallen from perfection. I stubbornly refuse to accept the argument that we are to be shunned for such reasons. Far too many people live in suffering from chronic illness and things that they can not change for me to accept the implied argument that we have embrace khear and this is an outward manifestation of it.

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Struggling with depression.

 Dear Reader,

I’ve not been sleeping well over the last while. My doctor adjusted my medication but it doesn’t seem to be helping as much as I thought it would be. My mood is dropping and I find myself struggling with thoughts like I should give up on my blogs and all of my writing projects because depression lies to me and tells me that it is all going nowhere fast.

My anxiety has been rather high which leads to me over thinking the prospect of writing anything at all. It’s at a point that even writing in my daily journal about the random stuff the kids do and what happens in the neighborhood provokes a mini-panic attack. Fortunately, I will be talking with my doctor next week and figuring out the next step to addressing this problem. 

I feel really guilty that I haven’t been writing here or on my other blogs. I sit down to write and I get so full of anxiety and fear that the words just go out of my head. Right now, I’m half tempted to delete this whole thing because “no one wants to listen to you whine.” My big Camp NaNoWriMo project only got four pages done through out the entire month. That was supposed to be the Lokean devotional project. I sit down to work on it and I get afraid that I’m going to write everything wrong and that some one is going to lob a brick through my window for daring to go so far as to write about this.

It’s a combination of C-PTSD from how I was raised and my performance anxiety colliding with each other and leaving me virtually paralyzed on how to act. I am not going to give up on these things. I’m struggling and my brain is like jello right now. I’ve got about as much focus as a goldfish. All I want to do is sleep, in part because I’m not sleeping well and in part because I am depressed again.

It is hard to do things when your disability smacks you in the face with a halibut. That, however, is where I’m at right now. Hopefully, after a little bit, I’ll be doing better and back to daily writing.

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A Confession

 Dear Reader,

I must make a confession of sorts. I have not been writing on any platform in quite some time because I have been terrified that what I write will cause harm. I have been terrified that what I write will bring suffering to my loved ones. I have been terrified that what I write will be the cause of great sorrow.

These terrors are in part the fruit of evil that was done to me as a young child. The people who raised me told me that if I wrote about things they disapproved of people would come to burn our house down or kill us. They told me that if I wrote about topics that they disapproved of my entire family would suffer because of it. They told me that if I gave voice to anything that wasn’t ‘normal’ that I would be ostracized and other people would do things to harm me. These lies were repeated so often that they became the backdrop to my early efforts to write.

I have walked away from these people. I have cut pretty much all ties to them. Due to the nature of the psychological trauma that I experienced with them, however, I have these anxieties and terror that seize me when my mood is low. I have bipolar II and I regularly experience low moods because of it. This acts as a trigger for the emotional flashbacks that have been making writing and any form of creative expression awfully hard over the last few months.

I desperately want to write. I desperately want to finish the book I started a few weeks ago. I desperately feel the need to express myself. At the same time, terror stops me. The pressure within is miserable. I ask that you forgive my silence. I am trying to over come this. I will not be abandoning my blogs. But things are very difficult right now because of my disability and life being complicated.

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Struggling with writer’s block.

Dear Reader,

I’ve been trying to get life sorted out. It got complicated. In the process of it all, I have been struggling with writer’s block because of my anxiety issues. I’m attempting to resolve it, but it is not going that great. I’ll try to have some real content for you soon.

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This post is a place holder for future content.

 Dear Reader,

I am recovering from a migraine yesterday and dealing with intense pain due to arthritis right now. I’m hoping that the pain medicine will kick in soon and I’ll have an easier time focusing. Until then, I must apologize for the lack of witchy content right now. I’m in a fair amount of pain and my brain isn’t quite at peak performance right now. Please check back in a few hours or so. I may have something interesting up by then. In other news, arthritis can die in a fire.

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Practical Witchery: Lunar Timing.

Dear Reader,

There’s a plethora of books about how to time every thing from planting your garden to cutting your hair with the phase of the moon. There’s so much stuff about it, it even makes it in to the Old Farmer’s Almanac (which is quite literally the last place I’d look for anything witchcraft related). Generally, the time frame from the new to full moon is good for things to increase. The time frame from the full to the new moon is good for things to decrease. This is a form of sympathetic magic that relies upon the apparent increase and decrease in the visible moon to affect the increase or decrease effects of your spell.

I don’t use astrology except to idly note where the moon is located at a given time in the sky during the month. There are practitioners who time things by when the moon is located in specific signs oriented with different astrological houses. Again, as I am by no way an expert or experienced in astrology (too much math for me), I can’t point you to good resources to help you with this form of timing. 

I use lunar timing based off of moon phase because it is where I have gotten the most effective results. During the dark of the moon, that approximately three day period around the new moon, I find is most effective for shadow work and revealing things that are hidden. During the approximate three day period around the full moon, I find is most effective for general magical practice of any sort.

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Divination: Runes Overview.

 Dear Reader,

I am not the most proficient or strictly by the book reader of runes. At the same time, I have an intuitive method that seems to work pretty well (as long as I am not struck by performance anxiety). Runes are the basis of a number of alphabetical systems. They are the precursor of the Icelandic, Norwegian, Scandinavian, Finnish, and other Nordic written languages. They are also the precursor of the English language. There were runes that were still in use in the English language up until early Modern English, such as the rune Thorn as a short hand for the dipthong ‘th’. If we look at early English and Anglo-Saxon we will find a combination of the Latin alphabet and the Younger Futhark used in manuscripts. This period has inconclusive evidence that they were used as a divination system.

Indeed, the only historical mention of runes as a divination system is mudded by the fact that Tacitus doesn’t say what exactly is inscribed upon the slips of wood that the Germanic peoples he was interacting with were using to perform their divination. He doesn’t give a very good description of the divination practice. This is part of the reason why there are historical questions if runes were used as divination tools. There are some indications with the Rune Poems that were preserved in the historical documents of the post-Christianization era of the Nordic and Germanic regions that this is a distinct possibility. But the evidence is very difficult to discern.

Ralph Blum wrote The Book of Runes in the late 1980s and published in the mid-1990s. With this book’s popularity, the use of runes as a divination tool exploded. Suddenly, there was a great many people who were claiming that Blum was accurate and others claiming that Blum was inaccurate in his portrayal of the Runes. More books about the runes and runic magic came out during the late 1990s and early 2000s. They muddied the waters further because they were not academic texts but tried to pass themselves off as having the authority of such. It was not a good period for the research into runic magic and runic studies. Some authors, like Ann Moura in her Green Witchcraft series presented the runes as a magical short hand script for accomplishing things. Other authors, like Diana Paxton in her various works, did their best to provide a more nuanced method of using runes. 

While there were authors in the pagan community throwing out just about anything that would stick to the proverbial wall, there was some serious academic research going on into runic magic and the practices of the Sami peoples (the last indigenous practitioners of native religion in that part of the world). That research was largely ignored outside of the academic circles because it didn’t immediately clarify the use of runes. As a result, multiple systems of runic magic and divination have arisen completely divorced from all but the barest historical basis. (Now, this does not mean that these systems don’t work. It just means that they’re not the same as what the ancestors used. And that’s ok because we live in a world that is very different from the ancestors and have different needs. I think that the gods answer our needs and do their best to meet us where we are rather than expect us to recreate lost practices whole cloth.)

I will be providing, in this series of posts, my interpretation of the Elder Futhark runes. These are, as far as I can tell, the ones used by the Germanic and Teutonic tribes that Tacitus interacted with. I suspect that they were used in divination cut into fruit bearing tree slips. I do not know if they were stained with blood as some ‘traditionalists’ insist or some dye like ocher. I don’t have access to a rune set that is cut into slips of wood from a fruit bearing tree. I have the tile set from Ralph Blum’s book set that I had bought ages ago when it first came out. It’s rather worn and one of them is cracked. I also have a set that I made using pebbles and a set that is a bit larger that I made using glow in the dark ‘pebbles’. In the case of all three sets, I’ve gotten the same results. This leads me to believe that the materials that your rune set are made from does not impact their effectiveness. At some point in time, because I’m half magpie and I collect things, I will probably acquire or make a set of runes from slips of a fruit bearing tree. If I do this, I will report back any finding as to how this impacts their effectiveness.

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Update: I’m not avoiding writing, I’m just exhausted.

Dear Reader,

Life has thrown a bunch of curve balls over the last few weeks. One of my boys injured his eye (thankfully it was a minor injury and he’s fully recovered), the school had a major meeting regarding my other son, and there’s been a ton of issues popping up over the last few weeks like my shower attempting to come apart as we were using it. I’ve been trying to stay on top of the cleaning I had planned but it’s a mess all over again because I have boys and I am in a depressive episode. Beloved’s doing his best to help but the whole situation is like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

I get to where I have time to write and the words just go ‘poof’ and I’m left feeling exhausted and kinda dead inside because of the depression. I want to write, but it’s really hard. I am trying to keep pushing forward but it’s exhausting. I apologize for the fact that I wasn’t able to provide you with regular content over the course of the last month or so. Time kinda blurs together and it’s a bit hard for me to remember what day it is. 

Being disabled is awful and I don’t wish it on anyone. Having an invisible disability like mental illness or a chronic medical condition that make is hard for you to keep up with daily tasks is awful. On your good days, you might forget for a moment that you’ve got to conserve your proverbial spoons so you have the energy to stay on top of things later. The problem with being disabled in the fashion that I am is your energy levels fluctuate on a daily basis and what you were able to accomplish the day before may leave you exhausted the next day on top of the spoon deficit you may wake up with because you didn’t sleep well/stress/anxiety/ect.

I’m trying to keep moving forward but I am very tired and downhearted. I haven’t forgotten you all. I keep my readership in my prayers for your well being and my expressions of gratitude for your companionship. I just ask that you bear with me a little bit longer. I’m sure this depressive episode will lift eventually and I’ll be able to get back to posting daily again. Right now, this is the best I can manage. Please forgive me if it is dissatisfactory or not enough. I’m trying my hardest to do my best.

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My Heathenry

I posted briefly on Tumblr something about my approach to heathenry. In some ways, I grew up with heathen values. Not the “Nine Noble Virtues” but things like be honorable in word and deed, always be hospitable to guests, treat strangers with courtesy, strength with out wisdom is wasted, and family is everything. Things did not turn out as I had thought they would as a child and my parents did not prove to have the values that I grew up on. I am so dynamically different from my parents and siblings that I have regularly been asked if I was adopted. (We’re estranged now for various reasons, but to say the least, I did not mesh well into their family dynamic on the basis of my personality and sense of honor.)

I have some customs that sort of come from my parents and come from what I could extrapolate from the different pagan lore that I studied over the years. I always make enough food for a possible surprise visitor. My family make a point of being hospitable to any guest that arrives at our door, regardless of how we might feel about them personally. At the same time, we are very protective of our boundaries and do not allow folks that could be harmful past the threshold. We are polite but firm about this. Instead of words, we express gratitude with actions. It’s like the old concept ‘a gift demands a gift in return.’  I also take the approach, that it is always better to give too much than be thought stingy when giving gifts. I have the habit of giving peace-gifts to maintain the bonds of good will between us and people who are important in our lives.

I am careful not to swear an oath that I can not keep. I am doubly so when it comes to teaching my children not to swear in such a manner. There are those who would take them at their word and treat them ill if they were unable to keep the oath. I make a point of giving offerings to my family’s ancestors. We have a small ancestor shrine in the living room near the altar. Every morning, I give an offering to the gods and ancestors, asking their good will and blessings over all of our household. I do my best to maintain my plethora of houseplants in good care as an offering to Freyr, the spirits of the plants, and the landwights. I dedicate my efforts to maintain the household to the housewight. (Fortunately, they are understanding of my difficulties and tend to be bemused with the kids efforts to help that make more messes than they clean up.)

I do not engage racists, except to mock them or get into a verbal fight with them. I am firmly of the mind that the gods call who they call regardless of skin color or background. The gatekeepers be damned. I am annoyed with the conflation of the Marvel version of prominent figures from the lore (i.e. Thor and Loki) with the actual lore. I try to present evidence that the Norse pantheon is not the same as Marvel’s version. At the same time, I recognize that popculture paganism is a thing. So, I try to be understanding. Loki likes to throw me curveballs from time to time in referencing Marvel’s version of him just to make sure that I’m paying attention. Marvel!Mythology is different from the lore but in the eyes of popculture pagans, it is the same weight. I try to be sensitive to that.

I have a particularly strong loathing for trans-exclusionary radical feminists. Having been a target of their harassment by virtue of the fact that my vocal range is lower than most other women and my thyroid is a bit on the large side, I have no qualms about getting in their faces. I have in the past, literally had to fight people to make them stop harassing me over these things. I would do so again in a heartbeat if it were necessary. I defend the rights, safety, and honor of transgender people with all the same passion that I do the rights, safety, and honor of all non-heterosexual people. Part of this position is because I have people I love who are in these communities and I feel honor bound to protect them. Part of this position is because I am a Loki’s woman and I believe I would be a hypocrite if I did not defend or stand up for the people who fall outside of the cis-het dynamic. It doesn’t hurt that I happen to be bisexual and part of the LGBTQ+ community. If anything, that makes me a bit more aggressive about it.

I am something of an animist. I believe that just about everything has a spirit. I try to maintain a good accord with the spirits about me. The jury is still out if the computer has a singular spirit or if it is a community of spirits forced to work together. Electronics in general is a fuzzy area that I am still trying to parse out how they fit into this world view. But all living things have a spirit. Elemental forces are spirits. Deities exist in the realm of spirits as well as elsewhere. I do my best to keep the spirits on my side. That means caring for a garden and leaving out offerings when I can. 

I am not a ‘normal’ heathen. And I’m ok with that. 

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Moura Wk. 4

Dear Reader,

We’re now in the final week of Moura, the fifth season and thirteenth month of the liturgical calendar of Filianism and Déanism. Despite my best efforts to have all of the major cleaning done by now, my home is a mess again. I’ve been struggling with depression over the last two weeks. As much as I hope that with the coming of Eastre/Ostara, I will feel better, I suspect that my brain chemistry will remain malfunctioning at that time. A persistent sense of anxiety that I am not doing enough to be worthy of my family’s love and that I am, ultimately, a failure.

I read the holy texts and contemplate them daily. Intellectually, I know that there is still hope. I feel, however, deep despair and grief. I know this is my neural-chemistry being awry and that it shall pass. It does not change the trouble in my heart and the pain that it brings me. I struggle with the fact that I am disabled. I remember life before bipolar happened and having the energy to get through a light day of activity with out needing a few days to recover. I am grief-sick over it. I grieve not my youth but my health. I have come to a place where I am safe and appreciated for who and what I am. I am profoundly thankful for this. It is an entirely different life for me than what I had in my youth. But, I grieve the fact that I haven’t the health that I did before.

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