[Pagan Experience] Knowing

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.

Twelve

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.

Eight

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.

Twenty-Two

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.

[Pagan Experience] Silence

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.

The Llewellyns

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.

The Blakes

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!

[Tuesday] Idea of the Week

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone’s Memorial Day yesterday went well.

Over the weekend, we had two Otherfaith Hangouts. Our Saturday one occurs weekly, and our Sunday Hangout was just started this past weekend. We have them occurring at different times in the hopes of making it more accessible to people. Though I will be out of town this upcoming weekend, the Hangouts will still be up for people to participate in. You don’t have to make both, but we’d love to see people interested in the Otherfaith or in modern religion! This past weekend we discussed a wide variety of topics related to religion and religious practice.

From now on, we’ll be opening our chats (about ten to fifteen minutes past the starting time) with a prayer. This will likely be a general prayer to the Four/Four Gods. Hopefully that will set us off on the right foot. It is completely okay for discussion to flow where it will, but the chats are intended for religious talk (Otherfaith or not). Always check in that people are on board with what is being discussed, so we can keep having awesome Hangouts!

This past week, I was finishing up the cosplay my partner and I are doing for Phoenix Comic Con. In between busily putting on the finishing touches for our costumes, I rearranged the shrines for the Otherfaith gods. It was no small task, but I’m glad I did it. Having some beautiful storage boxes that fit on the shrine really helped, of course. I’m working on a variation of an ‘ancestor’ shrine as well, thanks to some ideas from friends.

One thing that popped up while rearranging was some of the intuitive rules to putting up the sacred spaces. I need to say or do certain things before properly establishing them (meaning some of them are going to have to wait til we get back home). There are some items I didn’t mind getting rid of or not putting up – others felt distinctly uncomfortable to leave or ignore. There’s so much that goes into creating these spaces. It’s difficult and creative and fun and devotional. I try not to assume superiority compared to other people’s spaces. Partially because the pictures of other’s spaces are beautiful, partially because I can’t know how they use and utilize the space for their spirits! (Or themselves, but that’s a larger discussion.)

A consistent part of my Otherfaith practice has been my offering space. It hasn’t really changed over the years, except for an improve incense holder. The candle has been replaced with an LED. But the layout and function remains the same. There are three cups for different offerings on top of a larger plate, a glass cup for water and a small pitcher which to pour from. A very simple, useful space. It sits atop my ritual and religious supplies, largely incense, cigarettes, and mini bottles of alcohol.

Less consistent has been the pop cultural and geek influences on my practice. Something from the media I consume is always influencing me (lately it’s been the excellent ‘Steven Universe’), but it’s a lot harder to pin down where. How much influence does a show have on how I interpret a symbol? Do I have to consider the creator’s intent and meaning? I’m a big fan of ‘the author is dead’ type of analysis, but is that appropriate when incorporating elements of a story into my religious life? How far can I stretch a symbol before it loses meaning?

That last question applies to more general religious life, at least in my experience. How far can I tug the compass rose symbol in the Otherfaith before it becomes meaningless? Is it useful as a catchall symbol for the Other People? It’s also tied to the Clarene, though, and the compass rose has connotations with seafaring, stars, and orientation. And when other members of this faith use that symbol, what does it mean to them – and should my interpretation of the symbol matter?

This idea of conflicting interpretations and ideas is one that pops up a lot. It usually pops up in the Pagan, polytheist, and witchcraft spheres in relation to ‘unverified personal gnosis’ (UPG). How do we handle when someone uses information radically different than we intended? How do we handle when other people tell different stories than we like? Or maybe even tell stories we hate, using the same symbols we also use?

We can decide to ignore them. If we’re in local proximity this can be awkward, of course, but the intricacies of interaction do leave wiggle room for some ignoring and avoiding. Online this is significantly easier. We can just not read what they right. We can block them if they really annoy us. We can go do something else.

We can decide to dialog with them. We might possibly find similarities or just solidify deep differences. We might find ourselves getting more irritated with the person telling a different story, who is experiencing something different than us. We can decide to live and let live or keep picking at the ideas until we find something new.

We can promote our own ideas and practices – which is great!

We can decide the person with different stories is lying. Maybe we decide they aren’t actually experiencing the gods they say they are, or maybe they aren’t as educated as we are. Positioning ourselves as Right and other people as Wrong is a pretty human trait. We like our divisions and that is an easy one. And challenging our own ideas is tough work that we’re always going to fail at. We can only improve day by day. When we see someone who is similar to us, superficially, doing something completely foreign or different we can get defensive. It’s not hard to go from that to insisting what we do is correct or superior.

Some of my spirits are really insistent about their offerings, for example. And if someone came up to me and said that they wanted an offering they’d expressed disdain for before, I’d be doubtful. And I’d be defensive of my own practice.

And I’d have to get past that if I ever wanted to function in a communal setting.

We shouldn’t pursue everyone having the same story or relationship. And the Otherfaith and our polytheism is definitely about relationship. If I aimed for us all to have the same exact relationship with all the gods and spirits, I would just keep the whole dang thing to myself. But being open and confronted with new ideas serves me better in the long run. It keeps me whole, keeps me challenged, keeps me critical.

So the symbols I may pull from pop culture might be divorced in some ways from how the creator’s used and intended them, but it’s foolish to assume my interpretation is the last word. Even when it comes to this religion-from-scratch, my ideas probably weren’t even in the first.


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Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Wednesday] Basics: the Clarene

Both here and on it’s own separate page, I’m posting up a basic overview post for the Clarene. The Four Gods page will also be updated, to reflect our growing family of gods and the information we have about them. You can expect posts like this, in this format, for the rest of the Four/Four Gods. A format like this will also be used for the spirits of the Otherfaith. Along with this, there is a glossary in the works that will be going up soon. There are a lot of terms in the faith that can get confusing very fast, so a glossary should help.

Happy Wednesday!


Overview

  • Name: the Clarene (or, alternatively, Claire Clarice Clarene)
  • Main Epithet: the King
  • Domain: Sovereignty
  • Placement: First
  • Color: Black
  • Symbol: Compass Rose
  • Element: Earth
  • Sacred Weapon: Noir or Staff of Foundation
  • House: Hale
  • Court: Black
  • Order: Vivant

Origins

the Clarene was the last of the first Four Gods to reveal herself. Associated with Kingship and commitment, she was the final piece to beginning the Otherfaith properly as its own religious tradition. She was originally associated with greenery and the wilds. This has since changed, through better understanding, to a god of farmland and orchards.

She claims to either have been born or joined the human world around the 1300’s. She associates herself with the Black Death, in time period. The stories she tells detail a fair amount of time spent in the human world cavorting with humanity before finally founding the otherworldly West. She has an affection for both Germany and France and will speak both languages – it is possible she originated from around the regions.

Mythically, she was born to a general, unnamed Fairy Queen, likely without a father involved. Her confrontations with her mother lead her to leaving her fairy home for other sights. She took a variety of lady lovers and has a noted preference for them. Stories surrounding human spirits who fall into the West usually involve some sacred or fairy item the Clarene had left during her travels.

She eventually settled, in part, around the Appalachian Mountain Range before claiming Seattle as one of her sacred cities.

Appearance

the Clarene’s most common appearance is that of a tall, dark-skinned woman. She bears horns, often of a ram, and wears prosthetic legs carved from wood. Her hair is wild and endless and bears a resemblance to a starry night sky. She is of a regal bearing and face. Unlike most of the other Four Gods, she has long, pointed ears. Her eyes are usually a solid black. Her clothing tends toward minimal or nude.

In some variations, she is freckled and takes on reddish hues. Her hair is occasionally braided.

When appearing as Claire, she is gangly and long-limbed, though still bearing prosthetics. She is rosy-cheeked and often dressed in frills and elegant gowns. She is notably thinner in this form, likely due to her power being sapped and/or stolen by her mother. She does not bear weaponry or fangs as Claire. She lacks horns in this form.

As Clarice, she is taller and usually darker in tone. Her hair is tied back into thick braids or designs, and small horns sprout from her head. She may appear atop a horse or as a centaur, though the latter is rare. She takes on more martial symbols in this form, largely swords, spears, and war banners. She is accompanied by a large host of horses, dogs, and fairies. She has a larger presence in this manifestation than as Claire, though as she is still pre-King, she does not bear the prowess of the Clarene when she is crowned with a full set of horns.

the Clarene does not often wear a crown. She is seen wearing it mostly when appearing as a light to devotees.

Her horns, while most often that of a ram, can also be that of an ibex or corkscrew shaped. She may take on antlers at times – this is rare, as antlers and deer are more associated with other gods. Her horns mark her divinity and status, as well as her spiritual power.

Her prosthetic legs can also represent variations in her form. All of them are lavishly decorated or carved, usually in the form of ungulate (cloven-footed) legs. She appears at times in a wheelchair; this usually implies she has ownership or dominion over the land she is inhabiting.

Though she tends toward nudity, she can appear lavishly dressed, usually in suits and sticking to a color scheme of black, white, and gold.

She may come bearing flowers and fruits, a sign of abundance and pleasure. Other times, she may bear a butcher’s knife, large cauldron, and/or handfuls of herbs. This form is associated with harvest and eating, usually with the implication that the one visited by her is to be ‘chopped up and eaten’ before being renewed.

Her more martial forms include that of Clarice noted above, as well as more general weapon-clad variations. She can hold Noir, the black spear she created from both her and the Dierne’s bones, as a form of decisive action and war. She can also hold the Staff of Founding, made of wood from the fairy tree used to found the West. This variation has associations with peace and reconciliation. She can hold a variety of swords and spears, though she typically goes without shield. In her more hostile forms, she may carry guns, varying from pistols to machine guns. This is far rarer, as those weapons are more tied to the Laetha.

Through all her forms, she radiates a ‘lack of light’, a dark light or essence.

Temperament

On the most superficial level, the Clarene is comfort and support. She is motherly and loving and forgiving. She opens her arms wide, glad to accept us as all we are. She is bountiful in her orchards and land and in her generosity – giving and giving and giving to us.

She is a kind and doting god. She gladly teaches her art to spirits who come to her. She builds houses for those that ask and expands her own to fit travelers in. She is adept in child-rearing. Care-taker of the house and kitchen, as well as her expansive farmland, she can be subtly powerful.

Her holy House is huge – with numerous offshoots and almost endless children, born and fostered in. She showers her House with gifts. Clothing, jewelry, food, and housing are the most common. Spiritual gifts and techniques are another. Her Initiatory Order (Vivant) revels in luxurious feasts. All of this comes from the Clarene’s generosity and desire to sustain her people.

She has an affection for humans. This is shown in her reaching toward us, extending her hand as we extend ours through our practice. Like some fairies, she can view humans as toys or playthings, though she does take a gentleness with us. As with her spirits, she offers us education in her skills. This can include spiritual or mundane practices.

She is incredibly hospitable. She gives tea and gifts to those who visit. She is a jovial and upbeat host.

the Clarene is also ruthless, destructively indulgent, and a bully. She wipes out the entirety of the dragon species that once inhabited her land, partially for food and partially to keep them from gaining power to rival her. When the Eighth god (the Liathane) appears and challenges her rule, she orders the Ophelene to kill him outright. When the Ophelene refuses, she attempts to kill both of the gods. She deems most spirits, and even some of her gods, as beneath her in strength, status, or worth. Though she rarely states so outright, she at times slips up and causes disruption among them.

Her indulgence and bias works against her, and her world, in disastrous ways. Her dislike and hostility toward stars leads in part to her refusal to do anything to help Mircea (the Dierne’s sister-brother) as he wastes away in the West, while her affection for humans leads her to aid the human Arabella in her otherworldly sickness. Her distaste for stars also affects how she approaches the Dierne (almost never as an equal) and the Liathane. She implies, at times, that they are unable to handle the responsibilities of being gods.

She is patronizing, toward her gods, spirits, and humans. She pats us on the head and tells us to let the ‘adults’ handle things. At times this is appropriate, but she values herself far above others. Even when another might be better at handling a situation, she may take the reins and make a mess in her arrogance. Her arrogance also causes her to dehumanize and disrespect those around her. Her lover the Ophelia often points out when such happens. Their relationship is at its coolest when the Clarene insists on ignoring her lover’s advice.

Her ruthlessness shows best in her creation of the Aletheia Androids, a line of spirits born out of a Laethic shard. the Clarene creates the first Aletheia in order to rescue other spirits, against the wishes and warnings of the Ophelia. The android performs as intended, but she is also plagued with a malfunctioning body and a tendency toward extreme violence. Seeing the use of the android, the Clarene creates more and more, abandoning them after they have fulfilled their purpose. She creates some without mouths, not recognizing a need for them to speak, and for others she ignores creating stable emotional frameworks. The level of destruction the Aletheia Androids bring leads to the Ophelia creating a twin line of robots to balance them out (the Alices).

All of this combines to form who she is. She is both kind and gentle and ruthless. She will do what she thinks is required to keep those she loves safe, even if that involves sacrificing those she loves (just not as much). She is fiercely protective. the Clarene as we worship her has lived through her mistakes and trials and come through the other side, just as the other gods have. To understand her, we have to see all her selves and figure out how they fit together.

Function

the Clarene is the progenitor and provider of the gods. She tends to the fields, farms, and slaughterhouses, as well as the businesses and shops in her holy world. She creates the otherworld we interact with. She is tied with abundance and stability, both important things to continuous survival.

Within the West, she acts as an overseer to the large operations and landscapes. She creates worlds under the West for her people to inhabit and explore, and she raises (and razes) cities. She declares where there will be wilderness, countryside, and urban living. She is heavily tied to the functioning of the cycles of the West and the holy days it gives us as well.

She ‘crowns’ (deifies) the Ophelia, Laetha, and Dierne. She has a power-over many of the inhabitants of the West and is the law-maker of the gods. She is concerned with order and the actual continued functioning of the West.

the Clarene created and watches the gate that separates the West from other parts of the otherworld and acts as a diving line between her and humanity.

For the practitioners of the Otherfaith, she has a role as a comforter and safe-haven; she protects us from gods like the Laetha and Liathane who can pursue their human devotees to breaking point. She also delineates those who are part of the ‘faith and the Other People from those who are not. She acts as boundary-maker and enforcer.

Applicability

the Clarene, being the first of the gods and their King, is usually honored first in our prayers. If one is unsure which god among the Four/Four to approach first, she is a good option.

Her tendency toward stability leads well to prayers concerning the topic. Her stability emphasizes house and home, especially homemaking. Activities such as sewing, knitting, baking, cooking, and cleaning fall into her realm. We can perform these as devotional acts for her.

She is tied to slaughter, and so hunting and/or butchering are skills to learn for those who wish to come closer to her mysteries. Preparing and understanding meat are other important parts of this god.

Confidence and sensuality are also part of the Clarene. She can help us build our own confidence or learn to appreciate our bodies. Her ties to granting godhood can aid us in honing ourselves and sharpening our skills, as well as building pride and self-worth.

Associated as she is to commitment, she is fitting for dedication ceremonies. We can look to her for support in being committed in our daily and devotional lives.

Caveats

As noted above, the Clarene can be a difficult deity. Compared to gods like the Ophelia, Laetha, Ophelene, and Liathane, who are all more outwardly or obviously frightening, the Clarene mostly appears as a soothing, kind deity. This is not wrong, but it is important not to be lulled into easy comfort. This warning also applies to the Dierne and Laethelia.

the Clarene is a god of cannibalism and slaughter, and these are lessons she lives out in her otheworldly home. She teaches these skills to the other gods, especially the Laetha in the form of self-cannibalism. For mystics and those inclined toward journeying or the more rapturous types of storytelling, the Clarene can be brutal. All the spirits she enlists to teach about slaughter, cannibalism, and food are sweet and kind, as she is, and can cause spiritual trauma if not handled properly.

Her Court and Initiatory Order both have to do with food, slaughter, and harvest and should be approached (when seeking entrance and initiation) slowly.

Though largely muted, thanks to the influences of the rest of the Four + Four Gods, the Clarene can be patronizing toward humans. For this reason it is better to build a relationship of some sort (through your preferred devotional style) with either the Ophelia, Ophelene, or Liathane. The first two are more stable forces than the last.

Domains

  • Agriculture
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Beauty
  • Black Dogs
  • Butchery
  • Caves
  • Cities
  • Compassion
  • Cooking
  • Death
  • Discovery/Exploration
  • Domestic Canines
  • Earth (Planet)
  • Earthquakes
  • Excess
  • Execution
  • Food/Harvest
  • Foxes
  • Griffins
  • Healing
  • Home
  • Industry
  • Joy
  • Jupiter
  • Knowledge
  • Lady-Love
  • Life and Death
  • Lions
  • Love
  • Luck
  • Marriage
  • Medicine
  • Mountains
  • Order
  • Purification
  • Recovery
  • Revenge
  • Revolution
  • Right Action
  • Seattle, WA USA
  • Sex
  • Swordfighting
  • Technology
  • Transformation
  • Wealth

Values

  • Abundance
  • Accessibility
  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Ambition
  • Assertiveness
  • Beauty
  • Bravery
  • Camaraderie
  • Challenge
  • Competence
  • Competition
  • Confidence
  • Cunning
  • Dependability
  • Dominance
  • Endurance
  • Euphoria
  • Excellence
  • Extravagance
  • Family
  • Fitness
  • Friendship
  • Generosity
  • Hospitality
  • Leadership
  • Longevity
  • Loyalty
  • Optimism
  • Potency
  • Power
  • Pragmatism
  • Reliability
  • Sharing
  • Strength
  • Teamwork
  • Victory

Relationships

Parents:

  • Unnamed Faery Queen

Lovers:

  • the Ophelia
  • Adilene
  • Desiree
  • Epiphany
  • Irene
  • Moira

Siblings:

  • the Ophelia
  • Bear
  • Black Lion
  • Claudia
  • Cordelia
  • Dark Mare
  • Nightmare
  • Thunderhorse
  • White Mare

Children:

  • the Laetha
  • the Ophelene
  • the Darren
  • Alynah Blake
  • Aletheia Androids
  • Book Keepers
  • Centries
  • Casimir
  • Dahlia
  • Dallas
  • Merrymell
  • Merryweather
  • Othani
  • Thiam

Rivals:

  • the Dierne
  • the Ophelene
  • the Liathane
  • Alynah Blake

Associated Spirits

  • Adilene
  • Aletheia Androids
  • Alynah Blake
  • Bear
  • Book Keepers
  • Casimir
  • Centries
  • Dahlia
  • Dallas
  • Desiree
  • Epiphany
  • Erann
  • Grace
  • Merryweather
  • Moira
  • Mora
  • Othani
  • Rabbit Troupe
  • Thiam

All Epithets

  • Girl-King
  • Unfeathered one
  • Singer
  • She of right action
  • Soft teacher
  • She of stable sight
  • Lion maker
  • She of sundered limbs
  • Hand-holder
  • Mask honer
  • Orchard keeper
  • Judgment maker
  • Pleasure giver
  • She of wondrous snakes
  • Bare city
  • Healer of wounds
  • Mistress of snark
  • Rolling hills
  • Lady of slaughter
  • Midwife
  • Jewels and gems
  • Ash and forest
  • Undertaker
  • House of magic
  • Debt owner
  • Mountain peaks
  • Cruel mother
  • Tea brewer
  • Ophelia’s lover
  • She of long dirt roads
  • Star-spearer
  • Beloved of women
  • Teller of filth
  • She of wholesome crops
  • Screaming retribution
  • Apple bearer
  • Skyscraper stilts
  • Petulant mother
  • Griffin rider
  • She who laughs
  • The maker of the land
  • Wind tamer
  • Earthbound daughter
  • Adilene’s lover
  • Centry maker
  • Stirring sunset
  • Gunpowder mother
  • Overabundant feast
  • Fire catcher
  • Girl-God

Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Friday] E is for Epiphany

Friday posts are written by Sage of the blog Sage and Starshine. Every week or so they explore a different aspect of the Otherfaith through the letters of the alphabet.

I am ridiculously excited about today’s blog post because basically I get to explain why Epiphany is, hands down, my favorite spirit. I also get to present a lot of my own ideas and headcanon about Epiphany and hopefully inspire my fellow conspirators in mythpoetic reality to appreciate her place in the Otherfaith.

Epiphany was the first spirit to catch my attention in the Otherfaith at some point early in Fall 2014. I’d read about the gods at the time and was interested but not interested and was only vaguely aware of the Otherfaith as something my friend Aine sometimes wrote about. I started reading through this very site again and began reading the mythology, which is alphabetized, which meant one of the very first myths I read was 5169814 to Epiphany. (It’s very short, so go read it!) Already I was predisposed to like Epiphany because she’s a book person, I’m a book person, she was ostracized by her peer group growing up, I was ostracized by my peer group growing up… I found that I could relate to her character and her mythic arc. Furthermore, I found that I wanted to get to know her and this world she belonged to.

Epiphany Herself

Epiphany has presented only as femme in my imagination, though there might be some degree of agender, neutrois, or demigirl aspect to her gender. Part of this may be her previous identity as a Book Keeper. Though Book Keepers are themselves as varied as any other spirits in the West, I suspect that for many of them, things like gender occur as an afterthought to the care and keeping of the Library. I’m unsure of what powers Epiphany kept after her immolation, but as a Book Keeper she would have been able to shapeshift to a degree and play around with her humanoid body. She would also have had an alternate energetic form – think of will-o-wisps, but in stacks of books rather than out on the moors – to traverse the Library more quickly.

Epiphany is very, very much asexual and very, very much femmeromantic. She is a person who isn’t always able to understand and connect with others, and yet when she falls for another spirit she falls very hard. Underneath the confusion and withdrawn, self-defensive attitude she sometimes possesses are very clear notions of who she cares for and what she will do to tend to her chosen family.

I associate Epiphany with the following symbols:

  • books (in all forms)
  • notebooks and sketchpads
  • writing utensils and drawing tablets
  • calligraphy
  • fire, both bonfires and small candles
  • flowers
  • dragons and salamanders
  • mockingbirds
  • black, red, and gold
  • copper, both the color and metal
  • charcoal, fossils, and petrified wood
  • March 21 (her birthday)
  • the equinox, and by extension spring and autumm

I’ve been curating a Pinterest board for Epiphany that may help explain better how I see her.

Relationships with Other Spirits

Epiphany is one of the Clarene’s many lovers, as I believe the myth The Book Hoarder shows. The spirit I identify as Epiphany as “a girl with gold hair and black wings” and an insatiable love for reading. My personal image of her is nebulous at best, but the feeling of this myth – of longing and isolation finally healed through companionship – is at the core of how I understand both Epiphany and the Clarene. Epiphany and the Clarene are nonsexual partners who have a very loving, affection relationship with each other. However, Epiphany’s extreme love and devotion for the Clarene at first blinds her to the Clarene’s bloodier aspects. These aspects are best exemplified in the myth The Bone Box; like the wayward human visitors, Epiphany too is at times blinded by the beauties and wonders of the West and its King and doesn’t think to look down at the visceral horror sometimes required to keep the West functioning and safe.

With the Clarene, Epiphany has a daughter Epiphia. The birth of Epiphia is the subject of an unfinished and unpublished myth I’ve been working on. So far it seems that Epiphia is Epiphany’s only child, and the two have a very strained relationship. Epiphia takes after the Clarene far more than she does Epiphany, especially the aspects of the Clarene that Epiphany finds most frightening and repugnant. Despite this – or perhaps because of it? – Epiphia is one of Epiphany’s retinue.

The group of spirits who collect around Epiphany and help her with her work are her handmaidens (used for all genders) or members of her retinue. She tends to collect spirits who may otherwise not have a home and are also interested – perhaps obsessed to a fault – in understanding how the West works. Possibly included in Epiphany’s retinue are:

  • Epiphia
  • #0751084 – a Book Keeper still in the process of finding her purview
  • #0004821 – the Book Keeper of electricity
  • Sabia – a human who made their way accidentally into the West, lover of the Laetha, holder of the Ophelia’s lamp of fairy fire (suggested by Aine)

Finally, Epiphany has an antagonistic relationship with the Library as a whole and the leaders of the Book Keepers in particular. She often feels panicked at the idea of being trapped within its walls again and for a long while refused to speak with her former literary brothers and sisters. She was approached several times with to serve on the Decimal Council, the governing body of Book Keepers, and has refuted each request so far. Epiphany’s immolation causes great upset in the order of the Library, with many in the Decimal Council fearing that other Book Keepers in search of their purview will “pull an Epiphany” and leave. However, for a variety of reasons some Book Keepers do reach out to Epiphany and become part of her retinue while still serving their roles in the Library.

Relationship with Humanity

I’ve come to believe that Epiphany can serve as a good tutelary spirit for those new to the Otherfaith. This is because Epiphany, like us, is still learning and exploring the West and trying to reconcile it with her life within the confines of the Library. Like us, she isn’t always sure what to make of this brave new world beyond those heavy oak doors of her old home. She is also curious and desperately kind. The last thing she wants is for anyone to feel isolated, unwanted, or rejected because of who they are. While she may not be the most powerful or knowledgeable spirit in the West, she does seem willing to take new folks under her wing and help them best direct their passions and interests.

The best way to start a relationship with Epiphany to do so through stories and knowledge, and not just the written word. Though she is no longer a Book Keeper, she still adores books in whatever form they might take – physical ink and paper, ereaders, audiobooks, graphic novels, textbooks, unpublished dissertations, half-finished novel outlines on Scrivener… Whatever way you create or consume stories, do that with all your heart. She thrives on information and knowledge and delights in the act of creation. Participating in something like NaNoWriMo seems particularly appropriate. Anything that can add to her own stores of knowledge will be accepted gladly. This also goes for volunteering at your local library, becoming a tutor, or teaching children to read.

Epiphany is also very strongly an advocate for anti-bullying campaigns, having experienced the pain of peer rejection herself. There are many ways you can align yourself to her ideals here. You can learn about the harmfulness of certain words and refrain from using them, such as with the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign against the slur r*tard. You can also support groups like the Trevor Project, which offer crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ+ youth. Learning about social justice issues and applying those principles in your own life is also a good offering for Epiphany’s favor, as it is for most of the gods and spirits in the Otherfaith.

Because of her stance against bullying, Epiphany is also a guardian spirit and takes it upon herself to intervene where necessary. She is a good person to call upon if you feel overwhelmed by the West in general or if another god or spirit is coming on too strong, or even being antagonizing toward you. Her own corner of the West is a haven for all who enter (so long as they don’t disrupt that haven for others) and she does not tolerate abuse, ridicule, or unkindness in her space.

[Wednesday] March Holy Days

As I mentioned earlier, this year will hopefully see a more fully flushed calendar of holy days in the Otherfaith. My main focus on the moment are the births of various spirits, since that is a love of mine. I am also factoring in larger mythic events and trying to place them in the calendar.

The dates that I’ve added to the Otherfaith calendar are:

  • March 10 (random number generator)
  • March 13 (random number generator)
  • March 19 (random number generator)
  • March 21
  • March 26 (random number generator)
  • March 31 (random number generator)

One thing I’ve noticed is that we have yet another Friday the 13th this month. I’m considering what role that date can have in the faith. It could be connected to our Witch spirits, connected to the Dierne and her relationship with fear and horror, or it might be tied to our eighth god that we’re learning about (but don’t have enough information to really discuss in detail). It could be a mini-Halloween with a focus on silly horror as well as cleansings through fear and release.

March 10 could be a celebration of Sabia’s fall into the West. Sabia is one of the Ophelia and Laetha’s lovers. Sabia bounces back and forth between both gods, refusing to settle on either, until the Ophelia finally turns her down, unable to stand the pain of losing the human again. She gifts Sabia with a magical lantern that can turn the Laetha’s fires blue or the Ophelia’s blue flames orange, and from that point on she becomes a spirit of both transmutation and responsibility.

March 13 acknowledges the murder of William by Aletheia 003. This may seem a strange event to put on the calendar, but acknowledging this is something I feel important. Right now, we don’t have enough information to really get into the complexities of William and 003’s story. Like many stories, there are layers seen and unseen, interpretations intended and interpretations actually made.

March 19 celebrates the entrance of Erann. Rather than celebrating his birth, of which is said to occur outside of the West, we can celebrate his entrance into the West and the Laetha’s home. Erann is a giant spirit as well as a shapeshifter, and he has associations with calligraphy and complex, detailed art as well as mathematical artistry and architecture. He is also a winged giant, having at least four wings of rainbow or iridescent color. His entrance into the West marks the calming of the Laetha Ava, who at that point was a rampaging force.

March 21 celebrates the birth of Epiphany. Epiphany is one of the most well-known Book-Keeper spirits. She is a spirit of, obviously, epiphanies and inspiration. She’s associated with fire as well, and she’s a good spirit to go to when needing new ideas or working through difficult problems. Sage does more work with her than I do.

March 26 could acknowledge the births of Baryl and Beryl. Baryl and Beryl are both giant monsters – Baryl a land monster and Beryl a sea dweller. Baryl is associated with the Clarene and Laetha; Beryl is tied to the Ophelia and Laethelia. They are both bulbous and frightening to behold. Like many frightening (appearance) spirits in the Otherfaith, however, they tend to be the most protective and assistive. Beryl, for example, protects people from other sea monsters. Baryl is able to rescue people from fires. They are sibling spirits and colored opposite – Baryl is red, Beryl is blue. (Their names are pronounce ‘bar-ill’ and ‘bear-ill’.)

March 31st celebrates the births and movements of the Rabbit Troupe and Flower Maidens. Both of these groups of spirits are associated with spring in one form or another. The Rabbit Troupe is tied to fertility and sexuality; the Flower Maidens are obviously tied to blooms and flowers. Both these groups of spirits are known for bloody revelries and violence. The Rabbits tend to bludgeon their victims; the Maidens tear them apart limb from limb. They’re both tied to cleansing through violence.

The current list of holy days for March is:

  • March 10Sabia’s Fall
  • March 13 Murder of William by Aletheia 003
  • March 19Entrance of Erann
  • March 21Birth of Epiphany
  • March 26 Births of Baryl & Beryl
  • March 31Awakening of Rabbit Troupe & Flower Maidens

Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Pagan Experience] Canon & Headcanon

This is part of the Pagan Experience prompts. If you are interested in a blogging project, I recommend it!

Gnosis is a term that is used quite often in Pagan and polytheist discussions, usually as ‘unverified/unverifiable/unsubstantiated personal gnosis’. I find the term to be applied haphazardly among people, often without any clear definition of what constitutes UPG, much less gnosis itself. This is one, of a few, reasons that I don’t use the term at all in my own practice anymore.

I’ve seen UPG used to refer to anything from significant theological differences to debates about what a god’s favorite color is. I also understand that it is used to differentiate between Lore (the history and texts we have from ancient polytheist religions and cultures) and new beliefs and personal experiences with the gods. I’m sure, in the context of revived polytheisms, it has use. Within the context of modern religions like the Otherfaith – in which everything we do would count as ‘UPG’ – the term is worse than useless.

In the faith, we use the terms canon/canonical information and headcanon. Canon refers to information about our gods and spirits that we consider true and/or accurate to them. Our canon is open, meaning it can be added to and subtracted from. Our canon can also be challenged or generally changed. Headcanon refers to the personal beliefs of individual People within the faith. The term headcanon comes from fan communities, as a way to specify what is canonical information in a book or series and what is a fan creation.

Canon includes things such as the colors associated with the gods, the order of our gods, and the elemental associations of our gods. Another example of canonical information is that we consider the Dierne a god of consent and sex. Another example is that she is a god of stars. Meanwhile, we consider the Clarene a god of consent as well, along with love and kingship. We believe that the Laetha is a variety of spirits, not one singular entity. Canon also refers to our concepts of the spirit body and how to interact with that.

Headcanon refers to the personal beliefs and ideas that individuals have – including differing color associations, differing ideas of parentage for spirits, preferred mythic storylines, etc. It also relates to what offerings a god might prefer or the landscape of our otherworld. Headcanon has two purposes – to deepen our personal relationships with the gods by forming our own ideas and experiences with them and to build our canon.

Headcanon can be presented to the Other People for possible canonical inclusion. There are a few ways and reasons this can happen. The most common so far has been to add to our canonical information regarding the gods or spirits. Here are two possibilities concerning headcanon becoming more widely included:

It adds to or challenges current canon. An example of this is the inclusion of the Darren, the seventh god of the Other People. This god was suggested by Elliot and accepted by the rest of the community, and since then we have begun to learn more about this god. I try to take a backseat to involvements concerning our newer gods, following the direction of my spirits.

It establishes a relationship between Person and god or spirit. An example of this could be a Person believing themselves to be a child of the Clarene. They might want to formalize this relationship and have it acknowledged by others. In such a case, we could perform a ceremony acknowledging their position and celebrating it. This would be recognition of a personal relationship, not necessarily something that would impact the community widely.

Headcanon does have limits, however. We have something called Divergence. Divergence is ‘a belief contrary to established canon that is held by a small portion of the Other People’. It isn’t sin or blasphemy. It can be similar to a schism within the faith, just one that doesn’t cause actual separation. We only have to actual Divergences that were resolved and which can be read about in the link. As we grow, some headcanons will differ enough and have enough of a split between people who do and do not hold the belief that Divergences will be created, and future headcanons may fall into those Divergences.

Even so, both Divergences and headcanons have breaking points where one would be better off working with the Four Gods outside of the context of the Otherfaith. A very good real-life example of this is if someone believed the Dierne to be a god of rape. This is contrary not only to what the People know of the Dierne but also very contrary to our values in our faith; someone who believes such will likely prefer working with the Four Gods on their own rather than in our community.

There are other reasons why one might not be a good fit in our community. These I only really understood after years of building this faith, and these lessons tie into the other focuses of this prompt for the Pagan Experience – knowledge and wisdom. Originally, I had a lot of information (knowledge) about these gods and where I wanted the faith to go. I shared it with whoever came along and gladly accepted partners. Now, five years in, I’m much better at assessing who would be a good community member. And that’s part of why the Four Gods are open to whoever. I can’t control who worships our gods, nor do I particularly want to spend time doing so anymore.

As a community, however, we can figure out who fits with us, our practices, and our behaviors. That was a bit of wisdom only actually experiencing bad fits and pain could teach. Unfortunately, we don’t know who will really fit or not until they try; others might view our community and writings and realize they don’t fit with us, however, which is fine! In such a case, they are more than welcome to explore the Four Gods on their own terms.


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Friday] D is for Devotion, Pt. 2

Friday posts are written by Sage of the blog Sage and Starshine. Every week or so they explore a different aspect of the Otherfaith through the letters of the alphabet.

This week I want to build on the previous essay about devotion to look at practical ways to start, rekindle, or strengthen a divine relationship in your life. We’ve established that all of us – human, spirit, and deity – are individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses. We all have personhood, which means consent and autonomy play key roles in these relationships. We all have preferences on what kind of relationships we want, and how we want to approach or be approached by our Beloveds. Let’s say you’ve decided all that and you know who you are (right now, at least!) and what sort of relationship you’d like to pursue. Our next question is… how do you decide what to do?

I think it’s important to note that anyone can pray to their Beloveds, converse about them, ask for or practice divination, and otherwise determine their divine partner’s opinions about the state of the relationship. Your satisfaction and their satisfaction are equally vital. Even if we can’t hear or sense our Beloved’s responses, it’s still important to make the attempt and ask. It’s just good manners!

Multiple Intelligences

I need to be honest and admit the inspiration for much of this post comes from my friend Jenett’s website. Jenett is a priestess in a religious witchcraft tradition and also a librarian, both of which make her excellent at organizing information and communicating ideas clearly. Her site “Seeking: First Pagan Steps and Tools” is written with the newbie Pagan in mind, but offers a lot of rich insight to “how and why do we do this religious thing?” for people of all experience levels and religious persuasions. In particular I’m lifting ideas from her essay on ways we learn and how we can apply that to our religious practice. I’m going a step forward and applying that to specifically devotional practice. What’s the difference between religious practice and devotional practice? I’d say primarily attitude; I can light candles and incense all day if I want, but if I’m not completing those actions for someone else then I wouldn’t call them devotional. (Your mileage may vary!)

Jenett links to a really nifty online quiz that tests your different modes of intelligence. My top three were language/linguistic, interpersonal/social, and intrapersonal/self-reflecting. I’m really good with words, I’m really good with people, and I’ve got a really good idea of what’s going on inside my head. My lowest scores were in visual/spatial reasoning, body movement/kinesthetic, and musical intelligence. So I’m not the best at moving in my body, knowing where things are around me, interpreting maps or visual puzzles, or at really getting and appreciating music. I, like everyone else, am a mix of these intelligences and smart in different ways, not all of which have to do with things like academic success or high IQ scores. Those are actually very limiting ways of approaching intelligence because they value certain ways of thinking and understanding the world over others. It’s also important to remember that intelligence, according to this theory, isn’t some static quality you get at birth. You can stretch and build intelligence just like any muscle, and you can play to your intellectual strengths in all areas of your life – including religion.

A newly-recognized form of intelligence that the above links don’t discuss is spiritual or existential intelligence. I mention this as a reminder that intelligence does come in any and all forms, and that new types are still being discussed and “discovered” today.

Devotionalism, Intelligence, and You

When we’re aware of our strengths and preferences we can start to apply them to our devotional lives. Perhaps collectively, the different standards of intelligence could contribute to an overall “devotional intelligence,” though I worry that such an approach, no matter how thoroughly explained, may unfairly preference certain individuals and ways of being smart over others. I’m pretty clumsy and knock things over a lot, and had a hell of a time learning to drive because I had no concept of objects in relation to my own body, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still offer devotional dance to the gods. My struggle with body/kinesthetic and spatial intelligence is part of the offering.

I’m going to suggest ideas on how to give devotion based on the theory of multiple intelligences, but remember that these categories can be fuzzy and theory is just theory. Take what makes sense for you and your particular devotional style and forget the rest.

Body Movement/Kinesthetic

This is about learning through doing and movement. People with high kinesthetic intelligence might be great dancers, enjoy sports, or constantly need to fidget with their hands. To incorporate kinesthetic intelligence into your devotion, you can:

  • Act out myths or spiritual concepts as you learn them.
  • Create devotional dance for the different gods; experiment with which movements and rhythms feel natural for each deity.
  • Try out a physical form of meditation, like walking a labyrinth or tai chi.
  • Choose ritual items or sacred jewelry based on how they feel, both physically and spiritually.

Existential/Spiritual

This form of intelligence asks questions like “why are we here?” and “what is my purpose?” It is linked to ethics and morality, as well as connecting inner self to the greater world. To exercise spiritual intelligence through devotion, you can:

  • Take up the study of ethics (also known as moral philosophy).
  • List the values of particular gods (such as the Dierne’s concern for consent) and consider how you can embody those virtues.
  • Practice skills in mysticism, energy work, magic, or divination as ways to understand the gods.
  • Explore your spirit body through meditation or visualization.

Language/Linguistic

This is about words, communication, and storytelling. It includes both visual language (reading and writing) and spoken language (speaking and listening). To use this type of intelligence in devotion, you can:

  • Read our myths and consider what they mean to you.
  • Use freewriting to explore your devotional relationship.
  • Look for books, essays, documentaries, or podcasts that relate to different gods’ purviews; what topics remind you of your Beloved?
  • Write about your experiences with the Otherfaith. You can submit essays and poetry to “Of the Other People” or let us know where you’re writing, and we’ll link to you.

Logic/Mathematics

This deals with manipulating numbers, thinking logically, and organizing data. If you excel at this type of intelligence, you likely have an easy time understanding processes and structures. To use this intelligence in devotion, you can:

  • Organize what you know about the gods in a way that makes sense to you. What information are you missing?
  • Dedicate time spent studying logic and critical thinking skills.
  • Make mind maps of myths and spiritual concepts as you learn them.
  • Describe rituals or guided meditations with clear, logical sequences of events. What do you do, in what order, and why?

Music

This intelligence deals with sound, rhythm, tempo, rhyme, and harmony and can be equally interested in spoken poetry as actual music. To use music intelligence in your devotion, you can:

  • Create playlists for the gods on YouTube or Spotify.
  • Write chants for your Beloved, focusing on which sounds and rhythms fit with their personality.
  • Focus on meter and rhythm when reading or writing poetry.
  • Play music as a background to meditation or prayer. Focus on how certain sounds and instruments evoke different feelings.

Nature

This is knowledge of and connection with the natural world: ecosystems, local weather patterns and geographical features, and lore surrounding animals and plants. To explore devotion through natural intelligence, you can:

  • Connect Otherfaith myths with the world around you. Where is the nearest river (the Ophelia) and what watershed does it belong to (the Laethelia)?
  • Go outside or use natural sounds as a backdrop to your meditation.
  • Make pilgrimages to sites sacred to the gods, such as the Appalachian Mountains for the Laetha or the seashore for the Laethelia.
  • Research common flowers, vegetables, or houseplants associated with your Beloved. Tend to those plants, starting them from seed if possible.

Self/Intrapersonal

This is knowledge of your emotions, your mental state, and who you are as a person. Someone with high self intelligence could use a variety of tools to learn more about themselves. To use this in devotion, you could:

  • Journal about your introduction to the Otherfaith and the gods or spirits you particularly care for.
  • Practice regular meditation and mindfulness to become aware and stay aware of your inner state.
  • Make time for self-care, such as visiting a professional massage therapist or practicing energetic hygiene.
  • Read (or write!) spiritual devotions or self-help books that focus on a particular aspect of your life you’d like to improve.

Social/Interpersonal

This is knowledge connected with groups and social interaction. Someone with high social intelligence knows how to connect with people in a variety of ways. To practice this within your devotion, you can:

  • Contribute to online religious discussion whether through blog posts, social media, or instant messaging.
  • Cultivate a close group of friends to discuss spirituality with and make maintaining these friendships part of your religious life.
  • Meditate or pray with others when possible.
  • Visualize meeting and talking with deities and spirits, or practice journey work to learn about them in person.

Spatial/Visual

This is proficiency with what objects look like and how they’re positioned in relation to other things. You might prefer visual or symbolic ways of obtaining information, such as through graphs and pictures, and may be highly artistic. To use this in devotion, you can:

  • Make scrapbooks, vision boards, or Pinterest boards full of images that remind you of your Beloved.
  • Study a form of divination that makes use of symbols or artistic puzzles, such as runes or Tarot cards.
  • Spend time arranging the objects on your altar or in your room to reflect your spiritual goals. Pay attention to things like color, texture, and shapes. What visual cues help you feel connected with the gods?
  • Keep a scrapbook to doodle and take artistic notes. Draw images of the gods or illustrate your favorite myths.

Wrapping it up

As you probably noticed, many of these devotional suggestions overlap with multiple kinds of intelligences. Blogging for me is a mix of social, self, and language skills, whereas my near obsessive doodling helps me visualize information in a mix of spatial and logical skills. Try anything and everything, mix and match, and never be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. We, like our relationships, grow with the effort and love given to us.

[Pagan Experience] The Spirit Althea Altair

This is part of the Pagan Experience prompts. If you are interested in a blogging project, I recommend it!

Every third week the prompt for the Pagan Experience will focus on gods, spirits, and other entities that influence us. I’ve decided to take this time to focus on the many spirits in the Otherfaith. This week will focus on Althea Altair.

Overview

Althea Altair is the daughter of Adilene and the Firebird, created when the Laetha tries to devour Adilene. She is torn from her mother’s womb as a fully grown adult (similar to her own child Alynah Blake) and from that point on serves her father as his right hand. She is classified as a Younger Spirit, a type of spirit that challenges the expectations or assumptions made by other actors in the myths and otherworld. Althea is an excellent example of this, and she can confront us on our own biases. She does this not with nonsense or with riddles but with cold stares and sharp words.

Althea Altair serves as an initiator for those seeking deeper devotion to the Laetha. She initiates spirits and Other People into the initiatory order of Nix. Like her order, she represents negation and restraint. This also plays into her spiritual power – unlike her mother or her daughter, she is not as spiritually powerful. She is more of a supportive spirit. This doesn’t mean that she is easy to push around, however. She is still the child of a god and almost-divine spirit.

House: House Hark
Court: Red
Order: Nix (initiator for)

Origins

I first saw Althea Altair in a vision during my early journeys into the West. She appeared at a suspiciously stereotypical faery dance, wearing regal white clothes and inviting me to dance. I saw her later on during my journeys and eventually learned more of her as I initiated into Nix in pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Laetha.

She is born from Adilene and the Laetha, technically the Laetha Firebird. However, she serves all of the Laethas, with more or less obedience. Her sister Lilibell is born at the same time and falls to earth, carrying the heart that Althea lacks due to being the child of the Firebird. Lilibell eventually rescues/seduces Althea away from her duties, which she was originally firmly bound to (never leaving the Laetha’s house). This eventually results in her being turned into a unicorn, shifting her form so she isn’t bound to her father as she originally was, and gives her unicorn imagery. This is passed on to her daughter Alynah Blake.

Temperament

Althea is cold. She has little kind words to share, at least up front. She exemplifies Nix ideals – restraint in her outward expressions and behavior. This doesn’t mean she’s not dangerous. Just because she is restrained doesn’t mean she doesn’t have boundaries or emotions. She might have been born without a heart, but she isn’t lacking in the wild feelings we associate with that part of our body.

Because she is so strict in her behavior, she expects a certain level of formality when others approach her. It is good to approach Althea out of utmost respect. She is a spirit that doesn’t care how you really feel, she cares how you act. Approach her while outwardly sulking is a bad idea. She holds others to the same standards she holds herself. Maybe too high, but it’s what she expects.

Themes

The most obvious of Althea’s themes are right action and formality. These all tie into her lessons on the importance of ritual and ceremony. Althea reminds us that talking to the gods conversationally is not the only part of religion – there is also the practice. There is formality and respect.

There is, in a word, piety. Which isn’t to say we don’t question the gods. If Althea bowed her head to what the gods willed she would not be the spirit she is. She may serve the Laetha, but she also questions them. She doesn’t always agree with the Laetha. This is very important, lest we trick ourselves into thinking that her devotion is about absolute faith and subservience.

(I think that leaving our perception and contemplations of her as a subservient spirit also plays into gross sexist gender roles. This is something we should always be wary of.)

We also shouldn’t take her to mean that only formality is appropriate. She butts heads with the gods and other spirits – she is a Younger Spirit. She won’t sweep in and tut tut at us. She does remind us that we may need to straighten our backs and bite our tongues, though.

One of Althea’s less obvious themes is that of personhood. This is one that will become very clear to spirit workers in the Otherfaith. Althea does not appreciate being treated like an object to be pushed around on your board of spirit work. Her restraint goes right out the window when she feels she is not being respected as an entity with her own life and goals. You can’t snap your fingers and make her appear. She will gladly hammer this lesson into spirit workers who do not understand it or think themselves much larger than they truly are.

Ethical Consequences

What does having a spirit such as this in our religion mean? What does she teach us, and how do we live in right relationship with her outside devotional activities?

The ethical teachings we are offered are, simply:

  • Utilitarianism
  • Contractarianism

But we have to beware approaching these on just their face.

Like the Laetha, Althea is all about utility. Reading the information concerning this on the Laetha’s page will help in understand this. Althea does not tell us to calculate out the numbers in a cold way, but to arrive at maximum pleasure with least amount of pain. This does not mean we should torture some people so others never have to experience pain, but that pain has to be spread out so that there is more balance of pleasure.

The consequences we face with contracts also becomes very clear with Althea. She is the initiator of the Laetha’s initiatory order. Once you initiate into one of the god’s orders, that is that – it’s done, you’re tied to the god, you’re cut off from other initiatory options in the faith. (As far as I know.) Once you sign yourself over to the Laetha, she’s going to come for you and start initiating you into that god’s stories – all the joys, pains, lessons, and nonsense.

Domains

  • The star Altair
  • Duty
  • Fire
  • Right action
  • Teabrewing
  • Transformation

Symbols

  • Cherry blossoms
  • Daggers
  • Gold bowls
  • Lanterns
  • Poppies
  • Sidereal compass
  • Unicorns

Epithets

  • Bowl Bearer
  • Disaster Maker
  • Fiery Steed
  • Heart Holder
  • Red Unicorn
  • Red Woman
  • Wolf Tamer

Related Spirits

  • Clarene
  • Laetha
  • Adilene
  • Alynah Blake
  • Dawn
  • Epiphany
  • Epiphia
  • Lilibell
  • White Mare

Links

Althea Altair (Otherfaith Wiki)

Lilibell of Two Hearts


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Friday] D is for Devotion, Pt. 1

Friday posts are written by Sage of the blog Sage and Starshine. Every week or so they explore a different aspect of the Otherfaith through the letters of the alphabet.

Devotion is one of those words like “spirituality” or “love” with massive amounts of feeling and meaning, and yet can be all but difficult to define. Parents are devoted to children, lovers to their beloveds, artists to their crafts, athletes to their dreams. Religious leaders can be devoted to their flocks or their gods or to both, while ascetic hermits are devoted to the mystery within themselves. Activists are devoted to their causes, patron saints to those under their protection, bodhisattvas to the freedom of all beings. And devotees are, yes, devoted to the Person or People they give devotion to. I believe at the center of all these devotions is a mixture of love and dedication. (I would further argue that Love + Dedication = Duty, but I’m a romantic like that and am sure we could discuss that equation all day. Maybe for the next “D is for ____” essay!)

Devotion is, by its nature, something that must be cultivated carefully over time. I’ve often wondered about the term “devotee” in a spiritual context and whether my relationship with my primary deity “counts” as a devotional one. I suspect others have wondered the same about their own divine relationships. I don’t think this line of questioning is necessarily a bad thing, because all relationships involve a trade of energy, time, and emotions, and it’s important to consider our words carefully. Words mean things and words have power, because they form the backbone of the stories we tell about our lives. At the same time, there is no general gold standard for what does and does not count as “devotional enough.” Individual religions might have their own basic requirements and definitions, which do not always overlap between traditions. The question of “what is a devotional relationship anyway” is something I’ve tried to tackle in my essay series The Devotional Lifestyle.

With this particular post, I’d like to explore what devotion could mean in an Otherfaith context. I say could because we don’t have firm requirements for participation in the faith. Also, as devotion is an interpersonal activity, I think it’s important for both individuals involved in the relationship to decide their own expectations and boundaries. What is “proper” devotion for an Other Person depends on their own skills and preferences, the sort of relationship they’re seeking with a god or spirit, and that god or spirit’s intentions toward their human devotee. In short, there are just too many variables to create a straightforward map of Otherfaith devotion. I hope instead to provide some tools for you to navigate on your own, as well as point out potential signposts and landmarks to guide your way. When in doubt, consult your pineal gland.

A Note on Words

When I talk about devotional Paganism or polytheism, I believe self-identification is the most important aspect of deciding who is and isn’t “really” devotional. If you consider yourself in a devotional relationship, or are interested in what that might mean in your own life, congratulations! This series of posts is about you.

I use the term “devotee” to refer to the human half of a devotional relationship and “Beloved” to refer to the divine half. I realize this may not mesh with everyone’s devotional relationship; perhaps “Beloved” is too touchy-feely a term for your relationship; perhaps it’s strictly business, or perhaps “Beloved” conjures up romantic or nuptial images you just aren’t cool with. For me, “Beloved” is fairly neutral because “love” can encompass so many different emotions and behaviors. Feel free to substitute your own terms instead and/or debate my own words in the comments!

Everyone Is Different

We’re all individuals with our own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and ways of being and moving in this world. How we are right now, is this moment, is okay. That doesn’t mean there might not be room for improvement or that we should aim to stay the same forever; stagnation is unnatural and unhelpful, as several of our myths show. A relationship shouldn’t be stagnant, as there theoretically should be an exchange of something between the people involved. However, it means that we are ourselves and we are not our neighbors or friends or rivals. I am not a mystic, and attempting to force my religious behaviors into a mystic’s skillset would not only make for a pisspoor mystic, but for a very unhappy Sage. I am strong in terms of writing, organization, and thinking in visual terms, which means that devotional activities for me are things like writing for the Otherfaith blog, helping get the wiki together, and making approximately three billion Pinterest boards for different spirits. (See for example my boards on the Clarene and the Dierne.)

Likewise, our Beloveds are individuals themselves. We believe they have just as much personal agency as the humans who approach them, including who they will interact with and how they will do so. As the West is a meeting grounds of the human and faery realms, most of the spirits who reside there are interested to some degree in humanity. However, that doesn’t mean they all want a close, personal relationship, or that they will want the same kind of relationship with all humans, or that much should be assumed about their motives and desires at all. Whatever the distinction between human and fae and god – and indeed, those boundaries aren’t always helpful when dealing with especially liminal spirits like the Laetha – we are all endowed with personhood in some way or another. Respect autonomy, respect personal choice, and respect differences; this will help keep many problems from taking root in all types of relationships.

Because we are unique individuals, the terms of potential or actual devotional relationships are constantly in flux and negotiated between devotees and their Beloved(s). What the Clarene wants of me, and what I want of her, and how we navigate those dual desires, will not stay the same over time, nor will this process look like another’s relationship with the Clarene. My experience of the Clarene – “my” Clarene, if you will – is shaded by my own interpretation of the myths, my comfort navigating the Otherfaith, my own identities (queer, DFAB, white, fat, allistic, Pagan, sibling, child, lover, not-parent, book lover, shitty yet earnest gardener, social justice warrior), and past experiences with other gods and spirits. What I want from a relationship with the Clarene is equally influenced by who I am, what I’ve done, and the relationships I’ve had in the past. If we believe the gods and spirits also share personhood with humans, then we need to accept that they, too, will have their own experiences and desires that color their interaction with us.

Devotional Moods

Most of my experience with devotionalism has at this point been focused around the pan-Celtic goddess Brighid, so forgive me as I skirt around the Otherfaith for a short while to explain devotional moods. I first discovered this concept in my undergrad classes on Hinduism and saw it repeated in the blog Loop of Brighid on Patheos, run by my friend Gilbride. I don’t agree with all his points, but in general his blog is fascinating for a look at how someone can create and structure devotional practices.

I’m especially pulling from information in these two posts on Brigidine “devotional moods.” This comes the Hindu concept of bhakti, which emphasizes intense love between a human and their personal deity. Love manifests in many different forms and so practitioners of bhakti devotionalism may take different roles in loving their deity, such as a dedicated servant, a passionate lover, a close friend, or even an adoring parent with the deity looked after as a child. Gilbride compares and contrasts a list of bhakti devotional moods with personal names and scraps of Celtic myth and folklore related to Brighid. Experimenting with different devotional moods allows devotees a more nuanced understanding of their Beloved. You can also blend moods to see which fit best for you. In my own relationship with Brighid, I think of myself somewhere between a child and a friend.

I really love this approach because it supports diversity, both of devotionalism in general and within our own personal experiences. It also encourages us to be mindful when we think about our relationships and how they can develop. Perhaps you’re uncomfortable with the power dynamics in devotion-as-servant relationships, or perhaps you don’t like the idea of approaching the gods as divine parents. So long as the other half of the devotional relationship consents, there’s nothing keeping you from devoting yourself in another mood that better fits you. I think of myself as a friend to Epiphany and other Book Keepers, given that I work in a library. And given my dedication to justice and equality, I can see myself being a champion of the Ophelene.

You’ll notice that I prefer relationships that put me on more equal footing with gods and spirits. This is completely personal and no better or worse than someone who very much wants to take on a subservient role. You do you; be proud of who you are and respect what devotional needs you have.

Stay Tuned Next Week

In next week’s post I want to take all these ideas – that we’re individuals, that we should approach the gods and spirits as their own persons, that relationships are negotiated between consenting partners, that there are different devotional moods for approaching our Beloveds – and come up with some practical ways for doing devotion. In particular I’m going to look at the theory of multiple intelligences and apply that toward doing devotional work.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear back from you! What relationships are you cultivating in the Otherfaith, or beyond? What does devotion mean to you?

[Wednesday] February Holy Days

As I mentioned earlier, this year will hopefully see a more fully flushed calendar of holy days in the Otherfaith. My main focus on the moment are the births of various spirits, since that is a love of mine. I am also factoring in larger mythic events and trying to place them in the calendar.

As I put together February’s holy days – a similar blend of inspiration and random generated dates – I found myself drawn to a certain type of spirit in the Otherfaith that I haven’t discussed much: Witches.

Witches are also actual human beings, practitioners of witchcraft. And there’s nothing restricting human Witches from being part of the Otherfaith. But we do have spirits that are Witches and sometimes appear in certain stereotypical ways. I understand this may make some people uncomfortable.

Witch spirits in the faith are spirits particularly adept at manipulating energy, both from the landscape and from other spirits. They may partner up with powerful spirits who carry lots of raw energies and make use of those energies for various spells and purposes. In my experience, they seem close to the Ophelia, Dierne, and Laethelia, depending on their specific magical preference. They can also, I would suppose, be patrons of witchcraft and witches on this side of the fence.

The dates that I’ve added to the Otherfaith calendar are:

  • February 7 (random number generator)
  • February 8 (random number generator)
  • February 13
  • February 18
  • February 19 (random number generator)
  • February 23 (random number generator)
  • February 24 (random number generator)

February 7 & 8 mark the births of Claudia and Cordelia. These sisters seem to be the most witchiest of all the Witches. They carry staffs and wands and ride around on brooms. They’re also associated with youth, and a bit of ill-gotten youth at that. They are teachers and compassionate spirits, watching over younger Witch spirits and likely young witches on our own earth.

February 13 marks the birth of Thirteen. Thirteen is associated with outright stealing youth from other spirits, usually hastening them into adulthood. She’s not a negative or baneful spirit so much as she is the bringer of responsibility. Some spirits actively avoid or work against her (such as Ava and Alma, permanently child-spirits), and she can be frightening (as can the other spirits listed later in this post), but she deserves the same respect we give to other spirits in our religion.

February 18 is a possible date – I marked it for the new moon, falling in line with the witchy theme of February. I’m not sure if marking the moon’s phases will be a larger part of the Otherfaith or not. It certainly isn’t a part of my practice, but my practice isn’t the entirety of the People’s practice. I encourage people to post their own thoughts on this, as well as discuss their own practices concerning the moon.

February 19 could mark the birth of Mallory. Mallory is not quite a Witch spirit, but she is a challenger to the West and, as such, to the Otherfaith. She pushes our assumptions, ways of thinking, ways of being. She’s also very magically powerful – her touch causes rot. As a sort of outsider, she can fit with the theme of the month.

February 23 and 24 mark the births of Malaise and Malice. These are both Witches, though less like the bright, silly Witches that Claudia and Cordelia present. Malaise is tied to sickness and Malice to malice – both very obvious connections. Like Claudia and Cordelia, they are sisters. They seem to represent malevolent magic, at least on the surface. They each have their own roles and functions, however. Sickness can teach us in many ways. Our goal as People is not to strip away malice or anger or hurt or guilt or any of the actions that come from those emotions but to understand them and be able to act according to our ethics, rather than striking out. We can’t just shove these spirits to the side for the discomfort they cause. That does not mean we need to open our arms eagerly. We can give offerings and pray to them while asking them to go do their own thing, instead of asking them to come center into our lives.

The other date that is currently marked in the Otherfaith is February 14, or Valentine’s Day. I’m not quite sure how we should celebrate this in our religion, but I look forward to seeing what impulses and ideas I come up with this Saturday.

To finish off, this is the current list of holy days for February:

  • February 7 – Birth of Claudia
  • February 8 – Birth of Cordelia
  • February 13 – Birth of Thirteen
  • February 14 – Valentine’s Day
  • February 18 – New Moon
  • February 19 – Birth of Mallory
  • February 23 – Birth of Malaise
  • February 24 – Birth of Malice

In unrelated events, Faemon posted in the Otherfaith Facebook group on the possible etymology of our gods’ names:

”I like words, and names. From what I’ve figured out so far with a combination of Etymonline and BehindTheName: Clarene (or at least Clare, which is very medieval English via France) stems from Proto Indo-European for “expansive in light and sound” or “to shout”. Ophelia comes from the Greek meaning “help”. Laetha could refer to a lathe or industrial machine, which, despite being a more recent word has a much less certain etymology. Dierne could be related to diurnal, which comes from Proto Indo-European meaning “shining”. In my opinion, all very appropriate!”


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Pagan Experience] Earth & Stars

This is part of the Pagan Experience prompts. If you are interested in a blogging project, I recommend it!

In the Otherfaith, ‘earth’ refers to our planet, our world, our place in the universe. Earth is our physical home.

This is a bit in contrast with our otherworld. The West is not necessarily our home. The West is connected to our physical earth, perhaps. It is created from a ‘rod of man’ and a ‘branch of fairy’, after all. I believe it is a safe bet to assume that the West is tied to our earth. Many of our gods travel or originated from earth, this planet, as well. the Dierne is said to have wandered our streets. Various Laethas lived human lives before returning or being carried away into our otherworld.

I often question if the Otherfaith is an ‘earth-based’ religion, however. We do not focus on agriculture or pristine wilderness. Our holy days aren’t based on sowing or harvesting. Cities and wilds are both part of our reality. Urban life is not seen as something to be erased. Nor is humanity. But surely we are ‘earth-based’, as our gods manifest and represent very different things depending on where we experience them.

A river god means something completely different in the Southwest US than it does in the Midwest US, after all.

Earth as a planet is special to us. It’s our home. This giant rock sails through the universe, orbiting around the sun, taking us with it on its incredible journey. When we are gone, the earth will continue to exist. We will leave marks – only a fool thinks that all we have built and dug and destroyed will vanish when we do.1

The West is seen as tied up, in some way, with our own world. It is not a pure, painless afterlife. I don’t know if it could count as an afterlife at all. Perhaps the connection means that when the earth is destroyed, so will the West go. Or perhaps our own exploitation of our planet affects our otherworld. Certainly in the myths we see our own realities reflected. Our own influence shows most strongly here, however. (It has been said that it is difficult if not impossible to conceive of something truly alien, unlike anything we have encountered on this planet. I’m not quite sure if I believe that to be true, but it is interesting to think on.)

Our gods may be tied up in our world, but we don’t quite have an earth god or goddess. the Clarene holds the West as her domain, but she is not the West and capable of leaving it (she originated outside of it, after all). the Laetha is a god who is connected to the land, her soul somewhat horrifically warping to become one with the West. But she becomes one with the West, abandoning her previous home of our own earth. She isn’t an earth god. A land god, perhaps. But words are important, in all their broad and minute meanings.

And the earth is our physical world, our planet. This rock in space.

The West, in some ways, transcends the earth. the Clarene, for a variety of reasons, strikes out to the stars. Her world is full of spaceships and rockets and orbiting stations. There’s just the occasional complication of stars not being, well, stars, and instead often hostile spirits.

Which isn’t to say that since we are born on earth that we are bound here. This is surely the dreamer in me, but the stars captivate. Our own galaxy is so huge, the space between us and the planets in our own solar system bending the mind. We look out into a sky that is the past. And we continue to look up, and go up, and look farther all the time. Plenty of people don’t find value in space exploration. To me, it’s always been inspiring.

Of course, I’ve never believed we’re ‘alone’ in the universe, so I’m inspired by the possibilities of life elsewhere. And of the beauty of the universe, though our eyes could hardly behold it. (It is frightfully easy to forget, after seeing so many enhanced images of space, that these magnificent nebulae and galaxies do not look as colorful to human eyes.)

I haven’t not, personally, felt ‘of’ this world, this earth. It’s a feeling I don’t find use in idealizing. Especially when it detaches me from loving and caring for this world that is sustaining me. I may not feel as though I am rooted here, but I am here. I’m walking this world’s sidewalks, and its forests, into its rivers and down its dusty roads. My eyes, and my mind, might be turned up to the stars or sideways into otherworlds, but I’m still a human on the earth. I’m still a little earthling. There is, I think, a distinct power in accepting and integrating that into our being.

1. I know some people believe that referring to our planet as ‘it’ helps in our objectification and exploitation of the earth. I find that referring to the earth as gendered in some way to be distasteful, however.


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Friday] C is for Canon

Friday posts are written by Sage of the blog Sage and Starshine. Every week or so they explore a different aspect of the Otherfaith through the letters of the alphabet.

I feel it’s important to be honest and admit that this week’s essay has been difficult for me to write. Recently there have been interpersonal issues that have called into question the Otherfaith’s stance on what counts as our canon – what ethnic polytheistic or Pagan religions might refer to as their lore – and who gets to make that decision. That this was called into question is not an issue; that it was done in a manner to value one person’s understanding of the gods and degrade another’s was. So I find myself conflicted as I present this topic, which is theologically and practically very important for this religion. I’ve wondered if I’m beating a dead horse and if I’m capable of adding anything to the subject – off course, some anvils need to be dropped  – while realizing that this is an important and timely issue for our tiny but growing faith.

Canon as a concept exists in many different contexts and fields of study. Religiously, canon might be used to distinguish between accepted texts and doctrine over those which are not. For example, the accepted Biblical canon differs from denomination to denomination; Presbyterians (PCUSA), Roman Catholics, and members of the LDS Church do not share the same lineup of holy texts. The so-called “Western canon” describtes literature, art, music, and other creations seen as vitally important to understanding “Western culture.” You can find an example list of such works here. In fandom, “canon” was adopted quite some time ago to describes the accepted material in a particular fictional universe. Considering the amount of sequels, prequels, reboots, and reimaginings we see in popular culture, determining what does and doesn’t count as canon can be more than a little difficult.

(As a quick aside, I think it’s important to point out that these sequels, prequels, reboots, and imaginings are certainly not a modern invention and have been part of human storytelling as far back as we can tell. I’m listening right now to Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature and highly recommend it if you’re interested in some ideas on how folktales and mythology work in oral tradition and how that’s impacted our understanding of stories. The idea that there is One Real Version Of This Story is a fairly modern development in human history that, as this lecturer argues, comes from the written word overtaking oral tradition.)

The conversations I’ve had regarding canonicity in the Otherfaith have tended to use fandom terminology as a common tongue for discussing religious ideas and experience, and I think this is true for a few different reasons. For myself, fandom – particularly online fandom – is what I would consider my primary culture. I grew up with Fanfiction.net and LiveJournal, socialized on anonymous prompt memes and roleplaying communities, and learned most of my creative writing skills through fanfiction. And while I realize this is most likely confirmation bias, I have seen a lot of overlap between the geeky nerdy sci-fantasy crowds I hang out with and the Pagan-and-or-polytheist folks who are personal friends. In fact, a huge reason the Otherfaith was so accessible and welcoming to me was because of these parallels with fandom. This religion is one of playfulness and joy, encouraging curiosity and critical analysis of myths and placing value on individual perception of and relationship with these divine characters.

In the Otherfaith, gods, spirits, and myths become canon through the combined processes of personal revelation and communal discussion. It’s important to note that our canon has blurry, rather than well-defined, edges. Otherfaith canon is a continual work in progress, living and breathing just as its people are not static but reacting to the world around them. Our approach to canon is just as subtle; these myths are incredibly important and they are not The One And Only Truth. Or perhaps I should say: the truth that exists in these stories is not a literal truth, and literal truth is not the only kind that matters. We expect – dare I say encourage? – our mythology to be poetic and tangled, with multiple stories told from multiple angles that don’t always make sense to human minds. Of course, this isn’t too different from any other mythology in the world where inconsistencies and fuzzy logic are features, not bugs.

We see this polyvalent approach to stories in pop culture all the time. Take, for example, the numerous works built on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, such as the television shows

Take for example two modern shows based on: Sherlock on BBC and Elementary on CBS. Both reimagine Doyle’s books but in different settings, actors, and approaches to updating the source material. Is either Sherlock or Elementary more like their shared source material, and if so, how do we tell? Does it even matter, and why or why not? How do they stack up against past reimaginings like The Great Mouse Detective or House or the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data and Geordi essentially LARP as Holmes and Watson? Is “Sherlock Holmes in space” any less a Sherlock Holmes story than “Sherlock Holmes as a talking mouse” or “Sherlock Holmes as a grumpy doctor”? What is the core of this story and how is it preserved even as its trappings change?

These are questions I ask all the time when considering Otherfaith myths, but not questions I answer half as easily. Fandom studies itself is a fascinating field and one that has played a lot into my own comfort in integrating with Otherfaith culture; however, even if you personally have never been involved with fandom, you can still appreciate this religion’s approach to personal gnosis. I’ll put fandom to the side for now and address a different question: how does canon change, and what happens if my beliefs and experiences fall outside currently accepted canon?

For Otherfaith canon to shift, an Other Person needs to bring forth a new idea for consideration. This could be in the form of creating new myths, writing poetry, sharing inspiration, automatic writing, prayer and meditation, or astral travel. I myself am not a mystic so my method of learning about the gods tends to be through, essentially, mythic fanfiction: I learn about the canon as best I can, talk with others who appreciate the canon, write my stories, and get feedback on how they fit into established canon and if they “work” as stories (which are not necessarily the same thing). These personal experiences and ideas are called personal canon or headcanon, another term borrowed from fandom. Headcanon isn’t necessarily at odds with canon, and it doesn’t necessarily need to become canon for it to be valid to the individual who holds it. For example, I have the headcanon that the spirit Dahlia manifests as a Desi woman and that the spirit Epiphany is asexual. If others read what I write and agree with me, or get similar vibes from mystic encounters with these spirits, then we’d be on our way toward making my headcanon accepted canon.

What about ideas that directly contradict canon? Are there any theological ideas that would automatically get you kicked out of the Otherfaith? The answer is no – because belief is such a personal thing, and because we’re dancing in the funhouse mirror realm of polyvalent reality where linear time is a punchline. It may be very well that you, for example, experience the Laetha as a water god rather than a fire god, and if this is the case then please share the train of thoughts that led you to that conclusion. Given how important the myth of the Laetha’s manifestation into the Firebird is to the Otherfaith, it’s unlikely such a divergent belief would be collectively accepted as canon with little difficulty. However, if several people began feeling that the Laetha were a water god rather than a fire one, through journeying or dreams or poetry or fiction, then the community as a whole could decide whether to re-evaluate stated canon. Perhaps in this example the Laetha is not merely a fire god and has a destructive watery aspect as well; perhaps in another timeline, she manifested as the Tidal Serpent rather than the Firebird and drowned, rather than scorched, the West. There’s not often a clear line between “divergent belief” and “personal headcanon” and “personal headcanon that enough people share to become collective canon.” The canonization of myth is a collective process of give and take.

All that said, are there Otherfaith beliefs which are Always and Forever Canon? I would argue yes – though not necessarily theological ones. We very highly value respecting consent and personal autonomy, and that violating either of these is highly unethical. Following from this core principle, we believe that everyone has the ability and the right to determine their own beliefs about our gods and our spirits in their own way, in their own time. We do not value a singular approach to truth and meaning, especially not one that is grafted onto another without their consent. At the same time, we encourage conversation and discernment about theology to determine how it might fit into our lives both individually and communally. Even if I don’t agree with your understanding of the gods, we can still benefit from discussing those beliefs and considering each other’s point of view – so long as we respect each other’s right to hold those points of view without being considered ignorant or wrong.

[Hawthorne & Heather] Death & Slaughter

Hawthorne & Heather’ is a series on my life with my partner spirit Hawthorne, focused on how the spirits have impacted my life. While these posts are relevant to the Otherfaith in that my life involves the Four Gods and their spirits, they will be more focused on my own life with the spirits. This is not intended as an introduction to spirit work but an exploration of my own life with the spirits and adjusting to life afterward, as it were.

This piece will deal with animal death and killing. If those are distasteful to you, you will not want to read farther. This includes an image with blood and feathers from the bird.

I’ve never killed an animal before. My family didn’t raise chickens or any other animals for the slaughter. We kept pets like dogs, cats, fish. I was aware from a young age that meat came from dead animals, my mother refusing to teach me anything else. She had learned of the brutalities at factory farms as a young girl and become a vegetarian. She wanted me to know that if I was eating meat, I was eating an animal that had died so that I could consume them. There were to be no pleasant obscured realities in her household.

Perhaps this is what led to me, as a pre-teen, to want to know about slaughtering and death. Meat of all kinds had always been my preferred food. But as I would look at slabs of meat at the grocery, I wanted to know how the animal went from their whole form to a simple chunk. I was not so much obsessed as I was curious.

I never became a vegetarian, like my mother. Or a vegan. I wanted to go on hunting trips with my family (not allowed, as I had not been born with the right parts). I wanted to fish and learn how to properly prepare a fish from living to gutted to ready to fry. When I learned of the traditional making of sausage and other ‘gross’ meats, I wasn’t repulsed but thought that using the most of an animal was appropriate. They had died, why would we not use the most of them we could? Wasn’t to do anything else inappropriate, disrespectful?

My mother didn’t take issue with my meat consumption. She went to extra lengths to buy certain meat from certain ranches – her issue was not with death-for-food but with the unnecessary cruelty.

I eventually decided that I wanted to participate in the slaughter of every kind of animal I ate. Ideally, of course, I wanted to always slaughter the animal I ate, but that wasn’t a possibility. I would settle for what I could. And I made a commitment to myself that if I couldn’t kill the animal, if I couldn’t even hold witness to their death, I had no right to eat them.

My mother took in chickens a few years ago, for the eggs. But some turned out to be roosters, and she didn’t want them and they would harass the other birds. So she decided to do what her grandmother did – kill them, clean them, eat them. I asked to take part in it, to see what it was like and to see how I handled it.

My mother, when she has caught a bird to kill him, will not change her mind. She told me, after she killed her first rooster, that she hated it. It made her feel guilty, and she was worried about giving the bird a quick death. My brother – raised vegetarian, unlike me – tried the bird after he had been cooked, but he didn’t find the meat tasty. (He has, on occasion, tried meat. Once he could ask for it, he was allowed to try it. But he’s never been fond of it.) My mother ate the bird, of course. She wasn’t going to let his body go to waste.

“Hold him still,” she told me after she had wrapped him in a towel. “You have to hold him tight, because he’ll start flapping after he’s dead.”

I held the bird as tight as I could without hurting him.

The spot where we beheaded the rooster.

The spot where we beheaded the rooster.

It was strange, feeling him breathe, being surrounded by the group of young children as we were. (Most of whom had already killed and butchered animals as part of their family’s business or livelihood.) Feeling him still as we laid him down. My stomach became tied in knots. As my mother put it, the feeling is as if one is about to jump from a cliff.

‘Are we going to do this right?’ I thought. ‘What if we mess up?’

Of course, we were already well into the process, and with a thwack his head came off. Blood splattered across the ground and my hands. My mother tossed his head into a bucket and held up the body so the blood would drip out.

His wings flapped, and his neck – exposed and bloody as it was – twitched. For all the tension that had been building in me, there was none afterward. Perhaps I had been preparing myself for long enough, but there was no upset. There was a bit of sadness, but mostly there was a feeling of being embodied. My brother was watching, and his eyes were dark after we were finished.

“Are you alright?” my mother asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Are you upset?” she asked.

“No,” he said, and then walked away.

I washed my hands and went inside as my mother held the bird above the blood bucket and conversed with her friend. “How do you feel about the rooster?” I asked after I washed my hands.

My brother shrugged in that way that children do, loose and long. “Happy I guess,” he said, not sounding happy nor sad. “Now the rooster won’t wake me up in the morning.”

“No,” my mother laughed, “he certainly won’t be waking us up anymore.” As if waking the next day, she would miss the crowing waking her up at four in the morning. I had no trouble believing my mother would miss it.

I watched my mother butcher the rooster, her knife making steady cuts as she informed me how she cut him apart. “Different, isn’t it? Knowing he was just alive.”

I stared at the cut apart bird. “…not really.”

Maybe she educated me well enough.

Slaughter

I can seem overeager to kill animals. In a way, I am eager. I want to understand how death and slaughter works. I’m not eager because I think I will enjoy the process. But I feel a deep obligation to know what death for food is like.

There are a lot of spirits of slaughter and bloodshed in the Otherfaith. Some, like Alynah Blake, are in it for bloodsport. She isn’t a spirit of eating and consumption, she’s a spirit of cleansing and bloody revelries. This is in comparison to a spirit like Casimir, a protective giant who has ties to slaughter. He poses to us the reality of our food.

This is ultimately what I come back to. It is not an issue of dieting, no. It is one of accepting the realities around us. I cannot obscure that I am eating a living being without doing dishonor to creature I’m eating, myself, and my gods and spirits. (And this is all without touching on the incredibly complex nature of food in the United States, agribusiness, and such. And also while not touching on the nature of consuming plants. There is a lot to explore here, and these are all issues I was ‘raised on’, so to speak. I am not ignoring them because I am unaware of them but because they are complicated topics deserving of more time than I could give them.)

I was worried, as we were killing the rooster, that perhaps there would be more of Alynah Blake than Casimir in me. But there was nothing pleasurable about the death. It simply was. My brother, perhaps, grasped it best. It was what happened. We killed an animal, he was dead, now we would eat him. He was neither distraught nor gleeful about it.

We didn’t offer the chicken to the gods as we killed it. My mother is non-religious, sometimes anti-religious, and it was her home, her chicken, her hatchet. I had no business shoving my religion there, nor am I trained in how to sacrifice an animal to my gods. We thanked the animal for his life, but that is as close to any spiritual action we got.

I know people take issue with the arrogance of killing something to eat it. I’ve never understood it as arrogance. This accusation of arrogance is, of course, limited to the killing of animals, as if no other process in our consumption of food involves death. Or torture. Or brutality. Too often we are upset because we have killed something cute (similar to how endangered animals receive much more support when they are cute, or majestic, or appeal to us).

Certainly, after taking part in the death of an animal, I can’t understand terrorizing one or beating a creature. There was no sudden shift in my love of animals to a raging desire to hurt them in any way. I want their death to be swift, as non-stressful as killing can be. Of course, I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea that caring for an animal means I can’t kill it.

Perhaps I had thought it over long enough. Perhaps it was how my religion influenced me. But either way, I found myself arriving at that same spot my brother was. We killed an animal, with repercussions large and small. It was sad.

It was death.

It was.


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

[Pagan Experience] Humanity & Persons

This is part of the Pagan Experience prompts. If you are interested in a blogging project, I recommend it!

One of the core tensions in the Other People’s mythology is that of humanity. We see this mainly in our god the Laetha, who is originally a human.

Arabella, the ‘original’ Laetha, goes through a variety of changes. She enjoys life in fairyland, until she begins to waste away. She is rescued by the Clarene, who uses her magic to attempt to restore Arabella’s life. Only the magic takes a bit too well, and Arabella quickly shifts from human to faery to god. And on the cusp of godhood, she’s struck down by her lover-turned-tormentor, Mircea. Her divine-soul is shattered into a variety of pieces that each becomes their own spirit and god, and each must deal with their origins. Both as originally Arabella and their own unique histories.

Arabella does not vanish when she is ripped apart but instead becomes trapped where Mircea can keep her, away from the now tumultuous West. In my own headcanon, she is trapped in virtual reality, a world created by Mircea and the West’s magic, a half-world of occasional sensations. An imperfect virtual reality, where Arabella’s grasp on reality weakens each moment. (If you’re interested in virtual reality, uploading our minds into computers, and the complications in that, read this.) When she is eventually freed and returned to her body, she is not the same as she once was, though she attempts to regain her past self. But much of what made Arabella human, at that point, has faded away. She is divine, and her soul is aflame, and she cannot be what she once was. She can only be what she now is.

The tension between the human and inhuman also comes into play with the Aletheias. (Here are two different links regarding the Aletheias – their entry on the Laetha’s Wiki Page and their own page.) These spirits, some divine and some not, are androids, created and given life by the Clarene. The first Aletheia (000) is given one of the Laetha’s sparks as their heart. But whether due to the Clarene’s rough attempts at creating robotic life or another reason, the Aletheias are imperfect. They are imperfect machines, capable of emotion and rejecting their own coding, and they are imperfect as humans, lacking recognizable human emotions and empathy. The first five Aletheias are all self-contained; every Aletheia afterward is given life by forcing another spirit’s consciousness into the blank machine body.

The Aletheia Androids are some of my favorite spirits to contemplate when considering what humanity is, the lines between us and the spirits, and the conflicts we can find ourselves in because of our differences. The Aletheias can be both horribly alien – terrifyingly violent, strange speaking tones and cadences, cold to touch – and amazingly human – emotional, needy, deeply loving. They can be like children, throwing tantrums and fits, and yet go back to their steely appearance moments later. And they constantly yearn to touch humanity (for the post-005 Aletheias, humanity is often where they came from).

Though I suspect that personhood is far more of the issue than humanity. The majority of our gods are not human, and the spirits are only sometimes human. There exists a gap between us. But personhood is something more than humanity, beyond homo sapiens. Many conflicts in our mythology deal with who is allowed to have personhood. Are the Aletheia Androids people? Are their sister Androids the Alices people? Or are they objects, possessions, not able to have rights or equality to the other spirits?

These ideas influence how I wish the Otherfaith to approach spirit work. We are not to use these spirits or twist them to our own ends. They don’t exist for us. Even my beloved spirit partner and guide does not exist for me. He exists as his own being. I cannot snap my fingers and bring him to my side. The spirits are not servants to us. Humanity is not superior (nor necessarily lesser) than these beings. Our spirit work should be founded not on control and manipulation but on mutual goals. It follows that there will be spirits we wish to stay far from, just as there will be spirits who stay far from us.

I mention above how alien the Aletheias can be. All spirits can be. Yet we should be wary of positing all of their less desirable of frightening aspects as beyond humanity or inhuman. Humans, after all, behave inhumanely all the time. And one of the lessons of the faith is not that there are humans that are lesser because of their horrifying acts, but that those acts of violence and destruction and horror are part of humanity as well. After all, if we eagerly decry those who behave in reprehensible ways as ‘not like us’, we can view the problem as not ours. We aren’t like that, so why should we deal with it? And that, that is something we should be very critical of falling into.

I don’t think the Otherfaith should seek to ‘advance’ humanity in some way. I try to be careful that the transhumanism that has influenced the faith rejects the eugenics that often accompany that, for the faith isn’t supposed to find some perfect humanity. (Indeed, ideas of ‘perfect’ humans involve casting others as less-than-human, as non-persons, as objects we can rid the world of without concern.) Nor do we have to accept all of the cruelties of our world as how things must always be. Instead, I think, our goal should be to acknowledge humanity as it is – its magnificence and despair, its glories and horrors – and figure out what will build a more equal world. And then work to build that, in ways we can.


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.