Praying the Gay Away

I recently read a copy of Raven Kaldera’s open letter to transgender spirit workers ) to a good friend of mine.  (Warning: the language is dated, and some may find it offensive, he apologizes for it but refuses to change it because it is an artifact of another time and he thinks it should stand as a record and I honor that decision.  It’s still very much worth reading if you’re transgender, a spirit worker, an ally of either or some combination thereof.) We both wept, and both knew what he was talking about, as we’d both felt it.  We’ve felt the Kindreds tear at us until we acknowledged who we are.  We’ve heard the howls of rage and fear and sorrow of the transgender dead, the demand of “Let me be the last one!”.  We’ve felt alone, and we’ve told other people that they’re not alone.  In light of Equality and Justice Day in New York and the recent efforts being made against conversion therapy nationally and worldwide, along with Raven’s letter, I wrote this:

I believe that you can pray the gay away.  Wait, hold on, don’t make any assumptions and listen to what I have to say.

I believe it because it happened to me.  No, seriously, please hear me out.  This is not what you may think it sounds like.

Well, it wasn’t “the Gay”, it was “the Trans” but I was so poorly educated on the subject back in the early 2000’s I didn’t know the difference.  I hadn’t been exposed to the idea that gender identity and sexual orientation were separate things.  Indeed, everyone that I knew conflated the two things (too many still do).  So I thought that I was a gay (or maybe bisexual) man who had some kind of confusion about their gender.  I was desperately wrong and painfully confused and I didn’t know any safe or healthy ways to manifest my nature and identity.

So I did something that I’ve been good at over my life.  I prayed.

I prayed and prayed to my Goddess, begging Her to take this from me.  Despite the fact that I had felt her be supportive of the part of me that knew that I was a woman, I asked her to strip me of it, to cut me off from it, to let it go.  I felt Her asking if I was sure that I wanted this, and I, in pain and miserable, assured Her that I did.

So she did.

I don’t know how it happened.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, other than that when I woke up the next morning, I had no issue reconciling with my body.  I went about life as a man with absolutely no conflict or issue with my body.  For a few hours it felt all right, even good.  It was a relief.  A relief to not have to think or worry about it.

Over time I started to notice a flatness to my perceptions.  A creeping emptiness started to invade my heart.  Over time it felt like color and with it meaning and value were being leeched from the world.  It crushed me like a slow vise.  At first I thought that it was something that I just had to tough through, but I discovered that there was nothing that I could “tough” with.  I was missing the essence that held me firm, the djed  of my soul.  I suppose if there was any turning point it was when I realized that I was missing an essential part of myself – that the part of myself that I was cut off from was truly essential.  I was dying inside.

I finally broke and begged Her to give it back to me.  I apologized for my foolishness and plead ignorance.  My Lady is a forgiving one and let me feel myself and live again.  I felt an ineffable, irreplaceable part of my Self flood back into contact with the rest of me and I collapsed in tears and gratitude.  I knew from that moment on that I couldn’t get rid of it without getting rid of myself, something that I was not willing to do.

This is much gentler than experiences that other trans spirit-workers have reported when they try to keep their gender locked into a box and deny it.  I have faced depression, loss, self-destructive urges and even potential suicide in my journey.  Living and overcoming those things did not have as much of an effect on me as this experience did.  That deep-rooted knowledge that my gender identity was an inseparable part of who I am was something that helped carry me through the darkest of times.  There had to be a way to reconcile with it.

That’s why Raven’s letter resonates so very strongly with me.  I’ve heard the Gods and Spirits for as long as I can remember, some times better than others.  I’ve learned to work with them through childhood trial and error and adult study and practice.  I know that my community needs people like me to help us through some of the most difficult periods of their lives.  It’s not to say that I won’t help anyone who asks if I have the spoons and know that that’s what you need.  I will help anyone that I can if they need it.

It does mean that I will go out of my way to help other trans and gender-variant people if given the opportunity.  Like with other professions, so many of us are turned away by those who reject our identities and our selves.  Many of us also encounter those who are willing to help but in the end are unhelpful because they simply can’t understand our experiences, not having lived them themselves.  I have been a trans person all my life (though my coming out was more recent) and have heard from the Kindreds all my life as well.  If you feel that you need someone that fits those qualifications I will do whatever I can.  If I feel that I can’t help you, I will do my best to find someone who can.  As my Matron is my witness, I promise this to you; may She help me remember and fulfill my promise should I ever forget or slack off.  I will be there for you.  You are not alone.

– For Asteysa.

Oaths and Integrity

I’m choosing to use the word, “Oaths” for this post because, upon looking at given definitions it won out over vow or promise.  One of the definitions I found (on Google, sorry!) of Oath contained the wording, “A solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behavior.” and decided that that was the most appropriate.

Oaths are vital to myself and my practice because how they intersect with a few different principles that are important to me: integrity, sovereignty, and relationship-building.

Integrity is a person’s “wholeness”.  We all start with a clean slate regarding this, but when we discover the ability for duplicity we discover a way that we can manipulate outcomes at the price of damage to the egos of ourselves and others.  My experience has been that lying is damaging to a person’s sense of self, as well as to that of those who are being lied to (or in some cases, about).

When we use words to define an experience and send it out to other humans (or other beings) we are making a statement about ourselves (“This happened to me.”) and often about others (“This happened/is happening/will happen to you/someone else”).  These words and definitions imprint themselves on human psyches constantly.  They build our identities both personally and collectively.

When someone lies or breaks an oath, they are using inferior materials for ego construction.  This effects the liar on a daily basis, as they know and absorb that much of how they define themselves or their lives is false.  This affects those that they lie to by breaking down their sense of reality when they discover the truth.  I can’t imagine that there is a person out there that hasn’t felt the world spinning or the ground dropping out from under their feet when a concealed truth was revealed or a lifelong promise shattered.  That sensation is made up of parts of your world, created by yourself and others in concert, being torn away.  Lies tear at the integrity of our being and identity.

Some say that personal integrity is a requirement for magickal power.  I only disagree with that because there are many well-known magicians in both lore and the modern day who are known for both their wisdom and their lies.  So much of what happens to us with magickal work is personal and subjective that it’s hard to check every thaumaturges’ claims.  Besides, the last thing we need are occult paparazzi!

Despite that I feel that while it may not be necessary, personal integrity is important and helpful to magickal practice (as well as to being a good human being).  Building a reality out of solid (or at least flexible) material helps to give you protections against the ego-storms that are sure to come, and helps to provide a quality of authority and personal sovereignty, both of which are invaluable in magickal work.

When I was young I was a liar.  Children learn to lie at a young age, and teenagers turn it into an art, and some people never grow out of it.  I lied artfully, creating palaces out of clouds and obtaining much of what I thought I needed through deceit.  As I matured, though, I realized that I had more and more trouble with self-control and self image and began to suspect that that was tied to my habits.  I eventually reached a breaking point where I I had no foundation on which to build my world.  I lost respect, friends, and community.  I lost confidence in my magick and my relationships with the Gods.  It took me a while to connect the dots and own the fact that I had done this to myself.  Once you’ve fallen so far, though, it’s hard to imagine a way to get out.

I had a friend who had successfully quit smoking, and when I asked him what he had done, and he told me, “Never break a promise to a God with a spear.”  This provoked me to consider the benefits and importance of oaths and promises.  Doing them simply out of fear of the one with whom the bargain is made seemed unattractive.  Nevertheless, I needed to find ways to control my behavior and improve my situation.

I started by making small promises to myself (working on my to-do list, refraining from talking about a situation, washing dishes after use).  The effect that making and keeping those promises had on my sense of self and my identity was subtle but built up over time.

Then I decided to make some oaths sacred and involve the Gods in them.  Following my friend’s example I chose things that needed to be done in my life that I had great difficulty gathering the willpower to do, and made oaths to complete them as devotional acts.  I could practically feel the bonds between myself and the Powers tighten as I completed fulfilled these oaths.

With each oath kept, whether made to myself, another human, or a spirit or God, I felt my sense of self and wholeness return.  The changes that these oaths made in me and my relationships (and if you know me at this point you know how important the web of relationships is to me) became obvious.  People started to trust me again, and I acquired a reputation for being reliable after years of being considered a flake.  Devotional relationships deepened and acquired nuance that they had previously lacked.  I was more confident, happier, and carried myself better than before.

I must emphasize that this process took years.  Like with physical exercise or meditation practice the day-to-day benefits came so slowly and built so gradually that I only noticed them once I had been doing it for a while.  It took a little faith and determination to keep with my integrity building practice, but it has become one of the cornerstones of the work that I do in life.

In my personal practice, I call upon Var to witness all of my oaths.  As it says in Gylfaginning:

“…she listens to people’s oaths and private agreements that women and men make between each other. Thus these contracts are called varar. She also punishes those who break them”

As I have great affection for Frigga’s handmaidens (among whom Var is numbered), because she is a warden and keeper of oaths, and because the utterance of her name with any oath renders it sacred I reach out to her when I make promises.  In my experience she is neutral and very firm but understanding – she won’t let you slide on a technicality but doesn’t seem to hold failure to maintain an oath personally.  She has also provided assistance when I’ve had trouble maintaining an oath.  It seems that she far prefers an oath to be honored and kept than to have to punish those who fail.

So while I may not jive with many aspects of modern Heathenry, I very much appreciate the emphasis on oaths and their importance.  I feel that the creation and maintenance of oaths, vows, and promises is a powerful magick for self-improvement and strengthening of the Great Web and our own selves and identities.  They serve as a cure for and inoculation against much of the ego sickness that pervades the modern world.

(This post was a draft that sat there for many months.  I decided to complete it and release it as a devotional act to Thor on his day.  Thor has often been called upon to witness oaths and sanctify oaths as well, and in many ways he embodies the concepts of integrity and sovereignty that I value and that oaths help to create and maintain.  Hail Thor, Thunderer, Friend of Man and Guardian of Midgard!)

Substantial

The Blood of Kvasir can often be found in places where pain dwells.  Is it a joke or test of the All-Father?  Is it because of Kvasir’s own pain and betrayal?  Is it because the depths of agony are a place that most are loath to look?  Perhaps it’s a reward or compensation.  Whatever the case, I’ve often tasted drops of that mead in the darkest and harshest of places.

Here is a poem that I submitted to Image Out‘s ImageOutWrite publication.  (Image Out is an TBLG arts festival in Rochester, NY).  In recent days I’ve been trying to find more ways to turn my pain into gold and my tears into amber (thank you, Freyja).

Substantial

Illuminated S

Golden thick mead rolls over my tongue,

mingles with the green rivulets of estrogen dissolving underneath

like the margins of an illuminated text.

It’s better to absorb it through the mouth, they say

(It doesn’t matter either way, they say).

Sublingual

Grey shadows lurk beneath my skin.

The searing burn of coherent light

and the stings of a thousand electric bees

have failed to fully lighten.

It takes time, they say.

(It never really goes away, they say).

Subdermal

Knuckles dragging, suspended by shoulders

well-hung from broad backs.

Pale and cold, shrieking with fear-tinged laughter.

Referring to me as “it”.

That’s not a “miss”! They say.

(That’s a man, baby, they say).

Subhuman

Mass-produced McAmericanDreams

Houses stamped out in a single mold, splashed with a single palette.

Green grass violated by spreading crocuses.

Broad sidewalks, not broad enough as they yank their children away.

“Get back here.” they say.

(That’s a stranger, they say).

Suburban

Winter is my friend,

The chill forces me to cloak.

To hide my contradictions that mandate madness.

To block my eye-crossing form from sight.

It gets better, they say.

(But only if you’re pretty, they say).

Subarctic

They’ve known me for years.

Old epithets fly from their lips.

“Man, I mean, dude, I mean bro, I mean… I’m sorry”

“I’ve known you forever.”

It’s just a word, they say.

(Why is he… I mean she… I mean whatever so sensitive, they say.)

Subvocal

The plates slide beneath each other.

Whole landscapes buried and swallowed.

Little bubbles of magma flowing up from below.

Some cool before reaching the surface, and some explode.

You’ve changed so much, they say.

(I never would have known, they say.)

Subduction

Like a passing flame lighting dry branches

like whispers of discontent among starving workers,

like a child, flipping tables as they pass.

I walk among them, and change follows me.

You’re so brave, they say.

(What a freak, they say.)

Subversion

Prayer Card Available for Pre-Order: Isis by Lykeia (yes, it needs a sponsor for printing)

Excellent and important news! It’s a lovely image that calls to many of the epithets of my Lady… the Lady of Sorrows, Mighty of Magic, and Queen of Heaven (and probably more over time). The image showed up at the right time and place for me… there are a lot of sorrows that I am coping with now, and my Matron weeps with me and all who have felt loss. Please help and donate if you can in any way to help make the printing of this card a reality! Make an offering to She Who Listens to help this inspired piece spread her glory!

Gangleri's Grove

Isis

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Adorations of Earth

I try not to reblog too too much, but I have to share this because this is a lovely, powerful, magnificent invocation and praise for the Earth in Her many ways and names and forms.

Sarenth Odinsson's Blog

I adore You, Elder Ancestor
I adore You, Mother
I adore You, Midgard
I adore You, Craggy One
I adore You, First Carbon-chain
I adore You, Last Pebble
I adore You, Bat-filled Cave
I adore You, Loamy Soil
I adore You, Grassy Knoll
I adore You, Elder Yew
I adore You, Gentle Sapling
I adore You, Sand-Swept Desert
I adore You, Ice-bound North
I adore You, Fertile Ground
I adore You, Shaking Plates
I adore You, Rolling Wheat
I adore You, Blessed Rainforest
I adore You, Sweeping Plains
I adore You, Frosted Tundra
I adore You, Teeming Jungle
I adore You, Mighty Mountains
I adore You, Silent Wood
I adore You, Cacophonous Forest
I adore You, Little Nut
I adore You, Great Tree
I adore You, Tiny Bush
I adore You, Expansive Grass
I adore You, Crawling Weed
I adore You, Whose Name is Jord
I adore You, Whose Name…

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Gods: More Like People Than You Think

Well-said! Gods and spirits are a part of my community and I treat them as such – sometimes I go out to dinner with someone a few times, build a respect for them, but we just don’t click as long term friends but more like mutual acquaintances. Sometimes I build very close and intimate relationships with people (and for myself, often more than one person). Sometimes I have friends-of-friends that I like (or that make me uncomfortable so while I’ll say hi and give them hospitality I won’t go out of my way to hang out with them. All of these relationships and more can (and do) have analogues in the God work and Spirit work and devotional practice that I engage in.

The Twisted Rope

Non-physical relationships can be a real pain to figure out. There aren’t any self-help books on them, and trying to get a communication style that works well can be challenging to say the least. Due to the nature of non-physical relationships, I think it’s common for people to flail and get scared when they need to figure out how to handle some of the bumps that normal relationships can take. You know the ones:

  • I think I made my god angry. How do I tell?
  • I know I made my god angry. How do I fix it?
  • How do I tell if this god is giving me the cold shoulder?
  • I don’t think my relationship with this god is working anymore. How do I end the relationship?
  • I haven’t been talking with the gods recently. Are they upset?

The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether your relationship is…

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A Community of All

Given that I’m in a brand new situation, I haven’t been making my daily offerings for about two weeks.

In my old place of residence, if I missed a couple of days weird shit would start happening.  Stuff would fall over when there were no cats in the room, items would get displaced, all the sort of things people blame on poltergeists and fairies (given that I’m actually working with the dead and nature spirits, that’s likely not too far off).  A spiritual pressure that others remarked on would build up, and would dissipate when I got back into the swing of things.

The Kindred have been patient with me while I re-establish my space and start to heal and remake myself, but today that ended.  I had planned on attending what I call “Polish Beltaine” which is Good Friday in Buffalo’s Broadway Market (a tradition for myself and my friend Jim) and  then go with him to a Good Friday service at St. John’s Grace (I’m not Christian, but he offered to come to my offering rite for Freyja tonight, so I figured fair is fair).

I got violently ill.  I hadn’t eaten anything untoward, and other than a bit of anxiety had no excuses.  I felt very firmly the message: if you’re going to go to worship at someone else’s temple before getting right with your own Kindred your priorities are not in order.  So I spent much of the morning and early afternoon cleaning and prepping and unpacking my sacred space, meditating and charging and establishing my temple, and making a grand round of offerings to my Matron(s?), my Ancestors, the spirits of this place and the ones that I pass through, and the many Gods who have touched my life.  After sitting in silence in temple space for a while when all that was done, the sick passed from me and a blessed calm overtook me.

There has been a lot of discussion of a God-centered versus community-centered life in the Heathen and Pagan communities of late.  I feel that I understand where most are coming from on both sides of the discussion.  Regarding that, I’d like to say this: my Gods and Spirits are part of my community.  They interact with me daily, and shape my life just as those living people (two-footed, four-footed, and otherwise) do, and I feel that through my interactions with them I do the same.

Seeing and hearing the Dead, the Spirits, and the Gods and honoring and making and keeping good relationships with them helps to make our whole world our community.  When we reach out spiritually like this we reach beyond the mere material of here and now and acknowledge and engage the spiritual aspects of all the things that we merely see the surface of with our eyes.

Honoring the Dead reminds us of our existence beyond the flesh, and that death does not end our relationship with our loved ones and those who shape our lives.

Honoring the Nature Spirits reminds us of the sanctity of the world that we inhabit and the intrinsic value of nature and physical matter.

Honoring the Gods reminds us of the transcendent nature of our reality and how small we are in comparison to it – and that we are not alone.

Honoring our living relatives keeps us grounded in the flesh and the world that we inhabit so thoroughly in this incarnation and reminds us of our connection to other living beings.

By honoring our connections to all beings we can find our place for ourselves in this world again, just as I am doing in this city, the city of my birth, my place of power where I come to heal and be renewed.

IMG_20150403_151251

(Well, I did say recently that I wanted more altar space!  With pussy willows from the Broadway Market to bring a touch of spring to things).

Update:  The Freyjasblot went swimmingly well.  The Lady feasted upon dark salted chocolate and raspberry lambic and was given amber for her glimmering hoard and scented with amber incense.  Jim and I have a lot to thank her for.  When we called to her, one of the cats leapt up on the altar, and when we asked if the offerings were good she told us Fehu.  Hail to the Lady!