Initiation still working… augh

As you may know, Bob, I’ve been on unpaid leave for two weeks now because my employers fear the bedbugs in my apartment the way medieval Europeans feared lepers, bubonic plague, and intelligent heretics. Tired of waiting for something to happen, I went in person to HR this morning after seeing my therapist.

Things… did not go well. They refuse to pay me for leave that they ordered me to take, because I have no accumulated leave. Unless I can declare my life bedbug-free by July 27th, my employment will “become inactive”. A new level of euphemism has been achieved here: What they mean is that they will fire me for having a bedbug problem, in the city with the highest number of bedbug infestations in the country.

The best deal they can offer me, apparently, is to take a disability retirement, based on my knee problems and my ongoing depression. I’m going to get on the paperwork for that.

Meanwhile, I still have to vacate my current apartment by July 31st… just that now I have to do it with no income and no savings.

I invite you to donate to my Ko-fi if you can, but also! I can offer my services as a writer and editor.

  • For $25 I will write a prayer, hymn, or other ritual text to your specifications.
  • I will edit/beta read non-fannish writing, fiction or nonfiction, for $10/page.

Thank you in advance for any help you can give, and that includes prayers and good mojo.

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A cup of coffee (or tea) can go a long way

Gentle readers, I’m facing a quick move from my apartment to a new place, hopefully not far away. Funds are short because health issues have caused me to lose time at work. If you’ve been following my writing, I’d appreciate your good mojo, and a little donation if you have a few bucks: ko-fi.com/mtodd

I get by with a little help from my friends

Kind readers, I have a sudden need of financial help. I have 90 days to move because my building has been foreclosed on and all of us tenants are being shooed out. I need help with a security deposit and other moving expenses. If you can, please visit my YouCaring fundraiser or buy me a Ko-fi; if you can’t, could you reblog this post, or light a candle for me, or whatever you might do to send good vibes? I appreciate all the help I can get.

Chop wood, carry water, take your meds

What do you do after you have a major initiation, a life-changing mystical magical religious experience, a direct encounter with the gods?What do you do after you have a major initiation, a life-changing mystical magical religious experience, a direct encounter with the gods? If you’ve read this post’s title, well, you already know. That’s the received wisdom, isn’t it? You experience enlightenment and then go back to everyday life, and then everyday life is wonderful, looked at through the lens of enlightenment.

Well, not so much. “Chop wood, carry water” is a simplification, maybe even a bowdlerization of Zen, which is a form of Buddhism, which is… actually not my religion. Although I did take refuge and bodhicitta vows in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition and do not regret it. But one of the things I believe as a polytheist is that there’s more than one spiritual goal, as well as more than one deity and more than one afterlife. Not everybody is pursuing enlightenment, nirvana, buddhahood.

What I wanted to do after my initiation into the Mysteries of Antinous the Liberator was leave my job, move to Seattle, and devote a considerable amount of time to doing ritual and magical work with my fellow mystai Jay and Otter in the service of Antinous. What I actually did was get threatened with the loss of my apartment, celebrate Saturnalia and Christmas, become even more bored with my job than previously, and spend the first two weeks of the new year nursing a sinus infection during some of the coldest weather of the winter.

In the middle of January I turned fifty-two and took a good hard look around my life. I thought about famous people we had lost in the early months of past years–David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Nimoy. Seeing the new Star Wars movie, Carrie Fisher’s last, made me miss her all over again. Now we’ve lost Ursula Le Guin, and I have no fitting words with which to mourn her. I saw a post on Tumblr where someone said it was like we were all mourning our grandmother, and that resonated with me. For Ursula Le Guin to be gone is like losing your grandmother, like waking up one morning and seeing that a tree or a mountain that dominated the landscape all your life is now gone, extracted, with no explanation, no replacement. Her fiction and essays are part of the landscape of my mind and will remain so; for me and for many, she is a spiritual ancestor now.

I still want to move to Seattle, find a sustainable day job, and do ritual and magical work with my friends in the service of Antinous and Melinoe. I’m still pretty sure my gods want me to do this. But the conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m not ready to make that jump. My physical and mental health are not up to the task; I need more therapy and better pills, more exercise and better diet. It might be necessary for me to make some smaller jumps first, into a better job, a better apartment or other living situation, before I can relocate all the way across the country.

It’s not going to be an easy year, I think–for any of us. As Billie Holliday famously sang, “Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose.” But I’m not without hope–The Last Jedi reminded me of that–and I haven’t given up on my goals. I’ve seen the Mysteries and I know that my gods are on my side. In the meantime, chop wood, carry water, take my meds, do my devotions, and make ruthless self-care my keynote for 2018. May we all carry on and carry through.

In the world but not of it

I don’t talk about politics much. It’s not interesting to me as a topic, unlike religion, or space exploration, or birds. That doesn’t meant it’s not important to me, however. After yesterday’s election here in the United States, I am dismayed, I am angry, and I am afraid, not so much for myself as for friends who are more obviously not the white cis hetero norm than I am.

What has dominated my thoughts this morning, oddly enough, is a phrase from my Christian background, the phrase I chose for my title: In the world but not of it. By “the world” Christian theology properly means not nature, the created world, the cosmos, but the human-created world, society and its distorted values. Early Christians lived in a society that cherished very different values from their own, so much so that they were identified as atheists, dissidents, terrorists. A good deal of the ethical teaching in Paul’s letters is his reminding his audience of that, mixed with a certain amount of respectability politics.

The first two or three generations of Christians refused to identify themselves as Jews or Gentiles, slaves or masters, citizens or subjects of Rome. They called themselves citizens of that kingdom of heaven that Jesus had said was within each person; they imagined a new Jerusalem, a perfect city, an ideal community where their values were the norm.

That’s how I’m feeling this morning. I am in this nation, but not of it. I do not belong here. My black friends, my gay and lesbian friends, my queer and trans friends, my Jewish and polytheist and pagan friends don’t belong here. That’s what the election results say to me. Never mind that the very real problems of our country were caused not by any of them, not by Mexicans or Muslims, but by rich and still greedy white men like the one who was just elected, men who have nothing but contempt for women, for people of color, for people without wealth. We are in this nation, but not of it; our true citizenship is somewhere else, someplace we imagined was implied in the founding documents of the United States, however little the Founding Fathers may have realized it. Perhaps someday we can build our city here; I have not entirely given up hope.

In the meantime, I see my job as a writer as imagining alternatives. Other people can write the dystopias that now look like prophecies; my work will continue to celebrate possibilities. I’m calling my new Jerusalem, my kingdom of heaven, my true citizenship, Antinoopolis, the city that Hadrian built at the place where Antinous’ body was found. I am no longer pledging my allegiance to a divided nation where liberty and justice are available only to those who have the right gender, the right color of skin, and the requisite bank balance. I pledge my allegiance to Antinous and to the city where he is worshipped, a city open to all races, colors, creeds, genders, and sexualities where love, friendship, wisdom, and creative endeavor are cherished.

I’m gonna be honest with y’all

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a difficult year for all of us. The deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman introduced a year where we have lost many brilliantly creative people, most recently Gene Wilder. The U.S. Presidential election campaign has descended to new lows of absurdity and mendacity. Police officers continue to shoot down black citizens as if they were rabid animals visibly frothing at the mouth, and rapists walk free while athletes are condemned for using their First Amendment right to criticize our nation. Meanwhile, extreme heat waves linger in some parts of the U.S., unseasonably cool temperatures reign elsewhere, and Louisiana is flooding catastrophically without even the benefit of a hurricane as the cause. I haven’t heard anything strikingly positive coming out of other nations, either.

In the midst of all that, it seems petty to complain about my own problems, but they are problems and they’re mine, so here goes. I live in a part of the U.S. that’s heatwave territory right now, and I loathe summer. Simply loathe it. Summer is not picnics and parties and pools and vacation; it’s waiting five days a week at a bus stop that has not the slightest scrap of shelter from the sun, in a neighborhood which stinks of garbage most days, to get home and hide in my air-conditioned apartment until necessity forces me to leave it again.

I turn to the internet for distraction or consolation, and I’m bombarded with the news, racism sexism misogyny war climate disaster Trump Crooked Hillary outrage. A black actress is attacked in social media for doing a good job in a film or perhaps for just existing as black and female. An actor I follow on Twitter explodes with rage when he condemns Colin Kaepernick and his fans call him out. Another entertainer, creator, giver dies and their unique light is extinguished. Popular media gives with one hand and takes away with the other when it comes to representation of people who aren’t white, cisgender, and heterosexual.

So I turn to my religion, to fellow polytheists, to those who believe in and honor and cultivate relationships with the gods. Only to find racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia proudly proclaimed as core principles of some groups. To see people obsessing about “purity” and anxiously narrowing the circle of beliefs and practices and *people* that are acceptably pure to the gods. To find people being stridently certain that they know what The Gods want, even those with whom they have no relationship, and that one thing The Gods want is for their self-appointed representatives to tell everyone else what to do. To find politics defined as religion, religion defined as politics, lefties and rightists both proclaiming that the other side wants them silenced and possibly shot, and the whole thing looking weirdly like fandom on a bad day.

Dear readers, I have never come closer in my life to simply giving up on religion and walking away. No more of this. No more theological arguments. No more daily devotions that might or might not be appropriate. No more winding myself up reading angry blog posts when I could be looking at bird pictures, playing tablet games, or watching videos. No more trying to process through my rage and disappointment so that I can write something suitably devotional, because some people are brilliantly inspired to create by anger, but I am not one of them. Anger makes me silent and withdrawn, and I have been hurt and angry for months now.

All of these things are my issues and not yours, gentle reader. I just want to give you a glimpse of what is happening here, the effect that the online polytheist community or aggregation is having on one individual. I came close to giving up religion the way an addict gives up a drug, as something that can only make my life worse. The reason I didn’t, I haven’t, is not any one person, not any blogger, not even my fellow devotees of Antinous, though I am deeply grateful for their existence and their friendship.

It is simply the gods themselves. I can’t dismiss them. I can’t not believe in them. I can’t ignore them, because they are so simply, uncomplicatedly present. And they are more compassionate, more forebearing, more tolerant, more patient than most mortals. Perhaps, to paraphrase the Hebrew Psalmist, the gods know that we are only human, only mortal, that our best efforts as well as our worst mistakes are only temporary because our lives do not last very long.

And yet, the gods remain interested in and engaged with us. Why? As I’ve said before, my core belief is that it’s because, fragile and fallible though we are, we can be the raw material for more gods. For the promise of that, and for the rewards right here and now of association with the gods, I’m sticking around. I’m not sure if that means putting the gods first or putting myself first, but it’s where I stand.

Not exactly a voice in the wilderness

I don’t really like December. Long-time readers of my blogging, not just here but at Confessions of an Urban Druid and elsewhere, may recall how often I complain about premature Christmas decorations, forced jollity, and the general orgy of consumerism which has never lessened though A Charlie Brown Christmas is dutifully aired every year. Another reason I don’t like December is that it’s usually a poor season for me as far as writing goes. Inspiration and energy tend to dry up and don’t quicken again until January or sometimes February. I find that the dark moon in Aquarius, the time of the Chinese lunar new year, is often when my writing begins to flow again; at that time, sun and moon conjoin in my first house and inaugurate a personal new year.

On top of the usual doldrums, I’ve had my ex-husband’s shocking cancer diagnosis, then the confirmation that I myself have Type 2 diabetes. It’s fairly mild, manageable with careful carb counting, but it was something of a sucker punch, coming as it did right after the cancer news. Just this morning, at work, a co-worker had a mild seizure and was taken to the hospital; the most concerning aspect of that is that it has happened before, just this past summer.

All that I’ve been able to produce are a few prayers for my private use and a lot of complaining. Hence my relative absence from the blogosphere.

Today, however, I come as a messenger with tidings of good news. The Ekklesia Antinoou, having duly voted to change its administration from a single Magistrate to a council of three, voted for me as one of the first three Council Magistrates. Readers of the Aedicula Antinoi will probably recognize the names of Sr. Krissy Fiction of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence and Duffi McDermott, who are my co-magistrates. The election results were confirmed by divination, and I am both honored and humbled to go forth with the blessing of Antinous, Hadrian, and their associated deities.

I am proud to announce that the new Council has already accomplished its first task: Creating a website to serve as a portal to the theory and practice of the Ekklesia Antinoou and its approach to Antinoan devotion. I invite you to visit Naos Antinoou: An Online Temple of Antinous. PSVL has already cross-posted eir excellent essay on the history and nature of the Ekklesia, and we plan to feature more of eir work as Doctor and Mystagogue of the Ekklesia along with contributions from several other writers. Our intention is to offer rituals, prayers, an easily accessible sacred calendar, and other resources to make both getting started and keeping going in our tradition easier. Watch that space!

And watch this space! Regarding my new short story, “A leisurely cruise through the stars,” I’ve decided to return to my original inspiration and write the story during the season of Antinous the Navigator, which begins with the appearance of his star on January 29th. If the gods grant me the words, I will post each segment as it is written, as I did with “A distinguished visitor from the north”.

In conclusion, I wish my readers a joyous Saturnalia, a good Yule, a blessed Alban Arthan, a merry Christmas, and all other possible felicitations of the winter solstice season.