March 7, 2015 § 3 Comments
(This is my submission for Prompt #2 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)
The sun rises, dawning color and warmth into the world, nurturing and burning, illuminating and changing. It visits any given area for longer and shorter times throughout the year, rising through the sky, falling through the season. Hours and seasons are set by its movements, heating and cooling, growing and harvesting.
The sun sets.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a researcher found that people who fit solidly into the gender roles proscribed by society were far more likely to assign gender to words and objects than people who didn’t fit so cleanly into societal gender norms. Read up on Gender Schema Theory by Sandra Bem and the fascinating research and ideas within it. It’s a bit dated and incomplete, and yet it has usefulness within its limitations, like any model.
During a cognitive task study, people who were strongly gendered and gender-normative (“sex-typed” in Bem’s theory, meaning they process and integrate traits and information in line with their assigned gender, conforming to the cultural definition of what it means to be “male” or “female”) tended to remember more traits assigned with their gender role, and processed “sex-type congruent” information more efficiently… perpetually reinforcing their concept of gender normativity, a continual process of confirmation bias. When given a list of words to cluster either by semantic meaning or by gender, they were also more likely to cluster words by gender. They are “gender-schematic”.
In contrast, “cross-sex-typed” individuals (in Bem’s theory, people who processed and integrated information and traits in line with the opposite gender role from their assigned gender) had the lowest percentage of words clustered by gender, followed by “androgynous” individuals (people who process and integrate traits and information from both genders). They are “gender-aschematic”.
Strong gender-schemata provides a filter through which people process incoming stimuli… making it easier ability to assimilate information that matches the stereotypes, which further solidifies the existence of gender stereotypes. It is one model through which to approach reality, and a highly dominant one in a number of societies, enforced and reinforced throughout the culture. It is incredibly prevalent, too, in much of Neo-Paganism: Lord/Lady, God/Goddess, Male/Female, elements and correspondences all sorted into Masculine and Feminine. Sun God and Moon Goddess, in so much of mainstream Paganism.
The moon rises, lining the world in silver and shadow, the cool colors of night. The face of the moon waxes and wanes, cast in growing shadow, brightened in growing light. Months are measured by its cycles. Its pull sets the rhythms of the oceans, the tides and waves, and perhaps it even influences the rhythms of mind and heart.
What, then, for those of us who are gender-aschematic?
I am fortunate in that my tradition leans gender-aschematic, itself. Kemetic philosophy is non-dualistic and polyvalent, the One and the Many, both/and. Many seemingly contradictory things can be true all at once. There are deities with the title of “The Great He-She”. There are deities that are explicitly hermaphroditic, deities that are very male, deities that are very female, and deities that are downright sexless. There are deities that are more concept than person. There are deities that merge into one another, split into pieces, and those pieces join with pieces from other deities to make new ones, fission and fusion and fluidity.
The sun is a goddess and the sun is a god and the sun is a scarab. The moon is a child and the moon is a god and the moon is only rarely a goddess, but the gods of the moon are not strongly masculine. The sun and moon are not so much gendered as they are personified in many different ways.
The sun takes the form of scarab, cow and bull, lioness, falcon, cat and leopard, cobra, vulture, and heron. The sun is nurturer, warrior, queen, king, healer, lover, creator, avenger, guardian, mother, father, and son. The moon takes the form of ibis, baboon, and falcon. The moon is healer, defender, scribe, protector, creator, child, traveller, embracer, time-keeper, mathematician, magician, judge, mediator, arbitrator, counselor, and scientist. Both sun and moon are incredibly multi-dimensional, and go so far beyond gender.
Wepwawet is my Parent deity, and I associate Him with shadows and night – though not the moon itself. So often for me, He is gentle soothing darkness, and also an edge of mischief and unknown mystery. He is the moonlit crossroads where your shadow stretches black and long before you at the point of choice and possibility. He is a magician and something of a gambler, a warrior and a scout, the standard-bearer and guide. Yet He has never seemed strongly gendered to me, this wolf-wanderer of the ways between.
Bast-Mut is my Beloved deity, and She is most definitely the sun. She is Bast on Her throne, Bast Who is Mut, the Devouring Lady, the hunting-cat goddess crowned with uraei. She is an Eye of Ra, a title given to a number of martial or protective solar deities. Fierce yet motherly, regal yet warm, and I see Her in the kind of sun-warmth that invites basking, the sun that warms me slowly and gently down to my bones. For me, She is the revitalizing warmth of the sun, and I feel Her most strongly in the dark of winter when the sun shines forth and brings me back to life. She is joy and care, protective nurturing.
The sun has many different faces to me. There is the harsh beating sun-in-summer, Ra as King and Sun, the Apis-bull, Sekhmet’s wrath. There is the warming sun-in-summer too, Mut and Heru and Wadjet. There is the cool distant sun-in-winter, hawk and scarab, watching, becoming. There is the warm revitalizing sun-in-spring, Hethert returning from Her travels, Bast crowned in glory. There is the fading sun-in-autumn, Hethert-Nut as the Wandering Eye in Her departure.
Sometimes the moon sings to my blood, intoxicating and invigorating. Sometimes the moon is a rabbit and sometimes the moon is an ibis as Djehuty or a falcon as Khonsu. Sometimes the moon is a mystery, magic, and the hunt. Sometimes the moon is madness, its fullness corresponding with a spate of crisis in the mental health centers I’ve worked in. Always, the moon is genderless. Never have I experienced it as feminine, and never have I identified with the menstrual cycles that so much of modern mainstream Paganism associates with lunar cycles. I love the moon and thrill to the sight of it, sparking dreams and visions in my mind.
The sun is a different thing entirely. I connect so strongly to the sun, and I am keenly aware of its seasonal increase and decrease. The seasonal rites of equinox and solstice resonate with my heart and biochemistry, not for their celebration of the cycles of agriculture but rather for the marking of the sun’s departure and return. My mood brightens with sun’s presence and suffers significantly in its absence, seasonal affective disorder weighting my body and mind. The hawk in me is a solar creature, thriving in the daytime, hunting in the sun’s light. The phoenix I identify with at the core of my soul is solar above all else.
The moon sets.
The sun rises.
February 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
A phoenix needs the flame
the sun, the solar flare
drawn to its beauty-bright
the incandescent sear
and burning hurts, it’s true –
too often or too soon
comes the risk of never rising
of burning out, consumed.
But every fire beckons
even with feathers bright and new,
drawn to each dark-shining beacon
to flames toxic and untrue.
It’s strange, this love of burning,
of heat and wind and flight,
when I shy from rocks and running
and the ocean is a fright.
Still, I’d rather death by sunfire
and the chances of rebirth,
than struggling in deep water
or a slow death on dark earth.
May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
If you fall in love with a wild thing, do not profess your affection with noise and flashy colors. She will startle and flee in an instant.
You must be patient and gentle. Do not lay traps; you may capture her presence, but possession is not love, and you will not truly hold her heart or spirit. Snares, collars, and cages only distress and injure.
Patience and stillness, consistency and awareness. If you approach, she will back away. If you leave, she is unlikely to follow. Instead, sit in the meadow and meditate in silence, or speak softly of the stories you know, or sing your heart’s song.
Entice. Be interesting, yet not too threatening. If a wild thing’s curiosity grows more insistent than her caution, she will approach. Pretend not to notice, and she may gain confidence and circle closer, until you feel a soft scenting breath on your neck.
She may draw near and dart away at the last minute. Yet if you are patient and intriguing, she will come by again and again, lingering longer each time.
Then, perhaps, she will love you too. Yet she is still a wild thing, and her trust is as wary as her heart. Strike her, yell, or run away, and you will have to start over from the beginning, but it will be harder and slower for your betrayal.
There are other ways to court a wild thing, of course. They (we) aren’t all alike, after all. It is this:
Become a wild thing yourself.
Perhaps you are half wild already. Yet we all have wildness within us, hidden in the marrow of our bones and in the deepest shadows of our psyches. There is primality in the hindparts of our brains, in the reactivity of the limbic system. Even the most domestic of dogs remembers the wolf lying deep within the spiral dance of his genes.
If you fear and deny your own wildness, how can you accept and love the wildness in another without seeking to capture it and break it and tame it?
Touch the primal place within. Greet your wildness with savage joy. Become feral, and meet the wild thing you love as an equal. Meet as two feral hearts at the edge of a tame land, kindred spirits in the timeless dance of challenge and chase, hunt and quarry, courtship with claws and teeth.
Love your own wildness, and the wild things might draw near to court you.
May 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve written on what phoenix means to me, and what it means (for me) to be phoenix. I’ve talked about how it manifests in my spirit and mind, the traits within me that I attribute to “phoenix”. I’ve written a great deal on expressing hawkness, on maintaining a necessary balance between hawk and humanity. But what about expressing phoenix?
First, you must understand that – for me at least – phoenix is intensely abstract, all myth and poetry and spirit where hawk is tactile and neurons and heartbeat. It is not something I need to manifest on a physical level, not like muscle and strength and short-cropped featherhair with hawk.
Yet it manifests all the same, merely in subtler ways. In social interactions, falling into the role of mediator, networker, connector, translator of differing communication styles: diplomat. Phoenix expresses when I bring people together, introducing kindred spirits, or when I make a new connection.
It is in the way I greet the sun when I step outside, tilting my face to the warmth and heat and light, drinking it in. Far more than fire, phoenix is a solar bird.
I express phoenix through ritual work. If I go too long heavily shielded and grounded and guarded, bindings upon my spirit and self, shut off to the subtle realm, phoenix suffers – trapped, chained to earth, unfueled. I have done this before, three years of locked-down isolation of my own making, bound in stress and fears of falling into delusion. It did me far more harm than good, a slow suffocation. Beginning ceremonial magic, structured though it may have been, felt like freedom.
The visualization I was taught for the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentragram) involved imagining oneself growing taller and taller, feet rooted to the earth, crown reaching to the light at the center of the universe, lengthening towards it with each measured four-fold breath. I still use that visualization sometimes, but far less laborious and more effective for me is this: sinking into my Tiferet center and launching upwards from there as phoenix, all movement and soaring joy. The first time I did this was sheer ecstasy, flight after so long grounded, freedom to stretch, to move. I/phoenix spiraled up through space and stars to that central light, dove into it, bathed in it, burned with it, dipping and wheeling to catch brightness into feathers and beak and talons. Then a dive back down, down, a burst of divine light at Keter (“ateh…”), streaking brilliance through my body, down to Malkuth and bringing the light of the universe into the earth itself.
Ve-geburah, ve-gedulah, balance points, sitting wholly in my body, ablaze with light and will, connected with the Higher Self that I perceive as phoenix. Le-olahm. Amen.
Phoenix manifests in ritual and magic, though not always the same way each time. I can be a roaring fire, transforming energy into clean fuel, a veritable batter. This is ecstatic, a trance of connection and output, raising power, firebird passion. Or I can be still and controlled, intensely focused, heron-shaped, bennu or feng-huang in an edged Will.
There are physical expressions, too, though far fewer than with hawk. Phoenix is in the hennaed redness of my hair. When I take meticulous care in the grooming of my appearance, this is a little bit phoenix for me, odd as it may seem. Sometimes I dance phoenix like I dance hawk, ecstatic trance to music.
I want to learn fireplay, and firestaff. I want to dance with heat, and I want to light people aflame. I know someone local from whom I can take a fireplay class; it’s on my list of things to learn. Firestaff might be trickier.
Thus I express phoenix and manifest it in my life. Through the social dance and in physical dance. Through ritual and magic. Through precision and passion, hair and style, reverence for the sun, and perhaps someday soon an intimacy with flame.
May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
I believe there are layers of reality, there is more than just the physical, and that the subtle (energetic, spiritual, etc) reality/realities affect the psychological and spiritual, just as much as the mind affects the subtle and the physical, and just as the body affects the mind and the subtle.
I believe there are multiple explanations for any experience, and all can be true simultaneously, for the reason stated above. Are you tired all the time because you are depressed, or are you depressed because you are tired all the time due to improper nutrition, or are you tired and depressed because of an energetic blockage, or do you have an energetic blockage because you are not eating right and you are depressed? I am more likely to believe you are tired because you are depressed and you have improper nutrition and you have an energetic blockage, and all these factors must be addressed for optimal health/improvement.
I believe that mythic truth is just as valid as factual truth, especially as memory and perception are unreliable: your brain lies to you. I don’t believe we can truly, completely be certain of anything, and one’s schema and experience and functionality is far more important than whether it is literally, factually true or not. Does it have meaning? Is it aiding or not affecting functionality? Is it adding to your life experience? Then it doesn’t matter quite so much.
That said, I believe it’s important to examine one’s beliefs regularly, and to consider multiple possibilities for one’s experience, and subject experience and belief to scrutiny and logic to see if they stand up to basic reasoning. This may seem like a contradiction to my earlier statement. It’s not. I have found that as someone who favors logic over feeling, it is easy for me to lose the experience in an endless cycle of scrutiny, skepticism, questioning, and considering possibilities, going in circles again and again without ever reaching a real conclusion about things that I cannot know for certain; and in doing so I lose the emotive and personal meaning of the experience, I become actually ungrounded by completely intellectualizing my reality. Yet I have known people who have done the reverse, have gone completely dysfunctional by not examining the use or meaning or validity of their experiences or their interpretation of their experience, and lose sight of physical reality as they dive into a fantasy land.
Thus: functionality, meaning, scrutiny, balance.
I believe in a variety of spirits: spirit of place, spirit of land, spirit of plant and animal and object. I believe in gods, and gods with distinct personalities and desires and motives that must be treated as individuals even as I believe They are connected to one another and sometimes blend in and out of each other and a greater essence. I believe some gods and some spirits are involved in the lives of people and some gods and spirits just don’t give a damn, and sometimes spirits don’t give you much of a choice in the matter and demand service, and some will take your service if you are foolish enough to offer but aren’t going to seek you out.
I believe that there are many humans who contain within themselves the essence of something non-human. I don’t know what the nature of that essence is, but I have seen it, again and again, in ways I can’t deny. It may be part of being human, and some people are just more affected by that otherly-essence than others. But it is vital and it is fascinating and it is beautiful.
I believe that there is an explanation and cause for all of human behavior, but sometimes it is so layered and complex that the behavior seems inexplicable or random.
I believe in reincarnation. I believe in an afterlife of some sort, though I don’t know if it’s just continual reincarnation or if it’s a return to some cosmic all or if it’s rest in the dead-lands of one’s culture/beliefs or if it’s a combination of all of the above.
I believe that belief affects reality, and so does will because will is often just an active outward believing, and perception shapes our reality. Dragons exist. Is it because our monkey-brains remembered ancient terrible lizards and fabricated dragons out of that inkling of memory, and that mythic telling shaped spirit-stuff into dragons; or is it because dragons existed, and we experienced them on some level, and told stories about them in our myth? I bet it’s a bit of both: that there were spirits that were like dragons, and we experienced them even as we remembered a bit of giant lizards long extinct, and our perceptions did not quite match the reality of those dragon-like spirits, and they shaped themselves to our perceptions or our perceptions shaped them or both, and now there are dragons.
I believe the stories we tell ourselves and the myths we create and live are as real and important as any age-old religion.
I believe that there is truth in every myth, every faith, of some sort: personal truth, emotional truth, spiritual truth, mythic truth – something to be gleaned from every culture and every person’s story. The human experience is fascinating and wonderful even when it is terrible.
May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
My life is full of magic, and too often I forget to notice.
This weekend I drove into the mountains, greeted fellow dreamers, and dressed myself in soft shining coppers and blues, something out of medieval fantasy. Horns on my head, long ears extending from mine; I became someone else, let the passionate emotional direct side of myself out to play, and stepped into another world.
One full weekend. Live-action roleplay at its worst is just play-acting, “let’s pretend” for grown-ups. At its best it is theater, it is magic, it is transformation: I am immersed in another world, everyone playing their part, and I am drowning in the magnification and characterization of an oft-buried aspect of Self. It is magic when I forget myself and become that character so deeply that I feel the rush of adrenaline, I am shaking in the satyr’s rage without meaning to, I am a hurricane of fury and pain barely kept in check. Let go, and be.
Once the weekend was over, my lover and I let our shadows out to play and dance and struggle. Immersed in a different world altogether, inducing fear even though we both know there’s no real risk of harm, fear on the edge of pain that bubbles up into my throat stretched bare by a hand in my hair, the pull burning at my scalp. Trapped there to flutter in panic, pulse like a living thing held in place by a tightening grip that knows exactly how far to go, when to pause, where to stop, how far to push without harm. And this, too, was magic; two shadows consuming and consumed in a dynamic tension.
This weekend, walking as a satyr brimming with emotion, I sat next to someone I’d met only briefly once before a year ago. He was a satyr too, though I don’t think that’s too far from his normal state – Mediterranean ancestry showing in angular features, curly brown hair, faun-dark eyes, mischief in his movements. There was something very familiar about him, and sitting next to him was comfortable, easy. I was just beginning to think of how he seemed so very familiar when he asked me if I, out of character, had been to these places, worked in those parts of town, something – because to him, I too seemed very familiar, like he’d known me for a long time.
Ah, well! Old friends I’ve never met, truly? Again, without calling for it, without wrapping my will around the tangle of lines in my chest and tugging? Magic. Connections never made this lifetime, only rediscovered.
A dragon lives coiled down the hall from me, dark eyes full of old knowledge and old pain. We share a bond older than our bodies and deeper than flesh, myth and memory braided so tight it’s hard to tell which is which. As if it matters…
I was reading through some writings, my perceptions of other people – poetry and rhythm, texture and imagery – and wondering at the amazing intense people in my life. Dragons walking in human skin, barely disguised, boiling with size and heat. Elves and fae, fitting better in their forms but burning there, consuming, spinning spirit fine as mist through their bodies and back out. Animal-folk with the wild deep in their gaze and feral movement, fur and feathers itching muscle.
And all of this could be mere story, mere archetype, simply myth – but there is no mere about it, for even without fact there is Truth here, mythic truth, mythos, and that is what feeds the soul. That is where the magic is, in the stories we tell and live and breathe.
November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
Written in November 2007.
I am a
does all this
greedy? says a t-shirt and
an icon or three and
(with less humor, more scorn)
the extremes of either spectrum
indecisive? unable to commit,
choose a this-or-that –
make up my mind, pick a side
define the edges of a solid box
(why must I?
does anyone fit so neat and snug
into such things, with no edges hanging out,
no squeezing into discomfort?)
it’s just that
I don’t believe in absolutes
it’s just that
I think nothing and no one
stays the same
That we extend beyond the boundaries of skin
and there is more to me than what you see
or even what I show
and there is maybe more to You
than you have ever dared to seek.
I escape definition
because I am a flickering, shapeshifting,