Announcement and Request for Submissions!

I am working on a compilation of queer and trans people regarding experiences with Freyja in regards to their sexuality and/or gender identities (Current working title: Freyja Over the Rainbow – I’m taking suggestions for that too).  There is a lot of emphasis on the Lady with regards to heterosexuality and cisgender perspectives, and I know from both personal experience and many, many discussions that I’ve had that I’m not the only one that the Lady has encouraged in exploration and sovereignty over their own sexuality and gender.

The submissions may be of any length, need to be professionally written (I can do minor editing to clean up any spelling or grammatical errors, but I will confirm with you before publishing), and have no requirements of knowledge of Lore or particular background.  The only requirements are that they be genuine and come from the heart.

So please, reblog or signal boost if you can.  Also, please contribute to what may be an empowering and affirming project for many queer and trans folks!  Email me at laine delaney 919 at gmail if you want to discuss privately or have a submission that you’d like to send in!  I’m currently looking at a six month deadline of May 19th, 2016!

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What Are We Really Afraid Of?

“Three rules I try to live by:

Always assume the best of other people.

Always plan for the worst in any situation.

Always keep your spirituality untamed.” – Morgan Daimler

The Nokean Bingo and Godspouse Bingo and similar conversations (as well as things going on in my own spiritual life) have had the wheels in my brain a-turning.  People all around me in the flesh as well as online are having personal experiences with their deities and spirits (something that Real Heathens say Never Ever Happens Except To Heroes Which No One Today Is Because Not Enough Swords and Slaughter or something like that).  People I know are awakening to all sorts of things as we open our minds both through study and technique, crack our skulls and barriers against things that we’re told aren’t possible and real, and (perhaps most significantly) have experiences that we’ve never asked for thrust upon us.

Reading about and witnessing how people react to Godspousery (I’m using this as a specific and pertinent example; apply broadly to other spiritual experiences that people who have’t had them label as fads or psychoses) I’ve come to witness a familiar pattern.  It often starts with a small voice inside someone saying “I thought I was the only one.”.  It is often followed by euphoria at feeling a connection to other people that you find that share similar experiences (which is followed by confusion and sometimes disillusionment when you realize that outside of your common experiences you’re probably very different from the folks that you encounter).

It continues with people who haven’t had the same experiences insulting you and trying to invalidate you (whether or not you needed validation).  It comes ripe full of blatant misogyny if you’re a woman, or reactive misogyny if you’re a man (you’re whipped by a Goddess?) and probably something similar for nonbinary folks.

People who have shared a similar experience will often stand up for each other and shake their fists at the accusers.  Sometimes they will turn on each other: having received qualifications for validation from respected outside sources, they feel it necessary to police others to help them maintain their own identity and credentials.

People are afraid of talking about it.  It’s either because they still think that they are the only one, or they don’t want to be associated with “those” people.  Even when those people are people just like them.

I suspect  you’ve heard some of this from me recently.  The question that is bedeviling me is “What are we really afraid of?”

Are we afraid that our experiences aren’t real?  In Clive Barker’s epic Imajica novels, one of the greatest curses that can be leveled by one magician to another is “May everything be as it seems.” (I wish I had the book handy to share the eloquent explanation given as to why, but I don’t have a copy with me).  The short of it is; because if everything were always as it seemed the world would be mud and your lives dust, meaningless, pointless, empty.  If we’re afraid that all of these voices are just in our heads, and all that we are is a bunch of chemicals artfully pushing around other bunches of chemicals (I agree that that is part of what we are, though I disagree with it being the whole) then we have nothing to fear, because we have no way to change that.  If all we are is nothing and all that is comes to nothing, then embrace the richness of your experiences.  Sure, make sure that they have some value and positive effect on your life, but if they don’t, simply ignore them.  After all, if they aren’t real they’ll fade like mist in the morning sun.  If you are misleading people, then what?   Humanity will end without truly affecting anything, either through planetary trauma, self-harm, or whatever end the physicists by and large agree on nowadays.  No harm, no foul, right?

Most of us know that that isn’t the case, though.

Are we afraid of being hurt?  Of being insulted?  These are real fears.  Words tear at our sense of self, they flay our egos.  Despite what Stephen Fry and every other bully on the planet thinks, there are words than can hurt any human being.  If I knew you well enough I could find words that would make you doubt yourself, that would make you harm yourself, that would make you weep and feel empty, that could remove your ability to keep trying.  I was raised in a family that used words as weapons and know that no matter your armor, there are holes and flaws.  I can be a cold, sharp, jagged, hurtful bitch when I need to be and anyone who knows me well has seen that side of me (though few who know me well have had to be on the receiving end).

Those insults come from people who either aren’t sure themselves, and thus need to put you in your place, or who are sure. and you can tell those from how they argue themselves in circles trying to disprove something that they can’t even experience.  They come to get you to stop saying things that tear at their own egos. To them, saying that a God loves you in a special way is saying that a God talks to you (which they know could never happen because you’re not them… I mean, a hero) or that that God doesn’t love them.  These assumptions hurt their self-images, and as I learned from Laverne Cox, “Hurt people hurt people.”  The places where they strike from indicate where their weaknesses are, for knowing or not you’ve landed a blow against them.

Are we afraid of being seen like other people that we may have an unknowing prejudice against?  I know that I am.  I’ve had some experiences recently that tread close to the ground of Godspousery.  My first reaction was, “I can’t be a Godspouse… I can’t be one of THOSE people.”  Then I thought about it and realized that some of the people I identify as Godspouses are people that I respect and admire.  I’d love to be like them in some ways.  I was reacting to the ridicule hurled at them by folks so insecure in their own beliefs that they can’t handle someone else claiming an experience that they have not had.

Are we afraid of being right?  I think we are.  I think we’re terrified of that.  I think that we’re afraid that the experiences that we’ve had are real because we’ve been raised to believe that they aren’t and we don’t have any guidebooks or manuals to help us with them (yet … I predict Llewellyn 2017 will be the Year of the Godspouse or something… or not, it might be too Polytheist or something even for them).  I think a lot of people are afraid that what they have going on is real and that they’ll have no way to prove it, and no way to *gasp* make money off of it (because when you get down to it, that is still the way the majority of people in our society gauge the worth of any sort of practice, knowledge or experience).  I think we’re afraid of screwing it up and having angry whatevers messing with us.  I think were afraid of being right but being unable to stop society from throwing us into straightjackets and padded rooms (or refusing us employment and help and treating us to old school exile/shunning) for something that they can’t see and thus don’t care about.

What do you have to lose?  I’m not saying that you have nothing to lose, but is what you might lose worth keeping things bottled up?  Is it worth feeling like you’re living a lie?  Is it worth that terrible weight upon your chest and the heart-rending anxiety?

It isn’t.  Trust me, it isn’t.  As someone who has kept a secret from everyone that she knew for close to thirty-five years for many of the reasons provided above, it isn’t worth it.  It’s important to pick your battles, surely, but it’s worth it.

You know what I’ve seen from people who speak up and live their truth (when they’re ready)?  I’ve seen them lose friends and relatives, jobs and livelihood, careers and children.  You know what else I’ve seen?  I’ve seen them gain respect from those who value honesty.  I’ve seen people who were their friends before becoming allies as well, and I’ve seen people who weren’t their friends before flock to them because of their inspirational example.  I’ve seen them being stronger, happier, and more honest.  I’ve seen them become better people.

So what is my advice for when Odhinn pops the question and wants you to share it with others?  For when you’ve had a journey to Vanaheim that gave you great insight into what most might consider minor mythological figure?  For when some kind of crazy woo happens to you and you don’t know if you should share it or not?

Consider it.  Consider who you’re presenting it too, but more importantly, consider your words.  Don’t overthink it, though, just be careful to say what you honestly mean.  Prepare yourself.  Also, consider Morgan’s rules and my corollaries:

Corollary to Morgan’s first rule: People will surprise you more often than not; you *will* be surprised by who will take it well and embrace you.  They will inevitably get it wrong and misunderstand, so be prepared to find other ways of explaining it and correct them with a will, but know that more often than not it comes from a position of ignorance, not malice.

Corollary to Morgan’s second rule: Try and have a support network.  At best, find real-life people who will be supportive; this can be hard, though, because coming out to them can be more difficult than folks online.  Find folks online.  You’re not alone.  I don’t care if you’ve discovered you’re the spawn of a Pleidian Dolphin Princess, trust me, you are not alone.

Corollary to Morgan’s third rule: Don’t pussyfoot around it when it comes to dealing with yourself.  Qualify it all you want to.  Take care and be as skeptical as you like with your own experiences, but when you know something is going on don’t lie to yourself about it.  Embrace your spirituality, live it, let it ring in your bones, set your heart aflame, and pour from your mouth like molten gold.  Holding it back will stunt you, and you don’t need a bonsai spirit, you need to grow and have your spirit be like a swaying willow, a mighty oak, a Yggdrasil-like yew.  You will only regret it if you try to tame your spirituality.

Lest anyone think that I’m speaking against spiritual discipline or discernment, let me correct you: discipline is needed for healthy growth, and discernment is needed for protection both internal and external.  Your tree won’t grow unless it’s put in a healthy place and kept safe from the prying teeth of the hungry harts until it’s big enough to handle it.

If you need to keep it quiet while it grows, then do so.  There will almost certainly come a time, though, when it will need to burst forth from its former confines and keeping it it hidden will only weaken and sicken it.  Seeing another person be confident and public or at least up front about their spirituality will help yours to grow; be sure to return the favor if you can afford to.  If you do, all of these trees that we’re growing will some day be the best kind of forest: full of wildlife, unrestrained, untamed, beautiful, powerful, dangerous, terrible, sublime, and a cradle of new life.

As I said earlier, I’m not a Godspouse, but if I’m going to be honest about it it’s only by a matter of degree.  I haven’t discussed it publicly because it involves experiences that I’m working hard to process and find the right words for.  If that’s a title that my circumstance and spirituality end up putting me into I will proudly claim it and happily discuss it – with people who genuinely want to discuss it or are dealing with it themselves (as opposed to Utgart.net-Trolls).  I am a seeress and have been wandering between worlds and talking to beings that aren’t visible to the eye (usually) all of my life, and the only reason I haven’t shared more of what I’ve seen is context and need.  You’d better believe that if there’s a good reason I will be up front about it.

You are not alone.  You are not crazy.  You should not be ashamed to live your truth, whether you do so quietly or with loudspeakers and a parade.  The more of us who do, the more the voices of the insecure fools that lash out at us will be drowned out, if not by our voices then by the thunder and the earthquake of our many feet.

What do you really have to be afraid of?

Hijab at Gay Pride – My Covering Story

I’m a Pagan woman that covers, which is less of an anomaly than you might imagine.  There are a lot of us who do it for various reasons – reconstruction of traditonal practices, psychic protection, and more.  I wrote a piece about it earlier last year for another, now largely defunct blog, and wanted to share it here.  Covering has been a topic being discussed in many online communities lately, and I thought that it might be beneficial to share it here.

Hijab at Gay Pride – My Covering Story

I come to the practice of covering as a transgender woman, having been raised in a Muslim country by Sunni Orthodox (others would call them Wahabi) Muslims.  My mother was Episcopalian until she found Islam some time in my early childhood; I believe I was in first grade when she started going to a mosque and then started covering.  I had never been raised in her prior tradition, just given general ideas, and her excitement about her new path was contagious.  I read the books and learned the strange and magickal words in other languages and accepted wholeheartedly that this was good and the way that it was taught to me.  My mother married an Egyptian man who worked in Saudi Arabia and so we moved there with him when I was in fourth grade.

I struggled with my identity for a long time, who I knew I was being in conflict with who I was being told that I was.  My religion did not lead me to any satisfactory solution in regards to me gender.  Because of this and other things, I fought with my mother when I graduated High School to be allowed to move back to the States and live with my grandparents.

I found Pagan paths a few years after I moved back, and realized that Pagans weren’t evil or bad people and that there was a lot of value in Pagan practice.  I started to identify as Pagan and had a massive internal struggle as I cast off parts of my old faith a bit at a time.  I remember distinctly a phase where it felt like I was pulling hooks out of my spine, hooks attached to tense, invisible lines or cords.  It was painful and liberating.

I was afflicted with early-onset male pattern baldness.  I had always had my hair long as a teenager and young adult; it was the only feminine expression that I could get away with and losing my beautiful hair tore me apart inside.  I felt disempowered and that my only connection to my womanhood, to who I really was, was being torn from me one hair at a time.  I eventually just shaved my head and kept it short because it was easier to deal with it that way and keep it neat but it jarred and scarred me internally.

I eventually got to the point where I was ready to deal with my gender identity and began to live as I knew myself to be and transition medically.  At this point I began covering because of my hair loss.  I wore colorful scarves tied simply bandana-style, and over time my scarf collection grew and expanded thanks to friends (thanks, Deb!) and hippy stores in the area that I lived.  I have many colorful scarves that I use

My hormonal changes started allowing some of my hair to grow back.  As it started filling back in I realized that at some point I might be able to go uncovered and enjoy my stolen birthright.  At the same time, though, I had been reading about how ancient Isians would go covered, and was exposed to women of other Pagan traditions who covered.

Then, when going to the DMV to get my driver’s license changed to reflect my new name and proper gender identity, they asked me to take off my scarf for the picture.  I nervously invoked New York State’s religious exemption regarding covering in pictures and encountered no resistance to it.  However, walking out of the DMV with my new license made me wonder if making that statement and using my faith as an excuse to cover for the picture meant that I should be walking the walk and embrace it as a regular practice, even though my hair was beginning to fill back in.

Little things happened, too.  When my partner’s ex-husband was on his way over and almost came into the apartment one day I panicked, thinking, “But he’s not muhrim, I need to cover!”  I wasn’t raised as a woman in Islam, and still the concept of muhrim (people who are muhrim are “pure”, people who are allowed to see you unveiled) leaked in to my psyche and I began applying it unconsciously.  I began tucking hair in to try and keep it from showing rather than just covering most of my hair, as well.  I didn’t want to be a “hojabi”.

Today was Pride in Rochester, the city I live in.  I’m a leader in the trans community of Rochester and posed like a figurehead at the front of the float, proudly waving the rainbow flag and greeting those I passed with what I hoped was a good balance between lively enthusiasm and royal aplomb.  I kept seeing my own reflection in the back of the truck pulling the float, and at one point I let little wisps of hair on the sides of my head free and immediately felt bad about it.

We have a large festival after the parade, and while in a bathroom there I was looking in the mirror and saw myself and my scarf.  I took it off to fix and adjust it for the first time since I had left the house, and had a moment of pause.  On a whim, I tied it under my chin (rather than behind my head, tichel-like, as I’ve been doing) and folded it over on my cheeks.  My face was framed as my mother’s had been, as countless women I’d been raised with had been.

I didn’t know how to feel about it.  It felt much more complete and comfortable.  It felt more of a whole thing, and less awkward.  At the same time, I had short sleeves and shorts – I wasn’t covering “properly” for a Muslim woman – and I’m not a Muslim woman.

I put it back into the tichel style and went back to our booth at the festival.  Without taking the scarf off I showed the others there what it looked like as hijab.  I got some compliments, and one person remarked on how easily I had done it for not having done it before.

I don’t feel one hundred percent right doing it.  Part of it is identification – I’m not Muslim, and it’s a style associated with Islam.  At the same time, it covers all of my hair, and is something that provides the comfort of familiarity and a sense of continuity.  It feels “safer” than my standard style.

I like it but I don’t know if I like wearing it.  Part of me really wants to experiment with it, and part of me is afraid.  A lot of the fears are unidentified, but I know there’s a fear of being mistaken for Muslim (which is unfair to Muslims and could potentially be unpleasant for me, especially if I have an encounter with someone who actually is Muslim), there’s a fear of being like my mother or walking too close to the road that she walks on… I don’t know what all of them are.

It’s both comfortable and unsettling.  I don’t know what to do or how to feel about it.  I’m sharing it on this blog, but also with the facebook groups that I belong to for covered women.  I am still trying to digest how I feel about this.

The one thing that does put a smile on my face about the situation is the fact that I first wore hijab for Gay Pride.

Introductions

“Hail to the Day and the Day’s bright boy!

Hail to the Night and her daughter’s joy!

With eyes that bless us may you see,

and grant to those here victory!

The Gods and Goddesses we call

And holy Earth who gives to all,

give us here wise words and weal,

and in this life, hands that heal.” – Sigridfumal (as translated by Diana Paxson)

Hail and welcome!  This being the first post of my blog, I would like to introduce myself.  I’m Laine, and I’m pleased that you’re reading this!  I’ve had other blogs in the past (and still use a couple of them; those will be linked at a different time).  I want to let you know a few things about me and this blog so that there are less questions and surprises later on.

The title of this blog comes from a joke that I made to my fiance.  I had just been confirmed as the Grove Organizer for Shining Valley Protogrove, ADF (a druidic congregation) and was fishing a copy of A Book Of Pagan Prayer out of my purse.  A realization sank in.

“Love?”  I called out.  “You do realize that you’re marrying the Pagan church lady, don’t you?”

“I have no problem with this.” he replied from the other room.

The name rattled around in my head for a few days, and as part of my effort to embrace some new things in my life, I decided to enshrine it with its own blog.

So, I’m Pagan.  I am eclectic and unconcerned with the negative opinions of others vis-a-vis eclecticism.  My path has taken me through British Traditional Withcraft to Heatherny to modern Isism to what is generously labeled the “Druidic” practice of Ár nDraíocht Féin.  As such, I’ve got quite a history and quite a wide variety of practices that I’ve devoted myself to.  I believe that each person’s spiritual path is unique, and while following a tradition strictly can be of benefit, most people who try to tend to outgrow it and seek other things with time.  This is natural, no one path but the one we walk leads us to where we need to be.

I’m Radical.  I think that there are a whole lot of messes in the world that require serious work to change.  A lot of these messes are based on deeply entrenched social and cultural mores.  To improve things, some very deep roots will need to be dragged out of the ground and the rifts they cause given time to heal and lay fallow.  I comfortably use the term “radical feminist” to describe my views of kyriarchy, which causes some confusion to some people because I’m also:

Transgender. For most of my life people tried to tell me that I was male, and I very simply knew they were wrong.  It’s been a long journey, but some thirty-odd years in I found a combination of support of Deities, family, friends, and community that helped me to have the strength to stop lying to the world and to let the world know that they were wrong about me.  I’m a community organizer and activist; I have the strength and the skill with words to speak out when other people are silenced and I consider it my responsibility to do so.

I’m an unabashed Theist.  Yes, I believe in Gods and Spirits and the Ancestors and other things that there are less well-known names for.  My personal experiences as well as some shared ones make it seem pretty clear to me that the Gods and the rest exist outside of us, though there are places for them to dwell within us.

I’m  a Devotional Polytheist.  I’m both a hard polytheist and a panentheist: I think that all the Gods are part of the same thing, but then, I think the same thing of people, so to avoid confusion I call them (both Gods and people) by different names and treat them as separate entities.  That’s a demand of the level of existence we are on.  I make offerings and work to establish relationships with them, because it’s helpful and frankly fascinating and amazing.

I’m also a Witch.  I do magick.  I am magick.  I practice magick because it is helpful and likewise amazing.  I geek out on it the way some people geek out over Dr. Who.  My views are far from mainstream and my practices may make some people lift their noses in the air and sniff but they work for me.  They might work for you, too, which is part of the reason that I share them.

I think I’m out of terms to put in bold and discuss at the time.  Suffice to say that these will be qualities that you’ll see rise again and again in my writing.  They are things that I like talking about and exploring with other people, so feel free to comment as long as you’re civil and well-mannered.

Welcome, and be blessed!