Duality and Lack Thereof

 

moon and sun

“When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other…” – Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching was the first text of any spiritual or philosophical significance that I read after going through the books of the faith I was raised in.  It’s stayed with me, and it’s a good place to go back to.

The passage above sang to me when I first read it.  I read it in Jane English’s translation – I’m not sure how that measures up against other ones, to be honest, but it’s still my favorite – but every version of it calls back to me.  I feel it.

It comes to mind when people speak of duality.  Actually, the whole Tao Te Ching does, with the one perfect yin and one perfect yang forming the Tao.  It’s beautiful and profound and I just can’t buy it anymore.

Recently, there was an article being shared on Facebook about dealing with “Dark” deities.  While I appreciate much of what the author has to say, and even moreso I appreciate the fact that they open with how problematic it is to label a deity as “dark”, I was left with a deep frustration (which really had nothing to do with the article itself).  The fact that we are still labeling deities as “light” or “dark” gets under my skin the way any unthinking duality that we embrace does.

I’m not sure, but I think that it was in discussions regarding gender that the system of duality started to unravel for me.  There are lots of people who identify as men or women.  I identify as a woman, for instance; that’s what I am.  There are also a lot of people who identify as neither or both.  Third-gender, genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, there are different terms for different nonbinary identities in our society.  As soon as I was exposed to the idea it made perfect sense to me, even though as far as trans people go, I’m very binary.

I think that we get taught this binary thinking as children.  I also think that it takes a while to sink in, and before it does entirely there’s a golden period where kids just accept things as they are on whatever scale.  A friend of mine (who is nonbinary) likes to tell a story about how kids get it.  He was on a bus and a bunch of younger kids that were clustered together turned to him and asked,

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

Him: “I’m genderqueer.”

Them: “What’s that?”

Him: “It means I’m neither a boy or a girl.”

Them: “Oh.  Did those piercings hurt?”

I’m not a specialist in child development, so I really don’t know.  I don’t know if there is a point in time where it is helpful to explain things in painfully black and white terms to kids.  I have the suspicion that it’s more for the ease of the parents explaining than the ease of the childrens’ understanding, which strikes me as intellectually lazy, but I also understand that saying that raising children is difficult and a minefield of compromise.

To me, it feels like a deep-rooted damage in human perception of the world.  The idea that things fit into these neat digital on/off, black/white, good/bad, boy/girl, dark/light boxes being drilled into your head because it’s easier to explain the world that way seems like a massive disservice to everyone involved.  It’s also the root of a lot of bigoted, prejudiced, and simply wrong-headed thinking.  Boy and girl aren’t absolute boxes, they do exist, but they’re cluster points that a lot of people seem to fall close to or in.  Dark and light are guidelines and suggestions that we use, but even things that are perceived as “dark” tend to have “light” qualities as well, otherwise in their absoluteness they would be impossible for us to truly engage.

When I encounter and interact with a person, one of the things that I’ve come to do is try to gauge the degree to which they have overcome the painful dualism stamped into their mind in their youth.  Honestly, I consider that to be one of the first major signs of intellectual maturity, and it pains me that so many people are stuck in that mindset about so many things for so much if not all of their lives.  There are just boys and girls.  Things are either good or bad.  There are light Gods, and there are Dark Gods (and sometimes, charitably, the person mentions that there are “grey” Gods, which kind of still casts an emphasis on the whole duality.)  “Nothing is just anything.” is a mantra that has saved my life and sanity many times over.

I don’t think that binaries don’t exist; I just know from my experience that they are reference points between and around which exist larger spectrums, and once we break out of the binary style of thinking about a particular subject, we might notice a whole host of other meaningful reference points that we can use as well.  It frustrates me that so many people make these things into absolute oppositional polarities, and spiritual systems that insist that an oppositional polarity is the basis for the existence of the cosmos and all meaningful or powerful interaction therein make me deeply uncomfortable (I’m lookin’ at you, Kybalion.)  I see it in the insistence on calling on “Male Ancestors” and “Female Ancestors” (and I’m the wet blanket who stands up and offers to “Those Who Are Both or Neither” and makes everyone uncomfortable).  I see it in the insistence that I still see in some ADF rites that there needs to be a Goddess and a God called to “create balance” (even though in theory our organization holds no special favor for any concept of gendered polarity).  I see it in the idea that some Gods are just Dark, and some are just Light, and that you can bottle them up and divide them so very easily.

Maybe some people need to hear things that way at whatever stage in their intellectual or spiritual development they happen to be at, but it still makes me sad and frustrated, because I know that it’s not that simple, and that we’re doing a disservice to the range of wonder and beauty in our creation and existence by categorizing everything into two easy-to-divide but highly inaccurate columns.

I know a couple who raised their child without gender.  They let their kid grow, used neutral pronouns for them, bought them neutral clothes and all manner of different toys.  The kid decided pretty early on that she was a girl, which given that’s what the doctor assigned them at birth, makes them cisgender.  The fact that they (who are actually a fairly conservative Heathenish couple) did this gave me a lot of hope: they weren’t wanting their child to grow up without gender or trying to make them nonbinary, they just wanted them to make their own decisions about who and what they were, leaving their options open, which they did pretty early on.  Watching this process made me really happy.

I like to hope more people can be like that, with their children, with their other family members, with their friends, with the strangers that they meet, and yes, with their Gods.  Some Gods might end up seeming fierce and kind of dark – honestly, the way that Freyja interacts with me most of the time seems to fall into the set of qualities that people seem to attribute to “Dark” Gods, despite the fact that I can think of few who would classify Her that way.  Let them be what they are rather than trying to categorize them; if they fall into a recognizable box, great, if not, don’t try and shove them into one.  It does your own intellect and their identity and complexity a disservice to do otherwise. It also robs them of a bit of their agency (as doing so with humans does) by refusing to acknowledge how they manifest if it falls outside of the neat categories that you’ve formed in your mind.

Let all wights decide what they are for themselves.

nonbinary flag

(Image: A common nonbinary Pride flag.)

Shamless Intoxicated Thanksgiving Post! (Complete with bonus prize inside!)

I am grateful for you.

Seriously, whoever you are.  If you’re reading this I’m grateful for you.  Some of you have become good friends and I have glowy heart-feels for you.  Some of you are good people I like, even though we’ve not spoken much beyond shared comments.  Some of you I don’t know at all, and I’m pretty sure that one or two of you follow my blog because you don’t like me at all.  I’m grateful for you, too right now.

It’s been a struggle, but I’m coming to a point where I like the person that I am, and all of you in some way have helped to shape me.  Oh, there are a lot of other factors, orlog and hamingja, blood ancestry, all of the other people in the world whose lives have touched mine who are not reading this… but you’re part of that.

We interrupt this rant for a bonus Love Note From Freyja:  There is someone in the world who smiles because of you, smiles spontaneously and from the heart.  You are the apple of their eye, you’re the gifted rose beneath their nose, and their world is better because you’re in it.  You may not know who they are, but they think of you when the world grows dark and cold and you brighten and warm it for them.  Never forget that. 

Unexpected, but I haven’t delivered one in a while.

I’m also grateful for this blog because it’s brought us together.  It’s apparently my one year anniversary – it feels like I’ve been Pagan Church Lady for years now.

Thank you all for being the wonderful people you are, because all of you are wonderful in some way.  Like the Lady said, you make the world better. I am grateful for you.

heart hands

 

Love Notes From Freyja, 11/9/15

I love you, child.  Like a drop of dew clinging to a flower, magnifying the sun’s light.  Like the cool underground river that feeds your roots.  I love you like your own blood, carrying and spreading life through you.

Like all these things there are times when you won’t feel it.  You are so immersed in my love and it in you that you do not notice its presence.  This is to remind you that even when you do not feel it, when you do not feel me, or worse, feel at odds with me, that my love for you is no less and you are not forgotten or abandoned.

rose dew

Invocation to Freyja, Lady of Passion and Power

Hail to Freyja,

Lady of Passion, Lady of Power.

(pause)

Hail to Freyja, cat-chariot riding!

Hail to Freyja, in passion abiding!

Hail to Freyja, in red-gold lust screaming!

Hail to Freyja, in deep seidh-trance dreaming!

Hail to Freyja, on falcon wings flying!

Hail to Freyja, on Dwarven bed sighing!

Hail to Mardoll, in brightness and beauty!

Hail Blotgydja, in Her sacred duty!

Hail to Freyja, in passion and power!

Hail to Freyja, bright Vanaheim’s flower!

(pause)

Hail, Freyja, Vanadis, and be welcome!

My Pantheacon Submission Got Accepted!

I’ll be running an event at Pantheacon called, “Many Tribes, Many Practices“.  This will be my first time at Pantheacon, and my first time running an event for a gathering of Heathens that I don’t (mostly) already know!  I’m terrified and excited!

The descripton:

Different tribes have different practices and beliefs. While the Heathen community may be tied together by our fascination with Northern European history, culture and mythology, there are deep rifts within our community that only seem to grow with time. In this moderated open discussion we will explore how we may establish peaceful dialogue between the different tribes that make up the Heathen community. People of Color and LGBT persons are encouraged to attend.

I hope to see you there! (If this is applicable to you or you’re interested, of course!)

Other things I’m excited about:

Patricia Lafayllve’s A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Ritual and Seidhr: A History

Ember Cooke’s Four Thrones in Vanaheim

Max Dashu’s Seidstaffs of the Volvur: Excavating Norse Womens’ Ways

Diana Paxson’s: God of the Rainbow Bridge: Encountering Heimdall

Gender Diverse Pagans: Inclusivity or Hospitality (So excited about this one)

Cara Freyasdaughter’s Facets of Freya Ritual (Of course!)

Golden Gate Kindred’s: Lokasenna

Silence Maestas’s: Advancing Devotional Practice

… am I going to have time to breathe?  Am I going to be able to stand up afterwards?  This is only about half of the events I’m excited about, folks.  It should be affordable, too!  I’m really looking forward to it!

Love Notes From Freyja 10/22/15

Love yourself today.  Love yourself as you would love your partner, your beloved, your spouse, your child.  Love yourself despite (or indeed, because of) your flaws.  Love yourself in ways both gentle and stern, both soft and hard.  Give yourself that love and don’t worry about me, my love comes whether you ask for it or not.

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!

Love Notes From Freyja 10/16/15

You are worthy.  You flail, you wander, you worry.  You look to me for approval, and I say: you are worthy.  You weep and tear and sob, and I say: you are worthy.  You wonder if you will ever be enough, and you can never not be.  You are worthy.  Worthy of love, worthy of jewels, worthy of warmth, of sex, of comfort, and sumptuous sensuality and sacred seidh.  Worthy of all I give.  Don’t forget it daughter.  You are worthy. Open your heart to receive me, and never doubt that you are worthy of my gifts, worthy of me.  -Freyja/Gefn