What I’m reading

I read a lot. All day long I’m reading, whether it’s blogs, Facebook, actual paper books, on my nook, to the kids….. I tend to be rather obsessive with my subject matter, too.

Forgive the cell phone photos....

Forgive the cell phone photos….

Niki’s books
The upper left corner is Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft, which I recently finished and reviewed here.

The upper right is Elizabeth U. Harding’s Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar. I’m glad I read this, even though it had several chapters that I skipped because I didn’t care about the founding of the temple. However, reading about Kali pujas in their native context was both interesting and informative.

The lower left is Lee Morgan’s The Deed Without a Name, another book on Traditional Witchcraft. I finished it a few days ago. I am not sure what I was expecting. This was far more poetic than I was expecting, as informative as I was expecting, and in some cases quite different from my personal experience. I do not feel qualified to say much more about this book – either from a scholarly stand point or a practitioner one.

The lower right book is yet another book on Traditional Witchcraft, Children of Cain by Michael Howard. I’ve only just started it and I’m in the second chapter. I like looking through authors’ end notes and bibliographies before I begin a book; that helps me see their large picture agenda, where they got their information, and a bit about their thinking. I noticed this book has a 50 page glossary! Whoa. I contemplated jumping straight to the chapter that talks about Victor Anderson and the Feri tradition, but I’ve chosen to read chronologically.

What I'm reading to the boy

What I’m reading to the boy

What the 4-year-old is reading

My son loves to listen to chapter books. I’ve been reading him chapter books since he was an infant. We recently finished Farmer Boy, the third book in the Little House on the Prairie series. They’re so wonderful to read aloud. Very simple writing, yet engaging. A few nights ago we started Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill. It is a story composed of tales and poems. There’s a lot of history and symbolism that goes straight over his head, but he’s engrossed.

During the day we are whizzing through the Shaman King manga series. Since I took this picture we finished book 4 and are on book 5! I have been pleasantly surprised to see how much of the shamanism is based on actual lore and legitimate research. Right now the main character, Yoh, has to battle an Ainu. There are, of course, gross liberties taken with the shaman powers, but overall, it’s a great conversation starter with my son about magic, the spirit world, and how and why we seek power.

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What the girl is reading

 

What I’m reading to the 2-year-old

She’s getting interested in books. She has limited ability to sit and listen to chapter books. She loves to listen to the Shaman King books – of course, they are graphic novels so she follows the pictures. The two board books in the picture are on heavy rotation right now.

 

 

 

What are you reading right now?

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Cultivating rest

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned just how bad I am resting. I have a tendency to take on challenges and roll with whatever needs my attention, not realizing when I’m too full up until I’m past the tipping point. That doesn’t work very well, as by that point I’ve gone beyond the need for and my ability to rest and I’m in triage mode. I end up flailing and breaking down, usually in a most inconvenient manner for my partner.

As a parent it can be particularly challenging to find space to rest. The children always need assistance – min aren’t yet old enough to feed or dress themselves entirely, one of them is potty training, and they still seem to take turns waking in the night. My partner and I have a good system overall, and we trade night-time duty so one of us is not completely exhausted.

The last time I hit my wall though, I decided that this needed to stop happening. I decided to institute three days of rest of month. I take these days ‘off’ whether I feel I need to or not. I take off the first day of my period – I’m usually bone tied, feel like the flu is about to hit me, and I don’t want to do anything besides rest and eat. I take off the day of the full moon and the day of the dark moon. Full moons often make me jittery and I can’t focus. The dark moon usually turns me all contemplative and internal.

Of course, I can’t be ‘off’ entirely as these days often fall on work days and my partner needs to work so we can pay the bills. But I don’t plan any activities. I try to have something good to read and/or watch. I plan easy meals to make, or we get some take out. I don’t do any of my usual chores.

What’s wonderful is that we’re only 6 weeks into this new process and I’m already feeling the benefits. This preemptive resting means that I get a mental and physical break. I’ve given myself space to veg out and stop doing – no guilt tripping myself, no shoulds, no apologizing. My entire family is happier; I’m happier! Sure, Adam might have to pick up the slack on those three days, but it’s far, far better than Mama having a melt down. This way he knows when the rest periods are coming and can plan for them. No one can work around a melt down.

That means on tomorrow, the full moon, I’m going make something easy and delicious, not do any chores, read for fun, and carve out some time to sit in my altar room for an extended period of time. I can’t wait.

Apocalyptic Witchcraft

I am a tremendous fan of Scarlet Imprint, publisher of fine magical books. Their books contain more than occult information, more than poetry, though they are certainly full of both; they are bound spells. I have read several of Scarlet Imprint’s works. I don’t always agree with the authors in their fervor or specifics, but I usually agree with the general themes. I almost always find myself thinking about their ideas long after I’ve finished a book. I’m still chewing over XVI, which I read over a year ago.

When I saw that Scarlet Imprint would be releasing Apocalyptic Witchcraft, by Peter Grey, I knew immediately that I had to have a copy. The book aims to serve as a rallying cry to those who would embrace a living witchcraft as a means to rebel against the status quo. I am completely on board with this mission.

Of the doves edition; taken from Scarlet Imprint's website

Of the doves edition; image used with the kind permission of Scarlet Imprint

Scarlet Imprint, as an entity, judging from the works they publish, and this book specifically, aims to push the magical community toward action in the world. While we need skill and abilities that allow us to function in the mainstream world, our task is not to cozy up to the status quo, but wreak havoc and defend our chosen values. This book is the least hippie call to action against environmental pillage I’ve read.

I feel that the less said about any of Scarlet Imprint’s books the better. They are best experienced first hand (and there are a variety ways one can do that – super fancy, fancy, paperback, and digital editions, an option for every budget). I will say I was gripped by the writing, entranced by many of the ideas, and still a little confused at the end. But then Grey warns the reader on page i that he ‘does not aim to please.’ ‘This is not a how-to book, or a compendium of folk remedies, nor is it a list of rituals for you to follow, nor strictly history.’  (pg i)

Grey situates witchcraft not historically, but contextually. Yes, witchcraft is skill; yes, it has history and lineages; but that’s not what is most important. The core of witchcraft is ‘a force, not an order. Witchcraft is rhizomatic, not hierarchic. Witchcraft defies organization, not meaning.’ (From A Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft, p 15) How shall we use that force? Why shall we grow? What is our meaning?

The book speaks primarily to people who travel a path of Traditional Witchcraft, though it does not exclude other like-minded people. Grey expresses the core nature of witchcraft, though not through the lens of lineage, techniques, or historical developments. He focuses primarily on poetry, blood, and transformation. It’s a strange book. It both doesn’t seem to fit all together, and yet hangs together beautifully. I need to read this book a few more times.

The extended chapters on poetry, especially that of Ted Hughes, and Grey’s way of unfolding history feel a little meandering. The opening and closing chapters were for me the most powerful, and I wanted more of that. However, I will follow Peter Grey down any rabbit trail any day of the week. His meanderings have more fire and poetry in them most of what I read about magic combined.

What does ‘Apocalyptic Witchcraft’ mean? I’m still not entirely sure. I do know it means action and fearlessness. It means enfolding art into whatever it is we do. It means embracing magic as a philosophical, artistic, and practical way of living – not just as a spiritual orientation. I know Grey is tapping into a Current that is pulling many people forward right now. I feel it, too, though I am not able to articulate it in any way at this time. Ultimately, each of us will need to find out what apocalyptic witchcraft means for ourselves. Good thing Peter Grey is pulling us forward with his vision and art.

Maxim Monday: two for one

Today’s Delphic Maxim is be kind to friends. Are some people not kind to those whom they call friends? Some people tend not to be kind in general, but who would be friends with someone who isn’t kind to them? I feel like this maxim is a bit of a no-brainer. Be kind to the people in your life, those chosen and those there by circumstance, but especially be kind to your friends.

This is a good reminder, though. In my life, I can remember to reach out – in person and via social media – and say, ‘Hi, I’m thinking of you. How are you doing? Can I help in any way?’ That last one is especially important for me when I consider the people I know here in Olympia. Most of them have families. How can we help each other? Families need these kindnesses.

Since being kind to friends seems pretty obvious, I thought I’d move on to the next one: watch out for your enemies. Whilst it would be nice not to have enemies, we surely have people in our lives that don’t like us, treat us well, or are looking out for our best interests. There are people with whom we are in unloving conflict. I don’t think being obsessed with one’s enemies is wise, but certainly having an idea of where they are and what they’re up to is. What are their motivations? Are their actions going to collide with your best interests? Sometimes seeing what they’re up to can provide the information needed to get out of their way, and thus remove the need for conflict. Sometimes.

I don’t have too many enemies in my life – being a homebody and working from home certainly reduces making enemies. Actually, I can’t think of single person in my world I would call an enemy. I am sure that there are plenty of people who aren’t keen on me.  There are one or two with whom I’m in (silent) conflict. It sucks. But they’re not enemies, and I’m not watching what they’re up to. I’m grateful I don’t have to worry about this!

 

Magic to the People

If you’re not familiar with Drew Jacob, let me introduce you. He’s the Rogue Priest and a professional adventurer. His blog was one of the inspirations for mine. He’s planning on walking to and through South America from Minnesota. He’s already made it to New Orleans, where’s he been wintering. It hasn’t been some idle winter for him. He’s been working as a magician, studying Vodou, and is now creating Magic to the People, a pay-as-you-can community magic shop!

I think this concept is rad on several levels. First, I love it when people see a need, take initiative, and then go carve out a niche to fill that need. Second, accessible magic is a need many people have, but it can also be out of reach, and I love the idea of bringing more magic to more people. Third, I love magic.

While I believe that anyone can make magic, it takes skill and training and learning. Because of these things, if you approach a practitioner or witch (or whatever label they’re using) the spell, working or tincture may be more than you can afford. Maybe you make magic, but you need advice or a kind that is outside your area of expertise. Magic to the People is a place that New Orleans folk can go to for advice.

I don’t live anywhere near New Orleans – I’ve never even been there! – but I like the idea so much that I want to support it. Free clinics of all sorts are important parts of diverse communities. I find them to be critical to the well-being of alternative communities. The magical community is no different.

I want to help bring magic to the people. You can learn more and contribute to the Indiegogo campaign if you are inspired.

Maxim Monday: practice what is just

I like that the word practice is in this Maxim. The word ‘practice’ is a reminder that there is no perfection, and Justice is a Platonic concept – something that seems like an Absolute but in reality has many nuances. So we aim for what is just in our actions and intentions.

Unfortunately, the concept of justice seems to be one that is confused and muddied. Justice is equated with what the courts decide, and sadly, courts are often not just. Racism, sexism, classism and other -isms obscure what is just.

You might have seen the cartoon below making its rounds through the interwebs. I think it sums up the concept of justice nicely.

Unsure who to credit for this

Unsure who to credit for this

So, how do we practice what is just? The world is so vastly un-just that I can easily get overwhelmed with all the ways my existence perpetuates injustice, whether economic, environmental, or some other form. I also know that since I am not actively working to dismantle injustice in certain arenas, that I am maybe perpetuating the problem that way. For example, I am a white, middle class, highly educated person. I am aware of the gross racial injustice in our criminal justice system, but I am not actively doing anything about it. In my daily life I have no interaction with that system. But the little I can do is educate myself on the issue. I can raise my children to be aware of the issues and to understand the ideas of privilege. I can vote.

In other areas, I contribute to community causes, I try to make the best decisions I can for my family regarding food, clothing, transportation, toys, media etc. But hell: I use a macbook and have an iphone – I am readily aware that there is little justice in the technology I use.

There is no black and white rule book for justice. It’s the boring work of small choices that make it easier to stand for the larger issues that helps us practice what is just.

Further thoughts on being a householder

One of the things I didn’t get into in my last post on being a householder and homemaker was how amazing a spiritual journey pregnancy and childbirth are. I wrote my last post from where I’m standing currently: parent to a nearly 5 yr old and a freshly 2 yr old. Yet, I learned so much from growing, birthing, and sustaining a new life.*

Madonna lactans, Jean Fouquet

Madonna lactans, Jean Fouquet

I found my naturally heady and airy self more grounded and physically present in my body while pregnant. I struggled with the limitations of a growing belly and the way my energy levels fluctuated while pregnant. But the profound mystery of not only containing another living being within my own body, but creating it from out of my own flesh, bone and blood was mind-blowing and theology altering. The messy, painful, miraculous event of childbirth is a dance with death. Breastfeeding is a blur between the sensual and the necessary. Being a biological mother has been the most pagan thing I’ve ever done.

Being a nun or monk would exclude this way of knowing. Being a householder has been my way to engage more physically in this world and this flesh.

My partner and I debate a third child every now and again. I feel in my gut this is what I want. I think with my brain that it is not wise. I admit, as much as I struggle with pregnancy and as much as birth hurts, I want to experience it again. I want that intimacy with my body; I want that powerful feeling that I am a Creator; I want to feel that connection with/as the Holy Mother.

Madonna del parto

Madonna del parto

It’s a little selfish, I admit. The magic of life is intoxicating and beautiful.

 

*I will gladly sing the praises of unmedicated childbirth, midwives, homebirth, and extended breastfeeding, and then back it all up with science. This in no way means I devalue hospital births, c-sections, and formula feeding. Nor do I think that birthing is the most important way a woman becomes a mother. Nor do I think that parents are more spiritual than those who choose not to have children. These are divisive issues, and I feel it necessary to clarify these points.