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I am unsure how many keep this blog in their feeds, but I thought it might be useful to share recent posts from the Otherfaith site and my Patheos blog.
On the Otherfaith site I posted a journey about the Dierne’s forest and the dangers therein.
Wander far, a bit too far, a step too far, and the forests find you. A different one every time. You can walk to the same spot on the same day at the same time in the same weather and still the forests will have rearranged themselves in mockery of you. You control nothing here.
I am blogging on Patheos Pagan again,at the same blog as before. I won’t link every post I’ve written since returning, but here are a few you can check out.
Hello everyone! I’ve gotten a slow stream of followers over the past few months. I have some important updates.
First off, if you want to keep up with posts and new stuff in the Otherfaith, we’ve moved over to a new site: otherfaith.info. Go check out there! Our blog is a bit sparse, with an emphasis on music. But that’ll be changing.
The new Otherfaith site has forums and FAQs. Importantly! it also has some introductory posts for the first Four Gods. I encourage you to go over and read them. They’re meant to be good bite-sized articles for getting acquainted with the gods. The latter Four Gods’ articles will go live next Friday.
I’ll be updating this blog with links to the new site, but actual information will be hosted over on our dot info site. Feel free to follow us over there!
Silence Maestas wrote a wonderful and, I feel, hard-hitting piece about devotion and social justice. You can read that here.
Syren Nagakyrie, one of the organizers for Many Gods West 2016, wrote about building community. Her contributions to the plenary at the conference kept me engaged, though the entire plenary had me at the edge of my seat with interest. You can read her post here.
Leithin Cluan posted about miasma and spiritual pollution form a Gaelic polytheist perspective; the post can be found here.
Finally, Thenea of Magick from Scratch posted on the topic of ‘My Polytheism’ (which is also being used as a hashtag). You can read the post here. Though our gods are very different, and so our polytheisms are very different, the post is, as always, so enjoyable to read. I love seeing content like this in the pagan and polytheist blogosphere.
For my own part, I have returned to work and attempted to fall into the mundane life post-conference. Once returning home I was rather overcome with the desire to have a space to sew, finally, and went out to purchase the table necessary for the space. I immediately used it as a puzzle table instead. A few projects I need to work on with regards to sewing are a purse, skirt, and bonnets.
the Laetha Ava has been prevalent as of late, though in a much more restrained form than I have ever been used to. Whatever purpose she is serving appearing in my life as she does, I know it will eventually make sense. Perhaps three years from now. Maybe I am just radiating frustration enough that even this antagonist to myself wants me to simmer down. Seeing her and her dour face, I suspect that might be the case. She frowns and shakes her head – all of this interpretations of the feeling she brings to me – when she is near. I have the desire to impress.
Children, and child gods, are hard to impress.
Over this past weekend I found myself in Olympia, WA. The world was green and rivers stretched to and fro. The first night I arrived – after twelve hours of travel and my ears having been thoroughly abused – I walked from the hotel to downtown Olympia. I gazed in awe at the river flowing solidly along the path. There were many people out running and walking and playing Pokemon Go. Everything was painfully green, all different shades, and some trees even had orange-tinted leaves.
A half-day before I had been enveloped in the dawn heat of Tucson, so it was rather a change.
There have been a variety of well-written write-ups about the specific of the conference. Some can be found in the ‘polytheism’ tag on WordPress, while others are scattered across Patheos. I thought the conference was a huge success. There was laughter were I didn’t expect it, somberness when necessary, and lots of learning. I felt blessed to meet many of the people I did.
I attended a variety of the presentations and rituals. By far the most touching ritual I attended was the Rhiannon ritual, which had me breaking down in tears. I was amazed by the people leading the ritual as well – Phoenix LeFae and Gwion Raven – as they were incredibly, well, good. After their ritual I attended the Dionysian Revival, put on by Jason Mankey and his wife Ari. I was reminded why I am not the ecstatic ritual sort, at least in public. The best way to describe my energetic reaction is ‘awkward laughing’; my physical reaction is ‘awkwardly standing’. The other option was the Community Tea Room. Excellent as it was, this was Friday night and I wanted a bit of energy to get me through the weekend.
The Community Tea Room was very seriously wonderful and I wish I had spent more time there. The Saturday evening, however, I was completely knocked out after visiting the Asklepios Healing Shrine room. I was able to attend the Antinoan Ritual that evening, put on by the Ekklesia Antinoou. It reminded me, powerfully, why I hold interested in Antinous, as well as I why I do worship him and his related gods.
Both Sunday presentations/panels were engrossing. Emily Carlin and Raye Schwarz put on a talk on ‘Ritual Co-Creation’ which illuminated how to make groups with myriad of traditions work. It gave me hope for how to go forward in my own local community. Alley Valkyrie and Ryan Smith’s talk on fascism was absolutely illuminating, and it helped further my understanding of some deep differences in Europe and the UK vs. US paganism and polytheism. I had wanted to attending the Ritual of Grieving, but I was presenting at that time. I went to the Disability & Polytheism talk afterward, and though I hopefully remained more composed externally, I was internally nodding my head constantly. Phaedrus, who presented the talk, was engaging and I learned quite a bit. Or, perhaps, was reminded of quite a bit and given words to express what I’d known.
The closing ritual was quite different from the opening in terms of size. This wasn’t bad, necessarily, but it did throw me a bit. Sean Donahue had conducted both the opening and ending rituals, and both were lovely.
For my own presentation, which was on the Otherfaith, it was very small. I had already been expecting a small crowd, as my presentation was right after lunch and check-out of the hotel. I tried to take a friendly approach to discussing everything, which was interesting. It was an invaluable learning experience. I wish I had gotten my physical materials together in time, but life doesn’t always allow.
I must extend immense gratitude to Niki Whiting and Syren Nagakyrie for putting the conference together. I sincerely hope Many Gods West continues strong for many years, partially since I’m not sure I will be able to make it next year! I would also like to attend with my partner. That was simply not in the cards this year. (I may also want to cosplay when I attend next. That surely shows how impious and silly I am.) I was able to meet so many people I had only ‘heard’ of or met ‘online’. Putting faces to them did make a difference. It didn’t dissolve every issue or disagreement. But it certainly reminded me how incredible and human the people in the pagan and polytheist blogosphere and online communities are as well as how much bigger we are offline.
There were times when I could feel my gods swirling about me during the conference. During the Rhiannon ritual I felt her speak to me a name my own gods tell me. She gave me advice I should listen to as well, but when it comes to compassionate advice I tend to resist it. Pallis, the Dierne, was practically rolling on the ground in front of me during one ritual. It seemed all my attendent gods and spirits kept near me and didn’t go flying out bothering people, though.
I cried more than I would have preferred – during ritual and at other times – but as I mentioned during one of the many conversations I shoved myself into, I cry. I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m angry. (No doubt to the shame of the spirits I train directly under.) But it was a good conference. I really, truly hope we see MGW continue and grow.
The clouds break on the first day of Hell Month. The sky is painfully, powerfully blue against the grey thunderstorms moving to the east. I woke to the sound of the rain pummeling our home. Against our duplex the drops sounded like rolling thunder.
The nights before I had driven almost endlessly to the edges of the city. The eastside, where I now reside, had faded from businesses and lights to the foothills of the Catalina Mountains. I was captivated and captive to the lightning playing against the dark sky. The strikes illuminated the mountains in brief and beautiful seconds. Someone was parked on the side of the road and had a tripod set up for his camera. He was photographing the light show streaking across the sky.
I drove to the end of the road, until a yellow sign read ‘Dead End’ – though more appropriately it had simply become a dirt path – and swerved the car back around. The clouds to the south were tinted red with the lights of the city. I had hated that red sky during my teenage years.
I had hated everything about Tucson. She wasn’t like my beloved Seattle. Seattle was green and wet year-round. The ocean bumped up against that rainy city. There was even a city under the city. What magic! What mystery. And my beloved family lived up there.
Now, apart from my immediate family of mother and father and paternal grandparent, the entirety of my family does live up there. I haven’t seen them for three years. Every day a gnawing hunger roots around in my belly, asking whether they truly are my family. They are, after all, the grandparents and aunts and uncles on my step father’s side, and he stopped being a step father when my mother divorced. I think of writing to them and never send mail. I’m too afraid.
I don’t hold hate for Tucson anymore. I may complain of her, certainly. She is a hot and sweaty city. At times she is dying and falling into disrepair. At others, though, she is magnificently alive. The sounds of downtown on the weekends are so familiar and warming. Memories of parking myself in the last smoking café and going through too many cigarettes fill me during late nights, especially when it rains. I have never been a frequenter of bars, but I love the sounds as the city parties.
The city is not partying at the start of Hell Month. The city roasts. The clouds part and the mesquite seed pods lay under their parents, rotting a foul stench in the wet heat. I gag at it. Decades of growing in Tucson have not inoculated me to the scent after rain. I look up at the sky after dropping my spouse off at school and feel all is right with the world, apart from the early rains. All is right in my world.
Hell Month was a holy month that cooked up shortly after Reunion came about. I knew, in around February or March after the first Reunion, that the Dierne was deified at the end of July. I didn’t truly grasp the entire month of hell until later, and I would have to search through my notebooks to find a specific date of revelation. Most likely those notes have been lost anyway. Even though I have softened my anxiety of private writings being read by those I don’t wish, I still habitually rid myself of all manner of things and most especially my older writing. The writing of the early twenty-teens is bearable, at the least.
Story wise, the gods are absent from the West during July. I don’t think that’s exactly true. The spirits still interact with them. We can still interact with the gods, though in some stories they go off and adventure in our world during Hell Month. Like Reunion, when they take on more benevolent forms, they adopt different forms during this month. The gods of love remind me of shattered glass. the Clarene becomes bedrock solid and the Ophelia turns to piercing icicles.
I don’t know what to expect of this month yet. Perhaps more of the same that 2016 has dished out.
I pray to the godly and inhuman. The ancient whales. The almost-immortal tardigrade. I pray to the sweet thunder storm that soothed the heat of this June sun. I pray to the god of rats, who is rat, and I pray to the gods and spirits of all unlike myself. Not gods with animal heads and bodies. Gods and spirits entirely other. No human language sprouts from their lips.
I pray to the deer that spots me as I hike in the Sabino Canyon and watches, attentive. I pray to the small gila monster that slithers beside my classmates and I as we are young children.
I pray to the chemicals that make up our entirety. Holy sun and holy gas. Beloved laws of physics and dizzying quantum mechanics.
And I pray because it fulfills me. I remind myself of what is outside me. I am part of the flow. I am part of this universe. I don’t pray thinking I may sway gravity in my favor. I pray to gravity to remind myself:
There are more than gods.
I pray to the gods of the animals and plants and lands to remind myself:
Humans aren’t the only ones in this world.
But even praying like this it a selfish act.
It’s comfortable not having to do anything.
Prayer so often seems like doing nothing. And in place of action it is equitable to thought in all its effectiveness. I can pray for the places I love to be conserved and preserved, but that doesn’t mean much if I do not pursue conservation. I can love my spouse very much, but it may be difficult for him to feel that love if the house is left a wreck after he’s worked all day and I’ve lazed at home.
At the same, prayer is not nothing to me. I desire prayer to be the start of my day. By praying to the Four Gods, I begin on the right foot. I incorporate patience and gentleness. I start my day with stillness. That is the attitude I wish to carry as I go through the day.
Left to my own devices – my own devices meaning all on my own, without medication as well – I am a grump. With a combination of scheduling my day, actually getting sleep, and medication, I find myself returning to the stillness I know is within. I don’t feel the need to obscure my shyness with standoffish-ness.
I’m still figuring out how to be authentically, openly hurt and sad instead of smothering those emotions with anger. That is a longer process.
The gods are part of this process. I do not believe they are guiding it. The time when they had a more direct hand has passed. Instead of confronting them in the swelling sea of turbulent mental illness, I confront them in the kitchen.
I stare down at dirty dishes and rub my face and sense the Clarene. I imagine her chuckling under her breath as she sits comfortably in the rocking chair of her home. She knits away while I stand and stare and try to motivate myself.
“Domesticity suits you,” she says.
“If only I looked more domestic,” I muse.
She laughs again. “You all are so obsessed with appearance. Just get your hands dirty and start cleaning. You’ll enjoy it.”
She’s not incorrect. I do enjoy cleaning, when I can convince myself to do it. I enjoy keeping house. I can cook and clean, I’m learning to knit and sew, and decorating is almost always on my mind. My house may be a wreck, may be a bit more unloved than I’d like, but my soul finds comfort in the domestic.
I think, tonight, I will get down to such business properly and lovingly.
I will take that attitude into my life, whether I am cleaning dishes or getting back into activism.
Links concerning the massacre in Orlando are below. If you would like a piece you have written to be included, you may comment or email.
- Sanctuaries and Hate
- Prayer for Orlando
- No Words
- What cannot be said will be wept
- For Orlando
- For the Dead, For the Living
- ‘These Are My People’
- ‘Across the Country, Vigils Honor Victims’
- ‘What Queer Muslism Are Saying’
- ‘Latino Community in Orlando Bands Together’
- ‘Survivor Volunteers as Translator for Victims’ Families’
- Akyra Murray’s Family Remembers Her
Links from around the blogosphere:
- Some Thoughts on Science and Animism
- I Do Not Work for Free
- The Banquet
- Photo Finish Friday: Quiet Spot
- Build Your Community
- The Deity is in the Details
- Gender Agnosticism
- Ebooks, Disability, and the Morrigan
- Wildeval and the Wastes
- Space Patrol Luluco
Songs that have struck me this past week, for religious reasons and otherwise (can be found on Spotify or Youtube):
- The Room Where It Happens (Hamilton)
- Your Obedient Servant (Hamilton)
- Wait for It (Hamilton)
- Swan by Willa
- People Watching by Air Traffic Controller
- Hear the Bells by Naomi Scott
- Lost in Thoughts All Alone by Adriana Figueroa
- Lark of My Heart by Eliza Rickman
- Bird in a Cage by SPELLES
Gender is a complex entirety. It is not simply a topic, it is lived experience. It is social and personal and many things. It may tie into our sexuality (or lack thereof) or not.
My own gender is a fluid, amorphous creature. I am of two selves, the masculine and feminine. The words don’t encompass the truth of them. During my younger years I saw them as two distinct beings. There was the softer, kinder piece of me who had been locked away. The other me was confident, far prouder in himself, but he had to hold all the nerves that the other one had.
I don’t conceive of myselves as different parts somewhat outside my own person anymore. Nor have they combined, however. I am a boy and a girl, or, more accurately, a creature that dons my idea of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’.
My mother once gave me a sticker with an image of a blender blending ‘gender’ up in it. It is pasted to a folder that houses my more personal writings. That is the kind of mother I have. A good one.
I am lucky. I may not be able to find clothes in my size most of the time and struggle with truly accepting my own body, but I am lucky. I can navigate my worlds with ease. I was born with a vagina and a labia and a uterus, even if I sometimes resent that last one and the plumbing doesn’t work right. When I talk about gender variance and being a boy sometimes, I am not seen as a threat. I have a lack of privileges and an overflowing fist full of them, all at once.
Transphobia has been part of my life. But there are people whom transphobia affects much more. People for whom hatred for them costs them their life.
That saying, that women fear men will kill them – it applies to trans people. Especially trans women. And it isn’t just men that will kill trans individuals. Women will eagerly hop on the train to antagonize, abuse, and kill trans people. Especially trans women.
Trans women are women. They are people.
I know that there are people who don’t think either of those are true. Ideally, whether or not you view someone as a person shouldn’t have an impact on their life and safety. If you think someone is less than a person, if you want to indulge in the behavior of actual babies and toddlers, your behavior and rhetoric should be treated like the childish tantrum it is.
I haven’t been truly angry about much happening online this year. Hurt, confused, baffled, and tired by it all, yes. Anger and rage feel like emotions for years ago, when I had the energy for it. Back before my brain finished and I was able to turn to flesh and blood and a warm bed with my spouse. I don’t know that I am angry now.
I’m disgusted, though. I’m disgusted that people who are part of the Pagan community are insisting on promoting hate speech and hurting people. I’m disgusted that major Pagan institutions are supporting them and comparing criticism of hate speech to death threats. I’m disgusted that being friends with someone is seemingly reason enough to ignore when they are intentionally, purposefully, repeatedly promoting hate,
Simply saying that you don’t support hate speech is easy. Telling someone to stop hurting another person is easy. Standing up can be hard, can put us in someone’s crosshairs. But at the end of the day, it is always the right decision.
Do the right thing. Tell the truth. And stand with those who need it.
As a final note, trans women are people. And they are women.
Happy June. Here in Tucson, the days are hot and dry. We leave our house and enter into an oven. Unfortunately, the oven of the desert lacks the sweet smells of pastries, unlike the oven of our homes. The oven in our home is rather lacking in such pleasant scents, too. When I dare to go outside I can barely spare a thought for my surroundings. Years ago, in school, I could watch the seasons pass as the palo verde and mesquite bloomed and tossed away their flowers, soon growing heavy with seeds that scattered the ground and crunched underfoot. Now I drive to and fro, and my mind is more occupied with poorly behaving semi trucks than the beautiful trees surrounding me.
Beautiful and horridly allergy inducing.
Soon I will be flying up to Olympia, Washington for the second Many Gods West. My tickets for the room and hotel are booked. I’m quite excited to meet the other attendees, and I’m rather nervouus about presenting. Within this month and the next I will be printing up packets of information to take with me. These will simply be small writings on the Otherfaith, quite typical for what I tend to do. I feel, having had time to reflect on history and the gods and all of this mess of religion, they are better written and more tightly focused than previously.
Between planning for the conference and working, I write stories for the spirits. This year is not comparable to the heady, painful one of 2013, but the voices of the spirits are flowing well within my own. When I sit down to write with them the feeling is one of collaboration. I am easing into the prayers of the Four+ Gods again. Through bursts of discomfort and stinging longing, I am settling with the gods.
You would hardly know such from the state of my office.
On next Monday, I will be resuming posts linking to ongoings in the pagan and polytheist and assorted internet. In truth I had such a post written up for this past Wednesday, at the start of June, but hadn’t found time to properly format and schedule it. Life has a way, a way to interfere with every of my plans.
May June be less warm where you are, and thank you for reading.
This is part of the Pagan Experience 2016 prompts. EAch month brings a new prompt with options for alphabetical weekly prompts tied to the monthly topic. For this blog, I’ll be doing a monthly post on the associated topic.
Warnings this month for weird self-exploration, weird gender stuff, talk of suicide and depression, weird metaphors for the self, and a lack of conclusion to any of it.
I meditate – visualize – journey – to the inside of myself. There lays part of me, curled in on herself and cloaked with wild curls. She sniffs that tearful sniff all children master. I kneel down to her level.
She insults me immediately.
This is me as spiritually conceptualized, spiritual manifest, between the ages of when-I-can-remember and twelve. The me that is me is from twelve onward. I’m clad in a baseball-style shirt and jeans that rub against my thighs in threat of ripping. I poke my not-really-real baseball cap up to get a better look at the girl below me. She is, fittingly, unclothed. I wouldn’t expect a representation of childhood, trauma, hope, and loss to be wrapped up all nicely.
When I pick her up – metaphorically – she kicks and shrieks. She wails. She tells me how much she hates me and goes on and on. I don’t even move. I just stand there with myself slung over my shoulder. I wait until she has exhausted herself completely and then toss her back down, and now she’s all grown up but her hair is comparably bigger. Like a damn shield. She even grabs fistfuls of it and hides her face from me.
“You literally look like me,” I point out.
“Well, you’re ugly!” she retorts. She kicks her legs up.
My patience for myself snaps, already thin.
“Get over it,” I mutter. “Get the fuck over it.”
She throws mud in my face.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone diving into myself like this.
I could say the whole problem starts when I try to kill myself at school. Certainly, that act has affected my life ever since. If I could go and scrub my record clean, it would be clean of that. Everything else, every mistake and fuck up and wound I’ve caused, would come second – even less than second – to getting rid of that. I’d take a time machine to stop that.
I learned things that day, of course. I avoid the afterlife like I’m avoiding some touchy man at a party. The afterlife is rather hard to conceive of once you’ve just stared into nothingness. Oh, the lights, the lights! – were hospital lights. They’re really bright, you know.
But it wasn’t like I one day decided, “Let’s die! It sounds great.” To this day I can’t give you a good reason for why I did it. But it wasn’t a one-off adventure toward death. I’d been depressed for years. Actual, not-shitting-you years.
I was never exuberant and extroverted as a child, but one day it went from being a bratty quiet child to whatever I was. Depressed. Just depressed. Really, really depressed. And who gets depressed as a kid? Something must have been wrong with me. Depression is something ‘wrong with’, of course, but. There must have been something wrong with me that I was depressed in the first place.
That’s what the girl-me yells when I visit her. She curses me. What could possibly have been wrong with me that I’d try to end everything. I ruined her life, she shrieks. I’m an incompetent worthless ass who isn’t even good at being quiet and small. She goes on and on.
I scuff my sneaker against the non-existent ground, stirring up non-existent dust.
Everything would have been fine if I had just toughed it out, she rants. She could have fixed her life if I hadn’t stepped in and fucked it all over. She talks about her dreams and her ideas and it all just blends into noise. I’ve heard this a thousand times. I’ve told myself this a thousand times. She complains about how much of a jerk I was in early adulthood. She complains I’ve given up all my goals and settled down with some man – and she hisses that word out like she’s a demon entering a church. Even though the me I’m looking at now is well-grown and just as chubby and curved as I am, I can’t help but remark on her childishness.
“You play at being a man!” she trills, winding herself up more and more and more and more.
“I am a man,” I respond. ‘Half the time,’ I think.
“I hate men!” she sobs, flopping down into the expanse of her hair.
I sigh and kneel down to her again. She’s wailing, great tears pouring from her eyes. “Hey,” I say.
She just wails.
“I kind of need to. You know.” I scratch the back of my neck. “We kind of need to integrate so I can stop being so fractured all the time.”
“I hate you!” she sobs, again.
“Yeah, yeah, you hate me, I hate me, it’s the same thing,” I say under my breath. I grab her arm and begin to haul her over my shoulder again – the urge to haul the both of us to some spot is overwhelming – and she smacks me in the face.
“What happened to me! Why did I turn into you!” she asks, voice hot.
I let myself feel the sting. I’m so impartial when I take on this makeshift form. I’m exactly the type of person my gods want me to be.
“Well,” I say, “you kind of died on me.”
The other-me stops talking, wailing, sobbing, shrieking. We just sit together with the knowledge that I kind-of sort-of died in the hospital just before I turned thirteen, and I’m never going to remember what drove me there, and I’m just going to have to live with what happened for the rest of my damn life.
I tell myself I ‘caught’ the depression when I was eight, but it was probably later. I don’t remember exact dates. I remember being small. But I’ve always been small. For all it matters, bodily, I could have caught it from ten to twenty – I haven’t grown much in all those years, except horizontally.
(I stretch my shoulders back one day and realize I’ve gotten chubby, chubby on my back, and it’s so odd I just stand in front of the mirror for a while, not registering my reflection. I’m used to my fat going right to my thighs.)
I was in therapy as a child. Therapy that didn’t really help. The most distinct memory I have of the time is going up the elevator, or maybe the stairs, and wondering aloud about the end of our civilization. I had been thinking of the end of ancient Greece and Rome and how our own end, here in the US, would be so difficult for us to see. We might live through the downfall as it occurred. I couldn’t explain exactly what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking of wars or politics or famine or water crisis or, or, or. I was just thinking, “It happened before, it has to happen again, right? It happens again and again.”
I went to two different therapists as a child-teenager. I found little use from either of them. Now I’m older and better educated, I know what I needed was one of those cognitive-behavioral therapists, not one that just sits there and stares at you and expects you to talk out your problems and gives you pithy sayings. I craved ‘homework’, craved doing something to fix myself, and talking it out just spun me into worse shape.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell them, “Put me on medication, you fuckwits.” I’d warn them they needed to get to work sooner than later if they didn’t want me trying to untangle all the bull shit ruts my mind would work into itself. But, no time machine. Besides, if I could go back in time, I already would have, and the whole thing would be solved, and since it’s not, there’s no time machine waiting for me in the future.
I must have been older than eight.
But I remember being small and bringing it up with the doctor. I remember feeling fake. I couldn’t really be depressed or chronically sad or. No, I was perfectly normal. Just quiet. I just enjoyed my stories and toys and books. I got too involved in my stories. That’s why I was feeling sad. I was reading sad stories.
Surely, to this day, I meld into stories easier than I’d prefer, but I was kidding myself. Depression was clinging to me like seaweed around my legs as I swam in the Pacific. She was getting ready to drown me.
I’d always been shit at talking to people, so it wasn’t any wonder talk therapy did jack shit. I’d always been terrible at talking to people, and I was still a child, in a way, so it wasn’t any wonder I just decided ‘let’s not being around’ rather than talking to someone.
My parents divorce when I’m eighteen. I flunk out of college shortly before that. I barely make it out of high school. This story is being told in reverse. It’s being told with no gods’ damned chronological order. I can’t keep down jobs for long. I take my anger and sorrow and pain out on everything.
I am a violent person, but like my spirits tell me, “You keep it all inside.” At least until I break, and then I take it out on myself. Spiritually, I conceive of myself as perfectly normal, except when I’m in too much emotional pain. Then I’m just this humanoid form of fire and lava.
Reality, my thighs are pretty damaged from the whole self-hatred shit. My wrist is too, but so faded you won’t notice unless you really look. My thighs used to be something I could take pride in, even as big as they were, they are. They’re all scarred up. You know what it is when you see it.
I don’t get the fuck over myself until I hit my twenties, and I’m a right bitch through most of that anyway.
Did I really meet my partner when I was nineteen? How did he stick around with me? How did anyone stick around with me?
I’m debating with the other-me about all this shit when she shows up.
She’s draped in a simple dress, and her hair is mine – actually mine, not exaggerated as it tends to be in journeys – and she’s young. When she speaks, it is with a voice I’ve heard a dozen times before. Fleeting and brief and firm.
This isn’t some other me. It is just me, behind all the depression and anxiety and fear and scarring. In the Otherfaith very pure or very corrupt spirits tend to appear as children. They never act like children. I know it is my own bias and interpretation that she shows up like this. She doesn’t look like I did when I was a child. She looks like someone I have never seen on the outside, just inside my own heart.
“Enough,” she says, and when her feet touch the ground we are on her energy ripples out. “Stop fighting.”
I wobble and turn to goo. The other side of myself does too, until we meld into something new. I look down and just see myself, as I physically am.
This is me, the physical outer me, and when I look up there is what some people might call a soul. Or the God-Soul, or the God-Self, or the holy guardian angel, or whatever damn name fits in your tradition. In the Otherfaith we hold up mirrors to ourselves to see who we are and our many distortions. She is without distortion. She is what resides in my heart and wishes to be spoken to the world.
She asks why I keep running from her.
I tell her I’m not running from anything.
She asks where I am trying to go to.
I tell her I’m just trying to – I cut myself off. I can feel it. The edges of my own mind and soul blending with the spirits of the Otherfaith. I can feel the large body of the Clarene cracking this makeshift journey open like an egg.
“I’m a piece of shit,” I say, “and I don’t deserve to be here.”
I can feel Ava behind me, let in by the Clarene cracking everything open, and she digs her small foot into my back and I can feel her sneer.
“Get the fuck over it,” she says.
The me that ducks in and out of my life, giving the actual good advice I need, the me that actually is herself entirely, the me that I can hear when the fog of depression is torn away, stands before me. I bury her under the asshole side of me I want the word to see instead.
I conceive of her as a kid because of how damn vulnerable I feel.
I don’t reach out and take her hand. She doesn’t extend one anyway. I don’t embrace her.
I know her, which is the whole point. I can’t be her. She’s my heart. She’s the soul.
I can try to embody her. Ava’s heel, pressing sharply into me, tells me what I need to do. Of course I’m running away from this side of myself. She holds me to the highest standard. And she forgives me when I fuck up. That’s what soul is.
I need to get the fuck over it and get on with my life.
I can come out of this journey, but technically this whole life is a journey. It is the pursuit of that side of me, stripping away the bandages I don’t need until I can embody her. It is my own understanding of the body and the soul, odd and unstable as it may be.
This is part of the Pagan Experience 2016 prompts. Each month brings a new prompt with options for alphabetical weekly prompts tied to the monthly topic. For this blog, I’ll be doing a monthly post on the associated topic.
“You have no concept of privacy,” Hawthorne’s mother says to me over tea. She practically hisses the words at me, except she is a bit too dignified for that sort of nonsense. I hold my teacup like a lifeline. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with you.”
“I won’t write anything,” I tell her.
“You’re a liar,” she says. She lifts her tea with grace I’ve seen shadows of in Hawthorne. His family home is incredibly regal. His mother watches me with hawk-like dark eyes, heavily shadowed with eyeliner.
I am a liar; I’ll end up writing about her all the same. The first time I sit down to write a story about her, I mumble an apology. I can almost feel her disgusted glare. Most of the spirits of the West are magnificent and awe-inspiring, yet they rarely leave the impression that I am less than them. Hawthorne’s mother can’t wait to bring it up through perfectly white clenched teeth. ‘Little bird’ is not an endearment from her blessed lips.
The idea of ‘being silent’ is as foreign to me as any writer. Writing, I’ve heard, is cannibalism. When my partner and I heard that, driving home and listening to NPR, I couldn’t help but exclaim my agreement. I struggled to articulate just why it was so true, though. Writing consumes.
My writing as a teenager was the shallow consumption of the self. Being a teenager is an exploration of who we are and who we want to be, though those adventures never really end. The hormones just stop slamming you face first into a brick wall (for a time). My teenage life was kicked off with a bleak adventure to the ‘otherside’ via a few handfuls of over-the-counter painkillers and a trip to the ICU. I was as self-centered as any teenager. For a year or more I wrote pages every day about my life. All the minutiae was recorded. My emotions existed to be stripped down to the page.
Rereading the journal months after I’d written in it, I fell asleep.
It was when I hit adulthood that I began writing more honestly. Having jobs, fucking up my life, reading more literature, coming to terms with the monster called depression – my writing morphed from the whining posturing of my teenage self into whining reality. I felt as though I were coughing up my own spine. And I realized how quickly I could switch myself around telling stories.
“Don’t turn this into a story,” I remember my mother telling me one day after I’d begun entering adulthood. We sat at a red light, waiting for it to turn green so we could turn down towards her friend’s house. I had no idea what she meant then. I have no idea what she meant.
Everything is a story to a writer.
I wrote about myself in roundabout fashion. I was never myself. I was always masked, always someone else. It made the feeling of my tongue being yanked from my mouth more tolerable. Half the time I wasn’t writing about myself but just a feeling. My deepening connection to writing came as I formed the Otherfaith. Writing became divine. When I was full of awe at the spirits I needed to capture it. I hammered it down with words. The emotion and experiences always fractured into pieces, but I was able to bottle some.
It was no surprise to me that one of my oldest spirits appeared, when I was in the throes of inspiration, to show me how to symbolically devour my own flesh. I considered it a useful spiritual skill. Of course it was a metaphor for my ‘process’ as well. Writing ripped off and processed all the parts of myself. I could break them down and string them out. I could make them better. I could edit them to shreds.
I could edit the spirits to shreds.
Evelyn Llewellyn, Hawthorne’s mother, only takes Lady Grey tea. I sip coffee and hunch my shoulders when I meet with her. Over a year of marriage to Hawthorne and I’m no better terms with his mother. Her long nails tap, tap, tap against the table of the cafe we’re meeting in. It’s one her family frequents. I scratch my neck. She sips her tea, her bright lipstick not leaving a trace on the mug. I wish I had half her sophistication.
“I’m sorry,” I offer.
“This is why I didn’t want my daughter marrying you,” Evelyn says. She shakes her head. Her hair is just as dark as Hawthorne’s but completely straight. Hawthorne is a hot mess; his mother is prim and proper and well-dressed. I’ve thought of bringing that up to her before. She’d probably blame me and my human cooties – or human influence. Same thing.
“I guess it’s why the Clarene wanted me to marry Hawthorne?” I say with a soft laugh.
Evelyn breathes sharply through her nose. I stifle a despairing cry.
“No concept of privacy,” she snaps at me, not for the first time. “You couldn’t keep your nose out of it even if you tried.”
I did try, for the record.
“She just wants your story told,” I protest. “I didn’t even realize how deep your history was until.”
Evelyn appears to slam her fist onto the table, but no loud bang shudders through the cafe. I certainly feel no tremble of the table against my own hands.
“Enough. *I* didn’t want the story told, much less for your fingers to be all over it.”
I grit my teeth. “You know, the story involves *my* family too, I have just as much right.”
She slaps the table this time, and the harsh sound does fill the room. The rest of the cafe falls silent and their eyes turn to us. I flush.
“I am the head of this family, which you are a part. You will not make an embarrassment of me.”
I lower my eyes to the table and nearly break a tooth with how hard I clench my jaw. The only one embarrassed here is *me*. Evelyn is one of the oldest spirits I’ve met in the West, yet she acts as if I have the power to topple her expansive empire. I knew marrying into Hawthorne’s family would provide its own challenges. But having Hawthorne *with* me while I deal with his mother might be nice.
“I’m still going to write it,” I mumble.
“I know you will,” she sneers. “You’re incapable of *not* doing so.”
I stare into my coffee.
It’s a story worth telling, damn it.
I call Hawthorne’s family the ‘Llewellyns’ out of ease. Whatever their name truly is, I can’t speak it. Evelyn would rather string me up by my entrails than let me know her holy name. I’ve called Hawthorne by ‘Llewellyn’ since I’ve known him. I only began applying it to his family as a way to differentiate between my spirit family and his, the one I married into when we wed over a year ago.
Hawthorne’s entrance into my life marked a decided shift in how I approached my magical and spiritual practice. Writing had factored into my religious life as a footnote. With his insistent appearance at my home, writing became the practice. Part of it was an attempt to cope with Hawthorne. I told him often he was just a character. I disavowed him in as many ways as I could. If I could just write him into smaller fragments, maybe he would disappear.
In hindsight, Hawthorne showed me how to engage in inspired writing. He taught me how to journey through words. Every attempt at cutting him down failed. He was certainly the starry, dark-haired brat I’d imagined him as, but he dodged all my flailing efforts to deny his selfhood. In trying to write him out of existence I was forced to learn the line between writing for myself and writing with the spirits. Writing journeys of him were infinitely more accurate than throwing my mental goop at the paper. (I eventually learned how to turn my idea muck into more concrete energy, though the experience of that was as unintended as most of my religious work.)
Being himself, Hawthorne didn’t mind being talked about. I could peel away his skin and pluck his heart out and he’d be happy as long as somebody was watching. He was, and is, a perfect match for me in a myriad of ways.
His family is another matter.
Evelyn – his mother – was a myth when I first knew her. She appeared as a silhouette in visions, her distinct profile striking every time I saw it. Hawthorne shrunk away from mention of her. I didn’t need to meet her to know she had an iron fist on her family. But as my journeys shifted focus, off of Hawthorne and onto spirit I’d never really know, she faded from memory. It wasn’t until we married that I had to confront her.
I offered her tea with a bowed head and many apologies. She sat stiff, like the Laethic spirits I’d met, and her hair fell in a determined line down her back. She was pale as the moon. Her lips could become a captivating smile. She never smiled at me.
She was an adopted sister to the Dierne. That much was obvious from the star imagery adorning every space around her. Her children were all part of the Dierne’s Court. It was later, when I was unintentionally stumbling into her history, that I saw her fighting alongside the silver god of sexuality and consent. She appeared far younger than I’d ever known her, blood dripping from a cut above her eyebrow and a gun dangling from her hand. She was muddy. I had never seen her with a speck of dirt.
She hissed at my knowing of her.
Writing is cannibalism.
Evelyn enjoyed my writing of her as much as any mother would. I can’t even count how many writers have horrid relationships with their family. Laying bare the sins and secrets of their kin earns ire. Writing puts down in ink our own perception of reality. The ink clashes with another’s. We cut them up and eat them so we can create sense, create beauty, create nice flowing sentences with the perfection combination of words. We find what tastes good.
And then we offer it to others.
Evelyn was, surprisingly, less defensive of her family than of herself. Then again, she trusted the rest of her daughters to have more sense than Hawthorne did, running off with a human writer like he’d done. But her ire toward me when I played with her origins was pale compared to her rage when I cracked open the egg of my own spirit family.
Star spirits seem exceptionally good at conveying a thousand years of disgust in one look.
I stare at Blake’s strung up body. Her stick-thin arms drape over the stone chair in the middle of the gurgling room. She is shadowed by the huge tubes behind her, the cords threaded from her body winding up and dumping some energetic equivalent of bodily fluid into the swirling, bubbling liquid in tubes. She wears the colorful silks I associated with the *Glateau Elves*, a variant of the Western fairies that make up the majority of spirits in the Otherfaith.
She tilts the remnants of her head sideways. I flinch at the slick sound, like eggs cracking against a counter. She has no mouth to speak. Her face is long gone. Instead of the flat-face the Glateau are known for, her neck meets a whirling mass of light and blood and sparks. Maybe I want to retch. My shoulders quiver.
A few months after my small spat with Hawthorne’s mother, I was completely and totally minding my own business. I didn’t have time for the epic journeys that used to influence my life. We were moving, for fuck’s sake. (A simple month or two of moving radically altered my approach to nearly every aspect of my life, but especially online.) I didn’t want new revelations or ideas for stories. Trying to get my life in order, I was thinking.
My beloved spirits had a different idea.
Alynah Blake came thundering it, as she does.
“Hey, little one!” she called, tossing a hammer half her height in the arm before catching it. She held it loosely as if it were some small paperweight. “Tell a story for me.”
“I’m kind of busy,” I protested. Busy cleaning dishes and listening to Panic! at the Disco.
“Story time!” she exclaimed. She yanked me toward her.
Alynah is electricity. She is also stars and fire. She’s a unicorn and a wolf and a kirin. Being close to her makes your eyes water. Static ripples through you. She hurts.
So I listened when she gathered herself around me. I plopped myself down in front of my laptop and wrote like she damn well wanted.
There may be some misconceptions about how I weave my stories. They don’t come fully formed. I have to string together inspired visions with more drab world-building. Part of why I slowed in my story-writing is because my vicious editorial side came out. She would roll her eyes at my works. I knew I could write better. I wrote what flowed, what felt good. My self-editor wanted what read well. Cut it up, piece it together, weave it back with marvelous ribbons.
A few stories did come easily to me. ‘The Red Room’, about Aletheia 003 and William, gushed out of me in a day. Most of the 2013 stories are like that. I cut open a creative vein and let it bleed everywhere. Now I’m more likely to chain myself up like Blake and seal all my wounds with cement. It hurts more when I rip them open. But it gives me a new feeling to write about.
Blake’s story was the more common drip-drop I’m accustomed to. Alynah Blake instigated my writing of it, but she gave little advice.
I knew a few things about Blake before writing her: she was the first Blake and who we all got our names from; she was from the Temple of the Fathers (a part of the West) and a Glateau Elf; she didn’t have a face. I’d heard from other spirits that she was a ‘time-traveling demon’ who had ‘erased her face’ from history. An over-exaggeration, of course. Story-building, I could see her face. She was foggier than most spirits, but she was there. An impression left on a pad of paper that you only find when you rub charcoal on it.
She’d had huge golden eyes, a tiny flat nose, and hair over five feet long. “Ridiculous hair,” I thought. Hair longer than I was tall.
And before I’d married into the Llewellyns, Blake had been the head of my family.
Not that it mattered. By the time I came into the picture she was already the deathly still body sitting deep within the house of the Blakes. Alynah had known her before she’d been reduced to that, though, and like any good chaos spirit decided to bring chaos into my life by overturning everything I’d known about my spirit family. I knew Hawthorne and I were twins (which in the West meant we were ‘created’ at the same time). I knew I was related to the Blakes. I’d known since I was little I was related to some of the older spirits in the Otherfaith. I had gone through pride, anxiety, rejection, and settled at acceptance.
Alynah struck down and insisted that, no, believe her, there was so much more to the story.
I wanted to know more anyway.
Blake had been young and naive and new to the West. And in a moment, as fast as a lightning strike during monsoon season, the pieces of my spiritual life fell together. The Blakes and the Llewellyns were so damn close because Blake and Llewellyn – Evelyn Llewellyn – had been close. At least before Blake’s skull had been split open to release all the potentials that she held in her.
Where the Llewellyns were restrained chaos, Blake was overflowing with energetic possibilities. I saw her pulling spirits out of her gut. She skipped through time leaving splotches of herself behind. And the more she pulled out, the less she could keep it all together, until her face started cracking, until she starting oozing out a toxic gas full of spirits wanting out of her.
That was where Alynah came in. Alynah and her hammer. She wasn’t a hive-off of Blake but instead forced into the family through her mother Althea, who gifted her the last name ‘Blake’ despite Blake’s own vehement disagreement. Blake had cursed Althea to be despised by Alynah. Althea knew that hatred couldn’t compare to what Alynah would do to Blake, though.
All that remains of Blake’s face is a violent splatter of light and magic. It glows to this day still. But Alynah cracked open her head and let out all the spirits dying to get out of that shell.
Evelyn Llewellyn flashes her claws at me when I tell the story. Maybe the wound is too new still. All the memories she and Blake had together, with Blake hopping through time and interrupting Llewellyn’s life with colorful explosions, shimmer around her. Or maybe she just wants me to shut up.
Writing is cannibalism, but I find myself butchered even when I’m holding the knife.
Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at ‘from stone onto sand’. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!
Over on Idea Channel, Mike Rugnetta discussed ‘The Ruins of Las Vegas’. Seeing as how I am from the United States and see many US cities as being sacred in the Otherfaith, the video left me a lot to think on.
I’ve never been to Las Vegas. The sacred cities that are very important in my practice as an Other Person are all ones I have lived in or traveled to: Seattle, New York City, the sprawling hell-scape of Phoenix and the smaller nestled city of Tucson. Vegas rarely pinged my radar, its bright colorful setting more of a pit stop in any Otherfaith stories I wrote than the main attraction.
The Other People’s spiritual landscape – the West – is one I map out onto the United States but that I think could be mapped out where ever it fits best a Person’s landscape. It wasn’t until I went to the Midwest that I truly understood what the Clarene’s Orchards and farmland looked like, for example, so I think lived experience has a huge impact on how we perceive the worlds we explore religiously and spiritually. There are many parts that make up the West: the Wastes, where waste is dumped and cleaned up, similar to an expansive swamp; the Wintertime, where the landscape is covered in snow and frozen lakes; the City, with massive skyscrapers, exhaust fumes clinging the air, and bright flashing lights; the more distant Temple of the Fathers, seemingly frozen in time.
The idea of ‘Ruins’, and the ruins of someplace still living, gets my religious-soul all stirred up. Especially as Rugnetta brings up the idea that Las Vegas, unlike other cities, is not meant to be used; it is meant to be looked at, awed at, gawked at.
It is easy to see the Other People’s City as comparable to Vegas but only at first blush. It may smell of exhaust, but the streets are more often built for foot travel. The sidewalks are wide and allow for spirit to gather and discuss. When a building ‘goes up’ (as much as it can in an otherworldly place like that), it stays up.
Is there a place comparable to the living ruins of Las Vegas? I don’t quite think so. At least not in the West that I perceive.
Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patron [Jack at Drawing Stars](http://drawingstars.net. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!
This is part of the Pagan Experience 2016 prompts. Each month brings a new prompt with options for alphabetical weekly prompts tied to the monthly topic. For this blog, I’ll be doing a monthly post on the associated topic.
Ava Laetha (who is described here) appears to me at times covered in blood. At times she glows with a shimmering divine light, and still at other times she appears as a sharp-tongued, observant god masquerading as a child. She is most childlike when covered in blood: bossy, temperamental, vacillating between affection and enmity. Glowing in divine light she is a vision of eternity and hope.
During Reunion, however, I see her most as the small-figured god without trappings of death or overpowering divinity.
“Anne Blake,” she greets. I frown around ethereal pastries stuffed in my mouth, the sounds of the cafe out of place for when I usually meet the Laetha as Ava. Cafes are part of Reunion for me, though.
“Llewellyn,” I correct. “I’m a Llewellyn.”
She ignores my comment and sits across from me. Her Companion – the winged giant Erann – stands beside us, not taking a seat of his own. I don’t look at him. I keep my focus on Ava. She is not the type to simply visit.
“I have a task for you,” she says. She manifests a teapot and cup, snapping sugar into existence with her fingers and busying herself with the preparation of it.
Erann shoos away the barista who approaches us.
“I want you to take the new recruits on their Trial.” Ava sips her tea, and through the steam her pale, pale eyes meet mine. Her lips curl up. “Up to our Northern Neighbors.”
The ‘Northern Neighbors’ is slang, a phrase tossed around by Ava and myself and, daringly, in my own stories. They aren’t relevant to anyone besides myself, I suspect. But they are how I came to know Ava and how I came to cement her as my Antagonist.
Antagonism is a theoretical structure for god-human relationships within the Otherfaith. The Antagonist god disrupts the Other Person’s religious and spiritual life in some way. This includes mockery and criticism of a Person, tampering with one’s spirit body and energies, thwarting magic or magical-spiritual practices, or throwing difficult obstacles into a Person’s life. Antagonist gods have spirits at their call or command whom may also join the god in harassing an individual.
Antagonist gods are not universal among the People; Ava Laetha is my Antagonist, but she is not necessarily the Antagonist to another practitioner or devotee.
At first blush, Antagonism may seem entirely negative. We are being harassed by a god and their spirits, and they poke at our soft spots with glee and/or ease. For a long time, I could only describe my relationship with Ava as ‘awful’. She hated me and didn’t hesitate to point out how little she thought of me. She seemed to go out of her way to cause problems.
Problems that conveniently resulted in learning new skills, adapting a weakness to a strength, or a breakthrough in my practice.
That is the crux of Antagonism, beyond the frustration: growth through ordeal. Its opposite is the Beneficent: growth through aid. Both of these relationships are entered into through deals we make or reject with the gods.
Ava became my Antagonist shortly after she burned the Northern Neighbors entire land to ash. I had prayed to the Laetha, begging for them to bring absolute ruin. I’d barely known Ava then. She was just the shimmering golden child who was crowned and enthroned among the Laethas. It was a personal plea. The story of Ava burning down the ‘Northern Neighbors’ is personal, something I don’t consider ‘canon’ in any sense. It’s an in-joke between Ava and myself.
But when she came back from the North, dripping in blood as if she’d stepped out of a shower, it damn well didn’t seem funny.
“Blake,” she called to me. I’d been brought to the border of the West and the North by the Firebird. He was hovering over my shoulder, his head bent down and his beak touching my shoulder. Ava laughed joyously. I could see smoke streaming from the mountains behind her, mountains I had once known almost-well.
“I burnt everything down!” Ava told me excitedly. “Even the Firebird helped. The mountains are burning from inside!” She was practically screaming with glee.
There hasn’t been a moment I regretted praying to my god for it.
Ava wasn’t content just delivering the news. She had twirled and then held out her sticky hand. Her smile was full of too many teeth. I knew there was more than blood on her. I knew she was bigger and scarier than I could see.
“I can give you this power,” she offered. “I’ll teach you how to burn like I do without ever going out. All I want from you is worship.” Her grin split her face open. “Devotion. Piety. Absolute adoration. I’m a god, after all!”
With the Firebird’s feathers and heat against my back, I refused her.
Ava changed immediately. She became smaller and sharper.
“Excuse me?” she snapped.
“No thanks,” I repeated.
“Oh, is that so,” she said through her nose. “I’m a god; you can’t say no.”
And then I made one of the poorer decisions of my life and spat out, “Watch me.”
The catch was I couldn’t have made the deal with the Laetha Ava anyway. I already made a deal, years earlier, with another god. I’d signed away my soul to the god that accompanied me that day: the Laethic Firebird.
“Technically, they’re the same god,” I argue with myself. “Then again,” I tell myself, “they’re not the same god.”
the Firebird had come to me when I was still a teenager and proposed the deal that truly gave form to the Otherfaith. I didn’t realize at the time what sort of relationship I was setting up with him. ‘Signing away my soul’ isn’t quite accurate. It wasn’t nearly so severe. But I was from then-on intertwined with the fiery Laethic bird.
That day, as our goals and desires aligned, as I agreed to serve him and his divine family, he became the Beneficent in my spiritual life.
I didn’t have a word for either relationship at the beginning. ‘Antagonist’ and ‘Beneficent’ are possibilities. They fit perfectly with how I interact with Ava and the Firebird, and it may be that they work for the rest of the Otherfaith. (I’m acting as-if they will for the moment.)
The Beneficent relationship between god and human is rooted in the god’s cultivation of their devotee. They assist and guide the human under their care, creating situations for the Person to learn and grow. They teach spiritual techniques and skills.
Which isn’t to say that the relationship is always positive or even enjoyable. I’ve argued with the Firebird and rebelled against his advice. The best way to describe the relationship is as father-son. There were times when I trusted him entirely.
And there were times when I felt utterly betrayed, like when I found out about the other Laethas. There were so many. They all had personalities and goals and opinions on who and how I should be.
A Beneficent isn’t meant to be an endless font of praise. They give us challenges, just like our Antagonist. The Beneficent doesn’t try to stymie our efforts however. They give us, in essence, ‘homework’. They guide us along the path we desire to go on, the one we agreed to when making the deal with them.
With the Firebird and I, the deal was that he and his kin would help me create a religion if I worshiped them. A rather simple deal when it was said and done. So when I say I sold my soul or my life, it is in a joking way. I did give part of my life to them, but it was part I wanted to give. I didn’t know what that all entailed or how hard the work would be. There are days where I’m frustrated.
The deal was completely worth it, though.
The Firebird and I still don’t get on better than any father (him) toward a misbehaving son (me). When he advises me now, though, I listen. His presence is like a warm fire. He is a giant flaming bird and frightening plenty of the time, but for me he will always be like a hearth fire. He’s the oven and the stove, the fireplace I crave to have, and the small fire built when out camping. His heat flows through me, both through intent and happenstance. His lessons are mine to live and learn and often to fail at.
Each of the Laethas has their own specific domain. Alaria’s is warfare and combat. Asier’s is prosthetic and medical technology. Arabella’s is virtual reality. Aletheia preside over robotics. Arrise and Azure preside over spaceships and the like (as well as giant robots). Artois is a god of dissent, embodying it in a very real way for the Laethas. Alma is healing and medicine. Ava is presides over the throne and, in essence, cruelty.
The Laethic Firebird is all about immolation and apotheosis. I don’t view my practice as incorporating apotheosis anymore, though having read quite a lot about it within magical practices it did influence me. Instead, what the Firebird guides me toward is a constantly shifting self. Unlike the shapeshifting of the Dierne, which relies on such a strong sense of selfhood that it persists through the shapeshifting, transformation for the Laetha (and the Ophelia, who also has a large roll in my spiritual life) is about many selves. My selfhood and identity is always a little bit at risk when I engage in the spiritual-magical aspects of the Otherfaith.
Trusting the Firebird – that he will bring me back to my self even if I’ve undergone significant, devastating changes and experienced many different ways of being – is something I learned and what solidifies our relationship. I trust Ava to teach me lessons, but I also trust that she’d toss me aside if I was too frustrating. The Firebird sticks with me even when I obviously cause him irritation. He agreed to do so, just like I agreed to worship him.
“Taking the recruits to the North is a good idea,” he tells me when I visit him in his nest. His nest is more of a mountain, a huge crevice in the face of it full of orange-leaved trees and crackling branches underfoot. His giant eyes look up at me, his head lowered to my face. “You need to do it.”
“Ava was right to ask you. You’re old enough now.” He gathers himself back up, and his neck arches into the blue sky. Like this, he seems especially regal.
“I am old enough, aren’t I?” I muse.
“Go then,” he says, jerking his head. “You’ll be starting soon.”
A few years ago I went on my own Trial, an event every Nix initiate and spirit experiences. Originally, I thought every Trial was the same for everyone. But I learned better. They are essentially tests of will. You delve into your own mind and swim in your nightmares. You stay there. And then you see if you come back, and if you come back what you carry with you.
“Everyone has to lead it eventually,” Ava tells me. “I hope you enjoy it,” she chirps, all saccharine.
She knows I won’t, but I know it doesn’t matter. I don’t snip at her. Time passes. My positions change. Every experience, pleasant or painful, allows me to learn new things.
Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patron Jack at Drawing Stars. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!